Saturday, October 31, 2009

Day 6: For the Love of Coach

I cannot lie...some of us in my family are a bit on the whore-for-a-name-brand side of things. Exhibit A would be my cousin, whom we shall call Mr. Darcy (not for his dashing good looks or easy charm, but for his unexplainable mood swings brought on by random events). Mr. Darcy LOVES Ralph Lauren. Well, at least he did. I think after college he graduated to BMW and Barney's, but in his youth, he was a slut for a man on a horse wielding a polo stick. For his mother, it did make Christmas shopping for him easier - only one gift to buy because he only wanted Polo...and buying Polo meant only buying one Polo item.

For my other cousin, formerly referred to as Miss was Abercrombie and Fitch. As she somehow inherited the one skinny gene in our pool, she got to flaunt it in sweaters that ended at her belly button and skirts that I once mistook for halter tops. She also made Christmas shopping easy - one stop at the A&F store and we were on our way to the caramel corn kiosk (which could also have something to do with why we did not have Fitch-friendly hips).

My mother, on the other hand, has always preferred the luxury of Lands' End. She says that their clothing lasts forever and is worth the price...which is probably true. I have Lands' End fleeces from high school that still hold a place amongst the temporary clothing of Rue 21 and Lerner. (When I was in college, I bought my sorority girl clubbing uniform...short black skirts and strappy tank tops...from Rue 21 because it was just cheap enough to be "disposable" should something unsightly happen in the back of a Honda.) So, I can appreciate Lands' End for their down vests that keep everything warm in the early days of November and their geeky red plaid-lined jeans that knock the chill off in the middle of February. But still, Mom has become a victim to the tag.

As for me, I have worn question marks on my butt and embroidered jockeys on my chest. My alphabet is not "A, B, C" but "DKNY" and "NYC"...all made worse by the arrival of outlet malls and the frequenting of consignment stores, the Goodwill in Hartland and TJ Maxx. Now, I can have what I crave most at a fraction of the cost. My most fond memories of high school include road trips to the Gap/Banana Republic/Old Navy outlet (yes, you may refer to it as the holy trinity if the spirit moves you) for basement bargains on slightly irregular shirts, jeans, and dresses. I may have had seams running askew and uneven sleeves, but my tag said "Gap" and nobody can take that away from me. All of the irregular clothes have now gone by the wayside, schlepped off to Goodwill for some other college freshman to stumble across in victory. These days, I sit and wait for Lexington's upper eschelon to tire of their Ann Taylor Loft cardigans and Tommy jeans. I wait for them to pop up in my favorite little consignment store with a single-digit price tag attached. And I anticipate trips to the beach where, inevitably, there is an outlet mall erected for those who prefer not to worship the sun gods.

There is just such one of these outlet malls in Destin. Silver Sands outlet mall has stores like Polo who mark an item 10% off and call it a "blowout sale" and then there are stores like Coach, where a purse that was originally priced at over $400 can now be yours for just ONE crisp Ben Franklin. And that is how the Coach madness began. Miss Scarlett brought us the news of a clearance rack at Coach that sent us all scurrying for our mastercards and car keys. In total, we as a family now own 5 new Coach purses, of varying sizes and colors. In a deal I made with the devil (AKA my mother) I will have to wait until Christmas eve to "unwrap" my hot pink pleasure...but it is so worth the wait. While everyone else will be lamenting over the stain they can't clean or the new crack in the leather strap, mine will be shiny and new and in sublime condition to make its debut. And I have a perfect, new American Eagle sweater with which to pair it!

Friday, October 23, 2009

Day 4: You've Got Pie in Your Eye

There is, in Seaside, a lovely little jewelry store called Magpies. When we visited in July, I sauntered in, looking for innovative ideas to"borrow" for Daisy & Elm, LLC. (I have almost gotten to the point where I can look at a piece of jewelry and determine if I will be able to replicate it and if so, how. I know that I'm supposed to be a "creative genius" but I believe that there are very few completely original ideas in the world. So, I "shop around" and think about what I have in my tackle box and go from there). Magpies is what we would consider an "upscale jewelry store" step below Kay Jeweler's and about 12 stories above my fledgling business...but it never hurts to look, handle and inspect without the sales lady realizing your intentions. I did this successfully in July and as we just happened to be biking through the neighborhood, we decided to stop in. The scene went like this:

Setting: When Anna and I walk in, there are 2 ladies (I hate to be stereotypical and judgmental since I gave all of that up for Lent last year, but I want you to get the picture) who are fresh off the plantation and looking to buy an amply brimmed hat in which to take their morning sun. These women jangle with pure gold bracelets...the only class of society who still buys gold...and dollar signs hurl from their lips when they sneeze. Who else would go into a jewelry store, looking for a hat? It's like going to Tiffany's to buy a quart of milk.

