Wednesday, July 30, 2008


It's been a great summer. The living has been easy. We went on a fabulous vacation, I celebrated a milestone, and we were members of a facility that has a pool. I've been feeling rather chipper. But I have to start my before-school extended employment days tomorrow, so my mood has gone sour. Things are aggravating me that I have let slip without comment all summer.

Cranky is back.

So I want to give you the first volume of a new regular item called Things That Gripe My Ass.

After you've read my cranky musings, chime in with a list of your own. Get it out of your system the way a late summer thunderstorm clears the air.

1. The new Charmin commercial
Have you seen this one? With the little red bear with the dingleberries? He runs away from his bear momma with little white flecks of toilet tissue on his rear while she chases him with a dustpan and brush. Then the announcer says something like, "Tired of toilet paper that leaves pieces behind?" Gag.

2. Women at the pool who bring their grade-school age boys into the women's restroom/changing room with them even though there are TWO family changing rooms set aside for when fathers bring daughters and mothers bring sons. There is nothing quite so awkward and cringe-inducing than being half into a swimsuit when an 8-year-old boy comes in. I don't mind toddlers who don't know boob from bottle. But 8 and 9 year olds? Come on. How horrifying will it be for her when I am getting Ainsley into her swimsuit (the stalls are too small for us both to wiggle in there and get swimsuits on) and one of her male classmates sees her completely naked because his mom is an inconsiderate moron who doesn't believe in the family restroom concept?

3. Indiana drivers
A few of you who may be related to me by marriage are currently residing in Indiana. Don't get offended. I don't mean you. But as former Kentuckians, could you please explain to me why every time this week I have been cut off, nearly run over, or stalled by someone going 35 in the fast lane while talking on a cell phone, it's been by someone with Indiana tags?

4. Burger King
Anybody remember when Burger Kings used to be good? Anybody? Well, I used to think they were pretty good. Time was when I would choose a Whopper over a Big Mac or Wendy's single-cheese-everything any day of the week and twice on Sunday. In fact, I am pretty sure I had two on a Sunday in college when they were 99 cents. About once a year I try one only to realize, no, still sucks. Ainsley and I were running back-to-school errands and found ourselves close to one, and I had the coldest, nastiest Whopper I think I've ever had. It was a shade of gray I am pretty sure beef is not supposed to be. Ainsley chose the chicken "tenders" and seemed happy enough. My fault, I know; never trust a restaurant that uses a guy in a creepy king suit that could probably headline a successful horror franchise for its advertising campaign.

5. Weather people
It seems all summer long that they have been less accurate than usual. And they're inconsistent; watch each of the three different news outlets, and you get considerably different forecasts. Last Sunday while one was hollering that everyone in Erlanger needed to head for cover to escape an Armageddon in the shape of a funnel cloud, another was saying the storms in the area had "some potential to become severe." In the last two hours, the station that keeps a weather tracker 24-hour channel on our cable has changed the weekend forecast twice. They were warning that we were getting deadly heat on those days, both of which our family has outdoor plans on, but now they're pushing it back, and after I rearranged the extended day I needed to work this week from Friday to Thursday to allow one more sunny day for Ains and I to go to the pool, now they're giving a higher chance of rain for Friday than tomorrow. Blurg.

6. Martha Stewart
I stumbled across her show twice this week. I should know better. She just makes me feel like poor white trash with no taste because I don't craft my own jewelry and table centerpieces and I don't bake 6-layer coconut cakes when entertaining. I don't even entertain. But somehow she makes me feel like I should, just so I can not live up to her standards.

7. Our DVR
Right in the middle of watching the recorded season finale of Deadlist Catch, it stopped playing the show and threw us back to the Hallmark Channel or some such. After screams and curses, Jason realized he had it set to only keep one episode at a time, and midway through, it had started recording another episode (which was NOT the season finale) and, without warning, without asking, "We are about to delete the program you are watching while you are watching it due to some stupid choice you made in your settings, do you want to keep watching and cancel your recording or what?", just frickin' faded to black. They can't find a way of keeping a show from being deleted WHILE YOU ARE WATCHING IT? Seriously. We eventually saw it when we recorded it again the next night, but I had to go to bed not knowing why the Wizard had a bottomless tank, or whether or not the Cornelia Marie met its quota, or if Mike Rowe was going to say, "I love the Cranky Librarian." (It could happen.) I am in a love/hate relationship with my DVR. When it works, it's the greatest invention since the lightbulb. But it can ruin a night quicker than a holey prophylactic.

Whew. I feel better.

Your turn.

Monday, July 28, 2008

The Crap-Your-Pants Rental of the Summer

We watched the horror movie The Descent last night. Anybody seen this one? It's been a while since it was in theaters, and it's been out on DVD for a while, too. Jason and I are a little behind in the Netflix cue (getting hooked on Rock Band will do that to you) and decided to catch up a little last night.

I have no idea how I was able to fall asleep after watching that movie. Oh, yeah. Tylenol PM.

It's the scariest thing I've watched in years. At one point, I couldn't even sit still; I was simultaneously watching the movie and pacing the floor. It triggered my claustrophobia. Good thing we didn't go to it in the theater.

I won't give away too much. I will say that the horror starts in the first five minutes (I almost turned it off five minutes in; for you mommies out there, it opens with a scene specially designed to give us nervous breakdowns. Just remember, it's only a movie.)

