Dear Santa

Hand-written letter handed to me this evening by my daughter who does not technically believe in Santa any more (grammar, wording, spelling, and footnote are all hers), following a day in which she and Matthew decided to save up for a keeshond puppy (our Sasha is a not-quite-four-year-old keeshond), and Joe and I told them that we would not be getting a puppy:

Dear Santa,
The things I want for Christmas are as follows. First I want, if you don't mind, about four feet of snow! I know weather really isn't your "thing" but I figure if anyone can get me what I want for Christmas it would be you! I mean, four feet of snow isn't really somthing you can bye at a store, if you know what I mean! Secondly I would like to have a keeshond puppy. I think you would know what a keeshond is from all of your *traveling. I know that I have very strange Christmas wishes. Most kids ask for a Wii or I-pod Touch but I ask for snow and a dog! I might be crazy but I am completely sane when I say that I only want these things.

Yours hopefully,
Emily Dugan

P.S. I'm sorry if I've spelled anything wrong.

* On Christmas Eve


My Public Apology to Baby Jesus

Dear Baby Jesus,

I know you're the "reason for the season." I understand that Advent is meant to be a time to gather one's thoughts and prepare for the coming of the Christ, both in our lizard-brain collective memory as well as for the Final coming. However, I just can't help myself but get all caught up in the trivial commercialized modern-day traditional trappings of Christmastime.

I love planning just what presents to buy, picking them out, wrapping them, placing them under the tree. I simply adore wandering through a few dozen acres of conifers looking for just the perfectly-sized, perfectly-shaped, perfectly-verdant Douglas fir. I drool over Martha Stewart holiday crafts and seasonal recipes. I DVR all the Christmas specials, even the ones I already own on DVD (which is many, many of them). I love a giant Christmas morning brunch, an even bigger ham dinner, platters of Christmas cookies, egg nog! I love labeling, writing, addressing, folding, stickering, and mailing dozens upon dozens of Christmas cards. I giggle and grin at the ever-more-Griswoldian Christmas light display in our yard and on our house.

I just love all the fun stuff and hustle and bustle that comes along with Christmas.

Sure, we have multiple nativity sets around the house, mixed in with the Santas and the snowmen. Sure, we attend Sunday church services, sing in the choir, and pray regularly.

But, somehow, the real true meaning of Christmas for me isn't really the birth of the Savior so much as it is a celebration of Family, of togetherness, of creating and maintaining traditions for our kids. I know those are all virtuous things, but I cannot help feeling more than a little angsty and guilt-ridden for not feeling that light-from-within feeling that so many of my friends seem to find so readily. And in all this creating- and passing-on of traditions, am I really neglecting the most important one of all?

I'm sorry, Baby Jesus, for not putting you first this holiday. I'm going to try to make a better effort this year and to really think about the real gift we all received You and Your Father. And, regardless of whether it really happened in December or not, celebrate You this season.



Almost Done!

Christmas countdown banner

Not to freak you out or anything.

Well, a little maybe. Hee-hee! Sorry.

Anyway, I'm gloating a wee, tiny bit because I'm very nearly done. All the Christmas shopping I can do by myself as been finished, and Joe and I took the kids out today to buy for each other and the opposite parent. Joe and I still have to go out for goodies for the kids Advent Countdown giftbags* and Joe's and the kids' stockings**.

Adding to that, the outside of the house is mostly decorated, as well. The lights are on the roof, the lights are everywhere, really. The wreaths and gardland are hung. Even the candy cans lane is running across the front yard. We haven't turned anything on yet (we're not that freakish), but it seemed we should take advantage of the mild weather we've been having.

This quick week will fly by and then our biggest holiday traditions of all will be upon us. After giving thanks with Joe's family, we'll return home for the Millville holiday parade (YAY!). Then on Sunday, we'll select, cut down and decorate our tree, as well as the rest of the interior of the house (decorating, that is ... we won't be selecting or cutting down a new interior).

Other holiday traditions around here: annually ordering beef-stick, cheese spread and baklava squares from Figis. An occasional December dinner will consist of these goodies, Triscuits, egg nog, apple cider and Christmas cookies. Yeah, baby!

We're bummed about not hosting a Christmas party this year, but when under-employed one has to cut corners where one reasonably can. Hopefully we can have some friends over now and then throughout the season.

Our biggest objective this year is to slow down and enjoy the holiday and each other's company more. Traditional celebrations, board games, food. That sort of thing. I'll let you know how that pans out. In the meantime ... I'm (almost) DONE!


