Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Rocky Mountain High

Tomorrow, I am going back to my beloved Colorado, for the first time since we left 13 years ago.  We lived in Boulder, when we were first married, and then we moved back to Denver, when Brad finished graduate school.  The deal was that if he was going to make me leave Boulder, then we would move back there, if he did not have a job, out of graduate school.

This put me in the very precarious position of hoping that he did not obtain gainful employment, after working shit job after shit job, and eating frozen pizza four days a week, so that we could go back to Colorado.  Due to the wretched economy in the late nineties, and his ever popular "Sports Management" advanced degree, I got my wish.

We sold our car, and I got a job at a Arapahoe House, as a drug and alcohol case worker ( I know, right?),  so as to give us just the tiniest bit of stability, and we were OFF like a prom dress!  We lived in a  duplex, a few blocks from City Park. It was not a traditional duplex -it was  a house that was divided into two parts, and it was extremely quirky.   For instance, our only bathroom was on the second floor, so if you were watching t.v. in the family room downstairs, you had to trek up two flights of stairs, to go to the restroom.

When we were shopping for rentals, we had some friends who lived in Boulder, and worked in Denver, and the one piece of advice they gave us was, "Whatever you do, get as far off of Colfax Avenue, as you can.  It is famous for being the worst street in Denver."

Our duplex was two houses from Colfax.  It is not easy to find a place who will accept pets, and has a yard, with a budget of $500 a month, which needs to include utilities, in two days. This was to be our destiny, and we embraced it.

There were so many weird and hilarious times in that house, I don't know where to begin.  We were DIRT poor, and I mean, DIRT poor, as in some of my clients lived better than I did, but we didn't care, and we had a BALL, and we somehow got by.  I do not ever remember struggling to pay bills or anything, and we always had groceries and went out, but I do remember not going home to see family (unless they paid for it), or going to any weddings (Sorry, Cindy and George) or anything, because we could not afford to fly.

Oh, wait...I just had a recovered memory that we borrowed $500 from my parents once, maybe twice.  Put it on my tab, I guess, along with my college education and my wedding.

Okay, what I most remember, are our neighbors, because they were so random.  The neighborhood, and particularly our street, was very eclectic, in that it was renovated house, renovated house, crack house, renovated house, crack compound, renovated house, renovated house...City Park.  When we moved in our duplex, apparently someone had just moved into one of the newly renovated house near to us, at the same time.  Several neighbors came walking down the street, one with some sort of cake in her hands, as I walked toward them with my dog, Elaine.

They were all smiling and waving me down, and as we finally met halfway down the block, they descended on me like a pack of hungry wolves, as they congratulated me on choosing to live on their street, and effusively welcomed me to "the neighborhood".  One woman apologized for the random crack houses, which they were at that moment "petitioning the Board" about. I was blown away, to say the least.

I was balancing the sheet cake on one hand, as Elaine repeatedly jumped up and tried to knock it down so she could devour it, as they asked me intrusive question after question about myself, and then one of them goes,  "Soooo, are you all moved in?  I just LOVE the new porch on the front of your house. Who was your contractor, again?"

It became crystal clear in that moment, that she thought I was someone else, who lived somewhere else.  There was no new porch on the front of my house.  I did not have a contractor, I had a landlord.

"Ummmm, I just moved into the duplex near the end of the street," I said.

"I'm sorry.  WHERE exactly do you live?" the woman who was petting Elaine, stopped stroking her and wiped her hands on her shorts.

"I live right there," I said, pointing to our sad duplex, which had neither been painted, nor landscaped in thirty years. I suddenly had the realization that our house qualified for the "crack house" category of our street.

The woman who, two minutes ago, was thrusting a cake into my hands, was now taking it away.  "We thought you were the new neighbors who BOUGHT the house right there."  She then pointed to the adorable house across the street with a SOLD sign in front of it. "We were mistaken.  This cake is for THEM,"  she articulated. "Oh, well, welcome to the neighborhood!" she squealed in a high pitched voice as she backed away, along with the rest of the pack.  You'll LOVE the park!"  And they were gone, as quickly as they had come.  Hilarious.

I hear that THEY have eliminated all of the crack houses, and driven away all of the Ho's who used to begin their shift at 3pm, and end it, when I was driving to work.  They would walk in small groups down my street, to reach Colfax Avenue, as they teetered on four-inch-high, clear heels, which accented their undefined legs (unless they were a tranny, natch). Their legs were fully exposed in all types of weather, and ended at the beginning of their crotch, that was barely swathed in some neon or metallic fabric.

These "Ladies of the Evening", or in this case,  "Late Afternoon", would inevitably,  top off this ensemble, with a two sizes too small, tube top, that not only highlighted their back fat, but their budda bellies, as well.  I used to strain to hear them recount some story about a John, the night before, as they waved their brightly colored Lee Press-On nails in the air, to illustrate some point.

I looked forward to "The Ho Parade", each Saturday, as I sat on my pathetic little concrete, SIDE porch with the iron railing, and drank iced coffee, and pretended to paint or sand some estate sale find I had come across that morning.  (Brad put his graduate school education to good use, every Saturday at a golf shop, so I was always flying solo, as I indulged in my guilty pleasure of the week.) This all culminated into the day I witnessed one of my Ho's walking to "work" one Saturday afternoon with a drink in her hand, that (no lie) possessed a long straw and an umbrella, that stuck diagonally out of it.  You go gurl!  Get yourself in the mood, honey.

Okay, our "housemates," who occupied the other side of the house, were a whole other story.  She once asked me to have a yard sale with her when they were moving out, not long after we moved in.  I quickly discovered that she was not a ballet dancer, for on the morning of our sale, our front yard was littered with sequin bra tops and G-strings on one side and Tupperware, and fraternity and sorority party t-shirts and shorts on the other.  CLASSIC.

Once, when I was carrying laundry up the stairs, and stopped to rest at the landing that had a window over looking our yard, and the alley behind our house - only to spy a street person masturbating beside a dumpster.  I called the police to report it, and the officer on the line kept asking me all of these detailed questions, like "What shoe size do you think he wears?" and "Would you say he has highlights?  Are they natural, or chemical?" to describe him, so I had to keep looking, over and over again, while I tried to swallow the bile that was creeping up my throat.   Finally, the cops showed up about 15 minutes after the perp had finished and walked away, probably because they had better things to do in a big city, than bust some homeless man for "scratching an itch," so to speak.  I mean, it's not like he could go in his basement, or take a shower, right?

Anyway, I will forever have that memory burned in my brain, and when I called home to tell my Mother about it, all breathless and disgusted, and all she said was, "Don't you think his highlights had to be natural, I mean he is homeless, so he's probably outside a lot."  You see where I get it?

Anyway, right across Colfax was the best Thai food I have ever had, and next to that was an Italian restaurant with the best calzones in the World.  On the corner of our street was this little amphitheatre where Brad and I ended up almost every weekend.  They had all these great bands that played there and we used to get in half price or free, because we were neighbors, and frequent fliers.

I hear the neighborhood is all cleaned up and homogenized now.  No hookers or crack heads.  No needles or crack vials next to the benches I would run by with Elaine, in the mornings, at City Park.  I wonder if they have run off "Boo Radley", our nickname for our neighbor, across the street, who used to ask me for money, after he would help me carry some heavy mirror I found at an estate sale on Saturday mornings.

You could not drink a beer on your porch or have a cookout,  without him coming over uninvited and asking for a "cold one" or a piece of chicken.  We always said, "No," of course, or Boo Radley, would hijack your night, and bleed you dry.  We quickly learned to politely refuse him at the fence , listen to his random story he needed to tell about "beating someone up" or his having yet another altercation with the police, which was always worthy of one of Brad's COPS episodes.

"Hey, I noticed you guys were drinking beer!" he would yell as he was crossing the street.  "You got another one?"

"Well, we only have two more, and if we give YOU one, Boo, we will have to fight over the last one, and that's not cool, right?" I would say as I blocked him from entering our gate.

"Another time, Bro!" Brad would toast Boo Radley, with his bottle in the air.

"No prob."  Boo would respond, "Waaaiiiittttaminute, why do you guys always call me Boo?" he would say as he revealed a full set of rotten, crooked teeth."

"You just remind me of a character in one of my favorite novels."  I would explain, as I bit my lip, and blinked back tears, to keep from bursting out laughing.