I both love and hate a good startle, and the best I think I have ever seen is here. Jason and I both screamed (not jumped, but actually screamed.) We haven't been startled like that since his brother sent him the dreaded email where we thought it was a question about who sings this 80's-sounding song playing in the background and while we were listening intently Regan's face from The Exorcist appeared full-screen. If I ever get a future heart problem, I will blame it on that email.

So if you like being scared senseless, and want a smart, indie horror film that's not just teenage starlets being chased by zombies, check this one out.

And have some Benadryl close at hand; you're going to need something to lower your heart rate and make you able to sleep when it's all over.

Thank You

Thanks to all of you for the well-wishes and warm thoughts leading up to my big day Saturday. Many of you contacted me off the blog to let me know you were thinking of me.

With the big day come and gone, I technically should start worrying less now and start living more. You will probably hear a lot less about my cancer saga on the blog now. But I can't promise I will never write about it again; I know that problems could still arise. I also know that everything I went through five years ago is a big part of who I am. Until I take my last breath, I will be a cancer survivor. So, the topic may still come up, and I may still worry just a little.

But the air sure feels lighter on the other side.

Saturday, July 26, 2008

Don't Forget!

11pm. You. Me. Cigars, beer, wine, water, whatever you fancy.

Don't forget.

Friday, July 25, 2008

Extremely Madeover

I love people watchin'.

The new outdoor "waterpark" at our family fitness center has proved to be a very good people watchin' place. There are some interesting personalities that hang out there, and a few have even garnered nicknames in our house. "Porn Star Mommy" and "Anorexia Girl", for example.

The first time I saw "Porn Star Mommy" she arrived at the pool looking ready for her closeup, if you know what I mean. She wore her long white-blond hair in braided pigtails topped with a straw cowboy hat. She was sporting a pair of those huge sunglasses Katie Holmes is so fond of, and she showed off her flawless tan (nary a tan line in sight) in an itsy bitsy bikini that accented a Playboy body. They didn't appear to be real, but that doesn't mean they weren't spectacular. Every male over the age of 14 stopped what they were doing to watch her apply sunblock and then chase her toddler son into the water, where she could have used her chest as a life-saving floatation device.

I may be making a snap judgement about Anorexia Girl, but she is one of the thinnest women I've ever seen. And she has 2 daughters! Maybe in southern California or New York City she would be the average woman, but here in the Germanic-rooted, processed meat-lovin' tri-state area, she's scary skinny. The kind of gal you just want to feed a sandwich. I am pretty sure that her shoulder blades could be used as a weapon. I know, I'm being judgemental. Maybe she's an athlete. Maybe she's just naturally a thin person. But in her black bikini she looks kinda like a Tootsie Roll Pop. Her face and head, which look huge in proportion to her tiny frame, and even bony. I have to fight this desire to give her Comp Care's number every time I see her. And yes, I might just be jealous.

It's not just the people that are intriguing at the waterpark; since so many people talk on their cells instead of keep track of their kids while they're there, you occasionally pick up on a good phone conversation (I say if you are willing to talk on your cell about it in a public place, I'm not invading your privacy if I overhear. You wanna talk privately? Go home.)

Yesterday I heard a woman on the chair behind me and Ains say,

"It's not so much about how I think I look. I worry when people look at me. They're going to think, 'Wow, she's really over done it.' "


I am tactful enough that I didn't pick that precise moment to turn around and gawk. I figured it was something relatively benign like too much sun. Trust me, I am very sympathetic to those who have fried themselves. I've been walking around all summer with a Ronald McDonald nose.

Not too long after that she followed her kid into the pool. From the back, I didn't see anything unusual. She was about my age, and looked pretty good in her bikini (bikinis are big at the pool, even among those unlike Porn Star Mommy and Anorexia Girl who cannot quite pull it off.)

When she got into the water, she turned around.

Have mercy.

Biggest, most obvious implants I have ever seen in my life. On a real-live person, anyway.

I am trying to think of words to describe it/them. And I can't. Suffice to say I was worried about her hitting a sharp corner lest they bust.

I felt sorry for her at first. Judging by her phone conversation, she knows they look far from natural. And she was an attractive woman, obviously someone who works out and tans and worries about her appearance. And all anyone will see are the balloons in her bra.

On the other hand...why? Why do that to yourself? And if you don't think they look good...don't wear one of those triangle-cut bikini tops! Not helping.

But can I really judge?

I myself have said the only plastic surgery I would ever consider would be a boob job. I even applied to be on Extreme Makeover before it went off the air in a flutter of controversy.

One of my friends, about a year after my cancer treatment, told me she'd heard that the EM people had put out a notice on their website saying they were seeking librarians and cancer survivors for the next season. Since she's a librarian, too, she thought it was hilarious. She also jokingly told me to apply since I had the double whammy of cancer survivor AND librarian. Since the EM people were assuming either group was fertile ground for heinous people needing makeovers, they would LOVE to get their hands on me.

So in a fit of partial anger at the typical librarian stereotype and partial "You know, I could use a good makeover," I went online and applied. And was appalled at the huge list of surgeries I was asked to check if I was willing to have them. There were the more common things like breast augmentation and lipo, but then there were incomprehendible things like cheek and jaw implants and hairline restructuring. The only things I checked were the augmentation, Lasik, and laser hair removal. I could do without ever again waxing my unibrow. I figured I would never hear from them.