* We do something vaguely like this, but instead with craft-paper giftbags that sit along the knee-wall ledge in our family room. Each morning of December (yes, I know Advent starts on November 28 this year), the kids may open a bag to find some spare change, a little candy, or a small trinkety toy (like we really need more of those around the house). Small potatoes, really, but the kids love it.

** The jig is up at Chez Dugan regarding Santa. We've come to the general consensus that Santa is an idea or spirit or mood that comes into fruition on Christmas Eve and that we can all enjoy sharing goodwill, generosity, and so forth by being Santas for each other.


Halloween Fun

Joe and I were invited to participate in a lovely Halloween event yesterday. We were cast as Mary Shelley and Dr. Frankenstein's monster (click for a video clip taken by a local reporter). There were a bunch of others from Mystic Realms acting other parts and performing various literature-based Halloween stories, with moral lessons for the kiddos. Ours was sharing and friendship. In the video, the monster was making friends by sharing (albeit reluctantly) some candy. This gallery has some more pictures from the event (I can't get the gallery to work except in Internet Explorer). I've posted the gallery pics* of us in this post, but if you want to see some others (mixed in with some Trick-or-Treating pics around the area), feel free to click through

It was a gorgeous day to be outside and Joe was an amazing entertainer. He had hordes of kids following him around, playing with him, giving him hugs. I felt like a Disney World costumed character handler. We had the best time!


ps. For the record, as he's not in any of these pics, Matthew was Obi-Wan Kenobi. :)

* Thank you to The Daily Journal.com.


A Flibbertigibbet, a Will-o-the-Wisp, a Clown!

We had the best time last night!*

We drove up to Cherry Hill to attend a movie event: The Sing-Along Sound of Music!

The theatre had a pretty good-sized crowd in it, and they were an animated bunch. Somehow the liberty of singing along also gives people the freedom to cheer (the marionettes), laugh (Maria and the children falling in the lake), comment snarkily (the Baroness) throughout the film.

The movie was wonderful, of course. I'd never before seen it on a big screen. It was an amazing and wonderful experience. When the camera finishes swooping through Austria, turns a corner in the Alps, and I finally caught a glimpse of a tiny Julie Andrews, I gasped and actually teared up a little. The feeling was akin to the sensation I got hearing the 20th Century Fox fanfare at the re-release of episode IV of Star Wars. The film's been super mega digitally restored, in both sound and picture. The detail and colors were stunning.

The sing-along words at the bottom were occasionally distracting (in the super close-up of Maria's face during "Something Good," the words were scrawled across her chin), but overall is was a fantastic experience. Matthew has spent all morning singing "How Do You Solve a Problem Like Maria?"

If ever there's a re-showing of this event in your area, do it, do it, do it!


*Sadly, the mood is significantly bleaker this morning. It was a late outing for a school night. And, the combination of Joe's head/chest congestion and the humid clamminess everywhere resulting in nightmares,** so it was approximately the worst no-infants-in-the-house night's sleep we've ever had.

** Which included a gasping-startle-awake followed by grabbing Joe and frantically whispering, "There's someone in the house!" Which led to him jumping out of bed like I'd dumped ice water on him. Several quiet and terrifying moments later, he returned to give the all-clear. But his adrenaline-fueled body was miles from sleep and he decided to just stay up at that point (roughly 5:30 a.m.).


Crafty Update

The Mary Shelley jacket is complete. It's a bit snugger through the upper arms than I wuld like and is a bit more bolero styled than I would normally prefer, but I think those are simply due to the style of the jacket. It's not like I'm going to just wear it out and about, so I'm not concerned. It's not bad enought that I'm going to bust through the princess seams, Hulk-style, so no real worries. Hopefully, I get some pics of it this afternoon.

The repurposed sweater blanket(s) proceed(s) apace. I have an enormous stack of sweaters now. I have felted (fulled) them and cut them apart. Ribbed hems, cuffs and collars have been removed, as well as button/zipper plackets on the cardigans. I've also cut the components apart at the seams. My rotary cutter should come from Amazon today and then we'll be in business.

Finally, I almost forgot one additional project. I know! I purchased fabric last night for Matthew's Halloween costume. He's going to be a Jedi (old school with the brown robe and beigey undertunic). The deal is that I make the costume while Joe has to make the light saber. I have the much simpler deal, though I think I shortchanged myself a bit on the fabric, so I'm not sure we have a hooded robe in our future. Matthew's knowledge of Jedis consists of one viewing of the original Star Wars, about two years ago, and extensive playing of Lego:Star Wars on the Xbox, so I'm not sure he'll even notice the absence of a hood.

I feel so dang crafty/productive lately. Pics soon, I promise.

To tide you over:

A turkey I knitted last fall

and, a sweater I made for my niece, Rachel.



