Saturday, May 30, 2009

The Business Needs Some Botox

We have highway road arrows leading to our business, Sandy Point Resort. They are at least 15 years old. Sporting black and white paint wrinkles and withered lettering, they’ve aged more than I—at least physically. Today, I decided, they needed a few shots of Botox.

We have two sets of road arrows steering State Hwy. 70 traffic to our resort and disc golf course—those facing east and those facing west. Over the years they’ve attracted a phenomenal amount of business. Almost daily during our high season we have wayward travelers coming into the pro shop asking everything from “where’s the DISCOUNT golf course” to “what’s DISCO golf?” Also, on a weekly basis, we find enthusiastic disc golfers at our door, who “never knew” there was a course here and couldn’t believe it when they saw our arrows.

Pretty important signage, don’t you think?

Mike and I made the six-foot arrows ourselves. He sawed the wood and I painted the white background, cut out and traced the letters from type I printed from the computer, and hand-painted with black enamel paint and a very steady hand. Mike would have hung them if the Wisconsin Department of Transportation had allowed it, but mere mortal men aren’t allowed to hang highway signs.

The government required we drive the arrows about 30 miles away to the nearest county hub, drop them off, and have professionals put them in place. It took weeks. But back then, when we lived here year round, we could afford the time. Perhaps it’s not surprising that we didn’t enlist government help for the cosmetic surgery required today.

I woke up this morning knowing today was the day. The sun was shining, all our cabins were clean and ready for the guests, and it was a designated maintenance day. I drove to the arrow site, less than a mile from our house, parked, and painted the west-facing arrows on site. Using a ladder to reach them and sporting what my teenager called “MOM JEANS” and a blaze orange cap, I wasn’t cute. Cars didn’t honk and wave; however, two cars did stop to ask directions while I worked on the arrows exposed to the west.

It was awkward and the conditions were far from perfect. I admit I did a half-assed job. I assured myself, however, that the Sandy Point motto (WHERE GOOD ENOUGH IS) applied.

BTW: The counterpart set of arrows some 400 ft. away on the opposite site of the highway and exposed to the east, were in FAR greater need of repair. There was no way I could give them a proper facelift on site. Without question, they had to be removed and bought back to my workshop for more serious microderm abrasion and Botox injections.

Baby, the morning sun when it’s in your face really shows your age.

Last summer, when we first noticed the arrows had grown tired, we couldn’t dedicate the hours needed to refurbish them. We didn’t want to take them down and miss the business that directed drivers off the Hwy. and into our den of income. For about a minute, I considered driving my golf cart to the highway and making a paint-in-hand house call. Mike even thought it would be good for business if I donned my special red bikini.

Don’t laugh. I gave it some thought.

As is usually the case, the season passed by so quickly, and the road arrows were left on the 2008’s backburner. But upon my 2009 return and like being fed up with too many gray hairs on an otherwise attractive middle-aged head, I simply had to go into makeover mode. I put on the blaze orange cap and the Mom Jeans, and broke out a little Road-Arrow-Loreal.

The business was worth it.

Ultimately, like a good dye job or a few Botox injections, we—the proud owners of the prettiest resort in the Northwoods—are probably the only ones who will notice the improvements.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

I Have a Crush on my UPS Man

And I’ve just admitted it. Not only in the headline of this blog, but also to his face.

Does anyone share a similar experience? Have you had the same UPS deliveryman for 17 years? Have you had a guy drive a big, brown truck down your quarter-mile-long driveway on a regular basis, who on some days is your only visitor? Has he seen you through two pregnancies? Has he helped you fix your lawn mower? Have you bet on him to win the annual “who-can-wear-shorts-the-longest-into the-the winter” contest? Has he read every book you’ve ever written and told you about the campfire discussion that ensued about your characters while on his Canadian vacation?

My UPS driver’s name is Robin. And Robin he most certainly is. He may not be the caped-crusader; but he may as well be the Batman of the delivery world. He’s certainly my deliveryman hero. Rhinelander Robin is the skinny-legged, shorts-wearing Brown deliveryman who is so pleasant, he MAKES me want to order things from Internet websites and more civilized places than the Northwoods, just to have them delivered.


I encountered Robin today for the first time this season when I happened into the kitchen after being hauled up in my office for two hours. I was taking advantage of generator power to do my paperwork, a daily necessity to run our resort business. This afternoon, one of exaggeratedly high winds, we’ve experienced a lengthy power-outage on property.  The power is still out, and we’re not sure why other than suspecting the wind and the ominous smell of smoke wafting into our windows from the other side of the lake.  Because of the noise of the generator, I didn’t hear the brown truck pull up.

