Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Rant with no title...but plenty of anger

Florida lost today. Florida lost BIG today. Even if I wasn't a mother, I would feel the same way about the sadness that hangs over the state of Florida today. Missing children. Murdered children. Piece of crap human beings who are allowed to breathe, eat, sleep, live. LIVE, I said. All this is punishment for slapping some duct tape over your own child's mouth and stuffing her dead, bloodied body in your trunk? All this is punishment for snatching your neighbor's little girl from her bedroom in the middle of the night, raping her, and burying her alive in your backyard? All this is punishment for waking up at 3am to find your boyfriend's child missing from her bed...from a trailer...and you heard nothing?

Caylee Anthony's mother still will not admit to murdering her daughter. They've found her body, they've found holes in Mom's story, and today they found an outline of a child's body in the trunk of Mom's car. But because of some FBI contamination mistake, it's very possible that the duct tape used to cover little Caylee's mouth could be thrown out as evidence.

John Evander Couey, Jessica Lunsford's killer, died today of natural causes. Natural causes! Hmmm, that's quite a treat! Sure beats the hell out of dying the way little Jessica died, doesn't it!? I don't care if your IQ is 78 and places you on the cusp of comprehending the severity of what kind of crime has just been committed, because when you bury a little girl alive you're kind of admitting that you know what you did was wrong.

Misty Croslin. Misty, Misty, Misty. I don't quite know what to say about you. I can't believe you haven't cracked yet. Don't underestimate the Putnam County Sheriff's Department...they're just getting started on you. And you can bet that little Haleigh's mom isn't going to forget how you were the last one to see her daughter alive and yet didn't hear a single sound before 3am when you noticed Haleigh wasn't in her bed. I've been in a few trailers can hear everything. The cops are smarter than you are.

All of these people have committed crimes against children. The most heinous, sickening crimes you can imagine. These children were with people they trusted or people they knew and it makes me fall apart just thinking about their last moments. Can you feel it? Can you feel that fear? That terror that something bad is happening and something worse is going to happen and you can't stop it. Only the bad person can stop it.

One of Christopher Barrios' killers is on trial right now up in Brunswick, Georgia. Testimony proves that Christopher asked his killers to let him go, asked them to let him go home to his parents. Yes, you read that correctly. There were more than one. They were his neighbors. Christopher was 6 when they snatched him from his yard where he was playing with a Star Wars toy. He wasn't in the wrong place at the wrong time. He was exactly where he was supposed to be - playing in his yard with his toys and acting like a 6-year old boy. But plea bargains and He-Said-She-Said could end up sparing the life of one of his murderers. Ain't the justice system fantabulous!?

Yeah, I know. This post is pretty heavy, it's not like anything I've ever expressed an opinion about before. But I can't help it. These stories have taken over the local evening news and have made me confront my feelings on God, on society, on human nature altogether. Without sharing my rants on the three subjects I've just mentioned, I will admit that I have lost alot of faith in all of them.

I've heard stories of parents of murdered children attacking their children's attackers. Bravo!, I say. I don't know a single parent who wouldn't want to take a swing at the sick bastard who killed their child. It doesn't happen often but just to know it's happened at least once is a score for the Good Guys. The punishments imposed on such criminals are light, even if it's life without parole. The inmates are fed, clothed, given medical and dental care, and, in some cases, they win an early release or parole. They get to go home to their families, to their lives, to breathe fresh air and hug the people they love.

At this point, I can only hope that these child killers get the death penalty. Me, personally, I'm a grudge-holder. I have no sympathy for people like this. I don't care if you were beaten as a child or had to watch your mother drink herself into a stupor every day after you came home from school - I just don't care. You can call me heartless, you can call me a cold-hearted bitch, because, quite honestly, I don't care about that either. What I do care about it that these kids, and the thousands more that are abused, tortured, and killed in this country every year, are not forgotten and that the crimes committed against them are not downplayed by plea bargains and contaminated evidence.

Obviously, I am a strong supporter of the death penalty. This might have something to do with my relationship with God, or lack thereof, but to punish a child rapist/killer with a life sentence interrupted by parole hearings and meetings with psychiatrists trying to determine if the criminal was treated badly as a're wasting my time.

It's time to bring back Ol' Sparky.
Florida's electric chair Pictures, Images and Photos
And, for the record, both Florida and Georgia impose the death penalty. At least they got something right.

*Because I'm on a roll here, I'd like to publicly state my opinion on Hollywood and their little project to save Roman Polanski from the American justice system. What's that, you said? Woody Allen is leading the charge? Wait...the same guy who made dreamy eyes at his own adopted daughter and ended up marrying her and fathering children with her and ewww!!! WTF? Hollywood - stick to making movies and shut the hell up about everything else. By the way, Whoopi, rape-rape is still rape. And I don't understand why Roman Polanski is the one receiving all the sympathy. must be difficult to be pushed around and bullied by someone who is bigger than you, like, say, the United States. But at least they didn't have to drug you and rape you to make you comply. It's a rough life for these fellas, Woody and Roman. Here...have a seat and take a rest. I have the perfect chair for you!

