Archives for posts with tag: Random

As a fourth grader, during a winter much like this one, I sat in my elementary school gym. The PE teacher – missing two finger tips from his days as a shop teacher – explained the rules of our next game. The kind of complex game a brutal, hibernation worthy winter necessitated. Stay on the lines. No passing. Save your friends from jail. On and on.

A classmate asked a complicated question about the complicated game. I just wanted to play. I said, “That’s like asking what do I do if a burglar comes and the house is on fire and I can’t find my shoes and there is a tornado outside.” Everyone laughed. That’s how I got my first laugh.

I was an awkward, unpopular kid. Knock-kneed and a little chunky. A little nerdy:


That laugh filled my chubby little chest with joy. I felt like I fit in. Something I said had changed the feeling of the room. The tension lifted and even the butt of my joke smiled.

Making people laugh feels like you have a superpower. For a moment, time stops. You can see the space between words. The timing of the room. During this pause, your reaction has the power to spread joy like a little bolt of lightning. Something unexpected. Something that fits within that unseen space. The joy bounces from the listener back to you. God it feels good.

Last night, at my grown up gym, I made some people laugh again. A quip about the weather. Hating my life not the workout. Funny on the basis of shared suffering? These people who were grimacing against their effort smiled and laughed. The mood lifted.

Maybe I’m over analyzing it but I sure do love making people laugh.


Sometimes I like to listen to podcasts when I walk the dog (This American Life, Radio Lab, Freakonomics, Stuff You Should Know, The Moth, etc) Podcasts fill a space in my brain that I am afraid might disappear. A space of delirious curiosity. A space that, when I was little, thought there were enough hours in the day to learn everything I wanted to learn. Now that space is a little calmer. It understands that sometimes life is boring. Sometimes traffic forces you to sit behind the same hateful bumper sticker for 35 minutes and that’s okay. That has to be okay. Podcasts reignite the fire in that little space. I can wonder about the science of quicksand fear or Tylenol overdoses or historical mass murders or any number of topics my brain didn’t even know it wanted to wonder about.

But sometimes I like to walk in silence.

Having headphones in makes me feel a little vulnerable, like someone could sneak up on me. I want to hear how my neighborhood sounds. Dogs barking. Cars crunching over gravel. Footsteps over fallen leaves. A squeaky storm door. Maybe a vicious dog that has just wrenched the leash from his owners hand that is rounding the corner to snatch up my little pup. I want to hear that bastard coming.

Maybe I’ve been listening to too many podcasts about murders after all.

Two or three days a week I ride the bus to work. The stop is a seven minute walk from my house and the ride never lasts more than fifteen minutes – even with steady traffic. Buses have the right of way after all.

Three stops after mine a woman gets on the bus, let’s call her Katie. Katie looks a bit like a librarian – well, most people on my bus do. Most of us work at the University. We wear professional yet durable clothes. Every morning Katie carries a ceramic coffee mug onto the bus. Not a travel mug, not something with a lid, a regular ceramic coffee mug. The impracticalness of that choice astounds me.

Katie has “bus friends”, her term not mine. She seems genuinely excited to see them each morning though, from what I’ve gathered, they don’t know each other beyond that short ride. Katie is getting married soon. A week from today actually. She doesn’t care for her girlfriend’s brother. He can’t throw a bridal shower to save his life, “not a balloon in sight.” Katie wants to open her own store. This university gig is just for now, just until she can get that store idea worked out.

Katie doesn’t know who I am.

If Katie’s voice didn’t carry like it does, if she didn’t talk from the moment she gets on the bus until the moment she leaves, I wouldn’t know these things about her. I’m not sure I should know all of this about her.

Our little poodle was sick for the first time last week – trust me you don’t want to know the details. I took half a day off work to get these expensive pictures taken of her:


All clear. Even in black and white she’s adorable.