Usually I sense the diesel-fueled wheels like Radar from M*A*S*H sensing choppers. Not this afternoon. I had gone downstairs to get something to drink and before opening the fridge, heard a yell. Given we have no guests in the cabins and only a handful of disc golfers on the course, the yell wasn’t very alarming. But nonetheless, I looked out the kitchen window and saw him.

Glancing to the right of our yard, sure enough, there was the big brown truck. “Robin!” I squealed. I ran to and opened the front door without checking my hair or my teeth—and soon realized I was wearing my schoolmarm glasses. And there he was wearing shorts and a smile. “Hi!” I said with all the fanfare of greeting an American Idol.

His smile was that of a teenager instead of a middle-aged man. “You’re here,” he said. He gave me the once over and flashed an approving grin. “I’ve been walking all around because I need a signature for this package.”  He nodded to my right.

The delivery was stored on the table sitting on our front porch. It was the box of jewelry I had just packaged and shipped from Tucson, and tried to insure for ten grand, but didn’t because it was too expensive. Briefly examining at the well-taped box, I was happy to see it in excellent condition—definitely worth the $160 gamble I didn’t spend to add extra insurance.

As I sighed with relief, Robin took a second to look me up and down again. “Did you just get back?”

“A day or so,” I replied, camouflaging my blush. “I didn’t hear your truck because the generator’s on. We’ve had no power for a while. . . .” I shifted my weight . . . “Hi, Robin. Gosh, it’s good to see you.”

“You too!” he said. And then he hugged me, pulled back and looked me up and down for a third time. “You don’t age a bit, do you?”

From a man who’s known me for 17 years and seen me through two pregnancies, I KNEW that was a compliment. So I paid him one back.

“Oh Robin,” I said, “Am I the only girl in Wisconsin who has a crush on her UPS man?”

With that comment, he handed me the electronic clipboard and requested my signature. “Welcome back,” he said.

Then his skinny, shorts-wearing bottom bounded back to his vehicle and the rumble of a diesel-fueled engine filled our driveway. Hence, Robin and his big brown trunk ambled down Sandy Point Lane.  For tonight.

Holy deliveryman, I know he’ll be back tomorrow.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Fact, Fiction and the Future.

Writing fiction is a freeing exercise. As a trained journalist and working reporter, the concepts of truth and objectivity once took precedence in everything I wrote.  When I became a columnist, truth still mattered, but I got to taste the savory flavor of injecting my own opinion into the content. Except for the occasional hate mail, it was delicious. Still, it doesn’t compare to the sweet sensation of just making shit up. Fiction gives a writer license to lie.

The novel I’m currently writing, Irish Twins, is the story of two sisters born less than twelve months apart. Without doubt, those who know us will see Gayle and me in this tale. When I first started writing it, I relived the past my sister and I shared as I typed. Somewhere around page 80, however, the concept of fiction took hold of my creative powers, and the two main characters, Jenny and Caylie, took on their own identities.  Characteristics were embellished; conversations more dramatic, and certain elements I simply didn’t want to relive were conveniently erased from existence. It’s truly a powerful thing.


Having just returned to our summer home, I’m still unpacking and becoming reacquainted with the place we’ve owned for 17 years. It’s filled with furniture and keepsakes, items far more representative of who we are than what we have on display at our desert dwelling.

Back in March, I posted a blog about an old typewriter that once belonged to my mother. (It's Not Your Mother's Typewriter). I waxed nostalgic about using it as a child and recalled a black and white photo of myself in front of it. It’s a photo that was sent by my mother when I was still a working journalist and she wrote a caption on the back indicating the snapshot was prophetic of my future. I knew the photo, processed in Sept., 1964, was in Wisconsin, but I didn’t realize it was in a magnet frame on the fridge.

In my fictional memory, the little girl was sitting in front of the Underwood typewriter featured in my blog. The factual reality is that it’s a child’s typewriter, one with a wheel at the top, used to dial the desired letter.  The caption I quoted in the blog was: “Was there ever a question of this girl’s future career?” Factual evidence shows my memory was close, but not entirely accurate. Here’s my mother’s quote, in tiny, tight handwriting that isn’t the least bit foggy in my memory:

For my mother, who often speaks to me as I write this new novel about the Irish Twins, I will answer her question: This photo tells me a lot about this little girl’s future. Here’s what it says:  She’ll grow up to write fiction based on fact, but she’ll take a lot of pleasure in creating her own reality. Also, she’ll always love and have that hand-hooked rug with the birds and the cats and the rose-colored house. And it’ll always be with her other childhood keepsakes in the place she calls Summer.