Monday, September 28, 2009

A big hole in the ground

What's better than forgetting to take your car back to the mechanic the morning after an oil change because there's shit dripping all over your driveway? How about driving 200 miles to go see a big, lush, green, peaceful, beautiful, eye-poppingly gorgeous hole in the ground?


Yep, that IS better than forgetting to take your car back to the mechanic the morning after an oil change because there's shit dripping all over your driveway!
(and I did manage to make it back to Jacksonville 25 minutes before the mechanic closed up for the night)

My daughter had never been there before. Devil's Millhopper is located in Gainesville, Florida, and is a 120-foot deep sinkhole that leads down into one of the most peaceful spots I've ever found in Florida. And it's not like some of those other places, like Ginnie Springs, that lead you into and through the middle of nowhere after driving 20 miles east and 16 miles north on dirt roads. Nope, Devil's Millhopper is 1000 feet to the west of NW 43rd Avenue. There's a Starbucks just down the road.

All visitors are asked to use the honor system and pay $4.00 upon entry at the unmanned post. There's not much to this park. Seriously. You walk through a small visitors center and onto the trail. Go to the right to walk the nature trail or go to the left to walk down to the bottom of the sinkhole. Since I wore flip flops, our decision was made for us.

We walked down the steps. Lots and lots and lots of steps! Which aren't so bad on the way down. And it's a long way down. It's only discouraging when you hear a small boy scream from the top after a climb out of the sink, "Yeeees!! NO MORE STEPS!!" That's youthful energy talking and it's just plumb wore out. Of course, it's a beautiful view from the bottom but that little boy from way up there - he's still singing about how happy he is to not have to climb any more steps - well, that keeps you at the bottom of the sink for just a little longer. So rest up! Just as it's a long way down, it's an even longer way back up!

The day was uneventful, really. Elle loved Millhopper and became more excited with every new waterfall discovery. But the heat punched us in the face after a while and our stomachs began eating themselves. It was a 2-hour drive home and I decided to stop off at Publix to pick up something inexpensive for lunch.

We ended up dining outside in the car, parked under a tree with all four windows rolled down. Lunchables, baby. A few minutes later, we took off for home. On the way, Elle mentioned how she'd just had one of the best days ever.

Me: "So, what was your favorite part about today?"
Elle: "The waterfalls, the sinkhole, and being allowed to eat in the car!"

Being allowed to eat in the car? Really?

Wow. That just opened up a whole new world of ideas for "Fun Time With The Kid!" know, just park the kid in the car under a tree, roll the windows down, and throw some turkey, white american cheese, and hoagie bread at her.

Or take her for a walk in the woods...(whatever makes them smile, right?)


Monday, September 21, 2009

Conversations from a First Grade classroom (2008)

My daughter just relayed this hilarious story to me tonight. Here is proof that I am not the only one on Planet Earth to use the term "happy camper". However, it's refreshing to see that our children, at least while in the classroom, are receiving a quality FCAT-worthy education AND mastering the art of smartassery.

Mrs. Rice: I am NOT a happy camper!

Kids: What about if we roast some marshmallows?

Mrs. Rice: No, I'm not really talking about camping. It's just another way of saying you're mad.

Kids: Ooooooh, so then you're a mad camper?

Signs - Smartass Pictures, Images and Photos

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Mad Chatters

I honestly haven't been on the Internet very long. Ten, eleven, twelve years max. I signed up for my first email address back in 1998 or 1999. For the sake of argument, let's just say 1998. It's an even number and I'm slow when it comes to math.

I moved from DC to Florida in 1996. I was turning 20 that year and had left my friends and my life as a military dependent. Having been thrust into the world of civilians who don't give a crap that you're moving in except that your Mayflower Movers truck is blocking their driveway, I became acutely aware of how socially inept I really was and made a conscious decision to blow every penny of my nearly $6,000 savings. I had no friends and nothing better to do. I couldn't even get a job.

Over the next few years, not much changed. I did get a job and I managed to stay there for almost six years. But during those years, I had a hard time making friends with people from work, mainly because they were people from work. My job required me to be friendly and helpful. This exhausted me. I stayed friendly and helpful well enough to be promoted. This exhausted me even more. My somewhat-friendly relationships with the people from work cooled as I began acting like their boss. Suddenly, those employees who'd already earned my trust could no longer be trusted. There were no friendships, only Shhhh! Here comes the boss! After a year, I quit that position.

During that year as the Boss, I had gained access to the Internet. I could email my oldest and dearest friends whenever I felt like it. And they would email me back whenever they felt like it. And it was great! I loved clicking that "inbox" and seeing (4) New Messages off to the side. It was always a confirmation to me that someone, anyone, cared enough to think of me that day. I didn't care if it was an ad for a penis enlargement or my best friend emailing me pictures of her son's birthday party, someone was thinking of me! I was encouraged to join a Yahoo! Chat room, so I did. And I was welcomed every single time I logged in. I was celebrated, people laughed at my jokes, fellow chatters (whose personalities and lifestyles couldn't be any more different yet they embraced each other regardless) invited me to join them at their next Chat Party. Exhale! I'd finally found a social life on the Internet.

