Friends

How To Fill A Winter


I’m having one of those “so much has happened since my last update that I feel too overwhelmed to even try to cover any of it, let alone all of it, so I’d rather just not even try” moments.

D’oh.

So here’s my list-y attempt at sharing some of what’s been important in my life since my last post:

Sunset Playhouse - Murder on the Nile

Sunset Playhouse – Murder on the Nile

1. I closed a play. Murder on the Nile at Sunset Playhouse. Gosh what a swell group. I’ll be working with one of my MotN castmates in my next show, I Hate Hamlet

2. I auditioned for a play. I Hate Hamlet, also at Sunset Playhouse. I was cast as Deirdre. I’ll (hopefully) post something or other about it here. At some point. Maybe.

Oh God I’m such a failure at this blogging thing lately oh oh…

3. I auditioned for another play. Talley’s Folly at SummerStage, an outdoor theatre in Delafield. I was cast as Sally. I plan on Instagramming the crap out of the rehearsal and run process. The practice hall and performance space are just so cool.

If you don't watch the show, this will mean nothing to you. Feel free to ignore it; I promise I won't mind.

Meaningless if you don’t watch Hannibal. Feel free to ignore it; I promise I won’t mind…

4. I watched Hannibal an unhealthy number of times. I didn’t start watching Hannibal since my last update, but I don’t think I’ve mentioned it before so here I am. Mentioning it.

Basically: It’s lovely. I mean – it’s kind of horrifying, yes, in that it centers around a guy who eats people… – but don’t let that fool you. It is truly one of the most beautiful shows on television right now. The writing, the visual aesthetic of it all (from the cinematography to the set decoration to the costuming (!!!) to the way the food is displayed (no kidding)), the directing, the performances — it’s an incredible piece of work.

They’re three episodes into Season 2 right now, but for it to really mean anything you’d have to watch Season 1 first. It’s available through Amazon Prime, and then the three most recent eps are available to watch through NBC.com.

Oh man. Just thinking about that show makes me smile. And that’s saying a lot given that it’s, you know, about a people-eating serial killer, right? I’ve watched all of Season 1 six times now, and have no doubt Season 2 will fare much the same for me.

Plus: It stars Mads Mikkelsen. I’m sorry, but there’s just no topping that guy. Like — jumping between stuff like After the Wedding to Valhalla Rising to The Hunt to Hannibal? That’s just — naw dude. You’ve got to like this guy’s approach to the craft of acting. You can’t not.

5. VIKINGS! Speaking of shows I’ve recently started watching, I’m also really digging the History Channel’s show Vikings. It’s worth checking out as well before they get too much farther into their second season.

6. I attended WMSE‘s Rockabilly Chili Cook-Off Fundraiser. Wow, dudes. I ate so much amazing chili that day. No future chili-eating experience could ever compare. I went with some of the kids from Radio WHT, which of course made it extra fab.

My birthday gift from my friend Bob. My friends know me so well.

My birthday gift from my friend Bob. My friends know me so well.

7. It was my birthday on Wednesday! Oh gosh, you guys – this year was just– it was The Birthday That Kept On Giving.

The Saturday before my birthday, my friend Jenny hosted a Supernatural themed party at her house, complete with show-themed decor, and a dinner of burgers, fries, onion rings, and beer. There were games (SPN trivia, and “Pin the Demon In the Devil’s Trap“), episode viewings, and most of the gifts were SPN (or Hannibal! woohoo!) themed.

The Friday after, a bunch of other friends met up at my buddy Spence’s house for games and pizza and couch-sleeping and it was a blast I’mma just tell you.

Then today, my sibs came over with their families (minus my sister-in-law, boo :\) for mom’s homemade pulled pork sandwiches, par broiled ribs, and a homemade ice cream cake. It was *sniffle* magical

8. We got a nice list of roofs to bid on at work. This makes me happy. Not the way that homemade ice cream cake or Supernatural themed birthday parties make me happy, but certainly a kind that is still very much worth feeling. I’m spending the week helping put together bid packages (something that always takes longer than I estimate it will take; you’d think I’d’ve figured that out by now), and daydreaming about road-tripping to the farther job locations if the proposals come through. *dreamy sigh*

9. I went to the gym. I went an embarrassingly small number of times so far this winter, but I did go – and that’s crazy hard for me (because that is the breed of doofus that I am) – so I’m kinda happy about that.

So yeah, man – all told it’s been a pretty sweet coupl’a months.

Time to get in some reading and then hit the sack. Up bright and early tomorrow to spend the day with friends. Yeah – on a Monday. So stoked.

Happy Spring everybody! :D

Thoughts From Backstage


Updating from the women’s dressing room at Sunset Playhouse, mid-Act II for Murder on the Nile.

The ladies of "Murder on the Nile," L to R: Carrie (Louise), Paula (ff), Me (Kay), Deanna (Christina), Julia (Jackie)

The ladies of “Murder on the Nile,” L to R: Carrie G. (Louise), Paula G. (ff), Me (Kay), Deanna S. (Christina), Julia S. (Jackie)

What a happy, fabulous, funny, friendly, delightful group of women. I’m so pleased! I’M SO PLEASED!

I can’t imagine a life that does not involve spending months at a time with friends and strangers-who-become-friends, all directing our focus on solving the murder of a fictional socialite. Would I cruise the Nile circa 1936 with these ladies? You bet your Baedeker I would.

