Thursday, June 28, 2007

Come for the Cause, Stay for the Funnel Cakes

You've read about it. You may have seen it on TV. You know that it's stressing me out. It's the Relay for Life of Kenton County 2007 to benefit the American Cancer Society, and if you live in Cincinnati or Northern Kentucky I want to personally invite you to come out and see what all the fuss is about. We will be at Simon Kenton High School on Friday, June 29, in Independence, Ky., starting at 6pm and going until 6am.

Relay is a walk-a-thon of sorts to benefit the American Cancer Society. For 12 hours, starting at 6pm Friday night, teams will walk the track to support cancer patients and survivors in our community. Most will have gotten pledges before they started walking, but many will also be running activities and selling items on-site to raise their money to donate to the ACS. There will be a silent auction, a Euchre tournament, a DJ, food, and lots of fun games and competitions. It's a party atmosphere right up until the luminaria ceremony at 10pm, when we light bags to honor those still fighting cancer or those we've lost to it and have a very moving ceremony to remember why cancer is such a personal cause for many of us. You can purchase these bags for someone you want to honor right up until 9:30 pm. After that ceremony, the fun continues until 6am Saturday.

Why all night? Cancer never sleeps, for one thing. The Relay also symbolizes a cancer patient's journey through the darkness of treatment and into (we hope) the light of recovery.

If you come for no other reason, come for the funnel cakes fried up at the Mason's RV by the scoreboard. They are beyond description. Especially at 1am.

If you can't make it, but have someone you would like to honor or remember with a donation, you can donate online by going to our Relay website,

If you can make it, try to find me and say hello. I will be the frazzled-looking brunette in glasses.

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Observation Night

Tonight was Ainsley's last dance lesson of the summer. At her dance studio, this means it was "observation night" and parent were invited to watch (and photograph.)

How cute were half a dozen 4- and 5-year-olds dancing in all-pink leotards and ballet skirts to Dora songs? Beyond cute. Precious. Beyond precious--imagine a field full of white baby bunnies washing their little furry faces with teeny little paws. Or a dozen little pink-velvet kitten noses. That's pretty close.

They did the five ballet positions. They stretched. They tumbled. They did plies and releves. They boogied. It was an intro class, so they covered a little bit of everything. And since their mommies were there, and cameras were rolling, they showed off and mugged for the cameras.

And how did Miss Ainsley do? Well, she's not terribly flexible. That's my genetics at work. But she did her ballet positions very well, and she appears to have something resembling rhythm. She is the second tallest in her class, even though she's one of the youngest, so in some of the exercises she resembled a newborn giraffe taking its first steps.

What struck me the most is how beautiful she is. Every mom thinks her daughters are gorgeous, but mine really is. She is so tall and thin and elegant-looking (until she tries to touch her toes) and has these big, brown doe-eyes and long black eye lashes. She broke my heart. I can't believe something that pretty has anything to do with me.

But then she sticks her tongue out every time she does something hard, and makes faces into the dance mirror, and gets the giggles when she can't do a front flip-over. Then I know she's mine.

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

ICN 6 Chatroom Update

If you missed my live appearance on ICN 6 this morning, you can catch it again today at 3pm and 9pm on northern Kentucky's Insight Cable channel 6.

I was a very special guest. On a very special show. Check it out.

Make a Splash With Jesus!

I am going to preface this post by telling you that I am a Christian, and I have the utmost respect for religion, and I myself go to church as often as I don't. (If Ainsley sleeps late on a Sunday morning, believe me, God will hear many praises coming from my lips; we don't need to go to church those mornings for that to happen.) But I also think God has a sense of humor, and I think He is probably chuckling over this, too.

Ainsley is in our church's Vacation Bible School a few hours every morning this week. The theme this year in our diocese is...Make a Splash With Jesus! Oh, yeah!

When I first saw this theme spelled out on another church's marquee, I got the giggles. Actually, they wrote it out as "Water Adventures with Jesus!", which is even funnier. It conjures the image of the "Buddy Christ" from the movie Dogma, one of my favorites. In the movie, a priest (played by George Carlin, no less) unveils a new image for a modern catholic church, a statue of the "Buddy Christ", a Christ winking and pointing at you as if to say, "Who's your pal?" This is the Jesus I see when I see all our church's banners with the "Make a Splash With Jesus!" logo; I picture Kevin Smith's Buddy Christ, plus swim trunks, ready to take on the now-defunct Jim-and-Tammy-Faye Christian-themed water park. Good news, indeed.

While learning about God this week, Ainsley will also be playing with water, tie-dying a swim-suit coverup, and making her way down a donated slip-and-slide. And I hear the kids will all be singing some water-themed bible songs at the closing event Friday morning. I heard them practicing that "The Lord...told build arky-arky" song today when I picked her up. I can hardly wait to see how they're going to tie all this together. I just hope they don't water down the curriculum too much. Har!

Oh, stop. The sun's still shining. Lightning hasn't struck me yet for my snarkiness. And believe me, I've been snarkier about religion and its sometimes absurdity. I know, I know. They're just trying to make it appealing to kids, and the kids need to have fun while they learn about God. Otherwise, no one would come and I wouldn't have a fun place for Ainsley to be while I wrap up Relay stuff this week. It just makes me laugh, that's all.

Gotta run. I have to make sure Ainsley has a swim suit clean for tomorrow's water adventures (with Jesus.)