"Oh, yea.  Great...Cool, Man." Boo's wheels were clearly turning now. He swiveled on his heels, and would begin making his way across the street, but then he would stop short, turn back around to us, and yell, "Hey, what's a novel?"

I wonder if the gay couple who taught me to restore furniture and make Squash Soup from scratch, still live there?  Larry, confided in me that they were not exclusive, as he showed me how not to go against the grain, when staining wood, but that his partner, Gary, was not aware of this arrangement.  LOVE IT.

There was the young man who lived next door, whom we gave a very derogatory nickname, as well. He had a gigantic scar that ran the entire length of his skull on one side.  We had him watch, Elaine, our dog, once when we went home to see our families, for a week, only to find that Elaine had defecated and urinated all over the house, and had maybe been fed twice.  That is what you get when you ask someone to care for your pet in your absence, that has brain damage.  He, also, was a close talker, like Boo, and liked to visit us, when we cooked out, while he recanted many of the same stories, over and over. 

I think that is why he was able to get a job as a concessions worker in the stands at Colorado Rockies games, because he just had to repeat the same line over and over, again.  "Popcorn!  Peanuts!"

My advice to you, today, is twofold.  One piece of guidance is obvious, and the other is more philosophical.  Okay, visit City Park in Denver if you ever go there.  It has this amazing view of the mountains in the back, and houses not only the Museum of Natural History, but the Arboretum, and the Denver Zoo, as well.  Brad and I and Elaine, our dog, spent a ton of time there.  They used to have concerts in the park, and it has this gigantic loop with a lake in the middle that is perfect for walking or riding your bike.

My second suggestion is to visit a place that you used to live, at some earlier period in your life, when your existence was totally different than it is now.  Break yourself off a big piece of nostalgia, and share it, or just savor it for yourself.

Brad and I are going back to Denver tomorrow night, and we intend to visit City Park and our old duplex.  I am giddy with excitement.  I'll report back to you, on who is still in residence, and who is not.  Boo Radley is the only person I fully expect to see, because in his words, he "would not take SHIT from anyone," and I cannot imagine anyone running him out of town, without his consent.  Unless, of course, someone finally gave him that beer.

I looked for HOURS today for pics of our time in Denver, while I was supposed to be packing.   I KNOW there is a picture of Boo Radley somewhere, but I could not locate it.  This is the best I could come up with...Brad, Elaine, and I at City Park.  Rockin' the block "O".

Monday, August 29, 2011

You can't put a pricetag on sanity

Me and Eves

The other night,  I got a very pleasant surprise when Brad coordinated with my longtime babysitter and emancipator, Ginny, to appear at dinner, unbeknownst to me.  Her name is actually Jenny, but when she came into my life, my kids pronounced her name as "Ginny" with a hard "G".  Ginny and Meredith are sisters, and when Mills was just 4 months old and Hallie was two and a half, Brad told me to hire someone who could "help out" with "everything."  But, everybody with children, knows that just because you have the "go ahead" to get yourself some assistance, doesn't always mean that you know how to go about getting that assistance.

What instigated all of this was that a very close friend of mine who was feeling the same way that I was, and who had also just recently had her third child, had entered into therapy.  She was lamenting to her therapist that her sessions "cost so much" and "What was she doing?" and her therapist coolly said, "You can either spend the money on ME, or you can spend the money on childcare.  You are overextended emotionally and physically.  It is your choice.  You cannot put a price tag on sanity."

Okay, back to ME, my favorite subject.  So, I was strung out and hormonal and sleep deprived and I was getting my two young babies out of my car at the Giant Eagle, and I hadn't slept or showered in days, and I happened upon Deb, an acquaintance at the time, in the parking lot.  She had three boys who were probably the age that my kids are now (10, 7, and 4) and she asked me how I was doing and I burst into tears right there in the parking lot and exclaimed, "I just wanna play tennis this summer, and I have NO IDEA how I am supposed to do that!" given that I had just birthed yet another life that left me disheveled, irritable, and clearly over emotional.

To be clear, Deb was just being polite as she was attempting to pull out of the grocery, as I was pulling in, and she had mercy on my soul, right on the spot, and said, "I would never normally give out this number, but my kids are older and she is about to graduate high school, so why don't you call my girl, Jenny, who basically raised my kids, because you obviously need her right now more than I do."

She continued, "She has a sister, Meredith, who is going away to college in the Fall, and she can help you out, too, if you are nice to her."

It was like a modern day Cinderella Story.  But, instead of a ball and a carriage and all of that nonsense, It was a parking lot, a sitter, and a fairy godmother in a tennis dress.

Okay.  Meredith and Jenny are now and always will be, a part of the Underwood family.  I have taken vacations with the two of them on several occasions.  One, was a vacation we all took together to Chicago, right after Ginny broke up with her boyfriend, which he attended, (I know, AWKWARD, but that is FAMILY) and the other was a trip Meredith took with us, with Brad's extended family to Duck, North Carolina.
Mere, Hallie, and Mills

Ginny and Meredith visited me in the hospital when Eva was born and I was happier to see them than my own Mother, because I recognized them as my allies, and we were all in this together.  We actually consulted Ginny, before I tried to get pregnant a third time, and asked her to sign a contract that she would help us raise our yet unborn child, before we attempted to procreate. If I have not driven my point home, yet, as to how important these two people are to me, I called THEM, before I called anyone else when my dog of 12 years, Elaine, died, because I knew they would grieve like I was grieving...and they did.
Mills' Birthday Cake.  I think that is all I got her.  Jenny bought the presents, I think.

Ginny and Mere Mere (Meredith's speech impediment nick name) have attended all of the girls' birthdays, and any party or family event, including Christmases and Thanksgivings that were held at our house.  On Mills' third birthday, Eva was a few weeks old, and even though I was walking erect, I was not functioning in any productive way, other than to breastfeed,  and I remember Ginny conducting the family party, as I hovered above her in a haze, as she put candles on the cake, distributed plates and napkins, and then cleaned it all up after, because I literally had hit that wall where I was conscious, but could not really communicate with anyone.

Jenny, helping Mills open the presents she bought her, while I sat there and stared at her.

When Eva came along, and Meredith was off at Miami University, Ginny used to clean my house, and do my laundry, and take care of my three children one day and one night per week, with such ease and precision, I used to question whether I was worthy of being a Mother in the first place.

Hallie and Eva, before Eva could talk and make everyone angry.

She would always counter, "It's easy for me because I do not have to get up in the middle of the night and it is not 24 hours a day....besides I am YOUNG.  I have more ENERGY."

Ginny admitted tonight that she and Mere, Mere actually come each Christmas Day, under the guise of seeing what Santa has brought the children, only to see what Brad has gotten ME.  Hilarious.

Ginny was there, and knew beforehand, that I was getting a scratch and dent refrigerator one Christmas, while Brad blindfolded me and led me out to the curb, fully knowing that I was gunning for a new car that would comfortably hold three children, and their carpool mates.  She laughed so hard, she had to blow her nose.

I have so many family memories that include Mere and Ginny, that I don't know where they begin and we end.  What I am trying to say, is that these two virtual strangers became a part of my family and now they are gone, living their own full lives, and I miss them desperately, if I let myself wallow.

Meredith is still in Columbus, with a fantastic job, and an active social life.  (God, I sound like one of those nauseating Christmas letters.) She is successful in every sense of the word.  She bought her own house and is living the dream, as she has climbed the corporate ladder and landed herself smack dab in the middle of her "dream job" at the ripe old age of twenty- eight.  Given all of this success, Mere Mere offers to take my children on overnights at her house, and is always there for me when I am in one of my "binds," where I send her pathetic texts while she is trying to work.  My point is that she makes more money than most men her age, and she continues to accept "babysitting jobs" for me, when she clearly does not need the income, just because I need her.

Mere, helping out with the Santa photo, at the Mall.

Ginny is living in Washington, D.C., and continues to prove herself with her incredible work ethic at Hyatt Corporation, as she is given promotion after promotion in Management.  She is twenty-five.

Tonight, Ginny surprised me with Brad, by coming over unannounced with her new beau, Steven, from D.C.  He also works at the Hyatt, there.  She is "in love" and has finally found "the one".

Jenn, and her Luvvaaa.

Now, I have met and gone out with almost all of Ginny and Mere Mere's boyfriends over the years, and I have embraced each of them with an equal amount of skepticism (Who really is good enough for them that I haven't had a hand in?  Let's be honest.  Ha!) and enthusiasm.

