Thursday, July 30, 2009

Sign, Sign, Everywhere a Sign

It's Thursday! Ready for your Trip down Memory Lane?

We've all seen the signs.

Huge signs, one every mile or so.

Florida Citrus Fruit! Free Samples! Souvenirs! The Largest Selection of _____! Discount Fireworks! Lowest Prices! 13 Foot Alligators! Live Bears! Last Chance for _______!

In my travels, the queen mother of these roadside tourist attractions has always been and will always be: South of the Border. Traveling south along route I-95 in North Carolina you see your first sign for South of the Border over 175 miles north of the attraction. You know this, of course, because each sign helpfully announces just how far you'll have to travel before you reach this most wondrous of destinations.

135 miles to South of the Border.

75 miles to South of the Border.

Only 11 more miles to South of the Border.

At the beginning, you only encounter signs every ten miles or so. As you get closer, the signs are only a mile apart. Closer yet and they seem to be right on top of one another. All of the signs feature an amazingly politically incorrect stereotype of a Mexican man named Pedro. We know this, because the text on every sign begins with, "Pedro says..."

Pedro says: Keep America green! Bring money!
Pedro says: You never sausage a place! (You're always a wiener at Pedro's)
Pedro says: Our honeymoon suites are heir conditioned!

When I was young and traveling south on route I-95 every summer en route to Myrtle Beach, the South of the Border signs were a great way to mark our progress. They were a double-edged sword for my parents, though. While they eliminated the constant barrage of "are we there yet?" (you always know where you are in Pedro's territory), they inspired instead a new litany, guaranteed to make parents long for "are we there yet?". That litany, of course, consisted of variations on a theme:

Can we stop at South of the Border?
Why can't we stop at South of the Border?
You think everything is junk! How can you know it's tacky and junky if you've never even been there?

Pedro says: Keep yelling, kids! (They'll stop!)

Year after year my parents sighed and stuck firmly to their guns.

Pedro had guns. Well, fireworks, anyway. Just sayin'.

Pedro says: Pedro's fireworks! Does yours?

I can't swear to this, but they may have just inserted ear plugs at the first sign alerting us that we were, indeed, approaching South of the Border.

One year, I will never know why, they caved. Not only were we going to STOP at South of the Border, but we were going to CAMP there for the night.

Oh bliss! Oh rapture unforeseen!

As we took the exit - the one right before

Pedro says: You just missed South of the Border!

I was filled with anticipation. Years of wonder were about to be satisfied. Where would I start? Pedro's Beachwear? Pedro's Arcade? Pedro's Dirty Old Man Shop? (Mom probably wouldn't like that, but she'd never know!) Oh, how is a girl to decide? Oh Pedro, you magnificent bastard! How I've longed for this moment!

As we pulled in between the legs of a giant Pedro statue, I could tell we were in for a night of pure class. There were large statues of Pedro everywhere, as well as statues of animals and various inanimate objects. There's a sombrero tower, for Pete's - er - Pedro's sake. Statues big enough to climb on. Statues you KNEW you'd look great next to in a picture.

Pedro says: Take a picture, it'll last longer

It was after dark when we pulled in and, to my distinct disappointment, many of the shops and activities were already closed. Even more disappointing were the ones that were open. I was young, and I was naive, but I still knew junk when I saw it. Miles and miles of junk.

Just like my parents had always said.

Damn! Why did they always have to be so RIGHT?

I had a taco. It was mediocre at best. Damn, damn, damn. They'd been right again.

Pedro says: Chili today, hot tamale!

You know what else they were right about? Making that stop. In future years the pleading ceased completely. We still used the signs to track our progress, but we no longer wanted to listen to anything Pedro had to say.

Stupid Pedro.

Smart parents.

Pedro says: You just missed South of the Border!

How much further to the beach?

Are we close?

How close?

Monday, July 27, 2009

The Bo Bice Incident

I've alluded to The Bo Bice Incident on a few occasions. I have never told the story here before, but perhaps it's time. With the Week of a Thousand Bands looming before me, I've been thinking about concerts past at the venues I'll be visiting. Saturday, when I FINALLY get to see Alice Cooper, I'll be doing so at the Ohio State Fair. The last time I saw a concert at the fair...

But wait.

I'm getting ahead of myself.

A little back story is in order.

I don't watch reality TV.

(What never? No never. Never ever? Well - hardly ever!)

I've never seen 'Survivor' or 'The Bachelor' or 'Big Brother' or even 'The Amazing Race'. I did watch the first go 'round of 'Joe Millionaire'. I am not proud of that. I am really really really not proud of that. But I'm being honest here, and I didn't want "I don't watch reality TV" to come off as high-falutin' in any way. It's just not my cup of tea. (I did watch celebreality on VH-1 for a couple seasons - not terribly proud of that, either). I didn't watch 'American Idol', though I did enjoy both seasons of 'Rock Star'.

Let me amend that.

I didn't watch season 1 of 'American Idol'. Or 2. Or 3. But for some reason, I watched season 4. I guess the planets were aligned just right or something, I don't know. Maybe it's because it was around the same time as 'Rock Star: INXS' was ending and I'd been addicted to that and needed to fill the void. I don't really remember the whys, but I watched season 4 from day 1.

And I liked Bo Bice. He was my vehicle, baby.

Flash forward to the following summer. 'Saving Jane' was warming up for Bo Bice at the State Fair. My girls loved 'Saving Jane' and wanted to go to see them. My girls were pre-adolescent at the time and the song Girl Next Door spoke to them. Heck, it spoke to me, too. But they didn't want to stay for Bo Bice.

That was ok. I was pretty much over him and was a little bit embarrassed about having been as obsessed with 'American Idol' as I had been. It wasn't the first time I'd bought tickets for a show because I liked the opening band more than the headliner.

'Saving Jane' was great, and the girls were so happy. They were also so DONE. We had had a long day at the fair before the concert. Both girls were tired ALMOST to the point of tears. It was time to go. As we made out way out, the lights went down and Bo took the stage. We were in the hallway leading out of the venue, but could still see in. He opened with Vehicle. And my knees went weak.

I stopped in my tracks and, if my family is to be believed, pulled my hair and screamed, "I LOVE YOU BO!" then mumbled repeatedly, "So much pretty. So so pretty." The kids were no longer on the verge of tears, but I guess I was. Squealy fangirl tears. What Frankie referred to in 'The Rocky Horror Picture Show' as an orgasmic rush of lust. Now they just didn't know what the hell to do. They were stunned silent. They looked back and forth between Tom and I.

"Do we need to - stay?" my husband inquired. He knew that look, and I think he might've been hoping the after effects would still be in effect when we got home, nudge nudge, wink wink. "Do YOU need to stay? I could take the kids to the car..."

He was looking quite bewildered at his point.

He expected this sort of behavior with Joe Perry.

He expected this sort of behavior with Roger Daltry.

But Bo Bice? Really?

I didn't understand it, either.

I shook my head in the negative and we headed for the car. Both girls opted to hold hands with him. I think I freaked them out pretty badly. No child should have to see their momma in the throes of squealy fangirl bliss. I followed with my head bowed in shame, feeling a little numb.

After that, any time we heard a Bo Bice song, or saw him on TV, or even heard his name mentioned I could count on at least one of my beloved family members to pull their own hair and say "so much pretty!" Luckily for me, Bo never became what you might want to call omnipresent.

They've probably forgotten it by now.

I haven't.

Crap, two out of three of 'em read this blog.

I'm screwed.

See what I do to entertain you people?

It's probably not too early to start reminding myself: Alice Cooper is just a man. Alice Cooper is just a man. Alice Cooper is just a man...

ETA: Lea wanted to clarify her tears - I figured that was her story to tell, so I glossed over it. She wanted to tell it and did so here.

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Did Someone Say Fabu?

Warning - cussing, cussing, and more cussing in this post. And then I cuss. A lot. If that offends you, shoo! Come back tomorrow when I'll be more my sweet temperate self. If that doesn't offend you, read on!

