Word Girl

An adventure in literary highjinks

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Location: Michigan, United States

Adventure. Kids. BBQ. Dating. Zombies. Love it all

Tuesday, September 06, 2005


Collectively, I had about 12 beers this weekend, more than I’ve had combined since the beginning of the year. In my old age, I’m finding that I like the taste of beer better, yet I’m less capable of handling the ensuing hangover. Being sick first thing in the morning is hell, especially for someone used to getting things done in the wee hours.


We went to a party – I guess you can call it that – Sunday night at a house in our neighborhood. My husband’s been friends with George for more than two years now, after they first met on the job. Both of them have since moved around (and surprisingly, ended up back at the same employer). I like George, a small, compact man with a shaved head who’s missing two-and-a-half fingers on his left hand from an industrial accident. His wife is a child-like woman everyone calls Kell: long dark hair, elongated limbs, deep but vacant brown eyes. They have two daughters that complete their little family, ages 9 and 14, and a horrible little Welsh Corgi dog that seems motivated only by food (notably, my food). [In fact, that dog pierced Abe’s ear a few month’s ago when we, by chance, met at the city park and the little monster attacked the affable Abe, without provocation. I nervously waved off the blood dripping from his ear, and quickly took my pooch home.]


Anyway, this “party” (it’s probably more appropriate to call it a get-together) included George & Kell’s friends from the music scene in the local area. I admit I find these people to be endlessly funny, and often hang on their every word. Most of them are big fans of the show Arrested Development which I also find endlessly funny. But most of the conversations started with how drunk the participants were at any given point in the story. I found this both depressing and reassuring, seeing as most of the people at the party were older than my husband and myself. It seems pathetic that getting roaring drunk is a regular activity for these grown-ups, especially considering many of them have young kids. Whatever. We’re SO much better than everyone else…

Thursday, September 01, 2005

Spiderous remains

This story brings up an interesting point: is burning down your house too extreme a method for spider elimination?


BERLIN - A German woman laid waste to her family home by setting fire to it as she tried to kill spiders in a garage with a can of hairspray and a cigarette lighter.


Police in the western town of Zuelpich said that when the aerosol failed to finish them off, the 34-year-old woman tried to burn them with the lighter. However, this set the area she had just sprayed on fire and the blaze spread to a hedge.


“It was a series of unfortunate events which led to the damage,” a police spokesman said on Thursday.


“She tried to put the fire out with a garden hose, but couldn’t. Instead her semi-detached house next to the hedge caught fire. It’s now uninhabitable.”


Firefighters managed to extinguish the blaze and save the neighboring house, which sustained broken windows and some charring. The spokesman estimated the total cost of the damage at well over $125,000. No one was hurt.


“The family have had to look for somewhere else to stay,” he said. “The spiders are gone though -- that problem was solved.”



Depends on how much you value your house, says me.


I happened to spy a fat, little (well, medium sized) spider last night, nestled in the sheets of my bed. Normally I would have hit the ceiling in panic, but for some reason I just pointed and held my breath. Instantly, my husband took over and “flicked” the arachnid to some unknown location in our bedroom, thus ensuring that we spent the rest of the evening bent over, searching for the spiderous remains. All we found were dark, ominous balls of lint. The search finally ended with my husband assuring me the spider was dead. “How can you be sure?” I demanded.


“I felt his little body squish when I flicked him.”


Do they teach boys this stuff in elementary school when us girls aren’t looking?


After enduring hours of depressing hurricane coverage, I called my mother Tuesday night just to check in. I gave her the rundown on my family's back-to-school activities, and then mom gave me the update on her and dad.

"You're not going to believe this," she said, "but your father has found another stray shihtzu [which she insists on pronouncing "shee-zoo"] yesterday, and has already taken him to the vet to be de-flead."

A little background: my father, the Oklahoma-born second-son of an American farmer, who has been known to take a hammer to the heads of chicks that had fallen out of their nests, the Director of Logistics for a major internet company, already has one rescued "shee-zoo." Her name is Lizzie, and she's a neurotic little animal whose body is too long for itself: her midsection is strung between her front and hind legs like a drooping hotdog. Her snaggle-toothed mouth provides an expression of disdain to go along with her very obvious attitude of dislike for any person other than my parents. She regularly dines on chapstick tubes and her own poop (my dad pointed out, with some irony, that he never has to clean up the backyard). They've had her for about three years, during which everyone else in the family has taken to calling her "The Lizard," a nomenclature that suits her much better.

"Dad has named him Larry," my mom said. "He's the ugliest dog I've ever seen." Apparently, his underbite is even worse that The Lizard's.