Until a few days later when a production assistant contacted me through email saying her stadd was interested in my story and asked me to submit two pictures to move through to the next stage of the selection process. My own mother actually encouraged me to submit the pictures (she has no recollection of this when I brought it up recently, but I promise you, she did) so I had Jason get a head shot and a full body shot of me in a swimsuit. I never did submit the pictures, but I was startled enough by the second shot that I started exercising soon thereafter.

I don't think I will ever follow the lead of some of these people-watchin' victims and modify my body to the extreme, either to make myself skeleton-skinny or to add curves. But everyone is so body-conscious, and looks matter so much, it's easy to think you have to. Never say never; there may be a day when Cranky gets a little nip or tuck.

As soon as some genius surgeon invents a way to make it painless and under $100.

Have you ever thought about going under the knife for beauty? If someone walked up to you and offered you any cosmetic procedure for free, what would it be?

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

The Taste She Craves

Ainsley had her first White Castle cheeseburger yesterday.

I am a big fan of the Castle. I only get a sack of sliders a couple of times a year, because I care about my digestive system and don't like to anger it, but it's a big treat when I do make a stop there. Oddly, I've never taken Ainsley. Jason hates White Castle, so my crave fulfillment only happens on a rare occasion that I am left to my own devices for lunch or dinner.

Conveniently, there's a WC (no, not short for "water closet", though that's usually what you look for right after eating there) right next to our grocery store. Ainsley and I were hungry when we headed out to do our shopping, and the time just seemed right.

I knew she'd dig the onion chips. Ainsley has interesting food tastes; there are things she adores which I love but Jason can't stand (onion rings, raw tomatoes, pickles) and vice versa (goetta, tomato soup.) But I didn't know about those little steam-grilled cheeseburgers.

She took a bite.

"What do you think?"

She thought for a minute. "There's something in there that makes them really yummy, but I don't know what it is."

Ahhh. That's my girl. I wanted to tell her that there definintely was something in there that made them yummy, and that it was possibly some secret ingredient like in The Colonel's chicken that causes you to crave it fortnightly.

She inhaled the onion chips and finished her little cheeseburger. At one point she pointed to a little carmel-colored piece of chopped, grilled onion hanging out of the bun and correctly identified it as the yummy-making ingredient.

When we left, she was already making plans for the next visit and what she would try (she wants her own box of onion chips instead of sharing with Mommy.)

I've started something soooo bad.

Her stomach will never be the same.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Saturday, Saturday, Saturday

This Saturday, I will be officially five years cancer free.

I think a party of sorts is in order.

Before I got sick, I always wondered how people determined when exactly their cancer anniversaries were. Some people I knew counted it from the day of diagnosis. Some people from the day they got an all-clear on a lab report. Some counted it from the day they first started chemo or radiation, and some others from the day of their last treatment. Even my oncologist told me there were different ways. He said he preferred to count from the day treatment began, but that others even in his practice counted it from diagnosis or treatment completion. Here is how I have determined mine:

Five years ago on July 26, I sat in a surgeon's office awaiting results for my second lymph node biopsy. The first one in early March had confirmed the cancer; we were hoping this one would confirm the remission.

Most Hodgkin's patients show signs of remission more clearly than I did. The lymph nodes shrink down to their previous nearly-impalpable size and a genius little test called a PET scan confirms that there is no cancerous activity in those shrunken nodes. But my body has never been one to follow the normal rules. After the prescribed course of chemo, I still had a sizeable node under my right arm. The PET scan showed no activity, but my oncologist wasn't entirely convinced; PET scans can't pick up on activity at the microscopic level. If the node wasn't still so big, the PET scan would have been enough to declare me in remission and I would have been sent in for a "mop-up" course of radiation; as it stood, the doc needed proof in the form of a biopsy before he was comfortable moving from chemo to radiation.

I had the biopsy and a few days later went in for the follow-up. I knew that one of the things I would learn would be the pathology results.

The physician assistant at the surgeon's office walked in.

"I love it when the doctor lets me give the good news," she said, and she handed me a piece of paper.

A quarter way down the page someone had highlighted the overall findings:

No evidence of Hodgkin's lymphoma. Mass contains scar tissue.

I never would have thought the words "scar tissue" could make me so happy.

So, Saturday is my big day.

It would be impossible for me to celebrate in person with all the people I'd like to celebrate with. You all are so scattered and some of you live a good distance away. So here is what I propose:

At 11pm on Saturday (eastern time), after our kids have been put to bed and our dinner plans over, at that time when most of us start to wind down a little, let's celebrate together. Jason and I will go outside on our deck, have a Unibroue, and smoke a victory cigar given to us by those awesome people we know in Georgia. I will toast all of you all. Drink with me! Or smoke with me. Or do whatever it is you do to commemorate a special moment. Raise a can of Coke high in the air if that's what floats your boat. I may not be able to be with you all in person, but I want to think that we are all celebrating together for five minutes on Saturday night.

Who's in?

Monday, July 21, 2008

The House Began To Pitch...

I would not have been surprised to have seen the Wicked Witch go by our front window on her broom around 8pm yesterday.

