Saturday, December 18, 2010

An Earful

Our oldest called. "I called your mother and boy did I get an earful." "Like what?" "Like,'You didn't tell me you got another dog. There are enough dogs around. You didn't need another dog. It would suit me if I never saw another dog. They are every where.'" "I don't have clue what that's all about. She's always liked dogs. And, I've never seen a dog in her neighborhood." "Oh, she made it sound like there should be something in the by-laws of their homeowner's association about dogs." "Well, she also thinks there should be something in their by-laws about the florist down the street having to get written permission before he can put his house in the holiday home show." "Yeah, I had to hear about that one also."

"This all came from a conversation we were having at our Garden Club Christmas luncheon this week. Everybody was talking about their dogs and their children's dogs. Of course, they all found it humorous when I told them we would have five pups for the holidays." So I guess, she didn't find it humerous after all. With my mother you never know. During that luncheon when I was talking with my friends about our children coming home, my mother kept interupting me, trying to tell stories, she found amusing about our youngest daughter and Kennedy. However, the tales got lost in translation and my friends kept turning to me with confused looks on their faces.

Only in the south are mothers and their adult daughters in the same garden club. There is a reason the rest of the country has figured out that perhaps this is not a good idea. But, oh no, down here, as I have said before, it takes us a little longer to get the memo. To this day, I am still confounded when one of my friends will come over to me at one of our meetings, laughing and say, "Why, your mother just told me the funniest story about you. I just can't believe it." My general response is, "Please don't and be thankful your mother lives two states away."

If this is God's way of getting me back for whatever sins I committed as a child, we have got to be even by now.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

But It's Not a Honda

I have mentioned before the allure of a '57 Chevy. My father always wanted one. There was something about that car. But, he always aspired for a Buick. He grew up in a small town in North Carolina, raised by his widowed mother and older sister during the depression. He often talked about a Mr. Gibson in town who had done well and drove a Buick. He said that he always could recognize the car by its distinct horn and he made up his mind early on that he was going to be successful enough when he grew up to own his own Buick.

Well, he did. In fact, over the years, my parents owned several Buicks. I think the fact that the Buick dealer was one their good friends may have played a part, but he achieved his dream anyway. Although, he relived his youth with the restored Pontiac convertible he had the last ten or fifteen years of his life, he always owned a Buick. And, Mama continued to buy from that dealership after the divorce. And it was a good thing given her penchant for going up and down the road, she needed a reliable dealership.

The Buick dealership expanded and bought a Honda franchise and when my mother went to trade one day they convinced her test drive a Honda SUV and she was in love. Since then she has gone through three and they all have been wonderful vehicles, however, I am still amused to see this four foot eight inch, seventy seven year old lady hop out of this Honda SUV, but she does. 

For the first time ever she had some major car trouble last week and took the car into the dealership. Now, another thing, these vehicles of hers go in for their scheduled maintenance  within 5 miles of the suggested mileage, all the maintenance including all oil changes are done at the dealership, and she always trades around 100 thousand miles - talk about a dealership's dream customer.  She'll tell you, "They are so nice to me down there." Well no kidding. Although the son now owns the dealership, my mother is certain he takes care of her based on the "family connection" but I'm sure he knows a good customer when he sees one - his father raised him well. 

This repair, however, took two weeks. They sent her home in a brand new rented Chrysler to drive in the mean time. Her neighbor came out thinking she had bought the car and congratulated her on her new purchase. She was totally offended and called it a piece of junk. She wanted her Honda back. For the first time she was not happy with the car or the dealership. I think she felt that her independence had been threatened. And, no one could tell her what the problem was.

When it was all said and done they assured her that her car was "as good as new" - something to do with the fuel pumps (yes, there are two). And they would not let her pay for the repairs or the rental car. They just said that she had no idea how many cars she sold for them, the least they could do was fix this one. After all, this was the first major repair they had had to do on one of her cars over all the years she had done business with them. 

Talk about public relations, they saved this customer. She became a true believer again. It was like the time I decided I didn't believe in Santa any more and my Daddy took care of that. Once again, she is happy in her Honda and although she swears this is her last one, it already has seventy five thousand miles on it. It will not take long to reach that magic point when she'll trade again. She made a comment to me to just yesterday that the new models had more room in the back seat, and that would be nice for all the people she hauls around. 

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Am I Dreaming of a White Christmas?

Am I really dreaming of a White Christmas, just like the ones I used to know? Where the tree tops glisten . . . Don't think so, having never seen one. Sure, it looks nice and romantic in the movies like "Holiday Inn". Since when did the northern climate corner the market on the holidays? I think this is a Hollywood marketing tool. There are no connections to the religious components of the holidays tied to snow and ice, in fact, if the Christian story of the birth of Christ is the "reason for the season" one would think we would be thinking of sun and sand or starry nights. Go figure.

Like most things in life, I'm confused here. But then again, I didn't read the manual. I've always gone with the flow. They said if I was good, then the big man in red would bring me toys. I practiced every year with the Junior Choir at the Presbyterian Church for the Christmas pageant, but I was never given anything more glamorous than the alto part of Carol of the Bells (you know "Dong ding, Dong Ding") while the pretty people got to sing the more melodious part of "Hark how the bells, Sweet silver bells, All seem to say". Yes, I can remember this like it was yesterday. Some things mark a child for life.

To be honest, as a child, I found the whole holiday season confusing. Down here, we were generally having weather hovering in the fifties, with decorations of fake snowmen, giant lit snowflakes, and reindeer all combined with creches of ancient folks in sandals and robes with their camels and goats. And, to muddle everything, somewhere along the way, the Victorians hijacked the whole program and Dickens assumed artistic control.

So now we have Frosty, Rudy, Santa, Mary, Joseph, and Three Maji being directed down Chadberry Lane past the Mead and Mutton Pub by Dickens for an afternoon of Caroling and Wassail with Charles Darby and Miss Pickering. In the background one can hear Bing Crosby. I think this is where the White Christmas comes in.

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Labors of Love and the Pain of it all

A friend of mine was "going on" the other day about the difficulties her daughter was experiencing in her first pregnancy. Out of concern, I said I hope there were no complications. "Nothing life threatening. But she just has had extreme weight gain, gestational diabetes, and high blood pressure." I said I was sorry. She continued, "I told her it only would get worse."

