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A List of Crazy Things

Posted by bebowreinhard on February 22, 2016 at 3:40 PM Comments comments (3)

I’ve done a lot of really weird things. This could be a life of weird things.


When my mom decided to move to Phoenix, I says heck no, I’m staying here. I was 18. My two brothers and two sisters went with her, but I felt I could support myself. Eight apartments and a ton of rejected roommates later, I finally got married. Whew! Bit the bullet on that one.


Marrying my husband and having my three kids were probably the only sane things I did. Or the things that kept me sane.


But living in Abrams didn’t help. My husband got to walk to his job on the golf course, while I drove an hour or more round trip—in snow, sleet, whatever. It got to the point where I would be happy my temporary job was only temporary because I could get a break from driving. Problem was, by the time I needed to get serious about getting job, my resume made me look flakey. Me?


And getting a master’s in history for no better purpose than to make a fiction idea nonfiction? That’s pretty crazy. My major nonfiction book would have been published by now if I had made it fiction. As it is, I turned part into a movie script, and that probably has a better chance. I must be the only person who’s worked twenty years on researching a non-fiction book about the Civil and Indian wars and can’t find a publisher.


How could someone as imaginative as me – I can see an item in a store that I’d never buy and imagine someone who could – ever make it as a historian? Only someone like me could be the first to come up with the idea that Grant deliberately sent an army against Indians to get slaughtered so they could take the Black Hills. Well, heck, doesn’t that make sense? I mean, just look at his record in the Civil War.


I guess I’m the only one it makes sense to.


And who else turns down a call from Jon Stewart's staff to be interviewed for the Daily Show? I was running a campaign back in 1998 to turn Columbus Day into Diversity Day. I got interviewed by the local paper, it went out on the wire and before I knew it, it was getting national attention. Jay Leno mentioned it on the Tonight Show - without using my name - and I got that call, which was amazing. They wanted to interview me for one of their news segments. Of course, I had to think on my feet. I said, but I don't want you to make fun of it. This is a serious campaign. They asked who they COULD make fun of.  Again, I've never been good at thinking fast. Ah, the Catholic Church? Finally I gave them the name and number of the Columbus museum in Columbus, Wisconsin, who I'd done a radio show with exploring both sides. The Daily Show never called back.


When I left the copper museum in 2011 I was at loose ends. I had been doing great work there – or so I thought, though no one else liked it – and I wanted to do other great work to help tribal nations progress and show how really great they are and how bad this country has been to them.


Does anyone really want to know this stuff? Obviously not.


But my next great idea that I pursued was to do a film documentary on ten Indians tribes in the nation—where they were before conquest and where they are today. Had I ever filmed anything? Did I have a film degree? Of course not. I was a historian. I’d have to hire all that. But I didn’t. I just started contacting tribes to get them interested and then the rest would fall into place, right?


First I got a little filming experience. I decided to make a small budget film on doing rummage sales. I started driving around, looking for a interesting rummage sales to film, and finally did it. I got out of my car, and talked to the three blonde ladies sitting there waiting for customers. I asked if I could film them. They said sure. I asked a bunch of stupid, inane questions and I’m sure they were all just hoping I’d buy something for their trouble and leave.


But I was “queen of rummage sales,” having held them myself for 25 years, and figured I had all the insights to make this really good. I taped myself getting ready for one. And then I couldn’t figure out how to make the film interesting. I bored myself.


I also didn’t get any support for the Indian documentary past the Navajos. I was going to drive down into Apache territory in southern Arizona, but my sister wouldn’t let me borrow her car. I had an Oneida friend who didn’t want anyone to know he’d work with me.


I didn’t quite give up on the documentary film idea there though. With my copper database (CAMD) I decided that I could go to an “archaeology in the media” conference and get someone interested in helping me make a copper artifact documentary. That would really be the way to get this into the public eye (I was accepted into the program for May 2016; turned out they were accepting everybody). I went around Wisconsin and up into Michigan and did a variety of short videos of me talking about copper with scenic backdrops – even embarrassed a museum official I was working with to do an interview on camera with me (don’t worry, Joan, I’ll never use it!). I haven’t been able to bring myself to look at them yet, and dropped out of the conference for a refund of the fee (less $25). My other expense on that project was buying a second tripod when I lost the camera connector to the first one.


Who does crazy things like this? Mostly delusional people, people who think they have more to offer than they do. People who want to be involved in something bigger than themselves, of course, but also people desperate to leave their mark somewhere. But what good is a mark that misses the mark?


Just this morning I woke with the crazy idea in my head to stop putting out the copper newsletter. I have nearly 100 free subscribers, and it’s in its 6th year, but I wonder if anyone bothers reading it. It’s a lot of work and while it is what I give back to all those who have helped me with information, I’m starting to see it as a waste of time. Yet it costs me nothing to do, except time.


At the same time, I paid for the most expensive website that Webs.com (here) has to offer because I expect to sell my copper databases there. But that’s not real product. It’s a variety of tables and they’d have to contact me to get the full copy. I made it so they could pay for it from my website and then I would send it to them – but did I really need the biggest website? In my defense here, I did wait until I got a 50%-off offer, which is pretty sweet. But still. Who does these things? I’ve not made a penny on this database yet.


So is this five-year, million-mile project going to pay off any better than the one where I impersonate Henry as an old German soldier? Here again, I’m certainly doing the work no one else is doing. But to make it pay off, I need to prove how the copper data is valuable. After all, I’m a historian, not an archaeologist. At a conference last year, after I’d given my little presentation, an archaeologist who has done copper research had the gall to say yeah, that kind of research would be nice to have, if we had the “right person” doing it. Well, who, huh? I’ve been doing it for five years and not one person has offered to take over for me.


Yeah, I’ll sell all this research. Give me an offer, and you can have all of it. I’ll move on.


Yeah, crazy. It’s what a person is called who does things they’re not qualified to do. So what am I qualified to do? Write fiction. But just having an imagination doesn’t make you talented. Don’t you wish life worked that way? It's a lot of hard work, a lot of hard editing. And I've done a lot of it. I'm now a professional paid editor, 39 hours a week.


Now I’m living alone in Madison, working, and fighting my diet to hang on to my gall bladder. Are these crazy things, too? By what kind of meter do I measure what I’m doing with my life? Yes, I hated living in Abrams, and yes, I hate living alone. Am I doomed?


I think there is only one way to live a life, and that’s the best we know how. We all have different abilities and desires. And to say, that’s crazy, why do you do that, and expect to find an answer? Maybe that’s what’s crazy.