Of course, I know that some people just troll the Internet with such heinous intentions that my skin crawls. But I also know that some people on the Internet are honest, hard-working, friendly, give-a-stranger-the-shirt-off-his-back kind of people who suffer from the same detrimental personality disorder as I do: social ineptitude. Aaaah, relief. I'd found my kind. And I've been kind of attached to this here Internet thingy ever since.

Those two kinds of Internet people have made their way into my life. Nothing horribly criminal or even newsworthy to report from the Troll Encounter, but just knowing they're out there and that I've actually exchanged words with one of them makes me think twice about who I talk to now. And I did happen to meet a few of the non-Troll kind during a well-planned trip to DC for an aforementioned Chat Party in Crystal City. It was so nice to finally put a face to a (screen)name and enjoy each other's company based solely on personality, not on appearances. Another chatter had planned a trip to DC from her native Madrid. I can't tell you how exciting it was to meet her in our nation's capital and be a part of her first trip to the United States. I'll always remember her and, while she and I are no longer in touch with each other, I know she'll always remember me, the girl who drove all the way from Florida to meet her. And, of course, the others. A once-in-a-lifetime adventure is what that was.

The nightly chatroom socials ended almost as abruptly as they'd started. For me, at least. Life came at me, unexpectedly, and I made real friends. They actually lived less than five miles away (as opposed to the 600 miles to DC). And away I went, into the real world. I was armed with a social facade and it seemed to get me far enough. I wasn't exuberant and giddy, but I was less lonely and happier than I'd been in years. I was invited over, I was invited out to dinner, I was invited to the movies, I was invited on road trips. Then life came at me again and I had a baby and all those friends left me. I wasn't invited anywhere anymore.

I started this blog nearly a year ago. Since that first blog post, I've developed a sort of rapport with some of my own readers and fellow bloggers that I follow. My daughter and I have been invited to playtime at the beach in Pensacola and dinner in Knoxville by some very talented individuals who enjoy what I write and know that I enjoy what they write. I don't think online relationships are really any different from those that developed between pen pals so many decades ago. And at this point in my life as a full-time working mom and student, I don't have much time to worry about how socially awkward I am. There's homework to check and expired orange juice to return and laundry from two days ago that needs to get pulled from the dryer and blogs to write and blogs to read and...and...and...there's always something. Because life comes at you.

So, to Becca, Dawn, and Chris: Thank you for the invitations. I will show up one day, hungry and ready to be entertained. Don't worry - I'll give you ample warning.

And to Henry: I'm still waiting to hear about your adventures in Asheville. Mine sucked. Except for the bookstore. We must dish.

P.S. Each time I read this post back to myself, I worry that it makes me sound like have no real friends. I cannot fix this. But the good news is that I obviously have the time to worry about such a frivolous misconception and that means there is no homework to check or expired orange juice to return or laundry from two days ago that needs to get pulled from the dryer. Sure, it's sitting in a basket next to me waiting to be folded, but whatever. I'm going to bed.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

And then one day...

I wasn't a mother until my daughter was eight months old. Up until that point I didn't think I could be credited with more than carrying her through a successful (though horrific) pregnancy and buying the things she needed before and after she was born. I would wake up when she would wake up and we'd have a snack around 3am with the Golden Girls. I would strap her into her stroller and wheel her around my apartment complex at least once a day. In the summer I would take her down to the pool where she would immediately fall asleep so I could finally have a few minutes by myself to sit in the hot tub and wonder how in the hell my life had come to that moment. Then she would cry and I'd have to stop thinking and take her on another walk around the complex. During these times, I never connected with her. I don't remember much else about the first eight months of my daughter's life except that she never slept. This also meant that I never slept.

My shift was coming to an end at the hotel. I had walked back into the sales office to pick up my stuff and head home when a coworker came to tell me that a police officer was up front and and waiting to speak with me.

"It's probably my brother."

"Is your brother black?"

"Uh, no."

"He's not your brother."

I walked up to the officer and introduced myself. I don't remember if he introduced himself or not, though I'm sure he had to on account of his job. The officer handed me some paperwork and explained to me that I'd just been served. The paper said that I was being sued by Mr. Dumas and that he was taking me to court to fight me for custody of this eight month old baby he had yet to acknowledge. All I remember about that moment was running back to my boss' office and telling him I would need the following day off from work.

"Why? Is everything okay?"

"No. I'm being sued. And I'm going to fight this son of a bitch to the end if he ever thinks he's getting his fucking hands on my daughter!"

There. I'd said it. And, most importantly, I'd felt it. I became her mother. And I knew that I would have to play tug-of-war with him and I tried desperately to not use her as the fraying rope between her father and me because I knew her father would pull on her until she finally came to pieces. He'd done it to me and I'd left his sorry ass because of it. This man, who called himself her father on a legal document to sue me, had made a decision to join the military and head to bootcamp four days before she was to be born, had never signed her birth certificate, and had seen her only once. He wasn't good enough to be her father. And I had a feeling he never would be.

