Tuesday, December 31, 2013

The Year in Books

This year, I am going to do something a bit different. Instead of listing my favorite books, I am going to list my favorite authors. I found myself going back to the same ones over and over again, so I think this is a far easier path to tread than picking out the best individual stories. So pick through the titles and spend some of those Christmas gift cards on your own portable time machines because books are always, always bigger on the inside. I will only list the books I have read, since it is unfair otherwise. Every author writes a bum book and I would hate to direct you toward something awful.

Carlos Ruiz Zafón
Shadow of the Wind, Prisoner of Heaven, Angels Game
The Watcher in the Shadows, The Prince of Mist (YA)

This author has been on my list before. His adult books are an interconnected series all revolving around the same family and the same bookshop, but can be read in any order. Get a copy with thin, onion skin pages so that you can truly feel the time slipping away as you turn every page. This year, I was surprised to discover young adult books, horror stories that were so well-written, so engrossing, and so terrifying that I would be hard pressed to give it to any child who didn’t already have a driver’s license. Each one caused me to finish, shuddering and shaking, but rushing right out to get the next one.

Kate Morton
The Secret Keeper, The House at Riverton, The Forgotten Garden, The Distant Hours

The characters in these books are so fully fleshed out that you will feel as if you know them. England and the 1940s play a major role in almost every book and the premise of each one is roughly similar – a woman tries to find out a mystery about her family. The tone of voice of each novel is what makes them so wonderful. You know that feeling of being underwater, bobbing along in the warm current, content and enjoying the beauty of your surroundings? That is what reading these books feels like – right up until the temperature drops and you are hit with a wave that jolts you out of that feeling of safety. Happy swimming.  

Gillian Flynn
Gone Girl, Dark Places, Sharp Objects

At this point, we’ve all read her most recent book. However, she wrote two more before that and while they have their flaws, they still deserve a read. All of her books keep you guessing, but it is the first two that really make you wait, racing through each page, desperately trying to figure out what is going to happen next. Her protagonists are hard and broken people, but memorable in their desperation to find out the truth. I actually think Sharp Objects is the best of the lot and while it could use a little fixing (it was her first novel after all), you will never, ever forget what happened to all those teeth.

Mark Halperin and John Heilemann
Game Change, Double Down

The former books deals with the 2008 election, the latter with the 2012. Both non-fiction books are absolutely riveting in their detail about what truly goes on behind the closed doors of a presidential campaign. I admit that I knew few, if any names of anyone but the actual nominees, but this book makes it easy to follow the myriad players in the game of politics. The first is a must-read for Sarah Palin alone, but the second really shows you how the sausage is made in terms of picking a president.

Ben Mezrich
Sex on the Moon, Busting Vegas, Bringing Down the House, The Accidental Billionaires

These non-fiction books all take on a single story and make them as engrossing as any fictional journey. The author has a dozen books total, so I have lots left to read, but these four were universally excellent. The theft of lunar rocks from NASA, cheating at cards in Vegas, and the creation of Facebook seem like relatively dry topics, but in this author’s deft hands, they play out as thrilling roller coaster rides filled with passion, recklessness, and hubris.

The first time author award goes to Helene Wecker for The Golem and The Jinni. The title tells you pretty much all you need to know about the main premise. Make it your book club pick, borrow it from the library, buy it for yourself, but go read a book that is really quite remarkable about setting such fantastical creatures in New York City of the 1900s.

And the worst authors of the year are as follows:

Veronica Roth – Her Divergent series is terrible. The first book was at least marginally interesting, but the second book was frustrating and the third book was flat out ridiculous. I have a vicious rant all bottled up inside for the first person who asks me about the ending. JESUS! An awful series from start to finish, if you really want dystopia and strong female characters, just go read The Hunger Games and call it a day.

E.L James – I just can’t with this author.

Amber Benson – This one broke my heart. The Scoobies have a truly special place in my heart. Every time Danny Strong gets an award for writing, I yell “Go Jonathan” at my television (even though he is technically my nemesis-es). So when I found out Tara had written a series of books about Death’s daughter, I was all in. Until I read the first one. Vapid, poorly written, and poorly plotted, I’d rather watch another season of Dark Willow than read another one of Amber Benson’s books.

Charlaine Harris (again) – Her final book in the Sookie Stackhouse (Southern Vampire) series was insulting to all the readers who slogged their way through the first dozen books. Each book was worse than the one before. These books set the stage for the TV show True Blood and while I am still devoted to that show (mostly due to frequent nakedness of Eric Northman and Alcide Herveaux), this last book was the last straw for me. 

Christopher Moore - Every book has a really interesting premise that is eventually ruined by the most basic, infantile humor. I'd love to see his books rewritten but with actual intelligence. Judging by his fan base, this is clearly a case of the reader not matching the author. 

Monday, November 25, 2013

She Bangs!

WARNING: Pornography and sexual acts will be discussed. Please be advised. 

WARNING: This blog is rated X.

So I watched my first sex tape the other day.

The reasoning was solid. I was reading an article about the multiple atrocities committed by Kris Jenner, among them the creation of the Kardashian clan into a multi-million dollar brand. Not a single Kardashian has a distinguishable talent. They cannot act, sing, or dance. They are celebrities in the truest sense of the word in that they have done nothing to earn their status other than simply existing. I personally doubt they can read or write, yet they oversee corporations dedicated to selling their faces and names on countless products. They mostly just show up places in really ugly and revealing outfits, get filmed going about their obviously staged lives, and are mostly known for their poor choices in male companions. However, this article talked about Kim Kardashian specifically and how her sex tape with a guy improbably named Ray J shot her into stardom.

I got curious. I’ve never seen a sex tape and one that would make someone instantly famous seemed like it must be a really good one. I mean, why else would it make her famous? I bet there is a google of porn available on Google. What made this one so special?

Having now watched it, I have absolutely no answer to that question but a million new questions to ask. This video is obviously made by two consenting adults. They knew the camera was one, often shifting it for a better (or more often, a worse) angle. She is shown putting on full makeup and doing her hair in preparation. They obviously wanted to be seen engaging in the act of sex. Yet, for some reason, she never takes off her boring beige bra (and barely takes off her boring beige panties) and he never takes off his socks! She couldn’t afford better lingerie? He couldn’t summon up enough body heat to keep his feet warm? In half the video she is still under the barely rumpled bedding and everything is done by the light of a single bedside table. It’s just weird.

They also never stop chewing gum! I suppose the smack of Hubba Bubba adds something to the soundtrack, but there are points in the video where she obviously has something else in her mouth. Where does the gum go? In one section of the video, his mouth is clearly busy, yet when he randomly stops that act, he goes right back to chewing gum. Ewwwww.

I realize that most video porn is for men. They are visual creatures and like to see things. But what I don’t get is how they can watch this and not see clearly and easily that little Kimmie is faking the absolute shit out of this video. She barely reacts to anything. For example, at one point, Ray J takes her from behind with equipment that in both size and shape resembles nothing so much as a lead pipe. She doesn’t even blink. A speculum, the most hated part of any woman’s annual visit to the doctor is, on average, half the size and width of the sexual part in question. No one enjoys a speculum because they hurt. Yet this woman never even stops chewing gum or takes an extra breath when this mammoth piece of equipment enters her. She just umms and ahhas a bit in a bored voice. So, either she has a lady part as wide as the Holland Tunnel or he missed entirely and is busy screwing a pillow or something.

