Monday, December 20, 2010

Every Holiday Begins With Ho

Classy, I know.

But the way advertisers try to disconnect men from their money around the holidays in the name of love and/or sex simply appalls me. Every jewelry ad boils down to, "If you want to get some, it'll cost you". Ahem. We have words for that, and they don't begin with K.

The holiday jewelry ads have annoyed me since forever. When Liv was still in grade school, she and her bestie worked up a very mockingly sarcastic "He went to Jared" bit that cracked my stuff up every time.

Yep, guys. We all want jewelry. It not only lets us know how much you love us (the bigger the diamond, the greater the love, of course), but it also provides us with the opportunity to make our girlfriends, in the words of that great role model, Scarlett O'Hara, "pea green with envy". Win/win. A man who wants us and women who want to be us. That right there is queen of the world stuff, baby. To quote another great role model, David Lee Roth, "you'll get some leg tonight, for sure!"

But lately I've been able to look past my white hot hatred of holiday jewelry commercials to take a look at - and give some thought to - holiday perfume commercials. The band Free famously said, "Love? Lord above. Now you're trying to trick me in love." The song was covered by another great role model, Rod Stewart. Just sayin'. If you want to skip all the pesky love stuff and get back, as those bad boys (and great role models) from Boston, Aerosmith, tell us, "to the real nitty gritty", well, look no further than perfume.

I clearly remember the first perfume ad that had an effect on me. The year was 1973, my age (for those of you keeping track) was 11, and the perfume was You're the Fire, by Yardley.

It was a drugstore perfume with a hot, hot, hot ad campaign. My fast changing, entering into adolescent territory body and mind looked at the women in that ad in open wonder. How, oh how, could my awkward little "not a girl not yet a woman" (another great role model quoted! Britney Spears!) self become a sizzling entity like THAT? Well, they gave me the answer right there in the ad. You're the Fire. I had to had to have some.

Well, I told my Aunt Gert this and - as she adored me and was very indulgent - she bought me a bottle for Christmas. I held this bottle of elixir like it was the answer to all of my many many (many many many) 11 year old questions.

Thank goodness my mother told me I wasn't allowed to spray any on right there at the Christmas party. Once home, though, I couldn't wait to pump that first spritz onto my wrist to begin my transformation from goofy girl to super-hottie. I closed my eyes and sprayed, then slowly lifted my wrist towards my nose to get a whiff of full-on womanhood. My wrist wasn't anywhere NEAR my nose before I was gagging. Apparently, full-on womanhood smells a lot like cat pee. But stronger. Now, of course, this in unfair to the fine folks at Yardley. I have since learned that no scent is universally pleasing - that wearing perfume is really more of a chemistry experiment. The experiment involving You're the Fire and me was an epic fail.

Since then, I've had two fragrance loyalties - two chemistry experiments that turned out well. Calvin Klein's Obsession in the 80's and Estee Lauder's Pleasures now. The Obsession ads were weird and avant garde and very very sexy. (You know. In a weird, avant garde sort of way...) Surely the woman who wore Obsession would be intelligent, mysterious and aloof. Not everyone would understand her, but she wouldn't care -because she would understand herself. Also, she would drive men to distraction and they would beg for a longer trip. Or - um - something. I don't know. I got a little confused. If living with obsession is a sin, let me be guilty.

Yep. I loved me some Obsession. I even decorated the bathroom in my sweet little townhouse in shades of brown that would match the bottles, so much of the product was housed there. Perfume, body lotion, hand lotion, shampoo, conditioner, hair spray - the list went on. If they made it, and it smelled like Obsession, I owned it. In retrospect my scent probably preceded me. At least it was a nice scent. Big. bold. 80's, baby.

Was I drawn to the ads or the scent? Oh, definitely the scent.

Also, the SNL spoof ad for Compulsion, by Calvin Kleen was classic. (not available online, but don't think for a minute that I didn't have a good time searching for it.....)

But the 80's passed and I no longer wanted to identify as an international woman of mystery and avant garde intrigue, plus, I was really tired of the brown bathroom, so I began the search for a new scent. As I mentioned, the eventual result of that search was Pleasures and, as I am still quite frequently complimented on it, I think I made the right decision. What? People only say "you smell great" when they can't think of anything nice to say about the way you look? Damn. You're mean.

The ads for Pleasures feature Gwyneth Paltrow and look a little something like this:

Now, anyone who knows me in real life knows that I DEFINITELY did not choose this scent based on the ad. Gwyneth is the anti-me. Between the voice overs and the puppies and the white dresses and the fields of wild flowers, I keep expecting to hear, "Now? You are a woman. Your body has gone through some changes recently....."



The ads worked on me when I was an adolescent looking for my fire, they were a pleasant enough reinforcement when I was in my 20's pursuing my obsession, but now, if they have an effect on me at all, it's a negative one.

So who are these ads aimed at?

Why, men, of course.

Men who dig that visual of Gwynnie doing her weird hip thrust thing in the meadow, for example, might present their lady with a bottle of Pleasures.

A quick google search on perfume ads 2010 turned up such words as: topless, guilty, racy, banned, soft porn, sexy, too hot... WAIT! Come back! I wasn't done talking to you!!!

A few tips for guys thinking of going the perfume route:

1. A nice scent does NOT make our clothes fall off. Seriously.

2. It's not a good idea to choose a scent for a woman based on what it smells like in the bottle. You need to see - um - smell - how it reacts with her chemistry. There is often quite a bit of disparity between the two, and perfume ain't cheap. Buy her a scent you know she likes or go for something else. Jared might have some suggestions.

3. Women over the age of consent don't like AXE. We really really don't. So - if you go to a club doused in it, women will not pull each others hair to get to you, even though the commercials imply that they might. It does, however, seem to have an effect on young adolescent females. Stay out of jail, guys. Step away from the AXE.

Now if you'll excuse me - I have some bacon to fry (and I know a couple few men - AND women - who would find that scent to be far more alluring than any of those previously discussed...)

Saturday, December 18, 2010

What's in a Name?

Back when my kids used to watch Sesame Street, a clip of the amazing Maya Angelou singing The Name Song was in heavy rotation on the show. It went like this:

Maya's my name.

It's a fine name.
It's not your name, but it's fine just the same.
Stand right up and say it proudly.

Maya is my name.

Oh, yes, it's my name
and I'm not gonna change it.
It's my name and I like it just fine.
It's my name and no one can take it.
Maya's my name and I'm proud that it's mine.

(other verses like):

Your name's Lexine.

That's a fine name.
It's not my name, but it's fine just the same.
Stand right up and say it proudly.

Lexine is my name.

Oh, yes, it's my name and I'm not gonna change it.
It's my name and I like it just fine.
It's my name and no one can take it.
Lexine's my name and I'm proud that it's mine.
[ From:

I sang that with my children all the time, with my name, of course, being replaced by "Mommy" and your name being replaced by, um, their names. You probably figured that part out, you're pretty bright like that. Sometimes we'd look through family photo albums and add the names (or titles - like Mommy) of loved ones to the song, too. I would be remiss if I didn't add at this point, Mommy and Daddy and all the rest of those familial titles are wonderful - and they're great - incomparable - roles. Just don't EVER forget that there's a name behind them.

Say my name.

It's a good song and a simple way to reinforce the notion that you are someone.

I couldn't help but be reminded of Kunta Kinte. He never became Toby. They beat him, they enslaved him, they cut off his foot, but, though they tried, he never let them take his name from him.

Sometimes I'd picture him with Maya and a lovely racially diverse group of Sesame Street kids singing: Kunta Kinte's my name. It's a fine name...

(I know - I should really limit the glimpses I give you into my mind. It's weird there. And not always entirely appropriate. Sorry.)

Last week my youngest daughter told me about a girl who was being bullied at school. She wasn't really a friend of my daughter, but my daughter was aware of her. I listened while she talked, then asked, "How could you help this girl feel better?" Her answer surprised me: "When I see her in the halls, I'm going to smile and say hi and always use her name."

"Always use her name?"

"Sure. It feels great when someone says hi to you and calls you by name - especially if they're not really one of your friends."

My eldest daughter jumped in at this point to offer her unqualified agreement.

Say my name.

My name is easy. Every little bit of it. Tammy Lu Hunter Howard. No one has EVER mispronounced my name. But some of you are not so lucky. My daughter Lea (pronounced Lee-ah) is called as Lea (pronounced Lee) in waiting rooms and classrooms all the time. That one's an easy fix. But many names are more difficult. When I taught ESOL I had a student who always said, "Call me Johnny." This concerned me. If he WANTED to be called Johnny because he was trying to Americanize his identity, I could respect that. But if he wanted me to call him Johnny because he was just tired of correcting people and wanted to make it easier on them - on me - well - I really didn't want to encourage that. It's your NAME, dude! We deserve to hear our names pronounced correctly. Often. We may even - at the risk of appearing melodramatic - need it.

Say my name.

A couple days ago a pink envelope arrived in the mail, addressed to me, not the family. "Why did Memaw send a Christmas card just to you?" asked my daughter, who had brought in the mail.