Saleslady: Oh (and "Oh" has about 14 syllables) I just love (12 syllables) these hats! We just got them in. Aren't they fabulous (123 syllables)??
Rich Bit...oh sorry...customer: Yes, it will be perfect for the beach. I only have a baseball hat with me and I almost wore it today!
Saleslady: Oh NO. I would never wear a baseball hat....(followed by what I can only assume is cackling in its natural habitat).
Customer: Oh, I know. It's awful. This is much nicer.
Saleslady:'s MUCH more age-appropriate. Baseball hats are just not age-appropriate.

At this point, I look over at Anna. I only glimpse the back of her, though, as she and her age-inappropriate baseball hat flee the store. And I am close on her heels.

So, here's the lesson, boys and girls: we may not look like much when we've been biking 8 miles and weathered a monsoon from a beach boardwalk just hours earlier...but we all have credit cards. And we all have money in the bank to back those credit cards. So, if you own an "upscale" store in a "downturned" economy, it is my advice to you to keep your opinions to yourself. You can talk about the weather, you can talk about what great seafood you have in your little community, but you cannot comment on the fashion crisis of the baby-boomer generation. Because we have no problem spending our money elsewhere. And I have no problem frequenting your store only to get ideas for my own profit. You may see my face, but you will never see the inside of my wallet.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Day One: The Realization

Gas for trip to family beach vacation: $200
Groceries for family beach vacation: $150
Internet access for family beach vacation: $25 per week per computer
Realizing that you have rented one of 3 houses in the state of Florida that do not offer free Wi-Fi with the rental property....

And that is how the week started...

If you have forgotten (or somehow are unaware) of how my family consumes broadband like it's a steak the Friday after Lent, simply scroll back in the posts to last Thanksgiving. We have very nearly lost the art of conversation (although those not in my family would say that we can converse just fine, often too frequently and too loudly) and now simply Facebook each other...while sitting 2 feet away. I have been known to text my husband to bring me another glass of wine when he got up to go to the bathroom. My aunt has been known to Facebook her daughter-in-law while they sat on the same loveseat. So, obviously we have a bit of an internet addiction. After we had unpacked and began to scout a place for dinner on the first night, Mom turned to me and said "use that Urban Spoon app on your i-pod to find us something" (because otherwise it was going to be Carraba's and I only have one steadfast rule on vacation...I will not eat somewhere that is also less than 10 miles from my house). So, I did the fancy-shake-to-find-us-something-with-succulent-crab-and-shrimp-dripping-in-butter-thing, but instead I got "internet connection not found." Uh. What?? Surely not. So, I searched the settings. I got 5 different possible Wi-Fi connections...all of them password-protected. My head began to spin as I slowly grasped the meaning of it all...we had rented a house with no Wi-Fi...for seven days.

My mom, aunt, cousin and I were so intent on finding the perfect house for our family beach vacation that we started our search in July. Yes, we spent every evening of our vacation searching for our next vacation house. We quickly recognized two things: a) finding a house with the right bedroom configuration (2 the sisters didn't have to mud wrestle for the lone king bed although that could have been entertaining...and at least 2, and preferably 3 queen beds and a set of bunks) was going to be tricky and b) while a picture may be worth 1000 words, sometimes they are not the most accurate 1000 words for what that house really looks like in the light of day. So, every night we searched. We sat with our laptops (and our free Wi-Fi) and searched every house on every rental agency's website, comparing, contrasting, and confusing. We tossed around cottage names like Serenity Path and Sandy Shores. My aunt suggested Anchors Away. a charming little house with a patriotic bedroom that screamed "If you love your country, you will pay $3500/week for me." But in the end, after weeks (and yes, I mean weeks...I know sometimes I can be a little melodramatic, but I do mean weeks) of searching for The One, we decided on Banana Cabana. It was close to the beach, was decorated in bright, cheery, stereotypical beach colors and had the right beds for the queens and their princesses. No one thought to check for free Wi-Fi. No one. We all sat in the kitchen Sunday morning and looked at each other, over our toast and coffee and laptops with error messages and wondered how it could be. How had we missed such a necessity? It was like renting a house and forgetting to ask if it came with a front door.

