27 September 2009


We attended the Great American Beer Fest this weekend. My stomach is still dealing with the shock (as I sip another beer). It was quite an experience, complete with a one-ounce glass and over 200 breweries. That and a lot of happy drunks!

22 September 2009

TWO Book Reviews

It's not often that I have ambivalent feelings about a book. I either love books or I hate them. For example, the fourth book I've read since completing my dissertation, The Alchemist. Hated it. I finished it over a month ago, so I don't really remember why I hated it, but I recall that I only finished it because it was so short. It's supposed to have some deep meaning - profound, if you will. Perhaps I'm not deep enough to read into that. Whatever. Didn't like it. At all.

Clearly, not so ambivalent. That's why I was surprised that I was so ambivalent about Jane Smiley's Ten Days in the Hills. Normally I LOVE Jane Smiley. Moo U. and Ten Thousand Acres, to name a couple. I even went to a book reading about Ten Days in the Hills. The book reading was great. The book was long. 530 pages long. So, I'm surprised that I couldn't find something that I loved or hated about it. It was mostly just kind of boring. It's about a group of people who spend 10 days in the Hollywood Hills just after the Iraq War began. Some are family, some are old friends. Some are anti-war, some are really conservative.

My unfeeling feeling about this book makes me think that, perhaps, I'm not a very perceptive reader. I do remember that the book is supposed to be a modern-day take on some classic book (Decameron, I just checked). I'm a fairly well-read person, but I have no clue how this relates to Decameron. I have to admit that I've never even heard of Decameron.

A reviewer had this to say: "Smiley delivers a delightful, subtly observant sendup of Tinseltown folly, yet she treats her characters, their concern with compelling surfaces and their perpetual quest to capture reality through artifice, with warmth and seriousness. In their shallowness, she finds a kind of profundity." I couldn't have said it better. In fact, I wasn't sure how to say it at all.

Maybe my ambivalence lies in my ignorance. Maybe now I'll check out that Decameron book.

If I had to summarize my experience with the two books:

The Alchemist: Bleck.
Ten Days in the Hills: Eh.

17 September 2009

Those Who Inspire: My Sister Caley

I'm having a hard time of thinking about things to write about lately. My life is fairly uneventful now that I'm working. Work, play with Benny, make dinner, put Benny to bed, go to bed. So, I thought I'd start a semi-regular post about those individuals in my life who have inspired me.

I'm going to start with Caley, my oldest friend, who I consider family.

Caley and I met when we were six. Her dad owned the farm a mile away from my parents' farm. Her parents were divorced, so she spent summers in Brule. To be honest, Caley scared me for the first ten years of our friendship. Not scared in a bad way, but scared in the way she fearlessly tackled every aspect of her life. Plus, she lived in Omaha. That seemed like such a huge, cool place when I was six years old.

For those first ten years we rode her motor bike, swam in creeks and ponds, and generally cavorted around our respective farms.

When we were teenagers, she started smoking and drinking and dating guys. I, on the other hand, didn't smoke, didn't drink, didn't date guys. And I thought she was SO cool. I was the nerd, she was the cool girl. Despite our differences we remained friends. And despite not seeing each other for nine months out of the year we remained close.

Then we went to college. Drinking, partying, making out with boys. We had a grand old time. And then we had a falling out. As I recall, it was mostly due my issues. Caley has always been one of the most faithful friends I've ever had. We spent a few years "finding ourselves."

We remained in touch, but I can't say that we were particularly close.

About five and a half years ago Caley called out of the blue. We don't talk on the phone much, so it was a little out of the ordinary. She was calling to tell me that her mom wasn't doing so great. Her mom, Maggie, was like a mom to me for a better portion of my early 20s. She was an amazing woman who was battling cancer. We planned for me to spend a weekend in Omaha so I could visit Maggie and say goodbye.

Then I got the worst call imagineable. Maggie passed away. And I went to her funeral. And I watched Caley grieve in the most touching way possible. This woman, this friend of mine, lost the most important person in her life and all I could do is to be there. I tried, but realized recently thatI failed her. As a friend.

Five years later, Caley visited me in Denver. We have merged again, on a similar path. This time it's more meaningful than booze and boys. Our beliefs - about women, about working, about the earth and ecology, about many things - are very similar. Somehow we found each other again. She made me care about many of those things. I finally asked her, after five years, how she was doing. She broke down. And I realized that she has been carrying this burden of grief for five long years and I had no idea.

Caley has inspired me in so many ways. She is a master gardener, she loves to read, she can bullshit with anyone. She is gorgeous and gracious. She is good with her hands and she is good with her heart. I am proud to call her my friend. My sister.

Caley, if you read this, I love you. And thank you for always being a friend to me - even when I wasn't open to it.

14 September 2009

Funny Story

Since I'm having a hard time posting things now that I'm working, I thought I'd share this funny story from a friend...

So here's a heart warming story:

I'm in the back yard playing with the kids while Renee in bed sick. Brody is on the swing, Cloe is running around. I've just pooper scooped the yard not 30 minutes ago, but while my back is turned Cloe finds the one turd I missed and PUTS IT INTO HER MOUTH! I turn around to see her with a half turd in her hand and a look on her face that says "this thing tastes like shit!" So I literally slap the remaining turd from her hand and scoop what I can from her mouth. Then I have to unfasten Brody from the child swing, pick Cloe back up, run inside and rinse Cloe's mouth out as best I can. Then I wash both kids' hands as well as my own.

Meanwhile they've both picked up on the abrupt and drastic downturn in my mood and started that wailing cry that kids do when they realize that the person that's supposed to be in control really isn't. So now I get to call poison control while two kids screech like ambulance sirens in the background. It takes me about 30 seconds to stammer through a polite way to tell the poison control lady that my 18 month old daughter just ate dog shit. It went something like "Um...hi...I'm not sure if this the right place to call, but...um...my 18 month old daughter just...um...found some dog...feces in the back yard and...um...well...she ate it." At which point the poison control lady says "Oh, my...please hold." So now I'm thinking that I've got to take the kids to the emergency room. But no, apparently the lady just had to look up "shit ingestion" in her manual. No emergency room visit is required, but be on the lookout for symptoms similar to food poisoning for the next 24 hours. As I write this, we're on hour 5 of the post poop ingestion vigil. It's going to be a looooong day tomorrow.

(insert obligatory ButTheySureAreWorthIt statement here)

09 September 2009

Goodbye Summer, My Old Friend

Where have you gone, friend? No more dog days of summer. No more sunny evenings. From here it's leaves changing, snow falling, and the monotonous days of winter. OK, I'm being slightly dramatic.

We celebrated the end of the season with a weekend in the mountains with Papa Knucks, Kat, and Uncle Matt. Nate's dad and his dad's new wife were driving through for their honeymoon. We met them by Buena Vista and camped for two nights. Benny, as always, proved that he is the perfect mountain baby. We even took him swimming at the hot springs. It turns out that he's also a water baby. He got used to the water pretty quickly and then didn't want to get out. Sadly, this is the first time he's been in an actual pool. And now summer is over :(.

So, we move on to fall. The leaves will change, the temperature will drop, and we'll look forward to everything the season has in store for us (a trip to San Francisco and the wine country, visits from friends, building a fence, designing a new kitchen!).