 

The First Night in the New Apartment

Posted by bebowreinhard on February 4, 2015 at 1:10 PM Comments comments (0)

First day of apartment living. A very lonely feeling, made worse by feeling alone. Makes sense, right? I left so little behind in Abrams. No one from the theater group I was in for years said goodbye or we’ll miss you, nor anyone from the writing group that I formed and ran for three years, or any family or friends to see me off. Certainly no one in Abrams—the postal lady there didn’t even know who I was, then said she didn’t recognize me, and then handed me the change of address form without a word. 36 years in that town, and I left nothing but cats and a husband behind.

All the things I’ve done, or wanted to do there. If we could have run the restaurant this winter as I proposed, that would have given me reason to stay. But my husband, as usual, saw his family’s view rather than mine, and that was the last effort I had in me. All the living there, of which there’s no trace today. How does something like that happen? How could I have screwed everything up so badly? So that’s why I’m in Madison now? I’m trying to escape my past? I should know better. We cannot escape who we are.

Some probably feel I should have tried harder to find a job in Green Bay, but I screwed myself up there so badly that no one I ever worked for wants me back. And even if I had taken the Apac job at $9 an hour, I still would have had that long drive every day, or I would have had to live at my mother’s house. A lousy job with a residence where I’d get no writing done.

How can I give up my writing now? I’ve wasted so much time on it.

No, there’s no going back. Even if we think we’d do things so much differently, we’re just fooling ourselves. We are who we are.

This moving away is an adjustment, of course. I’ll get used to being lonely and maybe I’ll even start to make friends, although the people I do know here want nothing to do with me. Maybe I am meant to be alone. Maybe that’s what the universe is telling me. Screw everyone and just do your own thing. But I don’t feel I’m meant to be lonely. Sure, I’m a writer, but a sociable one. I’m still thinking of running another writing group that focuses on exercises, once a month in Green Bay—even though I can’t get anyone to want to join and it’ll probably just be me again.

It would help so much to hear from my kids, but I fear what they’re thinking about me right now, so maybe it’s better that I don’t. They have their lives and I have mine, right? How badly I miss them, but that’s my problem, too. Just thinking about the possibility that they hate me now makes me cry. I have to stop thinking about what was and try to focus on what is. Today that task is all but impossible.

I just knew I couldn’t keep living in Abrams. I couldn’t keep running a failed writing career in Abrams where I felt of absolutely no value to anyone. Even those couple of chances I had to work in a post office fell apart.

We can only try and really, that’s all I’m doing here. I see this as my last chance to be of value somewhere. I think I have something to contribute but how will I know if I don’t take a chance?

So here I am, sitting here alone watching the snow fall, wondering what happened to the fun day we had planned for today. Instead Joe and Marty, my helpful movers, had to head back early.

It was easy to move here. It is hard to be here. That’s what the universe is telling me. “Be careful what you ask for, honey, you might just hate it.”

Funny, but I think the people at work expected me to quit right away. And I came close a couple of times when it seemed I wasn’t going to find a place to live or wasn’t going to be able to move in. It wouldn’t have taken much to discourage me, but instead everything just fell into place. But no one at work offered to help, as if in fear of being intrusive. Then when they found my article in the Press Gazette about leaving there for good, they must have realized I was serious. I got a lot more positive comments from them here in Madison than from anyone in Green Bay.

But I will admit I don’t know how long I’ll last. I feel like my health is disintegrating, and so I’m making sure there are good instructions for this position at work for the next person, just in case. Stress is a killer for me, and the stress of being alone doesn’t help. I don’t know what else could happen to remove me from here, now that I’m here; the weather, I’m sure, will eventually improve and I’ll get to enjoy all the great features of city life.

If I can adjust.

Right now, my first day here—blizzard, sad, lonely, pain and heartache for all of my past that I can never get back is what surrounds me. Today the weather is me.

Addendum: Weather is still bad but mood has improved. Hardest are the mornings, when I sit at the dining table alone, unable to turn on the internet to connect with people even by wire. Loneliness. It’s what makes me reach out to others I see who are alone.

 

Wanning Days of Summer

Posted by bebowreinhard on August 20, 2014 at 7:45 PM Comments comments (0)

Sweet corn is for sale at the farmer’s markets. Misty fog rises up from the lakes because the water is warmer than the morning air. Back to school sales bring hopeful shoppers to stores. And so many people wonder, because they’ve been so busy running here and there—did they enjoy summer at all? Did they get a chance to lie back in the hammock and stare at the stars as the night rolled in? Did they get a chance to lie out at the beach and read a book, or listen to music? Did they have that backyard party with friends and play a little badminton where you find out your cousin doesn’t know how to serve at all, making us all laugh by missing the birdie she holds? All those things that summer used to mean to us when we were younger and thought we had lots of time ahead.

Now as the days of August roll toward fall, we wonder where that time went. Was it even there to begin with? Or was it just our imagination?

Summer is a different time of year than fall or winter. Or maybe it’s just more of the same, because we’re too busy trying to enjoy the day that we can’t actually enjoy the day. What does it mean to enjoy the day? Instead of understanding enjoyment, we spend our minutes trying to forget all the miseries that might surround us.

Summer means a chance to shed that outerwear, roll your windows down when you drive and feel the weather, enjoy the wind, rather than try to hide from it. But we’re too busy so we continue trying to hide from ourselves. Rather than bearing our soul to the wind in the glorious warm air, we wear that outer layer of skin and attitude and busyness to protect ourselves from seeing ourselves.

Summer is a time to feel the warmth and get naked.

Did you get your chance to lie naked in the sun? Maybe it’s not too late. Maybe it’s never too late to lie on the beach with a book and watch the night stars roll in. Only death can truly rob us, and that always comes soon enough for all of us.

 

Pen In Cheek

Posted by bebowreinhard on June 14, 2014 at 5:10 PM Comments comments (0)

Enough already, all you writers with all your great successes. Do you ever for a moment stop to think that maybe some of us aren’t doing so well and feel even more miserable to learn that you’ve finally found that magical spot in the book world where you belong? Do you enjoy leaving the rest of us behind?

Oh, I know what you’ll say. But I’m only try to get people to buy my work. Oh really? So it isn’t enough that you’ve published, now you actually want to make money, too? Heavens. Before you know it, there’ll be no room for anyone else, and you won’t care, because you’re off there somewhere rolling in your dough.

Yes, I know how rich all you successful writers are. Why do you think I’m trying so hard to make it? I have bills, too. And they’re stacking up!

You know it doesn’t matter if I buy your book. That’s not going to get me any closer to publication. And take your advice? What good’s that gonna do me? I don’t have your flare for words. I just have these ten sentences that are basically the same but arranged differently, that’s all. Hey, haven’t you always said there’s no such thing as a bad writer, only one that doesn’t try?

Well, I try. Every day I take these ten sentences, rearrange them, re-submit and what do I get for my trouble? The publisher says, sorry we’re all filled up publishing GOOD stuff! How do you think that makes me feel?

