Winter is that boy your mother warned you about

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You know the one that can’t keep his hands off you. Always trying to touch your bare skin. Winter always goes too far; you can ask him to stop, but he never will.

 

He’s like that wild boy in high school that spent all his time trying to be cool. Every minute of every day, as if being cool was all that mattered.

 

 

Sure, he brings you lovely presents, like that a line of snow-covered trees glittering in the sun, pretty as a rhinestone bracelet. But he’s cold-hearted and time after time leaves you out in the cold.

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He likes to keep you guessing. One day he’ll warm up to you a bit, and the next day he’s standing in the street, shouting sleet at you, wearing that white muscle T-shirt and pushing you around.

 

He’ll chase you in and out of buildings; stalking you and moaning like a lovesick calf.

 

The relationship seemed so charming in the beginning when he would throw down that sparkly white carpet every time you walked out the door. For the holidays, he filled the sky with confetti, and you loved it. These last few months, though, you’ve been living in denial, telling yourself you can get used to it. But you can’t.

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Winter has a cold and bitter heart. He thinks that pinching your cheeks and fingertips so hard you almost cry is acceptable. If you’re not careful, you’ll start believing that his behavior is normal. That, my friend, is a slippery slope to slide down.

 

When you finally tell him to get lost, he will wait on your porch every morning and blast you when you walk out the door. And as if that weren’t enough harassment, at night he’ll come by and rattle your windows, huffing and puffing like the big bad wolf that he is.

 

Fool that you are, you think you can reason with him. You decide on a date that he will move on and out of your life. You get out your calendar and circle the day, embellishing it with flowers, hearts, and butterflies. (I really don’t know what your mother would say about that.)

 

Then on the very day marked for his departure, he shows up at your door, stomping his boots and flashing his icy blue eyes, as if to say, you are mine forever. Then he points to the trees he has decorated, and you have to slam the door shut because as mean as he is, he really is a great decorator.

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Me? I’m done with him. One of us has got to get out of town. If he’s not gone by the end of April, I’m going to have to leave or get some counseling.

 

Click the links to find the photographers: 
Snow pond   Firs   Rime

 

 

 

 

 

The strangeness of mercy

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One way to look at it is that I was born a child of mischief; one who rebelled within the womb, refusing to appear as the long-expected son of my father, and arrived as a girl instead.

Probably taken after I got caught doing something naughty. That's me not smiling.

Probably taken after I got caught doing something naughty. That’s me not smiling.

In the narrative of my own creation, a bad-natured fairy sprinkled me with fairy dust composed of curiosity, naughtiness, and a bit of bad luck. How else explain that I rarely got away with anything, and my older sister almost always did.

 

I disliked getting caught and punished and tried to cover my tracks, but sooner or later my sins found me out, barking and baying until someone in authority – parents or teachers – nabbed me.

 

None of my punishments lessened my curiosity or desire to explore the forbidden – cigarettes, the sugar bowl, other people’s mail, or the contents of my parents’ dresser. Curiosity, which killed the cat, just gave me a sore bottom.

 

Years later I realized how I had mistaken mercy for bad-naturedness on the part of that fairy. If I had had the bad luck to get away with all of my naughtiness, I would probably be writing my blog from a jail cell. (Of course, there’s no way to be sure I’m not; you’ll just have to take my word for it.)

 

Getting caught helped me understand consequences in a way nothing else could. I thought of this last month when someone sideswiped my car in the campus parking lot.

 

The first thing I noticed when I approached my car as I was leaving school was a rectangular piece of black plastic lying on the ground near my bumper. It was a car license plate sheathed in a plastic holder lying upside down. I picked it up to place it on a snow mound so the driver could see it when he or she returned, and that’s when I noticed the damage to the side of my car.

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I contacted school security, explained the situation, and gave them the license plate number. It didn’t take long to track down the individual, based on his school-parking permit. He assured the security officers that he had written me a note and placed it on my windshield.

