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Friday, December 31, 2010


Every new beginning comes from some other beginning's end.
~ Seneca
- - - - -

I like New Year's Eve Day. I think it's a good time to reflect and prepare for the year to come.

I also think it's more positive to call it New Year's Eve Day than to call it Old Year's Termination Day.

Thursday, December 30, 2010


(photo by Elizabeth Fowler)

Life is a mirror and will reflect back to the thinker what he thinks into it.
~ Ernest Holmes
- - - - -

Elizabeth: Ooops! I almost kicked over that mirror.

Michelle: Be careful. A broken mirror is seven years of bad luck.

Elizabeth: Really?

Michelle: Yes, really.

Elizabeth: Have you ever broken a mirror?

Michelle: Oh, no. And I don't ever want to be around if that happens.

Elizabeth: (walks off to get her mother, then returns with Chris following). Oh, Michelle!! You must have put back together that mirror I just broke!

Chris: Elizabeth, there is a difference between joking and lying.

Elizabeth: Oh, okay. Well, this was a joke, then. (pause) Oh, Mom, is it seven years bad luck to break a mirror?

Chris: Yes, it is.

Elizabeth: Has that ever happened to you?

Chris: (pause) Probably.

Elizabeth: When?

Chris: How old are you?

Wednesday, December 29, 2010


You will always be your child's favorite toy.
~ Vicki Lansky
- - - - -
Overheard at the girls' Uncle Colin's house. The cousins - Jack and Emma were wrestling, hitting, screaming, and crying in one room while little sister Olivia stood in the kitchen with Colin.

Olivia (asking quietly): Dad, I'm your favorite, right?

Tuesday, December 28, 2010


As love without esteem is capricious and volatile;
esteem without love is languid and cold.
~ Jonathan Swift
- - - - -

You know what I discovered the other day? If you dress really warmly you aren't cold even when it's cold out. You know what else I discovered? It doesn't matter because I still hate cold weather.

"Why do you live in Iowa?" you ask. And I respond with a riddle...

Why does a grasshopper hop even when his legs are tired? Why does a cricket chirp when his legs are tired? Why did my parents take me to that weird little amusement park with the "dancing chicken" and not tell me there was a hotplate under the blanket it "danced" on?

When you can answer those questions, you will no longer care about the question you asked me.

Monday, December 27, 2010


What was the name of that dog on 'Rin Tin Tin'?
~ Mickey Rivers
- - - - -

Chris: Anyway, this person comes up and she's talking to me and I've never heard that person's name before - your sister never mentioned her.

Kirk: What's the name?

Chris: Lynn [name changed to protect the feelings of the person I never talked about to Chris].

Kirk: I've heard of that name before.

Me: She meant "Xylophonostica." Bet you haven't heard of that name before, Kirk!

Sunday, December 26, 2010


I would like you to relate with people, to love, to move in millions of relationships -- because they enrich -- and yet remain capable of closing your doors and sometimes having a holiday from all relationship... so that you can relate with your own being also.
~ Bhagwan Shree Rajneesh
- - - - -
Overheard at my house on December 24th...

Elizabeth: Santa is REAL!

Chris: Just because you believe in him doesn't mean he's coming to see you.

Saturday, December 25, 2010


Peace is not an absence of war, it is a virtue, a state of mind,
a disposition for benevolence, confidence, justice.
~ Baruch Spinoza
- - - - -

Peace to everyone today. Enjoy the peace before the day begins and the peace when the day concludes. And the peace when my Mom asks, "Who wants lutefisk?"

Friday, December 24, 2010


For there is no friend like a sister, in calm or stormy weather, to cheer one on the tedious way, to fetch one if one goes astray, to lift one if one totters down,
to strengthen whilst one stands.
~ Christina G. Rosetti
- - - - -

We are trying to teach Elizabeth and Maddie to be nice to one another. It is a challenge. More so for one than the other. Here is an example of a recent exchange:

Maddie: Elizabeth, that shirt makes your eyes look pretty.

Elizabeth: Oh, thank you. Um... Those shoes make your hair look brown.

I should never have told Elizabeth the story of the Nachtigals and how Julie's compliment to MQ was always, "Your hair looks... clean."

Thursday, December 23, 2010


Believe in love. Believe in magic. Hell, believe in Santa Clause. Believe in others. Believe in yourself. Believe in your dreams. If you don't, who will?
~ Jon Bon Jovi
- - - - -

So this is what the girls left out for Santa one Christmas at our house. Chocolate chip cookies, chocolate Teddy Grahams, some sort of whipped cream pie or dip for the cookies, and a glass of egg nog. I guess they thought if Santa has a heart attack or strokes out or goes into insulin shock at our house, they get whatever toys are on the sleigh.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010


A bargain ain't a bargain unless it's something you need.
~ Sidney Carroll

- - - - -

Michelle: So, we're going out to finish our shopping for the holidays. We need for the two of you NOT to fight and NOT to call and say, "Mom, Maddie won't get out of my room," or "Elizabeth is chasing me with a pair of scissors!"