After seeing the video in its entirely, I can really only come to one conclusion – both the people on it are absolutely awful in bed. There are multiple scenes in this video where he is doing things to her that for all intent and purposes should cause some sort of reaction, yet no matter what he does, she either wiggles her butt an inch or lets out a random breathy sigh. Occasionally, she encourages him using profanity in her baby girl voice that is about as opposite as sexy as it is possible to get. It sounds like she is encouraging a toddler to keep trying to crayon inside the lines. For his part, he can’t seem to figure out how to use his equipment properly. All he does it stop to change positions and try to keep his dick from falling out of her. There is no passion, no ability. It’s all hose, no fire. He just keeps plugging away, trying to get the camera to shine on his diamond earrings. When the film winds to its conclusion, there is no money shot, as it were. No orgasm for either party. If fact, he visibly wilts on camera and she just throws her hands in the air and laughs. It’s like they ran out of tape so just stopped what they were doing. I was very confused.

All in all, I guess Kim Kardashian is as good at porn as she is as everything else. All flash, no bang. 

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Punkin’ Chunkin’- The Sport of Fools

This past weekend, we took the kids down to the middle of a Delaware to watch pumpkins being shot out of air cannons, catapults, and trebuchets. It seemed like a good idea at the time. My first inkling that it was not going to be a family-friendly event (as advertised) should have been the spelling. While I understand that pumpkin chucking is a mouthful and doesn’t have the same verve as “punkin’ chunkin’”, any event that sounds like it could host a Honey Boo Boo family reunion probably isn’t going to be PG. Also, I should have used the brain God gave me to realize that you have to be drunk and stupid to think standing next to a jury-rigged piece of pressurized steel is ever a good idea. 

The second big hint that this was no ordinary fall festival was the parking lot. I haven’t seen that level of tailgating since Buffet. This was professional-level revelry. Corn hole? Check. Bocci? Check. Beer pong? Check. Some weird thing with PVC piping and rocks on a sling that my husband called poor-man’s horse shoes? Check. These people didn’t just throw a football in the trunk and call it a day. These people threw the better part of a Home Depot in the back of a pickup and built themselves something glorious. I can only imagine what the overnight camping parking lot looked like. They probably had full wet bars, hot tubs, and tiki huts over there.

The redneck ingenuity of the parking lot carried over into the venue. There were people wearing bandoliers of beer cans, belts made of beer cans, and for one particularly Gandalf-loving group, walking sticks made of duct-taped Budweiser cans. The more they drank, the higher the staff. I’m pretty sure that by the end of the day, they could have used those things to pole vault. This wasn’t a Red Solo cup event – this was a drink straight from the bottle until the bottle ran out type of event – all while sitting on stacked futons, hastily-constructed viewing platforms, or in one case, a couch being pulled around on an ATV. This was ground zero for alcohol poisoning and it was really quite something to behold.

Honestly, it is not like I blame them. Waiting for pumpkins to be launched thousands of feet in the air takes a while. You’ve got to do something to fill the time. We actually wound up getting to the event right as competition was ending. The rest of the day was spent in open fire mode where the sky was filled with flying pumpkins. The key is to make them splat, not explode. Also important was the ability to operate your machinery without spilling your beer. We watched one group of Darwin-award nominee’s use a socket wrench to hand crank a wooden contraption that looked closer to a torture device than a catapult. They couldn’t get a lot of momentum going because well, they were using a socket wrench, and because they refused to put down their cans of Bud Light. We all cheered enthusiastically only to watch the pumpkin pathetically roll a whole five feet into the dirt. I was just happy the poor kid standing closest to it still had a hand. These machines are not exactly following OSHA standards for safety. In fact the next day, one of the bigger air cannons actually exploded, shooting pieces of scrap metal hither and yon. Safety was definitely not first in the minds and hearts of the crowd or the competitors.

I have to be fair and state that while this crowd was raucous, it wasn’t rude. Sure, people were falling down drunk, but they were laughing when they fell. Yes, they did walk around in very large groups usually in matching outfits (camo overalls were popular for the men, flannel shirts/cowboy boots/Daisy Dukes for the women), but they always politely moved aside when my family came through. At one point, we were all in a large group that was being filmed for the Discovery Channel. While the Mythbuster trio of Tory, Kari, and Grant did their thing up front, the group of 20-somethings next to us did their best to get my kids to the front of the crowd and in camera range. The fact that they did this while slurring every other word, uses curses in place of articles of speech, and practically offered to beat the shit out of anyone who got in my kids way was just, well, darling. Their eyes couldn’t focus, but their hearts were in the right place.

We left right before the rain moved in and walking back through the mostly deserted parking lot was just as entertaining. There were a number of grills just left high and dry as their owners realized the inherent difficulty of getting a burning hot grill back into the trunk after a day of cooking burgers. There was the requisite ball playing and some really poor parenting choices. Letting your three year old ride a mini-ATV the size of an average car tire through a parking lot is a great idea if the parking lot is empty. However, when it is full of oversized trucks and SUVs all trying to pull out, many of which had to be driven by people way beyond the legal limit, well, that just seems like you don’t really want to take that child home with you, at least not in anything larger than a box.

In the end, a good time was had by all. Except for the pumpkins. I don’t think they enjoyed it one bit. 

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Death To Denim

Long time, no posting, but sometimes, life just gets in the way.

Once a month, my kids’ school allows them to skip the uniform for “spirit” wear. Basically, this means a school-branded t-shirt and appropriate bottoms. For two years, my daughter wore the exact same skirt because she claimed it was the only one that matched. She essentially created her own uniform for non-uniform days. Up to this point, she has spent her entire life wearing skirts, dresses, and leggings. However, she has decided that now she wants to wear jeans “like all the other girls.” As much as I have taught her to run her own race, do her own thing, and ignore what others think, I do understand how much peer pressure affects little ( medium and big) girls. So, Saturday night, we headed once more into the breach to find a pair.

People, it would have been easier to find the Holy Grail. At least Indiana Jones had his father, a map, and the Nazis moving him along. I had nothing but a list of stores, a budget, and the threat that anyone who misbehaved wouldn’t get a treat afterwards.

You know how there are some little girls out there with chicken legs? Little spindly things that don’t look like they’d hold up a desk, let alone a human body? That is not my daughter. She was the Pillsbury Dough Baby. She had fat rolls for her fat rolls. It was glorious. As she grew, she turned to the sturdy side. She now has turkey legs. Juicy, thick turkey legs like the kind they roast at a Renaissance Faire. She also has enough junk in the trunk to open up an antiques store. She comes by it honestly. Her father has the body of a linebacker and even in my old, skinny days, I felt like I had a pumpkin stuffed down my pants. This doesn’t make her a big girl. She is average size and average weight. She just happens to already possess a body type – one that isn't based on a stick figure.

