Wednesday, February 29, 2012

(Damn straight) that's a white-out

And that's snow on rooftops, at least for today.

Like everyone else around here, I find this noteworthy. 

Bring it, Mom Nature, since you've been skimping on us so far.

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Bikini Challenge: (And,) it's back!

At least temporarily.....

By Wednesday I will have amassed 94 running miles in February, but likewise spent most of the month not doing the yoga, planks and crunches that I did in January.  And much of February eating all of the chocolate and cinnamon sugar treats that I held off eating in January.  And did, and am still doing, the reliable start-of-marathon-training fall-back of eating double portions of everything. 

I got a jelly belly, folks which I'm not sharing in a "before" photo.  And I have plane tickets for Fort Myers FL in 17 days.  And due to past bikini challenges, I no longer own a one-piece bathing suit. 

(Surely, even though the beach and pool in my aunt and uncle's retirement complex is not the Girls Gone Wild scene .... life in a a bikini is oh-so-much-more happier without a muffintop.)

The good news is:  I already gave up chocolate for Lent, so I have a headstart.

More good news:  I will be in Florida for 3 full beach days.  So said tummy can find a few rays prior to being viewed on the interwebs.

Even better good news:  I know from past marathon experience that once I get into the swing of the trianing, my desire to eat the entire contents of my refrigerator abates somewhat. As in, the worst may be behind me.

The best good news:  It is always good to have an excuse to stay in shape. 

The upshot:  Photo here.  Of me.  In bikini.  On Monday, March 19.  How I get there will be my top-secret belly-blasting plan!


Friday, February 24, 2012

Foggy February Friday

This was the view, or lack there-of, pretty much all of today:

Many times, when I turned my head from my computer and saw this bleak grey wall, I called to mind the sound and lyrics of Dar Williams' "February" .... beautiful, melancholy, and bleaker than a Dickens novel:
I threw your keys in the water, I looked back,
They'd frozen halfway down in the ice.
They froze up so quickly, the keys and their owners,
Even after the anger, it all turned silent, and
The everyday turned solitary,
So we came to february.

First we forgot where we'd planted those bulbs last year,
Then we forgot that we'd planted at all,
Then we forgot what plants are altogether,
And I blamed you for my freezing and forgetting and
The nights were long and cold and scary,
Can we live through february?
It snowed for about 15 minutes this morning.  By the time I tried to snap a photo it had turned to mist, then soon, the fog that you see above you.  Not craving the snow and cold, but I'd certainly take it over this soul-sucking grey.

(And, no. Don't get me started on Dave Matthews' "Grey Street." That most certainly might do this already-fragile mood in.)

Thursday, February 23, 2012

OKC: It works sometimes!

A couple weeks ago I expressed pleasure at the lovely coincidence of coincidence:   Student Driver found herself sharing a coffee table with one of her most faithful (and previously anonymous) readers. 

As you recall, it reminded me of this blog's foremost -- of several, mostly undocumented variations -- small-world story:  The Artist from The Western Suburbs having a poor date with me, telling his next OKC interest (that very evening) about our poor chemistry, said female acknowledging she was a fan of my blog .... and The Artist using it as a reason to suggest a date with her.

I'm notoriously poor at noticing comments that come more than a couple days after a post.  However, I was so pleased to just discover that, 5 days later, the most important person who could have weighed in on that post weighed in on that post:
"Hi Karin - I had to laugh at your favorite deja vu blog moment. I am the lady that you 'helped' the Artist get. We did not hit it off either but I am happy to say that I met a different lovely man on OKC and we've been married one year! Just a little happy ending to that story even though you don't know me :) ... " 
Hey Anonymous:   Woo-hoo!

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Patience. Deep Breaths. Self-Awareness.

I hate cliches.  But sometimes they say it all.  And today I woke up on the wrong side of the bed.  And I can't tell you why.