Just Crafty Stuff

Have nearly finished making an awesome Victorian-esque jacket for my Halloween costume (using the view in the upper right corner, View A). I'll be gracing the Wheaton Arts Halloween Trick-or-Treat-a-ganza as Mary Shelley. Joe will be my Frankenstein's monster. We'll be spreading lessons of friendship along with our sugary treats.

Knitting this afghan. Twelve squares (out of forty-eight) done. Using a neutral fisherman cream color.

Finished: a hat for my nephew. Knitting a matching sweater, like this, but in grey, red and green.

Also in the works is a felted wool quilt/blanket. Repurposing and home-felting wool sweaters from Goodwill. Yeah!


ps. Pics of my actual progress to be posted when the light is good enough to get some nice images.


My Public Apology to Spring, Summer and Winter

Dear Seasons That Are Not Fall*,

You got nothin'. I love Fall. Love it, love it, love it! And there are a number of ways you simply don't measure up to the glory of Fall.

Let's see ... weather. Spring, you can be very pleasant here in South Jersey. In fact, I've never enjoyed you even half as much as I do here. Your flowering bulbs, your hints of warm breezes, your sunshine and lengthening hours of daylight. Yeah, they're all terrific. Summer, fuhgeddaboudit. I don't like hot. I don't like humid. I don't like biting and stinging insects (which, let's face it ... in South Jersey droves of mosquitos almost count as their own weather patterns). You have them all. In spades. No dice. Winter. Well, you're close. In some parts of the country. If I can have snow and crisp blue skies and icy cold air that makes the inside of my nose crinkle up when I step outside, then you're the Best. But, otherwise? With the grey and the sleet and the freezing rain. No thank you.

But fall? Your crisp, cool sleep-with-the-windows-open nights. Your bright, sunny, bluer-than-blue skies. The absolute drop in moisture content of the air? Oh, yeah. That's what I'm talking about.

How about activities? Spring, well you have Easter and taking walks outside after being cooped up all winter long. But, you also have filing 1040 forms and piles of yard work. Not gonna cut it. Summer? You have plenty to do. Beach, Boardwalk, camping. But with the heat, the humidity and the bugs you make any of those activities akin to torture. I don't like hot. I don't like sticky. I don't like itchy. And on a slightly related note, I don't like sand and grittiness. You do have minor league baseball, which is almost enough by itself to redeem you. Almost. Winter, you have plenty of fun things to do, too. Provided that I lived somewhere with lots of snow. And hills. Which I don't. Sleet, freezing rain and flat terrain do not for a fun-filled winter make.

Fall wins it by several lengths with its leaf pile romping, football games, school activities, baseball playoffs, costuming, pumpkining.

Let's get down to brass tacks, though. A big hunk of this decision comes down to fashion and body image. I love fall clothes. I adore jackets, corduroy, plaid, argyle, jeans, short skirts with opaque tights. Giant winter sweaters and snow/slush boots, not so much. Light and floaty summer dresses, I don't think so. Pale pastel spring frocks? Definitely not. I want to cover up enough of my body to disguise its middle aged lumps and sags. And I want to cuddle up in cozy fabrics that aren't completely bulky and shapeless.

Fall, you got it all.

Sorry to the rest of you. Better luck next time,

* Not "autumn," unless referring to the equinox.


Life in the Fast Lane

Dugan Family Activities this Fall

Joe: teaching full-time at Cumberland County College, spending one day a week doing Doctoral Math stuff at Drexel (an hour+ away), singing in the church choir, starting a new bicycling exercise regimen, parenting (especially full-time on Thursday nights when I have class)

Emily: starting at the middle school for the first time (6th grade), band (French horn), chorus, GT, Girl Scouts, piano lessons, church choir

Matthew: fourth grade, football practicing and games, piano lessons, starting band for the first time (baritone horn), Cub Scouts, church choir

Myself: teaching very-nearly-full-time at Cumberland County College, starting my Master's in English Lit at Rutgers-Camden (an hour away), Ticket Chair for Cumberland Players theatre company, church choir, trying to walk Matthew to school more days than not (2 miles one way), parenting (especially full-time when Joe has classes ('til 5pm most days, 'til 10pm Mondays and Wednesdays))

We're busy. However, in our spare time (read: when the homework, music practice and grading is all done), we like to:
  • read (especially Emily, especially kid fantasy-type novels like Harry Potter et al; Matthew's more into magazines; as for Joe & I ... we only wish we had time to read for fun at the moment. We're pretty much stuck in textbook land.), 
  • play computer games (everyone...Xbox (Lego Rock Band for all of us, Lego Harry Potter, Star Wars and/or Indiana Jones for the kids) and the computer (lately Caesar 3 is the game of choice for the whole family)), 
  • knit (just me...working on an afghan)
  • play (mostly with the dog in some wrestly format or another)
  • watch TV (Between the Eagles and the new seasons, the DVR is busy with shows too many and varied to list; that's a whole 'nother blog post)

I don't claim we're any busier than anyone else. I just wish that my favorite time of the year by leaps and bounds allowed me enough free time to actually enjoy it that way I'd like to. It always bums me out when another fall has slid into the grey twilight season of pre-winter and I've missed the whole crisp, sunny, colorful thing.