I'm proud of Neal. He was not the first to break down and purchase the week's subscription to Wi-Fi. He wasn't even the second. But he was the third...and I followed right behind him. Yes, we as a couple are incapable of sharing a computer...even for a week. I knew that we were at a crossroads: we could pay the $50 and have a relaxing, enjoyable week at the beach or we could pay $25 and Neal could sleep on the bottom bunk. It was the best $25 I've ever spent.

It did open my eyes to one fact: we are an internet society with routines that revolve around (or even defined by) being online. Neal likes to drink his coffee and read the NY Times every morning. About the same time, I like to drink my coffee and read blogs. Mom wants to check her email and Aunt B is looking at the weather to determine her golfing schedule. We were able to do all of that...and it only cost us $75.00. But I'm pretty sure our next family beach vacation house will have free Wi-Fi...even if my cousin has to share a bunk with my husband and my mom and I are splitting a pull-out couch.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Returning to the scene

We just returned from a week in Destin...and when I say "we"...I mean the immediate 5 families on my mother's side. Yes, as you can imagine, the wait staff loved to see us coming in the door (especially with 3 small children). But I never blog about where I am when I am not at home (because my dad and my husband are apparently limitless in their paranoia...oddly, they don't seem all that concerned when I'm a sitting duck at home, just waiting for someone to bust in and attack me in my owl pj's). Anyway, 4 families stayed in the Banana Cabana (more on that little "gem" of a house later) and the other stayed in the Edgewater condos. Something happens when you combine 2 boys and 1 girl, all between the ages of 4 and 7...absolute and catastrophic mayhem, which my husband instigates constantly (unless of course he has to spend the night with the 3 of them and then he wants to draw and read...instead of knocking the holy living hell out of each other with couch cushions. But I'm pretty sure my cousins will be calling my husband "Puddin' Tane"-from the first night's fiasco-for the rest of his life).

I say that we were "returning to the scene" because Destin was the destination for our Mother-Daughter trip in July. And for me, it was difficult to go back. That trip simply exuded baby. "Oh my pants won't even zip!" and off we went to drop a couple hundred dollars at Motherhood Maternity. "Oh baby needs some clothes!" and in came my cousins with bags from Gymboree. "Oh where are we going for dinner tonight? I've already had my week's ration of seafood" and off we went in search of pasta. Mom and I sat on the couch with the fetal heartbeat doppler and listened to baby's heartbeat (or at least we thought it was...come to find out we were actually listening to mine. Good news: I have the steadiest heartbeat I've ever heard). So to come back just 3 months later, and just a month after losing Shep, it was bittersweet. Neal and I had the only bedroom with a balcony. When I heard we had a balcony and ocean views, I anticipated margaritas and a book as I watched the sun set over the ocean. I thought about running through the house announcing "party on the Miller patio!" and pouring sangria for any member of the family who dared the climb to our 3rd floor roost. But when I walked out on that first night and was greeted by the glow of the Silver Sands Outlet Mall (and in my mind the neon lights of Motherhood Maternity), I sat down in the adirondack chair and cried. And that was the last time we used the balcony. I thought about asking if anyone wanted to trade, but I thought "this too will pass." But it never did...although good thing we didn't trade with my cousin as she woke up with a face full of shower water from the 3rd floor bathroom. I will take a luminous outlet mall over dreams of wetting the bed any day.