Also, I think I hear a distant rumbling of thunder.

Monday, June 25, 2007

See Cranky on Local Access Cable!

I almost forgot--I'm going to be on TV! For those of you in the northern Kentucky area, tune in to the ICN 6 chatroom Tuesday morning at 10am on Insight channel 6 to see me be interviewed live by one of the finest journalists in the Florence area. I forget her name.

Since I am late posting this, I imagine some of you may read this too late to catch the most gripping half-hour of local cable access television. Don't worry! I don't think ICN 6 has a lot of original programming, so it's sure to be repeated. I will post tomorrow after they tell me when it will re-air.

I will be talking about our Relay for Life. I did this last year, and it was fun, so I expect good times again. I just dread actually drying my hair and putting on makeup. Cranky doesn't primp during summer vacation.

Jaws Wide Shut

I'm stressed. No, that's an understatement. I am about 3 seconds away from a nervous breakdown. And I am feeling my stress in my jaws.

I have always been a clencher. I have caught myself for years clenching my teeth together anytime the pressure's on. A couple of years ago, a good friend had to have physical therapy for her own jaw issues (she's a night-time grinder) and I have tried since then to break the clenching habit lest I go through the time-consuming and expensive treatment she went through. But that's all gone to hell the last few weeks and my jaw has almost locked up on me on more than one occasion the last few days.

It's Relay's fault. I am too easily stressed to be the organizer of a major charity event. Of course, it's a cause that I take very seriously, so in the end it's a good thing. But last year after the Relay, the stress caused a chronic sinus and eye infection that I battled through September. I was trucking along fine this year until a few nights ago, when I realized it hurt to chew M&Ms (I reach for chocolate in times of stress, too.)

I thought it was my ears, since I'd had an ear infection earlier in the week. Alas, the jaw pain was coming from the opposite side. Upon further inspection, I noticed my left jaw is making unusual noises. Now, my jaws have been popping and cracking for years, driving my husband crazy (he has issues with loud eating noises; that will someday be a post all to itself because he's really insane about it), but this is different. It sounds like something's grinding inside my head.

So I dragged out the TMJ disorder physical therapy exercise sheet my dentist gave me last checkup when even he noticed my popping jaws and have done those the last two nights. It helps at first, but I woke myself up repeatedly last night clenching those damn teeth, and by morning my jaws were stiff and sore again. It even hurts to sing along to Carrie Underwood in the car (and I am sure my singing hurts Ainsley, too, but I digress.)

I tried de-stressing over the weekend, but not even peanut butter cookies fresh from the oven and a bottle of Pinot Noir shared over blackjack with good friends did the trick. The only thing that's gonna keep my jaws from locking up on me mid-chew is Relay finally being over, with no more surprises thrown my way, and with us meeting our goal. Oh, and a better weather report for Friday than I'm currently seeing.

Until then, I'll keep doing the exercises and try to calm down. If I don't, I'll be blogging a lot more because my jaws will be clamped shut.

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

I Am A Magnet for Weirdness

Strange people are drawn to me. They always have been. From the creepy less-than-mentally-stable guy that sat next to me in chorus my freshman year in high school and passed me notes declaring his undying love (most of them were verbatim from the movie Roxanne) to the man-child that sat down next to me at a doctor's appointment in college and grabbed my hand and wouldn't let go until the nurses came and literally pried us apart (the first and last time I went to a doctor in town instead of the campus physician), I have attracted a wide variety of off-color individuals. My mom always told me it was because I am too nice to people; given the title I have given my own blog, I don't really think I'm that nice a person. I just think I give off a scent or something that says, "Freaks are welcome here!"

Today's bizarre encounter is the best one I've had in years. I took Ainsley to the zoo to celebrate the first below-90-degree day in weeks. We go once a year, and a summer day where the high temperature barely approaches 84 is as good a chance as we are going to get. We were having a good time and had checked out some lemurs, the rhino, the cat house, some snakes, and the elephant show when Ainsley got hungry.

I stood there outside the elephant yard, hopelessly trying to read the zoo map. That thing sucks. Nothing seems to match up what you're actually looking at. I must have looked befuddled because an older man in a safari hat came up to me and offered to help.

I thought by his outfit that he worked for the zoo, so I let him help me. That was my first mistake. Turns out he wasn't a zoo employee; he was a retired teacher named Bob who was there with his also-retired-teacher wife, Judith, and their great-niece, Megan. Notice how much I know about this trio? That's because we spent A LOT of time with good ol' Bob today.

Once Bob heard we were headed to the LaRosa's close to the children's zoo, he asked if his family could tag along as their great-niece would like someone to talk to. I thought they just wanted to share a table with us at lunch. No, sir. He wanted us to spend the rest of our afternoon together.

I know! He was a complete stranger. Weird, huh? Hang on, kids, it gets weirder.

Megan doesn't eat actual food (just granola bars and ice cream, according to Bob) so they didn't order any food at LaRosa's. About halfway through mine and Ainsley's lunch, where I was guarding my wallet, convinced that the only reason they were lurking at our table was that they're really a family of gypsy pickpockets, they started talking about how much fun we were going to have at the baby wolf exhibit.

Judith leaned over about then and said, "If that's OK with you...Megan is an only child and loves to be with other kids. You can leave us at any time." Now I know how people get into cults. Nice older women who make you feel sorry for them and tell you you can leave at anytime, when you know good and well that you're in for the long haul.

