Sunday, April 28, 2013

Step Right Up

I was at the grocery store this weekend, negotiating a chicken purchase with the butcher.  I have an unhealthy attitude towards chicken.  I hoard it.  I can't pass up a chicken sale even when the freezer is so stuffed with it that breasts, boneless, skinless and otherwise, repeatedly fall on the foot of the poor sap who happens to need to dig for something else.

That would most often be The Big Daddy who cusses out all the $%&**!% chicken breasts and the woman who keeps buying them.

There I was trying to determine how many more The BD would tolerate in the big chill, and from the corner of my eye I noticed a guy at the end of the counter buying ribs.   I envied those slabs sitting on the scale because that's another thing that won't fit in the freezer with all the chicken hooters in there

He looked my way and yelled, "Well, I'd recognize that hair anywhere."

It was the father of one of Mallie Bee's friends.  A friend (maybe from middle school?) a short-termer when they parted circles in high school.  I have never known him all that well.  I liked him but it's not like I see him or his family on a regular basis.

Evidently my hair has been on friendlier terms with him.

"Yep, I saw that head of hair and said to myself, well I know who that is.  There's no mistaking those curls."

This was when it was a few days post-wash and thus smaller than usual.  It's not even the humid months yet when its volume will intensify significantly.  By then it should have its own zip code, a name (Large Marge), and a wide load sign with flags coming out the side for clearance.

If only I could think of a way to turn the burdensome second person in this relationship into a moneymaker...........

Thursday, April 25, 2013

Two Parties

Last spring I told The Big Daddy that our social life was in serious need of some energy.  Too many weekends doing nothing and then falling asleep on the couch was making us boring.

Not a week later he came home and joyfully announced, "Honey, the social calendar just got an engagement.  We are invited to a birthday party."

A birthday party?  Oh good, a birthday party.  Who's having the party?

"My post-doc.  His daughter is turning 5."

What?  No.  No, not that.  Not a kids party.  That's not what I meant at all.  I'd rather stay home than go to a little kids birthday party.

"Too late.  I told him we're coming."

And so I dressed that Sunday afternoon for a party I didn't want to go to.  Luckily, I wore a dress and God only knows why I pulled that out of the closet.

Many of his students, and this one in particular, are Indian.  The party was in the rec center of the apartment complex Hari lives at with his wife and daughter.  Nearly all of the guests were Indian with the exception of a few of us.

We walked into a color explosion of silk saris that took my breath away.  The woman were beautiful......absolutely beautiful, and I was thankful I was wearing a dress.   It was awkward at first.  Nobody seemed to know what to do with us and so they stared.

They sang and had cake first.  They insisted Mark take one of the few chairs.  He declined.  They offered him a beer.  He declined.  When the food was ready to be served and they asked him to be first in line he declined.  He felt like this was their party and he would help himself to beer and food after Hari's friends and neighbors had gotten theirs, but it did not seem to be working out that way as everyone kept staring.

"I think you need to go first," I said.  "I think everyone is waiting for you."

He obliged and we have since learned that the boss in their culture is held in high respect and always offered food and drink before the other guests.  Once that happened it was as if the room let out a heavy sigh and the business of celebrating a birthday could begin.

As Mark said recently at our Easter dinner, "We all come from different backgrounds and faiths, but it is in our celebrations that we find common ground."

 Ah yes, so it is and I will say it is one of the most memorable parties I've ever been to.


Last weekend we had a party at the house for Mark's lab.  Everybody came...........Hari minus his wife and daughter who are in India, Subash who just got his PhD., Scott who graduated a few years ago and is a professor at a nearby college, Wendy who just joined the lab and moved from the D.C. area, and Syranta.  He came with his wife, young son, his mother visiting from India and his cousin.

Earlier in the week the lab had gotten some great results and everybody was flying high on science adrenaline.  It was an exciting turn of events and so Syranta invited Mark to his apartment for lunch.  His mom made them an omelette so when I met her I said, "I hear you make a very good omelette.  Thank you for feeding my husband."

Mark works with some wonderful people and it is clear they admire their boss.  When everyone was leaving, Syranta's mom thanked me and hugged me goodbye.  "Come to India," she whispered in my ear.  "I will cook for you."

And just like that my dreams exploded in vibrant layers of silk.


Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Running On Redemption

In my lifetime, it started with the very handsome President Kennedy who was known in his inner circle for his wandering eye.  There was the "blue dress" saga, and when the detailed Starr report was published in the newspaper our elderly ex-nurse neighbor came over in shock.  "I worked for years in a hospital and I have seen things in places they shouldn't be, but I have never heard of something like this."

What are you talking about, Marie?

"Phone sex.  That girl putting a phone there.  How in the world.........."

No, no we told her.  That's not what phone sex is.  Then we explained it to this very prim woman who was in her 80's and she was so rattled she ended up taking to her bed. 

Now, a politician who is involved in some affair or unseemly behavior pops up every few weeks and it doesn't even make the front page.

They weep.  They apologize to their wife.  They hang their head and resign in disgrace.................

Then some time goes by and they pop right back up in front of the camera and tell their district they're a reformed man.  Done their penance, met a counselor a few times so they know why they did what they did, things with the wife and fam are cool again and they're ready to represent the people in Washington.

Jesus works very, very fast when it comes to saving public servants.

It may be a sign of our times that we barely pay attention, and perhaps Newt Gingrich paved Redemption Road years ago when he turned Catholic after dumping Wife #1 and Wife #2.  He does go to church regularly now with this one and she's even in the choir so he knows something about family values.

The Road of Shame to Reelection is littered with these men, but there is one who raised the bar on disgrace to a new level.................the ex-governor of South Carolina, Mark Sanford.  When he got busted for lying to his staff about hiking the Appalachian Trail to clear his head, (when in fact he'd skipped town to see his girlfriend in Argentina) he took the gold medal in sleazy.

His tearful admission to doing his wife and four sons wrong came with repeated weepy references to his girlfriend as his "soulmate", and he just couldn't stop himself from waxing poetic about the love they shared while the rest of the country watched a slow motion train wreck in real time.  And wondered, God forbid, if his four sons were watching him talk about his girlfriend when he was still married to their mom.

There was no kissing and making up this time as the Mrs. dumped him faster than he could spell Appalachia.

Now he is attempting a comeback by running for Congress, and even asked his ex-wife to help advise on the campaign.  She declined.  Hmmmmmm..........

Their divorce agreement stipulated that each of them must respect the privacy of the other, and so letting yourself into the ex's home without permission is a rule breaker.   He has repeatedly failed to abide by that stipulation and was recently busted again inside Jenny's house, using his cell phone as a flashlight while he creeped around.

She has filed criminal charges against him for trespassing and his party has dropped financial support of his campaign.

Redemption is the work of the Lord.  Revenge is the work of the ex. 


Sunday, April 21, 2013

Turf Wars

I was nagged into gardening by my friend, and my first garden was a little plot next to the garage that The Big Daddy dug for me as a mother's day present.

By most gardener's standards it was miniscule, but it was where I practiced until we dug a bigger garden right outside the front door.  When I moved my garden into its new home, I started playing around with different flowers.  If something was a non-performer, too big or invasive, I yanked it.

The Big Daddy would stand over my shoulder and chastise me every time I pulled something up until one day I said, "You have to get your own garden.  You are driving me crazy.  You are no longer allowed to tell me what to do in my happy place."

He took that advice to heart.

Over the last few years he has taken over the back yard with raised beds.  He could care less about the aesthetics and so it looks rather Bangladeshish to me.  I have showed him pictures of English gardens where fruits and vegetables are mixed with flowers or bordered by boxwoods.

"Ack", he says waving me off.

Two years ago right before they were about to bloom, he dug up and transplanted the daffodils that were in the back and they have yet to bloom again.

Trauma, I tell him.  You've traumatized them.  

Now he has an idea for a little patch of lawn near the street where no grass grows.  The day lillys, he says, let's put those there.  Get them out of the back yard.  They'll do better out there anyways."

Oh, why yes of course, I've heard that flowers thrive on car exhaust.

"Where you can see them and enjoy them"

Suddenly the smell of bullshit wafted through the fresh spring air.

Under the cover of darkness or when I'm at the mall, he will dig them up and finally be rid of anything flowering in the backyard, despite the fact that some of these plants have called that space home years before we bought this house in 1992.

With the absence of a single flower, his man card will be reinstated and not a moment too soon.

Real men grow vegetables to feed their families.  Lots and lots of vegetables in boxes lined up like North Korean soldiers, and if you were ever curious about how well Mr. McGregor is endowed you need to take a look at the size of his tomatoes.


Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Shaking At Shady Acres

Two years ago when we were home for Christmas, Mom put the squeeze on Mark and I to visit my Uncle Paul in the nursing home.  The wound he had from a recent surgery was not healing like it should, and since he lives alone it was suggested that he take advantage of his Medicare benefit of short-term nursing home care until his post-surgery problems got better.

It's a little hard to get psyched for a visit like that, but The Queen Mum doesn't let up on the nagging when it comes to things like visiting the sick.

He was in pretty good shape and we chatted for awhile in his room and then it was time for lunch.  Mom, Mark and I followed him to the cafeteria and met the group of friends that he regularly ate with.  None of them seemed especially infirmed or old and there was lively chatter around the table.

The lunch for the day was salisbury steak.

At the end of the table sat a man with all the signs of Parkinson's.  His salisbury steak lunch had clearly been put through a blender.  He called an aide over and told her that his therapist said he could start eating solid food that day so could she please take this back and bring him a regular lunch.  She left and when she returned said that no order was put in for solid food so he'd have to eat what was in front of him.  They went back and forth discussing this oversight, each time him pushing the plate a little closet towards her.  She wouldn't relent and he looked near tears.

I was seething and ready to jump into the fray for somebody I'd known for all of five minutes..   

How about you find his therapist and get the okay so he can have a frigging normal lunch like everyone else at this table?  Better yet, page her that way you don't even have to leave the room.  Look at this.  Who in their right mind would willingly eat this shit?

Instead I sat there being pissed.  After lunch we said our goodbyes to my uncle and when we were walking out the door I said to Mom, "You are never going to be in a place like this."

Part of Mark's research work is on Parkinson's, and although I don't know anyone personally affected by that disease, I'll always remember that man.  Wearily resigned to eat what he was given, he pushed the plate closer and slowly brought his trembling hand to his mouth with more dignity than I would ever be capable of mustering.

Monday, April 8, 2013

May I Take Your Order Please

The Big Daddy is a smart guy.  A real smart guy.  Sometimes when he talks to me about protein folding, I wonder how his brain can hold so much information while my claim to fame is solving puzzles on Wheel of Fortune and figuring out percent off in my head.

He often gives lectures to students and to colleagues at professional meetings.  Based on the amazing toast he gave at Maggie and Nate's wedding, and the lovely toast he makes every year for our Easter dinner, I am also in awe of his naturalness when speaking in front of a lot of people.

I do not have that gift.

So it seems to me that he should be able to easily order food at a drive-up, but that is not the case.  He either can't hear or can't understand what they're saying, is phklempt when he tries to place the order, is confused by ordering multiple menu items, has no idea what some of these things even are, can't understand why we can't get a burger with everything on it and pick off what we don't like, and most importantly, why we can't haul our lazy asses out of the car and go get our own food.

Yesterday we drove through a local place to get Mal a burger.  She wanted The Single with mustard, ketchup and pickle and a cherry limeade.

You want what?

Say that again.

Mustard, ketchup, onion and pickle?

Well, that's what it comes with.

You don't want the onion?

Just pick it off.

A cherry limeade?

What size?

Just when it seemed that he might be able to place this basic, small order by talking into a menu board, I had to foul things up by saying, "Make that two cherry limeades."

He ordered the burger, a cherry limeade and a lime limeade.

That's when Mal and I lost it. 

A limeade is lime.  Nobody orders a lime limeade because there's no such thing.

And we started laughing so hard that by the time we made it to the pick-up window we were crying because this poor guy is so out of his element in a drive-thru lane.

What happened to you that makes you so bad at this?

The Big Daddy's earliest experience with a drive-thru goes way back.  Back to high school and this guy in the wee hours................

.............which could explain the flashbacks he has every time he has to drive up and place an order.

Sunday, April 7, 2013

Huddled Masses

I went to the post office Friday which has to be my least favorite thing to do, but remarkably the line wasn't out the door.  There was only one couple at the counter. a Muslim couple, and they were having a communication failure with the postal clerk.  She couldn't understand where they wanted to send their package and their English wasn't the best, so she started yelling louder as if they were deaf instead of confused.  I thought I heard them say Saudi Arabia, but she didn't acknowledge any such thing because listening wasn't her strong suit.  She gave them a piece of paper to write down the information and when it was indeed Saudi Arabia, she told them to step out of line to fill the necessary forms out.  A glimpse of her nice side finally started emerging which seemed to take much longer than necessary.