Thank you Caitlin. Or Becca. Or possibly Sarah.


I’ve never been much for baths.

Oh sure they’re fine when the tap is still running, filling the bathroom with a loud echo of rushing water to cover up the fact that I’m probably in there talking to myself. (“Well thanks, Conan. It’s great to be here!”) And when February’s got me shivering right down to my farandolae, nothing beats a long, hot soak.

But who needs all that finger pruning? And plugging the drain with one’s heel? (Assuming one, like myself, has no drain stopper.) And what the heck am I supposed to do when the tub’s full and I have to shut the water off? Talk in my head?

A few days back it was cold enough that I had a “Screw it: It’s bath time.” flare-up, so I hopped in, hand towel and Kindle at the ready, and tossed in some sort of mystery Lush bath ball I found in one of my bathroom drawers. Turns out it was a bubble bath bomb.

Bubble Bath

Accidental bubble bath

Who knew?

So thank you to whoever gifted me – Caitlin? Becca? Sarah? – with that lovely surprise. Your thoughtfulness (whoever you are) did not (in some fashion) go unappreciated.

*pop!*

 

Road Trip: Kimball and Rapid City


Gonna hit mom’s and my road trip artlessly and list-style because it’s easier that way and — and well it’s easier that way.

Monday, July 8, 2013

The walrus en route to Rapid City

The walrus en route to Rapid City

We left Waukesha, WI and hit the road for Rapid City, SD, with a planned overnight stop in Kimball. We arrived around 7 pm to a town overrun with construction crews and a vague aroma of sweetgrass and pee.

Mmm… Sweetgrass…

Dinner that night was at Doo-wah Ditty’s Diner. The food was decent and the service was friendly, but between the cranked up A/C and the crew of tactless, leering construction doodz at the center table, I was only too glad to get the bill and head on back to the hotel.

Unfortunately the Dakota Winds was all booked up so we stayed in the Super Adequate 8 across the street, where we were checked in against a scrap of paper with room numbers written on it showing which rooms were… or weren’t… or did that one get cleaned yet… available, and checked out by an enormous, but quite docile, German Shepard who trotted over to the desk when we rang the bell the next morning.

Tuesday, July 9, 2014

dfsdf

dsfsdjflskdjfsdfsd…

The next stop on our journey was Wall, SD, home of Wall Drug, a drug-store-turned-tourist-mecca about 50 miles east of Rapid City. I’d been looking forward to a slice of their pie and a cup of their nickel coffee for the better part of a year and a half, but one tuna salad sandwich later I only had room for a cookie. Sometimes life’s hard like that.

Mom and I didn’t spend as much time wandering through Wall Drug this time as we did last time, in part because we’d already seen it all, and in part because it’s tourist season so things were pretty busy. Somehow the prospect of getting one’s picture taken atop a giant jackalope is a lot less appealing when you have to wait 10 minutes for it in the summer sun. Who knew?

While in Wall we wandered into a shop that specializes in Harley shirts, dream catchers, and commemorating animal death.

Neat-o.

We got into Rapid City around lunch time and met up with my friend Angela who we’d be staying with that night. She took us on a walk through Art Alley

Art Alley

Art Alley

…on our way to the local Rocky Mountain Chocolate Factory shop, where heckyes we bought things, and then on to Who’s Toy House where we got to see their Perplexus, which was particularly cool since apparently there are only three of these in existence.

Um…

Okay, so here’s the thing: Right now it’s four days after all that stuff happened and I’m in Colorado Springs and there’s thunder outside and cool dogs in the other room and I’m with friends and I have laundry to fold and a cider calling my name and just — yeah. Blogging about the rest of the trip so far can wait! Back tomorrow – or Sunday – with the rest of the scoop!

I’m Moving!


Surprise.

Meanwhile in California...

Meanwhile in California…

A few weeks ago I got a call from a friend in LA about an opening for a Social Media Something-Or-Other position at a company he works with. Two phone interviews and a few screen-shares later, and here I am packing to move and start my new gig as Ruth Arnell: Something-Or-Other.

The company is located in Ontario, California, which, near as I can tell, is the West Coast’s answer to Cudahy. They’re just south of Rancho Cucamonga, which I learned last week is an actual place, and about 35 miles north-east of Disneyland.

Now — I haven’t looked into it too much yet, but I’m fairly certain their proximity to The Mouse obligates me to “work from Disneyland” at least once, while spending the entire day Tweeting about how hard it is to type with my fingers covered in churro sugar.

Ain’t even sorry.

Oh man. Now that I just announced my plans publicly I’m panicking that Something-Or-Other HQ is gonna call me up tomorrow and be like “Yeeeeah heeeeey. About packing for that move. Maybe… don’t bother?”

Luckily there’s not a whole awful lot for me to do with them remotely right now, so I figure I’m safe for the time being from them discovering what they’re in for and changing their minds.

Ruth Trio

Namely: Child sacrifice, Snoods, and Citrus Hulk.

And if they did change their minds and I stayed in Milwaukee, it’d just mean I’d get to keep on keepin’ on with all y’all fine folks around here, and that’d be alright by me too!

I don’t have much in the way of a long-term plan beyond:

  1. Move to California with whatever fits in my car.
  2. Learn everything I can about my new job and be awesome at it.
  3. Be a Ghostfacer with Sarah at ComicCon. Or maybe just around the apartment.
  4. Find an apartment.