Maddie & Elizabeth: Okay.

Michelle: Because what will happen if you call and complain about something?

Elizabeth: We won't get as many presents.

Michelle: Exactly.

We received no phone calls at all.

Incidentally, I wasn't sure if I should name this post "Shopping" or "Threatening."

Tuesday, December 21, 2010


Until thought is linked with purpose there is no intelligent accomplishment.
~ James Allen
- - - - -

My father is the master of repurposing. Here you can see that he modified an old doghouse into a lawnmower garage.

Do not worry. No dogs were displaced in the making of this lawnmower garage. They were already dead.

Monday, December 20, 2010


Nobody ever did, or ever will, escape the consequences of his choices.
~ Alfred A. Montapert
- - - - -

In preparation for a winter break together, we had a family meeting to talk about expectations - particularly regarding interactions between Maddie and Elizabeth (who had squabbled all morning BEFORE we called the family meeting).

As a result we determined that if there was fighting or arguing or tattling or general meanness or eye rolling that the individual(s) responsible would get "bonus chores." Of course I was the first one to get a bonus chore because I eye-rolled Maddie.

Regardless, a few hours later Maddie approached me with a question.

Maddie: Can we pay with nickels?

Michelle: What do you mean?

Maddie: Instead of bonus chores. Because there might be a time I want to do something mean, but I don't want to have to do chores.

Maddie failed that negotiation.

Sunday, December 19, 2010


The tragic or the humorous is a matter of perspective.
~ Arnold Beisser
- - - - -

This photo is a reflection in a piece of art in a sculpture garden in Des Moines. I like how it pseudo-dalis everything. Meaning in makes everything ind of look like a Salvador Dali painting. I provide the additional definition here only because "pseudo-dalis" sounds like some kind of medication.

It reminds me of how your perspective can change when you look at it reflected in someone else's eye or through a different lens. Like if you look through a microscope at a mosquito leg, it looks much different than if you look at it with your naked eye. Why would you look at a mosquito leg through a microscope? Because that's one of the slides they gave you with your microscope, that's why.

Saturday, December 18, 2010


You will soon break the bow if you keep it always stretched.
~ Norman Vincent Peale

- - - - -

My life is one continuous vacation interrupted by long stretches of work.


I've never let my school interfere with my education.
~ Ben Franklin
- - - - -

Maddie: When me and Brianna get older, we're gonna go geode hunting — wait, not geode hunting — METEORITE hunting in Antarctica.

Elizabeth: Wait... is this on a field trip?!

Friday, December 17, 2010


Having children is like having a bowling alley installed in your brain.
~ Martin Mull
- - - - -

So, a couple of weeks ago I stumbled upon "Celebrity Bowling" on ESPN Classic. I don't know why, but I had to watch it. Then I found it again recently and watched three episodes before I tore myself away. I just had to know if Leslie Nielsen, Adrienne Barbeau, and Conrad Bain were good bowlers. Conrad Bain definitely was not (if you're interested).

Is it the 1970s clothing? The generally politically incorrect tone Jed Allan established? The interesting prizes the selected home viewer could win (an assortment of clocks, a bacon cooker & other home appliances, a mattress set...)? All of these things and more make it something that I find fascinating.

The truth is, watching it probably just makes me feel better about my own limited bowling skills. Some people watch Jerry Springer (is that even still on?) or other talk/confrontation/judgment shows to feel better about their lives. I watch Celebrity Bowling to feel better about my bowling.

Thursday, December 16, 2010


When all is said and done, the weather and love are the two elements about which one can never be sure.
~ Alice Hoffman
- - - - -

If you like weather, you should live in Iowa. We get things like "thunder snow" and "graupel" and "freezing fog." Of course, if you like NICE weather, you might want to consider taking up residence somewhere else.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010


We must not say every mistake is a foolish one.
~ Cicero
- - - - -

You might wonder how those big holes got in Elizabeth's wall.
You might also think that it's really not that hard to mount a TV bracket on the wall.
You might also not know that holes in a wall can be hidden behind a free M.I.T. poster — for months at a time, even — before other people who live in the house find out.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010


I want to be a race car passenger: just a guy who bugs the driver. "Say man, can I turn on the radio? You should slow down. Why do we gotta keep going in circles? Can I put my feet out the window? Man, you really like Tide...”
~ Mitch Hedberg
- - - - -
For a short while I worked for a public radio station in California. I only got to talk on the radio during the public service announcements. I would say that name of the piece that had just played and then something about thanking Culligan Water or whomever for sponsoring.

