Nearly 10% of the USA Olympic Team are parents. Two Olympians are named Carli Lloyd. One is 4’8″. And I’m excited for them all.

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I’ve drank beers with Olympic athletes. I’ve danced to Bruno Mars with Olympians. I’ve even been on the worst date of my life with an Olympian. (Nope, not telling.)

And, sure, all of these Olympians were run-the football-bleachers-before-dawn driven. But they were also all unbelievably human.

I’m excited for the Olympics because I’m excited about the people at the Olympics. Sure, there are superstar celebrity Olympians like Serena, Carmelo and Usain. But for the most part, Olympic athletes don’t have household names nor multi-million dollar Rolex contracts. We recognize them as the folks-who-could-live next door.

What I love about most Olympians is that they haven’t quite yet been “glossified.” They seem more human before they have made the cover of ESPN magazine. They have turtleneck-wearing moms and pimples and bad hair cuts. They don’t have a Rolodex of girlfriends…yet. Take, Richelle Stephens, who looks like the-babysitter-next-door. Or Beezie Madden, the 52 year old equestrian powerhouse. (How could you not cheer for someone named Beezie?) Or Vincent Hancock, who looks a lot like my bank teller. I can’t wait to cheer on Richelle, Beezie, and Vincent because it will feel like I’m cheering on friends.

And sure, while some athletic careers can span decades, unfortunately, their Olympic careers probably only last a couple of minutes. (Or in the case of short distance runners, a couple of hopefully very short seconds.) So, as a spectator, I feel the tension. Unlike NFL football or MLB baseball games, which appear on any television screen in any sports bar any day of the year, I don’t really have the opportunity to watch archery every day. This every-four-year peek at a sport is what keeps it interesting. In fact, most of the sports at the Olympics I never watch until the Olympics. (I’ve never watched a curling match that wasn’t Olympic. I’ve never watched men’s volleyball that wasn’t Olympic. Heck, I’ve never even watched a track meet that wasn’t Olympic.)

This year, there are 555 members on the USA Olympic Team. They range from 46 states, and 54 of them are parents. They range in age from 16 to 52. (That means that in some ways, I’m twenty-one years too old to compete, but 15 years too young. Don’t do the math. I’m Forever 21, if you look at my label.) Two of them are named Carli Lloyd. Some of them are very small, others are very tall. They’re a diverse group of talent, and I’ll be cheering on all of them.

Rio will have its challenges. (I’ll be honest, this is one Olympic games that I will be happy to watch from my own couch.) And I wish some sort of toilet-related karma on the dopers. But, I’m looking forward to watching our athletes have their moment.

God bless the pre-dawn stair runners. Go, get ’em!

For more Olympic Fun Facts: http://www.teamusa.org/USA-Modern-Pentathlon/Features/2016/July/23/US-Olympic-Committee-Announces-555-Member-2016-US-Olympic-Team

 

 

Story Land

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If there’s one thing that my nephew was NOT going to do at Story Land, it was walk the plank.

For a hot day, we had done well at the kiddie amusement park. My two nephews, ages four and six, had not had a meltdown on the line for the Polar Coaster. They didn’t complain about the kiddie-sized ice cream cone even though they had eyed the jumbo sized sundae bar. They didn’t lose their lunch on the magic tea-cups. All in all, things were going along swimmingly. Until, that is, we boarded the Buccaneer.

When I was little, my family would go to Wild West City, the cowboy themed-amusement  park near my home in Northern New Jersey.  We loved the games and rides, but there was one particular attraction that both petrified and thrilled me: the train ride.  During the infamous train ride, there was a “hold-up” by some not-so-friendly cowboys who would tease the conductor.  It was a rite of passage for every four-year old in our county to wet their pants… and then want to go on the ride again.

Now, as I sat next to my four year old nephew on the Buccaneer pirate ride, I was reminded of the thrill of fear. The Buccaneer was an innocent enough-looking ship that puttered around a natural cove on the outskirts of the park. Little did my nephew know, though, that the Pirate Captain would become the character he most loved to hate.

As we boarded the ship, the Pirate Captain instructed the kids on board that they would be responsible for rowing the boat on a nearby crank handle. (Clearly, the kiddos didn’t hear the roar of the ship’s engine since they were so focused on the Pirate Captain’s orders.) “If any matey stops rowing their crank, they’ll walk the plank,” he arghed from the stern.  The fear popped through my nephew’s eyes as he started rowing ferociously. Sweat poured from his brow and sunscreen dripped down to his chin as his pale arms pushed as hard as possible in ninety-degree heat.

“You can take a break,” I whispered to him. I pointed to some of the older kids who had stopped cranking their handles and were simply enjoying the ride. But he looked at me like I was insane. He rowed harder and harder as we made our way through plunging cannonballs and other pirate surprises.

In that ten minute ride, I believe my nephew could have qualified for the crew team at the Rio Olympics. He rowed non-stop until the moment we reached the dock. The poor kid was so beat as we exited the boat that we had to go sit near a sprinkler and take a rest.  I was worried about him until he muttered the five words that every aunt loves to hear…

Can we do it again?

I was proud of that little pirate.

Schpaint!

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“Governor’s Blue”

“Let’s paint our house,” are some of the worst four words a wife could utter to her husband. I know because I live in a half-painted house.

My husband and I decided to paint the interior walls of our house last December. Truth be told, our house was being featured in a national commercial for T.J. Maxx (long story) and we knew that the Maxxinistas wouldn’t be interested in our spider web ceilings and crumb-filled couches. So, we spent an entire weekend cleaning the house and bringing out our unused cutting boards, fine linens, and all the other wedding gifts that we’d been saving for a special occasion.

Even after all of our spiffing up, our house was still average-looking. And the reason it was so bland was because the interior walls were beige. I hate beige. And for years, I’d been promising myself that I would paint my beige walls some fabulous shades of color that you see in Charleston mansions. But, of course, I never lifted a paintbrush. It took T.J. Maxx to put a little fire under my bum.

So, my husband and I committed to the challenge. We spent hours fighting over swatches and buying paint gear. I liked pale pinks, he liked deep blues. Finally, we compromised on a green ivy for our downstairs guestroom, a grayish-blue for our kitchen, and a blush palette for our bathroom. (With names like “Heiress,” “Perfumed Days,” and “Riding Violet,” the paint companies convinced us that our home would  be transformed into an 18th century English manor.) With some help from family and some regular quarrels over paint splatters, we finished our downstairs in a matter of weeknights. Yet, we were exhausted. While our first strokes on the wall were fun, our last strokes on the window trim were brutal. When T.J. Maxx confirmed that they would only film on the first floor, we took a break from painting and figured we’d start the second floor after the holidays.

It is now July, and our entire upstairs is…beige.. Our master bedroom, our master bathroom, the hallway and the nursery hasn’t been touched. It’s beige, beige, beige from one wall to another.

With a baby on the way, we’re in a bit of a conundrum since I’m not supposed to be breathing in paint fumes.Since I can’t paint, I nag my husband. Since I can’t help him, he gets frustrated. (Plus, I have a laundry list of more pressing chores for him, i.e. putting together the crib.) Between us, we can find a million reasons not to paint. But every time, I step over the dusty paint cans in the nursery, I’m reminded of our unfinished project.

Friends have shared their own similar experiences. Well-meaning newlyweds starting a paint job on their apartment. Retirees finally changing the color of that old bathroom. All of the stories end the same: it was a good idea at the time. Then, the paint started hitting the fan.

It took me a while to admit that we would never finish the second floor. (I’m typically not a quitter, particularly when it comes to home improvement.) But, this past week, I finally hired someone to finish the job. While we once scoffed at paint estimate prices, I’ve learned the value of paying for help to keep my sanity.

Someday soon, our master bedroom will be “Kensington Purple.” And since I’m never taking on a painting project again, we’ll force ourselves to like the color. No matter what it looks like on the wall, it will be better than beige.

 

 

Preggers

A little human is going to pop out of me in September. It could be a girl. It could be a boy. It could be a future pop star. It could Prince George’s future princess-wife. It could be a redhead, a lefty, a drummer, or a linguist. All I know is that it will be loved.

I’d post a picture of my bump but that would require standing from my seat to actually take a decent photo. And since I’d rather sit comfortably on my tush and eat one more bowl of Frosted Mini Wheats, I’ll skip the pic. However, I can assure you that I look AMAZING (from the forehead up). My hair has never been so shiny. The rest of me…well…looks like I’ve worked all spring growing a person between my vital organs.

I promise that The Becky Pages will not turn into a mommy blog. (I’d rather read a blog about black mold than a blog about young Winston’s first tooth.) I’ll still write about scented markers instead of pacifiers. I won’t bore you with the trials of sleeplessness, but I will beg for your mercy when my writing is clouded by lack of sleep. I’ll become a mom but I’ll still be a wife, a daughter, a sister, a John Mayer fan, a tomato lover, a metal detectorist, a skier, and a writer.

But, I did think that you, reader, should know my news. There will be a few more crumbs in my keyboard as I snack through the baby kicks. There will be a few emotional pregnant cries at the keyboard that you’ll never see. There will be procrastination from finishing columns as I shop for strollers online. And there will be a new perspective.

But otherwise, it’s business as usual.  Just with a heck of a lot more hopefulness.

 

 

Eavesdropping in Ipswich

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I’m a beach eavesdropper. And I know you are too.

This past Tuesday, I spent a lazy vacation day with my husband on Crane Beach in Ipswich, Massachusetts. Here’s the thing about Crane Beach: it’s packed to the brim with people. (Since the water is too icy cold to swim in June, it feels especially crowded since everybody is on the sand and not in the surf.) It’s a spectacular beach with fabulous people watching. But as I learned firsthand, it’s not very quiet.

As I sat on my beach chair, only feet away from strangers, I couldn’t help but listen in to their conversations. The woman next to me, dressed in a fabulous peacock-colored one-piece, spoke with her sister about her boss, who allegedly plays favorites when it comes to granting vacation time at work. The woman’s husband, dressed in not-so-fabulous and way-too-short blue trunks, chimed in that the boss was probably having outside relations with another co-worker. I had no idea who these people were or who they were spreading gossip about, but lordy, it was entertaining.