To me, they are my trial run at being a Mother to daughters who are of the age to actually "fall in love."

They tell me that I am like a "Second Mother" to them, but then I always respond by saying, "How about older sister?" because I am too young to have actually birthed them.  Then, they laugh and retort that due to the fact that I grew up in Kentucky, "it is entirely possible."  Smartasses.  Maybe they are kin, after all.

I am not stupid, though, I always tell them, and I am totally looking toward the future, when my own girls will not confide in me (I rue the day, let me tell you.) and I am simply paying it forward until the time when they can serve as confidants with a moral compass that my girls can trust and learn from, when they feel that I am simply too "out of touch" to relate to them.

I guess what I am feeling tonight, as Brad takes Ginny and her live-in boyfriend, back to the Hyatt (because they took a cab to BW3's to surprise me and the girls.  SWEET!) is extreme gratefulness.  I am so blessed to have those two girls enter my life, when I was so raw and vulnerable.  I mean, seriously, think if it had been someone else with a penchant for kleptomania or something.  I was such a mess for so long during my child-bearing years, that someone could have loaded up my entire family room and taken it away and I wouldn't have noticed!

I have learned as much from them, as they have learned from me.  They are the Gold Standard, as far as I am concerned. I would want nothing more than for each of my children to evolve into the stellar adults they have become.  Their lives have not been without hiccups (Remember when the two of you fought in my kitchen?  Good times.  Fun cookout.), as all lives are, but the sum total of who they have become, is entirely enviable.

Ginny and I were telling her boyfriend how we became friends and not just business associates, the night that Mere was babysitting for maybe the third time and she asked me where I was going.  I was filling up my cooler for Ladies Night Tennis, and I responded, "Oh, Bible Study,"  and we broke out into a puddle of laughter.  We have been best friends ever since.  Nothing like a good lie to establish a lifelong relationship with another person, right?

Those two girls helped me to get through some of the best and the worst times of my life, and it was all because of an emotionally charged exchange in a grocery store parking lot with a person I barely knew.  You just never know when angels are going to appear.

I almost labeled this post, "You never know what you've got, until it's gone," because I am sitting here remembering how special Ginny and Mere Mere are to my family and I.  Of course, the house was a mess, and my laundry was all piled up, so I was able to send the clear message to Ginny that I cannot get along without her.  This should make me feel embarrassed and stagnant, but it doesn't, because with friends like Ginny and Mere Mere, you never have to make excuses or apologize, because they KNOW you, and they love and accept you, anyway.

My advice today, involves one of my favorite quotes, and the title of this post, "You cannot put a price tag on sanity."  If you are completely overwhelmed or just need a break, find that money in your budget, to do something to make yourself happy.  

I know that I could have gotten through that difficult period in my life, when I had young children, without Meredith and Jenny, but it would not have been nearly as enjoyable to me.  My point is that everyone's idea of regaining sanity is different.   Your idea of sanity may be to catch a movie in the middle of the day, while someone else's may be to take a long awaited vacation you can barely afford.  The long term effects of stress can be costly to your psyche and your physical health, which at some point will have financial consequences, that I promise you, will not be nearly as fun to spend your money on as a night out with your husband, or a clean house that you did not lift a finger for.

On that note, I have a wonderful cleaning person, who is looking for more work.  She is Brazilian and does an excellent job for me.  I no longer need childcare during the day because of school, but my little piece of sanity comes from Sirlys Coco, twice a month.  I am not bragging.  I have made concessions in other areas, in order to have her.  For instance, my primary bathroom, that the entire family uses, because it is the only bathtub, should be condemned. 

Please contact me if you are in the market for someone to help you with your cleaning.  I so enjoy that half an hour where my house is immaculate, between the time when Sirlys leaves and my children return home from school.  I have often thought of having an Open House or a tea, so as to give the illusion that I am the perfect homemaker, but then who am I kidding, right?  There is still the yard to give me away.  She services many friends and neighbors of mine, and is raising a child on her own.  I would love to help the two of you out.

One of my other favorite quotes is "It is all what you value," and if you value mental health, then my advice today will make sense to you.  Now, get out there and grab some sanity with both hands, because life is short, and you deserve it.

P.S. I love that I can showcase all of the pictures on my computer that I never use or organize.  It is so fulfilling.  Also, I am glad that I can use this blog to tell the people I love the most, how much they mean to me.

It SOOOOO could have gone the other way, and become a HATE BLOG, where I just elaborate on all of my pet peeves and things that annoy me on a daily basis.  Don't be disappointed, though, if this is something you are interested in.  I can turn on a dime.  Just ask my Baby Daddy. 

Thursday, August 25, 2011

A love letter to my Tennis Team

I have been playing tennis with my team at Swim and Racquet for four years.  Up until that point, I had not had a regular tennis partner, let alone a consistent team each year.  Not only are each of my teammates talented in the sport, but they are all just really cool, solid people that happen to make me laugh so hard I nearly pee my pants each week.

Unfortunately, this usually happens when I am serving, and my partner, (we'll call her Christina, because that is her Christian name) turns to me and says something side-splitting that makes me cross my legs as I interrupt the game for several minutes.  I can't imagine what it must be like to play the two of us, because we are constantly making cracks and cursing, or cursing in other languages, (like "Shiite," or "Merde" or "Bullocks" or something along those lines) that come close, but do not violate  GCTA rules that outline cursing as "unsportsmanlike".

Whatever.  If you are a potty mouth, like I am, what is a more productive way of expressing anger and frustration, than while playing a sport?  I think, the Universe needs to rethink it's policy of considering yelling curse words during a match, under the heading of "conduct unbecoming".  I see it as a natural response to a stressful situation.  Normally, I am not one for causes, but this is something I could definitely get behind. 

Okay, so the two funniest moments this summer, for me, and there were many of them, is (1) When we played this team that had as one half of it, this very sweet, Zen, and athletic Asian woman.  Christina, pulled me aside after a few successful points, which had ended with the Asian woman mentioned above making an error each time.  Christina, very dramatically grabs my arm, because I often have attention deficits, and whispers, "I think if we get into the Asian woman's head, we can win this thing."

I am not kidding you, as my partner is finishing this sentence, I look up at my Asian opponent, and find her beating her own head repeatedly with her racquet, while she squints her eyes, and curses herself.

"Ya' think?"  I ask, as I nudge her to look up at the scene across the net.

My other favorite memory (2) is when we played this team at this ghetto club, where they had metal cables attached to the nets on either side of ours, to keep it up.  Therefore, you had to do the limbo, on every odd game, as you switched sides.  It was the perfect height where you could not comfortably swing your leg over without it "goosing" yourself, so you had to go under the cable, which most people would bend at the waist and duck under, but Christina and I chose to bend over backward and shimmy under as if tiki torches were lit on either end and bongo drums were playing. 

Anyway, that is not even the best part.  The best part, is that Christina and I were winning, and all of the sudden, one of our opponents yells out during a point, grabs her knee, falls to the ground, and exclaims, "I heard a pop!  I heard a pop!"

Then, after she has everyone's attention, she (I am tired of calling her "she", let's call her "Bullshit Artist") explains that her knee has been tight for several days and maybe it was a "good pop".  She then proceeds to call a "medical timeout," which up until then, I had never heard of, and hobbles off of the court, careful not to put weight on her newly deflated knee, and then eats a full meal and downs a gallon of Gatorade.  Oh, and it is about 150 degrees at 10 o'clock in the morning.   We are within one game of beating their tennis skirts off.

Alright, to be clear, the previous Labor Day, my idiot Labrador, ran into my knee and blew it out, and at the exact moment of impact, I KNEW that it was a BAD POP.  (I mean, is there such thing as a "good pop?  WTF!) I don't know if it was my post traumatic stress disorder kicking in or what, but I instantly became infuriated with Bullshit Artist.

I was still bitching up a storm to Christina when the Bullshit Artist limped back onto the court and announced that she would be finishing the match.  Brilliant.

We gave up a game because we were mesmerized by Bullshit Artist's dramatic limping around and loud pronouncements such as "I am NOT going to get that!  It's too RISKY," when a ball hit at her required any sort of accelerated movement.

 After losing that game, it was my serve, and Christina was at the net and right before I tossed the ball into the air for my serve, she swiveled around and hissed, "Hit ONLY short balls, and run her ass around if you can.  I'm tired of this bullshit. I've got a ton of errands to run."

Up until that point, I was thinking this strategy to myself, but was afraid to voice it, for fear of either Christina judging me, or getting struck by lightening - whichever came first.