 

In this tale, the wind, angry with him perhaps for some long-forgotten curse against its coldness, tore the note away, carrying it far from the parking lot. And while he was placing the note on my windshield, no doubt taking full responsibility for what he had done and overcome by remorse, his tear-filled eyes apparently failed to see his fallen license plate, black on white, doing its best to be seen.

 

This story made me smile, and would have even been plausible if there had been any wind that day, or if the snow which wasn’t falling that day had temporarily blinded him so he couldn’t see  the license plate lying there in plain sight, letting all the world know where to find him. Nevertheless, I agreed that it was a good story that could have happened and not too bad for a first draft.

 

His insurance paid for the damage; and one hopes, next time he really will leave a note. I didn’t report him to the city police. Had I done so, he would have been charged with leaving the scene of an accident.

 

He’s a young man yet and has a chance to learn that the best stories are true whether they really happened or not. I like to think we were dusted by the same fairy, fated to get away with nothing.

 

Though he may view me now as a bad-natured old woman, who uncovered his furtive deed and caused his insurance rates to go up, I have hope that one day he will see me as a merciful old woman who helped him get caught – just in time.

 

License photo: Alias 0591 from the Netherlands 

Letter to my 90-year-old self

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Dear Future Yearstricken,

 

 

Do you remember me? I didn’t think so. You lived my life several decades ago. I thought I’d better write you a letter to remind you what your plans for old age were.

 

 

  • You can only whine and complain on Tuesdays from 3 – 5 p.m., so make good use of that time. When you were younger, you used to say, “Put on your big girl panties and deal with it.” Now, of course, you’ll have to put on your big girl Depends and deal with life’s inconveniences: your aches and pains, the decreasing level of intelligent life around you, and the annoying habit of people who never learned to speak clearly and loudly.

 

 

  • Open that Excel file called Stories I Like to Tell that I left on your computer, iPad, and phone. I tried to sort them chronologically, so the stories of your childhood start the list. You’ll have to fill in names of new people across those top cells. If you can’t fill them in, ask someone for help. Then every time you tell that person one of your stories, put an “x” under the person’s name. If that’s too hard, ask the person listening to the stories to mark the ones he or she has heard before. Once the person has heard all of your stories, feel free to just make stuff up. They weren’t there, so they’ll never know the difference.

 

Type of text commonly used in books in the year 2014.

Type of text commonly used in books in the year 2014.

 

  • Read every day. I hope by the time you receive this, the alarming trend of making letters smaller and fuzzier will reverse itself so that you can read books and magazines. When you were a child, all print was normal-sized, crisp, sharp, and easy to read. Somewhere around your 30s or 40s, printers of all kinds became sloppy and started using smaller, blurrier fonts. The you that is me right now has been forced to use glasses for printed material and the magnifier function on the computer. You may have to rely on audio versions of books, although computers should be able to read aloud better by mid-century.

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  • Keep learning about the world around you. It may do for the people around you to talk and care about only local affairs, but it won’t do for you. You cannot turn away from the pain and suffering of other lands anymore than you can ignore the beauty and wonder of other cultures. Your community extends across all of the continents. You share the same story with every other human being.

 

 

  • Practice mercy and forgiveness every day, or at least every day except Tuesdays from 3 – 5 p.m. when you are busy whining and complaining. You never learned much from punishment other than fear, but you have been transformed by the mercy and forgiveness you have received. Avoid carrying grudges; they’re incredibly heavy and tend to throw your back out and make you spiteful.

 

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  •  Laugh as much as possible, and often at yourself. Cry, too. Keep feeling and savoring life. It’s okay to lick the bowl at the end of the meal; you don’t have that many more meals left.

 

 

  • Don’t worry about what other people think about you. Most people find thinking troublesome, and those that bother to think won’t spend much time thinking about you.

 

 

  • Enjoy your coffee, wine, and dark chocolate. If you’re alive at 90, you’ve proved they are good for you.