"And why is it pink?" asked the other. I smiled and told them it wasn't a Christmas card, it was a birthday card.

"Bit late, isn't she? Your birthday is in September. You'd think your mom would know..."

"It's not the anniversary of my birth", I reminded them, "it's the anniversary of my adoption. It's an anniversary that only really means something to Memaw and Pepaw and me."

They had run off by that point, bored with it already - but I considered: It's not the day I came into the world, but it's the day I got my name.

Now, I'll be honest with you - because I always am. I have not always been in love with that name. Tammy Lu? Really? What sort of future did they have in mind for me when they settled on Tammy Lu? (shudder) Tammy Lu was Dad's idea. Mom liked Anna Marie. I wonder if Anna Marie would have had a different life than I did.... It's possible, but entirely theoretical. Because I'm not Anna, I'm Tammy. Tammy's my name, it's a fine name...

And 48 years ago today - although I'd been born months before - it became so.

Say my name.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Just Kidding

Growing up, we generally took our camping trips with a few other families. There was a core group and several others who made it when they could. One summer on our (almost) annual trip to Myrtle Beach our group was spread out over two campers, a van and two tents. The two Daves stayed in one tent (this is my friend Dave, and this is my other friend Dave) and four of us girls slept in the other. The four of us were the reason Dave was allowed to bring his friend Dave. I reckon it was sort of hard to be the only boy with four girls. It must have been hard to be the only Dave, too.

We never actually entered the boys' tent and they never actually entered ours, but one fine afternoon we were surprised by a frog on one of our pillows. Our tent had been zipped up pretty tightly, so it hardly seemed like a coincidence.

We didn't say a word.

The next night, after the boys were asleep, we thought we would be very cute. We took the boys' swim trunks down from the clothesline and hung them, liner side out, above the entrance to their tent. We made a big sign and posted it between the trunks: Two Jocks Live Here.

We thought it was harmless and funny.

The next morning we woke to a sign on OUR temporary abode. It was flanked by two bikini tops and read: Four Boobs Live Here.


Bested by boys.

That would never do.

So we upped the ante.

One of us had an old wind-up alarm clock. We set the alarm for 3:00 am then reached into their tent and tucked it under a sleeping bag. Probably Dave's. The next morning the boys looked a little rough, but they didn't say a word.

This made us a little nervous.

As it was intended to.

When we turned in that night the four of us looked everywhere for that alarm clock, but to no avail. We changed our sleeping arrangements so that there was no way they could sneak anything in without disturbing one of us. We all fell asleep, but it was an uneasy sleep. Those boys weren't going to let that go. Payback was coming.

At 3:00 am the alarm went off.

We all woke up and looked at each other in a panic. We knew it wasn't in our tent, but it was so loud! We followed the sound and eventually realized that they'd placed it just outside our tent. By the time we figured this out and got it turned off we were so agitated there would be no getting back to sleep.

We laid on top of our sleeping bags, seething and plotting our next move. We were tired and angry and a lot of our plans included fire. Even in our sleepless state we realized that THAT wasn't a good idea.

The pranking had to end.

The next day, out of parental earshot, we approached the Daves about it. It was easy to get them to agree to a truce, because they'd had the last laugh. All six of us shook on it - there would be no more pranking.

Let me amend that.

There would be no more pranking each other.

While we were drawing up our truce it became apparent that all six of us had really enjoyed the evil creativity that went into a good prank. So we did the only logical thing. We joined forces. The game was no longer boys against girls, it was kids against adults.

It was ON, and the poor, unsuspecting grown-ups didn't even know it.

We decided our first target would be the only couple who did not have children. Well, that's not technically true. They DID have children, but they were grown with children of their own. That hardly counted. Miss Lucy and Mr. Cliff were, for our intents and purposes, childless.

We returned to our trusty alarm clock.

It had served us well.

We set it for 5:00 am. We thought maybe an alarm at 3:00 am might give them a heart attack. After all, they were older than our parents, and our parents were OLD!

The next problem became where to put it. We were all pretty much welcome in everyone's camper, so getting in would be easy. But it was a small space. Distracting them enough to actually be able to secure a hiding place was just too risky.

And then it hit us.

We'd use the boys' frustratingly crafty technique of putting it OUTSIDE their actual van. After they'd turned in, we secured it to their rear bumper, just below their bed. We tied it down with a bit of clothesline so that it wouldn't get bumped or blown off.

What we failed to anticipate was this: An alarm clock on a soft sleeping bag will wake the inhabitants of a tent. An alarm clock on soft dirt and pine needles will wake the inhabitants of a tent. An alarm clock tied loosely to the bumper of a van - vibrating - banging - metal on metal - will wake everyone in a fifty mile radius.

Well, maybe not a fifty mile radius.

But you can bet for sure that it will wake your parents, sleeping in campers on either side of that van.

And you can bet for sure that they won't think is was anywhere NEAR as funny as you thought it was going to be.

And you can bet for sure that the six of us didn't sleep very well the next couple nights, because our parents had quite publicly given Miss Lucy and Mr. Cliff carte blanche with our sorry butts.

Which they never took advantage of.

Even though we were always sort of waiting for it.

Which might have been the most wicked prank of them all.

R.I.P. Mr. Cliff. July 22, 1922 - December 12, 2010

Sunday, December 12, 2010

The Blue Hat

The Christmas Lea was three, all she wanted was a blue hat. This is what she told Santa, this is what she told me, and this is what she told every relative who asked. Lea was the first grandchild to three sets of grandparents, three great-grandparents, and the first baby in years on both sides of the family. She was kind of adored. I'm sure it goes without saying that she got some very lovely blue hats that year. I remember asking my mom to buy her a blue coat so she'd have something to wear them all with. She did. But she bought her a hat, too. For Pete's sake! She was three! And it was all that she wanted! How do you deny that?

Nobody did.

I remember people telling me at the time to enjoy it because it wouldn't be long before all she wanted would be a blue car.

She was three.

I laughed and laughed.

A car.

She was still struggling to write her name.

By the time she was old enough to drive a car, we'd all be using jet packs as our predominant method of transportation.

My little doodlebug driving a car. The very thought.

Before next Christmas she'll have her permit.

The very thought.

Friday, December 3, 2010

Bah, Humbug

There was a Christmas - about one hundred and three years ago - when all I wanted was the latest Donny Osmond album. I mean, I wanted it bad. I could taste the want. The sweet, purple want. I remember the thought going through my head that night, keeping me from sleep, "Please, please, please, if nothing else, PLEASE let me have that album!" It was a mantra - it was a prayer - to God? to Santa Claus? to my parents? I don't know now and I didn't know then - it was just a way to put inadequate words to my deep desire.

The next morning I ran down the stairs. There was a mountain of gifts around the tree, as there was every year. Propped right in the front and center was a flat square gift, addressed to me. My eyes widened. Could it be? I wanted it so badly and there it - probably - was. I picked it up and held it for a moment - wanting to savor that feeling of anticipation. I looked at my parents - roused far too early, but smiling indulgently at me - "Open it!" I ripped back the paper to reveal the face of one harmless, cute boy with big brown eyes and huge white teeth. I hugged it. I squealed. I slit the thin protective covering with my thumbnail and ripped it from the album cover. I slid back the lid of the hi-fi so that I could play it immediately. Surely this would be a grand contribution to the Christmas joy of my entire family. (Christmases yet to come were generally set to soundtracks, too - most memorably Jethro Tull's Aqualung and Queen's News of the World. My parents - lovers of Herb Albert and the Tijuana Brass that they were - could not possibly have appreciated this - but they understood and always allowed it.)

There were more gifts - a lot more - but I couldn't tell you what another one of them was. I had to be torn away from reading the liner notes to even be coerced into opening the rest of my presents. Sigh. That album - which probably set my parents back $7 - was all that I needed or wanted. It satisfied me to my core.

Albums (and tapes and CDs...) were always high on my wish list. Weren't albums great? I mean - you got the music, sure, but you also more often than not got a work of art. Sometimes you got a poster. Usually you got all the lyrics. Generally, there were photos. Every now and then there were stories. Yep. There was a lot more to getting an album than getting some songs to listen to. Getting a new album was an experience.

I can't imagine that the same joy is present when one opens a gift card good for a download.

There is a lack of - tangibility. Maybe that is what is lacking from Christmas present.

I loved buying (and making!) Christmas gifts. I made it a year round activity - carefully choosing items that I felt the recipient would enjoy - cherish, even. I never wanted anyone to feel like they were an afterthought. Oh, and I bought gifts for EVERYbody. If you were in my life, you were getting a present (and it was probably going to be a good one). When I erred, it was always on the side of excess. I lost a boyfriend or two because I went a little prematurely overboard with the giftage, inadvertently creating a situation of obligation and guilt (and probably fear). It wasn't my intent - I just - liked buying gifts. I made a co-worker or two uncomfortable when I presented gifts that were clearly not anticipated. Flowers were generally delivered to me later that day. Again - I'd clearly incited guilt, when all I'd meant to do was spread the love. When my kids were in elementary school, they not only took gifts for their teachers, and for each of their 'specials' teachers (art, gym, music..), but they were also sent with a little bag of treats on the last day before break - lip balms, candies, things like that, which they gave to the crossing guard and the cafeteria workers and, and, and..... I know those people liked being acknowledged, but I know that it meant even more to my kids to be able to give them something.