Ok, I've tried to be modest, but it's true. I'm fucking fabulous. At least my blog is. How do I know? Same way I know everything I know. Someone told me. In this case, two someones, specifically MzBehavin at Positively Neurotic Me and Mimi at Living in France. They are both pretty fucking fabulous, too, if you ask me.

Man, that was a lot of gratuitous fucking cussing for one of my posts! I usually try to keep the cussing minimal, for maximum impact. (On the blog, at least. I can hear the people I know in real life snickering, because in real life maximum impact is apparently something I go for a lot. A whole fucking lot.)

Anyhoodle, if I haven't already offended your virgin ears - or - er - eyes too much, the requirements of this fu - oh, forget it - it's not even fun anymore. The requirements of this award are that I share 5 current obsessions and pass it along to five other blogs with a similar level of fabulosity. I'll share my obsessions - I've got nothing to hide - but I never like singling out anyone to pass an award on to. If you're still here after all the cussing, you're fucking fabulous. If you've left me comment love, you're fucking fabulous. If you've clicked my 'follow' button, you're fucking fabulous. Take it - it's yours. Now on to the obsessions:

1. I am obsessed with the upcoming Alice in Wonderland movie. I have devoured every little morsel that has been leaked with gusto. If you've read my profile, you know that a Tim Burton/Johnny Depp/ Helena Bonham Carter project has never ever failed me. This one looks astounding. I have a very important date in March. An important date in 3-fucking D! March is so faaaaaaar!!!!!

2. I am obsessed with aging. I think about it all the time. That is sometimes as negative as it sounds and sometimes it's downright positive, but it is never far from my mind. My fucking mind, to those of you who are fabulous.

3. I am obsessed with bags. No, not beautiful, expensive purses. I can walk by Kate Spade without a glance. Coach? You have no more power over me. Ok, I did spare a quick peak at the Henri Bendel bags in a display window recently, but it was just a quick peak. I didn't, you know, touch them or smell them or anything. I'm talking about bags. Reusable shopping bags. I've spoken about this before. I don't know why I love the darn things so much, but I do. I buy them all the time. And now that festival season is upon us, a lot of folks are giving them away for free. For FREE, ya'll!!! I have big ones and small ones and some that fold up in my purse. I have some for grocery shopping and some for clothing/other shopping. I have big insulated bags for cold/frozen food. Just call me the fucking bag lady.

4. I am obsessed with yarn! Anyone who knows me knows that I'm gonna embarrass them if they go into a yarn store with me. I don't treat yarn with the restraint I offer to fine purses. I touch EVERYthing. I smell quite a lot. I smell quite a lot of YARN, is what I'm saying. I PERSONALLY smell like a subtle blend of jasmine and sandalwood with gentle rose undertones. I don't even know what the fuck that means. It just sounded like it might be a nice way to smell. Ahem. But yarn - oh, I can't get enough of it. I would write an ode to it, if I were the sort of person who could write odes. Since I can't I'll just touch it and smell it and knit, knit, knit.

5. Lastly, I am obsessed with seventies and eighties nostalgia tours. Friday begins the week of a thousand bands. It's really just seven, but seven bands in seven days - well, technically eight days - is nothing to scoff at. But it doesn't sound as cool as the week of a thousand bands. We're kicking it off next Friday with the Prodigals. Saturday, Alice Cooper! Suck it, Mom! (That was for you, E. I hope you're reading. That's my nod to Suck it Sunday!). Wednesday, Joan Jett and the B-52's and Friday, Pat Benetar, Blondie and The Donnas. That is a whole lot of late seventies early eighties goodness. I am so fucking psyched! Watch this space.

This concludes my fucking fabulous post. I hope you have a fabulous fucking day. Tomorrow I return to my regular blog voice. Hopefully. No wonder people overuse the 'f' word so much. It is way easier than actually searching for a less base word to express one's true meaning...

Saturday, July 25, 2009

Big Wheel Keeps on Turnin'

I love a good festival.

From the time I was wee, I felt their draw. If there were amusement rides and games of chance and food on a stick, I was in.

As a kid, of course, it was the rides and the food. And the ridiculously cheaply made stuffed animals. Not much cuddly about a toy stuffed with sawdust. Yet they were coveted. I saw a nice chunk of a Johnny Cash concert once from the top of a double ferris wheel. I would beg my parents to pull over if we happened to pass a little carnival in a parking lot. Sometimes they did.

The Ferris wheel turns. The wheel of chance spins. Step right up, win a prize.

As a teen, festivals provided a great opportunity to see and be seen. Festivals became a lot less expensive when I was less interested in the rides and the food and the games. It didn't cost much to see how many boys I could get to turn their heads to check out my painter's pants and halter tops. (it's true, painter's pants were a very sexy fashion statement) Now the rides were an opportunity to sneak a smootch and the games were an opportunity to let the boys in their concert T-shirts show off their mad athletic skillz.

The Ferris wheel turns. The wheel of chance spins. Step right up, win a prize.

I got engaged to my college sweetheart at the fair, for Pete's sake. (That was not Tom and it did not end well and that's perhaps another story for another day. If, you know, there's ever a day when I want to put my head in an oven or something.)

The Ferris wheel turns. The wheel of chance spins. Step right up, win a prize.

As a young adult, festivals, fairs and carnivals were an excuse to get my party on. Paying way too much for a beer I had to stand in line way too long for didn't seem like such a hardship as a young adult. I remember having my uncle drop me off at a festival once (Designate a driver, kids. Don't drink and drive.) and my cousin's husband met me at the car with a - like - 30 ounce beer in each hand. In those days, the rides were generally not pursued. I reckon the reasoning behind that is obvious.

The Ferris wheel turns. The wheel of chance spins. Step right up, win a prize.

As parents, we get to start this cycle over again - first pushing baby buggies, then holding toddlers hands - experiencing the sights and sounds and smells through the eyes ears and noses of our little ones. (Oh, come on. SOME of the smells are good!) We put them on the kiddie rides and watch as they get older and want to ride the bigger ones. We buy them food we'd never allow them to eat at home. We allow them to win goldfish. (Oh, why in God's name do we allow them to win goldfish?)

The Ferris wheel turns. The wheel of chance spins. Step right up, win a prize.

We went to our first real festival of the season last night. It would seem that that ferris wheel is still spinning, because my girls were there to see and be seen. It was so familiar that it warmed the cockles of my cold dark heart while simultaneously chilling me to the bone.

I'm drawing the line at halter tops.

The Ferris wheel turns. The wheel of chance spins. Step right up, win a prize.

Friday, July 24, 2009

Anatomy of an Earworm

No, no, no - this isn't going to be a squicky post!

It's about those songs or - more accurately, song fragments - that get stuck in your head and won't let go.

Everyone gets them from time to time, some people are more prone to them than others. Some songs are more likely to stick than others. Once they're stuck, there doesn't seem to be a lot you can do to unstick them. Which wouldn't be so bad if it was a song (or song fragment) that you liked. Quite often it is not. Quite often a fragment will stick and you don't even KNOW the rest of the song. I think these frustrate me, personally, the most.

I like to share when I get a particularly persistent earworm. I'll sing it out loud over and over. This brings a lot of joy to everyone around me, because I have quite a lovely voice and that loveliness is much magnified when I sing the same line over and over again in as many different keys as I can find (or come close to). People always say things like, "Oh, for the love of all that's holy, please, please stop." I know that this is because everyone has their own personal threshold for loveliness. I exceed that on occassion, I guess. It's a gift. And a curse.

For weeks - WEEKS I tells ya! - whenever my brain had a quiet moment, I subconsciously filled it with M-E-T-H-O-D-O-F-L-O-V-E. (Oh, you're welcome! No problem at all!) And that is very typical of an earworm for me. A pop song that I maybe didn't love, but was certainly aware of (MMMbop, anyone?) that just sneaks in there and makes itself at home. I've read that commercial jingles provide earworm fodder for a lot of people and - while I imagine that's quite annoying - I think it means the advertisers have done their job very well (Gimme a break, gimme a break, break me off a piece of that Kit Kat bar).

