a loose, side braid


The day of her funeral it was sunny and bitter cold, even for Wisconsin’s January standards. We had what I call “snow sparkles.” It wasn’t a true snow, it was more like the intermittent essence of snow that swirled in mid-air and you could really only catch glimpses of it when the sun hit the tinier than usual flakes at just the right angle.

Her funeral was a two-day event, the showing in the evening and the mass the next morning. That is a long time to smile, even for me, but my two-day smile was sincere. Hundreds and hundreds of people, taking time out of their lives as they stood in line for what must have seemed like forever just so they could pass her small casket and hug our family, which now numbered four.

It took two decades for me to re-open her autopsy, but that morning I was ready. Twelve pages in length yet relatively inconclusive, the final sentence declaring her to have an undiagnosed degenerative neuromuscular disorder. She was seven years old.

And once again, I’m smiling. Even though I just finished reading a technical document that reduced my daughter to nothing more than body parts, tissue samples, organ weights, and measurements … I’m smiling.

And it is a huge, genuine smile because nestled within the first page, second paragraph of the autopsy I read these words, “Her auburn hair was in a loose, side braid.” You see, I braided her hair that night and I never braided her hair.

My little girl had a lifelong posse of incredible caregivers. There were six nurses doing eight-hour shifts, three shifts a day, seven days a week. And in addition to being stellar home health care providers, these women knew how to braid, they were fast and efficient. The could make fat braids or skinny braids, even those thick and close-to-the-head braids that looked just like a flat headband made out of hair. Oh, they were good at braiding. And they knew it.

That night, her very last night, after seven years of illness, shortly after my only daughter died I unbraided her hair one final time. With her nurse’s assistance, we slipped her into clean jammies.

Together we gently placed her in the center of a homemade quilt, one that I labored over specifically for this very moment in time, and then packed it away until needed. It was a simple log cabin pattern in shades of deep purple with just a little bit of sage green and a splash of vivid yellow, the three colors she always wore best.

I quietly asked the nurse to step outside for a few moments and then all alone, for the very first time, I braided my daughter’s hair. It was slippery hair and there was a lot of it. Each strand had a decent sheen to it, too.

I rearranged her hair as I finger-combed it, watching it , mesmerized as it bounced back into a tight curl each time I straightened it. I gathered it off to one side and with a little bit of a twist I started braiding right below the earlobe and I kept braiding until there just about an inch left before I tied it off with a tiny brown, elastic band.

I realized my final, most intimate act maternal act, had happened just moments after she died and had been captured as the prelude to her autopsy.

Her auburn hair was in a loose, side braid. That was my braid, she was my daughter.


my first thong

I went to my friend Barbara Christine’s house for a well-deserved night out. Sure, we spend a lot of time on the phone but our “In Real Life” moments were, at that time, rare. We plopped down next to each other on the same love seat, and it felt like home. And I do not mean literally home, but more like when I slid into that love seat next to her I felt like I just ran the bases at Miller Stadium and did a fabulous slide into home plate. That kind of home.

Barbara Christine knows just about everything there is to know about me because for the greatest part of it, she was right there. In my old neighborhood, you could see the second and third-floor of her home from my second-floor front bedroom window. That is until the trees came into bloom. We were constantly lending each other flour, sugar, dish soap, even Hershey’s Kisses.

At least a decade ago, Barb and I were supposed to attend the same neighborhood Christmas party and I was so far behind on my laundry that I didn’t think I would have clean unders in time for the event.

We laughed and joked about it, saying that I might just have to go to this very Christian holiday gathering without any underwear because my washer and dryer were old and decrepit. They ran slowly, didn’t wring things out adequately, and took forever to dry because the heating element was just about shot.  As usual, we discussed our clothing options, continually returning to the fact that I may not be attending because of my lack of unders.

That evening, Barb and I arrived at the party within minutes of each other. “Do you have on underwear?” she asked. I started laughing, “Of course, I do.”

Now, typically I consider myself to be as religious as the next guy but this neighborhood Christmas party was taking place in the home of the most religious people I know. Oodles of parishioners were in attendance along with a decent assortment of priests.