A few hours later, they left, and a lone twenty-something bellied down on a towel in the sand. He pulled out his cell phone and called his buddy for advice about breaking up with his girlfriend. He hemmed and hawed in an ongoing monologue about wanting to date someone who wasn’t so selfish. At the end of the conversation, he decided to break it off. His second call was much more silent. I have a feeling she had the last word.

The internet tells me that the word “eavesdrop” was derived from the name of a person who used to sit near the eaves (or edges of the roof) just to listen to a private conversation. Clearly, anyone sitting outside your window to spy is a jerk. However, we need a new word for the act of innocently listening to others’ conversations. It’s impossible to NOT eavesdrop on conversations around you, even if they’re private, if the folks are speaking at a decibel that the third party can’t ignore.

In life, we’re either part of the conversation or we’re not. Yet, sometimes it’s fun and downright healthy to listen in on other people’s comments. It makes us realize the humanity in one another, for better or for worse. So, if you don’t want me eavesdropping on your conversation with your husband at the grocery check-out, then keep your voice down. But if you’re going to break up with your girlfriend ten feet away from me, know that I’m listening… and that there are other fish in the sea.

Photocredit: tripadvisor.com

No Shirt, No Shoes, No Butter

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I recently went to a seafood restaurant which had one rule: no butter.

Everyone had to eat their clams and lobster and oysters without the oozy deliciousness of our favorite dairy product. The restaurant wanted us to appreciate the saltiness of the seafood for what it was. It was an exercise in back-to-basics at the request of the hand serving the food.

Typically, I’d get annoyed by these types of restaurants. They always seemed snooty, like the steak house which refused to give you ketchup. If there’s one thing to know about me, I am not a snooty eater. (I smother my rib eye in ketchup,  much to the disgust of my husband who prefers naked meat.)

So, the no-butter rule irked me. I rolled my eyes and vowed to ask for cocktail sauce or something else they’d disapprove. But, when the butter-less crab legs arrived and I took my first bite, something amazing happened. I loved them. I licked my fingers clean not to taste the last drippings of butter, but rather to savor the salty deliciousness of crab.

I’m not giving up ketchup on my hot dogs at the ballpark this summer. But perhaps I’ll try a few favorite foods without all the razzle-dazzle of condiments. Perhaps I’ll skip the salt and pepper on my corn on the cob.  Perhaps I’ll skip the bleu cheese dressing on my fried chicken sandwich. Perhaps I’ll eat a naked hamburger.

I hate to admit that the no-butter rule changed the way I’ll eat crab forever. But this time, the customer was not always right.

 

 

Reunion

I had an amazing outfit for my fifteenth year college reunion last weekend. Unfortunately, I didn’t get to wear it.

I had attended my fifth, which was a blur of alcohol and lobster bakes, as well as my tenth, which was centered around the child care tent. Yet, I had a prior engagement which kept me from the ol’ campus last Saturday.

All night, I wondered what was happening on Mayflower Hill. And I made a vow to myself that I wouldn’t miss my twentieth.

When you’re young, you don’t go to reunions to see your friends.You go to see the people who were your acquaintances (i.e. the hot guy from chem lab, the know-it-all on the field hockey team, the valedictorian-turned-Vegas showgirl). Yet, as you get older, you don’t remember the acquaintances, so you go to remember your friends. You go to drink copious amounts of wine with your old roommates while explaining to their husbands the little things that you remember. You go to remember the smell of your ex (a blend of peppermint gum and Ivory soap), who still carries Tic-Tacs in his pocket. You go to hold on to the things that have been slipping away.

I spent a week at my parents’ home earlier this month, cleaning out my childhood bedroom. I uncovered all of my old yearbooks from middle school, high school and college, and grabbed one at random to flip through before bed. It was my 1996 junior year of high school yearbook, covered in smudged signatures making predictions which would be proved wrong. (“Never forget Smack-N-Cheese!”  I forgot. But I’m sure it was unforgettable at the time). I read the yearbook from cover to cover, slowly reintroducing myself to a tribe of faces who were the wallpaper of my teenage years.

In high school, we looked toward the future with the same desperation that today we use to cling to the past. We wanted to be prettier. Now, we wish we were that pretty. We wanted to have a family. Now, we miss our parents and grandparents who attended our soccer games. We were filled with angst to be something more. Now, we are filled with regret for not becoming more.

For some of us, those years might have been golden. For others, the worst of our lives. Yet, for all of us, time rolled by. We lost classmates to war. We lost classmates to drugs. We lost classmates to tragedy. And we lost many of our memories.

And that’s why we attend reunions every so many years.To eat buffet dinners and clink glasses and wear nametags as we make our best effort to remember. And to wear a darn good outfit.

 

 

For everyone with TRY in their hearts

A few weeks ago, I received a short email from a stranger in Vermont who hates my blog. He called me an embarrassment to the state and asked me not to advertise my “Vermontness.” He didn’t give any specific criticism. Instead, he just insisted that my writing is terrible. (He misspelled two of the words in the email. But who am I to judge?) I didn’t respond because I didn’t have the words.

Yet, I’d be lying to say that I wasn’t crushed. His email really got under my skin. I didn’t understand why this man would even bother to email me. Was I really an embarrassment to Vermont?  Why wouldn’t he just ignore my blog if he hated it?  Did he really have to email me and ruin my day? I lost sleep that evening tossing and turning over his words.

It took some time to regain my confidence. But, after a few decent sleep cycles, I realized that I couldn’t let him destroy my love of writing for many reasons:

  1. I never claimed to be Shakespeare.
  2. I’m not charging money for him (or anyone) to read my blog.
  3. I’m not hurting anyone.
  4. FOR GOSH SAKE, I’M SIMPLY TRYING TO DO SOMETHING I LOVE.

I can take criticism. But I don’t appreciate meanies. When it comes to this silly little blog, I can’t apologize for something that makes me so darn happy. (I officially give you permission to ignore this blog forever if you hate it.)

I don’t have to succeed. I don’t have to fail. I just have to try my best. After all, try in my heart is more powerful than hate on your tongue.

 

 

So plush!

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Nothing says “Don’t Mess With Me” like carrying an oversized Tweety Bird around the Jersey Shore boardwalk. Everyone at the fair knows that you are the best stinkin’ water balloon- fillin’ watergun slinger around.

Yes, jumbo plus animals are the “must-have” items of any carnival. How else will strangers know that you climbed that tipsy-turvy rope ladder and rang that darn bell if you’re not carrying a pink gorilla around your neck?

When I was younger, all I wanted to do was win an oversized Scooby Doo from a carnival game on the Jersey Shore boardwalk. I’d spend dollar after dollar trying to throw a ring on a bottle, or land a frog on a lily pad, or knock the bottles from the shelf, just to win ol’ Scooby.

Thank goodness I never won. I’m not sure what I would have done with Scooby.

The truth is that Scooby only has value on the boardwalk. The second I would try to leave with the ol’ pup, I’d have problems. (How do you fit those things in your car?  Can you dry-clean the fried dough and mildew smell out of the fabric? Where exactly do you put him in your home to keep from being considered an absolute creep? ) Let’s be honest,  nobody should feel comfortable in an adult bedroom with a Scooby Doo in the corner.

Online, people clearly try to re-sell their prizes. Yet, considering so many of them are available, I would assume sales are slow. Plus, a consumer could always buy a new “Rasta Banana” for a pretty cheap cost instead of purchasing a used model. (The 49 inch plush “Rasta Banana” sells for $24.oo from a wholesale carnival company. It’s little brother, the 24 inch banana sells for $8.00.I’m not an expert on the Jamaican banana market but these prices seem cheaper than the wallets of dough folks hand over on the boardwalk.) It seems as if winning these prizes can sometimes be easier than getting rid of them.

I can’t help but believe that most of these characters end up in the trash a few days after they’re brought home. The poor Hello Kittys and Nemo fish and South Park characters are most likely abandoned only days after they are adopted.

Yet, on the boardwalk, plush toys reign supreme. And you, Mr. Watergun Champion, have your rasta banana proof to prove it.

Image: pixshark.com

 

 

If I were cool

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I want to be a person who likes Sriracha. Sriracha= intrigue.

I want to be a person who drinks their coffee black. The cool kids have no time for whipped cream or Cinnabon creamer.

I want to be a person who speaks another language. Fluently. I want to order an egg sandwich on a croissant at a French delicatessen with the accent of a native speaker.

I want to eat grains of rice with chopsticks.

I want to carry the one book that makes you think I’m smarter than I am.

I want to make those thigh-high boots actually fit my thigh-not-so-high legs.

I want to follow a band you haven’t heard of…yet.

I want a collection of trucker hats.

I want to know a few people in the industry.

I want to be a cool kid. Just for a day.

Photo credit: www.foodbeast.com

L.L. Bean models

Darn those L.L. Bean catalogues! They make me feel like I’m cheating on my husband.  Where do they find these gentlemen, anyway?

Women around the world know that the L.L.Bean catalog is the male equivalent to the Victoria’s Secret catalogue. We don’t need our gentlemen in underwear. I’m thrilled to see a man in corduroys peeling an apple on the back porch of a rustic cabin. (That lucky, lucky apple peel.)

Clearly, the ad agency knows what I want. Men in flannel shirts cutting down Christmas trees? Yes, please. Men with bulging muscles, hoisting life boats ashore? Uh-huh. Men in shawl collar cardigans cuddling yellow Labrador retriever puppies? Be still my heart.

Most male models in magazines look like boys who have been caged like veal. They have no muscles. They have little hair. They look sad and malnourished. (Clearly, I don’t like veal.) I’ve never wanted to date a Prada model. Nor, have I ever seen a Prada model building a dock on a pristine Maine lake.

Most mainstream male models always seem a little too primped and a little too performance-driven for my tastes. I always wonder why everyone is always wearing sunglasses with their raingear.  And what’s with the jumping in the air?  Where are the puppies?  Where is the lumber? Where are the lifeboats?

Yep, I’ll buy multiple oatmeal Henley shirts for my husband as long as L.L. Bean will continue to feature men peeling apples on the porches of their restored farmhouses. Even if he doesn’t wear them, I can return them and request another copy of a new catalogue. I can never have enough copies.

