Friday, November 12, 2010

Dear Mr. President...

Well we're about six months away from the day when, once again, you'll be invited along with your wife and kids to our house for my husband's birthday barbecue. Hopefully I'll be a little more organized and you'll get the letter executed with proper protocol instead of the last-minute email I sent you last year.

Politics aside, and really, I do mean politics aside, I just thought it might be nice for you to get away to a casual dinner and I'm sure we'd all find lots to talk about. Please let me know in advance how many secret service to make burgers and fruit salad for and we'll prepare accordingly. I don't need you to make a speech, get a gift for my husband, or anything like that. Just bring yourselves and relax in the backyard. It's still a little chilly that time of year so you'll want to pack a warm sweater or windbreaker, but usually the bugs aren't in full force yet so it's rather nice outside. Usually the kids kick around the soccer ball and most of the snow has melted.

Let me know if you have vegetarians/vegans among your crew and we can make my delicious veggie shish kabobs. And grilled corn. Also if there are any allergies that we need to be aware of. If you absolutely must bring something, a 6-pack of Alaskan Amber would be great, but don't stress out about it.

While you are in town you can visit the pipeline, take a walk at our local bird preserve, and check out the University Museum. The muskox farm might be fun for the girls.

No big deal if you can't make it but just wanted to let you know you're welcome. We're very laid back so don't worry about showing up early, or late either. I'm not planning a huge production so it will be mostly a few friends and neighbors plus some family. If it rains or snows we can play Wii sports inside.

This is a serious invitation, but the party will be very casual. I think it would be fun if you guys would come, and the reason it could be really fun for you is that you might feel a little human for one evening without all the pressures of a major function. Relaxing will be the operative word. Thanks for considering my invite and have a great week.

Sheila G.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

the simple things

Today I've been thinking. Which is a somewhat frequent occurrence. But seriously, today I've been thinking about the simple things. I think about this quite often, due to not enjoying the simple things and not being able to enjoy the simple things, so when I can, I do.

One of my favorite simple things is picking out produce. I like to do this slowly when I can. I like to do it deliberately. I like to take the time to notice the firmness, the color, and even the scent of tomatoes. I like to pick the freshest, most delicious looking bunch of three or four and think about melted cheese and tomato sandwiches.

Grapes are a little less of a delicate procedure. I just flip over the bag and check for moisture, sliminess, and mold. Those of you in the lower 48 may have no idea what I'm talking about. Our produce gets shipped hundreds of miles and the produce clerks just put out on the shelves what they get in the trucks. And oftentimes what they get in the trucks is already moldy before they even put it out. I've actually had an employee at one of our local grocery stores tell me, "Oh, well, there's just a little mold." To which I replied, "Well if you want to take the risk of eating mold-infected grapes and get a disease where the end result is your face eats itself from mold then go ahead, but over my dead body will I buy these grapes or any in the immediate vicinity." (In my head, of course.) I think I just laughed politely and moved quickly away from the fuzzy grapes. Laughing politely works tremendously well in a variety of awkward situations. But you know, it's nice to be able to really take the time and check your grapes for mold, when sometimes you haven't had the luxury.

During my trip to New York, I visited a Whole Foods that had actual fresh figs in their produce section. Plump and purple-brown little packets of delight. Strawberries, unbelievable strawberries, not a damaged one in the whole package. Limes that were green and perfect. Not sure where I'm going with this but I couldn't ever say enough about the quality and the choices that I found there.

I don't know what it is about picking out produce that makes me feel like I'm having a pedicure, or treating myself to an expensive coffee, or buying something I don't really need, I just want. I feel that the produce department is my domain. I choose one, one stays behind. I see another that is above average, but sigh and carefully put it back for I have enough. I revel in the moment. The lack of panic. Perhaps for some there is nothing more mundane than picking out potatoes. Just remember, if you see a woman gently cradling an avocado with a far-away look in her eyes and a small smile on her lips, that's me. Don't bother saying hi until we get to the pasta aisle.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

You Can Poop in the Potty Like Elmo...

PTT - Potty Training Trenches... this is Sheila. If you don't hear from me again, you'll know what happened to me. I am on day 3 of Potty Training Attempt no. 2 , 3? The first time I gave up and backed off for medical reasons. Apparently someone can "hold it" for several days in their aversion to the potty and I figured that was not a good long-term solution. So we are trying again. In potty-related news I have made up a new potty song:

You can poop in the potty like Elmo, like Alleke, and like Xaniel,
Like Mommy and Daddy...
You don't have to cry
And I'll tell you why
You can poop in the potty like Elmo! (Repeat song for several hours)

Alleke is a little girl who has a potty training video on YouTube... Mia loves the video and now can do several of the steps by herself. Xaniel is our neighbor who was visiting us yesterday and Mia was quite impressed that he went potty in the big potty. Along with peer pressure I am also using bribes extensively. Last night she stayed dry all night. One less load of laundry for me right now is equivalent to a voice from heaven. I will update when mission accomplished. If I never update... may God have mercy on my soul.

