Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Losing My Religion

I moved from cold mid-west state to another colder mid-west state. Who would think that moving 700 miles within the United States would mean I would experience so much culture shock?

But I have been experiencing culture shock, that's for sure. In fact, I've been losing my religion.

Now I live in a land that some would call Godless for it's climate, but I know it is Godless for other reasons: It has no NFL team.

Some would laugh, some would snicker, but those who have an NFL team, can you imagine your world without them? But for me, it's more than the loss of a local team to route for (or had they an NFL team, for me to also route against!), it's more than that. It's a cultural loss.

In Wisconsin, land of cheese heads, we have a professional football team: The Green Bay Packers. They aren't just another NFL team, or some sporting event. It's a way of life.

Green & Gold are not just colors to wear on game day. It's an everyday fashion statement, and it goes beyond jerseys & jackets. Wisconsinites dress their cars, their houses, their garages, and in some cases, their neighbor's houses & garages.

For the Packers are our version of The Holy Spirit, with us no matter what.

Sunday, the holy day, we gather with friends & family, eating traditional foods, singing our ‘carols,' such as ‘Nah Nah Nah Nah, Hey Hey, Goodbye.' And, when things are going well, we have Monday night celebrations as well.

Vince Lombardi is Our Father, who now ‘arts in heaven,' and we must be rather Jewish, for we have had several Prophets, such as Bart Starr & now Brett Farvre.

Lambeau Field is our Mecca. We pilgrimage there, year round, not just to see our team play but to visit the shrine at our Hall of Fame. (Yes, I say 'our' as we are the only publicly owned NFL team.)

Some of you might find this to be sac-religious, but I don't know of that term? Is that what you call KGB's dedication?

We grow up listening to the legends, much like the stories in the Bible, to learn life lessons. There are stories of healing, as in the tale of Leroy Butler, From Wheelchair to the Lambeau Leap. And there are the lessons of perseverance as the Heart-Attack-Pack often took us to our feet, breath held, as the team took every last second of game time to come from behind to win. There are The Signs, as in the famous Packer Coach Facial Tick or Twitch - signs that the season is one of hard earned work, no easy ride. And there were the years of Faith, when we saw little winning. I lived through what I call The Lost Forrest Gregg Years, but like the plagues, we each survived our own.

Part of growing up in Packerland, is the indoctrination you get as a child. As with many churches, children learn to be seen & not heard in their early years. Babies are put down for naps at kick-off, and learn early on to cheer along or play quietly, not disturbing parents. Every child learns the difference between a half an hour, and 30 minutes of game time.

Shopping is done, food is prepared, mealtimes arranged all around game times. And you never, ever make sales calls during games. Most of my family, myself included, doesn't answer the phone during the game.

Some of you might think that this warm & wondrous transcendental experience is just in the Fall, or bless us all, into the Post-Season. O Ye of Little Faith!

In Packer Country, we live the Gospel of The Green & Gold all year long. Our news stations bring us stories daily. No, not just pre-season, not just draft talk, but everything. It's the players, the staff, their lives are our lives, their loves are our loves.

We have learned about drug problems with Favre's pain killer addiction. We knew of Brett's wild days & former infidelities, yet remained as stoic as Deanna, his wife, hoping that he would grow into the man that we all needed him to be. We have been rewarded well. And we nod knowingly as Brett now supports Deanna through her breast cancer.

If they die or retire, canonized in the Green Bay jersey, they live on forever. If they are traded, well, we may comment, as with Hasselbeck, that he trained with the best. If they have sinned, as with Mark Chmura & his sexual assault charges, we regret our misplaced adoration - for what we thought was Green & Gold was really just a golden calf that we'd prefer to forget about. But usually, we just forgive & forget them.

We also learn of tolerance. It may seem that we treat each rival NFL team with hatred, and Da Bears & their fans even worse, but that's just game day. We know, deep in our hearts, that it's the place of our birth, or the heritage of our parents which makes us follow different paths -- for underneath our different colored jerseys, we are all the same. There may be jokes & mockery, but that is just the surface. Consider it a ritual, if you will, for we respect the other guy, the other team. Without someone to play with, it's just a scrimmage.

But now I live in a world that is foreign to me. If I lived in Minnesota, I could be one of the minority in my Green & Gold, taking the ribbing from those darn Vikings fans, knowing that the ‘in your face' attitude covered respect. But here, here there isn't any of this. Sure, there is still the TV temple, but I practice alone.

Monday, September 17, 2007

Creek-ing With Age

More on Labor Day weekend... This time in Greendale, Wisconsin (aka The Bubble).

Whenever we go 'back home' and visit Hunter we like to go walking in the woods and take the pathways all around the historic village.

I grew up there, in the Originals section, as did my mom; so there's lots of personal history there -- and amazingly the kids love to hear the stories.

Sure, the little kiddles like the exploring (the eldest needs to be encouraged to trek about), but it's the stories.

"Mom, where did your grandpa live?" "Mom, is this where you went to school?" "Was this playground/rock/tree here then?" "Is this where you swam?" "Did you ride your bike on this path when you were my age?"

Of course I love telling them the stories too.

I also discover lots about the kids. Like when over that last weekend I told the kids to take their socks and shoes off to walk in the little creek.

Hunter couldn't believe I'd let him do it -- walk across on the stones, sure; but barefoot in it?! Does mom even know what she's saying?

"But my feet will get wet," Hunter hesitated.

"Babe, if you think your feet aren't already wet with sweat inside your socks and shoes..." I laughed.

"But I'll get mud and sand and stuff on 'em," he warned.

"So? Besides, we can always wash your feet and your socks and I'll show you how to get most of that off before you even put your socks back on," I promised.