I told her it was fine, and that it would be good for Ainsley to have a girl her age to play with for a little bit, and had convinced myself that this was a good thing. And Bob was such a gentleman; when Ainsley and I finished our lunch, he reached for our plates to get rid of them for us. But he didn't throw them away right away; he declared, "And now some for the old man!" and ate the 5 or 6 remaining bites on Ainsley's plate. OMG.

The thing I knew I had on my side is that Ainsley's isn't terribly fun at the zoo. She's not really there for the animals; she wants to ride the train and eat pizza and Dippin' Dots and complain about being tired. I knew that before too long Ainsley would fuss and we'd have an out.

But apparently Ainsley only whines at the zoo when it's just her and mommy. For about an hour, Ainsley had a ball with Megan, running through the children's zoo, looking for the elusive wolf family, and jumping like a kangaroo. If it hadn't been for the train, I think she would have played with Meg until sunset while I continued to get weirded out by Bob.

Ainsley wanted to ride the train, and Megan really wanted to go see something else, but Bob and Judith talked Megan into doing what Ainsley wants to do. By that time, they had talked to me long enough to know that I am a school librarian, and that this was our first week of vacation, and that we only come to the zoo once a year. I had also learned a lot about them; they never had kids, and once they retired they told everyone they were going to start a family and followed through with that by babysitting Megan when she's not in preschool. They bring her to the zoo at least once a week, often more than that (Bob said this made him an "expert" at the zoo and he showed his expertise by filling in everyone within earshot every detail of every exhibit we visited.) Then there were the things I didn't really need to know . Like how Bob wears long sleeves and pants and a hat outside because he has had a dozen or so cancerous moles burned off in the last couple of years. (He told me this just after he told me that a young mother carrying an infant without a sunhat was committing a crime and that he had to fight the urge to just go up to her and "snatch the baby out of her arms and cover it up.") And how Megan's parents were "super strict" with her, but when she's with them, they just give her license to do whatever she wants. Greaaaaaat. I am sure her parents love them for that. That, and if they knew that uncle Bob and aunt Judith trusted someone they knew for 15 minutes to go into the bathroom with their kid (when Ainsley had to go, Megan had to go, and Judith asked me if I could handle them both. I wouldn't have been surprised at that point if I'd come out and they had left us all for the circus.)

The first trip on the train was fun, but once is never enough for Ainsley when it comes to train rides. I thought this would be our out; Ains would ride the train a second time, and Meg, who didn't want to ride the train in the first place, would want to go do something else. But Bob and Judith, ever gracious, insisted Meg do whatever Ainsley wanted to do since she only comes to the zoo once a year.

But then Ainsley played her trump card: she can out-weird any 4-year-old. She proceeded to bump her rear against Megan's on the train, thinking this was asbsolutely hilarious. And she wanted Meg to make goofy faces at the animals with her. At Ainsley's pestering, Meg started to clam up a little and get whiny, and I couldn't have been more glad to have a sometimes-obnoxious kid.

Once Megan stopped talking, and begged to go back in her stroller, Bob and Judith suggested we part ways so that each girl could do what she wanted to do. And I immediately grabbed Ainsley by the hand and headed for the polar bears before anyone could change their mind.

The rest of our day was great; better, in fact, than our two previous attempts at zooligical good times. We wore ourselves out and came home just in time to eat sandwiches and get ready for her dance lesson.

Of course, Ainsley is already asking to go back to the zoo. But I don't think I should be the one to take her; I attract too much weird. And if there's anyplace where weird is in abundance, it's the zoo.

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Parenting Mistake # 6,734

I bought the duck.

I wasn't going to, and the fact that I did has been stuck in my craw for 24 hours now. I caved. I was weak. And now I'm just pissed at myself.

Jason and I have always made it a point to not spoil Ainsley with material things. We get annoyed by those kids who think every time they go to a store they have to come back with a toy. We also think Ainsley is enough of a whiner as it is without us giving in to her to shut her up. We don't want to reward that kind of behavior.

So I've gotten really good at saying no. And since Ainsley still thinks there's a chance she will get what she wants when she asks over and over, even though we haven't rewarded that behavior (we're hoping it's a stage she's going through, testing the limits of our patience), I say no A LOT.

Yesterday we checked out the clearance sale at Bath and Body Works so I could stock up on hand soap. That's all we were on there for. But on the way to the wall o' soap, we passed, like, 30 bins full of colorful rubber duckies. Ains has this thing for rubber duckies; her mamaw brought her two back from her last trip to Florida that have little sensors on the bottom that make the ducks light up when they're in the water, and Ainsley thinks those are just the coolest things in the world at bath time. I won't lie; I think they're pretty cool, too, and Sunday night's bath used to be a "lights-out" bath so she and I both could ooh and aah over the light show in our own bathtub. But as magically-lighted ducks will do, the juice ran out and only one duck works now, and that one is now about as bright as a lightning bug at noon.

So of course Ainsley asked for a new rubber duck, and of course I said no. She asked again, on the grounds of her old ones not lighting up anymore. I was quick on my feet and pointed out that the ones in the bins don't light up at all; they're not "special". To which she replied that she was tired of ducks that light up anyway and just wanted one to float and squeak in the tub.