By the time I got to work, I wanted to kill everyone.  Even nice friendly people.

So.  Drastic measures were required:  an Outlook task reminder that popped up at 9:30 a.m. with nothing more but the subject:
Patience.  Deep Breaths.  Self-Awareness.
And then I changed the reminder for a half-hour later.  And at 10 I refreshed it for a half-hour later.  And I did this until 6 p.m.

I'll tell you that every time I saw that reminder in my browser, I realized that I needed a deep breath to clear my chest, and that my mouth had been turned in a frown....because I could feel the change when I forced myself to smile each time.

You know.  The day went OK in the end.  I'm wondering if I should just leave this reminder on indefinitely.

Update 2/23/12, 12:30 p.m.:  Still refreshing yesterday's Outlook reminder on the half-hour.  Still taking extra deep breaths.  Day progressing smoothly, despite previous late night drinking Maker's Mark and catching up with Justin at Alibi and upon returning home, eating a full pan of pasta and black beans before bed.  Verdict:  Still thumbs-up.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

I need your love

Now that I'm getting into marathon training (again) and am running more than 10 miles at a time on a regular basis, I'm a lot more picky about my iPod playlist:  every song, not just every other song, has to be borderline inspirational.

Recently, I was lucky enough to rediscover U2's  Rattle and Hum.... an album enough of my time (1988) and old and important enough to first be owned on double cassette (high school) and then on CD (post-college) before making its way to my iTunes.  And thusly rediscover "Hawkmoon 269" from said album.

If you listen to it a couple times you'll see its appeal: pulsing, unchanging Bb bass line; hypnotic, repetitive, worthy mantra every 2-5 lines; timpani; and gospel chorus joining in after 4 minutes and crescendoing to the end.

(Kind of like good sex, yes, if you're the sort who hears gospel choruses while in the act. Which isn't exactly a bad inspiration for running, I must admit.)

Like a desert needs rain
Like a town needs a name
I need your love

Like a drifter needs a room
I need your love

Like a rhythm unbroken
Like drums in the night
Like sweet soul music
Like sunlight
I need your love

Like coming home
And you don't know where you've been
Like black coffee
Like nicotine
I need your love

When the night has no end
And the day yet to begin
As the room spins around
I need your love

Like a phoenix rising needs a holy tree
Like the sweet revenge of a bitter enemy
I need your love

Like the hot needs the sun
Like honey on her tongue
Like the muzzle of a gun
Like oxygen
I need your love

When the night has no end
And the day yet to begin
As the room spins around
I need your love

Like thunder needs rain
Like a preacher needs pain
Like tongues of flame
Like a sheet stained
I need your love

Like a needle needs a vein
Like someone to blame
Like a thought unchained
Like a runaway train
I need your love

Like faith needs a doubt
Like a freeway out
I need your love

Like powder needs a spark
Like lies need the dark
I need your love

In the heart of the heat of the love
In the heart of the heat of the love

Saturday, February 18, 2012

Saturday coffee scene

Only in Lexington, MA, at Peet's on Mass Ave on a dimming Saturday afternoon

Can I get annoyed by a college girl in leggings and clunky boots (Brandeis?  Bentley?  Can college kids really afford to live in Lexington?) bragging to a friend about how she rocked her audition for The Vagina Monologues at a volume level more appropriate for the stage

And when I wrench around with purpose to glare her into a more appropriate conversational tone for a public space, instead light upon the table between her and I,

Where sits a man of about 88, in trench coat and scally cap and thick glasses,  coffee cup and Science Magazine on the table before him, head slightly bowed as he balances on his cane, either dozing despite the vaginal racket or completely unfazed.

Both possible scenarios are impressive.

