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No Knock, Knock: “Who’s there?”

12 Oct

F9FE48AD-838D-4120-AEE3-DCAF0DAA71A9This is pretty much one of the worst texts any mother can receive from her daughter, but it’s especially panic inducing when said daughter is living in a dorm… in another state… as a college freshman…with no pre-college friends… and is fighting a throat infection. “What could possibly go wrong? She’ll be fine,” I said to a worried Big Daddy months ago to quell  his Daddy-fears swirling around Snakebite leaving for college. When your precious daughter’s chronic shyness and inability to read subtle social cues has limited her exposure to most of the typical lifestyle experiences of average 13-18 year olds, you just worry that her naiveté on a college campus makes her the perfect mark for a certain kind of budding psychopath-narcissist. Apparently it does. Let me tell you about it…

Between 2am-3am last Monday morning, October 2, 2017, Snakebite was roused by someone rubbing her leg while growl-whispering her name with urgency. She propped up and made out a dude standing near the top of her loft ladder and hunching above her bed. He said he was there to check on her, to see if she was feeling better. She was stunned, but told him he should leave. He said that he was hoping to spend the night cuddling with her because it was cold outside. He had walked 45 minutes to get there and thought she was being rude and ungrateful by not inviting him to get cozy. She calmly said he had to go, citing that she and her roommate have an understanding about not having over-night guests without an advance agreement. It’s the time-honored “blame it on the dog” of trying to politely decline a hook-up when you’re a girl who feels uncomfortable, but who is nice enough to want to spare someone’s feelings. Snakebite’s roommate, who was also sick and a known light sleeper, immediately sensed when someone was entering their room. C’N (not roomie’s real name, but I haven’t nicknamed her yet) began to make some sheet rustling noises so that both the intruder and Snakebite would know there was a witness. That’s pretty crafty, really. When he realized they weren’t alone and got nothing but unwavering pushback, he angrily left, slamming the door.

Who was this ‘Whee-hours Creeping Cuddler? Just some guy that she’d only just met the prior Friday while hanging out on campus. (College is in the mountains, so people are constantly standing or lying around outside, just waiting to be interacted with.) That was just 2 1/2 sleeps from this early morning wake-up call. They had hung out, chatted and Snakebite also gave him a ride to the Walmarts to buy some cold medicine; he was coming down with the crud. Snakebite had Snap-Chatted (I hate that app so much), or whatever the kids call it, with him some over the weekend, but Saturday and Sunday was mostly spent inside trying to stave off a developing sore throat.

What do we know about him…now? Well, this boy isn’t a student, he’s on Tender looking for something, he’s on the verge of being homeless because his roommate is sick of his shit and kicking him out of the trailer. He’s unemployed since being fired from his job at the Mexican restaurant next to Walmart. At 20, The Cuddler doesn’t have a car. Word on the street is that he loves and owns pistols. In the three years as an adult in the eyes of the law, he has been charged with assaulting a woman, resisting arrest, manufacturing marijuana, selling or delivering weed to someone under the age of 13 and sundry misdemeanors. There’s no telling how stuffed his juvie record might be. On Twitter he once posted shirtless selfie-mirror pictures to broadcast a chiseled physique accompanied with an a.p.b. diatribe covering how he’d been bullied in high school for being a fat kid, but now he is jacked. It finished with a simple statement that he wants to be “known”. Are you getting the shudders yet? He proudly boasts that he would never date a girl weighing more than 135 lbs. (Good thing he’s on the short size.) One of his Facebook profiles says that he went to “modeling college” in California and was a Hollister “site model” (millennial-speak for Floor Sales Associate at the mall), but when I googled him, I only found a few editions of Fuzzbusted that he had featured in as a “print model”. Is Snakebite crazy for passing on this prize? I mean, who in the hell gets fired from a Mexican restaurant in the mountains? These are the broadest strokes of the whack-a-doodle who fixated on my baby, figured out where to find her and waited until someone either entered her dorm with their magnetic card swipe or exited the dorm and then he just slipped through a closing door. Within minutes of his dismissal from the dorm, a barrage of angry, threatening, pleading, belittling and scattilogical texts began filling Snakebite’s phone.

D1BE8E69-96D5-41C4-89E3-9184B8045D7EWe are grateful that the ‘Whee-hours Creeping Cuddler is no master-mind. This could be a different post, otherwise. Despite having a poor, not so good plan, he still managed to find his way to Snakebite’s top-floor and end of the hall dorm room to shimmy up her loft ladder without her waking up. She had never even told him what dorm she lives in. I can’t imagine that getting caught trespassing, entering, assaulting two girls and communicating threats will garner this parolee any brownie points with his P.O. (parole officer).  The Cuddler should soon be bunking in his own sort of dorm… I hope he provides “companionship” to a very lonely, cuddling cellmate on chilly nights. What’s worrisome is that if this mountain-top moron was able to get himself inside of Snakebite’s dorm room, it must not be too difficult for any determined uninvited guest to get in dorms.

Friends, please, please, please remind your daughters and her friends to never assume that because they are in their own dorm room they are out of harm’s way. Talk with your kids, but daughters, especially, about how:

  1. Not everybody that they meet hanging out in the Quad is a student. As a college freshman it’s difficult to tease apart the nuances between a student who grew up close-by and an up-to-no-good townie who hangs out on a college campus because in a teensy town, that’s the only place that provides groups of similarly aged playmates. Some townies may even seek buttoning down a relationship with a college kid as a ticket out of their shitty town.
  2. Take new paths…literally. Tell your kids to not broadcast their schedule on social media and to switch up their routines when possible. Walk different routes to classes and back to the dorm. Be unpredictable. Notice what people she regularly sees when she’s out moving around. Be with, and visible to, other people when walking any long distances.
  3. Call the University’s golf-cart-student-safety driver to get her to the dorm at night or to her car parked in a far way lot.  It’s also a great way to meet a bunch of nice guys.
  4. Any guy your daughter meets that comes on too strong and too fast with his deeply personal emotional background information, sprinkled with affirmations that she is the sort of girl that brings out his romantic glow, is bad news. Your daughter needs to trot in the other direction. A fella that stakes a claim on a girl at their first meeting usually has some messed-up impulse control disorder, which is commonly found among a sea of other issues.
  5. If a boy that she has recently met quickly develops jealous opinions and beef over her former boyfriends, wants to know her passwords so he can explore her phone for any evidence of potential rivals, evidence of another romantic relationship or disloyalty, tells her about the past girls and women who have taken advantage of and wronged him only to callously leave and/or he complains that the time she spends with friends or family makes him feel lonely and like he’s not a priority…he is a raging unfillable pit of narcissist neediness and your daughter needs to call an Uber.
  6. Screen capture technology is a threatened girl, or freaked out guy’s, best friend. Tell your kids to screen-shot any sketchy digital-age stuff being sent to them. Save it. It may later be just the evidence a judge needs to issue a warrant or a restraining order.
  7. The door should always be locked. Always, whether one is inside or leaving. Don’t ever hold the main door open for anyone who isn’t known to be another dorm resident.

Naked Ramblin’ Man in My Mind

22 Apr

ramblin_raft_race_down_the_chattahoochee_river_atlanta_georgia_may_21_1977_raft_made_of_various_sized_tire_innertubes_tied_together_in_the_riverThere are two things that I remember vividly about Memorial Day weekend 1979.  One is that I had been bitten by either a black widow or a brown recluse spider earlier that week and my left elbow had swollen to double its normal size and turned a shiny bright pink color.  Our family pediatrician, Dr. Sandberg, had to meet us at his office on a holiday weekend, which seemed like a big deal.  Within a couple of days all of the epidermal tissue on my forearm had gone necrotic, turning jet black before withering then falling off in huge sections. The other thing that happened that weekend is that I saw my first naked man.  Guess which one has had the most lasting impact.  

Just imagine what's out of frame.

Just imagine whats out of frame.

He was white, sunburned, kinda tubby and was making “it” dance as he stood arms akimbo, legs askance whilst straddling a makeshift raft floating down the Chattahoochee River past where I stood on the banks of Powers Ferry Landing.  My Mom, because she was gawking and squealing, didn’t cup her hands over my eyes fast enough for me to miss out on that first floppy wiener sighting.*  Memorial Day weekend 1979 is forever etched into my visual recall.  The good news is that moving forward, pretty much any future naked man that I would ever see was certain to be a stone cold fox on my mental comparison chart.  The sad news is that I now traverse that very spot on the river several times a week and so Mr. Red Flabby Naked Man flashes across my mind’s eye every damn time I cross the “3rd bridge” that connects Rays on the River and the infamous Riverbend Apartments over Powers Ferry Landing.

Sponsored by Bud

Sponsored by Bud

See, back in the day there was a little thing in Atlanta called the Ramblin’ Raft Race.  It was kind of a big deal that started out in either 1968 or 1969 as an end of the year social for Delta Sigma Phi fraternity at Georgia Tech.  After a few years, word spread and pretty much the entire city turned out for it, either as a spectator, organizer or a participant.  At it’s peak, about 300,000 people were actually in the river during the race; it was even covered by Dan Rather on the CBS Evening News.  Hell yeah, that’s how we used to do here.

I actually remember seeing this raft from this spot.  Weird.

I actually remember seeing this raft

The quality of rafts ran the gamut from basic inner tubes strung together like a Cuban refugee train, Huck Finn tribute floats, hollowed out VW Bugs and sunken rooflines to feats of naval engineering that were multi-level, carrying pianos, gazebos and giant sneakers.  They may have mimicked Eastern Airlines planes, tiki huts or paid homage to grand paddle wheel or civil war boats.  However, all rafts were equipped with a shit ton of weed and lots of ‘hooch. I seem to recall there also being a handful of hot air balloons in the air, the smell of bbq mingling with the other assumed smells and  hearing a lot of Allman Brothers, Skynard, .38 Special and music that would later make up half of a Yacht Rock set list.  


So, in doing the math…

hot sun + river water + crowd + the good shit + bad decisions = NAKED PEOPLE

Of course when all of those things come together, hilarity soon follows.  Like the naked people who shouldn’t be and who didn’t use sunblock, because it may not have been invented yet.  Because it was 1979.  Or the countless drunks falling off of their rafts.  Luckily, the Chattahoochee is fairly shallow and full of rocks for a body to wash up on.  There was only actually 1 drowning ever associated with the race…and it happened the day before in 1980.  However, those river bed conditions also lead to a lot of stuck floats, falling apart and overturned floats, and even the occasionally abandoned float, like the aforementioned piano.


Sadly, like all the coolest stuff from the 1970s, the Ramblin’ Raft Race had an end date of 1980.  We can thank the square Carter brother, Jimmy, for that.  In 1978 Jimmy signed a bill creating the Chattahoochee National Recreation Area which was the death knell for what could later be called the White Wet Freaknik.  A lot of people falsely believe that the environmental impact the race had on the river played a part in its demise.  Not true.  Actually, the river was just fine, it was all of the spectators trampling the banks that posed the most damage.  The AJC reported in 1980 that, “new management took over, and before long the feds were openly fretting about controlling the ‘thousands of beer-swilling, dope-smoking rafters’.” If Jimmy wasn’t amused by the

ways of his far cooler little brother Billy, he certainly wasn’t charmed by the patrons of the Ramblin’ Raft Race. I still think that just like Jimmy couldn’t be happy for and endorse the greatness that was his brother’s Billy Beer, he couldn’t allow his home state’s Ramblin’ Raft Race’s greatness to continue either.  