The day that I said we had just played a piece by "duh-vor-ack," I got in a LOT of trouble. That is not how you say Dvorak.

I also got to start the station a couple of mornings. I really wanted to put on some Metallica or something to get the blood going of those three 80-somethings who were up and listening at 4 a.m. I never did, though. After the Dvorak incident, I was scared to do anything too radical.

Monday, December 13, 2010


Art, like morality, consists of drawing the line somewhere.
~ G. K. Chesterton
- - - - -

A few weeks ago we were at my parents and got out my old Super Spirograph. It was pretty fun to play with it — well, to watch the girls play with it (they aren't good at sharing, you know). And to see some of the art I created (see below). I imagine those pieces are just a few of the things that will be on display when they convert my childhood home into a museum.

Anyway, after a few minutes, Maddie punctured her finger with one of the pins. Chris said, "I can't imagine why they don't make these anymore."

Me neither. Super Spirograph rocks.

Sunday, December 12, 2010


The Santa myth is one of the most effective means ever devised for intimidating children, eroding their self- esteem, twisting their behavior, warping their values, and slowing their development of critical thinking skills.
~ Tom Flynn
- - - - -

So, I was going to write something cute about Chris' dad (in the photo above) looking like Santa Claus. About how maybe if your dad or grandpa was Santa that your birthday was a real let down. Especially if your birthday was right around the holidays because I bet Santa is really stressed before (and working a lot of extra hours) and then exhausted afterward.

Anyway, then I found that Tom Flynn quote and now I'm just kind of bummed out. Mainly because he's right.

Happy Holidays!

Saturday, December 11, 2010


Las cosas claras y el chocolate espeso.
(Ideas should be clear and chocolate thick)
~Spanish Proverb
- - - - -
They say, "It's like taking candy from a baby." Okay, if it's so easy to take candy from a baby, why not take the baby's money? "It's like taking money from a baby." If you're scummy enough to steal from a baby, you're just going to take candy?

Why aren't there other sayings like this for other age groups?

"It's like taking tacos from a teenager."

"It's like taking marshmallows from a middle-aged person."

"It's like taking noodles from a nine-year-old."

"It's like taking chili cheese fries from a child."

"It's like taking onions from an oldster."

And, wait a minute, who is giving candy to a baby, anyway?!

Friday, December 10, 2010


I thought Mimi sold her house in Ames.
This isn't the one she showed me when we visited.
~ Mike Howland
- - - - -

If you need more reasons why you should be nice to me, consider the work of art above. I bought this item on sale after the holidays last year. I "remodeled" it and sent it to Dr. Mimi Benjamin. There were some other pieces, as well, perhaps they will be blogged in the future.

Anyway, this is the kind of thing I do for people I like. Imagine what I might do for (to) people for whom I do not care.


I want there to be no peasant in my realm so poor that he will not have a chicken in his pot every Sunday.
~ Henri IV, France
- - - - -

I was recently at a wonderful dinner party. At one point, the conversation turned to food (imagine that) and there was a rather contentious discussion about crock pots. Rod was not sure why, but he just didn't like the idea of eating food from a crock pot. He said it might be because they're too big. This was challenged and overruled by the group. He tried a few other reasons, but eventually agreed that maybe he should give the crock pot another shot.

I think, if we step back from the concept of the crock pot and just focus on the words, we will find why the idea is unappealing. Crock. Pot. Neither of these words has a particularly epicurean tone to them. In fact, they are remarkably close to the most horrific of all words, "conglomerate." I seriously hate that word.

Thursday, December 9, 2010


(photo by Chris Fowler)

Be ever engaged, so that whenever the devil calls he may find you occupied.
~ St. Jerome
- - - - -

The other day I saw someone (Chris Fowler) posting on Facebook about her "Secret Santa" stuff. I can't remember if she was excited or complaining about the pressure of doing a good job or what. I posted something like, "Isn't it a good thing that we don't have Secret Satans?"

Or maybe we DO...

Wednesday, December 8, 2010


If wishes were pennies, we'd all be rich.
~ James Hamlin via Sharilynne Boettcher
- - - - -

Above you see a copy of Elizabeth's list for the holidays this year.

Below, you see my suggestions for a revised list for her.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010


Fear is the path to the dark side. Fear leads to anger.
Anger leads to hate. Hate leads to suffering.
~ Yoda

- - - - -

Chris and I were walking and I told her my newest trick to motivate myself was to hum the Darth Vader theme in my head (a trick I learned from Elizabeth).

