Blogs Are Stupid

Doesn't anyone believe in Dear Diary anymore? What happened to the joy of putting actual pen to paper? And why does every ordinary Jane and John think they can write well enough to burden the world with their scribblings? It’s a mystery that badly needs solving. My first entry contains my thoughts about blogging and will set your expectations. The rest will probably be stream of consciousness garbage, much like you’ll find on any other blog. Perhaps we will both come away enlightened.

Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Okay, Seriously?

I should become a travel writer (I say that as if I, a stay at home Mom with a high school education could actually score such a glamorous job).

Because once again, I find myself completely enchanted with this new and interesting corner of the world, and I feel compelled to share it with you.

Chicago. Everybody knows about Chicago.

Everybody recognizes the Sears Tower and Wrigley Field. Everybody knows about Michigan Avenue, Navy Pier and Lincoln Park. Everybody knows about The Art Museum and The Museum of Science and Industry. Everybody, but everybody, has heard of the Blues Brothers and the House of Blues.

These are all wonderful and fascinating places to be sure. Any visit to Chicago should include one or all of them. But in any city, tucked away out of sight and usually known only to locals or the extremely well travelled, are little pockets of urban charm; neighborhoods bursting with culture, vibrance and heart.

Lakeview is one such place.

Now, Lakeview is known as one of the largest and most widely known gay villages in North America, (each year they host one of the biggest gay pride parades in America)and it's true that it's diversity is part of what makes it so appealing.

But it's much more than just a haven for gay and lesbian city dwellers. It's a community in a way that is increasingly rare in the modern day interpretation of what the American Dream entails.

From the perspective of someone who lives in a homogenous, staid and sterile suburban enclave where we are isolated and divided by zoning laws and urban sprawl, the allure of Lakeview is undeniable.

First and foremost, Lakeview is abundant in visual charm. This is no small thing, because it is this that first draws you in. The homes are architecturally interesting, historically significant and gracefully majestic. Even in the newer construction, the attention to aesthetic details is evident.

The tree lined and sun dappled streets are evocative of my childhood, and perhaps that is why I was immediately filled with an incredibly odd and yet thoroughly comforting sense of having come home, though I was, in fact, almost a thousand miles from the place where I lay my head every night.

In my neighborhood, I can go for days without ever laying eyes on another human being. It can be a terribly desolate place, particularly for a young stay at home mother with no social affiliations through which to form friendships and make desperately needed contact with the outside world. For a lot of years, I was profoundly lonely here.

But in Lakeview, there are people out and about at all hours of the day night. There are dog walkers, library goers, shoppers, exercisers, and families. This is due to the fact that anything you might want is within walking distance.

And contrary to the area in which I reside, where independant merchants have been all but extinct by large chains and the relentless march of suburban progress....small, independantly owned establishments are abundant. We found everything from funky vintage clothing stores, to headshops, to used book stores and shops featuring handmade goods such as jewelry, handbags and accessories.

The larger chains are there; Trader Joe's, CVS, Starbuck's...but they do not completely eclipse the unique, the interesting, and the unusual. There are not a hugely pervasive presence the way they are here.

Then of course, there were the many neighborhood theatres, which I regret that we did not get to patronize. On my next visit to Chicago, I will definitely take the time to attend a production in one of those darkly thrilling little stage venues.

And it is clear that the residents of Lakeview take pride in their neighborhood. It is clean and well manicured. There is no trash lining the streets. There are baggies for disposing of pet waste at every corner. If it wasn't for the timely rumble of the el every ten minutes or so, you would never know that you were deep in the heart of one of America's biggest cities.

It seems a shame to me, when visiting a place, to stay in a cold and sterile hotel room which tells you nothing about the city or the people who live there. Lakeview tells a compelling story, one which I am very glad to have taken the time to discover.

Tomorrow I will tell you about the guesthouse where we stayed. The experience was so wonderful that I will gladly provide the owners, who were equally wonderful, with as much free advertising as I can muster with my modest little blog.

Thursday, July 26, 2007

Chicago Bound

But not, alas, to Blogher.

I managed to plan a girls' get together in the same city, on the same weekend, many months before Blogher was even announced. Leave it to me.

Let me start by saying that I have never, in 14 years of marriage and 12 years of motherhood, gone off by myself overnight. Not that I wouldn't have...but the occasion just never presented itself.

So you can understand why I am wildly excited by the prospect of being completely unencumbered by responsibility for four whole days.

We have rented a fabulous guest house in downtown Chicago, which, when divided by five, actually comes out to be cheaper than a decent hotel room. It is mere blocks from the bustling heart of the city. We can walk to countless theatres, restaurants, museums, and boutiques. We will be very close to Michigan Avenue, which in itself is exciting. It's like the Champs-Elysee of middle America.

But the most exciting thing of all, is that for the first time, I get to come face to face with four other fabulous women, whom I have internet "known" for a very long time. We have formed deep and satisfying friendships without ever looking each other in the eye. Once this would have seemed unlikely and strange, but in this day and age, I think many people have a similar story to tell. The blogosphere itself is a place where many similar friendships have been forged.

We have experienced a lot of things together, this little group of ours. We have laughed, cried, debated and commiserated. What started as just a place to land when another, larger site became defunct, turned into a haven of comfort, friendship and support. And because the group is small and intimate, we have managed to avoid much of the drama, nastiness, intrigue and upheaval which seems to plague other online groups.

I am simply beside myself at the prospect of meeting these wonderful women in person. I'm not really a demonstrative or touchy person by nature but I welcome the opportunity to finally hug each one of them for real.

So tomorrrow I fly.

I have only flown once since 9/11, due to being stranded in O'Hare airport for over 13 hours by myself with an infant and a toddler. We boarded and deplaned no less than SIX TIMES in that period of time. I ran out of diapers. The baby vomited all over himself. My then three year old had a melt-down because he began to think we were going to have to live in the airport.