It may seem as though I'm coming late to the whole Podcasting game, but this is actually more of a second-go-'round. I've tried Podcasting a few things in the past, but found that I never had even half the time necessary to listen to all the stuff rapidly filling up my iTunes folders.

So, now I'm commuting to Rutgers-Camden once a week for my Master's course. (hopefully in this future this will read "courses," as in plural) On the way up, it's All Things Considered, baby, but on the way home, I just don't have the patience for flipping stations through the songs I don't like to find the songs I do like (Ben-FM out of Philly wins most times, for those of you keeping score at home ... but after years and years of DVR-ing TV, I've lost all patience whatsoever for radio commercial breaks.). I'm also hoping to do more walking/listening to my iPod and less walking/talking on the phone ... kinda trying to wean myself off my cell phone, as that may soon become an expense I can no longer afford, but that's a whole 'nother blog post.

Consequently, I'm back to podcasting. So far I've subscribed to way more than I can possibly listen to. Here we go again. But, I'm in the trying-it-out-and-then-winnowing-out-the-chaff phase. I have mostly NPR: Science Friday, On the Media, The Weekend Edition Sunday Puzzle, RadioLab, All Songs Considered, Only a Game, and the 90-Second Naturalist. Other than that, there are a few from HowStuffWorks.com: Stuff You Should Know, Stuff You Missed in History Class, Tech Stuff, and Stuff From the Science Lab.

I'd love something literature-based (the Master's will be in English lit, specializing in British 18th Century and earlier, generally ... American lit pre-Civil War I can tolerate, as well as a bit of other European lits no later than mid-19th century ... but I'll be focusing, scholastically on the Brits). Even book reviews, though I never have time to read a book these days. Knitting, theatre and travel are other topics of interest.

Anyway, have any ideas for me???? Puh-leeeze? Let me know what's on your mobile media device.





Thanks, Adrienne! This cracked me up. A lot. I even read it out loud to my mom. Who kinda didn't get it, over the phone and all. But .... FUNNY! Earned the blog a spot on my links.



My Public Apology to My Skin

Dear Skin,

Sure, I know you're the "largest organ in [my] body." I learned that little tricky tidbit ages ago from some snide classmate quizzing me on trivia in order to show up one of the gifted kids.* I know that there are some very simple ways to nurture you.
  1. Drink lots of water. I try to. I go through nice long habit-forming streaks of filling a gallon jug with water in the morning and working to polish it off by bedtime. It goes great while it lasts. Though I'm not sure it lasts long enough to make any real difference to you.
  2. Get plenty of sleep. I'm a mother and a wife. That's all I'm going to say on that point.
  3. Don't pop pimples. Seriously? Everyone ignores this one. And everyone pretends they adhere to it vigorously and that they're grossed out by everyone else's popping. OK, maybe we all ignore it and yet are also grossed out by everyone else.
  4. Avoid touching your face with your hands. Wha? Like I should wear gloves when I touch my own face? Not lean on my left hand while I surf the Nets? Not rub my eyes (please see #2)? Not pop pimples? (Oh, wait. Right.)
  5. Keep hair away from your face. I wear bangs to cover my ridiculously high forehead. Always will. Deal with it.
  6. Wear sunblock and sunglasses all the frakking time. All right, I paraphrased that one. But it's all right, because this one I'm actually now pretty good about. I have major glare issues in my eyes the last few years. I keep spare pairs of sunglasses everywhere and wear them unless it's actually the dead of night. And I keep sunblock in my house, my purse, and my car and apply it generously.
However, there's nothing in my routine that I'd call a skin-care regimen. I use whatever body gel they have on sale at Target that doesn't "smell too girly" (Joe and I share). I use Clinique's Dramatically Different Moisturizer on my face when it feels tight across my cheeks (which probably already means it's too late). But that's pretty much it.