After our fifth round, Ainsley crossed her arms and said, "My daddy wouldn't tell me no."

Who is she kidding? I actually laughed out loud. Her daddy not only would have told her no, but would have carried her out of the store if she kept asking a hundred times like she was doing with me. And I would have taken her out of the store, too, except that I was a woman on a mission for Tropical Passionfruit-scented bargain hand soap.

I finally gathered up my allowance of assorted soap bottles and headed to the register. Once Ainsley saw that the end was near, she said, "Please say, 'I guess you can have a duck.' "

Damn. That sounded like me. But I don't give in for material things, I swear. When she wants to do something, like walk up to the park, I will say, "We'll see" first and then if she's been good say something like, "I guess we can go." She's got me figured out. I will have to change up my reliable mommy-isms.

I stuck to my guns and told her no for what I thought would be the last time. I wasn't counting on the sales lady taking Ainsley's side.

"Are you sure you don't want a duck?" she cooed as we dropped the hand soap on the counter. "It says they're $2 on the signs, but they just got marked down to $1. What color do you like?" she proceeded to put the glass bowl of ducks at the register within Ainsley's grasp. Ains looked at her like she was Cinderella's fairy godmother and started jumping up and down over the pretty, pearly-white rubber ducks.

Mortified and stunned, I said something like, "I guess you can have a duck," handed over my credit card, and confirmed to my kid that you do get what you want if you whine long enough about it and get a pretty sales lady on your side.

As Ainsley squeaked it the whole ride home and for the remainder of our evening, I thought of taking it away. She learned a bad lesson there. And the squeaking was driving me nuts. But I guess that's what I deserve for giving in.

I've been replaying the scene over and over in my mind since then, kicking myself and analyzing the exact moment I went soft so it doesn't happen again. And Ainsley and I talked about it today, and I told her it's her "no whining" duck and that she only gets to play with it in the tub if she has had a relatively whine-free day and only if she doesn't ask me for anything else for a while.

And only if she will share it with me during my weekend mommy-time bubble baths. It is a cute little thing, even if it doesn't light up.

Monday, June 18, 2007

It's Getting Hot in Here...

If you comment today, be sure to SHOUT as I have an ear infection and can't hear very well from my right ear. I get one every few years, and sometimes they get so bad it goes into my jaw and my jaw freezes up on me. I'm not quite to that level of misery yet, but seeing as how my doctor's office had no openings today, and will only have one tomorrow if there's a cancellation or if a doctor is willing to squeeze me in between appointments, I might be looking forward to a little lockjaw and earache tonight.

Adding to my fun is the power outage we had today. We lost power for three hours. Ainsley had a dentist appointment for part of it (no cavities!) and we wasted some time buying clearance hand soaps from my favorite store, Bath and Body Works (I love to buy their hand soap when it's on sale and put it in our bathrooms when company comes so they don't see our usual $1 hand soap bottles filled half-full with water to make them last longer because that's something I can never remember to buy at the grocery.) But we still had to hang out for about an hour in our power-less house while the outside temp soared to 94 degrees. My ear started throbbing, and Ainsley started whining because it was well past nap time and her room was too hot for her to go to sleep, and I was waiting to see if the power would kick on in time for her to get a nap at all, and if we'd had to go on another 5 minutes I think I would have pulled a Jack Torrence and started peeping in doorways going, "Heeeeeere's Mommy!"

I had the bright idea of blogging about the power being out while the power was still out, since I had a fully charged battery, but it didn't take long to realize that electricity is an essential component to logging on to the internet. Frick.

But the AC is whirring now, and the dishwasher is swishing, and all is electrically right with the world. Though all that whirring and swishing (and ibuprofen for the ear) is making me tired so I think I may settle down for a nap while my beast, er, kid, takes a very late afternoon nap.

Sweet dreams from the land of restored electricity, y'all!

Friday, June 15, 2007


Dear breasts:

Hi! How are you tots doing? You girls are just so quiet and unassuming it's easy to overlook you. Painfully easy to overlook you. Anyway, I wanted to give you a heads up about a little something I have to have done to you today. Don't worry; you haven't done anything wrong.

My new radiation oncologist says we are in a high-risk category because you guys got radiated during my lymphoma treatment, and we have to pay closer attention to you than we have been. That means every year we have to have something called a mammogram, and another test called an MRI, to make sure you all are healthy. The mammogram is later today, and I don't want you to be caught off guard about it.

It won't hurt, but you aren't going to enjoy it very much, I'm afraid. See, someone is going to have to gather you each up and squeeze you between two plates until you're flat as pancakes and then take your picture. Now, you think that's no big deal because you're already kinda flat like pancakes. But they're going to flatten you out in an unnatural direction. I know; trust me, I feel your pain.

This isn't exactly how I would spend my first free afternoon this summer, either, but it will be over quickly, I promise. And then maybe I'll let you guys relax and go free from your bra the rest of the afternoon just to show you how much I care.

And I do care, tots. I know you hear me complain about you a lot, about how I feel like you both just never grew up and achieved your full potential, but as much as I dis you sometimes, I would really miss you if you had to go. You both did good work while I was pregnant with Ains and really got your act together when you were called upon.

This thing we're doing today will catch anything that goes wrong with you early and could help me hold on to you more or less intact for the rest of my life. And even if someday one of these tests tells us it's time for one or both of you to go, it's a sacrifice that could save my life. That makes you heroes, in a twisted kind of way.