But we had a good week...I had a good week. Yes, I got sad but then I opened a bottle of pinot. Sometimes I would think back but then I opened a bottle of moscato...or a Corona...or a bottle of chardonnay. And although it sounds like I need an intervention, when in a tough spot, it never hurts to lubricate the situation a little with grapes and barley. We went boating and laid in the sun and ate fantastic seafood. We played Wii bowling and ran next to the beach and shopped until my mastercard let out a heavy sigh and then collapsed. It was a good week. And the next several blog posts will be dedicated to last week, seeing as I could not post them while we were there, as much as I wanted to. So, crack open a Corona, play a little Let's Get Drunk and Screw and sprinkle some brown sugar between your toes. Off to the Sunshine State we go....

Friday, October 16, 2009

The Havoc of a Honeybee

So, 3 weeks ago we went camping. Actually, we went hiking and happened to camp while we were there. I say that because I do not camp for the sheer ecstasy of cooking food prepared over a fire that I had to build from sticks found in the woods and sleeping on the ground while critters scratch around on the other side of a thin nylon screen. I camp because I enjoy hiking and the closest place to really hike around here is Red River Gorge, about an hour away. It is not an unreasonable request to get up in the morning and drive to the gorge (by way of Starbucks), hike a 6-mile trail, and drive home (by way of Chick-Fil-A)....but who wants to do that?? By the time you get home, you're tired, you stink and inevitably, there is cat vomit to clean. So...we camp.

We were about 15 minutes into a 7-mile trail that day when I heard buzzing in my right ear. My right hand was otherwise occupied with my walking stick (yes, I use a walking stick in places other than Mt. Rainier. Shut up...) so I batted at the buzz with my left hand. It never occurred to me not to swat at it because 99% of the time it's the hum of those tiny gnats that like to fly in the breeze-free zone of your ear canal. Unfortunately, that's only 99% of the time. This was that 1%. And this is what followed....

Me: AGHGHGHGH!!! Ouch...(and then a string of words that would make Andrew Dice Clay stop and say "oh damn, I wish I had thought of that combination.")
Neal: WHAT??
Me: Stung! I've been stung!! (I'm clutching my left index finger and watching as the stinger, projecting from just above the knuckle, continues to sort of wiggle with its final injection).
Neal: OK, here...let me pull it out...(and then a chorus of groans, moans and exclamations of "get it out! It hurts! Get it out!!" It absolutely sounded like I was, as he says in The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Nighttime, "doing the sex" with John Holmes. But he did manage to pull the stinger out and we were on our way).

A few minutes later...
Me: I think there's something still in there...Can you get it?
Neal: Where?
Me: Right looks like a splinter, but it's not...
Neal: Hmm...well, I can't get a hold of it. (So, he and I both started pushing on it like you would a splinter - press on the part that's buried in the flesh and hope to see it start to wiggle out).
Me: Oh! Oh! You got it! Yay. (Followed by 2 weeks of oh crap.....BECAUSE...apparently, when you are stung, you never want to push on the stinger as if it were a splinter because that actually injects more poison into the skin. But we did not know that at the time. We didn't even have a first aid kit with us. We just had my Girl Scout memories and Neal's Army experience, which did not serve either one of us very well in the moment).

At any rate, it burned (in the joint) for the entire night (which means that apparently we did not bring enough wine) and then itched until...2 days ago. Yes, 2 days ago. That is almost 3 weeks of itching and burning - alleviated only by some Calamine lotion (although someone suggested I pack on meat tenderizer. Um, yeah, no. No reason to tempt a bear...or my husband, hungry and home from work). Anyway, I have one tiny pinprick to remind me of the havoc created by one of God's tiniest creatures on one of God's top-of-the-food-chain creatures. That 1% has to happen sometime....

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Dream a Little Dream

In case you were wondering what you get when you consume blackberry hot sake, white fish sushi, 3 glasses of pinot grigio and birthday cake with buttercream icing all in one evening, I'm about to tell you (and p.s. it is not a Wii-Fit that exclaims your weight gain because Neal and I have been working out like crazy people). First, a little background:

1) Furosemide is a drug used in the treatment of edema and congestive heart failure. It comes in pill form, but when I worked in the hospital pharmacy, we stocked it in tiny little vials for the nurses who could not get a pill down a patient. The vials are about the size of your last pinkie knuckle, out to your nail (depending on how long your nail is. If your pinkie nail is long enough to make the DEA look at you twice, then we're not talking about your nail.)