Jason and I had been enjoying a quiet house. Mom has been in the mood to have Ainsley over a lot this week (sometimes she misses Dad and gets lonely and doesn't want to be the only human sleeping in her house at night) and had volunteered to have the kid over for a sleepover. We had had a short little rainshower move through, but we were under no tornado or thunderstorm watches. We didn't have the TV on; we were just chilling out, occasionally glancing out the patio door at the darkening skies.

Suddenly, we heard a siren.

Our county sounds sirens anytime there is a combination of a tornado watch and a severe thunderstorm warning. Since we had checked earlier to see if we were under any watches, we were confused. Why were they sounding the storm siren? Unless...

Unless there was a tornado warning.

We clicked on the TV and it was already on a channel where the station had broken in with an urgent weather message. We immediately saw an annotated radar map on our screen. And there was a big, gray circle around the city of Erlanger.

Time to panic! That's where my mom lives.

We heard the meteorlogist say there was a rotating supercell thunderstorm. No tornadoes had touched down, but Doppler radar strongly suggested this was possible in that tiny area where there was a bow echo. He said people in the northern part of Erlanger, just south of Crescent Springs and just across the Boone County line, should immediately take cover.

If you asked me to describe where my mother lived, I would have said, "The northern part of Erlanger, close to Crescent Springs and close to the Boone County line."

I can't tell you how horrible it is to be away from your child and to hear that she could possibly be in grave danger.

Jason and I weren't even worried about ourselves. Our house was getting battered by hail and torrential rain and lightning was striking close enough to rattle our house and make my hair stand on end. But all I could think of was my baby in a house in the eye of a storm. A house with no basement.

I called mom.

"What are you doing? You know what's going on, right?"

"Yeah, we're getting some bad storms over here."

No shit.

"You don't have the news on, do you?"

I heard her fiddle with the remote.

"I did, but they didn't say much."

"Turn it on again. You need to get Ainsley to a safe place."

Just then the station I was watching flipped to a tower-cam feed that showed northern Kentucky from a transmission camera across the river. You could see a funnel coming out of a storm cloud, which the weather man was saying looked to be in the Erlanger area.

About that time I hear Ainsley freaking out. Mom had flipped to the same station we were watching, and Ainsley heard the words "tornado" and "Erlanger" and went into the kind of panic attack only a five-year-old can.

About that time we also had a lightning strike outside that made the lights dim for a minute and made the phone line crackle. I had to hang up and get me and Jason to our basement.

It was a long five minutes. Mom had said before we hung up that they were going to the part of my childhood home that Dad had always told us to go to in the event of a tornado, the tiny closet in the windowless, central hallway. Jason and I held each other as we watched the radar on the TV in our basement room, and as each sweep of the arm showed movement out of mom's part of town and southwest into other parts of the county, we held our breath.

I called back. I prayed that my mother answered the phone.

She did, and reported that though Ainsley was not calming down much, the weather was.

The threat had passed.

I talked to Ainsley and could hear the fear in her voice.

"It's over, Ainsley. You're going to be alright. There isn't a tornado."

"But is it okay where you are?"

As worried as I was about her, she was just as worried about her mom and dad. We technically live in Erlanger, too, though not in the part that the rotation went over.

All heart rates got back to normal. As scared as Ains had been, she resisted our offer to come get her and bring her home. Even when under severe weather threat, Mamaw's is still her happy place.

Come the 11 o'clock news, Jason and I had put a lot of the fear behind us. Beer helped. But then the weatherman played back phone calls to the station by people who had seen funnels out at Turway Park, and showed amateur photography of a funnel almost touching the ground from the window of a Blockbuster video that I used to walk to from my mom's house, and I got the shakes again. By all indications, there was a funnel cloud that passsed within half a mile of my mother's house.

It all happened so fast. One minute, skies were blue. No warnings, no alerts. The next, there was a rotaing death cloud.

There was this episode of Roseanne where the Connors' city gets hit by a tornado. Their house isn't damaged, but others close by are. As she and Dan start to clean up debris from the yard and comfort their kids, Roseanne breaks down. Dan asks what's wrong; they all survived, didn't they? And she says something like:

"I feel like this was a warning. Like, there was a note left behind, and the note says, 'So sorry we missed you. Will call again,' and it's signed, The Tornado Man."

I think The Tornado Man left us a calling card, too.

And an aside from the Irony Department: when Ains packed up movies to take to Mamaw's, she chose The Wizard of Oz. And last night's rerun of Desperate Housewives was the one where Lakeview gets hit by a tornado. Fate was trying to tell us something, no?

Saturday, July 19, 2008

He's My Lobster

Remember that episode of Friends where Rachel crosses the room and passionately kisses Ross after seeing his heart break for her in their old getting-ready-for-the-prom home video? I really wanted to do that to Jason in our garage on Sunday but couldn't because Ainsley and her little friend were playing in there. It wasn't because of a found home video, but it was because of a similar nostalgic treasure we found in an old box of Jason's high-school belongings.

I have been bugging my husband about going through all of the boxes of old stuff he brought from his mom's a few years ago. Sunday he started sorting through 2 of them, and found all kinds of goodies: short stories and research papers he had written for high-school English classes, our yearbook from when we were in 9th grade, skits we had written and translated as a class in Spanish, and, of course, notes I had written him back when we were love-struck teenagers (the worst part of marrying your high-school sweetheart are the horrible love letters that you come across; I just know that people who fell in love later in life have to have more tasteful correspondence.) When he realized he had hit a gold mine, I went downstairs to join him in deciding what was trash and what we needed to keep.