 *I have another floppy wiener on the river story from 1988 that involves ditching school and a Laura Ashley petticoat .  It can be better told my my friend, Kiersten.  She has sound effects.  How many floppy wiener river stories do you have?

A Mother’s Gift, Valentine’s Day Edition

14 Feb


Usually, Valentine’s Day is for lovers, crushes and children coerced into dropping adorable cards, assembled by their mothers the night prior, into some poorly executed glue-damp decoupage shoebox assembled in home room. However, my mother was not usual. A friend once described her as being the woman to whom ALL drag queens aspired. She was over-the-top and wildly inappropriate when it came to boundaries. As I was growing up in the late 1970s and early 1980s, I noticed that the other mothers taught their children to exercise caution and to look out for Atlanta’s Child Killer. However, my mother was teaching, “A stranger’s just a friend you haven’t met yet.” She was also given to blurting out missives, in front of my friends, like, “This song makes you want to lay down on the floor in a dark room…alone!” I sense her ghostly swoon every time I hear Squeeze’s “Black Coffee in Bed”.


To this day, I still don’t know why the coolest and cutest boy I knew at age 15 was with me after school when I walked in our backdoor on Valentine’s Day 1986. Mother was standing at the kitchen counter, Eve 120 ciggie in hand, next to her Valentine goodie to me: a saucy heart-shaped box fixed by a giant crimson metallic bow. I was horrified, knowing that the odds of it containing something mortifying were sky-high. To her credit, Mother didn’t know I’d have that boy with me, either.  But still, she urged me to open her gift. When I lifted the box, the lack of heft signaled it wasn’t chocolate. I should have stopped right then.  I didn’t. Beneath pages and pages of pink and white tissue was a shiny red satin and lace teddy. Like, something they whore on Knots Landing. As Mother proudly announced to us that, “Every woman should get lingerie from Cupid,” I worried what I’d really be getting was a loose “reputation”. I mean, whose mother gives her 15-year-old daughter something that has a snapping crotch?  Um, that’d be mine. As it turned out, I don’t think that boy ever disclosed to anyone what he saw that day. So, instead of lasting embarassment, I got… mystery. Though we never dated, he never looked at me the same way again. He probably wondered if I was always sporting trashy Frederick’s of Hollywood lingerie beneath ripped jeans and a Hüsker Dü t-shirt. I morphed into a sort of obvious curiosity that day. And I am still totally cool with that.

A stitch in time

3 May

Because I am usually the last to get clued in on any internet-based trend, I’ve only been obsessed with Pinterest for just the last few months. I have got all sorts of boards going, where I am collecting recipes, planning garden projects, culling home décor ideas and getting motivated to craft my little heart out. I recently pinned this project:

Cute, right?

It’s a sewing project…that involves ordering a pattern…and figuring out how to plug in and thread the sewing machine that my mother bought me about 14 years ago. How cute would Snakebite be in these tops this summer? Then it hit me. Oh, crap! Maybe I should also order the needlepoint canvas for this pillow:

Was I seriously considering sewing clothes for my daughter? After the trauma of enduring my mother’s homespun get-ups that I was forced into wearing, did I really think that this would be a good idea?

The year was 1976 and a store called Stretch and Sew opened its doors about a mile and a half from our house. My mother welcomed them with open arms and really went for it. She took classes and learned to cut patterns with gusto. For everything.

Hot Damn trivia: Did you know that as a kid I used to figure skate? From about ages 5-11 I took weekly lessons at Ice Land and practiced about 2 to 3 days a week. I felt like I had mad skills with “toe-jumps”, “lutz jumps”, “axels”, “figure 8s” and “shooting the duck”. But skill can only get you so far. I needed style. Every time I went to the rink I would end up in the pro-shop ogling the sherbet colored polyester dresses bedazzled with twinkling plastic crystals. Did I ever get one? Hells no! My mother just knew that she could use her sewing prowess to make me one that was, “just as good, if not better” than the overpriced pro-shop offerings. Noooo! Instead of a glittery dress, I got matte polyester skirts, one in solid black and one in solid red. Even though they were a bit on the long side, Mom also crafted some matching panties that looked like custom diaper covers.

The sewing bug had bitten my mother hard by 1979. That summer her design and seamstress confidence grew and she made me a couture swimsuit. This was the year that Christy Brinkley was on the cover of the Sports Illustrated Swimsuit issue for the first time. I swooned for the bathing suit that was basically a waterproof version of an Ice Capades dress.

Wouldn’t I have looked hot, at age 9, in this?

Mom made me her own version in non-lycra infused red polyester that harkened to my skating skirt. It did not have any beading, but it did have a v-cut. That worked out really well what with the non-stretch fabric and my blossoming buds. I wore a lot of t-shirts over my suit that year to allegedly “keep from getting sunburned”. We didn’t really have sun-block lotion yet.

But the real coup d’état came when I started 6th grade at our local public middle school where I stuck out like a huge, festering sore thumb already. To make matters worse, we had to dress out for P.E. class. After the first gym class, it was clear that I was way behind in not just physical ability and coordination, but also in dress-out attire coolness. I was not going to be comfortable in the tiny Dolphin shorts and OP t-shirts favored by the hot, popular 6th grade goddesses, but I could certainly rock the 2nd tier-cool Gap sweat pants, pushed up with maybe a Panama Jack t-shirt. But guess who could make me something more “stylish”. Gawd! Did she hate me and want to see me fail socially? That woman made me a tracksuit of maroon terry cloth…with bootleg pants…and a v-neck long sleeved top that featured elasticized cuffs, with some added flair. On the top, where perhaps an Izod logo would have rested, was an embroidered bouquet of wild flowers in high contrast white thread. While she was at it, she made a “track suit” for my 16 year-old brother. It was powder blue velour. Meow. Lucky for him, he could drive to the mall and buy whatever he wanted. I don’t think his get-up ever saw the outside of his car’s trunk. But me? What could I do? Wearing that maroon mess would have meant adolescent suicide.

I never allowed a capture of me in the sweat suit.

As luck would have it, there was one out: orchestra. As long as you played in the school orchestra you were not required to take P.E. I eventually became the first string violinist in 7th grade, not because I was so talented and dedicated. It was because I knew that if I didn’t excel with that fiddle, I’d be failing at the chin-up bar while wearing Mom’s sweat-suit. Today, my violin lives with me still. However, the only song that I can remember how to play is the one that goes, “There’s a place in France where the ladies wear no pants, there’s a hole in the wall and the men can see it all.” Classy, as always.

A Rowse by any other name

5 Apr

For two years my mother and her sister were called This One and That One.  The family story was that my mother and her identical twin sister were not legally named until they were about two years old.  I don’t know if my grandparents didn’t already have names prepared because twins coming out threw them for a loop, or in olden times you just didn’t even think about names until there was an actual live birth or if maybe it was because it had been ten years since their first born and by the time this duo appeared my grandparents were just in a “been there, done that” haze, figuring that they’d get around to it eventually.  My mother said it was because one of her older sisters, Vesta, not Billie Sue, would instantly bastardize any prospective names into grating nicknames that drove their mother batty.  I have no idea if this is true, but Carolyn and Charlotte eventually made it into the county records.

Recently there have been several stories in the news about parents experiencing “Baby Name Regret Syndrome”.  Really?  Can this be a shock?  Is it because people are now naming their children impulsively, without thinking about the long-term effect of having a “cool” or an “ironic” name?  You need to save those sorts of monikers for your pets.  The research cited in articles has been mainly concerned with pointing to the myriad of kooky names that celebrities adore festooning their children with.  And there are many, like: Bronx Mowgli (Ashlee Simpson & Pete Wentz), Blue Ivy (Beyonce & Jay Z), Moxie Crimefighter (Penn Jillette), Pilot Inspektor (Jason Lee) Bear Blu (Alicia Silverstone), Antonio Kamakanaaolhamaikalani Harvey Sabato III (Antonia Sabato, Jr.), Moroccan and Monroe (Nick Cannon & Mariah Carey), Fifi Trixibelle, Peaches Honeyblossom and Little Pixie (Bob Geldolf & Paula Yates) Heavenly Hiraani Tiger Lily (Paula Yates & Michael Hutchence), Moon Unit, Dweezil, Ahmet Emuukha Rodan and Diva Thin Muffin Pigeen (Frank Zappa), Zuma Nesta Rock (Gwen Stefani & Gavin Rossdale) … the list could do on for pages.

I agree that those are all truly awful, but I doubt that any of those parents have the slightest regret over their unique choices.  But those poor kids!  Mon Dieu.  And I thought that being named after my Aunt, Charlotte, was a cross to bear what with it being long and difficult to spell.  Can you imagine Jason Lee’s kid having to ever do anything at the Social Security office?  “Yes, Pilot Inspektor…no, Inspektor is with a ‘k’, my parents thought it would be more custom than Inspector with a ‘c’…Yes, that is why I am here; I was just granted the court’s permission to legally change my name to Pete Jones.”

My favorite celebrity name goes to the son of Jermaine Jackson.  I think he was trying to send a message to his little brother, Michael, whose children’s names are Prince, Paris and Prince II (the name so nice, he used it twice!).  The message is that Jermaine’s child is also Jackson family royalty…hence the boy’s name: Jermajesty.  Take that, Blanket.

Sometime’s parents take their naming inspiration from iconic brands or products that they feel convey certain panache: Mercedes, Tiffany, Remington, Porsche, Brandy, Diamond, Bentley and so on.  Couples who thought a destination wedding was a good idea might be partial to destination names such as Brooklyn, Dakota, London, Sierra or Phoenix. If you catch an episode of Toddlers and Tiara’s, on accident…of course, you can hear a lot of names that are certain to catapult a prostitot to future success.  Can’t you see your future self, handing over control of your portfolio to a broker named Paisley, Sparkyl, or Kragen?  Perusing the Social Security site, it is clear that many parents will go to great lengths to make sure the letters “j”, “k”, “y” or “z” find their way onto the family tree: Kaylynn, Jayden, Jazlyn, Xzander, Kloe.

Living in the South, I am used to people having some eccentric “family names” or having a last name for a first or middle name.  Heritage names are popular with everyone.  And there is no shortage of names that hearken to a family of French origin, like La Quon, or nod to a family’s obvious Greek heritage with something like Shantavious.  But the names that totally throw me into fits are the ones that are just made up words, blends of other names or common names that have a custom spelling, so that the child will grow up feeling special.  By and large, I’ll bet they grow up realizing that their momma is illiterate and didn’t know how to spell.

A couple of summers back, I was being checked out at a Wal-Mart in Florida by a woman whose nametag was a cluster of letters…”Sh’airaleete”.  Yes, there was the telltale apostrophe of high-class in there.  I couldn’t resist commenting on what an unusual name she had.  I then asked, “How do you pronounce it?” I was almost knocked over when she said, “It Charlotte.”  Um, no.