Friday, February 17, 2012

Keyword: Bikini

While I don't get any real jollies (or monetary recompense) for why or how or how many times my blog gets pinged, I was amused today, when perusing stat-checker totals, to see that a Canadian reader found this blog with the search term: Bikini Bones Woman (while acknowledging it ain't the first time the Bikini Challenges of yore have drawn clicks), so I entered the phrase into and, through the first 20 pages of the 5,590,000 results (as of this writing), this blog doesn't yet come up, so I searched the same under and out of those 5,580,000 results (as of this writing), the same, which begs the question,  what exactly was this guy looking for and how long did he have to scroll through medical links about female pubic bone disorders and photos of swimsuit-clad women bearing skull-and-crossbone flags before he got to me?

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

You're kidding. Someone else besides me mocks OKC profiles on a blog?

The first thing I saw on Facebook this morning was a status update from Michigan-friend Mike, who can always be counted on to put the driest spin on anything:
"Ah, February 14. The annual ritual that ends the day with me doing my taxes. :D"
I'm feeling slightly less cynical about Valentines this year ... my day started with a west coast text at 5:45 a.m. from MSF as he was getting into the shower. I've also a dinner date later with Student Driver; we were first reticent to make plans on a night we former restaurant workers like to refer to (yes, cynically) as "amateur night." However, she confirms a place she knows that "won't be filled with couples."

I'm not Anti-Couple, BTW.  I'm pro-No Hassles Dining Out Experience On A Major Holiday.

Speaking of SD, yesterday she so helpfully sent me a link to a blog she recently discovered: Inspecting Cupid.  As in:
"This blog is 80% humor, 17% advice, and 6% perspiration. It’s dedicated to translating a person’s OK Cupid profile into what will happen in real life if and when you decide to date said person."
Say no more. I was hooked at the stated concept. I became even more hooked when reading the Jan. 27 post title: "If I Answered the OKC Questions Honestly."  The first paragraph, "his" self-summary:
"I’m a 30-year-old “man” who lives with his parents and has over $150,000 in educational loans from a degree I’ll never use. Thanks in part to my diet and in part my poor genetics, I have horrible, earth-ending flatulence. I oscillate daily between bouts of egotism and self-pity, the former usually resulting from my masterful PS3 skills, the latter from just about everything else I do. I also tell a mean joke, though I do so with this highly affected pseudo-East Coast accent I developed while in college. You’ll get tired of it after 5 dates."
More recently: "Today's OKCupid Profile is Tomorrow's Awful Valentine's Day Date."
"... imagine a world where I am not only in a relationship, but I’m with someone I met off OKCupid. What then? Let’s get inspecting.

The text: [female, 26] (The first thing people usually notice about me) “My lack of coordination.”

The Valentine’s Day Date: You surprise her at home with a bouquet of flowers. So startled by the gesture, she tumbles backwards down the flight of stairs leading up to her apartment and breaks her arm. You spend the rest of the night in the hospital listening to her complain about how shitty Valentine’s Day is."
Whatever you think of the brand of humor, for obvious reasons "his" blog has now been hooked to "My Blog List" (at right) and updates will be appearing regularly.   Let the cross-polllination begin.

And, Happy Valentines Day.

Monday, February 13, 2012

Speak of the Devil

Well, no, I hadn't been speaking of him.

And, I hadn't been speaking of or to this (nicknameless) guy I saw several times in December 2009 and January 2010.  He has rarely entered my brainwaves since we bumped cluelessly by each other at the Boylston/Berkeley Starbucks (and he didn't acknowledge my hello) almost 2 years ago.

Yet, yesterday.  The other Starbucks on Boylston (755).  Just done doctoring my iced black eye and turning to walk away, I feel eyes on me.  Look to my left, and a man sitting next to the creamer station, scrolling on his iPad, with  beard, glasses and heavy coat is staring at me with purpose. 

My favorite kind of random Starbucks-on-Boylston guy. Not. I return to facing forward and head to my seat.

It's only 40 minutes later, once laptop is open and logged onto the shop wireless, that I see this message, sent nearly 40 minutes prior, via OKCupid:
Hey (Karin, yes?)