I do know, however, that I shall miss my family and friends here in the Midwest just terribly, and that I am not above using guilt trips to coerce them into flying out for a visit. So you know – get ready for that. And bring cheese curds.

I’ll be traveling for most of June (stay tuned for Virginia Road Trip pics of my mom and Mimi cementing their spots as The Coolest People Ever!), but will return to the Milwaukee area on the 22nd (exhausted and probably broke). I don’t have a set date for when I’ll be moving, but I’m eager to dive into this new gig. All that to say: My remaining time in Wisconsin is probably somewhat limited.

Want to keep in touch while I’m away, or follow along with my travels? I’ll be blogging about everything from here as usual, as well as posting more frequent updates via Twitter and Instagram. I love reading all of your comments and replies so keep ’em coming!!

Deep, Strong, Weird, and Aforementioned


Preferably from your other *other* cell.

Preferably from your other *other* cell phone.

Since my last regular post I have discovered, fallen in love with, and watched all seven and a half seasons of Supernatural. (And by “since” I mean “within the span of 11 days of extremely dedicated Netflixing.”)

I won’t get into the show too much here as my aforementioned love is deep, strong, and weird, but I will go on record as saying it has made it to my Top 5 Favorite Shows of All Time list.

In no particular order (because who can rank love?), the list is as follows:

1. Star Trek (TNG is my Trek, but I love ’em all)
2. Doctor Who
3. Xena
4. Supernatural
5. Maude

Yes, compadres: It is fun enough to stand amongst giants.

Side note: Mom just took the dog outside, and I can’t tell which of them is barking.

In other news, as good as roofing has been to me, lately I’ve been looking to shuffle off this construction coil. To that end, last week I applied for two positions with the same company, both of which I would 1) be great at! and 2) have a blast doing. They’re the sort of gigs that would provide for plenty of photo ops and fun blog fodder, so any fingers you’d care to cross, prayers you’d care to send up, or candles you’d care to wish on on my behalf, feel free. I shall keep you posted should I receive any good news on that front.

In other other news– boy, a lot of other others ’round these parts today, eh?– I will be traveling to LA next week to stand in a dear friend’s wedding next Saturday. It will be my first time back in California since I left in 2006. So many new people to meet, so many old sushi places to visit; I hope I  can fit the wedding in. And of course, an hour on the CW.com for next week’s episode of Supernatural…

Sunset Playhouse Q&A


Sunset Playhouse‘s annual Event I Can Never Remember the Name Of is coming up this Saturday. I’ve turned in my ballot for Best [___], and chosen which dress I shall wear (grandma’s cast-off), leaving naught else to do save answer the following questions that arrived with my invitation:

“Tell us something about you… your favorite story from the season, how you found Sunset, why you volunteer, what you love about Sunset, funniest backstage antic….”

“Tell us something about you…”

Well for starters I’m a Pisces, Year of the Dog. I don’t put any stock into that sort of thing, mind you. I just thought you should know those things about me in case they mean anything to you. When I was three years old a dog bit me in the face, leaving a row of short scars from my eyebrow to my chin. One day I’d like to rent a cottage in the Appalachian Mountains for a few weeks and just write. I like my pizzas deep dish, my theatre community, my screwdrivers sonic, and my sagas set in space.

Also: Ferrets.

“Your favorite story from the season”

I was only involved in one show at Sunset this past season- 6 Degrees of Separation- so I hope you’re up for tales with a limited scope.

  • I don’t think I’ve ever eaten as much fancy-pants candy as I did during rehearsals for 6 Degrees. Every day we’d show up to a decadent sugar buffet courtesy of Jim Santelle and Sendick’s, and every day we’d clean that sucker out. And then there were the people there like Donna Daniels, man. They wear their little khaki pants, you know? And their little cardigans? And they drink their tea and they eat their veggie snacks and you think they’d never belly up to a processed sugar smorgasbord. But wouldn’t you know she totally did every time? Admittedly she wasn’t matching the rest of us bite-for-bite, but I will say this: Girl is not afraid to put away a few sweets. Admirably so.
  • And then there were the nights when it was time to go home, but it wasn’t time to go home. It was time to congregate outside the door to the back parking lot to shoot the breeze for an hour over bottles of Red Stripe while the bad kids smoked and the short kids had their pictures taken next to the tall kids.
  • The good times weren’t restricted to post-practice rolling, much to our collective great fortune. I can’t tell you how many times I pulled into the parking lot before rehearsal to find our director, Jim Farrell, sitting out in the grass with Spence Mather, the two of them swapping stories and guitars. As our 7pm start time ticked closer and more cast members arrived, the number of lawn hippies would increase. The stories that went around the circle are theirs to share, but I will offer you a prompt: Track down Joan End some time and ask her how not to dispose of a cigarette while traveling. Bad to the bone, that one.
  • And then there was the party at Jim Santelle’s. Oh Jim Santelle, sender of eloquent emails and hero of high-school smokers everywhere: You are great! And your stove is great! And your books are great! And I love your taste in fruit trays and cheesecake decorations!
  • Then there was the time after we opened when I dreamed my mom and I gave JFare and his non-existent elementary school-age daughters a ride back home to their Tuscan villa in a community of theatre folks, all tucked away past miles of farms and fields and hills. The girls wanted to show me their room and their books, then wanted to share their cake. I’m more of a brownie person, but that was some mighty fine cake.
  • Plus we acted in a play, which was pretty cool. (This’un is mighty good for monologue mining for anybody with auditions coming up.)

