Tuesday, June 30, 2009


Suzy Q: Our shelter bunny

Every six months or so for the past three years, Lilly (11) pulls out the phone book, opens it to the Yellow Pages section of Animal Shelters and begins her calls. "Yes, I was wondering how old you have to be to volunteer at your shelter?" she asks politely. In between rejections (you have to be 16) she comments to Grace (14) "They don't get it. They think we just want to go and cuddle the kittens." "Well don't we?" Grace asks.

No. That is not what Lilly wants to do. She wants to play with the friendless, wash the dirty, clip the long-nailed, clean the dirty cage, sweep the poo, scrub the grungy food dishes. In short, she has a calling and it is to care for shelter animals. But no one gets that. They just think she's another kid who wants to pet a puppy.

That is until we met Toni. Toni runs Red Door Shelter a rabbit sanctuary in Chicago. This wonderful place rescues the homeless and unwanted bunnies (think of the Easter pet that turns out to be more work than someone thought). It was to this shelter that Lilly dragged me about a year ago for "rabbit spa day" a fund-raising event where crazy bunny people get together to have their rabbits groomed and photographed and oh yeah, maybe take another homeless bunny home (which is how we got Suzy Q). Thanks to that event, adoption, and subsequent emails, Toni caught on pretty quickly that Lilly was not your average "can I come play with the bunnies" kid. Which is why she so very, very graciously said yes when I asked if she would make an exception to the age requirement and allow Lilly to volunteer.

The first day of volunteering was last Wednesday. All the way to the shelter Lilly was saying under her breath, "Oh yeah, Heartland Shelter, I'm too young? Oh really, too young you say!? Well aren't you sorry now." She was so excited she nearly binkied (that's rabbit talk for jumping with joy) out of the car as we pulled up to the shelter. I left her there in Toni's capable hands agreeing to return in four hours.

And it was there I found her four hours later, covered in rabbit fur and ecstatically happy about her new job. All the way home she told me about the rabbits she met and played with. About their (often sad) histories but their (almost always) happy endings. There was one bunny in particular she was taken with. Avery.

Avery, she explained, has been there for three years. No one wants to adopt him because he cannot be neutered. He has a heart condition and if they put him under for the surgery he most likely would not survive. So he stays there but not many of the volunteers want to play with him because un-neutered male rabbits have, ahem, some hygiene issues.

"Oh Mom," she gushed, "Avery is so great! I went in his pen and he binkied, then he sprayed to mark his territory, then he pooped all over, and then he humped my leg. I just love him! He's so full of life!"

From the backseat her big brother offered this advice, "Don't go falling for every guy who humps your leg."

Lilly ignored this and began in earnest on another story about two rabbits who were saved from Afghanistan. Seriously.

I know, I've said it before, but I have to say it again, there is no joy like the joy of watching your child find his or her bliss and by God Lilly has found it at Red Door Shelter. Here, at this magical place, she can finally spend time with her beloved buns AND the like-minded, dedicated people who care about them as much as she does. And since I am not so inclined to spend time with rabbits I am mighty grateful there is such a place that welcomes her.

So here's to Toni and her shelter and if my small tale moves you maybe you would consider a small donation to Red Door to thank those who take care of God's smallest creatures --like Lilly and homeless bunnies.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009


Excuse me ladies, do you know the way to the Swiss Hotel?

Today's post is an email I got this morning from Jeff:

We are in Amsterdam. We had quite the travel day yesterday. It took us 4 hours to get here from Brussels by train and I'm pretty sure you can do it in less. I don't know if we screwed up or if it is what it was. Hmmm? The train we were supposed to get on did not arrive as planned. In the meantime, they flashed another train on the sign and a few minutes later a train arrived. Now we have a problem. Is the train that pulled up our train or a different train? We got on and the conductor stamped our tickets so I figured all is well. We arrived in Antwerp (as our train was supposed to) but only after stopping in every small town between Brussels and Antwerp. This is the part that makes me think it could have been the wrong train. When the train stopped in Antwerp everyone got off except me and grace because our train is going to Amsterdam you see. Funny not a single person on the train except for me and Grace were going to Amsterdam because everyone got off. After twenty minutes of waiting Grace asks the obvious question in only a way that Grace can. Daddy? Why is there no one here and why is the train stopped? I guess this is my hint to go and check it out which I do. It turns out the next train to Amsterdam is two levels below ours and leaves in 25 minutes. So we lost about an hour. This train too stopped many times before we got off.

