Arbitron Rated Lads and Lassies

The problem with having two teenagers in the house is that life can get excruciatingly loud as each one tries to be heard over the other. Over time my deaf ear has tuned out their "conversations" and other small annoyances.

But one thing that is still difficult to handle is waking up to a cacophony of musical tastes competing over the hallway airwaves. It's as if broadcasting their lives via their choice in music to the neighborhood is the only way to achieve standing among their peers.

Thank goodness the weekend is upon us. That blissful time when those sweet, adorable little teenagers sleep until noon and when looking in on your progeny makes you smile rather than grit your teeth and remark that "some animals eat their young".


Music to My Wheels

My eldest daughter applied for a week-long pipe organ seminar this summer. Her organ master recommended her for the program since he knows the program director quite well. We had some concern since there are only so many spaces available and we didn't hear about the program until a week before the deadline.

But last night we got an all-but-confirmation email from the director in response to our email letting him know we had mailed her registration form and fee. He said he would look forward to receiving it. Nothing about "Sorry, but the program is filled."

My husband and I sat down with Google Maps and began planning our respective routes to and from New England. He plans to ride her up on his motorcycle so that he can add the New England states to his colored-in map of states that he's ridden in. While I, on the other hand, was mapping out stops on the way back.

Another summer (mini-) road trip! Woo-hoo!

So far on the agenda after leaving the northern New England states are stops in Wellesley, MA; South Hadley, MA; Northampton, MA; Poughkeepsie, NY; New York City; and Bryn Mawr, PA. Yep, six of the Seven Sisters. One can dream, can't she?


As American as Apple Pie

Did you hear about the 5.0 tremor recently? Contrary to popular opinion and the scientific world, the epicenter was somewhere in southern Appalachia. And it all happened because of me.

Didn't know I could cause the earth to move? Okay, we're not discussing THAT. So get your minds out of the gutter. Yep, my actions caused a massive tremor.

From six feet under.

That was my father rolling in his grave.

All of my life, my father bought good ol' Dee-troit steel. He was a brand-loyal GM follower. When it came time for me to buy my first car, it was all he could do to acknowledge the fact that the car was German. He was a life-long supporter of all things union. And while my first car's company may have been the brainchild of Hitler, at least it was European built using European workers. Heaven help me if the words Honda or Toyota passed my lips.

Booking a rental car at the airport closest to my old hometown proved a comedy of errors. Upon arrival, there were no more mid-size sedans available. So the rental company gave me a convertible instead. In between visits to the hospital to care for my father, that car took me up the mountain to visit family, down the valley to do genealogy research, and along the river for good barbecue. After my father passed away, his sub-compact car became mine.

Driving it reminded me too much of him, and of just accepting things without any say in the matter. So on the spur of the moment, I showed up at my local dealership with the title to the sub-compact and the checkbook in hand. Cash, no better way to buy a car!

So it's not a Chevy like the car I drove during high school and college. I'm not even sure how much, if any, of it is manufactured or assembled in America. But I do know that when the sun comes out and to top goes down, the music on the radio is pure American Rock 'n' Roll.


Brown Thumb

Seriously. How hard is it to keep plants alive? You water them when they're dry. Fertilize them every so often. Make sure they have the required amount of sunlight.

The cactus that a neighbor passed my way last year has proven my undoing. How many people can claim to have killed a cactus? But last night, after inspecting the surrounding plants, there lay it's corpse. A shrivelled, deflated shell of a plant.

Was it overwatered? Underwatered? Too much light? Not enough light? Having grown up in the lushness of the American Southeast, cacti are an exotic breed for which I, apparently, am ill-suited to grow.

Hmm... Guess I'll stick to things I know and cover our house and trees and telephone poles with kudzu.


Smarter Than the Average Asian Bear

Me: posting link on another social network website and searching for independent blogs about the same.

Husband: walking into library and glancing at the screen. "Reading Farsi now?"

Me: "How'd you know it was Farsi?"

Husband: laughing.

Me: "No, seriously. Did you know it was Farsi?"

Husband: "I know these things."

