Thursday, March 31, 2011

White Diamonds, cont.

Since Elizabeth Taylor's death, people all over the world have been Googling "White Diamonds" and sometimes stumbling upon my blog and reading it.  Okay, it is not a ton of people, but I find it fascinating that a keyword in my little blog are causing people who I don't know to read my stupid opinions and fantasies/realities.

The night that Elizabeth Taylor died (keyword, get it?) my blog readership went up twenty percent.  Is that hilarious, or what? I have to wonder.  Did they read another post?  Did they like my sober valley ranch post?  Are there people all over the country right now, as I write this, winding up their catsup bottles that they left the top slightly loose on and cursing me when they have to scrub their ceiling and draperies when it sprays in a complete circle around their kitchen?  They are probably in California - Beverly Hills - and they just lost their icon and their Drag Queen fav, and they are just goin', to town on the Internet, trying to find any and all information related to Taylor and then there I am - all blurry. 

I have a statistics page that enables me to see demographics of my posts, each day.  It breaks it out in countries, and I have loyal readers from Indonesia (just showed up), England, Pakistan, Colombia and many other vacation destinations.

"It's probably SPAM," Brad always says when I show him the breakout.

SOOOOO supportive.  I laugh because the inception of this blog was a series of calamities.  I will never forget the night I created this blog.  Brad and I sat down in the basement and after a few glasses of wine I told him, "I am ready to go live."

We had just watched "Social Network" and I kept using jargon like, "I'm wired in!" and "we don't know what it is yet, it's just cool,"  and we would just die laughing.  We kept joking that I would be the next big deal and all this stuff ....and then I pushed "Publish" - right there in the basement.   Well, nothing happened at first, because I put it out on Facebook at 11pm on a Tuesday Night, natch.  But then the lights flickered and Brad goes, "You have shut down Facebook,"and we threw our heads back and laughed a hearty and nervous laugh.

The whole reason I even thought to blog was because my friend, Jen. told me about  I had read one blog up until that point - GOOP, by Gwyneth Paltrow.  I was super pissed at her because she had recommended this French pharmaceutical web site that promised Fraunch products at a fraction of the cost.  I WAS ECSTATIC.  I logged in, ordered a plethora of products, only to find out that the shipping not only negated your discount, but virtually made it impossible to hide you purchases.  No cash back option, bitch PLEASE.

Gwyneth, I guess doesn't have to worry about that because she just asks her rich European travelin' fool friends to pick them up for her on their jaunts to Paris.  I am sure they are not bitching about having to struggle with her bullshit on the Euro rail.

And you can't tell me there aren't mood alterers in her packages, either.  She is married to a rock star for Christ's sake.  Fraunch Prozac, fo sho. Anyway, she breaks her blog out into six categories - Make, Go, Get, Do, Be and See.  It is impossibly condescending and elitist, but it is like Vanity Fair, I read it anyway and pretend as if I am fabulous.  Some examples of her posts are the one I mentioned above - GO - stop by the pharmacy when you are in Europe to get discounted beauty products; GET - these ridiculous French whore peep toe lace up boots she recommends that retail at $1600 (they are a must have for the jet set in Notting Hill apparently. Totally something I can relate to as a stay at home mom  in Columbus, Ohio); and finally MAKE - to be honest, this part is pretty good.  I expected some gay micro biotic vegan bullshit, but da' bitch can throwdown a Mexican meal like no one's business.  I appreciate the voyeur factor of watching Gwyneth cook as well.

To be fair, most of her GO posts are pretty good, when she is not highlighting Marrakesh or Tokyo.  She and her blog have been accused of talking down to her readers and catering to the elite, not the masses.  Her guest blogs are always from other fabulous celebrities like Jessica Seinfeld and Michael Stipe.  Let's not forget the Turlington sister's guest blog on "doin San Francisco".  It is not the content, necessarily, that will intrigue people, it is the starf**ker factor - and she knows it.  She just pretends not to.  She has a little part-time job where she highlights her celebrity friends' latest ventures like their cookbooks and videos and at the same time she is giving us a peek at what her life is like, and we are gobbling it up.  At least I am.

My intention was to do a "lifestyle" blog with recommendations that common folk can relate to.  Instead, it turned in to this faux-autobiographical rant on all things random.  If I was aiming for a blog that is the antithesis of Gwyneth's, I have achieved just THAT.  It is not organized.  There is no order or sequence to the topics. I have no guest contributors, unless you count Brad and my mother who seem to have endless ideas and criticism for my blog.   I even forget to do recommendations sometimes.

But, here it is, in all of it's glory - complete with typos, run-on sentences and questionable syntax.  Oh, and let's not forget the sometimes offensive content.  But, it is mine all mine and I have enjoyed every minute of it.  While I was on Spring Break, my mom does not have wifi and being that she is a slave to Ebay, I had to go to Barnes and Noble to write. I also had to take all three girls.  Impossible.

I was only able to write two posts and I missed it so much.  It is obviously a creative outlet for me.  So I guess I want to thank everyone for their support when they share my link or comment on a post.  I will vaguely remember you fondly one day, although not your full names, natch.

Today's recommendation is pretty good.  So during that whole Fraunch Pharmacy debacle, Gwyneth recommended this yummy liquid soap that she uses in all of her bathrooms.  I think it is intended to be body wash but she uses it as hand soap.  I kept getting deja vu about it and after I realized I could not order $100 worth of foreign beauty products combined with the $150 shipping cost, I gave up and went to take a shower.  Right there in my shower was the soap that kept tugging at my unconscious.  I had purchased it at Marshall's, no less, a month before.

Okay, this soap is called, "Savon Marseille". It is $7.99 for 33.8 ounces.   It comes in several different fragrances and it smells wonderful.  My favorite is "Tilleul" or "Lime Blossom," if you are not an international language speaker, like moi.  I have it in every bathroom and at my kitchen sink, just like Gwynneth.  I may not have as many bathrooms, or kitchens, for that matter, but in my eyes, we are soul mates who share the same interests and tastes.  She just pays more for hers.  Below is a link to her blog, too, if you are interested.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

What it means to be a FAN

 Ok I have lived in Columbus, Ohio for over ten years.  I have known Brad, my husband, for 22 years.  I have known his father, Ken,  for about as long. I have known that Buckeye fans are obnoxious since my first OSU football game.  I did not, however, realize until last Friday night how truly fanatical they were until the University of Kentucky (my alma mater) played the OSU in the Final 8.

When it comes to OSU Fanatacism, I am personally involved.  My husband is the biggest OSU fan in the world, next to his father, who actually watches games sober - not often I might add, but it has happened.  In my book, THAT is the measure of a true fan. Brad goes to almost every home game and some away games.  I have gone to bars at ten in the morning when we lived in other time zones in order to watch Buckeye games.  It has always been about the Bloody Mary to me, not the game. 

The writing was on the wall when I was in college and Brad brought me home to an OSU football game.  They were playing USC and we were walking into the stadium with Brad's dad, Ken,  and Brad started yelling at an elderly gentleman who was showing team spirit by wearing his team colors.  I don't remember exactly what was said, but it had something to do with the fact that the man had a USC team hat on and in Brad's opinion, he was going to "eat that hat at the end of the game."  I was horrified.  I looked to Ken for some balance.  He then raised his finger up in the air and I thought he was going to give Brad "the what for" but instead he finished Brad's rant by screaming, "and when you shit it out, it will be scarlet and gray."  I yanked them both inside the stadium because the old man looked rather fit compared to them. I will not lie.  A bell went off in my head that I chose to ignore because I did not yet have a ring on my finger.  I was cool about EV-ER-Y-THING back then.

