Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Out Of The Mouth Of Ains: The Tax Man Cometh

Yeah, I had to rush right home and blog this one.

After drama practice today, I picked up Ains and took her to get her hair cut. We go to a little shop in the Kroger mini-mall between her school and mine.

As we drove into the shopping center Ains said,

"Oh, I see it! I see where I get my hair cut! Hair Block!"

There's an H & R Block right next to the Fantastic Sam's.

Go Ahead. Play.

This is our last day of school before Thanksgiving. Based on the number of kids roaming the halls, and the number of DVD players I have checked out today, I am guessing that there is some major slacking going on.

So whether your last day is today or tomorrow, I encourage you to follow our lead. Go ahead. Slack. Play. Look like you're working but don't work. It's the American way.

Need some suggestions? Check these links out.

1. Dave Barry's Annual Gift Giving Guide. The Uroclub is especially awesome and should somehow figure into your holiday shopping.

2. Dan marching to his own drum on Amazing Race. You need no prior knowledge of Amazing Race to appreciate that clip. It's one of the funniest things I've ever seen on television. To quote George Costanza when he made fun of Elaine dancing, "It was like a full-body dry heave."

If you have to keep minimizing your browser window to escape detection, this should buy you an entire hour. Only 7 more to go!

Seriously, have a great Thanksgiving. Y'all.

Monday, November 24, 2008

A Wide-Eyed Hillbilly In A Room Full Of Yankees

I consider myself a well-educated, well-mannered, relatively cultured person. I am not rich, and never have been. Thanks to a good local choice of places to go on special occasions, I have dined at some really fancy restaurants. Thanks to my college friends with a little money and a lot of good taste, I have attended elegant wedding receptions in swanky, historic homes, family-owned horse farms, and beautiful country clubs. I (mostly) know which fork to use, which wine goes best with red meat, and how to make polite small talk with people I don't know so well. Centre College and the folks from all over the country and from all over the socioeconomic scale I befriended there took the poor little hillbilly girl I used to be and, while not quite taking all the Eliza Doolittle-ness out, at least taught me how to survive in settings more formal than family-reunion pig roasts.

So why is it that eating dinner with Jason's boss makes me feel like a square peg in a round hole and almost a little ashamed of myself?

We ate dinner there Saturday night, and I dreaded it. It's been about 3 years since we last attended an intimate dinner party for co-workers there. His boss isn't ridiculously wealthy, though his house is gorgeous and in a part of Cincy that takes considerable coinage to move in to. None of the others in attendance are overly well-off. But unlike the semi-formal dinners I attended in college or after with my friends, I have no common ground with these people. No shared background. I didn't attend the same school as them or even grow up in the same state as these people. I have not travelled where they've travelled. I have never in my life felt like such a rube.

Oh, they are exceedingly nice people. And it's totally not their fault that I feel so uncomfortable around them. And it's taken me a couple of days to put my finger on why I feel this way and here's what I've come up with:

I am a hick. I am Cousin Eddie at the Griswold family Christmas, I am the embodiment of several Jeff Foxworthy jokes, I am a few bars of Gretchen Wilson's "Redneck Woman." I hide behind my cheap-but-classy librarian clothes and my Master's degree, but start asking me, "What does your family do?" (Hole up in hollers and call each other about picking up the govamint cheese, mostly) and "Where do you travel in winter?" (I hear Dollywood's nice this time of year) and the truth is gonna come out.

When I am the only Kentucky hick in a room full of well-bred urbanites I cannot handle myself.

This dinner with the boss thing gets me way, way out of my comfort zone. Jason works with these people, so they have that to talk about. The women-only conversation over appetizers revolved around private Montessori schools in the area; upcoming trips to Italy; Gymboree; marmoleum flooring; the great little sushi bar in the neighborhood with great happy hour deals; and gourmet cheese shops. I didn't have much to offer.

Especially after the first time I opened my mouth.

The two other women there were talking about schools for their kids, and how they were big believers in Montessori education, and how private was better than public, and how public schools were kind of out of the question, and how Catholic school stifle kids too much what with the disapproving nuns and conformity and uniforms.

"Cranky, where is it you send Ainsley?"

I looked up from some yummy green onion and tomatillo salsa with a chip still dangling out of my mouth.

"Oh, she goes to a Catholic school. It's really close to the public school I work in."


Jason is better at it all than I am. Knowing that both of his male co-workers at the table love Christmas Vacation, he channeled Cousin Eddie when asking for more soup.

"I'll take some more of that, Clark...It is GOOO-OOOOD!"

I can't jest like that. It's harder for women; we're supposed to be the bastions of good manners and social graces. I'd rather stay quiet when I can't relate to what's being said around me.

I was sorely tempted, though, to toss back a few and just let my freak flag fly. Here are some things I really wanted to say but held back for, you know, good taste:

"Y'all got any cornbread in there I can use to sop up this broth?"

"Do you think we could turn the UK game on and open some beer?"

"Do I have cilantro in my teeth? Anybody got a toothpick?"

"I don't see a light switch in here in this bathroom...you don't mind if I leave the door open a crack while I pee right quick, do ya?" (I honestly couldn't find a light switch, and instead of interrupting dinner and embarrassing myself, I just went by the light coming in from the window...Jason later told me you actually had to turn knobs on the sconces to turn the lights on.)

