Friday, October 29, 2010

As I Lay Me Down To Sleep

I snapped this (again from my phone) last spring along 4th St N in Fargo. I looked over at a stoplight and there he was. We ALL should be this darned happy.

As I drifted off last night, I was jolted back to wakefulness by a deep and sudden belly laugh.

At first I was startled, but then not so much. Turns out, it was me.

This image had surfaced to my consciousness in what I like to think of as the pre-sleep slideshow in my brain. (I tell myself everyone experiences such a thing, then it's not worrisome to me at all.)

May your brain amuse itself similarly.

I love you. Goodnight.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

When Thinking Meets Action

As I've mentioned here and to every single person who will listen, I'm working on the balance thing. Not the beam kind, though. That would just make me dizzy and I'd fall down. PLUS, ain't nobody needs to see all THIS in one a them 'tard thingies. You're welcome.

I've been thinking a lot about all of the things I have to do, but haven't. You know that feeling. It's constantly moving, constantly knotting your back and neck muscles, incessently whispering, "you're less than" messages in your ear.

I took my own advice tonight and took a a look at my "adding to my angst because they're not done" list that have, well, added to my angst--and decided tonight was the night to bust a nut and get shiz done.

One of those things was, "clean the photos off of my phone already for the love of all things holy and/or covered in chocolate".

I've decided that instead of a proper post, in lieu of freaking out over getting the right words (do you have any idea how much I wanted to be funny and say, "write words" there? Do you? DO YOU?), cross-checking the right words and then editing all of those words down to do a real post, I'm opting for a picture recap of this evening. (One more thing you can thank me for? No photos of my before OR after laundry piles. Again, you're welcome.)

First stop after work was the grocery store where I encountered this little beauty. Read closely. That must be some REALLY good creamer.

One of my purchases this evening was dried bay leaves for beef stew. This lid thingy propped up on the bottle came firmly affixed to this bottle. It makes my brain hurt.

Too embarrassed to share the "before" photo, I'm giving you the second glimpse (Hi, Kelly!) of my freshly cleaned dining room. I've had that tablecloth for over five years. This is the first time it's been on my table.  

Done with cooking and cleaning for the night, I wandered downstairs, plopped in my recliner, kicked off my slippers ... and found THIS. Oh, Amos.

And finally, something to calm my nerves after dealing with the red-headed feline. This is from a walk KittyDaddy and I took along the Red River of the North back before Old Man Winter was being such a schmuck.

Thank you so much for coming by. I hope you've enjoyed the "Tour of Laura's Phone Photos". I know I have.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010


(Amos typed the title. I'm leavin' it.)

"Come on," my husband said, rising from the couch, "let's go to the store and get stuff for EZ's meatball recipe. It's my turn to bring treats this week." (The unspoken statement lurking there is, "And I'm a man, so I need meat!")

What the man clearly doesn't know is that the kitchen must be cleaned before any cooking commences. HA! Joke is on him.



Why is he pulling on my feet?


Sunday, October 17, 2010

The Things Rolling Around Upstairs

I've had some stuff going through my head these past few days. In no particular order, a few of them are:

- The word, "friends". It seems so innocuous for something that means so much, don't you think?

- Construction hard hats. I don't know why. It's just an image that keeps surfacing. A white one, specifically. No logo, just the hat. And seemingly new, or at least clean.

- My baby moving on with his life. It's heartbreaking. Heartwrenching. Crushing. And yet it's what I raised him to do, right? He turns 18 on Thanksgiving Day and graduates high school in the spring. Life is rushing by, and frankly, I'm having a helluva time with it.

- What to do after BoyRD goes to college. Hasn't this whole time, this whole (almost) two decades been all about getting him here without ever really having to fully look at me and my own life? Ruh Roh, Raggy.

- My neighbors have their Christmas lights up. They put them up BEFORE they put up their Halloween stuff. I can't decide if we should just say, "well, they DO work in retail", or if I should put up my Valentine decorations.