 

 

  • Pay attention every day. Look, really look, at what is around you: the number of petals on an orchid, the different shades of green in your spring garden, the mechanism of a zipper, the way your knuckles bend (hopefully), and the variety of bird songs in summer. If you don’t understand something, look it up. Find out. You need this as much as coffee, wine, and dark chocolate.

 

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  • Tell the people around you that you love them. Hug them every chance you get. Don’t worry about embarrassing them or yourself. Tell the child that your heart nearly bursts every time she comes through the door. Tell your daughters that they are two of life’s greatest gifts. Tell your husband that a day has never  by that you haven’t marveled at his love and patience. It’s okay to repeat yourself this time. Your family and friends may tire of your stories, but they’ll never tire of being loved.

 

Your once and former self,

 

Yearstricken

 

Words that go back and forth

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Before I learned the meaning of the word “palindrome,” I thought it had something to do with merry-go-rounds. If you repeat the word out loud, you’ll hear those three syllables, stressed-unstressed-unstressed. This kind of metrical foot, called a dactyl, comes from the Greek for “finger,” and in this case it pointed to a carousel and me sitting on a palomino with a wild eye and a dark gold coat. (Both the eye and the coat on the palomino, not me.)

 

Unsurprisingly, I was wrong. A palindrome is a number, word, phrase, or sentence read the same frontward and backward.

 

I don’t remember when I learned what the word actually meant, but I know I have enjoyed reading words backward since I was a young girl. Discovering that star talked back and said rats and that was said saw as soon as it turned its back on you seemed magical and subversive at the same time. If I paid attention, I could find enchanted words all around me able to say two things at the same time, and some of them sassy to boot.

 

People have been palindroming forever, or at least in Latin since the late first century, which seems forever to someone expected to live just eight or so decades. Although the inhabitants of Pompeii disappeared when Mt. Vesuvius erupted in 79 A.D., the palindrome Sator Arepo Tenet Opera Rotas, known as the Sator Square, remained, scratched on a wall to perplex and delight the archeologists who discovered it and all of us who came after. No one knows exactly what it means, but a number of sites list the meaning as Arepo the sower works with wheels. Even if that’s not the exact meaning, it’s fascinating to see how you can read the words any which way.

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In Greek, palindrome means “running back again,” like an echo or a boomerang that comes whizzing back. The Greeks also wrote using a method called boustrophedon, which means “ox-turning.”

Boustro Oxen

 

In English, we read left to right, line after line, as if we were watching a knife-thrower at the circus. We watch throw after throw until somebody dies or the circus shuts down for the night. In boustrophedon, the Greeks read as if they were at a tennis match, watching the ball served from left to the right, and then hit back from right to the left until somebody won or got ejected from the game. Tennis hadn’t been invented yet, so they used the image of plowing with an ox, moving first down one furrow, then turning around to plow the next row.

If I were to write a blog using that writing method

morf enil tsrif eht gnidaer trats ot evah dluow uoy  

left to right, then turn your plowing eye at the end  

m’I .tfel ot thgir daer ot nigeb dna enil taht fo

afraid you would soon grow tired of it.

Some people find the above paragraph easy to read; others don’t. Of course, that’s true of everything on this blog. But be that as it may or may not, anyone can learn to read words backward. Apparently it’s good for the brain. According to this article at mirrorread.com, it causes new growth of gray matter and increased density. I personally could do with more gray matter, dense or not. I may not have a lot of brains, but people  have often remarked that what I do have is already quite dense; even so, I’m sure if I work on it I can get even denser.

 

So this year, I plan to get as thickheaded as possible, read more in both directions and teach my old ox of a brain new tricks, one furrow at a time.

 

 

Dear Canada, we need to talk

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united-states-canada-mapDear Canada,

 

I like you. Really, I do.

 

I love the way you keep polar bears away from Wisconsin. Few things are as disconcerting as finding a hungry polar bear on your porch when you walk out your front door.