“How you found Sunset”

Turned left at Greenland.

I’ll be here all week.

But seriously, folks…

I graduated from Carroll University- though we called it Carroll College in those days- back in aught-four. Toward the end of the school year an event was held honoring department chair Dave Molthen, complete with a snack table and places to sit, so naturally plenty of Carroll theatre alumni came to call. Among them was Mark Salentine, the fella who’d directed me in The Nerd my second semester at Carroll. A bit of a nerd himself, I quite liked the man. One of those sorts you can’t help but smile about. So when I learned he’d be directing Cabaret at Sunset that summer I decided to have a go at auditions, in spite of my being neither a singer nor a dancer. And wouldn’t you know the fool cast me?

And that was it. One show was all it took. Cabaret came and went and left me hooked, and I’ve been going back ever since. Occasionally racing head over heels toward my own disaster. Ask me some time where it still hurts from Noises Off!

“Why you volunteer”

Yeah, I mean… I’m gonna keep doing it, I’m just sayin’ if they offered me a paycheck I wouldn’t turn it down, kapeesh?

“What you love about Sunset”

There’s nothing quite like having a hobby where the Venn Diagram of the cool kids and the weird kids is a circle, and Sunset has its fair share of both.

Thank God.

For me, Sunset has had a “home base” feel ever since the first time I crept off-key, and off-beat, through “The Telephone Song” for Donna Kummer, my heart in my throat, my throat in my sinuses, my brain long since flown into hiding so I’d never be able to fully reconstruct my memories of that particular part of the rehearsal experience. The rest of it, though? Not nearly as scary. Brilliantly fun, even. I’d never have believed you if you’d told me I could have such a blast doing so many new, difficult things in front of hundreds of people at a time for weeks on end. But then I did it. And it was wonderful.

It was all wonderful. Every show. There hasn’t been a single one that hasn’t fulfilled some acting dream, or given me a reason to spend countless hours plugging away at exciting work with lovely people, or proven to me that yes I can memorize a stupidly large number of lines. Shows like:

  • Bedroom Farce, where I got to run around in a nightie while talking with a British accent
  • Rehearsal for Murder, where I got to run around in a robe while married to Ken Smith
  • The Seven Year Itch, where I got to run around in a nightie while haunting Brian Zelinski
  • Jake’s Women, where I got to run around in flats while my boyfriend was haunted by Coleen Tutton
  • Noises Off!, where I got to run around in a nightie while talking with a British accent
  • It’s A Wonderful Life, where I got to run around in wigs while my husband was haunted by himself
  • 6 Degrees of Separation, where I got to SUFFER OUTRAGEOUS EMOTIONAL TORMENT AS THE ONLY TRULY INNOCENT VICTIM

Themes. I’m sensing themes…

Really it’s the people, though, that made those experiences so memorable for me. The directors, the designers, the crews, the other actors, the beautiful, beautiful audiences. I forget all my lines within two weeks of a show closing, but the people I keep with me forever, tucked away in random brain folds, smiling and laughing and shining.

I love how you all shine.

“Funniest backstage antic”

I– I mean I can’t… Aw geez.

I can’t even begin to think of how to answer this one. Randall Anderson’s slot machine anecdote comes to mind, and Jim Bloomingdale and Mark Salentine with sleeves full of shaving cream are floating around up there too. But as with most great “backstage” stories, the element that made the moment truly magical is lost in the retelling, especially if the tale can’t be acted out since most of the hilarity occurs in silence.

That is, you hope it occurs in silence.

I’ll tell you what: I’ll see what stories come up at Saturday’s Annual Theatre Volunteer Annual Event for Theatre, and if there are any that can stand on their own without the aid of miming and the quaking laughter of onlookers, I’ll post one or two of them here. ‘S’good?

‘S’good.

*Read about 2009’s Annual Theatre Thingy here: The Jello Covered Grapes Annual Volunteer Choice Awards

That which has been your delight


Timmy, Norberto, Anahi, Julie Kurrle

Over the years I’ve shared with several of you the blog of a woman I found in Paraguay, Julie Kurrle, who served there since 2002 with her husband, Norberto, and their 6 year old son, Timmy, as missionaries. (I found her blog around the same time I found that of Christie Hagerman, with whom I would eventually stay during my January 2012 visit to Paraguay).

Julie’s is one of those blogs I check almost daily, getting to know her family through her recounting of their adventures, and of their struggles. It was through her blog that I read about their work with youth in their area, their years long struggle to adopt, their final success in that struggle when they brought home their beautiful daughter Esther Anahi, their adventures in peanut farming, their great love of Paraguay, and most of all their passionate love for God.

Julie’s blog post from April 14, 2011: “Helping Poor, Rural Farmers Increase their Profit Is Easier than You Think. (You can Help!)

Norberto talking last May about the peanut harvest:

This was a beautiful family that loved each other and their fellow man in a way that was so tender and obvious and full of joy that it shined through in every single post I read from Julie. I couldn’t help but want to know this woman in real life!