The children from this house were begging to put Baby Jesus  into his manger before Christmas morning. Eventually, one of the older priests who may have gotten tired of the whining said that it would be alright if Baby Jesus laid in his manger for a couple of hours and then got “put away” again.

For this particular family to allow Baby Jesus to get to the manger before Christmas morning is a HUGE ordeal. My personal preference would be to have Baby Jesus out all year long because I love the wide-eyed open-armed look of Him with the glowing halo. It used to bother me the way Baby Jesus had eyes that followed you where ever you were in the room, but I got over that during my mid-thirties. How? Simply put, if you don’t make eye contact with Baby Jesus, you tell can no longer see where the holiest of all holy cherubs is looking.

So as we all gather around the Christmas tree and the three wise guys and their camels get moved closer and closer, the room gets more and more quiet. I understand that once The Star became visible the Christ Posse had more of a purpose and couldda/shouldda/wouldda picked up some speed once they were given permission to arrive earlier than planned, but this re-enactment needed to be more accurate because Good Wise Men never arrive early. Even to get there on time is nothing short of a miracle itself.

And Barbara Christine whispers in my ear, “Did you get your laundry done? Do you have clean underwear?” And I whispered back to her, “Maybe I am swaddled in the only available cloth just like Baby Jesus.”

Thus began the inappropriate laughing which could not be contained. Granted, watching these near teen-aged children moving camels across a white sheet underneath the Christmas Tree had me on the edge already. “We Three Kings” was playing on a cassette player in the dining room and I knew we had to get hysteria under control because after all, this was supposed to be a reflective time.

So I pinched the inside of Barbara Christine’s arm and motioned with my head that we should mosey on over towards the source of the music thinking that if we stand on the opposite side of the boom box our snickering and giggling would be veiled. Well, that would have been a fine plan if there hadn’t been extension cords laying all over the place to keep all the crock pots and roasters warmed and ready to go. All Christians know that nothing symbolizes the safe arrival of Baby Jesus like piping hot cocktail wieners.

So like two wise women, Barbara Christine and I proceeded with our travels over to the music source. That’s when my heel got caught on an extension cord and the power strip came out of the wall socket. As I quietly bent over to plug it back in there was a teeny tiny spark and then the power went out in the dining room. I did what any religious holiday-loving Christian would do at this time, I lied. “Oh my goodness, I was just standing here and I saw it spark.” Now I guess that comes in under the category of lying by omission which is more a White Lie than a Standard Issue Lie.

Barbara Christine had vanished. Like magic, right? She just took off and went into the bathroom because of her escalating laughter which was a good choice on her part because I heard one of the priests declare that he would bless Baby Jesus during this small power outage which the teenagers were declaring as some type of miracle.

Barbara Christine and I reconnected later in the food line. Someone had put the jello squares way to close to the crock pot of German potato salad so the red and green layers were rapidly melting. An elderly parishioner who was well-intentioned but irritating kept trying to rearrange the food on the table to make more room. She must have had visual problems because she picked up the platter of partially liquid Jello Jigglers and added them to the cucumber salad while declaring, “We certainly don’t need two bowls of cold salad, now do we!” Makes a person wonder how some elderly people even manage to make it through a day. My guess is it takes a lot of prayer and faith.

While we leaned against a wall eating, Barbara Christine and I had this conversation:

Barbara Christine: So, are you wearing underwear?
Me: Of course, I am.
Barbara Christine: Are they clean?
Me: Yes.
Barbara Christine: Doesn’t it feel great to be caught up on laundry?
Me: Oh, I’m not caught up on laundry.
Barbara Christine: *Audible Gasp*
Me: I’m wearing clean unders, they just aren’t mine.

And I quickly walked away because my abdomen could not handle any more shaking around. And with perfect timing, it was announced that we would now begin singing Christmas carols. We were treated to a fabulous mini-concert by one of our city’s charismatic piano players as he belted out tune after tune after tune.

The final song of the night was Sleigh Ride and the crowd just let ‘er rip. One of the teens from the hosting family had some vintage sleigh bells and we were having one of those unexpected lake effect snows that would have ordinarily upset me because I walked to her house and now there were near white-out conditions, but it fit right in with the festivities.

