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The gift that keeps giving

My husband wanted to get me a real birthday present this year, he really did. Because he gets nervous doing it on his own, he dangled all kinds of nice ideas. Jewelry even. I guess he still remembers how I reacted the year he got a new TV for our bedroom and tried to pass it off as a gift.

So he really tried. And what did I do?

I golf

I might complain that I’m sore from my two days of golf over the last week, but when you’re married to someone who has spent the last five days shoveling dirt, they win.

Yes, Rick is still sweating and digging a giant hole in our front yard – it’s like watching an old prison movie. Any time now, he tells me, he will locate the rest of the sprinkler pipe damaged by the people looking for the other damaged pipe. I don’t really understand and I don’t want to, but I do know I want to rent “Cool Hand Luke” tonight.

Happy Father’s Day, honey

I would have wished my husband a Happy Father’s Day this morning, but I couldn’t find him.

Rick always – and I mean, always – wakes up before I do, so having to hunt him down is not something with which I am unfamiliar.

I looked in the kitchen, where he normally empties the dishwasher, but he wasn’t there.

I looked in the laundry room, where he often passes time making up for a week of dirty clothes on Sunday mornings, but he wasn’t there.

Victory . . . . for me and the Blackhawks

Now that the Blackhawks’ season is over, I can share with you my most enduring memory of the playoffs. Because ESPN prohibits its employees from writing anything about sports for any other outlet, I trust my loyal following – you – will not let them know. I also trust that this blog is not big enough to be considered an “outlet.”
The day – last Wednesday, otherwise known as Game 6 — started out like any other. That is, I was running late.

Fine Dining

With the Stanley Cup Finals between the Blackhawks and Philadelphia Flyers heating up and the series returning to Chicago tied at two games apiece, it’s only natural that as a reporter, my thoughts turn to one thing.
The pregame meal at the United Center.

Sleep problems and other disorders

A lot of people have been asking me why I have fallen off the blog map.
OK, maybe three people have asked but they have been rather persistent. I guess that award-winner on the splendor of Twinkies and other Hostess products two months ago was not enough for you people.
It’s not that I don’t love writing about mostly nothing. There is nothing more freeing for a reporter than to abandon all sense of responsibility and any hint of relevance when she sits down at her computer.
I guess this must be what people get out of tweeting and if I could hiccup in 35 words or less, I might like it. But I mean, really. How could I possibly do justice to the Ho-Ho with those limitations?
So I will now confide in you the real reason I have not blogged much lately.
I’m too tired.

Hostess is the Mostest

My friend Jerry always comes through for me when I have a raging case of blogger’s block. Like today, for example, he didn’t even know he was helping me when he e-mailed to tell me, in a way only he could, that finding my blog again, after my sabbatical-length break, was like eating a Suzy Q years after stopping cold turkey.I took this as the supreme compliment that it was intended to be, mostly because I too used to worship at the Hostess temple.My mother would be somewhat embarrassed, I think, if she was alive to read this, as I imagine most mothers who were in their maternal prime in the 50s and 60s would be. And my husband’s mother and grandmother would be absolutely horrified as I don’t believe either ever allowed store-bought sweets into their homes (which explains a few things about Rick).My brothers, however, tell me that my mother had no problem bringing Twinkies into our house, though she herself was never actually seen eating one (or any meal, for that matter) and I can’t imagine she ever did sneak a bite as she possessed a much more sophisticated sweet tooth.In fact, my mother can be credited with elevating the Twinkie to somewhat higher standards by freezing them, a precursor, we think, to freezing Milky Ways and Three Muskateers, the thought being that anything tastes better and is more fun to eat when it is cold and also involves the risk of breaking a tooth.Twinkies, as I remember all Hostess products, were best consumed right after school, when a giant sugar rush was necessary and a nice companion to anything on TV from Clutch Cargo to Leave it to Beaver reruns to Gilligan’s Island to Dark Shadows. My husband Rick, a mere baby born two years after me in 1963, watched reruns of “Get Smart” and thought they were original episodes. My brothers, White Sox fans by birth, would even watch the last few innings of a Cubs game accompanied by a Twinkie and a milk chaser.Of course, the best Hostess product ever made was the Hostess cupcake. Even if you didn’t care for devil’s food, like me, the frosting-like cap on top, peeled off and placed to the side to be savored and saved for later, was well worth getting through the rest.But the real delicacy of all Hostess products has always been the vanilla crème center. No one, to my knowledge, including the brightest scientific minds in the country, has ever determined the exact makeup of the vanilla crème and it really misses the point to even wonder about it.My friend Bari is the only known person to actually hate what she called the gooshz in the middle and so, whenever possible, she would let me have it, never an easy proposition. In my mother’s brilliant freezing technique, you would peel away the sponge cake and be left with a vanilla cremesicle.

