meme On My Mind

Blogging Like Rihanna’s “Umbrella” Is the Fresh New Tune

Back in the mid-aughts, when blogging was fresh and new, it seemed like everyone had a blog. Those of us writing recipes, rants, and random raves could toss out a post–and within 24 hours, there might be 40 comments. The blogosphere was jumping.

During the heyday of personal blogs, it was common practice for bloggers to pass out awards to each other and to tag fellow bloggers with memes and challenges. For me, whenever these things happened, I smiled at the compliment of it and then generally ignored the challenge. Every now and then, in search of material or a friend, I would respond to the meme and do a post where I typed out the endings to fifteen sentence starters. Generally, I adopted a long-suffering attitude as I completed each meme.

I’ve never been much of a joiner.

Then, you know. Time passed. Many folks’ enthusiasm for blogging waned. One by one, the formerly brightly lit blog spaces went dark. I would visit favorite blogs, hoping to catch up and leave a comment…only to be greeted with a post from three months earlier. If I visit those blogs now, that same final post still hangs there, sad and alone, now four years old, wishing for a tricycle.

On the other hand, even as parts of Bloglandia have been shuttered, other, new blogs have lit up. I do love the dynamism of this new kind of writing space; participants come and go–and sometimes come back again–depending on their needs, life circumstances, and reasons for blogging. Thus, even though most of the bloggers I connected with eight years ago have dropped out of sight, fresh friends have come along and reshaped the blogging experience by adding their voices to the mix.

One such friend is Alexandra from Good Day Regular People. This blogging phenom has taught me much in recent months about new possibilities for bloggers and our stories. She also decided, a few weeks back, to toss out an old-school style meme challenge to a few of us. The task is easy: write a post that explains “Five Random Things About Me.”

After letting the challenge sit for, um, a month, as was my way back in The Old Days, I am now ready to address it. Never let it be said I failed at Random.

1. I have a queer passion for books about arctic exploration. If there’s an image of a half-broken ship frozen in jags of ice featured on the cover, I will grab that book and stay up until 3 a.m., riveted by those poor sailors’ dire circumstances. Listen, it’s only a matter of time before the hard tack runs out, and then the crazed boatswain is going to roast the cabin boy for January’s rations. That’s just good readin’.

I guess this item on my list is actually aimed at letting you all know that if we all ever go on an arctic adventure together, and then our ship gets frozen in the ice for two years, and I die of the scurvy, I would like you to start with my tender ear lobes when you eat me. They’ll be like hors d’oeuvres, and, as your humanity falls away from you with each increasingly dark day, your sanity will need the faint memory of civilization that comes from a tasty hors d’oeuvre. So eat me, chums, but start with the best bits.

Caveat: if I died because you found some vials of arsenic in the ship doctor’s quarters and slowly poisoned me, then you not only may NOT have my ear lobes, you may NOT benefit from my tasty belly fat, either. Step away from the belly, You Soulless Murderer.

2. I also have a queer passion for drum lines. Not only does my jaw drop in the face of such coordination and synchronization, the inside of my brain often sounds like this:

If I ever was lucky enough to attend a drum line competition, I would buy the t-shirt.

Even if it’s, like, $20.

3. So long as we’re entertaining ideas of “random” and “ear lobes,” this is as good a place as any to announce that when I put my head down on my pillow at night, I take a quick second to be sure my downward-facing ear lobe is lying flat. There will be no furling on my watch.

4. Because the hours during weekends sometimes are sludge-like in their passage for our 11-year-old (“What should I do?”), we tend to make a lot of crafts. Projects. Experiments. Recently, he wanted to melt some beeswax so he could dip in his hands and make casts of them. As one does.

Then he wanted to dip other stuff. He nixed my suggestions of “your toothbrush” and “your butt.” He even vetoed my legitimate idea of making mini-acorns out of balls of wax and then topping them with real acorn caps. The kid is not an easy sell.

However, he was willing to help me gather leaves from the yard and give them a good dipping. Turns out beeswaxed leaves make a lovely fall centerpiece last lasts for weeks. We’ve got some serious Life By Pinterest going on over here.

5. I like to go to DSW–a huge shoe warehouse kind of store–and make my 14-year-old try on insane stilettos and boots that she would never wear in real life. The girl knows fun when she hears her mom request it; she is game. Thus, if you ever see a serious-looking teenager in a hoodie and sweatpants tottering around in six-inch leopard-print heels, come say hi. That’s just me, helping my careful, cautious, organized kid loosen up.

6. My last random fact is that I hate following rules and chafe when someone tells me what to do, so I’m not going to do a list of Five Random Things. I’m doing a list of Six Random Things. ‘Cause I want to.

So here: even though many people like to roll their eyes at comedian/commentator Russell Brand, saying he’s obnoxious, crazy, off-base, I quite like him. I am made glad when his quicksilver intelligence and verbal abilities unleash. I am extremely happy that his voice is in the mix. He may be a sex addict, he may be wild-eyed, he may have broken Katy Perry’s heart, he may not always hit the mark, but GAD am I ready for people with intelligence to have a platform.