I fell in LOVE all over again with my pal, Christina, which had first presented itself when she gave that girl with the weird serve wind up a nickname.  Tennis is about so much more to me than the game, I guess.  It is a departure from being a Mom, where you can be competitive in a healthy way, and play a sport you have enjoyed your entire life, and laugh out loud while doing it. 

Thanks for a great year, ladies.  I really enjoyed your company.  I will send you each your critique, shortly after I finish this blog, where specific drills are recommended for each of your weak areas.  Just kidding, of course.  The only thing I EVER remember about playing with you all, are the hilarious anecdotes and experiences that come out of a clinic or match.

My advice to you, today, is to pick up a sport that you learned to play when you were young, and find a group of people who you enjoy being with, and play that sport with them.  I find that in adulthood, playing a sport, requires a lot of thought and effort and money when scheduling it, and obtaining childcare, so I damn well better enjoy myself.  Camaraderie is an integral part of any team sport for me, and it makes the experience so much more rewarding and worthy if that is acheived.

Pic above is of my new tennis racquet.  It is beautiful.  My husband makes fun of my pink strings, but my teammates have all individually complimented me on them.  Go figure.

Below are my favorite Sport/Fashion sunglasses.  They are Oakley and can be found for a fraction of the cost on Ebay.  Actually, you should always buy your sunglasses on Ebay, especially if you don't mind what season they are.  There are some great deals out there!

Now, get out there and PLAY!!!

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

The Summer of Adele

I was first introduced to Adele, probably the same way that we all were - with "Chasing Pavements".  I have always remotely liked her music, but this Spring Break, when I visited my best friend, Alissa, did I really get introduced to her.  "Introduced" meaning Adele was played breakfast, lunch, dinner, in the car, Happy Hour, and after the kids went to bed.

I tend to have almost "crushes" on certain entertainers or musicians each summer.  Some of my favorites include:  Zac Brown, Sting, Sheryl Crow, Counting Crows, Coldplay, John Mayer, Kelly Clarkson, and now Adele.

I identify various periods of my life with the CD I was into at the time.  There was Sheryl Crow and the Counting Crows, when we lived in Boulder.  I loved Sting's "The Dream of the Blue Turtle" before that.  I was really into John Mayer last summer.  It was Coldplay, the summer before that.  We saw Coldplay at Polaris, with Koz, our Japanese house guest, one summer.  (See Lost in Translation post).  He just stood there while I gyrated around him.

Once, I even took off early from work, to meet Sheryl Crow, at a record store in Boulder before she became a "musical icon," but was too embarrassed to go up and talk to her.  I had literally listened to "Tuesday Night Music Club" eight million times before that day, and could recite every word of it, and I found myself dumbstruck right there in the middle of Pearl Street Mall, when there were only probably thirty people in the record store along with me, for her impromptu concert.  I have always been guilty of star fuckin' and hero worship, but when it comes to actually meeting someone I admire, there are no words.  All I can manage to do is observe, which I am better at, anyway.

My friend, Alissa, and I were talking about summer and CD's one day, not long ago.  With the onset of ITunes, the entire way we listen to music has changed.  No one buys entire CD's anymore, and then plays them in their car until they can no longer stomach them.  Unless you are Brad and the band is Zac Brown, that is.  It is a lost art, I tell you, and I feel like there is something to be said for reminiscing about a certain time in your life and it's corresponding "soundtrack".

I think anyone from my generation or any generation before Napster came along, can identify with that.  Everyone now has playlists, and just cherry picks from all different genres of music.  There is an argument to be made for that, but then these people have just GOT to be disappointed when they go to see an artist LIVE in concert, and they only know two of their songs.  Maybe I am just OLD, and I don't like change, but I refuse to cave, and instead will just continue to place the needle on my favorite LP and hit "Repeat" so I can learn all the words to Adele's 21 or decipher the story that Zac Brown is trying to tell in the song, "Jolene".

By the way, "Jolene" is about the protagonist's Mother in the song, not his girlfriend.  That, my friends, can only be learned by repetition, and I am PROUD OF IT!

Anyway, the kids and I were coming back from Apple Valley today, and our favorite songs of the summer were played back to back on Ryan Seacrest's radio show, and we were ECSTATIC!  Hallie's was Katy Perry's "Friday Night,"  Mills' was J.Lo's "On the Floor," and mine was Adele's "Someone like you".  We were all dancing wildly in the car, (well, as wild as you can get with your seat belt on while sitting in a booster seat, right Eves?) and suddenly and unexpectedly, I got tears in my eyes.  I will always remember this as "The Summer of Adele" and it is by far, the best summer I have ever had.

I don't know if I was weeping because of the end of Summer, itself, or because I cannot sleep in anymore, or because I will miss yelling at my kids, or what.  I just know that I am at my best when they are all around me, and they are growing up so fast that I just have to hold on to moments like this, and write about them so that they are immortalized.

My pediatrician gave me great advice, once, when I was lamenting some milestone, one of my children had just reached, and she said, "Just feel it...and move on.  There really is nothing you can do about it, so there is no use wallowing."  This post is my way of "feeling it,"  I guess.

The video above is of really high quality.  I don't know what is more disturbing, my 7-year-old's club moves, or my husband's feet and fingers that compete for the frame, as well.  I'll let you decide if we should invest in a Mac video class!

Anyway, you get the idea.  This summer was filled with moments like this, which I am sure all of yours' were.  The moments were sometimes hilarious, sometimes poignant, oftentimes lazy, and always fleeting. 

The video below is live of Adele, and she is singing "Someone Like You".  One of the best lyrics I have ever heard are in it, and it describes exactly how I am feeling right now. She writes, "Who would have known how bittersweet...this... would...taste."

My recommendation today is to check out Adele's 21, and 19.  Yes, that is the age she was when she produced each of the albums, and they are both fabulous!  Just promise me that you will download the album in it's entirety, or buy the CD, because EVERY SINGLE SONG on 21 is Grammy-worthy. 

Oh, and while I am thinking about it, you need to hook up your ITunes to Paypal or just use Itunes gift cards to download music.  When I was at my friend, Alissa's house over Spring Break, and the kids downloaded some app to their ITouches that kept giving them an "error message".  When they pressed continue or whatever, where they had to use their Itunes password, someone hacked in and charged them insane amounts of money, each time they did so.

It is some sort of scam that is happening on ITunes.  The only thing that saved ME was that my account went through Paypal.  Just to be safe, I have disconnected my Paypal account from ITunes, and we only use ITunes gift cards now.  I think it is the safest bet.  I am not kidding, the scammer managed to expunge  about a thousand dollars that weekend.  Alissa got her money back, but not without a lot of drama and phone calls. 

Thursday, August 18, 2011

An appointment for Hip Hop

As you know, if you have been reading this blog, I have three daughters.  For the school year, I have decided that they each may participate in two activities during the school year and I let them each choose which ones, and then I spent an entire day researching the best places for each of these activities.  Translation:  the cheapest of the lot, the closest in proximity to me, and if they fit into my schedule.  Hallie, my almost 10-year-old, (I know, I can't believe it!  I desperately need to grow up) wants to continue guitar lessons, and wishes to embark on a Hip Hop class.  Mills, my 7-year-old, chose to resume her car payment- like Horse Back riding and venture into soccer, and Eva (who is finally of the age to do an activity without me - not that I have EVER done a paid activity with her in my life because she is my third, and I got THAT out of my system when I did "Mommy and Me, eight years ago with Hallie) wants to do basketball and ballet.  I know, she is a weird bird.  What can I say?  She tests the nerves that is what I can say.

Anyhow, most activities require the anonymity of online sign up or sending in something through the mail, but the Dance Studio that I chose for both Hallie and Eva, asked that I make "an appointment".  If you know me at all, it takes a long time for ridiculousity to register with me, but when it does, which is usually 5 minutes before I am about to be manipulated, I become extremely emotional.

So I am taking a shower, which I am peeved about because I wasn't planning to on this day, and I had finished putting away the laundry and cleaning the house and was just about to pick up the novel I had been reading when I realized that I had made an appointment for Hip Hop class.

I become infuriated during my shower, even though I was rebelling a bit by refusing to wash my hair, AGAIN, and relying on my trusty dry shampoo, because why, WHY, must I make an appointment to sign my child up for Hip Hop Class in the first place?  Do I need a resume too?  Should I bring a video montage?  What in the FUCK?  I have worked myself up into a frenzy by the time I am picking out yet another bathing suit cover up that I believe qualifies as an outfit, when I decide to call my neighbor, Megan to vent.