 

I feel a great deal of loyalty to you, too. Probably because when I was younger I drove up the Alcan Highway with my family from Texas to Alaska. That time with you so long ago probably explains that incident a few years ago in France when I committed a fox paw (that unlucky charm of the French, which they spell faux pas). I was so embarrassed, but I smiled sheepishly and said, “Sorry, I’m Canadian.” Honestly, I felt Canadian then, and proud of it.

 

Wisconsin and Canada are close. Maybe not as close as you and Minnesota or some of those other not-Wisconsin states. But that lake between Wisconsin and the part of you known as Ontario has helped the two of you develop what anyone can see is a Superior relationship.

 

I wouldn’t criticize you if you weren’t so close to Wisconsin, but since no one else seems willing to talk to you about it, I feel I have to. It’s your problem of passing wind. Please don’t be offended. Meteorological flatulence is no laughing matter, and it’s difficult to talk about, but we need to have this discussion.

 

Arctic wind, as you know, is powerful stuff. This month, the wind you passed was so cold that people here couldn’t talk when they were outside. Their speech bubbles froze in mid-air and shattered on the ground. We’ve all had to carry axes with us when we go outside. If you walk too slowly, you freeze in place and have to chop yourself free. Many of friends now wear a much smaller shoe size. No one knows how many of the snow mounds dotting the landscape are people who didn’t move fast enough and froze in place. We won’t know until spring. Your wind is so bad that when small children cry, their eyelids freeze shut; then they bump into flagpoles, cry out, and get their tongues stuck. It makes it really hard to raise and lower the flag when that happens.

 

Please, Canada, if you can’t control your meteorological indigestion and you have to pass wind, turn the other cheek and let it rip toward the north.

 

Your friend,

 

Yearstricken for Wisconsin

 

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Seven degrees of separation from busy to lazy

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1_Earth_(blank)Before Walt Disney had the Sherman brothers, Rob and Rick, create the earworm* known as It’s a Small World (After All), the Hungarian writer Frigyes Karinthy wrote about the small world concept in his short story Chain Links. If you take the time to read the four-page story by clicking on the title, you’ll see how Karinthy is able to establish an association between two people unknown to one another with just two acquaintance links between them, and another pair with four acquaintance links between them.

 

Most people today attribute the idea of six degrees of separation to Karinthy. According to the 6° of separation theory, every human being is connected to every other human being by six or fewer links (friends or acquaintances) between them. In its various iterations, the concept now includes Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon, a game connecting every Hollywood actor, ham or otherwise, to Kevin Bacon in the required six or fewer links. Go here to test it out.

 

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If the SDS theory is true, we are all just six or fewer acquaintance links from Pope Francis, Macklemore, your crazy neighbor, and every terrorist on the face of the earth. This is good news for the acronym known as NSA (National Snooping Agency / No Secrets Allowed), because the theory can justify snooping on all of us. We are all guilty by association. Of course, the national acronym shows some restraint, restricting its snoops to three degrees of separation for persons of interest. Or so they say.

Someone is watching all your links.

Someone is watching all your links.

What does this have to do with busy and lazy? Back in the old days of crossword puzzle books, I used to play a word game in which you had to start with one word and end up with another by changing one letter of the word in a designated number of steps. I thought of this the other day when I realized how I seem to alternate between busy and lazy. So I started a word list and discovered the two states are separated by seven degrees of separation.

 

I start out BUSY, and all that frantic effort leaves me BUSHed. Tired and frustrated, I begin to BASH my head against the wall and LASH out at some of the people around me. Then I withdraw and build a flimsy retreat of LATHs. Confined by a cage built by my own hands, I postpone what I am supposed to do and find I am LATE for deadlines and for completing my well-laid plans. Once that happens, I lose focus and begin to LAZE around. That hammock-like verb leads to LAZY (hours wasted staring at moving objects on my computer screen).