I don’t know why I bother telling you. You’re not sympathetic. You forgot you were once where I am. You forgot that someone had to help you along the way, but now you’re just stepping on us poor unpublished … what? You’re 60? You’ve been a writer for 40 years? Oh, sure, now you’re just trying to make me quit!

Have patience? Shudder.

 

Of Chickens & Copper

Posted by bebowreinhard on June 7, 2014 at 12:10 AM Comments comments (0)

DAY 1:

I have to babysit chickens. In Arizona. In June. Now I’m not a total novice to chickens. I once won a baby chick at Easter and built it a nice little nest and fed it every day and I was only nine. But in the middle of winter it froze to death. It was alone and the shed had no heat. I think we ate it, but I’m not sure.

The opposite situation will transpire in Arizona in June. I asked my sister – will I be expected to keep them cool? How do you keep a chicken cool? I’m thinking hosing them down in the middle of the day. Given them icicle water, maybe cube trays. Or my kids’ favorite in the summer, the slip ‘n slide, where they can go wooooo to their little heart’s content.

The last thing I want is to collect poached eggs.

Reality turned out differently, as reality always does. First, they haven’t laid one egg. Not yet. And these chickens don’t seem at all bothered by the June heat, unlike us humans. They ran about to their heart’s content, but fortunately, Mindy has a lot of shade trees and, like humans, they did prefer that to this constant stream of sun. I have to clean and refill their two water troughs every morning. And they like a refreshing grape treat and cold corn from the fridge once a day. That’s pretty much it. With the dried corn at night and in the morning, and the dried worm treats, they can handle themselves just fine.

But that doesn’t mean I can just run off for the day and forget about them. Oh no. I can do a morning run, and come back to see if they’re okay, and then do an afternoon run. Not quite sure yet how that’s gonna go.

Turns out getting my Arizona legs isn’t so easy to do. Got up at 4:30 yesterday to catch the flight, and got up at 4:30 again this morning. Not too happy about that. But I’ve got the car and it’s off to Prescott today. Visited the Cave Creek museum with an appointment the day of arrival because they're shut down for the summer (no copper, but lovely Hohokam artifacts), dropped off my novels at the Cave Creek library, and ate at the Cartwright Ranch supper club. No, not those Cartwrights. But I did tell the waitress that since we had an extra chair at the table to send Adam Cartwright over and she knew just who I was talking about. Gave the waitress a heads up about the novels at the library. Her favorite was Adam, too.

That night Mindy showed me how the chickens know when it's time to go to bed, and trying to force them in any earlier would not work.

Photos are of Cactus, Chickens and Cartwright Dinner.

Day 2: Yeah, I woke up at 4:30 but refused to believe I couldn't get back to sleep.  Finally crawled out about 6 a.m. when I saw this big flash of light and I knew immediately what that meant. Mindy went outside without me! She needed to show me what to do but didn’t want to wake me. I didn’t get to share in the fun of chickens flying the coop, but watched as she scrubbed down the water troughs and re-filled them with water, and then covered the corn so that the nine various bunnies in the yard would have to figure out how to uncover it. Bunnies, quails, doves, a nice assortment of wild life to watch in the p.m. when the sun is on the other side of the house. She has all f her garden and lawn on a self-timing watering system, so that’s no problem. But the chickens are fed treats during the day – dried mealworms, yum, and corn right out of the freezer (well, almost). The other job is to sweep the porch in the morning, after the poop of the day before is dried up. (I haven’t found out what to do if the poop was still wet when I sweep it.)

What’s cutest about chickens is when you go outside they come running because they think you have treats. We learned, though, that they don’t seem to like the same treat two days in a row. Hmmm. Chickens are fussy. Nope, no eggs yet. I guess they’re only about 6 mos. old.

But I did get away to research copper. Mindy suggested a trip to Prescott, which I jumped on after learning it was the original state capital. She expected me to do a lot more there than I did. I went to two museums, only paying entrance to one, because the second had nothing on display. They sent me to their archives, where I got the email of a fellow who promises to send me information on the two bells in his collection. At the Smoki Museum I found another bell and an interesting beveled point, called metal and quite possibly historic—it appears cast. But it’s of a pretty pre-contact design. I also checked out four antique stores but came up empty there.

I also found a basic character flaw in the car Mindy gave me to drive—it doesn’t like being locked. I spent ten minutes in the parking lot at Trader Joe’s trying to get the panic button turned off. A gal comes over offering to help and I yelp, “It’s not my car!” At seeing her expression, I quickly added, “It’s my sister’s, she’s letting me use it.” I’m not used to gas guzzlers like this, but I’m pretty sure my car wouldn’t like these mountains. So there’s always a trade-off.

Back in time for a late supper so my other sister and her family could join us for dinner, and when it came time to lock their cage I ran out there – and couldn’t find them! “Mindy, they’re missing!” She had to come out and show me the little cubby hole they like to crawl into for the night.

Photos are of all three chickens and at the table playing cards.

 

DAY 3:

After a lovely morning of work and then treated to a great lunch at a place with a name I can’t remember but is similar to our Noodles (sans wine), Mindy ran to pick up her daughter in Phoenix, leaving me alone for the first time with chickens. I still hadn’t gotten the chance to let them out of the coop – “fly the coop” I believe is the expression – but I was pretty much in charge of their food and water for the day.

Well, I got uncomfortable with the level of demands they were making for treats, so I thought I would try something. I brought out their corn feed into the shaded yard – Mindy says always feed them in the shade – and the result was tremendous. They started eating like crazy! Well, first I told them they needed to go in the pen if they wanted corn, and as long as I was in there with them, they’d eat. But if I were on the other side they thought they were going to be locked in and came running out. And leaving that feed unguarded almost meant the bunnies and birds were getting it. So I brought their corn to the place where we were giving them treats, and sure enough, they started eating it right up. I also brought out a little dish of fresh water to put next to it and they dove into that as well.

But I was told not to do that, because they didn’t want them to get used to eating there, and the corn was their morning and night food only. I just didn’t feel the solution was giving them treats all day. So tomorrow, I’ll try something else. Man, this chicken tending is hard work!

Mindy and I watched the sunset with wine in her front patio, and I got mesquite beans hanging off her tree. A lovely way to end the day.

Photos: Mesquite Beans and Mindy on the hot day hike.

 DAY 4: Chickens and Cats and Coyotes, oh my! This was to be my first day alone with the chickens, and it started well. I actually was up before they were, at 5:30 because Mindy needed to leave for the airport at 6:30. When I checked on them they only clucked at me to go away. So I had my breakfast and waited until 6, when they reluctantly got up. Got everything in order, got out of here on time, went to Burger King to wait for the Heard Museum to open. Not a lot there, but not a waste of time. Never.