2) In the catholic church at home, it is not uncommon to see parents feeding the kids breakfast. I have seen everything from Cheerio's out of a baggie to just short of bringing a camping stove to scramble up some eggs. And yes, this all occurs during mass.

3) If you are not familiar with the catholic mass, there are 3 readings followed by Responsorial Psalms. Really, you just need to know that the deacon reads a scripture and then we, lead by the choir, sing a little song about it.

4) My aunt is a teacher. That means she quiet and demure. If she has an opinion, she will speak it. Granted, it is not to the extreme of my dream, but perhaps this is what I fear someday?

Setting: A catholic church in Lexington. It is not the one I usually attend but one much Christ the King Cathedral. And it is not a morning mass but maybe one in the evening - like the Saturday 5:30 pm service. My aunt and her husband, her son and his wife (who is also catholic) and their 2 sons, and Neal and I are all there...sitting about the 2nd row from the front. All is well until there is some commotion about 2 rows back.

Suddenly, during one of the Responsorial Psalms, my aunt began singing about the noise behind us. (Oh and the Responsorial Psalms generally only have about a 5-note range through the whole song so keep that in mind when you're envisioning this scene).

Auntie: This boy is back here.. (imagine the last syllable of each line drawn out for like 5 seconds)
And he is stacking his medicine...
And those vials should not be stacked like that...
Furosemide is very reactive...
Plus, children should not be eating in church...
(at this point, a couple of families get up to leave)
What are these parents thinking?...
This is not the breakfast table but a church. Can't you do something...
(and this is where everyone has stopped trying to sing over her and just shut up to let her of. And of course, more families are leaving. She continues this way until every family has left - including the one about which she was singing - and it is only we who remain).

Having no one left to hear mass, the priest turned and walked straight out the side doors, to his chambers, followed by the deacon and alter boys. Auntie then turned to look at me and said "what? I didn't do anything wrong." Having never been to that church before, I then spent the better part of the next 30 minutes trying to figure out exactly where the priest's chambers were so I could apologize...while the family waited in the car. When I finally found him, he was in bed (a Murphy bed that unfolded from a utility closet) with the Swine Flu. And then I woke up.

So, remember boys and girls...sake+pinot+sushi+buttercream = a dream where you give the priest of a major and popular cathedral the Swine Flu. And can you really sleep with that on your conscious??

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Mii and the Wii

My Wii-Fit will tell you, as it did me, that when I turned it on yesterday, I had not used it in 136 days. And then it copped a bit of a smug attitude and said, "Well, look who it is! Welcome back, Ally!" (kind of like my mom does when she hasn't talked to me for a few days...also not really appreciated). So, I nodded in agreement, that yes, it has been awhile, but perhaps we should get the unpleasantries over with and move forward. It wanted to weigh me, which I did not want to do, but I thought it will be be a good yeah OK. It asked for the weight of my clothes, giving me 3 options: light (0-2 lbs), heavy (3-5 lbs) and other (I have no idea). In retrospect, I think I should have chosen heavy, although I was standing there in yoga pants and a sports bra (and very much feeling like the Jenny Craig before photo). So, it calculated my BMI (which was no surprise...yes, I know I'm "obese", but you can't factor in this much gladiator-muscle without being "obese" on the BMI scale. It's so inaccurate. MOVE ON!) Then it calculated my weight. Then it said "OH! You've GAINED 7.7 lbs!" (thank you for breaking it down into tenths of a pound for me...because I wasn't sure if it was 7.6 or 7.8 but looks like you've cleared that all up). Then it said "do you know why you've gained so much weight?" And then it gave me a list of options: 1) I have not been exercising; 2) I've been snacking (which, for the record, I don't think should be a choice because I believe in smart-snacking. Otherwise you have a lagging metabolism and a muffin-top for a belly); 3) I've been eating too much; 4) I don't know. Those were my choices. There was no I was pregnant or I had such horrible morning sickness that getting off the couch to take a vitamin caused the world to spin so I opted not to run in place for 25 minutes...Just "I eat too much" or "I don't exercise enough." HUGE oversight on the part of Wii, I think. So, I chose "I don't know" because I haven't been eating too much, I was eating for 2 and I did exercise when I didn't think I would lose lunch over it. So, fine...I'm 7.7 up from when I started using Wii-Fit...which I was 5 lbs up back then. So, for all of you keeping score at home, that's 12.7 lbs. Not unattainable but certainly tricky during the October-November-December months).