The walk from the train station to our home the Swiss Hotel is five minutes from the train station but that is only if you know where you are going which we don't. So we start off - the streets are madness - people, bikes, dogs, trams, buses, bums, potheads, AC-DC fans (yes they are in town and the place is abuzz). So Grace is a good sport and just follows 2 feet behind me. Where ever I go, so does she. I think in my head, I just want to get someplace where I won't be trampled and there is a little calm so that I can consult my map. It turns out that is Glenview, not Amsterdam. So I check out the map and we are a little off, so we adjust. We walk through narrow streets with coffee houses and the smell of pot everywhere. Poor Grace I think to myself. The place looks like a shit hole with the lowest of the lows assembled to do nothing more except sit with each other and drink and smoke weed. Almost everyone I see looks like they have not bathed or changed their cloths since they arrived, which could have been some time in 2008. We finally leave that street to go down a quieter and cleaner street and with much fewer people. I breathe a little sigh of relief until I see the girls standing in the windows. Yes, we are in the red light district. But it is clean and it is quiet and no one bothers us. We find our street and finally arrive at the Swiss Hotel in the heart of things but just far enough a way to not feel dangerous.

We got settled and went right out. We had a nice Italian dinner and we ate outside and just had the best time watching the people and the world go by. At least that is my recollection. Grace is a good sport. She does not complain. She tells me when she wants something, but she is satisfied to go to this place or that place or another place if that is where we go. We made The Ann Frank House our destination and we had a lovely tour. Very moving as you probably remember. We walked back to our home and had ice cream along the way. We got back about 9:30. I took off my shoes and laid on the bed and Grace, God Bless her asks if we are going to go out again or should she put on her pajamas. We decide to make this an early night and I turned out my lights around 10 pm.

Monday, June 22, 2009


A while back I was chatting with my parents in my kitchen about a family event. We were trying to remember when it took place. Finally, I said, "I think it wasn't that long ago. Maybe two years." My parents nodded. Lilly, who had been playing with her plastic horses and eavesdropping looked up in horror.

"Not too long ago? Two years!?"

"Well, that does seem like a long time when you're only 11 but when you're older it seems like a short time, like maybe a few months feels to you," I tried to explain. "Isn't that how it is for you, Grandpa?"

"No," my father replied, "Two years is more like a long afternoon for me."

Indeed. If we are to believe Einstein (and why wouldn't we?) time is relative. And so Lilly's two years represent nearly 20% of her life and a mere 2.5% of my father's life.

As anyone over the age of 12 knows, time accelerates as you get older until one day you are 49 and you say things like, "I saw him not so long ago at the 20th class reunion," and realize that was more than a decade ago.

My father called me on my birthday this year and said, "Well, this is a big one for you!"

"No," I reminded him, "I'm 49, next year will be the big one."

"Right, I know. But that's just around the corner."


These time/age games can be fun and alarming to play. Let's look at the year 1994. You remember that year pretty clearly, right? It was 15 years ago but that's not so long--True Lies was at the movies and Bill Clinton was our president and Sheryl Crow sang, "All I wanna do". Hardly ancient history, right? Compare that to what was going on 15 years before the year you were born. Go ahead, I'll wait while you do the math. Wait, how can that be? I was born in 1960 so fifteen years before that --World War II was ending. WHAT? Wasn't World War II like in the 1800's or something?

Nothing makes you feel that time flying past you faster than having kids. In a blink they are babies, toddlers, preschoolers. Now it's even faster; junior high, homecoming, learning to drive. I feel like the ride that is parenthood has sped up from a jaunty merry-go-round to a zero-gravity space ship in which your cheeks fly back as the rocket takes off.

If only I had some meaningful interpretation of today's ramblings but I really have not much more to offer than the obvious. Life is short. It gets shorter every second.

So enjoy this summer day and enjoy Joni Mitchell as she sings the best song ever about time passing.

Monday, June 15, 2009


Hollister: is it a store or is it a bar?

Grace is a girly girl. I am not. Me having a girly girl is a little like the ex-hippie Keatons having the neo-conservative Alex. It is a funny fit. She likes perfume and makeup and shopping and her bathroom is completely full of bottles of mysterious girl stuff. She does her nails every Friday night and has (at last count) 35 bottles of nail polish.

I on the other hand wash my hair with whatever brand of shampoo is on sale. I do not like perfume and only wear makeup because without it you would not know I had a mouth or eyes. I do not like chocolate or high heels and I hate the show Sex and the City. I am in charge of the remote. (I may be a dude). Oh, and I really really hate to shop for clothing.

