Saturday, January 31, 2009

the show must go on

Before the internet took over our lives, we used to do things the old-fashioned way. Like when you ordered concert tickets. Remember when you and your friends would brag about braving snowstorms, rainstorms, intense heat and cold while camped (literally, with a tent and camping stove!) outside the ticket office of the nearest concert arena? Or when you had to call in by phone to Ticketmaster only to be placed on hold, waiting...waiting...waiting, sometimes for 8 hours just to buy tickets that you hoped were still available after being on hold for 8 hours!!!!!??????? (Thanks, Mom, for taking care of that while I went to work!!!)

I haven't been to many concerts, partly because of my aversion to people but mostly because I can't justify spending the same amount of money on Ticketmaster fees as the ticket itself. I am, however, willing to go all out for a band I absolutely love or have been following for a number of years.

1995: REM & Grant Lee Buffalo @ The Capital Center in Landover, Maryland
Can you say awesome? GLB was, of course, the opening act. And this was my first concert. Seriously! I paid $90 for two tickets to see the Greatest Band Evah! My friend Matt accompanied me to our nosebleed seats where we were immediately invited to move to an area on the left side of the stage where one would not be able to see a damn thing. After some consideration, Matt and I told the security guard, "Hella NO!". It turns out that those fans who did move got to hang with the band. Gaaah...dammit! My obsessive love/crush on Michael Stipe is still unhampered by rumors of his gayness. Listen up, people - I don't care. He's hot.

2003: Shinedown @ The Freebird in Jacksonville, Florida
I was new in town and working at the Holiday Inn when my Assistant Manager mentioned that his cousin was the bassist for a band that had just been signed. I'd never heard of them, but then again I was a new mom and totally unfamiliar with anything that wasn't a diaper, a jar of baby food, or that suction gadget that gets boogers out of a baby's nose. My brother was into this band and invited me to experience his first concert with him. I was happy to oblige, seeing as it was probably the first time I'd left the house socially in two years. It was actually really intense. The lead singer is about the size of, oh...a two-story house (give or take) and his voice is powerful. I distinctly remember their performances of Skynyrd's "Simple Man" and their own "Barrel of a .45". Then Brent Smith, the lead singer, climbed up to the balcony and threatened to dive into the crowd. In my mind, I could see his huge body landing on my 95-pound frame and leaving me flattened on the floor of Freebird. I quickly got out of the way.

2005: Def Leppard @ Jacksonville Veterans Memoral Arena in Jacksonville, Florida
One of my favorite life moments ever. My dear friend Carolina came with me and, though we enjoyed the concert immensely (we are both 80's girls at heart), I don't remember much about the music. Carolina was too busy making friends with the drunk assholes who were nice enough to get us a little closer to the floor. The DA's really enjoyed Carolina's spunk and her ability to drink them under the table. This was loudly declared by one of the DA's when Carolina left to get a beer and didn't return for nearly 45 minutes, leaving me with the unfortunate task of entertaining the DA's. Since I never flipped up my shirt, bumped bodies, or otherwise let them touch any part of my body with their sweaty, nasty, beer-dripped hands, the lead DA got fed up and asked me, "Damn, where's the fun girl?" Well, the fun girl was busy getting way too drunk, but she did give me ample warning before she puked outside. While her stomach was pouring out a few 40 oz. on the sidewalk for her homies, a little boy walked by with his dad and asked him, "Daddy, is she gonna be okay!?" Dad just looked at me, the puking girl's unattentive friend, and with memories of his own youth twinkling in his eyes, smiled and reassured his son, "Yep, she'll be just fine!"

2007: Morrissey @ Morocco Shrine Theater in Jacksonville, Florida
It was a very small venue, an intimate show. Maybe too intimate. For the first 30 minutes of Morrissey's 3-hour set, I was in a stunted state of shock at the thought of sharing the same air with this man. He put on a good show and shared a few bad jokes ("I wonder if my fans in Morocco have to see me perform in the Jacksonville Shrine Theater. Huh-huhhuhhuh-huhuhuh-huh" *crickets* *crickets*). Not too long into the show, Morrissey started to look pretty bad. He must have gone through a few bottles of water, at least, in the first hour alone. Then the shirt came off, covered in sweat. The little teeny-boppers in attendance (who only knew him as the guy whose song was the "Charmed" theme) went totally squirrelly and screamed themselves into a frenzy. I thought it couldn't get worse. I thought wrong. Morrissey threw his shirt into the crowd. His sweaty shirt. He did this like 5 or 6 times. I worried about getting smacked in the face with his body slop more than I remember being worried that Brent Smith would land on me after an unfortunate stage diving accident. Morrissey is a sweaty, sweaty man.

Friday, January 30, 2009

We can't blame the Canadians this time.

"England's second-largest city has decided to drop apostrophes from all its street signs, saying they're confusing and old-fashioned."

Oh, and the rehabilitation of Amy Whorehouse is a more rewarding cause worth hanging on to? She may not be old-fashioned, but she sure is confusing.

I'm working on my degree in English. I'm a word nerd. I love my commas. And I totally believe in starting sentences with the words And and But. Apostrophes have always been a punctuation-phobe's worst nightmare, especially when the possessive ends with the letter S. *shudder* No. Apostrophes are not my friends. But does this mean that we should kick them to the curb because we don't feel like dealing with them? Pluto suffered from the same curb-kickin' not too long ago. As did the Republicans. It doesn't mean we don't need them! I've always been a huge fan of Pluto. (And Republicans, for that matter.)

"Apostrophes denote possessions that are no longer accurate, and are not needed. More importantly, they confuse people. If I want to go to a restaurant, I don't want to have an A-level (high school diploma) in English to find it."