(To myself, I thought, the poor daughter did not need to hear about two year old temper tantrums, pre-teen hormones, or teenage rage at a time like this.) "I can remember going two weeks over my due date, being in labor for 12 hours, and the pain, oh the pain." I laughed. Surely she was kidding. "You didn't really tell her that?" "Of course, I did. Everyone goes through that."

Funny, I remember the pain and agony of the tantrums, the hormones, and the rage, however, the pregnancy, labor, and delivery were very easy. Every time we go to see a doctor or a therapist for our youngest daughter, the first question they ask is, "How was your pregnancy, labor, and delivery with her?" When I answer remarkably uneventful, they scribble madly on their pad and look at me with a puzzled expression and mutter, "Hum?" They never elaborate, but I get the distinct impression that is not the answer they expected.

When I found out we were expecting our first child, my Ob-Gyn asked if I wanted natural childbirth. I looked at him like he had lost his mind. "You have got to be kidding. I want green tile, stainless steal, and all the drugs that have been developed." He laughed, "Well, we can give you an epidural if the pain gets bad."

"What happened to gas?" "We haven't used that is years. That can be dangerous for the mother and the child" That's funny, I reminded him that my mother had "gas" with both my brother and me. She remembers going to the hospital and three days later waking up with a healthy bundle of joy and no memory of any pain or agony. And, both of us have all our digits and limbs and never rode the short bus.

He went on, "Many women these days, are going towards having their children in a more 'homey' setting. We have rooms big enough for several family members to comfortably be present." "Look", I told him in disgust, "if you weren't here for conception, I don't want you here for delivery - present company excluded of course." He got the picture.

And the facts are, I have no horror stories to share. I had nine fairly comfortable months with both pregnancies. After five hours of labor, our oldest daughter was born four and a half hours past her due date. (My father never forgave me for this since she was due on his birthday - like I wanted to wait a day.) Our youngest daughter was born two and a half hours past her due date. (She was born in the labor room. Those were the "old" days when you went through labor in the labor room then endured the pain of being moved to the delivery room.) Patience has never been one of her virtues. They both weighed a healthy 7.3 pounds at birth.

For both girls, our rather provincial hospital had made the radical policy change of allowing the baby to stay (as opposed to just "visit") in the mother's room. Given the option, the nurses were a little surprised when I asked that they sleep in the nursery. Hey, I'd been with the baby for nine months and knew we were taking her home. This was my first offer of baby sitting and I wasn't turning it down.

And, as for baby sitting, during my pregnancy and shortly after each of their births, all the friends and relatives came to visit. And, I made a mental note of everyone of those who said, "Just call me, I would love to keep her." Over the course of that first year, I gave them a phone call. After all, they wanted to share our "bundle of joy" and who was I to deny them the pleasure.

The therapist never asked us about "farming our youngest out". Maybe the root of all the issues has been my subliminal desire for gas, my rejection of her that first night in the hospital, and her never experiencing the "comfort" of family and friends around her for birth. Oh, and we don't have the family motion pictures of the event on DVD. All I can say is that if that is the issue, she's got the wrong mother. But then again, she always has said she was either adopted or switched at birth.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

The Dreaded "List"

Speaking of lists, what happened to "Oh, I could use a new purse, a winter coat, and a surf board." Then Santa (or the gift giver) is left to find that "special" purse that you think she would love to have. Or, that coat that you know would look great on her (and you purchased it from a store you know she likes). OK, I may need some specific guidance on the surfboard. I had hoped by now that was a passing fad. But I digress.

No longer is the giver trusted. Or least I am not. Once again I am emailed (such a personal touch) a list complete with links for each item. These links don't just go to the store, oh no. They go directly to the desired item, style, color, and size (less I veer from the plan). The spirit of Christmas left me at the "Here's my list" point.

The only surprise left on Christmas morning is what my youngest daughter doesn't get from her "list". (And, no surprise here, only our youngest goes about Christmas this way.) Shopping for her (or rather checking off her list) is a very nerve racking ordeal for me every year. Will I open the link and order the item before it is sold out? (Memories of trying to locate that last Cabbage Patch doll in town come to mind - and they are not pretty - the memories or the doll.) What if the cursor moves from "Bold Gold" to Black Patent" in error as I place the order? Such a minor move could ruin Christmas morning - for everyone.

What ever happened to "my two front teeth", Bobby's "pair of skates", Suzy's "sled", Nellie's "picture book",  or  Alvin's "hula hoop"? Life was much simpler when we only had the Sears and Roebuck Christmas Wish Book. But then again, I only wanted the toy china tea set buffet complete with table settings for eight and all the serving pieces on page 43 of the 1966 Wish Book. (And, by the way Santa, I am still waiting for it.)

Saturday, December 4, 2010

A Piece of British History

This time they are not quite printing money but they have stolen (or replicated) the British Jewels. Have they no shame? Actually, they know their audience. It's Christmas time, and what more special can you get the one you love than a limited edition replica of the sapphire ring Prince Charles gave Lady Diana Spencer, and just last month their son, Prince William gave to his bride-to-be Kate (who we are now to call Katherine). 

It was just a matter of time, but now you too can own a piece of authentic British history for only $39.90. The British Historic Society is making this special offer available to you.  And, this is not just any "replica", this jewel (no pun intended) is "beautiful simulated "Ceylon" sapphire represents the original quality of the centerpiece and is surrounded by scintillating brilliant Diamond X-4 CZs and prong set in silver plate. It's style; luster, color and cut are unsurpassed". 

Spare me. Given that The British Historic Society is based in Fairfield, NJ , there may be some issues. But not for some. I'm sure the phones are ringing off their hooks. What a deal. And, it was originally valued at $119.00. Folks, you can't find these things in bubble gum machines, no siree. What better way to say, "I love you". It's less than the cost of a NASCAR ticket. And , don't forget about the included Certificate of Authenticity and Decorative Velveteen Ring Box. 

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Yes, It had to be easier for June and Harriett

 Don't call me and ask for advice on Christmas gifts. Maybe I should just say don't call me. My youngest calls this morning."Mom, what can I get Dad for Christmas." After some thought, I come up with several suggestions, all of which are immediately deemed "stupid". "Well, then why did you call me?" "Because, I need some help." This is a good example of my life as a mother -  I need you, but you are useless, go away, but not too far away, I might need you again. Huh?