Anyway, I am in Indiana with my best friend last Friday night and I start getting this barrage of texts and Facebook wall posts in response to this little ditty that I copied off of another Kentuckian who asked me to "pass it on."  It was exactly this -

"Kentucky born and proud!  Where the tea is sweet and the accents are sweeter, summer starts in April, front porches are wide and words are long, macaroni and cheese is a vegetable, pecan pie is a staple, y'all is a proper pronoun, chicken is fried and biscuits come with gravy, everything is darling and someone is always getting their heart blessed."

I got more shit from that post.  To be honest, I was really just reminiscing about being from Kentucky because I had just stayed at my parents' house in Louisville and it was beginning to be Spring and it made me nostalgic when I read it, so I passed it on.  End of story.  In no way was it affiliated with sports or the NCAA.

Brad recognized this immediately and commented on how I probably had no way of knowing there was a big game the next day.  People who I had not talked to in ages or who I did not even know very well started texting me and exclaiming "UK sucks and is going down tonight." and other disparaging remarks that I do not care to repeat - not that they were super articulate put downs or anything - I just don't care.  Well, that's not entirely true.  I actually became immediately interested in the last five minutes of the game and when UK kicked serious ass, I could not stop emailing and posting insults that would make Dickey V, Himself, (yes, Brad, I know who Dicky V is) blush.  

At that moment, I became a FAN again.  Now, I have sat in my living room with my Dad in horror as we recognized my mother's voice on the Rick Pitino call in radio show. I was at Kentucky (University of) when Rick Pitino came a courtin'.  It was a sight to behold.  I have actually witnessed people who would stop their cars (okay, Brad and his friends) on Alumni Drive outside of Rupp Arena, as Pitino was exiting the building, to shake his hand and get his autograph.  It was a magical time.  It was Ritchie Farmer and the Unforgetables!  (Brad put that last line in, natch, he got home early from the hockey game and wanted to "edit" my blog.  WEEEEEEE!)

I worked at the UK Alumni Association to pay for graduate school when Kentucky won the National Championship. I have witnessed, first hand, what people will do (my mother included) to get UK Basketball tickets, and it ain't pretty, folks.  I have stared in amazement on the streets of UK's campus as students hung from the traffic lights and descended upon cop cars like a pack of red ants covering a dropped popsicle, while I downed tallboys and squealed with delight.

I knew then what it was to be a fan, but since I have been distracted with children and laundry and homework, and I had forgotten what it was like to truly be invested in the outcome of something sports-related until last Friday night.  I thank you, the good people of Buckeye Nation.

I was on the road with my girls during the first half of the UK/UNC game on Sunday.  I actually found it on the AM station Brad regularly listens to and tuned into the game.  At one point I looked in the rear view mirror and noticed that all three of my children had that shell shocked look they get when the planets are not aligned in their universe.  They were stone cold silent and were apparently scared that I had somehow morphed into their father who incessantly listens to games or commentaries of sports, whenever he is in his vehicle.

When I got home, after a six hour drive with my 9-year-old, my 7-year-old, and my 4-year-old (I don't have to tell you what kind of Hell that is like), I watched the second half sans any alcohol.  THAT is what it means to be a fan.  I cheered and did the UK fight song cheer (we had the same cheer in high school and just inserted "Eastern High" where the "U of K" should be) with all of the motions I could remember.  When it came to the high kick, I wrapped my knuckles on the drywall that houses our heating ducts and pulled a muscle and had to sit down again.  THAT is what it means to be a fan.

I am currently contemplating having a party this Saturday night for the Final Four game against UConn.  It is a virtual miracle that I not only know who we are playing, but that I am willing to clean my house in anticipation of a party revolving around sports.  (It usually is the only time I become aware that Brad knows how to use a vacuum cleaner.)

I cannot decide if I want to invite everybody or if I should just invite UK fans that I know in Columbus.  What would Jesus do?  Or rather, what would Jim Tressel do, right?

My recommendation today is to take one for the proverbial team this time, Buckeye fans, in the name of good sportsmanship this Saturday, and root for the Kentucky Wildcats.  Not because they are in closest proximity to your state or because you put three children through college paying out of state tuition (Ken).  Root for them because they are the dominant team and because you know me, as I have not been this invested in a contest since Christian Siriano won Project Runway.

Brad wanted me to put a video of the Cats homecoming at the Lexington Airport.  It was set to Rap music he enjoys and ran about five minutes. I decided to spare you after he went to bed.  

Mr. G's and Secretariat

When I was at my parents' house this past week, I was able to catch up with my friend, Libby, one of my best friends from high school, Eastern High School, that is.  We met when I was a Freshman and she was a Junior.  By social standards, it was an unlikely pairing, but we got along really well and to be honest, meeting her changed my high school experience forever.

To be clear, I HATED my high school.  It is difficult to explain, but at a very young age, all I really yearned for was to be on my own.  I met Libby at a time when I wasn't really connecting with my own class.  I had just come out of middle school, which is not a favorite time in anyone's life, and I was just sort of trying to find my way socially.  There are people who like a posse of friends and there are people who just need that one friend - and that is me.  I found it anxiety producing to be part of a group, and I spent most of my middle school years struggling with that concept until I met Libby.

We had an absolute ball together.  My grades dropped from A's to C's, but I was really happy and to my parents' credit, they loved Libby and saw her as a positive influence.  Libby and I did all of the things that best friends did.  We dated best friends.  We wore each others' clothes (mostly I wore hers because they were nicer and she was generous).  We cut school together. We laid out together.  But, mostly we laughed together and had a great time together.

I have had some of my most humiliating times with her and some of my most triumphant times with her.  High school is such a volatile time.  You do so much growing in that period.  It really shapes you as a person and, if you think about it, it plays a major role in influencing the relationships you will have later in life.

Therefore, when I am able to hang out with Libby, as an adult, I revert back to being a teenager.  Last week, Libby and I went to Mr.G's, my favorite hang out that is three blocks from my parent's house.  It is a major hole in the wall and it is jam packed with a mixture of locals, Eastern High School staff (past and present), and Eastern High School Alumni, as well.

You just never know who you are going to run into at Mr. G's.  Brad and I go there every Derby weekend and every time that we visit my parents.  Really, this is the first time that I have been there without Brad in many years, although it is definitely one of those bars that invites people to come and sit at the bar by themselves. Don't think for a second that I have not thought about stopping in for a belt while perusing The Fresh Market next door.

It was a Tuesday night and as usual, Mr. G's did not disappoint.  I saw people who I had not seen in years.  You must understand, that outside of maybe two people, in Columbus, I never see anyone that I went to college with, let alone a high school buddy.

One of the funniest things about Mr. G's is that Eastern High School staff hang there.  I love it when I look over and I see the former Eastern High School security guard and the current gym teacher clinking their gigantic mugs full of draft beer at the end of a hard day.  Whenever Libby and I are together and we encounter former staff at Eastern High School, they always comment on how they can't believe they are seeing us together because we were inseparable (translation "always getting in trouble") in high school.

This is all water under the bridge now (so I can put it out there) but when we were in high school, Libby used to aide in the office.  She struck up a friendship with the woman who would call home if you were absent from school.  This is terrible and would never happen now, but we would inform her the day before we were going to ditch and then she would not call out parents.