I mean well, skin. I really do have good intentions. I buy luxurious Bath & Body Works body creams and use them diligently for about a week after I get them. You drink in the moisture and revel while it lasts, I'm sure. I buy grape seed masks and enjoy the peel-away-the-gross-ick-from-my-pores feeling on a regular basis until company comes over. Then everything on the bathroom counter gets tidied into cupboards to be forgotten. I'm a big proponent/victim of that whole out-of-sight-out-of-mind thing.

I buy my Clinique moisturizer during Bonus Time so I can get sample sizes of all the new and latest technologically advanced skin-care goos, creams and gels. I use them for a few days and pretend I can already see how youthfully glowing you have become. But then ennui or fatigue or amnesia sets in and stuff gets shoved aside and forgotten.

If you weren't already so good to me, skin, maybe I'd take more care of you. But you've always been rather clear and youthful. Recently I'm beginning to realize that your pale creaminess** is becoming increasingly marred with freckles I've never seen before, scars of baking accidents long past, and *gasp* wrinkles that don't subside when my facial expressions do. In a middle- and high-school world of girls with great hair, great legs, great teeth, great boobs, "I'd kill to have great skin like yours!" always seemed like the Miss Congeniality award of teen beauty.

I suspect that taking care of you is rather a too-little-too-late proposition at this point. But I'm going to give it a go. For real this time. Honest. I'm going to drag out all the bottles, tubs, jars and tubes, check all the expiration dates, and use all those products like the love child of Ponce de Leon and Nicholas Flamel and stick to a regimen for once.

Sure I will. Until company comes over.

I'm sorry, skin.

*Yeah, how much does that suck. "You think you're so smart? Well, [insert bizarre question they heard on Ripley's Believe it or Not the night before] Do you know that? Huh? Yeah, you're not so smart." Cue the further weakening of the already fragile 5th grade girl's self-esteem.

**If we were placed on this map, I think we'd be somewhere between that milky cream color and the zombie-like grey. Maybe in summertime we creep down from the tundra toward rosy pink.


My Public Apology to the Banana

Dear Banana,

You are an ideal fruit, from what I'm told. You replenish electrolytes. You contain three natural sugars for a quick energy boost. You're easy to serve, what with your handy peel and all. Your attractive shade of yellow makes it abundantly clear when you're not-nearly-ripe, not-quite-ripe, perfectly ripe, time-for-banana-nut-bread-ripe, and whoa-Nelly-how'd-this-banana-hide-in-the-bottom-of-the-fruit-bowl-this-long?-ripe.

I'm sorry I went years without buying or eating one of you.

But, you see, it's not really my fault. It's my toddler daughter's fault. Really. Her wild-abandonment-passion for you necessitating a daily (or more often) serving of bananas just at the age when all meals required bite-size-chopping followed by pincer-gripping, smearing, mushing, shampooing, nostril-stuffing, etc of all foodstuffs did me in. Well, all that aromatic and slimy banana drama coupled with the oversensitive nasal passages of my pregnant body ... it did me in.

So, there you are ... equal blame between my two kids. Not really my fault at all. Nope. Nada. Zilch. Zero.

Still, I'm sorry.

Starting in the first trimester of my second pregnancy (say, Thanksgiving 2000), I could no longer stand the smell of you. You were everywhere, in every orifice, skin fold, crevice, pore of my tiny daughter's body. Every day. Sometimes twice. You were slimier than the nastiest diaper change, the gooey-est used tissue. It got to the point where I had to pinch my nose shut with one hand, wrestle my fortunately-light toddler out of her high chair with one hand and whisk her squirming, you-slippery body right into the bathtub; stripping her naked and rinsing her off all one-handed. Otherwise ... the gagging, the ineffectual retching, the nausea for hours. Not fun.

I expect the phase to pass, but it didn't. In fact, it got bad enough that I just couldn't do it any more. Just the act of pulling one of you off the bunch and starting to peel you would unleash a Pavlovian gag reflex of anticipation. Eventually, all banana-related activities fell firmly into a paternal jurisdiction.

Even after the baby was born, I still couldn't approach you. I was just starting to think of a mind-over-matter approach to getting over this phobia when my second-born entered the gross-out phase of eating and the whole thing started all over again.

By the time my baby had turned three and mastered some level of cutlery control, I decided that enough was indeed enough. It was time to re-introduce bananas into my life. But, I tell you, banana, it was rough.

I had to start with that most-wonderful-yet-not-terribly-authentic banana treat ... banana-pudding-in-a-Nilla-wafer-crust pie. YUM! I thought I was on a roll. But, nope....still couldn't tolerate peeling the real thing without a gorge-rising reaction. sigh and Grrr...

Baby steps. Three baby steps forward and two baby steps back. Over and over again.

It took time. Years, in fact. Eventually I could eat an actual banana. Just did today, in fact. You're pretty yummy. But there's still a moment, a pause, a doubt each and every time, "Can I do this?"