After 21 years (well 18, since she has been talking) I should be used to this. Maybe I should just stop taking the phone calls, after all I have caller ID on the home phone and my cell phone - no surprises there. But, there is this force of nature to care. Of course there is also that force where mothers kill their young in nature. But I digress.

My mother never told me there would be days like this. My mother skipped several chapters there during the piano serenades and art sessions. Of course, I should be thankful for the cultural influence she had on me (seriously). And, to be honest, I don't think anyone could have prepared me for the trials of raising rearing my youngest child. When it gets ugly, she will comment that someday she will be the one who will choose our nursing home.

I bet June Cleaver and Harriett Nelson never had to deal with these issues. After all, if you can vacuum your living room in heels and pearls, how stressful can your life be? Besides, I think  everything is more difficult in color. I don't even want to venture into the world of high definition - God forbid 3D.

Of course, there is also that small issue that neither of them had daughters and the accompanying drama and hormonal chaos. Maybe that is why their lives were in black and white. There is no way, our life with our youngest child could be in black and white. This is living Technicolor in all its grandeur - peacock feathers and all.

Monday, November 29, 2010

The Pain and Agony of Motherhood

There are times when I am pretty sure I am not cut out for this Motherhood gig and maybe after 25 years I should give it up. This afternoon was a prime example. My youngest daughter is running 101 degrees temperature and feels like she is surely dying. I insist that she see a doctor. So we are in the waiting room at the Dr's office. At this point there is nothing I can do to make her feel better or improve the situation. (Having seen Harry Potter the night before, Damn! I wish I had that magic wand!)

Meanwhile, she is telling me she got sick because she came home, the bed is uncomfortable, she wants to go back (to her house in Charleston) today, I am doing nothing to make her better, and although she never says out loud, though she does come close - this is somehow all my fault. All the time, I'm feeling useless and guilty. The  child (at 21) looks like death warmed over and I can only imagine how badly she feels. In fact she looks so sick, I can overlook all the blasphemous things she is currently accusing me of. 

When the doctor does see her and diagnoses her with strep throat he prescribes an antibiotic and a painkiller that will knock her out (there is a God). I take her home, tuck her in bed, and correctly medicate her. I distinctly remember going into labor when she was born and thinking to myself, "Oh God, I remember how this feels. It hurts (being my second child) and I really don't want to go through this again." But I did. And what do I get for it? Agony, abuse, and guilt that never ends. 

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Lights, Lights, Lights

Yes, you can never can never enough lights. I honestly believe our Christmas trees devour lights. When we went to pick out the Christmas tree this year, once again we had a difference of opinion when it came to size. I am a firm believer that when you have eight foot ceilings it is not wise to purchase a nine foot tall tree. My DH, however, is from the school that more is better. I also think he is in denial that our ceilings are not ten feet tall. Thank goodness therapy has helped me understand the reality of the situation - eight feet is eight feet not ten. But I digress.

So we are standing in this field of hundreds of Leyland Cyprus trees, all marked with the actual sizes. (This saves a tremendous amount of stress on my part - it is hard to argue size when you are guessing. In years past, just saying, "Honey that one will not fit." without firm documentation got me no where.) My DH immediately starts looking at nine foot trees. "This one will do." "Not in our den, it's too tall." "We can trim it." "I don't want a tree with a flat top." "I can taper it." "Let's just get an eight foot tree and not have to trim it." After much "discussion" we came home with a tree that was eight and 2/3's feet tall.

After trimming some off the trunk, we brought the tree into the den. As we stood the tree up, the top bent against the ceiling. In surprise, my DH commented, "Why do they always get bigger when the get in the den?" "Funny how that happens - every year." After some selective trimming on the top, we were ready to add the lights and ornaments. When I pulled the lights out of the box, I asked if he would humor me and reprogram the lights so they would just stay on and not twinkle, fade, flash, chase, and blink as they did last year. Reluctantly he agreed.

I started at the top putting the lights on the tree. As I got about two thirds of the way down, I realized I was running out of lights. Sure enough, I ran out of lights before I finished. Long story short (oh, God I'm becoming my mother!) it took a trip to Columbia and an order to Amazon before we could find lights that matched our new warm energy saving LED lights. The worse part, and I will admit it, was that two or three weeks ago, we were in Sams and saw the lights, and when my DH suggested we buy more, I told him that was crazy, we certainly had enough lights. 

Monday, November 22, 2010

Christmas Cards - Have a Good One

OK, the Christmas Cards have been ordered (after they have been edited of course). So, now I need to carefully craft a very short, fifty words or less, note to slip in them that basically says, yes we are all alive, our oldest daughter is alive and well, even though her name is no longer in the family salutation, and our youngest is not as needy as it seems, since she insisted on being included. And, if there is any room left I can let family and friends know we are doing OK, without going into any annoying details.

I have always been tempted to write a two page letter that listed every malady all four of us had during the year (down to hang nails), all of our doctor appointments (in chronological order of course), every shopping excursion we took (listing the amount of money we saved), and a run down of the annual family reunion. Two things held me back - the total revulsion of the idea and the exhausting amount of time it would take.

We have several friends we can count on to deliver an annual epistle that touts the Olympic athletic talents and incredible scholarly achievements of their children. Really, like I care that their ten year old was named most valuable player on his local soccer team. Could the fact Mom brought homemade snacks and fresh squeezed juice to every practice and game have any influence? (Find it hard to believe? Skip down to paragraph 4 in the letter, she covers her "soccer mom" contributions.) 

And, as for academics, little Mary Lou (at 8) was doing well at the regional spelling bee until she got tripped on the word triskaidekaphobia. Of course the winner, Haj Gupta, had an inside track and his mother doesn't even cook. Way too much information.

What happened to "Merry Christmas and Happy New Year"? - besides it being politically incorrect and trite. Maybe, I'll just may it short and sweet, "All survived, still talking, nothing to write home about, waiting for the big guy in Red, have a good one, stay tuned until next year."

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Blanche Lincoln - Really?

Maybe I'm a little more southern than I think. Last week at the symposium, I was part of a team giving a presentation. The room was full, the topic timely and popular. I was feeling very good about the program and how it was going. When I finished my part, I asked if any one had any questions. There were several substantive questions, and perhaps I had a little self confidence since I knew the material so well.