That melt-down, as luck would have it, got us on the first available plane out, just past midnight. The gate agent took pity on him, or maybe me, and chose the three of us to board ahead of the several glowering business men who had attempted to bully her into giving them a seat.

I swore then and there that I would not fly again unless I absolutely had to. I'm not afraid of flying, it just irritates the fool out of me, you see.

Anyway, that was long before the shoe thing, or the belt thing, or the liquids thing. I'm a wreck trying to decide what to include in my carry on. Thank God I'm not travelling with small children. And since I'm not, I might just check everything and carry only my purse and some reading material, which, I must say, I am looking forward to being able to actually read, as opposed to reading a sentence, escorting a small person to the bathroom, reading the same sentence, serving a snack, reading the same sentence, bending to retrieve fallen crayons or matchbox get the picture.

So Chicago here I come. I'll be back Monday with tales of our raucous girls' weekend. What do you think is first on our itinerary? Why the package store of course. You can't expect five women to fuel their girl talk marathon with mineral water can you???

If you're interested, here are the girls I will be meeting: Kirdy, Nina, AA and Lizardbreath.

And to those of our group who can't make it...know that you will be sorely missed. We will drink a toast to you, and take many goofy pictures.

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

And Doggone It.....I Like Me

A year or so ago, after I had successfully shed 50 lbs, I wrote this piece about my struggles with my weight. I learned, on that journey, that the habit of self denigration was not so easily shed as the pounds that I blamed for my faltering self-confidence.

As women, we are into the belief that we are flawed, imperfect....ugly. We spend our whole lives trying to measure up to ideals that are unrealistic and unattainable. We spend our whole lives disliking our perfectly beautifully selves. We spend our whole lives telling ourselves we are not good enough. We spend our whole lives measuring our worth against that of other, more genetically gifted or surgically enhanced women.

It saddens me. But I'm as much a slave to the capricious and heartless Master that is my self-image as the next person. I am every bit as bound by the conventions that I abhor as those who flock to surgeons and snake oil salesmen alike searching for the secret of beauty and youth everlasting. The only difference is that I am simply less able to indulge my insecurities with expensive potions and procedures.

After I lost 50 lbs, I got apathetic, I got lazy, and I got, once again...fat. Five months ago I resolved to reestablish the healthy habits I had formed and for five months, I have been able to maintain that resolve. I am down two sizes. My arms and legs are showing definition, my waist has reappeared and some of the back fat has melted. I'm not thin by any means, but I have been feeling empowered, encouraged, and strong.

Or I was, until I looked at photos of myself on our recent vacation. And then that nasty, wheedling, self-deprecating voice; the one that I managed to keep bound and gagged and shut away from the light of day, found me once again. It catalogued my faults without mercy.

But this time, this I won't believe it. I won't fall victim to apathy and shame once again. And so....

I am going to start my very own meme. Yes...that's right, me, the anti-meme. I'm calling it, The Stuart Smalley Meme. The theme of this meme is "I'm good enough, I'm smart enough, and doggone it...I like me." So, in that vein, I am going to name ten things about myself that I like. I'm going to focus mostly on the physical, because that's what tends to undermine my self-confidence the most. But you can name anything you want. Maybe you have earned a particularly difficult to achieve degree, or you volunteer tirelessly at your child's school, or you make a really great Peach Cobbler. Anything that makes you feel proud, or happy, or significant.

Here goes:

1. I have nice eyes. They are a pretty shade of green, and I have very long eyelashes.

2. I have good lips. They are full and nicely shaped. People pay big bucks to get lips like mine. People have, on occasion, teased me about them, but I've realized that these people are probably the sort who are behooved to draw lips on each day.

Okay, this is the point in your mental inventory when you usually start obsessing about your bulbous nose or your Melinda Doolittle neck. Resist the urge. Breathe. Focus.

3. I have thick, glossy hair, that is very, very straight. I complain about how thick and heavy it is, but I realize that it is a nice trait to have. I dye it red, but when my roots grow out, I am gratified to find that at 38, there is still no gray.

4. I have a good butt. It is, at times, larger than I would like, but it is nicely shaped, like an upside down heart. It hasn't flattened or drooped with age. Ass men really dig me.

5. I have a very small waist, comparitively speaking. This makes buying jeans a real bitch, but it saves me from looking squat, or dowdy, or shapeless, even when carrying extra pounds.

6. I'm a good writer. (Boy, that was really hard to type. Why is it so hard for us to admit that we recognize our own good qualities?)

Now I'm struggling. Six things, and I'm struggling. I am PATHETIC. AGH! I'm undermining my own meme! I am NOT pathetic, dammit.

7. I am a very determined person. I don't give up easily. That can be a blessing or a curse, but I choose think of it as mostly the former. It comforts me, because I have been through some tough stuff and come out okay. I know that if something happened to change my life significantly, I would be able to pick up the pieces and put them back together again. I would survive and thrive, and so would my children. Whatever I had to do.

8. I'm a good wife. Not a good domestic partner. I don't say that because I keep a clean house or because I cook nutritious meals or do any of the things that I do day to day. I'm talking about my relationship with my husband. I think I'm a good life partner.

Ummmmmmm.......tap, tap, tap. Shit. Two more....

9. I'm a compassionate person. Absurdly so, sometimes. Husband laughed at me while we were on vacation, because one night, I saw a turtle in the road in front of our villa. We couldn't stop immediately, but once we parked, the boys and I went back to find it and get it off the road. It was gone, and I worried all night about what happened to that turtle.

10. I'm an involved parent.

That was really hard, and it really shouldn't have been. If the task had been to list things we hate about ourselves, I could have rattled off twenty without even firing a synapse.

How can we possibly love our fellow man if we are consumed with hatred and loathing for ourselves? How can we make this life and this world better, if we are eaten up with negativity and doubt? I think a lot of the bitterness and antipahty that rocks our world every day is nothing more than an extension of deep personal dissatisfaction and disgust.