But Grace is a real girl and she looooves to shop. For her 14th birthday she requested no gifts but that the money we would have spent on gifts go toward a shopping spree. She knows I not only dislike shopping but I am incapable of shopping for ANYTHING for more than one hour. At that point I simply stop where I am, put down anything I'm holding and say, "I'm finished," and leave the store.

Which is why she was going to have her shopping spree with her friend Lauren who likes to shop. But alas, they were unable to work out the logistics and Grace was anxious to get to the mall so she had to go with me. I told her we could go for as long as she wanted as long as I had frequent breaks.

Off to Woodfield Mall we went. Okay, I have to say that shopping for clothing for teenaged girls has changed just a bit since I used to go to Livonia Mall with Jenny Stabenau and shop at Marianne's.

First of all there are these uber-hip trendy stores with blasting loud music that sounds like a soundtrack for a migraine. And they have sprayed nauseatingly stinky perfume around to create an atmosphere. And worst of all for an old person like me, in one of them called Hollister (a brand name some girls like to wear on their asses with their Uggs) it is DARK! I mean dark like a bar. When we stumbled into that store the greeter who was dressed like a pole dancer approached us to tell us about the specials. I asked her for a cosmo. She pretended she didn't hear me and told us the shorts were buy one get one free. I peered into the darkness. Where are the shorts? Grace showed me the shelf where they were, lit by a tiny bulb like the one over your stove. I held a pair up. "Oh look Grace, isn't this cute? They have shorts for toddlers here too!" She rolled her eyes.

After two minutes of Hollister I declared I could not take it and made her leave. We found another store called Aeropostle. That one was much better. Well lit. Not so loud. But it was weird because there were guys everywhere. Not guys who have been dragged to shop with their girlfriends but guys (presumably straight) shopping for themselves! Yes, half the store was for girls and the other half for guys. And then there were guys working there! Oh my how the world has changed. A young man asked if we needed help finding a size. Thank God Jeff wasn't there because I know he would have insisted that he had to hand over his man-card right then and there.

Yes things have changed since I went shopping as a teen. Of course that was so long ago we used to just go down to the general store and order us some new clothes from the Sears catalog. No, seriously, it was so long ago that girls shopped in girl stores and guys, well they didn't shop. I don't know how they got clothing at all come to think of it because I never saw them in stores.

Now there are just as many guys as girls shopping. And recession? What recession? Apparently in the teen market there is none. We actually had to wait in line to try on clothing at every store then WAIT IN A LONGER LINE TO BUY THE CLOTHING! At least the clothing is cheap. Here's to a global market.

Anyway, all in all I have to declare the shopping spree a success. Grace got a ton of clothing, I was able to be a supportive shopping buddy for over three and half hours which is like a world record for me.

And I only needed one root-beer break.

Tuesday, June 09, 2009


Beyonce, my current girl crush

I am a fan of a good-old-fashioned full-on crush. I think my first crushes were in the fifth grade (Peter Duel from "Alias Smith and Jones" and Larry Brown from school)and by high school I had two or three at a time. I would walk clear around the building if I had to just to get a glimpse of my crush between classes. Sometimes they were boys I knew and actually spoke to. Sometimes they were upper classmen who did not know I existed. I had so many crushes that at the 30th reunion last summer I would have to say the only man in the room I had not had a crush on at some point was the bartender (though he was a handsome devil).

Then there were the "girl-crushes". I'm so glad there's a term for this now because when I was young, back in the good old homo-phobic days, this was not something you voiced. Usually I had girl crushes on girls who were sort of famous in my hometown, say the homecoming queen or the girl who always had the lead in the play. Girl crushes are non-sexual--you just can't stop looking at and admiring these people. Like Princess Di. That crush lasted a good decade.

I mentioned this once to my friend K. who knew exactly what I was talking about. She had had an enormous crush on a girl from her hometown who was a high school actress and performer. At the time, K. was still in junior high and after seeing this girl once, she was smitten. She would beg her parents to take her to any performance the girl was in and record them with her little portable tape-recorder.The fervor of a junior high crush is a powerful thing.

All these years later I have to say I still get crushes. I felt one coming on as I watched the high scool musical this spring starring JS (I won't print his name here on the off-chance that he should Google himself (older readers that's not what you think it is) and find out an old lady has a crush on him because that would make him physically ill) (You know this way of speaking with parentheses inside parentheses is exactly how my Dutch friend Laurent speaks; you can almost see the parentheses when he talks).

