reverse threading

the path back is the path forward


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our dogga. [not-so-flawed wednesday]

we didn’t order our dogga with stripes, but, had we ordered our dogga, we would have ordered exactly him. he is an aussie full of aussie-quirks and amber eye-contact, a furball of vacuum-stalling potential, a lifesaver in every way our pets save us from ourselves and the world around us.

he is – most definitely – not perfect.

though he knows he must sit-on-the-rug before going out – and wait for one of us to utter “ok” – he first must jump up and down, seemingly effortlessly, like an nba star looking for a basket. then, with a sheepish i-couldn’t-help-it look on his face, he sits.

though he knows he is not supposed to run along the back fence barking at the neighbordog, he must first run along the back fence and bark. then, with a wink at the neighbordog, he returns diligently to the patio or the deck, fully expecting a treat for his “restrained” behavior.

though he knows he is not supposed to pull on the leash during walks, the first few minutes are like taking a giant bungee cord for a walk – out and back, out and back – although recent days and the new use of the “wonder walker” have yielded a magical change, sans bungee-dog.

though he does not sing, he has several songs – the dogga-dogga song, the dad song, the mom song. no other songs count on his chart, except the babycat song, which we sing for him when he is – or we are – missing his babycat.

though we cannot guess what he is thinking, his beautiful eyes give us eye contact that tell us everything we need to know.

our dear friends have a puppy. he is full of puppy-smell and puppy-teeth and sweet wriggly antics and is the variety of dog that doesn’t shed. they are being very intentional about his training, which makes us think about the books we read, the videos we watched and the way dogdog turned out. we weren’t as intentional in that phase of our lives nine years ago. at least not about puppy-training. maybe there’s still hope. sigh.

we visited together and caught up outside around the firepit the evening we met him, puppy in a fenced playpen off to the side, learning how to calm-himself-down-when-new-people-arrive. we clearly need to start that part over with dogga.

we drove home talking about that darling puppy. our friends would love us to get a puppy now too. that makes us laugh. we are – oh so clearly – not ready for a puppy.

we pulled into the driveway and, judging by his quick walk, david was as anxious to hug our dog as i was. though dogdog was skeptical about the attention, especially since he could smell “puppy” all over us, he gave in to the lavish display.

because, though we didn’t order our dogga with stripes, though he sheds like dandelion fluff in the spring wind, though he sometimes tries our patience and is a bit doggedly stubborn about barking, though he has us wrapped around his little wagawag tail, he is exactly the dogga we need.

*****

read DAVID’S thoughts this NOT-SO-FLAWED WEDNESDAY


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up a notch and up a notch. [not-so-flawed wednesday]

i do not remember my sweet momma ever peeling and mincing a garlic. i suppose it’s possible that she did – and i missed it – but i would venture a guess that she didn’t. garlic powder and garlic salt were in our spice cabinet growing up and i think they were the substitutes for the real thing.

they were depression babies, so my parents were not lavish spenders, fine-dining diners, exquisite kitchen-keepers. we had aluminum pots (it was a very big deal when they one day, at long last, purchased revere ware) and the infamous formerly-featured corningware. the cookware mattered not. family and friends gathered around the table together regardless. which, of course, is the point.

my dad was pretty proud the day he purchased my mom a portable dishwasher. they kept it in the laundry room right off the kitchen behind the accordion door that looked like it was made of woven straw. on special days they would roll it out and attach the hose to the kitchen sink spout, load it up and turn it on. when they moved to florida after they retired, a dishwasher-that-was-already-installed-in-the-kitchen was on my momma’s list. my poppo was in charge of loading and unloading, practically entirely washing the plates beforehand. my mom never tired of this amazing appliance.

i purchased a used dishwasher – not full-size, for our kitchen layout would not accommodate that – about a decade back and had it installed in the spot where the formerly-known-as-a-dishwasher dishwasher sat. sadly, it did not work for long. i should have purchased a new one, but that was not in the budget. the dishwasher-that-took-the-place-of-the-dishwasher is now also formerly-known-as-a-dishwasher. sigh. one of these days…

but friends and family have gathered around the table together – regardless of our dishwasher or cookware status – and we have happily prepared food to take to other gathering tables. which, of course, is the point.

