All posts by katie

40+ years of an average life has led Kate to search for the absurdity in everyday encounters with those around her. Born blocks from the beaches of Southern California but raised in a rural farm community north of Seattle, Kate appreciates the humor of simple moments and ordinary people. The granddaughter of a world renowned author of biological nonfiction, a lifetime love of reading and writing guided Kate into being an English major at the University of Washington. After nearly twenty years of raising her four children and supporting her husband’s career, Kate decided it was time to share her writing with others. On her 41st birthday she started her own blog, KBJackson.com.

Voulez-vous Vous Gaver de Chocolat Avec Moi? (Vegas Part 3)

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One of my favorite parts of going to Las Vegas is the cultural diversity. It seemed as though every other person that we walked past was speaking a foreign language of some sort, or at least an accent from another region.

This was particularly true in the case of our taxi drivers. Some of them attempted light chatter, many didn’t even bother. A gruff, heavily accented “Where you going?” was about all they were willing to give. One, however, stood out above all the rest.  He said his name was Andy, but my guess is that wasn’t his given name.  A native of Albania, Andy said he had come to the United States in 1992, but you wouldn’t be able to tell by his thick accent that he had been here twenty years. He has, though, picked up some combination of New York slang and Hawaiian pidgin. He asked us where we were from and we told him Seattle. He got very excited.

“No! You kiddin’ me brah. I LOVE Seattle. I used to live there but I hate the weather. No lie brah. I love the people. I could live there no more. Best people. The weather? Fuggedaboudit.”

He told us that when he first left Albania, he landed in Brooklyn. He spent a couple years there and then moved to San Diego. After that was Seattle, Alaska ( I go to sleep, it’s dark. I wake up 10 hours later, it’s dark.) and finally, Vegas.

He said, ” I run the 7-11 in Seattle. That Kurt Cobain- great guy. He come in, he say, ‘Andy I got no cash.’ I tell him ‘You beautiful, man. No worries.’ He say, ‘But Andy, I go on tour. Don’t know when I can pay you.’ I say, ‘We all good. I no worry.’ He come in, he buy pack of gum wit a hundred. He tell me ‘keep the change.’ Shaun Kemp, he nice guy too. The best. Man, I love Seattle.”

The skeptic in me did the math. I know Kurt Cobain died in 1994, because I was pregnant with Sydney at the time. If he came in ’92 and spent 2 years in New York, he must have come at the beginning of the year and only stayed in San Diego a very short time. I want to believe the story, but I take it with a giant grain of salt and just smile from the back seat.

Andy drops us off at Caesar’s Palace, the site of our show for that night. We were going to see “Absinthe.” When we mentioned to Jessica, the girl who checked us into our hotel, that we planned to see the show, she looked a little nervous.

“So, do you know anything about the show?” She asked.

Jeff told her that he had seen it recently on his last guys trip and she said, “Oh, ok good. I just wanted to make sure you knew what you were getting into.”

Jeff was still concerned. He had thought the show was funny, but he also knows that I’m a bit of a prude. The best way to describe this show is, well, it’s what you would get if Cirque Du Soleil and Steve Buscemi had a baby: A little freaky, some crazy acrobatics, and a weird host who likes to harass and humiliate audience members. Jeff had made sure not to get front row seats in what he referred to as “the heckle zone.” We watched people getting seated up there, and every time I cringed as I imagined what about them he might use against them. Jeff tried plying me with the house drink specialty in hopes of loosening me up. A group of four, two couples, came in and sat down next to me. I didn’t look at them too closely, other than that the girls were tiny and pretty, and the guy who sat next to me was about 6’5 and 200 pounds of pure muscle.

Jeff leaned over and whispered in my ear, “Parker would be so excited.”

I said, “About what?”

He said, “That Shaggy and Fred are here,” and nodded towards the two couples.

I looked at Mr. Muscles next to me and couldn’t figure out what he meant until I glanced further down the aisle to see the other guy in the group. I almost choked on my drink. He was leaning forward animatedly (no pun intended) talking to the two girls. He had reddish brown hair in a style I would call “Prince Valiant” and he had a reddish-brown goatee. It was Shaggy. I got the giggles, and I couldn’t stop.