Have a good day until then.

P.S.--Would it kill you two to fatten up a little bit?

Thanks for your support,

Thursday, June 14, 2007

I've Never... has a really fun confessional posted today where many of their staffers have 'fessed up to their embarrassing "I nevers"; in other words, the pop culture icons they've never watched, listened to, or read. I dabble in a little of everything for entertainment: I read, of course (junk-food novels as well as true "literature"), I watch too much TV, I listen to a variety of radio stations, and I try to catch the movies everyone talks about. It took me a while to think of my own pop culture blind spots, but I do have them. Here goes:

1. I've never seen The Blues Brothers. I almost did when I was a kid; when my dad took me to see The Empire Strikes Back, we wandered into the wrong theater and I saw a few minutes of a car chase scene. But then we found the right theater and saw my beloved Luke Skywalker. I never seem to be able to catch Blues Brothers from the beginning on TV nowadays, and there are too many newer movies I want to see to be able to remember to rent it, so there you go.

2. I've only been to 3 concerts in my entire life: the B-52s with the Violent Femmes in high school, Harry Connick Jr. in college, and Garth Brooks in the late 90s. Because I listen to a little of everything, it's rare for me to fall so in love with an artist that I gladly plop down $100 for a concert ticket. The two acts I most want to see live, U2 and the Dixie Chicks, never tour close enough for it to be reasonable for me as a working mom to go. Though I might be seeing Dave Matthews with the hubby and his brother (both are DMB nuts) this summer.

3. I never know the title or artist of any chart-topping pop or rock song. I usually can sing along with the chorus of any song in heavy rotation on our Top 40 station, but I just never bother to learn the real title or who sings it. It makes for some good times when there's a song I've heard that I really like and want to buy on iTunes; I just have to listen to clips for a dozen or so songs or Google the lyrics I know (or think I know) until I find the right song. I was shocked when I found out that Carrie Underwood sings "Before He Cheats." That's how clueless I am.

That's my pop culture confessional. How about you? The more embarrassing, the better!

Monday, June 11, 2007

Raging Strep Update

Frick. Ainsley's doctor's office called this afternoon and, even though the rapid strep came back negative Thursday, her strep culture from the lab came back positive this morning. So she has strep.

On the one hand, hah! I feel vindicated. I told you so, nanny-nanny-boo-boo, and all that. On the other hand...poor baby. She's been sick since Thursday, and has wanted to sleep all the time, and I made her go back to daycare today because I believed she just had a cold. I suck. I KNEW that kid had strep and didn't stick to my guns. I'm no doctor, but I know my kid. She does not run fevers unless she has a bacterial infection. She's only had one other fever over 102, and that was the only other time she had strep. Dang it.

She's gonna get some quality sick-time with her mama tomorrow. I'm going to stay home with her (yes, and push back the official end to my school year one more day) and feed her popsicles and let her watch Madagascar (she likes to move it move it...she likes to..MOVE IT!) And give her her antibiotic, of course. Now that she has one. Grrr.

What I Crave

Smell that? I just know you can smell it through your monitor...the umistakable scent of onions, grease, and "beef." Oh, yeah. I'm hammering on some White Castles on my lunch hour and have to stop to sing the praises of those wonderful little junk-food creations.

Cranky's not been feeling so well for the last 24 hours. I overdid the free beer at my reunion Saturday night and have had a queasy stomach. I wasn't rendered immobile like I was after my last really good forget-everything-that-happened-after-10pm drunk, the infamous Falmouth New Year's Eve of 1997, but I only think I could have survived that once in a lifetime. There's a reason I haven't been seriously hung over in 10 years; after that one, I vowed to never again throw up from alcohol and have stayed pretty true to my word (I've gotten sick once or twice since then from a combo of overeating and alcohol, but never just from being a moron and drinking until I can't hold my bodily fluids.) But this has been the worst I've felt on a morning after since that memorable (or not) party.

I ate yesterday, but nothing tasted very good. I've heard that a certain miniature hamburger can be a great hangover food, and when I remembered that there is a new Whitey's just up the road from school, I started to crave a sack of some onion-y, greasy goodness.

The onion chips barely survived the ride back, and I made short work of the cheeseburgers, too. They DO taste better after a night of hard drinking. Who woulda thunk it?

I've also heard they're the best when you're still in the process of getting blotto, but seeing as how I've always preferred to imbibe in the comfort of my own home, I've never had an opportunity to test that myth. Based on how yummy they were just now, I can only imagine.

So, hats off to you, o sliders of joy. You were just what the doctor ordered.

Sunday, June 10, 2007

Reunited (And It Feels So Good)

The class of 1992 rocked the club last night. We rocked it so hard, in fact, that Cranky is writing her first hung-over blog entry this morning. I don't feel as bad as I probably should given that I drank beer in a constant stream for 5 hours last night, but my stomach feels like it could rebel at any moment. However, I am not nearly as hung over as my hubby, who has thrown up every attempt he's made at hydration this morning and is currently in bed praying for death.

So as I wait for my can of Coke to get a little icy in the freezer (after the requisite water to re-hydrate, I've found nothing takes the edge off the morning-after pain better than a slushy Coke) I thought I'd take a minute to reflect on my 15-year high-school reunion. At least, what I remember of it.