What kind of retarded statement is that? Is this person implying that the residents of Birmingham are not smart enough to find a lousy restaurant even though these same British fools found Plymouth Rock without a damn Tom-Tom? And even learned how to spell Massachusetts?

*I do not know how to spell Massac...whatever. I totally had to copy/paste.

Anyway, thank God for Marie Claire who says, "They are such sweet-looking things that play a crucial role in the English language. It's always worth taking the effort to understand them, instead of ignoring them."

Wouldn't you agree? I mean, taxes are old-fashioned and confusing but the American public spends a buttload of money and time on their vain attempts to learn more about getting/not getting ripped off by the government. Why don't we get rid of taxes instead? Keep the apostrophe!

Lynn Truss, author of Eats, Shoots and Leaves, said, "Those spineless types who talk about abolishing the apostrophe are missing the point, and the pun is very much intended."

More fun with the English language:

1. Always avoid alliteration.
2. Prepositions are not words to end sentences with.
3. Avoid cliches like the plague--they're old hat.
4. Employ the vernacular.
5. Eschew ampersands & abbreviations, etc.
6. Parenthetical remarks (however relevant) are unnecessary.
7. Parenthetical words however must be enclosed in commas.
8. It is wrong to ever split an infinitive.
9. Contractions aren't necessary.
10. Do not use a foreign word when there is an adequate English quid pro quo.
11. One should never generalize.
12. Eliminate quotations. As Ralph Waldo Emerson once said: "I hate quotations. Tell me what you know."
14. Comparisons are as bad as cliches.
15. Don't be redundant; don't use more words than necessary; it's highly superfluous.
16. It behooves you to avoid archaic expressions.
17. Avoid archaeic spellings too.
18. Understatement is always best.
19. Exaggeration is a billion times worse than understatement.
20. One-word sentences? Eliminate. Always!
21. Analogies in writing are like feathers on a snake.
22. The passive voice should not be used.
23. Go around the barn at high noon to avoid colloquialisms.
24. Don't repeat yourself, or say again what you have said before.
25. Who needs rhetorical questions?
26. Don't use commas, that, are not, necessary.
27. Do not use hyperbole; not one in a million can do it effectively.
28. Never use a big word when a diminutive alternative would suffice.
28. Subject and verb always has to agree.
29. Be more or less specific.
30. Placing a comma between subject and predicate, is not correct.
31. Use youre spell chekker to avoid mispeling and to catch typograhpical errers.
32. Don't repeat yourself, or say again what you have said before.
33. Don't be redundant.
34. Use the apostrophe in it's proper place and omit it when its not needed.
35. Don't never use no double negatives.
36. Poofread carefully to see if you any words out.
37. Hopefully, you will use words correctly, irregardless of how others use them.
38. Eschew obfuscation.
39. No sentence fragments.
40. Don't indulge in sesquipedalian lexicological constructions.
41. A writer must not shift your point of view.
42. Don't overuse exclamation marks!!
43. Place pronouns as close as possible, especially in long sentences, as of 10 or more words, to their antecedents.
44. Writing carefully, dangling participles must be avoided.
45. If any word is improper at the end of a sentence, a linking verb is.
46. Avoid trendy locutions that sound flaky.
47. Everyone should be careful to use a singular pronoun with singular nouns in their writing.
48. Always pick on the correct idiom.
49. The adverb always follows the verb.
50. Take the bull by the hand and avoid mixing metaphors.
51. If you reread your work, you can find on rereading a great deal of repetition can be by rereading and editing.
52. And always be sure to finish what

Thursday, January 29, 2009

Keeping it cool

I'm not quite ready to spill all the details about my wonderful day in court. I went, I testified, I won. I won big. And I don't mean big. I mean freakin' huge.

As you can tell by my lack of capital letter usage, I'm keeping it cool. After 7 years of Mr. Dumas' (Mr. Dumas is not his real name)(as in Mr. Dumbass, in case you don't get it) bullshizzy and 3 years of outright dirty cheating and finger-pointing, I've learned to not believe in the judicial system too early. Even if Mr. Dumas signs his name on the final judgment in his own blood, the law still allows him to take me back to The Judge. Seeing as how awesome The Judge was today, I had considered referring to him as The Man but quickly realized how disrespectful that would be to his profession. Besides, The Judge granted me something that very few parents are ever allowed in the State of Florida. Even my lawyer and all the partners in her firm high-fived each other when we returned to her office.

My lawyer: "We got it! We got it all!"
Partner: "You got it?! Oh. My. Gawd. How did you manage that?!"
My lawyer: ".....!!!!" (sorry, I can't really disclose that but it was SO COOL!)
Partner: "But that never happens! That is so hard to get!"

So, here I am. My entire body hurts from the stress of having to bite my tongue during cross-examination and from laughing so hard on the inside at the faces the bailiff was making at Mr. Dumas' claims. That bailiff needs his own sitcom.

Anyway, enough about that for now. I came across this video on Mamapop tonight and thought it was hilarious.

I think it helps give a good description of the stress and frustrations I've dealt with over the last 3 years of trial preparation, maybe a little explanation for why I've sometimes let Mr. Dumas do what all Dumases do - be himself. Patience pays off. But so does being smarter than your opposition.

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Larry. With the puffy pants.

At 9am Saturday morning, I kissed my daughter goodbye and sent her off to her father's for the remainder of the weekend. This doesn't happen often (in fact, this is the first time since May of last year) and I am usually stunned, not only by the silence surrounding me, but also because I cannot think of anything to do. By myself. It's like I don't know how.

Elle's metal-framed daybed began falling apart last week and I promised her I would do my best to buy her a new bed over the next few weeks. Saturday afternoon, after napping (an activity I learned I can do by myself!) and watching an entire movie uninterrupted (again, an activity I enjoyed doing by myself!), I got bored. It was 3 o'clock. Laundry was done. Dishes were done. So mom and I went shopping for a new bed. My measly budget limited me to pretty much other people's shit that was already falling apart. My dad volunteered to build a headboard for a twin bed out of the unused headboard for a double bed.