I'm sorry, banana. You have many wonderful qualities, but you're just never gonna hold that special place in the fruit bowl of my heart any more.

A-peel-ing to your better nature (oh so uncalled for....),



My Public Apology to Bert

Dear Bert,

Well, not the real Bert, but the plastic Bert. The one from our Fisher Price Sesame Street Clubhouse playset. You were the unfortunate victim of our childhood version of Poohsticks, gone wrong.

Remember? Chris and I used to wait until spring or after a heavy summer rain and then drop things in the rushing water flowing through the ditch in front of our house. We'd then race across the driveway to watch for the stuff to come caroming out the other side. Sticks. Unusual leaves. Small plastic figurines ...

Which is where you came in. We'd long ago outgrown actually playing Sesame Street, and I don't think we even had the building anymore. But, we still held on to some of the Little People. I remember Ernie, Gordon, Oscar the Grouch, Big Bird, Susan (I just looked her up ... try Googling 'black Sesame Street woman married to Gordon' and see what you come up with) and you. That's all I can remember.

Anyway, if you recall, the ditch in our area was deep and narrow. Basically a backhoe would come through every couple of years and dig a trench down the sides of Fry Road. So after a rain, or the Spring Thaw, the ditch was a rapid torrent of water hurrying toward Elk Creek then Lake Erie then Niagara Falls through the Saint Lawrence Seaway to the Atlantic Ocean.

Chris and I were dropping things in the ditch, running to the other side and collecting them, returning to the uphill side of the driveway, dropping them back in and repeating this process ad nauseum. Until disaster struck. You got away from us.

I remember running alongside the water, trying to reach for you, dodging low-hanging tree branches, just missing you with our fingertips until (Dun-dun-dun) we reached the property line. We stopped cold at the boundary marker and just watched helplessly as you floated away downstream.

Why didn't we keep chasing after you? I'm not really sure. It's not as though Chris and I never broke any rules. It's just that some rules seemed more like suggestions, but somehow the "Stay Out of the Osterbergs' Yard" rule was etched indelibly on our minds. We dared not follow after you. We dared not take another step. We were actually pretty upset at your loss.

We consoled ourselves for the next few days by following your progress in our minds. "Bet Bert's in Elk Creek by now!"

"Mom, do you think Bert is over Niagara Falls by now?"

"Dad, do you think a fish would eat Bert?"

We were convinced your buoyancy was infallible, that you'd follow the waterway to its eventual ending in the Atlantic Ocean. Is that what happened to you?

In any case, I hope things turned out all right, and I'm sorry we didn't try harder to save you. If it means anything, one of the first toys I eBayed for my own children was a vintage Sesame Street Clubhouse. Complete with its own Bert. We don't have a ditch in front of our house.

My apologies,


My Public Apology to Mark

Dear Mark,

You're a good guy. Very patient. Thank you for listening to my existential mid-life crisis (your words) crap. I'm sorry I can be such an insecure freaking mess.

Pulling myself up by my bootstraps and getting on with it,


My Public Apology to Saegertown, PA

Dear Borough Leaders,

I'm sorry I stole one of your street signs back in 1990. Sure, I could blame peer pressure, the recklessness of youth, etc, but really the fault is mine.

I was driving around with my ex-boyfriend and one of his friends (Hi, Tony! Hi, Geoff!). I don't even remember where we were coming from. But, I do know I didn't want to just drop them off and end the evening. I was still in the Denial Phase of the ex-boyfriend situation. That phase lasted almost as long as the relationship did, come to think of it.

Anyway, I was driving my parents' car, and my Dad, Mister Super Boy Scout that he is, always has a tool kit and other just-in-case stuff in the car. I think Geoff might have noticed the tool kit under the front seat and commented on it. I'm embarrassed to admit that I think it was my idea to use the tools to take some street signs. I wanted to seem like more of a trouble-seeking fun girl than the teacher's pet, goody-goody I really was.

We drove all around southern Erie and northern Crawford counties, looking for good prospects. You know -- interesting sign, busted street light, isolated country road.... We got our routine down to a well-drilled sign-stealing system. We'd drive by, discuss the prospects of a given opportunity for about another half-mile, I'd make a U-turn and we'd pull up to the sign. After I'd stopped the car, the guys would jump out with the tools, and I'd run around back and pop the trunk. They'd double-team the nuts and bolts (which we'd thriftily screw back onto the sign posts). They'd throw the sign in the trunk, and I'd already be back behind the wheel ready to speed away (without looking like we were speeding away ... you know ... flying casual). We could have evolved into the Bonnie and Clyde ... and Clyde of Northwestern Pennsylvania.