That was nearly eight years ago. In the room next to mine sleeps a beautiful little girl who just attended her first Girl Scout meeting last night and is on her way to perfecting a backward kickover in her gymnastics class. She rarely talks about her father and when she does it isn't in a positive light. I did everything I could (and things I never wanted to do) in order to encourage some kind of relationship between these two strong-willed individuals. He blames me for her stubborness. I pat myself on the back for teaching her to not bend to his will because I know, firsthand, that his will could potentially turn into abuse. He tells my daughter that she should make more of an effort to be in touch with him. I console my daughter and remind her that he's the adult and even she says he should act like one. He says I feed things into her brain. I tell myself that schizophrenia runs in his family and I shouldn't take all of these hurtful comments personally. But I do.

He has so many issues to work out. None of which are because of me. All of which combined at some point in his life before he even met me. But why confront those demons when I'm the one with a name? Scream at me, yell at me, curse at me, and tell me I'm going to hell. It's easier, I guess. I have a name. Those other issues also have names but to call them by name would only confirm their existence. They'd be outed. They'd become real and have to be dealt with. It's easier to deal with me.

By dealing with me, he ignores me just like he ignores his daughter. But every now and then I get a phone call from him asking how I am. I tell him that we are fine. He begins talking about God and how I'll be forgiven and how he (Mr. Dumas) has forgiven me. During the most recent call, he talked about all the incredible jobs he was offered and asked me what I think he should do. I didn't give him my opinion. He decided to take the job in England. It's a safe distance for him to not ever have to interact with his daughter and still use his job location as an excuse. She's not clueless. She knows he's not around. She sees her friends play with their daddies and she joins in. She doesn't want her daddy around because he's weird, he says creepy things, and he makes her feel like she's disappointing him. My child told me this. My heart broke for her but I couldn't let her know. I wouldn't want her to think she's disappointing me, too.

The judge agreed with me. About everything. The judge gave him too many chances to redeem himself, to admit he'd made some mistakes, to say he was willing to try to fix his life. But all he could do was talk about me and what a horrible person I was and how my family was brainwashing my child. The judge got fed up and called out his decision right then and there, in the courtroom in mid-January of this year. All visits with her father are to be supervised and I was even sensible enough to choose his parents as the supervisors. I couldn't imagine my daughter making her monthly appearance at a state visitation center and I hoped her paternal grandparents would encourage some sort of contact. My daughter hasn't seen her father's face or heard her father's voice (or those of her grandparents) in nearly ten months.

My daughter and I are each other's best friend. Not a good idea, you say? Yeah, I said that once, too. But that was before her father turned her into a game piece. And that was before he told her that terrorists were trying to break into our house and steal her away. And that was before he started to cancel visits and forget birthdays and nearly drink himself to death and expect her to feel comfortable around him after no contact for eight months last year. I've had to help her put herself together after nearly every encounter with her father. Of course we're each other's best friend.

I raise her with my own beliefs, some of which I never knew I had. Most of my decisions are in agreement with the way I was raised. Some of my child-rearing decisions leave my parents shaking their heads and talking at me about consequences and the tragic effect my decision could have on her future. I sit around wondering when I'll ever feel comfortable in my own skin, knowing that I am my own worst critic but still feeling like I'm constantly being scrutinized by people who have no idea what it's like to have to do it alone. But any time I see my daughter worrying about what others think, I remind her that quirky people rule the world and that I wish I was as brave as she is when I was a kid. Sometimes I wish I was as brave as she is even now that I'm an adult. That makes her smile.

And isn't that what a mom is supposed to do?

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

We are talking about laptops, right?

This is quite possibly the most horrific conversation I have ever taken part in. In fact, I was the star of this conversation. Completely by accident, but I just wouldn't shut the hell up. Try to follow along and please don't think any less of me. Actually, I wouldn't be surprised if this post makes you think about me even more (*wink*).

Cast of characters:
Me - the clueless secretary
Kelly - a very experienced...ahem, non-secretary type (?)
Dr. W. - a quirky researcher/office director who enjoys a fun conversation

The setting:
My desk. Near the front entrance of our office. The figurative "water cooler" since we don't really have one.

The conversation:

Dr. W: I need to get the Little Bunny ready to take home. The matrix is so big, like 43,000 bits of information. Big Bunny takes too long to calculate it. Little Bunny does it much faster. In about 22 minutes.

Kelly: What's the little bunny?

DW: Well, it's the little one. The big one at home is just so slow. It takes 35 minutes to do what this little bunny can do in 22 minutes.

Me: Oooh! Oooh! I got a little bunny for myself this weekend. It's my new boyfriend. I practically spent all my time with it!

Kelly: (There are no words coming from her mouth - just high pitched giggles. These, I learned, are the intro to her uncontrollable fits of laughter.)