Good to run into you. I hope there are no ill feelings! You look good and I hope things are well.
No shit.

I turned to where he had been sitting.  He had already left.

There are no ill feelings, of course.  Click back to January and March 2010 for my ambivalent feelings (and his ambivalent return of such ambivalence) for the situation as it ended.  I simply had not recognized him.

As I theorized shortly thereafter in chatting with MSF, perhaps a reason Nicknameless and I never worked out was that -- nice and benign and as open to cuddling as he was -- he is the kind of guy who sees an old flame in a coffee shop and rather than sweeping up and greeting her and reintroducing himself, sends her an e-mail from 15 feet away.

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Oh, Whitney.

I got home from being out (with Joshua, for dinner and drinks in Cambridge) at 1:22 this morning, and had just hopped online for a good-night chat with MSF.
Karin: Hola.  Thanks for waiting.
MSF: Hey hey
K:  I had to read a few minutes about Whitney Houston dying...
MSF:  What does that mean?
K: Whitney Houston died earlier today.
MSF: Wow!
K: I know.  It's like Michael Jackson revisited.
MSF: [:laugh:] Yeah.  She was "found dead" Whoa.
me:  Oy. Sorry to be a buzz-kill...
MSF:  No sweat.  She's not much of a music influence on me.
Oy, indeed.  And Ugh.  Bleh.  Sigh.

Whitney.  Shit.  Please don't be a cliche of drug-spiralled pop stardom.  Please, really, don't be remembered primarily for this.  Don't be a punchline.

No slam on MSF .... but Whitney was a music influence on me.  In the era before internet radio in rural North Dakota, she was one of only a few major artists to infiltrate the playlists of me and my junior high female peers.

I remember wanting to perform a version of "How Will I Know" for the CHS Homecoming Lip Sync when in 7th grade, being usurped by a band of older girls who had already chosen it.  (Amazingly and inexplicably, my friend Patty and I covered a Phil Collins tune instead....)  So syrupy sweet with perm and big bow and fake-sax-playing dance partners and that sassy head bop.  The effortless energy and vocals.  So much defined what I wanted to be and was not.

For years, I cried every time "The Greatest Love of All" came on VH-1, at the final moment, when she strides to the wings and hugs her mother, that endless last note sailing into powerful vibrato. ("Find. Your. Strength ... in Love.")

Today I've choked up no less than a dozen times listening to her 1991 version of "The Star Spangled Banner" at Super Bowl XXV.  I was a senior in high school and the Gulf War pervaded every aspect of our lives that month and year, so shortly after the invasion of Iraq.   Seeing her power and dignity with that tune .... nothing ostentatious about it, just grounded and soulful ... was pitch-perfect for that moment in time.

Jeez.  Whitney even sang a song with that name .... for the Olympics in 1988 ... that has similar gravitas and only could succeed, and escape cheesiness, thanks to that voice.   And now I'm crying listening to that, on repeat.  

There is and was and will be no one like her.  Even if her downfall came in the most conventional of celebrity traps.

Friday, February 10, 2012

2-day weeks can be hell .... I discovered today. 

Even on a Friday, with the sun shining.

Some work got done.  (I could not in good conscience or in deference to my employers say otherwise in a public forum. :-)  But body and mind generally resisted all attempts to be motivated.  Apples & pb, my (boyfriend) Ben Folds' Pandora channel, strategic Tetris breaks ....  eh.   It could be that I scheduled my weekly long run of 11 miles tonight after work and ain't really feeling it.  It could be that all of my wearable clothes are dirty.  Or that tomorrow, the snow comes ....  and on Sunday, ostensibly, the cold.