- Heroes and heroins and how we maybe have them pictured all wrong. How they're all around us, and we don't even know it. How being a hero doesn't mean having a cleft-chin and constantly doing amazing thing, but more about stepping up in a moment--in a flash of time-- and making a difference in someone's life. Maybe not even in a life-altering way, either. Some days, I think just being polite qualifies.

- The caramel cheese puffs someone brought to school last week. You know that caramel puff corn we eat by the handful around the holidays? Yeah, like that ... but with poofy Cheetos!

- Why Joan Cusack is in EVERY SINGLE John Cusack movie. Is there some sort of invisible Siamese-twin syndrome nobody talks about?

I hope this look into my brain contents hasn't been too messy.

I'm willing to bet, however, that your brain operates in a similar fashion.

See? You're not alone.

And knowing THAT helps me remember that neither am I.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Allegedly Speaking: His Name Is My Name, Too

Waaayyyy back in the day, I worked at a big resort hotel/casino. OK, really it was a casino/hotel. I say this because the casino brought in fourteen bazillion-gillion times more money than the hotel ever did.

Located in a resort-town along the Colorado River bordering Nevada and Arizona, this place had 1,600 rooms, four restaurants, three bars, two pools and a separate smoking and non-smoking casino. Not huge by Vegas standards, but certainly nothing to sneeze at out in the Mojave Desert. Summer and holiday weekends would find us and the other nine or ten hotels on the strip at 100% occupancy. That's a lot of people chasing the big one, lemme tell ya.

Those holiday weekends were something else. 15,000 people packed into the casino, wallets open, cleavage exposed, drinks in hand. Narcissism and a hefty dose of any one of a myriad of addictions coming together to create an energy like nothing else I've ever experienced. Standing in the heart of the casino floor, you could feel the electricity, always as though you were just on the cusp of something big. Something huge. Like something was about to happen if you just had one more. If you just rolled one more time. If you just let it ride. It was hard to not get swept up in it.

It was one of those holiday Friday nights, right in the middle of the casino floor when a man I admired spit on me and changed my life.

His name was John Jeurgensmeyer. (Needless to say, every time I saw him, I sang to him ... John, Jacob, Jeurgensmeyer Schmidt .... ) He was the casino manager on duty. I was the guest service manager ... and since the hotel manager had gone home for the weekend, John was in charge of the restaurants, bars, security and casino, and I had the hotel, bell, valet and the rest. I had looked up to him for years. He was intelligent, witty, funny, and darned good at his job. And this was the first time I was going to impress him.

Nights like these, you dressed the part. This night I was sporting my large and seriously in-charge early-90's hair, black eyeliner, dark lipstick, and a black business ensemble with high-heels ... all topped off with a red power-blazer. I am reasonably sure that blazer had shoulder pads. I. Meant. Business.

Fifteen windows open at the front desk. A line so long it was being worked by two cocktail waitresses. Bellmen sweating, valets running and anxiety running high. In the middle of it all, the GSM phone rings. In the middle of tracking down a lost best-man ("no ma'am, I can't give you a key to that hussy's room even though you know he's in there"), assuaging a man's fears about not being recognized as a high-roller, ("yes sir, $1,200 certainly is a wad of cash to have spent since Tuesday, but our high-rollers typically throw down upwards of $200k a weekend.") and trying to convince housekeeping to do something--anything-- to get 21866 back into service after that bride decided to pour champagne all over the mattress (wouldn't rose petals have been a better choice?), a clerk hollers, "Laura--John's on 6854 for you!". We make eye contact. She gives me the, "you're gonna wanna take this" call.

'Turns out we had a scammer among us.

This fella had been kicked out of every high-class, middle-class and scraping-the-bottom casino in Clark County, and now he was in our house.

It took us a while to figure it out, though. He hadn't been to our little town yet, so we'd only seen faxed copies of his booking photo. Remember, back in '93, fax was pretty much the only way to send a photo and laser printers must have been at about 8 dpi, even on a (then) state-of-the-art model.