Me: wondering if his being a tax lobbyist is just a cover.


I Need a Nikon Camera

Recently a friend asked me why my profile picture on a different website is a series of pinups. That’s a good question that dredged up memories of a past boyfriend. He was my first boyfriend after the big move away from my college town. He was a CIA operative that I met at a church function during the heyday of the Reagan years. Jeez, that’s really dating myself!

The Spook never left home without his camera. A fabulous thing with different length lenses tucked neatly in his camera bag along with extra rolls of film. After a few outings, he presented me with his recent portfolio. Fifty percent of the frames were candid shots of me. Why? His answer still makes me smile; he found me very attractive. Not something I heard very often, if ever, during my formative years. But girls always like guys to think they look good – and tell them so. And often.

The Spook and I spent an occasional weekend just sitting on the deck of his house taking pictures. He would tell me how to turn my head, where to gaze, when to wet my lips. His work was always stunning.

I’ve been tempted to pull out some of those old photos and scan them to use as my profile pic. But that was over 20 years and three kids ago. Maybe it’s time to find another master with a camera. And become a muse again.


Wild Things

First one to name all the insects or animals that recorded these hits gets an internet Yankee Dime!

1. Happy Together
2. Turn, Turn
3. Gee
4. In-A-Godda-Da-Vida
5. Last Train To Clarksville
6. Day Tripper
7. Don’t Let Me Be Misunderstood
8. The Still of the Night
9. You’re So Fine
10. I Only Have Eyes for You


Man About Down

Calling all friends, neighbors, acquaintances, blog buddies with pools! My poor overworked bod, sore from too much ballet, too much taking care of sick kiddies, and too few margaritas, needs some spa time. Hopefully something less expensive than a day at an actual spa.

Swimming pools just make so many activities more enjoyable. What better way to spend some time than at a boozy weekend throwdown for those of us who can’t afford a weekend in the Hamp’s? Okay, okay. You supply the pool, I’ll supply the booze. Hell, I’ll even supply the guests.

So, call me. I’m waiting to hear from you. Swimsuit and towel in hand.


Fluffier Than a Bluetick Hound

There's a very special cemetery five miles off Highway 247 in Northwest Alabama. It's beautiful, well kept and isolated. They like to say you have to be hunting for this place to find it. You'd expect that, for this isn't your ordinary graveyard. It's Coon Dog Cemetery, the final resting place for dogs who spent their lives tracking raccoons all over the Deep South.

It all started in September of 1937 when Troop, Key Underwood's best coon dog, died and Mr. Underwood gave him a proper burial on this quiet piece of land. One by one, other beloved hunting dogs were laid to rest beside Troop as word of this hallowed ground spread. By the way, there's a standard for admission to the Coon Dog Cemetery--if your dog couldn't tree a coon, he need not apply. I'll leave you with an anecdote from The Montgomery Advertiser. In it Mr. Underwood is telling the story of a woman from California who wrote him wanting to know why only coon dogs were buried in his cemetery.

"Ma'am," Mr. Underwood responded, "you must not know much about coon hunters and their dogs, if you think we'd contaminate this burial place with poodles!"


Observations from a Stationary Bike

What is it about the gym and men? Just this morning, there, on either side of me, were two rather smelly guys. The one to the right was pedalling at such a slow rate that it surprised me that he had broken a sweat. However, when the guy took the bike to my left, whoo, you could smell him a mile away, the kind of which made me debate whether to cut my workout short and move onto another machine.

To keep my mind on something other than the stench emanating from both sides of me, my eyes wandered across the main floor. On the row of weight machines were five older women who kept preening for each other when they finished a set.

I'm better at this than you are.

Well I look better than you do.

Moving on... on the elliptical was a teddy bear of a guy. You know the look, shaggy three-day beard, full head of hair, big round belly.

Not much there either. On the weight machine in the middle of the floor, finally! Something to look at! A gym rat. Complete with a tee-shirt with the sleeves cut out to expose muscular upper arms, and tight biceps while he was doing his curls. Too old to be a college kid home from school. Not one of the local public servants like police or firefighter who work out there. Hard to pinpoint his story.