Then came the lady to my right who raised her hand,"I just love your necklace. Can you tell me where you found it?" I was so taken aback, I started to say "Why, it was in my jewelry case this morning," but I tempered myself and just smiled and graciously thanked her. From the back of the room a lady stood up and said,"My friends and I think you sound just like Blanche Lincoln. Has anyone everyone told you that?" I assumed they were from Arkansas.

Great, I thought to myself. All my work getting ready for this presentation could have been reduced to the selection the best necklace and my normal southern cadence. Did anyone take me seriously? Perhaps all my effort in college and my father's investment was a waste. And, no one even commented on the new sweater I spent days picking out.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Rumors of Spam

I happened to be in San Diego when the Splendor was brought into port (with the help of several tugboats.) Much to Carnivals' despair the newest jewel of their cruise line had a small "issue" in the main engine room several days before while sailing in the Pacific. Now, when I say small problem, I mean something akin to the day my friend realized her husband still liked to date other women while they were married. But I digress.

After all was said and done the "issue" in the engine room was a fire and when the smoke cleared, the crew realized the main engine no longer worked and left the ship powerless to sail . . . or cook the meals . . . or cool the ship . . . or even worse yet - cool the beer. Suddenly things were no longer Splendorous, shall we say.

A cruise ship is a wonderful place when the elevators work, the cabins are cool, you are not in the dark, the beer and liquor are cold, the food can be prepared, and the boat is making its way to your destination. Suddenly walking up 9 flights of stairs to a buffet of dry cereal, vienna sausages, and crackers loses the "Love Boat" feel. (Trust me, I can assure you, there were no pictures of this is the multi-color brochure.)

Meanwhile back at the dock, we were standing there with the world's media (literally) jostling for a front row space. In many different languages you could hear the same monologue, over and over, "We are waiting here for the Carnival Splendor to come in. You can see it over my shoulder as the tug boats assist it in. After an accident in the . . . " Every five minutes or so, a reporter or producer would approach us and ask if we were kin to anyone on the ship.

Of course being honest people we said, "No, we just happened to be here." - the first 6 or 7 times. It was then I suggested that our line should be, "Well, I am waiting for my sorry ass husband to get off that boat. He and his hussy girl friend decided to take a little "business" trip on the Splendor. I can assure you that being on a boat with no power, no toilets, and rotten food are far better than what he has in store when I get a hold of him."

Heck, if we were going to stand here, we may as well participate in the melee. After all that was much more interesting than the rumors that the Coast Guard had shipped in pallets of Spam to sustain the passengers on this ill fated cruise, quickly followed with a story of packs of Pop Tarts being sent for additional nourishment. Comments were made world wide about the insult to injury for the passengers - they had to walk up 9 flights of stairs in the dark heat for Spam.

Some folks down here were confused and took offense, asking "What's wrong with Spam?" "Wonder if they got the Original flavor, Hot and Spicy, or Hickory Smoke?" "I bet because it was a fancy cruise they got Spam with Bacon and Spam Spread on white bread!" "But I'd be mad if they only had warm beer." I guess there are some things that cross all lines. "Thank God, they got back to port before the Sunday, after all with no electricity they would have missed the NASCAR race in Phoenix."

Saturday, November 13, 2010

No Post Today

Due to the insane notion that taking a red eye flight back from the west coast at my age was a good idea at the time, it is all I can do to get home. Note to self - when the ticket has an asterisk reminding you that your departure and arrival times are on different calendar dates and your trip does not involve a passport - drink some more Diet Coke with Lime and check for other available itineraries prior to purchasing a ticket. There is a reason they market wrinkle cream and concealer for women of my age - you can be in denial all you want but we are no longer spring chickens. 

Friday, November 12, 2010

God, Country, Beer, and NASCAR

Oh, how southerners love their NASCAR - a true phenomena. Although some of us sit back and scratch our heads - how did this become a national sport? How did these drivers become household heros? Why do Tide and Duracell and Lowes want their names and colors pasted all over the sides of these cars and the suits of these drivers? Why do fans pay a high price for tickets every Sunday afternoon to watch cars go around in an oval for several hours to cheer their favorite driver on? Or, pay for an extra cable tier for "In Car Access" to see their favorite driver, so they can truly be part of the race.  

But now, as my Aunt Kat would say, NASCAR has gotten too big for their britches - they have out grown their roots. Now 60% live outside the south, since 2000 the number of fans making $100K a year has almost doubled (from 7% to 16%, with almost 50% making 50K),  the number having a college degree has "swelled" to 25%. (And, 33% smoke - cigarettes.)

OMG, their base is getting downright sophisticated. Wall Street can no longer make fun of the red-necks and their stock cars, although I'm not sure Las Vegas and Pennsylvania quite know what to do with the fans when they descend for the Shelby 427 or Pocono 500 This is big business. Maybe that is why the sponsors have moved from Mountain Dew to Nicoderm or Pabst Blue Ribbon to Miller Light. But then, you can build tracks and have races all over the country, the fans' demographics can shift (a bit), but some things never change. When the engines start, there is still a lot of big hair, beer, and good ol' boys. 

What most people don't know is that the roots of NASCAR started with bootleggers in North Carolina and Florida. Everyone who studied history (and paid attention)  know in the South during prohibiton there was a very healthy industry of bootleg whiskey - moonshine.  Liquor stills were located there, especially in the hills of North Carolina and Tennessee. The good ol' boys were always trying to out smart the revenuers delivering their prized libations. Then after the repeal of prohibition in 1933, they were still running the moonshine, making money avoiding the "Feds" and tax collectors.

When they got bored of outrunning the IRS, the good ol' boys started trying to out run each other and stock car racing was born. As the sport developed, they probably  justified their racing on Sunday because they did not want to compete with that other holy Grail in the south - college football on Saturday. 

But, NASCAR is entwined with the Baptist. If you look close, it is said  that  several drivers have Bible verses pasted on the dashboards of their cars so they can be seen by their diehard fans through the "In Car Access" cameras. Also, one driver, Morgan Sheppard, had a  decal of Jesus on the hood of his car (I am assuming not next to a Bud Light sign). 

Only, in the South - God, country, beer, and NASCAR. Of course the races are held on Sunday afternoon, well after church (and when it is safe to buy batteries from Wal-mart). Certainly the (good ol') boys attend church before "starting their engines" - don't they?