 

 

In Awe

I took a walk in the woods this morning. I take walks in the woods nearly every morning.  Usually, I’m only concentrating on two things: waiting for my dog, Mabel, to poop… and debating whether or not I need to take a morning shower. But this morning, as Mabel circled her favorite drop-off spots, I realized something monumental. This particular April morning, the woods were the prettiest they had been all year.

Now, I’m not talking glam-pretty like mid-October in all its glory of orange and reds. Nor am I talking about December pretty with a fresh coat of snow, all Currier-and Ivesy. I’m talking about nature at its most natural. Nature at the moment when it slowly wakes from winter slumber but isn’t quite ready to get out of bed. Nature when, just like a lover at daybreak, it can’t hide what it is really is, filled with both roots and stumps and blooms and nakedness. Nature at its most vulnerable, but also filled with hope.

This morning, the woods were quiet, clean and (almost) ready to take on the duties of renewed growth. The mud had dried, but the weeds hadn’t unearthed. The lilacs hadn’t yet formed their buds but the moss was squishy under my feet. The chicks of spring hadn’t quite flown their nests, but the pond peepers were sounding the alarm for all fauna. But best of all, the woods, even the deep woods, were still bug-less. For a moment, I stood next to my poop-less dog, just appreciating the fact that I was not being eaten by winged blood-suckers.

And, in those woods this morning, I decided that this might be my favorite time of the year. I don’t need to mow the grass nor shovel the driveway. It’s too early to be in the garden but too late to be huddled around the wood stove. I sleep with the windows opened but the air conditioner off. I’m not sunburned nor frostbitten. Vermont is still and simple and serene and spectacular.

And then it hit me.Today is Earth Day. A day to hug trees and plant flowers and recycle our toilet paper rolls into weird crafts which would appall any thinking human. And while I’m the first to admit that the words “Earth Day” inflect guilt as someone who still chooses plastic over paper, I couldn’t help but have a moment of pure “Holy-Mackerel-Mother Nature-Is-A-Darn-Good-Exterior-Decorator.” Clearly, the lady has some talent.

After Mabel went about her business, I took a few extra steps in the wrong direction before walking back home. It was too special of a morning to rush. I wanted to listen to a few more fading peepers and relish in the bouncy soil below my feet. I wanted to feel the hope in the air and bask in the bugless, mudless, snowless, landscape around me.

When I returned to the house, I decided not to take a shower… in honor of the Mother, of course.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Scratch, Write, and Sniff

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When I was in grade school, a girl in my class introduced me to scratch and sniff markers. My mind was blown by strawberry-smelling ink.

For the next five years, our entire elementary class sniffed chemicals from tubes during art class. And at some point, we all tasted the chemicals as well, since it was impossible NOT to lick the green apple marker to see if it tasted like a Jolly Rancher. (For the record, it did not.)

Our teacher thought it was a terrific way to get us to color. And frankly, she was right. We would have colored a crossword puzzle if it meant sniffing our “bubble gum” pink markers. (It was ironic that we weren’t even allowed to chew bubble gum as first graders, which made that darn pink marker even more alluring. They might as well have given us a tobacco marker.)

In theory, scratch and sniff markers were a great idea. However, I’m sure that allowing students to sniff markers all day was not exactly the best idea for our brain development. And, using the markers could be confusing when you were distracted by your olfactory sense. Was it okay to color a tomato picture with the apple-smelling red marker? Should the blue boat really smell like blueberries? And did we really want to use the stinky black licorice marker in our favorite Hello Kitty coloring book?

Yet, those scratch and sniff markers will always have a place in my heart. (Let’s pray that they don’t have a place in my lungs.) They colored my world and taught me the love of art. I looked forward to creating something (anything) that my parents could hang on the fridge.

To this day, when I get a whiff of bubble gum in the checkout line of the supermarket, my mind drifts back to that pretty pink marker.

Been There

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I’m fortunate enough to have a day job which requires copious amounts of travel. And even when I’m not working, I love cashing in my frequent flier miles for adventures in exotic places with my family.  Some of my favorite places to visit have been South Africa, Norway, and…believe it or not, St. Paul, Minnesota. However, I’ve been disappointed by other locations. (I love Tennessee, but I didn’t love Graceland. Sorry, Elvis.)

And after all this travel, there are places I recommend visiting, and others that I recommend “google visiting.” (Google visiting allows you to virtually explore the location  without having to pack your bag.)

And while I’m sure folks will disagree with some of my recommendations, I can’t help but share my thoughts. (Please don’t take offense at my list if the Coca Cola Factory has employed seven generations of your ancestors. Clearly, I’m just a silly Vermonter who doesn’t know anything.)

Places to Visit
1. The Na Pali Coast, Kauai
– Jurassic Park, in real life.
2. Times Square, NYC– The block that never sleeps.
3. Redwood Forest, OR–  Even the tall feel small.
4. The Great Wall of China–  Goodness, gracious, Great Wall of China!
5. Ipanema, Rio de Janeiro– Go for the hot beaches, stay for the hotter men’s volleyball.
6. National Space Museum, D.C.,- Up, up and away!
7. Pearl Harbor, Honolulu– Take the ferry, then hug a veteran.
8. Pebble Beach, CA–  The premiere gated community, which happens to be ungated.
9. Stonehenge, UK–  Really, how did they do it?
10. Raffles Hotel Bar, Singapore– You’ll feel like an international spy.

Places to “Google Visit”
1. The Mall of America, MN– Fun if you need shoes and frozen yogurt. Not fun otherwise.
2. Niagara Falls, NY–  Imagine sitting in traffic only to witness a long ice bucket challenge.
3. The Coca Cola Factory, GA–  Diabetes, anyone?
4. The Liberty Bell, PA– It’s history…cracked.
5. The Bronx Zoo, NY– Giraffes in the Bronx will never make sense.
6. Salem, MA–  Don’t you want to sleep at night?
7. Big Ben, London– I love London, but you can see big clocks at Pottery Barn.
8. Lincoln Memorial, D.C. – I know, I know, but I can also just flip over a penny.
9. Sea World, FL – Rent a snorkel and head to the beach instead.
10. Yankee Candle Village, MA–  It smells like your grandma’s house.

Skinny Knees

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I’m not sure if you’ve heard, but I’ve got some fabulous knees.

My calves, however, are another story. I’ve always had strong, wide, calves… partly because of genetics, partly from a lifetime of running on my toes. My lower legs don’t fit in Uggs. I need special sizing for ski boots. And, I’ve been told by men that they wished they had my calves.

While I’m incredibly thankful for healthy legs which get me where I want to go, I’ve always been a little self-conscious of my calves. And, shopping for pants can be a nightmare. (Forget skinny jeans, I’m lucky if I can squeeze into a plain pair of wide-leg corduroys.) It’s always a war of leg vs. material as I try not to split seams in dressing rooms.

So, last St. Patrick’s Day, when a friend’s sister was making shamrock leggings for a local 5K race, my friend warned her to leave a little more fabric for my calves.When the big day came and I put on the leggings, my friend’s sister took a good look at my infamous calves. She stared at at my legs a second longer than most people, as I uncomfortably waited for her reaction. “You have such skinny knees,” she said with a smile.

Her comment overjoyed me. It was such a simple statement, but it reminded me the importance of focusing on the positive. Now, when pants don’t fit in a dressing room, I don’t hate my calves. I just look for a pair of jeans which will best accentuate my fabulous knees.

Happy St. Patrick’s week everyone!  Flaunt what you’ve got!

 

 

Fleece is Fashion

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I wear fleece the way that celebrities wear fur. (Faux fur, hopefully.)

Sometimes, I drape it over my body. Sometimes, it lines my jackets. Sometimes, it pops out in unexpected places. Sometimes it keeps me warm over my party dresses.

Yet, most designers agree that fleece is not fashion. But sensible New Englanders who pump their own gas in bitter temperatures don’t care what designers think. They know that fleece is the fabric of our lives.

My town of Norwich, Vermont, in particular, should be renamed Fleece Country, USA. Even the most fashionable of townies still rock their designer jeans with a fabulous fleece coat on a Saturday night. My neighbors have fleeces for every season. (Fleece pull-overs for a late night summer bonfire? Absolutely. A fleece layer underneath a spring raincoat? Definitely. Fleece-lined pants for winter walks? Without a doubt. Fleece coats for fall apple picking?  We’ve got red or green options.) Yes, in Norwich, fleece goes with everything and can go to anything. In Norwich, the fleece jacket is basically the little black dress.

Since it’s March, I’m relying on my many fleece jackets to get me through mud season. They line my closets in various colors, shapes and sizes. (I collect fleece jackets the way others collect shoes.) I’ll wear them with jeans and skirts and running shorts and dresses. They will accentuate none of my body parts, but they will keep me comfortable, flexible, and on the move.

And in my opinion, anything that keeps me on the move, can be machine washed, and can survive mud season is HIGHLY fashionable. Supermodels can keep their fur, but I’ll keep my fleece.

photocredit: focusonstyle.com

French Sugar

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When I was younger, I loved going to Pizza Hut with my family. Pizza Hut was a special treat, as my whole family would crowd around their deep dish pie in awe before fighting over the cheesiest slice. But my sister and I also loved the Pizza Hut salad bar. In the early 80’s in suburban New Jersey, Pizza Hut was revolutionary with its salad bar, complete with self-serve bacon bits.

But, our plates were not all bacon bits, croutons, and sunflower seeds, much to the delight of my mother. We ate a lot of cucumbers and tomatoes and cauliflower at that salad bar. And the only reason we ate those veggies was because of their unbelievably delicious French dressing. Pizza Hut French dressing was/is the champagne of French dressings. My soccer friends and I would chow down on broccoli florets at Pizza Hut team dinners, as long as that broccoli was bright orange.

Yet, French dressing, as we all know, is made up of sugar, sugar, and more sugar. (I was traumatized when a schoolmate once told me it was made from crushed Oompa-Loompas.) It leaves a tangerine-colored stain on everything it touches. It tastes like, well, fruity sugar paste. And it’s delicious.