Right on, Dad.

Mom and I decided to dress up the "new" bed somehow. We sat in the comfy recliners for sale at Sticks N' Stuff and brainstormed. In the end, our ideas actually came together and we managed to turn my daughter's Suite Life with Zack and Cody bedroom theme (of pink, turquoise, and lime green) into this:



All it took was a new set of sheets, a sheer curtain we already had, two brand new purple sequinned curtains, 7.5 yards of purple satin, a purple comforter from the linen closet, a DIY nightstand, two thin curtain rods, four ceiling hooks, a purple/pink butterfly lamp, and two trips to Hell On, Walmart. Total cost: $84.00.

As I was reading to her tonight (a nightly bedtime ritual - everyone should read to their children!), Elle looked up at her new "India Princess" canopy bed (her own description) and told me how much she loved it.

"I feel like an Indian Princess. It's all shiny with jewels, like those Indian women wear. Hey, like Jasmine!" (referring to Aladdin)

And then, no kidding, she snapped her fingers and demanded, "Larry, fetch me a water!"

Confused, I said, "Who's Larry?"

Ha! Who's Larry? Apparently I am supposed to be completely aware of every character who lives in Elle's little world, because she huffed a little and seemed a bit surprised that I even had to be told.

"(sigh), Mom, Larry's the butler. You know, from India. He wears the puffy pants."

Ooooh, That Larry.

She really likes her room, I guess.

Friday, January 23, 2009

The Mighty Pen

I don't personally know the guys who did this, but I know someone who knows them and that makes me feel special.

The Mighty Pen Vol. I

The Mighty Pen Vol. II

The Mighty Pen Vol. III

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Those "...exact moment..." moments

I've been home for five days straight. My daughter has been sick for two of those five days. Nickelodeon commercials are still blasting through my brain (even though I finally kicked the kid out of the living room, turned off the tv, and glued a Wiimote to her hand). But before I nearly threw my child out of the house because I couldn't stand another episode of Phineas & Ferb, she and I struck a deal: I could watch "grown-up tv" as long as it was something we could watch together. Ah, some peace and quiet and...what's that? laugh track, no theme songs...muahahaha!!

Turns out the only thing on tv suitable for the both of us was Romancing the Stone and Kidco (remember that movie? It's not as awesome now that I'm 32). Childhood movies that seemed so badass 20 years ago, but really aren't. Well, Romancing the Stone is still badass. So I started getting a little nostalgic, especially since I spent the good part of yesterday afternoon in tears, happy tears, and interrupting my daughter's fever-induced slumber to demand she remember this very moment.

This may very well be her first "I remember what I was doing at that exact moment..." moment. Here are some of mine:

The Challenger Explosion:
Challenger Explosion Pictures, Images and Photos
I was home with strep throat, watching As The World Turns, and totally re-thinking my future career as a teacher (as I was naive enough to believe that teachers not only needed a college degree, but also were required to spend many hours in space).

Rodney King Riots/LAPD Acquittals:
rodney king riots 000 Pictures, Images and Photos
I seriously considered how safe I would be at school the next day. And because I'm somewhat retarded, I went. I was chased down the hallway by some very large black guys who kept shouting, "Rodney King's gonna git yo ass!".

O.J. Simpson's Bronco chase:
o.j. Pictures, Images and Photos
I was on SpeAnna's porch. I remember laughing about the whole thing because, I mean, c'mon - what a dumbass!

The Simpson Acquittal:
O.J. glove Pictures, Images and Photos
I was at work with a diverse group of military personnel. White, black, officer, enlisted, male, female, civilian, young, old, traveler, employee. The moment the verdict was read aloud, there was no question how divided our building, and our country, really was. No question.

September 11, 2001:
9 11 pentagon Pictures, Images and Photos
I was like 14 months pregnant and in an absolute panic because that was my hometown. People I loved were missing inside the Pentagon. Strangers held my hand in the lobby of my hotel and tried to talk me through my stress-induced contractions. I didn't want my child born on this day. Luckily, she held out for nearly 3 more weeks.

War on Terror begins:
Bin Laden Pictures, Images and Photos
I gave birth on October 5, 2001. It was a Friday. The following Sunday, October 7th, we bombed the shizzle out of Afghanistan. My child has known exactly two days of her life without war.

The Obama Era:
Obama Pictures, Images and Photos
I didn't vote for Obama, but I'm celebrating him. The country stood together yesterday in celebration, not together in tragedy. I hope the honeymoon doesn't end too soon. It's a good wave we should all be riding right now. Sadly, I still don't see any more American flags flying in my neighborhood than I did last week. I guess it's only a matter of convenience. How sad.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Oh, and P.S. You Suck

It’s been a rough ride, these last seven years. And I don’t want to spill anything just yet, so as to not jinx the good vibes I’m feeling all the way from Alachua County. From losing dependency claims on my taxes and being the parent who sometimes feels like a child because she still lives with her own parents, to being mom and dad to the most incredible human being in the world. This isn’t intended to be a love letter to my child. That will come one day when I’m darn good and ready.

The fact of the matter is this: My daughter is clueless to the turmoil that has surrounded her, especially during the last three years. I’ve lost all of my own personal savings, totally wiped out her college fund, and racked up enough credit card debt to make me a nervous financial wreck for the next 24 months. I have struggled with the universal theory of Right vs. Wrong and compared those results to my own personal theory of Right vs. Wrong. They’re pretty much the same, though it’s taken many tears and emotional breakdowns to come to this conclusion – I’m pretty fucking awesome.