The other part of this challenge is that I’m supposed to tag others and have them respond to the task on their blogs.

I’m not going to.

Do what you want.

Just don’t eat my ear lobes if you poisoned me with arsenic.

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babysitting Duluth Iceland images meme Pepsi

Shaking the Magic Google Ball

I’ve been socked this week by a stack of research papers, student yowls, and end-of-semester freak-outs. So the writing time? Very small. You know what that means, right? Memetime, lads and lassies!

Thanks, Lone Grey Squirrel, for inspiring this meme: typing my answers to the following prompts into Google Image and then choosing a photo off the first page that pops up. Images are the perfect antidote to a week when I am tapped out and my words are–how you say it?–not having way.

Photos it is.

1. Age at My Next Birthday:-

I’ll be the cost of sending you a piece of junk mail. Hell, I am junk mail.

It’s not the size of the dream, my friends. It’s the quality.

2. Place I’d Like to Travel:- Bulgaria. I heard they have soup there.

The Alexander Nevsky Cathedral stands near the center of Sofia. It is dedicated as a monument to the Russians who liberated Bulgaria from nearly five centuries of Ottoman rule in 1877-78.

3. Place I’ve Been:-

Akureyri, Iceland

The thing about Iceland is the towns have swimming pools in the schools which are open to anyone, including travelers; these pools are heated thermally, by local hot springs.

I should have gone to high school in Iceland. My pours would have been thermally tightened, and then all the fellas would have been clambering to take me to the Winter Formal.

4. My Favorite Food:-

I’m full of suprises.

5. Place where I was born:-

Billings, Montana. I drank a lot of beer on those cliffs (known as the Rimrocks or “Rims”). One time my cousin, Luke, was so drunk he fell a couple hundred feet off one of ’em. My dad got to put on his trench coat at 3 a.m. and go bail him out.

I miss my dad.

6. Place where I live:-

Duluth, Minnesota

We’re all about bridges, ore boats, and splashing.

7. Name of Past Pet:-

This is Professor David Dandy of Colorado State University. I wish our poodle had been named Professor. Or David.

But if we’d shaved Dandy really close, he’d have looked like this guy–although maybe a tidge less manic.

8. Best Friend’s Nickname:-

“Groom” wore no jacket, tie, or boutonniere when we got married. But he did wear a vest.

And that’s all he wore.

9. My First Name:-

As if Blogger Jocelyn would ever strike “The Liberty” pose in a gym full of seething hormones. Instead, I keep my posing restricted to home base, where I’ve perfected the high-flying Hand on Remote Control stunt.

10. My First Job:-
When I was 10, Mrs. Baker across the street came flying over, breathlessly telling me she had to go pick-up her older child from an emergency situation, but her 10-week-old baby was sleeping in the house…and she needed me. She needed me for money. Thus, a twenty-year career in babysitting was launched.

And if you don’t want to count babysitting as a “real” job, what with the non-taxed pay, then this was my first job: The summer when I was in 8th grade, the Pepsi Company of America ran a promotional contest, where drinkers of their beverage could, upon opening a can of fizzy sugar water, check the pulled-off tab (not like this new-fangled one in the photo) for a letter of the alphabet. Players of the game would then collect letters on tabs until they could spell out words (“S-O-D-A”) or, for the ultimate prize, a phrase…something like “Pepsi Rocks the World.” Woefully, the Pepsi Company Factory of America made a little error and printed, instead of a handful of tabs with the elusive “R” (the letter that would bring about a big-money win), about a thousand of them.

For you math majors out there: a thousand x Big Money = A Quathwajillion of dollars. The Pepsi Company of America did not want all those “R” letters hitting the public. So I and a couple of my pals were paid to sit in a warehouse and open pop cans, eight hours a day, for weeks, our eyes trained for “R”s.

I never did find an “R,” or surely I would have pocketed it and would now be sitting in my mansion that cost exactly one quathwajillion of dollars.

Instead, I sit in my modest home, grading my 44th research paper on “the obesity trend in our fast-paced society.”

Apparently, my students inform me, we Americans drink too much Pepsi.

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Dinko kids meme Vanity Fair

From the Mouth of Dinko

A few days ago, my new blog pal August, smitten with my irrepressible boy, challenged him to answer the Vanity Fair questionnaire that’s been making the rounds.

Wee Niblet, aka “Dinko,” has subscribed to Vanity Fair for years now–two of them, to be exact (the subscription came about during potty training, as he put in long hours of work on the little plastic seat; The New Yorker, with its endless pages of theater productions and show times, tires the preschooler set, so Vanity Fair it was). Thus, he was flattered and happy to rise to August’s proposition. Plus, Dinko has just added “C-A-T” to his literacy repertoire thanks to the PBS show Super Why! , so he was thrilled to have a public forum in which to display his new knowledge.