I had told Jason that if the hick in me was feeling too repressed, if the conversation stayed too long on the finer things in life, that I was just going to live up to the stereotype. So had I actually said those things he did get fair warning.

These really are good people that he works with, and I think I would love them more if I had the home court advantage. I'd like to invite them up to our little cookie-cutter bilevel in a semi-bad neighborhood and serve them a big old Paula Deen southern lasagna or maybe some beer-in-the-rear chicken. For drinks, if it's winter, I would just throw some beer on the porch to get good and icy-cold. We could finish it all off with a Snickers pie. And the conversation...oh, I would want to talk about the truly important things. Like our favorite TV shows and movies and video games and whether or not Brit-Brit is really going to make a comeback this time.

And as they walked in the door I would say, "Welcome to Kentucky, y'all!"

Friday, November 21, 2008

Heaven Has Cinnamon Rolls

It's my fault, I know, for putting my kid in a Catholic school.

Ainsley has become very...well...Jesus-y.

Oh, settle down. I'm not saying that's a bad thing. It's just a little disconcerting for me to have a child who is so sweetly devout when I regularly fall off the religion wagon.

For two weeks earlier this fall, she wanted Jason to read from her children's illustrated bible every night instead of reading Junie B. Jones. She sat down one afternoon last week with some notebook paper and said she was going to write a story; when she proudly showed me her work later I was expecting to read about Troy and Gabriella and the rest of the High School Musical crew and instead read about Adam and Eve and why they were kicked out of the garden.

Yesterday I was doing housework and started hearing a low muttering coming from the bedrooms. It sounded like an adult voice and had the monotone rhythm of a chant. I was a little scared until I saw Ainsley sitting at her desk praying her little plastic rosary. Then I was a lot scared. Kids chanting religiously make me have Children of the Corn flashbacks.

I, too, was a fairly religious kid. We weren't big on actually going to church in my family, but church came to us after we got cable in the form of the Trinity Broadcast Network and Jim and Tammy Fay. Mom took most of it as entertainment rather than education, but I was young and impressionable. My grandmother had also bought me a book of illustrated (sometimes gruesomely) bible stories from some proselytizing Jehovah's Witnesses that I devoured and turned to over and over again, partly for the gruesome pictures. The destruction of Sodom was particularly gory. And fascinating.

But my mom, for all her evangelical roots, was pretty good at tempering the religious ferocity I was seeing on Christian TV. She gave me her own rather tolerant take: respect other religions, because as long as someone is a good person who doesn't harm other people that person is a child of God who won't be punished in the Christian idea of hell whether they believe in Him as we do or not; a little alcohol, a little dancing, and a little makeup are not the huge sins some of the fundamentalists would have you believe; money is the root of most of the world's evil. That last one was why she quit the Jim and Tammy Fay show; she had a hard time believing anyone who asked for that much hard-earned money to build a Christian waterpark was on the level.

I haven't been the same since the Philosophy of Religion class I took my freshman year in college. I wandered in a kind of spiritual daze for years after that class, questioning the existence of all the things I was raised to believe in: the afterlife, the father, the son, and the holy ghost. Eventually the solemnity of the Catholic mass drew me back into the Christian fold, but I don't buy every single thing the church sells me. I consider myself a hybrid; I mostly run with the Catholics, but I have held onto a little Protestantism and even adopted some beliefs of other non-Christian faiths. I go months at a time without my shadow darkening the church doors because of one thing I hear in a mass that doesn't sit particularly well with my more spiritually informal and liberal leanings.

But now I've got this kid who will be well and thoroughly indoctrinated in Catholicism.

Her current fount of religious knowledge has to do with heaven and hell and who goes to the one and who goes to the other and what heaven is like.

"Daddy, do we get to eat all the sweets we want in heaven?"

"I don't know. I don't know if you eat at all in heaven..."

"I bet they'll have those one rolls with the white stuff on top and the sticky stuff on the bottom."

"Cinnamon rolls?"

"Yeah, cinnamon rolls!" She dreamily put her chin on her hand. "I bet they have cinnamon rolls in heaven because when I eat them now I think, 'Ah...heaven.' "

First of all...If I'd known she thought so highly of Pillsbury cinnamon rolls, I would have made them for her more often. Secondly...

"Daddy, will you and mommy be in heaven, too?"

There's the rub.

"Should I be worried?" I asked Jason later. "Is she going to grow up and someday tell me I am going to hell because I vote Democrat and like to sleep in on Sundays take the Lord's name in vain and gossip and sometimes believe God is more like the Force than like an old man in a long, white beard? Should we reconsider this whole Catholic school thing?"

He looked back toward her bedroom where her religious questions had been silenced by the High School Musical 3 soundtrack and where our little angel was currently getting her groove on.

"I think she will be just fine. She's your kid, after all. Just let her be."

True. But just in case, I am going to make her some cinnamon rolls this weekend. I can't be too much of a sinner if I make her some heavenly little treats...

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Take This Bread and Stuff It

One of my least favorite holidays is right around the corner.

That's right, kids. I feel something less than love for Thanksgiving. I am aware that this makes me look either un-American or anorexic or both. I am neither of those things, but I just can't get that excited about a holiday where I spend hours in the kitchen and don't get to open any presents afterwards.