It feels wonderful to give.

And that is DEFINITELY something that is lacking from Christmas present. We live on a budget and every year it feels like a tight one and every year it manages to get just a little tighter. A few years ago I started really paring down that list of people I bought for. Then I pared it down some more. I stopped sending Christmas cards. I pared it down some more. Then I pared down the amount I could spend on the very small handful of people I still bought for. And then I pared it down some more. This year I am buying next to nothing for next to no-one.

And it makes me sad.

It makes me sad when I'm in a store and I think, "so and so would love that!" And I pick it up and consider it and put it back. I don't exchange gifts with so and so anymore. If I buy something for so and so, then I need to buy something for..... it snowballs quickly and gets out of hand. I walk away, humbug setting in just a little more deeply.

It's hard to decorate a tree that I know will not be buried in presents.

It's hard to go shopping.

It's hard to bake cookies for company that won't be coming - and will be watching their carbs if they do. Entertaining costs money.

I remember loving Christmas...

I used to relate to the Bacchanalian Ghost of Christmas Present. Now I am undeniably a ringer for good old Ebenezer.

What would Donny Osmond think?

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Full Disclosure

Full disclosure (because as I say later in the post, I'm a full disclosure kind of gal) - I had this post mostly written two weeks ago - it was just lacking the actual reviews and pictures - but then I got bronchitis and all bets were off. Better late than never, no?

I returned from the whirlwind vacation I mentioned in my last post to find three boxes waiting for me on the kitchen table. As I mentioned in that last post - times? they are tough. I don't order a lot. But I left for four days and lo and behold - it's like Christmas up in here. I should go away more often for oh so many reasons...

One of those boxes contained the iPad that I will be using for my job. As such, it is a loaner, so I am limited in what I am actually allowed to do with it - but it's still fun to have a new toy! (Even if I can't properly play with it.)

The other two boxes? Patience, my dears. I'll get to it.

This is my dog Molly.

I've talked about Mo once or twice before. If you're a pet lover, you're probably looking at her picture and thinking something along the lines of, "Oh, what a sweet old girl!" And you're right on both counts. She is both sweet and old. But if you're less of a pet lover and more of a furniture lover, you're probably thinking something more along the lines of, "I bet you could knit a sweater with the fur that dog sheds in a week." And you? My furniture loving friend? Would not be accused of exaggeration.

Enter box number two. The Bissell Pet Hair Remover.

Now I'm gonna give you full disclosure, here, because I'm a full disclosure kind of gal. I received this vacuum from CSN Stores in exchange for a review of the product. The following represents my honest opinion. The vacuum was easy to use and really did pick up a lot of fur. My sofa was visibly brighter after just a couple minutes of attention. Two thumbs way up for the pet hair eraser. Now it's just up to us to continue to use it. The first time was fun - a novelty. When it becomes a chore - well - we shall see. We do all wear a lot of black - it would be nice to be able to leave the house after having been on the sofa. Although today one of my kids used it on the other - and that worked pretty well, too...

But there were three boxes, right?

Right you are.

Box number three contained not one, but two Calphalon skillets. I'll review one of them, because I paid for about half of the pair and the other half was provided in exchange for a review. I think it would be pretty safe, however, for you to assume that for the purposes of this review, size doesn't matter and anything said about one will apply to the other.

I used the small pan last night to make Croque Monsieur (almost as fun to say as it is to eat). I wouldn't have needed butter, but I used some anyway. When one's food speaks with a French accent, one ought not play coy with the butter. I made four small sandwiches in the small pan. They browned very evenly and were quite delicious. Tom informs me that clean-up was a breeze. I had to ask, of course, because the one who cooks should never be (and almost never is) the one who cleans. Ok, ok, full disclosure - like I promised. Actually, when I asked, he shrugged and said, "It's a non-stick skillet. What do you want me to say?" Ah, the advantage of poetic license. I wanted, and was therefore able, to make him say, "clean-up was a breeze".

I think it's safe to say that we are both pleased with the skillets.

And the vacuum.

And CSN Stores.

The Universe Conspires

"When you want something, all the universe conspires in helping you to achieve it." ~ Paulo Coelho, The Alchemist

I'll admit it. I never read The Secret. I heard them talking about it on all the talk shows and I politely said "bullshit" into my hand, cleverly disguising it as a cough. If you want things badly enough - really, really want them really, really badly enough - they'll come to you. I'll remove my hand and not even attempt to disguise it as a cough anymore. Bullshit. Can I tell you how many times I've been told, when lamenting my weight issues, "You're just not trying hard enough. If you really want it to happen, it will". BULLSHIT!

Color me jaded if you need to. It's cool. I look good in green.


But recently, the universe conspired.

I have two friends with whom I chatted every day without fail via facebook. I met Sandy once in real life, although we'd been chatting through emails and facebook before that. I met Pam online through Sandy. Sandy had also met her online. It was just one of those things that clicked. It clicked so hard, you may have actually heard it. We are like minded. That's easy to type. It's easy to say. It is much harder to actually find. But we found it, compliments of the wide, wide world of web.

So we chatted.

We shared stories and pictures - we shared big stuff and small stuff. We developed a strong friendship without ever having been in the same room. No - we developed a strong friendship without ever having been on the same continent. Sandy was in Germany, Pam was in Czech Republic, and I was in - Ohio. I think of their lives - and probably with some degree of accuracy - as so much more exciting and sophisticated than mine. They have lived adventures. I have lived - in Ohio.

A few months ago, we had reached the 'I love you, man' point in the relationship and started musing about how lovely it would be to continue our conversations over a glass of wine or a cup of coffee. We were all approaching crossroads of sorts and we were doing it together online. How much nicer would it be to do it in person? They thought we could choose someplace equidistant for them and then I could fly over. Vienna and Prague were tossed around as potential locations for a rendezvous. I smiled every time we talked about it. It was a nice dream. They seemed to think it was a serious possibility, but I knew it would never happen. The flight alone (and if you think I didn't look into it, then I'd like some of what you're smoking) would've cost almost as much as my car. Not my car payment. My car. Things are tight here in Ohio and we live very modestly. When I pictured myself with my friends on a patio sipping wine in Vienna, I somehow always ended up looking a little like Don Quixote fighting off the windmills.

But then, the universe conspired.

Sandy made a spur of the moment decision to return to the states to visit her parents. Pam just as suddenly made the decision to return to the states to stay with her mother for a while.

Now we were all in the same time zone.

Thanks, universe.

I drove to New Jersey with my husband, where I met up with Sandy. She and I took a bus to New York where we met up with Pam. A couple days before this was scheduled to happen, Pam sent a recent picture of herself, afraid we might not recognize her. She needn't have worried. Our hearts called out to each other. We saw her from about a block away and we ran into each others arms and dissolved in the sort of group hug you used to sometimes see at airports, but now only see in movies. We kept touching each others faces and arms as we walked - I think perhaps to assure ourselves that this was really, really real.

We ate, and we talked and we laughed and we shared that wine.

And we will do it again.

Because surely the universe will see the necessity of that.

I'm still not buying into The Secret. But sometimes the universe comes through.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Don't Call Me Daughter

I was poking around on Etsy today, as I am wont to do on days when there are chores to be done which I would rather avoid, when I came across some knit and crocheted items that looked like what I was cranking out in junior high. I smiled, nostalgic. And then I saw the prices. Holy moley! Were they spinning yarn from the previously unshorn hair of virgins? No - as a matter of fact - upon further inspection, they were using the sort of yarn one can pick up at any chain retailer. My immediate thought: If I had attempted to charge half as much for something like that, my father would've been outraged. I heard his voice in my head, "Daughter, be humble."

Back when I did sell my wares, he was constantly accusing me of over-pricing, even when my prices barely covered the costs of my materials. "Price things fairly, Daughter, and remember yourself."

Some parents tell their kids they're great - the best - the sky's the limit - that they are worthy of all the world has to offer and more! I was told to remember myself and be humble.

Back when I did sell my wares, people in the know about such things would tell me not to sell myself short - that people would only desire it if they thought it was expensive. If you don't pay a lot for it, it isn't worth anything. That's some screwed up logic, right there, but I'm sure there's something to it. I tried to compromise - not going as high as they suggested, but not staying as low as the voice in my head - the one that calls me Daughter - approved. I'm sure you've guessed that that pleased no-one. "You are robbing these people, Daughter!" he would say, when he saw my price tags.

I can assure you - I never robbed anyone.

My basic formula was a relatively simple one: I would estimate the cost of the supplies I used and charge 1 1/2 times that. There were variations, of course, when very intricate work was involved, but that was how I typically determined cost. Using my formula, I made pennies per hour - sometimes fractions of pennies per hour - but I rationalized that by saying that I worked while I was watching TV or spending time with my family - things that I enjoyed doing and would've been doing anyway. Plus - I enjoyed my craft. How could I assign an hourly wage to something I loved?