In my Wisconsin Bedroom

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Monday, May 18, 2009

Good Morning Chemtrails

The earth says hello. The girls and I returned to Wisconsin, arriving at our beautiful Northwoods home around midnight. After a decent night’s sleep in the land of trees and fresh air, we couldn’t wait to say hello to the lake this morning.

I’m sorry to report that loons and mallards didn’t greet us. Instead we got a fresh dose of chemtrails. I looked up into the beautiful sky and X-marked the spot right above our dock. I couldn’t believe it. The sun doesn’t shine here the way it does in Tucson. Is there really a need to patch up the sky with these chemical clouds?

I wish someone would give us the straight dope on these things once and for all. Regardless of what they contain or don’t contain, we didn’t return to the land of sky blue waters to have these artificial clouds cast shadows on our summer.

Friday, May 15, 2009

The Oro Valley Book Club: A Class Act

Last week I had the pleasure of being a guest of the "Book Group Ladies" of Oro Valley, AZ. They chose It's Not Your Mother's Bridge Club as their monthly selection after seeing a review in the Arizona Daily Star. Since this book club is also a bunko group, how could they resist?

It was an hour drive to get there and I was happy to arrive and find out they actually liked the book. I had a feeling they wouldn't have asked me to come if they hated it, right? I was also pleased to meet a woman in the group who went to the same elementary and high schools as I back in the Chicago-area. We were about five years apart, so we didn't attend the schools at the same time; however, we had a lot of fun talking about who we had in common. I thought it was extra fun to have recognized all the names in her mother's bridge club!

The discussion was stimulating and thought-provoking and they spoke about the characters like they knew them. Their questions were insightful and intelligent. It was everything a good book group discussion should be. Their bonus was, however, getting some of the inside scoop about my writing process, and I was delighted to share this information.

Perhaps the funniest thing one of the women said was that her husband rarely if ever pays attention to the books she reads. "But he noticed this one," she said. "It's that book with the big fake boobs on the cover."

Uh, yes. About those boobs. I let them go on for a bit and got the impression they all agreed they were fake. Eventually, I chimed in and delivered the old Seinfeld line: "They're real and they're spectacular." 

I like when this topic comes up because it gives me the opportunity to talk about the fundraising we're doing for Breast Cancer Research. Because of all the comments on the big boobs on this book cover, and because there are eight women in the story (and one of eight women is diagnosed with breast cancer) I have been donating profits from book sales to various Breast Cancer Research organizations, including Bunko for Breast Cancer.

And now the Oro Valley Group has joined this cause. Today I received a lovely note from the ladies of the club:

Dear Michele,
On behalf of the Oro Valley Book Group you visited May 7, we would love to make a donation to Breast Cancer Research or another charity of your choosing. Thank you so much it was a real treat to meet you and we all loved the discussion. Thanks so much for your time.

All the best,
Paige Coghall and "the Book Group Ladies"

Included was a generous check, which I will promptly relay to The Breast Cancer Research Foundation, Bunco For Breast Cancer Bunco group, Tempe, AZ.

Thank you, ladies. Attending your meeting was my pleasure and your donation is truly appreciated. You're a class act.

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Tuesday, May 12, 2009

My Sister was NOT ready for her Close-up: The Oprah Show Follow-up

Oprah wore hot pink. So did Mary. When the show began its Pacific Time Zone broadcast today, I texted my sister just to be sure I knew where to look for her and her friend, Judy.

“We’re on the right side of the stage, second row. Judy’s on the end in yellow. I’m next to her with a hot pink shirt, black sweater and your statement turquoise necklace.”

The show was all about Dr. Oz, a medical doctor who offers advice on everything from how your poop should be shaped to obtaining multiple orgasms. I was a Dr. Oz virgin, so it was hard for me to get excited or sentimental about the show. I watched for a distinct purpose: to try to see my sister and HOPEFULLY, see my necklace.

Mary was busy at work while the show aired here, but took time out to text me. “Probably they’ll show us @ the end when they bring out the Netti Pots.”