Where is the love, people?

Stand up, you. Stand up and say "I'm Good Enough, I'm Smart Enough, and DOGGONE it, I like me." Then give me 10 reasons why.

And this is not one of those tagged by proxy type memes either. Nope. I'm choosing five of you. Five SPECIFIC people to do this meme. And I hope you'll do it, and then choose five more. Who couldn't use a little ego boost...hmmmm?

I'm tagging Mrs. Chicky, Slouching Mom, Flutter, Nina and Natalie. Yes, I chose six. Because it's my meme and I can if I want to.

Sunday, July 22, 2007

Come Look At My Slides

I'm really feeling very....meh, today. I'm not feeling inspired by anything. I'm not feeling terribly motivated to do or write anything. I don't know why, really, but I suspect that maybe we are just summered out along with experiencing post vacation let-down.

Compared to the crashing waves of the ocean, our little neighborhood pool is momunentally uninteresting. They are tired of kick the can, they are tired of jumping on the trampoline, they are tired of games of kickball, baseball and football that never end. Everyone is cranky with boredom and heat. I think we are all just biding our time until school starts, though my offspring would never admit to such.

So...since I am intellectually stymied at the moment, I am going to post some photos from our vacation. If you're not really into that sort of thing and choose to click away now, I promise there will be no hard feelings.

Without further ado...

Sunset over the Barrier Islands

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There is some debate about who actually took this picture. But since Husband was engaged in some serious fishing for most of the trip, I submit that it was I who took the picture.

Damn. I am GOOD.

The Shark

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Yes, I know it looks like a dolphin, but it's not. Dolphins are very intelligent and would never fall for such a ruse. Sharks, however, are not much more than eating machines and have only rudimentary brains. So I assure you, that what is on the end of the line in this picture is, in fact, a rather pissed off bonnethead shark.

The Dreamboat

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Husband is a boat guy. LOVES boats. We live mere minutes from a very large lake, and it kills him that we have no watercraft to speak of. Obviously, on our vacation we saw many beautiful boats, from small wooden sloops with billowing sails, to sleek and sophisticated yachts like this one. Huband vows that one day, we will have a boat. And he wouldn't kick this boat out of his slip.

Avenue of Oaks

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On the mainland, there are many historic places to sightsee. One reason we love the place we vacationed is that you get the best of both worlds. You have the island/beach community, but a short trip over the bridge brings you into a small historic metropolis that is wonderfully picturesque.

One of the places we visited was this plantation, which is graced by the incredibly beautiful Avenue of Oaks. It was featured in "Gone With The Wind" and the plantation itself has served as the set for two other movies; "North and South" and Alex Haley's "Queen". The first time I visited this plantation, they were actually filming North and South, but the cast was filming way back in the fields somewhere and I didn't get so much as a glimpse of Patrick Swayze.

It is really something to stand beneath these majestic live oaks. Most of the oaks seen here are between 150-200 years old, but there are live oaks on the plantation that are over 600 years old.

Below is the Avenue of Oaks seen from the porch of the plantation manor house.

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Blue Crabbing

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Courtney with two large examples of Callinectes Sapidus. She's not even holding them with her fingertips or anything. The female is "in sponge" which means she is ready to lay eggs. You can see the orangish eggs on her abdomen.
Minor Correction: Those are not Blue Crabs, they are Stone Crabs, 'cause DUH, they're not blue. Thanks to one of my readers for correcting me. interesting thing that I had forgotten which this reader also reminded me cannot harvest these crabs. You can, however, pull off one claw to eat and throw it back. If you catch one that is already minus a claw, you cannot pull off the other one. The claws regenerate, but still, it seems rather barbaric to me.

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This is our crabbing party. PPO is in the photo, nearest the camera. As you can see, it was an incredibly clear and beautiful day.

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This was our conveyance on our crabbing adventure, the "Callinectes Sapidus". She may not be sleek and beautiful, but she is sturdy and she got us where we needed to go.

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Freshly boiled crabs, steaming hot and ready to eat.

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A feast fit for a king.

Body Surfing

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YES! A good sized wave....

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Riding it in.

The View

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This is the view from the back of our villa. I was a little disappointed that we did not have an unobstructed view of the ocean, but it was okay. Surrounded by that clump of trees is the pool, and just beyond that, is the beach, which you get to by taking the path on the right.

The Accomodations

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Though I was bummed about the view, I have to say that otherwise, the villa more than met my expectations. It beat the hell out of the Motel 6. It was SO nice having a kitchen and a full sized washer and dryer. I can't even tell you how convenient and economical it was. No driving around in search of rock hard biscuits or rubbery scrambled eggs, and then paying twice as much for them as we would have at home.

Also, We got sand in everything, and I would have hated dragging all that wet, sandy, mildewed laundry home to wash it. I did a small load each day, and we were good to go. The best part? I had no laundry to do when I got home.

This place wasn't cheap, but it was worth every single penny. If you're looking to take a beach vacation and think this might be your place, email me and I'll be happy to share the contact information.

The boys have declared that we MUST go back next year. If we start saving now, maybe we can make it happen. I felt at home there.

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum, err...Grocery Store

I'd like to take a break from the vacation slides and tell you about something that I saw today. Because I think it's important that there are people like this in the world.

You may remember my post "Of Coyotes and Common Sense" where I discussed the growing problem of wildlife displaced by urban development. It's happening everywhere and we have to do something to halt the relentless urbanization of land that many species desperately need to thrive.

The honey bee crisis is a perfect example. Who knew the were so integral to our own survival as a species? We have lived in ignorance all this time, quietly reaping the benefits of the honey bee's industry and fortitude. Only now that their existence, and thus, our own, is threatened, do we appreciate them.

We have to find a way to live in harmony with our animal and insect brethren. Our survival depends upon it.

So anyway...