I haven’t been to a Pizza Hut in twenty years.  But today, I still smother my salads with French dressing. As an adult who knows I should be choosing a healthier option, I continue to douse my spinach in orange-colored gooey-ness. Then, I devour my salad like ice cream. ( I wouldn’t consume as many daily carrots if they were only coated in a tasteless, fat free vinaigrette.) If it takes a few teaspoons of sugar to make the broccoli go down, so be it.

And when people judge my sugar-coated salad, I tell them to go suck on a tomato.  A tomato dipped in French dressing, of course.

 

 

 

photocredit: wholeintentions.com

Stages of Love

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I’ll pinch you on the playground.
I’ll give you the prettiest valentine out of my box of cards for the class.
I’ll pick you for my kickball team.
I’ll gift you an Itunes song.
I’ll wear lipstick on days we have chemistry lab together.
I’ll “happen” to visit a friend who also attends your same college.
I’ll break-up with you, just to get back together.
I’ll wonder when the question will pop.
I’ll say YES.
I’ll find myself buying beef jerky at the grocery store.
I’ll watch you paint the baby’s room.
I’ll use the potty to tinkle…with the door open.
I’ll watch you coach a girls soccer team.
I’ll make you spend the night on the couch.
I’ll hold your hand as we mourn a loved one together.
I’ll refuse to throw away your old love letters during our big move.
I’ll start developing a taste for beef jerky.
I’ll watch you walk our baby down the aisle.
I’ll throw your retirement party, and then try to find you a full time hobby.
I’ll escort you to that old timers reunion.
I’ll watch you hold your first grandchild.
I’ll remind you to take your medication.
I’ll push your wheelchair.
We’ll wonder where the time went.

Photo: Norman Rockwell

 

 

Ski Soundtrack

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Growing up, I never considered my father to have a hip music sense. However, he knew how to get our family excited for a day on the slopes. Right before we pulled into the Sugarbush parking lot, he would blast Crazy by Seal into the speakers of our Saab 900.   The song stuck in our head as the perfect anthem for bombing down the hill: “And you’re never gonna survive, unless you get a little crazy.”

My mother, on the other hand, had a more gentle ski anthem. Time after time, my mother would sing The Sound of Music aloud while floating down groomed corduroy.  She’d sing to herself, indifferent if anyone could hear her. The hills were alive, and that’s all that mattered to her.

I’ll admit that I have my own personal ski soundtrack as well. My car is filled with old CDs with titles such as “Mad River Tunes” and “Belleayre or Bust” but all of the CDs have one song in common: Sweet Emotion by Aerosmith. For me, Sweet Emotion is the perfect tempo for imagining myself in wide turns in good, fluffy, snow. I listen to it in the car, and then hum it to myself on the slopes all day.

The other day, I was watching an old ski movie featuring little more than twenty-something men ripping down glacier walls. Yet, when my husband hopped on the phone in our living room, he muted the sound to the movie. The skiing looked great, but it didn’t “feel” great. Watching skiers fly down back bowls to silence just wasn’t the same. It needed a little reggae. Or a little punk. Or a little Sweet Emotion.

Taking It Down A Notch

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A few weeks ago, I blew out my left eye. My doctor said I had high blood pressure in my eyeball, caused by stress, which forced a cell behind my retina to explode. Everything was blurry, and I was in shock. And when Doc told me that I needed to de-stress, I became stressed.

Everyone I know is stressed. Everyone is wondering where the time goes while they’re running around wasting it. Everyone is “crazy busy” running to the thing, and then getting to the next thing, and cooking the thing to bring to the thing.  We’re all out of our minds.

And yet, I’ve been told to take it down a notch. But I don’t want to take it down a notch. I like being a princess of productivity. Yet, I realize, for my own health, I have to cool it.

After all, I’m too young and unimportant to be popping out eyeballs. Nobody’s life depends on me. Nobody in my immediate family is in pain. My bills are being paid, and my mouth is being fed.  Everything is okay.  If my office plants die and I forget a friend’s birthday, life will go on.

But it’s awfully hard to let go of that “go-go-go-and then go some more” drive.  So, I’m committing to small changes. Instead of running my typically four miles at the gym, I’m walking two on an incline. Instead of leaving my laptop on until 9:00pm, it’s powered down no later than 8:00pm. Instead of walking my dog for 45 minutes at lunch every day, I’m allowing other people to take care of her.

And to be honest, I feel a little lazy. I should be writing more. I could be sweating more. I should, I could, I want, I will.  The phrase drums through my head whenever I’m feeling less productive.

And yet, to slow things down, I simply tell myself that I am. I am getting exercise. I am treating my dog well. I am writing great things. (After all, It doesn’t matter if I’m running four miles a day or walking two. I’m still doing thirty minutes of cardio a day, which deserves a pat on the back.)

Yes, I’m taking it down a notch this winter. And by doing so, I remembering how good it can be to exhale. I’m spending more time enjoying the view from where I already am, and less time climbing the unending ladder. And frankly, my vision has never been more clear.

Power Necklaces

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There’s something about a blinged-out necklace which makes it okay to wear sweatpants to work.

Everywhere I look, ladies are hanging jeweled ribbons around their necks in an effort to draw attention away from the rest of their outfits. Ugly gray sweater and pleated 90’s khakis? Through on a bejeweled rhinestone necklace, and you’re good-to-go to the bridal shower! Mom jeans and dollar-store flats? A ruby statement necklace will get you in the door of any Michelin-stared restaurant! A trash bag and stockings? You’ll be the belle of the ball with a sapphire bib!

In fact, power necklaces are for women what “alligator” Lacoste-patched polo shirts are for men. They both allow you to enter the golf club, even if you’re dressed like a slob from the chest down.

I bought my own “power peacock” necklace after a flight cancellation in Salt Lake City last February. While wasting time at a local mall,  I was blinded by shiny purple stones in a Macy’s showcase. I wasn’t looking for a bling necklace, but that particular necklace was 70% off (which meant that they were giving it to me). I carried the heavy souvenir all the way back to Vermont with severe buyer’s remorse.

Yet, the first time I wore the power peacock, I was flooded with compliments. Nobody noticed the coffee stain on my pants… or the toothpaste on my sweater… or the spinach on my teeth (my usual wardrobe). Instead, I was a fashionista. So, I started wearing the power peacock more often. Brown sweater, brown corduroys and brown boots for work? Not cool. Brown sweater, brown corduroys, brown boots and my power peacock? Executive ready! In fact, the power peacock slowly became my favorite accessory.  On days when I can’t bear to wear fancy pants, I have my secret weapon.

Unfortunately though, I’m not sure how long this trend will last. (People thought the Lacoste ‘gator wouldn’t last through the 90s, and yet crocs are still popping up at power meetings everywhere.) Will corporate executives ever realize that their administrative assistants wear Hanes Her Way undershirts under their blinding cubic zirconia leashes? Will women tire of shining their collarbones with fake jewels just to wear Birkenstocks to parent-teacher conferences?  Will J. Crew declare 2017 the year of the understated gold chain?  Time will tell.  But, for now, I’ll ride the trend which gives me the freedom to wear t-shirts to staff meetings.

Bring on the bling!

 

Chipmunk Hotel

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I put one chunk of tomato-basil bread into the small nook in the dead ash tree.  Then, I reach on my tippy toes to place another chunk into another nook.  I continued to circle the tree, filling other nooks with bread pieces.  When every nook is filled, I move forward with my hike, leaving nothing more than an accidental trail of crumbs from the bread bag, as if I were Hansel and Gretel.

This time of year, I get a kick out of leaving bread in the woods for wild animals. Silly, perhaps, but there’s something Cinderella-esque about imaging a bunch of robins and squirrels delighting in a thumb-sized buffet.  (That is, until you realize Cinderella is an orphan who is abused by her stepmother, but that’s another story.)

So, on the weekend, I put on my snow boots. I wrap my chilled ears in a wool hat. And I call for Mabel, my canine companion (who loves eating stray crumbs). We disappear into the forest, following the snow tracks of tiny critters.

It’s quiet in the woods. The only sound in my backyard is the occasional creaking of an old spruce, and the pitter-pat of Mabel’s paws. It’s peaceful and pretty and downright lovely. I’ll spend an hour trekking up the mountain, looking for tree stumps (taller than  Mabel’s reach) to leave the end of a bread loaf for a lucky chipmunk. I’ll peek into a hole under a dead tree to drop a few slices for a hungry squirrel.  And then, of course, I’ll seek out the perfectly wood-pecked dead tree for the ultimate room-service.

The menu changes, of course. Today, it was failed pretzels which never really rose in my oven.  Last week, it was Panera sandwich bread.  A few weeks ago, it was a moldy loaf of whole wheat.

But I find my customers to be fairly open to new cuisines. They’ve never sent back an order.

Photocredit: wunderground.com bkade

Likeable Character= Carla

Carla von Trapp Hunter

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What was your first job, and what did you learn?  My first job was working the sales floor at a specialty food shop in Stowe, VT. I learned how important friendly and knowledgeable customer service is. I also learned how challenging it can be to deliver it while being treated the way people often are in such roles. Pretty humbling experience.

Where is your favorite vacation spot? The north shore of Kauai. There’s such magic everywhere on that island, but the waters off of the north shore offer incredible snorkeling, and the beaches are prime for strolling and looking for shells.

What’s a necessary indulgence? Iced coffee and Cara-Mallows from Daily Chocolate. I justify them as being high in antioxidants.

If you’re in a department store, which section/thing do you gravitate towards?  The nearest exit. I actually find department stores completely overwhelming and avoid them as much as possible.

Your first celebrity crush?  If John Smith in Pocahontas doesn’t quite count, I’d have to say Leonardo DiCaprio in Romeo + Juliet. Seventh grade flashbacks, anyone?

What’s the best meal you’ve ever had?  Fondue at an on-mountain restaurant named Cloud Nine in Aspen, Colorado. I don’t think it was food itself, but rather the overall experience. Hard to top the spectacular views from Aspen Highlands or the enhanced efficacy of champagne at that altitude. The combined effect was quite spellbinding.

Something most people don’t know about you? I still try to avoid standing on the floor alongside the edges of my bed out of fear of monsters lurking below.

What would people be surprised to find out about your daily routine? I prefer to sleep with my bedroom window opened a crack, regardless of the season.

How do you order your eggs? Scrambled or sunny-side up are my usual go-to’s.