Then I started my workout. It was a cardio day so I did some basic step aerobics - and apparently the Wii deemed me worthy to unlock the "advanced" step...which is appropriate, I think, considering I used to be a step aerobics instructor and then I ran in place for 40 minutes, which is much harder than one would think. And at one point, during one of my 10-minute "free" runs, the Wii calculated that I had run 1.6 miles in 10 minutes. Um...yeah...NO. I run a 12-minute mile, pretty much without fail. You could almost set your 007-watch by my stride. So, to say that I ran a 4-minute mile is well...utterly ridiculous. And if that is true, perhaps I should only run where I can be barefoot and cushioned by an oriental rug.

I don't use the Wii-Fit a lot (as indicated by my 136-day absence) but when it's raining outside and I'm crunched for time and will be eating out 2 of my 3 meals that day, it's better than nothing. But if I get on next time and there has been another weight increase (after all of my calorie counting and gym visits), Mii-heads will roll!

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Traffic Tuesdays - Blogging About Bad Behavior

I am inspired by my friend, Cindy. She has "themed" days on her blog. Wednesday is not just Hump Day, at Tinnyanna's place, it's Wordless Wednesday (where she posts photos from the week - and let me tell ya, the girl has the eye of Anne Geddes without any of the creepiness). And now she has a new one, It's Not Me in: no, I did not wish the flu on the very perky Target, I did not have a dream that I lost my passport and my iPod Touch on a European vacation and was more upset about losing my Touch...and no, I certainly did not walk out to get the mail holding a bottle of wine so that the neighbors in the cul-de-sac would keep from asking "how's the baby doing"...And in my skinnier days, I did not mow the grass in a bikini so that all of the neighborhood moms would be jealous that I had visible abdominal muscles. That's It's Not Me Mondays and I love it so much that I may institute it a couple of times a month because really...sometimes you just have to get these things off of your chest (which is why PostSecret is so popular and well worth your time if you are killing time on a Friday afternoon at say...4:45). And if you want to read Cindy's confessions, you can find her at

But it's not Monday, it's Tuesday. So, I'm having Traffic Tuesdays. This is actually inspired by my husband, who has driven a humvee down the middle of the road while oncoming Iraqi civilians wave frantically and scuttle their cars into the ditch to avoid him...he is immensely annoyed by Lexington drivers. He is frustrated by their seemingly mindless lane-changes and lack of courtesy while behind the wheel. I used to avoid leaving the house with him on the weekends because that's when the idiots come out to play. But it seems to be happening in the middle of the week, too, as we discovered while he was home 2 weeks ago. So, here you go, honey...this is my attempt to call out these fools publicly and shame them into better driving. But just in case, perhaps you should start memorizing the bus schedule.

It's a sad fact, but apparently, they have stopped putting turn signals in cars. We've particularly noticed it in the new-fangled, fancy-schmancy cars. Drivers of BMW's and Lexus and Mercedes are no longer able to declare their intentions. They simply have to take a quick glance over their left shoulder (while still holding the iPhone with the right shoulder) and check for any possible victims. The hybrid-driving, granola-crunching driver doesn't stand a chance. To an Escalade, the Prius is a speck of road dust, unable to be seen by rear view mirrors the size of my head. And with no turn signals to alert him, the unlucky environmentalist must test the agility of Toyota's breaking system. So, we ask that you write your congressman and let them know of this lingering oversight. While GM is restructuring, perhaps they can add the turn signals back in...because we know that if people had them, they would use them.