This afternoon, I turned out of our subdivision onto the very busy thoroughfare that borders it. Traffic whizzes down this road at all hours of the day and night. Immediately I could see that there was something going on in the road ahead, but I couldn't quite make out what exactly the trouble was until I pulled abreast of two men and a car stopped dead in the lane opposite mine.

The men were standing in the road protecting an unspeakably beautiful red-tailed hawk.

Their car was parked several feet behind them, blocking traffic. One man motioned traffic around and through, while the other one made sure nobody veered into the lane where the hawk stood. He shielded the bird with his body, arms and legs akimbo. He wore an expresion that was a mixture of sadness and determination.

I am not exaggerating when I say that these men were risking their lives to save this bird.

I've seen red tailed hawks before. They are plentiful in our neighborhood, but they are normally seen from afar, soaring high above the tree tops in search of succulent squirrels or other small prey. I've never been privileged to see a wild one this close. He was absolutely breathtaking, from his brilliant red tail feathers to the fierce and startling intelligence in his hooded eyes.

He stood majestically in the road with an air of calm authority. He was not afraid. And that's what was so frightening to me and, I presume, to the men who stood gaurd over him. There was a dead rabbit in the road, and apparently, he was determined to make a snack out of it, traffic, or no traffic.

I rolled down the window and asked if I could help. The man thanked me, but said that he had already called the Forestry Commission. They were on their way to assist in relocating the hawk. I wanted to hug that man for caring, but stupidly, I merely gave him a thumb's up and a tremulous smile. He smiled back, but his eyes were still sad.

When I came back, the hawk, and the men were gone, though the rabbit carcass was still in the road, now pulverized almost beyond recognition.

I wish I knew what happened. I wish I knew who they were. I wish I knew that they knew...what a wonderful thing they did.

I feel pretty certain that the hawk was saved. Thanks to two ordinary guys who took a moment to help a creature who couldn't help himself; who simply couldn't grasp the danger that he had put himself in by stepping into man's path and putting himself at man's mercy.

That makes me feel good and bad in a way I am somewhat at a loss to describe.

Did I say "ordinary" guys? No..I think extraordinary is more like it.

On behalf of the human race and all of animalkind...Thank You.

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Vacation Part II, Day II - "A Crabby Day"

Well, the fish story was worth an entire post, I think, but I've decided not to drag the vacation stuff out over the entire week. I was going to do one post about each day of our vacation, but who needs that? I'll only hit the highlights, so you won't have to listen to me whine about the asshole at the pool, or the crappy food at the Luaou.

Well...maybe I'll whine about the asshole a little bit. But not in this post.

The highlight of our vacation was definitely the shark fishing, but we also enjoyed crabbing a lot. That was actually our first excursion and it sort of set the tone for our whole trip.

We set out on a larg-ish boat with 20 other people and headed for one of the undeveloped and uninhabited barrier islands. Our Captain, Charles, was the strong silent type. But our Guide, a naturalist named Courtney, gave us a very informative and entertaining presentation on the 30 minute journey about Callinectes Sapidus; otherwise known as the Blue Crab.

Blue Crabs are strangely beautiful and they really are blue. Their shell is a deep, almost irridescent shade of indigo. Until you cook 'em, that is, whereupon they turn a rich, pearly pink, which is why most people don't realize that Blue Crabs are blue.

The boys were very impressed when Courtney plunged her hands into a tank filled with salt water and extracted two large examples of Callinectes Sapidus, unfazed by the vicious clacking of their ominous looking claws. Callinectes Sapidus can exert 13,000 pounds of pressure with those claws, which means, that they can quite easily amputate any digit that happens to find their way into them. From then on, she was da bomb in their eyes. Of course, it didn't hurt that she was blonde, tan and leggy, with straight white teeth and a baby doll voice.

When we beached, we were told to pair up, and each team was given a net, and a wooden spool wound with ordinary kitchen string. At the end of the string was a piece of raw poultry. Standing in ankle deep water, one person was to cast the chicken as far as they could, and then slowly, slowly, slowly wind it in, theoretically, luring a fat and greedy little crab to it's doom.

It sounds fairly simple, but in reality, it was very hard. Those crabs are fast, and they can move in any direction they please. Husband and Diminutive One got a nibble very quickly and Diminutive One was beside himself with excitement when he saw that it was a huge crab, enthusiastically scuttling after the chicken leg. He was so excited that he forgot he was the netter. By the time he thought to bring the net down, it was too late. The crab got away.

Crabbing is bascially a game of chance, because you don't actually know if you have a nibble or not. When the string has been wound in enough that you can barely see the bait, you just have to bring the net down and hope.

Diminutive One gave up pretty quickly and scurried off to explore the "bone yard" on the island. He also wanted to find a turtle's nest. It's mating season for the Loggerhead, and their nests are supposed to be abundant on the barrier islands. It is highly illegal, however, to tamper with them in any way, so he was given strict admonishment to look but not touch.

Pre-Pubescent One wasn't giving up though, so he and I crabbed for several hours. We caught one, teeny, tiny little crab. We had to throw him back, because the law stipulates that they must be five inches or larger to keep. But it was a thrill all the same. We had caught one, and that made us feel absurdly triumphant.

Nobody else had much luck either...many of the crabbers were kids of a similar age as Diminutive One, and just didn't have the patience to have much success. It didn't matter though. Everybody had a great time frolicking among the gentle waves, waving at the passing boats, and watching the waveriders and parasailers.

Luckily, we did not have to rely on our own skills to eat. After we had spent a couple hours on the island, Captain Charles and Guide Courtney pulled out several huge buckets teeming with somewhat annoyed blue crabs and put a pot of water to boil over a propane torch.

While we waited for the water to boil, Courtney demonstrated how to peel and eat a crab. This upset both the boys a great deal, as basically, you tear them limb from limb. They are dead, of course, but it's still rather barbaric. Leave it to my kids to anthropomorphize a dead crab.