when we lived on island, we had the same size dishwasher and i have to admit to being in love with it. it IS amazing – yes, momma! – you load it up and turn it on and voila! i know you know the rest. any time we are in airbnb’s and vrbo’s we embrace the dishwasher – well, not like hugging it…more like using it. it’s so twenty-first century! but i digress.

yesterday, when i was making rice, we got to talking about rice. (we are exciting people, folks.)

neither of us remember growing up with anything other than minute rice (and, of course, the exotic rice-a-roni array of rices.) with absolutely no judgement, we dove into the finer details of the cooking of minute rice vs raw rice that you boil and steep. it goes along with not peeling and mincing garlic, a collection of ragu and prego in the cabinet, canned and frozen vegetables. people’s habits and budgetary concerns are deeply ingrained and are hard to break.

from time to time we get pictures of what our grown kids are eating. they have prepared some fabulous meal or are dining out at a restaurant with incredible food and exquisite platings and presentation. often they are eating something we have never heard of; often my response is “wow!! that looks fantastic!” they have upped the notch on food from where we are and we glom onto what they send, asking for or looking up recipes, jaunting over to the restaurant website to ponder a meal there.

it’s funny how this happens. though i suppose it is not unexpected.

we have moved from garlic powder to real garlic in a generation. from the portable dishwasher to the installed dishwasher-formerly-known-as-a-dishwasher.

the next generation is taking it to the next level. dinners in instant pots, dinners with smashburger presses, dinners sous vide, dinners in air fryers, dinners with ethnic spices, sauces, harder-to-find ingredients, et al.

and a working dishwasher is non-negotiable.

of course.

*****

read DAVID’S thoughts this NOT-SO-FLAWED WEDNESDAY


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more barn-red and grey after the black and white. [not-so-flawed wednesday]

we are beginning to see more of this: the basement floor. more clear space.

as you know, it is a slow process, tedious, actually. and it is not something he can do with me. this is mine to do. for most of what is down there – in the recesses and the corners, tucked into old built-in cupboards and in, yes, bins and boxes and even bags, precedes him. he is happy to help, but it is somewhat a moot point, as the decisions are mine and he respects that.

it’s not just a little bit of pressure, not just a little bit of work. black and white decisions that aren’t really black and white.

you are weary of reading about this, i suspect. skip today, i would suggest. the basement clean-out is not a short story – it’s an epic tale, really – and, if you find any form of redundancy abhorrent, you will be tallymarking-in-your-mind the number of times i am talking about this. this will be a tallymark mess, cross-hash upon cross-hash, the slashes accumulate.

a few days ago i turned the inner cardboard tube of a roll of wrapping paper upside down. more birdseed than i am comfortable with fell out. i suppose you are wondering how much birdseed-saved-in-the-wrapping-paper-roll i find acceptable. well…really…none…as we are not the ones saving birdseed in that manner and it brings to mind the question of a city of dwellers below us about whom we know nothing. they live in the barn-red-grey zone in silence and anonymity, leaving tiny clues behind in their stash. i wonder what they think of the rest of the stash down there, most of which they are not likely to be able to get to – the bins of barbies and matchbox cars, the mementos and art projects my children created in elementary school, every story they ever wrote or note they penned me or the overalls that were ever-so-adorable on my son, the pink dress so sweet on my daughter. maybe they are intrigued with the antiques, the tools, the not-oft-used kitchen appliances. they are hoping to be invited to the next cornhole bags game, the next bocci ball tournament, the next badminton skirmish, the next time the pingpong table is set up and ready-to-go. they are gazing at the collection of pingpong balls, golf balls, tennis balls, baseballs, soccer balls, thinking the upstairs-dwellers have a pension for round things. surely they are impressed with the stacks of boxes of shrink-wrapped cds, though they are more likely mp3 critters and, being 2022-born, roll their beady little eyes at the mere mention of cds and cassettes. i’m guessing our tiny visitors actually have no opinions about all this and clearly no interest whatsoever in the 8-track player or the record albums. they are not thready nor are they sentimental. they were simply seeking places to stash their seed-findings.

yes, i will need a new broom…one of those angle ones that gets into the corners. there is much to be swept.

in time, there will be more floor. barn-red and grey. i have to get past the black-and-white of it all first.