When the show began I was a little nervous. Jeff had made so many disclaimers that I was expecting to be horrified. In reality, it wasn’t so bad. It was a little crude, but mostly it was just amazing feats of human strength and grace that left even Mr. Muscles in awe. The host, called The Gazillionaire, seemed a little off his game, and I suspect it had something to do with the woman in the front row. I don’t know if she was drunk, disabled or just suffering from a severe case of narcolepsy, but I couldn’t help myself from looking at her throughout. Her husband seemed to be thoroughly enjoying the show and laughed heartily when the Gazillionaire dubbed them “The Republicans.” He claimed they had purchased the two empty seats on either side of them to distance themselves from the rest of the undesirables in the audience. The woman could barely hold her head up. Every once in a while she would look up, start laughing and clap her hands. The Gazillionaire made a few attempts to razz her, but finally dismissed her with a wave of his hand, saying, “Aww, never mind. Just go back to sleep.” It was odd.

So, in actuality, the show was much tamer than the hype. I think both Jeff and I were relieved. But mostly Jeff.

After the show I talked him into going into Max Brenner’s. This is my kind of place; where the meal is just a speed bump on the way to the dessert, and they are specifically famous for their chocolate desserts. When I was in New York a couple of years ago, my mom and I had eaten lunch at the Max Brenner’s in downtown Manhattan. As we made our way out, I noticed the most amazing-looking dessert pizza I had ever seen. About a month or so later, Max Brenner’s dessert pizza was featured on the Food Network show “The Best Thing I Ever Ate.” I’ve been craving it ever since.

Jeff was not impressed.

“Can’t you get this same thing from Papa Murphy’s for $3.00?”

“It’s not the same,” I insisted. “It can’t be. It’s famous.”

We looked through the dessert menu and told the waitress that we wanted  half of a dessert pizza with the works, and we’d try the sugar waffles banana split also. The dessert pizza was ok. We shouldn’t have ordered “the works.” It was covered in melted chocolate chunks, bananas, hazelnuts, peanut butter sauce, and toasted mini marshmallows. One bite was great. The rest was just too much.

But the sugar waffles- GOOD LORD! Sweet waffles with vanilla ice cream, brulee’d bananas, caramel sauce, a vial of warm chocolate sauce to drizzle, candied rice krispies and chocolate pearls to sprinkle over the top. It was the single best dessert I’ve ever eaten. I felt so sick afterwards. But it was totally worth it.

The next morning at breakfast I noticed a stamp on Jeff’s hand. I couldn’t quite read what it said, as it had smeared.

“What’s that from?”

“What happens in Vegas…”

“We’re still IN Vegas. Where did you get that? I don’t have one.”

He laughed.

“Seriously. You’ve had insomnia the past couple nights. Did you go out while I was asleep?”

He laughed again. “I’ve gotta have some secrets.”

I looked closer. I squinted. Absinthe.

“Hmm. They didn’t stamp my hand.”

His eyes twinkled. “Mystery solved.”

Maybe.

While Jeff did some work, I figured that was a good time to do my souvenir shopping for the kids. It’s pretty difficult to find appropriate souvenirs for children in Las Vegas. I texted Sydney.

“You’re hard to souvenir shop for.”

She texted back, “That’s because I wouldn’t use anything that has ANYTHING to do with Las Vegas.”

We finally compromised on copper earrings in the shape of wolves.

I texted my mother.

“What do Zoe and Nathan want for souvenirs?”

“What do they have?”

“Everything.”

After some back and forth about what types of things I had seen, I texted her again.

“Tell Zoe they have ‘Big Bang Theory’ bobbleheads.

She responded:

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Sigh. Nathan. My own personal parental guidance system.

I walked back to the hotel with my bags of random souvenirs. The Strip is lined with people in costumes who get paid in tips for getting their picture taken. God help the person who tries to get a shot without paying.

I passed the Elmo. I heard him say to the guy right behind me, “Wazzup, pimp?”

Further down was the Michael Jackson impersonator with a boom box playing, “Don’t Stop ‘Til You Get Enough” while Mario and Luigi tapped their giant feet next to him.

I’d have to say out of all of them (including creepy dirty SpongeBob, Alan from “The Hangover” and a very unfit Ironman) the one that really caught my eye was the guy from KISS. I texted Jeff.

“On my way back. I’ve now seen it all. Gene Simmons on a Rascal.”

He texted back, “It’s prob the real Gene Simmons.”