They would not eat the crabs, but most of the others had no such scruples, and fell upon the feast like wolves upon a steaming carcass. For quite some time, all that could be heard was the cracking of shells, the smacking of lips, and the groans of contentment.

One little girl, who must have been all of six, ate crab like it was going out of style. She ripped off the apron, she tore out the "devil's fingers", (sort of like gills, will make you sick if you eat them) she slung out the "mustard" (digestive material), she broke those things right in half, and she sucked the meat right out of the carapace. She had crab meat and butter all over her face, but she was oblivious to the mess. She cracked me up going at those crabs, while my boys looked on with twin expressions of horror and distaste on their faces.

I wish I had taken a picture of her. She was precious and fierce and obviously enjoying herself to the fullest.

Oh, and yes...I did, at one point, run shrieking out of the water after a crab ran over my foot. I don't know was purely reactionary. I'm not really afraid of being in the ocean, and I'm not really afraid of crabs. But something about having something that you can't see run over part of you that you also can't see....I think my fight or flight instinct kicked in.

Courtney laughed at me, but not unkindly. I laughed too. I'm a city girl through and through I guess.

Finally, it was time to head home. We had the misfortune to be sitting in the front of the boat on the way back, and the rising winds caused the boat to skip up and down over the choppy water, peppering us with stinging drops of salt water. Husband and I huddled together with our heads down, trying to avoid being drenched, but the boys faced the deluge with mouths open, enjoying the novel taste and the fierce wind that buffeted their cheeks back from their teeth making them flap crazily.

It's these things that I will remember about our trip. Their excitement over simple joys, their abandon, their willingness to let go and have fun. I wish they would always live their lives that way.

I wish I would.

Sunday, July 15, 2007

Vacation Part I; Day III "Fish Story"

Oh my....I really wasn't trying to be sensational with the teaser about the shark in the boat, I was just trying to be funny. We had a great week, and nothing that happened was's just the kind of stuff that happens when a family of four goes on vacation. I call it...."Extreme Tourism".

The shark thing actually happened on the third day of our vacation, but since it seems to be generating the most interest, I'll start there.

We booked a shark and ray fishing tour, which departed shortly before sunset. It took us all around the barrier islands and finally to the "Shark Hole", which is not really "deep sea", but rather a deep inlet at the mouth of the intercoastal waterway where sharks come to rest at high tide. Sharks, as you may know, must be in constant motion to keep water moving through their gills. This is how they respirate. However, in this hole, the current moves very quickly as the tide comes in, and the sharks can hunker down and let the tide do their breathing for them.

It was a three hour tour (yes, I know) and the first several hours were very uneventful, due to the fact that the boys, in their impatience, insisted upon recasting over, and over, and over. Their rods were smaller and designed for less ferocious sea creatures, such as rays or lady fish, which are also abundant in the rich marsh grasses that border the barrier islands. We never did manage to catch any of those, though they did kill many a minnow as they were flung again and again into the water.

Just as the sun was setting, Husband's reel suddenly took off with a hiss and our guide (and Captain) thought that it was most likely a Bonnethead, which is a small species of shark in the same genus as the Hammerhead. The largest on record is a mere 29 lbs.

After about ten minutes of pitched battle, he was able to reel it in. It was indeed a Bonnethead, and weighed about 11 lbs. The boys were at once horrified and fascinated. It was only about 3 feet long, but husband had a hard time keeping a hold of it as it's muscular body whipped back and forth in agitation. After we had all marvelled at it, and run our hands along it's amazingly smooth skin, our guide removed the hook and tossed him back, as it's illegal to keep them.

We were all very excited and declared that even if that was the only thing we caught all night, it was worth it. No sooner had those words been spoken, than Husband's reel got another bite, this one bigger, and stronger, and much, much more determined. Husband fought with that thing for thirty minutes and it led him on a merry chase from one side of the boat to another. Finally, as it tired, he was able to reel it in. We were all shocked, as this shark was fully twice the size of the last one, and much more pissed off as well.

It was all that the two men could do to keep a hold of it. It thrashed about wildly, and it was somewhat awe inspiring to see the muscles rippling up and down it's sleek body. Sharks, I've realized, are actually quite beautiful creatures. This one was hooked quite badly and bleeding freely, (but not fatally) which upset the boys. The Guide cut the hook away as gently as he could given the manner in which it was flailing around, but he was determined to weigh it before they threw it back, since it is unusual to catch one that size.

That's when things got ugly.

The apparatus he had for weighing was just a little pincers that one can attach to a fin, or, with bigger fish, the lower jaw. Then you suspend the fish from it to determine its weight. Even with both of them holding the scale, and husband holding the tail with his other hand, one powerful but unbelievably graceful movement was all it took for the shark to break free and crash to the floor of the boat.

Unthinking, I hastily herded the boys to the other side of the boat, and Husband and the guide both took two giant steps in that direction as well to avoid being bludgeoned or bitten. A shark's hide will leave a burn on the skin, much like sandpaper and it can take days for the pain to subside. Husband got thwapped pretty good, but since he was fleeing, it was only a glancing blow.

Anway...the boat was not terribly big, and so, when five people abruptly absconded to one side, the boat listed to a degree that was most disconcerting. We were in no real danger of capsizing, but Pre-Pubescent One, who has a mild, but persistent fear of such, was overcome with panic for a moment. He quietly freaked out in a corner, while Diminutive One calmly shinnied up the mast and peered down interestedly.

Fortunately, they were able to subdue the shark before it injured itself or anybody else and tossed it quickly overboard.

Talk about excitement.

We got back to the villa at about 10:30, but the boys were so hyped up that it was hours before they were able to settle down and go to sleep. I think Husband was experiencing some kind of primal hunter gatherer adrenaline rush as well, and so, we sat on the deck talking, sipping wine, and listening to the waves for many hours.

The boys are still talking about it four days later.