And now I must wipe a tear from my eye as I, Proud Mama, present Baby’s First Meme:

What is your idea of perfect happiness?
Watching Donald Duck have a snow fight with Huey, Dewey, and Louie; I almost wet my Tyrannosaurus Rex pajamas, I was laughing so hard at those cheek-wheezers.

What is your greatest fear?
Our basement. I can only go down there with someone else, and I have to say loudly, “There is no monster down here, for sure…you hear me? NO MONSTER” as we head down the stairs.

Which living person do you most admire?
Porky Pig. S-s-s-s-s-eriously, folks, it was like I saw myself there on the screen when I first spotted him. I lead with pink pudge, too. He’s coming to lunch next week, if I can get the peanut butter open for some sandwiches.

What is the trait you most deplore in yourself?
Poop. The fact that I can’t open the jar of peanut butter by myself. But you should see me cut up Playdough with a pastry blender. Now that’s plorable.

What is the trait you most deplore in others?
When they refuse to try on my new paper-mache beanie; they are scaredy C-A-Ts.

What do you consider the most overrated virtue?
Sleeping through the night.

On what occasion do you lie?
When I pretend I didn’t hear my sister say “I’m sorry,” just so I can tell on her. My mom would love for me to be bi-lingual, but that would mean I’d have to learn to say “butthead” in Spanish to describe myself.

That sounds like a lot of work. So I’ll continue to be an occasional butthead in English only.

What do you dislike most about your appearance?
That annoying fourth eye sometimes causes me to walk into lamp posts.

What is your greatest regret?
I didn’t ride my tricycle more during the summer of ’06.

What or who is the greatest love of your life?
My mom. And her soft tummy of Love and Comfort. No one can compete.

So stop trying, Dad. You can go make dinner. We’ll be here on the couch.

Which talent would you most like to have?
Being a professional lasso thrower.

What is your current state of mind?
Humming. My mind and mouth hum all day long.

If you could change one thing about yourself what would it be?
I’d have wings and a retractable whip growing out of my hand and X-ray vision and a real live baby dragon.

What do you consider your greatest achievement?
Making it through seventeen minutes of the Bee Movie


If you were to die and come back as a person or thing, what do you think it would be?
Buneary, a cutie Pokemon.
Or maybe a snow plow driver.

What is your most treasured possession?
My beautiful and glamorous fake-real yellow crystal diamond from a booth at the Home Show. All people want this because it is very, very expensive, like $2, and it is a diamond, and everyone wants my rare and exotic crystal diamond.

What do you regard as the lowest depth of misery?
Seeing the scarecrow’s head rot.

Where would you like to live?

In the bed with my mom.

In the future, it could be on a therapist’s couch.

What is your most marked characteristic?
When I’m hungry, you need to feed me. It gets really ugly, really fast otherwise.

Who are your favourite writers?
Mo Willems; Tedd Arnold; Ruth Stiles Gannett

Who is your favourite hero of fiction?
I listen to Junie B. Jones in the car when we drive around, and she makes me laugh all the time, like Wowie Wow Wow. When she thought her new baby brother was a real, live monkey, I about dropped my juice box.

Who are your heroes in real life?
Did you know my sister can ride a two-wheeler and is really good at spelling?

What is it that you most dislike?
Dressing myself. I kind of refuse to do it. So far, it’s been a pretty effective strategy.

What is your motto?
“I have a really great idea…”

Favourite journey?
The one that ends at Target. They have a whole section of Pokemon cards and Ben 10 toys there. I can push buttons for an hour before I need to go to the restaurant area for a bag of popcorn.

What do you value most in friends?
Proximity. If they are here, I will play. If they like to wear toe socks, too, like me, that’s a bonus.
Which words or phrases do you most overuse?
“You know what?” and “When will Mommy be home?”

Which historical figure do you most identify with?
Louis XVI. I hide my shyness in pageantry, too.

What is your greatest extravagance?
The occasional second bowl of applesauce.

If you could change one thing about your family, what would it be?
We’d have a cutie baby. Mom says it ain’t gonna happen.

What is your favourite occupation?
Hiding a screwdriver in a heap of Ooblek and then watching it emerge as the slime melts away.

What is the quality you like most in a woman?
Red hair and glasses and an accommodating lap.

What is the quality you like most in a man?
A unicycle.

How would you like to die?
I’m only four. I’m not ever going to die.

If you care to share, click a square:
Bugs Bunny If I were Jimmy Carter meme questions

Sandwiched Ellipses

Some months ago, my much-adored blogpal, Glamourpuss, tagged me with the following meme. Although I entertain some ambivalence about memes, I so much enjoyed reading Puss’s answers that I’m game on this one.

To wit:

If I were a beginning, I would be….everything in the movie RAISING ARIZONA that comes before the opening credits. Then I’d go get my dip-tet.

If I were a month, I would be…controlled by the moon. But I’m not a month; I’m a woman, so I’m controlled by chocolate.