I am lucky that I don't host a Thanksgiving celebration. My heart goes out to those who do. But Jason and I, since we were 17 years old, have found ourselves going to two different houses for two different feasts on Turkey Day. At each house we're expected to both bring something (multiple somethings, some years) and eat something. Eating two plates of turkey and trimmings in one day is almost torture and really should be outlawed as cruel and unusual family punishment. But you can't go to someone's house and not eat some of their turkey. It would look rude. Plus, at my family's dinner, my mom gets her feelings hurt if I don't try a little of everything and have a second dose of at least the dumplings. So there we are, loaded with tryptophan, digesting roughly the same amount of calories Michael Phelps would need to win 2 gold medals, but not doing anything more strenuous to burn them off than clicking a remote. It's miserable.

I do like the basic tenets of Thanksgiving. I am all for taking a day to give thanks. And I am grateful that we have so much to eat on that day when so many people in our country have so little. I do have a heart. But like Christmas, the big idea behind the holiday gets lost. Instead of giving thanks, we focus on football and checking circulars for Black Friday deals. I seriously doubt this is what the pilgrims had in mind.

Then there's the stuffing.

I absolutely positively hate that stuff. Whether you call it dressing or stuffing, whether you make it from white bread or cornbread or Stove Top, I do not like it, Sam I Am.

Not liking that mix of dried bread and sage stuffed up inside a turkey carcass (or drenched in stock to make it taste like it was stuffed inside a turkey carcass) is tantamount to blasphemy among some of you. I've never really been a fan; my mother always makes it with chopped pieces of giblets, and watching her put that into the bowl as a small child scarred me for life. Add to that the fact that I have twice thrown up on Thanksgiving night (once because I got a migraine, and once because I was a moron who drank too much red wine on top of too much pumpkin gooey butter cake) and both times could, um, taste the stuffing a second time, and who can blame me for my stuffing aversion? It's so bad that even though I don't eat it anymore (and this kills my mom, who takes great pride in her cornbread dressing and even makes me my own little batch of it sans giblets) just the aroma and the sight of it make my stomach do a somersault.

So while some of you may already be salivating at the thought of your own all-you-can-eat poultry buffet, I can barely muster any enthusiasm for the meal itself. Not to mention that our school will be having its faux-turkey lunch for students and staff on Thursday.


At least I get the next day off to recover and to say thanks over a meal I can really get excited about: our traditional day-after-Thanksgiving Benihana lunch after visiting downtown Cincy's train display. Now that, my friends, is a meal. With nary a speck of stuffing in sight. Sesame chicken on the Hibachi trumps a roasted Butterball any day of the year.

Am I un-American for not liking Thanksgiving or the dressing that comes along as a side? Is there anyone else who dislikes the bird feast or some accompaniment to it?

Monday, November 17, 2008

Suburban Legends

It's amazing how a cheesy movie based on shaky historical facts will suck me in.

A couple of years ago I found myself enjoying the first National Treasure movie. I know. It's ridiculous, and it features Nicholas Cage. There are two reasons right there why I had no business renting the thing. But I fell victim to The DaVinci Code Syndrome.

When I read The DaVinci Code, I completely fell in love with historical puzzles built on obscure theories and based on ancient secret-carrying societies that probably never existed. Was it a particularly well-written book? Not really. Was it remotely plausible? Credible scholars of the subject would say no. Did I devour it and drift off into pleasant dreams of a reconstructed biblical history that never was? Sure. And then I actively sought other books and movies that take historical legends most of us have probably never heard of and explore them in a consipracy-laden action-adventure tale.

Most of what I found was junk food masquerading as meat-and-potatoes history. But it sure tasted yummy, even if it wasn't educationally good for me.

I was never a fan of history. I hated the subject in high school. I got through my two college requirements in world history mostly because I liked the professor (all hail The Hamminator.) Prior to around age 25, there were only two historical topics that ever really grabbed my attention: World War I (thank you, All Quiet On The Western Front) and the Kennedy assassination.

Post-schooling, before I even read The DaVinci Code, I began to get interested in religious history. I converted to Catholicism before I got married and found the history of the early church surprisingly fascinating. Then I saw the movie Elizabeth and started devouring biographies of that most fascinating English queen. One can hardly study Elizabeth without stumbling across the sometimes horrific history of her father, so I later became obsessed with Henry and his wives (fueled by Phillipa Gregory's based-on-history novels about the Boleyns and those poor women that followed.) The History Channel, at least in the summer, is one of the most watched cable channels in our house.

So last night found us homebound by the icky weather and browsing through Hulu and Netflix, which we now have access to on our TV through the Playstation (isn't technology grand?) Jason started the second National Treasure movie. I groaned. I knew I would have to severely suspend my disbelief to enjoy it. I was just grateful that he had found something to entertain him and Ains while I cooked and glad that I had something else to do so as not to pollute my brain with a story that only contained about 1/8 of a teaspoon of real history.

I should have known better.

Drawn by big booms and a big car chase and something about the Lincoln assassination, I kept finding myself wandering into the living room, dripping soup ladle in hand.

"Weird how these kinds of movies suck you in, isn't it?" Jason said. Ains had stopped what she had been doing to stare slack-jawed at the action, too.

Yes. Weird.

I think these stories appeal to the romantic in me even though the level-headed sort-of-scholar that usually runs the show objects to all the inaccuracies and outright ridiculousness (a scene in the second National Treasure involves Cage and Co. breaking into the President's desk in the oval office in the middle of the day--yeah, that'll happen.) I like the mysteries of history--the might-have-beens, the conspiracies, the shocking secrets our forefathers took to their graves.