At one point, Tony had a couple of decent-sized signs, and Geoff was trying to disassemble one of those orange-striped warning barrier thingies. He really just wanted the big blinker light assembly off the top of it. At some point he gave up and we helpfully placed it over a pothole.

We really wanted one of the No Skateboarding on the Sidewalk signs we saw, but (alas!) they were all in well-traveled, well-lit areas.

Eventually, the guys noticed that I didn't have any souvenirs for the evening and started egging me on to pick something out. I reminded them that my parents would freak if I walked in with a big ol' street sign. I had to have something that would fit in my purse. (Granted, it was a giant 80s purse, so there was some leeway there.)

I have to admit that before this little episode of hooliganism, I never fully realized just how large street signs are. I had no idea that stop signs are almost 30-inches across. I mean, I get it that visibility is important. But, these things are BIG. And heavy.

Well, long story short, I wound up with a small street sign. The smallest one we could find, in fact. We especially liked its slightly salacious wording.

It graced my college dorm room for years. I perched it on a windowsill near my desk when I got my own apartment. In fact, I still have it. It's sitting not 18 inches from my left elbow. At some point my children will notice that it's a street sign and ask where I got it. Thus will begin another in what will undoubtedly be a long line of do-as-I-say-not-as-I-do lessons.

In any case, please accept this apology. If you want, I could send you the $10.95 to replace it.



My Public Apology to the Roman Gods

Dear Jupiter, Mars, Venus, Juno, et al,

I'm sorry, but you don't impress me all that much.

The Greek gods just seem way cooler than you do. They have far more interesting names (Zeus, Area, Aphrodite, Hera ...), and because of someone's idea of naming the planets in our solar system after you, well ... your names just aren't all that recognizable as your own names.

I mean, when I hear the word "Mars," my first thought is something like this:

Not you:

I recognize that's not really your own fault, but well, common knowledge of our day makes you seem kind of like you copied the planet names and tried to horn in on their notoriety. Every first grader learns the names of the planets, but by the time we hit mythology in middle school? You just seem like copy cats.

Speaking of copying, what's with essentially stealing all your good stories from the Greeks? You Roman gods started out rather generic, with no cool adventures to claim as your own. But then your Roman worshipers discovered the awesomeness that is Greek mythology and decided to just give your names to their characters and run with it. Zeus disguises himself as an eagle and seduces Earth chicks .... voila! Jupiter disguises himself as an eagle and gets it on with his own mortal babes.

I'm sorry, but I just don't respect you for that. Go out and do your own thing, for crying out loud! C'mon, Jupiter, disguise yourself as a wolf or a bear or GQ model or something and wreak some original havoc.

"But it's not our fault," I hear you whine, "Our followers did this to us. We were just minding our own business." Not buying it. You're freaking gods. Stay on top of your game, folks. Keep a more omniscient ear on what people are saying about you.

Sorry, Roman pantheon (dang, even that word is Greek and not Roman), I'm just not impressed.



My Public Apology to My Cat

Dear Dottie,

You're totally getting short shrift from me lately. Lately being, oh say ... the last three years. Ever since Sasha arrived in my life.

Let me start by saying that for the first 35 years of my life, I'd always been a cat person. As a girl, I loved our family cat and could honestly take or leave the dog. I would entice the cat into my room so she'd sleep with me. I relished knowing that my bed soon became her favorite place to sleep.

And, you should know that in my adult life, we've always had cats. Franklin, the fluffy orange tabby. Frederick, the overweight bullseye tabby. Zoe, the neurotic and paranoid and freakish pale grey tabby. And now you. our quasi-tortoiseshell tabby with the orange forehead dot.

You slept on our bed; you cuddled with us on the couch; you wound around my legs while I cooked. But not anymore. Not much anyway. You're just not comfortable with the dog. You avoid her areas of the house. I get it. She's rather exuberant with wanting to be your absolutely bestest friend in the universe. She doesn't take a swat in the nose for an answer. She keeps trying to get to know you better, whining and wiggling at you whenever she sees you.

It may not work on you, but it sure has worked on me. Sasha's wiggled her way into my heart. I trained her, housebroke her, took her for hundreds upon hundreds of miles of walks. She listens to me best and is, frankly, my dog. I've never had a my dog before. I didn't realize what that was like. I had no idea.

Dottie, you're a terrific and wonderful cat, but your charms are nothing on the deep and abiding affection of a well-behaved, intelligent dog. I love you, cat, and all the half-eaten, disemboweled gifts I find in my bare feet at least once a week. Honestly, I appreciate the thought. But, I have to be frank. You fill a smaller wedge in the pie chart of my heart than you used to.