Saturday Night’s show was “Wayne Brady.” He was performing that weekend only at the Mirage, which also happened to be the location of the buffet Jeff had pre-purchased for half-off on Travelzoo. The buffet itself was fine. It was a buffet. What we hadn’t anticipated was that it would be dinner and a show, courtesy of the highly inebriated twenty-something Canadians at the tables next to us. There’s nothing quite like the condescending life-coaching/insults of a drunk know-it-all.

We got done with dinner at about 830 and our show wasn’t until 10.

Jeff said, “What are we going to do for the next hour?”

I said, “I don’t know about you, but Superman’s calling my name.”

“Superman already called your name. It turns out he was just asking for money.”

He wasn’t lying.  I had been lured in a couple nights before by the Superman slot machine. I was a huge Superman fan as a kid. I had a Superman doll that came in and stole Barbie’s heart away from Ken. I listened over and over to the Superman II soundtrack record, and even chose one of the songs for an ice skating routine. Me personally, I wanted to be Wonder Woman, not Lois Lane. I found Lois annoying, with her smoker’s voice and habit of playing damsel in distress, mostly in problems she’d created for herself. But I digress.

So, I had been drawn to the Superman game. It didn’t matter that I was losing 50 cents each time I pushed the button. I was enjoying every minute of it- the music, the movie clips, and my favorite, the bonus game for losing. It would say, “You’re not a winner, but Superman saves the day!” at which point Superman (Christopher Reeves) would fly across the screen,

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wink and smile at me, and then start flying around the earth to reverse its rotation. This caused a reversal of fortune as well, resulting in an exciting $3.75 win.

We discussed the odds of various casino games and finally settled on spending a few minutes at the roulette table. Jeff handed me $40 and I tentatively sidled up to the table. He left to go to the bathroom. I got my chips  and put my $10 minimum bet on three numbers- 25 (my birthday), 4 and 6. I had to reach all the way across the table to put the last two down, and the dealer offered to do it for me going forward.  He spun the wheel, dropped the ball and it landed on 25. I had won! I had only put $4 down on it, so I was surprised to see the giant stack of chips the dealer pushed my way.

I said, “Wait. What did I win?”

The woman next to me laughed. “Oh darlin’, don’t you know? You put 4 chips down on the winning number. Each chip won at 35-1.”

Jeff said later that he left a timid woman with a few chips and when he came back I had a giant stack of chips in front of me, was cracking jokes and ordering the dealer around like I owned the place. He’s exaggerating. A little.

Soon it was time to head to the show. We got seated and Jeff kept chuckling as we waited for it to start. I asked him what was so funny and he gestured towards a woman a couple rows in front of us. She was scrolling through the pictures on her camera.

“What is she looking at?”

“Herself. Really bad pictures of herself.”

I watched her for a while, and she took about 10 selfies. After each one, she’d look at the screen. Jeff would groan and laugh every time he saw what she had taken. I didn’t have a clear view, but judging by his reaction, none of them were turning out well. I considered offering to take a picture for her.

As for the actual show we had gone to see, we hadn’t realized that instead of stand up comedy, Wayne Brady does an improv comedy show in the style of “Whose Line is it Anyway?” It was very entertaining, he was smart and quick on his feet and hilarious. He was also very adept at putting the drunk woman heckling him throughout the show in her place.

“You WISH you were Rod Stewart!” She yelled from the back row.

Really. Wayne Brady wishes he was Rod Stewart. What kind of insult is that? But she got much worse. Let’s just say that even if my kids didn’t read my blog, which they do, I wouldn’t print what she said. I felt sorry for the people she was with. Oh, and happy birthday Wayne.

Sunday morning we packed our stuff, stowed our bags with the bellman and headed for the pool for our last few hours before it was time to leave for the airport. It was forecast to reach 106 degrees. It was noon and already scorching hot.

We made it about 10 minutes laying out before we had to get into the water. I took my kindle and posted up on an edge, shoulder deep. I’ve been reading a fantastic book about the father of Alexandre Dumas, the author of “The Count of Monte Cristo” and “The Three Musketeers.” The book is called “The Black Count: Glory, Revolution, Betrayal and the Real Count of Monte Cristo” and is set in both France and the former Saint Domingue ( now Haiti) during the time of the French Revolution.

I was so immersed in the book that it took me a minute to realize the man standing next to me was speaking French.