Tiger’s sorry statement

I’m not pretending I’m not curious about what Tiger Woods will say in his big press conference, Friday. A statement of this magnitude, after all, needed to be announced two days in advance and I’m guessing that wasn’t done to make sure they had enough time to get extra bagels and coffee. So, yes, I’ll want to hear it.

My new friend

Went for a massage today. I like to say that, kind of casually, as if it’s part of my weekly routine. Not that it wouldn’t be a part of my weekly routine if I had a little more disposable income and had not inherited my mother’s guilt complex.Whenever my mother tasted something or experienced something or was given something really extraordinary, she’d say, “That’s too good,” suggesting she was not deserving of anything as decadent as a piece of Godiva chocolate.That’s how I feel about massages.They are just too good.I went today because I have been more stiff and sore than usual and because my husband was starting to pressure me about using the gift card to a local spa he gave me two Mother Day’s ago. Rick hates gift cards.

Hellllloooo . . . ?

Anyone still out there?Re-entering cyberspace, I think, might be more challenging than entering it the first time. Technically though, I never really left, going from the  Chicago Tribune to my blog, which kept me sane after being laid off from the Tribune, to ESPNChicago.com, which saved me.

I began my blog in the weepy hours after being pushed out by the Tribune last April and kept writing as I stopped crying and started to see the hope and humor again, through my first months with ESPN. And then I stopped.I still do not know exactly why I stopped. But I am flattered by the handful of you not including those directly related to me, who noticed. I hope you find me again. And though I can’t promise anything, I hope not to take a three-and-half month break again.

Flus, Balloons and Homecoming Breakfast

Blogs pause, but life rarely does.
How to catch up?

Homecoming dances and choir concerts, soccer tournaments and family visits, lots of work, a good thing. Balloon Boy, a bad thing. An evil germ this week that had me searching a website on “Common Cold vs. Swine Flu – How to Tell the Difference.”

An entire website inviting me to analyze my every symptom? I mean, what could be better? My family wouldn’t do it with me, which annoyed me greatly; my husband Rick’s response to my every sickness from runny nose to coma, “You’re fine.” But it would be fun for me, give me something to do to distract me from my suffering.

Writing blog, two points

First week on Weight Watchers, lost 3.9 pounds and I’m thinking very seriously of applying to be their spokeswoman.

I mean, if Jared can do it for Subway . . .

I am not a diet person, I mean, other than being born female which naturally predisposes me toward such things. In my first 40 or so years of living, I was unfamiliar with all the various dieting options and never considered altering my normal dietary regimen, which encouraged regular servings of ice cream and the occasional Twinkie and Double Stuf Oreo.

Upon further review . . .

Finished my class. Caught up with Michael Jordan’s Hall of Fame speech. Taped the Emmy’s, which I’ll never watch. Joining Weight Watchers tomorrow (are you required to tell them that you plan to stick around only until your pants aren’t so uncomfortable? Is there a special membership plan for this?)

Of course, now I need to carve out an extra 10 to 12 hours a week for the new season of “Dancing with the Stars,” which could be a problem, but I can fast forward through at least eight of those hours, so I think I’m OK.

It’s Bears season, let the neurosis begin

It’s the first day of the NFL season, I’m in Green Bay for the Bears’ opener, and I am thinking of my dad.

It is nearly 80 degrees today, which would have made him very happy. I can’t remember ever going to a Bears game with my father when it was warmer than 34.  And that was in September.

If you drew up a list of the top three things my father hated, the cold would have ranked somewhere between getting wet with his clothes on and Nazi Germany. That said, he loved the Bears and was a season-ticket holder for over 40 years.

Photographically-challenged

For homework in my Visual Storytelling class this weekend, I had to shoot and edit a 30-second video sequence. Took me, oh, about 15 hours.

I know my husband Rick is reading this right now and going, “Uh, excuse me, it took you 15 hours?”

OK, so he helped. But I should point out that it still took 15 hours.