Livin’ la vida Lotto

30 Mar

Let it be known that I got my Lotto cherry popped today.  Well, it’s not technically popped until 11pm tonight, when I find out that I’ve been screwed out of $5.  Right now I’ve only got Lotto’s tip in my grasp.  And it’s soooo big!

It’s true; until today I have never bought a lottery ticket.  But the siren call of $640 million dollars got me a bit hot and bothered.  No lie.  And it’s been kinda nice.  All day I have surrendered to the fantasy of “What if…” But we both know the truth is that anything over $100 million is just being a blow-hard.  And if I am totally honest, I could make do with just $15 million.  I would happily donate the lion’s share and I would get Georgia’s labor market back in full swing by sub-contracting out a myriad of jobs beginning with digging me a pool in the backyard.

Hot Tub got in on the action, too.  He gave me money to buy a lottery ticket for everyone in the family…his gift of Hope for the people he loves.  Aaw.  He was so thrilled to hold the sheet and when Snakebite got home from lacrosse, he could barely contain his thrill as he revealed the ticket and told her what he’d done for her.  The response had all of the sadistic enthusiasm of the fellow inmate who beat Jeffery Dahmer to death with a broom handle in prison.  There was yelling, belittling, gnashing of teeth, crossed arms of disapproval and full on steam shooting from her ears.

From the beginning, Big Daddy and I have always scoffed at the unfortunate, uneducated proletariat who spend their rent money on playing “their numbers”.  Snakebite has especially bought into our message that lottery tickets=life’s losers.  

Once, about four years ago, a ten-year old Snakebite spent the night with a friend from school.  The next morning when I went to pick her up I hung around for the usual Saturday morning debriefing of “how things went”.  The host mother got a big grin on her face and told me to settle in, because I was going to love what she had to tell me.  Apparently, after school they made a pit stop at the grocery store to get some sleepover fortification.  After passing through checkout, the mother went to the customer service desk to buy $25 dollars worth of lottery tickets.  At about the time she was up, she noticed that Margaret was looking distressed and on the verge of a making a puking scene.  With great concern, the mother asked, “Sweetie, are you okay?  Are you going to be sick?” as she was feeling Snakebite’s forehead.  Young Snakebite blurted out, “Don’t do it Mrs. Elliot!  Don’t you know that the lottery is a scam?  You have a better chance of being struck by lightning than ever winning!!!  You need to save your money for important things like life insurance and college.”  The mother was stunned; having expected to hear something more along the lines of how bad lunch had been at school that day.

Mrs. Elliot assured Margaret that the groceries had already been paid for, they were current with their mortgage and school tuition had been taken care of; clearly, there was no need to worry.  Snakebite’s response?  “Well, you’ll always have your property taxes to pay for!”

So, that very practical ten-year old, who is now fourteen, is thoroughly disgusted that her mother and brother have been revealed to be losers, who are going to end up living in a trailer park if they are lucky.  I have long wondered what it would be that I would do that would truly offend and embarrass my child.  Turns out it’s lottery tickets…unless I win.  Then I bet 10 to 1 she’ll be kissing up to me and Hot Tub, big time.

painting by Brian Stewart

It’s Goop that lets you know you’re alive!

13 Jan

If you scanned my brain from a satellite in space while I am sitting in carpool or as I am handing my coupons over to the grocery cashier, you might pick up the refrain from The Talking Heads’ “Once in a Lifetime” swirling through my grey matter. Remember? The drone of , “Same as it ever was, same as it ever was, same as it ever was…Letting the days go by, letting the days go by, letting the days go by.” Sometimes I get too gelled into my family’s daily routine or hyper-focused in whatever I am working on at the moment and stuff just runs together and turns into mental white noise. I wouldn’t say that I move through the days numb, that would be Sad Housewife territory, but it can lean towards being a little flat Monday through Friday. This isn’t unique to me and different people have developed different strategies to keep them looking forward and from stalling out. A lot of type-A personalities lean toward high-risk leisure activities like sky-diving, snow boarding or day trading to feel invigorated. Middle-age men play World of Warcraft, Grand Theft Auto or Call of Duty for a healthy change of pace. Moody teenage girls listen to Nine Inch Nails and cut themselves on their thigh to find out if they still feel anything. Me? I subscribe to Gwyneth Paltrow’s blog, Goop. I’ve discussed it before, here. It comes right to my inbox once a week. I scroll through it and feel like sticking a screw-driver in my ear. My intelligence feels insulted, I’m outraged by how detached a person can be and yet so self-righteous about it, I am overcome with a smug every-man superiority and feel proud that I am able to function in a world that 99.9999% of my peers can understand.

Briefly, if you have no idea what I’m talking about, Goop is Gwyneth’s way of sharing her really amazing talents and resources with us common people, so that we can learn how to create and live a clean, holistic, green and fabulous life that is spilling over with wonder, nurture and growth. Just like Gwyneth does. (Insert smile, head tilt and chirping birds here) Gwyneth gives us great gift ideas, guides us in how to shop for ourselves, exposes us to the coolest of cool stuff that we wouldn’t otherwise know about and now won’t be able to live without. She teaches us craft projects and lets us in on some of her best travel secrets from all of the really amazing places that she gets to visit. Gwyneth knows where to shop, eat and stay practically everywhere!

One of Gwyneth's totally great suggestions

But, best of all, Gwyneth shows us the path to being better citizens of the planet and dispenses lots of directions in regards to mending medical ailments and proper nutrition.

Judging by my Goop-o-Meter, 2012 is going to be a banner year for feeling alive and the one where I come to discover that Gwyneth and I are like identical cousins. Last week, Gwyneth told us that the start of new year is a great time to give our digestive systems a break, reset our bodies and get an energetic boost by engaging in a 21-day cleanse program, proceeded by 3 days of preparation and 7 days of reintroduction. See, according to Gwyneth, our digestive tract gets clogged with toxic sludge and other debris is trapped in the folds of our intestine. It then leeches into our cells and blood. Yikes, y’all! It makes us irritable, have bad skin and we feel sluggish. We need to heal ourselves and poop out all of the bad mojo. For a mere $425 (includes free 2 day shipping! Can you say, “what a deal?”), we’ll get protein powder, supplements, a manual and access to an online community of other people who have or are currently cleansing, too! And the best part is that we get to have an actual lunch each day that we will make ourselves from ingredients we already have on hand at home like hemp milk, carob powder, wild game, blue-green algae, teff, nama shoy and plenty of sea vegetables. Done, done and done!


Thank heavens I had a new Goop in my inbox yesterday, because I’ve really been thinking about how to get my kids turned on to eating these new, clean foods too. Because she is all-knowing, Gwyneth anticipated that a lot of us plebs would be needing some kid-friendly recipes. And boy-howdy, did she deliver! Snakebite and Hot Tub’s mouths are positively watering for “Baked Salmon, Cauli and Capers” because really, what kid isn’t crazy for capers? And I’m going to have to find out if I can freeze the “Nori Handrolls”. You can bet that sheets of seaweed filled with the likes of beetroot and mung are going to be in high demand at my house! Did I tell you that Gwyneth knows what she’s doing or what? She is the sage of my generation, my Ravi Shankar.

I think it’s great that Gwyneth is starting the year off with a cleanse…because she is so full of shit.

Awkward sexual moment

5 Dec

I was two-and-twenty the summer I experienced what I ticked off would certainly be the single most awkward moment in my life.  Not embarrassing, not humiliating…I keep hitting the refresh button on those two.  No, what I am talking about is that moment of being inescapably uncomfortable in a situation, where the only possible resolution is to just wait it out, keep quite and avoid any eye contact until you can pretend that you were never there.  Every seemingly maladroit instance since that time has been a walk in the park.  After all, what else could possibly ever rattle me more than sitting in a dark room on the sofa next to my mother while watching Laura Dern and Nic Cage “go at it” in the David Lynch directed Wild at Heart on cable?  If you haven’t seen it, I will attest that it is awful on just about every level.  The dialog, the accents (Cage was clearly working on what he would later use in Con Air, which I have already blathered on about here), and the whole story line in general is just garden variety bad.  And the sex scenes?  It was more like characters acting out and having tantrums while partially and entirely naked.  If I were sitting around with friends guzzling alcohol and watching it, it would be hilarious.  Like when me and Big Daddy got a case of beer and watched Showgirls.  But in a dark room, with my mother…both of us sober and alert, it was punishing.  The sounds alone of the characters were bad enough, but the sights just pushed it to my limit.  The remote control had been set down too far away on the coffee table for either one of us to have gotten to it without a reach over and possibly a grunt.  Neither one of us was mature enough to just throw out a nervous laugh and make the move to end it.  I still cringe thinking about it.  My personal discomfort could never be topped…or so I thought.


In fact, there is something far, far worse than watching an eager “up for anything” sex scene in a dark room with your mom.  It’s me being the mom watching an eager, glamorized teenage vampire-mortal sex scene with my own daughter in a dark theater.  Yes, it’s true.

In an unprecedented move, Snakebite wanted to go see Breaking Dawn, which had me breaking down.  But right now, she is the middle school Queen Bee in our house and I just want to earn her approval and am thrilled when she wants to do anything with me.  I complied, mainly because I thought it’d be laughably bad and then I could blog about it later.  Know this: we aren’t up on the franchise.  We both read the first book and saw the movie when my niece came to stay with us one summer.  I thought it was some of the dumbest fodder I’d seen since my friends and I made a slasher movie one bored Sunday afternoon in high school.  This was 1988 and my mom’s huge VHS camera that we used was not equipped with steady cam.  That movie had a richer plot line than Twilight.  If I recall correctly, about 30 minutes into watching that first one, Snakebite said it was weird and lame; she was bored and was going to go to bed.


I have a scant understanding of what goes on in the Twilight series because the world is populated with people who call themselves “Twihards”.  Ugh.  I can’t plead that I was ignorant that the girl character, Bella, was going to marry her glittering and frosty vampire beau, Edward.  And I knew from the trailer that they would be starting a family.  It just never occurred to me that they would have rocker Tommy Lee filming the honeymoon.  While nothing as out there as Ron Jeremy showing up in a nurse’s outfit happened, there were ripped feather pillows, broken furniture, tilted light fixtures, body bruises and a lot of position changes.  And they were both allegedly virgins.  There was no, “Ouch, wait, that hurts”, not a single, “You’re on my hair!” nor, “The school nurse said to always use birth-control, Edward.  I am not on the pill.  Did you remember to bring condoms?”  Nope, none of that real life deflowering dialog.   Instead it was Bella glowing and begging for more the next morning and me trying to neutralize the acid reflux in my throat with a fist full of popcorn.  I can’t even discuss the birthing scene that has, like the Pokémon movie, spawned epileptic seizures in movie houses across the world.  The silver lining, I guess, is that Bella didn’t end up with Jacob, the werewolf boy.  That could have been a far worse sex scene to have had to white knuckle through.

What have I learned from this?  Well, for starters, nothing is absolute.  All the things that I thought were awful about being a disgruntled and misunderstood teen daughter myself are now amplified now that I am the mother of a disgruntled and misunderstood teen daughter.  I will never be smug again in thinking that by getting through adolescence and young adulthood I have passed some imaginary finish line where I am now always mature and insightful in the face of awkward moments.  I have not been properly inoculated against personal horror and am therefore not immune to it, as previously thought.  I did exactly what my mom did when Wild at Heart’s credits rolled.  Nothing.  I didn’t mention anything about Bella and Edward’s sexy time and Snakebite announced that she was tired.  And so the cycle is complete…I hope.