For the last three days, though, the earworm that's been accompanying me is one I'm in no hurry to rid myself of. I've been hearing Billy Joel's 'Vienna' , particularly (but not limited to) the line, " you know that when the truth is told that you can get what you want or you can just get old." My usual response to an earworm is annoyance that ranges from mild to crazy-making. My response to this one has been that perhaps it's telling me something. It is such a beautiful song - click the link if you're unfamiliar - with such a beautiful sentiment. I think maybe there's something in there I need to hear right now. Perhaps when I successfully noodle it out I'll conquer the earworm.

I'm not going to rush.

The first line of the song is "slow down, you crazy child".

I hear ya, Billy.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Talk To Ya Later

It's Thursday, so it must be time for a trip down Memory Lane...

Recently we received the records for our teen daughters phone usage during a little vacation to Florida. In two weeks, she spent 3337 minutes talking to her boyfriend and sent 1021 texts to her buddies. I tried to work up righteous anger, but I couldn't.

To do so would've been hypocritical.

To do so would've been a denial of the misspent hours of my own youth.

I, too, spent more time missing my friends than appreciating my surroundings on family vacations - particularly when they extended longer than a week (the proven measure of time that a teen girl can comfortably tolerate separation from her peeps).

In the summer of 1978 I was almost sixteen. My friends were the most important people in the world and our constantly shifting romances were the most important events.

This was the summer my parents decided to take us on a tour through the northern United States with a few jaunts into southern Canada.

This sounds like a beautiful way to pass the summer, no?

At the time, this sounded a lot like the seventh level of hell.

In 1978, of course, cell phones existed only in science fiction. Long distance calls were expensive. To hear my parents tell it, very, very, very ridiculously expensive. They were never made lightly. They were doled out carefully, like a precious commodity. Most of them were made to relatives at home to check on the house and the extended family. The purpose for these calls was assuredly more report than rapport.

Every time I would pass a wall of pay phones I would slow down and gaze at them longingly. They represented passage from this cowboy hell to the socialization I was missing and craving at home. So close and yet so far.

Then, one day, during a visit to a tourist attraction somewhere in the Rocky Mountains, I saw my opportunity. And I seized it. An available pay phone and not a parental unit in sight. There was no time to think, I needed to act quickly. I picked up the receiver and followed the instructions on the phone.

"I'd like to charge this to my home number, please."

One ring.

Two rings.

Then the voice of my friend, spanning the distance, taking me away from this stupid wilderness and reporting all the small town gossip.

My eyes rolled back in my head. It was otherworldly. I was only aware of the dulcet tones of my friend's voice and the information she was sharing.

"Tammy! Lu! Hunter!"

That was weird, Cyndi almost never used my middle...


Oh shiiiiiiiiit.

The spell was broken.

The middle name had been invoked.

My mother looked like a cartoon character does right before steam starts shooting from its ears.

"I gotta go..."

Sadness about the disconnect mingled with fear of retribution.

I mentioned that we were somewhere in the Rockies. We were somewhere in the CANADIAN Rockies. Making this an international call. And an international incident. If long distance calls were verboten, international calls were - well - if there's a word for how off-limits they were, I don't know it.

As we walked back to the car, the vibe I got from my parents was clear. "We will continue to feed, clothe and house you because you are our responsibility but we do not intend to like being in your presence."

I acquired my first job within a week after getting home. I paid the phone bill with my first check.

An irresponsible and immature act resulted in the first truly responsible and mature decision of my young life.

Sometimes it just works out that way.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Better Living Through Technology

I have been feeling a little blue. Nothing huge - people deal with a lot worse on a daily basis. Sometimes just knowing other people have it worse doesn't make it better. It just adds feeling selfish and insensitive to the list of things to beat oneself up over.

This morning I thought about the reasons I should get out of bed:

1. there is laundry currently sitting in the washer AND the dryer.
2. there are dishes currently sitting in the dishwasher AND the sink.
3. the vacuum hasn't been run in (mumble, mumble, some time, I guess...)

Then I thought about the reasons I should stay in bed this morning:

1. there is laundry currently sitting in the washer AND the dryer.
2. there are dishes currently sitting in the dishwasher AND the sink.
3. the vacuum hasn't been run in (mumble, mumble, some time, I guess...)

But get out of bed I did. I took my meds and sat down at the computer, purely out of habit. I can't eat for an hour after I take my meds, so I use that time to read my e-mail and catch up on all of your yummy blogs since I can't indulge in a yummy breakfast for a while. Before I was even through the e-mail, my mood had lifted considerably. I had not one but two awards waiting for me.

Sandy at It's a Jungle Out There gave me this cute little panda as a reward for leaving consistent comments. Aw, thanks Sandy! You're no slouch yourself!

That probably would've been enough to brighten my mood, but I read a couple more e-mails and found that this was waiting for me at Fran's blog, Very Random. For what, you ask? Why for leaving consistent comments.

Now perhaps you're saying to yourself, "It must not have been much of a funk, if it was lifted by a couple of blog awards." But that's only because you don't understand the nature of the funk to which I had succumbed. I was feeling - like we all do, from time to time - pretty insignificant. I was feeling like nothing I do matters - I don't make a difference. (There's more, but I don't want to talk about it. Suffice it to say that the insignificance thing was playing a pretty strong supporting role in the drama that's been running on my cerebral stage for the past couple days) And along come these two ladies - at the same time - telling me that in some small way, I do.

I needed it, and there it was.

Right there on my laptop.

Comin' through on the wide world of web.

Deb at Suburb Sanity posted about the bloggy support system today, too. It really is quite a powerful and wonderful thing. Deb also talked about turning off the AC and opening the windows, which I did, and I think that has also had quite the impact on my mood. When you let the dishes in the sink all night, a little fresh air and a cross-breeze is never a bad idea... The birdsong it's allowing to come in isn't so bad, either.

So, thank you, Sandy, Fran and Deb. Sincerely. For saying just what I needed to hear just when I needed to hear it.

And thank you all for giving me funny, insightful, heart-wrenching, heart-warming, informative posts (not usually all at the same time, though sometimes some come close) to read each day. And thanks in advance for the bloggy love you're gonna leave me which will make a rapidly improving mood even better. (It's true. I'm not above pandering like that. Pitiful, really.)

Monday, July 20, 2009

If You Believe, They Put a Man on the Moon

Forty years ago today one small step was taken by man; one giant leap by mankind.

I was just shy of my seventh birthday and I was bored. My family was visiting my favorite aunt for a week or two. That was usually a lot of fun, but on this evening no one wanted to play with me. There was nothing good on TV. All of the adults were glued to the set, watching something boring, and they kept telling me how lucky I was to be witnessing history. I would've rather been witnessing The Brady Bunch, which hadn't aired yet but looked very promising from the promos.

So I watched - not having any idea what I was seeing.

But I saw.

One of the much older cousins - not one of my cousins, but one of theirs from the other side of the family, had recently gotten engaged. She and her honey wanted to go out and look at the moon. I tagged along, because the moon seemed to be what all the fuss was about. Recently engaged couples love gazing at the moon with a six year old in tow, it's a fact. They told me to see if I could see the flag we'd just seen them plant on TV. They told me to look really hard. When they were sure my attention was fully focused on the moon, they kissed. And it was really gross. I turned up my nose and went back into the house.

I reported that all of this was a fake, because I had looked very carefully and I had seen no evidence of any of this business on the real moon. Everyone laughed and thought that was real cute.

I left that room, too.

What a stupid day.

What an amazing day.

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Read to Me

When Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone (or Philosopher's Stone, depending on your geography) came out - on video - we watched it with the girls. Before that they had shown no interest in the franchise. After that dementors couldn't keep us away. We acquired all of the books that had been released at that time, but since they were above the girls reading level, Tom read them aloud to us chapter by chapter.

Did he do voices and accents?

What do you think?

I sat on the loveseat, knitting. Lea curled up with Tom on the couch, watching the process of reading the words she couldn't quite make out independently yet. Liv either sat at the other end of the couch or laid on her belly on the floor.