"Even uglier than Lizzie?" I ask, regretting the question just a little even as the words flow out of my mouth. I suggested they put a description up on petfinder.org, in a (weak) effort to find the owners.

I'll be interested to see if my dad turns into an even bigger softie with this new addition.

Tuesday, August 30, 2005


Yesterday, a co-worker was complaining that the media was going insane about this hurricaine business, and that it was going to come back and bite them one of these days. Well, today it sort of did. People who ignored the warnings to get out because they believed the danger was over-hyped are now reeling, swimming through debris and water filled with dangerous chemicals. Or dead. All of us north of the Ohio River Valley are glued to our televisions or laptops, hands laid on our stunned faces as we scan and study the video and photos coming in from the devastation.


To me, it’s apparent that the poor will bear the most burden from this disaster. Just looking at the faces in the Super Dome is confirmation enough that those refugees from Katrina have nothing left, except for themselves. I usually hate the interviews on the Today show (“Tell us how it felt when your infant died in your arms…”), but that had this great guy, real blue-collar fellow who apparently had hung onto a tree for hours and hours during the storm, watching his neighborhood disappear. He had the wherewithall to say that it had been a tough night, but man, what a beautiful morning. And it was.


It seems in poor taste to compare this disaster to the Christmas-time tsunami, but that’s what it feels like. I can’t imagine what a direct hit would have been like.


When I was stationed in Pensacola in 1995 I experienced my first hurricanes, first Erin, then Opal. I remember Erin being less powerful than Opal, which was a level 3 hurricane. Before 1995, a hurricane hadn’t hit Pensacola in twenty years, so it seemed unfair that in the five or so months I spent in the Florida panhandle, two major hurricanes blew through.


I was training on a converted air strip near the Naval Air Station called Corry Station, and all the students, which included soldiers, sailors, marinese and airmen, herded into the SCIFs (Secret Compartmented Information Facilities), which were converted from airplane hangers. It was hot, dark and boredom inched through each classroom along with some pretty foul odors over the 48-hour period.


We spent the time laying on our army-issued sleeping bags, which were spread out on linoleum we just waxed the day before, listening to the radio and gossiping about the males, who were being housed in another section of the hanger. It had the air of a misreble slumber party. I seem to remember stepping outside for a moment when the eye of the storm passed over, but I could be wrong. We ate bologna sandwiches and hard-boiled eggs, and we were glad for them. After the storm passed, we all sort of wandered back to our barracks, picked up some tree branches and went back to work. My boyfriend (who would later become my husband) flew in later that week and gave me a diamond, “just in case” I wanted to get married. I declined at the time, but called him within the month to tell him I’d changed my mind.


I also experienced an earthquake growing up in STL. I thought the washing machine had gone off balance, but when I ran to the laundry closet, there wasn’t anything in it. Confused, I wandered back into the living room where the TV report said we’d just experienced an earthquake.


Next on the list of natural disasters to experience: tornadoes.

Monday, August 29, 2005

50 things I want to do before I die

Inspired by an email I received this weekend:


  1. Write a book.
  2. Get my nose pierced.
  3. Own a horse.
  4. Run a marathon.
  5. Live in Oklahoma as an adult.
  6. Have another baby – but without the pressure of needing my income during pregnancy.
  7. Get my masters degree. In either English, or Business, I haven’t decided which.
  8. Sing karaoke in front of a group of strangers.
  9. Get to know my younger brother.
  10.  Buy a cabin and spend summers there with my family.
  11.  Get published in a major media outlet.
  12.  Tour Italy.
  13.  Own a pair of Manolo Blahniks.
  14.  Join the VFW. (I’m eligible, you know.)
  15.  Live beneath my means.
  16.  Have a fling with my husband in a semi-public place.
  17.  Have more close girlfriends.
  18.  See my grandfather one more time before he dies.


this is hard! And to think I almost did 100 things I want to do before I die.