It was a godsend, then, that Student Driver showed up in Gmail chat about 5:30, because she saved me from having nothing to blog about with the following:
Student Driver: OMG
Karin: ....
SD: I'm sitting across from this girl at [local coffee shop]
     for hours
     she needed a seat and
     I said she could share my booth
     barely chat
     then, somewhere, towards the end, we start chatting
     and it comes out that I date men, but used to be gay
     and she vice versa
     and she says....
     (you'll love this)
     ( ...)
     I read this great blog by this girl who was gay
     for 10 years and now only dates men
     so, I reached my hand across the table
     and introduced myself
     then she .... freaked out
     she said that she always thought I lived in NYC
 K: Well, you have a new blog entry, I guess....;)
     Fun stuff.
Even though I have some good deja vu scenarios because of this blog-- my favorite being when a date I didn't hit it off with went on to use his knowledge of my blog to pick up his subsequent OKC date, not to mention that Student Driver and I share unfortunate carnal knowledge of a certain scraggly Somervillian -- I can't stress how unlikely it is that, as one of this city's thousands of bloggers, Student Driver would be sharing a table at a coffee shop, one of this city's bajillion, with a regular, previously unknown reader .... who would know enough about it to bring it up in conversation with anyone, much less the author.

Worth mentioning, methinks.

Thursday, February 9, 2012


With good credit to MSF, I ate very well while in San Francisco for 5 days.  Two times to Zazie in Cole Valley for first gingerbread pancakes on Thursday and then eggs, homefries and French Toast Tahiti on Monday, the world's biggest burrito al pastor, the 4 tacos for $13 at Tacolicious on Valencia, the world's biggest can of Pabst Blue Ribbon at the Reggie Watts show, the world's most expensive ($14) cocktails at Top of the Mark, a relaxing Sunday-afternoon brunch at The Crepe Place in Santa Cruz, unsweetened cups of La Libertad at Ritual Coffee Roasters in the Mission, everything bagels with sliced avocado twice in NoPa, coffee-toffee ice cream and ice cream with mint-chocolate oreo chunks and flourless chocolate cake and sweet potato fries and In-N-Out burgers....

Yeah.  So much for being a saint on my January diet ... every last bit of it undone.  Albeit, happily and with gusto.

But the story here is the unendingness of my appetite since MSF and I parted ways Monday afternoon.  Starting with cans of Fat Tire Amber Ale on both flights to Minneapolis, sandwiching the platter of fried chicken tenders, coleslaw and a 20-oz Sam Adams Alpine Spring at the Denver airport.  Followed by a salmon scramble at the Longfellow Grill in Minneapolis the next morning.  And a full one-quarter of the below-pictured "snack plate" (note both peanut and peanut butter M&Ms behind)  during our family card game that afternoon.

Followed a couple hours later by several bowls of my sister's chicken chilli and more pita chips and another beer and German chocolate cake and cherry chocolate ice cream and, to end it, chocolate-covered bacon I'd picked up as a present in Santa Cruz.  And a hearty egg and waffle breakfast by Mom the next day.  And a "share-size" bag of Skittles on my first flight and a Hershey's candy bar on the second, sandwiching a large bowl of penne pasta, three slices of buttered bread and a chardonnay at Chicago O'Hare's premier Italian restaurant.  Not to mention what I consumed after I got home at 1 a.m..... a bag of microwaved kettle corn, two mini Luna bars, and a clementine.

I won't even begin to get into today at work.  But suffice to say it included BBQ chicken, Hershey's kisses, a croissant with a smear of sour cream, spoonfuls of peanut butter and handfuls of cereal.

Which is to say:

1)  Damn.  I've been hungry since I left San Francisco. 


2)  Amateur psychologists, all.... have at me.

Monday, February 6, 2012

7 Days of Bob: New Grandfather

(And now, Sister #2....)

*    *    *

I’m the science person in the family – not the writer. That said…

Wedding Day -- August 7, 2004

I’ve always felt blessed to have the father that I do – kind, generous, loving, interesting and interested, funny, likable. Being a grandfather has simply magnified those characteristics that I admire in my father.