The second National Treasure really got me with the whole idea of "The Presidents' Book." I had never heard it put that way before, but my conspiracy-loving mom used to tell me the similar urban legend: that all modern-day U.S. Presidents are given two great truths after they are sworn in. They are told who really killed JFK, and they are taken to Area 51 and shown the alien remains.

"That's why all the Presidents age so badly in office," she used to say, partly joking, partly believing this legend as strongly as she believes that Jesus is coming again and that right soon. "The minute they see the aliens their hair turns gray."

Hm. I always thought the stress of being a major world leader living on 4 hours of sleep a night did that.

I used to debate this with her when I was in college and knew everything. If men like Jimmy Carter and Gerald Ford and Ronald Reagan were living their civilian lives with this kind of mind-blowing information, what kept them from yelling it out to the world? What's to lose at that point?

"Those men are never in their lives alone again. The Secret Service and the CIA have plans in place for Presidents who say too much, and it wouldn't end well for the Presidents and their families."

Well, there you go, I guess.

But I like this legend, though I don't believe it. Most days.

I also like to believe that a nutcase lone gunman did not have the brains and sharpshooting ability (and luck) to get a fatal shot at a beloved President in his motorcade. I prefer to believe that it takes a village to kill a great man. It makes it a little easier to sleep at night. The book The Best Evidence had me convinced for a long time that Oswald did not act alone; I've since grown up and seen in this post 9/11 world that one man can indeed do awful things.

Many of our students are fervent believers that Neil Armstrong did not walk on the moon and that the Apollo missions were filmed and photographed in the desert. Even my conspiracy-loving mom doesn't cotton to this one; she watched the moon landing and felt that consuming pride that all who watched it felt. Neither she nor I can be swayed by one Fox special, but I can see why this generation is skeptical; skepticism and fantastical historical reconstructions are more entertaining than a thousand-page history text.

But here are some historical legends I like:

I like to imagine the Declaration of Independence and Constitution dropping down into a secure nuclear-assault proof chamber miles below D.C. should we ever be attacked (again.)

I like to think there is something quite shocking out in the dry, desolate lands around Area 51. I don't know if there be aliens there, but I have to believe there is something really fantastic out there that the government believes it needs to protect our fragile souls from (and my heart will break if it's just something relatively dull like a stealthy new aircraft.)

As a late, great TV show once said...I want to believe.

What are your favorite historical urban legends that capture your attention? Are there any that you would really like to know are true?

Friday, November 14, 2008

Let's Scan...The Last Scan...Tonight!

Oh, goodie, a cause for celebration! Not a big cause, but one that may merit a Unibroue tonight (though really, what Friday night doesn't arguably merit a Unibroue?)

I just had what may be my last Hodgkin's-restaging CT scan of chest, abdomen and pelvis!

If this scan comes back clean, I won't have to have another lets-look-for-returning-cancer scan unless I'm symptomatic. Mind you, I have been getting one of these a year for the past 4 years, sometimes with a side of PET scan. And I also had to get one every three months the first year of remission. I have been well and thoroughly radiated, so I am very happy to know this may be it. I am also happy that I may never have to drink another barium smoothie.

I know that CT scans are pretty common anytime you're hospitalized after an accident or serious illness, so I know this won't be the last one I ever have in what I hope to be a longish and healthy ever-after. And I know a yearly breast MRI is still on tap, so there's always that to look forward to. But this will be the last one with a big red marking on the doctor's order that says, "Lymphoma Restaging", so....


Carry on, my wayward readers.

Fleece Navidad

It's gonna be a cold, cold, weekend here in the tri-state. The kind of weekend that just might make me drag out some Christmas decorations and start thinking about the yuletide.

I already know what I want this year. It's a smaller wish list than last year. It's just this one simple thing, and I think after you watch the commercial for it, you might just want one too:

A Snuggie.

Okay, seriously, stop reading and click on that link. You won't be sorry. I'll wait.

Priceless, hain't it?

Jason and I saw this commercial last weekend, and when it came on, I really and truly thought we were watching an episode of SNL and that Kristen Wiig was going to appear any moment. When we realized this was a real honest-to-goodness product...well, that's just rich.

The sad thing is both Jason and I agreed that my constantly-cold mom and daughter would probably love to each have a Snuggie and would live in them all winter long. Even though they would look like they were waiting for the mother ship.

Here's what slays me in this commercial (which, for research purposes, I have replayed about 5 times):

1. If having to uncover your arm from a blanket to answer the phone is the most annoying thing in your life...can we please trade for a day?

2. Women can almost pull this off, aesthetically speaking. Men...not so much. That younger guy wearing it while using his laptop? The older guy in the chair? They look like a ride on Comet Hale-Bopp is in their immediate future. And the more people wearing it together, the more ridiculous it looks. The family around the campfire wearing them? Yeesh. The family that wears backwards bathrobes together stays together, I guess.

3. The woman puttering around in her kitchen close to her stove in something that brags about its "oversized sleeves"? That's just a grisly 911 call waiting to happen.

4. Look again at the sporting event scene around the one-minute mark. When the little girl jumps up to cheer, the Snuggie completely devours her arms. Hahahaha! Sometimes one-size-fits-all doesn't.