Back at the “ranch” by about 1 p.m. I did all the chores – gave the chickens some food, fresh water, played with the cats, cleaned up cat puke (Chaos helped), dumped the recycling, swept the porch, chased bunnies around … I thought about sitting outside and working but figured then the chickens would just bug me for food and poop on the patio and they’re supposed to hunt and peck around the yard. But I checked on them plenty.

So when I heard the flapping against the patio door while watching Bonanza my first thought was, “oh bugging me for food, eh?” Almost thought about ignoring them but decided to put the corn in their pen, a good 45 minutes before roosting time.

When I got out there I saw feathers flying and a coyote running off! A coyote in the yard! Poor Sarah Jane, laying there, flapping, gasping. Oh no! Where are the others?! I’m screaming and crying – that alone must have scared the coyote off. Why me? Why me? My first night alone is their first coyote attack? What kind of bad luck am I??

The rest of the events blurred. I saw Sarah Jane struggling to sit up and gave her some water. She’s the boss chick and I’m sure caused the distraction so the others could get away. As I wait for her to recover or die, I ran looking for the others, found Agatha on top of one of the garden boxes but no sign of Laney. Called Joe and he said she’s probably went over the fence. I finally find her on the other side of the fence, but how to get her without leaving the other two alone? There’s a long run down one driveway and up the next, not to mention all the natural cactus fence alongside the manmade one. I manage to get Sarah Jane to stagger over to the cage but she wouldn’t go in. Agatha went in, and quickly took roost, but Sarah Jane was always the last and wouldn’t go in without Laney. So back and forth I ran, through driveways and cactus, trying to get Laney to follow me or go back over the fence. She kept hiding in the cactus. Finally she got halfway up the fence and I managed to push her the rest of the way – up and over!

Then, because it was getting so dark, and I’m hearing the coyote howl, I gotta get them in the pen. But it’s dark and they’re scared, probably night-blind, so they try to huddle against the pen instead. Oh, no, you don’t, and I just kept shoving them until they found the opening. And glad we all were that they were safely inside. You can bet I’m not letting them out again.

Man, this really IS the wild west. 

 

DAY 5:

A tribute to Super-Chicken Sara Jane. Even after getting thoroughly shaken up by the coyote, with internal injuries, no doubt, she still refused to think of her own well-being and refused to go into their coop for the night while Laney remained outside. She was always the last one in and she wasn’t about to give up her duty. She was the one who stood off the coyote while the other two could make their escape. And while I did not see the actual attack, I can imagine her flapping her wings at him and then running for the patio, hoping I’d come out in time to help. I didn’t.

I never met a noble chicken before. Sara Jane, I’ll never forget you. She lasted the night, but not much longer.

The other two had to stay inside the coop today, and I think they were happy at first, but got restless as the day wore on. I had to go to Chandler in the morning because I had an appointment, only to find I’d been stood up. Fortunately the conflict appointment I’d made was still willing to spend the time with me, and that was only a little ways from Chandler, so it wasn’t a total loss. I couldn’t have planned that better if I’d tried, and believe me, I didn’t. One absolutely splendid rare ritual copper knife in their collection that could break the wall open on use of certain strange artifacts.  He agreed with my assessment of celts, and with the need to display artifacts so that viewers get an idea of what that culture was like.

Otherwise, I spent the rest of the day running food and cold water out to the chickens and working on my copper database, doing chores and sending emails.

 

DAY 6: Oh my God, I’ve been here HOW long? Today was an unusual day. No plans at all to leave the house except to make a short grocery run and maybe even get up the courage to pitch a story idea at True West World Headquarters. Yeah, right there in Cave Creek, how cool is that? Not at all happy, though, about the fact that I woke up at 4 and couldn’t get back to sleep.

The cleaning ladies showed up at 9, as scheduled, and I had to wait around for the UPS man who was supposed to come at 10:30. I could have gone right away in the morning but opted to wait, having to both hide and stay out of the cleaning lady’s way and take care of chickens, who were still penned up and showing only a slight inclination at escape – Laney threw herself at the gate at one point, but other than that they were still pretty subdued.

I sat on the front porch in the shade and fretted over letting them out. Should I or shouldn’t I? I decided that if Mindy didn’t return my call, they were going to have to stay in. She did call and said let them out. As long as I didn’t mind sitting in the back yard from 6 to 8 p.m. when they settled. I didn’t. About noon, then, I went back and opened the cage. They didn’t come out. Interesting. So I shut the cage and went to hiding in my room as the cleaning continued.

Finally at 1 p.m. they came out, and acted briefly like lost birds, wondering what to do. I cleaned their outdoor water trough and they remembered they liked to settle in around it, so that’s what they did, and where they stayed until after the back yard was watered. Then I had to physically lead them over there to show them this part of their routine, and they quickly dug into that as well. Lanie began to emerge as leader after that.

The cleaning ladies left at 1:30 and the UPS man came right after. It was a package they had tried to deliver twice before. I grabbed my gear, said a slight prayer to the chicken gods and went to True West. I announced myself as a Wisconsin writer with an idea, and the editor let me pitch it in his office. Of course, I was my usual hyper self, as I am with strangers (fearing to bore them), but he seemed to like the idea. He gave me his card and said to send the introduction.

I couldn’t find the bouncy ball I wanted for the cats at the grocery store, so I might send one to Mindy. I have a lot of them. And it turns out chickens don’t like either sugar snap peas or frozen corn, both good to know.

No incidents the rest of the night. I watched their routine for settling in for the night and by 7:30 the cage was locked up again. Good night.

Day 7: Plane ride time. Problem is, I leave here at 11 and Mindy doesn’t get back until 8 (if she’s lucky). This means the birds again have to stay locked up, and one of my fears is that after yesterday, that’s the last thing they’d want. Sure enough, 6 a.m. and there they were, waiting for me. Oh-oh, trouble. Lanie is getting quite aggressive. I have to yell in my loudest angriest voice to get back. Brought them their corn, worms and had to clean the water out. Got that done but with some angry words passing between us and my foot coming out a few times to kick if I have to.

But when I brought the water in the gate latched behind me. Oh no! I’m trapped too! As hard as I tried I couldn’t reached the latch to lift it. What to do!? I started crying and screaming and shaking the gate and that made it pop open. Oh, thank you, Chicken Gods! And maybe that crying and screaming made them think the coyote was back. Believe me, the feeling was similar, in the brief time believing I was going to miss my plane and die here.

I had to make some decisions. The worst remaining task would be to walk big ice jugs to the back of the cage, so I decided, since I have the cage shaded from the sun, I’m not going to do that. I have two batches of food yet to give them, and the wading pond is already inside the cage, waiting for water. I will walk food out about 8 a.m. and just throw it in. And then at 10:30, I’ll walk out another batch of food. This time, I’ll first hose down the cage with water, like rain, which will make them flee into the roost. And then I can put the other batch of food inside the cage.