Coasting through reading rewards

17 Aug

My son read a lot of books last year and was rewarded with a “free” ticket to Six Flags.  This was neither a reward nor free for me.  As a kid, I loooved Six Flags.  I couldn’t get there enough and even had a season’s pass.  By age eleven, my mother would drop me off alone at the gates before lunch with a crisp $20 and pick me up during the fireworks just before closing.  But, I haven’t “done” the park since I was nineteen and had no desire to ever revisit it.  Big Daddy was adamant in his refusal to be the parent to take Hot Tub to redeem his award and celebrate his literacy.  Snake Bite is terrified of “anything carnival”, so it was up to me alone to dust off my Mother of the Year sash and be “fun mommy” for the day.  I knew that Buford the Buzzard was no more, but what else would be different?  And, mon dieu, what would be the same?

There was no Great Gasp, no Highland Swing, no Drunken Barrells nor Jolly Rogers Island…R.I.P.  The Chevy Show, Dolphin show and petting zoo…buh-bye.  The Hanson Cars had moved.  Skee ball at every turn?  Nope.  And while I saw no one walking an invisible dog, I did see a few kids on leashes.  Squirm.  Free Fall was replaced with a diabolical contraption that had me breaking my rule about not praying in public.  No, it wasn’t the same at all.  And that isn’t a bad thing.  And most of the artifacts that I was familiar with, had been updated in someway.

In 1978, The Mind Bender was THE new ride.  You stood in line forever, avoiding being pushed into “the gum tree” that was most certainly a breeding ground for all strains of hepatitis.  And for what?  To be thrust along some rickety sounding rails that flipped you upside down three times.  Now there are lots of roller coasters that go upside down and The Mind Bender seems a little retro.  And the gum tree?  They now swathe and staple the trees in a burlap condom, and when it is full of sticky, gnat pocked infected gum, they just take it off and put on a new one.  A new trend has also emerged with gumming the landscape boulders as well.  I’m not sure how that’s going to play out.

It blew my mind though that with all of the advances in rollercoaster building and amusement engineering, the bumper cars are still as unreliable and junky as they were in the 1970s.  Technology has by-passed them.  They still get stuck, having to be manually unstuck, and are still powered by a flat piece of metal rubbing and snagging along the bottom of a volted chicken wire ceiling.  I thought that for sure by now they would have been able to get the kinks worked out of that.  Six Flags has tried to keep up with the times and be respectable.  The park now has a “code of conduct” that does not allow smoking outside of dedicated corners and even purports to ask patrons to leave if they are using loud profanity.  It seems a bit unlikely, but it was quite a nice change to not be standing in line with hickey coated teenagers with dangling cigarettes from their lips while screaming the f-word, s-word, or any other words that would have made my grandmother blush.  So while that turned out to be a non-issue, I did have to explain the verbage on a lot of neck tattoos.

And Six Flags also says that they have “healthy choices” for park goers’ dining options.  For lunch we went to Dee Jay’s, one of the restaurants tagged as having “healthy choices.”  I couldn’t actually figure out what the “healthy choice” was.  I think it was the “fried chicken tender salad” that I got.  It was three large fried chicken fillets on iceberg lettuce with four cherry tomatoes, carrot slivers and two packets of Ranch dressing that each had 17g of fat apiece.  My other options were bleu cheese or Italian.

Being respectable and healthy has gotten the park on the roll to adopt a more natural look.  For instance, that water that used to course through all to the flume rides and ponds…remember it was the aqua blue color of your high school head cheerleader’s eye contacts (that she insisted were her real eye color).  Well, it’s been ditched in favor of normal-color water.  And they are trying to recycle…starting with the staff wearing collared shirts made out of melted plastic fabric.  Signs were posted about their low flow toilets and hand dryers replacing towels in the restrooms.  I’m all for conservation, but I just don’t think that low-flow is the way to go in a park full of out-of shape patrons who’ve been eating funnel cakes and hot dogs in 97 degree heat.  Thoughts?

So, I rode every roller coaster the boy wanted to ride.  I got soaked in Thunder River.  I stood in lines that harkened to Soviet Russia bread distribution.  I bought $9 diluted lemonade.  I cheered as the boy won a basketball.  I finished off a bottle of hand sanitizer.  I ate things that probably wouldn’t decompose if left in a forest for a year.  And on the way home, R.E.M.’s “Everybody Hurts” was playing on the radio.  I had always thought that was a song aimed at disgruntled teens about getting through uphill battles and feeling kicked around by the man.  It’s not.  I am pretty sure Bill Berry or Michael Stipe wrote if after turning forty and being jostled on roller coasters.  The “hold on” refrain is a reference not to perseverance, but to actually holding on to ice packs and stair railings.



Like, gag me with a coke spoon

1 Jul

When I was in fifth grade, my school began to teach us about drugs.  They are bad.  Drugs; not school.  In 1980, drug education was boiled down to scare tactics via weird stories about what happens when you sniff glue or take angel dust.  I still don’t really know what angel dust is, but I know that if I ever got a hold of some, it would make me stand on a tall building and think I could fly.  If you are too young, or too old, to remember the glory days of educational anti-drug reel-to-reels, this is a great introduction:

I learned that “dropping” LSD made people think that they were oranges and then they would try to peel themselves.   LSD, or acid, was probably the scariest drug that we were warned about.  It would make you see things that weren’t there, like beautiful flowers in gas stove flames that you would want to touch.  Acid would make you hear voices and if you took it more than three times you would be declared legally insane and you could never give sworn testimony in court.  Hippies took acid.  I was terrified of it.  Filmstrips like this didn’t dissuade me that LSD was the worst thing that could ever happen to a person.

Of course heroine is really bad too, but it was also just plain trashy.  “Junkies” always had gross teeth and just nodded and drooled.  When you were done being a junkie, you’d have to get on methadone.  To get methadone you have to stand in a line every day with other people trying not to be junkies anymore.  The whole needle thing rattled me, too.  I saw an ABC After School Special one time about a cute high-school girl who started doing heroine.  It messed up her life and brought shame to her family.  I would never want to drool on myself or stand in a line every day.

It was during this time when we were finishing up our drug education that cocaine started being a thing.  There weren’t any outdated filmstrips or pamphlets available yet and from everything on TV, it seemed like you had to be a stockbroker, a starlet or South American to get any.  It looked too expensive for ten year-olds to ever get their hands on it.  We skipped learning about cocaine.

And marijuana?  Total gateway to ruining your life.  My parents and teachers would tell me horrible stories about people “on pot”.  Once you tried pot, it was only a matter of days before you were in a straight-jacket on the way to re-hab after being busted for trying to pawn stolen goods to support your habit. When I was in middle-school all of the thuggy kids with divorced parents wore Adidas, because the logo was suggestive of a marijuana leaf.
My main take-away from my elementary school anti-drug unit was that you should never mix uppers and downers together.

Drug education in the new millenium is a bit more sophisticated, reality based and graphic.  Who hasn’t been totally freaked watching one of those meth-morphing clips on Dateline?  Or hearing about the not too far fetched rumor that Alice In Chains front-man Layne Staley had to have his hand amputated due to gangrene from a heroine abcess.  He soon after died of an overdose at age 34.  Eeew.  And just suffering through any jam band is enough to keep kids away from pot.  Or how about this latest thing with flesh eating cocaine?  Apparently, the booger sugar is now cut with some veterinary de-worming drug for livestock that attacks your skin after you partake.  It turns all purple and black.  Gross.

There are a lot more drugs out there now.  Crack, meth, ice, crank, ketamine, oxyanything and bath salts are all new on the scene.  And then there’s astounding invented stuff that people will smoke, snort, huff and inject to figure out if it’s “good”.  I once read an interview with Marilyn Manson, who was talking about smoking sherm with Leif Garret.  Sherm?  It’s a joint dipped in formaldehyde.  How bored do you have to be to give that a try?

I think that my tactic for keeping my own kids off drugs will probably just be this:

Don't do drugs

Thank me later: travel tips

30 Jun

I have always had a personal rule against weaving anything into conversation that could be found printed on a mug in the Cracker Barrel “gift shop” or found stitched on a hat sold next to a five gallon jar of pig’s feet.  I’ve got standards.  Sue me.  But I know that every rule has an exception and I have recently discovered mine.  Recently, when asked about our family trip via cruise ship in the Mediterranean, what rushed out of my throat was, “I need a vacation from my vacation.”  Did I really say that?  Yep.  And I meant it too.  There was not trace of irony on my tongue.

Remember that movie Planes, Trains and Automobiles with Steve Martin and the late John Candy?  Things went screwy.  In the end, it was heart-warming and everyone learned something about patience, giving up control and finding forgiveness.  Well, if this movie were being remade today, which, thanks to Hollywood’s shortage of original ideas, is high on the probability-o-meter, and starred my family it would be called Planes, Trains, Automobiles, Boats, Donkeys, ATVs and Wheelchairs.

I am still absorbing it all and can’t possibly recap it in just one or two posts.  Instead of forcing you to sift through what would amount to a voluminous slide show, I am just going to begin by imparting some lessons learned during our inaugural trip of the summer.  It should be noted that the last time I left home for this long with suitcases and multiple stops, there were no babies on board.

The first stop of our 18-day “vacation” was Venice, Italy.  It’s beautiful and old.  It looks every bit like what you have imagined from movies and postcards.  Yes, there really are no cars there.  And yes, there really are canals everywhere with a jillion bridges that were all built hundreds of years before any sort of Disabilities Acts and inclusive building codes had been thought of and imposed.  And those bridges aren’t smooth ADA ramps.  There are cobbled steps.  Lot’s of them.  And the hotel where you might stay if you are visiting Venice…it doesn’t have an elevator or ramp of any kind either.  Don’t go if you are gimpy.

Rule 1  Pack as few bags as possible.  If at any point during your “vacation” you are going to be handling your own baggage, rethink what you are taking with you.  Pull a page from the Johnny Cash fashion chronicle and just pack a few black separates.  Consider exploring going commando, too.

We make a habit of traveling with another family.  It is great for us and for our kids to be with someone else.  Odds are favorable that because we travel together we will be doing all of our excursions together too.  That means that when it’s good it’s great and when it’s bad, you are ganged up on by double the kids.  There is a lot to see that kids may not think is too thrilling.  There is a lot of walking involved in getting from one boring Church to another boring Church.  Oh, and it’s hot.

Rule 2  At least a month before departure, cross-train your kids.  Go for long walks after dinner.  Break in new shoes.  Make them carry stuff up and down the stairs at home.  Turn off the AC on the weekends.  Give them a water allowance.  Trust me.  In fact, just go all Lou Gosset Jr. and boot camp the hell out of the kids.  It’s bad enough to hear them complain about regular stuff, don’t give aching muscles, side stitches and blistery feet a chance to enter into the mix.