We were all utterly enchanted. Under a spell, you might even say, if you were the sort of person prone to saying things like that.

He would finish the chapter and say, "Tomorrow's chapter is titled _____". Then he would raise his eyebrows and close the book with a great flourish amid pleas from the three of us for just one more chapter pleeeeeeeease! If the next chapter was on the shorter side, or if the evening was on the earlier side, sometimes we managed to get him to acquiesce. Usually, though, one chapter was it. We were left longing for the next installment the way I imagine kids in the early days of movies longed for the next installment of their weekly cliff-hangers.

When Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets was released in the theater, we went to a matinee on opening weekend.

When Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince was released in the book stores, we thought the girls were old enough to stay up for a midnight release. We got to the bookstore around ten. There were elaborate costumes and lots of games and activities. My mom had recently made both of them cloaks that were really lovely. They were having a lot of fun until they weren't. By the time they weren't, however, it was very close to midnight and Tom and I decided we'd made it this far, we weren't going home now. As soon as they started queuing people up Tom got in line and I took the girls to the car, where they promptly fell asleep, clutching their wands.

What a sober, tired little witch!

After that we hit every midnight release of a book or a movie. There was something special about not only being among the first to experience it, but also about sharing that experience with other fans.

By the time Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows was released, the girls were old enough to read on their own. They no longer wanted it parceled out chapter by chapter, so several copies were purchased. I was a little bit sad, because I'd really enjoyed having the stories read to me.

I had a student teacher once who told me I'd intimidated her. She said that in every other placement she'd ever had, when she read a story to the children, the classroom teacher had used that as an opportunity to catch up on their work. I sat down, chin in hands, and listened to the story. She said she felt like I was judging her. When I quickly explained that I just really really enjoyed being read to and that she was an excellent storyteller/reader she relaxed considerably.

I tentatively asked Tom if he would continue reading it aloud. "The girls don't want that anymore" he protested.

"This girl does."

So he did.

Sure do wish I could be there for the midnight opening of the Wizarding World of Harry Potter themed park at Universal Studios Islands of Adventure next year. (Because SURELY there will be a midnight opening!!!) But we'll be there before it's a year old, I imagine.

The girls have grown a lot since 2005.

I guess we'll be needing new cloaks.

Friday, July 17, 2009

Terrible Things. Dogs. Forks.

I have a dog. My dog is needy. My dog is a golden retriever. There are those who would say that those last two sentences were redundant.

If you come to visit me, my dog will love you. Whoever you may be. She's not very discriminating. Given a choice between a man and a woman she'll go for the man every time. She'd rather not have to choose, though. She wants everyone to love her. She will force you to pet her and she will whine and she will roll onto her back to demonstrate her submission to you. She will make sure your crotch is up to snuff. She will be very very glad that you are here.

She is not a very good watch dog.

Now every time she does this with someone new, I apologize profusely, of course. She is an embarrassment. I always say, "She's just so happy to get some attention. I usually just sit around all day poking her with a fork."* It's my attempt at levity. It's a take off on a Steve Martin line ("I do TERRIBLE things to my dog with a fork").

I have said it so many times that my kids have started saying it.

And then I saw this: **

Holy crap.

I'm going to have to come up with a new line, 'cause there's nothing funny about that one anymore.

*I have NEVER poked my dog or anyone else's dog with a fork!
** 'My' and 'FoxNews' are not words that go together in my house, but it was the best thing I got on my google search after seeing the story on the Today Show this morning.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Laughter in the Rain

For now, I'm going to refer to my Thursday stories as Tammy's Trips Down Memory Lane. That is not set in stone, so if something magical occurs to you in a dream (yes, I'm just arrogant enough to assume that I figure into your dreams), be sure to let me know. Till then, here's today's trip:

I love to take a daily walk. On a recent summer visit to Florida, due to excessive heat, the only feasible times to do so were early in the morning or late in the evening. As a committed fan of the sunrise, I opted for mornings.

The first morning we were there, I rose before anyone else and laced up my walking shoes. It was dawn and the air was filled with potential, as it always is just before sunrise.

I took a few confident brisk steps before realizing that on this particular morning the air was filled with a very specific potential. The potential for rain. There wasn't any threat of thunder or lightning, so I shrugged and continued. While it's true that I'm sweet, I felt in no imminent danger of melting should a drop or two hit my head.

When those first tentative drops started plopping down, the house I'd just left was still in sight. Turning around would've been easy, but easy is rarely fun. It's NEVER exciting.

So I kept walking - away from my temporary abode and towards I wasn't quite sure what. Once one gets over the initial indignation of being wet where one is accustomed to being dry, it's quite invigorating. I found my smile widening with every step. I started to avoid a puddle, then changed my mind and tromped right through it, causing big splashes as I did. By this point I was giggling and seeking puddles. I tried to work up the nerve to broad jump right into one, but my new found levity hadn't extended quite that far yet. It was fun to just contemplate it. And to kick my way through the puddles.

When I arrived back, I was soaked to the skin - nie - to the bones. It was difficult to undress because the rain had produced quite an adherent between my clothes and my skin. I eventually got them all peeled off and jumped into the shower.

More water falling on my head.

I had a brief flashback to when I was a little girl. We were camping somewhere in New England and had been caught up in a similar downpour on a walk. I had dipped my toe tentatively into a puddle and looked at my mom, expecting to be reprimanded. I never in a million years expected to hear what I heard next. "Jump in it! It's fun!"

Had that devil on my shoulder actually spoken out loud? He was getting mighty bold. I started to say, "Get thee behind me, Satan!" as I'd been taught to utter when the devil on my shoulder encouraged me to do things I oughtn't, when I realized that this time, the devil sounded a lot like my mom. My mommy. Mommy would never encourage me to do something that was bad.

I looked at her again for confirmation. She nodded her encouragement and even pantomimed a little jump. My mom didn't even get her hair wet in the swimming pool, and here she was, standing in the rain encouraging me to jump in puddles. My whole world was topsy turvy and I loved it. I jumped heartily. She laughed with a heartiness that matched it.

It was just a moment, but what a moment it was.

Fast forward a few years. I was in my teens and we were at the beach with a few other families, and it was raining. All of the kids were miserable and whiny. We were tired of reading. We were tired of playing cards. We were certainly tired of each other. We were driving my mother up a tree.

"Go out and do something!"

"We can't"

"Why not?"

"It's raining!" The obvious 'duh' that followed this was expressed through several sets of simultaneously rolling eyes.

Then my mother spoke the line that continues to be her trademark in certain circles to this day: "You're looking out the wrong window."

We - the teens and tweens - had been, apparently, taking the rain too literally.

We thought we'd call her bluff. We'd just step out and get a little wet. Show her the effects of the very real rain that was falling outside of every window, as far as we could see. We walked out the door, certain she'd stop us. She shooed us along.

"Oh, what a lovely sunny day!" we exclaimed sarcastically, making quite a show of being very wet. Then it came over us, slowly, but as a group, that we were actually having fun. And when this realization fully hit, we kicked puddles. We jumped in the pool fully clothed (we were already soaked to the skin - what further harm could be done?) We splashed and played, caught up in a complete lack of adolescent pretension. Caught up in a state of pure, uncut bliss.

We - deep breath, because I never use this word but can't think of a better one because it's perfect - frolicked. Yep. We frolicked in the rain.

Hey! Just like puddle jumping, once that barrier's down, it's easy! Frolic, frolic, frolic! We frolicked the livelong day away. We were actually just a little bit sad when the sun returned.

We saw people staring at us from inside their campers, shaking their heads in disapproval.

Oh, what we knew that they didn't know.

What my mom knew that they didn't know.

When it comes to rain, as long as there's no thunder and lightning (very very frightening) I've never looked out the wrong window since.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

As Random As I Wanna Be

Some thoughts that have been runnin' all 'round my brain:

I never win anything, but I won a Starbucks gift card from Melissa B. at The Scholastic Scribe. She has a pretty nifty thing going on, and you should check her out tout de suite. Thanks Melissa B! Now I know what it feels like to be a winner! (It feels much better than being a loser. I'd always suspected as much.)