He decided I might just know what I'm doing after all and eagerly began removing his shoes.

"It's gonna be cold," I said, "So you might want to stand on this rock here and test the waters with your foot first before just stepping into it." And then while he removed his socks I went over the practical reminders regarding looking for glass, sharp rocks etc before stepping too. He was barely listening at this point -- too excited to get in.

He plunges a foot in, "Whoa, that's cold!" he squealed.

"Feels good, doesn't it?" I said as I sat on the large boulder he just vacated to remove my own socks and shoes.

"Hairy rock! Hairy rock!" he screamed pointing at one submerged rock with mossy green growth floating out like strands of hair.

"You should touch it," I said.

"No! That's gross!" replied the 7 year old boy who usually flocked to 'gross' objects.

"It's just moss or seaweed type stuff -- plants. Your really should touch it, just to see what it feels like," I said.

He cautiously stuck a toe into it. "That's gross!" he exclaimed (with a little less volume than the pronouncement of "Hairy rocks!")

Now he was bolstered with confidence. He walked around, sometimes walking from rock to rock, other times putting both his feet in and letting his toes feel the creek bed.

"Dad doesn't let me walk in creeks."

"Well, you can't do this in every creek; it might not be safe. I know this creek and it's safe here. Plus, I know you'll do as I told you and look before you put your foot down, right?" (I can't resist the motherly reminders.)

"Yeah, he just won't let me," he sort of mopingly replied.

"What does dad say?"

"He just says it's dirty."

"Yeah, well, it's not a place you want to drink from. But it's OK."

"Did you do this as a kid, mom?"

"What? Walk in the creek?"

"Yeah," he said growing even bolder and walking in circles a bit further from me, still not more than 7 feet away or so in the water which barely made it past his ankles. I sat there putting my feet in a deeper pool of water until I couldn't take the cold and pulled them out to prop them on a sunny rock.

"Sure, I did. And that other spot, the one by my grandpa and grandma's house? Where there used to be a small waterfall? Well, I'd pack a bologna sandwich and hop on my bike and ride down here. Then I'd take off my shorts and tee shirt which were over my swimsuit and I'd soak in that pool of water under that really big tree -- the one with the roots that stick out -- and watch the sunlight which came through the leaves as it would shine in patterns on the water and watch the water spiders and other bugs. Until I was tired of that, then I'd eat my sandwich and read a book under the tree."

"Were there fish?"

"No, none that I've ever seen."

"That's too bad," he says, probably imagining fishing rather than reading.

Now Allie, the eldest has left the seats at Ferch's (where grandma was resting in the shade -- and where we'd have sundae's in just a bit) to join us. She struggles with the sloped sides of the creek bank so I go help her and encourage another child to take off her shoes and stick her feet in the water.

She too squeals as her feet hit the water, then says, "Wow, that feels really good."

Allie's sedentary nature means she's not moving from that rock to explore the creek like Hunter is. Instead, she sits there on the rock and yells out broken glass alerts. "Hey, watch out if you go over there," and, "There's another one!" she says pointing at bits of glass and things which could be glass (I suppose) here, there and everywhere.

"Hey, Allie, touch that rock there," I say, to distract her.

"Yeah, touch the hairy rock!" Hunter screams his challenge with the delight of one who's already met it.

At first she's reluctant, but the teasing from her little brother motivates her more than I. She squeals as she too reaches her toes to dart a quick touch.

I'm amazed at how ill at ease the kids are with taking such risks, at trying such things. Like no one wanted to touch those 'pancake mushrooms' which grow on the sides of the big trees.


I'll have to bring them back here in winter and see if any of them will dare to sled where we did, down that hill in the woods with fallen trees dragged over and packed to make bumps and ramps...

Fun With Packer Helmets In The Sun

It's a very rainy day here -- not storming, just a steady rain with little wind. It's the kind of day that makes you think back to sunny days, among other things. So it's a good time to look at photos.

These were taken over the Labor Day weekend in Wisconsin and feature Hunter with his 'new' Packer helmets (from yard sales). Even his pal, Rhino, gets to wear the mini helmet.

Poor Grandma doesn't have a helmet -- but at least Hunter poses nicely with her.

Here Derek teases Hunter that his Green Bay Packer helmet will fit him too; clearly it doesn't. But 'deranged' is one of hubby's best looks *wink*

Here Derek whines that it won't fit -- I think he's working himself up into Hulk-Smash mode!

Saturday, September 08, 2007

I Discover The Joy Of Junk Yards

I've been to lots of junk sales, junk shops, and even own a lot of junk, but I've never been to the places where autos go to die.

A few weeks ago, in search of a pair of new-to-us doors for our Ookla, our conversion van, I broke my junk yard cherry.

Dirty? Yes. Hotter than heck that day? Yes. But girls, if you ever get the chance (are forced) to go the the salvage yard, go. Even the wheelbarrow race we had (though difficult to call a winner -- what with us each having a different sort of wheelbarrow to cart our door) was fun.

It's an amazing wonderland full of strange and unusual sites.

Yes, I'd seen those scrunched blocks of condensed radiators, but as they shown there in the sunlight, stacked incredibly high, they rivaled any metal sculptures I'd ever seen.

And I had no idea what to make of the way vehicles were piled...

Surely no one could salvage anything off a truck placed precariously on top of other vehicles, rendering all in the stack useless. But fantastic things to see nevertheless.

Ditto on those vehicles which were place on top of dumpsters. (What was inside the dumpsters? Why place a truck half-on, half-off?)

Overall, it makes your mind reel to see cars, vans and trucks in such improbable positions.