But enough of a distraction to keep me occupied until smelly guy on the left finished up. But his leaving brought my mind back to the bike. And the conclusion that it wasn't worth it having to be next to smelly guy on the right. Time to move on to the lone, solitary, isolated but very aerobically effective rowing machine.

Nope, nothing to look at there to keep me going after the first 500 metres.

Moving on again to the stretching area... One of the personal trainers was chastising a client for not stretching. He complained about travelling too much, and hiking, and biking. If anyone needed a personal trainer, he did.

Okay then... let's just finish the stretching and get out of here. Until a firefighter acquaintance stopped to talk on his way out. That led to an opportunity to have the fire department talk to the Girl Scout leaders' meeting sometime next year.

Perhaps if the Messrs. Smellies hadn't forced me away from my workout, then a Roundtable talk for the Girl Scout leaders wouldn't have been planned. Serendipity. Don't you love it?


The $1000 Birthday Dinner

The birthday girl accused me of using her birthday as an excuse to attend the Winemaker’s Dinner at a winery about an hour, hour and a half’s drive away. The vineyard hosts a Winemaker’s Dinner every couple of months or so. There are only seats for 40 people and the dinners book very quickly.

When the kids turn thirteen, they no longer get birthday parties; they get special dinners out with just Mom and Dad at the restaurant of their choice, sans siblings. The birthday girl originally requested Russian as her restaurant of choice. But Mom and Dad were just at a Russian restaurant for Dad’s birthday dinner with another couple, mainly because we wanted to try the flight of vodkas – nine four-ounce glasses of different vodkas of your choice from all over the world. So when the email arrived in my inbox about the May Winemaker’s Dinner, my fingers frantically dialed the reservation number to procure our seats.

Heading out three hours before the reception hour gave us a chance to explore the mountain back roads. One narrow curvy road led past a turnoff towards an estate sale at a farm. With time to kill before the first glass of wine was poured and the first hors d’œuvre was passed, we turned up the winding path to discover an herb farm with a note of the front door saying to “Come on in”. Which we did.

My mother was a voracious antique collector. Her motto was that if you saw it and liked it, you should buy it because you would end up regretting not getting it. That lesson sunk in. And is sinking in for the third generation as well. The cargo area of the SUV was loaded down with a late 1800’s American chestnut drop-leaf table, an early Twentieth Century French walnut and rose-colored marble-topped square washstand, and a hickory custom-made tabletop that was designed for cutting fabric. It has an ingenious movable piece that makes a straightedge to cut the fabric evenly.

Top off the evening with a five-course meal with wine pairings for each course and a discussion of the wines during the meal followed by a Q&A time with the chef afterwards. Birthday girl got plenty of practice driving out and plenty of private attention and conversation with the ‘rents. Treat ‘em like young adults and they rise to the occasion. And surprise you with their interests and conversation topics. Worth every last cent!


Light a Candle

For those of you who haven't seen this elsewhere, it's very powerful. Check out the video here. Then check out the website here.


Smells Like Teen Embarrassment

Last night was the annual fashion show. My girls and I have modeled the past four years for the show. It's a five-hour commitment when you add in time for hair and makeup. Especially this year when there were many more stores and outfits to model.

Our outfits ran the gamut of a shabby-chic Juicy Couture jacket to a black illusion cocktail dress. Unfortunately, no wedding dresses like the one I modeled last year. The two teenagers' had one set of outfits that were both very boho. By the time those outfits came around, both the teenagers had loosened up from their first pass down the catwalk. It was good that they wore the pajamas for the first round and got them out of the way early.

Following the boho outfits, they split stores. While one modeled an adorable Kay Unger pink tweed suit and red peep-toe heels, the other modeled a strapless maxi dress that could be worn day or evening. As she finished up her last turn ready to leave the stage, the emcee announced that it was her seventeenth birthday.

Can you believe it? She didn't turn red or die of embarrassment right there. Can you believe it? My eldest baby is Seventeen! That makes me... oh, dear.