Can you anticipate the problem of finding jeans for this child? Specifically to be worn to parochial school? We live in an age of skinny jeans, bedazzled butt cheeks, and super low waist lines. We live in an era where Daisy Dukes can be bought in size T’s (that’s toddler for all you non-child bearing folk), where mock turtlenecks are long gone, but mock half-shirts are all the rage, and “bling” is now used to describe everything from wedding gowns to watches. If you didn’t look at the size of the clothes, it would be almost impossible to tell what the age of the child wearing it should be. In fact, I saw a blazer/shirt combo my eldest sister-in-law would kill for – in size 7 GIRLS.

We were screwed before we walked out the damn door. It was ugly. My husband came along for this festive event and he spent the whole time muttering about convents. (I give up easily when it comes to shopping. He perseveres. If not for him, I wouldn't just be Pantless, I’d be flat out naked.) Store after store, we found jeans that were so tight, she couldn't zipper them, or so long she couldn't walk in them, or had so much bling on the backside that she could have advertised a Broadway show. We went up a size, we went down a size. We switched stores. Hell, we switched malls. We went high end and low end. She kept asking for Nordstrom’s and a “super sparkly” top, which basically means that if she ever goes shopping with Aunt C, I’d better go rob a bank.

At one point, there were tears. For the first time, my daughter looked in a mirror and didn't like what she saw. Her body wasn't just part of her, like her hair color, or her eyes. It was something to look at with suspicion and revulsion. I explained to her that she was beautiful, healthy, strong, smart, and fantastic. That if it was easy to find jeans, then they wouldn't write books about magical ones. I pointed out that “skinny jeans” didn't mean they only fit skinny girls, just like boot cut didn't mean you could only wear it with boots. I tried to help her to understand that her body is a gift from God and that He makes them in all different shapes and sizes on purpose so that we don’t get bored.

Finally, finally, finally, the perfect pair of jeans was found. They were just her size, just the right length, and even came with a super sparkly belt (but mercifully, nothing on the back pockets). We bought two. It was just in the nick of time too as the stores were about to close, her brother had given up walking and was now throwing himself bodily down the length of the mall, baseball style, and her father was ready to murder someone for a caffeinated beverage. Me? I was just happy to get out alive.

This Friday, she’ll sashay her little self into school feeling cool and confident in her brand spanking new jeans. She doesn’t know what size they are, or how much they cost, or what brand. All she knows is that she’ll be “just like the other girls.” And I guess for now, that’s a win. 

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

You're Fired!

Next week, my youngest starts full-day kindergarten. I am completely overwhelmed with the realization that my shadow for the past six years, my little guy at the back of my knee, the baby boy who still follows me from room to room will be leaving me for eight hours per day. I am just about prepared for the craziness of getting two kids plus a husband out the door at the same time every morning. My calendar is already filled with afternoon activities and dinner crock pot recipes are already being gathered. School supplies and uniforms have been bought. I am as ready as I am going to be for everything but one small, inconsequential item of business. The question.

You know the question. If you are a woman, without children of your own, you probably asked it, innocently and in an off-hand manner, as if the answer was simple and already decided. If you are a guy, you asked it automatically, expecting one and only one answer. If you are another SAHM who has been in the exact same position, you know not to ask at all.

What is the question? What has me so riled up already that I am ready to punch the next person who asks me in the face?

"So, what are you going to do once the kids are in school?"

A lot of different responses have popped into my head. Should I go with "eating Bon-Bon's and watching soaps"? It is fairly unoriginal, plus I've clearly eaten my share of desserts and I'm not into daytime TV. "Hookers and coke" is my husband's line whenever I ask him what he is up to when I'm not around, but I don't like to steal someone else's material. "Porn" is succinct, but I shudder to think of the TMI that may lead to from an over-sharer.

What I want to reply is, "What do you expect me to do after being out of the work force for eight years?"

(As always, I have nothing but respect for those moms who choose to continue their career. I made my choice and I have to live with it. This is just me complaining about the ramifications.)

Think hard. How many careers can take an eight-year hiatus? Post 9/11, post the dot-com bubble bursting, post Author Anderson, post the collapse of the stock market, the housing marketing, and in the middle of a recession - what jobs exactly do you think are available? What industry will take you with open arms, flexible hours, and pay enough to afford aftercare during the school year and daycare during breaks and summer vacation. Not everyone can teach, wants to teach, or can get a teaching position. Technology has practically somersaulted over itself in terms of change. Health care is in a state of flux. Companies in every industry are "right-sizing", "down-sizing" or just plain laying off. Lots of industries don't have part time, freelance, or work-from-home options. Even in those that do, many companies don't offer them. Hell, even Yahoo! is making everyone come into the office these days. So many industries have changed so dramatically that women with experience, with savvy, with ambition, who started work in a lush economy with myriad possibilities now find themselves facing a scorched earth and closed door. Going back to school for a new degree is a great option - if the one income for two adults and X number of kids can stretch that far. Plus, many of these women have spent the intervening years joining a few committees, offering to volunteer at school, at church, in the community and don't necessarily want to give up giving back.

So, what exactly do you want us to do? What answer do you think we are going to give you?

I'm actually lucky. Though my children refuse to believe it and interrupt me constantly, I am a freelance editor and have been doing business writing all this time. Excluding a three-month maternity leave when I had my first born, my résumé doesn't have a gap. While the freelance market is glutted right now and many of my "opportunities" seem to include writing term papers for foreign nationals for less than I would have charged in college for beer money, as least I have one steady employer. It isn't perfect, it doesn't pay many bills, and it leaves me far too much time to read, but it is what is it.

Right now, I still want to be the person called when the preschool needs a sub, when the PTA needs a hand setting up a breakfast, when the teacher needs a parent helper in the classroom. I still want to be as involved in my kids lives a possible because pretty soon, instead of getting a big hug and kiss when they see me in the halls, I'm going to get the cold shoulder and a wicked side eye.  

So next time you see me, and I mention my son going to kindergarten, think before you speak. Don't ask the question. Just pat the little guy on the head, tell him he is going to love it, and go about  your day. I am about to be fired from a job I have loved and held for eight long years. I honestly don't know what I am going to do next. But when I figure it out, you'll be the first one to know.

Monday, July 22, 2013

The Story of Us


Months and months ago, I bought my daughter tickets to see Taylor Swift in concert at Lincoln Financial Field. Sure, I knew it was summer and it would be hot, but how hot could it possibly be? Well, as it turns out, really, really f'ing hot. It will be 106 degrees in the lower levels tonight, but we are up in the nosebleed section, there hasn't been a breeze in a week, and I bet we are sitting in direct sunlight. So, let's be generous and add another 5 degrees, bringing the grand total up to 111. Degrees. Fahrenheit.

The last time I went to a concert in this type of heat, I was living in North Carolina and strutted around in a bikini top and short shorts. Since I don't want to cause hysterical blindness in the 10 and under set, I'll be attending the concert fully dressed this evening. While a muumuu would be ideal (and really, a perfect representation of the fat cow I have become), I do believe I will stick to a fitted maxi dress. While a mini would involve less material and hence less heat, the maxi has the benefit of putting some material between my legs and the seats, keeping me from sticking to them and losing bits of skin.

What will my daughter wear to this auspicious event - her first ever concert? Well, currently, she is moping around the house in a nightgown because she doesn't know she is going. I knew that if I told her eight months ago, I would have spent all that time punishing her by taking the concert away, giving it back, taking it away again, etc. I didn't want the drama. I did screw with her head this morning and allowed her to try (and fail) to win tickets from the local radio station, but that was just for my own amusement. She cried, of course, which made me feel bad, but I'll assuage my guilt with an overpriced concert tee later.