What surprised me the most was how much less hair there was. Not only have we formerly big-haired Kentucky girls all tamed our bangs considerably since 1992, but many of our boys have become follicularly challenged.

Except for everyone having less hair, people hadn't changed too dramatically. We looked like our old selves; we just look like adults now instead of kids. Scattered on the walls were pictures from the senior pages in our yearbook and I wasn't shocked so much that we all look old now, but I was shocked that we looked like babies in those senior pictures. I thought we were so grown up then; we drove, we worked, many of us were getting ready to leave home. But we were just kids, y'all. Now we have kids.

Everyone started off hanging out with their old cliques, but once the liquor got flowing we all warmed up to each other and found that we are more alike than different. No matter whether we were basketball studs or mathletes, prom court princesses or honor society wallflowers, we talked last night about our jobs, our kids, our spouses. The guy whose last name followed mine in the alphabet and sat behind me every day in every home room from 6th grade on, who tortured me on many occasions by pulling my bra strap or making fun of my geekiness, proudly showed pictures of his 5 kids to my husband. The "real world" is a great equalizer. I really expected to find a table, talk to a few people for an hour, and then retreat with my husband to the geek corner for the rest of the evening. But it wasn't that way. It was

The after-party at a "cool kid's" house was the best part. After my good friend Wanda Y called my mom to ask permission for me to play a little longer (mom was our babysitter) we piled into the designated driver's car for the kind of party I never went to in high school. I drank beer with some jocks and cheerleaders and even smoked a cigarette (yeah, yeah, stupid thing for someone who's had cancer to do, but it's only the 3rd cigarette I've ever smoked and it tasted goooooood.)

I had my doubts that the reunion would be anything more than a reason to be self-conscious, but it was the best time I've had in years. I know some of you all read this, and I just have to say--you guys are AWESOME. I really went to school with some fun people.

The only bad part (besides the hangover): my digital camera did not make it home with me. I think I left it in Bean's car, or at Ashley's house. If any of y'all have seen it, or can help me track down Ashley's number, that would be cool.

And keep in touch, guys. Let's not let another 15 years go by without having a couple of beers and catching up (just remind me to stop next time; I'm getting too old for hangovers.)

Friday, June 8, 2007

Global Warming? Nah, You're Just Standing Too Close to My Kid

I was home yesterday with Ainsley instead of working one of the five extended employment days I have to get in before July 1. It's one of the little-known facts about being a school librarian; most of us work longer calendars because of all the ordering, paperwork, inventory, and cleanup we need to do and can't do when we have kids and teachers needing us during the school year. Yesterday was supposed to have been the first of my five, and I look forward to getting them over with because when they're done, I'm done.

But when I tucked Ains in night before last, she felt done. Not like finished, but like...done. Like a Thanksgiving turkey. I swear, touching that kid's forehead was like touching the front of my oven when I'm baking some Pilsbury break-and-bake cookies (hey, I spare no effort.) She'd had a cough for a couple of days but was fine when we put her in bed. But by midnight, she had spiked a fever over 102 and had cheeks the color of a Coke can.

The last time she ran a fever this high, it was strep. She's not particularly fever-prone; the only other times she runs them are with an ear or sinus infection. So I had reason to be worried and to make arrangements to stay home and take her to the doctor.

The rest of the night and next morning I tried to bring her fever down, but it didn't respond to Tylenol or cold cloths. I got her an appointment and just knew I'd be coming home with an antibiotic.

As fate would have it, the fever started coming down as I was getting her groomed for her appointment. By the time the nurse came in to take her temperature, she was normal. So I looked like a bit of an idiot.

They "tickled" her throat to do a rapid strep (seriously, why do they tell them they're going to "tickle" their throat with the swab? Let's be honest and say, "We're going to scrape your sore throat with two rough cotton sticks and make you gag for a half hour." Either way, my little one is going to freak out, so they might as well tell the truth.) To my surprise, it was negative. And her ears looked good. And her sinuses were clear. And her breathing was fine. So it's just a nasty virus that's going around, and doc says she could run a high fever off and on for 4 or 5 days, and that she will probably keep the cough for a while. And since Ains has asthma, she may have some wheezing and just feel generally awful for a while. It's going to be a great weekend, methinks.

Her mamaw is home with her today while I get one of my days in. She told me she wanted her mamaw, not her mommy or daddy, because "Mamaw will give me treats." That is my mom's way; give 'em chocolate and Coke and scratch their backs and they'll feel fine soon enough. Which may explain why my older sister still likes my mom to come take care of her when she's sick.

The downside of mom watching Ains is that mom has older-adult farsightedness but, unlike most people whose eyes have gotten bad with age, my mom won't ever wear reading glasses. She still does the hold-your-arm-out-until-it-reaches-Albequerque thing when she needs to read something. So when Ainsley needs her Tylenol or Sudafed, I have to run home and give it to her lest mom misread the medication label. Sigh.

At least when it's lunch time Ainsley will be able to warm up her soup by merely standing next to it.

Wednesday, June 6, 2007

2 1/2 out of 3 Ain't Bad

My high-school physics, pre-cal, and calculus teacher had this very dry, cutting sense of humor. A chain-smoking divorcee (I remember doing a make-up test after school one afternoon while she sat next to an open window, smoking discreetly and ashing into the courtyard), she made no secret of her impatience with men. I'll never forget during the last days of school senior year when she imparted these words of wisdom: "All men are good for is killing big bugs and taking out the trash. Oh, and, 2 1/2 out of three ain't bad."