If you are a regular reader of HDCA, you know that I am “aware” of potties.  This is by no means a fetish, but I do appreciate a nice bathroom.  Unfortunately, outside of the US and Japan, I am set up for disappointment.  It is ironic that a continent that values having bidets in any dwelling, puts up with what passes in public.  I will say that Europe has gotten a little more together as far as tissue is concerned, but that has been the only advance that I can speak of.  Thank God for small miracles, right?

Rule 3  Cross-train your bladder.  The only way that you are going to get through the day without the heaves is to limit the amount of time you spend in any restroom outside of your hotel room.  The solution is not to limit your fluid intake.  That would lead to dehydration.  That would be bad.  Simply put, you gotta learn how to hold it.  Don’t be fooled by the “pay-for” public restrooms.  They are worse than the others.  And on a side note for the ladies:  You will not find a purse hook in any WC.  Learn to do the hover with purse straps around your head.  It’s harder than you think and requires practice.  While the kids are doing stair drills in their cross training, you might do well to practice squats with a weight yoked around your neck.  Those strong quads will be your friend.

Because we were gone for so long and good advice, like what I am giving you, is gleaned from hindsight, we had a lot of luggage: five suitcases, four carry-on bags and two purses.  Too much luggage.  See Rule 1.  Do not let any part of your stash ride shot-gun with the cab driver.

Rule 4 Chain yourself to your bags.  At the very least, make a kid sit in the taxi until everything has been removed and counted from the car.  Believe me, no driver is going to inadvertently take off with a sweaty kid whose itouch has lost its charge.  My carry on continues to be staying out late and making friends in Barcelona, long after I have returned home.

My last tid-bit is the most important.  It is my new mantra and one that I just might have stitched on a trucker hat or screened onto a mug:

Rule 5  Buy Travel Insurance.  Things can go wrong.  Things can also go horribly wrong.  You could end up admitted in a Sicilian hospital for five nights, for example, where no one speaks English.  Worse still, it could happen to your child.  You could need to get somewhere afterwards.  One day it might be funny, but in the thick of it…not so hilarious. And it will probably never be funny if you are still figuring out how to come up with tens of thousands of dollars that just weren’t in the plan.  Regular health insurance will cover you at Wally World or the Grand Canyon, but it usually doesn’t cross international borders.  If you are taking a passport, take out a policy.  Trust me.  And for extra giggles, find out everyone’s weight in kilograms.

Graduation means get out

25 May

Yesterday, we talked about gratuitous graduations.  Am I a killjoy?  Is it weird that I didn’t shed a tear the first time I dropped anyone off at mother’s morning out?  Is it wrong that I peeled out of the parking lot, with my stereo cranked to full volume?  Is it okay to admit that this past weekend I was looking at all of the great travel options for September through December and thinking how kick-ass it’s going to be when the kids are in college and we can take off on spontaneous, reduced cost trips?

Can you find me?

I graduated high school in 1988.  My graduation gift from my parents was a set of American Tourister luggage.  Two rolling suitcases, a garment bag, week-ender and the train case were all there.  At the time I thought it was a pretty crappy set up, but now I understand the symbolism. I did also get a giant backpack, Eurail Pass and an open-ended plane ticket for the summer.  I think that there was a not so subtle message there:  GET OUT!  They couldn’t wait for college to start in the fall.  My parents were ready to be empty nesters a.s.a.p.

On the morning that I left for college I was in a hurry to get on the road.  It may be the fist time that I actually finished packing and loaded my car the night before a departure.  Just as I was heading to the garage door, my mother said that she needed to have a word with me.  In private.  Ugh.  What was she going to tell me?  I had gotten the sex talk at age seven when a load of porn magazines fell out of ceiling tile in one of the brother’s basement bedroom.  Surely, we weren’t going to have a refresher.  Was she going to talk to me about drugs?  Oh, God.  How awkward to have your parent say words like “doobie” and “acid tab” to you.  Maybe she was going to tell me to make good decisions and wax on about how I would make friends that would last a lifetime in college.  Sigh.  Or worse, she was going to cry and say how she wished my father (who died when I was 2 ½) was there to see this…blah, blah, blah.

Dorm sweet dorm

Wearing a floral housecoat and a towel twisted into a turban on her head, my mother sat on the edge of her bed with a huge crystal ashtray balanced on her knee.  I sat next to her and she stretched out her intro by lighting one of her skinny foot long ciggies and taking a long drag, which she exhaled through her nose.  And then it went like this, “I am so proud that you are going to college today.  You are moving our of your bedroom and going to live in a dorm, and one day you’ll have an apartment…”  Okay, so far, so good.  Where is this going?  Then this rushed out of her mouth: “You will always be welcome to come home for holidays, summer break while you are in school and some weekends.  BUT you are never moving back into this house.”  Huh?  I was seventeen and getting kicked to the curb.  I so did not see this coming.  She went on to talk about how weird it is for kids over age eighteen to still live at home and if it happens they never leave and everyone’s lives are ruined.  I put the top down on my car and drove to college in a complete daze.

When I graduated from college, it was a sparse affair.  I didn’t even want to walk, but was forced into it.  The only people from my family that came were my mother and her identical twin sister, Charlotte.  Because they were essentially the same person with two names, it was like just having one person there.  I don’t know who made our commencement address.  The air conditioning was out in the auditorium.  It was more boring and pointless than a neighborhood zoning committee meeting.  As I was saying my good-byes in the parking lot, I coyly asked about my graduation present.  My mom said I wasn’t getting anything until she saw the actual paper.  What I had been given when I crossed the stage was a diploma I.O.U.  Basically, the check was in the mail.  That damn thing didn’t come for months and mama was taking no chances.

Not my t-shirt

My gift ended up being an incredible, once-in-a-lifetime extended trip to Thailand, China, Singapore and Indonesia with my parents.  This happened a year and a half after I graduated.  The thirty-one hour plane ride with them affirmed that finishing college, diploma and all, was the right call.  Not only would I would never have to live in their basement, I’d never want to.

Getting a head start on graduation

24 May

As May comes to a close there is a flurry of graduation ceremonies.  I have gotten announcements for both college and high school commencements from family members this year.  Thank God, there were no actual invitations, so that I can just look at the pictures on Facebook and hit the thumb’s up “Like” button from the comfort of my sofa.

Speaking of Facebook, there is no shortage of status updates from attendees of all sorts of graduations this spring, for instance: “I can’t believe my baby is going to be in kindergarten next year.”  A-hem.  Or, “I cried all the way through the fifth grade graduation.”  Whaaaa?  Holy shit people.  Pull it together and look at the big picture! You know what would have me bawling my eyes out?  If 13 year-old Snakebite was still in pre-k or fifth grade was going to be the ceiling of Hot Tub’s experience with school.  If everyone else moved on and my kid was on auto-repeat I’d be a shrieking mess.

At what point did celebrating finishing elementary school become, like, a thing?   Isn’t it a law that all children have to go to school until they are sixteen or something?  By that account, these “graduations” should just be called “end of the year recital” or “final singing performance”.  Graduation, really?  I don’t remember any sort of transition ceremony for anything aside from getting to “bridge” in Brownies…and that was done in a classroom with two moms and a handful of nine year-old girls.  We got colored paper napkins, two trefoil cookies and some orange Hi-C when it was over.  Has this memorializing of expected everyday accomplishments become like a participation trophy for grown-ups?  Is it so if tragedy befalls, a mother can look back and say, “Her graduation was such a special day for our family, we were so proud,”? I don’t want to minimize getting over life’s hurdles, but is plowing through pre-school really one of them?

Who does this pre-graduation graduation business mean something to?  Not the kids, really.  When Snakebite “graduated” from fifth grade she wasn’t bursting with pride that she had carried on with our rich family tradition of knowing the branches of government and being able to cypher.  She just wanted to know if she was finally getting a cell phone.  She did.

We don’t have any special end of anything coming up this month that warrants a certificate and reception.  It’s making me feel a little out of the loop.  Can I just start having graduation fetes every spring for hitting my mile stones?  Like, this year I could graduate from being a stone-cold bitch to just being an ass.

Baby can’t work. Baby needs him check.

19 May

In the mid to late 90s, girlfriend Laurel’s husband, Mark, had the best job ever.  While taking a year to study for the MCAT and apply to schools, he had a part time gig working for an insurance company.  Not as a paper pusher.  Nor was he adjusting, estimating or cold calling for sales.  Mark had a “rape van”, a notebook and a camera with a telephoto lens.  He would stake out people who were making fraudulent disability claims and snap pictures of them mowing the lawn, lifting 55 gallon drums and working at roadside veggie stands.  He was a detective.  I love that shit!

Now a days, with the internets and all, being a disability detective isn’t quite as sneaky or invasive as it once was.  Dishonest, lazy people are usually not so smart, and a lot of them are creepy.  And are proud of it.  They will pretty much just hand you any damning evidence of what losers they are on a silver platter.  Or a TV show.

Oklahoma Senator Tom Coburn saw an unusual video clip from the National Geographic show, Taboo, that made the viral rounds recently.

It chronicles Stanley Thornton’s home life, where he lives with his caretaker/roommate Sandra Dias.  Stanley spends half of his day wearing a footed fleece onesie, drinking apple juice from a bottle, playing with Legos and listening to nursery rhymes.  Miss Sandra soothes him when he is cranky and makes sure that his diaper is always dry and that he gets plenty to eat.  Stanley is in the hundredth percentile on his growth chart.  At over three hundred and fifty pounds, him is such a big boy!  Stanley is an adult baby.  No.  I did not say that he is an adult, baby.  An adult baby.  Huh?

In the video you can catch a glimpse of how Stanley lives as an adult baby.  He sleeps in a scale size custom crib that he built himself.  Stanley spends play-time in a special converted play pen that can support his chubby, wittle thighs.  He carried out the modifications on his own.  Currently, Stanley is putting together a scale size high-chair where Miss Sandra can feed him mashed bananas and rice cereal.  Thank God the film crew skipped changing time.

Here comes the choo-choo train. Where's the tunnel? And OMG...are those Miss Sandra's breasts?

But wait, babies can’t build furniture, can they?  I mean you have to go to the Home Depot to pick out and buy the materials.  There’s measuring, sawing, drilling and screwing involved.  How can Baby Stanley do this?   Well, Stanley can put on his big boy pants and do all sorts of big-kid stuff too.  He can drive, design and build furniture and he even runs his own website,  The only thing he can’t seem to do is work at a j-o-b.  Baby Stanley and his caretaker, Miss Sandra, a former nurse, both receive Supplemental Security Income benefits in addition to support from the great state of California.  Both claim to be disabled and unable to work.  Whaaa!

Sen. Coburn has questioned why benefits are being paid to these two.  In a letter to Inspector General Patrick P. O’Carroll, Jr., he asserted that Stanley and Miss Sandra’s benefit collection just might be improper.  In response via email to The Washington Times, Stanley threw a little temper tantrum…clearly he is in his “terrible twos” phase.  Stanley did the written equivalent of holding his breath until his face turns blue:

“You wanna test how damn serious I am about leaving this world, screw with my check that pays for this apartment and food. Try it. See how serious I am. I don’t care…I have no problem killing myself. Take away the last thing keeping me here, and see what happens. Next time you see me on the news, it will be me in a body bag.”

Oh, Stanley.  It sounds like someone needs a nappy-wappy.

"Hush little baby, don't say a word..."