*****

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uff da! [not-so-flawed wednesday]

bumper sticker on the car in front of us

every week we would drive to st. james so that i could take norwegian lessons. my sweet momma and poppo took them too. i had no idea why i was taking these lessons, but far be it from me to question the stubborn pull of the sons of norway lodge for my parents, who loved their membership there, a little inland from the north shore of long island. i belonged to the sons of norway youth group as well. one of my really close high school friends belonged to the greek youth group, so my membership at the loyal lodge didn’t seem quite so weird, but the greek youth group was way more lively than the norwegian’s, with many festivals and dances. i mean, just think of the food alone: norwegian fish pudding vs. greek moussaka, lapskaus vs. souvlaki, krumkake vs. baklava, akvavit vs. ouzo…there is a different level of excitement and celebration. anyway, i felt less like an anomaly going to norwegian lessons because angela went to greek school.

not much of the norwegian tradition has carried on. there have been times when we have made krumkake, filling the plain waffle cookies off the iron with fruit or whipped cream. there have – never – been times that we have sought out norwegian fish pudding nor lutefisk. never ever. i have never – ever – used my norwegian lessons. sadly, even if i went to norway, which is most definitely on a bucket list, i would not understand any of the language now’days.

but “uff da” has endured.

my dad used the expression often. it was a substitution for “oof!” or “oh geez!” to express surprise or dismay or just to buy a moment of thinking-time. “uff da!” is synonymous with him in our family. so it is likely if any of us sees a bumper sticker or what-have-you that says “uff da!” we will send it on and around. it’s like we have had a tiny visit from my dad; erling has spoken.

we have a couple “uff da” magnets on our fridge that came from their fridge. and my nephew named his children beautiful and unique heritage-rich norwegian names, carrying on legacy my dad passed down. i get to carry my dad’s name with me (as well as his jowls). and you can sometimes – though not too often – hear me say “uff da” out loud.

my sons of norway days are no longer, but i remember fondly the cute boy “j-r” in my class, the norwegian dancing instruction, the man from the lodge who built our stone fireplace rock-by-rock, the miss norway pageant in the city and the marzipan.

always the marzipan.

uff da!!

*****

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scrabble dreams. [not-so-flawed wednesday]

i’d be looking for a double-word-score square. or even better, a triple-word-score square, though that would be less likely. but heck, 8 points could be 16 or 24!

i love scrabble. i love words. and spelling. and, yes, even punctuation, though i know i am not impeccable in that arena. that is all sort of nerdy, but my sweet momma passed it down to me so i come by it honestly.

i was, admittedly, kind of nerdy in school. i never cut a class, never skipped a day jaunting around. i did my homework and i didn’t sit in the back. i passed notes all folded up into tiny squares, like everyone in the days before cellphones, but tried really, really hard not to get caught. i did my share of daydreaming but never in math class, which i also loved.

my sweet poppo, in later days, would sit in his chair by the sliding glass doors and gaze out over the lake out back of their house. he’d watch the cormorants and ducks, study the water for the slightest hint of an alligator, soak in the colors of the sun as it passed over the water. and i suppose he would daydream. all their travels and experiences – a rich melting pot of daydreams from which to fish. his quiet sitting was peaceful, almost meditative, interrupted only by coffeetime or a small project at his workbench in the garage.

the internet makes it easy to daydream. google anything and there is fodder for your wishes. yesterday i spent well over an hour immersed in all the details of a mountain home i literally fell in love with. dreaming, dreaming.