Writer's Vamps

Ever had one of those days when the universe seems to be throwing so many monkey wrenches into your meticulously planned schedule that nothing will get done when you thought it would? Welcome to my world!

A nice aerobic workout following by my arabesque and pirouette turns at the gym was first up on the agenda, followed by errands, and possibly a leisurely lunch outside before picking up the kids from school for tonight's activities.

But no! First my Girl Scout co-manager stopped by to drop off 75 letters of appreciation that needed to be signed for the leaders' meeting tonight. Then my dog's best doggie friend stopped by while I was outside bringing in the trash cans from the street. The doggie's human and I spent the doggie play time catching up on life. Then another doggie friend stopped by for doggie day care - uninvited. Unfortunately, I wasn't outside when the other dog's human dropped him off or I would have told the human that my doggie day care center is closed until after the fall harvest.

Sitting down to sign the 75 letters, what better way to help fill the monotony than with Facebook and some Pandora playlists? That's when Facebook Former pinged me with the morning news, gossip, and just plain chitchat. He was flattering me with compliments of brains and..., well, just brains; and contended that if I had stayed in the state I could have been on the Supreme Court by now and every lawyer and lower-court judge would have the fear of God in them.

Yeah, right. Me as a justice? Don't think so. Until I get all those f'n letters signed, I'll take it under advisement. But me in long black flowing robes? What color lipstick would go with that?


Maharishi Robinson

No more Frau Robinson. The exchange student went home. And my taste in men is nudging slightly older. Who is he?

He's tall and thin, shiny black hair, chocolate brown eyes, tanned complexion. Speaks impeccable British English and fluent Hindi. We'll call him Mr. Patel.

I'll just have to look and keep my lascivious thoughts to myself. But I'm definitely getting better. He's 19! Just two years older than my eldest daughter and three years older than the exchange student.


Excuse My (Southern) French

I love country music. I hate country music. Both of those statements are correct. And it all started with a band that originated not far from my childhood hometown.

During my elementary school days, there was a contest among all the PTAs in the local school system to see which PTA could get the highest membership percentage. The prize? A new band, Alabama, would play at the school. They were a country band that had wanted to make it in the rock-and-roll world but couldn't. So they shifted gears and reinvented themselves as a country band.

[Editor's disclaimer: The author knows and likes Randy Owen.]

Over the years, country music began to feel and sound less like country music and more like rock. And it all started, or so I think, with Alabama. Take away the hats and boots and most country music today would fit in just fine in L.A.

Most. Not all.

Enter the progeny of some of the greats - Shooter (Waylon) and Hank III (Hank Jr. and Hank Sr.). Add a dash of established but shunned musicians - Loretta (with Jack). Serve it up with attitude - Dolly and the Chix. And you've got what country music should have sounded like if it had stayed true to its roots.

The most recent addition to our music library was Hank III's Straight to Hell. Besides the fact that he looks and sounds just like his granddaddy, and got more of the talent than his daddy did, he hit a nerve with his indictment of pop country in "Dick in Dixie".

Just a sampling:

So I'm here to put the d*ck in Dixie
And the c*nt back in country
'Cause the kind of country I hear nowadays
Is a bunch of f*ckin' sh*t to me
And they say that I'm ill-mannered
That I'm gonna self-destruct
But if you know what I'm thinkin'
You'll know that pop country really sucks

Perhaps there's a reason you don't hear Hank III or Shooter or Loretta or Dolly on the radio. As politicians are fond of saying about why they switch parties, "I didn't leave the party; the party left me." Maybe that's what happened to real country musicians. They didn't leave country music; country music left them.

Now if you'll excuse me, I'm going to serve myself a heapin' helpin' of some Louvin Brothers, a little June Carter Cash, plenty of The Highwaymen, a dash of David Allan Coe, a sprinkling of Johnny Paycheck, and loads and loads of Johnny and Willie. My roots need some retouching.


How Awkward Was That?

Women have it easy. Padded bras help. Huh? If it's cold outside or we're working out hard at the gym, the girls are "happy".