Monday, October 5, 2009

Have tent, will travel

The mountains are calling and I must go.
~John Muir

Like millions of other PBS-whores, we are watching with unfathomed enthusiasm the new series titled The National Parks: America's Best Idea. I am not sure why we are DVR'ing it as PBS doesn't air commercials, a very redeeming quality for a channel that is known to be heavy on the Appalachian programming. But perhaps we are too busy on Sunday nights to sit down and watch it properly, so we squeeze it in between CSI:NY and Lie to Me on a random week night. We watched the first installment last Friday, as we packed up our hybrid to head to the gorge...which is not really the same as heading to the mountains, but when you're at the bottom of the gorge and look up, there you have a mountain. It began with the story of John Muir and how he came to be so interested in a bunch of land that was in desperate need of saving.

Today, I have mixed feelings about Muir. Before Friday I just had canyon-sized annoyance. I think it has to do with the fact that when I was in high school, I was in the drama club. And by saying I was "in the drama club", I mean that I was a theater rat...a staging junkie...a harlot for hair and make-up. My fellow drama dweebs and I were entrenched in every production on the WHHS stage for 4 years. And then one year they brought in a man to portray John Muir. He sat on a stump in the middle of the stage, gripped a walking stick and told story after story about the greatness of nature. But John Muir was when you pair the thick brogue with a complete lack of set design and lighting plan, you've got me snoozing in the stage manager's loft. And that is how I've remembered John Muir for over a decade. He hugged a tree and never owned a Gillette. And that brings us to Friday.

The series is quite good so far and it gives you a firmer grasp on the birth of the national parks service and their struggle to conserve while still exposing. It's a delicate balance between sharing a national treasure with us and protecting it from us. President Bush had leave no child behind and Muir had leave no trace. Basically we shouldn't be leaving anything - as any army retreating from a battlefield will tell you. But even now you will find cellophane on the trail and Kroger bags in the creeks. The result of this behavior will, undoubtedly, be something sweeping yet no food in the parks - and we're going to strip-search you when you enter the gates. Because it's the disregard of a few that sets the standard for many...

And there were many out this weekend. Nearly every campsite was full of couples, friends, and families that wanted to get one more weekend in before Kentucky turns its back on warm days. Neal wants to go polar bear camping (meaning we voluntarily sleep outdoors when there is ice on the cars...not pitching a tent with the help of a polar bear...which I also would rather not do). I say this is it, buddy. Get your kicks because we won't be passing this way again until May. I guess we'll see who wins. In the meantime, though, we hiked 7 miles, grilled pizza over the fire, drank percolated coffee, and melted cheese over the campfire (which you will, when paired with a water cracker, a basil leaf and a little sundried tomato pesto, slap your mama and declare yourself Queen of the Campfire). Here are just a few pictures from the past 24 hours. Enjoy and then go hug a tree for me...and hug one for Muir, too.

This is "Hidden Arch". Neal has re-named it "Hidden Hole" because although our picture makes it seem vast and voluminous, that is the beauty of a telescoping lens.

If you haven't seen Dirty Dancing, then move won't get it.

A quick pic of the ONLY thing that will get me out of my Army-issued mummy bag on a 48-degree Sunday morning.

Good-bye campsite #10...until next May...or December...(we'll see who wins the arm wrestle).

Friday, October 2, 2009

Lady Allyson Learns a Lesson

I am reading The Other Boleyn Girl. The movie might be 115 minutes long, but the book is 661 pages. It's a process. I have, however, learned an important lesson about the Tudor period, and also, probably, about the British. They have mastered subservience and grace under pressure. The courtiers, for example, made it their life's work to know the moods of the king and to respond appropriately. It made no difference if it was a bad hair day or a family member had died or even if war was impending, the courtier's job was to be gracious when the rest of us would have thrown up our middle finger and stomped out in disgust. Americans don't really get that. When we came to the new world, we had Martin Luther and Quakers and a pope who was very, very, very far away. We had a government that did not rest on the merry mood of one half-grown man. And as I'm reading this book, I wonder to myself if I have learned the lesson of grace and subservience and kindness when it's easier not to be.

It is, I think, the greatest understated irony: that when times are most difficult, you are most called upon to be gracious and understanding. You are expected to receive those who are well-meaning, well-intentioned, but inexperienced at your pain. And you are expected to do so with smiles and appreciation. You can not, or at least should not, strike out and shout in martyred tones about how they don't understand..about how this path you've been asked to walk is full of potholes that twist your ankles in the dark. And above all, you are expected to suppress the tears that puddle so close to the surface because that...that is uncomfortable for your guest.

