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Something better than happy in the new year

New Year

I don't know anybody who isn't glad to see the door shut behind 2009. Or who isn't, with cautious hope or a lot of it, praying for all that to be over so we can get back to where we were before we were forced out of the garden of innocence and prosperity.

Or was it ignorance and illusion? Maybe some of both.

It's not that I don't want you (and me) to be happy this year. But if happiness means returning to business as usual, then I'll have to say no thanks.

What prescience Paul Simon had when he wrote the lyrics to American Tune in the mid 1970s:

And I don`t know a soul who`s not been battered
I don`t have a friend who feels at ease
I don`t know a dream that`s not been shattered
or driven to its knees
But it`s all right, it`s all right
We’ve lived so well so long
Still, when I think of the road
we`re traveling on
I wonder what went wrong
I can`t help it, I wonder what went wrong

Sometimes, we try to get out of the painful place so fast we don't have time to figure out what went wrong. That usually means we keep traveling on the same road that got us there.

If you tried to have a conversation with my grandmother about happiness, she'd have thought you were daft. Happiness wasn't any sort of goal. Godliness, cleanliness, duty: those were what life was about. Happiness was just a condition that happened along, more or less often depending on the temperament God and your genes blessed you with. Or on whether you belonged to one of the serious cultures or one of the more joyful ones.

I come from the stock Garrison Keillor calls "Dark Norwegian." The kind of people who eat lutefisk on purpose. Who first set foot in South Dakota in winter and thought it was a nice place to stay. The kind of people for whom "well, that's not too bad," is as close to a declaration of glee as you can get.

Of course, living in the decades of unusual prosperity with the other indulged Baby Boomers has softened me. I'm as preoccupied with  personal ease and comfort as the next person.

But it seems we've entered a time of regrouping and deliberate change. The joy and happiness in doing that is considerable. It's just not the kind of happiness we usually think of when we say "Happy New Year."

We come on the ship they call the Mayflower
We come on the ship that sailed the moon
We come in the age`s most uncertain hour
and sing an American tune
But it`s all right, it`s all right
You can`t be forever blessed
Still, tomorrow`s going to be another working day
And I`m trying to get some rest
That`s all I`m trying to get some rest

Tomorrow's another working day. May you be blessed with some rest, clear vision, and resolve for whatever good work you can do in making America live up to its greatest promise.

Which is, I'm pretty sure, something deeper, richer (in the spiritual sense), and better than a nation of people with granite countertops and jobs with benefits, and people. . . without them. We seem to have slipped, those of us on both sides of the equation.

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Closing the Old Year with a Bunch of Firsts


It was back to the world of reality today.  The routine of the day job and the back-log from being away from the day job.  Changing my eating habits and no more sleeping-in.  It wasn’t a slap in the face – but it was close.  Let's call it a rude awakening.

It has been terrific to have gone away for a spell - having taken the opportunity to use some sorely-needed vacation time.  Quirky technology issues that messed with my connectivity might possibly have been divinely inspired - a means of forcing a disconnection from matters of minimal importance.

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It's not uncomplicated. . .


”There's a surprising fondness for the double negative in It's Complicated, starring Meryl Streep, Alec Baldwin and Steve Martin. Consider it a grammatical hint that things will get a bit messy,” said the Denver Post’s Lisa Kennedy.

I mention that because I’ve been getting a lot of heat for grammatical quirks, including my love of the double negative. Which isn’t about anything if it’s not about the notion that life is complicated.

Of course I loved It’s Complicated.  It’s a shrewdly targeted bit of whimsy by and for women my age. As critic Michael O’Sullivan pointed out, “Women of a certain age are going to love that. They won't know which is sexier: that Jane is lusted over by two handsome suitors or that she's finally getting her dream kitchen.”

The story: Jane is a wildly successful yet impossibly charming and down-to-earth baker of posh pastry for the residents of Santa Barbara (who, being professionally thin, must buy it as kitchen props, not food). Her three children are in the last stages of nest leaving. She’s been divorced for 10 years from wildly successful yet charming, earthy if not down-to-earth lawyer Jake (Baldwin). He left her for Angess (Lake Bell) of the tight abdomen who is Much Younger, Hotter, and More Challenging. And with absolutely no observable other good qualities at all. Which is really quite satisfying for those of us whose character is better than our bodies.