This guy had tipped us off, though. He was a jerk at check-in and threatened one of my crew, had tried to tell the bell desk that they lost one of his bags, and goosed a cocktail waitress.

And now he is trying to pull a fast one on the boys in the casino.

Security has him downstairs, but he's spinning so many yarns that nobody could tell where the truth lie.

No hard evidence of cheating or card-counting, but all of the old guys had a suspicion. And when the house's money is on the line, a suspicion is good enough.

Back then it took two managers to 86 someone--John ... and me.

This is my moment. This is the story that will get back to the big boys; the guys that make decisions. I am going to show him that I can see the big picture. That I am a company man babe. That I can see through the bull of any shyster. And that even though I'm known for finding humor in pretty much everything, I can be tough when the occasion arises.

So John and I stand face to face on the casino floor. The band is blaring. The slots are ringing at an unearthly decibel. People are alternately laughing and yelling ... and usually not alternately. It's barely controlled chaos.

We stand inches from one another, otherwise we'd never hear one another.

As he's asking me, "Whaddya think? He's got no car and nobody's got a room for him. We don't have know that we have enough to call Metro and get him arrested. Do we kick him?" As he enunciated that last "do", it happened:

A tiny ball of spit catapults itself from John's Magnum PI mustache, travels in an arch and lands ... smack on my bottom lip.


It nestles into my L'Oreal Red Rhapsody lipcolor.

Holy sweet mother of what am I going to do now?

I couldn't wipe it. I didn't want to embarrass him. Besides, we're talking red lipstick on a lily-white face. The smears would be unbearable. I couldn't fake a thoughtful finger-press to the mouth--we were standing so close I would have elbowed him right in the solar plexus. And I sure as heck couldn't (barf) lick it off.

And then I realize something.

I can no longer hear the band.

The clinking of ice cubes in glasses, of watches and rings colliding with tables as die are thrown, of dealers barking out dollar amounts, colors and numbers, of cards shuffling, of slots spinning, of revelers laughing and losers groaning all slid away in a single thought-filled moment. I couldn't even hear John.

To this day, I have no idea what he said when I didn't answer. I have no idea how I replied. I'm sure we booted the jerk-wad out, but have no recollection of signing anything, being a part of the escort party or even the rest of my shift.

I don't know for sure it was that precise moment which slowed my charge for gaming/hospitality greatness, but I do know that shortly after that I just didn't see the point any longer. I know that in those last few months, it was all I could do to not start shouting at strangers and coworkers alike, "Don't you see we're feeding on the problems of these people? I am NOT making the world a better place by being here!"

Four months later I left and got a job at an eye doctor's office. I learned important office-y stuff like how to sit most of the day, how to read lens prescriptions and (possibly most importantly) about Kona coffee and the power of vanilla creamer.

Years have passed, and every time I gleek, I think of John.

Just today, in fact, I spit on someone.

I didn't get embarrassed, though.

I just told myself that maybe it was life-altering spit.

Funk To The Rescue

A new coworker of mine, P., hates Tuesdays.

By his reasoning, there's no end in sight, his tummy is still weird from whatever he consumed over the weekend, and he feels like he's not slept in a month.

I understand. Totally. And I really dislike that feeling. And P. makes my day, so I wanted to help. And anyone who knows me knows before they get to the next paragraph what my fix was.

Music, of course.

But music alone begs the next question ... what kind? It took a few minutes, and I weighed the options, wanting to be sure. This isn't something one should take lightly, you know.

I arrived at funk.

Funk is my go-to genre when I need something to latch on to, something to pull me up from the doldrums ... something to deliver me to a different place altogether.

So I made P. a top-ten playlist. Yup, that's right -- a mix tape! This being the year it is, however, I've put it on my flashdrive and will toss it at him tomorrow at school.