I know she is home because she pretends to work on a daily basis but I keep seeing her during work hours out at the Market or some workout facility around town.

"Can I just VENT to you for a second.  I am SOOOO PISSED!"  I hiss into the phone as soon as she picks up.  "I KNOW you are not working so I am going to UNLEASH on you, again, do you care?"

"No problem.  That is what I am here for, Doll.  Whasssup?"

"Okay.  You know how Hallie wants to do Hip Hop class this Fall, right?" I am starting to calm.

"Right.  Hilarious.  I remember." she yawns.

"Well, I had to make AN APPOINTMENT to register her and Eva for dance class at this place and this has forced me to shower and I AM JUST LIVID."

"Agreed. Very rude.  How could they not KNOW that?"  she counters.

So I give her the schpeal about the resume and the video and she laughs and concurs that it is utterly ridiculous, which makes me feel better and then she asks me if I need to borrow some of her work clothes for the interview, which we are now calling it.

I ask her if I can borrow "a suit and pumps..preferably a nice navy" and we howl with laughter.  "You know, I feel like this woman is encouraging me to let my Freak Flag fly at this point.  I should wear a pillbox hat, just to drive the point home,"  I say.

"You already have one.  Why don't you wear the straw one you bought at the Flea Market we went to together?  It would make a great blog."

Now it is getting serious.  She is challenging me.  I decide against it, because there is enough "staging" with reality TV and I gotta keep this blog REAL, man, for the folks in Indonesia, if nothing else.

Megan then asks if I want her to go in my place, like in the movie Good Will Hunting, when Ben Affleck sits in for Matt Damon at a job interview and asks for a signing bonus in cash.  (I love his tube socks in that scene.)

Megan intends to negotiate a pole dancing class for herself, as she impersonates me, rather than the cash that I am requesting that she get.  We are crying laughing at this point.  I need to go or I'll be late for the interview. 

I get dressed, put on some makeup and fly out the door, expecting the worst, natch, because the set up is just too brilliant to let me down.

To make a long story short, the woman I interacted with was LOVELY, and HELPFUL, and actually the process of her helping me to sign up was much better than my usual experience where I screw something up and then have to fix it through a series of emails, texts, and phone calls.

She is quite literal, as you might expect, and I am explaining that I need to go and get my checkbook because they don't take credit, and I NEVER posses cash, and if I did, I would not spend untraceable money on THIS, so I try to walk out the door without my paperwork, first, and then my keys.

She snickers and says, "Oh, when I was going through the KID thing, I once lost my keys FOR A WEEK, and then I ended up finding them in the freezer, of all things!  I mean, WHY would I leave them in the FREEZER!  It's just so CRAZY!"

I am getting into a rhythm with her, or so I think, and I counter, "Maybe it was because you were getting your VODKA out!"

Crickets for a while and then, "Oh, I don't think so.  I never drink."

We stare at each other for an awkward moment and then I excuse myself.  NIIIICCCCCEEEE.  Way to make a first impression, douche bag.

Anyway, my advice to you today is to try out Bartelt Dance Studio.  They offer Tap, Ballet, Ballroom, and Hip Hop for all ages.  The commitment is for the duration of the school year, but you can QUIT anytime before March if your kids aren't into it, which I appreciate, because I have successfully raised a brood of underachievers, like myself.    It is relatively cheap, and you get a discount for multiple children and they are running a special right now where if you get friends to sign up, they will take off 20 per cent of their "order" off of YOUR bill!

What is better than that?  Hey, I know what's better... not to make an asshole of yourself when you are filling out your paperwork, but what do I know?

Pic above is of Hallie, when she was four and took Ballet.  She was at a recital.  She hated it.  We quit right after that.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

When in London...Don't forget to look up AND down.

Brad and I just recently returned from London.  I have since become obsessed with it, and have been watching BBC on a loop just to keep my English accent fresh.  I also subscribed to HELLO! magazine.  Not only did I LOVE, LOVE, LOVE the city, but the people were the icing on the cake.  In a fairly short time, I was able to do quite a bit of sightseeing, and enjoy about 50 different pubs and ales while I was there.

English people have a very dry sense of humor, which I completely enjoy, and their outlook is very sunny for a country that sees its fair share of rain.

So the first day, I went to Buckingham Palace to meet the Queen.  Old bird was on Holiday at Balmoral, so I was gravely disappointed.  I was fully expecting tea and crumpets with the Queen to be included with my ticket.  They politely explained to me that the Duke of Edinburgh, her husband, wasn't busy, because he NEVER is, but I declined, because he always looks like he is coming off of a long illness.

ANYWAY, I got to see "THE DRESS"!!!  It was amazing!  They had a whole video of how they hand- pieced together the lace with like a hundred different lace patterns and each piece represented the different Burroughs of London.  Kate "Mi-UL-ton" was apparently meticulous about the dress having a sense of meaning and history.

The tiara and her earrings were also on display and it was explained that her family got a new crest and the earrings actually have maple leaves and the inside dangling piece is an acorn, which are elements of their "new" crest.  I couldn't help but wonder if they just GOT their crest, or if they CHANGED their crest, or what in the hell was going on.  I also remembered that my Mom came back from her trip to England with a crest and she had pint glasses commemorating this event in her "pub" downstairs, so I am guessing they used to be a WAY bigger deal that they used to be.  Something that needs to be researched, FO SHO.  Just not today, because I have too much laundry.

Backing up, when Brad and I arrived in London, it was 10 o'clock at night, but felt like 5 o'clock to us - which everyone who knows me knows - is HAPPY HOUR.  So we went to the bar in our hotel, and it was the only one open, because bars tend to close rather early in London, for such a large city, and I started chatting up a young Czech girl who looked a little older that she actually was, and we were comparing different parts of the world that we have visited or would like to visit.  Just to be clear, EVERYONE I talked to in London says that if they travelled to America, they would want to go to California.  "New York is too cold.  I've got my fill of THAT!" they all would say in one version or another, but all I kept thinking about was the culture clash that would occur between the Brits and the Californians.

Case in point, I just couldn't get used to the fact that if you were crossing the street you had to look the opposite way for oncoming traffic that you are used to in the States because "in England, they drive on the WRONG side of the street" as my Dad likes to say.  No less than three times a day, did I nearly get run over by a cab or a double decker tour bus.  On the street, at crosswalks, they have painted in large letters "LOOK LEFT" and "LOOK RIGHT" depending on which direction you are crossing from.  It was very confusing to me because the "LOOK LEFT" painted sign would be in the middle of the intersection, and I would focus on that, and the "LOOK RIGHT" would be right at my feet.  I began taking social cues from the people that were crossing from the opposite side, when a Mother actually covered her child's eyes and gasped in horror as a bus whizzed by me and nearly took my life.  My point to all of this is that I was so grateful that I was not in America, specifically California, because I would not have been able to read the facial expressions on most women in large cities in America, because they have had so much botox and fillers that even if their inner feelings were that of the anticipation of a horrible pedestrian/automobile accident, I would only see the surprised look of that of "The Joker" character played by Jack Nicholson in the first Batman movie.

Another culture shock moment would be the food that is available in California.  It is all organic and healthy and leaves you wondering what you are going to have for your next meal when you are paying your check.  I had the pleasure of consuming a "proper English Breakfast" which consisted of two eggs, a mound of bacon, three HUGE pieces of sausage, two McDonald's-like patties of hash browns, half a grilled tomato, and pinto beans.  Atkins must be their diet of choice in England.  I loved it, though, and it sustained me throughout the day.

So...ANYWAY, back to the Czech girl.  We are bullshitting while the two large Russian men she was with were out "smoking their fags" (hopefully you figured out fags are cigs) on the sidewalk.  The Olympics came up and somehow Brazil, and she asked me if I had ever been there, and I told her I had always wanted to go, and she said, "OOOOOHHHH, you do NOT want to go to Brazil, they kidnap you and cut your insides open and sell your organs off to the highest bidder!"  I retaliated with, "But I hear they have great zip lines," and then her disgusting older Russian escorts came in from outside and grabbed her by the arm and manhandled her back to their table and I had the realization that she was a "hooker".  I mean, it takes me a while, but eventually I wake up and smell the coffee.