DW: You, my dear, have said some strange things to me but that, by far, is the strangest thing ever.

Me: What? What did I say? Is there a problem with me talking about my new boyfriend?

Kelly: (Still no words, only howling and a quick wipe of a tear from her eye.)

DW: This is just weird.

Me: Yeah, it is! What is so darn funny??! Will someone tell me, please? Dr. W., you started it by talking about your Big Bunny and your Little Bunny and I'm the one who is saying strange things because I called mine my new boyfriend?

Kelly: (Nothing but howling laughter, tears, and oh my she even breathing? Kelly? KELLY? Are you okay?)

DW: I'm going home now.

Me: This isn't fair. Why am I the weirdo all of a sudden? Dr. W, you, of ALL people, should be appreciative of what is strange and weird. You're the one who starts odd conversation with me everyday!

DW: Yeah, but even THIS is too weird for me. See you tomorrow.

Kelly: (Slump. She finally hit the floor and died from a lack of oxygen, probably from laughing so hard.)

Dr. W. went home with her Little Bunny. I sat at my desk, looking for someone to tell me what just happened. Suddenly, Kelly was miraculously brought back from the dead, even though she was still wiping tears of laughter from her eyes.

She whispered something to me and I couldn't hear. I scooted closer in my little wheely office chair and caught most of what she was repeating to me.

Kelly: Pssst! Did you know there is a vibrator called a Bunny?

Me: WHAAAAAATT!!?????????????? OH MY GOD, OH MY GOD!! And I was calling it my new boyfriend!?! OH GOD...THIS IS SO....OH MY GOD!

Kelly started laughing again. I turned a strange shade of red and green...I couldn't decide if I should be embarrassed by what had just happened and what Dr. W. might have thought I was talking about OR if I should be disgusted that one of my directors (a woman in her 60s, maybe even 70s) could possibly know what a Bunny vibrator was.

Here it is, folks. In case you were wondering, too:


Tuesday, September 15, 2009

The art of writing and avoiding hand cramps

My handwriting is atrocious. Years of typing on a keyboard have morphed me into some kind of lobster-clawed freak before I've even finished signing my name with a pen. No more gold stars for me. No more "Great penmanship!" or big smiley faces on the top right-hand corner of my handwritten work. No more requests to send thank you notes in my cursive lettering. What should be an R is now a K. What should be a D is now an O. What should be an N is now a...well, there is no such symbol or character for it on my keyboard so that just proves my point.

People say I still have beautiful handwriting. They must be affected by the cryptic messages I'm sending via Post-It notes. Nobody is aware of the number of times I have to write out a message just so I can be sure someone else will be able to read it. Sometimes I get discouraged and simply send them an email. Please don't think I'm obsessive about this because I really only write a note out 2 or 3 times...max! But, for some reason, I have developed a doctor's scribble.

I have also noticed that I can't write out a word in just print or in just cursive. My words on paper are a marriage of the two. Take Florida: cursive F - cursive L - O - printed R - printed I - cursive D - cursive A. My hand cannot master the cursive B, E, G, R, or W. I will subconsciously stop in the middle of a word, switch out from cursive to print or print to cursive, then continue as I was before I hit the mental railroad crossbars and drove around them.

My words are written very quickly but it's physically painful for me to finish an entire word in cursive. Could you imagine a word like claustrophobia? The pure agony of gripping the pen, hearing my 2nd grade teacher nagging "Don't pinch the pencil's nose!" while pushing it across the paper like a lopsided wheelbarrow full of bricks, never allowing the ink to leave the page or risk losing the fluid look of a handwritten word. It's alot of pressure! Especially since the written word isn't really written anymore (it's typed!), so we should want to preserve the beauty of a word that's been properly showcased...pen to ink, no breaks or spaces, from beginning to end. You'll never get it out of me!

*If you think this post about cursive lettering is anal rententive, allow me to continue my anal retentiveness by explaining my issue with the number 8: I simply cannot put it on paper - my hand goes all squirrelly just to the left of the bottom loop and then it shoots off like rocket, making my 8 look like a dead dog hanging vertically with its leash around its neck and....dammit, I have to write it all over again!

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Fall will only happen in Tallahassee this year (and it's not even because of the budget crisis)

Oh, boy. Oh, boy. Oh, boy! Fall starts next week! Well, for most of the country, at least. Here in Florida, it doesn't really begin until November but it's only visible in Tallahassee. Monroe Street to be exact. I think it's because they have the right kind of trees.

It's sad, really. Fall doesn't happen here in Jacksonville. Or any other part of Florida that I've seen. My friend has a theory about the seasons of Florida: "There's spring, summer, and next summer." Yeah, that pretty much sums it up. Except for Hurricane Season and "Holy crap, why the f*** is there frost on my windshield if I live in Florida!?" Season, too. We all know who's stealing whose thunder there.

