Thursday, February 10, 2011

Reality R Us

According That Grape Juice, Lady GaGa instructed Vogue magazine that she has " one of the greatest voices in the industry."

My, my, tuts the demure midwestern mild-mannered Matron. People from Minnesota are not supposed to toot their own horns.

Student to Matron: "You're the best teacher I've ever had!"

Horrified Matron: "NO I'M NOT!"

John to Matron: "You look stunning today."

Matron: "Stop messing with me."

Now, the Matronly circle of influence is relatively small. She's a medium-sized fish in a medium-sized town and at a medium-sized college. Her range is limited. Lady GaGa, however, has the hormones necessary to place herself at the forefront of an entire global industry.

My, my, tuts the Matron.

So in that spirit:

The Matron is one of the best (if barely known) writers in the blogosphere -- when it comes to sheer narrative and prose. There, she did it. Friends, she's shaking and sweating to find herself so out of character.

Did the earth move? If you see a few stars fall tonight or the sky crack open in a Biblical sense, it's her fault.

The Matron is the best cook in her house!

Okay, not true.

The Matron is a great traveler and is looking forward to her flight home from Chicago tomorrow!

Again, not true.

Let's stick with the good writing thing.

Friends: be bold!! What are you good at that you're proud of?

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Close Encounter with a Stranger

Fully loaded with Xanax, the Matron left the house at 6:45 am to hop on a plane to Chicago! Yes: two nights of sleep without waking up at 3 am when Merrick muscles his way into the parental bed (he knows the hour of least resistance) and then again at 5 am when the dogs demand breakfast.

Of course, part of the problem is that she caves in to both of these disruptions which is part of the problem. But self help and boundaries constitute another blog post.

So the Matron is groggily happy on the airplane. She has her magazine, work material and laptop. Fully loaded. The man sitting beside her is a youngster -- looked twenty-something --and they said hello and disappeared into their own worlds of reading.

He did comment when she took that second Xanax. But he was funny and nice.

As the plane descended and yours truly realized she was probably going to live, she made a comment of relief to her fellow passenger and a joke about sleeping without children. Then, because he made eye contact and laughed, she asked if he had any?

Fellow Passenger: "My two year old daughter just died three months ago. This is my first week back at work."

Friends, what can you say to this? The Matron instantly started to well up.

Fellow Passenger: "Do you want to see a picture?"

He fumbled through his wallet and retrieved an image of a beaming, beautiful toddler with a big bunch of curls and a radiant smile.

Matron: "Oh, I'm so so sorry!! Was this a sudden illness?"

No. It turns out she had a genetic disorder and died at the Mayo Clinic after the bone marrow transplant didn't gel.

But the fellow passenger started to cry, just a little bit. He talked about his wife and how she's devastated and about their four year old, who keeps asking when his sister is coming home. By this time, the Matron is also a bona fide puddle and gave up all pretense of not crying.

Not sure what to do, she hugged him. And they both cried a little bit more. She'll always remember that very young man facing tremendous adversity and his willingness to be honest, open and vulnerable even with a complete stranger. May we all find someone in the crowd who will care for us.

Monday, February 7, 2011


Occasionally, the Matron reminisces. Fun! This is her second round with this topic but . . . well, new readers would not want to miss so much fun!

Given her recent run-in with the Virus which has taken up residency in her home (felling children in a domino, one at a time style just to extend its stay), she was reminded of other kinds of fortune.

You do not want to stand next to her during a thunderstorm.

Reader, spring is upon us. For some sweet innocents, that means the green leaf and the tender bud. For the Matron? April heralds Storm Season.

That's right. She is never happy, weather-wise. There is winter. Which is cold and inconvenient. And everything else (except Autumn, when she content -- ablaze, even).

See this?

When the Matron was a very very Young Miss -- as in just three years old --she was playing in the front yard with her doll, Beverly-Doris.

Don't you love the her way with Name, that early?

These are her very first memories of life upon this planet. The thick wet day, all heat and bother, drops instantly into something cold. She needs a sweater. So she grabs Beverly-Doris and walks toward the house when she sees the world has turned yellow. That fast!

And there is something brown and fuzzy, rumbling off into the distance. It looks like a moth, but makes noise.