Mustache lust can only end in frustration

10 May

My son is nine and for the last couple of years he has been talking about how cool it’s going to be when he is old enough to grow a mustache.  Huh?  I don’t even really know how he found out about them.  Sure, when I was a kid it was the seventies and all the best leading men had tricked out upper lips.  The most iconic ‘stache of the era probably belonged to Burt Reynolds.

Burt's Chevron moustache made every 1970s house wife swoon

Currently, mustaches seem to be relegated to rapists, hoods and Arabs.  How on earth does my child develop a desire for mouth hair based on that cross-section???  In the nineties there was a brief groover fascination with goatees, but I think it’s over now.  After many cleanly shaven years there has been a slight facial hair renaissance.  But it’s not mustaches and it’s not good.  There is the whole douche baggy facescaping thing that seems to be favored by steroid enthusiasts, Mexicans and shitty R&B vocalists…

Dork from Color Me Badd

And just very recently I have been noticing a ridiculous number of hipsters in their early twenties rocking the Zach Galifianakis look.  At first, because it’s spring, I thought there were just a lot of dudes growing out their Old South beards.

So, when the boy and I were talking about his future mustache I asked him what kind he would have.  In complete sincerity he said he wanted one that he could put wax in and curl.  I got a mental picture of Husker Du bassist Greg Norton, who rocked what I considered a serious ‘stache in the early eighties.

Totally punk rock

But that’s not what HotTub has in mind.  He wants to grow something more like this… Whaaa?  A true handlebar is going to be a problem.  The boy is blonde.  A good handlebar has got to be black.  At best he may be able to eek out a scum ‘stache like former Atlanta mayor turned ex-con, Bill Campbell.

The mustache that molested city government

Thank you Jesus, that he will never be able to grow one of these flavor savers…

I am the Walrus, koo koo kachoo

It’s called a Walrus and has served as a soup strainer for Albert Einstein, Ted Nugent, Ned Flanders and Wilford Brimley.  I’d actually be thrilled if the boy could grow one of these by the time he’s thirteen.  It would insure against any kind of sexual activity.  No one would want to go near something like that.

Of course the toothbrush mustache is also out, for obvious reasons…

Hitler exterminated the Toothbrush

After reviewing the possibilities and knowing his capability, I think that the boy’s mustache desire will only be a source of future frustration.  I can’t imagine the disappointment that will come with never being able to wear this t-shirt without it seeming ironic.


The best bets for mustache fulfilment are going to be either this…

or this…

Being a mother is the pass jackpot

5 May

Just in case you missed the assault of flower delivery, jewelry store and greeting card commercials, there is a BIG holiday coming up.  No, I’m not talking about the U.S. Distributorship for Corona and Taco Bell sanctioned Cinco de Mayo.  It’s Mother’s Day. This year will be my thirteenth year of getting in on the action.  The first handful of pregnant months I had were filled with a lot of “Oh shit!  What have we done?”  I never really liked kids all that much and it occurred to me around month five that there were only two ways “it” was going to get out of me, and neither seemed all that agreeable.  And babies are one of those things that you can’t ever give back without looking like a total monster to your friends and family.


Luckily, it came out, we named her and gave her food.  It went so well that we added a boy one.  Big Daddy is an architect and he likes symmetry.  We couldn’t have planned it any better.  Oh, wait.  It was planned.  As it turns out, being a Mom has been pretty cool.  Sure there’s that whole thing about witnessing the miracle of birth, the outpouring of empathy for mankind that makes me cry when I watch Oprah now and the unbridled love for anything that is needy.  That’s all true.  But there are so many other perks…

Teen boogie shoes

For instance:  on Friday night I am chaperoning a dance at Snakebite’s school.  I am way giddy over getting to watch middle-schoolers in their social element.  Snakebite is socially cautious, so she’s not a good measuring stick for what Good Morning America tells me is going on with teens these days.  I am getting access to whether or not they all really want to be Kardashians and Biebers like E! News says, if they are sucking on meth pipes like 48 Hours insists they are, or if 1 in 10 of them might be pregnant like in InTouch Weekly swears.  If I weren’t a mother, I’d just be some creepy middle-aged woman hanging out oogling a bunch of 13 year-olds with excessive interest.And I love going to Little League games.  It’s okay because I’m a mother.  Any other singleton hanging around the batting cages necessitates an email blast to the community, snapping a secret picture with my iphone and possibly a call to 911.

Being a mother gets you a weight gain pass, too:  “Oh, did you see Mrs. X at the reunion?  Jeesh, did she blow up!  What?  They have three kids?  Are you kidding me?  She looks amazing for three kids.”

And a fashion pass.  “Mom jeans” didn’t just name themselves. Women who have a glass, or two, of wine every night could seem a little sad.  For mothers, it gets shrugged off as “therapeutic Mommy Juice”.  She’s just unwinding.

But best of all, being a certified mother allows me to make snarky and informed comments when I watch I Didn’t Know I was Pregnant, The Duggars: 19 Kids and Counting, Teen Mom, Teen Mom 2 or Supernanny.  And I can make grand, sweeping proclamations about random kids in public centering around what I wouldn’t put up with…and it counts.

That’s not Merlot, or how I’m a shoo-in for mother of the year

3 May

Ding-dong, the witch is dead.  In case you’ve missed it, Usama/Osama bin Laden has left the building.  I have a grab bag of emotions: elation, relief, justice, sadness, worry…I’m sure I’m not alone with this.  It has been bizarre watching news reports of the people frenzy in the streets and ball parks of the U.S., juxtaposed with pictures of blood soaked rugs and reading the constant crawl about exploded skulls.

Is it even appropriate to celebrate something like this?  I don’t know.  But it also seems a little weird not to celebrate in some way.  So, we cracked open a nice Pinot Noir with dinner and decided to pour a little splash for the kids.  Don’t judge.  People in Europe make their kids have a night-cap so they’ll go to bed.  Think of it as organic Benadryl.  But this post isn’t about that…it’s about a great story in Hot Damn’s family lore.

When Hot Tub (that’s the boy child) was about four or five months old we were spending Thanksgiving at the beach.  At supper one night, four-year old Snakebite was going out of her skin to have a nip of the wine we had ordered with dinner.  She was being a real pain in the ass about it.  I finally gave her a tiny swig, knowing that she would be grossed out and just hush.  Instead, her eyes got as big as saucers, she licked her chops and exclaimed, “It’s sooo good!  What is it?”  So, we told her it was called Merlot. She prolly would have been happy to dust off the bottle, but we are responsible parents who aren’t into sharing our hooch.  Instead, we told her that if she really liked the good stuff that maybe she might be ready to start having full Communion at Church.  Since we are Episcopalian, you can just do it whenever you’re ready.  All week our brows were furrowed with concern as our budding party girl yammered on and on about getting some of that delicious wine at Church on Sunday.  Uh-oh.  What have we started?

On Sunday morning, Snakebite practically skipped up to the altar.  We were all kneeling, me with a baby asleep on my shoulder, when the Cathedral’s Dean was before us with the wine chalice.  Margaret was in the ready, set, go position to receive and he kinda gave me the quizzical eye and I gave the go-ahead nod.  She put her little mouth on the rim, took a long sip, an awkward gulp and then bellowed, “THAT’S NOT MERLOT!”  She was furious and felt duped.  I thought the Dean was going to fall over.

So back to our celebratory wine with dinner tonight.  Snakebite wanted no part of it because now she only likes Taylor’s Tawny Port…the Church wine.  This, people, is how you get your children to Church without complaint.  Please feel free to submit my name for the Mother of the Year award in honor of Mother’s Day this coming weekend.


5 Apr

Get packing!

This past Saturday, Big Daddy decided that we needed to get prepared for our upcoming family trip.  That is happening in June.  Whatever.  The first bullet on the list was luggage.  What do we have?  Who’s taking what?  What are we checking?  Carrying on?  And yadda, yaddda, yadda.  This type of minutia is beyond tedious for me, especially double-digit weeks out from departure.  Oh, well.  In marriage, we humor one another and compromise all the way to the finish line.

Who knew that the luggage inventory would make Snakebite cry instead of me?  Apparently, we are raising a new-millennium Veruca Salt.  She began weeping that she thought the cruise was only twelve days, and WTH is this business about packing for eighteen days.  And then the statement that rocked our Saturday got vomited out between gulps and gasps…, “But, I don’t want to go to Europe, again.”  Where. Have. We. Gone. Wrong?  Am I raising a “me-me-me monster” by giving kick ass opportunities, or am I just dragging my poor kids into my own wanderlust and expecting them to be thrilled at how lucky they are and how they won the parental jackpot?  Is that so hard to get on board with???

Da plane! Da plane!

In earlier blogs, I have discussed how we stuffed a juvenile militia in a ‘wagon and rolled our happy asses down to Daytona Beach.  Granted, I did get to go on some pretty great trips before I ever got a high school diploma, but I also got left home.  A lot.  My Mom and Step-dad, Carolyn and Tom to you, belonged to this group called The Skylarks, here in Atlanta.  Basically, it was like having a part-share in a Boeing-720.   It was better than any country club.  For parents.  The Skylarks flew to Mexico, the Caribbean and Bermuda at least a couple of times a month.  This group, would never be allowed today, because you just showed up and went.  Sometimes they would have “mystery” trips.  You’d call in a couple of days ahead of time and get the packing list.  It was on your descent that the captain would announce where you were landing.

My first trip out of the country was a Skylark’s trip Curacao.  The plane was like having a secret access pass to a nightclub.  Everyone knew each other and was loaded by the time we landed.  My brother, Chris, and I still talk about that trip and what we did.  Chris was allowed to “casino” and won enough money to buy some YSL cologne at the duty-free shop.  On another Skylarks trip to the Bahamas, the brothers gave me Jim Carroll’s The Basket Ball Diaries and J.D. Salinger’s The Catcher in the Rye to read while they ditched me at night and went to the resort clubs.  I was almost twelve.  The one time mom checked in at our room, she was pissed.  I later majored in Literature.  Who knew that being abandoned by skirt-chasing brothers would shape my academic future and influence me into a major that makes no money.

Vacation inclusion was not the norm.  Usually, us kids were secured at my Grandparent’s house.  It wasn’t the sort of multi-generational fantasy camp that most people think about when you say “Grandparent’s house”.  We didn’t bake cookies, go to the circus or play games together.  I don’t think they really liked kids all that much.  I always felt a bit jipped when we got picked up late Sunday afternoon by a couple of giddy, sunburned parents.  While my folks were swigging margaritas and dancing in a conga line on a beach, I was white knuckling it through episodes of Lawrence Welk, back-to-back Wild Kingdom and low-sodium meals.  So, now, as a parent, I take those kids everywhere!  I think that I’m doing the right thing, but… is this one of  t h o s e  things?

Will the real Veruca Salt please stand up?

One of those things is giving your kids something that you fantasized about growing up, only to have the shit disappointed out of them once they are out of college and off the parental dole.  I think it is probably a natural instinct to want to give your kids beyond what you think you had, be it material things, “quality time”, or just showering them with opportunities.  Give them too little; they’ll resent me.  Give them too much; they’ll still resent me.  Do nothing= still resentment.  I can’t win either in any scenario.  So we’re doing what I want to do. Because, really, it’s all about me.   And they’ll learn to get through it.