Who was the first concert you saw live?  How was it?  Shania Twain. She was an amazing performer. It was late elementary school and I remember feeling pretty enthralled by the whole experience. Much to my parents chagrin, her ballads definitely expanded my shower-singing repertoire.

What’s one thing you know for sure? How little I know in the greater scheme of things.

 

Poli-Tic-Tacs

indexWhenever a stranger wants to discuss politics with me, I hand them a Tic- Tac and change the subject.

It’s not that I don’t have opinions. I have things I care about. I have things I don’t care about. And at the right time in the right place with the right person, I am happy to have this discussion.

But I don’t want to talk politics with the lady sitting next to me at Jiffy Lube. She’s clearly not changing her mind about her choice for President, and she’s clearly not changing my mind about my choice.

So, I hand her a Tic-Tac and smile in silence as I pop one in my own mouth. Then, I chalk up a friendly mint exchange towards the first step to bipartisan fresh breath.

By the way, for all of your voters, here’s a pretty interesting website to choose your flavor of Tic-Tacs, I mean, presidential candidate.:)

https://www.isidewith.com/

Every day I’m puzzling…

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On a cold winter’s night, my idea of a good time is a Merlot bottle and a thousand piece puzzle. However, telling someone that you’re a puzzler is like telling them that you collect limited edition Elvis plates. It’s puzzling…unless you’re eighty.

So, I don’t talk about it. I don’t tell my colleagues that I can’t wait to go home from work so I can find that darn corner piece. I hide my puzzle tray in the guest room when friends drop by for dinner. And I limit myself to puzzles ONLY during the winter months.

I live in the same town where the world famous Stave Puzzles are cut. So, it’s natural that I love a good jig-saw. (I am not a puzzle snob though, since I also love a plain ol’ drugstore puzzle in a box.) And during the winter when the weather outside is frightful, but red wine is so delightful, puzzling is a decent way to spend time while I wait for the outdoors to defrost.

My husband and I have even snuck away to The Rabbit Hill Inn for a fun weekend of skiing by day and puzzling by night. The Rabbit Hill Inn is a fabulous Vermont bed and breakfast known for its lobby-full-of-puzzles. (But I already live in Vermont, and I already have a bed and box of Thomas’ English Muffins in my fridge, so let’s be honest. I only go there for the puzzles.) I even started puzzle smack talking last year when another couple (who were completely jerky) boasted that they were half-finished with a particularly difficult puzzle of the city of Boston. “Good for you,” I smirked. “We finished that one in an hour, but it’s cute that you’re still trying.” (Trust me, they were horrible people.)

Yet, as soon as the snow starts to melt, I box up my puzzles. I crush them back to their original pile of chaotic pieces and stack them in storage. When the wind turns warm, it’s time to open the windows, step away from my living room, and move on to yet another hobby beloved by the elderly: metal detecting.  I’ll spend my spring hours secretly walking around my woods with a detector… looking for treasures of coins and jewelry the same way I previously looked for corner pieces.

Clearly, I’m eighty at heart.  And it’s darn good fun. Now, pass the edge piece with the speck of green…

Happy Non-Holiday Birthday!

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Not in my house.

Many of the people I love were born in December. The month is scattered with birthday celebrations of every age. We celebrate my husband, my father, my aunt, and many close friends. (Thirteen of my facebook friends all celebrate a birthday in the next four days!) And in order to successfully celebrate a “holiday season birthday,” we do our best to get rid of the red and green. Even though Christmas is actually a religious birthday celebration, I can’t help but allow my hubby to pick his own theme colors for his Dec. 22 party.

My husband, in particular, is celebrating a big milestone birthday tomorrow.  And so,  we’ll turn off our Mariah Carey Christmas album, and turn up Coldplay. We’ll skip the red and green cookies, and instead eat bright pink strawberry cake (his favorite). We’ll leave the Christmas tree lights off, and instead cuddle by the dim television light of a movie-on-demand (his choice, of course, The Thomas Crown Affair.)

Yep, in my family, we do our best to separate birthday and holiday. Over the weekend, we celebrated my father’s  birthday with a margarita party and a trip to a local indoor swimming pool.  We dined out with spicy stirfry at a local hibachi restaurant, and didn’t complete a single Christmas chore all day.  It could as well have been any summer day.

We all know that we can’t change a birthday. And my loved ones all agree that they don’t mind their holiday-timed birth dates. However, I simply can’t allow red and green to be the theme of any of my friends’ late- December birthday parties. They deserve their own thunder.

Happy birthday, December babies!  Sending kisses to all (without the mistletoe.)

photo credit: happybirthdaycakeimages.com

 

I’m Dreaming Of A Brown Christmas

Oh, the weather outside is frightful.

I wore a skirt to work today, without tights. My poor colleagues were forced to deal with my pale, pasty legs, but I couldn’t help it. It was nearly fifty degrees in December in Vermont, and this girl needed to make the most of the sun during the ugly season.

This New England December resembles a Pacific Northwest April. It’s been balmy, warm, and windy. I spent Sunday in a t-shirt, hiking in the woods with my dog, avoiding ticks rather than icicles. My neighbor pulled a carrot, an edible, bright orange carrot, from his garden this week.  And our poor local ski area remains closed…and muddy.

And yet, Christmas, is less than ten days away. The forecast for Christmas day in my hometown of Norwich, Vermont is 50 degrees and rainy. Everyone dreams of snow in Vermont on Christmas morning, and yet, we’ll probably be sitting on the back porch, wondering what to do with our shiny new toboggans in all this mud.

People have all sorts of opinions about what’s causing these weather shifts. All I know is that I hope brown Christmases in Vermont don’t become the norm. In my heart, I’m dreaming of a white Christmas. But it seems Mother Nature has other plans.

So, I’m planning on making the most of this brown Christmas. I’m hoping that someday we’ll remember the Christmas of ’15 when we played football in shorts in the backyard.  Perhaps we’ll laugh about eating Grandma Susie’s apple pie on the porch.  Hopefully, the tiny tots will someday become nostalgic for the Christmas when Uncle Norm opened up his swimming pool for one more plunge.  We’ll do the best with what we have. We’ll hold each other tightly.  We’ll be kind to Mother Nature. And we’ll be a little more thankful for those past white Christmases, just like the ones Bing used to know.

And hopefully, next year, and the following year, and the year after that…our beloved white Christmases will return.  Hopefully, brown, muddy, balmy Christmases don’t become the backdrop for Vermont holiday movies. But for now, this brown Christmas will still hold magic…even in flip flops.

Rock It.

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When I was little, I wanted to be a Radio City Hall Rockette.  Other girls I knew wanted to be dolphin trainers or school teachers or astronauts, but I was more interested in being on a stage, in a shiny costume, kicking sky-high in ridiculous silver pumps.

My mother would take us to New York City to see the Christmas Spectacular every year. We’d sit in the nosebleed section, leaning in toward the stage, squinting to watch the Rockettes “collapse” on each other during a perfectly choreographed wooden soldier scene. We’d gasp at the perfect precision of their tap dancing routines, as they scattered around in red and white Santa suits. And then there was the kickline. Oh, the kickline. My sister and I would go home, and immediately start practicing our own kickline: arms around waists, bumbling around, trying to get our feet in unison.

My mother signed us up for dance classes. However, after eight years of tap classes, I realized I was never going to be a Rockette. I wasn’t even going to be a soloist in my tiny studio dance recital. Heck, I wasn’t even going to be in the front row of my class.

But to this day, I’m still enamored by the Rockettes. When they make an occasional holiday television appearance, I’ll still drop everything to watch that kickline. And I’d be lying to say that I still don’t try to perfect that kick at home. And, five, six, seven, eight, KICK!

photocredit: about-face.org

The Best Early Gift

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I don’t remember a single gift I received last Christmas. I know they all were lovely, and I know I put them all to good use. But I can’t name one. This year, though, I received the best early Christmas present of the past decade. (Nothing will ever beat the Joe McIntyre -of New Kids on the Block fame- autographed photo that my grandmother gave me when I was a tween.)

My father surprised me with an unexpected, and very much appreciated advertisement for my children’s book, The Little Rippers, in the latest December 2015 issue of SKI magazine.

Here’s the thing: I don’t have the budget for mass marketing of my books.  I drive my friends and family crazy with Facebook posts.  I hate self-promotion, and so usually I don’t talk about the book unless someone asks me.  I’ve thought about promoting the book in SKI, but I never took the plunge.

Yet, with the help of my husband and my mother-in-law, my father made it happen.  When I opened this month’s issue, I was shocked to see The Little Rippers book cover in one of the back squares of the magazine.  It’s hard to surprise me, but for a few moments, I was speechless.

Kudos, Dad.  I’ll remember this one for years to come.  Apparently, I should think of a better gift for you than sweatpants.

The Ugly Season

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It’s the most wonderful time of the year!  The last day of November! New Englanders officially don’t have to shave until spring!*

Jealous, Floridians?  Envious Californians?  You can have your San Diego, but don’t take my Schenectady.  Schenectady and I won’t see the sun until April!  Whoop whoop!

Yes, any last ditch hope of wearing three quarter length skirts and high boots is over!  No inch of skin can go uncovered until Easter. It’s time for stockings, thick, wool stockings, which drape three inches lower than our nether regions (and who put up a fight every time we use the lavatory).  C’mon ladies, who doesn’t want to pay twelve dollars for a single pair of tights which are guaranteed to develop a gaping hole after one wear?

And it’s also time to exchange our adorable ballet flats for snow boots. Those adorable boots that look SO good in the store?  Nope, they won’t do. We need traction. Suction-cup traction for those slippery sidewalks. We need thick, ugly, big-laced boots to trudge around the snow, ice, sleet, and freezing rain.  The uglier, the better!

Yep, it’s time for our most hideous clothing! Fleece-lined pants and down-stuffed vests and long johns and hat-head caps. Get them out of our mothball-smelling sweater chests, and onto our dry, itchy skin!  It’s time to get ugly and comfortable. See you later, necks and wrists! Farewell knees and ankles! Adios, razors and shaving cream!

It’s officially the ugly season! And my turtlenecks and I are going to have a heck of a winter.

* I, for one, still shave.  But then again, you’ll never know if I don’t.