So of course it was to my great delight and privilege that I got to meet Julie and her family in person when I traveled to Paraguay in January 2012, and to spend several days with them at their home in Encarnacion. They opened their house and their hearts to us, fed us an amazing meal, took us out to the pond next to their house to relax, to play with the dogs, to watch Timmy get covered in mud… The next day my hosts, the Hagerman family, and I spent the day with theirs and another family at a nearby beach sweating, laughing, and sharing stories over burgers, potato salad, and plenty of tereré. You just never met a warmer, friendlier bunch of folks. And that love they had for God and each other and their community? Even stronger and more visible in person!

A (particularly adorable) video from Julie on how to wash clothes on a wash board:

Julie updated her blog yesterday saying that the family would be heading into Asuncion to pick up their daughter’s birth certificate and passport. Adoption is a complicated process under any circumstances, and in Paraguay it can become particularly messy, but things were finally wrapping up for the Kurrles with their beautiful new daughter, now one and a half years old.

Anahi’s first steps:

This morning I received a phone call from a number I didn’t recognize. It was Christie! I can’t tell you how many times I’ve picked up my phone to text or call her about something, only to remember I can’t because she’s so far away. But I only had a moment to be excited that I was hearing from her, because she was calling with heart-breaking news.

Timmy and Norberto

Some time around 5 am local time this morning, the Kurrles were involved in a terrible car accident on their way into Asuncion. Norberto and Anahi survived the crash, but it claimed the lives of the beautiful Julie and her sweet son Timmy.

My understanding is that Timmy survived long enough for his father to get to hold him and talk to him one last time, for which I am sure all who know the family will be forever grateful. Norberto is a good, good man and Timmy was such a smart, funny child.

And now I hardly know what to say or think.

Yesterday Julie was laughing with the judge who was handling their adoption case, and today- unspeakable tragedy.

I don’t know what is going to happen next. I dare say the family probably doesn’t either. All I do know is it is just sickening to be here so far away, unable to hold my friends and cry and pray with them in person. I rejoice with all my heart that Julie and Timmy are with the Lord, and weep that the world, that this family, that their community, lost such a vibrant woman, and such a friendly, outgoing child in such a sudden and shocking way.

If you have a moment I urge you to visit Julie’s blog: http://kurrles.blogspot.com. Read the posts, smile over the pictures, click through to go back, back, back to watch their ministry unfold in reverse. Click through to be encouraged by the love this family bore for each other. And, if you are a believer, click through to be encouraged and uplifted by the love they bore for God, our Source and Supply, our sustainer not only during the devestating times, but during the beautiful.

"El enjugará toda lágrima de sus ojos, y ya no habrá muerte, ni habrá más duelo, ni clamor, ni dolor, porque las primeras cosas han pasado." Apocalipsis 21:4

“When you are sorrowful look again in your heart, and you shall see that in truth you are weeping for that which has been your delight.”
– Kahlil Gibran

QEPD Julie Ana Beam de Kurrle y Timoti Samuel Kurrle Beam, 18/4/12

*************************

ETA: Christie was able to attend the memorial service at the Kurrle’s church in Paraguay. You can read that post here: Memorial Service for Timmy and Julie Kurrle

March Err


When did I get to be such a Lazy Lou about posting regular updates? *tsk tsk* Lest ye think all I’ve done the past couple months was befriend the sad and the sleepy, a March highlight reel…

These are my parents:

Zen and the Art of Taking Mom For A Ride On Dad’s Motorcycle

Aren’t they cute? I love them. I mean: I really, really love them. A lot. They’re a wonderful example of a happy marriage, they’ve been great about encouraging me in my interests and pursuits without pushing anything on me, they give terrific advice, and they both know their way around a birthday cake. And look at how happy my mom looks! I’m hoping we’re able to go on another road trip together some time this Summer.

The other week they invited Aaron and I over for chili cheese dogs. There is always time for a chili cheese dog.

Cue Drool Faucet

There is always time for any kind of dog, really.

That Patches sure likes her some Aaron.

Things there is always time for: Chili dogs, any kind of dogs, books, and ferrets. Or to save time: booksandferrets.

Wesley picking out a bedtime story.

It hasn’t been all high-fat lunches, weasel story-hours, and motorcycle rides, though. I did manage to find time to work (a little) every now and again.

“Hey Ruth! Look over here!” “What? Oh.” *smile* “Okay. Back to work.”

I’ve never owned steel-toe boots and a hard hat before. Had I known sooner how awesome I look in them I wouldn’t have waited ’til I was 30 to start wearing them. Ah the oversights of youth. I’m also really digging the quality and fit of these Carhartt pants, though it’s harder to find appropriate occasions to fit them into my social wardrobe than, say, the hard hat or the safety vest.

I’ve also been working- unofficially, for now- on making my way through all of Family Ties on Netflix. I’m a few episodes into Season 3 at the moment and am absolutely loving every minute of it. (Speaking of social wardrobes, I’d take Elyse Keaton’s in a heartbeat.) And just to prove I’m taking this job seriously:

“Nah. I don’t think anybody’ll notice ’em.”

See? I’m paying attention.

In conclusion: Yesterday I met a baby duck.

It was 3 days old and its wings were just little nubs of fluff! I was nearly overcome by cuteness!!

Happy trails.

Wind may blow, and many miles…


Why, we're for Marty o'course!