By far the best find was his 8th-grade journal that he had to write in every Friday for the first five minutes of English class.

Most of you know that Jason and I became a couple after a long friendship (for high-school) our sophomore year. What you may not know is that we also were classified as "going together" the last months of 7th-grade, too. I broke up with him the summer after 7th-grade, partly because we couldn't see each other much over the summer (back then, a long-distance relationship meant it was over a 30-minute walk to the other person's house), but mostly because I was 13. And 13-year-olds aren't as a general rule ready for commitment.

Reading the first entry of his 8th-grade journal told me that I had hurt him pretty badly when I had DD call him and tell him it was over that summer (yes, I am a schmuck for having my best friend do my dirty work.) But he seemed to get over it, and though for good reason I was not mentioned favorably in his journal the rest of the entries, there weren't too many revelations in those teacher-graded pages.

But then in a side pocket, I found a hand-written essay, marked with a big, red "A", called "The Best Day Of My Life."

In this essay, which was perfectly written, Jason had detailed the day in the 7th grade when a girl in our class had asked Jason if he would dance with me at the spring dance that night. And how beautiful I looked when I came into the dance, and how we spent every slow dance together that night. And how even though things didn't turn out the way he had hoped, he was happy for that one day.

That, for an 8th-grade Jason, was the best day of his life.

I looked at him across our dusty, cobwebbed garage. The boy has grown into a man, but I still saw that boy I had loved and then hurt and then loved again inside the grown-up exterior. Don't get me wrong; I know my husband loves me. But I had no idea he had felt that way that young. My heart broke for him. In my head, I saw Rachel in that Friends episode, where the home video camera turns to Ross's crestfallen face after Rachel's date finally shows up and he realizes he's not going to get to rescue her by taking her to the prom after all, and knew what she was feeling. I, like her, wanted to show the man that he has my heart even if I was too blind to see the love in the boy.

At the end of that episode, Phoebe sums it all up by saying triumphantly, "See? He's her lobster!"

I guess Jason is mine.

Happy 11th anniversary, honey.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

And Justice Was Served

Michael Emerson got an Emmy nod today for his work on Lost. Just like I (and the other 5 million bloggers who watch Lost) predicted/hoped for. Sometimes those folks get it right.

Carry on.

Here Comes The Sun, And I Say...It's Not Alright

When is someone gonna invent a sunscreen pill? 'Cause clearly the lotion stuff isn't working for me.

I don't get it. As a kid, I burned once every summer, but then tanned. And that was back in the day when my mother slathered herself in Hawaiian Tropic suntan oil with ingredients about as sunblocking as a can of Crisco and didn't even know what sunscreen was. Those were also the days when our moms smoke and drank while they were pregnant and didn't employ or enforce car seats or booster seats or even seat belts for that matter.

How did we survive to adulthood?

Anyway, I'm no stranger to sunburns. I didn't inherit my mom's Cherokee coloring. But it used to be that it didn't keep happening over and over in any giving summer. But right now, after a vacation to the beach and a couple of days a week at the pool, the skin on my arms, toes, and nose is what appears to be a permanent red.

My poor shnoz has "future melanoma removal" written all over it. And my toes...dear Lord, my poor toes. They have been replaced by cherry tomatoes.

I am trying. I started with an SPF 30. I got burned. Even though I had seen on one of those consumer advocacy shows that air on the news that an SPF 30 was really all the protection a normal human needs. I reapply every hour. I tried an SPF 50. But no matter what I do, I burn every time I get in the sun.

I am at a loss.

Is this some random gift of the aging process that wasn't in the brochure?

Short of wrapping myself mummy-like and buying a large, ridiculous hat that makes me look like a dork twice my age instead of just a 30-something dork, what can I do? I love to swim. It's hot. I don't have to go back to work for a couple more weeks. I have a five-year-old. I am not going to give up my two days a week at the pool.

But my skin is going to rebel. No way is it in my genetic code to sustain this kind of cellular damage...I had cancer once. That's how my cells roll.

Help me out here, fellow this a normal aging thing? Or is it very personal evidence in support of global climate change? Know any good sunscreens? Got any aloe?

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Big Chicken

I am not happy to blog this story, but it made Jason laugh, so it may make you laugh, too. At my expense, of course.

Last Friday night Ains and I met Jason after work at our gym's new outdoor pool. You may remember that I blogged last week about the bad experience Ainsley and I had in a tube slide.

Because of that bad experience, I've found it impossible to talk Ainsley into doing any of the other slides they have. They are pretty tame as far as "waterpark" slides go, and she loved the slides at Sunlight Pool last year the day we went, so I have been trying really hard to convince her to give it a shot.

She had promised that when Jason was there, she would go down a slide with him. But as she hem-hawed around Friday night, I saw that she was going to chicken out. So I decided to try a bargain.

"Ainsley, if you would just go down that orange slide you would love it. You'll see."

"I don't want to go down the orange slide!"

"Oh, don't be such a chicken. It's just like the ones at Coney Island. You've seen me go down it."

"I'll think about it."