To further illustrate how times have changed, my senior year, I had two study halls, weight training, and was an aide in the office which constituted half of my school day where I was not being educated.  Libby and I were discussing how one of our assistant principles was a total perve and we were reminiscing about how he would invite aides to sit on his lap.  Can you imagine that happening today?  Apparently, the niece of that staff member is currently under suspension for statutory rape and several other "minor" related charges so the apple does not fall far from the tree.  This is Kentucky people, lines tend to be blurred there.

During this rather salacious conversation, my friend from childhood and Mr. G's mascot, and Eastern High School alum, chimed in with other morsels of gossip from our era.  It was so much fun.  I haven't ruined that many reputations in a single conversation since my Sorority days.

Anyway, Libby's first boyfriend, Jim, showed up and we spent the majority of the evening with him.  He was an extra in the film, Secretariat, which was filmed in Louisville.  He and Libby both had their iphones out and things became very technological at one point while they were trying to show me his part in the movie.  Finally, Libby's phone ran out of power, thank God, and she was unable to both call people, put them on speaker and then hand the phone to you, and also, surf the net to illustrate her points. She is freakin' dangerous with that thing.

Apparently, he spent three days filming at Churchill Downs and they used about three seconds of footage of him.  It was thrilling as he recanted rubbing elbows with E from Entourage and making small talk with Diane Lane.  I just happened to have the movie in my purse because my mom had given it to my daughter for her birthday and we were planning on watching it the next day on our road trip to Indiana.

Well, let me tell you, Jim signed it and I might as well have had the horse sign it as well.  My kids were so impressed.  We actually made a game of trying to spot Jim's "ugly mint green blazer" as the camera pans over the crowd during a press conference in the movie.  Hilarious.  You just never know what your night is going to consist of at Mr. G's.  It is always memorable, though.

My recommendation to you is to rent the movie, "Secretariat".  It is so good.  Derby is just around the corner - the first Saturday in May - and it is just the thing to get you in the mood. Hey, Libs, you got yer pic in my blog.  Aren't you proud?  Or is the correct adjective "mortified"?  Thanks for a fun Spring Break.

Monday, March 28, 2011

Janie and Jack and Jody

I just came off of Spring Break, where I spent half of my time in Louisville, where I am from, and where my parents still live, and half of my time in Indiana with my best friend, Alissa, and her three girls.  During my time in Louisville, Brad decided that it would be a good time to investigate the engine light that had been illuminated for the last six months. 

To make a very long and uninteresting story short, my oxygen sensor was bad and required Brad to open his wallet and extract $300.30 from it.  That'll teach him to be responsible.  Not that he really was...he just passed to torch back to my Dad, who on my wedding day thought was not ever going to come back his way.  Boy was he mistaken.  Anyway, while my car was in the shop, my Dad comes home from work (he works at Ford) and excitedly asks me what the diagnosis is on my car.  When I relay that it is the oxygen sensor, he whips out what looks like a long crooked metal bar with some doohickey on the end and exclaims, "I knew it!  I was talking to the head mechanic at work and he said based on the lights that were on, it was probably the oxygen sensor and this is it.

"Oh.  So can I go drop that off at the dealership and have them install that and get some money back?"  my mood was improving.

"No," my Dad explains, "this one has been taken out of a car already.  It doesn't work either."

"So, why did you bring it home?"  I am mystified.

"So you could see what it looks like, "my Dad says triumphantly.

"What's next?"I was amused now, "Did you arrange for me to assist with the surgery at the dealership tomorrow?"

"UmHum." I think I got through to him this time and the message was not, "Hey thanks for trying to enlighten me, Dad, on some real world situation that I could benefit from later, " but, instead, my clear message was, "Don't waste your time and energy on me Dad, because I am neither interested nor am I capable of evolving as a responsible adult.  I will be revisiting this exact same situation sometime in the near future when my light comes on again to reveal that the other oxygen sensor has gone kaput.  I will then wait six months to have my car serviced and I will probably drive 3 1/2 hours South to involve you.  At that time, I will have completely forgotten our current lesson and will ask you for a ride to the dealership after a long and exhausting day at work following a late night taking care of my children while I read my book and talk on the phone with my friends."

Now, my Mom buys all of my kids' clothes at the children's clothing store, Janie and Jack.  It is uber expensive and I would never pay those prices.  I only go in there with my mother and they absolutely LOVE her for obvious reasons.  I have three girls and because I did not get my "sale" gene from my mother, she enjoys paying retail for things and becomes visibly agitated at the prospect of an item being sold to someone else.  I have tried on multiple occasions to explain to my Mom that there are alternatives to breaking out in a cold sweat in the middle of Janie and Jack when they have put something back out on the floor that she has put on hold.

For years, all they would have to do is call her to tell her that their new Spring line is in and she would fly to Oxmoor (the mall I grew up in) to buy up everything.  They hit the jackpot when their Paris line came out right after her trip to France and it must have been through osmosis that they released their English collection the week before she visited London for the first time.  All my mother needs is some distant connection to something in order to justify buying something.  Ask me about her snowglobe collection sometime.  It is a disturbing sight to behold.

Anyway, my mother is a VIP at Janie and Jack to say the least.  She knows each Manager and all of the assistant managers, all of the employees and each respective extended family member.  Recently, though, they have had some turnover and there is a new manager.  (No doubt the previous manager due to astronomical sales as a result of my mothers credit, has hit the glass ceiling somewhere at Janie and Jack Headquarters. )

So we go to Janie and Jack on the first day of my visit there, as is the ritual, so that my children can have matching couture bathing suits, with accompanying cover ups, hats, shoes and sunglasses.  The importance of a four-year-old that accessorizes is not lost on the good people of Janie and Jack and obviously my mother shares their vision - times three.  The women behind the counter do not know my mother (Now, I have had previous employees contact me on Facebook to see how my mom is doing, so this is RARE.) and she is trying to use a coupon that expired the night before and they have put all of her "on hold" clothing back out on the floor.  My Mom is distraught, to say the least, and she has those women hopping in no time.  They are calling other stores and surfin' the net and calling home offices.  It was a wonderous thing to observe. 

My mother has single handedly, not only put Janie and Jack through private boarding school, but she is also funding their Ivy League educations as we speak.  Apparently, my oldest daughter who is 9, is about to size out and this produces a ton of anxiety for my Mom.  She will be disappointed if my three girls do not go off to college in matching Janie and Jack outfits.  Like many women of the South, they make it a priority to dress their children as if they were attending the Royal Wedding everyday. I find it more economical to go to resale shops in Southern cities.  I not only recommend it for children's clothing but for adults, as well.  Southerners just tend to be more impractical than people of the North when it comes to spending money on things that make them appear to have better lifestyles than they do.  Nothing gives me a bigger high than buying something from a resale shop that still has the tags on it.  Fifth avenue is the new up and coming resale area.  I love that it is so close to me.  I think Trader Tots is a rip off, both for selling and buying.  It is OKAY for winter boots and rain boots but mostly it is overpriced. Once Upon a Child on Sawmill is better.

The recommendation portion of this post is that if you are traveling South, seek out a few consignment shops and you will be pleasantly surprised.  This also applies to any major city.  Enjoy not only the unique things that you will find, but the discounts as well.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Spring Breakdown

Last year my mom and I, and my three girls decided to go somewhere for Spring Break.  My mom has that Disney Time Share Point thing so we stayed at the Disney Resort in Vero Beach.  We broke up the trip by breaking it in half.  I drove the whole way because she makes me insane when she drives and nearly kills me everytime I get in the car with her and because she tends to "doze" alot.