It should work. Should. And I should be able to find my way to the airport. All good plans. Let’s just say they worked, and the saga has come to an end.

I really need to think more clearly when I agree to do something. But then, would I have such crazy experiences?

 

 

 

 

Moving Away for Success (road thoughts)

Posted by bebowreinhard on October 20, 2013 at 2:50 PM Comments comments (0)

So many times I dreamed about running away, just doing anything to get away from my current living situation. Running where? Being a runaway wife means not knowing where you’re going, where you’ll end up, no destination, just running, trying to find a place for myself. Being alone in a strange place, to me, felt preferable to being alone in familiar surroundings, the way I always feel where I am now. It’s better to be alone when you’re alone, than surrounded by people you know who ignore you. Because you don’t know how to make yourself important to them, or them important to you.

Instead of running, I just continued to say this is how I want it, being alone to be a writer/researcher, and I just deny the loneliness by following my lofty dreams, dreams I know now I have no way of making come true. But I keep doing it because that’s all that’s available to me.

So here I am. I’m on the road, pursuing something that’s far away, in a strange, lonely town. Will they want me any more than anyone else does? I don’t know. I want to be wanted. I want people to need me for what I have to offer. It didn’t work in the writing group. It didn’t work in the Civil War group, it didn’t work in the theater group—it doesn’t work, it seems, anywhere I go.

So why do I think this will be any better? Is it because it’s so far away that I’m sure I’ll try harder? Is it because once I only have myself to depend on I’ll break loose from my cocoon and become the person I think I can be?

There is one reality in all of this, and it’s not other people’s reactions to me. It’s how I react to everyone else.

I feel I have a lot to offer. But it’s the presentation of myself that is rejected, and not what I have to offer, at all. I recently got scolded for believing a presentation didn’t go well because of the responses I got. So it was my reaction to lack of response, and not the lack of response, that degraded the message of the presentation?

Maybe the problem is not how I offer myself. Instead it’s more a problem in expectation. The problem is more about seeking respect. There’s more a problem in demanding that people react to me the way I want.

Expectation. We do not control others. We only control ourselves. Do and not worry about results? But I have to worry about results or I won’t give all that I have. Should I give all that I have?

I probably take more chances than a lot of people and set myself up, that way, for more failure. But I learn a lot, too, along the way. I am very happy to have been given this opportunity to try out a job in Arkansas. I did not expect this offer at all. I was happy to go to Arkansas on a copper research trip and do an interview while there, but this offer was extended instead, to work for four days so we can try each other out.

But is this the right path for me? An 8 to 5 job in a strange place, far from people I’ve known and loved? How did I get here? Failure as a writer is how. I know I could be happy anywhere with a certain degree of success in one thing. One thing is all anyone can ask for. Success in one thing.

Karma is a bitch. I can see all the stepping stones of my life leading up to this moment of feeling I’ve failed in everything. So that’s what this trip is, and if it’s my karma to stay here, then things will fall into place. If not, then it’s another learning experience, and chance to study copper. Copper is part of my karma, too. Except for copper, I have no importance in the place I left behind. I didn’t matter to anyone, anywhere, back there.

At this age, running away is an attempt to find where I matter.

If there is a place for me, then I need to find it. I won’t find it if I don’t look for it. I can’t just keep churning out writing that no one wants. And that’s why I’m on the road today.

 

QUIET ON THE SET

Posted by bebowreinhard on February 20, 2013 at 9:55 AM Comments comments (0)

QUIET ON THE SET! This is a take! Movie directors really DO say things like that. Feed the Fish, with Tony Shahloub, filmed in Door County in Wisconsin in early 2009, is a movie about writer’s block being cured by a chilly New Year’s Day plunge into Lake Michigan—a tradition in this ‘thumb’ part of Wisconsin. I signed up to be an extra, not knowing about this plunge part, and of course the plot turned out to be a little more complex than that. But I knew, as a local community actress, being an extra in a movie filmed locally was too good an opportunity to pass up.

After I signed on and got my dates, neighbors warned me that I’d be asked to plunge. My first thought was no way! Actually, that was my second and third thought, too. But I was too committed to the idea to back out. I spent a long frigid drive with my windows down, trying to adjust to the idea.

When I got there I learned we were doing diner scenes. I walked into the restaurant and looked around, wondering who would notice how well I could enter a restaurant. Wrong restaurant. This was Work Central, where the extras hung out and the techies watched things on laptops. Where the food was set up for the people who got paid to be there. Great. No pay AND no food. But what the heck, this was my big break, right?

Finally, after three hours of trying to make small talk, my turn came to shoot a scene. Instead of magically transforming Work Central into Dining Central, they took us across the street to a picture perfect diner for the ‘reel’ shoot. Nope, no sign of Tony Shahloub yet.

They took about 15 of us and then broke us into parties of diners. Twos and threes only, please. I walked in using my film-perfect stroll, only to discover they weren’t rolling yet. The two guys I was paired with—which one should I pretend I was married to?—took our seats at the table reserved for us, in front of plates of real food. And we were hungry.

“I wouldn’t eat that if I was you,” one set crew lady whispered. “It’s been sitting around all day.”

I wasn’t going to touch it after second glance. Someone had nibbled on mine. They couldn’t trust me to nibble?

Since we weren’t sure when they were going to start rolling film we held some reasonable breakfast chatter—although I feared they were also going to want us to pretend to eat that stuff. Now that would be acting. For which we weren’t being paid.

All of a sudden we heard “strike that table!” and as we looked around, realized they were talking about us. That included me. Our table was in the way.

So off the set we walked. We were told that was it, we were done for the day. The two fellows with me said they couldn’t come back tomorrow, but I had booked a room back in Sturgeon Bay after being told I’d be needed both days. I killed time at a winery.

The next day we started at 8:30 but I got there at 7:00 a.m. because I missed the call saying filming would be delayed. As I sat at Work Central no longer trying to chat, groups were taken out to the diner. Not me. Finally I was left with three other guys. Everyone else was in the diner. The time kept ticking away and I wondered how they’d explain overlooking me for both days. I realized they wouldn’t, because that’s “show biz.”

Finally the casting director walked over to me. “Come with me.”

I stood and looked around. “No one else?”

“Just you, come on.”

As we walked across the street I felt like I was on my way to an execution. I want to be with other people! She took me in a different door this time and sat me down alone at the counter. The director came over and explained the scene.

“You’re just sitting here enjoying your coffee.”

“I can do that, I thought. It’s cold, I just came in…,” but he didn’t care to hear about my acting and directing experience.

“Take off your gloves. And your coat.”

“Okay, I’ve been here awhile, I’m no longer cold.” I sat back and made myself comfortable.

“You’ve got coffee, drink it.”

“I’m still cold?” I started to lose my method.

“Quiet on the set, action!”