 

Only ONE Gift Guide

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I only have one gift suggestion: give the gift of reading together (even if you’re apart).

Simply buy/find a book your loved one would enjoy.  Read it (or re-read it), and as you go, write little notes with your own thoughts in the margin.  Ta-da. You’ve just created a fabulous and thoughtful gift!

A few sample comments from margins of gifted books:

  • “Really, Sherlock?  You didn’t notice the thumbtack back in Chapter Two? Sheesh.”
  • “This restaurant sounds like that crazy dive-bar we went to in Saratoga.”
  •  “I’m bored, and skipping this page, but wait until you see page 45.”
  • “I find that this sololiquoy is more enjoyable with a margarita in hand.”
  • “Jack Black would be perfect to play ‘Henry’ in the movie version.”
  • “Call me when you read this part!”

Skip the Black Friday shopping, and settle in with a heavy quilt and a glass of Malbec. Then,  start scribbling all over All The Light We Cannot See.  Your sister is going to love it.

 

 

Saying Grace

Things for which I’m Thankful
Ice cubes
Children’s books
A heavy quilted blanket, and a dog and hubby with whom to share it
Stovetop popcorn
The lad I met in a Scotland cab who will soon be joining the British Armed Forces
The smell of a match lighting an unscented candle
Coldplay
Two persnickety nephews, and one sassy niece
Steady, healthy heartbeats
Good ol’ fashioned black and white print newspapers
The “Norwich Turkey Trot” 5k
Fleece lined clothing
Hometown Heroes
Nat King Cole’s voice
The evergreen tree which toppled away from the house
Hot tub soaks
Astronauts, Anesthesiologists, and Animal Shelter Attendants
The Splendid Table on NPR
Watermelon, with or without seeds
The Radio City Rockettes, in the Macy’s Parade, kicking ’em high
All those crazy friends and relatives with stuffing in their teeth and bad jokes and heavy pours and long-distance calls and cheating card-players and screaming kids.

And a holiday which truly requires no other gift than simply just being there.

Spot of Tea?

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I’m not much of a warm-drink consumer. I prefer iced coffee to hot, cold apple cider to warm, and believe it or not, I love a glass of “cold cocoa.” (I make regular ol’ hot chocolate and then let it chill before adding ice cubes and whipped cream.) Yet, there’s something about a hot cup of tea which exudes comfort, especially during flu season.

But for me, I think part of the allure is simply getting to choose a “type” of tea.  And truth be told, I’m really only interested in the pretty colors of the teabags.  At a restaurant recently, after I had ordered iced tea, I was jealous that a friend, who had ordered hot tea, had the choice of all of the pretty little squares in a wooden box provided by the server. Would she choose the emerald-green square for jasmine tea, or the pink square for raspberry tea? Would she go with the bright red cinnamon tea square, or the bright, citrus yellow square for lemon tea? (You can imagine my disappointment when she chose the boring smoky Earl Grey square. It was like choosing vanilla ice cream at a Baskin-Robbins.)

When a British friend of mine recently visited, she was appalled at my selection of teas at home. Apparently, chamomile and orange spice tea weren’t going to work for her. In her prim British accent, she said, “Every proper home needs English Breakfast tea.”  I didn’t know the difference between English Breakfast tea and Sunny-Delight orange drink, but I certainly wanted to have proper home. (The truth is that my home is FAR from proper, considering I masquerade old ski posters  as “framed art.”) So, we went to the general store,  stocked up on English Breakfast tea, and drank up. The tea tasted fine, but the ugly packaging was a real disappointment.

The following Sunday, after my friend had left, I pondered the many types of tea at my grocery store. Perhaps it was time to care a little more about the taste of the tea leaves, and a little less about the marketing scheme of the tea company. But old habits die hard, especially when old taste buds don’t really care. (Triangular tea packets, oh my!) I eventually decided on a box of “exotic coconut” tea, complete with colorful swirl packaging. The box of tea bags looked like a Hawaiian souvenir, which of course, meant I had to have it.

I brought the tea home, and the following morning, I soaked a tea bag in boiling water in my favorite “Becky’s of Portland, Maine” mug.  I took a sip. The tea tasted like sunscreen.  But gosh darn it, that ripped tea bag was pretty in my trash.

Preview Review

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This past weekend, I went to see Spectre with a group of family and friends.  Bond, James, Bond was perfectly entertaining… however, before the movie even started, I was left with a bad taste in my mouth. (And it wasn’t the expired Swedish Fish. Although I don’t think Swedish Fish ever really expire.)

Spectre is rated PG-13, primarily for violence. Yet, the previews before Spectre were unbelievably graphic and disgusting. In particular, a preview for the Ryan Reynolds movie, Deadpool, was particularly vulgar. Someone at the theater clearly had mistakenly mixed up the previews, and had shown the R-rated previews at a PG-13 rated movie.  It was a mistake that haunted me for the next two days.

I usually start out my complaints about R rated material with “I’m sorry to be a prude, but…” but the truth is that I’m not sorry to be a prude, especially when it is SO unexpected. If I were viewing any stupid Seth Rogan movie, I would expect juvenile, disgusting, and typically less-than-funny sex and swear-induced profanity.  But this was Bond, James, Bond.  While there’s plenty of violence in a Bond movie, there’s no explicit gore.  While there are lots of sexy women, they keep their clothes on.  And the bottom line is that a Bond movie is a movie that I can watch with my family.

Call me a prude, but sometimes you just want a movie you can watch without blushing.

What Your Holiday Card Says About You

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“Perfect Family Portrait”- We’re pretending like the twins always wear matching cashmere sweaters and keep their fingers out of their nostrils.

“Fabulous Vacation Photo”Jack cashed in our retirement fund to go to Costa Rica, and gosh darn it, we want you to know.

Baby Announcement/Christmas Greeting–  Get ready for intimate sonogram pictures on facebook for the next six months.

Marriage Announcement/Christmas Greeting – It’s not too late to send a gift.

Cat/Dog Dressed Up Like Rudolph PhotoI’m single.

Seven Page, Glossy Shine, Family Album CardLOOK! AT! US! No really, LOOK AT US!

Unsigned, pre-printed foil-stamped cards- You didn’t really think I had time for writing cards, did you?

“Peace on Earth” Card- Our gingerbread cookies are vegan.

Cards Accompanied By A Family Letter Update- Aunt Gladys has the measles. Jim was laid off. Terry flunked out of State U. Joy to the World!

UNICEF Christmas CardsWe’re judging your Black Friday spending habits.

“Happy New Year”- We’re perpetually late to parties.

The E- Card- You’re not worth the stamp.

Better than a Birthday Mimosa

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My 30th birthday carousel…which was (achoo) years ago.

Sunday is my birthday.  I’ll be turning (cough, cough) years old.  And I’ll be celebrating with brunch at a local favorite Inn, dipping my home fries in globs of ketchup and sipping on a mimosa (or four).

And after a good meal, I’ll retreat home to participate in my favorite birthday ritual: writing in my “birthday diary.”  Ever since I was fourteen years old, I have written a single journal entry on my birthday. This all started when I was young and dramatic, and I began a diary, mostly to write about boys.  But eventually, I realized that in order to meet boys I needed to spend less time with my diary and more time out of my room.  However, I kept up with the once-a-year-habit, and now, writing in my journal on November 8 is more of a tradition than blowing out candles.

And on that day, I write about my life in the past year. I consider my blessings and my goals. I write down accomplishments and let-downs. I write about celebrations and friendships and deaths and travels and family and even sometimes…the color of my hair.  And at the end of every entry, I conclude with a comment on my favorite song of the year.  It’s my own little Grammy award. (This year? Uptown Funk. Duh.)

Then, after I write my two pages of scribble, I read my entire birthday journal from 1992 to present.  I giggle at the same entries which make me laugh year after year. (Specifically, the year when I profess my love for an old ex, only to curse him out the following year.)  I mourn the entries about heartbreaking losses, yet I smile at the entries about new nephews.  It’s like watching my life in a movie, and it gives perspective as to what really matters in a lifetime.

So, on Sunday, I will be drinking champagne and eating carrot cake and treating myself to an entire day in old sweatpants.  But, I’ll also be recording my past year of life on this planet… Uptown Funk and all.  Bring on the bubbly!

Trick, Treat, and Carry On

Trick or treaters on the porch

Personally, I don’t like dressing up for Halloween. The stress of finding a costume to look like a California Raisin overwhelms me.  And I can’t stand all of those seasonal pop-up Halloween costume stores which infest our mini-malls. But there is one thing I love about Halloween: trick or treaters.

In a day when we barely let our kids go to school without being accompanied by a trio of nannies, peer mediators, and life coaches, I love that we still let our kids roam dark streets at night on Halloween. They knock on the doors at the homes of people whom we don’t even say hello to on the sidewalk. For one night a year, we let our kindergartners roam the neighborhood, dressed up like creatures of the night, just to demand candy from strangers.

It’s such a strange, strange custom for such a protective country. It seems like we have done our best to rid our kids of anything remotely fun, and yet, Halloween still rules. These days, we can’t even bring cupcakes to school unless they are gluten-free, nut-free, calorie-free, and vegan. Yet, we’ll let little Jack dress up like a zombie and eat that candy apple that weird Mr. Huston cooked. It’s bizarre, really. Yet, it is wonderful.

I fear the day that Halloween is considered too dangerous. I hope that all kids and neighborhoods take the appropriate steps to keep Halloween safe for all, so that this particular holiday never becomes a relic of the past.  (Put the glow sticks on, kiddos, and keep your parents at a safe distance!)

After all, it would be sad if my grandkids never knew the satisfaction of being just a little bit scared of the house with the howling gravestones in the front yard.  And, it would be tragic if my nephews didn’t know the joy of dressing up with friends to create the entire Gilligan’s Island crew. I hope that when I’m an 85 year old woman, I can still enjoy a parade of kiddos dressed up like ducks and ninjas and princesses, and scare the heck out of them with an eerie soundtrack of howling wolves coming from the inside of a goblin-carved pumpkin. Boo-yeah!

Long live trick or treating. And long live that one house which gives away WHOLE Snickers bars. Bless you, Thirteen Oak Street. I don’t care what anyone else thinks about your generosity with sugar. I still think you’re pretty darn howl-tastic!