Ladies and gentlemen? I give you in no particular order because narrowing it down to ten was hard enough ... Laura's Top Ten Funk Songs:

It's Your Thing - Isley Brothers
Give Up the Funk (Tear The Roof Off The Sucker) - Parliament
Brick House - Commodores
Give It Up (Or Turnit Loose) - James Brown
My Feet Can't Fail Me Now - Dirty Dozen Brass Band
Superstition - Stevie Wonder
Kiss - Prince
Thank You (Falettinme Be Mice Elf Agin) - Sly & The Family Stone
Will It Go Round In Circles - Billy Preston
I Wish - Stevie Wonder

Funk it up, folks. I know I am.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Balance Is Elusive

I am trying to find some balance between the new job and the not-so-new dirty home.

But the whole time, I'm thinking about you. Seriously. I think about posts while I'm doing attendance, taking lunch money and even going potty. You're lucky we can't access the wireless for personal biznass at school -- the bathroom is, after all, where I do my best thinking.

So as I go about this pursuit of balance, I'm going to cheat and post a link to something I love. You know, because I was trying to think of a way to give you something without upsetting the delicate, fragile, about-to-blow-over-balance.

The older I become, the more I admire, and even try to emulate, great storytelling. Real stories, from real people, about real stuff. You know, the stuff of life itself.

Fair warning: the story I'm posting a link to is not funny. I would even invite the little ones or anyone with too rich an imagination to leave the room.

And while those who know me well know I believe the funny to often be of the highest order of all, this story is the one that stuck with me the longest. And that, my friends, is the mark of a good 'un; and worth sharing.

Ladies and gentlemen? I give you .... Deborah Scaling Kiley: Lost at Sea.

(For more on The Moth, please their website here. I personally subscribe to their podcast via iTunes, but for ease of posting decided on an easier approach for the iTunes-not-so-savvy.)

Monday, October 4, 2010

I Hope

I can't stop thinking about a Mom I met today.

Four kids. She and her husband broke up. She had moved away. Now they were reconciled and she and the kids were back. She'd been back in town for less than an hour and was there to register her babies for school. (This is not as common as you'd think ... some people have seven year-olds they've not yet registered for Kindergarten and they've lived in town the child's entire life.) That this woman was at my desk on the same morning she got back, and that she had all of her kids birth certificates, shot records and names and numbers of previous schools absolutely thrilled me. I've met parents with PhD's who weren't as organized as this Mama--we were going to get along SWIMMINGLY. And those kids were good kids. Well behaved with great eye contact, inquisitive, using appropriate language for their age groups. All good signs.

We commenced with the paperwork mountain.

At the end of it, I asked her to call me tomorrow afternoon for class assignments. She agreed and off they went.

Five hours later she returned. This was not the same woman who had been there earlier in the day. This one had bruises forming and bandages over cuts and obvious contusions ... and a very apologetic demeanor. In fact, the first thing she said was, "I'm sorry."

The story, while short, spilled out in a torrent of words. She left my office and went home to her husband. Who promptly beat the ever living crap out of her. She spent the rest of my work day in the emergency room and then talking with police. And now they had to leave again. And she was sorry. Sorry for what, she didn't say. It was everything I could do to not offer her a hug. But you could tell she was barely holding it together and that she needed to keep it together for the kids. They were with her, but quieter this time. Solemn.

And so I made her swear she'd never come back. And asked if she had what she needed to get them where they were going. And then I sent every ounce of love I had to her as I watched she and the kids walk sadly out the front doors and into a bright autumn day at odds with their shuffling gates and dropped shoulders.

I've never wished so hard to never see someone again as much as I wished to not see her or the kids anywhere near this town ever again. Near those memories. Near that man.

I don't know how long this will stay with me. A part of me hopes I forget quickly so I don't see them in my dreams. Another part of me hopes it stays forever so I don't forget. Because how CAN someone forget? How can you hear her, see her, see those kids and then just forget, have it fade away like your high school locker combination or your second-grade teacher's name?