"How about this," I said, eyeing the diving boards at the deep end which had thrilled her so when her daddy used them to enter the pool. "If I go off the diving board, which makes me a little afraid, will you go down the slide?'

"It makes you a little afraid?"

"Yes," I lied. I used to go off diving boards twice that high up in my sleep when I was a kid and used to tag along with DD to the local swim club.

"Maybe," Ainsley said.

The more I thought about it, the more frustrated I got that Ainsley was so afraid of something I just knew she'd love once she tried it. To show her that life is about trying things that sometimes look scary, I wordlessly got out of the shallow end and stood in the line for the diving board.

My turn came. My family was watching. Ainsley waved. I walked to the end of the board, looked down at the sparkling blue water 4 feet below, and gave a little bounce. 1, 2, 3....

And then I realized my legs were shaking, and my heart was pounding, and 4 feet seemed a lot higher up than it used to, and what the hell was I thinking jumping off a diving board at 34 years old?

So I very bravely turned around and walked the length of the diving board to go back to my family without jumping in.

It was humiliating, I tells ya.

Jason was laughing by the time I got to him. Ainsley was just staring.

"Good job there," Jason said. "You just taught your daughter that she doesn't ever have to slide down the slide."

Yeah, yeah. But deep down, I thought I had avoided certain death.

I was willing to live with my husband laughing at my cowardice ("What exactly were you afraid of?" Jason kept asking; the best response I could muster was, "I don't think I like heights so much anymore,") but as time passed and my heart rate slowed I realized I could not live with my daughter seeing me chicken out of a situation that has less threat for personal danger than crossing our street. So a few minutes after making like Brave Sir Robin, I found myself in the line for the diving board again. And that time, I jumped off the end without pausing to give it thought (though in mid-air, I desperately wanted to scream out my favorite curse word.)

And what did my bravery earn me? Did Ainsley go down the slide that day or on today's return trip to the scene of the crime?

Do pigs fly?

She still hasn't gone down the slide. But I have stopped pressing; what business do I have, really, after showing myself to be possibly the biggest chicken in the Cranky all-white-meat bucket?

Monday, July 14, 2008

Better Seats Than Jared

I am ashamed to say it's been ten years since I went to a concert. And that that last concert was Garth Brooks. (Don't knock it 'til you've tried it; the man puts on a good show.)

So when my dear friend who happens to be a huge Barenaked Ladies fan told us she had some tickets for their July 12 show at a riverboat casino in Indiana just a couple of hours away, Jason and I decided to tag along. We are more casual fans of BNL; we know and like the well-known songs, and have sentimental college memories attached to "If I Had a Million Dollars" (during an Air Guitar lip-sync contest hosted by his fraternity senior year, a couple of my closest college girlfriends chose to compete with that song and made t-shirts with lewd statements about Jason's physical appearance and reproductive stamina in a effort to sway him as one of the judges; not only did that work, but it earned a soft spot in his heart for that song.) We wanted to see what the big draw for the concerts is among two of our closest friends. And I can sincerely report that it was a helluva good time.

It helps when you see a band you like in a small arena AND HAVE TICKETS IN THE SECOND ROW. Oh, yeah, baby. That was the closest I've ever been to a performer. It is just unbelievably cool to be be close enough to someone whose CD you have bought (or borrowed, in my case) to see their eye color and know how much they sweat while performing.

After we seated ourselves, and I got settled after saying over and over "OhmygodtheseseatsareawesomeIcan'tbelieveI'mthisclosetothestage", Jason leaned in to me.

"Hey, I think that's Jared the Subway guy over there."

And sure enough, there was the Jared. We are so celebrity starved here in Kentuckiananati that all heads turned and the whispers started as this minor celebrity was seated.

That was when my friend leaned over and said,

"We have better seats than Jared!"

And indeed we did. By several rows.

The show was great; there was no band opening for them, and they launched with "One Week" and "Old Apartment." The latter is one of my favorite rock/pop songs, period, so I was psyched. It made up for the fact that the concert was outside and the humidity was roughly 1000% that night.

They did two encores, "If I Had a Million Dollars" being one of them, natch. A guy behind me tried to get them to do "7-8-9" off of their new children's CD Snacktime (which my friend bought for Ainsley, and which provided the soundtrack for our Hilton Head vacation) and I picked up on his chant, and together we got the recognition of Steven. But, alas, they refrained from the kid stuff. Being on casino grounds, it was only 21-and-overs in attendance.

Later we learned that Jared definitively does not stick to the Subway diet these days, in case you were wondering. His post-concert snack of choice was nothing less than a casino buffet. And beer apparently has a prominent place in his post-weight-loss regimen.

Ainsley was jealous that she had to spend the night with Mamaw while Mommy and Daddy got to go see what she calls the "Snacktime People." She is becoming quite the little BNL fan herself.

I had such a good time that I fear I am going to want to start spending money on concerts now. Of course, the bands I really want to see don't bother hitting Cincinnati so I may be able to save myself.

Your turn:

What was the last concert you saw? What has been your favorite concert? Am I the only person in America who loves music but goes ten years between concerts?

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Maternal Instinct

I now know how mothers are able to lift cars to save their kids.

Don't worry; Ainsley didn't almost die. But I did have a moment where maternal instinct kicked in and my only thought was Ainsley, and didn't feel my injuries until later.