So, back to fall. Our trees go naked, just like everyone else's. And we rake the leaves that fall and smother the grass that we've been trying to cover for months because the HOA hates the fact that drought makes the 'hood look like shit. (Dead leaves give Floridians a reason to have shitty looking lawns even though drought conditions weren't a valid excuse.) Sadly, you can't even playfully dive into your pile of raked leaves. Why not, you ask? Imagine fifty spiky walnut-sized pine cones hiding in there, just waiting to puncture your skin like stationary darts. Now imagine landing on them. You catch one in your forearm, a pair of thorns pierce through your jeans and stab you in the thigh, and yes - you're bleeding, just a little bit - but, hey, blood is blood, right?

I don't think I've ever experienced a real fall season. Living in Upper Michigan only means the snow melts long enough in June for the family to go camping in the woods and not have to worry about pissing icicles because it's so cold outside. I know I never even had a full Halloween costume...what was the point of it if you had to cover it up with a snowsuit? In Maryland, it's blazing hot and then it's just plain cold. I'm sure the leaves change into the beautiful colors I've heard so much about but when you're living outside of Washington, DC, trees are hard to come by as most of the them have either been shot, mugged, or they've just flat out packed up and decided to move to Southern Maryland.

How do we function here in Florida when the rest of the country is experiencing Mother Nature at her finest?

1. We buy candles. Just this afternoon, I spent $40 at Yankee Candle Company and brought home some decent loot. Candied Apple, Autumn Fruit, Cafe Au Lait, and Buttercream (for the kid). And a huge tote bag for $5. Shake a stick at that.

2. We bake. Alot. Seventy-four recipes in one book? Sure, I'll buy it! And what's this? Scream Cheese Swirled Brownies! Layered Pumpkin Cheesecake! And, yes, that really is called Scream Cheese...Halloween is just around the corner and I don't have to buy my kid a snowsuit! I can buy her an honest-to-goodness Halloween costume! Just wait till I tell her about the goold ol' days when I had to walk uphill both ways in the snow just to get to school.

3. We turn our calendars to pages that look like this (and dream of seeing a place like this with our own eyes):
fall Pictures, Images and Photos

4. We visit our friends who live near places that look like this (and plan to move there one day ourselves):
Blue Ridge Mtns Pictures, Images and Photos

5. We go to Tallahassee in November!

Saturday, September 12, 2009

College plans

A few months ago, I obtained financial aid so I could go back to college. A few weeks ago, I settled on a major. It's not the one I wanted, or any of the ones I wanted, for that matter. There's no English degree or History degree forthcoming. Hell, I couldn't even manage to pull off changing my entire life in order to get a degree in Hospitality and Tourism, seeing as they wanted me in too many places on too many different days working through too many different schedules.

I'm returning to the college that gave me my first degree - my A.A. It took me 15 years to get that baby and it's not doing much in the way of making me look uberspecial in the pool of overqualified applicants for any job in the world. One of the reasons it took me so long to get this degree is because I have no idea what I want to be when I grow up. I've been a waitress, a hotel know-it-all, an accountant, a call center punching bag, a student, and a mom. But what I'd really like to be is a legal assistant specializing in family law, a writer, a tutor, a cross-country traveler, a contestant on The Great American Road Trip, and a hotel know-it-all again. And because of my inability to make a decision and stick with it (though I blame this more on my desire to know about everything and not spend so much time focusing on one thing), I chose to pursue a degree in Supervision and Management.

Does it sound generic and bland? Yep. But I'll learn so much about alot of things like marketing, human resources, customer service, accounting, computer programming, business ethics and law, technical writing, and a host of other things. Enough to keep me busy for the next two years. And I expect I'll not be bored but only because I'll have my attention shifting from one field to another.

Unfortunately, I have to write an essay about why I think this degree will help me in my career. I've considered a couple of different themes. The first being "This Degree Will Help Me In My Career By Hopefully Making Me Stop Job-hopping So I Can Stick Around Long Enough To GET A Career." My coworker advised me that sarcasm is not necessarily the way to go. So I thought being a straight shooter would grab their attention by giving my essay a title such as "I'm Tired of Being Everyone's Bitch". I haven't thrown this particular idea out for discussion but I have a feeling it won't fly.

But, really, no matter what field I choose to work in I will have at least a little bit of street cred with a four-year degree. I already have experience in finance and accounting, property management, customer service, front desk management, sales and marketing, military billeting, making a badass pot of coffee for my directors, and wrangling a gaggle of eight-year old girls away from birthday cake candles that could light them up in flames in a matter of seconds if they don't get their faces away from that cake right now!

If only I knew how to word it.

nobodys bitch Pictures, Images and Photos

Friday, September 11, 2009


It's still hard to turn away from the television.

Eight years later, I'm sitting on my couch watching the same scenes playing over and over and over again. I'm listening to the same voices from the ground screaming in disbelief at the bodies coming toward them from above. I'm witnessing the same firefighters solemnly walking into the South Tower with a uniform expression on their faces, the look of knowing they are going to die.

I watched a home video that was recorded by someone who lived just a few blocks from the twin towers. The one thing I noticed in the moments after the second tower collapsed was how quiet the city had become. Gusts of wind, but no birds. Near silence. A cough here and there. But otherwise, nothing.