My mom has had kidney cancer and when they removed the tumor, her other kidney did not respond as we thought it would, so I kind of thought that we should do as much as we could before she had to go on dialysis.  We spent as much time in the car traveling to and from the resort than we did at the resort.  Two days getting there.  Two days returning.  Four days, three nights at the resort.  It was quite a trip. 

Vero Beach is very quaint and the resort is jam packed with activities for the kids.  However, while we were down there, the beach in the front of the resort was being "renovated" or something and this was a fact that the staff neglected to tell any of the guests before they got there, including us.  They did provide a shuttle to a very nice beach, but it was inconvenient to say the least, and more than anything, it was just the principle of the whole thing that was wrong.

I just hate when people (insert Brad) try to get away with something and then they act suprised when you act negatively because you realize you are being screwed.  "Disney," as my mom calls everything to do with Disney World and its affilliates, (I believe when she says it she actually pictures Walt Disney the person and not the conglomeration) was operating on the assumption that they would just ignore the noisy dump trucks and closed beach signs and act as if everything was "business as usual" unless someone complained and then they would compensate them.  The squeaky wheel gets the grease - everytime.

So, somehow I encounter this very angry woman and her equally apathetic teenage daughter in the lobby of the resort one day.  She is "fit to be tied" as my grandfather would say.  My mom and I had been completely oblivious to the screwing we were enduring as we hung at the pool and drank overpriced margaritas while the kids took class after class and played game after game.  It was hilarious how my mother, the non-drinker would "crave a cocktail" by 3 o'clock everyday.  Kids'll do that to you and so will warm weather.  Frankly, I don't know how people in Florida and the Carolinas stay sober enough to carry on with daily life in the Spring. I know the people of Mexico don't.

Anyway, this lady was of the privileged variety and so was her teenager and she was complaining to me about how she and her daughter had just traveled "all the way from Disney World" (I think it's under an hour and a half) and she had to rent a car and even though the beach they take you to is nice, it is a pain in the ass to pack all of your stuff up and get on a bus and what is it with all of these rules here and at Disney World and I am so sick of it and she went right up to the desk and got her Disney points back. This Beeeaach raised such a stink they were giving her free meals and shit. 

So, understand that my Mom and I and the kids were having a great time and adhering to all of "Disney's" rules like buying one of their refillable coffee cups and using it to get your own coffee and sodas and we are smiling from ear to ear as we are charged $18 for a mojito and here this woman comes and demands that we realize how awful we have it. 

I tell my Mom about this new revelation and she is actually afraid to go up to the front desk because she "doesn't want Disney to put her on some sort of list". 

"What list would that be?"  I ask, "The sucker list?"

"No, smartass, the bad list.  I mean, Disney doesn't like people like her.  He likes people like me."

"Oh, I get it.  So, he likes team players, does he?  I am confused.  Do you work for Walt Disney or are you his customer?"  I say as I fill up my mickey mouse coffee cup.

"I don't know. He just respects me, I guess.  We understand each other."  My mom is whispering now. 

"Mom, and I mean this in the most uncondescending way, Walt Disney is dead and he was never your friend.  Now go up there and get your points back and then you will be able to justify all this expensive shit we have been doing to Dad."

So I watch my Mom get in line with the other disgruntles, who realized upon arrival that they were not receiving what they had been promised.  She talks to the desk clerk who tells her to have a magical day before she walks away and my mother has a huge "shit eating grin" on her face as she tucks her paperwork into her Mickey Mouse folder I gave her for Christmas. 

"What did you get?" a voice says from behind me.  It is the angry lady and her daughter who is wired into her Ipod. 

The angry woman's smile quickly turns into a straight line and she is visibly pissed. My mom and I look at each other quizzically.

"They didn't offer us any Godd**n balloons!" she sputters and she jerks her daughter by the arm and her silk Mumu cover up flutters in the wind as the automatic doors that lead to the ocean open.  You can hear the construction on the beach over the waves and a truck that is out of sight is backing up because you hear the "beep, beep, beep" it makes.

My Mom turns to me with a smirk and says, "Have a magical day." and we all double over in laughter - even my three-year-old, but she doesn't know what she's laughing at.  It doesn't matter, though, cause that's what this blog is for.


Monday, March 21, 2011

Annie and the Bikerace

I just got a bike and it is BE-U-TI-FUL.  Brad gave me some money for my birthday and I was supposed to get jewelry and instead I got a roadster bike and now all I can think about is how I can get my hands on some money to accessorize it.  It already has a basket, but I figure I need a cup holder, a lamp, some cool reflectors, a bell, a horn, and possibly a rack in the back.  It has a retro feel but it is totally urban at the same time.  The guy at roll who I became instant friends with, called it "curban". 

While I was there he also combined some other words that I threw out and this became a game between the two of us.  There's chic and stylish - "chilish".  When I was purchasing a new helmet for Eva, I told him that she is very petite but that all of my children inherited Brad's and my enormous mishapened skulls - he declared her head "penourmous".  We were talking about what I was doing for spring break and I told him I was going to Louisville, Indiana and Chicago.  "Oh, Louindago!"  He could have sold me anything.  I just wanted to jump in his back pocket for the day. 

He told me how he had gotten the same bike in green for this mother-in-law and that she keeps it in her living room in her brand new expensive condo because it makes her so happy.  She also enjoys the accessorizing aspect of biking and she has a vase that she keeps a daisy in and apparently she has a new helmet she wants to attach a silk daisy to so that it springs out of the back of her helmet and bounces in the wind when she rides.  She would be a daisy biker or "Diker". 

So I was just telling my friend all of this and she reminded me of my friend, Annie, and her bikerace story.  She and her husband live in Colorado and last summer they signed up for a bike race in Boulder.  I can't remember the exact distance but it was something like 100,000 miles or it may as well have been because how ever many miles it was, it seemed astronomical to me when she was telling the story. 

Anyway, she makes her husband, Scott, trick out her bike by welding a big plastic crate on the back which she intends to put a jambox in (old school, people, no ipods for her)  in which she has to change cd's and stuff, I guess, to motivate her to finish the race.  She has ONE cd and it is John Denver.

SO the night before, she is drinking wine and she says that Scott is like hydrating and goes to bed early and she like, "C'mon stay up with me," drunk dialing her friends and stuff.  So the morning comes and she saddles up on her bike, turns on her tunes full blast, is feeling a little hazy and then looks around and everyone around her is very serious and they all look like Lance Armstrong lining up for the Tour De France and here she is with John Denver blaring out of the back of her bike in a crate you used to use at college, oh and she is wearing this wide brimmed straw hat.  She says at that moment she realized that everyone else had entered the wrong race.  Now, in her defense, the people of Boulder are very quirky.  When I lived there I saw the most random shit.  Once, when I was discussing this very point with a co-worker, a man with a gas mask drove by.

Ok, so naturally Annie falls behind in the race.  Scott stayed with her for a while but then he got tired of all of the jeering so he went ahead.  So here Annie is with her jambox blaring "Rocky Mountain High" for the 100th time about 10 miles back from everyone else.  She said that she had developed a little fan club, though, that would cheer and run along side of her like people did in Forrest Gump.  But after a while, she was just too slow and they lost interest and went on about their day.