Dashing through the snow
In a one horse open sleigh
Over the hills we go …

And as we get to the line, laughing all the way, I hiked up my beaded holiday sweater, stuck my thumb in the waistband of the unders I was wearing and poked Barbara Christine in the ribs to get her attention.

She let out the deepest, hardiest laugh of all times because I was wearing my (then) husband’s Fruit Of The Loom Tighty Whities. Oh yes, I was. Uh huh.

Trust me, I had finished my laundry, but I knew this would be the last thing Barbara Christine ever would expect.

For the first couple of hours of the evening, they were remarkably uncomfortable and really bunchy and I was full of panic that if I slipped in the snow on my walk home and was rendered unconscience and had a compound fracture in my leg there would be a good chance my pants would have to be removed and everyone would wonder why I was wearing these ridiculous tighty whiteys.

Then I realized that I felt secure in my femininity and so what if all the emergency room people saw what I had on … once they heard I wore them to get a laugh from my friend, they would understand.

A few days later when I was checking to see if the mail had arrived I discovered a tiny Victoria’s Secret gift bag between the two front doors. Inside was the oh-my-gosh teeniest red thong. Of course, I knew this was from Barbara Christine.

When I called her she was laughing so hard that all I could hear was wheezing and snorting and I seriously wondered if I should be concerned for her safety. I was finally able to understand the three words she was sputtering, “emergency spare pair.”


And, yes I still have “My First Thong” and I keep it right in my underwear drawer close to the front so I can see it right away. I’ve never worn it, partly because it didn’t come with a manual that would explain how I should wear it but mostly because I plan on giving it back to Barbara Christine someday when she is least expecting it. For now, it stays where it is because for me it feels like home.

download (8)

the most evil elf of all

When we were young, my grandparents had two Christmas trees. The one upstairs was a handsome “company” tree with gold balls and ribbons, long green needles and white flocking.

The tree downstairs was an inexpensive bottle-brush tree for the kids. It was packed with elves. Elves with red and white striped socks and green smocks. Elves with red smocks and green and white striped socks. Elves holding elves. Elves holding their knees tucked up in an elf-like position.

My grandmother called them pixies, but I called them elves. There were dozens of them on an artificial tree and they all had plastic heads. Most of them had exaggerated noses and red mouths wide open with false tongues and fake laughter on their faces.

And there were a couple of Evil Elves. They had bigger heads than the other elves. Scary heads, too, with bodies that were very bendable. They had ornament loops coming out of their Evil Elf Hats, but to be really demented they would bend their arms so they could hug the branches.

Many years ago, I was gifted the gold balls and the box marked “pixies”. The first year I put out the standard-issue elves and it was cute and a conversation piece because these vintage sprites were well into their twenties or early thirties at the time. We aged, these pixies never did. Ah, they were timeless. That first year I didn’t have room on the tree for all the little guys so I just unwrapped the ones on the top of the box. End of season, re-wrap them, return to the attic.

download (8)When decorating the following Christmas, I dug further into the box and found the Evilest of all the Evil Elves. The Giant Evil Elf himself. I distinctively remembered him. My grandmother always seemed to hang him at MY eye level. There was no escaping his glare.

I didn’t hang King and Ruler Evil Elf, but I showed my boys and they thought it was pretty funny that I was afraid of him. That year, my kids wreaked non-stop havoc by hiding Evil Elf in the least likely of places, including but not limited to:

* my morning coffee cup so that when I went to the cabinet his big ol’ head would be grinning at me

* the next full roll of toilet paper featured this vile Evil Elf Lord of All Unholy stuffed into the cardboard tube glaring out and daring me to make eye contact

* tucked nicely beneath my next available pair of unders so that when I pull my new pair out, that perverted imp has his arms wrapped around tomorrow’s pair all ready to hang on with gusto and sneak along for the free ride

* throw back the covers and there he is tucked in between the bed pillows, curled up and ready having a staring contest with me using his powerful Evil Elf eyes

So, the holiday season progresses and my kids are having the time of their lives with Evil Elf that year until suddenly he disappears, which is very odd when you consider he showed up twelve to fifteen times a day. At the same time, way too much of my “good” wrapping paper also vanishes along with way too many boxes and way, way too much Scotch Tape.