Potter Time
I'm gonna NEED that coffee, 'cause this early to bed/early to rise chickadee went to the midnite (12:09, to be more precise) showing of Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince. Liv went to some lengths in her preparation and I'll try to get some pics up on the craft blog later today to document that. Those little witches and wizards have just grown up right before our eyes. And in this one, Dumbledore.... well, you know. And if you don't, I certainly don't want to be the one to tell you! The inferi were just as creepy as I expected them to be, too.

Too Old to Rock and Roll, Too Young to Die
Tom is auditioning for a new band. I love the songs he is playing over and over (and over and over), so I am loving the audition process. He thinks maybe it's time to get back to his rock and roll roots and I couldn't agree any more wholeheartedly if I tried. Wish him luck!

You Know Those Old Married People Who Start to Look Like Each Other?
I got new specs this week. The woman at the optometrists office helped me choose my frames. When I brought them home, Tom said, "Those are my glasses."

"They ARE very similar."

"They're not similar, they're the SAME."

We took them off and compared and - sure enough - my husband and I have identical specs. Is it sad that we're old enough not to worry too much about how completely lame that is? Maybe I should get us some matching jogging suits to round out the look. No one has ever accused us of being just too darn stylin'.

Gimme a Head With Hair
I need a haircut. A new style. A new do. The specs on this are simple:

- I want a style that makes my baby fine hair look full.
- I want a style that expresses my personality and makes me look youthful without making me look like I'm trying to be younger than I am. But it absolutely cannot make me look old.
- I want an actual style, but I don't want to spend any actual time on it on a daily basis. A sophisticated style that could be air-dried and finger combed would be ideal.
- I want a style that will look good when I take off the motorcycle helmet, even after a REALLY long ride.

Is this too much to ask? Why do hairstylists run screaming when I approach them? Rhetorical questions. Maybe what I REALLY want is a new hat. I'd need that hat to make a statement without screaming "Look at me!". Of course I'd need a hat that...

I want to retitle yesterdays post as "Mood Swing". Todays post is random and fragmented. Yesterdays was not supposed to be. Maybe a different title would've helped with the cohesiveness. Live and learn. There are no do-overs.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Greetings From the House of Hormones

My youngest daughter became very angry at me last spring when I suggested we take down our swing set. We don't have a huge yard and it takes up a nice sized chunk of it and Tom hates mowing around it. I was ready to see it go. She was not. She loves swinging and still swings quite often. I actually do love reading on the deck to the steady squeak of the swing set. No rush to grow up, Liv. Swing on!

And boy, does she.

Jumping off, she says, is the best part...

Yesterday we met friends for coffee at Barnes and Noble. When it was time to go, it was no small feat gathering everyone together. My friend and I had found our younger daughters but were still in search of our elder daughters. We asked the younger if they'd seen them. Liv responded, "Well I was with Lea and I gave her a playful little push..." at this, my friend and I sort of - well, in retrospect I guess we did sort of laugh at her.

"That cannot have ended well..."

We looked behind us and Liv was not keeping up. She had stopped in her tracks. Her face had gone full red and her left eye was twitching a little bit. "I SAID," she said, clearly working very hard to maintain reasonable modulation, "I was being PLAYFUL." Child was seriously angry at - us? her sister? the world?

Not ten minutes later, she informs me we've run dangerously low on feminine products. OH! Ok. She wasn't angry at us, or her sister, or the world. She was angry at Mother Nature. That made sense. Mother Nature can be a real bitch. (just ask Kathy B.)

So off we go to Walgreen's, where we face the huge aisle of monthly decisions. The Theme From A Summer Place was playing on the Muzak - or whatever we're supposed to call it these days. We agreed that it was a pretty song. Then Liv, my angry little Liv who, not an hour earlier had only just managed to suppress steam from coming out of her ears, burst into dance in the feminine product aisle at Walgreen's. It was a very expressive, arms out, leaping sort of dance. She did not hold back. Still dancing, and going into a little twirl, she said, "I feel like I want to be barefoot wearing a Sleeping Beauty gown and dancing in a meadow with a boy dressed up like a prince." There's a child firmly grounded in reality. She's not waiting for a prince. Just someone who dresses up like one. And what is it about feminine products and meadows, anyway?

I've told you about the paradox that is Liv, before. I've told you that she is a gentle vegetarian, tree-hugging speed-metal drummer. Ask anyone who was in Walgreen's yesterday afternoon and they might tell you, based on appearance only, about a skate punk ballerina.

I don't think we'll be getting rid of the swing anytime soon.

Sunday, July 12, 2009

It's a Small World After All

No - this isn't another post about Disney. I didn't drink the water from the ride and trip. That was Lisa Simpson.

No, mine is a story that sort of begins with my friend Kevin.

That's him in the black hat and the plaid shirt.

Kevin works at the music store where Liv takes drum lessons. He thinks she's awesome, so I think he's awesome. We talk every Thursday while she takes her lesson. He has played with a lot of big name folks and he always has a story to tell me, usually backed up by pictures or a CD or an article in a magazine. Talking to him is surreal sometimes. I am very used to him mentioning names that are familiar to me, because he's played with a lot of REALLY big names. One day, a couple months ago, he did just that. We were a few sentences past it in conversation when I realized - hey! I didn't recognize that name because he was famous! I recognize that name because I knew a guy by that name - a musician by that name - in my hometown! I made him rewind to see if I'd heard him right. Indeed I had. The bass player in Kevin's band was the guy I knew from Youth Fellowship in high school. I didn't know this guy well, but we had mutual acquaintances, most notably his brother, who I ran around with a little bit back home.

Small world.

It turns out these brothers are both now living where I now live. I looked up the one I knew on Facebook. (I do love me some Facebook.)

Tonight I was reintroduced to the other. (That's him in the plaid shorts and the white shirt, in case you were wondering.)

What a fun night.

Of course seeing someone you knew thirty odd years ago unexpectedly is a trip. (Not a 'drinking the water from the Small World ride' trip, but a trip all the same).

That was fun.

But it was a fun night all around. If it's not clear from the picture, this was a little community free concert. People came out with their lawn chairs and their blankets and hung out and listened to music in the park. I was not the only person there who kicked off my sandals. Well, technically, I was the only person who kicked off MY sandals. Other people kicked off their own sandals. Other people kicking off my sandals would've been silly. And weirdly less sanitary than going barefoot.

The wee ones put on a show of their own. They danced, they ran, they rolled down the hill. Is that not an excellent hill for rolling? Slightly older kids practiced their cartwheels and somersaults. Older kids still climbed trees and talked in the woods.

A toddler with the sweetest curls brought Tom and I into her ball game. Well, she started with me, but when she realized Tom would play, I disappeared. She was an eye-batter, that one.

I have never gone to one of these concerts before. Expect that to be rectified.

It was a perfect evening - temperate with a warm summer breeze. (Which did, indeed, make me feel fine. Thank you so much for asking.)

The band was so good. There was just so much talent - Tom and I recognized the keyboard player as the bass player in a jazz combo we used to see a lot. One of the guys had written an Emmy award winning jingle. He has an Emmy on his mantle. There was so much diversity - both in the genres they played and the talents they exhibited. Several people played different instruments. Most of them sang at least once. Crazy talent.

To the best of my knowledge they all have day jobs.

And Nickleback are millionaires.


You Gotta Have Friends

My daughter and her boyfriend need to be reminded to make time for their other friends. Sometimes strongly reminded. Sometimes forced. It's tempting for me to chalk it up to typical teen foolishness, but that would be short-sighted of me. I've known women - teenagers, young women, older women - women who certainly ought to know better - who get wrapped up in a new romance to the point of shutting out everyone and everything else. To my great chagrin, I have BEEN that woman on more than one occasion.

I am one of those women who says they're married to their best friend, and I mean that sincerely. Of course I love my husband. Of course he sometimes annoys me (living with someone who is not yourself is always going to get annoying at some point, no matter how much you love them). But I really like him, too. That's what makes me lucky. I hope you're in the same boat, or find yourself there one day. It's good.