we bought a big bag of scrabble letters at an antique store a while back. we were going to use them to spell out words for our website and for marketing “the roadtrip”, a play we wrote that mimics a.r. gurney’s “love letters”. we used a few of them on our old stove, labeling the front/rear burners and oven with magnets glued onto scrabble pieces.

visiting a new antique store a bit west, we stumbled across another use of these tiles. thoughtful personalized gifts. with all the letters at your disposal, anything is possible.

it made me think that it might be fun to have a giant bowl of wooden letters – especially the blank ones which could make things interesting – and a scrabble tile holder out somewhere – on the table or the kitchen windowsill. whenever you wanted to, you could pick out the letters for how you were feeling or what you were thinking.

“dream” is a good place to start.

so are a few blanks in a row.

*****

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in the green room. [not-so-flawed wednesday]

well, that didn’t last long.

spring has peeked in, shook its head, and retreated.

it snowed saturday. all day. it was a really wet snow, and, though it did stick a bit on yards and roofs, it was not shovel-worthy. but it did bring out the restless.

we took a walk in it. in the olden days (not too long ago) we always took a walk while it was snowing. here it was – april 2nd – and it was snowing. so surely, we should not be freezing and i would not need my miracle mittens to enjoy the soft flakes landing on our faces.

not.

the snow pelted us as we walked along the lakefront. literally pelted us. it stung our faces; we had to keep looking down to the sidewalk. and, not wearing my miracle mittens was really dumb. this is wisconsin, after all. what was i thinking?!?

i tried to take photographs of the snow as it fell. i think i was really trying to take a picture of our restlessness, of the yearning for sun and warmth, of willing spring to stop taking its sweet time, to actually arrive and not linger in the green room off the stage of winter.

in a desperately intentional cup-half-full approach, we noticed grass that had greened, with snow on top. we noticed buds on trees, with snow on top. we noticed tiny sprouts of plants, with snow on top. we noticed that the streets were not really holding the snow, that the sidewalks were not snowy, that water was running next to the gutters to the drains. these were good signs.

the year my daughter was born – 1990 – it snowed the day before the first whisperings of her grand entrance into the world. it was may 13, mother’s day that year, and in one day i would go into labor and in two days i would be a mom.

but – may. snow. yikes.

after everything, simply every thing, i’m not sure hardy wisconsin souls would be able to take that this year. i think that, perhaps, mother nature might cut us some slack. perhaps a little more green and a little less white. perhaps a little more 50s and a little less 30s. perhaps a little more sun and a little less cloudy.

perhaps i need to get a grip and just ride the roller coaster that is spring in a great lakes state.

i’m guessing the tickets are free for residents.

i remind myself that patience is a virtue and other blah-blah positive, lofty adages. sigh.

i’m going to go hide in the green room with spring and discuss that.

*****

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the village on the back side. [not-so-flawed wednesday]

we are on the flip side of the tv antenna saga.

we are relieved to have it over with. our 30+ foot tall steel tripod tv tower – which has been standing right snugged up close to our house for the last at-least-three-decades-probably-more-like-five-or-six-or-so – fell over. it was a windy night…the kind of wind that keeps us awake and anxious in this neighborhood of big old trees. we didn’t hear it fall. all we heard was the fierce wind and i pulled the quilt over my head to try and sleep.

i stood in the kitchen in the morning looking out through the sunroom, sipping my coffee and gazing at the eastern sky and saw it – diagonally placed outside across the big windows – where nothing diagonal or steel or large and unwieldy usually sits. the tv tower with the antenna on the top. the wind had broken it off at the base and it fell north – reception from milwaukee would be really ace leaning that way it occurred to me. it was leaning on the fence and dangling over our neighbor’s stamped concrete driveway and spanish tile garage roof. we wanted neither of those disturbed and were immediately concerned about the danger of the antenna falling on someone. i texted them to say we had noticed and then i texted the village.