Still, some male critics say “get real” when Jake finds himself irresistibly drawn back to Jane. But we know why.  Who wouldn’t love Streep and her astonishing, wonderful food? Certainly Steve Martin, who plays a nice guy so quiet and self-contained that I can’t remember his character’s name, does.

You know the screwball comedy routine. Jake, the scalliwag, pursues Jane the way he probably did when they were 23 and in Paris. Aside from being much more sexually generous and fulfilling than Angess, which of course is totally true about older women (in this case, same-age women), Jane has the perfect house even though she feels the need to make it more perfect (that’s where Martin’s character, the architect, comes in).

And it’s quiet. No demanding wife and horribly behaved child named Pedro around.

(Apparently Agness, whose biological clock is still ticking, cuckolded Jake five years earlier, so now she gets to yell “YO!” at Jake and order him to put the adorable yet unpleasant offspring of that affair to bed while she works on her laptop. This part doesn’t make any sense except as part of the long and never successful Karmic process of beating some awareness into Jake. And to set the stage for another laptop scene. But you’ll have to see the movie for that.)

Anyway, the question is what does Jane want, besides a kitchen that is beyond imagining fabulous, witty loyal friends to drink chardonnay with,  the love of her successful and pretty if tremulous children, and the joy of making scads of money baking beautiful food for rich people?

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Gas Pains Drops Out of the Top Ten

Gas Pains

Did you hear cheering coming from the Palace or was that just my imagination?

Over the holiday break it occurred to me to inquire of The Wizard who resides over at The Mother Ship about the vital statistics concerning this ridiculous soapbox known as a blog.

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Child Safety Panel Offered Free on Thursday February 18, 2010

Child Safety, Stranger Danger, Home Safety

Thursday February 18, 2010
6:30 to 8 PM
Wauwatosa School District
Fischer Building – Board Room
12121 West North Avenue

The board room is accessed from the doors on the south end of the east parking lot, these are the doors closest to the field and playground.

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Bus stop chit-chat a cheery start to wintry workday


On the weekday mornings now my bus comes 9 minutes earlier ... it's the new winter schedule and usually the bus is half-empty the first day the schedule goes into effect because so many people miss it.

My bus-stop buddy was kind enough to point this out to me BEFORE the schedule change took effect or I would've missed the bus that day.

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Check out our LEGO Christmas Ornaments!


St. Bernard Parish School Students held an extremely fun and productive LEGO Club meeting in December.  Students created an ornament to take home and decorate the Christmas tree!  Coach Breiner came prepared with all sorts of great ideas.  The kids took the ideas and ran with it.  You'll even notice an All-LEGO Nativity Scene.  Can you find Baby Jesus?

Call St. Bernard Parish School 258-9977 today for your guided tour! 

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Friday Morning Music

Popular Culture


We're all nearing the finish line for the first full week of work of the New Year.  Turn-up the volume on that office computer and put on your dancing shoes for the weekend...

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Food for the winter soul

Food, Winter

The first snow shoveling yesterday was a delight. The snow was light and swiftly dispensed with. But the second one, starting around 11:30, was a different matter.

The snow was wetter, heavier and blowing sleetily. Snowglobe lovely, but hard on these old bones. The plows were resting or elsewhere, and only my shovel and the sudden deer were making tracks.

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Good eats at the Cosmos Cafe

Food, Cosmos Cafe

Tonight, son George and I decided to go out to celebrate his acceptance at the UW-Madison Business School. Feeling both carnivorous and thrifty, we headed to the Cosmos Cafe at 72nd and North Avenue. Geo had already eaten there and declared it the only place he'd bother to go to for gyros anymore.

And I'd been wanting to try it, having watched the ongoing renovation and being a big fan of Greek food. Helen Tselentis, whose family owns the place, was a student of mine once upon a time. And I knew from the wonderful fish fry at Sts. Constantine and Helen not far away that Helen's hubby was one heck of a cook.

