Monday, June 30, 2008

Celebrating Sister's Day...

© 2008 Karen Van Fossan

Since as early as I can remember, June 24th has been a profoundly important day in my life. We celebrate Mother's Day, Father's Day, Grandparents' Day, Veterans' Day, Administrative Professionals' Day. But for me, June 24th has always been Sister's Day, the day I became a sister for the first and only time.

I have often wondered, How do you actually be a sister? How necessary is a sister to a brother? He has a mom who does all the mom things, aunts who do the aunt things, grandmothers, a girlfriend, et cetera.

What's my actual purpose in this setup? He's long past needing a babysitter, fashion consultant, chauffeur, advice-giver, book-reader, shoe-tie-er, song-singer, note-writer, snack-saver, or playmate anymore. So who am I?

I flatter myself sometimes as being the person who knows him best in all the world. I knew what made him cry out in the middle of the night, what made his heart open wide, what made him so angry he just about pummeled me to the ground. And I still do.

Maybe I am the keeper of the memory, as the sister. This, I remember well:

My little brother hurts.
I see bleeding on his head.
I'll die if my brother should die.

The doctor stitches him up.
There's no anesthesia for him. So there is none for me.
Let me in that room! Let me stop the needle that makes him scream.
I scream because he screams.
We are screaming.

My mother takes me away. She carries me down the hall, as far as we can go from my brother’s screaming.
Dad is with your brother, she says. Davy will be fine.
Down the hall, I can hear him still. I can always hear him.
I will always cry, if he must cry.

Whew! Thankfully, that's not all I remember:

Talking through the heating vents when we're supposed to be sent to our rooms.
Plotting a doorway from his room to mine.
Taping a box of paper clips inside his Christmas present, so that shaking it would give him false clues.
Watching Perry Mason for real clues.
Finding artwork and notes on my door,
Good job!
Dancing like Bo Jangles in the kitchen.

Being a sister, it's not what I remember really, or even how well I know anyone. Mainly, it's how I feel. Love you, bro.

Monday, June 23, 2008

Number Thirteen

© 2008 Karen Van Fossan

Who's counting? OK, I am. Never one to avoid the 13th floor or the 13th camping spot, I'm ready to celebrate this 13th blog entry. (A definition of celebrate: share quotes, news, and updates.)

1) Love & B.S. (all about Grandpa V)
One of my favorite Grandpa V quotes...
I'd rather sit down and talk with a pig than eat one.

2) The Umbrella & the Runaway Horses (written by Grandma Z and me, sort of)
More about Grandma Z: She remained a devoted pianist until her final days, forgetting words, names, places, and faces, but never In the Garden.

3) Fascism, Ferne, & the Ten Commandments
Holding steady: The Ten Commandments still adorn Hillside Park. Fascism still bedecks the monument, though the graffiti appears to be melting these days. Ferne turned 99 two months ago.

4) Uffda! Barack Obama + Hillary Clinton = North Dakota?
Still seems possible, doesn't it?

5) The Orange Thingy...for Earth Day
One of the neighbors (who had refused a free, CFL, Earth-Day lightbulb from Sierra Club) stopped by the other day. I noticed you're natural types. I thought you might have a use for this lawn sweeper. I'm not using it.

I've been merrily (and freely) sweeping my yard (more weeds than grass clippings) ever since.

6) Nothing in Life is Free, Except this Piano
And this lawn sweeper...?

7) Four Things I Did Not Do With My Rebate Check
1. Frame it.
2. Blow it all on Red Hots.
3. Fold it into an origami tanker.
4. Buy a Barbie.

8) One Quick Recipe for Peace
Another ingredient: Talking to trees, talking to birds, talking to spinach.

9) Top 10 Reasons to Stay in Bismarck, ND
Three more reasons: Trees, birds, spinach.

10) Listening for Voices
For visiting ancestors, I have better luck with dreams than electronics. If anything should change, I'll let you know.

11) Surprises at Fargo Pride
Here's a surprise I neglected to mention: At the outdoor Pride festival, I (subtly) chased after a woman wearing a paper-bag sign attached with clothespins to her back. What did the sign say? “Old woman wearing shorts. Deal with it.” This was, of course, well worth the (subtle) chase.

12) 10 (Sort of) Fun Things to Do With Food Scraps
As Sara said the other day, while discussing whether tarantulas eat people or just bite them, If I had venom, I'd eat humans.

13) Number Thirteen
Thanks for celebrating!

Monday, June 16, 2008

10 (Sort of) Fun Things You Can Do With Food Scraps

© 2008 Karen Van Fossan

When I say food scraps, I mean pits, peels, seeds, stems. The stuff that gets pushed to the edge of the plate, plunked into the garbage, tossed from the window of the car. The stuff that doesn't inspire us, interest us, or nourish us.

Or does it?

1) If I were Kristi, I'd co-create food-scrap art with Karen (who wouldn't be me anymore, because I'd be Kristi). Then I'd nickname it Chipper. See photo.

2) If I were Julie, I'd take elegant photos of food-scrap art, as co-created by Kristi and Karen. See photo credit.

3) If I were Ursula, I'd bury food scraps (i.e. potato peels) in my garden. Then I'd accidentally grow potatoes.