Every major metropolitan city in the U.S. has a West Allis. Fortunately for those of us living in the Milwaukee area ours is actually called West Allis. You’ll know you’ve reached your own West Allis when you find yourself surrounded by blue collar Mexican restaurants that serve polish sausage and french fries, no-cover bars with $1.50 tappers, brick paired with warped vinyl siding, and the wrong amount of street parking whatever the occasion.

I visited ours this evening to bid farewell to a friend who’s chosen to shuffle off this West Allisian coil for the damper climes of Seattle. A group of us met him for drinks at Benno’s Genuine Bar & Grill, a 30-tap townie bar with friendly staff, ample seating, reasonable prices, and after a few hours a girl suddenly resting her head on the bar, weeping her eyes out, sitting all alone.

Sweet merciful Jesus what cloying diva hell has descended upon us?” I wondered. But not in quite so many words on account of the volume of the jukebox had me a little frazzled. It probably went something more like “#*@&%. Now what?” The causes of all the tears I’ve seen at bars have rarely elevated their validity above such a response. But then I figured folks don’t cry that hard when things don’t hurt. And even if a cause is unreasonable it doesn’t mean the pain’s not real, right? Right.

So I walked over to her. Sat down on the stool to her left. Leaned in to talk through the hair covering her face. God was she crying. Even over the thumping twang of the jukebox her sobs burbled up loud enough to name themselves.

“Hey honey. What’s’a matter? You doing okay?”

Unintelligible mumbling escaped the curtain of her hair, followed by a “…no…” and more sobbing, this time with a key change.

I put my left hand on her forearm, my right on her shoulder. Rub, rub, rub. “C’mere honey. It’s gonna be all right. What’s going on, huh? You want to talk about it? We don’t have to, but I’m here, you know, if you want to.”

A pause in the tears, a mumble of something akin to “I’unno,” then a return to weeping.

Causes may be unreasonable, but pain is still painful, and sadness has a keen way with conjuring friends from strangers.

“Can I at least get you a water or…” I hesitated. I don’t like to see people drinking when they’re upset. But I forged ahead anyway. “Or a drink? Can I get you a drink?”

If you wink and nod, and then make pinch-y fingers toward the glass, the bartender’ll make the drink weak. I can wink, nod, and make pinch-y fingers. One Sprite, please; on the rocks.

“Yeah. Yeah a drink,” she coughed out. Finally– she speaks! “But just shots,” she yelled to the floor. “I’m only doing shots tonight. I just want to black out. Tonight I just want to forget everything.”

What have I walked into what have I walked into what have I walked…

“Aw no, honey. Not tonight! You don’t want to forget tonight!” I cheered. “We’re gonna have a nice time you and me, and you’re gonna want to remember it! Let me get us some waters, huh?” No reply. I tried again. “So what is it then,” I asked. “Is it a guy?”

It was like my question cut all her strings.

Pain is painful.

And it all poured out.

“I just got a call,” she whispered. “Fifteen minutes ago. I just got a call.” A pause. “It’s my best friend J—-. He killed himself today.”

Her face was still down, her forehead resting in her hands on the bar. I closed my eyes and prayed something like “Oh… God.” I mean, what else do you say? I may’ve also asked for help in not saying something stupid, but I’m sure that part was also fairly short and elliptical.

“Honey,” I whispered at the curls shaking on the side of her head, “I’m so sorry. I’m so, so sorry.” I put my arm around her shoulders and squeezed. “Honey…”

“It was over a girl. His girlfriend. She broke up with him a few days ago and he couldn’t handle it.” Shuddering, sniffling, and then a hand drawn sloppily across smeared, wet eyes. There was not a line left on her person that remained defined.

She turned, giving me her face, tears, and story without a hint of her former reluctance. It started with a McDonald’s bill of $21.17. That was how much he spent on food the last time she saw him. She’s from out of town. Mumble-apolis. She last saw him seven months ago. He was in jail, then prison, for DUIs. He was finally out. They went out to a bar, then stopped at McDonald’s on the way back to her house. He got an Angus burger, a large Coke, a large Diet Coke (she has a large Diet Coke, no ice, every day), four McChickens with Mac sauce, a few other random items, and fries.

“$21.17!” she laughed. “Can you believe it?! He was so beautiful. So fucking beautiful. And he just ate and ate and ate. I finally went to bed and when I got up around 4 to go to the bathroom he was laying there asleep on the couch with half a McChicken hanging out of his mouth!” She roared like this was the funniest damned thing in the world, so I laughed too.

“$21.17?!” I sputtered. “That’s crazy!”

I know, right?!”

“He sounds pretty great.” I smiled. Rub, rub, rub.

“Yeah, he was.”

“So tell me about him, girl! What was he like?”

“He was my Best. Friend!” she gushed. “Like, okay: We went to a bar once and these haters were there and when I came out of the bathroom after we’d only been there like 15 minutes, they were like to him ‘Wait, you’re here with her?’ and he was all like ‘We’re leaving. Now.’ And I was like, whatever, you know, because I know I have a big ass so I don’t even listen to that noise so let ’em talk!” She laughed. “But he was all like ‘No. We’re leaving. Now.’ He was always so good to me like that. He called me beautiful. He was so beautiful. He was just 25.” Still laughing. Cackling, almost. “His girlfriend was beautiful too. Like, super beautiful and everything. But he was gorgeous. And then she left him. Dumped him on Facebook. Can you believe it? Facebook?”