This isn’t about tooting my own horn. We all have certain periods in our lives that cause us all great loss in our own self-confidence. When we seem to rely on other people so much and to the extent that we forget how to rely on ourselves. That is my main goal, to teach my child how to rely on herself or, truthfully, how to rely less on me. I can’t always be with her as she’s growing up and, while this breaks my heart, it’s the only way she will learn who she is and how far she’ll let things go. So far, she’s done just that. I was so proud of her that night but I couldn’t tell her that. I could only tell her that she did the right thing.

Hopefully, she’ll see that I did this all for her. She’ll know that I would do it all again, too. She will know that this is what any mother would do for her child. My daughter might not understand it when she’s 15, 20, or even 30. But the moment she has her own child and her baby’s welfare is threatened in any way…she’ll get it. She’ll know why.

I guess, in a way, I wish I could bottle up this overwhelming sense of confidence and security. God knows I’ll need it next week. God knows I’ll need it for the next 11 years! Single parents (the good ones, the ones who actually, y’know, act like parents!), we don’t have it easy. Sometimes we choose to raise our children without a father, sometimes that choice is made for us by the father. The point is – we are Mother and Father.

Instead of judging us for taking your place in line at the welfare office, consider the fact that I’ve once held 3 jobs to make ends meet and maybe you should get off your sorry ass and get a job yourself. I’d be happy to give you one of mine. Instead of assuming that single parents only breed unkempt, uneducated, foul-mouthed hellraisers, take a look at your stereotypical family (mom, dad, 2.5 kids) and tell me the last time they really, and I mean really, disciplined their child for bad behavior instead of buying them a toy/bribe to shut them up in public.

Sometimes I’m exhausted from all of this parenting stuff. And I’ve had it easy! Living with my parents has certainly relieved me from having to worry about what’s for dinner? and shit, I can’t pay the utility bill this month! While I attended college (on my own dime most of the time, thank you very much, since financial aid was not available to me and this, I believe, gives me every reason to suck up your welfare and state aid if I need them!!!!), I didn’t have to worry about where my child would be for unknown hours each week while was in class. She was safely with her grandparents. At home.

I don’t believe the bullshit statistics that say single parents produce career criminals, domestic abusers, and substance abusers. I believe that shitty parents, clueless parents, even (gasp – dare I say!?!?!) MARRIED parents produce the useless scum of society just as easily as single parents. Trust me, I could soooo name one. Right. Now.

But I refuse to fall for it. I refuse to believe that my child is a statistic. My child just so happens to be the smartest person I know, the most caring individual I know, the coolest 7-year-old in my universe. She is my universe, actually. And because I do it on my own, I'm her universe. (you know who you are) are so missing out.


Monday, January 19, 2009

The early bird doesn't always catch the worm, sometimes he gets shot

It was about 5:55 last night when I heard an explosion outside my house and, having learned some street smarts from my days in suburban DC, I quickly grabbed my daughter and sat the confusion out for a few minutes in the hallway. Stay away from windows. Stay away from doors. That's all I remember thinking. I don't necessarily live in the kind of neighborhood that expects these random shots of gunfire or exploding meth-making lab kitchens. An explosion in my suburban 'hood is somewhat alarming.

A few minutes passed and I didn't hear sirens or any screaming men/women/children and I proceeded with my night accordingly. I have one shady neighbor but quickly concluded that, again, my 'hood is not the type of subdivision to make it on the nightly news and that he probably didn't shoot his wife in bed. The excitement was over and I had to put a sense of security back into my daughter's precious little head. No worries. She was expecting her friend, Jazmine, for a sleepover. Time to get the party started.

This morning the girls woke me up with homemade bugles and a loud chanting of these two words, on repeat: "WE'RE HUNGRY! WE'RE HUNGRY! WE'RE HUNGRY!" Oh lord, shaddup!

Three waffles later, we were all dressed for our morning outing to the pet store (since I cannot afford the zoo these days, hamsters are just as much fun to watch, for free!). We walked out the door and I saw this on the side of my house, or my parents' house, and immediately remember the explosion from last night:



Yep. The cops say it's shotgun shrapnel. The pellets are a rubbery, purple-y substance that hit so hard and left the pieces lodged in the brick and mortar behind the vinyl siding. Jazmine's mom dropped her off approximately five minutes after all this shit sprayed my front door.

Thank goodness they were late.

Sunday, January 18, 2009

memoria colletiva di infanzia

Last night, I came across a video on YouTube that took me back to a more innocent time, a sweeter time, a time when I spent most of my day on roller skates and learning spins and camel jumps. My coach’s name was Glenda. She had twin daughters who would hold my hands while teaching me how to shoot through someone’s legs from behind and do a half-spin in the air before landing on one foot and, with the opposite leg in a camel pose, glide backwards to finish off the skill. I was probably five years old.

Glenda bought me an awesome roller-skate carry case when I moved back to the United States. My skates were white with the red and blue stripes that shot upwards near the foot. I performed at the Aviano Air Base air show when I was seven and even got to compete in speed skating with other kids from around the Aviano/Pordenone area. I don’t remember ever getting medals or even ribbons for my achievements. I just loved to skate.

This being the early 80’s, I wasn’t alone. The only difference is the type of music we all listened to, depending on what came out of the rink’s sound system. This, ladies and gents, is the music of my youth, the sounds of my childhood. Ain’t no Prince and Madonna here, folks. This is true Italian pop music and childhood memories from the 80's:

Artist: Pupo
Song: Lucia
Pupo is still a very popular figure in Italy. I believe he once hosted the Italian versions of Deal or No Deal and Chain Reaction.

Artist: Righeira
Song: Vamos a la Playa
Dammit, it's catchy.

Television series: Star Blazers

Television series: Mazinga
Flat.Out.Bad.Ass!!! His girlfriend robot, Jun, had boobie-missiles that she would shoot off whenever she screamed "Dodici Forte!"