It looks something like this:

busy

bush

bash

lash

lath

late

laze

lazy

What does this all mean? And why do I keep starting paragraphs with questions? I don’t really know, so I’ll make something up. First, words and how they are spelled can be linked. I like that because I enjoy words and wordplay. Second, ideas can be linked, for example, Frigyes Karinthy’s chain links and Kevin Bacon’s cinema links. Someone clearly needs to discover the links between toilet paper and nuclear fission, as well as vaccines and peanut butter. And I could be that someone if only moving from lazy to busy were as easy as moving from busy to lazy.

 

*Earworm = A song or musical phrase that 
burrows into your head to consume part of yourbrain. The earworm extracts tiny bits of 
sanity, extruding addle, which causes you to
become addle-brained. An ear worm can also 
make bad words come out of your mouth.

 

Photos courtesy of Wikimedia:   Big chain link     Earth

 

Love, marriage, and freezing weather

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Courtesy of the Commons.

The best way to avoid cold weather is to be careful who* you marry. My husband and I met and married overseas, and the fact that he was from Wisconsin didn’t seem important at the time. I visited the state once before we wed, but it was summer, the season that makes you believe anything is possible. I won’t say I was deceived, but I will hint at it. When we lived overseas, I told my husband repeatedly that I would never, never live in Wisconsin because it was too cold in the winter.

 

And I meant it. It is too cold in the winter. Although Wisconsin boasts that it has four seasons, it really has two: winter and springsummerfall. They both last about six months. And while it’s true that the last one, the non-winter season, can almost make you believe Wisconsin is God’s country; in winter, it turns into God’s icebox.

 

It’s common knowledge that everything is bigger in Texas, my home state, but I’m here to tell you the uncommon truth: it aint so. The winters in Wisconsin are way bigger than the winters in Texas. Winter there is a little bitty bunny that burrows in your yard for the season and plans to eat the bark around the saplings in your yard. Winter in Wisconsin is a great big old polar bear that lives on your front porch and plans to eat you.

 

You can’t tame a polar bear. They fear you about as much as you fear a rib eye steak or Texas brisket. So what can you do?  Here are two tips to help you stay alive in winter if you accidentally marry someone from Wisconsin:

 

  1. Avoid going outside.
  1. If you must go out, don’t.

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*Yes, it should be whom. No, I do not plan to change it. Maybe the war is over.

 

Happy One More Lap Around the Sun Day!

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Image converted using ifftoany

If you’re feeling dizzy, I don’t blame you. I feel dizzy too. We just finished another lap around the sun, moving 108,000 kilometers an hour. It doesn’t sound quite so fast in miles – just a little over 67,000 miles per hour. (When it comes to numbers, it doesn’t matter that the distances are equivalent, the bigger number makes me feel that we are going faster in kilometers than in miles; in the same way that 100 pennies looks like more money than 4 quarters to small children and people like me.)

 

Add in the fact that the earth is also rotating at up to 1000 miles per hour each day,and I start to feel a tiny bit panicky. Too much thinking about it makes me want to stay inside lest I accidentally get spun off the earth before my time. Yes, it’s a far-flung idea, but just because it hasn’t happened yet doesn’t mean it won’t.

 

The last million or so kilometers of the 940 million kilometer course (or 584 million miles plus a few yards) I traveled this year were exhausting. I’ve been doing these laps for decades, so you think I would be used to it. All the scientific types assure me that this year’s turn was no faster than any other year, but I think it was.

 

However, reaching the finish line on December 31 and pushing through the midnight tape stretched between the two years is always cause for celebration. So, I want to wish you a Happy New Year! May the next 940 million kilometers be good ones for you and yours!

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Cold feet

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While still suffering from seasonal amnesia back in September, I won two tickets to a Packer football game. Seasonal amnesia happens after you escape death-by-cold in northeast Wisconsin and convince yourself that the unseasonably warm fall weather will sneak unscathed through the months of winter, arriving just in time for spring. You convince yourself that bones can’t freeze and teeth cannot grow noticeably shorter from chattering. You should know better.

