Notes from the Third Circle

Greetings from the Third Circle of Hell, formerly known as Gluttony.  Now simply called The Kitchen.

If time spent in the garden is gold, time spent in the kitchen is that nasty base metal (that turns your skin sickly green) in mercury-laced trinkets made by child laborers.  I learned another hard lesson recently and because I’m feeling Oh so generous, I thought I’d share it with you.

I grew up with “sloppy joes.”  Ace suckled at the teat of “s*%t on a shingle” in the backwoods of Northern MN.  Regardless, nothing says Make America Great Again like a good old vat of pink slime simmered in a packet of something and then dumped on a squishy bun that turns to pure glucose by the time it hits your soft palate.

The palates in our domicile are a bit particular so I actually used a recipe.  I’ve made it before and it’s good.  Here it is.  I generally follow recipes, even mostly exactly.  The first seventeen times I made this, I followed the recipe exactly.  Except I substituted some ground pork and ground turkey for the beef, used garlic-infused olive oil instead of avocado oil, ditched the green pepper in favor of red, slopped on whatever mustard I could find in the fridge, and utilized an unlabeled red substance I dug out of the freezer in place of “7 oz organic tomato paste.”

For whatever reason (Jupiter in retrograde, cruel fate, or Satan smirking from the Ninth Circle), I paused to consider Ace’s handwritten note on the recipe.  ”If uis one – no veed % matle BBQ savle 5epanite.”  I put it through Google Translate Ace –> English and got “If this one – no need to make BBQ sauce separate.”  Oh.  Great!

I dumped everything into our cast iron beauty: three pounds of ground meat, peppers and celery, spices, and a boatload of water.

Which brings me to today’s hard lesson: Always brown the meat first.  Even if your spouse’s illegible scrawl implies one-pot all-at-once cookery, always brown the meat first.

Our sloppy joes have the consistency and appearance of Toddler Turd post ingestion of a pound of cherries, three cans of Fancy Feast, and a Miralax milkshake.  I’m sure they’ll be delicious.

Musical Moment - oops.  Got sidetracked by an orange Pomeranian.

Real Musical Mo-

(one hour later, after Hope For Paws doggie rescue video, watching an emu egg hatch, metal detecting in Hawaii, etc)

Musical Moment (The Mac Miller ((rip)) x Pharrell project entitled PINK SLIME wasn’t fit for familial consumption.)

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Creativity in the Face of Adversity

We just returned from several days at the in-laws lake shack.  The Big E dragged a friend up, also named E.  They’ve been friends since kindergarten.  We walked in the first day of kg with a class size of 18 kids and LO!  There was another boy named E.  Unbelievable.  But that’s not the story.

E Squared had a high old time driving the 1947 Farmall tractor, putt-ing around on the riding lawnmower, tromping through the wood picking up wood ticks, tossing each other off the floating swim mat, and fishing.

They demonstrated a valuable lesson that I want to share with you.  They were bass fishing off the end of the dock, tossing lures into the cattails in search of the big ones who like to lurk.  If you fish, you know it’s dicey to toss a lure into cattails.  Best case scenario, you catch a fish and the slippery caught fish guides you out of the weeds.  E & E tossed a lure in and got snagged.  In their efforts to disentangle, the rod snapped (remarkably) before the line.  They retrieved the pieces of the rod and kissed the lure goodbye.

Instead of hemming, hawing, swearing, complaining, or quitting, they immediately began strategizing a fix for the rod.  We arrived home and my Big E took to the basement.  He carved a wooden dowel, filed some stuff, and procured epoxy.  Fixed.  Permanently.

There you have it.  Creativity in the face of adversity.  Try it out, use that energy in a positive way.

Musical Moment

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Life Skills – Teenager Edition

My young teenager has big plans this summer.  He doesn’t know about them yet.  An underground network of mothers (including his) is currently conspiring to create an exhaustive list of LIFE SKILLS to be reinforced or learned this summer.