I wanted to tell him what I was reading. I wanted to know if he knew his country’s legacy of slavery, of revolution, of race relations and of those who fought to make things right. Instead I just smiled to myself and enjoyed the ambiance of reading a book about French history while people spoke French around me. It was meant to be.

I know a lot of people don’t like Las Vegas. It is, after all, sin city. But it’s also a place where people come together from all over the world to see musicals and concerts, to see inspiring works of art and architecture, to eat food prepared by the most creative chefs in the world. I think your Vegas experience is whatever you want it to be. And ours was fabulous.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Mr. Baxter, I Presume? (Vegas part 2)

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I’m a history buff. I’m not the fact-spewing, expert on the “Battle of the Bulge” kind of history buff. I love the stories behind the stories. Those stories that reveal the humanity of our revered heroes and reviled villains. I’m drawn by the ability to connect with the times, the people, to imagine what it really was like. I have been on a somewhat tumultuous journey this past year to discover the truth about the history I was taught, the reality of the history I wasn’t, to give context to what was, to get a more complete picture of where we have come from. It’s the best way to understand how we got to where we are.

Last year at this same time, Jeff and I took another trip to Vegas. At drinks one night we mentioned to our friend Joey, who has spent a lot of time in the area living and/or working, that we wanted to go out for a great steak dinner. He said, “I’ve got the place, but you gotta trust me.” As we left the bright lights of the strip behind and headed towards an older part of town, I must admit I was a little concerned. That concern grew when he pulled up in front of what was basically a strip mall right on Sahara Avenue. Joey continued to reassure us as we hesitantly walked into the dark restaurant. The woman who greeted us asked if we were there for dinner and I said, “We haven’t decided yet.”

She smiled and said, “Best steak in town. You won’t regret it.”

We said our goodbyes to Joey as the woman led us to our table. What we didn’t know at the time was that Joey was secretly arranging to pay our bill as an anniversary gift. Our hostess motioned towards our booth and said, “Here we go, this is Sammy’s booth. But would you like me to give you a tour before I seat you?”

I asked her what she meant and she began to tell us the fascinating history of the Golden Steer.

Back in the late fifties, when the restaurant first opened, Las Vegas was one of the more segregated cities in the west. Sammy Davis Jr. was performing nightly, headlining at the Frontier Casino, but was not allowed to stay at any of the hotels or eat in any of the fine restaurants on the strip. He was good enough to perform for them, but not acceptable to dine with them. He, along with other African American performers, were relegated to the off-strip boarding houses and restaurants. It just so happened that the Golden Steer was conveniently located near where Sammy stayed, and welcomed him. It soon became one of his favorite hangouts. He eventually introduced his Rat Pack buddies (Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin, Joey Bishop) to the Steer and they also became regulars. With Frank came some of his “associates.” To this day you can still rent the back room where some of the most significant mafia meetings in Las Vegas took place. The room had a secret exit, but it has since been closed off due to drunken bachelor/bachelorette parties getting out of hand. As I stared at the long table, I couldn’t help but wonder whose murders were planned there, how much cash was counted, what nefarious plots were plotted.

Muhammad Ali celebrated his birthday here not too long ago. And OJ made the Golden Steer his final meal before entering prison. You won’t find that kind of helpful information on Yelp.

After a tour of the various booths (“That’s Marilyn’s booth. After she and Joe DiMaggio split, he would sit in the booth across from her while she tormented him with the amorous encounters of her latest suitor.”) we were seated back in Sammy’s booth. Even though thousands of other rear ends have planted themselves on the original leather that still covers the seats, there’s just something special about knowing that a true legend once sat there. We soon realized that, not only was the food amazing, the staff was also part of the living history of the restaurant. Many have been there for 30-40 years. The bartender once wooed Sinatra’s girl right out from under him back in the 70’s. Walking through that door feels like going through a time warp back into another era.

This year, when trying to decide where to go for our anniversary dinner, it was an easy choice. As we told the hotel bell-hop who flagged our taxi where we were going, he gave us an approving nod and said, “Now THAT’S the place to go!”

The same hostess from our previous visit greeted us and led us to our booth. I longingly passed Sammy’s and Dean’s, Frank’s and Marilyn’s. I imagined what this place was like back then. I could still see them.

dimaggiomarilyn1 Marilyn and Joe having dinner at the Golden Steer

We scooted in and Jeff asked her, “Whose booth is this?”