The best part is that Annie finished the race right as they were taking down the finish line and Scott, who adores her, was there just shaking his head and smiling, along with three die hard fans who sang at the top of their lungs to "Country Roads."  So, naturally I asked her if she is going to do the race again this summer and she replied, "Hell, yes.  Those people are depending on me."  Love her.

I went to all three bike stores in and around Arlington.  I try not to go past Henderson if I can help it.  Roll is the best one.  I have gotten all three of my kids' bike helmets there, too.  I have had our bikes serviced there.  I just keep going back.  It is expensive, but they all are and I think they have the best inventory and customer service.  They also do a lot to give back to the community and I think that is cool.  When I was leaving with my new bike, I was so excited and they said, "Send us a picture of you on it and we'll put it on our Facebook page."  I did a video instead.  Hilarious.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Dancing Queen

OK, I absolutely love to dance.  I remember having dance contests with my friends in college and I would always trump everyone, whether it be a high kick or going down into the splits. I suppose, if I were to really reach back, my affinity for dance began very young.  Not everyone will remember this but Dance Fever was the early version of such popular shows today such as Dancing with the Stars and So You Think You Can Dance.  Remember that?  It is sort of like how The Real World was the impetus for Big Brother and really everything with adults living together in a "reality" environment after that.

Okay, so this memory I am not proud of, but my brother and I just howl over it when it comes up.  My distant cousin, Nona, pronounced Know-na, (yes, that is her name and yes Norletta is the name of my mother's best friend - along with Tootie. And yes, Nona's sister's name was LisaJo.  Now it is interesting to note, that LisaJo is pronounced "LiiiizaJo" where you kind of roll your tongue on the "L", prolong the "I" sound, and then punctuate with the "Jo" at the end.  This is how LisaJo's mother, Betty, would say it, and is another thing my brother and I lose control of our bladders over.  (Well, really just me 'cause I am the only one who's had kids.)

I DIGRESS, damn, anyway, Nona and her partner, who looking back now I am sure was a homosexual, made it to the semi-finals for Dance Fever in Louisville.  I have specific memories of them practicing while my Uncle and Dad played cards and my Mom and Aunt Betty smoked cigarrettes and hung curtains.

Nona had like a jersey (it was polyester, then, and was thick and itchier) low cut wrap dress on in the color of her skin, to simulate nudity, I guess, and her "boyfriend" Sigfried, wore tight black poly-blend pants that today women wear to work out in, (but with a zipper), a white button down the front poly-blend shirt unbuttoned down to his naval, and this - his pièce de résistance - a sparkly red sash, if you will, tied just so around the middle of his high waisted pants.  True to form, Nona had made a scarf with two knots at the ends out of the same material as Sigfried's sash.  Or maybe they got a twofer, I will never know.

THEY WERE BEAUTIFUL to me then.  They are ridiculous to me now.  This is the number one reason I cannot watch any of those dance shows on t.v.  It just takes me to that place that I normally don't want to think about.  That little room inside of me that is dark and tiny and padlocked and reeks of the 70's.  Well, the specific details are fuzzy to me now, but I think that Nona and Sigfried went down in a blaze of glory because she twisted her ankle or something and now she is raising her grandchildren's kids.  Sigfried, moved to San Francisco and was never heard from again.  I am sure he is probably some Congressman or something by now. 

Last Spring, my friend, who is also my manager, sorority sister and former roommate, and I traveled to Lexington for Kappa Kappa Gamma's 75th Anniversary at the University of Kentucky.  It was a full weekend of festivities, culminating in a day at Keeneland, followed by a "banquet" that night.  Well, the banquet had a live band and one thing led to another and before you know it I was grinding up on some 75-year-old alums and their pleasantly surprised husbands.  I had elderly Kappas hurling their husbands at me before long, screaming, "Do him!  Do him!" and then someone decided this would be more appropriate at a club and off we went.

We stopped at our hotel to change because all of our cougar-wear was binding us, and I decided on a sexy little number of skinny jeans, a hoodie, and running shoes. Shortly thereafter, we found ourselves atop "Skybar" in a "skyscraper," overlooking Lexington.  The band was great and I learned  that you do not have to dress provocatively to attract young drunk men with Mommy issues.  Maybe I should have worn a chenille robe and curlers in my hair. 

Keeneland is an absolute ball if you haven't been there, you should go. They have a Meet in the Spring and in the Fall and it is five hundred times better than Churchill Downs - and I am allowed to say that because I am from Louisville.  Brad always says how fun it would be to rent a bus and make a day trip of it.  If he ever follows through, I will invite you.

The pictures above are me and my friends, years ago, demonstrating my love for dance.  The second pic is from our weekend last Spring.  

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Margarita and Amstel Light

Once a year, at the end of the summer, my best friend travels from Indiana with her three girls, to spend a week with me at Apple Valley Lake, where my in-laws have a place.   The whole week is basically a dance between us and our children where we do something fun with them, like feed them, and then they are supposed to reciprocate by leaving us alone to talk and drink.

This never works, though, and we end up having to play games with them in the cove, put band aids on them, watch their plays and dance contests, and tie dye anything they can get their hands on.  Therefore, at night, when we finally put them to bed, is when the party really gets started and we stay up late and laugh well into the wee hours of the morning. This process is simultaneously exhausting and exhilarating. 

Luckily, the smart ass gene that Alissa and I passed down to our children was not recessive and the girls began to give everyone nicknames toward the middle of the trip.  Mine was Margarita and Alissa's was Amstel Light.  I have no idea why.  I think with my blond hair and blue eyes, I look Mexican to them (Shakira, Shakira), and Alissa has brown hair and hazel eyes and is a dead ringer for a German liederhosen ( Wait, isn't that a pretzel?  Or is it a sausage? Maybe it's pantyhose.)

Anyway, one thousand and one inside jokes come out of each of our trips and we have made memories that are priceless.  Alissa and I can rif on anything and if "beating a dead horse" were illegal, we'd be in prison.  So, on one of our trips, I decided to take all six of the girls out on the pontoon.  The lake house sits on a cove and the pontoon faces the dead end of the cove so you have to kind of parallel park your way out of it to get to the open water.

It happened to be 150 degrees that summer and we have all of the kids roasting with their life vests on while I alternate between choking the engine and calling my father-in-law.  You can just imagine.  So finally I get the boat started and I am freaking out because I have to pull forward, then cut it, and then back out of the cove.  I am about to run aground so I flip it in reverse and cut it hard and I end up running into our dock with all of the kids on it.  I recover and we go to the beach that happens to be covered in goose shit.  The kids stay, oh, maybe 5 minutes, and then want to leave.

We are all climbing back into the boat when I realize that I have completely dented in the corner of the boat that houses the gas containers.  It is crushed like a ten can.  This is not my boat.  I am hysterical and I feel awful and irresponsible.  I call my father-in-law, bawling crying and explain that I will pay for everything and that I have already ordered the part.  It is $500.  Actually, Alissa called the boat place and pretended she was me because I could not get myself together enough to make the call.  My Father-in-law was completely understanding and gracious like he always is when I screw something up and we decide to do all of our water travel from then on, on the jet ski.

So, last summer we are at the lake and I found out that the word around town is that all of our neighbors around the cove hoist their boats up and put out a warning each time I am at the Lakehouse without supervision.  I only find this out because all of the neighbors are drinking together after rescuing all of the kids after they managed to capsize the paddle boat and sink it like a mini Titanic on the other side of the cove.