If I were a time of day, I would be…the eleven minutes of Craig Ferguson’s nightly monologue.

If I were a planet, I would be…shocked by my gravity. I’m generally full of levity.

If I were a season, I would be….turmeric. Ah, crud, that’s a seasoning. Okay, I guess I’d be Fall because it’s the season that’s, em, the color of turmeric.

If I were a sea animal, I would be….choking in mercury-laden waters.

If I were a direction, I would be….“Take a left at the corner, and then sit on the couch.”

If I were a piece of furniture, I would be…overstuffed and stained with pasta sauce, envying the Eileen Gray Bibendum chair in the corner for its sleek, clean funkiness. Superior bitch.

If I were a sin, I would be…gluttony. Put a dozen chocolate-chip cookies next to me, click the stopwatch, watch it run for a minute, and then check the cookies. Poof. Gone.

If I were a liquid, I would be…a Long Island Iced Tea: shots of five different liquors masked by the effervescence of Coca-Cola. I’m a little too much and can make your head ache and your mouth feel all cotoony, yet you–strangely–find yourself coming back for more.

If I were a scare, I would be…a Constitution overturned to allow George W. a third term.

If I were a gem, I would be…an agate. Not that, er, I can really recognize an agate. But my kids and husband are really obsessed with looking for agates when we go to the beach, and I like the idea of them pawing through warm stones to find me. Hmm. Maybe they could just bury me under pebbles and then dig me out so’s we could cut out all this middleman gem nonsense.

If I were a flower/plant, I would be…able to overwinter. Put me outside; bring me indoors; I’ll still give you color.

If I were a kind of weather, I would be….cool, but with no chance of frost. I’m hoodie weather walking around in freckled skin.

If I were a musical instrument, I would be…the zither. Strum me, choir boys. Strum me.

If I were an animal, I would be…a platypus. I’d engender simultaneous feelings of “what the hell?” and “hey, kinda cool.” Dig the bill.

If I were an emotion, I would be….angry, confused, sad, surprised, and strangely buoyant that I was an emotion.

If I were a vegetable, I would be…a point of contention for right-to-lifers.

If I were a sound, I would be…sailed by small boats.

If I were an element, I would be…wishing my isotopes were more stable.

If I were a car, I would be…running on fumes.

If I were a song, I would be…”She’s Happy” by the Gear Daddies–not too polished or ground-breaking, but infectious and full of a good story. Plus, as this song, I’d make you want to sing along really loudly and yell “WOO-HOO” at regular intervals while spilling beer on your pals.

If I were a food, I would be…eaten first by the survivors on the island after the plane went down.

If I were a place, I would be…neither here nor there.

If I were a material, I would be…homespun.

If I were a taste, I would be…stealthy but lingering. Call me Mace.

If I were a scent, I would be…that of fresh bread baking.

If I were a religion, I would be…tolerant of those not me.

If I were a sentence, I would be…a run-on.

If I were a facial expression, I would be…fleeting and revealing.

If I were a subject in school, I would be…playing hooky.

If I were a colour, I would be…sort of a blueish-greenish tone with an auburn undertone, all capped off by a thread of gold. Just that easy.

If I were a thing, I would be…part of the Fantastic Four.

If I were a book, I would be…Russian literature, running on for thousands of pages and requiring flow charts of characters for my readers to have any hopes of following along.

If I were an artist, I would be…formerly known as Princess.

If I were a collection of poems, I would be…pissed off at myself for being so cryptic. But then I’d be sitting on a park bench one day and would meet this other collection of poems, one by Louis Jenkins, and I’d see the light: prose poems can make sense and feck all to the rest of y’all, damn poetry. I’d start dating Jenkins’ poems, and then we’d shack up and have a couple little haikus before heading into a dark and cruel break-up that would leave us all shattered and unsure of our line breaks. But every now and then, flailing around in my Plathian state, I’d drop some iambic pentameter and have a flashback during which I’d be reminded why I had ever loved the Jenkins collection in the first place:

If I were a landmass, I would be…the Maldives: hovering just above sea-level and easily swamped.

If I were a watch, I would be…chronically off by 7 minutes.

I believe in the big brown pills, they lower cholesterol and improve digestion. They help prevent cancer and build brain cells. Plus they just make you feel better overall. I believe in coffee and beet greens and fish oil, of course, and red wine, in moderation, and cinnamon. Green tea is good and black tea, ginseng. I eat my broccoli. Nuts are very good and dark chocolate, has to be dark, not milk chocolate. Tomatoes. But I think the big brown pills really help. I used to believe in the little yellow pills but now I believe in the big brown pills. I believe that they are much more effective. I still take the little yellow ones, but I really believe in the big brown ones.” –Louis Jenkins

If I were God, I would be…a little more directly communicative.

If I were a vowel, I would be…a team player.

If I were a consonant, I would be…dominant.