Later, I'll braid her hair and talk her into a pretty dress with the excuse that Daddy is going to take us out to dinner. When he gets home, we'll tell her the truth. I expect the sonic scream to ricochet around town and blow out a few windows. My husband will be our chauffer tonight, mostly because I will not be in any position to operate heavy machinery by the time the concert ends. He doesn't even think I'll make it through the concert without a visit to the medical tent, but I know I will. I won't let my daughter miss even a single note of Taylor Swift, even if the goats are bleating. However, I will make sure that she has emergency info on her and I'll have lots of cash on hand to buy the astronomically-priced bottles of water.

Post Show

As promised, the sonic scream did indeed rattle the windows. She also cried tears of joy, which was a nice touch. Then she immediately rushed us to the car, putting us at the stadium, walking to our nosebleed-section seats, a full three hours before Taylor Swift was scheduled to go onstage. This, as it turned out, was auspicious because the benevolent concert gods decided to smile upon us. As I was wondering if we were high enough that we were going to need oxygen masks, I noticed a small crowd. Turns out, some promoters had just finished handing some out seat upgrade, and when my little one burst into tears at the thought of missing out at actually good seats where you could actually see Taylor Swift was a person, not just a dancing red ant, the guy melted and slapped a spare pair of wristbands on us. Off we went to floor seats, just 14 rows back from the pit and blessedly, blessedly, in the shade. Filled with happiness at our fantastic luck, we spent the next few hours making fun of the opening acts, chatting with all our neighbors (who had also been gifted with the upgrades, so we were a pretty happy bunch), sharing glow bracelets, and hunting down the Italian Ice guy.

When Taylor Swift finally did take the stage, the first thing I noticed what that the poor child cannot dance. You don't notice it so much when you are only watching her sing one song in a video or at an awards show, but when she has an entire concert, you realize pretty quickly that she cannot move rhythmically at all. I would love to bust her on it, but since I can't play piano, banjo, or the guitar, AND I can't dance, write songs, and earn bajillions of dollars making fun of ex-boyfriends publicly, I'll just let it slide. They actually covered it really well with lots of background dancers and just moving her around the stage a lot, but she isn't a dancer.

I'm not going to lie. I sang along. I sang along at the top of my lungs and didn't give a shit who saw me. I felt like I did when I went to Disney - I could be a snarky bitch about it, or I could simply give in and enjoy the show. Sure, I sent a few snarky Tweets (which were picked up by a media outlet), but only during the first few songs. And honestly, they were well-deserved. I do miss lighters, especially when we were all holding up iPhones with the flashlight app turned on. I did worry that with the waving of a big red flag was going to encourage French revolutionaries to storm the stage and start to sing. And I did think the opening act was a moron for encouraging the crowd to do a call and response to "Hell, yeah" since most would get in trouble for saying "H-E-double hockey sticks."

Did I pass out? No, I did not. I did at one point have an ocean of salty sweat pouring down my body that you could have body surfed on, and I did guzzles several $4 bottles of water, but I stayed upright. I grabbed a seat during a section of slow songs since I didn't have to worry that my daughter was going to topple off hers, but overall, I was fine. Tacky to the touch, but fine. When the concert ended, we popped into the battlefield of the parking lots only long enough to grab a fallen-off-the-truck concert shirt, then hit a side street where my husband was waiting with the A/C set to full-blast and two icy-cold bottles of water. While I never expected in my life to order a Happy Meal (while sober and for an actual child) at quarter to midnight, I brushed aside that parenting fail and let her happily munch away while she told her father all about the concert. In the end, after a cool shower, I fell into bed a very happy parent. I was able to enjoy a great night with my daughter, one we will both never forget, and I managed to do it without falling over. One day, she'll look back at this first concert and be embarrassed by it, as we all are by our pre-teen obsessions. But for now, I am the coolest mom on the planet.

I can live with that.

Friday, July 5, 2013

To Secure Peace

A few years ago, I complained on Facebook that parenting was hard. A good friend of mine who has been known to be rather harsh in her assessment of things, wrote back, "What made you think it would be anything else?" This friend, I'll call her Rorey, has two Stepford children, a Stepford husband, and has never been caught raising her voice or having a dirty house. It's enough to drive you bonkers, it really is. However, she is my trusted advisor in terms of parenting because she really, truly believes that a good mother doesn't choose her battles, she wins them all.

I thought about her today when, seven hours after I told the kids to do something, it still wasn't done, so we still hadn't left for the pool. Seven hours! I didn't ask them to perform surgery, to learn to speak fluent Russian, or to organize all the Lego pieces by size, shape, and color. Nope, I asked them to put their toys and their laundry away. One basket of laundry each and about a dozen toys.

Now, I'll be honest. I spent 14 hours in the sun yesterday before I fell into bed a hot, sweaty, stinky, exhausted mess of a human being. I was damp and sweaty pretty much from sunup to sundown, so I'm perfectly happy staying indoors wearing dry bottoms. With a full heat advisory in effect, and temps that feel like 100+ and counting, I am medically restricted from being out-of-doors for long periods of time anyway. Orthostatic intolerance and extreme heat are a potentially catastrophic cocktail and require me to be very, very careful of their balance. So do I mind missing a day at the pool, even after two weeks of rain, knowing that summer is still early, the weekend hasn't even hit yet, and I will have lots of time to bake, broil, and fry? Nope.

But that isn't the point. The point is that even if I did mind, I would have been trapped indoors by my children anyway. I gave them two tasks, they had to complete them before we left the house, therefore, we were not leaving the house before those tasks were done. Sure, I could pick up the toys in ten minutes, have put all the clothes away in another twenty (and they would be far neater in their drawers than they are now), but that would have defeated the whole point of asking them to do it. She's eight, he's almost six - both are perfectly able to perform those tasks. In fact, I've seen him practically sing as he rushed to put way four times the amount of crap at preschool, and Lord knows she has a reputation at school for knowing when everything has to be said, done, and put, so she totally had this under control.

So yes, parenting is hard. It is hard to watch the disappointment and hurt in my daughter's eyes when she realizes she was wasn't invited to birthday party and everyone else was. It is hard to say no, you can't get more library books until you pay the current fines, knowing how much she loves to read and how hard she works for those dollars. It is hard to watch my son struggle with all those little steps that make him a "big boy" like taking off the training wheels, learning to read, learning to swim. There have been days I wanted to just throw my hands and say screw it, but I can't. Instead I have to muddle through this dream/nightmare of parenting the best I can so that they don't grow up to write the modern equivalent of Mommy Dearest.  

I don't necessarily think I can win all of the battles. There are just too many, coming from too many directions, on too many different levels. Tempers may fray, tears may be shed, but the I will continue to fight the good fight. For while I may occasionally lose a battle, I will not lose this war. I will raise good kids who do what they are told, are good friends and good neighbors, and who are smart and well-spoken so that one day, they will be able to fight their own battles.

Until that time - eight hours and counting.

Friday, June 14, 2013

Sunny Days, Chasing the Clouds Away

Back in ye olden days, prognosticating the future was a hanging offense. I would like to bring that punishment back, particularly in regard to meteorologists.