To which I replied, “What the HELL is a Netti Pot?”

“It’s a tea pot nose cleaner!”

Who knew?

Sure enough, in the last minutes of the show, Oprah’s crew brought out a slew of gravy boat-shaped Netti Pots for each member of the audience.  And this is when I, indeed, got to see Hot Pink Mary and Yellow Judy. They were shown from a couple angles, but I was primarily interested in the close-up.


Now, let me tell you something about my sister. She is definitely one of the most beautiful women I’ve ever known. Not just physically, with her blonde hair, blue eyes, petite figure and excellent sense of style; but also, she has an unquestionable beauty of spirit. She defines the word “kind.” Mary has to be one of the most excitable people alive. No one gets as giddy as she over a present, for example. I used to tease her and send her birthday present weeks in advance with a notation reading: DO NOT OPEN UNTIL YOUR BIRTHDAY.

“Yeah right!” she always said as she ripped open the paper. It became our little joke.

So, it was no surprise to me that Mary appeared to be VERY excited about Oprah’s gift of a Netti Pot. She was so excited, that she gasped for breath. And in doing so, right in the middle of her momentary close-up, she put her hand to her chest and completely covered the necklace.

I’ve got proof:

Oprah doesn’t let people use her name or her show to market their own products or causes, so I wouldn’t have been able to use the “As Seen on Oprah” tagline anyway. But I think it’s far more entertaining that my four-strand turquoise and copper necklace as modeled by the most beautiful woman on earth will forever be known as the piece of jewelry that was NOT seen on Oprah.

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Monday, May 11, 2009

She’s Leaving Home, The Sequel

Two kids means two times the joy, two times the heartbreak. One daughter has just returned from eight days on the East Coast and I think we’ve got her caught up on her sleep and recovered from the head cold she brought back as a souvenir. Oh, and by the way, she 's NY now and wants “to move there right after she finishes college.”

Today, daughter number two, Camille, is off to camp. Thank God it’s only three days for her because I don’t think I could take missing my baby for any longer than that. Not right now.

There was some question as to whether or not Camille would be allowed to go to camp and it was all because one day she drew ♥ ♥ ♥'s on a post at school. Her former friend turned her in, and because it was considered “defacing school property,” she received an automatic pink slip. Pink slip = probation. Probation = You might not go to camp.

Her teacher was VERY disappointed in her actions. She, in fact, referred to Camille’s artwork not as “defacing school property” but as an act of “vandalism.” She called me in for a conference on a Friday afternoon and told me Camille had a 50/50 chance of being allowed to go. “And if she doesn’t go and that means your husband won’t come on Monday and do his disc golf demonstration, so be it,” she said.

She assured me the probationary hearing would be “fair,” but gave me “no guarantees.” I believed I couldn’t possibly live in a world where an 11-year-old would be banned from the main event of elementary school for drawing hearts on a post. Nevertheless, we—Camille, her dad and I—were all left to twist in the wind over the weekend as we waited for the meeting to take place the following Monday afternoon.

I met with the school principal on Monday morning to discuss what I thought was an extreme overreaction on behalf of Camille’s teacher, and this principal assured me that she would act as my daughter’s advocate at the probationary hearing, and that Camille would indeed be going to camp. But as far as I was concerned, the unnecessary damage inflicted upon my little girl, who now thought of herself as “the bad girl,” AND my husband, who rearranged his trip to Wisconsin to be available for the disc golf demonstration, was bordering on unforgivable. And what this teacher also failed to take into consideration, was that I ran the blasted silent auction, donating tons of time and merchandise, which was the main fundraiser for the camp experience. All this for hearts on a post.

I could think of something else I’d like to spray on a post outside of a certain classroom. But, of course, I know better and would never do such a juvenile thing. Besides, I have the outlet of spraying my BLOG with this crap instead of defacing someone else’s property.

♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥

Friday, May 08, 2009

Fazio & The Tanque Verde Loop Update


Hi Everyone,
Fazio has turned in all of his paperwork and his appeal of PCDSD's decision will be heard by the District 4 Board of Adjustments.

WHEN: JUNE 9TH, 11:00 A.M.

We need as many of you AND your neighbors as possible to attend. Fazio continues to claim that there are only a few noisemakers resisting this commercial development!

I will have more information next week, so keep watching your email.

Our next meeting will be Wednesday, May 27th @ 7 p.m. in the Board Room @ Lew Sorensen Center on Tanque Verde Road.