Here is the list so far with contributions from MANY.  Please tell me what to add!


1) cleaning: dusting, vacuuming, toilets, sinks, product use/avoidance

2) taking the bus/train: schedules, transfers, managing challenging situations

3) laundry: how to deal with grease, ironing, washing by hand

4) money management/budgeting

5) banking: credit/debit card, check writing

6) snail mail: where to put the stamp/addresses

7) cooking: meal planning, grocery shopping, cooking, dishes

8) rudimentary childcare: changing a diaper, Heimlich Maneuver

9) condom application: cucumbers needed

10) driving: pumping gas, checking oil, checking tire pressure

11) grilling

12) firestarting

13) manners: holding doors, opening doors, looking people in the eye, smiling

14) typing

15) conversation: eye contact, asking questions

16) talking on the phone: hello/goodbye protocol, conversing, mute button

17) internet safety

18) “feminine hygiene products”: comfort around, identification

19) CPR

20) shopping: clothes, groceries, thrift

21) sewing: replacing a button, fixing sweater hole

22) home catastrophe management: how to break/jump out a window, turn off gas/water, call 911

23) occasion clothing: what to wear to a wedding/funeral/interview, how to tie a tie, polish shoes

24) cultural awareness: eye contact, head covering, shoe removal, what not to say

25) sex and legality: “age of consent,” state-specific rules


Musical Moment

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Enough Already!

Dear Weather:

Remember way back in January when I was super sad about the lack of snow?  I rhapsodized about how winter and cold and January are fine as long as we can have some decent snow.  I fell prey to nostalgia, harkening back to the halcyon days of my childhood when the drifts were higher than me and we snowshoed to school, uphill both ways, because it was more fun than sledding to school, downhill both ways.

Now it’s past February (technically it’s MARCH) and you, Weather, said Fine.  Here’s some snow.  Only you didn’t seem to have any plan.  You simply dumped big piles when you felt like it.  And then there was the time that you rained before dropping twenty degrees, making ice rinks of the roads.  You added a couple inches of snow on top just to lull us into a false sense of security.  The herd of Minnesota Subarus grew restless until their owners finally relented and opened the garage doors. “Awesome!  Playtime!”

SoCal transplants emerged, blinking, from their early 1900s brick apartment buildings in the Uptown neighborhood of Minneapolis.  They quickly realized several unfortunate facts: 1) their Dolce Vita Santo Booties weren’t gonna cut it 2) their Prius had been literally buried by the plows 3) they didn’t own a shovel and didn’t know how to use one even if they did.

Fortunately, winter brings out the best in Minnesotans.  We grab our shovels and pickups and chains and turkey gravel and cardboard and we dig each other out.  Minnesota babies learn the routine early.  Rock it, Rock it, Rock little baby.  Help your neighbor.  Push them out.  Please go easy on the gas, baby.  Help your neighbor.  Push and shout.

But Weather, enough already.  Really.  The stunt you pulled in southern Minnesota ten days ago with the ground blizzards?  Zero visibility?  Not cool.  (Admittedly, we made our own bed by clearcutting all the trees and draining the wetlands, but still…)  We had to call in the National Guard, a serious blow to our self-reliant Minnesota identity.  The hardy folk who actually live in SoMin scoffed; they had already arranged to send hotdish to the Torgersons, determined how to get the large-animal vet safely to her urgent appointment, and opened their VFWs, churches, and schools to the travelers stranded on the roads.

Don’t even get me started on the school closing situation.  Six snow/cold days in the past four weeks?  SIX?????  Oh, you’re claiming it was five.  Whatever.  Felt like six.  #togetherness.

Perhaps it’s because you’re an overachiever that you felt obligated to set some Low Temperature records on top of the snowvalanche?  March 3, 2019.  Minus 13 Fahrenheit.  Nice.   Minnesota Nice.