The "waterpark" at our gym opened this week. It's a small affair; there's a shallow pool with kiddie slides and fountains and geysers and such, and an area with body and tube slides. We went to check it out yesterday, and after seeing that the tube slide allowed for either single or double inner tubes, Ains and I thought it might be fun to ride together down the long, mostly darkened green slide.

It's important that I tell you an hour after we rode, someone got on the intercom and made an announcement that "two people of differing weight should refrain from riding double on the slides."

We carried our inner tube up the stairs and loaded ourselves on, with Ains in the front. That was what the lifeguard recommended to keep us from flipping the tube on the first turn.

Not sound advice.

As soon as we entered the covered tube, into which no daylight came, we hit the first turn hard and got flipped completely off the tube. One minute I had my legs around Ainsley's waist and a tight grip on the handles; the next, I am flying blind and fast and have no idea where either my child or the tube are in the void.

Then I hear Ainsley scream, and then blubber a little, and I realize she's off the tube, too, and by the blubbering, the water is high enough that it's taking her breath away a little.

My mission becomes finding and holding on to Ainsley to keep her head out of the water (the water level is a little higher in this tube than in a body slide.) I reach out blindly, feel a little Lycra, and hold Ains up almost above myself. It's all I can think of, and I have her in an iron grip.

I finally see daylight, and we are zoomed out into the pool. I see it coming, and I work harder to keep Ainsley's head up so she doesn't panic when she hits the water. A second later, our inner tube is shot out of the opening behind us.

The lifeguard at the bottom sighs and asks, "Did you get flipped out?"

No, ma'am, we got off mid-ride for shits and giggles.

She rolls her eyes at me and says something about making an announcement about kids and adults riding together, but I am only half listening because I am amazed that my kid isn't freaking out or crying. She's just insisting that she do no more rides while we're there.

Ten minutes later we walk to the kiddie slide and I sit on the edge of the pool; as soon as I bend my left knee, it starts aching and burning. I look down and see a knot the size of a quarter on my poor kneecap. I can bend my knee, but it hurts like a SOB to do so, and when I do, it has a distinctly knobbier profile than the other knee. Before our day was up, my knee would turn a shade of purple-black akin to a stormy sky at twilight. But not nearly as romantic. And this morning when I turned over in bed, I realized I have a similar knot and bruise on my left elbow (and today that bump has been more painful than the knee.)

I know I must have obtained the injuries inside the Slide of Death, but I have no idea how. If i had been by myself, I am sure whatever crease or bump the left side of my body hit to make those bruises would have made me scream and unleash my favorite word that starts with an F and ends with a CK, but I didn't feel anything at the time but the Lycra on Ainsley's suit. Adrenaline was flowing, and my brain was so busy screaming GRAB AINSLEY AND HOLD ON TIGHT AND FORTHELOVEOFGODDON'TLETGO that my body wasn't feeling pain, wasn't feeling injury, just feeling for my kid. I probably could have been getting hit in the face with lead weights dangling from the plastic above, and I wouldn't have felt it until later.

It was only a minor scare and hardly a brush with death, but I know now what mothers are made of. It's sturdy stuff when our kids need us.

But it is only flesh and bone after all, so the day after, you will need some Alleve.

Monday, July 7, 2008

Things That Make You Go, "F#^&!"

Today in the grocery store I went to put the only perfect, unbruised green pepper in the grocery bin into a produce bag when it slipped through a hole in the plastic and went down to splat on the filthy orange tile below.

There's only one thing to say when that happens:

Well, I wanted to say something else, but I was in a public place, and Ainsley was with me, so "Frick!" had to do.

It occurred to me on the ride home that "F___" may be one of my favorite words. In some situations, it just feels good to let the F bomb drop. In some situations, it really is the only word that will work, that will vent the frustration and anger. For me, anyway. But I always was, and always will be, a closet potty mouth.

Here are some times when only a good "F___" will do.

Stubbing your toe on your bedpost during a 3am trip to the bathroom.

Realizing on your way to the kitchen first thing in the morning that that noise you heard some time in the night was the cat yacking up a hairball; of course, you learned this because you stepped in it with your bare foot.

Arriving home from a colossal grocery trip in 95-degree weather to realize that all those people in your neighborhood running the AC has caused the electricity to blip out, meaning you can't get in through the garage, meaning you have to park the car in the driveway and haul 20 bags of perishables and a case of Bud Select (which seemed like a swell idea at the time) up an extra flight of steps just to get to the front door.

Getting all the way to the front door of your library/office/workplace and remembering you left your work keys on the kitchen table.

Seeing water come from anything in your house besides a faucet.

Dropping the very last homemade chocolate chip cookie on your kitchen floor as you were bringing it to your mouth a bite.

Hearing a gag, a splat, and a "Mommy!" at 2am.

Dropping a DVD case into the return slot at Blockbuster only to realize, the moment it has irretrievably left your hand, that the DVD itself is still a 15-minute drive away in your DVD player.

Hitting "Send" on a snarky email you wrote to a coworker in reply to an asinine email your boss sent, only to realize you might have hit "Reply to all."

Tell me, f&^$ing readers: What triggers your F bombs?

Friday, July 4, 2008

Summer TV

Happy Independence Day, Everybody!

Before we went on vacation, I asked you, dear readers, to post some of your favorite summer TV.