Recently, all of our kids got on TextNow on their ITouches (not my 4-year-old, I don't like her as well as my other two children).  Anyway, it was Mills' birthday and Alissa was telling her 6-year-old, Anna, that they should call her and wish her "Happy Birthday".  Anna, who has a bit of a lisp, which Alissa and I love to imitate, turns to her Mom and says, "I know, Mom, I alweady texted hur."  Classic.   

My recommendation today - plan a vacation with your best friend and your kids together.  I get the biggest kick out of watching my best friends' girls and my girls develop a friendship.  We have fantasies about them rooming together in college, or at least attending the same rehab.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Japan - Home of the Gracious

Now I have done posts on my trips to Japan and our houseguest, Koz, but I wanted to do a post on the people of Japan.  Never have I encountered people that operate with such grace in their lives.  They celebrate not only the beauty in people and culture, but the beauty in life and that, in itself, is refreshing.

On my first trip there,  Brad and I took a trip up to the mountains, while we were in Japan, and it was just beginning to be Cherry Blossom season.  This is a very big deal in Japan and they actually have a weeklong national holiday to celebrate it.  You realize that the Japanese are extremely hardworking people in addition to their other admirable qualities, so to take a week off of work reflects just how important this holiday is in Japanese culture. 

Just a bit of American History trivia,  Washington, DC’s famed cherry trees grow in three park locations: around the Tidal Basin in West Potomac Park, in East Potomac Park (Hains Point), and on the grounds of the Washington Monument. In 1912, the Japanese government presented us with over 2,000 cherry blossom trees (11 varieties) as a show of goodwill to our government and the first two trees that First Lady Taft and the Viscountess Chinda, wife of the Japanese Ambassador, planted at that time, still stand today.

On the way to a Ryokan, in the mountains, we stopped to appreciate the beauty of the blooming Cherry trees and it was freezing.  We must have walked around in the freezing cold for over an hour "admiring" the trees.

"See.  A bloom, " they would say as they pointed out various random blooms on the trees.  I was sleep deprived and freezing and I was becoming increasingly irritated with each of Brad's "very nice." comments as he took another picture of a bloom.

At one point, we were walking around a very small town and there was a small garage that housed a "parade float," for lack of a better word, from their festival.  It was amazing.  We were able to go inside (of course, because the Japanese people would consider it rude to deny a guest access anywhere) and the craftmanship of the float was breathtaking.  It was absolutely a work of art.  Now, make no mistake, at the time, I was exhausted and wanted to get in the car and go to the Ryokan where I could curl up on my mat and rest, but in hindsight I am so appreciative of that moment.  Anyway, we must have "stopped to admire" what seemed like 500,000 cherry blossoms that trip, and with each moment, Brad would either say, "very nice" or take a photo. This became a running joke between the two of us.

So, after being gone for a week in a foreign country, where night is day and day is night and then enduring the 14 hour flight home and all that that entails, Brad and I finally turn on our street, and as we are passing the front of our home, we notice that right in our front yard we have a blooming Japanese cherry tree that we have passed 1000 times to retrieve the newspaper.

The purpose of this post is to express my love and appreciation of the people of Japan.  I may have made fun of the culture because it is "farn" to me, but I have never encountered a more accomodating community in my entire life.  If I were by myself in the middle of Tokyo and I could not find where I was going (usually this was just my hotel), I could ask ANYONE and they would stop what they were doing (including the clerk behind a counter at a store) to physically walk me halfway to my location.  It was unbelievable.  Try doing that in New York sometime.

I count Hiro, Masa, Mr. Okura, Yuki, Koz, Yoichi, and Norico as my very close friends.  They have opened their hearts to us and allowed us to experience things that I never dreamed that I would have the opportunity to experience in my lifetime.   They come bearing gifts, regardless of whether I am visiting them, or they are visiting me - EVERY TIME, not only for me and Brad, but for each of our children.  I have so many special, and yes hilarious memories with them that I will never forget.  I pray for them and their families and friends every day and I only hope that Japan will be able to recover to become an even stronger nation after this unfortunate tragedy.

The last time Brad and I were in Tokyo, we went to this famous shopping district there.  I was snapping away with my outdated (by their standards) digital camera.  There was the Condomania store that I could not get enough pictures in front of (It advertised Mega Big Boy, Super Big Boy, and Smart Boy), the three metal pole benches, and, of course, the Japanese Wendy's.  I became aware of the graciousness of the Japanese people who were allowing me to take their photo as they went about their everyday existence.  It was then that the stereotype of the Japanese tourist with the camera popped into my consciousness.  We always make fun of the Japanese tourist with the camera around his neck seemingly fascinated with everyday American life, and there I was doing the exact same thing in their country. 

Washington, D.C. has a cherry blossom festival each year to celebrate the blooming of the Japanese Cherry Trees. It is being celebrated over three weekends this Spring beginning March 26.  If you want to experience a little Japanese culture, this is your opportunity to do so.  The link is above. I have also included a link where you can send support to the Japanese people in crisis.  To donate to the Salvation Army, text “Japan'' or “Quake'' to 80888. You may also Text “RedCross'' to 90999 to donate to its fund set up in response to the disaster.

I am thinking of you, my friends, and I pray that you and your families and your friends remain safe during this time of crisis.  It is interesting to note that there has been no looting or violence during this stressful time for the people of Japan.  This is yet another example of the benevolence of their culture and the purity of soul of the people there.  It is not even on their radar to respond in a negative way during this crisis.  That is a testament to their strength, their courage and their grace.  I will never look at my Cherry Tree the same way, again.

Monday, March 14, 2011

Bowling for Business Cards

Yesterday, my middle child, Mills, had her 7th birthday party at Sawmill Bowling Lanes.  It had been a really long time since I had been in a bowling alley.  Many things have changed and many things have remained the same - and for this I am thankful.  I get really freaked out when something that I am familiar with (especially from my childhood), does a one eighty.  But when something is updated and keeps it's essence - that is something I really appreciate.

Okay, let's start with the things that are new to today's bowling alley.  You do not have to keep score. It is done electronically now.  I would imagine that the drunks appreciate not having to do simple math.  I know I do.

They welcome and actually do things to attract children's parties.  The gutters can be covered so that people with no bowling skills can knock down pins EVERY time.  They have party liaisons that do everything for you - this includes taking each person in the party to find the correct sizes for their bowling shoes; serving the children pizza, drinks and cake; picking up the wrapping paper off of the floor; and presenting your husband with a bill he was in no way prepared for.  Priceless.

There is no waiting in line for shoes and no one sighs when you think the shoes are too small.  They also bring in bowling balls that are light for the children to use, which are waiting there at the four or so lanes that are roped off for you when you get there.  The bowling shoes are also better.  Some of them have velcro instead of laces, not all of them though, so as to keep that "essence" that I was talking about above.

But, best of all, no indoor smoking.  The air quality is much better, while retaining that thick atmosphere that allows all the other unpleasant smells to permeate the air.  I'll get to those.

Here are the things that have remained the same.  The people - meaning the employees and the customers. Apparently, the employees at a bowling alley are from some worm hole in the universe where you have your hair "set" and you stop buying your clothes in 1975.  The patrons still wear striped bowling shirts accented with sweat stains and enjoy drinking inside on beautiful Spring afternoons.