We’re there, Winter.  We’re at the point where not one thread in our closet brings us any joy whatsoever.  And the Land of Retail has decided it’s Spring?  Let me show you what Spring looks like around here.  (photos borrowed from Ken and Marit)

Snow 190302 6 Snow 190226 53764525_2510446825695878_765809122896510976_o


Musical Moment

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Yo, Normal Risk Fifty-year-olds

HI.  Are you a normal risk 50 or soon-to-be?  Did your doctor say to you last year, “Yeah, you might want to think about scheduling that screening colonoscopy.”?  The American Cancer Society upped the anal ante last year and decided to recommend starting routine screening at 45.  We’d blown through the high deductible on our health insurance so I’m like, fun, let’s do this in 2018.

The Prep.  Ace was traumatized by the prep to the point that he breaks out in hives whenever anyone so much as whispers, “Gatorade…”  I hate putting petroleum byproducts into my body anyhow and  I’d heard rumors that a person could use coconut water as the vehicle for the medication cesspool heretofore known as “Satan’s Wrath.”

I bought an experimental bottle of coconut water at Target.  I rejected the fancy foo foo expensive refrigerated version and opted for the budget shelf-stable box.  I called the GI clinic to make sure this substitution was copacetic.  The nurse said, nope.  I asked why.  She said coconut water doesn’t have the necessary nutrients to keep a person hydrated during the cleanse.  Sounded like a copout to me.

I sat down with a bottle of Gatorade and a jug of budget coconut water and pounded out the math.  Turns out coconut water has plenty of everything including a TON of potassium.  Potassium isn’t one of those eat-as-much-as-you-want substances.  Too much potassium can literally make your heart stop.  The Big E was like, “Wouldn’t it be funny if you died because you wouldn’t drink the Gatorade?” and I’m like, no, that wouldn’t be funny at all.  I chatted with a renal doc b/c the kidneys are responsible for dealing with electrolyte balance.  Is it okay to chug gallons of coconut water, the equivalent of a bajillion milliequivalents of potassium?  She said, well, there have been reports of blahblahblah and at that point I went back to Target, returned the three other bottles of coconut water, and bought me some infant Pedialyte (with no artificial whatevers).

If you’re still interested in the coconut water, perhaps just as a refreshing beverage, let me offer you my own personal recipe so you don’t have to spend the cash:

Ingredients: 1 goat, 1 garden hose (try to schedule your colonoscopy May-Oct to avoid frozen pipes), bucket

Directions: Procure one full-sized goat.  Set goat on water-permeable surface such as grass.  Hold goat’s left front hoof over bucket.  Procure one assistant.  Well, you really should’ve procured one assistant at the start of this mess.  Ask assistant to spray the goat’s left front hoof over the bucket.  If water begins to run clear, switch to a different hoof.  Return goat.  Take “coconut water” back inside and proceed with colon cleanse directions.

I’m delighted to report that the Pedialyte cleanse went just fine.  My best advice to you is PLAN TO DO NOTHING because you’ll be #MostlyPooping.  I selected a woman gastroenterologist (whose dad taught me pharmacology at the U), kissed Ace goodbye in the waiting room, lay on my left side, thought “Hm, it would’ve been nice if the nurse anesthetist had mentioned she was about to dose me with…  woah, that feels weird.”  And next thing I knew, I was lying in the recovery area.  I smiled at Ace and said, “Hi Adam!”

Colon = normal.  Good luck y’all.  Call if you want to complain about the prep.   xoxo.

Musical Moment


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Don’t Let Marie Kondo Bury Us Alive

I volunteer at Old School by Steeple People, a non-profit thrift store at 1901 Nicollet Avenue in Minneapolis.  Ever since Tidying Up with Marie Kondo aired on Netflix, we’ve been swamped with donations.  Mostly clothing.  We’re anticipating a surge in book donations as people work through KonMari’s preferred order of tidying: clothing, books, papers, komono (misc), sentimental items.