Thursday, November 11, 2010

The Trinity

Without the Holy Trinity, my mother would be mute. Now, my Mama is a good God fearing Presbyterian but this trinity has nothing to do with fathers, sons, and ghosts. This deals with who just died, what's going on in her Sunday School class, and that "arrogant" florist that moved into her neighborhood. Without these topics, I'm not sure what she would make her long stories short about. 

For the record, the florist just replaced my Aunt J'Nelle - and those were pretty big shoes to fill. My mother could go on for days about how my Aunt had wasted her life and could have done anything with her multiple degrees, how she thought she was better than anyone else when she came back from Boston, and  then could never admit how pea green jealous she was of her college roommate - Liddy Dole. (My Aunt J'Nelle was a die hard liberal democrat, who dreamed of being a Kennedy.) But I digress.

Oh my Aunt had her own triumvirate - how provincial my mother was, the fact that the republicans were going to ruin the country, and the God awful manners most people exhibited at the dinner table. The perfect storm was the two of them in the same room. Then the aftermath followed. They each had fodder for weeks. And the rest of us just had to endure the fallout. 

Meanwhile my dear Aunt Kat kept to her matronly topics, the Presbyterian church, her cats, and her best friend, Mary Ella (a fellow old maid). Her most racy comment most likely would have concerned Martha McCorkle putting onions in her chicken salad for the church homecoming dinner. But even that would have been said in hushed tones and not in mixed company.

I was reminded of all this just this morning when (in a moment of total insanity) I asked my mother, "What's up?" "Oh, you wouldn't believe it. I know you are busy, but to make a long story short, that florist down the street has just added more topiaries to his driveway. It's starting look like Disney World." "Now, I wouldn't say that. So far he hasn't added any characters." (I just couldn't help myself.) The remark was lost on her, because she moved. "And, did I tell you Harriett died. The funeral will be tomorrow. But, it was for the best,  she was in bad shape." All, I had to do was bide my time, the Sunday school class was on deck.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Running Away to Join the Circus

I think I'll join the circus , or is it too late -probably so. That train has already left - literally. When I was younger - much younger, like every other imaginative child, I dreamed of joining the circus. And every time I got sent to my room for some misunderstanding between me and my parental units, that desire only increased. "By God, I'll show them." I even spent time mentally crafting  what the note I would leave on my bed would say. (I always had the flare for the dramatic.)

Those were the minor details. More importantly, I had to decide which profession I would study. Naturally I pined for the "Flying Trapeze" - they always had the best costumes and were the stars of the show. One problem there, I was deathly afraid of heights. That also knocked the high wire act off the list. I wasn't into large animals (or small dogs). The idea of cramming myself into a small car with 13 other people didn't thrill me. And, I never understood the idea of spinning plates and juggling balls. 

I came to rest on the idea of working with the horses. Riding around the center ring with a colorful outfit complete with rhinestones and a fancy hat with feathers. Heck, I could practice that on my trusty steed, Rusty. He, however, was not enthused with the idea. At the age of eleven, how did I know the idea of being a circus horse offended his career as hunter. But I digress.

That decision made, I just needed to find a circus to join. And, dag nabit, every time I was so mad at my parents and my plan to join the circus was the ultimate way out, there was never a circus around. Where is a good circus when you need one? So I grew up, forgot about the big top, and life moved on.  

Then last week I found myself watching PBS's series Circus. They follow the Big Apple Circus for a year as it tours around the country. And just like that, I am ready to pack my bags again. I don't need to fly through the air, make folks laugh, tame wild animals, or ride fast horses. Just give me the open road, the smell of hay, and the sound of the calliope and the barkers. Where do I sign up?

It is the ultimate escape. One can hide in broad day light. And, yes I am not blinded by the romantic notions, I know it is hard, dirty, dangerous work that goes on for long hours day after day. But at fifty, one's goals and ideals change. You are never too old to enjoy the thrill of the big top. And, you are never too old to dream of running way. And, if you think so, I really feel sorry for you. Now, I just need to find circus. And, not the one I live in.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Time and Travel

If you ever want to see the walking dead, well they are living and perhaps a little more animated, but not very lively, try an airport terminal at 4 am. You know it is early when valet parking is not open and there are no sky caps to be found. But zombies are slowly moving in as if they are drawn by some light calling them from the darkness.

So this is what it looks like. OK, I can now check this off whatever list of life it is on, not that I was dieing to experience it. I join the droves pulled in by the light. I am an early morning  person, but even for me this is pushing it.

To make matters worse, the time changed this morning. Fall back and spring forward or is it fall forward. Just what I need to be time challenged at 2 in the morning. I set the clock next to my bed an hour back and the alarm for 2am. I set the alarm on my cell phone for 2am also (hoping, once again it is smarter than I am and at the bewitching hour it will change on its own.) Then I feared I would stay awake all night wondering if I have set the clocks correctly and, if so, would the alarms go off. But I have and they do.

But hey what is time anyway. When I reach the Charlotte airport, however, it is a whole 'nuther ball game. Travelers are making mad dashes down the concourses. Even little old ladies were moving at a quick pace, one in particular. I happened to sitting near the counter when she made her way through crowd. Good thing she didn't have cane. As she approached the counter, she looked at the board, then looked at the airline person, "Oh my, I thought my flight was leaving from this gate, but the sign says Toledo, and now I have missed it." "Where is your flight to?" "Las Vegas." "No mam. This is the right gate. With the time change, for some reason all our signs have the wrong time and flight information on them."

 Just then two middle age ladies with straw hats and bags came flying up behind her, out of breath. The look on their faces told the story. "Oh no," one said almost in tears. The older lady turned to them, "Honey if you're going to Vegas you haven't missed your flight." and with that she just shuffled off. The ladies at the counter explained the confusion.

Then an announcement was made to everyone in the airport, apologizing for the problem, asking for everyone's patience, and saying they hoped it would be fixed quickly. Suddenly, as if everyone was now operating under the yellow caution flag, the frantic pace of the travelers slowed. Everyone had been running from gate to gate, looking for flights that were not posted at times that did not exist. 

Everyone, but me. I had checked the TV monitor and saw my flight was at B14, went to the gate, and never thought to look at the board above the counter. (My 2am wake-up was catching up with me.) My flight could have been moved 12 gates down and 2 concourses over and I would have been the last to know. Wait a minute, if this is Vegas, where's my flight?