It wasn't that quiet where I was.

Eight years ago, I huddled with a group of strangers in the lobby of my hotel where I worked as a sales rep. Our hotel guests looked to us, the staff, for comfort. While at the time I found this odd, I can now go back to that morning and understand that we were the closest thing they had to familiarity. Some of them had been regular guests for years and felt like our hotel was their second home. Others were visiting with us for the first time and needed someone they knew, even if only since checking into their rooms the night before. We all found each other in the lobby and became the family we all so desperately needed. The world stopped turning, in a sense, and we did what we could to keep each other standing, even if our whole bodies were trembling.

I thought long and hard today about whether or not I would post something about 9/11. Earlier I decided that I would not. But my father said something to me tonight that made me reconsider. When I told my father to pay attention to how quiet New York City had become once the second tower had fallen, he replied, "Imagine how quiet the entire nation was at that moment."

So I tried. It's not easy. I still can't do it.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Ever wanted to know how to make love like a porn star AND be the boss of lunch?

My daughter and I go to the public library alot. She has her own library bag and library card and everything. Apparently, her card (for an minor, obviously) was incorrectly entered into the public library's system and allowed someone (read as not us) to check out a book with the word "PORN" in the title.

After I found this renewal ticket in Elle's library bag, I laughed so hard I hurt myself. Then I showed everyone I know and we all laughed some more. Then I worried about what if someone/not us didn't return the book on time. Did I incur late fees? So I called the library and asked the assistant to look up my daughter's ticket.

"Magic Tree House....blahblahblah...Junie B. Jones...blahblahblah (all, I might add, completely appropriate for her age group)...that's all."

There was no sign of the porn star book. Someone/not us had been a responsible patron and returned the book on time. So I explained to the assistant what had happened and I could tell she was stifling a laugh, probably on the other end of the line shaking her head and thinking, "Oh, lord..." and trying to stay professional. I, on the other hand, was at work and whispering the words "porn star" into the telephone because those two words are not on my list of words to shout out randomly while at work. But, in the end, we just couldn't help ourselves.

Honestly, I haven't looked it up yet. This book. Some coworkers and I were trying to figure out if it is a memoir, a how-to instruction guide, or a lame story about a guy who once banged a porn star and is trying to get rich by selling dirt on her. I'll go look it up now, but before I go - thank you, Jacksonville Public Library, for brightening my day (and, more than likely, somebody else's day, too!).

Sunday, September 6, 2009

Like shootin' puppies with a bb gun

Do you remember that line? From the Dentist Song in Little Shop of Horrors?

Little Shop of Horrors, Dentist Pictures, Images and Photos

It's a catchy little song. So catchy, in fact, that I have in on my MySpace playlist. I figure anyone who chooses a profession for which they'll make more enemies than friends deserves a catchy song and...ugh, I hate dentists!

Unfortunately, I'll be visiting mine before my scheduled cleaning in late October. I have a toothache and now that I've acknowledged it, it won't go away. It's all I think about. throb throb throb.

And I know exactly what I did to get this toothache - it has nothing to do with my addiction to gum, or my lack of milk as a child, or the absence of fluoride in the tap water of Northern Italy. It does, however, have everything to do with this phrase that I made the mistake of saying out loud today: "I think I would like to buy a new computer!"

It's okay, Fate. Florida doubled every DMV fee you can imagine and both my registration and license are up for renewal but not until next month. Elle's birthday is 5 weeks away and she wants a birthday cheesecake but, hey, they come in a $3 box now. My online classes don't begin until January and that writing class I was going to take that starts later this week...well, hobby schmobby. Right? My computer has suffered through a few months of "You piece of shit!"-type verbal abuse from me as it is. What's a few more months? Unless Santa gets laid off, in which case I'd just lose all hope. throb throb throb

Isn't it always this way? You want something but then you need something more. And the need should trump the want.

But really, who am I kidding?!?! I'm pissed! And when I'm pissed, my blood pressure rises (as does most others') and it makes my pulse shoot out through my achy tooth and...oh god, throb throb throb. I've just remembered the can read all about my freaky-deeky dental adventures (complete with illustrations!). throb throb throb.

Yep. This one's gonna be a doozy.

throb throb throb.

Saturday, September 5, 2009

Hello, could-be Senator Art Graham! Let me introduce you to my door. SLAM!

You know that T-Mobile commercial? The one that shows the executives attempting to make contact with their customers only to have their customers turn on them by spraying them with the gardening hose or hiding in the dark corners of their own homes? It's been like that around here but with politicians instead of...well, anyone else, really.

Things have been so crazy here in Florida with this campaign to fill the Senate seat (and oodles of thanks goes out to Mel Martinez for leaving his position in the middle of what could have been considered a campaign-free and enjoyably quiet summer after the mayhem of Obamafying everything last year). Our craziness includes political mailbox stuffers, door hangers, newspaper inserts, and our family's unfortunate verbal attacks on the poor souls who decide to call our house during the last 10 minutes of Top Chef or Hell's Kitchen, which means to say our phone rings incessantly between 8:30-9:00 at night.