For those who remember our (unsuccessful) fight to keep Bob Seal from building 14 condos on the SW corner of TV Road & TV Loop, there is a notice on the construction fence announcing that the parcel will be sold at public auction June 17th @ 11 am. If you or someone you know might want this parcel (particularly if you are not thinking about building 14 condos there), please check it out.

Thanks so much for your continued support, and hope to see you at the meeting!

Diana Jones

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Thursday, May 07, 2009

When Family Holidays are No Longer Holidays

May 7. Siete de Mayo. Thursday. The 127th day of 2009. The Day it hit 100° in Tucson?  May 7 is just one date and it could have hundreds of different meanings for countless people. But for me, May 7 will always jump off the calendar as being my father’s birthday. He would have been 89 today. 

Alas, my dad never saw a birthday beyond 86.

I know the date of his death, but allow that date to lapse without fanfare or significant recognition. It’s recent enough that it hasn’t etched itself into my brain the way May 7 has.  And I didn’t want to take on a whole new set of dates to remember with every passing loved one.  So, I let those days slide. But it’s too hard to let go of the birthdays. I’ve had to walk around all day knowing I can’t pick up the phone and sing to my father.

The good news is, it occurred to me when I started writing this piece that it’s also a friend’s birthday . . . the husband of Wilma Flintsone. So a big yabba-dabba-birthday to you, Fred! 

And this just in, an email with the subject: “Chantal Cozzens turns four.” Chantal is our adorable niece, and the funny thing about her is that we didn't know her actual first name for many, many months after her birth. So, I’m not 100 percent sure today is her birthday. I know it’s in May and I know today was the day her proud Daddy sent around her most recent photos. 

Please let it be May 7. I want back my family holiday.

Tuesday, May 05, 2009

Hello From the White House

Willow has been good about keeping in touch, although her texts are brief and to the point. Yesterday she ran into two friends from her soccer team at Arlington National Cemetery. It was a nice taste of the "small world" scenario we all experience from time to time when traveling. I'm so glad she's sharing her trip with us. It's hard having her away.

May 3, 4:12 p.m.:
I got my luggage but it rained like crazy at Busch Gardens so everyone is soaking wet. It was so much super fun tho.

May 3, 4:16 p.m.:
They won't let us change and it's a 3 hour bus ride to DC

May 4, 2:28 p.m.:
OMG I just ran into Ariella and Amber at Arlington!

May 4, 2:33 p.m.:
I gave them both a big hug

May 4, 2:39 p.m.:
It's pretty cold but I'm okay.

"Me and Luke right now."

May 5, 10:26 a.m., "I just got out of the Holocaust Museum."

 "Hello from the White House."

Saturday, May 02, 2009

The DC Trip Texting Tale

8:00 a.m., first text from Willow:

"Just got to Virginia and guess what? They lost my luggage. I should get it back tonight. Other than that the trip has gone pretty well."

Mom's comment: All that time packing . . . for this?

Friday, May 01, 2009

She’s Leaving Home

All my friends with older children assured me of the following: Even though I was the mother crying in the school parking lot on the first day of kindergarten, by the time the kids were teenagers, I wouldn’t be nearly as sad to see them go.

Willow is 14. She’s a good kid and we’re very proud of her. She was born on her due date, and in the early years, always ranked in the 50th percentile for height and weight. She’s maintained exemplary grades, never gets sick, and she’s chosen really nice friends. She’s definitely a normal girl with typical teenage mood swings, and occasional lapses into unacceptable bouts of selfishness. Fortunately, that’s an easy fix. All we need to do to get her attention AND get her back on track is to take away her cell phone for a few days. Lo and behold, our sweet daughter returns.

So, while I’m not sad to see her leave on an eight-day adventure to Washington DC and New York City with her eighth grade class, I am keenly aware that this will be the longest separation she’s had from us. And it makes me a little nervous. Will she behave? Will she execute everything she’s been taught about being a good and respectful citizen while not under the constant watch of her parents? This is a true rite of passage and I know, with the incredible itinerary the school staff has planned, she will have the experience of a lifetime.

I can’t help but wonder, however, after 14 years of being her mother, can I stop worrying about flippin’ EVERYTHING for just five minutes?

Mostly, for the next eight days, I’m going to miss Willow’s sense of humor. There’s very little about her that doesn’t brighten my world at least once a day.

Thank God for cell phones.