Guys, on the other hand, have a harder time concealing their "happies". Pun intended. Sometimes it's understandable rather than just plain awkward. Even so, cameras pick up too many examples of embarrassing moments. Then your so-called friends post pictures of you on the web for everyone to see.

So far I don't know any of the guys at this "awkward" site. Do you?


Thank Heaven That I've Got Girls

Am I like the only person in America who hasn't seen this yet?


Sleepless (not) in Seattle

The problem with being so tired is that the doctor thinks it might have something to do with the sleep cycle. Or lack thereof. That was one of the possibilities she offered. And ordered up a sleep study.

Great, but in the meantime, even with having the bed all to myself, sleep is very elusive. Last night (or this morning, depending on how you want to look at it) was one of those times. After two hours of staring at the darkness, a change of venue was in order. If I'm awake, let's see who else is. And is online at the same time.

Facebook Former was online, nursing his own off-kilter sleep cycle brought on by too many late nights at work. In talking online, he mentioned some events in my hometown's history that hadn't been taught me. With deeper discussion, the events involved people that were a part of my childhood days. Even talk of my father's funeral brought up a discussion of a synagogue bombing, my former church which stood watch at the synagogue, church bells, attorneys who find the fake bells cheesy, wives of attorneys who also happen to be my cousins as well as my former pediatric dental hygienists, and orthodontists. All from my hometown.

As he located the characters of his story on the actual streets, my mind's eye pictured the exact building and the 360° view from there, including the mountain just off past the second set of railroad tracks, the oversized flag at the Ford dealership and the ornate house used as the Women's Club. That longing returned. The longing for a simpler, slower life, looking out my window at the mountains, having people know me because of my genealogy.

Perhaps my love-hate relationship of my adopted hometown teetering more on the hate side is bringing on that sense of nostalgia. Perhaps it's the realization of all the things that I wish my father had told me. Perhaps it's the fact that my adopted hometown feels meteorologically more like the Pacific Northwest. Whatever the cause, perhaps some good long days of sunshine will take care of what ills you. However, those damn birds outside my window refuse to roost for the night, chirping all night long to that artificial sun affectionately known as a streetlight.


Catch-22 mg tid

If you’ve been reading my blogs for a while, you know that there's a tear in my disc which chemically irritates the nerve causing back pain that radiates down my leg. Of all the treatments that the back doctor has tried, I’ve tolerated them fairly well – the epidural steroid shots, the schedule C pain meds, the nerve medicine. Until recently.

The fatigue has been getting worse during the last month. Calling in sick hasn’t been helping as much as it did. The most concerning symptom was on Tuesday on the way to the DAR meeting.

The car started drifting into other lanes. Even a stop for a Krispy Kreme full-caff latte didn’t clear the webs in the head. It was like driving in a mental fog. Even after the meeting and lunch with the ladies, the drive home was no different. I’m forgetting things – like my cell phone, or the grocery list, or words.

While visiting with a friend who’s a nurse, she pulled out her trusty pill book and checked my meds to see what the side effects are. Here are the side effects of my nerve medicine:

drowsiness – yep, got it
tiredness or weakness – got that
dizziness – got that one
headache – ditto
shaking of a part of your body that you cannot control – nope
double or blurred vision – I thought I was just tired
unsteadiness – oh yeah
anxiety – in not knowing what’s wrong with me
memory problems – especially short term
strange or unusual thoughts – um, apparently
unwanted eye movements – does that twitch count?
nausea – not really
vomiting – no
heartburn – yep
diarrhea – nope
dry mouth – very, I drink water like it’s going out of style
constipation – nope
weight gain – that’s what the scale says, I thought I was developing muscle
swelling of the hands, feet, ankles, or lower legs – no
back or joint pain – isn’t it supposed to help with the pain?
fever – no
runny nose, sneezing, cough, sore throat, or flu-like symptoms – for the past four days
ear pain – I thought it was associated with the sore throat
red, itchy eyes (sometimes with swelling or discharge) – I thought it was the pollen

Her diagnosis is that since I’m at the highest dosage for the medicine I’m close to overdosing. Since I’m a single mother again while my husband is on a business trip, I asked a friend to drive me to the internist. My concern lies in what will alleviate the back pain without knocking me off my feet. I can’t spend my life in bed. Unless there’s room service. And cabana boys.