Friday, November 5, 2010

Man attacks imaginary woman in judge's car

Headline reads: Man attacks imaginary woman in judge's car

Once again our local paper covered  this story (so it had to be true). According to the article:

A  [County] man gave a colorful story as he was charged Thursday with breaking the windshield of a vehicle belonging to a County magistrate.

The 52-year-old man was charged with malicious injury to personal property." He was denied bond.

Deputies were sent to [the Magistrate's home] around 7:30 a.m. Thursday. [The Magistrate] told deputies the man smashed a window on his car with a spray paint can.

The man told deputies that 'there was a woman in the front seat of the vehicle who kept changing her wigs and face (changing from black to white, then back again)," according to the Sheriff's Office incident report.

The man also informed the deputies of a man in the back seat of the car who was 'hiding two pots of weed under his butt.'

Deputies looked inside the vehicle. No one was there.

However, as deputies' eyebrows and skepticism went higher, the man began yelling that the woman was changing her appearance again.

He said the woman worked for the police and had brought him to the summary court judge's private residence to smoke marijuana.

When the officers asked the man if he had taken any 'medication,' he said, 'yes, a lot!' according to the report.

The officers then took the man into custody. Both the multi guised woman and the weed hiding man are still wanted for questioning by the defendant's attorney.

Monday, November 1, 2010

In the Unlikely Event of a Water Landing

I'm on the first leg of my flights home, and about a third of the way through the flight attendants' mandatory safety review, it dawns of me that as many times as I have flown, I don't know what she has said. I'm not sure where that emergency flotation device is.

The only two parts I am sure about are "keeping in mind that the closest exit may be behind you" and "the oxygen mask does not need to fully inflate to be operational", neither I really care to have to rely on. And, once again, I've missed the safety review. Certainly my subconscious has picked up some of it after hearing it thirty or forty times this year alone.

I turn and survey the passengers around me. Who can I quickly get ahead of "in the unlikely event of a water landing" (and if Captain Sully is not at the helm)? After all, this is not a time to be polite and gracious. "Excuse me, but would you mind if I move ahead of you, it's matter of life and death [literally]." Those kind folks are going to go down with the ship. Of course, wonderful words will be said about them at their memorial services.

I know I can beat the full figured lady across the aisle - it took her a while to get wedged into her seat earlier. The executive in the row in front of me will most likely hesitate, deciding whether or not he needs to remove his $1100 Berluti shoes. His seat mate is a no brainer, he will most likely sleep through any calamity.

Now, that I have a plan I can go back to reading my magazine. Just then I hear, " . . . of course we'll keep you apprised of the situation as we get more details." I turn to my seat mate - certainly he was paying attention, only to find him snoring quietly. Perhaps, I really should pay more attention to the flight attendants. After all, I'm not sure my personal affairs are in order, I still have 937 places to visit out of the 1000 I should see before die, and I don't think I have on new underwear.

Saturday, October 30, 2010

Wordy Bird Angers Man

Another headline in our local paper I found amusing: Wordy Bird Angers Man

According to the local paper, "A 63-year-old woman said an acquaintance threatened her after her parrot insulted him early Sunday, according to an police incident report.

The woman said she was talking on the phone with a male friend around 3:39 a.m. She said she and her friend were joking about what her talking parrot had said earlier about an acquaintance.

At that point, the male acquaintance took the phone from the friend and began cursing at the woman, threatening to burn down her house, the report said.

The woman said that after the threats, the acquaintance attempted to call back several more times. She told deputies she didn't want to talk to the acquaintance.

Deputies spoke with the acquaintance and told him the woman did not wish to speak with him.

According to the report, neither the woman, the parrot, nor the acquaintance told deputies what the bird said that enraged the acquaintance to such a degree."

Upon further investigation it was determined that the woman wanted to change her phone number and move on,  her friend could not be found, the male acquaintance wanted the feathered friend for dinner, and the parrot only wanted a cracker.

Friday, October 29, 2010

Scarlett and Dale - Move On Over

My Daddy always used the term "license to print money". Well at three o'clock this morning I found a company that has apparently figured out how to literally do it. Talk about a better mouse trap. And, the rest of us are just trying to get the best bargain at BiLo and figure out if we will ever be able to retire.

Thanks to the New England Mint, you, too, can own an "America the Beautiful" Genuine Yellowstone Two Dollar Bill. And, yes it is in color, with "Old Faithful practically [gushing] off the note while the sapphire “Morning Glory” hot spring bubbles under the never-ending western sky". Hold on, that's not all. (Oh, come on you knew there was more, it is better than the bamboo steamer and set of Ginsu knives!) Also, included is a second bill, the Grand Canyon Two Dollar Bill with its "sweeping" views of the glorious colors of the Grand Canyon.

Of course, to protect your investment the New England Mint includes a parchment Certificate of Authenticity and original information about the national park. The bills are presented in a handsome 4 page museum quality folio. And, the best part, all of this can be yours for $19.95. (Or, you can buy 5 for $64.75 if you want to increase your investment.) The "Mint" goes on to remind you that the two dollar bill is known as the "forgotten" bill and is rarely circulated.

Now down here, in the trailer parks, this will truly be the next big thing. They will have move the Scarlett O'Hara Doll (from the Franklin Mint) down a shelf in the curio cabinet to make room, or maybe shift the "Dale Ernhardt Hall of Fame Collector Plate" (in porcelain with genuine platinum accents) sitting on top of the window AC unit, or perhaps the new "Museum Quality Folio" needs to be displayed front and center on the kitchen table, next to the "Princess Diana - Forever our Princess" Music Box. And, just think Christmas is right around the corner, how many lucky folks could find the sweeping views of the Grand Canyon in their stocking (when their heart was set on that "Commemorative John Wayne Shot Glass Collection".)

Can you see the brainstorming sessions at the New England Mint? "Mary, I know you have your heart set on the Limited Edition Barbara Bush doll, and we can still do that next year. Paul, your idea of the Nascar Driver Portraits on black velvet is brilliant, and we are working on the licenses now. But, listen to this one. You know last year how we painted those Obama coins. Remember how people just tied up the phone lines to get them. Well, this year we are going to sell two dollar bills . . . for ten dollars each."