Thank you.  Donations are our lifeblood.  We sort, tag, price, display, sell.  Then we donate all of our profits to local charitable organizations.

But here’s the deal.  We have to sell stuff in order to generate revenue.  So you’re gonna have to commit to the other side of the KonMari equation: get yourself some gently used joy!  You ditched your chipped, faded pasta bowl b/c it brought you no joy?  Awesome!  We have MANY suitable bowl-like joyful objects.  Personally, by the time January rolls around, none of my sweaters brings me any joy whatsoever.  I took myself to my favorite thrift store (that would be Old School) and purchased a lovely burnished bronze cashmere/silk cardigan for $6.  It brings me joy.  And warmth.  My moose-child is growing at a remarkable rate.  He outgrew his puffy feather coat.  I perused Old School and found several options that wouldn’t appeal to a teenager.  So I visited our colleagues at ARC’s Value Village.  Pro-tip: scan both the men’s and women’s departments if you’re looking for a specific item.  I found a perfect men’s puffy coat tucked into the women’s section.

Amazon might bring you exactly what you think you want within 48 hours of your insistent demand.  Immediate gratification isn’t synonymous with Kondo’s “joy.”  To assess whether an item brings joy, you must hold it in your hands and sometimes even talk to it.  A thrift store is the perfect environment in which to anthropomorphize.  No one will bat an eye if you stand in the book section with Nicholas Sparks’ Nights in Rodanthe, wondering aloud, “Do you bring me joy?”

So, by all means pile all your crap on your bed.  Pick up each item.  Determine what sparks joy.  Go in order, please.  Marie has her reasons.  We’re happy to donate the proceeds from the sale of your pristine vintage olive green fondue pot to worthy charities.

But for goodness sake, get into our store and make a purchase or two, preferably a clothing purchase.  Or books.  Or komono.  Man, do we have a lot of komono.  I guarantee, we can find at least one item that sparks joy just for you.

Get thee to a thrift store!


Old School by Steeple People (Sat/Sun 12-6; Wed-Fri 11-5; closed Mon/Tues)

1901 Nicollet Ave S

Minneapolis, MN  55403

612 871-8305

Instagram @oldschoolthrifty


Musical Moment  (swears alert)

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If Sh!# Were Red…

A lovely story about McDonald’s and fecal material circulated on my Facebook feed a week ago.  Apparently, a researcher with London Metropolitan University swabbed the ordering touchscreens of eight McDonald’s in London and Birmingham.  The research team grew a whole host of bacteria, including a boatload of normal gut flora.  In other words, bacteria that live in our gastrointestinal tracts and help us maintain digestive and immune system functions, come out in our poop.  If we don’t wash our hands sufficiently, we transfer these organisms to objects.  Like McDonald’s touchscreens.

This isn’t news.  This isn’t specific to McDonald’s.  Although I’d like to say “never eat at McDonald’s,” my reasons have nothing to do with their living touchscreens.  If I swabbed your cellphone, I guarantee I’d be able to grow gut bacteria from it.

One of the finest quotes I acquired during my medical school training is: “If shit were red, the world would be pink.”

Let that one sink in.  And then go wash your hands.

For folks with functioning immune systems, the microbial smearage is, in general, no big deal.  Heaven forbid, if we forget to wash our hands before snarfing down our Big Mac and fries, at best our immune systems attack any bacteria they don’t like and we get the usual post-McD’s three days of nausea and diarrhea due to the excessive load of saturated fat.  (What?  That doesn’t happen to you?)  At worst, we contract norovirus (the researchers evidently weren’t interested in viral cultures) and miss a couple days of life/work/school due to the “stomach flu.”

For folks with non-intact immune systems (for example, people living with diabetes or HIV disease, and rheumatology patients on disease-modifying drugs), this “study” doesn’t add much except STRESS!  Wash your hands, people.  Wash after you go to the bathroom.  (and use a paper towel to turn off the water or open the door if you’re out in public)  Wash before you eat.  Wash before you touch your face.