Anyhoo, about my new crush on JS, star of high school productions...I have to clarify, I do not have a crush on him in a MaryKay Latourneau way, it's in a "I remember what it was like to be 17 and have a crush like this" way.I asked Grace the other day which was more disturbing, my crush on Beyonce or the one I have on JS. She just giggled because like everyone else in town, she has a crush on JS too.

Of course I also have a crush on Barack Obama. Well, who doesn't? And Michelle. In fact this crush has manifested itself into a game I play with Lilly (who has a girl crush on Malia) in which we pretend the Obamas are our friends. "Mr. and Mrs. Obama are coming over to play euchre on Saturday? Do you and Malia want to have a sleep over?" I'll say. "Oh is he back from Egypt already?" Lilly will answer. Then she'll say, "Yeah I'd like to have a sleepover. I'll ask Malia at lunch tomorrow!" (in our little fantasy they go to school together too--hey why not, it's our fantasy). Is that wrong? Do you think some poor Secret Service agent has to read all the blog posts out there to find out which of us has a crush and which of is is actually a threat? God I hope not.

Crushes are healthy. You should not try to deny them even if you are happily married. Of course, they are like a little spark which is a good thing as long as you do not fan it into a flame. You should not hold dry tinder next to them and flirt shamelessly with them. Nor, (if I may carry this metaphor too far) should you throw gasoline on them and share your crush with the crushee. No. That is a bad idea. But if you try to repress a crush by denying to yourself that it exists it will eventually come out in an unhealthy way and the top of your head may explode or if you're a Baptist minister you will run away with the church organist (geez it was just a crush, you weren't supposed to do that!).
So today, go ahead and admit to yourself you have a little crush on the girl who makes your latte or the guy who rides the train or Zac Efron or Taylor Swift (two more of my crushes by the way). It's healthy.
Just don't tell them about it. That's creepy.

Friday, June 05, 2009


Atticus on the left. Bob Ross on the right.
When I was pregnant with my first child (Atticus) I remember seeing babies and toddlers and thinking, "Awwww, I can't wait to have one of those!" One time I saw a teenaged boy ambling through the mall and I thought, "Wait! I DO NOT want one of THOSE!"

So I am glad to report that now that I have one of THOSE in my house it is really quite delightful.

Teenaged boys are straight forward and tell you what they're thinking. They are hilariously funny and celebrate the absurd. Though they may not put a lot of thought into your birthday present, they are sweet and still wipe tears away from their little sisters' cheeks. And they can program the phone/tv/dvr or fix any technological problem you might have. As I type this he's installing a new cooling system on the PC downstairs. Whatever that means.

My teenaged boy is quirky (go figure) in addition to all those other things. He sees auras. He mentioned this quite casually once a few years back. "My music teacher has orange light around her." He is curious about everything and as an avid fan of the history channel knows something about almost everything. Lately, he's been bringing me up to speed on the whole North Korea Kim Dong Il thing. But he's just as likely to launch into a discussion on medieval weapons (do you know the difference between a cudgel and a shilaleagh?) or the likelihood that Nostradamas's predictions are accurate.

He is a "serial-interest-taker". He has an interest, he learns all he can about it, he often saves up and buys one, then he moves on. Accordion, ocarina, Rubiks Cube, tarot cards, and yo-yos come to mind. He dedicates hours of time on the internet learning about these things and teaching himself how to use them with YouTube.

Unfortunately, he seldom (no wait, NEVER) brings this passion, curiosity, and devotion to his schoolwork.

Which is why he was getting bad grades this spring and we were moved to ground him from his computer games and from his beloved stage crew (another of his passions--as a Freshman he has been given light and sound board duties normally reserved for Seniors). With all this free time we had hoped he would apply some of it to his homework.

But alas, he has squandered his extra time on the latest of his serial intersts: painting. Yes, he used his free time and hard-earned money, to passionately pursue this. He saw the now-deceased Bob Ross on PBS. (In case you do not know who this is, I will explain, he is an extremely odd, charismatic guy who teaches people to paint on TV). Bob Ross believed anyone can paint. Atticus believes that too. So while he was supposed to be spending this spring raising his math grade he's been standing next to the computer (he downloaded the show) paintbrush in hand, following Bob's direction.

So if you have a baby boy and are not so sure about the whole teenager thing, don't worry. It will be great. He will have his own interests and passions even if he doesn't have good grades. And like all children, if you let him, he will show you a world you did not know exists.