Play sexy

29 Mar

Everyone is in a tizzy over Abercrombie & Fitch’s new bikini for young girls.  It’s called the Ashley and the smallest size is for eight-year-old girls.  The big gripe isn’t so much that it’s on the skimpy side of things, but that the top has push up pads in it, so that young girls don’t feel self conscious about their chesticles.  It can really cause a lot of anxiety for a girl to not be able to fill out her swimsuit.  Especially in the second grade when she isn’t yet confident enough to tell her playmates at the sandcastle to “Suck it!”.  Really, I don’t see what the BFD is.  Parents buy baseball inspired outfits for their young boys that say “L’il Slugger” on the front, anticipating growing an NBL pitcher.  Daughters twirl in ballerina inspired dresses, dreaming of one day being a principle dancer of a famous ballet company.  Maybe the aspirations that some parents assign their daughters are a little less lofty and a bit more…pedestrian.  Now, doesn’t that bikini top start to make sense?  Because,  let’s make no mistake…eight year-olds aren’t driving themselves to the mall and throwing down the plastic for some new swimsuits to train in.  Mawma and Diddy need to get that money-maker out there early if they want their little precious to be successful in dancing, acting on an “unscripted set”, landing a pro-ball player in lieu of college or where ever she sets her sights.

There is a lot more to it than an A&F bikini to usher little girls along the twisted path of sexual dysmorphia and daddy issues that will lead to an early start on a fruitful career at Tattletales.  I’m not even going to talk about lucite shoes, degrading rap lyrics or Club Disney shows.  I’m a talk about toys.  For decades, feminists have ranted and raved about the unrealistic body image that Barbie dolls presented to young girls.   Mattel mitigated that by giving Barbie her choice in profession, ethnic friends and recently letting her divorce that eunuch husband of hers, Ken.  He was boring.  In more recent years, the Bratz dolls upped the ante by being soft and plush…a perfect snuggly slut baby doll for toddlers.  But just like Hollywood can’t come up with many new ideas, toy makers are now looking to the vamp up past victories for today’s market place.

Strawberry Shortcake works as a stage name

Strawberry Shortcake first came on the scene in the early 1980s.  Her acrylic hair was actually infused with the scent of fresh, wholesome strawberries.  Her friends Blueberry Muffin and Lemon Meringue smelled just as sweet.  What do you think their new-millennium effigies smells like?  I’m betting it’s a combination of cigarette smoke, stale beer and motor-court bedsheets.

Brushes teeth with a bottle Jack

Rainbow Brite now looks like an anime Ke$ha getting ready to dose up with some ecstasy and hit a rave.  I’ll bet she pays at the door with all $1 bills then grinds her jaw all night while giving Starlite the Catherine the Great “come hither” eye.  Shudder.

Pole ready

Dora the Explorer has been to see Dr. 90210 and also made friends with celebrity hair weaver, Ken Paves.  Dora has lost her pudge, injected a little Restylane in her lips, gotten Kardashian extensions and is just shy a pair of leggings and a trapeze top of the pole.  Last year, Nickelodeon teased audiences with her makeover by releasing a silhouette of Dora, before the “big reveal”.

Looks like a mudflap

Just like on Fox’s The Swan.  I wonder if Dora can say “Love you long time” in Spanish.

Hope Magic Milan has condoms in her purse

Not all little girls want to spend time with dolls, though.  They can be a little creepy at night when the full moon is shining through your bedroom window.  What is a parent to do if they want their daughter to have appropriate toys to model and role-play being flirty with???  Thank heavens for the toymaker Playmate (seriously) and their contribution of a line of fashionista whorses.  They are called Struts.  Rhymes with sluts.  Pictured here is Magic Milan.  She is wearing high-heeled horseshoes, dangly earrings and what appears to be a purple and black lace bustier.  Damn, that’s one hot filly!

Trollz...with a z

Even Troll dolls have been retooled.  Now they are called Trollz, because substituting a z for an s is kewl.  But these little figures have a powerful messsage for today’s wallflower little girls: just because you’re a troll, doesn’t mean you can’t be sexy.  Miley Cyrus has built an empire on that premise.  Oops, did I type that out loud?

Piercing high

28 Mar

This is a stick-up

My daughter, you know her as Snakebite, waited until she was thirteen to get her ears pierced.  The day we went to Merle Norman last December to pay a woman to shoot her in the ear lobes with an earring pistol was fraught with trepidation and second-guessing.  By the age of eleven almost all of her friends and classmates were wearing dangly plastic ice-cream cones and the like or super sparkly fishhook earrings.   Her similarly aged cousins would swoon just passing by Claire’s at the mall.  For the uninitiated, Claire’s is a chain of “accessory boutiques” that targets the notoriously sophisticated, stylish, and discriminating 7-12 demographic.  Think Noah Cyrus.  Their specialty is Cadmium laden baubles for junior wanna-be-hookers.  It all looks like the crap that you would “pay for” with skee ball tickets at a boardwalk arcade.  It’s catnip for little girls, but not mine.

Tween Mecca

Why all the anxiety surrounding what boils down to body mutilation?  Seven years ago, Snakebite’s bff in pre-first got her ears pierced and one of them got infected.  Long after the friend’s crusty ear lobe healed, Margaret remained scarred.  But teenage peer awareness is pretty powerful stuff though and can, like, lead you into doing stuff outside of your comfort zone.

The instigator

Margret has been thrilled with her bedazzled ears.  And the child who literally can’t remember if she’s eaten lunch or whether she’s ever broken anything, has really stayed on top of caring for her newly pierced ear lobes.  She always seems to be swabbing with an alcohol soaked Q-tip and turning the posts.  And when she switched over to her special, fancy earrings two weeks ago she made sure to tighten the backs so that she wouldn’t lose one.  There’s good news and bad news here.  The good news is that Snakebite has been so fastidious that she has managed to stave off the infection that should have alerted us that her ear lobes had swallowed the earring backs.  Yeah, the securing of the earring backs surpassed being an act of responsibility and veered off towards pathological tightening and resulted in them getting embedded.  In both ears.  Double friggin’ yikes!

Since ear lobes don’t have a mini-uterus in them to contract and push big things out of their little pierce holes, they have to be cut to make way…like an episiotomy.  For your ears.  Gross!  This revelation was not handled with grace and calm.  It was received with a lot of “Blaaah, why me?  This is the worst day ever!  Blaaah!”  More than anything else, she was worried and totally worked up over getting shots.  The kind doctor decided to give her an oxycodone to address future pain and help her chill.  Because we aren’t hillbillies, I’d never seen my teen on oxy before.  We don’t roll that way.  Aside from the initial bitchiness, and a brief episode of nodding off, it was hilarious.

I learned a lot about Snakebite’s hopes and dreams.  I found out that she is really looking forward to going to Daytona Beach this summer so that she can get a bucket of water from the ocean, evaporate it on our deck and make her own sea salt.  Which reminds her that she would like to go float in the Dead Sea because it’s the saltiest and so you are super buoyant there.  Oh, and banana popsicles and banana pudding are, like the best.  She likes opals.  She likes moonstones.  She likes opals AND moonstones!  Did you know that people in Africa wear lip-disks?  She would never do that.  And she never wants for us to take a family trip to Djibouti because it has a weird name.

After we left the hospital, I took her to Menchie’s for some froyo.  She got a huge tub of cake batter flavored yogurt, added cookie dough, sprinkles, about four other toppings and buried it under liquidy marshmallow squirts.  And for the first time ever, she offered to share her yogurt with me because she said it was such awesomeness and I had to try it.  I politely declined, because like I said: we are not hillbillies.  Or Lohans.  Mothers and daughters do not need to eat stoner food together while one is flying high on the good shit.

Sour puss

24 Mar

Oh, spring time…you minx!  You…with your blossoms and blooms, your warm sunshine, sprigs of green grass and patio dining.  Your chirping birds, outdoor festivals, and open windows feed my soul.  The things to love and glory in during the late days of March and early days of April are many.  But every action has an opposite and equal reaction, or something like that.  For every morning without an overcoat, there is a dude with flabby man-boobs thinking it’s okay to jog shirtless around the park.  For every whiff of the white clematis vine over my garage doors, there is a pint of pollen being dumped in my face holes.  And for every missing Christmas tree lot there is a god forsaken lemonade stand.  I may just be the Grinch of spring.

When I was a kid all I wanted to do on a pretty day was have a lemonade stand.  My mother put the ixnay on it almost every time.  My kids want to have a lemonade stand, too, and I continue the family tradition of not letting them participate in that kind of messed up economic system.  In what universe does it make sense to pour Gatorade into Solo cups and charge $.25 for it???  Maybe this is the sort of thing that Venezuelan nut-job Cesar Chavez was talking about earlier this week when he said that capitalism destroyed life on Mars.  After supplies for sign making, the pain-in-the-ass cost of sticky lemonade getting spilled all over my kitchen counters and floor, and about $10 at Publix for cups and concentrate…well you do the math, genius.  But you know what’s worse than my own kids wanting to just give it away?  Other kids’ lemonade stands, that’s what.

Hall had a baseball game last Saturday and at the corner just before the driveway to the ball field was a gaggle of about 5 or 6 kids with a lemonade stand.  I think they wanted something crazy like $.50 for a cup of warm, diluted Crystal Light.  Because there was a stop sign, I had to stop and they all started coming at me like a bunch of hobos with squirt bottles and rags at the North Avenue exit.  My first instinct was to lock my doors and grab the mace.  You know what though?  I wasn’t going to be intimidated, plus no one’s Mom was there to give me a disapproving glare.  I didn’t buy their lemonade.  I had a big water bottle with me already (because I live in Georgia and prepare for hot days in the car) and was just fine.  To show that there were no hard feelings I shot them my best smile and a wave.  They jumped up and down, then started yelling at me like a pack of jackals and giving me the fist in the air.  All I could think was, “Oh, how adorable.  What a bunch of little a-holes.”  How is that for a warm spring afternoon at the ball field?  It’s the stuff of Norman Rockwell’s Saturday Evening Post.

Spring broken

15 Mar

At least we didn't have to pack

Do you know what a Staycation is?  It’s new-millennium-speak for “Hell no, we ain’t going anywhere for Spring Break!”  It is also a code word that means, “I’m exhausted”.  Last week was “Private School Spring Break” in Atlanta.  It is the second week in March and way too cold for the beach, but just right for the ritzy slopes out West.  We aren’t skiers.  Luckily we learned that with relatively little expense last year in North Carolina.  Both kids acted like complete jackasses and the little one ended up making snow angels of fury off to the side.

There is no short supply of self inflicted guilt from not giving the kids an amazing, and by amazing, I mean $$$, Spring Break.  So, I planned all sorts of activities to fill the days.  Why are we so afraid, as parents, to let our children experience boredom?  I’ll tell you why.  It’s because we have to listen to them whine about it, which then escalates into a full out spar in the living room.  It is much better to just suck it up and get out of the house.

Laser tag

Monday morning saw the inaugural opening of the wallet.  For $12.50 a pop we went to play laser tag and run around in some indoor place that was akin to a Chuck E. Cheese with out the foul pizza or the weird band of animatronic rats.  I sat out on the actual laser tag, not flinching at all when a pimply, twenty-something year old kid took about nine children into a dark, windowless room alone for about 20 minutes and brought them back slightly glazed with sweat and out of breath.  I mean, we’re on vacation, right?  Everyone’s “no-no places” appeared to be in tact.