Let's be real, your average tourist in Brazil does not worry about their organs appearing on the free market, but that MAY be an occupational hazard for an international prostitute.  Instantly, I made a mental note to tell my girls when I got home.  Reason Number Two for not being an international prostitute:  your organs will be sold off for money in Brazil.  Reason Number One, of course, is no health insurance.

Which brings me to...the Jack the Ripper Tour that Brad made me take (Ha!  He was miserable all day and just wanted to "enjoy a pint in a pub.")  Brad dragged me to the Tower of London (where I kept wishing I had paid more attention in History class) and then got me buzzed at a pub in the financial district where everyone was dressed in suits from work and we stuck out like two American buffoons in our t-shirts, jeans, and running shoes, which was bugging me so much that I wanted to run inside a store and buy a full outfit for myself, but then I quickly forgot all about my shame we met our guide outside The Tube (which is their subway) for he looked like he had just stepped out of a Dickens' novel.  Tube below.  Sooo fun.

So the Tour consisted of walking around  "Lunden" as we enjoyed each gruesome detail of each attack Jack the Ripper made on each of his victims in the location in which they took place. All of the identity theories were laid out before the crowd in the dark of night, as the exact identity of Jack has never been discovered.  It was a magical night for me.  Forget romance and bloody candlelight, give me gore and conspiracy, ye crazy Yanks!

One of my many revelations I had while traveling in Lunden is that I love a good legend.  I love the story about Anne Boleyn, requesting a double edged sword as opposed to the traditional axe for her beheading at the Tower of Lunden.  As she stood "on the chopping block" so to speak, she delivered a rather long and famous speech which ended in, "And thus I take my leave of the world and of you all, and I heartily desire you all to pray for me.  O Lord have mercy on me, to God I commend my soul."
After being blindfolded and kneeling at the block, she repeated several times: "To Jesus Christ I commend my soul; Lord Jesus receive my soul."

According to the Beefeater, which are the Tour guides at the Tower and are in special service to the Queen, the sword was so swift during her beheading that "her mouth and eyes continued to move for another 18 seconds after her head was detached from her body." And in true English dry wit and fashion, the Beefeater concluded that "it has always been a curiosity of mine to know WHO was in charge of counting during the event."  BRILLIANT.  LOVE IT! 

Our final day was spent at the Notting Hill Flea Market.  It is called the Portobello Road Market and it is held on Saturdays.  They had the COOLEST stuff and the setting is perfect, as it is obviously one of the wealthiest parts of the city, and I kept thinking of what my Dad said about it, when my Mom dragged him there are few years ago.  "Wudn't much to see to me, but your Mother seemed to like the fact that it was in that movie... You would like it, though, considering you have always had champagne tastes on a beer budget."

Just a little anecdote, that I keep thinking about when I revisit that day in Nottinghill.  To set the stage, the ENTIRE residential and commercial street (one on one side, one on the other, you see), is PACKED with people.  This is not a tourist event, it is a cultural one.  Anyway, all of the sudden, this guy in a Lamborghini comes speeding through the crowd, honking his horn, and stops smack dab in the middle of the crowd.  He then gets out, takes a huge box out of the back of his souped up sports car, stomps over to the beautiful row house that contains a plaque outside announcing that it is "the former residence of George Orwell - the essayist and philosopher", which in my mind, makes it even MORE expensive than the other billion dollar multi-colored row houses, unlocks the door, inserts the package, and then returns to his Lamborghini as he lays on his horn until the sea of Portobello Road patrons parts, and then speeds off down the road through the crowd.  Wow.  I just couldn't HELP but be impressed, not only by his weath and stature, but of his audacity.  I took great comfort knowing that the Americans in Lunden are not the ONLY assholes in the city.

Okay, I cannot end this post without mentioning my favorite two places I visited in Lunden.  Covent Garden is this ridiculously quaint area of shops, restaurants, and pubs that then opens up into a kind of palazzo, where street performers regularly perform.  It was very near our hotel, and Brad and I spent more time there, than anywhere else.  During lunchtime they have bulk street food and on the day we visited they had my favorite dish, Paella, and homemade Sangria.  We sat and ate and watched the street performers for a long while.  See pics below.

My other ABSOLUTE favorite thing about Lunden were the pubs.  I liked nothing more than immersing myself in the culture by bullshitting with the English.  They are infinitely cooler than Americans, no matter what their social class, which is a rather obvious distinction I noticed, as well.

On my first day, my knee was killing me after enjoying High Tea with Kate and Wills, at the Palace, so after walking the wrong way for over an hour, I passed a pub that was irresistible to me when I noticed THIS sign,

so I stopped to put my knee up and ordered a pint.  I ended up bullshitting with these Brits who had just gotten off of work where they were renovating an expensive flat in the area, to enjoy a pint and a fag.  We got on the very subjects of fags and how their meanings are very different in the two countries, and one of the men relayed a story to me, of how his father worked in Texas for a while, a few decades ago, before returning to England with a big sigh of relief.

Apparently, his father approached some "Good Ol' Boy" in rural Texas who was smoking a cigarette at the Oil Refinery or Dude Ranch or something.  His father said, and these are his exact words, "Do you have a spare fag?" and the cowboy promptly called the police and the man's father was taken to jail.  NIIIICCCCCEEEE.  Gotta make you proud.  Can't help but wonder if it was a Bush.  Sorry, had to take the shot.

Anyway, I tried to tip the bartender another five pounds when he brought me another pint, which yes, I "fancied", and he actually STOPPED me and told me "No more money, Miss, you do not tip in pubs and you certainly don't tip THAT much if you do."  The men who I had met, then hailed me a taxi and wished me "a nice Holiday" and I hobbled away loving the fact that I had FINALLY gotten to visit Lunden.  Here they are.

I got them to admit that they thought all Americans were stupid, and they tried to get ME to agree that all Americans believe the English have bad teeth.  Not about to.  They were too gracious.  I was not ABOUT to insult them. 

When I asked them what is the ONE piece of advice they would give to someone who has arrived in Lunden for the first time, one of them exclaimed, "LOOK UP".  The architecture and age and detail on the buildings is astounding.  I found myself "LOOKING UP" alot and I am so grateful for the advice.

My recommendation today is obvious.  Visit London!!!! It is so easy to get around using the Tube and the trains and a week's stay will only cover all of the tourist attractions, when the country is also an element of our trip that I was unable to fit in.  All of the places I mentioned above are a MUST, as are  Westminster Abbey, the Changing of the Guards, Kensington Palace (where Lady Di and Kate and Wills have taken up residence) are also a requirement.  We saw a play.  You need to do THAT or a musical, and my favorite place that we ate was actually a Mexican Restaurant called "Crazy Homies".  It is in Chelsea, which is a great neighborhood and it was recommended to us by a friend who lives in Lunden.  On it's website it boasts, "not a tourist's place" which I love and now completely understand. 

Soho is very happening, but I found it too young for my tastes.  Not so much for the thumping bass of clubs anymore.  If you are interested in more information, please contact me because I could go on forever.  Brad and I were given a ton of direction by a friend of ours, and it saved us alot of headaches.  It is best to buy all of the tickets you can in advance to any of the attractions, as well.  The lines are long and arduous if you don't.

Just bloody remember...don't forget to look up AND down!


Thursday, August 4, 2011

Charleston or Cougarton?

My manager and I, just went on a vacation together.  I would like to say that it was an "all expenses paid" trip, but I don't make any money, so really it was just a "GIRLS TRIP," but we are in "business together", so I have to call her "Ms. Clowdus" or "Ma'am, even in informal situations, so it can get a little awkward sometimes.

Just for HER, I mean.

Okay, so let me set this up for you.  Ms. Clowdus, tends to rope me into things by getting me to commit a little at a time, which is a KNOWN sales technique, and because I am a "fly by the seat of my pants/live in the moment" kinda gal, I'm all "sure" and then she gets on her lighting quick Blackburrry, and commits me HARD and FAST to it, before I can order another Amstel Light.

About six months ago, she suggested that I go on a GIRLS' TRIP with a bunch of our sorority sisters, and I jumped at the chance, because she said we would be on a boat the whole time, and I would get to see girls that I had not seen in AGES.  Our friend, Suzie, is in charge of the vacation, and her in-laws had a boat we can use for the weekend at Bohicket Marina near Charleston.

A few months go by, and Ms. Clowdus and I are sitting around bullshitting on Cinco de Mayo, because we believe in helping EVERY minority to celebrate their heritage, (especially if it involves a revolt, or an emancipation.  Bastille Day is Super fun!), and she informs me that the boat is not going to leave the marina while we are on it.

