Category Archives: fun

forty things from my fortieth summer

1. my new car – my mom got herself a new car, and i got her hand-me-down. not bad, eh? closing the back has been reminding me of something, like something i did in another life. the other day i finally realized that it’s what i imagine spinning the wheel on the price is right is like. so far i’ve successfully resisted the impulse to stand next to it after it’s closed and jump up and down while clapping and saying, “come on, one dollar!”


2. wilburys deconstructed – my love of driving around to tom petty music and of this video inspired me to make a great mix. my favorite stuff by the wilburys in their other incarnations. it’s pretty damn good.

3. the leoncavallo family of augusta, georgia – seriously. three quality individuals.


in this photo, i’m playing the role of doug leoncavallo.

4. successful ice cream stops – in portland ME i wandered into a little ice cream shop and one of the customers said to me (in a friendly way), “have you been in here before?” i said that i hadn’t and asked her to tell me what to get. she said banana cream pie ice cream, something i would never have chosen. it was delicious. then i had it again in downtown durham. in augusta, we discovered an amazing ice cream store, bruster’s – so many flavors and the counterfolk were begging us to have samples. i don’t ever remember what kind i ended up getting – i just remember that it was crazy-good.

5. unconditional positive regard – thanks to zari and cheryl strayed, i did some thinking about who has UPR for me and vice versa. here’s one example:


6. the bachelorette – oh man it was a good season. sweet sweet des.

7. PRI – i completed my goal of driving to the pizza research institute in eugene.

8. pistachios on pizza – i was introduced to this in durham, NC, not at PRI. it’s crazy how delicious they make your pizza.

9. portland, maine – the country is bookended by cool cities named portland


this is outside a pub in portland, maine.

10. a drag queen softball game – running in stripper heels for charity (them, not me)

11. dr. pepper – having a car means that i can transport a 12-pack from the store to my apartment. a can of it is like dessert for my afternoon.

12. the china delight lounge – this whole “where dreams go to die” thing? i’m not seeing it.

photo (93)

13. cards against humanity – another thing that came my way thanks to zari. i got to hear many wildly inappropriate sentences read aloud this summer. the china delight lounge is the perfect place to play.

14. blondies – why am i just now finding out about these?

15. capers – no, not the food. the other kind. i had two going for my buddy robyn’s 40th birthday last month. here she is finding out about the first one:


16. former neighbors

back in our spot

me and olivia back in our spot. i miss having her and her family around.

17. other people’s babies


olivia, jeff, nico, and liz

18. swedish fish

19. larrupin & ramone’s coffee – i didn’t make it to humboldt county this summer, but i did get a few tastes of it thanks to susan and janet.

20. amtrak – i did a lot of amtrak traveling on the east coast this summer. and a few trips up to portland and back.

photo (92)

1) jaqui is not asleep
2) that food isn’t all emily’s

21. the city of baltimore – zari & kristin – i get it. what a cool city.


gin and tonics on zari’s roof

22. mail – i’m now penpals with a former student who is in prison in california. not exactly a dream of mine, but it’s good to hear from him – i can still see the 4th grader he was. a good opportunity to practice unconditional positive regard.

23. license plates – when i was with the carter family in boston, they started playing the license plate game. now i notice them, too. i haven’t spotted a massachusetts plate yet.

photo (89)

me with the oldest carter daughter, james. sitting on some famous writer’s grave – i don’t remember which one. james is much more interesting.

24. evening strolls – i’m bringing them back.

25. grilled pimento cheese sandwiches – so tasty. i ate this one in aiken, south carolina with kristin and henry. it’s the reason that south carolina is filled in on my tattoo.


26. my 40th birthday tattoo


my first post-40 trip was to visit robyn and her husband phil in seattle. she asked to pick washington’s color. it’s green.

27. assertive pedestrian – when i’m out walking, i’m doing my part to assert my rights as a pedestrian. if you’re stopped at a stop sign and you make eye contact with me on the curb, i’m going to cross the street in front of you. if you go anyway, even though you see me and i have the right of way, i’m going to give you a mean look. i can’t give you the bird like i’d like to, because my parents would find out. but you’d better believe that i’m giving it to you in my mind.

28. generous driving – i’ve learned a lot about driving from the time i spend walking, and i try to practice generous driving. like giving pedestrians the right of way, waving the other guy through the intersection when it’s a tie, and stopping before the crosswalk. revolutionary, i know.

29. lifesavers – i had totally forgotten about them until i started spending time in various airports this summer. so tasty, and people are delighted to be offered one. now that i’m mature i like pineapple the best.

30. shorty shopping carts

31. monroefest – i got to spend a good chunk of the bounty of benton county hanging out at hard times distillery in monroe. and what do i have to show for it? good times and a bottle of moonshine.

32. a tumor piñata – sandy helped me finish a tumor piñata for tumorfest. i hope a few more folks make one next year.

tumor pinata

33. listen – my word for year five


34. east coast small-town 4th of july parades – muskets! and creepy local traditions! can i do this every year?