This is all sounding pretty negative and perhaps you're thinking my father was a little harsh with me. Well, he was. But there were other lessons that went hand in hand with those of humility and fairness. By reminding me of those things - remembering myself - he reminded me that I was worth neither more nor less than anyone else. That NOone was worth more or less than anyone else - regardless of how much some folks thought they were - were TAUGHT that they were. Remember yourself, Daughter. Don't put yourself on a pedestal - you don't belong there. But don't denigrate yourself, either, because you certainly do not deserve that. Remember yourself.

I was taught - sometimes directly, sometimes by inference - that it didn't matter what the circumstances of your birth were - that didn't determine your worth. That the color of your skin, or your height, or the size of your bank account didn't determine your worth. That your character was not determined by the gender of the person you chose to spend your nights with. That the size of your house said nothing about the person that you were. That - in a word - you just needed to remember yourself.

Well, I remember myself pretty well, I think.

But a few extra bucks wouldn't hurt.

I'd re-open my Etsy shop in a minute if I thought I could make money like that for things I could churn out in a couple hours while I watched a movie. Or would I? "You're robbing those people, Daughter! How can you sleep at night?"

Well, not on 1,000 thread count sheets, that's for damn sure.

Sunday, October 31, 2010

Listen to Me!

One piece of the program I'm currently working on in preschools involves a twist on the standard show and tell (mostly tell) format. Traditionally, the kids sit in a circle and each gets a turn to share their story. It's an important part of the preschool curriculum. Children need to share their stories. However - it's a part of the day many preschool teachers do not particularly look forward to - although for the most part, they love hearing those stories. The problem arises when you have 15-20 three and four year-olds each waiting for a whole lot of other kids to tell their story before and or after they've already finished their own. That's a LONG time to wait, for kids that age. When our expectations exceed their developmental abilities, trouble begins.

Think to a class or group you've attended where everyone had to introduce and share a little information about themselves. This is interesting and fun for almost no-one. I want to say that your behavior, when you became frustrated and bored, was probably better than that of a preschooler, but perhaps I'm giving you more credit than is due. I had students do that for a while, myself, before I realized what a time-suck it was and that I - as the teacher - was really the only one getting anything out of it. I devised another way to collect the information I needed that didn't involve a WHOLE LOT of wait time for the entire group. (apologies to those of you who may have encountered me before that particular revelation...)

This piece of the program on which I am working acknowledges that need to share information while eliminating the LONG wait times. Children are partnered and each tells his or her story to their partner, then listens to their partner's story in turn. When I first asked my teachers to do this, they were skeptical. "The kids want everyone to hear their stories! We are doing them a disservice!" After two days, they realized that the kids didn't need everyone to hear their stories - they just needed SOMEone to hear their stories. The teachers experimented with pairings - friends with friends, kids who never played together, same gender, mixed genders - it didn't seem to matter. As long as SOMEone listened to what they had to say, they were happy.

A friend of mine recently told me about a little boy in her class who loves to raise his hand - and loves to be called on - but has a hard time speaking in front of the group, therefore freezing. Her solution? Position herself (or another adult) near him so that he can whisper the answers to them without wasting class time. He is pleased - he gets to do the talking that he wants/needs to do without the stress and pressure of having all eyes on him. It is a win/win.

This phenomena - needing to have our words be heard - is hardly exclusive to children. This weekend I did a gig serving samples at a grocery store. So many people - SO. MANY. PEOPLE. - approached my table, not so much because they were interested in what I was hawking, but because they wanted someone to hear their words - to listen to their stories. A few folks craved dialogue, and with them I engaged in a little back and forth, but the vast majority just wanted someone to talk to, not with. I was extremely indulgent - providing them with smiles for their jokes and sincere concern for their tales of woe; a mirror in which their own stories could be reflected.

And they left happy.

And I was happy. Because I wasn't the only one serving as a mirror.


Tell someone your story today. We all need to be heard. But don't forget to listen to theirs as well. It isn't just a good idea for preschoolers.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Drop It

So the lovefest is over. I now return you to my regularly scheduled self-loathing, already in progress.

I'm mostly kidding...

I kept my word yesterday. I didn't entertain a single bad thought about this shell in which I walk around the world. (And when I say, 'world', I mostly mean Ohio...) That's mostly because I was kept very busy with other, more pressing thoughts. Thoughts like:

Will there EVER be enough money?

Why do I insist on continuing to do things that I've proven over and over that I'm not very good at?

What kind of wine goes best with camping?

How are we going to manage Thanksgiving for 9 people in my sister's tiny apartment?

When my sister was married, she lived in a house that was both bigger and nicer than mine. When my parents would come to visit, they would obviously opt to stay with her. I understood that, but there was a period of time when my kids did not. It didn't help that their cousin sort of rubbed it in during that same time period - telling them that Memaw and Pepaw were coming to see her - not them.


When my parents would come in to babysit for my niece, they stayed at her house, even when my sister wasn't there. When they would come to babysit my kids, she'd say, "We'll just bring them over to Wendy's for the weekend - that will be easier for everyone." I'm not sure how she figured packing a bag for the weekend because their parents were going away without them was easier for my kids - but I've learned not to spend too much time trying to unravel other people's logic. (That's totally a lie. I still spend WAY too much time trying to unravel other people's logic in an attempt to make it make sense to me. But I HAVE learned that it's a waste of time, so I try to deny doing it at all. How'm I doing with that so far?)

When my sister moved into the small apartment, I assumed that that would change. Now I was in the larger place - clearly mine would be the house out of which they would base.


My parents visited this week and opted to stay with my sister in her apartment. Ok. It's the first time they've visited since she moved out. I figured they just wanted to get comfortable in her new space (and with her new situation). Then talk turned to Thanksgiving. It seems that everyone but me assumed that we would have dinner at my sister's apartment. Now my house is not all that nice. And it's not all that big. But it's bigger than an apartment, for Pete's sake.

A girls' ego could take a bruising, y'know?


The apartment is not yet fully furnished (yet it remains superior to my house, in terms of entertaining!!!!! Can you tell I'm a little bitter? Damn. I'd hoped I was hiding that a little better...), but it will be by then. She had been looking for a small table for her dining nook and was debating between a couple choices. I mentioned it's a small apartment, right? I did? Good. Now that she knows she'll continue entertaining the family in her small space (Am I being a little heavy-handed with the 'small' stuff? Sorry.) one thing becomes clear: She's gonna need to look at drop leaf tables.

Did you see how pretty those tables were? The perfect solution to entertaining a large crowd in a small space.

Me? I'll just arrive when I'm told to arrive and bring what I'm told to bring and leave when it's time to leave.

I'm in my late 40's. Think it might be time for me to drop more than the sides of a table? Yeah, you're probably right.

I'll work on that.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Love It!

Today is Love Your Body Day. As I've already had to explain to my husband (Hi, Tom. Love you. Mean it.), that does not mean it is national masturbation day. Everyone knows that that distinction belongs to Joan Jett's birthday, and it's already passed us by this year. And, while I reckon that's one way to love your body, this day is about other ways. Love with a capital 'L'.

I spend a good bit of time on this blog talking about the things I don't like about my body. I'm a product of my environment, what can I say? But not today. If I start, stop me. Many recovery groups promise: Just for today, I will _________. Well, just for today, I will not hate my body. I will not say bad things about it or think bad thoughts about it. I will treat my body well today. I will feed it well and give it a chance to move. Move? I'll let it dance... I will be thankful for all of the wonderful things it can do rather than dwell on all of the things it cannot. I will be thankful for the battle wounds - the proof that it bore me children - that it has lived and loved for almost five decades. Those scars tell a story - and it's a good one. The story of me.

Just for today, I will love my body.

I will extend that love to everyone else I encounter today - not burdening them or me with unnecessary or unkind judgments.

I will encourage the young people in my life to love their bodies, too. I will remind them that they are not too fat or too skinny or too tall or too short or too - well - they're not too anything. They're just the right bodies to tell the story of them.

I will love my body, today - and I challenge you to do the same. Just for today. See how it goes. We may just find we want to continue the love affair tomorrow.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Smells Like Teen Spirit

My daughter takes music lessons at a local college (no, not 'THE' local college - 'A' local college). She meets with her instructor in his office in the music building and they do their funky thing while I wait in the student lounge.

The first couple weeks of this, I was nearly overwhelmed by nostalgia. It felt like the music building in MY college. The bulletin boards offered the same information. The students with whom I shared the lounge had the same conversations my friends had 25-30 years ago. It even smelled like my old music building (Cogswell Hall, holla!). This smell, by the way, I would be hard put to describe. It is neither particularly pleasant nor particularly unpleasant. It is neutral, but distinctive, with undertones of valve oil.