But it's not enough. No relationship - not even a really really great one - can satisfy all of your social needs. I find myself at a place in my life right now where I'm really actively seeking same-sex friendships. I want that girl time. I've spoken to this before, perhaps to the point of tedium.

A couple years (decades) ago, my sister and I held a party for my parents 30th wedding anniversary. She was pretty much a newlywed at the time and I was as single as a gal could be. We watched our parents arrive at the party together. Very shortly after that, however, Mom was off with her friends and Dad was off with his. They came together, periodically, touching base, but for the most part they had completely separate experiences. I remember saying to my sister that very day, "Well, there we have it. The secret to a long happy marriage. Spend as little time together as possible." We had another party just a couple years ago to celebrate their 50th. It played out in much the same manner. I remember thinking after that one, "How wonderful! Since they both talked to different people and got different stories, they'll have plenty to talk about when the party's over".

Yep. I crave my girlfriend time. I need my girls.

My daughter needs to be reminded of the importance of that. It's far too easy to get caught up in the throes of young romance (even when it's between older people!). It's hard not to get caught up in the whole 'you and me against the world' mentality. It's romantic and it's wonderful. But it's not everything - and when you treat it as though it is, a lot of important relationships don't get nurtured. Romeo and Juliet wanted to take on the world, and look how that turned out.

When I was a newlywed, I certainly bought into it. I think you're supposed to. Honeymoon period and all that. Since I was older when I got married, a lot of my friends had already been married a long time. They took separate vacations. They still took together vacations, but they took separate vacations, too. I remember thinking Tom and I were golden because we would never do that. If there was time off to be had, we wanted to have it together. That was fine for OTHER people, but we had something just a LITTLE bit better than that. Just a LITTLE stronger. Then it happened. Tom wanted to go away for a weekend that didn't interest me at all. I didn't give in; he didn't give it up. I cried as I watched him pull out of the driveway. We were no longer golden. We were just like everybody else. Soon thereafter I had my first little solo outing.

It was revitalizing.

It made things better rather than worse.

Who knew? (apparently a whole lot of people - but it was a eureka moment for me)

How do you satisfy your need for girl-time (or boy-time, if you're one of my rare and beloved male readers)? What advice would you offer to a young girl trying to figure out that balance (and not even sure she wants to)? How important are your friends (aside from your spouse) to you? Do you like everyone you love?

Talk to me! I need you!

Friday, July 10, 2009

You Always Knew Eating This Stuff Would Lead to No Good

A couple weeks ago I noticed that the Playland was gone from our local McDonald's. Shortly thereafter, their sign stated that a new Playland would be opening in July. As my kids have long outgrown the usefulness of McDonald's Playland, I didn't pay much attention. (If it doesn't directly affect me, it can't be all that important, right?)

The other day I drove by and their sign said, "New Playland Open!" I decided to drive around the front to take a look. This particular McDonald's is in the same parking lot as my grocery store and I usually drive in behind it. I know I didn't owe you an explanation, but I realized I was making it sound like I spent a LOT of time at McDonald's, which is totally not true. I don't even like double cheeseburgers. And my kids hate milkshakes. Ginormous Diet Cokes for $1? I wouldn't know anything about that. And it's none of your damn business, anyway, so stop judging me!

I couldn't believe what I saw.

Gone were the bright primary colors and happy statues of the old Playland and in its stead was this:


I guess the Hamburglar is tired of playing second fiddle.

The family and I started thinking of new Happy Meal possibilities:

- a metal file in every meal!

- an 'Oz' tie-in promotion!

- Madame Alexander Dolls resembling famous criminals for the girls and Hot Wheels resembling famous get-away cars for the boys! Collect 'em all!

Really, McDonald's. I know eating this stuff is not good for you, but as far as I know it isn't a CRIME (yet).

*** Lea took this picture for me. She said, "Wouldn't it be funny if we got arrested for stalking the McDonald's playground? Maybe they'd make us spend the night in Playland". We all shuddered and moved on quickly.

Thursday, July 9, 2009

The Happiest Place on Earth

I'm going to continue giving you little stories on Thursdays until you tell me to stop. I'm trying to think of a clever little name for my story Thursdays, but I'm drawing a blank. If anyone thinks of anything, they would have my sincere appreciation! Here's another one my mom isn't aware of! I think 30 odd years later she can handle it, though. I think the statue of limitations is up. She can't ground me anymore, anyway...

I first visited Disney World in the spring of 1978, just a few years after it opened, with my marching band. This trip marked both my first flight in an airplane and my first stay in a hotel. We were camping folk, there had never been a need. I dutifully made my bed every morning, to the great amusement of my more worldly roommates.

I'm quite certain that it goes without saying that I was extremely excited. It probably also goes without saying that 'extremely excited' is understating it a bit.

Young? Check. Cute? Check. Uncharacteristically free from parental supervision? Check. This was a recipe for bliss. Just add The Mouse and enjoy liberally.

All the candy bars, magazines and light bulbs (yes, light bulbs) I'd sold to finance this trip were finally paying off. I was in Florida. In April. With my best friends. In the almost brand spankin' new self-proclaimed happiest place on earth.

There was no downside.

We explored Frontierland, Adventureland, Fantasyland and Tomorrowland thoroughly, as a pack of squeaky squealy teenaged girls. We expected wonder at every turn and we were usually not disappointed. We laughed until our sides ached, developing and nurturing inside jokes that continued to insure a giggle months after we'd returned home.

We marched in the afternoon parade and, as a part of this endeavor, were treated to a peak at backstage Disney. *shudder* We never spoke much of that. We saw characters without their heads on. They were, for the most part, excessively pimpled teenagers. It was like watching Jim Henson speak for Kermit. You know he's there, but you don't want to think about it. Very disillusioning. I shall speak of it no more.

Later that year, over the summer months, our family took another trip to Disney World with family friends. Now, having been there myself only months before, I considered myself sort of an expert on all things Disney. I didn't mind sharing my expertise. I'm a giver like that. I spent a lot of time assuring my travel companions that they needn't worry, I'd show them around. I had, if I haven't made it quite clear, a sort of inflated sense of self-importance about the whole affair.

The night before we were to head to Disney we were staying at a beach not far away. I snuck out of the camper once everyone was asleep to go to a bar. I was nearly sixteen and the drinking age in Florida at the time was eighteen. It was no problem at all to pass. It was a great bar on a pier right over the ocean. I don't remember the name of it, but I do remember that their claim to fame was their Bahama Mama. Drink three of 'em and you could write whatever you wanted on the wall. They made a damn fine Bahama Mama, I must say. At least by the standards set forth by my almost sixteen year old palate. I think I wrote something to that effect on the wall when I earned my turn with the Sharpie.

I returned to camp and no-one was the wiser.

That's not entirely true.

Dave knew.

Dave was the eldest of our friends' kids - which still put him at two years younger than me. Dave was not adverse to a little blackmail among friends.

Now anyone who's downed a couple few delicious fruity rum drinks in the course of an evening knows that the evening spent drinking them is WAY more fun than the morning spent recovering from them.

The families' plan was to be on the road early early so that we'd be at Disney when the gates opened. Not a huge problem for anyone but the drivers, since we were traveling in campers. Since the drivers had NOT snuck out to drink rum with boys the night before, it was not a problem at all.

MY problems began, as you can imagine, when I woke up. Looking good, feeling good. Dave whispered in my ear at the next rest stop, "Don't worry. I'm not going to tell anyone."

"And in return?"

"You wound me! I don't want anything in return! I just want you to spend the day with me at Disney. Show me the sights..."

"That's it?"

"Ride the rides with me..."

"I don't feel much like..."

"I sure would be sad if you didn't ride the rides with me. I can only hope I wouldn't let any information slip in my saddened state."

He had me by the short ones, kids. What choice did I have but to say yes?