  1.  Learn to grill steaks.
  2.  Play on a soccer team.
  3.  Learn to love camping.
  4.  Dress all in J. Jill clothes.
  5.  Have my eyebrows professionally manicured.
  6.  Learn to ride a motorcycle.
  7.  Have beautiful, matching underwear and bras.
  8.  Ride – or march - in a Veteran’s Day parade.
  9.  Run a design business with my husband.
  10.  Ask my sister-in-law if she’s going to tell her baby who his real dad is.
  11.  Visit Napa Valley.
  12.  Learn to sail a boat.
  13. Go skinny-dipping. Again.
  14.  Throw a bitchin’ Halloween costume party.
  15.  Watch my son play football. (ugh, is this awful? So clichéd, so much pressure to be a boy – but still, I have that image in my head.)
  16.  Watch my daughter ignore boys.
  17.  Win at Scrabble.
  18.  Lobby the government.
  19.  Have a nice garden.
  20.  Pay a cleaning service to clean my house once a month.
  21.  Learn to sew.
  22.  Have a real wedding, with a real reception and a real honeymoon.
  23.  Visit the Old Ironsides Motel in Killeen, TX, where my husband and I spent many a happy evening while we were dating.
  24.  Never borrow money from anyone, ever again.
  25.  Volunteer for work that makes a difference in someone’s life.
  26.  Learn more programming.
  27.  Take a vacation on a houseboat.
  28.  Live someplace beautiful.
  29.  Have professional photos taken of my husband and myself, and my family.
  30.  Own more than one dog. Preferably a pug.
  31.  Learn a martial art. Aikido sounds right.
  32.  Get a Brazilian wax.




Memorial blog?

Here’s a new use for a blog: http://samanthavanalphen.blogspot.com/.


I can’t figure out if Samantha originally started the blog and then was killed in an auto accident, or if her family initiated the blog after she died. Looks like the latter. Either way, I find it eerie.

Recommended Reading

Maybe I’m a little late to the party on this one, but I’ll spread the gospel anyways:  http://michaelyon.blogspot.com/. Some very compelling, very authentic reporting from Iraq by an independent journalist. You should set aside some time for this one, you might be there for a couple of hours.


Friday night was party night at the Wordgrrl house. We actually found a babysitter that was NOT one of my in-laws, a rare event indeed. I spent a good half-hour in the bathroom with curlers on my head, another rare occurrence, as it’s usually too hot in the upstairs bathroom to layer my head with super-heated cylinders. But I sacrificed for the sake of beauty. I also wore kitten heels, another brave sacrifice for the sake of MILF-ness. We put the baby in his crib, thanked the sitter profusely, and headed out the door.


(Is it tacky to wear a bra with a spaghetti-strap tank top? The bra was “champagne” colored and matched my skin better than most other colors. This is one fashion dilemma that I mull over frequently, but I decided in the end that the bra was necessary. I am almost thirty and have breastfed two children; going braless makes me look frumpy.)


The party was at the house of some old friends’, actually the baby’s “godparents”, who moved to Oregon over a year ago. They sold the house to a mutual friend when they left, and the new owner invited the whole gang over for some homebrew and lemon meringue pie, among other things. I’ve lost a lot of weight since the last time many of those people saw me, so it was nice to hear the compliments. One girl (young woman?) who went to school with my husband embarrassed me mightily by running her fingers up the back of my scalp through my hair and murmuring that I should let another party-goer, who is a semi-professional painter, paint me nude. My husband practically jumped on the coffee table cheering, and still manages to bring up the incident every hour or so. I probably should have been more gracious, smiled, and thanked her, but embarrassment is a funny thing. I just backed up out of the doorway, mumbling something about finding my purse.


I’ve noticed the blogosphere has a significant lack of earnestness, while managing to provide surplus amounts of snark. Going forward (god, what an awful phrase), I’m pledging to inject more sincerity in my writing, and less snark. We could all use a little less obnoxiousness in our lives, don’t you think?



Sunday, August 28, 2005

Sunday! Sunday! SUNDAY!

Lordy I love Sundays. Seems like the weather is always beautiful, sun pouring out of the morning like fresh syrup. I'm always the first up, and the day always feels like it has such potential. I always feel like cooking on Sundays, so I know the day will be filled with real purpose. Grocery shopping, planning for the week, with a good nap on the couch in there to balance the day out.

The baby is here with me this morning, his chubby little fingers climbing like mice onto the keyboard while I type. He chatters at me with his baby speak, imploring me to do... I have no idea. But he feels strong about it, judging by the tenor of his voice. We shared a plate of chili relenos and eggs this morning, the only two in the house with enough sense to get up and make something of the early hours of the day. Pretty soon we'll climb the stairs to find his dad, and I'll toss my cheering child on the sleeping hulk of his father with great gusto. And his dad will smile and smooch all over him, then toss a pillow in his face over and over again, which the baby just loves.

hooray for sundays.

Friday, August 26, 2005

Good lord I've hit a lucky streak

Man, Fridays at work during the summer are hell. My eyeballs are rotting in their sockets as each minute crawls by.

However, my random web travels have lead me to some great writers today:

o girlflip.blogspot.com

o livingwellornot.blogspot.com

o http://www.dooce.com/ (yes, I realize I’m late to the party on this one)

o mightygirl.net

o phantomprof.blogspot.com

o tchoupitoulas.blogspot.com (this one was especially nice because I discovered using the random “next blog” button at the top of the page)

This almost never happens. Usually I stumble around, stepping randomly into some fairly agonizing blogs. But this isn’t all bad, as afterward I feel much better about my own writing.