35. oblation – jaqui took me to this awesome shop in portland. i managed to keep my spending from hitting triple-digits. but it wasn’t easy.

36. second street – my street is so damn great. i’m glad to go out on adventures, and glad when i’m back on my street.

37. balsamic blueberry crisp – possibly the tastiest thing i baked all summer.

38. butterscotch – it tastes good! i had no idea.

39. fry-day – last month macey and i made our fry-day dream a reality, and we spent a day deep-frying candy bars. in round one we fried half of our assortment (frozen – there’s a tip for you) with one batter recipe. some were amazing and some were disgusting (circus peanuts? whose idea was that?). round two we fried the other half in funnel cake batter. for round three we did an all-star round of our favorites in our favorite batter (funnel cake of course). i thought that the best were toblerone, reese’s peanut butter cups, and rolos. macey liked all of those, but hershey’s cookies and cream bars were her number one. you should probably invite us to your halloween party – we’ll bring good treats and we spent time planning our costumes for this year.


macey’s costume has to do with her current celebrity obsession,
robert downey jr.

40. tumorfest – such a good way to end to year 4 and start year 5. i can’t describe how much tumorfest means to me.




on the occasion of my 3-year anniversary – 3 years since the day this picture was taken:

i thought i’d answer a few questions that might come to a new reader of my blog and possibly even a longtime reader.

where did the name “tumorfest” come from?

“tumorfest” is the name my friend madalaine gave to the drive that she, my mom, and i took from arizona to oregon. on the first anniversary of my tumor surgery, i was in hawaii and got my phoenix tattoo. for the second anniversary, i wanted to throw a party to get folks from different parts of my recovery together. tumorfest was the logical name. the second tumorfest was this last week. august 7th.

who made that rad tumorfest logo?

the logo came to me in a dream. i drew it and emailed it to my buddy noah (son of madalaine). he does graphic design, so he whipped up the logo. the colors are from my plaid rocking chair.

you used to have a lot of migraines. do you still?

gary, me, mike

i started getting migraines in elementary school. as a young adult, they became more frequent, and before my medical drama i was having 4 or 5 a month. they almost always were on my left side, behind my eye. which is where my tumor was/is. since my surgeries, i haven’t had a single migraine, not even a headache. a silver lining.

where were you when you had your stroke?

my stroke happened after the tumor surgery, so i was conveniently already in the hospital.

how did your stroke happen?

the tumor was too large to remove completely, so dr. spetzler de-massed it. the area where it was collapsed, which pulled on structures it was attached to – that was the bleed – a hemorrhagic stroke.

what is your secret chicanes wish?

my wish is that ellen will discover this blog and have me on her show to shower me with rad canes. this wish is complicated by the fact that i have no desire to be on television.

what are you going to be studying when you start at osu in the fall?

i’m starting a master of arts in interdisciplinary studies. i’ll be integrating three fields (mine are sociology, english, and speech communications) to create my own program of study. i’ll be looking at how writing personal narrative in a group can be used to heal trauma. basically the writing part of  digital storytelling.

do you still collect canes? how many do you have?

there are 14 canes in my hall tree. i inherited a few from my grandma when she died, and i’ll continue to keep a lookout for cool canes. you should, too.

now that you aren’t walking with a cane anymore, shouldn’t you change the name of this blog?

i named the blog “chicanes” because of a line from an ELO song (“can’t get it out of my head” – a little tumor humor). and i stand by my tagline – “if you have to walk with a cane, you might as well have some rad ones.” that’s just a fact.

it looks like your life is really good. should i go and have a stroke so that i can be cool like you?

yes, my life is really good. but i strongly suggest that you avoid having a stroke, if possible. pretty much everything i do is hard. but i don’t mind the hard work – “i’m just glad to be here, happy to be alive.” there has to be an easier way to have a cool life like me. to get started, i’d advise you to look for silver linings, to notice all of the things around you to be grateful for, and to put good into the universe – it comes back to you.

make your own fun

someone recently said to me, “i hope you aren’t bored.” i replied that i’m never bored. which got me to thinking about it. and truly i’m never bored. but why?

i think that being an only child is a big factor. now, i know what you think about only children – that their parents cater to their every whim. i think that that’s one kind of only child, and i’m another – my parents mostly dug having me around when i was a kid but they also had their own lives, and they expected me to be able to entertain myself. some childhood highlights are writing and filming super-8 movies, endless scavenger hunts, and the “children’s craft fair” my friend tammy and i put on (with help from our families). i was fortunate to have a cool big backyard and to grow up somewhere where i could ride my bike and walk around by myself. i had lots of benevolent neighbors on my block, and the fabulous two strike park was just down the street.

also, as a former elementary school teacher and foster parent, i know that i should be prepared. i always have a book with me, and paper and a pen so i can write a letter. i often have my quiddler deck and a pad of madlibs in case there are other folks around to join me in my fun.