If I were a theory, I would be…jubilant the day I received an invitation to the Famous Theories cocktail party. I’d get there early, stake out a corner with a good vantage point, and once the Conspiracy Theory About JFK’s Death showed up (tipsy already), I’d sidle over, pour it a G & T, and start pumping it for every juicy detail. Don’t worry: I’d tuck it into a cab at the end of the evening, shortly before calling the New York Times and getting my first byline.

If I were a famous person, I would be…constantly trying to use my clout as a crowbar to wedge my way close–ever closer–to former-president Jimmy Carter. With a white-hot, volcano-deep passion, I adore that man. He is the axis of my faith in humanity. He makes my heart beat for intelligence and energy bent towards genuine good works. I just want to sit next to him and stroke his arm sometimes. Is that so wrong?

If I were an item of electronic equipment, I would be…Miss Sylvia, our Italian-born espresso machine. She lives in a place of honor, both on our kitchen counter and in my husband’s heart. When I’m off with Jimmy, he will take her to the movies and hold her steam-spout there in the darkness.

If I were a sport, I would be…air hockey: simple but slick, accessible to all ages and abilities.

If I were a movie, I would be…RUSHMORE. I aspire to such elegant perfection in any genre.

If I were a cartoon, I would be…”The Rabbit of Seville” featuring good ole Bugs.

If I were an explorer, I would be…so totally lost I’d have to shoot the horses and eat them, even though I’d be morally opposed to harming any animals involved in the production of my exploration.

If I were a scientist, I would be….still trying to figure out how to focus the microscope.

If I were a relation, I would be…Bill Clinton’s version of “not sexual.”

If I were a river, I would be…the Yellowstone.

If I were intoxication, I would be…free and cause no hangover.

If I were alone, I would be…looking at my watch and worrying about how little time I still had before everyone would be home. Just another ten minutes, please.

If I were a question, I would be…Why can’t all those fresh young rehab-addict beyotches see that Helen Mirren is hotter than they’ll ever be?

If I were a habit, I would be…worn by the Mother Superior as she sang “Climb Every Mountain.” Then I’d feel all dirty after she wore me during an illicit rendezvous with Julie Andrews in the catacombs. Ain’t nuthin’ nastier than nun-on-nun.

If I were in an atom, I would be…looking for my Eve.

If I were you, I would be…a little exhausted yet thinking about doing this meme on my own blog.

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book party coffee exercise food meme shoes vibrations

Good Vibrations

As a teacher of writing, I caution my students against using cliches in their writing. Cliches are hackneyed and trite and require no thought on the part of the writer. For example, I point out to my young charges, the phrases it was raining cats and dogs and I was up at the crack of dawn are empty and hollow–they are dead to me. Please, I beseech my tuition-paying pupils, don’t use the phrase sex, drugs, and rock ‘n roll in your essay entitled “The Meaning of College Life.” If you must use a cute little phrase, try reworking the cliche a bit, to freshen it up; give me, at the very least, free love, Yellow Submarines, and Janis Joplin. Go for some gusto, O College Writers of the World!

In the face of my exhortations, they yawn a lot, send a few text messages, and then start zipping and unzipping their backpacks loudly.

Clearly, the cliche battle is mine alone to wage, and, therefore, I do my best to uphold my No Cliches, Especially on Sundays, policy. So I trot through life, whistling to myself: to convey a sentiment with precision in writing, the last thing a writer should use is a worn-out, overused cliche.

But you know what? Right now I need one. Because? The weather this week, here in Minnesota? There’s only one way to tell you: it’s not the heat; it’s the humidity.

It’s so humid, friends, that our toilet is literally wrapped in a bath towel right now; it’s sweating so much condensation that the bathroom floor was becoming slick with toilet sweat puddles. So we wrapped it.

It’s so humid that, during yoga class the other day, I was dripping with sweat to the point that, when I lowered myself from a Downward Dog into a Child’s Pose, my dripping legs failed to actually stop when they made contact with the mat, and I slid right through, off the mat, thereby losing my, um, connection with the center of the earth and, er, all my chakras went out of alignment. And I said a bad word, too.

It’s so humid that, I kid you not, I washed my hair before bed the other night, and 18 hours later it was still wet. YES, I’ve heard of the modern invention called hair dryer, but the idea of willfully and purposefully applying heat–even a dry heat–to any part of this body when temperatures are almost 90 degrees is anathema. Thus, my follicles remain moist. (How’s that for a pick-up line?)

Suffice it to say, this week is not breezing by for me. In fact, my naturally-buoyant spirits have felt oppressed, suppressed, by the thick air and the ongoing sensation that I’m breathing through a wet washcloth. Even staying up until 2 a.m. each night, reading the new Harry Potter, hasn’t gotten my mojo rising (but nice job, Ms. Rowling! I can’t believe you killed off the entire cast of characters on the last page like that!!).

So what, gentle readers, can do the trick for me during this challenging week?