4) If I were Tracy, I'd feed food scraps to a seething mound of worms and then show it off to a class of awe-struck first graders.

5) If I were Bill (at age 3 or 4), I'd stick food scraps up both my nostrils, purely as a scientific experiment.

6) If I were Jim, I'd go ahead and eat the apple core.

7) If I were Brian, I'd go ahead and eat the strawberry stem.

8) If I were Grandpa Z, I'd go ahead and swallow the red grape seeds.

9) If I were Buddha, I wouldn't have any food scraps, surviving on but one grain of rice.

10) If I were me, I'd blog about my food scraps (of course) and then run off to peek on them in their compost bin.

Monday, June 9, 2008

Surprises at Fargo Pride

© 2008 Karen Van Fossan

OK, I confess. I wasn't anticipating Fargo Pride with the full force of enthusiasm that's kind of my trademark. For one, I've attended a lllllllllllllllllot of Pride-type Events in my lifetime. To name a few...

Madison, Wisconsin in 1988.
Michigan Women's Music Festival in 1995.
Chicago, Illinois in 2002.
Bismarck, North Dakota in 2006.

How much more Pride did I need? I mean, really. But you know where I'm going with this. Fargo Pride knocked my socks off. Or something. Here's a sampling of Fargo Pride surprises:

1) The Fargo Police Department had a booth there, staffed by their real, live GLBT liaison, who was giving away (yes, giving away) totally free Junior Police Officer stickers. (See photo.)

2) NDSU had a representative there, who was giving away (yes, giving away) totally free NDSU Pride bracelets. (Rainbow style, of course. Wearing mine now).

3) Barack Obama had a booth at Pride, supporting GLBT folks. Since I didn't see him there in person, I went up to ask, Does he know you're doing this? Sure enough, he does. The Barack Obama Pride pamphlets are paid for by his campaign. (Really?)

4) Two Fargo City Commissioners and one hopeful County Commissioner spoke at the Pride celebration. (And none of them fell into a faint.)

5) Unlike Chicago Pride, none of the floats (as in zip, zero, nil) advertised beer.

6) Two young men stepped off the sidewalk to join our float, hoofing behind us, smiling widely, singing along. (In an alternate universe, I'm pretty sure I'm their mom...)

7) Brandee (age 11) tossed candy from our float with all the exuberance any parade deserves.

8) Though the size of the crowd was nothing like Folk Fest in Bismarck, and though unclaimed candy littered the street, some folks did turn out to watch the parade going by.

9) Rainbow flags decorated the lamp posts up and down Broadway. (This was not guerrilla pride. The City of Fargo OK'd this.)

10) We had a bona fide float (thanks to Lola, Carlie, Ella, Julie, and Brandee) with rainbows streaming everywhere and Kris singing (and singing and singing) into the mic. Now, get this: Our float won second prize!

First prize winners...just you wait 'til next year!

Monday, June 2, 2008

Listening for Voices

© 2008 Karen Van Fossan

In between sips of Mystic Mayan Cocoa tea, Jan makes this casual declaration: I like my gray hair. I'm sure she's not the first person to utter such subversions. Mama Lola (as she's known to many) has said the same herself: I like my gray hair. I earned every bit of it.

I jump to three conclusions whenever I see a woman with gray hair. She has...
1) Wisdom.
2) Reached the last decades of her life.
3) Enough of #1 to face #2.

Visiting Ferne at the nursing home, sometimes I want to blurt out, But I'm not ready! I'm not ready to be 99! Then I realize I'm not 99, and I feel a little better.

Still, I have to admit, sometimes I fear for the future. For one, I've kind of gotten used to having Mom and Dad around. A phone call, an email, a hug. I'm a sucker for the stuff that parents can do when they're alive.

Annette (from Dragon Jane) has written a piece for her grandmother that simply tears my heart out. (If you'd like to join me in that, please read on...)

From Dear Grandma by Annette Martel:

...Now that you're gone,
I worry about losing my parents.
The hardest thing I've ever done in my life
was to watch my mother
watching you lie in a hospital bed during your last days...

...I remember,
For a moment, I stopped breathing,
When I realized someday,
That would be me standing next to a hospital bed,
Saying good-bye to my mom.

Like Annette, I'm not ready. I'm a thousand miles from Mom and Dad, and even that is too much. After losing all my grandparents, and a friend, and the loved ones of my friends, and various beloved pets, I'm ready to dig my feet in the ground and cry, No! We're not ready!

But, ready or not, Kris and I make our regular hike to the cemetery. This past Memorial Day, we took flowers to Helen and Fred senior. And that's not all. We also carried a tape recorder. (This is true.) Some people promise you can record voices from the afterlife, voices you can't hear until you play them back on a tape recorder. So we spoke our greetings and offered our flowers. Then, with curiosity bumping into skepticism, we shamelessly pressed record.

I wondered what Helen and Fred might want to say. We love you? Kris, tell your dad there's a million bucks hidden under the floorboards? Next time, bring your fiddle and guitar?

Later, we listened back. And what did we hear?
Traffic. Wind. Our footfalls. No voices.

Which leads me to three conclusions:
1) Maybe recordings of the afterlife are a lot of wishful thinking.
2) Maybe Helen and Fred would rather be silent.
3) When it comes to recording, maybe Fred and Helen just aren't ready.