The quotes in the article are terrible and misleading.  I don’t fault the researcher.  Missing information includes whether the cultured Staph aureus was antibiotic resistant or antibiotic sensitive.

The takeaway message is WASH YOUR HANDS not McDONALD’S IS A TEEMING CESSPOOL.  Although, it is.  But so is the grocery store and the bus and the bank and your kitchen sink.


Musical Moment

image = Shutterstock illustration ID 1042543318




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The Beauty of Unavailability or A Love Letter to My Flip Phone

Ace, the Big E, and I travelled Up North for Thanksgiving.  Between us, we schlepped along two flip phones with only one charger (oops), an iPad with charger, and my laptop.  The boys ran around in the woods, unearthing deer skeletons and chopping down buckthorn.  They might’ve taken Ace’s phone along, powered off b/c of the no-charger situation.  I drove into town, about fifteen minutes away, to check on the in-laws.

I managed to visit three thrift stores and Mills Fleet Farm (twice) on Black Friday.  Black Friday in a town of 14K looks very different from Black Friday in the Twin Cities.  It was AWESOME.  One of the thrift stores randomly decided in the middle of my visit to make all clothing $1.50 except winter coats.  Okay, I can roll with that.  Ace got a real nice pair of Dickies overalls.  The Big E got some athletic pants that will fit him in a few months.  I left my phone in the car while I shopped.  I don’t have caller ID.  Or texting capability.  And I haven’t set up the message box.

I didn’t hear from my boys for six hours.  I called from Mills Fleet Farm to ask clarifying questions around an item they had requested.  Oh, btw, the Big E said, we tried to call you a bunch of times.  The beavers undermined part of the driveway and it collapsed.  Pop tried to cut down a tree with his knife and he stabbed his hand so I blasted the treetrunk with a shotgun then we stuck the tree in the hole in the driveway.

If I had answered the phone when they called the first time, things would not have gone well.  Pop stabbed his hand?  Is he still bleeding?  Does he need stitches?  You used a shotgun to do WHAT???  Are your toes still on your feet?  ACK!

This is the beauty of unavailability.  By the time we talked, Ace’s hand was bandaged (he requested Coban “self-adherent wrap” from Mills – it’s super cheap in the veterinary section), the tree stuck jauntily in the sinkhole, and I could proceed with my errands with a minimum of stress or anxiety.

(I recall one occasion Up North when I’m glad I had a charged phone at hand.  Ace called to announce that there was smoke coming out of the hood of the truck and seemed entirely too cavalier about the whole thing, but that is a #SoThisHappened story for another time…)

Up North, there is no internet.  We have electricity with baseboard heaters but no running water this time of year.  There is an outhouse perched on the edge of the woods.  (Remind me to tell you the Murder in the Outhouse story sometime.)  Ace, the Big E, and I gather at the table over our microwaved venison chili and stare at each other, talking with our mouths full, arguing, laughing.  No one surreptitiously checks their phone under the table.  No one reaches for their back pocket, Pavlovian, in response to a subtle “ding.”

The Big E is lobbying hard for a smart phone.  He saved his money and bought himself an iPad a couple years ago.  When we’re at home, he texts.  If I confiscate the iPad as a consequence for nefarious deeds done, the Big E complains bitterly that I’ve thrust him into a state of complete social isolation.  Pick up the phone, I say.  Nobody does that anymore, he replies.

Pop and I need to do more research, I say.  I’m putting him off.  He thinks that I think that smartphones cause depression, promote a false sense of community, fuel disagreements, and prevent people from engaging in an authentic manner.

The location of my flip phone is currently unknown.  If you want to talk to me, call my landline.  I don’t text.  I don’t have caller ID on the landline either.  You can try to surprise me, but my voice recognition is pretty good.  Hope to talk to you soon.  Call me once the bleeding stops.


Musical Moment

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Llama Llama Raparama

In the spirit of the season, I’m going to share the love.  With you.