I understand that accurately predicting violent weather eruptions is next to impossible. This was proven beyond a shadow of a doubt when respected and revered scientist and storm chaser Tim Samaras lost his life when a tornado he was tracking zigged instead of zagged, taking him, his driver Carl Young, and his son Paul with him. I can only hope that they wound up in the land of the great and powerful Oz and did not suffer when the tornado took them. They were just following a storm, just trying to glean more information about what causes tornados so that in the future, they could give towns more than 16 minutes  to seek shelter. While you can do a lot with 16 minutes, or the exact amount of time between the National Weather Service warning to the residents of Moore, Oklahoma and when the tornado destroyed their town, but think of how much more you could do with 20 or 30? I have nothing but respect for Tim and what he died trying to do. May he rest in peace.

But that was a big and wild storm, filled with craziness. What about those calm and mild days when the weather people still don't seem to be able to read a radar screen? What do we do about those people? I will never forget a random Saturday where it was supposed to be 80, sunny, and mild and it turned out to be 60, overcast, and damp. I was expected a tan, instead I wore a jacket. I remember being absolutely amazed that the weather guys were wrong on not just one, or two, but all THREE counts. Can you imagine if you were wrong that spectacularly and publicly at your job? Your ass would be out the door with a cardboard box of your personal items in ten minutes.

The best part is that this happens daily. I spent the last week hearing about how terrible Thursday was going to be with wicked storms all day long. I went so far as to pick up a case of water and clean my house. (My thought process on the latter was that if wind and hail caused anything to land on my house and damage it, I didn't want to walk an obstacle course of Lego mini-figs and Babysitter Club books to get to the mess.) I woke up with a sense of dread, waiting to see what foul weather would come. The morning storm brought on a level of darkness only seen during full eclipses. As my phone blew up with weather alerts about hail, winds, flash flooding, rain of frogs, etc., I carefully moved a chair out from under the skylights, put on Sesame Street on PBS so that I could get the storm updates while my very calm son watched Elmo, and waited for the storm to hit. My husband, whom I have often asked if he even has a window in his office, so rarely does he notice what happens outside it, even texted me to comment on how dark it was and warn me to keep my phone charged. Do you want to know what happened next?

A thunderstorm passed by. It rained, for a little bit. It hailed teeny tiny drops of ice for a teeny tiny amount of time. A few trees swayed and some leaves and maybe a few small branches fell off them. The streets got wet. It was a little loud and a little bright out. Then the storm passed, the sun actually came out and all was right with the world. It was not Armageddon. It wasn't even the Michael Bay version. It was just a thunderstorm. But wait! More storms were to come! And they would be louder, and wetter, and messier, and oh, humph, I guess they went to our south because all we got was some rain. Hmm. So much for Thunder Thursday.

Seriously, if the weather people are going to hit DefCon 4 every single time the radar lights up, it is going to be a very, very long summer. While I just made up the phrase Thunder Thursday, I am positive some dim-witted weather guy contemplated using it. We now get named snow storms (which again, almost never, ever hit expected snow total within six inches in either direction), as if anyone is going to start talking about the days when Snowstorm Stupidhead hit. People remember snowstorms in terms of what they cancelled. The storm that cancelled the Christmas concerts, or the ones that messed up a weekend away, or that one that closed school the day of the big test. We don't need a name for it, we already gave it a memory. Hurricanes deserve names because hurricanes fuck shit up in such a massive way, you need to be definitive about it. Sandy destroyed the shore. Katrina destroyed New Orleans. It puts a succinct name to a succinct action. But snowstorms? Pshaw.

I don't think being a meteorologist is easy. However, I think that the current Chicken Little method of prediction has got to go. When I was growing up, you checked the sky for storms. Last year, at my local pool, we were all playing bingo happily and rather loudly on a sunny, warm night. The pool is completely enclosed in a glen of trees, so visibility isn't great in terms of approaching storms, but the wind was calm and quiet. Within minutes, the wind started whipping, the temperature started dropping, and my daughter started crying. We all gathered our stuff and immediately headed out of the door. Once past the parking lot and overlooking an open field, we got our first glimpse of a monster storm. My family made it safely indoors. We didn't have three days warning. While my weather app had told me storms were possible, there wasn't a single phone at the pool that issued an alert about upcoming weather. We all just used our eyes and basic common sense and got the hell out of there. Isn't that all you can really do for a thunderstorm? Do we need days upon days of hand-wringing over the fact that winter is coming? Does it really require capital letters and a house crest?  

So, the next time a storm approaches and passes with nary a drop of rain, or another snowstorm hits with no accumulation, or you are stuck in extra layers of clothing, join me in raising throwing the rope over a tree limb. I'm not saying they have to be right all of the time, but more right than wrong would be a great start.

Monday, May 13, 2013

Who Can It Be Now?

Every week since I left home for college at 17, I have spoken to my parents on Sunday night. Some weeks we speak more often, some weeks, the call gets pushed back to Monday, and for a brief period of about three months, there weren't any calls at all. But for the rest of the time, every week, every month, every year, I talk to my parents on Sunday nights.

You would think, during all this time spent talking on the phone, that quite a lot of information would have been shared. As always, you need to take into account that the other person on the line is my mother (and my father, but he is always watching TV at the same time and never pays any attention. Also, fun fact, even though I will call and say, Hi Dad, it is your daughter, he will still ask who it is.) While my mother is actually in appallingly good health and will be left with the cockroaches in the event of a meteor strike, talking to her weekly is like dealing with a very mean Alzheimer's patient. She remembers nothing, gets mad when you try to remind her of something, and behaves as if the reason she doesn't remember anything is because it wasn't important enough in the first place.

For example, my mother has asked me (more than once) where I went to college.

She paid for college. She (along with my father) accompanied me on my tour of the college, drove me to and from the college many times, wore merchandised branded by the college for years, and spent all four years of my time there complaining about how far away the college was from home. She attended my college graduation and moved to the same town as my college roommate's family. I am an only child and I only attended one school. How is it she can forget its name? Repeatedly?

To overhear us at a restaurant would be to believe that I am dining with distant relatives whom I rarely see or speak to instead of my own parents with whom I see monthly and speak weekly. The few items of interest she does tend to remember about me are either from my teenage years or are completely imaginary.

For example, upon viewing my beautiful diamond engagement ring, my mother huffed and said she thought I would want a tiger's eye instead. You know, those brown rocks you can find in any Spencer's store or craft fair, usually in a fake gold setting, all for the low, low price of $25? Eventually, I realized she had gleaned that nugget of information off my dumb teenage self in the midst of a Judy Blume phase a full decade before I waved my sparkly hand in her direction. All efforts to explain that I had grown, matured, and changed my mind were ignored and to this day, she still thinks I am "stuck" with my diamonds.

Here is another example, I once spent an entire dinner arguing about whether or not they spend Christmas Eve with us. They don't. They never have. In fact, since my daughter's first Christmas Eve almost eight years ago, the 24th of December is a sacred, wife/husband/child/ren only day. Yet despite all evidence to the contrary, my mother refused to back down.