American kids might have also seen this show, but this is what my brother and I watched. We didn't get any cartoons in English. Even the Smurfs were aired in Italian. Sometimes, I think maybe once a week, the AFN (Air Force Network) would broadcast shows in English. I strangely remember seeing The Wizard of Oz and Solid Gold featuring Eddie Rabbit's live performance of I Love a Rainy Night. The flying monkeys from Oz gave me the heebie-jeebies way more the Marilyn McCoo ever did.

Saturday, January 17, 2009

just add humor

The last time I saw my brother and his fiancé was back in October. Brian and Holly just happened to be in Florida from North Carolina the same time my Grandma Beaber passed away unexpectedly. It was a miserable experience. I had to scramble to get time off of work to be in South Florida with my parents. My brother and Holly tried to figure out how to make it a few more days in Florida and away from their jobs in another state. The whole clan ended up in Fort Myers for nearly a week. One of the highlights of our visit to South Florida was having dinner with Grandma Normie.

Grandma Normie had never been very emotionally close to us, whether by chance or by choice. It doesn’t matter, though. She made the effort back in October and it worked. I drove home after the funeral and, during the 6-hour trip, couldn’t help but laugh at some of the snarky comments Grandma Normie had made. She was full of spunk, sarcasm, and a sharp wit. The coolest story was the one she told us about being born before Thanksgiving was even a holiday. Grandma Normie turned 92 in November. Wow.

But, like I said, Brian and Holly had come back into town last night. They stayed overnight and I woke up to raucous laughter coming from the living room. I like to stay in my bed for a while, to wake up and convince myself that it’s totally worth getting out of bed even though I’m all snuggly and cozy in my warm, comfy bed and the wind outside makes it a balmy 35 degrees. But all that laughter. I was missing out on something. I hate being left out. I got out of bed.

Mom: “Grandma Normie died this morning.”
Me: (looking at Brian and Holly) “You shouldn’t be allowed to visit anymore.”

The family wasn’t laughing because Grandma died. They were laughing about all the stuff she did before she died. Grandma definitely flew with a special flock, if you catch my drift. Sometimes she was the only one in the flock. I started to participate in the “Remember when…” round table and before you could say, “she was 92 years old, for chrissakes!!”, the focus was back on Brian and Holly again.

Nick: (looking at Brian and Holly) “You should probably give us all more advanced notice from now on when you plan on visiting.”
Dad: “Should I get a physical before you show up next time?”
Me: “It’s a good thing I have a life insurance policy in place now.”

Grandma would have had a delightful quip of her own to add to this morning’s breakfast conversation. Spunk. Sarcasm. Wit. That’s what we Normans are made of.

Friday, January 16, 2009

He eats shoots and leaves hungry

When I lived near Washington, D.C., I visited the National Zoo a number of times. Between 1989 and 1996, pandas came and went, babies were born, and they were hands-down the most exciting and popular exhibit in the entire zoo. I read that somewhere, at least. Because in my 7 years, I never, not even once, saw a damn panda.

I still joke that the highly-trained and seasoned Marketing Machine just threw that panda story out there as a lure. I was tricked into believing there were pandas in D.C. We were all tricked into believing there were pandas in D.C. The zoo's Marketing Machine convinced us all to show up with our Panda-Memorabilia-Cash clutched in our little hands. I was and still am a member of the World Wildlife Fund, I have adopted numerous manatees and donated money to the Save the Manatee Club, and I love saving stray puppies from the side of the road. This, I believe, made me destined to see a panda (even if only behind zoo barriers) before the species was completely destroyed by aforementioned cash-clutching human hands.

*SIGH* Never happened. Dammit.

The truth is that there have always been pandas at the National Zoo. Well, not always, but during the time I lived there, pandas were there, too. I am only upset that I could never catch sight of one, even out of the corner of my eye. The following news only upsets me more. No, it doesn't upset me. It flat out pisses me off.

TIME Magazine is featuring an article about how the recession is affecting the already-strained financial budgets for the nation's zoos and aquariums. A good point is made: Families across America are usually in some position to cut their food budget by buying less, sharing meals with neighbors to save on grocery costs, applying for food stamps, or walking into a soup kitchen if it's just impossible to pay for a meal. Is there such a program for an elephant? What about food stamps for klipspringers? Maybe soon we'll see lions on the corner of Zoo Parkway and Busch Drive, pacing wildly from stress and making their cubs hold signs that say, "Will Perform Circus Acts for Food!". Seriously, what the hell happens when there isn't a dime left for endangered animal breeding programs or feeding a white rhino his sixty pounds of leafy greens per day? What happens?

And if I wasn't already saddened enough by the fact that many gorgeous animals of our time will probably be the stuff of fairytales to my grandchildren, I was stupid enough to click on a link to the PETA website (I have always hated PETA, by the way). Here (yes, click HERE!) , PETA does nothing to help soften the blow that many zoo animals are about to be hit with. In fact, it seems to me that PETA is hoping to eliminate the country's population of zoo-goers altogether. Many zoos and aquariums rely on daily rate and membership revenue to help support their facilities, feed their animals, and provide extraordinary medical care for these animals. Especially because their budgets have been getting cut for years by the state. PETA can suck it!

I still hope that, one day, I will see a panda. With my own eyes. If it's only for a split second, from behind a glass divider or a roped-off moat, I will consider myself lucky. It breaks my heart to think that many popular zoo animals (usually the at-risk species) are not only losing their chances of survival in the wild, but now their chances of survival in captivity are being destroyed by that same cash-clutching hand.

panda Pictures, Images and Photos

Saturday, January 10, 2009

Cue the "Deliverance" banjo music

Elle and I decided to go an a half-tank adventure today. Georgia is always a good choice, mainly because they have cheap gas. It's too bad I don't still smoke. Their cigs are pretty cheap, too. We chose to visit the small town of Woodbine. It's the county seat of Camden County in Southeast Georgia and hosts a few festivals throughout the year. Their website claims to have a beautiful riverside boardwalk that is really popular and the weather was gorgeous today (sunny and 75!!), so we went.