Fortunately, I can answer that question thanks to Jazz , who tagged me some time ago with just the meme I need: to list five things that raise my vibrations. Thinking of these things has provided exactly the counterpoint that my soggy spirit needs:

1. The nightly date with my beau. Quite unconsciously, we fell, a few years ago, into the pattern of tucking in kidlets, having a drink, and plugging the DVD of our tv-show-of-the-moment into the player, which we watch, rapt, while we eat a delicious dinner (tonight: cold sesame noodles with chicken and sugar snap peas). While our days consist of the chaos that can accompany parenting young children, my groom and I have a protected hour or two each night, a time of focus and shared experience, that keeps us, if not on the same page, at least on the same episode. Result? The the love remains in its groove.

2. Speaking of food, there is one meal in particular that is guaranteed to turn my frown, how you say, upside down: a fried egg sandwich. The sheer simple elegance of this dish gives me a big ole case of The Happies. There is butter, egg, toasted bread; toss on some salt and pepper, and I suddenly feel nestled to the bosom of a loving world. Yes, steak rocks. Sure, chocolate saves. But the fried egg sandwich is my ultimate comfort food.
3. My Teva flip-flops. Last weekend, I attended a farewell party for a good friend. While I was grateful for the chance to pay tribute to how much I like this guy, I was put off by the invitation, which asked guests to bring an appetizer (no problem) and their own drinks (what the hell? This is something I’ve experienced several times now in Minnesota, and it just peeves me. I mean, are you hosting the party or not? If you are, howzabout you put out some food and, if you can’t do that, at least provide some drinks? If you don’t want to do that, howzabout you go to a movie that afternoon instead of pretending at some kind of faux hospitality? I was glad, however, that guests weren’t also asked in the invite to come over the day before the party and clean the host’s house. Hmmmmm. As it turns out, I am digressing. None of this has anything to do with my flip-flops, really. Gotcha!). Okay, so at this party, we were asked to leave our shoes by the door, so as to not track Nature into the house. Then we were lead out the back door of the house to a patio. After standing, barefoot, on that patio for a couple hours, it was pure, rabid bliss to get home and slip my aching dogs into my soft, accommodating, saucy little Teva flip-flops. Even if the blood of small hamsters is the highly-guarded secret of Teva’s manufacturing design, I don’t care. These things are that good. Power to the bloodsuckers!
4. My afternoon coffee. Before the age of 35, I had only ever had one cup of coffee in my life (at Mardi Gras in 1991, when I hadn’t slept for some days). But when I hit 35, Groom took a job as a barrista, and I learned the beauties of showing up at opportune times to kipe his free “shift drink,” so long as it was sweet and frothy and basically a dessert in a cup. All of this occurred when I’d just had Kid #2, so once again coffee was used to get me over the hump of not having slept for some days…or some months. Now, even when relatively well rested, I rely upon my 3 p.m. mocha or latte to get me through the mid-afternoon dozies. I also am very good at making the case that a mocha is nothing–nothing!–without a little biscotti sidecar.

5. Exercise. It’s the best of all addictions, this need to raise my heart rate every day. And, like coffee, my devotion to exercise only started in my 30’s. And, like coffee, exercise has been essential to making me a better parent. When I go for an hour run every day, I actually think, reflect, and plan. If I didn’t run, we’d never have a shopping list or take a trip or enroll the kids in camp. I needs me thinkin’ time, and I love seeing the world by foot, up close and smelly. And on those days when I hit the gym instead of the trails, I love reading my celebrity gossip while ticking the minutes by on the treadmill. And at the end of my exercise, I’m all sweaty, which is…
…em…just what humidity does to me, too. So now I’m back where I started. I was feeling better there for my first four vibration raisers, but now I’m just back to sweaty. Dag. What to do?

The good news is that that blogging, as well, inflates my spiritual balloons. And right now, today, my ballooons are blowing in the breeze for my fellow blogger, Diesel, who, as you read, is hosting a little party over at his crib. His Media Office has sent out this press release:

Diesel, the twisted genius behind the humor blog, has announced the publication date for his first book! Antisocial Commentary: From the Secret Files of the Mattress Police, is a hilarious excursion through the mind of Diesel. From topics as varied as James Blunt and the Incredible Hulk to global politics and perpetual motion machines, Antisocial Commentary is a tour de force of satire, sarcasm, and just plain silliness. Savor such essays as “The Force is Middling in this One,” which answers the question “What happens to someone in the Star Wars universe who isn’t quite Jedi material?” and “Harry Potter and the Inevitable Slide into Satanism,” which explores the nefarious connection between the works of J.K. Rowling and the minions of the Devil.

Diesel’s book will be published on August 15, but for a limited time we fellow bloggers can pre-order a signed copy at a discounted price, so if you’re a fan of Diesel’s and have ten bucks burning a hole in your birkin, head on over to and give him a big ole virtual (and financial) hug. The book is guaranteed to raise your vibrations.

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bloggers meme schmoozing

“Mel Torme Is Merely A Velvet Fog Compared to Me”

Move over, Bob Barker.