I nodded. Facebook.

“And he told her a few days ago he was going to kill himself, you know?” Still laughing, somehow, but wildly now, and with tears. “And he told her, and she didn’t go over there. She didn’t even go! He told her and that [impressive but forgettable series of expletives] didn’t even go to see him and now he’s dead!” The wildness turned desperate.

“Oh honey…” Rub, rub, rub.

“It’s her fault. It’s all her fault. He was a good guy. He had a good family. Like, his parents are still together, you know? They had three daughters after him. They’re 9, 7, and 3. They’re so pretty. And now he’s gone, and it’s that [similarly impressive string]’s fault! I would give anything if they could have resuscitated him! Anything! But that would only be the best thing for me. Not for her. Not for her.”

A loop of curses, flashing blue. A cry of pain. Her face returned to its hideaway in her hands.

I don’t remember what I said then. It couldn’t have been very good. It couldn’t have been very much. I’ve never experienced something like that myself. And even if I had, so what? What is my pain to you? It’s a mist to your rain, a suggestion to your thundering reality. What would it matter that I had ever suffered then when here you are suffering now?

I curled my arm through hers and we sat there in silence for several minutes, her tears eventually flattening out to match the beer taps, the paper napkins, the wood paneled decor. I asked if she needed a ride, if I could take her anywhere, if she needed to just get out. No, she told me. She has a ride. Her boyfriend is here.

I’m sorry–did I hear that right? Your what is here and you’re crying alone? He hasn’t walked you out to the car? Held your hand? Taken you home to cry and talk this out?

But I didn’t ask these things. I held my tongue. Angels must’ve been runnin’ them some mad interference.

“I think I’m ready to tell him I want to go home,” she mumbled, and rose from her stool. She found her boyfriend in the corner, was roundly ignored by him, shook off her tears, and donned armor of solid Brash. The last thing she said to me that night was a lyric from a hip-hop song on her way out the door. Something about being a bitch and having a big ass. Her group stumbled out into the cold and she was gone.

Oh honey… your mascara.

I wish I could fix it.

*******

“Ho! Ho! Ho! To the bottle I go
To heal my heart and drown my woe.
Rain may fall, and wind may blow,
And many miles be still to go,
But under a tall tree will I lie
And let the clouds go sailing by.”
― J.R.R. Tolkien

Paraguay Blog #11: Nuestra Ciudad


From one of our day trips: The Basilica of Caacupé

In the early part of my trip to Paraguay, my hosts- the Hagerman family– and I spent quite a bit of time traveling. First we headed east for about a week and a half, hitting up Obligado, Encarnacion, Ciudad del Este, and Foz just over the border into Brazil. Since then we’ve also taken day trips to Villeta, Alberdi, Asunción, Areguá, Caacupé, and around our own town of Itauguá. But most days? Most days are gloriously low key and normal, which is truly ideal for this kind of trip.

Well, you know, “normal” plus all this heat and the goats and the lizards and everything.

The average “normal, but with goats and lizards” day for us begins with Ken brewing a pot of coffee in a 90° kitchen in a country suffering from Junior High Awkwardness at the very idea of coffee. To wit: Ken was gifted a bag of Starbucks beans a few weeks ago and responded with what can only be described as giggles, and a face that looked like he’d just been told he’d won Hawaii.

Seriously, man: It’s time to get Paraguay some sister cities in Honduras.

The lack of proficiency- and interest- with coffee in Paraguay is completely understandable, however, given that the better part of the year here includes temperatures in the low 100s every day by 11 AM. There’s not really much call for hot drinks amongst those dripping with sweat. No, what’s needed here is something cool. And if you want to keep cool, and sufficiently hydrated, in this kind of heat, your best bet is to skip the coffee altogether and drink water All The Time. And what better way to drink water than socially and when it’s full of yard weeds, amiright?

Enter: Tereré.

A typical tereré kit: termo, attached cup holder, guampa. Click the pic to view the source post and to leave Betty lots of nice comments! (We love that sort of thing. ;) She has a great blog about Paraguay, and life in general. Worth a read. :)

Tereré (pronounced teh-deh-DAY) is the Guarani name for a drink almost everyone in these parts consumes daily in enormous quantities. It’s prepared by scooping yerba (dried herbs from a certain kind of holly plant) into a guampa (a cup traditionally made from wood or a hollowed out cow’s horn), pouring ice water over it, and drinking it through a bombilla (a long metal straw with a spoon-shaped sieve at the end to keep the herbs from going up the straw). If you’re with friends you’re expected to share your tereré with all present, refilling it with water after each drinker finishes their turn. It’s all very “puff puff pass,” and you’d do well to just dive right on into drinking it as soon as you arrive.

Most streets here are peppered with vendors selling ice and water so folks can replenish their termos (thermoses) of cold water throughout the day. You’ll find you’re also never far from a place where you can buy remedios (remedies) to add to the water for extra flavor, extra pep, or to cure any number of ailments. These remedios come in the form of herbs, roots, bits of tree bark, etc. which get crushed and mixed into the tereré water. If, by some sort of contrary miracle, you should find yourself with nary a remedio shop in sight, there are always plenty of free alternatives growing in your own back yard, or up between the cracks in the sidewalk. Cure away, friends.

Lomito Arabe and a bottle of guaraná make for one happy gringa!