40 Daysies' Crazies

Remember way back in Sunday School, or summer camp for those of us who were camp counselors, all the songs we'd sing? If I could figure out how to upload a .wav file, today's blog would be an audioblog. But I can't, so it's not.

There was one song that's been stuck in my head for quite a while now. Let me hum a few bars for you...

The Lord said to Noah, There's gonna be a floody, floody.
Lord said to Noah, There's gonna be a floody, floody,
Get those animals out of the muddy, muddy, children of the Lord...

Everyone I talk to, whether they're in Seattle or Chicago or Texarkana or near Chattanooga, is starting to mold behind the ears because of all the rain. Our friend in the Southwest is complaining about the cacti not blooming for lack of water. I'd be more than happy to send her some of ours. What's up with the weather?

My backyard has become a haven for robins. Why? you ask? Because all the worms have been forced to the surface by all the rain and the birds are having a field day feeding their youngun's. They're the one creature that is loving this weather. The rest of us are exhibiting the same tendencies of Noah and his brood...

It rained and poured for forty daysies, daysies.
Rained and poured for forty daysies, daysies,
Nearly drove those people crazies, crazies, children of the Lord...



On the advice of my lawyer, I have changed some of my blogs. My lawyer has decided to edit (whenever he gets around to reading all of them) my blogs for content.

I'm still as opinionated as ever. Just maybe more tactful.


For T. and B. and Me

This is dedicated to T. and B. from me, well, because the three of us know what it's like to lose a mother, which makes this coming Sunday all the more poignant. So if you have a mother, or ever had one, whether biological or adopted, take a moment to watch the clip and pee in your pants with Ruth.

Oh Vodka Mom... Can I Join You in a Martini?

The middle daughter is now living under the jailhouse. In the past 72 hours, she:
  • Brought home a report card in which the highest grade was a B, which was in PE, and the core classes weren't up to her fullest potential.
  • Didn't attend her sister's recital.
  • Slept through church, when her sister played the voluntary to close two services. And the pièce de résistance...
  • Got kicked out of the church youth group last night.

The repercussions?

  • No cell phone
  • No computer access (all passwords were changed last night) except for schoolwork which will be proctored by Yours Truly
  • No walking home from school with friends
  • If she stays after school with a teacher, she brings a note from the teacher.

For how long?

  • Until the next progress report showing improvement in her grades, or
  • Until the next report card showing improvement in her grades, or
  • Until her rude behavior towards parental units changes, or
  • Until her 21st birthday.

Whichever comes first.

As I told the youth minister last night after he called me to pick her up, I could really use one of his Mint Juleps.


Hermaphroditically Sealed

There was a vine in the middle of our fence.
The prettiest vine, it was lush and green.
Well, the vine on the fence
And the green leaves grew all around and around.
Without a bloom to be found.

Now that you have the tune stuck in your head, about that vine....

It's supposedly a wisteria. It's been growing on our front fence since before we bought the house eighteen years ago. In the summer, it gets so full of leaves that it blocks our view of the sidewalk and the street. Which, depending on my mood and my love-hate relationship with the city, ain't a bad thing.

But in all the years that we've lived here, that wisteria has only bloomed once. And then with only four blossoms. I tried everything - fertilizing it, not fertilizing it, cutting it back, not cutting it at all, just giving it a little shaping. The year it bloomed was a fluke. I didn't do anything to it that year. In fact, I'd given up on ever having blossoms on the vine. That attitude hasn't had the same effect twice.

As my eldest daughter and I were walking near our church yesterday, we walked under a purple canopy of wisteria blossoms on one of the oldest blocks in town near the river. After pointing out what wisteria blossoms look like, she commented that perhaps ours is a male vine. I rebutted that it has bloomed once so it can't be a male, maybe it's androgynous. To which she corrected me. "No, Mom, our wisteria is a hermaphrodite."

Everyone now...

And the green leaves grew all around and around,
And the green leaves grew all around.