Photocredit: newsnetwork.mayoclinic.org

The First Snow

We had our first real snow flurry last week. And when people experience the first snow of the year, they have one of two reactions:

“YYYYYYYYYYYYYYESSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSS!” (This is the same reaction my nephew has over his Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle birthday cake.)

“NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!”  (This is the reaction I have when the lady in the window seat needs to use the restroom for the fifth time during our redeye flight.)

For me, the first snow always brings a moment of excitement, and I’ll admit, I’m usually in the prior category. That is, until I look down and notice the calendar.

In Vermont, the first snow usually flies in October.  And snow doesn’t belong in October. The ski areas aren’t open. It’s not beginning to look a lot like Christmas. It’s not cool to need a Halloween costume which goes with snow boots.

But, I wouldn’t be human if I couldn’t appreciate the beauty of the first dotted sky of the year. There’s joy in those few moments of big flakes which melt when they hit the overgrown grass.

I’m dreaming of a white Christmas. But certainly not a white Halloween.  And so, I’ll scream on the inside with joy at the first snowflakes of the year.  And then, I’ll hope the next flurry waits until the stockings are hung.  I’m not ready to shovel my porch for trick or treaters.

Guilty Pennies

10 year old holding charity donations in a jar

I’m a terrible person. I keep the pennies I receive from those charity mailings which   are trying to save the world’s people/planet/penguins. I know that the pennies are supposed to guilt me into sending a big check to the Save the Spotted West Nebraskan Cougar fund, but I find the scheme so aggravating that I don’t respond.

I feel awful for a nanosecond until l remind myself that I’m a person who regularly gives to charity.  And those glued pennies which clink in my mailbox every day will all eventually go back to a good cause -albeit probably not the charity which gave them to me in the first place.  (By the way, how many of these mailed pennies do you think are tossed in the trash every year?)

I certainly sympathize with non-profits, trying to raise money for their cause.  And for a while, my ASPCA address labels were a welcome gift in my mailbox.  But these days, it seems that I get all sorts of “stuff” from these charities, from notepads to holiday cards to posters of chimpanzees.  (What, exactly, was I supposed to do with this poster?  I’m still not sure, but I turned into it wrapping paper for my nephew.)  I don’t want/need any of this stuff, but I understand that the Save the Spotted West Nebraskan Cougar charities are only trying to get my attention.

But perhaps a better way to get someone’s attention is to air a sad commercial, complete with Sarah McLachlan’s “Arms of an Angel” ballad.  Oh wait…

Let’s just all agree to keep the pennies in the charity cycle…and wherever they land, they land.  Guilt dissolved, as long as the pennies don’t end up in your ice cream fund.

Photocredit: Peter Dazeley

Being There

It’s rare that I insist that you read something.  (I hate being bossed around unless someone is FORCING me to have another piece of Key Lime Pie!)

However, this column from Elizabeth Gilbert (of Eat, Pray, Love fame) has influenced my thinking every day this month.

You can’t win the contest without entering, and entering again, and entering again…

gallery-1440173878-county-fairphotocredit: goodhousekeeping.com

Win an Inn

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I love entering contests, specifically short-answer, creative writing contests. Give me a 250 word essay contest answering the question“What you would you do with a lifetime supply of meatballs?” and I’m a happy camper.

Yet, it’s hard to find old-fashioned writing contests these days. With Facebook and Instagram, contests are much more public, and the judging is often crowd-sourced.  (Do you really want your exes and colleagues to know what you’d do with those meatballs?) In the good old days,  I’d scour magazines and newspapers for contests, and then fill out paper forms with a good old pencil. I’d win the prize without having to share the answer.

Yet, today, you need to post your best selfie in your gold-extension eyelashes and then ask your eight-hundred besties to vote for you on  Facebook.  Then, if you are one of the top three finalists, strangers from across the continent will re-post your picture on Twitter and the person with the most Twitter shares wins.  I’m tired and embarrassed just thinking about it.

Yep, I prefer simple writing contests with fabulous prizes.  And one of the most simple writing contests I’ve seen recently involved giving away an inn.  An actual INN!  (I didn’t enter since I’m not sure what I would do with an Inn. Meatballs, yes!  An inn?  Probably not.)

I’ve seen another “Win the Inn” contest earlier this year. People had to submit essays on why they wanted to win the inn, and the innkeeper chose the winner.  These innkeepers get gold stars from me.  I can’t imagine a better way to pass on a beloved business.  There was are no facebook likes involved, no re-tweets, and no posts to  social media accounts.  They are good ol’ fashioned writing contests.

And a contest involving nothing more than words on a page is a contest I’d like to keep around.  I’m all for creativity when using adjectives.  But creative uses for eyelash extensions are simply not my forte.

GOOD PEOPLE (and not those unmentionable jerks)

There’s a lady out there who didn’t play nice with me today. And, it could have ruined my day. I could have let her get the best of me.

But I’m not going to let her. Want to know why? Because she’s a jerk.  And we can’t let jerks rule the world.

There are too many good folks who are willing to hold the door open, willing to give you the extra penny you’re missing, willing to write a complimentary note to your boss, willing to let you take the last seat on the bus, willing to make a difference… to let the jerks get all of the limelight.

So, instead of complaining about that not-so-lovely lady, I’m going to turn it around and talk about the good people.

Here is a list of good people:

Kid’s Baseball Catch Saves Toddler
Math Teachers Matter
Boy helps blind deer find food every morning.
University President takes pay cut to pay others
Run, Run, Runner
The Unstoppable Book Author
And my recent favorite… a train conductor worth noting.

An Apple A Day

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I’ve never been a big fan of apples. For me, they’re a five on a scale of one to ten in the fruit department.  (Not as fabulous as watermelon- nine,  but not as horrible as kiwi-two.)

But this time of year, I can’t help but eat apples.  They’re everywhere.  I can’t brush my teeth without stumbling over a MacIntosh.

They’re on the ground outside. They’re in barrels at the grocery store.  They’re in buckets at my neighbor’s house. They’re perfectly piled in a Simon Pearce glass bowl for decoration at my girlfriend’s perfect Pottery Barn home.

So, I give in to the apples.  I can’t turn away a juicy Empire that my nephew hands me after his apple-picking school trip.  I’d be rude not to accept the apple my colleague hands me during our lunch break. And it feels wasteful not to pick the gorgeous red apple hanging in front of me during my walk with my dog.  And I drink the cider, and eat the pie, and taste the crumble, and throw my hands up into the air and, gosh darn it, just EAT EVERY SINGLE APPLE PRODUCT IN THE WHOLE WIDE CRAZY WORLD.

And to be honest, they don’t taste bad. And as long as a lost worm doesn’t find his way into my mouth, I won’t mind eating the millions of apple products.  I actually might even have a second slice of your homemade apple pie.

But,  when I get the chance… I’ll wash it down with orange juice:)

 

 

Go West, Little Rippers

I can’t help but share my new book!  Go West, Little Rippers was released today!

I finished writing the book in April. Then, the illustrator went to work. Finally, the editing…and the editing… and more editing…and some more editing.

But now, it’s here, and it’s fabulous (if I do say so myself!) :)

Click here to check out the book on Amazon!

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Animal Crossing

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Last week, I was driving on a fairly busy New Jersey road when the traffic slowed to a halt.  However, as we started slowly moving, the reason for the hold-up brought a smile to my face. A flock of geese (complete with a line of goslings) were making their way across the street. The Police K-9 unit stopped both sides of oncoming traffic while they waited for the geese to cross the road safely to a nearby pond.

I’m happy to be held up in traffic for the safety of webbed ones. In fact, I’m happy to be held up in traffic for the sake of any animal. (On rainy nights, I slow to 5 mph in my driveway just to avoid the bullfrogs from my frontyard marsh.) Yet, we all know that roadkill happens. And when it does, it breaks my heart. (This comes from someone who sheds a tear when I step on a slug during an early morning run.)

But, recently, a family member shared some brilliant advice about roadkill (if there is such a thing). He told me that people should pay a fee to an animal shelter when they accidentally take an animal’s life. When someone hits a mouse with his Chevy Equinox, he needs to pay up.  When someone can’t swerve to miss a frog, she needs to open her wallet to the ASPCA. Whether it is death by car, lawn mower, bicycle, or foot, it all adds up to a donation.

Roadkill will always break my heart.  But giving a donation in lieu of an accident is  certainly a silver lining.

photocredit: roadsafety.co.za

 

 

Electric Youth

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I’m a fan of Tay Sway. She seems like a talented enough young woman with a decent head on her shoulders. Yet, in my eyes, she’ll never be Debbie Gibson.

To this day, I know every Debbie Gibson lyric by heart. Even the last word to the last song on the B-side of her first album.  (Between the Lines was actually one of her better songs, in my opinion.) To say that I was a fan was an understatement.  I wanted to be Debbie. I wore black felt hats to look like Debbie. I even bought her “Electric Youth” perfume, which resembled a battery-powered deodorant stick.

The first (and only) time I saw Debbie in concert at Madison Square Garden, I was speechless.  From the nose-bleed section, Debbie was as itty-bitty as a crumb.  But it was her. And her voice was echoing directly from her lips to my ears.  Somehow, she knew how I felt about boys and life and youth and love. And to this day, it was still the most memorable concert of my life.  (With John Mayer as a close second, and Color Me Badd in dead last.)

It’s easy to make light of today’s tween pop music or simply shake it off.  (See what I did there?)  But the truth is that each of these young performers is shaping lives (for better or worse) for only a few short critical years. I stopped listening to Debbie as soon as I became old enough to hang out with boys who listened to Dave Matthews. I replaced my Debbie tapes with Dave CDs. I threw away my felt hats. And our relationship came to an end.

But deep down, her songs still fill my heart in ways that sometimes surprise me. I’d be lying to say that “Out of the Blue” isn’t the most played song on my Ipod. And when I’m in the shower, I’ve been known to belt out a few of her lyrics I can’t believe I still remember. Yep, Debbie Gibson’s music is tattooed on my soul forever. While most folks today are shaking it off, I’m still shaking your love.

 

 

This film has been rated Animal Friendly. Viewer discretion unnecessary.