We finally had enough snow to build a snowman; today's temperatures in the thirties may be his death, but we had fun and so far he hasn't been vandalized. We also had a lot of fun Halloween weekend, a kid's costume party at a friend's house and chili contest at church on Saturday, dressing up and trick or treating, plus veggie lasagna at Dad's house. Jason carved our coolest jack-o-lantern ever and Mia and I (with a lot of time at home focusing on the potty) did some kid rolls yesterday that were really fun. The higher than normal temps feel wonderful but the roads are not the best. If the roads are bad, the skies are awesome to make up for it. I took a picture of the sunrise which was pink, orange, and yellow with the bare trees looking like black lace against it... that's for you Bethy!

Monday, October 25, 2010

Can't Get You Outta My Head...

I have a visual in my mind that I just have to put in words. We were waiting one evening in New York for our dinner, sitting on the sidewalk and people watching. Among the hundreds of people that passed us one woman stood out and I hope I never forget the way she looked. She was a living piece of art. She was a young Asian women in her late twenties or early thirties. Long shiny black hair and a black knee-length dress with a black suit jacket. A plain palette to show off the bright pure red lipstick and the vibrant blue high-heels. It was a striking combination.

Monday, September 27, 2010

NYC - Part 1, Written Earlier, Posted Now

My family and I are on the trip of a lifetime. New York City and Washington D.C. in a two-week vacation that has felt like a dream so far. The three flights were fairly well tolerated by all... though we went through almost an entire packet of tic-tacs trying to keep Mia in a good mood and she was in puddle stage when we finally hit our place in New York about 1 am on Saturday.

I had one of the greatest surprises of my life when about 1:15 am, we heard a knock on our door. I figured we were being too noisy, but when we opened the door, there stood my sister Bethy and her boyfriend Simon! I could not believe my eyes. I haven't seen either of my sisters in about three years prior to this trip, and I have never met Simon so it was awesome. Mia quickly warmed up and sat and read books with her aunt while Jason and I quickly went to the roof of our building from which we could see the skyline and the empire state building. The contrast of the humidity and hot weather to the 20 degrees or so we left in Fairbanks was astonishing. We spent another hour or so catching up with Simon and Bethy before we all straggled off to bed around two in the morning.

The great thing about traveling somewhere so different is the sights and sounds surround and overwhelm you at first until you feel different in your own skin. I did actually pinch myself and no it did not hurt, so as you can see it's very hard to distinguish this from dreaming. As I write this tonight I can see the glow of the city street lights through the curtains, there's jazz music playing in our room and the occasional sound of late-night traffic has become soothing. I never envisioned this place being so comfortable and cozy but it really is. Thousands of tiny shops line the streets, strange and inviting aromas and lots of people, every one a new face that tells a different story. A person could spend a lifetime people-watching here; it is endlessly entertaining. Peeking across the street earlier I saw signs of the inhabitants of the building there... a red brick exterior with small pods of light making a design on the front, inside there are people with lives drinking tea, enjoying a small lit candle, one is watching a huge television and one has so many books in a huge white wall they must be reading an old favorite tonight. There are pretty women everywhere, especially late at night, it's like an artistic exhibition, different shoes, different color dresses, some are bold and walk in front of taxis; some wait, laughing - embarrassed in the shadows with their friends. Loud conversations, odd pieces of stories ("Tell your Daddy how you got bangs"... "She cut her own bangs!"), so much to think about I can feel my face morphing into the city expression and now I know it's a self-protection mechanism. If you let the crowds and sights and sounds carry you who knows where your mind will go. You must shut down some input sometimes if you wish to think your own thoughts. The best way I know to tell you about it is that, to me, some places aren't places. They're feelings. New York City is a feeling.

The food has carried my emotions to different places, too. And helped me remember different thoughts and experiences. The first morning was heaven with Jason, Mia and I going across the street to Cafe Habana which was amazing. It was breakfast with a Cuban flair. The roasted corn with Parmesan and chili powder, the black beans, the perfectly bitter cappuccino, and omelets were wonderful. Citizen Cope was blaring as we went in and were served by our waitress, a young black woman who looked as if her other job could be modeling. She was great with Mia and friendly. She taught Mia how to make a flower and brought her a pen and notebook to scribble in. Mia did something to the table behind us and I still don't know what... they all started laughing and she turned around with a satisfied smirk on her face, I guess we'll never know. The food carried us to Costa Rica with the flavors and vibe, eighty degrees and only a fan to cool the place helped. I think that memory of glee and excitement, our happiness and all the possibilities to come on our first morning in New York, will stay with me forever.