 

Cold is frozen into first place in my list of things I hate. I prefer sweltering to sweatering so many layers I cannot bend my arms. I do everything I can to avoid cold and would never willingly put myself in a place where frost is free to bite at will. And yet…few things please me more than free. I rarely pass the sample ladies in the supermarket, and when I shop, I look for bargains. The ultimate bargain, of course, is free.

 

Bewitched by the weather and the win, I told my husband I wanted to attend the game at Lambeau field. If you have ever been to Green Bay, Wisconsin and visited Lambeau, you know that for a pro football stadium it lacks nothing, unless roofs are important to you. I am rather fond of them myself, especially when the colored alcohol in the thermometer refuses to rise above 23 degrees Fahrenheit (-5 degrees Celsius).

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And yet…I won a pair of FREE tickets. Me, lucky me. All those other people wanted those tickets, but did they win? No! I won! Somehow I convinced myself that free is stronger than cold.

 

When I awoke from my enchantment, I discovered I was living in winter. I could have turned back, given the tickets away, and barricaded the door, but I convinced myself it would be an adventure – a free one.

 

The day before I descended into madness, my husband and I met with siblings for breakfast at a nearby café. A number of hunters, clad in camouflage and orange please-don’t-shoot-me-I’m-not-a-deer hunting clothes sat nearby. One of the sister-in-laws said, “You’d have to be crazy to go out deer hunting in this weather. The only thing crazier would be going to a Packer game.” She had no idea that’s exactly what I was preparing to do, and when I told her and the others, all of their flabbers were gasted. “I hope,” I said, “that I sit next to a large, fluffy man. That way I will have my large, slightly fluffy husband on my left and another on my right.”

 

The morning of the day I was prepared to die, I laid out the clothes I would probably be buried in: two pairs of long johns, three pairs of socks, a long-sleeved pullover, a wool sweater, heavy pants, a wool scarf, a knit hat, silk glove liners, wool gloves, snow boots, and a hooded down coat. In my arms I carried a Packer-green throw and a queen-sized blanket.

 

The sister-in-law who correctly diagnosed me as insane lives within a ten-minute walk from Lambeau stadium, so we parked at her house and walked. I felt invincible with my soft, wimpy flesh encased in sheep and geese products. I, the thin-blooded, slim-minded Texan, had tamed the mighty Wisconsin cold. That euphoria lasted the entire ten minutes it took to reach the mausoleum/stadium.

 

Thankfully, the stadium has an atrium with walls and a roof, a concession no doubt to the non-natives who might be lured in by free tickets. Fearful that the mustard on my brat (the wurst kind) would freeze before we found our seats, we ate our lunch inside. With my belly full of brat and my mind full of hubris, we left the atrium and entered the roofless stadium.

 

When we reached section 110, row 46, seats 20 and 21, I felt as if Christmas had come early. Santa Claus, or his near cousin, sat in seat 22, his own warm self overflowing into my 18 inches of space on our shared metal bench. When he saw me moving in his direction, he smiled with delight and said, “Are you sitting here?” Both of our prayers had been answered – he had asked for a small person on his left, and I had asked for a large one on my right. My husband brought a large cushion to sit on, while I brought a smaller one and the green throw to sit on. I snuggled into my now 12-inch seat, pulled the blanket over me, and waited for the games to begin.

 

Once I was thoroughly nested, a bunch of people appeared on the field with a gigantic American flag and I had to stand up. That meant removing the large blanket, positioning myself between two large men on either side, checking to make sure my small blanket didn’t fall down when I stood up, and avoiding bumping into the people in the row in front as I tried to maneuver and actually see over their tall, fluffy bodies. The seatmate behind me, less inhibited than I, carried a large cardboard sign, which she waggled around, hitting me on the back numerous times.

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After the anthem, things began to happen. The other 79,999 people roared periodically, prizes were announced on the big screens towering over the stadium, music blared, rupturing eardrums at will, non-profits advertised, vendors vended (mostly beer), and people began excusing themselves up and down the long rows of swaddled people. My husband described it as a rock concert-church bazaar-bingo game atmosphere.