“what do you do with this?” i asked all our people. i started getting responses immediately, some suggestions or the oft “i-have-no-idea”. the insurance company was worthless – they couldn’t even point to the first thing we should do. antenna installation experts said it was “out of their wheelhouse”. the tow truck guys didn’t have the right equipment. big jim came over to evaluate it with d. they stared and contemplated a few-strong-men but quickly negated that idea.

ultimately – to save you a long drawn-out story, interesting and quirky (of course) but long nonetheless – a tree care company came the next day to assess the situation. naturally, it was snowing that day and that made the removal more treacherous so it had to be pushed back a day and we had to hope the snow would not accumulate in heavy inches on the tower, there would be no more wind and that no one would go near it.

the next morning, the tree guy admitted to being awake in the night thinking about the removal, plotting. that made us feel a little better since we had some higher anxiety with it precariously dangling out there.

with some sort of backhoe jaws holding the base so the entire tower wouldn’t pivot and do damage and a steel-cutter-thingy, they sawed the tower and antenna into pieces, loaded it into a dumpster they had brought with them and drove away. all in like a half hour! it was done. gone.

the house looks different without the dated tower and antenna like so many houses down here by the lake and scattered throughout our town. i missed it for the first day. and when i sip coffee in bed and look out the east windows i can no longer see it next to the steep roofline, with squirrels scampering up so that they can get on the roof and check out any gutter snacks that might be lingering. there’s plenty to look at though. and plenty to ponder.

the front of the orchid bloom is gorgeous on this plant. stunning, really. but the back…graceful and sturdy, supporting the frame of the blossom.

just like our village.

****

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the other 89%. [not-so-flawed wednesday]

david said, “really, it’s probably the 5% rule. there are about 5% of people who are not good people.” i answered, “eh. i think it’s more like 10%.”

glancing to the side of the road leading out of the trail i watched a guy in the parking lot duck into his shiny pick-up truck. he pulled out a floor mat as i stared and dumped its accumulated dirt and wrappers and garbage on the ground. “make that 11%,” i grumbled.

though i no longer would do this – i have, in the past, pulled up next to someone or walked up to someone, depending on whether on a road or on a walk – to tell them – in an innocent and informative voice – that they “dropped something.” i usually add i’m not sure if they need it but it’s just “back a ways” if they do. sadly, this did not usually culminate in their retrieval of their garbage, but there was something about letting them know it did not go unnoticed that was helpful. probably more helpful would be if i just followed and picked up the garbage that others are dropping.

“earth is neat,” says the wrapper of the justin’s dark chocolate cashew butter cups. to jaunt through the justins.com website is to read the story of a guy with a passion for peanut butter take it all to the next level. his company is self-built and completely and utterly responsible to people, food and the planet we live on. it makes me want to eat more nut butters, make his 4-ingredient-peanut-butter-banana-oatmeal-cookie recipe, support his obviously-boulder-colorado-beginning efforts. bravo, justin.

the trail on saturday was warm. the first day in months. even the vests we wore were too much, so we peeled them off and relished hiking jacketless, even for a day. i suppose that we will take a couple pairs of gloves and a few garbage bags and go back one day without hiking in mind. it might do our hearts good to pick up the stuff that the 11% has left behind.

because earth IS neat. and it takes all of us to keep it that way.

*****

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the réview mirror. [not-so-flawed wednesday]

in the cutest of mispronunciations, my son, when he was little, called the mirror in the car the “réview” mirror. to this day, i still hear him saying it and it always makes me smile. it was an existential wisdom and so i credit him with the thoughtfulness it brings. the réview mirror…showing that which is behind us.