The most recent example of this selective memory came about during our weekly phone calls. My mother, an extreme lover of animals who places the value of all dogs far above the value of any humans, read an article about my fainting goat syndrome and how dogs are used in managing it. Sigh. My mom thinks dogs could cure cancer if only they would stop licking their butts long enough to try, so I muttered something inconsequential. But then she started asking basic questions my condition, up to and including, "What do you call it?" [Postural Orthostatic Tachycardia Syndrome] and "Where did you get it?" [It's genetic, through the maternal line.]

This is a woman who can tell you, to the penny, exactly how much she has given in wedding gifts for the last decade. She can tell you in nauseating detail the medical ailments, treatments, and eventual cause of death in every animal she has ever owned, what happened in an episode of Ghost Hunters five seasons ago, where she bought every discount item in her overstuffed closets, and the location on the rack of her favorite coat that she went and visited weekly in the store until she was able to buy it on clearance. This is not a woman with memory problems.

Yet somehow, over the course of the 15 years since I first showed symptoms, to the eventual diagnosis, to the good months where it went quiet, and the bad months where it became life-threatening, she cannot remember the name or the cause of my health problem. This minor medical condition that I have under control through medication and some basic trigger avoidance, but still remains a small factor in my daily life, is a complete mystery to my mother. My husband, who can spot the beginning of an episode from across the room, and my friends, from close to casual, who can all probably name a side effect of it off the top of their heads (no alcohol, no extreme heat, gains weight easily, loses weight not at all, exercise very difficult), all know more about it than my mom.

Honestly, it is a wonder and continuing mystery why I bother calling at all.

I know there are soft hearts out there who are reading this and are trying to make excuses for her behavior. I've heard them all. To you I say and will continue so say the same thing: bullshit. My mother has had a hard life. So have many, many, many other millions of people. Almost all of them have dealt with the after-effects much better than she has. Sure, she can behave in public (mostly) and for very short periods of time, convince people that she is perfectly normal. For instance, my SIL calls her "delightful." However, as they have only every conversed once every two years, and mostly about dogs (see above), I don't think she is a very good judge of character. However, the basic truth remains that the woman is mad as a hatter and has said so many inexcusable things to so many people that come Judgment Day, she is going to have a LOT of explaining to do.

But, I try to be a good daughter. I make fun of her, true, but I do take care of her. I make sure she doesn't accidentally kill my dad. I do all of her online purchasing for her as well as most of her Christmas shopping. I pretend that I won't send her pets to doggie heaven if she should ever die (I totally will, but in my defense, they are all ancient, infirm, and emotionally stunted  so that death will be a sweet mercy for them) and while I tend to surf the web when we chat, I always make sure she talks with both kids and that they tell her "I love you, Grandmom" before they get off the phone.

So every week I will call. She may not listen to a word I say, like ever, but at least she can hear my voice. That has to count for something.

Monday, May 6, 2013

Body and Blood

My daughter's First Communion was this past weekend. Considering the stress, time, and money involved, it might as well have been a mini-wedding. I send her to Catholic school so that I don't have to deal with the religious education of my child specifically to avoid questions such as, "Mommy, why does the communion wafer taste like cardboard?" My first response, aka, my inner voice, was to ask what dried blood and decayed meat should taste like, being that she is, according to the tenets of her faith, eating the body and blood of a dead man. My second response, or the words I actually said out loud asked what flavor would work best. She thought lemon would be good.

As readers of this blog know, in second grade, the kids make the sacrament of confession and the one of communion. At her school, this entails endless meetings, e-mail reminders, paperwork, and really, really random take-home sheets. Confession was in February, and no, I did not confess my sins as my priest would have preferred. Instead, I watched my husband dither about whether he should confess from the relative safety of my pew. In the end, he missed his window because my daughter raced to the front of the line and by the time he made up his mind, she was already out and we had to get to basketball practice. Priorities, right?

Communion was a whole other basket of cats. There was the nighttime, parent-only meeting. One hour of my life lost to the ether. There was the Saturday morning tour of the church that was required for parents and children. The "tour" included a fascinating 15 minute lecture about the history of the church and its architecture. There was a 45 minutes lecture about the history of the alter which was insanely age-inappropriate and at least 35 minutes too long. During it, the lovely head of religious education held up cue cards with long, Latin words on them for the children to say, like a demented, ecclesiastical Vanna White. This was followed by a 20 minute fashion show wherein the priest took out every single vestment, robe, cassock, etc., in every single color he owned and lovingly spread them out to be oohed and aahed over. Let me tell you, the boys were really into that part of the program. Finally, with 10 minutes to go, we were all rushed through the sacred space behind the altar with barely enough time to take in the sink without plumbing (to wash remnants of the host directly into the soil, which just has to violate building code) and the fact that there is a full-length mirror hidden back there. The children also got to enjoy a Saturday retreat (separate from the tour), and not one, but two 90 minute rehearsals for the big day.

The parents got to spend money. All the boys wore suits, either bought or borrowed, but all very, very dapper. I've already got my eye on a suit that has made the rounds through two different families. Those parents got off lucky. I've got a girl, which means the prep started a full day in advance. We had a Mommy/Daughter mani-pedi where I tried not to moan in pleasure while the burly Asian man pummeled my legs with hot rocks and she acted like a grown up in her mini Hello Kitty pedicure tub. There was the hair appointment. My daughter had so much hairspray to keep her bun in place that when we took out all the pins, the hair still didn't move. Putting on her jewelry (all family gifts), putting on her shoes, and zipping up made me flash-forward 20 years to her wedding day.

Then of course, there was the banner. Every child had to create a banner for the church. I spent a full week trying to find a banner kit that met our specific size specifications (where were of course different than those found in the standard kit sold in every St. Jude store). My child lovingly crafted the dumb thing, I managed not to burn myself using the glue gun putting it all together and where did they hang them? At the end of our pews, helping us find our designated seats? No. These lovely banners that most of the kids made themselves with felt and glue and love and attention were hung on the altar rail where no one could see them. So, what was the point of the banner again?

The ceremony itself was quite lovely. The priest rose to the occasion and actually spoke to the children instead of lectured the parents. All family was present and accounted for and the worst behaved of the lot were the uncles in the back row, not the little guy tucked in with them and a stack of comic books. A family friend came to the church and took lots of pictures for us, and the food I cooked must have been half-decent because there wasn't a whole lot left of it. It was perfect weather, the dogwoods were still in bloom in my backyard, and the track meet that took up all the parking on my block ended long before my guests arrived. Sure, my mom showed up an hourly early (so once again, my hair didn't get done), and stayed two hours late (without even once attempting to clean up a plate), but she and my father were appropriately dressed, so I'll take that as a win. By the time my husband, son, and I climbed into my bed to watch the Phillies game, my daughter was long asleep, and the rest of us weren't far behind.  

Friday, March 22, 2013

Is The Pope Catholic?

I have discussed before that I am not a sterling example of Catholicism. During my daughter's recent tour of our church to get her prepared for her Holy Communion (a building she visits frequently and, considering I send her to the attached Catholic school, could have been visited during school hours), I found myself pondering the inanities of my religion. Never is it more clear that we really do suspend disbelief than when the priest held the host and made sure to let the kids know that it was just bread until it was blessed, after which, it becomes the blessed body of Christ.