And, guess what does appear at this time. Yes, the most beautifully wrapped present that two pre-teen boys could manage. Sure enough, they let me open my present early and, after a series of expensively wrapped boxes containing additional expensively wrapped boxes, there he was … The Supreme Ruler of all things Horrific, the Evil Elf.

Now about this time, someone gave me a gift of Bath and Body Works Sugar Scrub Scrubbing Sugar or some type of slimy body-exfoliating slop that, in addition to cleansing your follicles would also make your shower extremely slippery.

All it took was one experience with this crap and I knew my body didn’t have the flexibility necessary to be exfoliated in this manner. While scrubbing one leg, the other leg slipped out from under me, and I slid from the tapered end of the bathtub to the faucet end of the bathtub so fast I exfoliated my entire back without even using my arms.

Once I could walk again, I dumped this goop down the garbage disposal and ran the cute jar that it came in through the dishwasher. Nice jar, I can find a use for it that so the entire gift wasn’t a complete waste.

And as I was unloading the dishwasher later that night, I reach in the cabinet to get a towel to dry out the water that stays in the top of the coffee cups which is really the bottom of the coffee cups unless it is in the dishwasher then it is the top of the coffee cups.

You also need to keep in mind that I damn near killed my exfoliated self in the shower moments after I unwrapped an elf that was buried in about $140 worth of foil wrap and matching ribbons and since I already wasn’t in the best of moods to begin with, there was that peckin’ Evil Elf in the drawer with the dishtowels. I had hit my limit, I picked up Evil Elf and popped him into the jar and hid him in the Beverage Region of my kitchen cabinets. Eventually my kids tired of looking for him and the poor little sucker hid behind the Swiss Miss for almost a year.

I don’t know who found him and set him free, I think it was Travis who would have been excited because he found my stash of hot chocolate mix.

He removed the Evil Elf and left the Jar From The Goop sit on the counter with the lid open so it looked like The Crowned Head of Hell, The Evil Elf himself had escaped.

Thus, our family began another non-traditional tradition. Once it becomes the holiday season, someone always springs Evil Elf from his glass prison and the festivities begin. And you would think I would get used to it.

No, I live in constant anxiety from now until late January. Sure, I might have greater anxiety than most people but then most people aren’t living with this level of stress for four months out of the year either, are they?


Lessons Learned, Unconditional Love

I met Linda while I was working at a local college, our paths crossed briefly. She had a large, delightfully bearded husband and two young daughters twenty months apart in age, gorgeous children with non-gender-specific names. We had our kids together for an afternoon of lunch and play at their country home.

Linda’s oldest daughter was banging repeatedly on a vintage piano, opening and shutting the cover for the keyboard. At least a dozen times Linda politely told her daughter to stop, but being a toddler, of course, her daughter didn’t stop. And the ending was predictable, the little girl slammed her fingers beneath the clunky keyboard lid.

Linda yelled at her crying daughter, “I told you not to do that! I told you that you were going to get hurt!” She scolded while she got the ice pack. She lectured while she blew her daughter’s tiny nose. Then she scooped her daughter up, grabbed a blanket and sat with her in an antique rocker.

In a very soft voice, Linda told her daughter she was sorry she got angry. She apologized for sounding so scary. “I wish you would have listened to me when I was telling you to stop slamming the piano key lid. I wish I would have taken you away from the piano and put you in the time out chair because then you would not have gotten hurt.”

And then she apologized. She said, “I was angry, but I had every right to be angry. I’m sorry I got mad and raised my voice, but you need to know that there are going to be times that you are going to make more mistakes. Bigger ones than this, mistakes where you will hurt yourself or someone you love. And it doesn’t matter how big the mistake is, I’m here. Don’t ever be afraid to come to me. And someday you’ll be too grown up to sit in my lap but we’ll just sit next to each other. Through thick and thin, I will always love you. Don’t ever be afraid to come to me. Mistakes and are mistakes, plain and simple. It is how we grow. Today you learned why you shouldn’t bang the keyboard cover. See, you’ve learned something today. And I had one more chance to tell you that I’ll always be there for you. No matter what.”