Meal time is also pretty laid back here at the house where I’m staying. Breakfast can be anything from toast, to cereal, to a piece of pan Felipe (large, white rolls) with butter and a cup of coffee. My favorite breakfast so far has been a roll with veggies and a piece of white cheese. See? Laaaaid baaaack.

Lunch and dinner will usually be something whipped up by one of the Hagerman girls, Camille (15) and Caroline (13). Egg salad, rich casseroles, mandioca (cassava), baked chicken and the like are staples at the Hagermans’ house, and with good reason: Those two girls know their way around a kitchen. And lucky for all of us that includes knowing their way around serving up some pretty tasty desserts, too. This week’s treat was a batch of K Bars, courtesy of Caroline. And a week or so before that we were treated to Camille’s Avocado Mousse.

We’ve had dinner out a few times as well, favorite spots being Tia Pachi’s, home of $0.75 empanadas, and Allo Beirut, home of the Lomito Arabe. We stopped there the other night after church and ooooh was that some good eatin’.

The hottest part of the day is usually spent inside the house fixing things (if you’re Ken), reading, blogging, working on chores, or doing school work. The weirdest part about that to me is that the girls are actually working on chores or doing school work. I know. Crazy, right? But day in and day out they get it all done. Cool kids, huh?

Milciades’ trophy is too big for the shelf. Life’s tough, eh? ;)

During the cooler parts of the day- that is: when it’s down into the low to mid-90s in the morning or the early evening- there’s almost always company here at the house. Kids from Hogar Ganar will stop by to play with the girls or with Saúl, or maybe church friends will come over to chat in the hammock or practice their English. Last week we got to enjoy the company of some missionary friends of theirs from the US for a few days while they were passing through town on their way home after a conference in Chile. Never a dull moment around here!

One of our most frequent visitors is Milciades, the all-purpose maintenance guy and grounds’ keeper here at Hogar Ganar. Yesterday he came by to show us the trophy he won for a 7k race he ran in San Bernardino Saturday night. He took 2nd place out of 1,500 runners!

He entered several Hogar Ganar kids into the race as well; boys he’s been training with for a long time now. Sometimes we’ll see him working with them in the yard outside his house doing drills, running sprints, and learning what it means to develop the skills necessary to pursue something they care about. All the kids are young- I think the oldest boy is maybe 12- but they’re doing so well with him and have come such a long way. They run because they enjoy it, and because they look up to Milciades and he enjoys it. He’s just this young guy, but he’s so attentive and dedicated to these kids. It’s really a neat thing to see. Go Team!

We generally wind down the day reading and chatting on the front porch, taking turns in the hammock while the dog runs his fool self ragged through the fields and woods around the grounds. He comes back exhausted but happy, and absolutely covered in small, green burrs. Gotta love a dog!

And then finally? A nice, normal, everyday sunset…

…with palm trees.

Happy trails!

Paraguay Blog #10: What do you do with a drunken sailor?


I’ve never really known. Not that it matters right now, of course. Drunken sailors have nothing to do with this post. Goats, however, make an appearance at one point, and they’re about equally as likely to butt heads with each other.

But first: A trip to the salon grocery store.

Camille being a great sport by letting me snap pics while she looked *slightly* ridiculous.

Camille wanted to put purple streaks in her hair for her upcoming birthday party, which is awesome. Her parents were totally on board with the idea, which is also awesome. Maybe even awesomer.

But before heading to the salon to undergo the actual coloring process, she had to head over to the grocery store to buy the hair color for the stylist.

Now maybe that’s not unusual where you come from, and I don’t mean to diss it because it’s just a different way of playing the same game, but where I come from the hospital doesn’t make you bring your own bedding, bandages, and medicine, and the salon doesn’t make you bring your own hair dye.

But there we were at Stock (the local grocery store) combing the shelves for just the right shade of purple hair dye to take with us to the shop.

And then we got to the shop…

…and it was not like shops I have known.

Good Sport Camille going through the final rinse

And you know what? That is A-OK. And Camille’s hair turned out super cute. And I got to watch the whole thing from my perch on the living room couch, right at the heart of all the action.

Another thing you don’t  often run into back home in good ol’ Waukesha, WI are Porch Goats. You know, like– the kind that wander around the yard? And then find their way onto your porch? And then lick bugs and bird poop off the bricks on your house while you’re busy fixing your car?

*lick lick lick*

Like I said: Porch Goats.

They like to hang out around Porch Ken while he fixes Porch Car. Though sometimes he gets it wrong and ends up trying to take Porch Bidet out for a drive.

*vroom vroom vroom*

But most of the time he gets it right so the car drives just fine. (The bidet not so much.)

Somewhat akin to Porch Goats are Yard Horses. They’ve only wandered across the grounds once since I’ve been here, and they didn’t stick around long once the dog poked his head outside to let them know whose house this is, but they did stay around long enough for me to snap a few picks.

A caballo is a caballo, of course. Of course! And no one can talk to a caballo, of course...

All along the water tower
Caroline kept the view
While all the horses came and went.
Barefoot gringas, too…

Caroline, resident cowgirl

In conclusion: ALL THE CHEESE AT THEIR GROCERY STORE IS WHITE!!

...white cheese, white cheese, white cheese, olives...

Or ecru, linen, mother-of-pearl…

...white cheese, white cheese, white cheese in a yellowish wrapper, white cheese...

Sure is good, though. ;)