To be clear, a man dressed in long flowing robes mutters an incantation in a foreign language while waving his hands in a specific way, thus transmogrifying one object into another. Yet, we happily burned witches back in the day. It really does baffle the mind.
Anyway, as always, I am not a good Catholic. But as I recently told a friend, I am as much Catholic as I am Caucasian. It's a part of who I am and I cannot change it. I can mock it, yes, but I do so in the form of trying to understand it.

Which brings me to the pope. I am fascinated by the idea of conclave. Locking a bunch of important people in a room together and not letting them out until they have reached a decision is brilliant. Imagine how quickly Congress would work if they couldn't all fly home every weekend? I love that they send the important information of whether a pope has been chose via smoke signal. It is so deliciously old school. I also like the thought of little old men fussing around a fireplace, trying to get it to light.
The white smoke signal was released when my daughter was still in school. She came tearing out, yelling that we had to get home right away to see who was the new pope. Similar scenes were being enacted all over the schoolyard. It seems the kids had been watching the news indoors and couldn't wait to see what happened next. I put her in front of CNN, then I folded clothes in front of BBC News, a channel I have found chatters less but imparts more information. Lo and behold, our new pope was announced. In the rush and clamor to give us a description of the man who is one step removed from Christ himself, the best they could give us was that he was a humble man.

Humble? HUMBLE? What does that mean, exactly? At it turns out, humble means that he actually pays his own bills. He carries his own luggage. He prefers to ride public buses rather than private cars. He likes to kiss babies and mingle. He stood for his first holy (televised) blessing in a basic white robe instead of sitting in a throne, bejeweled and bedecked in sparkling diamonds.
Basically, to paraphrase Wil Wheaton, he's not a dick.

This, apparently, is his crowning achievement. I've read several stories about him in the past week and have learned little to nothing more about him. He's from Argentina. He is a Jesuit. I could get more information off of LinkedIn than I am getting from Time magazine. All everyone can talk about is the fact that he prefers an open-aired Jeep to the Pope-Mobile (seriously, who wouldn't) and keeps asking people to pray for him instead of the other way around. Why this tickles peoples fancies is beyond me. Hello! There is God, then there is the Pope. In terms of the business of Catholic INC., he's the CEO to God's Chairman of the Board. Why is HE asking for prayers? There is no on earth with a more direct pipeline to God. In fact, the phrase, from your mouth to God's ears is technically true when discussing Pope Francis. One good prayer from him should make you solid with the Lord for the rest of your earthly life, whereas a million prayers from the great unwashed are really nothing more than a general din, like a chant in the background of a football game. P-O-P-E Pope!
Is this how far the Catholic church has fallen? We break our arms patting ourselves on the back because the new pope isn't a dick? Years ago, while enjoying a nice relaxing lunch on Boston Common, I was approached by a bible thumper who asked me if I had taken Jesus as my personal Lord and Savior. I replied yes, I'm Catholic, then went back to my book. His next question was if I was a good Christian. I thought that was covered by me being Catholic, said as much, and though he seemed confused, he did move away to bother someone else. I realized later than being a good Christian is not seen as being a good Catholic. Being a good Christian means being, in general, a good person. When someone says, that was a Christian thing to do, they mean that it was generous, kind, and thoughtful. Being a good Catholic, on the other hand, is a whole different ballgame and means that you deny homosexuality and women's rights and look the other way when priests diddle little boys. I spend a lot of time defending my faith instead of extolling it.

So, is the pope Catholic? I'm sure he is. The better question is, do we want him to be?

Monday, February 25, 2013

Live Blogging the Oscars

6:30: I abdicated all parenting responsibilities and plopped myself down on the couch for the Oscars. My phone is fully charged, my laptop is powered up, and I've been texting my best friend in California nonstop since preshow for the "gay Super Bowl" started. Off we go!

7:46: A preshow so boring my daughter actually voluntarily went to bed is not a good preshow. Where are the celebrities? And, for the celebs I've already seen, where are the colors? Where is their lipstick? Where did Ryan Seacrest go? Why did E! stop interviewing people and just keep shoving random people around a really big table? Why couldn't someone give Kristen Chenowith a box? She keeps shouting up at people and they keep leaning down to shout back and a basic apple box would have solved a lot of problems. The ABC preshow is quite honestly the worst I have ever seen, and I've been watching this since birth.

8:30: Seth McFarlane. Hate. What does the Kaleesi see in him? Every joke is telegraphed and obvious. He is the least charming man in existence.

8:35: Oh Captain, my captain. What on earth is William Shatner doing there?

8:40: A fully dressed Channing Tatum is a wasted opportunity.

8:50: Best Supporting Actor is Christoph Waltz. First upset of the night. DeNiro is going to get him wacked.

8:56: Both Melissa McCarthy and Paul Rudd have far too much hair going on and their bit is never ending.

8:58: Paperman was adorable. Finally, I've actually seen a winning Short Film!

9:00: Brave wins best animated feature and all I can wonder is, "what is he wearing under that kilt?"

9:05: Avengers Assemble! It's too bad they gathered five actors from the movie but couldn't be bothered to get them onto the screen at the same time. It's called a wide shot. Look into it.

9:11: I am completely appalled that they played off the winners of Best Visual Effects with the Jaws theme, making a joke of his speech. That wasn't right. That wasn't right at all.

9:16: Channing is back and he is still fully clothed.

9:20: Making actors look thin and dirty (Les Mis) won over turning grown men in hobbits. I don't agree.

9:26: My husband, on the Bond retrospective, "Are they ever going to let the woman actually nominated for the Bond theme sing it?" Me, "Apparently not." I think they gave Shirley Bassey a standing O just to make her stop singing.

9:33: I'm so glad Jamie Foxx has finally stopped singing every time he gets near a microphone.

9:42: Where are the audience reaction shots? A Gigli joke but no cut to Ben Affleck? If he isn't in his seat, then hold the joke until he is. The director choices regarding camera work are baffling.

9:49: Jennifer Garner's dress is a formal mullet. Plain in the front, all fluff and flowing butt flowers in the back.

9:52: The theater doesn't have room for a live orchestra? Yet another terrible production choice.

9:55: So this is just an ode to musicals from the last decade? Or just an ode to Chicago? A partial list of musicals in theaters since 2002 include Rock of Ages, Footloose, Rent, Pitch Perfect, Phantom of the Opera, Fame, Nine, Mama Mia, Sweeney Todd, Once, Walk the Line, and The Producers. Why aren't they represented? Plus, you already have Channing Tatum there - he couldn't do a bit from Step It Up? Finally, the sound quality for this musical performance is wonky. Too bad they didn't have a live orchestra or anything.

10:05: Boy, they fucked up that Les Mis song big time.

10:09: Who decided that when the new Star Trek actors took the stage, that they would used Star Trek: The Next Generation music instead of the class music from the original series? Music cue fail. Again. On the bright side, the Captain Kirk count is up to two.

10:11: My husband, when Marky Mark was forced to take the stage with a talking stuffed animal, "What did he do wrong?"

10:15: A tie? Really? The most intriguing moment of the awards and there is a fucking talking bear on stage. Everything wrong with tonight was just summed up by the above sentence.

10:23: Things you should know. I hate Anne Hathaway. Every interview she gives, she acts like she invented marriage, love, acting, and singing. The fact that she had to do two of those things at once at the same time is apparently the hardest thing anyone has ever done in the history of history. Can you believe it? Acting and singing - at the same time - about love? Inconceivable. I also wish she would put her nipples away.