Naps like an F-18

The tone was set for the week.  Like Charlie Sheen, we had one speed: GO.  There was fro-yo for lunch, hiking by the river, a tour of the Fabulous Fox Theater given by the worst docent ever, going to see Rango (two thumbs up!), pizza in Little 5 Points, Dave and Busters, Peter Pan in the 360, painting a bedroom, a “field trip” to Ikea, bookstore loafing, hanging out with friends, dinner with grandparents and an aunt all capped off by the riveting footage from Japan.

And there were several things that we didn’t get around to, like getting my closet organized, trail riding or going to look for unicorns at Fernbank.  Oh, well.  They’re probably fakes anyway.  I feel like I need three solid days with my snuggie and some Tracy Gold Lifetime movies to recover from this Spring Break-with-Reality.

From "For the Love of Nancy", where Tracy plays hungry

Gwyneth is special

9 Mar

Anyone who knows me for reals, knows how much time I like to dedicate to highlighting that style of parenting that is all about a child’s almighty self-esteem.  You know the parents that keep telling their kids, “You can do it!  You are special!”  Step off Mom.  Back away Dad.  Just because your precious can do something, doesn’t mean they do it well…doesn’t mean that they should continue doing it.  Thanks to them, I am stuck in a world where there is a whole segment of society that is convinced that they rock at everything, and they have no shortage of enablers out there clapping along like trained seals and nodding like heroine-kicking bobble heads.  Sometimes those enablers are Hollywood producers, media outlets and a lot of people who’ve just gone numb.

Concentrating on the chords

For the love of God, please make Gwyneth stop.  Tell her no.  I can’t take it anymore.  Yes, good job Blythe Danner and Bruce Paltrow with the whole encouraging of the acting.  That worked out just fine.  No qualms.  But then Daddy thought that Baby could sing real pretty and made a whole movie for her to sing in.  Remember Duets, with Huey Lewis?  The easy-listening stations loved their croon, “Cruisin’”.  I ‘spose it was serviceable.  I mean, I sing in the shower and at stoplights, and it’s so awful it jars even me.  I can appreciate that “Cruisin’” was inoffensive, but I won’t say that it was great. It was enough and that should have been the end of it.

Adult-contemporary Gwyneth

After failed relationships with Brad Pitt, remember their matching hair-don’ts during their brief engagement…

Wonder Twin powers...activate!

and Ben Affleck, she married the most boring front man ever, Chris Martin of Cold Play….


Lack of excitement and moving “across the pond” was the perfect storm of smugness  and boost in self-regard for Gwynie.  This is when she started name dropping “Madge” and witnessing about macrobiotic diets and cupping.

Looks like a nasty case of ringworm to me

There are a couple of years where there isn’t a picture of Gwyneth without that dumb yoga mat rolled up under her arm.  At some point her encouraging mother and ass-hat friends must have said, “Oh Gwyneth, please share your knowledge and wisdom with the world.  Pretty pleeeeease.  You can do it.”  And then she gave birth to something with a worse name than Apple or Moses:  Goop.  That’s her blog.

The "All Doing" Gwyneth

Gwyneth dispenses advice through her blog and directs her audience to things that are super accessible, that can only enhance their lives and make them feel better, smarter and superior, like colon detoxes that run about $1200 a week, the best French pharmacy beauty finds, planning a trip to Hong Kong or Stella McCartney’s must have workout pants.  It was when I read this particular entry that I started stitching my Gwyneth voodoo doll once I quit choking on my own tongue.  She recounts a day in her life from waking up and decorating and stuffing shoe boxes for a Toy-drive with her selfless children before taking them to school, to personal trainer time, fittings (which six outfits am I going to pick for someone to pack for my trip???), phone calls, baking cupcakes, giving foot massages and a girls night out.  At no time does she make mention of a nanny, assistant or troll, and yet the kids got home from school, someone cooked their dinner and we assume that she didn’t leave them home alone while she went out for a glass of organic ice wine.  Ughhhhhh!

Then there is this damn Glee situation.  I don’t watch that show.  Can’t stand it, actually.  But the rest of the country wets their collective pants every time there’s a new episode and I am besieged by whatever happened.  Damn Gwyneth, or as Dlisted’s Michael C calls her, Fishsticks, was on it again this week.  The last time she sang a sanitized version of Cee-Lo’s “F*ck You”.  It got replayed ad nauseum.  And as a further eff to my ears, she did it again for the Grammy’s.  To quote Cee-Lo, “Whyyyyyyy?”  This time around she tried Joan Jett.  Exactly.  Of course, that totally makes sense.

As if

I suffered silently through her live performance of her Country Strong song during the Academy Awards.  You know, the award show where, on the red carpet, she said that she really wants to work with Jay-Z.  I think that was just after she made a point of telling the reporter that earlier in the day she ate an entire turkey burger with the bun and drank a Guinness.  You don’t say?  But I must draw the line.  This week, Atlantic Records signed Fishsticks to a $900,000.00 deal for a full-length album, or whatever they’re called these days.  Again, Whyyyyyy?

How can we make this stop?  Why does America keep saying, “Yes” instead of “Shut the hell up and just act!”?  Do we really need to make Gwyneth feel good about her mediocre singing?  Does she really need our approval about colon cleansing and farming out the bake sale stuff to the help?  People, I am begging you to turn away and end this foolery now.  It’s what’s best for all of us.

Belly ache

29 Dec

Atlanta's own pickle chugger

On a recent episode of the Real Housewives of Atlanta, Phaedra and Apollo had a photog come over and capture Phaedra sitting on the deck steps in a tank top while sucking on a forearm size pickle that Apollo was lovingly holding for her.   Cue the Casio music and musk incense now.  What. A. Classy. Mommy Moment.

Classy baby holder

Back in my fertility heyday, pregnancy was a gift from the Baby Jesus, and was treated as such.  Being pregnant meant that you were in the process of fulfilling your highest evolutionary destiny.  And it said other things about you, too.  It said that you were, at the very least, in a regular relationship, financially secure enough and a planner.  A budding mother’s swelling belly wasn’t intended to be tarted up and put on parade.  It was meant to be swathed in a nice, feminine floral print and revered.  Think Lady Di, she did it just right.  You weren’t supposed to plaster-cast it like Jimi Hendrix’ most famous instrument.  Or paint it like a pumpkin on Halloween.  No one called it a bump; it was a bun and it stayed in the oven, with the door shut, until it was finished.

This is not what regular people look like

The sea-change of outing your pregnancy can be pinpointed to when Demi Moore posed for THAT Vanity Fair cover in 1991.  But that was famous, rich, pretty, photo-shopped Demi Moore.  Despite it’s shock value, it was tasteful by today’s standards.  Somewhere along the line, maybe during the call center genesis, Indian culture hit the pregnancy circuit and women were putting jewels in their shallow belly buttons or encircling them with henna Mehndi tattoos and wearing midriff bearing sari style dresses.  Then it got figured out that there isn’t enough derma-blend to cover nor shea butter to minimize the stretchmarks.  Cue the move to wearing low-cut, tiiiight tube dresses.  Besides, just ‘cause you’re preggers don’t mean you can’t be sexy, right?  Whaaaa?  Why the need to be sexy?  If she’s knocked up, clearly she’s got game.  Duh.

What for?

Pregnant Chicken, a girl with more time than I do, has spent countless hours gathering a collection of pictures from far and wide and calling them “Awkward Pregnancy Photos”.  You can check it out, but I warn you: These are not for those who are adverse to much.  Think People of Walmart on Clomid and government cheese.

Lucille Ball's sexy maternity look

For the life of me, or the two that sprang from me, I cannot imagine wanting to memorialize the dumpiest, most uncomfortable and freaked out time of my life in any kind of way.  I can still see a photo from a baby shower and wince.  I like how Lucille Ball hid behind cabinet doors and divans while incubating Ricky Jr.  on I Love Lucy.  But then again, I was raised right and have exceptionally good taste…just ask my Glamour Shots consultant.   Maybe being pregnant has simply lost its panache for me and now it’d just be knocked up.  Who knows?  That ship has sailed.  However, I know chicks that are plugging away at population expansion today.  Holla to Kim, Jeanne and Katie.   I wonder if any of them will have the guts to buck the current trend and go retro with a “Baby on Board” tunic, some cotton paneled drawstring jeans and a pair of moccasins.

Hot Mess Mutha

28 Dec

Ever since experiencing the miracle of childbirth, I have changed many of my ways.  Some things are subtle, slight and some are more apparent.  Over night I became very sensitive to poverty and seeing children who are cold and hungry.  I am now far more patient than pre-baby me when I see someone randomly falling apart…you just don’t know what kind of day they’ve had.  I also abandoned a pretty spontaneous lifestyle in favor of an almost rigid predictability for years when the children were younger.  I even nostril-bubble cry whenever I see an adoption reunion show or an e.p.t. commercial (though that one, because I am thankful it’s someone else.)  Another emotional adjustment I am becoming more and more aware of is how I have grown empathetic to a particular mother of the silver screen.

Mother of the year and personal mentor

Yesterday we took Snakebite and Hall out to lunch at a cutesy (code for cha-ching $$$) lunch spot in Midtown.  Greg suggested that being 13 now, it might be time for Margaret to cease ordering from the kids’ menu…and gulp, she agreed.  Victory comes when you are least expecting it.  She settled on a grilled BLT and was even borderline excited when I told her that this sandwich is a Southern culinary treasure (even in December thanks to commerce and all).  It was an $8 sandwich, and it was just lovely.  All golden, with sear marks toasted on top, fringed by fertile lettuce with a bit of firm tomato and scads of thick, crisp bacon peeking out of every plane.  “Eeew, I’m not eating that!  It looks like snot!”  Said Snakebite, “You know I hate mayonnaise!”  We didn’t know.  But we should have guessed.  Victory averted.  As she was staunchly refusing to eat anything but the potato chips, I kept thinking this: I totally get Joan Crawford.  I think that Joan has been largely misunderstood as being a bit of a psycho mess.  Remember that scene in Mommy Dearest when Christina refused to eat that delicious rare filet that Cook had prepared for her?  Joan sent her to bed with it and then put it out on a plate for breakfast the next morning.  Due to Christina’s refusal to open her mouth and just eat the damn thing, it appeared again for several more meals until it got kinda gross and white.  Whose fault was this?  As a kid when I saw that movie, I thought Joan was being crazy and unreasonable.  I now know that she was making a respectful point about waste.  Because of my evolved empathy, I now get what an ingrate ‘Tina really was.  Writing that awful book about her well-intentioned Momma only proved it years later.  And Joan’s indignity at the way those children kept their bathroom, and their carelessness with the beautiful clothes that she bought them?  “No wire hangers!  Ever!”  I get that too.  It takes a lot of money, time and effort to have and take care of nice things.  Further, I endorse Joan’s brilliant policy to give away most of the birthday gifts.  All those toys take up way too much real estate when your fleet of fur coats needs a safe closet to nestle in.

Just say "No" to these