 

In the meantime, some football players down on the field started crashing into one another. Half of the time, I couldn’t actually see what they were doing because the excited and quickly inebriated fans in row 44 liked to stand and watch, unaware that none of the people in rows 45 to 47 could see through them. So I watched a lot of the game on the big screens.

 

This led me to ask myself two questions. First, why are football players smaller in real life? They looked like miniature versions of their television selves. Second, since I could see more of the game on the big screens in the stadium instead of squinting at the field, why was I sitting outside in 23-degree weather watching the game on their screens when I could be sitting in my chair at home watching the exact same thing on my TV screen?

 

Note how small the football players actually are! I've always heard being on TV makes you look heavier, but I didn't realize how much.

Note how small the football players actually are! I’ve always heard being on TV makes you look heavier, but I didn’t realize how much.

After spending close to three hours sitting outside watching TV, it hit me like a block of ice that I had another two or three hours to go. That’s when I got cold feet. Literally. Well, actually I got cold toes. All ten of them asked to leave, and I, being both in the minority and a believer in democracy, yielded.

 

We arrived home in time to watch the last quarter of the game, which went into overtime and ended in a tie.

 

Because it’s winter and I recognize that winter’s death threats are serious, I’m sure I will never go to another Packer game in mid-November when the temperature has sunk to the twenties. I am sure in the same way I was sure before last week that I would never go to a Packer game in winter. In the same way I was sure I would never live in Wisconsin because it’s too cold. My only fear is that I will win or be given free tickets again. So, I’ve written this post as a reminder. If I read it before football season each year, maybe I’ll get cold feet before I go.

 

 

Doggerel / Bloggerel

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Doggerel / Bloggerel

 

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Dog, man’s (and presumably woman’s) best friend, shows up in the word doggerel, wagging its tail full of trivial verse. The word ends in –erel, which indicates the diminutive, but unfortunately, a negative diminutive. You’re left with a sorry little puppy of a poem, the runt of the litter, or in this case, the runt of the letters.

 

Doggerel is a legitimate surname, but it’s unknown (at least to me) which came first – the man or the rhyme. Chaucer uses it as an adjective in his Canterbury Tales as early as 1400, but where did he get it? Perhaps a particularly clumsy wordsmith was anointed with the name, and it stuck like a burr on a cur. Or perhaps someone with the name Doggerel couldn’t help but mark his rhymes with his name, in the same way dogs can’t help but mark fire hydrants and telephone poles with their scent. The origin is buried like a bone somewhere in history’s backyard. I have been unable to dig it up.

 

So what happens when doggerel and blog meet? You have bloggerel.

 

In recent months I have recited a little couplet to my grandchild who has what one may call “potty issues.” Small children often suffer when the physical demands of the body meet the appliances created to meet those demands. Just as the hero Ulysses, on his long journey home, had to pass through the Strait of Messina and face Charybdis, the awful whirlpool that swallowed men and ships whole; small children, on their way to bladder relief, have to sit atop the toilet, that violent vortex capable of swallowing Lego men and ships whole. Experiences on automatic flush toilets can terrorize them for years.

 

Apparently at night, while that couplet was wandering around in my brain, it went out for drinks, met some rhymes, and decided to hang out together. They presented themselves to me the other morning when I awoke, one for each gender.

 

 

Tinkle, Tinkle (for girls)

 

Tinkle, tinkle in the pot

Place your hiney on the spot.

 

Flush the toilet once you wipe,

Wash your hands; turn off the light.

 

Tinkle, tinkle in the pot

Bladder’s full, now it’s not.

 

 

Tinkle, Tinkle (for boys)

 

Tinkle, tinkle in the pot

Take your aim and hit the spot.

 

Lift the lid; then put it down

Lids left up make mommies frown.

 

Tinkle, tinkle in the pot

Bladder’s full, now it’s not.

 

 

Now I’m off to search ancestry.com to see if there are any Doggerels who have left their markings on my family tree.