5. That college student wearing it? She's not going to see any action in that thing. Just sayin'.

6. The free reading light? I can just see people watching this and being on the fence but seeing that light and going, "Well, that just seals the deal. Because now I can read in the dark with a blanket that doesn't confine my arms when I engage in some strenuous page-turning."

7. If only it came in more colors...I look really hot in orange.

What I really want is to order 3 and have them arrive just in time for this year's Cranky family Christmas card photo to feature the three of us in matching UK-blue blankets with sleeves. It would just scream "Happy Holidays!"

Also, "Losers!"

And possibly, "We heart Gregorian chant!"

If you're not struck speechless by the absurdity of this year's must-have infomercial item, tell me: deep down, in places you don't talk about at dinner parties, do you secretly kinda want one? Or are you more of a Slanket person?

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Gimme the Keys, Leeeeesa!

I really, really wanted to crash a little after 8 last night. It's been a tiring week at work with a lot of people needing me for a lot of different and challenging things and a tiring week at home with Ains in drama practices every afternoon. Jason tossed me the remote at some point and I thought I would just do a quick browse before I called it a night, while I was enjoying some foot pampering via my Yoga Toes. (Don't laugh. They're a little awesome.)

And there's where it all went south. For on one of the free Encore channels, there was a Brat Pack marathon. Most of the movies I had missed were true Brat Pack 80s films; later last night they were showing Striptease under that same Brat Pack category. Really? Demi Moore baring all in the 90s as a representational Brat Pack film? If they really wanted to showcase Demi in something other than, say, St. Elmo's Fire, they could have at least shown Ghost. My beefs with their choices notwithstanding, I caught the end of Sixteen Candles and after that, the beginning of Weird Science. So much for that early bedtime.

I've seen Sixteen Candles enough that I don't get too excited anymore about the movie in its entirety. But the end...ah, it doesn't get much sweeter than that. A spectacularly drugged bride ruining a wedding? Check. Hot Jake Ryan standing by his car in front of the church after all the other cars have pulled away? Check. Molly Ringwald's incredulous and so believeable, "Me?" after she looks around to make sure the "it guy" is really looking at her? Check. A squeal-inducing first kiss over a long-overdue birthday cake? Check. Girls, isn't this how we all wanted high school romance to look?

But Weird Science...oh, man, I can't pull myself away from that movie. It might just be my favorite of the Brat Pack set. Sure, it doesn't have the social commentary of The Breakfast Club, or the butterflies-in-stomach heart of Sixteen Candles. But here's what it does have:

1. A young Robert Downey, Jr. playing a complete punky jerk (Dude, you're gonna be Iron Man someday.)
2. Kelly LeBroc, arguably the most delicious woman of the 80s (she was on Celebrity Fit Club some time ago and even with some meat on her bones, she's unnaturally gorgeous.)
3. An inspired comic performance from Anthony Michael Hall (his character drunk in that blues club has to be one of the funniest things I've ever seen.)
3. Bill Paxton giving us a preview of his "Are you ready to go back to Titanic?" hamminess in a role that plays to those strengths.
4. A moral about being brave and taking chances while still being true to yourself that doesn't feel so in-your-face in the midst of that totally unrealistic, fantastic storyline.

As the movie started, Jason gave up and headed off to bed. I promised that I would only stay up until Chet's line about a greasy pork sandwich served on a dirty ashtray, and I was good to that promise (exhaustion overrode 80s-movie ecstasy.) But in that short time, I laughed more than I had in weeks. That movie delivers, man.

I know I'm not alone in love for this movie. One of you who reads this blog regularly used to quote pretty much the entire blues club scene with me in our youth ("Gimme the keys....He doesn't even have his license yet, Leeeeesa!") And one of my college friends spent one entire Saturday afternoon with me once going to every video store in Danville (surprisingly, there were a lot) trying to track this down for a viewing later that night. We finally found it in some scary little place out on 150 where the owner let his cat hang out on the counter and who, when we remarked how hard it had been to find and how happy we were that his store had it, said "Oh, yeah, we have all the classics." At the time it seemed a little laughable that someone would call it a classic.

Years later, it seems appropriate. It's a New Classic.

Who shares my love for the Weird Science? Which of the Brat Pack movies do you cherish the most? (And don't you dare say Striptease, because the Encore people simply don't have that right.)

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Out Of The Mouth Of Ains: Computer Apps Edition

"Daddy, can you get me on that one website, you know, motocast words?"

Say who?

Cue the frustration.

"You know! Motocast words! You know!"

We didn't know. Is it a racing game? With words? Some kind of learning game? Motocross, maybe?

"Daddy, the one where you type."

Ah. Microsoft Word. Gotcha.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

The Agony of Defeat

So, there I was on my lunch break, tearing up over a You Tube video.

I was catching up on EW's blog and played this video, which they commented on today. At its basic level, it shows adolescent girls doing what adolescent girls do best: freaking out. TOTALLY freaking out. As a mom and former teenage girl, this video both cracks me up and makes me shed a tear or two of nostagia. We may laugh at these girls' over-the-top emotional reaction to, of all things, an American Idol winner being announced, but their pain is real. I know. I remember.

My misty-eyed-ness really comes from two things: as a mom of a little girl who wears her heart on her sleeve, my heart breaks when a little girl cries. No matter the reason.

The second thing is a memory this brings up. It's one of my favorite memories having to do with my dad, and I haven't thought about it in a while. Those girls in that video? That was me on January 22, 1989. And the only person who could talk me down was my dad.