Our day only got better as we welcomed my sister Mary and her boyfriend Ryan later that afternoon and got to walk all together to the Whole Foods (right down the street, of course - Alaskans you know why this is cool..). Ryan whipped up some amazing homemade chicken enchiladas that night that were delicious. Finally we got to bed and the adventure was only beginning.

Saturday, June 19, 2010

Why it's Bad to Judge People...

I was sitting all alone in the waiting room at Public Health the other day, when this guy walks in and sits down. He didn't check in at the front desk, just seats himself in the waiting room and sort of settles in. Mildly irritated that I now have to share the entire waiting room with one other person, I begin thinking, what is this guy's deal? Why didn't he check in? Does he think this is just a good place to hang out during the day? And other generally hostile thoughts. I like to be alone sometimes, so sue me. Then a nicely-groomed woman walks out from the back. She stops at the front desk and leans over to talk to the receptionist. So this man is totally checking out her *derrière* (click on the word if you don't get my meaning...) and I'm thinking, "Wow! So that's what he does here all day. What a perv!" Righteously indignant at this point, I begin to worry about what might happen when I have to stand up. The woman goes to leave, the man stands up to join her and she says, "So where do you want to go?" He says, "How about that sandwich place we always go to?"

You may have guessed by now, but what I observed was a husband picking up his wife during her lunch break and it appears...shock!... that he is attracted to his OWN wife. What a perv. I couldn't hold in my mirth after I had my Session O'Judgment shattered by truth, so I shared it with the office staff there at Public Health and they all enjoyed that very much. Then when I realized she worked there, I gave my permission for them to share the story with her. They said they were going to anyway. *Sheila the public health comic strikes again* (I swear, sometimes I can't take me anywhere...)

Thursday, May 27, 2010

A Funny Thing...

Yesterday Mia and I went on errands. Our last stop was at Old Navy. Greeting us as we walked in the door was a huge display of several mannequins, including a dog mannequin. Mia was stoked to say the least. As I chatted with a friend, Mia petted the dog, stroked the mannequins, climbed the display, was told to get down off the display, etc. Just as my conversation was wrapping up, Mia touched (tackled?) one of the lady mannequins. It fell over backwards, its head flying over the wall and into the register area, bending the cardboard palm tree. I encouraged my friend to run since I thought the mannequin police were going to get us right there. She quickly left and then returned. "I can't just leave you here like this!" I guess she is more compassionate than myself; my first thought was to get her away from the scene of the crime so they'd have less people to sue. I requested the head from a staff member working the registers. It snapped back on easily. I considered a second career at Old Navy. My friend held the stand while I slid the leg of the mannequin back on it. As we were checking out, I said, "Sorry about the mannequin." I should have just left well enough alone! The cashiers exchanged looks and then one said, "Oh, that was you!" Yep. Pretty much a given since I just apologized. Anyway... I told them they knew where to find me if she started complaining of dizziness, "We'll pay medical..." I offered kindly. But they let me know the mannequins have a really good benefits package so all's well that ends well.

Mia learns chopsticks. She's a natural; I guess she didn't realize they were hard so they aren't.

Generally looking angelic.

Cuddling with Daddy.

Mia-rella. She actually requested to use the broom but her look here of indentured servitude is perfect. She also suggested that I take this picture, so none of this is my doing.

Friday, February 5, 2010

Snowman Drama Continued...

We thought it was over. We had frightened the snowman vandals away. But then they came back and knocked his dear head to smithereens (I believe that makes six times?). So... we plotted to go to the kid's house and talk to his parents. But before we got the chance, I happened to see the little guys walking down the street. I shouted, "Jason, there they are, go talk to them!" He got his shoes on and bolted down the street. Where he had a very good conversation with them, letting them know that if they put one more foot on our property, we would call the police. They have now been fairly warned. Jason got a great look at the main perp's face and now can pick him out of a line-up. And I put the snowman's head back on, again. I still haven't decorated the face, but it's been pretty cold and in order to do it right, I use water and bare hands. So far, his head has stayed on. We won't presume it's over just yet. They have proved to have remarkable persistence. Nonetheless, we aren't your meek and mild type either. So bring it on kids. We'll be waiting... hahahaha! (Evil laughter, but for a good cause.)