69th birthday -- 2/7/2011

My sons are so fortunate to have a grandfather who is a regular part of their lives – always ready to read with them, do puzzles, cuddle, take a trip to the park, share a snack – and always willing to pull the EARLY morning shift on the occasions when he and mom come to be our fill-in daycare.

Great heads look alike:  reading with Henry.

Puzzles with Oliver.

BTW:  Bob has gained a new appreciation for the STRONG coffee that brews in our kitchen every morning. The first time he tasted it he quite literally spit it across the room. I’m not exaggerating. Now it is a staple of his early morning at the Habeck house.

We love you Bob / Dad / Papa Bob!

-- Missy, Chad, Henry & Oliver

Sunday, February 5, 2012

7 Days of Bob: Uncle Bob

I grew up with two Uncle Bobs in family parlance. The other was a Great Uncle by the technical definition and much farther away geographically.

But this Uncle Bob was close. Just 62 miles north of my hometown, those cousins and aunt and uncle are my second nuclear family.

And yet for years, Bob was a mystery to me. Completely and utterly.

For one, he's tall. Much taller (particularly to a child) than my average-height father. Louder. Booming voice, boisterous laugh. My father loves jokes but his laugh is less in the face than uttered or, more precisely, set loose as Bob's is. Bob's is contagious and clear: appreciated joy!

Business owner and Boss, Bob ran the newspaper. He had a large office, he walked the floor there with purpose and some measure of humility. I recall the old building and its machines from olden days, I recall helping to paint the new building (early '80s?). I recall picking up sticky paper bits from the floor, rolling them onto sheets, but not really knowing why other than that Bob needed or wanted it done and was willing to pay us. Adulthood has since explained the 'need' for jobs for little girls and an excuse to give them some pennies. I recall being a newspaperboy ("Extra, extra, read all about it!") for the Record-Herald's float in the 1984 Centennial parade. And I recall thousands of trips up to "the shop" when I was in Cando and we'd all go, just to stop in or for someone to cajole some pocket money for treats or a movie rental.

But, I always felt shy around Uncle Bob.  Even though I knew my cousins loved him, I just didn't know what to do with this tall, loud red-haired uncle. I watched, I wondered. I saw hugs, I watched him play cards and support family members.

Then one time, he bought my cousins a giant stuffed elephant, quickly christened Walter. And Walter was lounging in the entryway when I came to visit. And that was the first time I understood: Uncle Bob was whimsical. He was sweet on his daughters and cared for them deeply. That gift of an elephant peeled away a layer to Uncle Bob that allowed me a glimpse of who "Poopsie" was to them.

I later spent not just weekends or holidays up in Cando, but two full summers, as I worked on the seed potato crew and BobKat were gracious enough to host me for free. By that time, in college, I could hold real conversations and engage in serious topics (OJ's trial, sports, smalltown life and North Dakota politics). I saw a much more holistic picture of a man: father, newspaperman, son, husband, uncle, neighbor and community member.

And I enjoyed Bob. I enjoyed his unexpected wit and laughter, I admired his commitment and dedication to Cando and its people, I aspired to his knowledge of history and analysis of current events. And I reveled in finally understanding his humanity. And thus, my Uncle Bob became great Uncle Bob, too.

Happy Birthday to you!

--Cousin J

Saturday, February 4, 2012

7 Days of Bob: Accurate caricature

Dad was president of the North Dakota Newspaper Association nearly 20 years ago.  At his going-away banquet, the board gave him this framed, poster-sized cartoon composed by an old friend of my parents, Steve Stark of the Fargo Forum.  My sisters and I enticed Dad to pull it out a couple weeks ago so we could use it as the basis of a "remember-it's Bob's b-day" mailing.  

I think we had all forgotten how accurate the likeness is and was:  ... the ubiquitous turtleneck with grey sport coat, the red curls and the white beard, the rolling pica tape and the layout ruler in breast pocket, the Coke can, the paper-strewn desk, the honest enthusiasm in his smile.