Whatever she ate off the sidewalk isn’t lodged inside her somewhere. She doesn’t have a tumor growing around her tiny little stomach. Whatever she has seems to be something akin to the dog stomach flu and she is recovering.

Still, I’m glad we went to the vet. That day, however, I was a bit conflicted. Should I really leave work for my dog? Am I that dog-mom? Then I was angry about being conflicted. For the time being, this little poodle is my baby. Hell yes I should leave work. What if she is bleeding internally? What if she ate something poisonous? What if she is about to explode!? She isn’t exactly a wolf in the wilderness, capable of caring for herself – despite what she may think.

I am grateful for a work schedule that makes taking a half day possible. I am grateful for a boss and coworkers who understand what it means to shift your life around a dog’s health. I didn’t expect to be this kind of pet owner but I can’t imagine being any other kind.

We here in the Midwest must convince folks on the coasts that we aren’t silly, rural bumpkins. Life is real here. We have problems. We have joy. Cows don’t wander the streets. Our kids don’t walk to oneroom-schoolhouses barefoot. Most of us have enough of our teeth to chew our own food.  Then, well, things like this end up on the news…

… and I have to say, “Ok, sometimes we’re bumpkins.”


During my employment-free summer, I had all the time in the world to read. Why yes I’ll read that 600 page tome. My pleasure. I’ll just stack it next to a novella and all will be right with the world. I was casual and carefree. Even my reviews felt low pressure and unreasonably upbeat. I didn’t know then how good I had it. (Ok, maybe I kind of knew.)

Two weeks into my new job and I have read fifty pages. That’s it. A sad Obama ’08 bookmark sticks out of my current novel – just barely past the cover – as a judgment on my new life. My life where reading takes a backseat to eating, staring at the computer, playing with the dog, watching TV, staring at the TV and sleeping.

I want to fix this but I know better than to declare that I will. Not yet. I’m not yet sure how I’ll get back to my dear books. My brain needs them. My imagination misses them. Yet I can’t commit. I keep hoping they will find space in my day. At lunch perhaps. Maybe if I let one come to work with me, if I let it stare at me all day, maybe then I will read instead of trolling the internet when I have a few minutes to kill at the end of the day.


The statistics tab is one of my favorite functions on wordpress. It’s like overhearing a fraction of a conversation. I can’t help my curiosity. Who are these people? What brings them to my little blog? Where do they live? Are they having a good day? How do they find me?

The more I’ve written, the less focused these statistics seem. For example, when I saw Will Ferrell’s movie The Campaign this summer I mentioned a few awkward moments. In particular, a brief nip slip, as the kids call it. That wasn’t the focus of the post but that has become the most common search term on my blog. Seriously, here are the stats from this morning:

Yeah, that’s right, some people out in the world associate my name with the phrase nip-slip. Not the Midwest. Not book reviews or writing. Not poodle love. Not the Army. Not even my obsession with the oddness of my neighborhood. Nope, just nip-slip.

Why are people searching for this so often? Ya know what? I don’t actually want to know.

A part of me wants to be annoyed. I’m more than one offhand comment about a single nipple. I am more than a brief review of a not too popular Will Ferrell movie. Really though, I’m happier than I should be that people are finding me somehow.

God, it’s true, I’m nerd.

Today we found a skull near the park:

I grew up in a town about one tenth the size of Minneapolis. Not small by Iowa standards but small enough. Even there I didn’t see this many animal bones.


This is our neighbor-dog Chevy:

Chevy screams like a child. Maybe you’d call it a moan or a wail but you wouldn’t describe it in dog terms. I’ve never owned or lived near a pitbull so maybe this is normal. He’s a good boy, he gets plenty of attention and walks, but he does NOT like the tie-out.

It’s easier to focus on things like this because instead of feeling stronger lately, I’ve been feeling weak. Yesterday, I almost threw up at crossfit – I’m not one of those people who thinks that’s a good thing – and my run was just as bad today as it was when it was 100 degrees out. I know these things go in cycles but it’s still frustrating.

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