I was reminded of this this morning when, as I was making the bed, I heard the rumbling of the garbage truck one street over and realized Jason hadn't taken the trash out the night before because our regular routine had been broken by him giving Ains while I was at a Relay meeting. So I threw on some flip-flops in the dawn's early light and scrambled down to the garage to get the trash to the curb in time.

As I came back into our house and up the steps, I could smell something rotting. It didn't take long to isolate the odor to the kitchen garbage, which hadn't been emptied and contained the scraps from a salmon salad I had made with some grilling leftovers (a Paula Deen recipe, by the way, and it's rocking my lunch bag as I write.) Ick.

I was fuming a little bit as I rushed out with the foul-smelling garbage. In our house, Jason is the bill payer, yard boy, spider killer, post-dinner cleanup man, cranky kid entertainer, and garbage-taker-outer. I handle the rest of the household cleaning and chores, and I have to admit, despite all the help he gives me with Ains and his otherwise reliable adherence to his chores, I get seriously ticked when he doesn't take out the garbage.

Is this rational? No. Does he deserve my ire? Not really; it's not like he's a bum or anything. But I have garbage issues. I inherited my mom's sensitive sniffer (no way I could have drunk illicitly in high school even if I'd wanted to; that schnoz could detect whisky on my dad before he opened the front door) and when we have missed garbage day, our whole house smells like ass to me. I just can't take it; the stench of rotting organic matter invades my synapses and won't leave.

So on the one hand, my physics teacher's mantra of male worthiness applies to my husband. It's just a different 2 1/2 out of three. Not to say more than you want to know, but I really have no complaints in the other areas.

On the other hand, Jason is good for many more things than I could possibly list. I got one of the good ones, and I am grateful. Even if I occasionally have to rush bags of rotting salmon parts out the door in my pajamas to beat the garbage man.

Tuesday, June 5, 2007

Senior Moments

Tomorrow night our seniors graduate and enter the next phase of their lives. Yesterday I chaperoned our senior brunch, and the sight of those young people reveling in their freedom coupled with the excitement/anxiety over my own high school reunion on Saturday triggered an unexpected wave of nostalgia.

As they all gathered on the dance floor to perform the "Cotton-Eye Joe" line dance (a favorite middle-school gym teacher taught them this dance and they went crazy when the DJ played that song), I was struck at how that one thing, that one common experience, pulled them together. The AP kids and the vocational school students, the preppy suburbanites and the farm boys, the popular and the socially challenged, all came together and in that one moment had a common bond. That's the thing with high school, isn't it? It's probably the last time in our lives we're in a truly heterogeneous group; from there on out, we work and play with people much like ourselves, people with common interests and goals.

I've thought a lot since yesterday about the person I was in high school and how I've changed. On my own graduation day 15 years ago, I thought the world was my oyster. I hadn't yet learned that not every oyster has a pearl.

Our class was special. We had been told so by teachers from middle-school through high-school and believed we could do anything and be anything we wanted. And I am glad we had teachers who believed in us and made us believe in ourselves. So many of us were the first of our families to go to college. Some were even the first to get high-school diplomas. Starting with our wonderful 7th-grade English teacher, we had teachers who expected nothing less than higher education for us. They prepared us, they pushed us, they built us up. They took a bunch of kids who in another school might have been labelled "at risk" due to their socioeconomic backgrounds and made scholars out of them. I left my high school knowing that I was bright and capable and among the best of the best. Then came my first year of college, and I saw pretty quickly that I still had so much to learn.

The sad truth of life, and something you'll never hear in a graduation speech, is that not every person can be whatever he or she chooses to be. A tone-deaf person will never be a Grammy-winning recording artist (though American Idol would be a lot less fun if people were this honest with themselves.) A kid that only grows to 5-feet tall and trips over his own feet will never play for the NBA. That's not to say that hard work and determination mean nothing. But first, you must figure out what your strengths are. What are the talents you have been given? Hard work means little if you're working on the wrong path; I could devote every waking moment for the rest of my life to studying art and taking courses and paint canvas after canvas, but I would never be an artist. I doubt I could ever produce anything more complex than a stick figure. That's not how my brain works, and no training in the world can make me see the world the way a true artist does. When hard work and God-given talent combine--now that's when dreams come true.

15 years ago I still had that optimism, that hope, that I saw in many of our graduates yesterday. It's a hope that's not bound by the limits of talent or chance. It's a hope only the young can have. When I graduated, here's where I told people I wanted to be in 10 years: I said I wanted to be right there at my old high school, teaching AP English and directing school plays, married to Jason, with 2 kids (a boy and a girl, of course), a cat, and a nice house with a white picket fence. This was very realistic, and I've managed to fashion a life pretty darn close to that. But deep down, I thought I would be "more" than that. I thought I would take Centre College by storm, singing in the select singing group, getting the lead roles in the plays, and acing any class that required writing. I thought I would maybe get "discovered" as an actress while in college and go to New York and become a leading lady in a soap opera. Or, if that fell through, maybe I would write a bestselling novel in my first couple of summers off from teaching. Oh, I didn't plan on these things happening. But since I had always been built up to be so smart, and since I was voted "Most Talented", I thought there was a chance all these magnificent things could actually happen to me (with minimal work on my part.)