Thursday, October 28, 2010

A Universal Remote

If it's not bad enough that I am having to deal with an onslaught of audio-visual remotes in our den, now they are multiplying like Tribbles on Star Trek. Last week, I walk in the den to find my DH on a ladder with a pencil in his mouth, a ruler on the ceiling, and holding some silver object I do not recognize. This does not look good. Then I see that he has removed one of the recessed flood lights from the ceiling and is now measuring the hole that formerly held said light.

When I look at him with a "what in the Hell are you doing now" sweet smile on my face, he replies, "I found these great LED lights at Costco." Surprise, Surprise. "I am going to replace these flood lights that have never worked. Finally we will have decent lights up here." I see several possible issues here, the replacements are LED, they look small to me, this is a project that could make my den ceiling look like a construction zone for weeks, and my DH is attempting the installation. I know, I know, oh yeah of little faith (but lots of experience.)

After supper, my DH proudly says,"Let me show you the lights." "They're in?" "They are in, I told you it wouldn't take that long." OK, so I was wrong on one count. The first thing that strikes me when I enter the den is that our ceiling looks like someone has installed small blueish runway lights - and they are LED. Memories of the Christmas tree light arguments discussions come to mind. And, better yet, they look little Pixar lamps hanging up side down in my den. As I look at them, trying to think of an honest, positive comment to make, my DH adds,"And the best part is you turn them on and off with remote controls." "Controls?" "Yeah, there three sets of lights. Two up here and one in the back." I had failed to see Runway 008 to the Northeast in the back.

Then he picked up a remote and proceeded to demonstrate the simplicity of the system. The first remote he clicked turned on half the front lights. Then he clicked the second remote. That turned on the back lights. The third remote turned on the remaining front lights and turned off the front lights that were originally on and all the back lights. "I may have to make a few adjustments."

"Oh," and he added, "while I was in Costco, I found this great universal remote that can control every device we have." "What do you mean every device?" "It will turn on the TV, DVD player, sound system, and CD player." "And, the lights?," I said in jest. "I hadn't thought about that, maybe it will." Oh God, I've created a monster.

In the back of my mind, I see Fred McMurray as the Absent Minded Professor working in his lab suddenly pressing some button with pride and every machine in his workshop that can move, whistle, honk, bend, throw, or walk start going at a loud rapid pace. In our den it will be the TV rapidly changing channels, while the DVD player is playing something very loudly through the surround sound system all the while our new lighting system keeps the beat whirling and twirling about on the ceiling. All I can say is that I hope it has batteries I can remove.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Reared as a Heathen

You gotta love it. Only in South Carolina. Once again, our archaic (and sometimes Archean) laws set us apart from every other state. This came from our local paper in an article covering a case before the SC Supreme Court concerning whether an organized poker game in someone's home is illegal gambling in our fair state. This case has not been decided yet - the jury (ie the State Supreme Court) is still out.

According to our paper, "Read literally, a South Carolina law on the books since 1802 makes illegal any game with cards or dice - including popular board games like Monopoly and Sorry. [SC Attorney General] McMaster has traditionally said that he followed a loose interpretation of that law, only considering games that are more reliant on chance [than] on a player's skill - like Texas Hold 'Em - to be gambling and therefore illegal."

Had this law been enforced, when my saintly Granny crossed state lines to visit us every Easter, she could have been put away in the poky (as my Aunty would say) for her love of the game of Sorry. And, my father raised reared two heathens by starting us early with the game of Monopoly as soon as we could count money. And, the greatest iniquity of all, Aunt Kat's Old Maid card game would be deemed illegal in the eyes of the law, much less the afternoon Bridge parties proper ladies down here have enjoyed for centuries.

The irony is that my Daddy sold playing cards in his drug store and the state collected tax on every deck sold. I can remember the tax stamps on each deck. So the state of South Carolina was collecting taxes on every deck of cards that was sold in the state, but the cards had no purpose except that which was against the laws of the state. I'm confused.

Meanwhile, I am trying to remember if I have ever torn the tags off a mattress (remember "illegal and punishable by law"). It's bad enough I'm having nightmares for fear that I am going to "Go to Jail, Go directly to Jail" (and I really could use that $200.) But, I'll be with good company. After all, all those fine ladies who play bridge will be joining me. And, to think the Baptists are still concerned about us buying batteries on Sunday morning. I just hope they are not playing a game of solitaire waiting for their mom to get dressed for church.

Friday, October 22, 2010

I'm not Drunk, I'm from New York!

Here's a winner. The Headline reads: Woman blames slurred speech on her NY accent

The article from the local paper followed, "A woman charged with disorderly conduct by the police  blamed her New York accent when police concluded she was intoxicated because she had slurred speech. Officers reported the woman also smelled of alcohol."

Now I'd like to know if her claim was that the police charged her on the grounds of being a Yankee? or if she thinks the citation was issued just because she sounds like she came from Jersey Shore  and her voice would easily be confused with the sound of someone intoxicated?

The article goes on to say. "Police initially responded to a call about two women fighting outside the EZ Shop. They found that one of the women had allegedly approached the other who was sitting in a car and asked her to get out and talk. When the woman in the car proceeded to drive off, the second woman held onto the car, then stumbled and fell, hitting her head in the parking lot, the report said."

I think the "Yankee" defense lost credibility  somewhere between the cat fight and the pavement. Even the local police would have given her some lattitude for holding onto the car, after all we know Hell hath no fury like a scorned southern woman. However, stumbling onto pavement and the smell of alcohol is a game changer.

The story gets better, "Two of the children of the woman who fell were with her at the time. They allegedly kicked the car of the other woman and ran from the scene, the report said.

Police issued a disorderly conduct citation" which until the day she dies, or goes back 'up the road' will be disputed on the grounds of the "Snookie" defense.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

The Smell of Oranges

What is it about the smell of oranges that reminds me of Christmas? I was making a Daube Provincial recipe this morning which included among it's 25 ingredients (but only 1 pot!) thin orange peel. When I finished and washed my hands, the fragrance of orange still remained, better that the god awful smell of onion. And, the first thought that came to mind was Christmas.