I really started to look forward to taking her to her lessons - to sit in that lounge and smell those smells and hear those sounds - scales and warm-up exercises from various instruments in various practice rooms. I would look around at the students draped over the chairs in the lounge, talking about their classes and their professors, bitching a little but clearly into it. I wondered if any of them were falling in love and was certain that some of them must be. A campus in the fall is a very good place to fall in love. I may be projecting. At a very young age, I fell in love with campuses in general and campuses in the fall specifically. My love has never faltered.

But I've digressed.

Last week, a large group of students were having a meeting in the lounge and there was no where for me to sit, so my daughter's instructor invited me into the practice room for her lesson. How many nights I spent, sitting on the floor of a practice room waiting for a friend to walk me home. In the fall. On campus. I started to sit on the floor in the corner, but her instructor wouldn't hear of it and got me a folding chair. I would've rather been on the floor. Stupid instructor, reminding me that I'm old. "Here you go, Mrs. Howard." Ugh.

This week, I was able to sit in the lounge again. There was a small group of students having a meeting and sharing a couple pizzas, but I figured I could sit with my back to them and not be an intrusion.

The young lady leading the group was so self important I didn't know whether I wanted to laugh out loud at her or shake her silly little self. I had placed myself as far away from the group as I could get, and I had my back to them, but what she had to say was so very, very important that she was projecting across the whole lobby. In fairness, music and theater go hand in hand and no one can emote like a musical theater person. But still. It was pretty obnoxious.

She was planning a fundraiser. I chuckled to myself when she mispronounced the names of several prominent clubs downtown. Don't think me TOO mean. If she hadn't been playing the big shot so hard, I wouldn't have laughed at a simple, honest mistake. I am actually very generally tolerant. But she was acting like such a jackass that the rules changed a little bit. She went into a long spiel about how you need to deal with club owners and how they think and what they like and what they'll respond to. She expressed all of this with a great deal of confidence. And then announced that someone else would have to take care of it, because she wasn't old enough to enter a club.

I had to grab the handles on my chair to brace myself.

My nostalgic trip down memory lane came to a grinding halt.

I had enjoyed remembering the more romantic aspects of college life - of MY life a couple few decades ago. I enjoyed, as I may have perhaps mentioned, the sights and smells and sounds of a music building, on a small campus, in the fall. I did NOT like being reminded of how naive it all was. She really felt like the cock of the walk. She thought she knew everything. She knows nothing. And she's gonna figure that out someday and it's gonna suck. I felt almost bad for having laughed at her - even if it was only internal. The bigger they come, the harder they fall and all that.

(For the 12 year olds in my midst, yes, the last paragraph contained the words: cock, suck, bigger and harder. And the paragraph that preceded it, come to think of it, contained: grinding. Go ahead. Beavis and Butthead it up. He. Hehe. I'll wait.)

So I left campus last night remembering not how it felt to be young and have the whole future in front of me, but remembering, instead, how it felt when the world crashed in and that future became more limited. When I found out I didn't know as much as I thought I did - when nothing was the way it was supposed to be anymore.


Next week, I might wait in the car.

Sobbing quietly and sniffing a bottle of valve oil.

Saturday, October 9, 2010

Where's Tut?

I am spending a beautiful fall weekend visiting with my parents. Beautiful does not begin to do it justice. Exquisite, glorious, pulchritudinous... if there is a fault to be found with this weekend, it would be that it is almost a little too warm for October. As a complaint, that holds about as much validity as: My husband is just a little too generous, or, I wish my children would stop doing extra chores without being asked, or, for my gentlemen readers, her breasts are just too darn large.


What's the best way to spend a perfect fall day? Driving over the mountain to take in the foliage on the way to a craft show, of course. Tom and Lea opted out, which I am still trying to understand. It's a head scratcher. Mom, Liv and I are fans of craft shows. Dad likes live music and homemade donuts and he had reason to believe he'd be able to score both if he drove us to the show. Plus - he saw the attitude I was giving Tom about staying behind and probably knew that whatever I was dishing out to my husband, my mother would deal out a hundredfold to him.

Tut is no fool.

We neared the venue and there were detours because of road closures for the festival and the parade that had preceded it. Just before the detour we had passed several lots offering parking for $5. We'd passed them by, certain that we could get closer, but as the detour moved us farther and farther away from our course, this seemed less and less likely.

"Why didn't you park when we had a chance?"

I smiled. I KNEW it was going to be my dad's fault. It's always my dad's fault.

He turned down an alley, hoping for - I didn't really know what at the time. It turned out to be a fortuitous move. At the end of the alley, butting up against the very section of the show we were most interested in visiting, a group of youngsters were offering parking for $6. WELL worth the extra $1, we agreed. As we pulled up, they were posting their 'lot full' sign. I was trying to imagine how this was going to be Dad's fault (because I guarantee you that it would've been), when one of the boys approached my side of the car. I pushed the button to open my window, but nothing happened. I pulled it. Still nothing. I opened my door.

"If you're comfortable backing in," he said, speaking over me to my dad, "we can squeeze you in way back there in the back."


"Back there."

"What do you want me to do?"

"You'll have to back in."


"Back here, sir. I'll guide you in."

The boy started directing us, from my side of the car, but I still couldn't open my window and the lot was too crowded for Dad to back in with my door open. The boy chuckled a little and went over to Dad's side of the car. After hitting several buttons, Dad managed to open his window.

The boy was coaching him like a pro, while my mom started in about the passenger window from the back seat.

"You hit the childproof lock button."


"You're ok, sir, plenty of room, come on back."

"The childproof button! Why do you DO that?"


"Cut it to the right a little, sir... plenty of room..."

"I've told you a million times not to hit that button. OOOOH! Why do you DO that? You do this ALL THE TIME!"

"You're doing great, sir. Come on back a little further, you're fine."

"HIT THAT BUTTON! Unlock these windows!"

"You're good, sir, right there."

The young man walked away, no doubt ready to talk to his buddies about why people over a certain age should have to retest for their driver's license every year. To be fair, my dad was driving just fine. He just - um - didn't know how to work his car... And in his defense - there are an AWFUL lot of buttons...

He put the car in park and Liv and I jumped out. There was a force as strong as gravity pulling me towards those tents. But Mom and Dad were still in the car. "Put that key back in and fix those windows before we go anywhere."

He did.

We walked to the show and it did not disappoint. I hate it when I get all geared up for a craft show and it's full of 'look what I can do with a glue gun' crafts. This one was full of wood and leather and fiber and silver and pottery. Yes, please.

I had just purchased a pretty pair of silver earrings and Liv was looking at some carvings of owls when Dad decided he'd like to get a head start on the promise of music and donuts. He arranged a meeting spot with Mom and he trotted off in the direction of the bandstand. The three of us shopped to our little hearts content and suffered not a moment's guilt for having abandoned him. When we'd had our fill, we headed to the designated meeting spot.

No Tut. "Where could he BE? OOOOOOH, that man..."

"Why doesn't he carry a phone?"

"I took it away. He didn't know how to use a phone."

Ok, I can buy this. After all, he couldn't manage the windows on his car...

"You should get him an iPhone."

"He couldn't even use his simple calls only phone - he'd never be able to use an iPhone."

"I know. But they have a GPS app and you can always see where he is. We're thinking of getting them for the kids..."

Upon relaying this story after we got home, Lea suggested installing a chip - like you would for a dog. I'll skip the DNA test, I'm pretty sure she's mine...

She looked some more - it was REALLY crowded. I mentioned that it was a beautiful day and an excellent craft show, right? We weren't the only ones who decided to take advantage of this. I started to panic myself. How were we ever going to find him?

Of course, we did. He was on the very corner upon which they'd agreed. But he was sitting by a garbage can, and she - as she expressed more than once - never expected him to be sitting by a garbage can. "A garbage can! Why would anyone sit by a garbage can? OOOOOOH, that man..." Poor guy, he was just seeking some shade. The shade of the trees was all occupied. He took what was left to him.

And he never did find any donuts.

Thursday, September 30, 2010

You Can't SayThat!

As Banned Books Week draws to a close, I thought it would be a good time to revisit the concept of forbidden fruit and the sweetness thereof.

Every year, when the list of books that have been challenged is posted, I shake my head in wonder. Then I make sure I've read everything on said list that I care to read. Sometimes something new and salacious slips under my radar. If someone (who I imagine with facial features pinched so tightly that eyes, nose and lips all merge into one scrunchy almost indiscernible feature in the middle of their face) thinks it needs to be removed from the shelves, well, it must be something worth reading. We certainly watched that happen when Tipper's folks succeeded in slapping parental warning stickers on recorded material. A parental warning sticker is as attractive to a kid buying albums as a big red clearance sign is to a bargain shopper. (I know - albums - blah blah blah - shut up and let me enjoy my crone years... and get off my lawn. Damn hoodlums.)