In January of 1989 I was 14 years old and had found myself, for the first time in my young life, hopelessly devoted to a local sports team. Oh, I was weaned on University of Kentucky basketball, but that wasn't purely local. There were a lot of us UK fans in northern Kentucky, but not enough that life stopped when they played. In Cincinnati, in the fall and winter of '88 and '89, life stopped every Sunday to cheer for a team that would make the area proud.

I found myself actually watching football games for the first time ever. I paid attention and learned a lot about a game I had largely dismissed as a kid who didn't like losing the TV every Sunday. I did the Ickey Shuffle, screamed along with "Welcome To The Jungle", and rooted for a QB called Boomer. I knew names, numbers, and positions of the key players. My brother-in-law, who had been a season ticket holder until my nephew was born, passed along some of his Bengals sweatshirts and tees. It was a good time to be a Cincinnatian.

The day of that Super Bowl in 1989 I sat glued to the TV wearing black and orange. I watched some of the pregame stuff with my dad before he had to go to Marion. During most of my high-school career, Dad worked at a GM plant hours away in Marion, Indiana, and lived in a teeny apartment there during the week. He was home on weekends, and normally waited until after the Bengals played to commute back, but on the very important day he left early enough to catch the game in its entirety in his apartment.

It was a great game. It was well within reach by my beloved Bengals until the very end.

But they did lose.

My heart broke. When you're 14, and you want something that badly, it seems impossible that you won't get it. Call it youthful optimism, call it naivete. Whatever it was, it hurt. Losing hadn't been an option, and yet there it was. I actually broke down crying, the kind of crying young girls excel in (and that you see on that David Archuleta video). The kind of crying that makes you lose your breath and feel like throwing up.

My mom was standing there, frustrated that I couldn't get myself together, when the phone rang.

She picked it up, and then immediately handed the phone to me.

"Your dad wants to talk to you."

I don't know everything we said. I am sure I went on about how it wasn't fair, and we were robbed, and we were the better team, and on and on. I do remember that, for a man who regularly raised his voice at the sporting events on TV, a man who lived for watching sports in general and UK basketball in particular, he was very calm.

"They played a good game," I do remember him saying. "They have nothing to be ashamed of, and you should be proud. They gave us a great season. Hold your head up. You'll be okay."

The next day I wore a Bengals shirt to school. I caught hell for it from a couple of students who were pretending to be 49ers fans. I didn't care. My dad, the biggest sports fan I knew then or since, had said to hold my head up. So I did.

I look back and think about that phone call. The fact that my dad, probably dead tired from driving and watching an emotionally draining game, knew I would be upset. The fact that he didn't call to talk to my mom; he called to talk to me. He wasn't a big hugger with us kids, but I felt a reassurance from him that night that quelled my little teenage fit. He understood me. And I learned how to lose without falling completely apart, and that sometimes there is something to celebrate even in defeat (lessons that served me well in the 1997 NCAA championship and the 2000 and 2004 elections.)

I know those girls so devastated over David Cook's victory ("He doesn't even shave!") will grow up, grow past it, and move on. It might have been the first time in their lives they wanted a victory so bad that they could taste it, only to experience defeat, but it certainly won't be the last. It's a tough lesson, how to lose. Some people never master it.

Hopefully, whether in the next room or two hundred miles away, there was a calm, loving, understanding voice somewhere to tell them to hold their heads up. That it would be okay.

Hopefully, they have a dad like I had.

Musical Memory

Last night while cleaning up after dinner, I had a song pop into my head that hasn't rattled around in there for a decade, at least: "You Picked A Fine Time To Leave Me, Lucille" by the immortal (literally; have you all seen his lifted face?) Kenny Rogers.

This song is the first "real" song I remember hearing. I know my mom sang nursery rhymes and lullabies to me, but the first record I can remember her putting under the diamond is this Kenny Rogers song she had on 45. Don't remember it? Oh, it's an old country weepy:

You picked a fine time to leave me, Lucille
Four hungry children and a crop in the field
I've had some bad times
Lived through some sad times
But this time the hurtin' won't heal...
You picked a fine time to leave me, Lucille.

Why did I love this song as a three-year-old? Who knows. I doubt, though, that I understood why Kenny was feeling so much angst. The bigger question may be why my mom liked it so much that she bought it and tolerated me playing it over and over the last few months we lived in Barbourville. Later, my dad used to make fun of its corniness and make mom laugh; when she would leave dad behind to go shopping on a weekend he would sing out in an exaggerated country twang, "You picked a fine time to leave me, Lucille!" Whether they sincerely liked this song or bought and played it just because it was a classic "you done me wrong and then took my dog" country song I may never know. But I do know that it has embedded itself permanently in my brain and as the first non-children's song I ever loved it has probably, sadly, influenced my musical tastes for life.

I got to thinking about how I have influenced Ainsley's musical tastes. She definitely is her own person, musically; I did not introduce her to Hannah Montana/Miley Cyrus or the High School Musical phenomenon, but rather she chose that herself. I have tried to branch her out; on a road trip with her mom she might listen to anything from the Barenaked Ladies and the Oh, Brother, Where Art Thou? soundtrack (both of which she loves) to U2, The Beatles, Coldplay, edited Amy Winehouse, or rock radio (none of which seems to appeal to her much.) Some things she likes to listen to or watch in the music world surprise me. She recently dropped everything she was doing when a Gaelic Storm concert came on TV, and though she doesn't like to listen to her dad's fave, the Dave Matthews Band, when he pops in a concert DVD she jumps up and down and asks if she can go see him. (Not until you're old enough to handle that contact high, kiddo.) She seems to have a quirky ear and doesn't like the things you might expect her to.