Friday, February 3, 2012

7 days of Bob -- Still "Scoop"

For 30 years my parents owned the weekly newspaper in my North Dakota hometown, Cando. Dad trained as a teacher and taught high school English in Minnesota starting in 1964. In 1979 they bought the business from my grandparents, who themselves had owned it for 30 years after buying it from my great-grandfather ... who became editor many years earlier while still working as a Presbyterian minister and siring 6 children.

(Tangentially ... the story for years was, through college and for several years in the 1990s when I worked as a journalist myself, how and when I could potentially be the 4th generation owner. Considering I still have trouble balancing my checking account and have never made a single major financial purchase in my 38 years, it seems odd now .... as odd as it would have been for me to never have come to Boston. But I had emerged as the foremost writer in a generation of good writers. To not have my family be a part of the Towner County Record-Herald was once unthinkable. The closest I ever got to it was writing an MFA thesis, in 2002, about the family’s history with it and how I perceived my father felt --disappointed on a level, but circumspect and realistic-- about my inability to take on the life he had curated. He was incredibly patient taking my questions on the subject.)

My current career, in finance, takes up a lot of my time and energy and I enjoy it more often than I don’t. But it doesn’t entirely define me. Life small-town businessman defined my father. The man with the enormous camera bag and legal pad, ubiquitous at high school sporting events. Who spent his Saturday afternoons at the office doing the payroll and enlisted teenagers to develop and print all his photographs. ho advocated for Chamber of Commerce memberships and renovation of the crumbling World War I-era Audi (link) into an arts center. Who drove rural roads 90 to 100 miles a week to solicit advertising from the tiny cafes of Bisbee and Calio and the grain co-op in Churchs Ferry and, when the money trickled slower from those sources, the 72-miles round trip to Devils Lake. The man who rarely left town for more than a few days because there are 52 weeks in a year and a newspaper doesn’t get a vacation.

When Mom and Dad sold the Record Herald to another local publisher in late 2007, it was time. The children and grandchildren-to-be were 8 hours away in Minneapolis. The energy to keep up with the schedule had fallen back. There was a sense they needed to learn to do something else before they didn’t have the energy to learn how to do something else. So after years of considering it, in a quick year they made the business sale, made the house sale, and moved to Minnesota.

Dad now defines himself as a grandfather and frequent babysitter, as a singer in a men’s chorus, as a friend to many in the church where my parents have made a home. He struggles to find sharper focus, though, and I know this troubles him. He’d like to be known for more, to more people, even if he wouldn’t admit it. Thirty years as “Scoop” is a tough act to follow.

Thursday, February 2, 2012

7 days of Bob: A patient life (among women)

Yesterday, Kristin noted (accurately) that our dad is among the most patient of men. He grew up with a strong-willed mother and 2 sisters. He married Mom, herself strong-willed and one of 3 sisters; together they went on to have 3 daughters and, for a time, a female dog for a pet.

Coincidence? I’d like to think not although, only having met my father when in his mid-30s, I can’t firsthand analyze the chicken-egg order of said patience. The women I’m closest to who have known him the longest, Aunt Kathi and my mother, would probably testify to a history of acquiescing to female opinions around him. Or at the very least, a mature and healthy ability to listen our rationales for all things ... and realize that to fight them would be more pain than reward.

Noble on many levels. This has led to a level of patience bordering on conflict avoidance ... which in and of itself has been an occasional source of conflict over the years. After years of depending on Dad to be the guy who will go along with anything I (or my Mom or sisters or aunts) decide, I don’t really have the right to be frustrated when it takes what feels like eons for him to make a decision, eh?  Or do any of us?  We’ve helped shape his patience and need to have patience ourselves with what we hath helped wrought.