I looked at the door as it opened—well, what diner wouldn’t? There stood Tony Shahloub in his sheriff garb. I nodded at him and went back to my coffee, retaining the expression of a non-star-struck resident of this make-believe little village. I overheard the conversation he had with an actress—an explosion? I looked over at them, as any good diner would, thinking, what’s going on? Did someone die?

The director waved frantically at me. Me? Why would he care about me? I’m just an extra.

After the scene was over he came to me. “You don’t look at them. It looks like you’re looking right at the camera.”

After a few minutes (seconds really, I’m sure) explaining that I thought I was a local who would be interested in any unusual conversation, especially one that includes the word ‘boom,’ he yelled, “get her a piece of pie!”

“Oh, that’s not necessary, if you don’t want me to look, I won’t look.”

“We want you eating pie in this scene.”

While Tony paced around behind me, getting into character, my place was set—plate, fork, napkin, gloves, water, coffee. I added the gloves. Then they took a photo of it. “Continuity.”

After every take, someone looked at the photo and put everything back in its place. Except—the pie slice was getting smaller. I adapted and started eating smaller pieces. Not hard. I wasn’t hungry anymore.

Tony went out on the fifth take and BAM! Nailed his character. Compared to the first four takes, the differences was amazing.

Then we had to make diner noise for 30 seconds—I could clink my fork to my plate and actually tell the waitress to bring me more coffee, which she had done in every previous take. In her diner noise, though, she told me to get screwed. They then had us do 30 seconds of complete silence. Amazing how their camera microphones can record silence.

I never did get to do the plunge, but maybe that was a good thing. By that time, I would have sunk like a rock.

When you go see the movie, and I’m sure you’ll want to, I’ll be the crazy lady eating pie while everyone else reacts to Tony’s story.

At least now I know the meaning of the expression “shut your piehole.”

(FIrst posted 10/8/2010)

 

Celebrating Saturnalia

Posted by bebowreinhard on January 19, 2013 at 5:20 PM Comments comments (0)

I lost interest in Christmas. Really, Christmas had been in my life since forever, and even after my father died on Christmas Eve, it was still something we celebrated every year. Even when I lost my faith, I still felt it was something I had to do because everyone else was doing it and I didn’t want to look weird, or have my kids look weird. It was already hard enough on them that they were recognized as not attending any churches in this very Republican and Christianized neck of the north woods.

So Santa Claus, and yes, The Jesus Story, were a part of our tradition, along with my trying to tell them things about the Grandpa they’d never know and who I know would have loved them.

But something happens when all your kids grow up and move away—something that maybe a lot of people can relate to—holidays lose their meaning. And when those kids decide not to exchange presents or even come home for a day or two, then the holiday really basically dissolves into nothing. In fact, no one in our circle wanted to exchange presents anymore, except a couple of sisters who live in Phoenix.

So I thought it was time to celebrate the true meaning of the holiday. It was time to find Saturnalia. But where to look? I admit, I’m not the slightest bit Roman, but I don’t really know any other pagan festivities this time of year, although I’m sure there are others. When I did a little research I discovered some of the fun stuff, and then decided to make up the rest of what turned into a five day ritual.

Amazing things happened in those five days, too. Well, maybe not amazing, but considering that we were creating our own ritual for the first time, the little things became big things that we could enjoy immensely. See if you can make some magic happen for you next year by celebrating Saturnalia. The rituals do not interfere with Christmas, but if you’re like me, can give you an alternative if Christmas magic has disappeared for you.

It all started five days before the Winter Solstice. Now remember, this is an adaptation of rituals I found online, so I did some of the things I found, and added more. Actually, we started even before that, because by the time of the 5th day before Solstice, I made sure that all my loved ones had a candle, which is necessary because the darkest day of the year is coming and I didn’t want them to be in total darkness.

So on the 17th, about an hour before dusk, we got outside and put out all the decorations. We don’t trim a tree in the house, but we trim them outside. It’s a way of getting nature to celebrate with us, without us causing any damage to Her. So we’re out there, hanging up all the weather resistant stuff we had, some garland and beads and silver balls—there’s no snow on the ground—and we were also supposed to dance in the street. I did that a little more enthusiastically than my husband, I must say. Most of this he went along with, like a trooper, not being Pagan like me. But he was happy enough to try to start our own rituals.

Anyway, at one point I got out of the street because of a car, and I waved very enthusiastically at him. And then we went back to decorating. A little bit later, still before dusk, this same fellow comes back and asked if everything was all right. He thought with the way I was waving, we must have needed help. I don’t know him—but thank you! That was really sweet.

We ran back inside in time to light the candles to chase away the dusk. We turned all the lights off in the house to see how long we could last by candlelight alone. Not long—it’s devilishly hard to cook by candlelight.

One ritual I got from searching on Saturnalia was my husband’s least favorite—we had to switch roles. That meant that I had to cook and he had to do dishes. I set up the week of meals with groceries making things I felt I could handle. That first night we had steak and champagne. Then came the next tradition—exchange of gifts of appreciation. Each night we were to exchange one, and believe me, my husband had to get creative because he’s not big on buying gifts.

Then we had to spend some time together. No just going to watch TV, and in fact, I pretty much gave up working on my computer every night during Saturnalia, except while he was doing dishes. That first night we played two-handed Oh Hell. We were also supposed to have orgies every night, but at our age, after the second night we got a little tired.

Anyway, every night at dusk we light candles. The second night we had brats and beer. Yes, me! I had beer for the first time since I turned 19 and hard liquor became legal. I got through a bottle and a half before I gave up. We played Cribbage.

I was using my Iphone Siri to ask the time of sunset but began to get suspicious when she gave the same time every night. I hate to say I was close enough, so next year I’ll find a way to be exact. I thought it would be fun to see the days getting shorter, and then after the 21st getting longer again, and it would have been, had that worked right.

On Wednesday, the third day, we treated ourselves and took a break. We went out for dinner, and ate at a place we’ve never been before—Chef Chu. We had a great time, beating the storm we knew was coming, and chatting with the waiter about why we were there. And when we got home we watched a movie together. I don’t remember what. I don’t remember the gifts, either, because it’s the being together and sharing and breaking routine that mattered—all things that we hoped we make the days start getting longer again and not keep the Earth plummeting toward eternal darkness.

In other words, all in good fun.

On Thursday, I had pizza planned, but I threw a lot of extra toppings on it and I swear it was the best pizza I ever had. Drinks were pink lemonade and vodka, but to be honest, too much pink lemonade is NOT a good idea. I think that night we played Trivial Pursuit.

Also that day the first December blizzard hit, effectively eating our ornaments outside. It was like Mother Nature was showing us who really had control of the celebration. We have since managed to gather everything back inside for next year.