Maybe I should play "Lucille" for her and see if she gets its country conventions.

If I had to guess what song she will remember 30 years from now as the first "real" song she ever knew, I would have to pick some Norah Jones.

Ainsley was a very colicky baby. From a little before 5 every evening until around 9:00, and pretty much all morning on weekends, she wailed. We tried all sorts of gimmicks, from running the vacuum (and that white noise would sometimes sooth her) to swings, bouncy chairs, and Mylicon drops. Finally we discovered that wrapping her up like a burrito, holding her away from us and gently bouncing her, and playing Norah Jones did the trick. Many a Saturday morning was spent with me wrapping and popping in a CD and watching as Jason held her out and bounced and paced the carpet in our dining room threadbare.

To this day, hearing "Don't Know Why" takes me back to those days.

Just last week we were all out together when that song came on the radio.

"Hey, Ains! That's the song we used to play..."

"When I was a little baby, yeah, I know," she piped from the backseat, rolling her eyes as only a six-year-old diva can.

So maybe she won't like that song so much.

Another candidate for her first real remembered song is, unfortunately, another "somebody done me wrong" country song.

Every summer for the past 3 or 4 years I have made a summer mix CD. I don't know why overplayed pop appeals to me more in the summer than other times, or why I feel the need to buy some of these flash-in-the-pan hits during that one season, but I love to capture the most played songs of each summer as a way to try to remember the unique personality of each luxurious stretch of time off work.

For the past couple of years, anytime Ainsley hears Carrie Underwood's "Before He Cheats" on the radio, she gets excited.

"Summer CD! Summer CD!"

She remembers it. She likes it. And rumor has it her mom sings along. There's just something delicious about a country gal singing, "Right now, he's probably dabbing on 3 dollars worth of that bathroom Polo..." You go, girl. Slash those tires.

Mercy. I've scarred her for life.

Talk back, kids. What is the first popular, decidedly non-children's song you remember loving as a kid?

Monday, November 10, 2008

Quite A Character

For weeks now, I've had a blank social calendar. Not much going on. No invites for any member of the family. And then--BLAMMO! It feels like everything in the world all converges on one day.

Next Saturday, we have been invited to:

Run in the first 5K that's ever taken place in our neighborhood with proceeds benefitting our church;

Attend a "cream cheese party" (yes, I am serious) hosted by a friend in which participants sample holiday goodies made out of a certain brand of cream cheese which in turn showers the partiers with freebies and product coupons;

Attend the fifth birthday party of the daughter of our dear friends in Louisville;

Eat dinner at Jason's boss's house; and...

Watch our own lovely daughter make her dramatic debut in her school drama club's musical (Grade School Musical: Beyond The No Character Zone!)

Unfortunately the timing and importance of the last item trumps everything earlier in the list except for the 5K, which is the thing I would most like to have a really good reason not to do. (Oh, let's be honest: dinner with the boss is worse.) I mean, I like to run, but this is November, and running in gloves and a scarf isn't so much on my list of favorite activities. (Though I have been known to jog on Turkey Day morning just to have an excuse to carb-load later in the day.)

The kid and her drama club have been practicing for weeks now. Ains does not have a speaking part, but is part of the ensemble, and so far as I can tell is exceedingly dedicated to being in the chorus line. At random times this weekend I caught her back in her room with her practice CD for the show playing while she goes over her moves.

"Ahhh! Wait, I messed that up!" I would hear her say, and she would backtrack and make sure her hands were in the air at the appropriate musical cue. She's quite serious about all this. I have no idea where she gets either her perfectionism or her desire to be on stage.

We have a full week of daily after-school dress rehearsals in front of us which may quell some of her enthusiasm, but I can't help but think that the drama bug has bitten and once she hits all of her cues and hears the applause Saturday it's going to be a done deal: she'll be a drama diva for life.

Which means a lot more weekends spent watching grade school musicals.

If you've ever had the privilege of watching young kids attempt to sing and act, you know that even dinner with the boss might be a better gameplan for a November Saturday night.

Friday, November 7, 2008

How To Survive An Alien Uprising

"Do aliens talk like this (high pitched squeal), or do aliens talk like this (low rumble)?"

Ainsley asked this at dinner last night, one of only about 500 questions about aliens we've gotten since Halloween. What do aliens eat? How do they sleep? Do they get cold? What does their skin feel like? And on and on and on.

Part of this is due to Ainsley watching a few minutes of Close Encounters Of The Third Kind before bed on Halloween, and part of it is due to her winning a little green alien figurine in a school game at her Halloween party. She has named the little green dude, "Ale-Wee" and carries him around from after supper until bedtime. She washes him at bath time and covers him with a Kleenex at night. For a cheap toy from Oriental Trading Co., he's getting a lot of mileage.

So since she's so curious about aliens, I want to give her an education about them. The following is everything I know about alien races courtesy of years of watching The Twilight Zone, The X-Files, Close Encounters, Alien and Aliens, John Carpenter's The Thing, and E.T., among others. Ains, it's time you learned the truth about your leetle green friend.