When will I ever learn my lesson.

After driving through Woodbine in about .05 seconds (I don't know who decided to make this town the county seat, but shame on them!), I had to turn around three times to find the blasted Satilla Riverfront Park & Riverwalk. The sign was faded, the cops were all over the people coming out of the local Ebenezer Church (I believe this means that south Georgia racism is still alive and kicking), and I was already pissed from having a few spots of coffee drip onto my white shirt (yes, I'm an idiot - but wait'll I tell ya about "Dole"!!).

I should've headed back home, but NOOOooooOOO! Remember, I haven't learned my lesson yet.

I finally found the f*****g park and the lot was empty. Most people would be pleased by this, but I was in Hickville. Y'know, that Dukes of Hazzard town where the black kids get hassled by the cops when they come out of church? I'd driven for an hour already and Elle was eager to see the river. This is the only reason I agreed to get out of my car. She and I weren't 20 feet into our walk when we met Dole.

Dole was a super-creepy dude wearing nothing but overalls and a trucker hat. I'm really not even sure if he was wearing shoes. That doesn't matter, though. He was eyeing me and the kid as we got closer to him and his...friend? I don't know who the other dude was (I only know he was very quiet as Dole yelled about all the things he was doing wrong. That or the friend was deaf.). Dole introduced himself to me and when I didn't respond, he got up and yelled at me, told me he had his pole ready for me to try some fishing.

Holy crap.

And because I haven't yet learned my lesson, my dumbass continued on the walk while my daughter constantly reminded me about that "creepy guy". I noticed the river current was strong, really strong, and this made me nervous. The water was murky and muddy. The perfect place to dump the body of a single parent who refused to use some creepy guy's fishing pole. Then I met another creepy guy. He stopped Elle and me and asked us to make a wish for him to catch some fish. Yeah, he said it that way so it would rhyme. Little kiddies like rhymes.

I grabbed Elle and got the hell outta there. Unfortunately, I had to walk past Dole again, still screaming at his friend about stepping on the line, or some shit. Dole saw me coming and got up from his seat again. This time, he didn't ask me to play with his pole. This time, he asked me if I would like to go swimming.


Thankfully, there was a nice couple not too far away (with two large dogs) and they struck a conversation with me, maybe to let Dole know that they were know, to be witnesses after he took me "swimming" in the muddy, murky, furious-current river?? I don't know. What I do know, however, is that Nice Couple Lady advised me that around these parts, I (as a woman) should never walk the boardwalk alone (or, God forbid, with my child!) and that if I must walk the boardwalk, I should bring pepper spray. She said, "It's not safe here".

Hey, I didn't listen to my instincts when I crossed into the town of Woodbine, but I'll certainly listen to the Nice Couple. Forget the pepper spray, I'm just never coming back.

This is the last thing I saw as Woodbine disappeared in my rear-view mirror:

I could not leave town fast enough.

Friday, January 9, 2009

First thoughts...WTF?

Okay,this freaked me the hell out.
Click here and please don't hate me. You totally went to that site on your own free will.

Disturbing, isn't it? Jaysus, I really don't know how I will get those pictures out of my head.

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

I love me some whimsy!

I'm not an art person. I like art. I appreciate it (sometimes). I'm just not an art person. I've never been to an art museum but I can tear up a history museum like it's nobody's business.

I'm also not a girly-girl. I hardly ever wear skirts. I don't spend my money on clothes (though, dear God, I desperately need to). My daughter is a pink, sugary, fluffy, kissy-huggy, princess dress-up-y, ball of ooey-gooey girliness. My daughter is the daughter my mother always wanted. Books and magazines geared towards women and womanly, feminine, girly things (like high heels and the most lashtacular mascara) always catch my daughter's attention, but they don't interest me. Then I saw THIS on the cover of Skirt magazine:

unknown title

Yes. This artwork made me do it. I felt all giddy (and strangely enough, girly) and actually read the magazine. I figured if they could put something so beautiful on the cover (and not mention laser hair removal or the price of a new tanning salon membership), then Skirt magazine couldn't be all bad. In all honestly, this cover artwork is the only thing about Skirt's December issue that sticks out in my mind.

The artist is Duy Huynh. If you go to his website
you'll feel like you've just entered a magical world of whimsy!

Okay, okay. I know I said I'm not girly, but whimsy is freakin' awesome! I love me some whimsy! When I was choosing a name for my daughter, I even designated a nickname for her that means "Faerie Maiden". Faeries, folklore, myths, and legends. Cool stuff. Whimsical stuff.

Full Circle

Dreams of Flight

Traveling Light

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

TV is fun again!

I hate snobby people. I hate snobby, beautiful people. I hate snobby, beautiful, arrogant people. But I love watching snobby, arrogant, beautiful people get totally humiliated on national television. It's one of my favorite things, like saving puppies from the side of the road or going out to eat with my friends. Ah, yes. My favorite thing...watching snobby, arrogant, beautiful, DUMB people.

So, did anyone else watch True Beauty on ABC last night? Was it not awesome!?! Did you almost pee your pants laughing at Haddillahlahlah-whatever-her-name-is when she got busted being a total bitch but still tried to save her um....reputation(?) by flat out lying!?!?! Hahahahaha, bitch.

Oh, Ashton Kutcher. You surprise me. First, Punk'd. Then Beauty and the Geek (which I thought was, by far, one of the most fascinating studies on human behavior. Seriously!). Now True Beauty.