I don't have the answer. I don't have so much as a clue. I just have love. So I think of her with love. And I think of how she looked to me: capable, engaged, patient and organized. And I picture her knowing she is all of these things and more.

I Hope
Dixie Chicks

Sunday morning, I heard the preacher say
Thou shall not kill
I don't wanna, hear nothin' else, about killin'
And that it's God's will
Cuz our children are watching us
They put their trust in us
They're gonna be like us
So let's learn from our history
And do it differently

I hope
For more love, joy and laughter
I hope
We'll have more than we'll ever need
I hope
We'll have more happy ever afters
I hope
We can all live more fearlessly
And we can lose all the pain and misery
I hope, I hope

Oh Rosie, her man he gets too rough
And all she can say, is he's a good man
He don't mean no harm
He was just brought up that way
But our children are watching us
They put their trust in us
They're gonna be like us
It's okay for us to disagree
We can work it out lovingly

For I hope
For love, joy and laughter
I hope
You'll have more than you'll ever need
I hope
You'll have more happy ever afters
I hope
And you can all live more fearlessly
And you can lose all your pain and misery
I hope, I hope

There must be a way to change what's going on
No, I don't have all the answers, but
I hope
For more love, more joy and laughter
I hope
you'll have more than you'll ever need
I hope
You'll have more happy ever afters
I hope
We can all live more fearlessly
And we can lose all the pain and misery,
I hope I hope
and we can lose all the pain and misery

I hope, I hope.

Sunday, October 3, 2010

Brownie Explosion

Something weird—and totally awesome in a “science is cool” kind of way—happened tonight.

Kitty Daddy and I had thrown some veggies and pork chops in the slow-cooker earlier in the day. As dinner time approached, the need for mashed potatoes became evident.

We waited until the last minute leapt into action, peeling and cutting potatoes. Soon, a kettle of spuds with water was on the stove.

KD went upstairs to check football scores, and I ran across the street to gift the neighbors a half-pan of Ghirardelli brownies. You know, because if brownies are here, they will be eaten. Sort of like the way you'll spend what you make, increasing spending as income increases—if a double pan of brownies are present, a double pan of brownies will be consumed.

A few minutes later, I returned and went immediately to work on cleaning the dining room table of the flotsam and jetsam it had become home to over the past week. or two.

A few minutes pass and I go into the kitchen to throw some garbage. As I exit, I realize that it smells like brownies. Four hours after the brownies were done. Well now, that's weird.

Approaching the stove to inspect the source of the smell and check on the potatoes, I discover that we had left the brownies in their glass baking pan on the front burner and it, rather than the back burner with the potato pan, had been turned on high.

Holy. CRAP!

I hollered for Kitty Daddy and grabbed the glass pan, which immediately brought me to my senses. Caliente! Quickly donning a hot pad, I managed to fight the urge to plunge the searing-hot glass into dishwater and instead relocated it to a cool, empty burner on the stove.

Crisis seemingly averted. We breathed a collective sigh of relief.

The air acrid with blackened glass and even blacker brownies, we start to find humor in the situation. It's what we do, it's how we cope.

And then the popping started.

Deep tones, coming from inside the glass pan.

Holy. CRAP. Squared.

"Everybody out!" I yell, waiving my arms at Amos and Bob, herding them away from the popping. Amos, of course, figured the popping to be something he MUST inspect. That one, of course, had to be physically removed to a different room and then shown something interesting to keep him there.

I wish I had the right word to share. Something to impart exactly the right tone and length of KARACKAWOOMPF that comprised the sound we heard. I suppose I was so impressed with it because I've never heard anything quite like it before. Sure, I've broken my share of glasses and crockery, but this was probably the thickest measuring glass I'd heard break yet.

Learn from our error, gang: when something says, "no stovetop" on the bottom? They're not kidding.

I'm off to shop for a new square glass pan.

Saturday, October 2, 2010

Danny and Annie, A Four-Kleenex Post

While I work on my next post, I'd like to share something that moves me. May it touch you, as well.

For more Story Corps from NPR, click here.