Step aside, Tony Bennett.

Outta my way, Bill Clinton.

Get another job, Oprah.

There’s a new Schmoozer in the business, and her name is Jaw C. Lin.

Yup, I recently discovered, a bit to my surprise, that I’m a schmoozer. Lone Grey Squirrel broke the news to me with a swift “tag, you’re clearly it,” based on a tag he had been thumped with by a blogger named Mike.

I must admit, at first I reeled back a bit, fretting, “Do I really wear that much hair gel? Did Lone Grey Squirrel notice that I like to walk around with a microphone and a martini in hand, over-emoting, assuring people I feel their pain and offering to give them a make-over or another chance to spin the wheel? Am I a slick weasel, and I just never knew it?”

As it turns out, however, I do none of those things, eschewing everything from microphone to gel. The only parts of me that satisfy the schmoozer definition are my love of a Lemondrop and the Big Wheel I keep in the bedroom (no details forthcoming, you voyeuristic preeverts).

Luckily, in his usual elegant prose, LGS elucidates the positive condition of being a schmoozer, as it exists here in the Republic of Blog (aka ROB). He explains, “Schmoozing as defined by is the ability ‘to converse casually, especially in order to gain an advantage or make a social connection’… If you look at the award logo, you will see that it is refered to as the ‘Blogging Community Involvement Award’… I think the spirit of this award is best reflected by that thought…Through your blogging social skills, you have encouraged us, informed us, amused us and most importantly helped us to meet others and to expand our social circle in the blogging community.”

And with that, I felt eversomuch better, to the point that I took Groom upstairs for a spin on the wheel (where he was subsequently heard chanting, “One dollar! One dollar! One dollar!”). Mos’ def’, the bloom is not off the rose, eight years into our gig.

Now, with renewed focus, I realize that it is my job to pass on the compliment and identify five bloggers who, in my estimation, are Big Ole Schmoozers. This, to me, means I need to find five writers whose blog cribs feel unusually hospitable, whose joints make readers feel welcome and impart a particular sense of togetherness and community, whose spaces make readers want to step up and participate and converse. Another way to cast this would be to identify five bloggers whose comment sections are comprised of more than a single response from the blogger’s mother which reads, “I guess I never really did understand you, JoJo. And if you think any part of this story you wrote about my wig falling into the basket of Body of Christ crackers during Communion is funny, then you’re grounded. I don’t care if you’re thirty-four. Get to your room, and no phone privileges for a week. And you can forget about chaperoning the Prom next year, too!”

Rather, the schmoozer blogger inspires comments with content, comments of reader interaction—you know, vigorous commenting simply because the blog’s visitors have been sufficiently moved by the writing on the site to put a piece of themselves out there.

At this juncture, you can start the drumroll and sound the fanfare. I would, *clears throat and opens envelope*, now like to award these five writers as some of the best schmoozers I read, and if any of you five are so inspired, you can grab the Schmoozer banner and pass on the tagging. Otherwise, just sit back and pat your backs in a gentle, soothing motion of schmoozage.

1. It’s gotta be Diesel. Diesel combines humor, fine writing, and shameless self-promotion into a most charming package. Where else can you read about the world’s scariest motel, buy a blog-specific t-shirt, and participate in captioning some excellent Photoshopped pictures? Nowhere, my friends. Nowhere but Dieselville. Plus, I’m pretty sure Diesel needs more stuff for his sidebars, so maybe the Schmoozer banner can help with that.

2. I have to shout out to That Chick Over There. Here in the Midwest, folks like the word “hoot,” and she is one. A hoot, I mean. Not a folks. Well, she is a folk, but that’s not what I’m driving at. Since Chick is a Southerner, though, I’m not sure “hoot” is the best description for her and her writing…I feel that more colorful phrasing is required, to acknowledge her life below the Mason-Dixon Line; so let’s just say she’s funnier than a two-headed dog do-si-doing at a clowns’ barn dance. However we put it, all I know is that her open letters (“Dear woman in the burgundy mini-van in the furthest left lane on Interstate 40,…”), her posts about her piss-ant neighbors, and her recent good-old-fashioned serial of posts about her meeting and marrying her husband…well, they’ve got a slew of us readers hooked.

3. The comment section of Hearts in San Francisco’s blog is a regular tupperware party. Hosts of folks check in to read Hearts’ latest rousing messages about ethics and the right way to be in the world, or to roll their eyes at the latest sub-letters next door, or to admire her turns of phrase (a recent post ended with “Why does every errant hedgeborn canker blossom end up living right next door to me?”, which pleased me no end). Pretty much, I think Hearts should go into politics. She gets me standing up in front of my monitor, pounding my fist in the air. One time I broke a picture on the wall doing that, but it wasn’t her fault. Now my computer and I go into an open, empty room before I jump over to her blog. It’s safer that way.