I am particularly offended by books that are challenged for using words that have since been deemed politically incorrect. Ok, here's the thing: I cuss like a sailor. I'm not particularly proud of it, but I'm not particularly ashamed of it, either. I cuss. A lot. But I never say the 'N' word. Never, never, never. That offends me. HOWEVER... to pretend that it was a word that was never casually used is revisionist. Attempts to ban books like Tom Sawyer or To Kill a Mockingbird or Gone With the Wind (to name just a few examples) based on their use of this word is ludicrous. That is how it was and this is how it is. We need to have enough faith in our kids to believe that they will be able to sort that out. Hey! We can even act like parents and teachers and responsible adults and HELP them sort it out. The offensive nature of this word (and others like it) is not nearly as dangerous as the offensive nature of ignorance. We can't ignore history just because it's sometimes ugly. Those who ignore history... aw, you know the rest...

I am not offended so much as I'm tickled when I hear criticisms of books that refer to menstruation, or erections, or sexual curiosity that are geared towards the 12-15 year old reader. Boy, howdy, you better believe that these books are not INTRODUCING these concepts to kids this age! Kids this age are just entering this world and it can be confusing and scary. Books can provide validation.

The last point I want to make is that parents know what is right for their child and certainly have a right to tell their own child, "I don't want you reading this." When I was in fifth grade, The Exorcist was hot. I wanted to read it in a bad sort of way. My mother said, "Absolutely not." Well, of course, that only served as encouragement. I got my hands on a copy and devoured it. Surprisingly, sleep did not come easy after I turned that last page. My mother refused to offer me any comfort. I'd made my (levitating) bed and I was going to have to lie in it. My mother, of course, was right. This was not an appropriate choice for me at that point in my life. But I did exactly what human nature compels us to do when we're told we can't have something: I sought it much harder than I would have had it been offered freely to me.

So go ahead. Keep challenging those books. It's the best way in the world to guarantee that they continue to be read.

Monday, September 20, 2010

Meat is Murder (Tasty, Tasty Murder)

Thus reads the T-shirt of my eldest. My youngest, as you may remember, is a vegetarian.

Yeah, Liv has taken a little ribbing (mmmmmm....ribs.....) about her vegetarian lifestyle ever since she made the decision to follow it. It is usually not meant to cause offense. Sometimes people ask her questions about her choices and she's always been able to answer them. As I've said before, she is a cool little chickadee who has never tried to impose her beliefs on anyone else. She has, however, always held firm to her own personal convictions.

So today Liv comes home from school and says to me (she says), "I hate the boys at the next table at lunch."

I nodded for her to continue. A story about obnoxious behavior from Jr. High boys isn't exactly ground breaking stuff. I didn't even put down my knitting. "What happened?"

"Well, this boy, he said, 'why did you made a cow backpack?' and I said, 'because I like cows and it's hug a vegetarian day.'" (actually, that's not till the 24th - but it's hardly the point...)

"Did he hug you?"

"Not exactly. When I got up to put my tray away, I came back to my seat and there was half a hamburger on it."

I put my knitting down and gave her my full attention. "That's bullying, pure and simple."

She shrugged. "I guess. People throw meat at me all the time in the cafeteria when they find out I'm a vegetarian."

"They THROW meat at you?" (That sound you hear is a momma bear being poked with a stick...or - more accurately - the sound of a momma bear who has just heard about her cub being poked with a stick...)

"Yeah. Once it hit my baritone mouthpiece and I almost cried because I have to put my mouth on that every day."

"You need to talk to your school counselor about this", I said, trying rather unsuccessfully to remain calm.

She shrugged again. "I don't even know exactly which boy it is. It might even be a couple. I'm not even sure what table they sit at."

"Liv, sweetie, this is NOT OK."

Another shrug. She's resigned to it. No big deal. I can tell she's already regretting having mentioned it to me.

So here's my dilemma: I don't want to be THAT MOM. I think kids should fight their own battles OR go through the proper channels at school. Mommy doesn't have any place in that chain. But DAMMIT - people are throwing MEAT at my sweet little tree-hugger and SHE'S COOL WITH IT! That's where it becomes ok to become THAT MOM, isn't it? I can't call the school till tomorrow. I have tonight to think on it.

I think I need to call, though.

Just don't start calling me THAT MOMmakin...

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Cheesecake and Cupcakes

So Tom has a gig tonight playing at a burlesque show. I thought it might be a good chance to break out of my frumpy shell and wear something fun - not that anyone will be paying any attention to a middle aged fat chick, no matter WHAT she's wearing - at a burlesque show - but it was my thought and I was entitled to it. I went to Kohl's, because I heard that's where ALL the sexy big gals shop. Or maybe it was just because I had a coupon for 30% off my purchase and there were door busters. It's hard to say. Anyway.

I hit clothes first. Obvious, right? But no - there was nothing there I couldn't imagine my mother wearing - and that didn't go a long way towards making me feel like a hottie. Not that my mom isn't an attractive woman, because she certainly is. But - well - oh, come on - I don't need to explain this to you.

On to shoes. Oh. They had some cute shoes. They had some hot, sexy, cute, cute ca-ute shoes. None of which were made to support the ankles of a woman who has been carrying this much weight for this many years. Leave the cute shoes - like every other fucking thing - to the young 'uns. But wait! What's this? Super-cute shoes with a stacked wedge heel and a little peep toe. And on CLEARANCE!!! My hands were shaking as I pulled a pair of those little stocking things out of the box so that I could try them on. Not in anticipation, just 'cause my hands generally shake. But I thought I'd amp the drama. It's a trip to Kohl's, for Pete's sake, a girl's gotta do what a girl's gotta do. I put the shoes on and they were a perfect fit. Comfortable too. But the shape - right at the peep toe - was just wrong.

It was then that I realized I was going to cry. My arms are too fat for sleeveless, my ass too big for tight, my knees too old and fat for short, my belly too - just, too... I've come to terms with all of that, more or less. But now my FEET are flawed? This just takes unfair to a whole 'nother level. And in 5 hours my handsome husband was going to be surrounded by bodacious babes. Fuck! Fuck! Fuck!!! I looked for a quiet spot in Kohl's in which to indulge in my breakdown without alarming my fellow shoppers and it was at that moment that a hot flash hit. Oh, good! Because I was paying so much attention to my body flaws that I'd almost FORGOTTEN how freaking OLD I am! It wasn't one of those gradual ones, either. I was fine one second and the internal flame was turned up to eleven the next. I gripped the handle on my buggy - prepared to ride the trip to hell and back out - when I heard laughter. I looked around to see who it was and, much to my surprise, it was me.

Because you laugh or cry. And laughing is almost always better.

So I laughed.

I laughed till I had tears.

I don't know if anyone noticed me or not, I was pretty self-involved.

And then, when the heat subsided and the laughter died down and the tears were wiped away, I bought a new muffin tin.

Because I may never be able to be sexy again. Or young. Or relevant.

But I can have cupcakes.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

All We Need is Love

My girlies went to school with LOVE written on their arms today. I normally don't approve of them writing on themselves (not that that stops them), but today I encouraged it. September 5-10 is Suicide Prevention Week and today is Write Love on Your Arm day. Don't cut your arm - write LOVE on it.

Severe depression doesn't discriminate based on age, gender, race, religion, national origin or sexual preference. I bet you know someone who suffers from it - maybe a few someones. I know a few someones. A few someones who I love very dearly. The knowledge that the world sometimes feels like more than they can handle breaks my heart. I want to hug and comfort them. I want to slap them and shake some sense into them. Neither of those reactions has a very good track record.

But I can love them.

And I can support them.

And I can encourage them to seek therapy and professional help. It's out there.

And HERE'S something we ALL can do: We can work to erase the stigma of depression and mental illness so that people are no longer reluctant to seek treatment. We can stop talking about it in hushed tones and treating sufferers like pariahs. We can wear our hearts on our sleeves and our love on our arms.

Monday, August 30, 2010

Sex (Deleted), Drugs (Deleted) and Rock and Roll

I was going to write a post about the Rush show that was rife with sex, drugs and rock and roll. Then I remembered: My kids have access to this blog. My kids' friends have access to this blog. Relatives who speak to my mother on a regular basis have access to this blog. Steven Tyler once said, after a stint in rehab, "It used to be about sex, drugs and rock and roll. When you eliminate the drugs, you have a lot more time for sex and rock and roll." (gist rather than a direct quote - I didn't look it up - but I clearly remember reading it...) Well, that's great for his life and all - but if I eliminate sex and drugs from this particular post, we have me talking about concerts in the 70's with no mention of marijuana and - well - that's just plumb weird - not to mention vaguely revisionist. So here's what I did: I wrote the post as I wanted it to read, then I took out all the sex and drug references and replaced them with sexual reference deleted or drug reference deleted. Now. If you were born of my loins, or hang out with someone who was born of my loins, or regularly speak to one of the 'rents, sexual references refer to kissing and drug references refer to nicotine. Clearly. If you do NOT fall into one of those groups, you will have to use what I'm sure are the considerable powers of your imagination to fill in the gaps. I have faith in you that it will lose nothing (and perhaps gain something, ya perv) in the translation.

I was introduced to Rush like I was introduced to so many cool things in my life: by a boy with long curly hair. He invited me to a concert - they were touring A Farewell to Kings (or maybe - Hemispheres - I don't actually remember) and I bought Fly by Night to listen to to gear up for the show. I liked it ok, but I was really more interested in making an impression on this boy than I was in this music. It must have worked, because my drug reference deleted addled memories of the show involve a lot of sexual reference deleted.