Dad smiles a genuine smile when he does, and he can look as perplexed or as pissed as anyone if provoked.  But this picture one I think best represents his typical countenance: bemused observance and reflection. (Or, were this a Sunday afternoon and there were a television to the far right of this picture and a PGA tournament in mid-stride .... zoned concentration.) 

We were gathered as a family, pre-grandchildren, for my parents’ 40th wedding anniversary in August 2005, on the North Shore of Minnesota. We chose the place not only because of the lake’s woodland beauty in the heart of summer, but because of the particular place it holds in my parents’ hearts: where they lived and worked for the 9-year period during which the 3 of us were born, when he was still in his first career as a high school English teacher, when they were a young couple learning to be parents of girls and making lifelong friends in the same position.

I imagine him here, the lake in his glasses, thinking of how much it means to him when he is with his daughters all together. Thinking of the times 30 years hence, in this place, when he used to have more influence over our decisions. In this late afternoon on a Saturday, a few years before retirement from owning the newspaper, how nice it is to have rare downtime from the business. How strange it feels to be the subject of a photograph when, so often in life, he was the photographer. Glad he could lounge in an Adirondack chair, unburdened for a few moments at least, waiting for whatever his women might decide to do next.

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

7 days of Bob: Say hi to "Poopsie"

Dad turns 70 on Tuesday, February 7 .... 7 days from today.

So ... what better time and excuse to provide 7 days of tribute to the inimitable Bob .... teacher, singer, golfer, editor, world-champion television-sports watcher, grandpa, unpaid family historian, advisor, quiet man in a sea of loud women and, like anyone who has made it to 70 successfully, so many, many more things.

You'll see tributes to the man in this space for the next week.  I've asked some other family members to chip in with their thoughts.  My older sister Kristin, a paralegal in Minneapolis, the girl whose birth made him a father back in 1971, goes first.
*    *    *

"For some reason that I can’t recall, I’ve always called my dad “Poopsie”…. I’m not sure when it started, but it had to be when I was in elementary school.

Not long after I learned to type, at least with two fingers, I was trying to figure out a way to finagle something from my dad … probably cash for some purchase that I wanted to make.  In an attempt to butter him up,  I worked up my request on one of the old Smith-Corona typewriters in the office and headed it with the now-immortal:
“To my dearest, darlingest, most wonderful, most handsome, most fabulous, amazing fantastic POOPSIE!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!”
(And yes, with that many, or more, exclamation points.)

Bob signs the final paychecks at the
Towner County Record Herald --
Dec. 2008 retirement party
I can't remember if my sucking up got me what I was seeking. But what I do know is my dad kept that typed note of flattery taped to the lamp at his desk at work for, truthfully, decades after I wrote it.

As editor of the county newspaper, Dad was able to satisfy his love of (almost) everything sports-related by being a constant fixture at the sidelines, courtsides and bleachers of most every high school sporting event in Towner County and beyond. Even though my sisters and I were might have rolled our eyes at it, he got a real kick out of the high school kids calling him “Scoop” – it was a title that he wore with obvious pride.

How Dad survived 20-plus years of being the only male in an entirely female-dominated household, I don't know. Even our first dog was a female. I have to give him lots of credit for putting up with my sisters' and my mother's mood swings, our petty disagreements, innumerable ballet costumes, prom dresses, hairspray-soaked bathrooms, and silly dinner table games.  (Frequently we would be sitting at the dinner table, already eating, when he arrived home from work, and rather than happily greet him someone might whisper “let’s go hide in the garage” or “let’s pretend we’re all asleep” or “let’s say body parts backwards and try to guess what they are."  Sinep, anyone?)

Dad – my "Poopsie" – is one of the kindest, most loving and most wonderful people I have the privilege of knowing .... even when he doesn’t bid on the King of Clubs and it's the last hand of Backstreet Bridge.

I wish him nothing by love, joy, laughter and happiness as he turns 70 years old. I feel very blessed to have him in my life.

Much love now and always,