It is my belief that every family has at least one person (him) who knows how to handle all the photo- and video-taking duties (but is frankly a little overconfident). And there is one person (me) who is not allowed to go near the camera or video recorder.

18 kids? 19? Who’s counting?

I’d like to go on record as saying I love the Duggar’s.

I don’t think it will surprise anyone who has ever met me or read me that I have, on more than one occasion, tuned into their documentary TV series, “18 Kids and Counting” and like it. And every time they have a new baby, which occurs more often than I clean out my refrigerator, I eagerly read all about it and try to anticipate the baby’s name.

Full course

If I didn’t think I would lose all credibility as a responsible parent, I might have rousted my children from their beds last night and asked them to help me with my homework.

As it was, I seriously considered it.

I am a student again. For three days now, 12 hours in all, and I can say with certainty that I don’t remember ever concentrating so hard when I was an actual college student. I also don’t remember ever being so hungry in school.

Marcia, Marcia, Marcia

Most of what I pretend to know in life can be traced to a sitcom. If it isn’t Seinfeld, it’s Mary Tyler Moore. If it isn’t Sex in the City, it’s The Brady Bunch.

That’s probably why, when my daughter came home from her first day of high school today and listened wistfully to her brother talking about his first day in junior high, I thought of the Brady Bunch episode when Marcia pretended she was sick on her first day of high school.

Family fall time

Fall is a strange and harrowing time for me.

My birthday is in fall, but I’ve never had a problem with my birthday except that one moment of panic I had when I turned 27 and couldn’t remember how old I was until I did the math.
Football season is in the fall, which, given that I live in Chicago might explain this feeling of impending doom I have been experiencing lately. But then the Bears are full of hope, what with their new quarterback and everything, so that doesn’t really explain it.

High(-five) expectations

My husband Rick is, all in all, a good sport. He barely blinks when people call him by my father’s name, “Mr. Isaacson.” He knows to double the time I tell him I’ll be finished writing. And he hardly ever complains when he accompanies me to sporting events only to never actually attend the actual sporting event. 

Today, he came with me to Bourbonnais and Bears training camp. And because, if you happen to read my blogs regularly (and, by the way, thank you so much for that) you already know how I feel about training camp, I will write this blog through Rick’s eyes.

Class of ‘79

Went to my high school reunion last night.

Very interesting.

A former classmate and friend who we will call “Tony” because that’s what we agreed his pretend name would be (his real name is Bob), accused me of going only to collect blog material.

This is only partially true.

I went hoping to collect blog material.

No, that’s not true either.

Actually, I didn’t want to go at all because I felt slightly fat and am very insecure, but my husband said, “If nothing else, maybe you’ll get a good blog out of it” as if this is a dealmaker for everything these days.

Down in front

I have nothing against cornfields, per se. I would maybe even like them if corn on the cob was less expensive this summer. But I don’t especially like working amongst them as I have this past week at the Chicago Bears training camp.

Training camp, spring training, Draft Day. To many sports fans and sportswriters, this is fabulous, compelling stuff. I would sooner spend the day scrubbing floors.

Working it out

I hate when people talk about working out, tell you how many miles they ran or how many push-ups they did.  

Writing about it, however, is a whole different story.

I can’t even remember anymore why I exercise. I’m pretty sure I stopped liking it years ago. I have no idea how to calibrate calories when I eat, so I definitely don’t know how to subtract them when I work out, and I don’t believe it when the treadmill does it for me.

Alec, Ernest and other tough guys

Until about an hour ago, I thought the meanest thing my husband and I had ever done to our son Alec was not buying him a dog.

But according to an article in Social Science Quarterly – What? You don’t read that? – we have also given him a terrible burden to bear.

A friend sent me a link to a segment from the Today Show (always on the lookout for new ways to depress us in the morning), which cites the article, saying that giving your newborn boy an “oddball, girly or strange first name may just land them in jail.”

Co-ed Softball, Fat Guys and other Lies

“You’re still playing softball?” my daughter asked incredulously tonight as I hunted for my crusty cleats, as if somehow being too old, too slow and, well, bad would suddenly stop me from playing in our co-ed softball league this year.

I mean, why should this year be any different?

Playing for our Red Star Tavern team isn’t about being the best or making every play or, in my case tonight, any play. It’s about the camaraderie, the joy of competition and the drama of seeing how many of us are going to end up in the emergency room each week.