"What?" I say as I wipe the Margarita salt off of my mouth with the back of my hand.

"I talked to Suzie, and I was nervous about the whole 'boat thing' and safety," Ms. Clowdus continues, "and I also relayed to her your fear of Somali pirates, and she assured me not to worry BECAUSE we are not allowed to leave the marina."

This puts us into hysterics because to my knowledge, you cannot swim at a Marina, and I am calculating the temperature in July in South Carolina, and my imagination is running WILD at this point.

"Okay.  Let me get this straight.  We are going to fly to Charleston, and get on a boat for three days with five other girls, and we cannot get in the water or go anywhere?"  Ms. Clowdus thinks that there might be a dingy, we are allowed to take out on occasion. We are holding our sides now, and calling Suzie.

Suzie informs us that we can get off the boat, and go shopping and eat at restaurants and go to the spa.  The Captain will also take us out on a smaller boat if we wish.

So, Ms. Clowdus and I decide to go into Charleston a day early, because she has never been there, and we stay the night at the swanky Market District Inn.  We went to this Thai Restaurant, Basil, which sounds like it should be Italian, but isn't, and it is yummy, and then we went to a Reggae bar, and had our Amstel Light "nightcap" at Squeeze, which is named so, because it is extremely narrow, and you have to turn sideways to get to the back where the tables are.

So, anyway, one of the things that stands out to me the most about that night, is HOW MANY times we were approached by 22-year-old dudes.  I mean, technically, because I am from Kentucky, I could easily be their mother.  What bothers me the most is that I hate how "Cougars,"which my definition is a woman my age, or older,  who wears provocative clothing that she got at Justice, in the hopes of bursting some young fellas cherry, and she always looks like a surprised Joker because of all of the Juvederm and Botox in her face.

I guess it is just the assumption of desperation that bothers me the most.  These boys suppose that I am not secure enough in my marriage, or age, or whatever, that I would JUMP at the chance to have "5 minutes in the closet" with them.   All you had to say was "Girls Weekend" to them and they would respond, "OHHHHHH, " as they nodded their heads, looked at each other knowingly (like we were some "Ace in the Hole") and high-five each other.  It becomes maddening to me, if I think about it too much.

My favorite line to give an adolescent boy who is trying to pick me up is, "Hey, you wanna take this on?  I have three kids and a mortgage.  When you mate with me.  You mate for life.  Just ask my husband.....Oh, and my kids all need braces. And then there is college. They are three girls, so there are their weddings to consider, but you might get away with two weddings and a commitment ceremony.  The jury is still out on one of them.... Now, how attractive am I?"

Usually the cougar-hunter excuses himself to use the restroom and never comes back.  Sometimes he even takes the Amstel Light he has just bought me, with quarters and dimes, with him.  I guess my point is, that just because I am at a bar with a girlfriend, and I am past forty, does not mean that I want to pick up dudes.  Maybe I just want to hang out with my Manager and bullshit and laugh, without someone asking me for a Popsicle.  Is that too much to ask? 

So we have a blast in Charleston that night and the next day, after perusing the Market, we decide that we need to get Bloodys, and oysters on the half shell at Hyman's.  NO that is not a joke, it is the family name, and it is an INSTITUTION in Charleston.  It has been family owned for generations, and one of the grandsons, who runs the business, actually stopped by our table to ask if we needed anything.  I think it was because we were all "Cougared Up," drinking Bloody Marys and Ms. Clowdus' boobs were hanging out.  (Just kidding, Ma'am. )

OK.  SO.  Suzie's flight was that afternoon and she informs us through text that "The Captain" is going to pick her up and then he'll "swing by" and get Ms. Clowdus and I.  I am full on expecting Captain Stubing, at this point.  We're kinda buzzed up on our Bloody Mary, which was a meal in itself, which I LOVE, and El Capitan pulls up with Suzie and Suzie keeps introducing and referring to him as Captain Kenny, and he keeps correcting her, and telling her that his name is Kevin.  HILARIOUS.  Suzie has not changed a bit.

I vividly remember picking Suzie up from the airport during college, and she had been drinking, and was "dressed to the Nines" as my Mom would say, and the staff at the airport was all, "BYEEEE Suzie!" as they all stood in a receiving line and waved in their uniforms.  This obviously would not happen today, but we definitely have an updated system of airport staff flirtation , where they basically sexually assaulted me, when I was flying out of Columbus, because I was wearing one of my beloved "maxi dresses", and because I am a HUGE Cougar, natch.

So, Capt'n Kev, (pictured above) , is listening to me yammer on about how Cougars have ruined my social life, and he says, "Hey, at least they're still lookin'. "  Which reminds me of how my Mom is always telling me that one of the worst days of her life is when she stopped receiving "Wolf Whistles".

To those of you not in the KNOW, "wolf whistles" are when a redneck in a truck yells sexual scenarios he would like to do to you, when you are in your 90's business suit as you cross the street to go eat lunch in Downtown Louisville.  I was complaining to my Mom about it one day, when I was living at my parents' house, after graduating college, and I was working a dead end job at Taylor Building Corporation (yet another post I haven't gotten to) making oh, I don't know, yes I do, $8.00 an hour, running up their 800 number bill with my friend, Alissa, to supplement my income, and I had HAD IT with all of the rednecks in Louisville.

I now find them comforting, and enjoy their wolf whistles when I am at the park with my kids in Louisville, because apparently I am A COUGAR, who wants to jump in the back of their pick up truck and be whisked away to some dirty bar where they will inevitably buy me all of the draft Pabst Blue Ribbon I can stomach.

I digress, anyway, Capt'n Kev is pointing out the sights on the way to the marina, and we come across a Piggly Wiggly.  Ms. Clowdus squeals, "Ohhhh, a Piggly Wiggly!  I love those!" to which Cap'n Kev responds, " Oh, we call that the 'Poggly Woggly', because all the riff raff goes there, like the Mexicans, and they all touch the tomatoes and vegetables and shit, so I'll show you the 'good grocery store' you will go to, on down the road, so you don't have to DEAL."

Suzie chimes in with, "Hey, I thought your family OWNED a tomato farm growing up!  What's with all the NEGATIVATAYYY?"

To which, Cap'n Kev retaliates, "Yea, they did.  I'm just sayin' that I don't like my food touched by a bunch of people before I buy it.....not that I got anythin' against tomatas." 

Sorry if I have offended any of my Mexican readers, which according to my profile breakdown, I don't have any, but Ms. Clowdus and I just HOWLED with laughter.

It is that moment where you do not know what to expect from someone, and then they offer you a large plate of sarcasm, and you instantly know that everything is going to be OKAY.

Cap'n Kev had a thousand other poignant quotes that weekend, but I am going to just keep them to myself, because you have to have something that is private in your life, right?  Not to mention they were all either racist, or just plain FILTHY.

So, Cap'n Kev takes us to this famous tree, and we take pictures, and there are these local women there making baskets, and I ask to take a picture of them (for my blog) and they say, "What are you gonna use this for? I don't like to have my picture taken." and one goes inside, and I say, "Why? Because you think it takes away part of your soul?" and they say, "No, because pictures cost MONEY." and I give the woman a ten, and take her picture, and then we take photos of each other under the tree, while we giggle, because we are trying to pose in the vein of "senior class photos."

So, we get in the car and Capn' Kev has a basket, and we ask him why he bought one, and he says, "Because you have to respect the local hookers" and then we ask him how much he paid for it, and he replies, "Fifty bucks."  I immediately feel like a heel because I took part of her SOUL for just $10 bucks, and then we accuse Cap'n Kev of getting more than a basket, because he opened the inappropriate door with his tomata joke, and he asks us if we want to play the quiet game until we get to the marina.

Alright, what happened next, NEVER happens to me.  I am overwhelmed with great fortune.  "Pleasantly surprised" is not a strong enough phrase to describe how happy I was, when we arrived at Bohicket Marina and were shown to our boat.

Well, first of all, it is not a boat, it is a YACHT!  I had my own room with a Queen bed, with it's own flat screen T.V. and my own bathroom.  We were able to not only take the yacht out, but the "dingy" we imagined, was one of the nicest boats I have ever been on. 

The pictures below do not do it justice and, to me, they are amazing.

This is the 77 foot yacht, named "Uncle Buck".