The location - almost all bowling alleys reside in or near a strip mall jam packed with seedy establishments.  There is the Mexican Restaurant that you are sure you have seen on the News where it was either shut down by the health department for a while or there was a shooting. Nail boutiques that promise viral fungi to all it's patrons advertise neon "Walk-in welcome" signs.  And if you are lucky, like at my baby girl's accompanying strip mall, a "dancing establishment" with no dance floor, only a stage and some strategically placed poles. 

The smells - a mix between body odor, a fraternity house the morning after a party, (Not that I would know what that smells like.  Okay, I went to one in the morning on several occasions when I lost my purse, Brad.), and fried food. By the way, the food is still pure shit, too. 

On the subject of the location, a funny thing happened today.  One of the moms of Mills' party attendees calls me up and wants to tell me a "funny story".  I do not know her real well, but she is from Kentucky, so we share the same sense of humor.  I am aware of this because one day last Spring when I was walking home from dropping Mills off at kindergarten, my dog and my 3-year-old simultaneously took a dump on the school grounds in front of her.  (She was potty training, okay, and I forgot that she didn't have no draws on under her Lilly Pulitzer dress.)  She laughed every time she saw me after that so I KNOW she has a good sense of humor. 

ANYWAY, she is going through her child's gift bag from our party this morning, no doubt eating the Hershey kisses that she will later lie to her child about (we all do it), and among the tiny rubber horses, the glitter pencil, and other bullshit that will ruin her vacuum later, she finds what at first seem like business cards.  Her husband, who knows Brad pretty well, becomes interested at this point, and much to their amazement and horror, they find that the cards are advertising one of the seedy establishments in the strip mall surrounding the bowling alley. "Strip" is the operative word in this sentence.  Apparently, their seven-year-old is being offered free admission AND a free meal.  The other card (this just keeps getting better and better) is targeting people who have had too much to drink.  The service offers "a ride home in your OWN car."  It is a $10 flat fee and then $2 a mile after that. The mom figures that all of the gift bags have these cards in them and they must have been placed there by the employees of the bowling alley or something. 

I suddenly remember that one of the girls I was taking home in my car was picking up cards in the  cigarette-laden parking lot as I was trying to herd 7 children through the parking spaces and concrete thing-a-ma-jigs all kids have to teeter on.  In the moment, I was thinking "Oh I should get her some hand sanitizer and make her drop the cards" but then, my ADD kicked in, and I was focused on something else like one of them being mowed down by a drunk driver.  The girl must have passed around the cards in the car.  (That is my defense and I am sticking to it.)

I guess it still doesn't matter, though, because the reality is that someone found a strip club admission pass and a sober driver card in my 7-year-old's gift bag and there is nothing I can do to erase that.  Not that I want to.  I mean, after all, I am getting a free blog out of it as far as I am concerned, and again, it is all about me - not my daughter's filthy reputation at school.

Anyway, the mom was super supportive as she was laughing her ass off and I asked her to send me a photo of the cards to put in my blog.

"Make sure you can read the number when you send it,"  I reminded her.  "Brad's gonna want that sober ride along when he hears about it."

"Oh, my husband already has it in his wallet, "she replied.

Now, I'm no fool.  But, you just know that beeach be slippin' both them cards in her purse at that exact moment.  Sheeeeit.  Already in his wallet, MY ASS.

Friday, March 11, 2011

The Mancave

My husband and I have decided to renovate our home in stages. It is a running joke in our family that one day our home will be amazing - only someone else will be living in it.  Brad and I have 1 million plans and ideas for our home that will probably never come to fruition under our reign of terror.

After much consideration, Brad and I decided to rank the places in our home that we would fix up in order of importance.  Having the maturity level or two teenagers, we felt that doing our basement was the number one most important place in our home to invest in.

I mean, think about it, we could have renovated the kitchen, either of our outdated, disgusting bathrooms, the third floor - I could go on and on - but WE chose to do our basement and to buy custom cushions and surround sound for our deck.  Who does that?

However, I will say, that we use the mancave ALL of the time and it is the nicest, coziest room in our home.  There are two rooms - a children's playroom, and an adult room.  You should have seen our contractor's face when I asked him if he could install the doorknob to the playroom backward in order to "lock my children in there when the need arises".  The light switch is also right outside the door, natch.

The other room (or what I refer to as the bowels of the basement) is the only room in the house that our kids are not supposed to play in.  Now the operative word here is "supposed" because I don't know about your kids, but my kids don't listen to me.  The Wii is hooked up in there, but I do not encourage this because I am usually down there watchin' my stories.

To be clear, Brad and I had not renovated anything in our entire lives.  We ended up spending double what our budget was, because at the time, I was nursing and I kept coming up with ideas at 12, 3, and 6 in the morning.  Let me tell you, the contractor, Tom,  just LOVED this.  It was really funny because after every idea I had, Tom would say, "OHHH you don't wanna do that."  Then I would do it and he would tell me how good it looked, but we had to go through our little dog and pony show first.  We laugh about it now, but I don't really recall him laughing about it then. He did, however, come up with the idea of having a urinal in the laundry room.  So now, between my budget conscious husband and our "practical" contractor, this is what I was dealing with.

The basement turned out better than we had imagined.  We did not cut corners except for not raising the ductwork when we drywalled the ceiling so it has all of those interesting lines that nail you in the forehead if you are over 5'7''.  You have to kind of duck into the main room at the end of the stairs but we tell ourselves that it gives the room that perfect touch of whimsy - like crawling into a rabbit hole.

My husband resides in the basement from Friday until Sunday.  If there is a golf tournament, he only emerges to go to the bathroom and when he smells food.  He then fills his plate and returns to his mancave.  My girls call it "Dad's room".  It is a relatively small room so the surround sound is nearly deafening.  It always smells great because I put my best candles down there.  The couch is a sectional with a huge ottomon which faces a stone fireplace outlined in brick with a large flatscreen above it.  The small bar has a built in fridge and a copper top.

From time to time, my husband will invite his degenerate friends over to watch some sport that requires at least a four hour block of time.  (There needs to be tailgating and take down, I suppose.)  The process is as follows: you must enter through the garage, pass through the kitchen where you pay your insincere respects to the wife and kids (usually some sort of high five or fist pump that is not reciprocated) who are simultaneously preparing your food and ignoring you.

My husband has this friend named Smokin' Joe.  My kids actually call him Uncle Smokin' Joe.  When they ask me about the smoking part, rather than launch into an American Lung Association infomercial, I just change the subject and ask everyone what they want for dessert.  Now I think they have settled on firefighter as Joe's occupation.  It is hilarious, because I have actually heard them playing make believe where "Smokin Joe" is a character - only he is almost always a stuffed animal.

Unfortunately, my husband has never learned to properly light the fireplace.  We passed on the "remote" gas fireplace igniter to save money, and it turned out to be a huge oversight.  Now, in order to light the fireplace, you have to get on all fours in front of it, turn on the gas, and manually push the ignite button.  This wouldn't be such a big deal if there weren't a large c-shaped sectional filled with grown men right behind you.

Most of the time, if I am feeling naughty, I will pull my housepants down just a little to imitate a plumber.  This usually is a real crowd pleaser.  Then someone asks me for a drink, I pretend not to hear them, pour myself a glass of wine, and go upstairs. 