This trip was not cheap. When I suggested it, I didn't realize that it was a private charter because it was described in much the same way as the other group tours in the resort brochure. Husband booked it, so I had no idea how much it had cost until we were underway. I nearly had a heart attack when I found out and I scolded Husband for being so extravagant.

Husband reasoned that we might not be able to take another trip like this for quite some time, and so, he determined that we would pull out all the stops. I can't fault his logic. He wanted the trip to be something to remember.

And you know what? He was right. It was worth every damn penny. My kids will remember this trip for the rest of their lives and you can't really put a price on memories like that.

So there's our fish story.

As a rule, I do not post pictures of myself or my husband, and only occasionally my children. But I'll see if there's one of the shark that I can crop the people out of. We took a trillion and a half pictures, and I haven't had the energy to even think about downloading them yet, much less categorizing and titling all of them.

Weather's Here, Wish You Were Beautiful

That line makes me laugh, and I swear I heard it about a million times this week.(Bonus points to anyone who can name the song that line came from)

So, we're back. That's good....and bad. We were loathe to leave our island paradise, but it feels good to be sitting in my own beloved, ugly teal grean recliner and it will feel amazingly good to sleep in my own bed tonight.

We are tired and bedraggled, we have sand in places that sand just doesn't belong, and we are much, much poorer. But we are also relaxed and happy. The van still needs to be unloaded and suitcases unpacked, so I'll save the "Come look at my vacation slides" post for tomorrow. But I'll throw out a few things we learned this week for you.

1. About 4 seconds after one decides that traffic has thinned enough to activate the cruise control, another driver will abruptly decide to travel in front of you in your lane at approximately 5 miles less than your vehicle's designated speed.

2. In resort speak, "Calypso Band" means a dude with a guitar covering Jimmy Buffet songs. Not that there's anything wrong with that, but once you've seen one Jimmy Buffet enthusiast, you've seen them all.

3. One should not wear expensive sunglasses to frolic in the surf at high tide. Ditto hair clips and/or rubber bands, jewelry, and any clothing that depends upon elastic to keep it where it belongs.

4. If one lounges about in a bathing suit for hours at a time, effectively marinating one's genitals in a broth of fish feces, decaying vegetable matter, and assorted varieties of silt, sand and could end up with a nasty UTI; one which makes the island doctor raise her eyebrows and inquire about one's sexual proclivities.

5. The fastest way to empty a crowded pool is to have one's children bleed into it.

6. If, on a deep sea fishing excursion, one's husband chances to catch a sizeable bonnet head shark...and if, perchance, one's husband drops said shark in the boat while trying to weigh it (19 lbs.) it is generally not a good idea if ALL the other passengers simultaneously flee to the side of the boat opposite the shark.

7. It is also generally NOT a good idea to let one's children watch JAWS the night before going on such an excursion.

8. If, while crabbing in ankle deep water, one shrieks and then bolts for the shore with arms and legs flailing out to either side in such a manner as to chance as little contact with the water as possible until safely on dry land.....the guides and any locals who happen to be watching, will snicker openly and unapologetically; as will one's husband and children.

9. Nine year olds are FAR too mature to enjoy a pirate cruise, particularly if they have twelve year old brothers who declare the entire concept "retarded".

10. They will, however, look on wistfully, while effecting extreme disdain.

11. Apparently, there is some sort of "Tourists Modesty Rule" that stipulates the following: The further one ventures from one's home, the less modesty one is required to demonstrate. It seems that the bikini is a remarkably versatile garment.

12. Every single restaurant in the entire world serves chicken nuggets. However, the French interpretation of the American hot dog will be treated with suspicion and scorn.

And finally....A spectacular summer sunset over the water, a warm tropical breeze rippling through one's hair, the taste of salt on one's lips, the feel of damp sand beneath one's feet, the sight of one's children being buoyed by ocean waves while wearing expressions of transcendental contentment, and the sound of the surf as one drifts off to sleep can make all of the above seem terribly, terribly insignificant.

They are truly a balm for the soul; a sultry amnesiac that erases the world beyond the island's borders and all the cares that come with it.




Also, a big thanks to Izzy for awarding me a Just Post award for my posts "The Color of Impetus is Teal Green" and "Beauty Interrupted". I wasn't here to thank her for her kind acknowledgement so I will take the opportunity to do so now. I love these Just Post awards. They make me feel like we are not so small, or insignificant, or powerless. Please take the time to go read all the recipients at One Plus Two. There are some amazing people and some amazing stories. And a big thanks to Jen and Jessica for bringing these stories to us.

Saturday, July 07, 2007

Life's A Beach, And Then You Blog

Or don't blog, as the case may be.

A couple months ago, Husband came home looking very forlorn. He said, dramatically "Well, I just lost my job."

After I regained consciousness, he explained that the company that owns the small but lucrative dot com, for which he slaves his life away works, decided to simply walk away from the company and write off the loss. It had been up for sale for several years, but they had been unable to garner much interest. The few offers they had were ridiculously lowball.

We were in a weird sort of limbo during that time, never really knowing what was going to happen, but not terribly concerned. We had already been through one sale, and it wasn't too traumatic.

But this....this was catastrophe. I don't work, so no other income to fall back on. We have some savings, but it is supposed to be for retirement and the boys' college. I started having flash forwards to my adult children working as fry cooks because we had squandered their college tuition, and myself and husband surviving on dog food and soda crackers in our old age.

This was, of course, exactly the reaction Husband was hoping for. What an asshole jokester.

As it turns out, the man who originally started the company (and then sold it for a buttload of money) decided to acquire the assets and take the helm once again. There would be little disruption in the regular flow of things, except that we would be without healthcare for a month while he researched various options, and we would have to rollover Husband's 401k into an IRA.

So, Husband had lost his job, but he hadn't lost his job.

After I cleaned up the blood and fixed him an ice pack, I listened calmly as he relayed the details.

The parent company was required to pay each employee a severance. Apparently, this is stipulated by law in this type of situation.