Tom Hardy and the dog Rocco from the film pose for photos at "The Drop" premiere on Monday, Sept. 8, 2014 in New York. (Photo by Charles Sykes/Invision/AP)

Last year, my husband and I went to the movies to see an action/thriller flick starring the late James Gandolfini entitled The Drop. I knew it was going to be violent. And I knew that there were going to be moments when I had to close my eyes.

However, before buying a ticket and committing to the movie, I asked the ticket salesman the question I always ask before seeing a movie. “Is there any violence against animals in the film?”

He looked at me with a smug smile. “It’s a violent movie, ma’am.”

First of all, he called me ma’am, which annoyed me since I was wearing my Forever 21 wrap sweater which should have made me look fifteen years younger than I am. (And certainly not old enough to be a ma’am.)

Second, he didn’t understand the question. I took a deep breath. “Yes, I know it is a violent movie, but I would like to know if there is violence against animals.”

“There’s an abused dog who has a happy ending.”

“Do you actually witness the abuse?”

“I don’t really remember, ma’am,” he said, both disinterested and impatient.

At this point, I could sense the folks behind me getting perturbed. My husband stepped up to the counter to appease the situation. He leaned into the ticket salesman. “Listen, I really want to see this movie tonight, but my wife’s not going to be able to handle dog violence. So, if you could just try to remember the scene, you can whisper it to me, and I’ll make sure she takes a bathroom break during that part of the movie.”

The ticket salesman rolled his eyes and spoke in a quick, monotone voice. “You don’t see any on-screen abuse, okay?”

I smiled happily. “Thank you. Two tickets, please.”

I think Television Parental Guidelines should include “F” to stand for “Fido Abuse.” Although there is a rating for violence (V), it doesn’t tell you specifically what type of violence that you might have to endure. While I’m already numb to human-on-human contact on the big screen (which is a WHOLE other sad column in itself), I can’t handle animal cruelty in the movies or television. Even cartoon movies with tragic animal mother deaths (i.e. Bambi and ALL Disney movies) make me weep.

Heck, I don’t even like to see animals die in movies, even when it is a pleasant, end-of life, storyline. (Forget, Marley and Me.) Basically, I can’t handle a movie unless the pet pooch lives a long happy life… full of treats and L.L. Bean flannel, monogrammed, dogbeds.

Come to think if it, there are other ratings I would also like to see in the Television Parental Guidelines.

“W” – excessive Will Ferrell nudity

“C” –  Cliffhanger endings beyond frustration

“H” –  Health-related outbreaks which will give you hypochondria

“B” – Brooklyn Decker swimsuit cameos which cause guilt about eating Peanut M&Ms with your buttered popcorn.

I’m all for surprises in movies as long as they don’t include animal cruelty, Inception-esque frustration, or excessive supermodels in swimsuits. As far as I’m concerned, warnings about the aforementioned events would help me keep my sanity in the movie theater.

Put as many karate chops as you want on screen. Just keep them away from that Shitzu.

photocredit: (Photo by Charles Sykes/Invision/AP)

The Love We Live

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Love is cooking each half of the flank steak to a different tenderness.
Love is having a side of the bed.
Love is deciding who deals with the garter snake, and who deals with bathroom spiders.
Love is compromising with 2% milk.
Love is shower-less road trips and toothpaste-free nights.
Love is choosing seats 42A and B next to the airplane bathroom, just to sit together.
Love is sharing the big popcorn.
Love is clearing the hair out of the shower drain without being asked.
Love is sleeping with cold feet because someone is hogging the comforter.
Love is agreeing to never shop at that store again.
Love is screaming until you make up.
Love is sitting through “Casino Royale” over and over and over again because it’s the only movie you agree upon.
Love is picking up the phone to say you’re running late.
Love is agreeing to like Jon Oliver a little more than Conan O’Brien but not as much as Aziz Ansari.
Love is having a system for the dishes.
Love is knowing when to just let it go.
Love is recognizing the one look which means: “I can’t believe what she just said but I’m going to pretend everything is normal until you and I can gossip on our way home.”
Love is really not noticing the few extra pounds.
Love is not having to worry about flirty waitresses or hunky pool boys.
Love is having a library of kisses with special meanings.
Love is allowing the other to take the ice cream bite with the most chocolate chip cookie dough chunks.
Love is finding silver linings in laughable hospital food.
Love is holding hands when nobody is looking.
Love is what we live… sun-up, sun-down, Sundays to Saturdays, around and upside down and back around again.
Love was, love is, and love will be.

P.S.  Love is leaving your name off this post, because you wouldn’t want it here. xoxo

photocredit: Little Shop of Elle See

Unexpected Item in Bagging Area!

By Rebecca Munsterer Sabky

Last night, after eating Triscuits for dinner for the second night in a row, I decided to go on a grocery run. I closed the fridge, put on my “fancy” sweatpants, and left the house. After an hour of perusing the various types of shredded wheat cereals, I had a sufficient cart of edibles for the week.

As I pushed my cart towards the exit of the store, I was faced with the soccer mom’s conundrum. Do I take my fifteen items (give or take an item or two) to the Ten Items or Less checkout, or do I wait on the massive line for the regular check out?  As a seemingly law-abiding citizen (I won’t admit otherwise), I decided to not violate the Ten Items or Less code. Instead, I decided to attempt the greatest game in the history of the 21st century:  Check! Your! Self! Out!

For those of you new to this particular game show, the object is simple. Scan your items and place them in a shopping bag  without needing the assistance of a grocery clerk.  Sounds easy, right?  Wrong!  Check! Your! Self! Out! is a sly combination of Jeopardy and Press Your Luck. 

The contestant must first successfully locate and scan the UPC code on a particular item. Then, the item must be placed in a plastic grocery bag on a scale which is programmed to predetermine the weight of that project.  Once a bag is full, the contestant must remove the bag from the scale without aggravating the system.

I’ve been a contestant on this show for about five years now. But, I’ve yet to win. Yesterday, I once again gave it my best shot.

First, I picked items which were easy to scan.The box of cereal with the clear UPC code on the bottom. The bar of soap. The instant rice box. So far, so good. The items matched their predetermined weight on the scale. Once they were safely bagged, I used a careful maneuver to remove the first full bag from the scale and back into my shopping cart.  I had survived the first round of competition. Moving on!

The second round was a bit trickier. I successfully navigated the scanning of a Ben and Jerry’s ice cream pint. (I had previously made a rookie mistake in another game when I forgot to swipe the ice crystals from the UPC code.)  I also performed scanner gymnastics to correctly align the UPC code on corner of a carton of seltzer. (Who says sweatpants at the grocery store aren’t appropriate?)  And lastly, I was able to squash a tube of moisturizer just enough as to flatten the code for the scanner without popping open the cap.  With the finesse of a pickpocket, I swiped the second bag from the scale and to my cart. Success! It was a close call, but I had made it on to the final round.

The final round of Check! Your! Self! Out! is notoriously impossible. It is the dreaded produce checkout. To win the game, I needed to successfully weigh, identify, and bag my tomatoes. I started by placing the tomatoes on the scanner for the weigh-in. The machine informed me that I was purchasing 1.23 pounds of misunderstood fruits. (You, too, thought they were a vegetables, right?) Then, I was required to identify the variety of tomatoes. My options were bountiful. There were beefsteak tomatoes.Tomatoes from the vine. Roma tomatoes. I looked at my purchased tomatoes. They were red and round and generic. In fact, they resembled all of the tomatoes on the screen.

Other customers were now lined up behind me. The ticking of my Swatch watch added to the drama of not knowing the correct answer to the tomato question. Tick. Tock. Tick. Tock.   I considered using a lifeline and phoning a friend.  I considered asking the audience on line.  I even considered running back to the tomato display (à la the old 90’s game show Supermarket Sweep) to identify where I first picked up these buggers.  But as my Swatch tick-tocked, I knew I needed  be a big girl and make my best guess. I closed my eyes and chose beefsteak. To my delight, the scanner accepted my answer. I was home free.

But as we all know, no good game is over until it’s over. (Vanna doesn’t change out of her ballgown until the final puzzle is solved.)  As I leaned over to place the “beefsteak” tomatoes in their appropriate grocery bag, my wallet accidentally fell out of my pocket.  It landed with a thump in the plastic bag, and the weight of the wallet jammed the machine.

Unexpected item in bagging area!!!

The lights above the checkout flashed and the customers in line sighed with disappointment. They knew I would have to wait for a supermarket clerk to come reset the machine.

I looked down at the ground with disgust. I had lost yet another round of Check! Your! Self! Out!  There would be no prize but to get out of the supermarket alive.

unexpected-item

Photocredit: Andy Ward, Andyward.com/Michael O’Mara books .

 

LIKEABLE CHARACTER= Clark Moore

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What was your first job, and what did you learn? My first job was a regional radio commercial for Coke and I learned how gratifying it was to get paid to do something you love.

Where is your favorite vacation spot? Any beach house in Hilton Head, South Carolina! There’s nothing more relaxing than a southern beach town.

What’s a necessary indulgence? I could never say “no” to anything wrapped in (or that incorporates) bacon, or a great sale!

If you’re in a department store, which section/thing do you gravitate towards?  The fragrance section. I have a very strong sense of smell that is directly connected to many fond memories.

What’s the best meal you’ve ever had? “The Southern Benedict” (fried chicken on a biscuit, covered in a black-peppered, sausage hollandaise gravy) at Folk Art in Atlanta.

Something most people don’t know about you? I’ve seen every episode of Battlestar Gallactica.

Do you sing in the shower?  What’s your go-to tune? I do a full broadway show in my shower every single day! This morning I was singing a playlist that included Beyonce, Britney Spears, and Robyn.

What’s one thing on your Bucket List you’d like to see/do/experience? I want to live in Ireland for at least a year.

What would people be surprised to find out about your daily routine?  People are usually surprised when they find out I don’t iron my clothes. I don’t even own an iron!

How do you order your eggs? Always over-medium with salt and pepper.

What was the first concert your saw live?  *NSYNC No Strings Attached. It was life changing. They came down from the top of the stage suspended by strings like puppets.

Finish this sentence: I’m likeable because… my glass is always half full.