And for the first time, the very first time, at the age of thirty, I was able to fully understand unconditional love. Never in my life had a witnessed such an intimate parent/child moment. And I learned, as a parent, you really should talk to your children about unconditional love.

Even though you feel it, don’t assume they know about it.

Explain it, live it, repeat as often as necessary.


shotshell reloader ~ candid re-sale

Just like your city, my city has a multitude of Facebook groups where you can post your buy/sell/iso items. These are my actual posts. I removed some of the details, but these are my items listed for sale along with my pictures partnered with my words.


MEC 600 JR Mark5 Shotshell Reloader
Sheboygan, Wisconsin

Do you trap shoot? Me either.

Do you know someone that does trap shoot? Then tell them about this little gem I’m offering for re-sale.

Here’s how you can easily accomplish that scenario:

“Hey, does Dick still do that trap shooting thing, or was that just a phase, because I saw a sweet ass 600 JR Mark5 Shotshell Reloader on a facebook re-sale page.”

And then you send them a screen cap of this post. Easy peasy trap shoot squeasy.

This item currently retails at Cabela, brand new, at $200.

Well, I’m not Cabela, and this is not brand new so I’m offering it for a drastically reduced price.

But here’s the deal. I was going to list it at a reasonable price and we all know some Dick would come along and say, “Can I take it off your hands for half that price?” Guess what, Dick … I already took the half off in advance. You’re welcome.

And yes, that is a stock photo that I pulled off the world wide web. And I know that is frowned upon, but it is really hard to get a decent picture of the 600 JR Mark5 Shotshell Reloader.

Now, who wants to pony up what it is going to take to move this out of my home because you are about to make some trap shooter’s dream come true.

And that’s just a guess. I don’t know your trap shooter. Or their dreams.




20151205_143956 (1)

legit vintage ornaments – candid re-sale

Just like your city, my city has a multitude of Facebook groups where you can post your buy/sell/iso items. These are my actual posts. I removed some of the details, but these are my items listed for sale along with my pictures partnered with my words.

20151205_143956 (1)(SOLD)
140+ Legit Vintage Ornaments
Sheboygan, Wisconsin

Looking to decorate ala vintage this year? Here, let me help you.

These are truly ornaments from the 1960s and they do show wear. The coloring on them has faded in spots. If you are young and fresh, you need to realize that as a human, this will happen to you someday, too.

There are 70+ gold ornaments and 70+ colored ornaments in a variety of shapes and sizes. You guys, that’s a lot.

I’m guessing that maybe a dozen of the ornaments are missing the little metal dealio that goes on top of the ornament so that you can slip your hook-thing through that region. Maybe a dozen. Maybe more, but not too many more.

Those ornaments without the metal dealio were then displayed lovingly and carefully in a glass basket that is not included. Look, I’m cool but not cool enough to sell all my shit at rock bottom prices.


untraditional traditions, the one we never repeated

Santa comes to our house on Christmas Eve morning. That’s correct, December 24 at the crack of dawn.

It was a tradition that started out of necessity and just continued because of the convenience. The children were told that Santa always delivered to his favorites first.

One particularly hectic Christmas, I was behind schedule. Alright, to say I was further behind schedule than usual would be a more accurate statement.

By 2:15 a.m. on December 24rd:

* I had wrapped the last present
* I took a Santa-sized bite out of a frosted cookie
* Drank an appropriate amount of Santa’s lukewarm eggnog
* Presents semi-neatly arranged under the tree (it had to look like Santa rushed and not lingered)
* Tree lights turned on

At this point, I could have crawled into bed.

At this point, I should have crawled into bed.

But I didn’t.

Instead, my sleep-deprived, inner child decided it would be fun to run through the house screaming, “He’s been here, he’s been here! Santa was here.”

In My Mind: Why should I lay down for about three hours and have a posse of kids wake me up? Wouldn’t it be fun to turn the tables and wake them up when they least expect it? Let them see what it feels like to be jolted from slumber by someone screaming about Santa?