Anna Dewdney was an American author/illustrator.  She wrote the first Llama Llama book (Llama Llama Red Pajama) in 2005.  Her Llama books address a wide range of childhood joys and concerns, including getting-along-with-others, grumpiness-with-parents, and necessity-of-sharing.  Unfortunately, Ms. Dewdney passed away in 2016 from a brain tumor.  Her work lives on in the hearts of millions of children.  And adults.  LLRP has been stuck in my head for A LONG TIME (like worse than “Call Me Maybe” which I’m thinking really should’ve been “Call Me, Maybe”).  Hence, the sharing.

Llama is now available in book(s), stuffies, television, and clothing.

Here’s LLRP read by the author, read by an unidentified high-pitched voice person, and in sing-along form.

Monday confessions: the sing-along left me cold.

LLRP isn’t a foo-foo song, it’s a RAP.  J  Cruz of The Cruz Show (Power 106 LA) had the brilliant idea of inviting rappers to rap this book and the results are sheer perfection.

Please enjoy renditions by:

Kid Ink (killed it)

Warm Brew (wholesome and heartwarming)

Camila Cabello (perfect)

DJ Khaled (my least favorite)

Ludacris (#oldschool)

Lil Yachty (autotune fun over OutKast’s “Ms. Jackson”)

Ayo & Teo (nice interplay between A & T)

Desiigner (hard-hitting Llama)

Migos (Llama starts at 14:00, swear alert)

Remy Ma (swears, major swears)

Jeezy (he has kind of a hard time getting into it)

GoldLink (sweary and oedipal)

and here’s Miguel reading Llama Llama Holiday Drama (lovely and mellamdic)

D.R.A.M. performs my favorite version and I’ll include it as today’s Musical Moment.


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Open Enrollment

Every year.  Rigamarole.  Changes to all the plans.

Yes, of course I’m grateful to have insurance at all.  Yes, I am.

This year, I dutifully filled out the online “Alex” assistant thing that’s supposed to estimate costs and decide upon our most thrifty plan.  I fed it all sorts of scenarios involving inpatient surgeries, “specialty” prescriptions, and double-digit visits to primary care.  Alex suggests all three plans at various points.  Sooo not helpful.  No one expects their emergency appendectomy.

I expressed my disgruntled state to Ace and added that I planned to just sign up for the exact same thing we had last year.  He balked.  How can we sign up for a plan without thoroughly researching all our available options?

Ha ha ha ha ahahahahhahhahahahahaahah.

He picked up the phone and dialed “customer service.”  Ace spent the first ten minutes calmly requesting clarification of terminology including “in-network,” “out-of-network,” “tier one,” and “tier two.”  He then asked AT LEAST SEVEN TIMES for a comprehensive list of providers for the three plans assuming a 50-mile radius from our home.  Ace, quite logically, explained that we can’t possibly be expected to sign up for something without knowing exactly what we’re getting.

Customer Service Agent X (CSAX) repeatedly asked, “Well, what doctor do you want to see?”  We don’t know!!!!  We can’t predict the acute onset trigeminal neuralgia or the slipped capital femoral epiphysis or the laterally displaced humeral fracture or the ruptured ovarian cyst.  Ace wanted the whole @#$%^& list and CSAX didn’t have it.

Ace: What?  You mean we’re six weeks away from 2019 and you don’t know your contracted providers?  I don’t believe that for a second.

CSAX: What doctor do you want to see?


CSAX: I can email you the list from 2018.

Twenty-two minutes and sixteen seconds later (I checked), Ace hung up.  He looked at me and burst into laughter, the falsetto, high-pitched type of laughter bordering on hysteria.  ”Halfway through, [CSAX] just started to sound despondent.”  We laughed hard.

“You have to trust me,” I said, and jumped on the computer.  I signed us right up for the same garbage as last year.

The system is broken.  Seriously.


Musical Moment

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