As a child, one of the standard school art projects was the orange with cloves. Remember those, the orange with dozens of cloves stuck in it and a nice red ribbon. The idea was a gift for your mom as a sachet for her closet. I never got it. Who wanted a half rotten orange with brown things stuck in it to hang next to your clothes? But, perhaps that was because the teachers had us do the project in mid December and given, in the sunny south, our December climate was still in the 70's so the orange was fairly "ripe" by the time December 25th came around. Aunt Kat always seemed a lot more excited about the orange/clove sachet than Mama was - fancy that.

Then there were our Christmas stockings. Thinking back on it, our stockings always included the same things - nuts, fireworks, hard candy, and one or two oranges - every year. I think the excitement was seeing if this was the year Santa deviated from the plan. But alas, it never happened. The fireworks included a box of sparklers, a small pack of firecrackers, and my favorite - a box of fire pops. The almonds and walnuts (in their shells) - oh yeah, the nuts were still in their shells - rarely got eaten. However, they did become excellent airborne ammunition for whatever scuffles my brother and I might get into later on in the day. The oranges did get consumed, and I don't where they came from, but they were juicy and sweet and had the sweet fragrance that I remember to this day.

Another Christmas memory was Ambrosia. Now, like most holiday traditions, my father's family and my mother's family had different views on this desert. So when we made our annual Christmas trek (you know the one over the river and through the woods, every Christmas) we got to sample both. My Aunt Kat and Granny's was sections of fresh orange, grapefruit, and maraschino cherries with shredded coconut served on top. Grandmama's was cut-up oranges, cherries, peaches, coconut, and baby marshmallows. While Aunt Kat's was presented properly and served on her green crystal desert plates (that matched her Spode Christmas china), Grandmama's was all mixed up and served from a bowl on the buffet. I was told early on not to comment disparagingly on either.

Traditionally in the south, especially on the coast, citrus fruit was served during the holidays, being brought in on trading ships from the Caribbean. The amount of fruit served was a sign of wealth. And no, I don't think Mama’s Santa’s inclusion of citrus fruit in our stocking was a show of wealth. But, it is part of our holiday customs. One I never really considered before. So whether it was the orange/clove sachet, the reliable oranges in my stocking every Christmas morning, or the dueling ambrosias, the scent of oranges reminds me of Christmas and (to paraphrase Martha) that is not a bad thing.

Monday, October 18, 2010

A Chicken Killing Dog

The headline reads: Man shot in chicken fight tells his side

The story from our local paper followed: "The man shot in an argument over a chicken-killing dog last month wants his side of the story known after learning the suspect is claiming self-defense.

He agrees the argument began over the German shepherd said to have been killing [his neighbor's] chickens. However, he said he asked [his neighbor] why he didn't shoot the dog while it was still on his property instead of starting a confrontation.

"One thing led to another and we started wrestling," he said. "And then my brother-in-law yells, ‘He's got a knife, he's got a knife!' So I shoved [his] head into the bumper of his  truck.

He said at that point, [his neighbor] ran toward his truck where deputies say a rifle was stored.

"And before I turned around, ‘BOW!'" He said. "He done licked a shot off."

The shot, "nearly blew my whole arm off," he said."

You got the men, the dog, the gun, and the truck, all this story is missing is wandering woman and a bottle of beer and you'd have yourself a country music hit.

Saturday, October 16, 2010

The Passing of General Johnson

General Johnson has died. And, no, I am not maudlin over a Confederate army officer. General Norman Johnson was the lead singer of the Chairman of the Board, that great Carolina Beach band with such big hits as Carolina Girls, Give Me Just a Little More Time, I'd Rather be in Carolina, You've Got Me Dangling on String, and Gone Fishin'. 

I have spent many an hour on a dance floor, a drive way, the beach, or a porch dancing to their tunes. And, if you are familiar with their music, I bet you are humming along right now to your favorite song. We were in school during the days of punk rock, disco, and the Rolling Stones - but then everyone during the past 40 years has been in school during the days of the Rolling Stones - but I digress.

Even as those songs were being played on the radio and were top ten hits, in the low country there was always Carolina Beach Music. It went along with good friends, fun times, and beer. I learned to dance to big band and beach music. My girls also learned to dance to beach music. They listened to the same songs (and bands) we did (do). I cannot tell you the number of times I went to dances where General Johnson and the Chairman of the Board were the band for the evening. 

Of course, there were also those events with the Drifters, the Coasters, the Embers, Maurice Williams and the Zodiacs, the Tams, and the Catalinas. I can remember one summer, my sorority had a house at Ocean Drive and we had been having a large time at Crazy Zack's (a famous haunt). When the last call came, we just told the Swinging Medallions to follow us down the street. Thirty minutes later, we had them set-up in our back yard and the party continued.

General Johnson was a Grammy Award winning artist, one of the giants of this musical genre. And, he was young - only 67. It is sad I will never see him perform live again, but I am grateful for his talent and his contribution to Carolina Beach Music. Every time I hear one of those songs, I am taken back to moment or so in my past when life was carefree and the music was the background of a wonderful youth. "Just give me a little more time. . ."

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Butter, the Downfall of Humanity

Speaking of Butter, "they" (whoever they are - it may be a conspiracy) continue to preach about its unhealthy qualities. To hear some, one would think butter goes way beyond being a health issue. It alone is the sole cause for all the ills of humanity including the break down of the American family, the recent recession, and the failure of our public schools. OK, I'm taking this a little far, no one can blame the failure of our education system on our love of butter. But I digress.

If you look at a package of butter, the ingredients include: Sweet Cream and Salt or just Sweet Cream if it is the unsalted variety. Now, for the sake of argument, let's take a look at the "healthy" alternatives that we are constantly told we need to use to better our health and prolong our lives. Take the ingredients in "I can't believe it's not butter": partially hydrogenated soybean oil, water, natural sweet cream buttermilk, salt, natural soy lecithin, vegetable mono and diglycerides, potassium sorbate, calcium disodium EDTA, natural and artificial flavors. Don't you love it. The makers are pretty proud of the two "natural" ingredients, sweet cream buttermilk and the soy lecithin.

Remember, Chiffon Margarine, "It's not nice to fool Mother Nature". Well, turns out, it's damn hard to fool Mother Nature and the rest of us. And, there was always the tub of Parkay that had the identity issue of pretending to be butter then reminding us he was "Parkay". There were more issues there than an identity crisis. 

If I'm going to die early, I would much rather enjoy good food during what life I have left to live. Personally, I would need to think long and hard about a protracted partially hydrogenated existence.