My father has decided to answer the phone and make funny noises, like the loolooloolooloolooloolooloo salute that Spongebob Squarepants sometimes gives. Brian, my oldest brother, was visiting from South Carolina when he answered our phone and told the caller that the person he wished to speak with "is no longer with us." My mother and I have decided to just be rude. It's part of my character, anyway, so it's not like having fun with the telephone campaigners takes too much out of my creativity pool. After two late night phone calls last night, I decided I'd had it. The next campaigner was going to pay for all the grief my family has put up with over the last few weeks.

My morning started off with a request for my yummy chocolate & powdered sugar french toast and after eating breakfast, I immediately jumped in the shower. I might have been out of the shower for 10 minutes when the knock on the door prompted my dachsund to bark himself senseless and ignore threats of "pulling your tongue out through your ass if you don't shut up!". It's a favorite of my father's. Anyway, I quieted the dog (very nicely, I promise) and opened the door. On the other side was a man and a woman holding campaign cards and eyeing the "No Solicitors" sign located just above the doorknocker.

Strange man at my door: "Hi! My name is (blah blah blah, I wasn't listening) and I'm running for (blah blah blah, I'm still not listening). I'd like to encourage you to go to the polls and vote for me."

Me: "Yeah, thanks. It's kind of early."

Door: SLAM!!!!

Then I looked at the flyer. That was Art Graham at my front door. Ah...dammit. I just slammed my front door in the face of a could-be Senator. One of the front-runners, for that matter. And my father admitted to me that he is voting for him. This made me want to run down the street and apologize to the guy. Or at least bring him back to my house so my dad could meet him and explain to him that I'm not grouchy 24/7 and if he'd brought some Starbucks for me, I'd listen to anything he had to say. But I didn't.

Instead, I took it out on the next campaigner who came knocking on my door not even a half-hour later!

Strange woman at my door: "Hi! I hope I'm not considered a solicitor (giggle!)."

Me: "Yeah, you are (giggle!)."

Door: SLAM!!!!

Thursday, September 3, 2009

On my honor, I will try...


She's a Girl Scout.

Tonight I was coerced into taking Elle to a Girl Scout round-up (yep, that's what they call it these days) to get some information on the new modern Girl Scouts organization. I had been warned by some co-workers that the Scouts are mostly a sales machine, pimping out the kids and their cuteness to sell stuff. Thrilled to be there, I was not.

I asked one particular GS leader/recruiter to explain to me how the Scouts had changed over the last 20 years. This was a big deal to me. While growing up in the deserted woods known as Upper Michigan, I, too, was a Girl Scout. Most of my memories take me back to being in my troop leader's kitchen and making homemade fruit roll-ups, volunteering with the Special Olympics, and camping at the state fairgrounds in Escanaba while fighting off food poisoning and heatstroke (we're talking Upper Michigan hitting 80 degrees,folks. That's hot!). I learned how to build a snow den if I ever got lost in the forest in winter. I learned how to identify edible berries if I ever got lost in the forest during the short season that wasn't winter. I learned how to spot a funnel cloud after puking my guts out all night and opting to hang out with the Red Cross nurses instead of my own troop. Even the Red Cross nurses plopped me in a bed in front of a window and told me to keep an eye out for funnel clouds.***

So I could probably blame the Girl Scouts for my irrational fear of wind. Even on a clear, sunny day. I hate wind.

The GS leader/recruiter insisted that, while the organization has evolved from my own experience from 20 years ago, the basics were still there. The girls would learn to work together, to help each other, and they would experience things with other girls their own age that they might not ever get to experience otherwise. Things like camping, horseback riding, community projects, stuff like that. I know I won't be roughing it in the woods anytime soon. I know I can't afford horseback riding. And I don't involve myself in any community projects. But that doesn't mean I don't want Elle to do those things. And let's face it, Mom can sometimes be the one person to sink the fun boat. Elle's a wonderful kid and she deserves to have fun with other girls who are, in turn, having fun with her. It makes me sad to think that, because she is an only child, she probably has very few of those memories.

So, off she goes...

Oh, and the best part? IRON-ON PATCHES, baby!

girl scout cookies Pictures, Images and Photos
(Though I would not be opposed to family-member discounts on Girl Scout cookies. In fact, I truly believe this would boost membership because everyone wants to get some cookies on the cheap.)

*** This particular Girl Scout Jubilee/Jamboree (I don't even remember what they're called anymore!) did end up being struck by a tornado. After my parents drove all the way to Escanaba to pick me up (remember, food poisoning and heatstroke...ugh!), they gave me the unfortunate job of "tornado spotter". As I moaned and groaned in the backseat for what seemed like hours, my troop and the others were surprised by a small tornado that managed to take nearly everyone's tents and inconveniently drop them anywhere else but where they needed to be. Nobody was injured, probably because nobody else was dumb enough to eat Arby's the day before.