The gist of the show:
The gorgeous contestants assume they're being judged solely on their outer appearance. They're only half right; outer beauty is one component the judges are looking for, but contestants are also being evaluated -- unbeknownst to them -- for their INNER beauty as well when they're put through scenarios and situations that require them to make moral decisions.

It's so totally occupying the shallow part of my mind until America's Next Top Model comes back on the air with new episodes. Unless Tyra goes straight for the $13 special effects again and then I'll have to stop watching. And the transgender thing? I don't get it. Are the ratings that bad? And I'm using waaay too many italics here. And here. Oh, and here, too.

Saturday, January 3, 2009

another pursuit of happiness

It's official. I'm depressed. And while it's no laughing matter, it should be. Because if you can't laugh at your own depression then it gets, depressing.

I've been through it before and I've learned a few tricks:
1. avoid all music performed by Tori Amos
2. think happy thoughts (yes, it works)
3. think happy thoughts while enjoying the outdoors
4. complete all anxiety-inducing tasks as early in the day as possible
5. cuddle with your cute kid/cute pets

What's great about this particular round of misery is this book that I just happened to pick up the day before I started feeling completely miserable (as opposed to just miserable enough to be grouchy):
The Geography of Bliss Pictures, Images and Photos

It's about the author's trek around the world in his honest attempt to find the happiest place on earth. Why are some people happier than others? Why are some cultures happier than others? Why is America the greatest superpower but also home to one of the unhappiest populations on the planet?

When the last tree is cut,
When the last river is emptied,
When the last fish is caught,
Only then will Man realize that he can not eat money.
-from a road sign in the country of Bhutan
The Geography of Bliss by Eric Weiner

I love that.

Is it summer yet? I need sunshine.

Friday, January 2, 2009

Here's to people who do productive things with their spare time...

I'm dreading having to go back to work on Monday. That office just makes me feel...ugh, stuck. I've been feeling stuck all day, mostly because I just realized that I had two weeks of paid vacation (courtesy of the State of Florida) and what did I do with it? Not a damn thing!

So I remembered a little blog thingy I wrote on my MySpace page back in September and it totally made me feel like I just blew two weeks. Which is basically what I did.

September 25, 2008


No, really. Wow!

I just created a "homepage" for myself for my online class, Introduction to Mass Communications. I looked at a few of my classmates homepages. These are the kind of people who have recorded music, written sports articles for ESPN-type publications, fought in Iraq, published poetry, and decided already what they want to do with the rest of their lives. Most of them are barely in their twenties.

My shining moment? A double back handspring on the balance beam. In 1992. That's it. That's my moment? Yes, folks. That was my moment.

Then I realized that I am surrounded by people everyday who have done some really incredible things. For example, my boss was once a commercial flight attendant who volunteered to travel into warzones in the Middle East under the cloak of darkness in order to bring military members home from war. Another guy I worked with just finished research on the early education system of Belize and discovered that there is no standard program. He has since returned to Belize in order to implement his own program. He is changing lives and will ultimately be a part of an educational boom in Belize!

I don't want anyone to think that I'm sitting around here moping, that I am asking for pity or, even worse, compliments. I am just simply looking back and wondering if I have made that much of a difference in someone's life, if I will one day be able to say, "I did this!". My younger brother climbed the steps of a Buddhist temple in Korea and my older brother climbed up a mountainside in order to reach the remains of passengers in a plane crash in Bosnia. I climbed over my garage and onto my roof and jumped into a huge snowdrift in my front yard!

Seriously, it was a HUGE snowdrift.

Things I've done:

that balance beam thingy, fed pigeons in Italy, ate baby squid that was prepared by a crazy Filipino woman across the street, survived 20 seconds trapped in an elevator, survived motherhood, wrote some really funny stories when I was high, wrote some really good stories when I was sober, learned all the words to R.E.M.'s "It's the End of the World (As We Know It)", shaved my legs this morning without cutting myself.

Things I haven't done (but would like to):

start on The Arlington Project, write for a U.S. travel magazine, attend a summer Art Camp with my daughter, become fluent in italian and ASL again, learn to go underwater without holding my nose, complete an algebraic equation without breaking down in tears, meet Governor Sarah Palin (don't start with your assumptions!), visit every place that is represented by a postcard in my ever-expanding postcard collection.

See what I mean? Think about some of the things you've done...or haven't done. Which do you wish you had more of? I don't see these as bragging points. I really do see these kinds of things as topics of conversation, a way to connect with other people who have done the same things...or haven't done the same things but want to. There is a difference.

Thursday, January 1, 2009

He's no Aquaman, but he's someone's superhero!

My friends and I would warn all the new kids. The new kids never saw it coming but we were always honest with them. Too honest, maybe. If we met them over the summer then the question was inevitable.

New Kid: "So, what school do you go to?"
Us: "Crossland."
New Kid: "That's where I'll be going."
Us: "You should really ask your parents to move and get re-zoned. Or just go to private school."
New Kid: "Seriously. Why? What's it like at Crossland?"
Us: "Ever seen that movie 'Lean On Me'?"
New Kid: "Shit. Are you serious?"
Us: "Yep."

Usually it was too late for their parents to move and get re-zoned. Some of the time, their father was an enlisted guy and couldn't afford private school. But mostly their parents probably didn't believe us. Until their kid came home with a busted up lip or told his parents the story about how some 9th grader pulled a gun on him.

Guns weren't always the problem at my high school. In one incident, some nutjob student thought it would be a real hoot to run around stabbing people in the neck with his compass from geometry class. Another time, after the film "Malcolm X" was released, a student grabbed me and shouted, "Get your hand outta my pocket, nigga!!" and threw a handful of poppers on the ground. Considering the situation and especially because I remembered this scene from the movie (this is where Malcolm X gets shot to all-holy-get-out and subsequently dies), I reacted in such a manner as anyone else would by screaming at ungodly decibels, running under a car, and checking my body for bulletholes.