1. Most aliens want to take over your body, either via black oil, a worm placed carefully into the ear, or some other way which will enable said parasitic larvae to later pop unceremoniously from your torso and slither across the floor.

2. Even the ones who don't want to snatch your body and hatch a parasite there may want to further study you. Even the nice aliens have been known to use tractor beams to suck children up into the mother ship.

3. Some aliens are super nice, and mean you know harm, and just want to get home. But even those have been known to steal your toys to make elaborate telephones and to scare the bejeezus out of little sisters.

4. If Ale-Wee ever gets out of control, you can try a couple of different known alien-immobilizing tricks: stick a sharp instrument into the area where his head meets his spinal cord; throw a glass of water on him; aim a flame-thrower in his general direction (under parental supervision, of course.) One of these must do the trick.

Okay, kiddo! That pretty much covers it. Don't worry, though. If aliens do exist outside of movies, they probably wouldn't try to hurt us or take over our planet or laser-beam the White House. Probably. So have fun with your little alien, and enjoy the fact that your parents have thus far not allowed you to watch scary alien movies that forever scar you against short creatures with oversized eyes and overlong arms. Not that I know anybody whose parents did that or anything.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

How I Feel Today

I try not to be a publicly sore loser. I also try not to gloat during good times. So I will sum up how I feel today in this video. The girl in the pinkish-purplish dress? Yeah, that's me.

And that's all I'm gonna say about that.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

I've Been Dissed (Disenfranchised), Yo

So when you hear today about Kenton County, Kentucky having eSlate electronic voting machine problems...that's my county, y'all. And that's the type of machine I voted on this morning after waiting in line an hour.

I love it when we make the news. And I really love it when I hear that my vote may not have counted.

The Cincy news sites are saying that those votes will be counted even though the machines have been shut down, but I can't help but worry. I double-checked my ballot and everything looked right, and I am not one to select a straight ticket on principle. But knowing that the machine I cast my vote on this morning has ceremoniously been unplugged for "irregularities"...yikes.

At least my mom's vote will count--I took her to the polls after I had voted (and sat in envy when she only had to wait in line 5 minutes at her tiny little precinct) and saw that the only machine available to her was one of the older machines (in our county, they don't have paper ballots as an option, thus the long lines for one or two machines.) And Jason said he voted on one of the older ones.

So there's that to comfort me.

But I can't help but think...is this really the best we can do? When everyone knew turnout would be 80%?

Only in Kentucky.

Holler back, kids. How long did you have to wait? And are you, too, possibly disenfranchised?


Trivia For Dummies

You've gotta be freakin' kidding me.

I saw the commercial for this last night. Really? Seriously? Three levels? Easy, medium, and hard?

If everybody with 3 brain cells knows it, can you call it trivia?

Oh, hell no.

I want Trivial Pursuit to stay MY game. The game I can do well at when I play with my well-educated (aka geeky) friends. The questions are supposed to be hard. That's kinda the point.

I am not an athlete. You will never find me draining 3s on a basketball court or winning the Flying Pig marathon. You will, however, find me with a bunch of pie pieces in my little plastic pie during a cut-throat late-night match of Trivial Pursuit. Especially if my uber-smart librarian friend is on my team.

Please don't take away the prestige in that. I wouldn't ask for you to create an "Easy" category for college basketball that would let me play with the likes of Michael Beasley (who the internets tell my geeky ass was one of the best college basketball players last year). So don't let the intellectual non-elite of the world be able to keep up with me on that wheel-shaped board.

If that sounds harsh, I am sorry. But my brain is the only thing I've got going for me. It is littered with useless facts left over from an expensive liberal arts education that prepared me for little other than binge drinking, graduate school, and, well, Trivial Pursuit.

And the three levels aren't the only change I have a beef with. According to descriptions there will be a track that lets players "steal wedges" (cheat!), "move opponents' pieces" (cheat!), and "more" (cheat cheat cheat!)

That just isn't right.

If you can't run with the big dogs, get off the porch. Go play your own "trivia" game (they already make Trivial Pursuit for Kids!) Leave Trivial Pursuit as that sometimes frustrating game with the questions only the most litter-brained can answer. If you think it's the "genius" edition instead of the "genus" edition because you have no idea what "genus" might mean, leave the game the frack alone.

Leave something sacred to the geeks. Let us continue to be the best at something besides quoting obscure cult movies and fixing problems with your computer.

Thank you.

Monday, November 3, 2008

Rock the Vote

Hey, y'all.

Here I am, 9:30 on a Monday night, watching the SNL election special, thinking about this loooong election season.

I came out of my left-sided closet on this blog some time ago. I hope I didn't offend anyone. Because here's the thing: I really and truly think it's great that there are people out there who have a different point of view than I do. I would never try to convert any one, because, hooray! We're allowed to disagree in this country. I am very fond of the idea that it takes both sides of the coin for there to be a coin. (This makes a lot of sense right now after some cold medicine and Wild Turkey American Honey bourbon to quiet my cough, so bear with me.) And I hope I didn't offend anyone with my Sarah Palin Halloween post...I just had a lot of fun that day. Don't hate me because I loves me some Tina Fey.

So here's my point:


Vote for McCain. Vote for Obama. Vote for Barr. Write in Ron Paul. Just vote.

Because if you don't, you can't complain.

And complainin' is what this blog is all about.

Just kidding! (Mostly.)

Have a great election day. Agree to disagree with me. And let's rock the vote.