Also, note to self: avoid snark, when possible. It can be so tiresome.

*SNIFF* Excuse me, please

Every year I can set my watch - er calendar - to it: the beginning of allergy season. Always mid-August, always one day where the ragweed switch is thrown and I become a sniffling, teary-eyed, snotty mess. Eye makeup strewn across my face like ticker tape, nose raw and creased from rubbing, I am completely miserable. Yesterday, after finishing up some writing projects and meetings at work, I took my boss' advice and went home. Popped some benedryl, slipped Kinsey into the DVD player, and dozed quietly on the couch for several hours. After such sweet respite, I vowed to let my husband have more time to himself, instead of always hounding him to clean something up, or finish a project.

[SIDENOTE: As I lay in a dreamlike state, I could just hear my daughter and her four girlfriends on the front porch, gathered around the baby's diaper pail, which had been left there to air out. They were daring each other to put their heads in it and take a deep whiff. Kids do the grossest things...]

My allergies always seem the worst during the commute through Michigan farmland every morning. As the city drops away from my rearview mirror, I have fewer and fewer cars as company on the highway. Old barns sit like game pieces in the fields, waiting to be traded in for a smattering of newly-built houses on concrete cul-de-sacs. Giant cloud banks coast along the horizon like freighters across Lake Michigan. Oh, and yellow stalks of fauna misery sprout along the side of the road, spraying pollen out into the world and into my nasal passages. I fight to keep my hands on the steering wheel, instead of clawing at my face in a desperate search for some kind of relief from the itching, the terrible, painful, incredibly maddening itching. My god I can't wait until the first freeze.

Wait, yes I can.

Because even though the unholy itching feels like some horrible medieval disease, it's still not as bad as Michigan in the winter. I store each warm, sun-filled summer day deep in the recesses of my heart, to pull out during the cold hell of February, when snow and ice numbs my spirit. The first winter here was the worst; the hurt felt like the worst kind of heartache. Each day in March, April and even May was a struggle not to just get in the damn car and drive until the car's thermometer read 65 degrees. Maybe even 70.

Allergies last four, maybe six weeks, compared to eight months of thick black tights and grey, shapeless mounds of snow. No contest.

Thursday, August 25, 2005

Diversity training

Yesterday at work I spent four hours in a diversity training workshop. FOUR HOURS. This is in addition to an hour I’ve already had at my new employee orientation. The videos alone are enough to make me want to choke myself using the thick booklets they hand out at the beginning of class.


Now, I’m not perfect; we all have our bias that we picked up from a variety of sources, including the media, our communities and our own past experiences. So maybe it’s my experience in the military, where the sheer diversity of recruits in basic training made an impression that lasted a lifetime. Even though a lot of the people I met were slimeballs, the way someone looked was not a good predictor about the type of soldier (and person) they were.


My first friend in the Army -- and you make ‘em quick, let me tell you -- was a young black girl from California who had an uncanny ability to perfectly empathize with the way I was feeling. (She also needed to use the latrine at THE MOST inconvient times – think just before entering the gas chamber, which is a WHOLE other post.) I also worked very well with a 6-ft 1-inch tall hispanic stripper from south Florida. So when a massive muscle-bound, totally psycho drill sergeant with a rifle in his fist is screaming at you as you lay on the ground wearing a two-day old uniform with red ants crawling up your leg, suddenly the whole race issue just disappears. Sure, I’ll clean that toilet using my bare hands with the girl who picks her nose, shaves her upper lip and can only speak in sentances that include at least three versions of the f-word! No problem! As our drill sergeants used to say, “I’m not prejudiced, I hate ALL you motherf*%$rs!”


I also managed to get myself tangled up in a pretty nasty harrassment complaint while stationed in Korea, which taught me a lot about how important it is to stand up to bullys/pigs very early on, lest they think your glares and silence is a turn on. Again, another post, another time.


The last item on my list of 100 things about me said I always assume the best about people when I first meet them, and it’s a wonder that personality quirk made it intact through my military experience. I guess I have my parents to thank for that. To me, diversity is sort of a double-edged sword, to implement an overused metaphor. You could either be a really great guy, or not. I’ll make up my mind as we’re cleaning toilets together, with  our bare hands.


UPDATE: #6 on 100 things about me: I now run three miles in under 35 minutes. Shaving five minutes off your run time in two weeks? Better than candy corn mixed with peanuts.