Do I want these kids to end up in juvenile hall for vandalizing a snowman? No, I think that would severely damage their street cred among other things. But I do believe that the sooner they learn there are consequences for bad behavior, the better. And if we are the tools (no pun intended) that are used in the process, then great. We really dislike the idea of cowering in fear waiting to see what this renegade group of sixth graders are going to do next. They have also been accused of unplugging people's cars, which is very unfunny when you're trying to start them at -20*F. If they get away with killing people's snowmen, then they might think they can do whatever they want and start causing some real damage. The line has to be drawn somewhere. And hopefully they'll grow up to make a snowman of their own that's worth protecting. Because that's my definition of a productive member of society. If you can make a good snowman, you're in the club. And of course, I'm pretty sure I've arrived. =)

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

CSI Fairbanks - Criminal Snowman Investigations

It's very cold here in Fairbanks right now but a couple of weeks ago it was extremely decent outside and I took Mia to our front yard to make a little snowman. I had a really nice time. We borrowed a pretty scarf from our winter clothes tub, got a carrot for the nose, and big red cranberries for buttons. The eyes were provided by our chokecherry tree. Mia was excited about her "man" and very proud to have helped.

The next morning I discovered he had been kicked in. I thought it was one of our little neighbor boys and determined to speak to him and rebuild. I thought wrong. We realized the perp was more sinister than any six-year-olds in our neighborhood when it happened, oh yes, not only a second time, but a third, a fourth and a fifth time! One night it happened twice, which was particularly disheartening. Each time I rebuilt him with cheer and a dream to not let the snowman vandals win. And each time I made him stronger until his body was pretty much a solid mass of ice. I was hoping when whoever it was tried to kick him, they might hurt themselves just a little. The last few times, it was just his head that got knocked to kingdom-come, sometimes I could find the carrot, sometimes I would have to get a new one.

After the third time, I called the police to ask what crime was being committed. It was trespassing. I found out some other interesting things about trying to detain people that are committing a crime and the difference between assaulting them and detaining them turns out to be a pretty thin line. The lady I spoke to at dispatch really did a good job taking me seriously and created a log number for the "incidents". And then we had a breakthrough in the case.

My neighbor called me to tell me she had seen them, a group of three junior high age boys, come to our house at around 11:30 pm. Two had waited by the gate while one entered our yard with intent to harm the snowman. Well she recognized them and shouted out to the kid, "Billy, what are you doing!? Get out of there!" (Real name of boy not used in case of libel issues.) He told her his friends lived there, to which she replied, "Don't lie! Go home Billy!" My neighbor is awesome. So he and his posse left while muttering, "I hate that lady!" Not only did my neighbor have names of the kids, but she knew where they lived as well so we had information we could have called the police with. But we didn't want to surprise them with a visit from the police; we wanted them to know we knew who they were first. Jason set up a webcam that captured any movement in our front yard and we ran that for a couple nights, but didn't get them on camera. He made sure our front light was working so they wouldn't have the cover of darkness. I started praying because I really didn't feel like rebuilding again. I was starting to find it unfunny. Mia would look out the window and say "uh-oh" every morning and I would tell her, "It's okay, we'll fix him; we'll put his head on again, don't worry..."

Then we had a couple of things happen that were very helpful. Jason was looking out of the living room window around two weeks ago when the group of kids walked by our house. He saw them and they saw him. He happened to have his arms folded across his chest. They of course didn't come near the yard. Then a couple of days later I was standing by our living room window looking out at the street when "Billy" walked by. I made a motion to look closer and called Jason to come look, and the kid saw us and called to his friend who was walking behind and the two of them started booking it down the street. They were running pretty fast. I saw them dodge into a neighbor's yard. Jason decided to get his winter gear on and see if he could find out where they were headed. He discovered they'd been using a path through the yard to access the movie theater and so he walked to the movie theater. (He went around the back way; he wasn't about to trespass on someone's land after what had been going on with us!) He didn't see the kid, but some of his friends saw Jason and were watching him pretty nervously. Jason's a nice guy, but he's tall, shaves his head, and has very broad shoulders. He's not someone you would want to mess with if you met him in a dark alley. Or even in a well-lit, heavily populated movie theater for example. All he had to do was go there and look around for a few minutes and we sent them a non-verbal message: "We know it's you. Maybe you should stop." And they haven't been back. My sweet little snowman is living happily ever after. I love him and will miss him when spring comes. We didn't let the snowman vandals win. Hopefully this is the final episode of - dunh, dunh, dunh - CSI Fairbanks, Criminal Snowman Investigations.

Peaceful snowman.

Mia having so much fun on the slide Daddy built for her!

Snow Angel.