Look, I didn't know they were poppers. Sheeesh.

Crossland High School earned its reputation as one of the worst schools in Prince George's County, Maryland. In the four years I attended (no, I didn't drop out - instead I just skipped alot and hung out in McDonald's with my friends or in the woods with that crazy homeless guy), we went through three principals. The first one I only remember as Mr. Robinson. I also remember him being an asshole, but that doesn't explain why I don't remember his first name. He just wasn't all that influential. Which is probably what led to his firing and quick replacement. Principal number two was...tap, tap, tapping my shoe here....tap, tap, tapping my head in the manner of Winnie the Pooh (think, think, think!)...Oh, hell, I can't remember his name either. Obviously he didn't have much of an impact on us either.

But the third. This guy was awesome. He even knew my name. Not because I was constantly getting caught smoking out back or skipping school so often that they took my home phone number off the auto-dial list. It's because he actually walked the halls, got to know us, broke up a few gangfights in his time with us. His whole one year. My senior year. He got me back on track, in a way.

Dr. Arthur Curry had some skeleton-filled closets of his own and wasn't one of those guys that just walked into our school 'cause he needed a job for the final year before his retirement. His own son was in jail, which would prove to be the fate of alot of those thugs I was going to be graduating high school with. Whether they were headed toward a future doing time for drugs, gta, or murder, Dr. Curry knew he'd see a few familiar faces the next time he went to visit his own son.

My 9th grade year, I worried that I'd have to walk across the stage and shake hands with Mr. Robinson. And I would refuse.

My 10th grade year, I worried that I'd have to walk across the stage and shake hands with Principal #2. And I would refuse.

My senior year, I couldn't wait to walk across the stage and shake hands with Dr. Arthur Curry. And I did.

Dr. Curry inspired us a little, encouraged us to take the hits and keep going, to take what life threw at you and turn it into something that could be useful to someone else. Like his own son's story.

I've tried to find updates on Dr. Curry or his son and I've gotten nowhere. But I hope Dr. Curry has found some peace within himself. It can never be measured how many students went on to become doctors, lawyers, engineers, or even law enforcement officers instead of common criminals, thugs, murderers, and dealers simply because of his presence at Crossland High School for one year. He saved some lives, undoubtedly. I can only hope that he can save his son.


Happy New Year! I’ve been waiting all year for 2009 to show up and it’s about damn time. After tucking the kiddies into bed last night, I popped a few sushi rolls into my mouth (one at a time, of course) and, when I wasn’t shaking my head in disgust at the morons blasting off fireworks at 10pm (at least wait ‘till midnight. Seriously.) , I stared at the computer waiting for it to do tricks or something. I was bored and totally unmotivated. To do anything. This last year hasn’t been the easiest for me and I suspect most of the country probably feels that way, too. Unless you’re O’Rock or the CEO of a bailout bank. Hmm, lucky duckies.

But I’m not going to explore the horrors of my personal life from the past twelve months. In fact, I’d like to share with you my future. Or, more specifically, what the 2009 Yearly Horoscope has decided to surprise me with instead. I’m a Libra ~ stubborn, loyal, indecisive, and creative. As a Libra in 2009, I can officially add “utterly confused” to my list of Libran characteristics and traits.

Exhibit A: “You will have a baby”. EXCUSE ME!!! WTF!?!? I certainly will not! The thing is (and I don’t believe in this stuff) (not all the time, anyway), I was visiting Savannah, Georgia with my best friend in August 2007. For s-n-g’s, we both consulted a tarot reader. My psychic told me “it’s a boy!” * GASP! * I ran like hell to the other tarot reader who also said, “It’s a boy!” Well, HA! It wasn’t a boy, it wasn’t even a baby! It was an ovarian cyst! My best friend, however, was also told she would have a baby. She cried tears of joy and Delilah Rhoads was born in May 2008. Neither one of us has returned to Savannah since that fateful trip.

Exhibit B: “Use your creative abilities in various fields”. Okay, I like this one, but I certainly don’t see it happening in my professional life. Whenever I open my mouth to state my opinion at work, I’m reminded to be the good little secretary I was hired to be and just do what the directors tell me to do. If I see a word misspelled in a document, I must ask one director if I can change it so as to not offend the other director who misspelled it in the first place. I’ve known for quite some time that this is a good enough reason to seek out a new job. Maybe embellishing my resume would count as using my “creative abilities in various fields”.

Exhibit C: “Change your job to work with a free or flexible work schedule”. Well, fine. If you insist. As long as this change in schedule doesn’t involve a screaming baby in the middle of the night. Besides, I’ve been through that part already and would gladly accept a well-behaved, well-spoken toddler to walk through my door in place of a newborn baby. At least toddlers kind of know how to entertain themselves. While having another child wouldn’t necessarily make my schedule free or flexible, it would certainly make me unemployed and homeless. How’s the resume comin’ along?

Exhibit D: “Death and hospitalization in your family is seen in the next two years”. Oh, so instead of just freaking me out for one year, I’m stuck having to worry about the next two years. My anxiety issues are at threatcon 2 (what’s the Homeland Security color for that terrorist level?), but Nostradamus said the end of the world would come in 2012. Eh, whatever.

Exhibit E: “Heavy expenses will leave a big hole in your pocket”. This is not a big surprise to me, really. My ex basically cost me every penny I earned in 2008 (and 2006 & 2007), ultimately making our situation one of the most expensive non-divorces I know of. So, technically, I can’t afford pockets. I win this round.

To all of you - I wish you a Happy New Year. Unless you’re a Libra. Then I just wish you luck.