Since Husband has been working for this company for 8 years, we got a very nice little sum. Basically, he was handed a wad of cash, given a hearty handshake, and that was that. Life went on.

This windfall of ours was terribly tempting. There are SO many things that we could have spent it on without even breaking a sweat. But in the end, we decided to be responsible and put it into a relatively safe investement vehicle with a modest but satisfactory yield and let it accrue some interest for our retirement, which, we are realizing, is not so far away as it once seemed.

We are however, using some of it to treat ourselves to one hell of a vacation; the likes of which we will not likely be able to afford for many years to come.

For 8 days and 7 nights, we will be staying at an incredible island resort with every amenity you could ever think of, where we have rented a two bedroom villa that opens directly onto a private (to the resort) and pristine white sand beach. We are going to fish and crab and explore. We are going to sail the open seas on a "genuine" pirate ship. We are going to laze about on the beach. We are going to visit our favorite French restaurant, where we will drink good wine and listen to live jazz music.

Above all, we will relaxe. We will forget about traffic, smog, neighbors, HOAs, work and bills.

Which brings me (the long, circuitous route) to the point of this post.

During our vacation, I am going to be completely unplugged. The villa offers wireless internet, but I am not going to succumb to its allure. I am not even going to bring my laptop along.

It's not just a gift to my family, but a gift to myself as well.

See you on the flip side, with a smile and a tan.

Thursday, July 05, 2007

Blogger, Thy Name is Bigot

The other night when I was talking to Husband about my decision to volunteer, he expressed some concern about the location of the shelter I had chosen.

"Baby, that's way down on Peachtree, are you sure you want to drive all that way? There's got to be someplace closer."

"Well, there's Elizabeth House in Marietta, but it's run by Must Ministries."


"Ministries. Meaning...Christians."

"Why do you always say it like that?"

"Like what??"

"Christians." he mimicked.

"I don't always say it like that."

"Yes you do. You know....most Christians are very nice people."

I know that. I do. I also know that it's unfair to categorize them all as zealots and bible thumpers, hypocrites and finger pointers. But I can't help it.

It's true that I have been privileged to meet some wonderful Christian people. People who live as they believe, who do not judge, who subscribe whole heartedly to the gospel of live and let live. They are people who do not let religious doctrine eclipse their humanity.

But the bad Christians that have crossed my life path have been SO spectacularly bad, that they have bred an inherent dread and distrust in me.

Most of this happened during my formative years, but I continue to encounter people that underscore those feelings and feed my aversion, even as I gain a growing awareness that the lack of a spiritual belief system is having an impact on my life.

So I struggle.

Is this fair of me? No. It isn't. It's no better than discriminating against someone because of the color of their skin, or the size of their body, or the language they speak.

I consider myself a very forward thinking and accepting person. I am a proponent of Gay Marriage and Civil Rights. I am vehemently Pro-Choice and I support seperation of church and state. I don't know if I'm a true liberal, only because I eschew politics and decline to ally myself to any one political party, but I do think I am more openminded than the average Southerner.

So it's with no small sense of shame that I admit to myself, that I am a bigot.

And I don't know what to do about it.


I hear it works for some people.

Tuesday, July 03, 2007


Lucy's Mom over at Musings From The Left Coast has tagged me for the eight things meme. I know people think I sneer at memes, and truthfully, they are not usually my thing. But I don't mind doing them now and then. And, as it turns out, this particular meme-ing is fortuitous.

We are getting ready to go to the beach, and two kids require an incredible lot of stuff to just exist for one week. They really don't need more stuff than they do at home...the problem is that now I have to wash it, pack it and trasnport it. Our accomodations include a full kitchen. This was supposed to save us money, and it will, but it also means I have to plan, purchase and transport a week's worth of meals as well.

Frozen Pizza and Poptarts are on the food pyramid right?

And say...did you ever think it would be next to impossible to find a rash gaurd shirt for a twelve year old boy in the color of his choice in July? In the South? For under $40? Well it is is.

I bought one for Diminutive One at the beginning of the summer. He has inherited my ridiculously pale skin, and burns terribly. Plus, he has been feeling a little self-conscious about his spare tire. The shirt was the perfect solution, and I got one at Target for $12.99.

Why did I not purchase one for Pre-Pubescent One? Well, you see, unless a garment fits his definition of cool, it will languish in his drawer unworn. Gone are the days that I could shop for him and put clothing into his wardrobe rotation sight unseen. He has decided, however, that wearing a rash guard is much cooler than having your Mom chase you around with sunscreen.

Now of course, there are none to be found in his size at any brick and mortar establishments within a 40 mile radius. I find them in abundance online. But you see, Pre-Pubescent One is 5' 3" tall and weighs 115 lbs., so he needs an adult small in most brands. And most of the adult rash gaurds sell for $50 or more. Ree. Dick. U. Lous.

I finally found one on ebay, and the seller graciously agreed to send it Priority Mail, so all is well. But I have spent an inordinate amount of time trying to find this stupid thing. I still have to do my meal planning, buy groceries, do laundry and pack. Oh yes, and purchase a fuckton of cat litter and cat food. And repaint my chipped toe nails. And figure out how to cram everything into the van.

Aaaaaaaanyway, the upshot of all this is that I am not really in any frame of mind to write anything deep or clever.

So a meme it is! Thanks Lucy's Mom.

Eight things about me (if you're still conscious after that enormously boring diatribe about the minutiae of my life):

1. I am a bottle redhead, and have been since I was 15. People are surprised when they find out I color my hair. I have green eyes, and very pale freckled skin, so people assume I am a natural redhead. My mother has been coloring her hair a similar shade for probably twice as long as I have been alive, and looks equally natural, which lends credibility to this assumption. It's kind of cool.