And if you're lucky, you might get some new paintings for the living room.

Thursday, June 04, 2009


Yesterday Grace delivered a speech she wrote at the eighth grade awards ceremony. Since I have writer's block this week I am going to publish her speech which allows me to take a break from my own writing AND brag on my kid. It's a two-fer! I hope you enjoy this as much as I did!
Attea, by the way, is the name of Grace's school.

The Alphabet of Attea
by Grace Ludwig

Attea is like the alphabet. Many letters, or people in Attea’s case, make up a whole. Each one is different, and contributes in their own way. Some people, and some letters, speak out often, and others only shine once in a while. A few choose to make their appearance only when brought together with another person or letter, and others want to be left alone. Attea is an alphabet in its own way.

A is for awesome. If I could describe Attea in one word, I would choose awesome. Attea is awesome for many reasons, all of which you will hear within the rest of the alphabet.
B is for boring. Yes, occasionally the learning part of school can get a bit boring.
C is for choir, band, and orchestra. I know not every student participated in these activities, but I can name many occasions when my friends and I laughed at Mrs. Reatherford pretending to be mad at us, or Ms. Monastaro’s juicy stories.
D is for drama. And I don’t mean in just Mr. Luongo’s class. I’m talkin’ boys asking girls out, break ups and makeups, friend fights and more, all of which you can find in the halls of Attea.
E is for education. After all, to get an education is the reason we go to school in the first place!
F is for friends. I cannot even begin to name all the amazing friends I have met and had great times with at Attea.
G is for gym class. I would be the first to tell you I’m terrible at sports, so that’s obviously not the reason I enjoyed gym class. What I enjoyed most was the laughs over missed baskets and un-caught baseballs.
H is for the hall way. I’m sure everyone has had some funny, strange, or even awkward moments in the hallway, and I’m positive these moments will continue throughout our years in high school.
I is for immature. Really? 8th graders are immature? You ask. But yes in fact, all 8th graders are immature. No matter how grown up or mature they seem to adults, every 13 or 14 year old has those funny thoughts in their head when a teacher says we need to complete our duties.
J is for the jokes and laughs that are always about the same thing but never get old.
K is for knowledge. The knowledge our teachers have is incredible, and we take advantage of it. Throughout my middle school years I have learned that not everyone knows as much as our teachers and they’re only trying to share what they know with us.
L is for lunch. I will never forget the cafeteria and how we were all so convinced in 5th grade lunch would be so much more fun. It turns out; lunch was almost the exact same experience. It was very enjoyable, and will most likely be a similar experience next year.
M is for magnificent. Magnificent would be the second word I would use to describe Attea and all of the memories I have had here.
N is for new. In 6th grade, everything at Attea was new, to all of us. But now it is not so new, and we’re all ready for new experiences and a new environment.
O is for Officer Smith. I will always remember Officer Smith, and the big kid he was on the inside even if he wasn’t so much on the outside!
P is for potato chowder, which Mr. Woell enthusiastically presented to us during the announcements every week.
Q is for quick change. And not just changing into our gym clothes, but also adapting to our new schedule, lockers, teachers, and more.
R is for recess which included short but sweet moments with my best friends, usually taking place in the sun or woodchips.
S is for socializing. Students at Attea have wasted a large amount of time socializing. But school isn’t just a place for learning; it’s also a place to make friendships that could last for the same amount of time that you know your multiplication facts-forever.
T is for all the teachers I have had at Attea, which have taught me new skills and valuable lessons.
U is for unable to get enough sleep. If there is one thing I would go back and change, it would be to skip those late night Facebook chats and get a few extra minutes of sleep.
V is for victorious. All of us have conquered the battle of middle school, and are ready for a new challenge.
W is for hard work which, as 8th graders, we all deserve a little credit for, but instead we will gladly take the satisfaction of a good grade or score.
X is for x(ex)periences. The experiences I’ve had with everyone I’ve met at Attea have been good and bad, but I know through these experiences, I’ve been changed for the better.
Y is for the youth that will never grow out of us. I believe that every person over the age of 14 still has an 8th grade part of them on the inside
Z is for zero moments of unhappiness. We all have those days when you wake up feel like its going to be a bad day, but members of the Attea alphabet always help each other to feel excellent by 3 o’clock.

Attea is an alphabet. Teachers make up the most important letters, or the vowels, and students are like the consonants. Each letter is important and without it, the alphabet wouldn’t be complete. But most importantly, Attea is like an alphabet, each letter is unique.