This is the top deck we spent a ton of time on. At the bottom of this photo are the tops of the two loungers that Jen and I occupied most of the trip.

This is the front of the boat. Yes, that is a huge King Size bed inserted in the front.  Christina and Tonya claimed that as their favorite spot.

This is the middle floor of the boat with the living room and kitchen.

And finally, even with all of the pomp and circumstance "Uncle Buck" had to offer, my favorite part of the trip were these people.

Because you can't tell stories to a boat, or cry to a boat, or reminsce with a boat, or have a boat make you laugh so hard you have to run to the bathroom to keep from peeing yourself.  The boat was the icing on a very fancy and expensive cake, but the ingredients were what made the trip one of a lifetime for me.  Ingredients from left to right:  Tonya, Suzie, Ms. Clowdus, Me, Cristina.

My advice to you today is to reconnect with old friends.  I am not sayin' you bitches are old.  You are amazing Cougar hunter bait that could easily get any 22-year-old you wanted - for the night, that is.  But, who needs Cougar hunters, when you have girlfriends, Uncle Buck's yacht, fruity Vodka drinks and Amstel Light?  Am I right, Ladies?

Also, if you are in Charleston, you MUST go to Hyman's.  It is some of the best food in the city, and it has been that way for decades.  The Market District Inn was awesome and has a great rooftop pool and bar.  Basil is simply yummy and affordable, and does not lack atmosphere.  Contact me if you need more advice on Charleston.  I plan to do another post on Bohicket if my popsickle supply does not run out today, so stay tuned for unsolicited advice on it, in the near future.

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Camp Fuck Up

So my two eldest children, Hallie and Mills, are going to camp this summer with a church.  It is called Camp Akita, and they have varying programs for the children, depending on their grade level.

Hallie went for three days this year, and it is the first time she has been away to that camp for longer than a night.  I basically had her and her friend pack her, when she had a playdate over, and gave her the list, because I was running around with my head cut off, as usual, and I needed to delegate.  When I finally got around to looking in Hallie's duffle bag, she had about 50 stuffed animals, some CD's which she would not be allowed to play, nor would there be any device to play them on, and the bottoms of a bikini bathing suit.

Needless to say, I packed her all up, according to the list, and at 1 o'clock in the morning, she was ready for camp.  My best friend, Alissa, calls Hallie, "Garcia" because she looks like she has been following The Dead all summer and selling grilled cheese sandwiches.  I got Hallie up early in the morning, had her bathe, clipped her nails, put her hair in a pony, and fed her a good breakfast and lunch.  I then took all three children to Larson's toy store to get her something to do on the bus, and because I somehow signed up for the "package deal" somewhere when I became a parent of three, I had to buy them all something.  We raced out of Larson's and pulled into the Church with a minute to spare.

I was congratulating myself and pumping my fist in the air, when I noticed that there were only landscapers and their vehicles clustered in the parking lot.  No buses, no overly polite teens with Camp Counselor Shirts on...NADA.  Something was very wrong.  It is like a joke I love to tell where an Asian couple has a baby that is clearly African American.  The husband suggests to the wife that they name it "Some Din Wong" Well, some din was vewy wong, here, but I was trying to keep my cool because I have found in these situations where I fuck up royally that I should just act natural, as if I planned the whole thing, and then the kids won't freak out.

So, even though I had said things like, "Aren't you so excited for camp?" and "Do you think you'll go down the bubble slide as soon as you get there?"  I quietly got on my "stupid phone" which is an old Blackburry that is like 2G and discovered that camp drop off was the following day.  Niiiicccceeee.  I make a quick U Turn and asked Hallie where her "dream place" to eat lunch would be and she responded just as I knew she would, "Noodles and Company" and we laughed and shrugged it off and made an effort by saying things like, "Well, at least we're ready!" and other stupid stuff you might say when you arrive at the airport to find that your flight has been cancelled.

I tell myself that I am teaching my children to "just roll with it" but secretly I know that they KNOW that I am a huge fuck up.

Case in point, it is Mills' turn to go to camp.  I actually double check my stupid phone to make sure of the dates.  I didn't understand where there was a three day span for her camp, when it was just one night, but then I somehow deduced that there were two sessions.

In my defense, I had just come off a 7 day extravaganza where my best friend and I took our total of 6 girls, ages 4 - 11 to the lake and I was exhausted.  I had 24 hours to regroup and this is the sort of thing that happens when you are suffering from exhaustion.  That is my story and I am sticking to it.  

I digress. Mills is all packed up.  Hallie helped her pack and then I edited and repacked her when they went to bed, again.  I even packed two empty wine bottles when they only asked for one glass vase to make a craft with, because I wanted to give the impression that I am SuperMom and I imagined Mills handing one of her Two Buck Chuck wine bottles to a "less fortunate" camper when HER irresponsible Mom forgot hers.  I was ON IT, Man, and I told all of my children this, as we are pulling up to the church again.

The Moms are walking out without their kids and their camp t-shirts, and I instinctively knew that I had screwed something up again.  Luckily, I met my friend, Trish, outside, before I could humiliate my daughter in front of the staff, and she informed me that Mills and her son were enrolled in day camp for the next two days and on the third day they would spend all day at Camp Akita and then come home.

I want you to imagine the visual of us rolling her suitcase up to the curb and Hallie is holding Mills'
pillow, and Eva has Mills' backpack on, and I am saying, "I guess the buses aren't here yet." when my friend Trish stops me and establishes what a fool I am in front of my girls, AGAIN.

Now, don't get me wrong, Trish couldn't have been nicer.  She told me some story of how she screwed up something to make me feel better, Johnny on the Spot.  She is NOT one of those women who revel in other's misery.  She's a gurls' gurl.  She is totally cool and we are going to pool together tomorrow.  I offerred to take her son after day camp and she was all "No thanks."  Cause she KNOWS I will fuck something up and she imagines her son alone and crying and being comforted by the counselors that just wanna go home, and you know what?  She is absolutely 100% right in her assumption.

So we wheel Mills' suitcase back to the car, while I look around to make sure no one is looking (and so later this blog is FRESH, natch) and I take her in and find her group, and then I tell my other kids to hang back while I take her out into the hall and she starts to well up and I am dying and she says, "I don't want you to leave."

"See," I say, looking for an out.  "YOU ARE TOO YOUNG FOR OVERNIGHT CAMP!  It is a good thing that you are just going to day camp or you would be MISERABLE."

Mills wipes both her eyes and gets that look of indignation on her face that I have seen a million times before and says, "Now can I get that turtle that you keep saying 'we'll see' about?".

"Yes, Mills.  Yes you can."  I hug her tightly and want to die.  I would've bought her an endangered species from the Galapagos Islands on the Black Market at this point.  Anything to absolve me of the guilt and shame I was feeling.  Anything to make things right, again.

"So, when you say, 'We'll see,' you really mean that you are waiting to see if you screw something up and then you can make it all better?"

"Exactly."  And I thought I just knew my girls better than they know themselves.  I forgot that they also have MY number, and they are just waiting to pounce like three little tiny mama pumas when they smell vulnerability. "I have taught you well, my sweet,"  I say as I guide her back to her place in the group.

I get back in the car and I am all flustered and Hallie turns to me and says, "Wow, Mills looked really disappointed.  Are you gonna get her that turtle now? Can I get something?"

"Can I get something, Mama?"  Eva chimes in from her booster seat.

"Yes!  You can all get something!" I yell a little too loudly, "Now, let's go mail those boots I sold on Ebay last May!  I am feeling RESPONSIBLE today!"

Soooo, my advice to you today is that if you are EVER feeling like a Bad Mom, read this and any of my other blogs that represent what a j-hole I am, and you will immediately feel superior again.

I actually have friends that have bad Mom moments, and they call me up to draw upon my stories of forgetting birthday parties, yelling at their kids, or turning all of their clocks in the house forward in order to put their kids to bed early, or any of my other dysfunctional parenting skills (I like to refer to them as "tools"), and they always respond by saying, "Now I feel better.  Thanks."

I have decided that this has become my role in life - to make everyone feel better about themselves, because I am such a huge MESS. I just pray that my kids are able to laugh about all of this... later on.  At the very least, their therapists will be entertained.

Just take note that the friends that make you feel better about losing your cool (like Trish) are your REAL friends, and those that use it as an opportunity to pass judgement on you, are NOT.  We Bad Moms have to stick together, or we will be targeted by Social Services.  There is power in numbers, my friends.