While I watched all of this unfold in front of me, I wondered if the shoe were on the other foot how in the hell I would mail a package from Saudi Arabia to Kansas.

That night I was watching the local news and there was a story of a 24 year old medical student who went out for a jog and hadn't come back.  He was not carrying his cell phone or wallet and due to his age he wasn't likely kidnapped, but he'd been missing for a whole day and his parents were distraught with worry.  He lived at home in an upscale neighborhood with no obvious problems.  The family was of middle-eastern descent and his mother sobbed when she talked of him.  I couldn't imagine where her mind was going in this confusion of a missing son.

Buried in today's paper was a very short story of this missing jogger found dead.  Off the trail, no obvious signs of trauma but an autopsy is pending.  Page six?   Two nights earlier his family sat on the couch in front of a news camera and begged for help to find him.  The outcome of the biggest crisis in their life ends on page six? 

Would the story of this kid be more breaking, more urgent, more front page if he were white?  I'd like to think not, but we daily separate who is worthy and who is not, who deserves courtesy or immediate help and who gets yelled at or dismissed for not if God has personally assigned Americans his chosen people and therefore immune from doing unto others.

Be it mailing a package or going for a run, it must require nerves of steel and a daily dose of bravery when you decide to make a life in the land of the free.

Wednesday, April 3, 2013


When my kids were young, I didn't buy into the let's-keep-the-kids-real-busy camp.  We tried soccer with Maggie and she was so painfully shy when she was young that she cried and cried at the thought of getting out on a field in front of all those people.  Will didn't fare much better.  We didn't even attempt it with Mallory until she was in 4th grade and she loved it.

At some point, Maggie started dancing and then played basketball.  In high school she was in track.  Will was in Scouts and cross country.  Mal did dance.  On Mondays, they all went to religion class and in the summer they took swimming lessons.

Besides the expense of extracurricular activities, I hated the driving.  Dropping off for an hour practice and coming back and waiting for them while hoping my dinner wasn't burning at home made me pissy.  We were fortunate to live on a street that had more than thirty kids, and so they preferred to run the hood with their friends after school playing kick the can, ghost, hide-and-seek or tag.

This felt like my childhood and that's what I wanted for them.  Outside making things up.  Laying in the grass looking at the clouds.  Running like gazelles when they heard the ice cream truck coming.

I often felt like an outsider in these thoughts, but over-scheduling my kids over-scheduled me and that didn't work.  I might have mentioned a time or fifty to Mark that how-busy-your-kids-are must be the new status symbol.

He gets it.  The house could fall down around him and he can sit forever on the back porch with a glass of wine looking at the birds.  He knows them all by name, makes sure their feeders are always full and they sing to him their gratitude.

That makes me crazy - for as much as I never wanted my kids to be busy, when it comes to this house I can think of a hundred things that should be done on the weekend before you sit down with a glass of wine and do nothing.

I'm working on that especially hard this year.  Maybe if I ignore the peeling paint, grab a book and a glass of wine the birds will sing to me.


Monday, April 1, 2013

Tattoo Girls

A month after Maggie and Nate got married, my nephew Patrick married Sabrina and so we headed to Indiana for the nuptials.

Since none of us were in the wedding and needn't be at the rehearsal dinner the night before, my sister Ann and her husband had us over for beer and pizza along with my sister Jean and her husband.

It was a perfect summer night and while the guys sat outside on the patio, the girls gathered at the kitchen table.  My niece and I started telling retail stories, and as is the case in my family, stories must be embellished and acted out which leads to, "Wait, wait.  I've got a better one."   Maggie launched into school stories and before long she and my niece started doing some very suggestive dance moves while Brig (and probably Mom) watched wide-eyed.

My nephew and his soon-to-be-bride love tattoos and so Ann and Caitlin hitched a plan to have a photo of Mom and Patrick made into a tattoo that she could wear to the wedding.  I have no idea how she convinced Mom to do this except that she's the youngest.  The tattoo would be covered up while she had her jacket on but when the party started she could get down with the best of them.

You could only order them by the dozen so her granddaughters got tats as well.  When Ann was putting it on her that night, Mom kept asking, "Now you're positive this is going to come off, right?"  Ann kept telling her of course it would come off with a wink, wink to the rest of us.

Before it was time to dance the night away all the girls got out there and showed off their ink.  Such wholesome bad asses they should be in a Crest commercial.