It was ok. I wasn't ready.

A few years later, my cousin's drug reference deleted boyfriend became obsessed with 2112. He would expound upon the themes of non-conformity and futuristic societies like he knew what he was talking about. (In retrospect, I'm pretty sure he didn't.) It was all good, though, because he always had drug reference deleted. I was starting to dig the music.

When I went to college, I dated a music major and most of my roommates and friends were music majors or otherwise heavily involved in music. I learned a little bit through them by osmosis. I started to understand musical composition and I learned to appreciate the complexities set forth by this band. My freshman year coincided with the release of Moving Pictures and that went into heavy rotation in the soundtrack of my life. I didn't see that tour, but the boyfriend did - and my favorite nightshirt all through my college career was his T-shirt from said tour.

I got a chance to see them live again when they were touring Power Windows. This was significant, in that it was the first show that ever literally knocked me on my ass. I was standing on my seat (as I was wont to do in the days when I was younger, thinner, and inconsiderate towards anyone who wasn't me) when I felt my knees begin to weaken. I stepped down off of the seat, but found that I couldn't even stand on terra firma. I sunk back into my seat, my head reeling. I really couldn't stand up. I was so overwhelmed by the power of these three men - by the unthinkable talent with which I was sharing the room that I found it hard to even breathe.

I was ready now, kids.

I didn't get another opportunity to see them until last night. While they are promoting a soon to be released album - Clockwork Angels - this tour was really touted as the Time Machine tour. They played a couple songs from the new release - they had a much harder edge to them, which I absolutely dug - but concentrated more heavily on showcasing the old stuff. Their second set, for example, was a song for song replay of Moving Pictures.

Yep. The Time Machine tour. And let's face it: no-one rocks a theme like a nerd. Everything about the stage set was a nod to the time machine theme. There were little movies and even a little live action drama (and pyrotechnics!). Total multi-media experience. I'm not going to give away any secrets, twists, surprises or jokes, because I know some of you will be going to see them yourselves - I certainly hope so, for your sake, anyway. Let me just say, though, that once or twice I could almost feel the elbows of three of the most talented musicians in the world in my ribs while saying, "get it? get it?"

When they opened with Spirit of the Radio, I don't mind telling you, my friends - I wept just a little bit.

One likes to believe in the freedom of music,
but glittering prizes and endless compromises,
shatter the illusion of integrity.

Sexual reference deleted - A.

Tom says that's why there aren't many girls at Rush shows. There's no crying in rock and roll. Tom can sexual reference deleted.

Speaking of the men::women ratio - my girls came back from the restroom at intermission saying, "Mom! You've got to go out there! You're not going to believe it!"


"There was a line at the mens' room and NO line at the ladies' room! We just went in and out!"

Yep. It's a pretty male heavy crowd. Women were underrepresented, but we were there. Swooning. That's right, I said swooning. Not because Geddy, Alex and Neil are so incredibly nice to look at (because, seriously - let's call a spade a spade, here...) but because they are masters of their craft - individually and as a group. It is humbling to be in the presence of that much raw talent. It is astounding to think that so much power comes from three men. In several songs, Geddy played keyboards - he kept his bass strapped on and returned to it when he needed to - going back and forth between the two. I don't think anyone would've judged them if they'd brought a keyboard player in for a couple songs (Tom said he would've judged them...), but they didn't. All three were playing with both hands and both feet. Literally. It's quite the amazing little set up, but you don't hear a sound that one of the three of them isn't responsible for. They are what they are.

And can I talk for five seconds about Neil Peart? Nope - turns out I can't. The man leaves me speechless. I will say this, though: I was awfully glad that my little drummer had a chance to see him live.

Was it good parenting, to take our children to a concert the night before their first day of school? It was a choice.

If you choose not to decide, you still have made a choice.

I don't regret it. As aspiring musicians, they saw the absolute pinnacle of musicianship firsthand. As writers and readers they were exposed to some of the most intense lyrics ever written. As kids who live on the fringes of the social dynamics of the suburban high school, they were exposed to the ultimate success of the ultimate nerds. That's an education, my friends, and something they'll remember forever.

Friday, August 27, 2010

Something Cool (For my Heart of Squealy Fangirl Hearts)

Ok, first let me tell you something NOT cool: I am STILL sans camera, so there are no pictures to accompany this post and that is a damn shame. We'll just have to rely on my words and your imaginations and hope that both are up to the task.

Remember a couple weeks ago when I told you about the Heart concert and Lea's panic attack and the a-hole security folks? Two days after I posted that, I got an email from someone within the Heart organization. Wait - let me backtrack. We were at the shore for a couple days - it was one of those vacations where we didn't really sleep in the same bed more than two nights in a row. (Kind of like grad school, but with less tequila.) At the destination farthest from our home, and two days after the concert fiasco, we had tire trouble. As we were wasting precious shore time in the waiting room of the garage I decided to check my email.

"OhmyGodOhmyGodOhmyGod!" I squeed quietly, trying to stay cool in front of all of the other patrons of the Atlantic City Pep Boys - wouldn't want to lose face in front of total strangers in a garage, you know.

"What?" Tom asked with widened eyes - clearly afraid that I was going to cross that line and make us look foolish. I handed him my phone.

It was an email from someone within the Heart organization. Apparently someone had posted a link to my humble little blog on one of their fan pages. She expressed sympathy that our concert experience had been sub-par and asked for the name of the venue so that they could send a strongly worded letter. She also asked for my address so that she could send me 'something cool'.

Something cool arrived today. Cool, cool, cool.

A yellow mailing envelope had been stuffed into my mailbox and the squeeing began the moment I saw the return address. I was tearing it open on my way in to the house, fingers trembling. The fine folks at Heart sent me a beautiful T-shirt, a tote bag (and we all know - I LOVE me some bags!!!!!) and an autographed picture.

I am awash in squealy fangirl glee. The T is white with a cool angel motif. The bag is from the 30th anniversary of the release of Dog and Butterfly (30 years??? THAT can't be right...) and the autographed picture is - well - it's Ann and Nancy. How could THAT not be gorgeous?

They have a new album - CD - release - coming out on Tuesday. We were lucky enough to hear one song from it before we had to leave the concert and let me just say - from what I heard - my girls and their band are in good form. So that will be entering MY collection, for sure. It's titled Red Velvet Car and - in her pre-song banter - Ann described a red velvet car as (I'm paraphrasing) that friend you can wake from a deep sleep and say 'pick me up' and they jump out of bed and come to your rescue, no questions asked.

Friends like that restore your faith in humanity, don't they?

Organizations like Heart's do that, too. They didn't owe me a darn thing. The email alone thrilled me to my squealy fangirl core. That someone found my little blog - and went to the trouble of linking it - and someone else went to the trouble of contacting me - it was enough. It was more than I'd ever dreamed of in my heart of squealy fangirl hearts. But they went further. They didn't have to do that, but they did.

I'll have to think of a way to pay this forward.

I'm going to bed tonight confident in the knowledge that (at least some) people are good.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Follow the Yellow Brick Road

Liv loves The Wizard of Oz. She loves it to the point of obsession. When she first discovered the movie, somewhere around the time she was three, she put it in constant rotation. She cried and carried on when anyone wanted to watch anything else. I told her about how back in my day, when dinosaurs roamed the earth, we only got to watch it once a year. Her reaction clearly demonstrated that she felt that this was tantamount to abuse.

She had the movie. She had the soundtrack. And she had the ruby slippers. Oh boy, did she have the ruby slippers. She had ruby slippers through at least three size changes. I think she may have worn her ruby slippers to bed.

She didn't stop there, either. My mom made her a (spot on!) Dorothy dress for Halloween one year. She wanted to wear it every day. When I told her she couldn't wear it EVERY day, because I had to WASH it sometimes, tantrums of epic proportions ensued. Memaw to the rescue. She didn't make her another full on costume, but she made her two little blue gingham jumpers. So now my daughter could dress like Dorothy every day. And did. When the weather got cold, making it necessary to cover her bare legs, more tantrums occurred. "Dorothy does not wear tights! Dorothy wears blue socks!" I told her she could wear blue socks over her tights, but that wasn't authentic enough. I finally found some flesh colored tights in toddler sizes and she reluctantly acquiesced. She still shot me the stink eye when she had to put them on, but at least her little legs were covered.

She yelled at me one day for having been so thoughtless as to name her Olivia, when clearly she should have been named Dorothy. She asked if there was anything we could do to change it and make it right.

She had a blue gingham comforter and my sister painted a mural of The Emerald City on her wall. Above her bed we wrote, "There's no place like home." We had the playbill from the local Childrens' Theater Company's production of The Wizard of Oz framed. She had the Barbie's and the Madame Alexander's as well as every other toy available. She had music boxes and snow globes and figurines. If this makes her sound spoiled, rest assured, she was not. She was just so obsessed - she really had little else. It made her pretty easy to buy gifts for, because she absolutely did not mind duplicates.