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Uniform Trick-or-Treat a Sweet Waste of Time

Halloween, Things that bug me

Oh sure, the calendar says January, but some supposedly forward-thinking municipalities are already legislating October - Halloween, to be exact. According to this story, an uber-brilliant group representing Milwaukee County’s 19 municipalities got together recently and endorsed uniform trick-or-treating hours. And by uniform, I mean “the Sunday on or before Oct. 31. When Oct 31 falls on a Saturday, trick-or-treat would be held that day.”

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You, me and a centipede


As my teenage daughter stood shrieking in the bathroom, yelling C-E-N-T-I-P-E-D-E!!!!!!!!! at the top of her lungs, I thought there must be a lesson embedded in this moment somewhere.

After years of squishing, flicking, mashing and snuffing out the lives of countless spiders, flies, and cockroaches, doing in a centipede has always been the worst and wants to make me scream too.

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Girlfriend, Hunt'n

The other day I was de-boning a thawed pheasant when the dog tiptoed into the kitchen - nose twitching.  Ordinarily she does this when the chopping of raw vegetables occurs as an errant hunk of carrot might miraculously find its way to the floor. 

Pheasants cast a similar spell over her.  Even skinned and frozen birds.  She can sniff them out from the other side of the house while snoozing and will come schmoozing around to see what's-up.

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New Additions



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Our Daily Paper

       The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, Milwaukee’s own daily morning newspaper, is the largest newspaper in Wisconsin.  It was first printed on Sunday, April 2, 1995 after the consolidation of the local afternoon paper, the Milwaukee Journal and the morning paper, the Milwaukee Sentinel.  However, the roots of the paper go back to 1837.


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What do Catholic Schools Week and Joe Bartolotta Have in Common?

Scoll down for the answer.

St. Bernard Parish School Open House
Sunday, January 31st
11:00am - 1:30pm
Meet Teachers l Visit Classrooms l Enjoy Story Time l
Watch or Participate in SMARTBoard Demonstrations 
Experience the Science Fair l Listen to Children's Musical Performances
Food & Refreshments
So Much More!
Unable to attend the Open House?
Schedule your personal tour at anytime!
Contact School Principal Mr. William Strube 

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One reader's Kindle is another reader's book

Kindle, book, bus

Kindle, I'm just not that into you.

This is what I was thinking when a woman slid into the seat next to me on the bus one recent morning. As I was settling into a book of my own, she discreetly pulled her electronic reader out of a plastic bag and turned it on.

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Tosa United Presents Milton Creagh / Ideas For Setting Children Up For Success As Adults

Tosa United, Underage Alcohol, Child Safety, Public Education

Tosa United is presenting Milton Creagh, the author of “Nobody Wants Your Child” for a one night presentation on Monday February 1, 2010, 7:00pm, Wauwatosa West Highs School Auditorium, 11400 West Center Street.

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Open House This Sunday, January 31 @ St. Bernard Parish School

This Sunday marks the beginning of Catholic Schools' Week 2010!  All are welcome to join in the fun!

We welcome you to our Open House & Educational Fair following the 10 a.m. mass this Sunday, January 31st!   St. Bernard Parish School offers state-of-the-art technology integrated daily into a rigorous and relevant curriculum, faith-based Catholic education,  K4-8th Spanish Instruction, comprehensive mathematics instruction, LEGO Club, Scouting, music classes, gym classes, JASON Project, art classes, basketball & volleyballreading support, small class sizes, Choir, band instruction opportunities, handbell choirhot lunch program, Award-Winning Forensics Team,  top-notch gym, family-like community, and much much more!   Come and check us out! 

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Hidden scrolls worth a peek but don't lean on the glass display case

Dead Sea Scrolls, museum, history

I spent close to 2 hours at the Dead Sea Scrolls exhibit with a friend recently, enthalled by the ancient writings and artifacts that were displayed at the museum as part of a temporary exhibit.

Writing holds a special charm for me and so I was mesmerized by the sight of so many papers lined with tiny script that looked more like artwork than just writing. As I leaned over to get a better look,  a guard came up to me to warn me not to lean on the cases which I was in the process of doing.  

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