4. Because it would make any good Minnesotan blush to be publicly honored with anything, I have to say Dorky Dad. He tells stories of mishap while camping that make all of us readers certain he should never even utter the word “tent” again, much less get into one. Fortunately, he has a worthy partner in mosquito-bitten-tentpole-in-the-skullishness in his lovely wife, who occasionally has her input into this funny blog on Wife Wednesdays.

5, And finally, I must acknowledge that I get a special feeling—not just from the Lemondrop I’m drinking, either—when I visit Jen’s blog. The whole business of getting shivers while reading something? Jen’s writing does that for me. She mixes it up with posts about her work with the homeless, her hopes for an expat life with her family, and everyday slices of life, like getting a manicure. Everyone who reads Jen’s blog regularly ends up feeling inspired by her sense of social justice, but not because she’s preachy or self-righteous. She is one woman, following her choices in life, and her readers can’t wait to find out what comes next.

So thank you, Dear Schmoozers, for helping to create that really weird thing that is community with the land of the blogs. You not only make it a great place to visit; you also make Blogland a place many people want to live.

…which, now that I think about that, is kind of sad and scary. I mean, get a life already.

(warning: I’ll be cleaning out my Meme Closet in the next few weeks here; I recently noticed that I have about five of ‘em sitting in mothballs, awaiting a good dusting off)
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coming home expats Guatemala meme

“Before You Click Your Heels Three Times…Is There Really No Place Like Home?”

Last week, Oroneta tagged me with a meme about living the expatriate life.

Now, I know Duluth is far North, we all talk like Canadians here as we putter “aboot the hoose,” people do willingly eat herring, and we celebrate St. Urho’s Day, but I have to admit, however reluctantly, that I’m still technically in the United States, the country of my birth. And although I’ve traveled a fair amount in my FORTY long years–even living for four months in Dublin–I can’t say that I’ve really set up shop in another country long or deeply enough to have ever felt that my “real” life was taking place in another country. At best, I’ve only had that sensation the morning after a big night of drinking, when I’ve woken up bewildered, confused, and wondering where my shoes went.

Luckily, I will still answer Oroneta’s challenge, for I have an expat in my life, my sister, Kirsten (Yes, yes, you’re right! She was named after opera singer Kirsten Flagstad!) Some of you faithful readers might remember that my family spent two weeks in Guatemala over Christmastime; it was to visit Kirsten that we made the trip.

Okay, and because we needed some new tablecloths.

At any rate, since I’m in the midst of a particularly busy week–ever since I turned FORTY, it’s just go, go, go, what with the big job promotion, all of my community service, volunteering at the kids’ schools, retiling the playhouse floor, opening a free dental clinic, and, um, trying to get through the entire boxed set of Sports Night–I’m going to hand over the rest of this post to Guest Blogger Kirsten, who has much to say about her life as an expatriate (just for your edification, she’s also done stints in the Peace Corps in Belize and Moldova; in a few months, she’ll be leaving behind her current job in Guatemala City and heading back to her teaching position with Denver Public Schools, which she fled two years ago in the face of the strictures and penalties inherent in the No Child Left Behind act).

Yea, this this is Kirsten. Nice buckers, eh? Here she goes:

There are stages of grieving, stages of detoxifying
and stages of living and leaving a country…I’m in the
stage of “I can’t wait to get out of here and I’m
never, EVER coming back”…and you ask me to name things
I like, even love, about this place?? What? Are you
trying to make me reflective on this experience

Sigh….ok, here goes…

Name five things you love in your new country:
1. The textiles
2. The Mayan ruins
3. Being completely free and unmonitored in whatever I
do in my job
4. The couple of friends I’ve made who I think are
truly, deep-down good people
5. ???

Name four things that you miss from your native

1. Standards in education (and it was the strictness
of which I was running from by coming here!)
2. Friends who share a common understanding of
..things, life…
3. Driving a car
4. Air quality standards (especially, emissions
standards!! Egads!)

Name three things (I’m making it four!) that annoy you
a bit (or a lot) in your new country:

1. Pollution (air pollution, littering, snot wads on
the sidewalk…)
2. The idea that outright lying to someone is actually
being polite…
3. Lack of personal safety (there are machine guns at
every business, residence…)
4. The acceptance and promotion of class differences

Name two things that surprise you (or surprised you in
the beginning) in your new country:

1. The number of people who speak English really well
2. The level of wealth and luxury enjoyed by the 13
ruling families and the lack of shame they exhibit in
treating the “rest” of the people here as unworthy

Name one thing that you would miss terribly in your
new country, if you had to leave it:

IF I had to leave it? I AM leaving it! I’ve got a
countdown going! But, I’ll miss a teacher I work
with; she’s one of those truly, good people…I’ll
probably also miss the amount of free time I have here
to just read and watch TV. (I’m already calling my
Guatemala experience “my two years of TV watching…”)

Gracias, hermana, for the post. I daresay you might miss a few of the kiddles, too.

So how about the rest of y’all? When you’ve lived or traveled abroad, what have you loved and hated the most?

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