2. I read Ivanhoe one summer when I was 11. I took me a hell of a long time, and I got to where I kept a dictionary beside me while I was reading. But I didn't care. It never occurred to me not to read it. The language was difficult to understand, but I found that I could extrapolate meaning from context well enough to slog through particularly difficult sections. I identified strongly with Rebecca (I was enraged when Ivanhoe married Lady Rowena instead of Rebecca) and I felt terribly sorry for the way Jews were treated.

Later, after school had started, I had to write a report about what I read over the summer. I was scolded for wasting my summer reading something that I couldn't possibly understand. I have forgotten much of it, and I would like to read it again, but I wonder if it would be as easy for me as an adult to simply suspend all that with which I am familiar, and embrace the story, the language and the charachters, flawed though they are. I think it was actually easier for me as a child.

3. My Grandfather divorced my Grandmother shortly before he left for WWII. While in Germany, he married a woman whom he rescued from Auschwitz. She was not Jewish, but she was a Jewish sympathizer. Her brothers, who were very high ranking SS Officers, turned her in. Her name was Herta, and she was a teeny tiny bird of a woman with a strong German accent and a tattoo on her wrist. They had two boys; my Father's half brothers. My Grandfather witnessed horrors that most of us only read about. He has Nazi artifacts that are both fascinating and revolting. He died recently and left several of them to my father. I have seen some of them, but I have not seen any of the film footage he took. I don't think I want to. I imagine that my half-Uncle, who is a somewhat well-known photo journalist, has them now. All my life I wanted to ask Herta about the concentration camps, but I wasn't allowed to speak to her of it. She died a couple years ago. I hope she is at peace.

4. I am a small person (5'4") and so is husband (5'10") AMENDED FOR DOODADDY: 5'10" is not "small" but rather, "not big".... but we grow big babies. My first child was born at 35 weeks. They had an entire neo-natal team standing by, ready to deliver life saving measures. I was in labor over 24 hours, and when at last he made his appearance, it was very anti-climactic. Instead of the tiny, sickly baby they expected, he was 5lbs 14oz., 21 inches long, and screaming loudly. The doctor quipped that although he doesn't usually recommend babies be born at 35 weeks, I should be grateful he was not full term. She estimated that PPO could have weighed ten pounds or more. For a while there was some speculation that they had miscalculated his due date (I have very erratic cycles due to a mild case of PCOS) but when Diminutive One was born the day before his due date weighing 9lbs 5oz, they realized I just grow 'em big.

5. I am addicted to anything that is vanilla scented, or any variant thereof. I adore Downy Vanilla Lavendar laundry detergent, and I use all the producst available in that scent. I love Bath and Body works Warm Vanilla Sugar products. I have them all. I burn tarts instead of scented candles (try them, they are so much more scent intensive) and the woman I purchase them from makes a dupe of both the Downey Vanilla Lavendar scent and the B&BW Warm Vanilla Sugar. I buy them in bulk. I spray my sheets with vanilla linen spray to freshen them between washings. Comptoir Sud makes several Vanilla parfumes and I am absolutely dying to get my hands, er, nose on one.

6. I always thought I would be a career woman. I would have a fantastically glamorous job at an advertising agency and I would make tons of money and live in a NEW house, instead of an old monstrosity like the one my parents own. (now I think their home is gorgeous and loaded with character and long for one similar). I would drive a fast car, wear high heels every day, and get my nails done. I would marry someday and have kids, but I wouldn't give up my job. Funny how life turns out. But strangely...though I do have dark and sinister days when I wonder why I have spent the best years of my life wiping bottoms and noses...I am okay with where I am.

7. Wow, umm...I'm really not that interesting. Oh! Here's another thing...I am a complete and total product whore. I love me some products. Hair products, face products, body products, foot products...I adore them all. My favorite products are Bare Escentual Mineral Foundation, my new Burberry Classic perfume, Burt's Bees Milk and Honey Lotion, Frederic Fekkai glossing cream (EXPENSIVE, but totally worth it) and OPI nail polish, which I only use on my toes. My favorite OPI color is "Don't BE Koi With Me", which is an outrageously bright coral.

8. Our wedding 14 years ago was an absolute DISASTER. Think of the worst wedding story you ever heard, and then multiply it times 100. It would take forever to write about everything that happened, but the worst thing is that the wrong dress was delivered to me. It was draped in a very complicated manner on several hangers and swathed in tissue paper to prevent creasing. I was sternly instructed not to unwrap it until I was ready to put it on. So I didn't.

When I unwrapped it at the church, one of my bridesmaids commented on the fact that a rose on the rear bustle had been replaced with a bow. Bows are so not my style and my heart sunk. It was not my dress. It was not even finished. It was a size 20 and I was a size 10 at the time. There was no way it would make do. My mother called the bridal shop and we found out that the seamstress had left the country and that my dress was locked inside her home. My mother demanded that they get a dress, any dress to the church within the hour, or she would sue them for every penny we spent on the wedding. That was the first and only time I ever heard my mother use the F word. Ever.

They delivered the store demo dress. It was the same as my dress, but it was too big in the bust, far too long, had no bustle stays and was grubby at the wrists. But it was a dress. I wore it down the aisle and nearly fell on my face when I tripped over the hem. Thank goodness for my father, who had a vice grip on my arm due to the fact that I had drunk a little more than was wise in all the panic.

I did eventually get my own dress. So now I have a ridiculously expensive (but incredibly beautiful) wedding dress that I didn't pay for because they refunded every penny, that has never been worn. My cake didn't show up either. I still don't know what happened to it. I think my mother does, but she wouldn't tell me that night. The wedding coordinator ran out to get a cake from Publix. It had orange frosting. It was supposed to be coral. It was extraordinarily ugly.

That's it, I think.

Now I gotta go shovel out my van so I can shove more stuff into it. Wish me luck.

AMENDED AGAIN: Because I realized I didn't tag anybody and to apologize for my verbosity. I realize the whole idea of a meme is to be short and sweet, but that's never really been my strong suit.

TAGGING: DooDaddy, Kirdy, Kinda Like a Hippy, Nina and Christine.