We got to the park and developed a buddy system of sorts. My sister and Dave's sister would be buddies. Me, Dave, and his younger sister, Cass, would be buddies. Safety rules were discussed, tickets were distributed, meet up times were scheduled.

Being the senior member of my little group, as well as a self-proclaimed Disney expert, I assumed I'd be leading our little expedition. "I thought we'd start with..."

"Teacups" interrupted Dave.

"TEAcups?" I said, my eyes narrowing behind my dark shades and attempting to burn holes straight through him.

Cass started chanting, "Tea Cups! Tea Cups!" Dave joined in. Now this was just flat out playing dirty and he knew it. Cass was seven years my junior and I adored her. I could deny her nothing. Dave was not unaware of this fact. Teacups it would be.

Guess who took control of the wheel that controls the spinning in the teacups?

That was just the beginning of the price of Dave's silence.

He did what he could to torture the poor, stupid, know-it-all, hungover teen he held firmly under his thumb. But as a clear testament to the well-earned "Happiest Place on Earth" moniker, it was still a pretty darn good day.

Suck it, Dave.

Teacups indeed.

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Clothes Make the Man. And the Woman.

When I first started waiting tables at the pizza shop, I was very nervous - always looked harried even when I wasn't (or shouldn't have been) - you get the picture. I was an old dog trying to learn a new trick. Then came Halloween and we decided to dress up. I bet you could guess what I dressed up as. I've given you enough hints.

It ain't easy, living like a gypsy...
Gypsies tramps and thieves...
I'm the gypsy - the acid queen...

I wish I resembled the first.
I only represent 66 odd% of the second (I've never stolen anything...)
The third was just thrown in for the power of three. (Honest.)

But I've digressed.

I donned my gypsy garb and was suddenly confident, competent and charming.

Even my boss noticed the difference.

It's true that when we get dressed up, we fall into the character that we're portraying. Well, it's true that I do, anyway. I read an article once that said your favorite Halloween costume - as a child or an adult - said a lot about who you were, or who you wanted to be.

Gypsy, or a pirate variation thereon, have always been my go to costumes of choice. I can usually pull either of those together on any given day out of things that get regular wear in my closet. I have bad hair - I like headscarves. I have big hips - I like long loose skirts. I have a good deal of estrogen - I like bling. What can I say?

I hadn't meant to spend so much time talking about Halloween in July.



I wanted to talk more about everyday dress-up.

Take yesterday, for example.

I was feeling Down. Frumpy. Old. Useless.

I'll stop.

No-one wants to visit that tangent...

So I looked at my wardrobe options.

I could dress to reinforce - and indulge - those feelings, or I could dress to fight them.

I opted for the latter.

I pulled out a pretty new maxi dress I'd been 'saving'. I would've saved it all summer and that would've been a darn shame. 'Cause it's a pretty dress. And you know what looks good with a pretty dress? A pretty summer maxi sundress? Well a big sunhat, duh. I told you I have bad hair. Sometimes I wonder if you're even listening. Sigh. I put on the hat and looked in the mirror. Almost... THERE we go! Big sunglasses FTW.

It looked good.

I had nowhere to go.

Then I realized I didn't HAVE to go anywhere.

I went to my deck - the only part of my house that I love - in my dress and my hat and my shades and I read.

I felt positively elegant. (I wasn't)

When I went to have cocktails (read: beers on the patio) later with friends (sans hat and sunglasses, as it was approaching dusk) I started lamenting on my dental and financial woes. My brilliant sister said, "We should get you on extreme makeovers! Then you'll get all the dental work free! And a bunch of other stuff, too!" On a day when I was feeling less elegant, I might have taken offense at how quickly they started rattling off the list of things that a show like that could do for me... but it was my day to be elegant, so it was water off a duck. A fancy duck. Then one said, and all agreed, that they couldn't send my picture in in that dress, though - because it was too darn pretty and wouldn't garner enough sympathy to result in all my free upgrades.


It worked!

Dress the part/play the part.

I think today I'll be a princess.
(don't hold your breathe for pics)
Girls! Fetch Momma her tiara!

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Act Your Age

Yesterday was one of those days when I felt old. Or maybe I just felt my age, I don't know.

While it is not unusual for me to throw off a flippant, "What do I know, I'm old" or "Well, back in my day..." or the occasional "You damn kids! Get offa my lawn!", I don't usually feel old. Or my age. Whatever.

I was chatting with someone recently about how - all through my thirties, if anyone asked how old I was I'd say, "23". I would immediately amend that with, "I'm sorry, I don't know why I said that. I'm 37 (or whatever my actual age at the time was)." I wasn't one to lie about my age - I'm still not - 23 just seemed like the appropriate answer. I think maybe I FELT 23. Sometimes I think I still DO. 23 was not a particularly stellar year for me. It wasn't a particularly anything year, so it's not like I wanted to freeze time. I think maybe I just have the soul of a 23 year old. When I was younger than 23, I wanted to be older and when I was older than 23 I claimed - at least initially - to be younger.

That's usually a good thing.
Until it's time to go clothes shopping. There are young clothes that I love but look silly on me and old clothes that I reject, leaving me headin' on down to frumpy ville.

Except when you're beat over the head with the fact that you're not.
Bifocals and dental issues, for Pete's sake, this is grandma stuff.

Yesterday was one of those days.
Of course there will be an additional fee, Mrs. Howard. Well of course there fucking well will. Let me grab my pocketbook.

Today will be better, I think.
I damn well hope.

How old are you? On the inside?

Monday, July 6, 2009

I Hab a Cold Id By Dose

And a cough in my chest.

And I'm tired and a little achy.

I saw this sign yesterday in a museum and couldn't resist a pic.

Where is my medicinal grade heroin? Hmm? I need some dang relief!

I guess the sign in the museum is from around the same time period that big C Coke still contained little c coke.
Which must've been kind of like a super-serious energy drink. Red Bull gives you wings? This stuff'll take you to the moon. And you'll never stop talking about it...

So perhaps, a hundred odd years ago, faced with a cold similar to mine, a doctor might prescribe heroin for my cough and plenty of liquids. Like maybe Coke.

Now I'm just lying here all achy and slow-headed and drinking water and popping Vitamin C.

Progress sucks.

Saturday, July 4, 2009

In Pursuit of Happiness

The One Minute Writer's writing prompt today was 'Independence'. The task was to write for one minute on something from which you would like to gain independence. Turned out I had more than a minute's worth to say on the topic.

Without further ado:

My Declaration of Independence from Societal Ideals

We hold these truths to be self evident - that all men and women are created equal. As such, it should hold that neither the worth of an individual nor the amount of respect they deserve is determined by the size of their waist, the size of their bank account, or the number of candles on their last birthday cake.

Furthermore, as a woman, the value of my thoughts and opinions are not in any way related to my ability to be deemed attractive by middle class white males (who tend to set the standards) or any males, or, for that matter, anyone at all. This quality is often referred to by an adjective that begins with an 'f' and ends with 'ability'. Should I need to again make reference to it, I shall refer to it as fability. Because I'm also declaring the right to make up words as I go along if it so suits my personal pursuit of happiness.

And I have the right to pursue happiness.

I have the right to wear sleeveless tops and dresses, even if I do not have guns that resemble those of our first lady. Even if I have something that more resembles pillows than guns, I have the right to bare them without apology. Same goes double for shorts. Maybe a little more than double.


It doesn't make me in any way less.

The house I live in - the neighborhood I live in are not reflections of me. You can't know anything about me just by knowing my address. Am I more worthwhile if I live in a more affluent neighborhood? Am I trash if I live in one that is less affluent? The answer to both is a resounding, "NO!" It's just a house. It doesn't say anything about me. It's where I keep my stuff.

And it's just stuff!

He who dies with the most stuff, still dies.

The age issue points us right back to fability (it would've been a shame to coin such a fine word and never use it again, no?). Does my worth decrease as my perceived fability decreases? Certainly society points us in that direction. A gray hair? For heaven's sake, cover it, lest someone think you've left your twenties behind! Wrinkles? Avoid or hide them at all costs! Make the world think you're at least a decade younger! Sagging boobs? Well, hoist those puppies up, wouldja? Have a surgeon hoist 'em up, better yet. If people see you for who you actually are, you will cease to be relevant!