as an adult, i think that i continue to make steady progress in the making your own fun department. here are a few examples:

psychic greeting card

this game was invented with an ex while we were waiting for a flight at the portland airport. the gift shop had a rack of greeting cards. we separately went into the shop and picked a card from the rack, trying to intuit the card the other one would choose. we wrote notes on the cards and exchanged them.

now i play psychic greeting card with my friend molly. we choose a theme – the most recent one was “embarking on a new adventure” – and then on the same day we each go to a card store (she’s in california and i’m in oregon) and intuitively pick a card.

molly's most recent psychic greeting card is on my fridge.


i like to make bingo cards. when i’m in a frustrating situation, making a bingo card makes me feel better. i’ve made bingo cards for staff meetings, for a class i took with an especially awful instructor, and for many inservice trainings. yes, it’s passive-aggressive, but it’s a victimless crime. i have a reason to stay interested (i’m rooting for my coworker to say, “we tried that 30 years ago and it didn’t work” because that gives me 4 in a row) and i don’t revert to my default middle schooler mode of smartass. so really, everyone benefits.

you realize of course that you may never make a kriste bingo card.

bingo cards can also be used for good. my 3/4/5 grades class made bingo cards before we went on a hike – we brainstormed things we might see. yep, some kids figured out that they could arrange dirt, grass, a stick, and the sky, all in line with the free space, and more power to ’em. my friend zari and i once created a very complete game of “late show bingo” out of our love for david letterman. i found the cards when i cleaned out my file cabinet this spring. good times.

a lot of good stuff here, but "dave smells the guest" might be my favorite.


when i was teaching primary multiage, i had a student i’ll call pedro. pedro drew a picture of a dinosaur with someone in its mouth. he elbowed the kid next to him, pointed at the mouth, and said “that’s you.” the school leadership leaped into action. i was asked if we should fear violence from pedro. my response was something like, “yep. if pedro has a dinosaur, we’re in a lot of trouble.”

my coworkers and i decided that pedro had a good plan – drawing pictures of our enemies being eaten by dinosaurs was a pretty good way of relieving stress. melanie uses the technique during grading periods:

jaqui has used it as a frustration-management technique with her middle school students:

jaqui's dinosaur-inspired art.

i once enlisted another student’s help in drawing a picture of melanie.

i think that "wha! mommy" was a nice touch.

drinking games

drinking games are similar to bingo cards. in my twenties i made a drinking game for the tv soap “all my children” – i don’t think that i ever played it. the fun was in coming up with it. i enjoy saying, “we should make a drinking game for this” when confronted with frustrating situations. i’m making a drinking game about a frustrating meal that i regularly eat (the kids call that “vaguebooking”). this year i was at a high school graduation with my friend vickie, and during the reading of the names of the graduates we came up with a drinking game. we decided that you should drink when someone has only two names, or four or more names. laughing about it got us through this year, but i’ll come prepared if any of you invite me to a graduation ceremony next year.

make a shirt about it

i like to make iron-on t-shirts. i’ve been known to make a shirt with a quote about someone i’m frustrated with and wear it under the rest of my clothes when i have to interact with that person. i think that i feel a little like what clark kent feels like knowing that he has his superman duds on under his suit.

this is the best shirt i've ever made. velcro letters so i could change the first part. perfect for intimidating opponents.


having a cool name for whatever fun you’re making is important (see psychic greeting card above). my dear friends and childhood neighbors the charnows know this. michael’s hatred of celery has led to an annual party called celeryfest. madalaine had the idea to make an outdoor bowling alley. we came up with a name – the midnight bowlers – and made a portable bowling kit of 10 real pins, a bowling ball, and a long strip of astroturf for the lane. we’d load it up in the car and practice random acts of bowling.

scholars believe that these were the first midnight bowlers.

eventually there were several chapters of the midnight bowlers – “it’s always midnight somewhere.” michael gave madalaine a bowling-themed pinball machine. erin painted captain underpants on a bowling pin for me – it’s currently proudly displayed on my mantel. i sometimes bowl on sunday with friends – we call it the church of the ten pins.

oh. now i see why my grandma called my hair a rat's nest.

card games

when i taught 4th grade, i realized that i had a captive group to play card games with. i like the social skills that can be modeled and practiced during a good card game. and the shared experience of playing a game with a group of people. my two favorites are spoons and i doubt it (you might know it as b.s.).

"do we really have to play i doubt it again, ms. york?"

around that same time, i was developing a serious quiddler habit. quiddler is a card word game – kind of like scrabble but played in rounds and with letters on cards. it’s really, really a great game.

madalaine goes ultimate in quiddler.

now i’m loving apples to apples. if you ever see me with a group of 3 or more people, i’m probably thinking about how i can convince them to play apples to apples with me.

here are a few pros making their own fun:

i guess that the moral is that you can’t always depend on other people to make your fun for you. sometimes you have to make your own. and the more you practice, the better you’ll get.