Don't miss me too much. Emily is thrilled that you sleep on her bed every night, and I know she's a cat person because of it. She's all yours.

In any case, please accept my sincere apology,


My Public Apology to People I Call/Text When I'm Walking

Dear Friends and Family (except my Mom, because she kinda likes it),

I know it's hard to hear me when I'm walking along and the wind and passing trucks make giant whooshing noises into my Bluetooth. I know I don't always have all that much to say and that I'm basically looking for a walking buddy. I know.

I like walking, but it gets boring. And lonely.

But that's not your fault, nor your problem. I'll try to refrain more.

I'm sorry,


My Public Apology to My Maiden Name

Dear Schierer,

OK, so I was wrong about you. Schierer. S-C-H-I-E-R-E-R. Schierer. Pronounced roughly "sheer," but with maybe the tiniest extra "r" at the end. "Sheerr."

Not "shire" or "sheer-er" or as printed on my sophomore year book, "Schlerer." Certainly not "SHRY-er" or "SHRY-rer-rer."

I honestly used to blame you. That you were just a difficult and complicated name. That your Germanic ethnicity and redundant final letter pair confused people.

Now I realize it's not your fault. People just don't pay attention to name pronunciation conventions. People just don't try. Nor do they ask for help when uncertain.

When I married, I gladly traded you in for the simple and vastly more common, "Dugan." Heck, Dugan ranks in the top 1600 most common names in the U.S. (Whereas Schierer comes in around 58,000, with only 329 occurrences in the entire 2000 U.S. Census. I'm probably related to all of them.) The surname even has its own Wikipedia entry. Short, sweet, simple. DOO-gun.

I figured the days of telemarketers mispronouncing my name on the phone were behind me forever.

I figured wrong. Oh, so wrong.

We regularly get calls for the DUGG-uns, DURG-uns, DOWG-uns, even duh-GANS. Callers even add extra syllables, asking for the "O' DOOG-uns." And that's just the phone mistakes. Junk mail and spam e-mail folks seem to think it's not even our last name. My son has received things addressing him as "Mr. Dugan Matthews." Not a bad-sounding name, I have to admit, but wrong, wrong, wrong.

So, Schierer ... I realize it's not your fault. I was way to eager to shed you for a simpler name. It honestly never occurred to me that it wasn't you, it was everyone else.

My apologies,


My Public Apology to Jogging

Dear Jogging,

I try to like you. I know you are a great form of exercise, that you would get my heart pumping and my blood flowing and all that. I know I could get just as much if not more work-out out of my work-out in substantially less time if I employed you instead of your more plebeian sibling, walking.

But I just don't like you. I don't like the way my thighs jiggle when I jog. Believe me, I understand that if I jogged more my thighs and belly and countless other jiggly spots on my body would firm up and solve this problem. But, I just can't seem to get past it long enough for that to happen.

And, maybe it's a lack of appropriately athletically supportive foundation garments, but I absolutely loathe the more than a little painful jouncy feeling you elicit in my chest. I mean, I'm no Dolly Parton, but yeesh -- give a girl a break. I shouldn't have to wrap myself in Ace bandages to comfortably perform an activity.

Don't get me wrong, I try to like you; I really do. I envision myself crossing the finish line of a marathon, exhausted but exhilarated after 26.2 miles of slow but steady jogging. I picture myself in the ranks of fellow joggers, passing on the shoulders of neighborhood roads, nodding slightly out of breath, but my aren't we getting in shape? greetings to one another. Visualization doesn't seem to work in this case, though. I just can't shake disliking you.

I walk as fast as I possibly can without breaking into a jog. I start to employ that exaggerated sport-walking gait, a la Cary Grant in Walk, Don't Run, but like a good sulky racer, I refuse to break stride.

So, sorry, jogging. I know you're a good form of exercise and I know you have many adherents, but I'll never, ever be one of them. Don't hold it against me, all right?



Blog-Free Zone

I don't know why I don't care to blog much anymore. I think Facebook has something to do with it, but that's not the whole story.

Starting to self-Weight Watchers today and going to see how well that works on the twenty pounds I hope to lose this spring. If results are lackluster, I'll go back to paying and attending meetings and so forth. There's NO way I'm going to buy clothes again in a larger size. I'm going to fit back into the stuff I bought after I lost the weight a few years ago.

It's good to be home after such a long time away. Makes me want to get the paint out and finish the job I started before the holidays. But there's a lot of undecorating to do before that can realistically happen.

Nothing new to report, otherwise. Christmas was good...holiday visits were terrific. But, it's very good to be home.