Once she became old enough to read - she'd ditched the costumes by this point, but the room decor remained - she started obtaining copies of the book. She had several - picture books and abridged versions and unabridged versions and pop-up books and annotated versions. Tom read an original version to us as a family between Harry Potter books one year. Do you know I'd never actually read it before that? Once she learned that the ruby slippers were really supposed to be silver - well - let's just say there was a minor crisis of faith and leave it at that.

Somewhere in that time period Tom and I read Wicked. We didn't exactly become obsessed (Giving your suburban home a steampunk makeover isn't unusual, right? Right?), but we did squeeeee every time Gregory Maguire released a new book. When the musical came out, there were large displays in Barnes and Noble (a frequent haunt of cool folks like us) and Liv was immediately intrigued. "This is about The Wizard of Oz?" Tom and I explained the basic premise, and she was in. We bought her the soundtrack and it got heavy rotation. The show, however, was a little out of our financial reach.

It toured once and we had to miss it. That was a rough month.

Liv became old enough to read Wicked. And she did. Several times. She informed me that the name Elphaba (the Wicked Witch, if you've been living under a rock and didn't know) came from L. Frank Baum's initials. Try to pronounce LFB and see what you get. I hadn't known that. If you hadn't known it either, you learned it from Liv, not me.

I loved watching her grow - watching her follow her own yellow brick road, if you'll indulge me. From the little girl in the ruby slippers to the young lady discussing the politics of Wicked; watching her go from black and white to vivid color to muted hues.

Last night? We finally took her to see Wicked. It was a good show. Changes were made from the book (which I read once and Tom read twice and Liv read countless times) but we all agreed that they worked. The music and showmanship were amazing. Far better than that, though, was the look I saw on my daughter's face every time I glanced her way. It was like the culmination of a lifelong dream for her. My baby girl was experiencing pure, uncut joy.

Maybe I should've let her buy three T-shirts instead of just one. I'm going to have to wash it SOME time.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

A Mixed Bag

Alice Cooper never did a song about going back to school, but he should have. Staples cashed in on that idea brilliantly a couple years back.

In years past, my running joke on the first day of school has been: Ever see a middle-aged fat chick do a cartwheel? I still might dust that one off. I've got a week and a half before the big yellow buses start running through my neighborhood.

But this year is a little different in that I'll be going back, too.

Sort of.

I got a part time temporary gig that corresponds to the school year. It'll keep me off the streets, for the most part. A public service, no doubt.

Now - this will be the first time I've had rather regular hours at a job in - well - in a long time. That will mean lots of things. I'll need better clothes, for one. But also? I'm going to need to anticipate lunch. In my years as a stay-at-home, my lunch habits have become rather - haphazard. Sometimes I skip it. Sometimes I graze through leftovers. Sometimes I forget I'm going to be hungry and grab fast food when I remember. I know. Special kind of stupid. But now I'm going to have to think about packing a lunch when I'm eating my breakfast. This is a little problematic, because I am not a huge fan of sandwiches and that is certainly the go-to lunch food for a reason. Don't get me wrong - I'll eat 'em - I'm just not a huge fan.

Ok, I know I said I wasn't going to do any more product reviews on this site, but - well - I didn't sign a contract or anything. Here's what happened: I was musing over the fact that I would have to pack lunches for work now, when I got an email from a gentleman asking me to review - you guessed it - an insulated lunch bag. I thought to myself, I thought, "Well isn't that weird? Being asked to review a lunch bag just as I'm thinking about packing lunches. That feels sort of like kismet. I think it's time to reconsider my views on product reviews."

So I did.

I reconsidered, not just because of the spooky kismet thing, but also because he and his wife operate this small business and I am a big fan of mom and pop organizations.

I reconsidered, also, because - I've said it here before - I love bags. I have been able to turn down many product reviews and giveaways, but when someone offers me a bag to review? I'm sorry. Saying no goes against my very nature.

The bag arrived more quickly than it took me to decide if I wanted it to say Tam in turquoise, Tammy in fuchsia, or Mommakin in red. (Ask my kids. This was a serious debate.)

It is black, quilted, and insulated - and I opted for Tammy in fuchsia, in case you were dying to know. There is a small pocket on one side and a zippered pocket on the other. I'm thinking cell phone in the side pocket (though it's big enough to hold more) and a granola bar in the zippered pouch for an afternoon snack. The main compartment will easily hold the average lunch. Maybe even a little bigger than average lunch. I think that side pocket might even hold my flask. Not that I'd ever need a flask to get through a work day, but it's nice to know it's an option.


It's functional, it's attractive, it's personalized, it supports small business, and the customer service is out of this world. Not too shabby.It looks just like this (except - you know - it says Tammy, not Ashley. But I bet Ashley digs it, too...)

There would be pictures, but my camera REMAINS out of commission. So if anyone asks me to do a product review for a camera, I'm totally in.

You might be wondering where YOU could get such a swell lunch bag - especially considering that it's back to school time in YOUR neck of the woods, too. Glad you asked. Click here OR the SB link conveniently located in my sidebar, and away you go. (They have a LOT of cute bags! Not just lunch bags!)

Wednesday, August 11, 2010


I went to see Heart last night with my family.

I was going to write some typical squealy fangirl fare about how the first album I ever bought with my own money was Dreamboat Annie. I would've probably mentioned my massive girl crush on Ann Wilson. I might've mentioned that their concert shirt is my new favorite favorite - leave it to Ann and Nancy to offer a shirt that is feminine and pretty and SOFT and still has a respectable amount of sleeve. I will wear no sleeves before I'll wear those dumbass cap sleeves that draw a line across the fattest part of my arm. But not my girls. They gave me a PRETTY shirt that I'll actually wear. I love them so much. (Well - they didn't - you know - GIVE it to me - but they provided me with the opportunity to buy it - which is more than I can say for most bands who draw a very firm line between masculine and feminine and the pretty, feminine options are never an option for ME.)

I would've told you about the anticipation I felt - knowing they were backstage - knowing I was already breathing their air. I would've told you about the way I grabbed Liv's hand and screamed when I saw Ann preparing to walk onto the stage. I would've told you about how Nancy still looks like she did when I saw them last - in 1980 - touring Bebe le Strange. Her guitar hero poses are so full of girl-power and feminine/ballsy paradox that it makes me weep in a happy confusion of vulnerability and strength. I love them so much. (I said that before? No apologies. It bears repeating.)

I would've told you that I was singing every word (well, lip synching every word - no-one had paid their hard-earned to hear me sing). I would've probably mentioned that Liv leaned over during Dog and Butterfly and asked me to help her remember which song it was so she could learn it when we get home.

I would've told you all of those things and more, and you would've been pea green with envy.

But these dreams have a way of ending like a needle scratching it's way across a beloved LP. It just hasn't been that kind of summer for me.

About five songs in, I allowed my adoring gaze to leave the stage and take in my family. I just wanted to see if they were all still 'with' me. I wanted to see my own enjoyment reflected back at me through their faces. To my immediate right, Liv was digging it. To my far right, Tom was digging it. But where was Lea? She was sitting down; shaking and crying. Panic attack. Shit. "Do you want to leave?" I mouthed - concerned. It was very hot and crowded. She shook her head in the negative - not wanting to ruin this night for me. Tom offered to take her to the car and said they'd just wait it out in the car until the show was over. I said, no, we came as a family, we'll leave as a family. I thought if we could just get her out onto the concourse, away from the stifling heat and crowd she'd be ok. We could listen to the rest of the show from there and watch it on the screens. Not exactly the experience we'd hoped for, but it would do. (I think the title of my memoir might be in that last sentence somewhere...)

We made our way out of our row (To the great annoyance of all the people we walked in front of, I'm sure. Sorry.) and were immediately descended upon by a team of rent-a-cops. Just one couldn't have possibly handled the imminent threat of a family trying to get some air for their shaking, crying child. They were - hmmmm - less than gentle. They added a heaping dose of humiliation to what was already an unpleasant situation.

We left - about halfway through the show. I spent the whole walk back to the car composing a strongly worded letter to the venue in my head. (It never made it any further than that. They rarely do.) It would've talked about all the people who were actually breaking rules and being public nuisances while their crack security staff concentrated on keeping the perimeters safe from the clear danger presented by my little family trying to make it's way to an exit. It would've talked about money and how long we have to save to buy 4 tickets (and 4 T-shirts) for a show, but that we do it, because exposing our children to music is a priority of ours. It would've talked about how long I've been attending this festival (somewhere in the neighborhood of 25 years) and how, thanks to the quick and completely thoughtless actions of their security folks it is unlikely that I will return. I was attending this festival before I had my children - before I met my husband. It has been a part of me. I am SO over it. My little boycott will hurt no-one but me. I'm not stupid. I know this.

For anyone who might be wondering, Lea started breathing easier as soon as we walked out, and by the time the air conditioner in the car was hitting her full blast, she was fine.

I'm fine, too. It was only one concert. What's that - really - in the grand scheme of things?