In The Real World: I did run through the upstairs screaming, “He was here, Santa was here!” I had teens staring at my like I lost my mind. I had pre-teens squinting. I had a really confused family. Very slowly, one by one they trickled to the first floor. Very slowly they curled up under blankets on the couches. Without much enthusiasm, they opened gifts.

They remained dazed and confused until they became crabby and intolerable. They went from sleepy, heavily-lidded children to holy terrors on this Holiest of all Holy Days. What seemed like a brilliant idea, well, it wasn’t. I, too, remained dazed and confused until I became crabby and intolerable.

By noon,  we were napping and the remainder of that day was a blur for me.

In theory, it should have worked. In reality, not so much. For the most part, we still have Christmas on the morning of December 24th, just at a more traditional time slot.


baby monitor, three pieces – candid re-sale

Just like your city, my city has a multitude of Facebook groups where you can post your buy/sell/iso items. These are my actual posts. I removed some of the details, but these are my items listed for sale along with my pictures partnered with my words.

Baby Monitor, three pieces
Sheboygan, Wisconsin

And now you can eavesdrop on your children with greater convenience!

Do you spend your day running your ass off between the kitchen and the laundry room? Are your arms too weak from rocking and nurturing to carry a monitor from room to room to room?

I’m going to tell you that this is life-altering. I’m going to tell you that this is the greatest thing since your first beer after nine months of pregnancy. I’m going to tell you just about anything to get this out of my home.

NaBloPoMo November 2015


name-brand surround sound – candid-resale

Just like your city, my city has a multitude of Facebook groups where you can post your buy/sell/iso items. These are my actual posts. I removed some of the details, but these are my items listed for sale along with my pictures partnered with my words.


Name-Brand Surround Sound System
Sheboygan, Wisconsin

Are you crazy in love with the deep, rich, exciting experience of watching your favorite movies in surround sound? Do you love the sound of scary movies when you feel like the movie’s lead creepy-murdering-guy has just opened the door right behind you?

Well, that’s not going to happen with this system, that’s for sure. There are, however, many speakers and oodles of wires, a special remote, and maybe what looks like a receiver along with an instruction manual. I don’t know. I’m talented in other areas and I cannot figure out this shit, that’s for sure.

So, for the low price of zero dollars, you can take home this what-used-to-be-state-of-the-art-top-notch surround system.

Here are the rules!

1. Don’t ask me if it still works. It did, it used to, and it was delightful in a teen’s bedroom. He thought he was all it and then some. It increased his popularity.

2. I want it gone. Soon. Like for realz, yo. If you say you are going to be here to pick it up, then be here. This is some [potentially] good shit I’m offering here. Don’t string me along with four pick-up times in three days and then just vanish. I used to be super nice. Some of you wore me out and ruined it for everyone else. I’m not super nice anymore, I’m just average nice.

3. Again, I do not know if it works. Got that? If you get it home and it doesn’t work … don’t be mad at me. Re-read this shit and say to yourself, “Bitch said it might not work, she seemed cool though. She’s honest and fair.”

In conclusion, I do not know if this works, I would like it out of my home, don’t jerk me around.

NaBloPoMo November 2015


baby seat – candid re-sale

Just like your city, my city has a multitude of Facebook groups where you can post your buy/sell/iso items. These are my actual posts. I removed some of the details, but these are my items listed for sale along with my pictures partnered with my words.


Baby Seat
Sheboygan, Wisconsin

Strap your baby in and tell them they need to kick their legs because these seat is old school.

Gas an issue? This seat has three speeds: none, low, and high. Determine your baby’s gas level … are we talking about a tiny burp, do we need just a little help wiggling it out, set it in low gear. Something a little more intense? Crank it to high and let the good vibrations do their thing.

This chair is obviously well used and batteries are not included (but I did test it with new batteries and it worked great but I’m not giving you my batteries because then I’d have to jack up the price, am I right?. I’m almost begging you to take this from my  home. This just might be exactly what you need to stop your baby from crying. I don’t know your baby, so that’s just a guess and not a guarantee.

NaBloPoMo November 2015