in the middle of the night we ate a banana and talked about huckapoo shirts. we described specific clothing pieces…my little-house-on-the-prairie dress, his brown western shirt with quilting on the chest, my skinniest stretchy gold metal belts, his blue denim shirts, my gauchos, his cords, my prom gowns, his purple suspenders, our earth shoes. i was in the mecca of discos; he was in the foothills. but those huckapoo shirts…a both-and…we could vividly remember the prints, the colors, the polyester, the fit, the collars. we laughed and it kept us up for a couple hours, but it was a weekend night and all was well. we could sleep after. we moved on by decades…to dockers and button-downs (but never short-sleeved) and aigner pumps with suits and scarves. i talked about this light blue dress – it was a splurge and i still remember it cost $35. i wore it “for good” and it had puffy juliet sleeves and a tiny belt at the waistline. we kept going, through colors and fabrics, eventually arriving at black and jeans and boots, twinsies. the réview mirror had served our wakefulness well. had we followed my poppo’s advice – “build a barn out back and put it all out there because it will all come back” – we could visit and touch our huckapoos and chukka boots and bell-bottoms and moccasins-with-no-soles and pleated high-waisted jeans-with-suspenders. no doubt my current going-through of all the drawers and closets and bins in the house (ala marie kondo) will produce an item or two with hysterical shock-value.

the réview mirror of life and decisions and paths taken is not as hilarious. it is a roiling sea of emotions, up, down, up down. i imagine marie saying “thank it. appreciate its value. discard or donate it.” it – regardless of what “it” is, is in the rearview mirror, the sideview mirror, miles back on the highway where nothing we can do will change its appearance, its happening, its consequences. it just was. and it informed the next. though it may not be what we would have decided now, were we to be faced with the same set of circumstances, we have no going-back, no takebacks, no do-overs. we can only stand in grace alongside all the others standing in grace and move forward.

really…i’m not sure i would have ever worn the periwinkle-blue-black-polkadots-tiny-capped-ruffle-sleeve-skinny-self-belt-flounce-bottom-dress were i to do it again.

n’importe quoi. whatever.

*****

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what is. [not-so-flawed wednesday]

they came without sirens. 4am and just lights. the neighborhood was dim, darkness perpetuated by an outage that diminished power but didn’t eliminate it.

in over three decades they have never been here before and i hope they never have to come again.

the buzzing in the living room and the hot electrical smell were, frankly, terrifying. with wee-hours-just-awakened brains we gathered the dog, important papers, laptops, phones, wallets and put it all in the car. i threw together a small bag of our clothes and made sure we had a leash. the thought “what should i take?” kept playing through the fear, on repeat and somewhat incessant, yet unanswerable.

the carbon monoxide monitor woke me up. it wasn’t wailing, but it was beeping in the basement. i went down to investigate, but the lights wouldn’t all turn on and those that did were only partial power. i woke david and we walked the house, room to room, checking lights, while i called the power company to report this strange outage.

the living room stopped us cold in our tracks. the buzzing and the smell. loud and strong. neither were explainable. i called 911.

i have since decided that we should, for any unexpected emergency, have a go-bag packed. a few essentials to take us through a few days in case of any reason we need to leave in a hurry. we had one packed – as suggested – during the riots and the curfews of 2020, but we’ve since put it away. it would be wise to just have some necessities you do not have to think about. grab and go.

but the unanswered question, the real question: “what should i take?” what would represent life here – my children, my parents, our families, this creation of home. which trinkets, which photographs, which antiques, which blanket or memento, which album, which painting, which any thing. for a moment, i stood, smelling the smell and hearing the buzzing electricity, and i had no answer. at all. no idea.

for anything to represent life and love and time spent, passions and hard work and celebrations and grieving, it would have to be the stories of it all. one giant kaleidoscope, a myriad of constant change and brightly colored life itself, a timeline of full-spectrum light and deep midnight sky.

i froze in the living room that night. i wracked my brain for what to take. and i was afraid.

yet, the firefighters came and allayed our fear. their thermal imaging showed no hotspots. they checked each room, each floor and the basement. they traced the buzzing and the hot-electrical-smell to the cable box and the tv. i silently gave thanks for the CO monitor and its beeping, for light sleeping, for our good sense to get up and check the house, for the professionals who quickly arrived. i don’t want to think of what might have been. and really, “there’s no way to know what might have been.” (little texas)

instead, i will sit in gratitude for what is.

*****

read DAVID’s thoughts this NOT-SO-FLAWED WEDNESDAY