I am thinking on these things today because I received an email from someone who meant well but only made my heart heavy for our son. I read it and then I cried. I cried all the way down Harrodsburg Road. I cried all the way down New Circle Road. And then I sat in the parking lot of Meijer and cried some more. I cried until my head was throbbing and my eyes were bloodshot and all I wanted to do was lie down in the grass and take a nap. But instead I did our grocery shopping.

When I got home and had put away the cheese and the carton of eggs I took home by mistake (the woman in line in front me will be very cranky when she starts to make her breakfast casserole only to find that she is missing a key ingredient. And then she will turn her house and car upside down trying to find the 12 eggs that now sit in my fridge. If I knew who she was, I would bring them to her. But I don't so tomorrow we will have egg sandwiches)...I sat and thought about what I should do. How can I make the bleeding stop when the wound has been re-opened? I poured a hot bath, turned on the jets and opened a beer. I sat in the water, watching the jets jiggle body parts that did not always jiggle (I've always told the participants in my exercise classes: "there is a difference between jiggle and wiggle. You are here because you jiggle). I looked at the bathroom cabinets through the amber glow of a Corona and wondered what it would be like to look at life through golden glasses. Would I be happier or just yearn desperately for technicolor? And I wondered what to say to the person who was trying so hard to make it better but instead made it indescribably worse. And in the end, I decided that if I were a courtier, I would say nothing at all. Being gracious in times of pain is hard. But I think it can make us wiser when faced with another's grief. We may never find the right words, but we can certainly try harder to avoid the wrong ones.
*Post script: I know how some in my circle tend to fear that I'm upset with them when I post what others would consider to be private thoughts. First, if you are reading this then it is probably not you. Second, if it is you, I know that you aren't malicious, simply ignorant of the situation. Don't worry about it - you are not the first to make well-intentioned but instantly disasterous comments.

Thursday, October 1, 2009

What happens when you forget that you're running an amusement park

A) I think technically right now I am supposed to be helping my husband make sure that all of the camping equipment works...but I believe that would rob him of his machismo and certainly his I'm going to blog instead.
B) I found this story on USA Today this morning and I just don't feel like a true Kentuckian (which borders with Ohio, for those of you not smarter than a 5th grader, and is home to Kings Island) if I didn't say something about it.
c) I've been drinking wine since 4:30 because if I lived in central time, it would be 5:00 in eastern standard time...

I have never been to Kings Island during the haunting season. I'm really not such a fan any other time of the year, either. If I desire to eat greasy carnival food and then fall freely from the sky, all the while wondering if a screw will pop and send me crashing to an early death, then I will go to Frankfort's Expo and save myself $45 and still get to play "Count the Mullets". But I hear that it's a good time...if you're into that sort of thing. So, I was a little shocked to read this morning that Kings Island had decided to do a Celebrity Skeleton exhibit in the park...a little like Madam Taussaud's, but with a lot less class - perfect for the Ohioans (whoops, sorry Cindy). This is a just a small list of skeletons included in the exhibit:
  • Michael Jackson (as pictured above) complete with sparkly glove, sans IV full of Fentanyl.
  • Farrah Fawcett (I'm not sure how this was going to be completed, but I can only hope that good hair was involved).
  • Sonny Bono strapped face-first to a tree and decked out in ski gear.
  • Boston Red Sox Hall of Famer Ted Williams stuffed in a glass-door freezer (apparently he was cryogenically frozen after his death. I think this is only a tiny bit classier than having one of Jeffrey Dahmer's victims hanging out of a Frigidaire while Jeff stood beside, licking his fingers).
  • Steve McNair sporting a #9 jersey, eating from a Tennessee Titans snack bowl with a dress-wearing skeleton sprawled across his lap and a gun laying on the ground.
  • And various others...i.e. Billy Mays (I hope he was holding a bottle of OxyClean), Dave Thomas, and Heath Ledger.
Someone somewhere along the way decided that perhaps this exhibit was in bad taste. In case you have ever wondered what would be the result of serving bourbon at your next board meeting, I can only assume that this would be it. I can hear this conversation now, "hey, you know what would be funny?"....And then they ended up in the USA Today.