Please allow me now to share my current obsessions, one of which I am watching right now over a very late breakfast (Ains spent the night with her Mamaw last night.)

Jason and I have always turned to the Discovery Channel during holiday and summer TV hiatuses. We are curious people, and shows like Mythbusters and the brou-ha-ha of Shark Week suck us in like moths to a porch light.

This summer, Jason has got me hooked on two Discovery Channel shows I might not have been interested in without his prodding:

Dirty Jobs, and The Deadliest Catch.

There is one common thread in both of these shows: Mike Rowe.

Ladies and germs, I have found my new celebrity crush.

If you have spent much time on this blog, you know that I go through phases of fandom with various males I see on the big screen or the little screen and fall into a child-like giggly crush over. It started with Bruce Campbell, then I went through a David Duchovny thing, and then Jim Carrey, and most recently Jon Stewart (this is NOT to say that I am over Jon, by the way), and then there's perennial crush Bono. This Mike Rowe guy is on my radar now because I am loving those two shows, and I feel the stirrings of crush-love.

For the uninitiated, Dirty Jobs finds Mike going all across America to spend a day in the life of the men and women who do the nasty, back-breaking, thankless jobs that keep the civilized world turning on its axis. It will make you gag, but Mike handles slopping hogs with processed food scraps from Vegas buffets (and he helpled in the funky processing) and digging for blood worms with a mix of boyish enthusiasm and gallows-humor sarcasm. He has this deep, nature-narrator voice, and rugged good looks, and when he unleashes his deathly-dry zingers in the middle of some situation that would have you and I gagging (especially I), it's just damn good television. Laugh-out loud television. And that, my friends, makes him one of the sexiest guys on TV.

He uses that deep nature-narrator voice to invisibly tell the tales of crab fishermen on the Bering Sea in The Deadliest Catch. You can almost smell the testosterone when you watch that one. I don't know if there are any more manly men on the face of God's green earth than those men who make their living on the deadly, icy waters off the coast of Alaska. I would argue that this is the best drama on television; you don't get any more dramatic or real than men fighting the waves and the water and risking their lives to harvest the creatures of the sea. They fight each other, they fight themselves when they've been up for two days straight, they fight the catch, they fight mother nature and all the elements; it's every type of conflict you could possibly have right there in one hour of television. And every bit of it is real, and no one is trying to be a star or a prima donna. They're just doing their jobs and getting filmed doing it in all its dangerous glory.

And then there's After the Catch, where narrator Mike Rowe talks to the captains about what went on behind the scenes of that episode over beer and cigarettes. Those men are the salt of the earth.

Anybody out there with me on the Mike Rowe love? If you have never seen these shows, give 'em a try and post back.

New Catchphrases

Ainsley's got some new catchphrases. Some new lingo, if you will.

On vacation, every time she encountered a new experience that she liked or saw something really cool, she came up with:

"I love myself!"

Seeing as how the whole beach and ocean thing were filled with new experiences that awed and impressed, we heard it a lot.

Now, I am the first to admit that a healthy dose of self-esteem is a good thing, and that it's better to be happy with who you are than to roll about in self-loathing like I've done for a majority of my life. Learning to love yourself is the greatest love of all. After all, I do believe the children are our future.

But after hearing a five year old say, and sometimes sing, "I love myself! I looooove myself! I lovelovelovelove myself and my mommy and da--aaddy!"--well, it gets old after a while. So we had to tell her to cool it. At least in public, where people will think she's conceited.

We already know she's conceited. (Kidding! Part of what's baffling about this is that prior to vacation, all I heard was, "I hate my glasses! I hate my hair! I want long hair! I want to be a good swimmer! I want to look like Gabriella! And so on. I don't know which is more annoying.)

Then there's the Ainsley Wave Classification System.

Completely on her own, she came up with some new names for different types of waves. As she played in the ocean, each wave that crashed into her back, or lifted her up, or went over her head, was classified as a "Splat", a "Jiggle", or a "Jink."

And like most Ainsley catchphrases, there was a little song that went with it. Which we heard, like all these things, A LOT.

Yesterday I took her to the zoo (not nearly as event-filled as last year's trip) and at every exhibit, I heard Ainsley as surfer girl:


Not a new catchphrase, I know, but the way she says it almost comes out more as a sneeze than a verification of greatness. I am still trying to figure out what Disney kiddie sitcom character she's heard say that word that way, 'cause it's not an inflection I hear around our house.

I heard "Awe-SOME!" roughly every 2.3 seconds for six hours. Even the cheese coney she had for lunch was Awe-SOME! The only thing that was decidedly not AweSOME! was the 4-D Planet Earth movie where her seat shook and water squirted out of the seat in front of her and we had to get up and leave 5 minutes in because loud noises and unexpected 4-D effects cause meltdowns in my child.

The thing with her catchphrases is that they get stuck in my head. Especially since she sets them to music.

As I write, I keep singing the "I love myself!" song, and as Jason plays Guitar Hero while I type, I cheer him on with "AweSOME!". Tonight I will dream of Splats, Jiggles, and Jinks and sing the "Splat....Jiggle...JINK!" rhyme in my sleep.

Thanks, Ains, for you way with words. By posting them, perhaps they will catch on at your houses, dear readers. In the meantime, tell me something that will get these words out of my head.