I declare independence from this train of thought!

All men are created equal. That includes (but is in no way limited to) those of us who, for a reason (or two, or three) have outlived our fability. Fability has nothing to do with worth. It has nothing to do with respect. Happiness is worth pursuing. Perceived fability is not.

Give me Liberty, or give me - a candy bar.

I deserve one, for Pete's sake.

So do you.

Thursday, July 2, 2009

Jackalopes and Indian Frank

Last Thursday I gave you a story about my youthful travels. You said you wanted more, so here's another. A few years older, but still painfully naive...

As I recall, Frank was a boy with dirty blonde ringlets that fell well past his shoulders. He wore, through our brief acquaintance, what my friend Ellin always referred to as a dirtbag hat; leather or suede with a wide, loose brim. He spoke softly and confidently. I thought he was beautiful. I thought lots of boys were beautiful, so it wasn't a particularly grand compliment.

I met Frank while camping with our family and some friends in South Dakota. South Dakota, as you're probably aware, is home to Mt. Rushmore. Which I thought was kind of overrated. But I was fifteen that summer and pronouncing things overrated, bourgeois or simply dull was sort of my job. And I was good at it.

To my way of thinking, the best thing about Mt. Rushmore was the souvenir T-shirt that pictured the four presidents carved into a mountain and read: Even the Nicest People Get Stoned. Mom didn't think that was as appropriate for a young teen as I thought it was. Back at band camp that August, I would've been a rockstar in that ringer T. Not appropriate. Whatever. Appropriate is overrated.

South Dakota, like many of the more rustic regions of the United States, is also heavily populated by jackalopes. If you're too citified to be aware (or if you've never eaten in a large chain steakhouse), a jackalope is a hybrid between a jackrabbit and an antelope. It looks for all the world like an everyday rabbit, but with a lovely little set of antlers. They were quite ubiquitous, as evidenced by the vast availability of specimens that taxidermists had carefully preserved in various natural poses and were selling in every gift shop. Mounted heads of the unfortunate horned bunnies were pretty readily available as well.

I believed in them utterly.

Why should I not?

I'd seen proof.

Who would go to such vast lengths to perpetrate a hoax? I couldn't grok the motivation behind it.

So it was in this place - this land of stoned presidents and jackalopes - that I met Frank and his golden curls.

Frank was an Indian.

A Native American.

I know this because he told me.

I couldn't think of a reason a slightly older teenaged boy might lie to a slightly younger teenaged girl who was hoping to catch a glimpse of a jackalope in it's natural habitat before heading back to her suburban home.

No reason at all.


Not a one.

I listened to his tales about his life and his people in wide-eyed wonder, fascinated. I asked him questions and he provided quick answers for every one of them.

He was dreamy.

And so exotic.

I believed every word he said like it was the gospel itself.

Naive? Well - um - yeah.

Stupid? I wouldn't be so quick with that call. I got to spend several evenings in the company of a beautiful blonde Native American with bountiful curls and a million stories.

How many people get to say THAT?

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

That's My Dad

Today is my father's 80th birthday. I say that - I type that - and I know the picture it paints. My dad fits a couple of the stereotypes, I guess. I haven't been thrilled with his driving lately. He has either suffered a major hearing loss or honed selective hearing to an art form. He is not a bigot, but he is not adverse to an ethnic slur now and then - he doesn't understand what the fuss is about - he's not saying anything bad, he's just calling people what they are.


I don't want to talk about those things, though.

That's a generation.

That's not my dad.

I don't want to talk about the ways that he fits the stereotype of someone his age.

I don't want to talk about the Great Depression or the Korean War or any of the other things he experienced as a boy or a young man. Those things may have had a profound effect on who he became, but they are his stories to tell, not mine. Those are stories about a boy and a man, but I want to tell you stories about a dad. And he didn't become a dad until I entered the picture.

He was a teacher by trade. He was not big on long lectures, but he was very good at teaching by example. Here are some of the lessons he taught me:

On Responsibility:
We grew up camping. We stayed in National Parks more often than not. On one particular occasion, we had planned to leave one park early in the morning to head to another. This was far from an unusual event. But on this particular day, when we went to check out, it was so early that no-one was manning the booth. There was no-one to pay. We really needed to hit the road to stay on schedule.

So we did.

We drove off and saw the sights and did the activities that were planned for the day.

When we were done, instead of moving on to our next planned destination, we went back. Back to the place we'd stayed the night before to pay our debt. He probably spent three times as much on gas as the actual bill was, but he was not going to leave it outstanding and he certainly was not going to leave it unpaid.

Me? I would've written a check and slid it under the door. Or maybe I would've written a check at my next destination and mailed it off. More likely I would've waited till I got home and then sent off a check, if I remembered.

Dad? No way. He couldn't have slept with an outstanding debt. He couldn't have slept not knowing for sure if they received his payment or not.

He delivered the cash in person and apologized for taking so long (several hours!) to get it to them.

That's my dad.

On Pride:
One day Dad and I were sitting on a bench in front of a store waiting for my mom to finish shopping. An older gentleman came out of the store and joined us on the bench. The three of us sat there quietly, watching the cars go by. A new van drove past and the old fellow let out an appreciative whistle.

"That is one fine looking vehicle."

"Sure is" responded my dad.

"It sure would be great to be able to drive around in something like that."

"Sure would."

Shortly after that, the old fellow's wife came out and they crossed the parking lot together. I turned to my dad and said, "Why did you say that?"

You see, my dad had just recently purchased a van of that very same model.

"Wasn't anything to gain by it. He would've felt bad if he thought he was envying something I had. Better to let him think I'm in the same boat he is. Besides, I didn't lie. It IS a fine looking vehicle and it IS great to be able to drive around in it."

Well, heck.

He had me there.

I knew if it had been me I would have probably very excitedly pointed out that I HAD a van like that! I would've bragged on the special features and then would've probably even found something to bitch about because - while it was a nice van, it wasn't the BEST van. I would've found a way to be both prideful AND envious.

Not dad. He has no time for either of those emotions. Nothing to gain by it.

That's my dad.

On Charity:
My dad believes in helping those in need. He works tirelessly for his local food bank, so we can assume that feeding the hungry is a goal of his.

Once, on a Christmas trip to New York, we came across a woman sitting in front of the train station. She was obviously cold and did not appear to have the use of her legs. Two small children huddled next to her under a thin blanket. She was begging for money to feed them. My father stopped and took a pack of peanut butter crackers out of his back pack and handed them to her.

"Thank you sir! Thank you! God bless you sir!" she called to him as she quickly divided the crackers up among her children.

I was feeling all warm and glowy over the kindness my dad had demonstrated and was just about to tell him so when he said rather smugly, "Let's see her buy drugs with THAT!"

Cynical charity. Gotta love it. And a lesson learned. While she was asking for money, it wasn't money she needed - it was food. That was the need he met.

That's my dad.

On Being a Teacher:
Dad taught at my high school. Did I have him in class? As a matter of fact, I did. Was high school the worst three years of my life? Yeah, pretty much.

As a teacher, Dad was tough.

I talked to him about it one day when things had gone particularly badly for me. "You know people don't like you."

"I'm not here to make people like me. I'm here to teach them math. I'm never going to be voted teacher of the year by my current students. But look at this."

He took me to his desk and pulled out a worn-looking envelope. He handed it over to me. I read a testimonial from a student who 'hadn't liked him much' in high school but was so appreciative of everything he'd taught him once he got to college. I was astounded. First, that a student had bothered to write this letter; second, that maybe it all WASN'T a great big popularity contest; and third, that my father had kept this letter. That it mattered to him. It would've been easier to go for the instant accolades - easier and a lot more pleasant (for him as well as for me) - but he was going for something more lasting.

Bless his heart.

That's my dad.

On Algebra:
Once you know the formula, you just plug it in and crank it out.

That's my dad.

Happy birthday, Dad. You taught me well.