10:32: Sandra Bullock needs a sandwich.

10:43: Nicole Kidman needs to lay off the Botox.

10:48: My husband and I debate whether Kristen Stewart is high or just unwashed.

10:58: Ode to Dead People - at least they finally edited out the sound of the audience clapping for their favorites, which always turns a touching tribute into a popularity contest from beyond the grave.

11:01: Is Barbra Streisand drinking the blood of virgins now? Between the weird super straight hair, the talons, and the Wiccan nightdress, she looked like one of the lost Witches of Eastwick.

11:08: The cast of Chicago? Again? Seriously, the movie is 10 years old. It is too young to be a classic or get rebooted. Let. It. Go. But I am really curious why Renee Zellweger seemed incapable of reading the cue cards.

11:27: I am not a fan of Quentin Tarantino. Intellectually, I understand that he has his own voice and makes relatively interesting movies. Emotionally, he seems like a egomaniacal prick who breaks his neck giving himself blowjobs.

11:41: Go Jennifer Lawrence for Best Actress! (Silver Linings Playbook is one of the best films I've seen in years.) Holy shit, she just fell down. Thank God for well-fitted dresses because it never moved an inch, but perhaps they could have hemmed it up a bit?

11:47: Daniel Day Lewis wins Best Actor and without seeing Lincoln, I'm willing to stipulate that he was excellent, but I really wanted Hugh Jackman. Obviously, DDL is not getting played off the stage to shark eating music.

11:51: Jack Nicholson got to present Best Movie and FLOTUS!  

11:55: Argo! Best joke of the night goes to Grant Henslov. It says a lot about George Clooney that Grant spoke first, knowing that the Academy would have cut him off if he were to have gone last. But good lord, Ben needs to give Jen Garner some jewelry for his acceptance speech. Oof. First he compares her to Iran, then he talks about how much WORK their marriage is, and you could actually hear the capital letters. However, only George Clooney is so cool that he doesn't even need to thank people for his Oscar.

Overall a shitty production. The director kept missing key audience reaction shots, the spotlights kept missing the actors, the musical cues were insulting, the pacing was off, the sound quality was awful, and well, the host sucked. McFarlane never seemed to go away because he closed every commercial break. I'll give him a laugh for the Von Trapp family joke, but that's it. After three and a half hours of wretchedness, he came out and sang yet another song. Argh. I hope the Khaleesi let her dragons eat him.

Big thanks to my BFF in California, my other half on the other side of town, and my husband, who was very thankful I had social media to keep me company while I watched the show so that he could read in peace and quiet.

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

What's the Weather?

There are days when the weather sets your mood, no matter if you work indoors or out. Today is one of those days.

It has been well under the freezing mark for over a week, so the sudden rise to 60 in January, should be beguiling but is instead off-putting. The air doesn't feel right. It's both wet and dry, so that even the lightest coat seems too warm, but the bare air on your arms feels clammy and disturbing. The wind is alternately howling and lying completely dormant, so that all of the normal outdoor sounds keep fading in and out of focus. The sun, when it shines, is bright and glaring with that faded quality particular to winter, that makes it seem like it is streaming through a dense fog before it lands, thuggish and plain, on the windows of your car. But it won't stay out for long, and it darts in and out between ever darkening skies with clouds that are moving in the wrong direction, creating an optical illusion of speed where none exists. A storm is coming, but it is strutting leisurely into position, taking its time to set the proper mood, almost as if a dinner party is being laid with everything from soup to nuts and we all have to wait, course by course, for the dessert to finally arrive in a puddle of oozing black chocolate and blood red cherries.

Today would be a good day to open all your windows and let some fresh air blow through - but I'm not a big fan of demons or demi-gods, witches or winged creatures, so I'll be keeping my windows closed tight.

Today is a good day for a fight on a beach, the wind tearing the words from your mouth and tossing them hither and yon onto the salty air. It is the day for a horror story, to curl up with the best of King or Lovecraft and let yourself be carried away by the gusting and groaning of wood and steel. It is the kind of weather for mischief and magic, for waiting. Today is the kind of day to keep the doors locked but all the lights on, because in this weather, just about anything can happen.

Today, a Klingon would believe, is a good day to die.

Friday, January 11, 2013

Singing John Cougar Mellencamp

The past few weeks, some little shit with too much time on his hands and too little parental supervision has been terrorizing my little town with random and predatory acts of vandalism. (Or so I believe. It could be multiple little shits, or female little shits. But the fact that whomever is doing this is a piece of shit is of no question.) Anyway, if they ever find this little shit, I hope that someone strings him up by his toes in front of our little hometown market so we can all throw stones at him.

The biggest problem that has been caused, beyond loss of property, is the loss of a sense of safety. If you can't park your car in your own driveway without your tires being slashed, well, you aren't going to want to walk out of your own door in the morning because you will be afraid of what fresh hells awaits.

I don't want to live in that kind of town.

So, instead, I want to talk about the town I actually do live in. It's got lovely tree-lined streets that cast shade all summer long. It has Fourth of July parades, Christmas parades, an outdoor fruit and veggies market, lots of sports, and a feeling of community so strong that my kid made a fortune selling lemonade on our front steps. My husband likes to joke that he wants to bring another woman to the local bar just to see how long it will take for me to get the first text message trying to find out who she is, why my husband is out with her, and if I know about it. My guess? Under an hour.

When my son's preschool was vandalized by the aforementioned little shit and their entire library of children's books had to be destroyed due to fire retardant material being blasted all over it - well, that's when a town like this comes alive.

I will flatter myself enough to say that I started the ball rolling by posting a plea on social media asking for help. However, everyone knows that the ball is the least important part of a Rube Goldberg machine. It is all the resulting pieces and explosions and moving parts that get it to its final and fantastic conclusion. In this case, it was the dozen other people that reposted on Facebook. The fantastic individual who showed up with 12 boxes, and the equally fantastic people who showed up with one. One enterprising woman rallied her mother's group, another asked her children to kids pick their favorite book out of their private collections and then donate that one, many dropped a bag off at my house without waiting for a thank you or any acknowledgement at all. There were books shipped from California and Virginia and money donated from people who don't have kids, let alone kids books. Hell, my own mother got a one-week free pass of me complaining about her because her donation was so generous and then my in-laws doubled her, getting them out-of-jail-free for a month. (Not that I ever complain about them. Hi Dad!) There are also so many stories I don't know. Many, many bags and boxes dropped off by those many others who rallied their troops, gathered their friends, and asked their own families for help.

That is why I live in a small town. Small towns don't turn their backs on neighbors (though they do gossip about them constantly.) They don't focus on acts of stupidity, they focus on kindness and joy. Two weeks ago, the school library was empty. Today, it is bursting at the seams, so overfilled that another bookcase needed to be added. And still the books spill over the tops and sides. Soon, a few lucky charities will get the excess. Those books that were over the age range, the duplicates, the ones that don't quite work for preschools.

So I say thank you, small town, for making me so glad I moved her, that I have friends here, and that I call this place home. (And when that little shit comes to justice, as he surely will, let him learn what small town justice is like.)