By the time Friday the 21st rolled around, we were getting pretty tired. But I went out to once again dance in the street, and I brought my camera to take a photo of another gift, a beautiful sunset on a snow-covered road. I had planned Indian Tacos and Margaritas, but never thought ahead to what kind of glasses to use and didn’t buy lemons because I don’t want a four-pack. We got unexpected gifts that day—glasses I had ordered came that were perfect for margaritas (rock glasses) and my sister sent lemons and oranges. What a perfect way to celebrate our last day.

But I have to say that I felt this tremendous feeling of uplifting satisfaction when the week was over, like we really accomplished something. It wasn’t just that we were celebrating Saturnalia. It was that we were doing ritual that meant something to us. And I even got a gift from Mother Nature—I came up with an eclipse idea for one of my stories, did the research and found there actually was an eclipse in the time period that I needed.

Best of all was the symbolism of the fortune cookie I got at the end of the week. “You look happy and proud.” How’d it know? Gone was the letdown I always felt after Christmas. I think that if I were to do Christmas again, I would want to do it like this. But I can see the need to really believe in the ritual, too, rather than just going through the motions.

Part of the ritual was in asking Mother Earth to forgive us our trespassing on Her, and I think part of my joy was the feeling of being forgiven, just a little.

 

My Christmas Blog - the last I will ever write

Posted by bebowreinhard on December 24, 2012 at 10:30 AM Comments comments (2)

I don’t like getting presents from other people because only I know what I really want or need. What does that say about me?

Is that a special kind of selfishness -- that I don’t like getting from others so that they can experience the joy of giving?

Christmas used to be fun, back when I was a kid. Back then, because our family never had much money, we liked everything we got, and our parents never wasted money on unnecessary stuff. After my dad died on Christmas Eve (or it could have been Christmas Day, I’ve never asked the exact time) it began to lose its fun and its meaning.

But then I had kids and of course in this society if one doesn’t buy into the Santa thing -- the Jesus thing is easier to ignore, which says a lot about our society -- our kids, especially in school, are made to feel like outsiders.

So we were able to deck our house with Santa and sing, even the religious Christmas carols, with abandon.

My children are grown and gone now and all have decided it’s not worth coming home for Christmas. And that could be because I always added that touch of melancholy at Christmastime that they couldn’t begin to share. I don’t blame them. I blame me. I blame the unreal expectations that this time of year brings me.

I went to bed Christmas Eve in 1967 begging Jesus to give my dad back -- that was the only present I wanted under my tree. But Mom woke us up, I don’t know what time but I sensed after midnight, to tell us he had died. I loved my dad with the kind of reckless abandon of a girl who would never come to know that kind of love again, and found myself dragging through life, for a while after that.

So Christmas ever after brought that intense excitement followed by extreme letdown – all that preparation for one or two days of exchanging gifts. Because that’s all Christmas became to me. If you don’t find some family traditions to fill those days both before and after Christmas, then what’s it really for? We couldn’t find anything beyond shopping, singing (which I had to force out of my family) and wrapping and unwrapping. Christmas should not be forced. But because my kids weren’t raised with religion as I was, Santa was all it was, not those silly Jesus songs.

Gradually family began to leave, or to reject the exchange gift idea. I never could. I wanted to keep giving long after anyone else, and then they would get mad because they didn’t get me anything. They don’t get that I don’t want anything, because what I really want cannot ever be fulfilled.

I want them to be there for me, year round. I want to be able to talk to them, to lean on them, when I’m feeling low. I want them to understand. And if they can do that, then I want to show my appreciation to them in the only way I know how, by giving them something at a very special, giving, time of year.

That’s what Christmas, to me, is supposed to be. But instead I get yelled at for giving.

This year, the first year without any of my children to celebrate with, I decided instead to be who I’m meant to be, and celebrate Saturnalia—a kind of pagan ritual that is a personal celebration to those who feel their spirituality is personal. It wasn’t easy to find any traditional celebration ritual, but I did read that Romans celebrated started the 17th and partied for a week. The parties included the idea of role reversal, which appealed to me. So I set up a week-long celebration with my husband, who was game, and at the end, I felt that rush of happiness that Christmas never brought, not even when my kids were little.

Gone was the let-down of my father’s death, and maybe, finally, I can bury him.

So this year Christmas to me is to give where I feel giving is appropriate and not where it isn’t, and to enjoy family that I do have around me, in whatever way they choose, and in my quiet times, remember those who are gone. No presents under the tree. There are none. And that’s okay.

“Memories are wonderful things. They’re always there when you need them.”

So I don’t feel selfish in not wanting to receive presents. It’s just because there is nothing I can be given that would help diminish all my feelings of loss. Just be there for me. That’s all I ever want. As I want to be there for you, too.

Happy Holidays and a Blessed 2013 to everyone.

 

My Failure as a Campaign Manager

Posted by bebowreinhard on November 15, 2012 at 4:35 PM Comments comments (2)

Of course my first instinct was to blame my husband for the loss. After all, he was ambiguous from the start about whether he wanted to run for state assembly. Such a big move from town chairman. He said no when asked two months ahead of the deadline but agreed when I kicked him in the ass two days before deadline. However, I began with enthusiasm, figuring he’d be good at it and needed a new career direction. I figured my enthusiasm would rub off on him and by the end of the summer he would leap in with both feet.

From the very start, we realized we were up against some very big odds when neither of us proved able to make fund raising calls. Everyone implored us to, at every level, from state advisors on down to the assembly woman assigned to answer our questions. We were given small checks from two of our county offices for their show of support, but the third and biggest county Democrat office in which he ran sicked a bloodhound on us. He brought us in for a meeting and proceeded to tell us we would need to raise $30,000 to win. We thought he was offering to help with our door cards, even provide some of them as a donation. When I told him we couldn’t even raise $3,000, he told my husband that he needed a new campaign manager.

Well, this was true. Problem is, Joe didn’t know where to find one, and was stuck with me.

While my husband just sat there and nodded pleasantly (why he’s the politician), I turned away and the next time he addressed me I quipped, “What? You fired me, remember?”

This office never did donate to our campaign. We joined the other two county groups but not this one, although we did spend money at one of their fund raisers and attended their election night event. While we had volunteers from the other two offices helping us by canvassing, and putting up signs, this same office, courtesy of another campaign, provided us with a canvassing list for Howard, although with the explicit instructions that I was to survey for their candidate. Well, that was okay, we really wanted to see him re-elected (he was).

But I discovered doing this canvassing that the list was terribly outdated and more often than not I was knocking on a Republican door—or the message of introducing them to a new candidate was lost in the survey of whether they’d vote to re-elect that other guy.

That’s not to say that canvassing didn’t produce some good results. But I don’t think we got the results we could have gotten just promoting Joe. We were never allowed to do that, however. The next time I canvassed was in Oconto, but we were supposed to promote all the Democrats, and Joe as just as minor player. I said if I was canvassing, I’d promote Joe first, and Obama second. Obama gets more free air-time, after all.