Me: But I'm not sure who Darth Vader is supposed to be. Me? That's pretty ominous. I don't think I'm that evil. But the Jedis —

Chris: You're Luke!

Me: -- the Jedis are kind of dorky.

Chris: You're Luke!

Me: I don't want to be Luke. I want to be Obi-Wan Kenobi. Or even Yoda.

Chris: Ayeeeee....

Me: I don't know if you were trying to talk in Pirate or Irish, but Yoda is neither of those.

Monday, December 6, 2010


Trouble is part of your life -- if you don't share it, you don't give the person who loves you a chance to love you enough.
~ Dinah Shore
- - - - -

I'm glad I didn't have any sisters. I don't think I'm strong enough to have a sister. I know how I was as a sister. I wouldn't have liked having me as a sister. Maybe I'm just not strong enough to have myself as a sister. Which means I'm also glad I'm not an identical twin.

It does not mean that I'm glad that I don't have a bio-robot duplicate of myself. That I wouldn't mind having at all. As long as it didn't try to take over everything. But that only happens in the movies. I'm sure my bio-robot would be really nice. Like me.

Sunday, December 5, 2010


You do not know what life means when all the difficulties are removed! I am simply smothered and sickened with advantages. It is like eating a sweet dessert the first thing in the morning.
~ Jane Addams
- - - - -

Michelle: I might have carrot cake.

Chris: Do they even make such a thing as carrot cake? Well, then I might have the green pepper pie!

NOTE: The peppers in the photo above are not green peppers, but rather peppers that happen to be green. In reality they are a type of habanero pepper, which we discovered when Maddie tasted one while Chris simultaneously got the juice of one in her eye.

Saturday, December 4, 2010


Life is a train of moods like a string of beads; and as we pass through them they prove to be many colored lenses, which paint the world their own hue, and each shows us only what lies in its own focus.
~ Ralph Waldo Emerson
- - - - -

First of all, let me make it perfectly clear that there were NO signs in the bead store that said, "photography prohibited." Secondly, when the woman came up to confront me, she did a fairly nice job. She didn't make a scene or say anything offensive. No, what she said was, "We generally don't allow photography of our displays in the store."

Okay, so that's where I have the problem. I took the above photo - trying to get the rainbow of beads in the picture. Why? I hadn't decided. But let's examine what she said to me, "We generally don't allow photography..." Okay, so there are some exceptions to that policy? What are they? When have they allowed photography in the past?

Second, "... of our displays in the store." This is where I really struggle. Their display consisted of strings of beads hanging on the wall of the store. Sorry, bead store woman, I didn't mean to capture your innovative bead-display technique for others. I'm sure now that will be all the rage in bead stores. Sorry.

Friday, December 3, 2010


Sweets grown common lose their dear delight.
~ William Shakespeare
- - - - -

Know what ruins a perfectly good oatmeal raisin cookie? Putting raisins in it.

Thursday, December 2, 2010


All great deeds and all great thoughts have a ridiculous beginning. Great works are often born on a street corner or in a restaurant's revolving door.
~ Albert Camus
- - - - -

On a recent visit to Minneapolis for a conference, I had dinner with my brother and Jared one night. When Kirk picked me up, he asked, "Where do you want to eat?" I had written him earlier and said that I wanted seafood. He brought print outs of a few menus. None of them were seafood places.

Kirk: You don't like sushi, do you?

Me: Yes, I like sushi.

Kirk: (excitedly) REALLY?!! We could —

Me: (interrupting) But I don't want sushi tonight.

Kirk: (dejectedly) Oh.

(pause while I read over non-seafood print-out menus)

Me: What about this place? Psycho Suzi's?

Kirk: (excitedly) REALLY?!! We could go there! It's awesome. They don't have seafood though.

Me: I know, but they have deviled eggs. This is the second restaurant in the cities where I've seen deviled eggs on the menu.

Kirk: (excitedly) REALLY?!! They're really good deviled eggs, too. You want to go there? It's a tiki place.

Me: (excitedly) REALLY?!! I love tiki.

So we went to Psycho Suzi's. In case you're planning on going there, don't go where we went because they're moving down the street, so go down the street. It was awesome.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010


People getting hurt will never be unfunny.
~ Shanda Behrens
- - - - -

A family tradition we have around the holidays is putting up our tree. We all get together and do it and sing carols and tell stories about holidays past.

No, we don't. In fact, I think last year Elizabeth put the tree together all by herself. No, wait, last year we had a real tree, I think. Yes, I think we did because I vaguely remember the cat chewing on it and maybe knocking it over. And it started a fire. No, wait, that wasn't the cat, it was a cow. And that wasn't at our house, that was the city of Chicago.

Anyway, I love traditions.