My first year of college put a pin in the balloon of my lofty dreams. I tried out for the select singing group and didn't make it; I auditioned for a play and got a call back for the lead but in the end didn't even get a non-speaking role; I submitted articles to the college paper that got published but only after being edited to the point of not being my work anymore; I worked harder than I had ever worked on academic writing but got B's on every single paper I turned in in every class (until the very last paper I wrote in spring term's humanities class, when I got an A- and thought I would cry with relief.) Everywhere I looked I saw people smarter than me, more talented than me, and certainly more driven than me. I wasn't used to this. I wasn't used to working hard. I wasn't used to not succeeding. I almost gave up.

Things eventually started to click and I found my place. But I only found my place after sitting down and taking a hard, critical look at myself. I had to be honest about my talents. I discovered some things I was good at doing that I hadn't explored before, and admitted that some of the things I enjoyed, and thought I did well, were only mediocre gifts. Sadly, some of these things weren't learned until pretty late in the game (a great regret of my life is that I focused so much on music in college and didn't take a creative writing course until the winter of my senior year.)

Seeing our graduates, and thinking about the young girl I was 15 years ago, I almost wish I could go back in time and talk to her. But I don't know if she would listen; youth is stubborn and head-strong. More than likely, the 18-year-old and ready-to-graduate Cranky (who wasn't yet cranky, by the way) would have smiled her biggest smile, thanked me politely for my concern, and gone off to daydream about a life of unrealistic possibilities.

I guess that's the real magic of graduation, then. The open door; the wide world and all its possibilities; the freedom to choose your own ending. There will be some whose lives will exceed even their own expectations. It's all about hope, I suppose.

Hope, and a final line dance to "Cotton-Eye Joe."

Friday, June 1, 2007

This is so cool. It's my "Visual DNA". Thanks, Rambling Shan! Go to the link and try it out for yourself. Of all the little online personality things I've tried, this one comes the closest to "getting" me.

Goodbyes Suck

So Ainsley was in a foul mood all afternoon yesterday. She was very whiny, and little things set her off and made her cry. She got most upset when she told me that Evan's dad was bringing in pizza the next day, and Maddie's mom was making cupcakes, and I just had to take something to school. When her school is having a special party or something, they always put signs up to let us know to pack the kids a lunch or bring in a treat, and since I hadn't seen that, I figured she was confused and that the class party was next week. She burst into tears after trying to convince me for the third time that I had to bring in something.

The truth came out last night after her bath. As I was getting her into her jammies she looked at me with big, sad eyes (kinda like Puss in Boots from Shrek 2) and said, "I will miss Maddie. Tomorrow's her last day and she was my bestest friend."


Maddie (aka Madison) has been at Ainsley's preschool/daycare ever since Ainsley started there, and she's the girl who Ainsley plays with the most (there's a little boy there who is practically inseparable from Ainsley and who Ainsley says she will marry someday.) Her mom sent out an invite a couple of months ago for a girls-only playdate and I meant to call her and get the girls together and forgot to do so; now I feel bad for not following up on that or at the very least writing down Maddie's phone number so I could offer that as a comfort for Ainsley as she struggles with her friend's departure.

As I pulled Ains in for a big hug, I took the opportunity to teach her a sad but important lesson: people come into and out of our lives, and sometimes we have to say goodbye to people we love. I told her to give Maddie a big hug and tell her that she's been a good friend. I also told her that she would meet so many new people at "big kids' school" next year and have so many new friends that she wouldn't be sad for long.

I had been having a bad day myself yesterday, so after Ainsley got in bed I got a major case of the blues. I had my 6-month cancer CT scan yesterday, Jason's mom is having some more breathing problems, and my own mom has a cold she can't shake. I started thinking about what I think just might be the saddest song in the history of country music (and that's saying a lot): Patty Loveless's "How Can I Help You Say Goodbye." It starts out with Patty singing about being a little girl moving away with her mom, and watching her best friend get smaller and smaller through the rear view mirror as the car pulls away. The chorus is her mom saying,

Time will ease your pain
Life's about changing
Nothing ever stays the same...

How can I help you
To say goodbye?
It's okay to hurt
And it's okay to cry
Come let me hold you
And I will try
How can I help you
Say goodbye?

The next verse Patty is grown up and sitting on the edge of the bed as her husband packs his things to leave her, and she calls her mom who tells her the words in the chorus again. Then in the last verse (get ready for it; grab some Kleenex) Patty is sitting on the end of her mama's hospital bed crying because her mom is dying and, you guessed it, mama repeats the chorus.

You crying yet? I am.

Ainsley is learning about goodbyes today, and it's a heartbreaking lesson. I have been saying goodbyes for a long time now, and the pain isn't any less. It hurts to know that goodbyes are inevitable; if we are to live full, rich lives, we are going to know countless people who, for various reasons, are going to step out of our lives. If we're extremely lucky, we may run into those people again someday. But it's never the same. And some people leave us for good; if we live to a ripe old age, we are going to have to say goodbye to our grandparents, parents, friends, and even siblings as they leave our world to exist in another.

So the best I can do to prepare my daughter is to hold her tight and try to ease her pain. To let her know she should make it a happy goodbye and to always tell the person how much s/he means to her.

And to make sure she has treats to take to the farewell party; pizza and cupcakes always make the parting a little sweeter.