In the first Howard canvassing in early September, my aunt joined me because it was in her neighborhood and she wanted to invite them to her house for a rally. So I provided the door cards to use only at those places where no one was home. Business cards were used everywhere else. Our donor cards had the invitation information on them, to come meet the candidate and that we were serving refreshments. My aunt had a popcorn popper she wanted to try (it worked good). But while canvassing, she became quickly discouraged by the reactions she got. And only one person came to the rally that we didn’t know personally.

My aunt didn’t canvas after that. I continued on in Howard, determined to find some people who knew Joe from school and could help spread the word. Then came the day I was kicked off the property for soliciting (me?) and when I tried to explain and she wouldn’t listen, I lost it. I called her a Republican. I was angry—at all the rejection of Obama but also that someone was denying citizen access to a political process. She called the cops on me. This did not happen when I got paid to stump for Walker’s recall. I did not get paid to canvass for the Democrats. That alone says something about our country. And yes, the cop did call me the next day and warned me (actually just to make sure) not to go back there. When I asked him if it was fair, he had no opinion.

So my love of the game began to die. I canvassed for another few days but because I could not get Joe to make any fundraising phone calls to all those people he helped as town chairman, I quit walking. I decided it wasn’t a good use of my time—not with an outdated canvass list that included my son who moved out in 2007, before Obama’s first victory.

So what was a good use of my time? I wish I knew. The mass mailing postcard I was told to do off the nomination signatures provided some donations, but considering I started in July to go through the over 500 names to enter into a database, try to figure out the handwriting, verify spellings with phone books, then wrote up the message, had the postcards printed, put on labels and stamps and mailed them out finally in August…

Did we receive enough donations or other support for the time and money spent? No. I think these thank yous were an impersonal, indirect approach, and time consuming. But we might not have gotten the money and votes we did without it.

I was also told to surround our campaign with volunteers. I called UWGB and asked for interns. They never provided any. A friend of a friend on Facebook sounded interested and said he was in that program at UWGB. But I couldn’t pin him down. He didn’t have a car, didn’t live in the district, and finally decided he was voting for the Green Party because Obama wasn’t good enough. In honor of Al Gore, I unfriended him. Another volunteer from the Marinette office was offered to us but after a few communications where he wanted to set up a big K run in Marinette, we never heard from him again. We were told he was having girl trouble, but in my mind, I must have sounded discouraging about pulling together something so big.

I think I should make a movie of all this.

One of the things Joe had promised to do in the summer months was go to all the picnics in the area. We got ourselves t-shirts to wear and business cards to hand out and I designed a free website for him. But neither of us were aggressive enough to approach these picknickers and introduce him. And we believe now that few ever paid attention to the t-shirts.

I also felt shopping local was a good idea wearing those t-shirts, so we did a little of that, but not enough. We got our printing done in Marinette until they screwed up our second order of t-shirts. We took our yard sign business to Fond du Lac because it was the closest place that was union, and was recommended to us.

The only reason we were able to buy yard signs at all was the one great donation we got from WEAC and then we could only get 100, for which we later received criticism, even though it took until a week before the election to get them all out.

I produced door cards and posters myself but only on an as-needed basis, because I hate waste. The posters could have been used as door card material, but instead went unused, although I did put some up at grocery stores. I’m sure after a day or two they were taken down again. I did one store twice.

And we marched in parades, for what good that did. I did Coleman and Joe joined us for the lunch there. We marched together at Abrams and Peshtigo, mingling and handing out cards. And candy. Sometimes. I wore my cowboy boots and hat for the Peshtigo parade, and felt a little silly trying to line dance while carrying his sign, but what else do you do in a parade?

The hardest district to get exposed in was Howard/Suamico because there were no parade opportunities there. We went to one picnic but there was no one there. This is the reason I canvassed in that area—I felt we would have a big edge where both he and I went to school. But finding places to put up yard signs was a challenge. Since we do own property Joe made a big sign but he didn’t pound it up on the tree like I suggested, so it was hard to see. Our other signs sometimes went in inappropriate places, which made me glad I didn’t buy more—but if I had, I might have tried harder.

And that’s probably why they stress fund raising. You’re not going to sit on the money, right?

Whether the ads we put in newspapers had any effect we may never know. He was interviewed several times, and I put these links on his website. But regardless of the 1500+ cards we handed out, only 363 visited the website. No one called him to chat, as we encouraged them to do.

So there were a number of things we did, and several more we did not. We don’t have a clue what worked. I told Joe after the loss that he probably should get a new campaign manager if he wants to run again because I made a series of suggestions to him, none of which he took seriously—probably because they were from me and I don’t know what I’m talking about anyway. But even when he got on a conference call or got advice from his assembly adviser, he just shrugged them off as being outside his time constraints. Had I got on these calls, that might have helped, but I was hoping to see him get more enthused.

A final problem he may have had, aside from any enemies he may have made as town chairman, was his wife’s likeabilty (or lack thereof). The first thing I thought of when they got the signatures needed to put his name on the ballot was the scene from Dharma and Greg, where an associate of Greg’s asked him if there were any possible hindrances to his campaign. Greg looked over at his wife who was whooping it up and said, with hesitation, no.

I have a recognizable name in Oconto County and that is not necessarily a good thing. I helped organize the local theater group that is still going without me, was curator of the museum there for three years, after which I abandoned efforts because I felt my volunteer time was not appreciated, after which they got the money for the windows that I had been trying desperately to get—and from Joe’s opponent, too. (I was enthused when I saw he lost Oconto by only 100 votes.) And then there’s my attitude toward both Abrams and the golf course, which have probably not gone unnoticed. It’s no secret I hate living so far from the city and am disappointed the clubhouse isn’t fully operational. And all the jobs I’ve had in my life, where no one has bothered to keep in touch or called to offer support. Let’s face it—someone like me has difficulty making friends, or find people who could help form a campaign team.

And then there’s my writing career, which I felt disinclined to ignore during this crucial time. But I felt if he really wanted the job he would have tried harder. The day before the elections he was cajoled into going door to door in Abrams to put up vote reminders and he found he enjoyed that a lot, because he got to talk to people who were home. Darn it. If only we’d known that sooner.

So yes, the truth is, he probably needed a new campaign manager but none was ever offered and we couldn’t even keep an intern around.

I highly recommend anyone who wants to enter the political arena read this and think hard about how they would handle things. And get a head start with some training, not wait as long as we did, and be sure you want to do this. I wish someone had given us lessons on getting the most out of little money. What works and what doesn’t? I still can’t say. I believe that canvassing is most effective. But we need updated walk lists or the route can become too discouraging.

As interesting as the experience was, I doubt we will try this again, and really, that’s too bad, because you’ll never find anyone less corruptible anywhere.