Suddenly, Mama is screaming and crying: "Run, Mary, run!"

And they both do, in that instant when sticks and grass and leaves and old paper strips suddenly whip by, lightening speed and fury and ice. Does she run into the house or is she grabbed? Everything blurs together. She is falling--pushed-- down the stairs and under a mustard-colored blanket while the world whips itself dumb.

The windows all break. Someone is crying.

When they emerge, the house is gone. It's that simple and complex. Where there once was a life with dainty wine-glasses and wedding photos and sheets for the baby-crib, there is a pile of rubble.

The Mother takes Young Miss and her even younger sister and runs --as fast as they can-- to a neighbor's house. Because another tornado is coming.

Two days later, her mother sorts through the rubble and weeps. She is just 25 years old. She thinks she's lost everything. But one divorce, one more child and two more years later, that sky will be darker.

When she was 8, her Mother hauled the three children into the station wagon. Apparently, not enough church-going had transpired and the family was off to do penance. Er, Mass, on a random Sunday.

While en route, their car was struck by lightening.

Struck. By. Lightening.

The engine stopped and that car? Never moved again. Other vehicles backed up for miles to report the spectacle. Young Miss remembers a loud boom, an incredible white flash, and her rain boots tingling.

So bad weather has haunted the Matron in a very special way. Have a comparable story? No, she doesn't think so.

Hear that siren? She will be in the basement.

Except for the night that the 15 ton, 100 foot tree fell on her pregnant self, wreaking $45,00 worth of damage to a $65,00 (this was a marginal neighborhood in 1994 at the time of purchase) house.

See that tree? Under there, that's the Matron's old house!

Near the end of May 1998 while pregnant with Scarlett, a ferocious storm rocked Minnesota. Thunder, lightening and straight-line winds clocking 80 miles per hour.

The Matron was trying to be reasonable. This was no tornado. Just big old messy winds. John was watching television downstairs in the living room. The neighbors had lights on. Normal, regular old storm. But she sat up in bed, bothered, returning to a conversation with her 94-year old neighbor the day before.

Ninety-four year old Grandma Kueppers had shaken her finger at a neighbor's tree: "I've lived with that monster for over 70 years," she said. "That tree is going to fall. It's rotten."

When the wind moaned and branches whipped, she got up and checked on the (then) cherubic Stryker. Sound asleep in his crib. She looked at that tree. Was it shaking? Coward, she joined John in the living room just as the sirens went off.

While John grabbed Stryker and the Matron threw the dogs into the basement, that rotting tree picked itself up by the roots and slammed into the house, entering in four spectacular places -- and destroying two cars and a garage in the process, as a sort of bonus.

When they emerged from the basement, the house was awash in wind and rain and crackling power lines, downed. Soil in the kitchen, leaves where dinner should be.

Here's the Matron and two-year old Stryker at the roots, one day later. That was one helluva tree.

Indeed. The tree required a crane to dislodge from the house (this is how the Matron knows precise weight and height of said monster). That tree? Left a two foot long, one inch deep crack on the wall by Stryker's crib. The bedroom where the Matron was fretting? Absolutely destroyed. A tremendous half of the tree sprawled through it.

Here's what the engineer who examined the house said: "Wow. If this house had been built ten years and two bricks later, your toddler would've been dead."

Wasn't he considerate of her eight-month pregnant state? Are you allowed to murder engineers sent by the insurance company? She's sure there's a provision.

Later, the media men and meteorologists would debate whether the wind was just one big line-drive or a bona-fide tornado. The Matron doesn't quibble over semantics. She understands that disaster, by any name, strikes twice.

So when they moved into their current house -the dream house with 40 windows overlooking the river and city - the previous owners took care to point out The Tree.

"See this cottonwood? We think it's nearly 200 years old. You can see this tree from downtown and all the bridges."

Their single, heart-felt, on bended-knee request? Don't cut down that tree. It's historic.

Yes. You can live in St. Paul and look toward the city skyline at the biggest, tallest, oldest and most dangerous trees, swaying high above the city along the river bluff -- and there's the one conveniently located outside of the Matron's bedroom window. Ready to kill her.