I would be lying if I did not say that the mancave has saved my marriage at times.  My husband is surrounded by four girls who are completely disinterested in sports and we average some sort of breakdown about every ten minutes.  Concessions are made in every marriage and I guess mine is to pretend that he is the lower level apartment tennant for spaces of time.  But now that also puts me in the position of being his landlord and that baby downstairs ain't rent controlled, know what I'm sayin'?

If you are interested in renovating your house at all - Tom Sintic is your man.  Contact me and I'll give you his number.  There are a lot of freaks that read this blog and I don't want to send him a bunch of spam.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

The Eulogy

I have been thinking about my Papaw lately.  There are a few pieces in my house that I inherited when he died, and as they are supposed to do, they remind me of a person that I loved.

I had just had my third child, when my grandfather began to go "down hill".  It was a Tuesday night, and I was planning to take the baby to see him at the rehab facility (physical, not dependency) he was in that Friday.  My intention was to introduce him to his new granddaughter.  My mother called, bawling, because he had been taken to the hospital and apparently, he was dying.

My family lives in Louisville and I decided to go the next morning to see him.  I woke up early, got on the road with the baby, and was basically racing to get to see him and show him little Eva before he died.  I was hysterical the entire way and I made it there in 2 1/2 hours.  It normally takes 31/2.

My Papaw was very country, but like most men of his era that had lived through the Depression - he was extremely intuitive and practical. The world was so small and connected when he was growing up that he actually received birthday cards from FDR when he was president, because they shared the same birthday.  This always intrigued me, and still does today.  My grandfather used to laugh and say, "the funniest part is that I would just read them and throw them away."

His refrigerator was always stocked with coke, pickles and Hershey bars because those were all of my favorites.  He took me to Nascar races and I still remember the roar when the race cars would pass the stands.  He would laugh because I covered my ears and then he would buy me an A.J. Foyt trucker cap.

I know this all seems like one big redneck recovered memory, but it's not like he was blown to bits in a meth lab explosion.  It's just that as I get older, I realize that what a child really appreciates about a relative is when they spend time with them.  A child can tell if you are dialing it in - every time.  My Papaw never once dialed it in.  He was attentive, kind, humorous and you could tell that he really enjoyed being around us.

Whenever I was older and had moved away from Louisville, whether Brad and I were living in Dallas or I was visiting with the kids from Columbus, and I would come into town for a few days at a time, Papaw was always in the driveway when I got there to welcome me home.  I am ashamed to admit that sometimes I would sigh when I saw his car, or he called to make sure that he didn't miss me during my visits because I felt like I was being "pulled in too many directions."

So I get to the hospital and I am exhausted and drained.  I race to my Papaw's room and my mother is sitting there in the room with two people who looked like they just stepped out of the movie "Deliverance".

I had made it.  My Papaw was lying there and my mother looked grief stricken and far away, and the two characters from Deliverance were carrying on a conversation like they were waiting for their bus to come.  When I say that they collectively spoke for a half and hour without taking so much as a breath, I am not exaggerating.  Now I love the South, because I am from there, but there are some parts where they must go to some special school where all they do is teach them to fill dead air space.  I suppose you can specialize in centering every conversation around yourself, because the two of them seemed to have graduated with honors.

I am wanting to scoot my chair up to my Papaw's bed and tell him how special he is to me and introduce my new baby to him and those two won't stop yammering long enough for me to even focus on the situation in the room.  I was taught to be polite to adults, and especially relatives, so I find myself actually asking them questions about their ignorant, pointless stories.  

"So, you are Papaw's brother and this is your son's wife?" I say as my mom stares into space.
"Yea, we grew up in butcher holler and used to skin squirrels with butter knives together," or whatever the hell they were saying to me.  I wasn't listening. 
" now that Gayle has died, I'm the only brother left in Carrolton."
"What?  What did you just say?  I was shaking.
"Gayle..your that he is dead.."

I turn to my mom who is now paying attention.  I have sat next to her in this room for over forty-five minutes waiting for these complete strangers to leave so I can say good-bye to my grandfather, thinking he is ALIVE the whole time. In the last four hours, she could have called me on the way or how about nudging me as she cocked her head toward my grandfather, mouthing the words "dead" while she pretended to strangle herself?  A note, perhaps?  Anything!  Anything!  I could imagine a thousand different scenarios how she could have let me know that I had not made it to my grandfather in time  during their incessant, inane bantering.

I was furious and grief stricken at the same time.  Tears began streaming down my face as I began to hyperventilate.  Now I am a mother of three girls and I know better than anyone that it is always the mother's fault, but in this instance, I could not say a thing because as distraught and confused as I was, my pain could not hold a candle to hers.  Sometimes you've just got to shut up and take one for the team.

"Oh my Gawd!  You didn't know Gayle was gawn, didya?  Ja hear that, Pa, she done be sittin up in here thinkin her Papaw still livin' and all.  Can't you see how pale he is darlin'?  He ain't breathin' no more."

I had spent enough time in Crazysburg.  I was DONE.  Suddenly, some sort of transitional person came in and she was explaining how they were going to transfer my Papaw to the rehab wing because he was doing so well and "shortly thereafter he would be discharged."

My mother and I started to laugh uncontrollably.  What two minutes ago, had left me utterly disillusioned, was suddenly hysterical to me.  It was one of those moments where everything is so awful, an inappropriate emotional response is somehow triggered and then it becomes even more humorous because it is not only inappropriate, but it is also this incredible release.

"What's goin' on, Pa?  I think they've lost their minds.  They seem rabid or something."

The nurse was beyond confused.  I was beginning to lump her in with Deliverance.

"Are you going to tell her or should I?" my mom sputtered, in between guffaws of laughter.

"I can't," I managed, "I just...found...out...myself!"  I could not contain myself anymore and I began to laugh the laugh of the maniacal.

My mom seemed to compose herself long enough to explain, "Honey, my dad's next stop is not on this Earth."

The transition person turned red, apologized and left the room.  I stood up and asked my annoying, distant relatives if they would leave the room.  My mom, my new baby and I sat there and held hands until they took her Dad away.

This man was genuinely interested in everything I was doing my entire life, no matter how mundane.   How many people in your life can you say that about?  I believe that the best way to honor someone you love is to somehow try and emulate their best qualities while living your life in a way that they would be proud of.  My intention is to have my refrigerator stocked with the treats that my grandchildren love the most - even if it is the ideal recipe for a stomachache.

Now I can write all day long, but I cannot speak in public.  (I realize this is going to be something I am going to have to overcome when I am contractually obligated to do readings for my worldwide book tour.) I could not sleep the night before my Papaw's funeral because I kept imagining what I would say if I were to deliver his eulogy.  Now, I don't know if it is because I do not live in Louisville anymore or that I was surrounded by all of the people who were in one way or another involved in raising me or what, but I felt childlike in the moment, and I could not muster up the courage to stand up in front of all of them and convey what my Papaw meant to me.

So this is for you, Mom. This is the eulogy I could not deliver for my beloved grandfather.  Now when I email this to you, the words Gratuitous Guidance will have a line under it and you will then click twice on the link.  I said "link", Mom, the thing with the line under it.  LINK! It will take you to my blog!  NO, you will not get your identity stolen. Oh, forget it, I will print it out and mail it to you.

I think it's important to always have in your closet an appropriate black dress and a black suit for funerals and wakes.  I am old school on this subject, but I believe that you should never be tugging on the hem of your skirt or feeling self-conscious about your neckline when you are paying your respects.  Just sayin'.