She replied, “This is Mr. Baxter’s booth,”

Didn’t ring a bell. I’m a huge fan of old movies and music, and I racked my brain but couldn’t think of anyone named Baxter.

She saw our confusion and said, “Mr. Baxter began coming here 55 years ago, when he was a teenager. He courted here, proposed to his girlfriend here, and they were married here. They are still married to this day. He’s spent a lot of time and money here, so we gave him his own booth. ”

Although mildly disappointed that we weren’t at Elvis’ booth (apparently a favorite of Motley Crue when they are in town)it was kind of cool that we were celebrating our anniversary  in the booth of this long-married couple.

A short time later our hostess came by again and said, “It’s Mr. Baxter.”

Jeff, thinking she had forgotten that she had told us that, said, “Yes. Mr. Baxter’s booth.”

She replied, “No. Over there. That’s Mr. Baxter and his wife. It’s his booth that you’re sitting in.”

Suddenly sitting there felt very wrong. “Doesn’t Mr. Baxter want to sit in his own booth? Should we move?” I asked.

She said, “No, he’s perfectly fine back there in DiMaggio’s booth.”

This had changed the whole dynamic of our meal. We couldn’t stop sneaking glances at the infamous Mr. Baxter. Was he annoyed we were in his booth? There was an instant need to rise to the occasion of being in Mr. Baxter’s booth in front of Mr. Baxter. I found myself laughing a little louder. Look Mr. Baxter, we are enjoying your booth. I am sitting with my best posture. I am using my best manners. We are worthy to sit in your booth.

Jeff whispered, “Mr. Baxter looks a little like Jack Nicholson.” He did.

Jeff whispered again, “Mr. Baxter has a flip phone. Like old-school Nokia flip phone. ”

Me, whispering back, “Like 90’s?”

Jeff, “No, not that old. But old. And sturdy.” Like Mr. Baxter. Maybe Mr. Baxter was able to eat here all the time because he was so frugal with his phone.

After dinner we waited for our cab in the bar, which is also the entry to the restaurant. One of the people at the bar was a woman who worked there, but had come in on her day off, just to hang out. After Mr. and Mrs. Baxter left, the woman said to the bartender, “You should let Mrs. Baxter fix you up. Then the six of us can go out.”

The bartender replied, “She’d fix me up all right. With the devil.”

How do you not love a place like this?

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Coming soon- Three Musketeers, Superman, Kurt Cobain and Wayne Brady is No Joke (Vegas part 3)

 

 

Get Your Tickets To The Gem Show (Vegas Pt. 1)

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People love the phrase “What happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas.” It leaves so much to the imagination. It implies that you might possibly have done something completely out of character…shhh. We must not ever speak of it. I’m sure sometimes that’s true, but my guess is that phrase pertains mostly to the clothing people choose to wear while on vacation there. Glitter and sequins in the daytime. Paisley or loud tropical scenes. Dresses whose hemlines may or may not cover the entire rear-end. Women of all ages and sizes stuffing themselves into what looks more like a tube top than a dress, and always 3 sizes too small. Mesh shirts with nothing underneath, revealing large breasts. On men.

Our time in Vegas this past week was a lot of fun, but we certainly didn’t do anything that left us unable to look ourselves in the mirror in the morning. Or, as you can see, blog about it once back home.

Our first night in town we decided to walk the strip and search out the discount ticket booth to see some shows while we were there. When what to our wondering  eyes should appear?

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Ross Vegas. A Ross discount clothing store, emblazoned in neon, right on the strip. You’d be surprised at how many people are jammed into Ross at 1030 on a weeknight in Vegas. As I flipped through the dress racks I looked around me at my fellow late-night bargain hunters. I started seriously questioning my judgment when I realized I was flanked on one side by a 70 year old woman in a silver sequined tank top and rainbow feathers in her hair, and on the other by a 20 (?) year old in 6 inch heels and a dress with less fabric than my bathing suit.

The next morning we did a little work and then headed down for breakfast. I’m still trying to figure out how an order of French toast, an omelet, a side of bacon, some coffee  and orange juice for two people came to $65- not including tip. Of course, the bacon alone was $6, and since there were 5 slices, that comes to more than one dollar each. So, I suppose that’s not unreasonable. O_O           At the buffet, it’s all the bacon  (and other stuff, too) you can eat for $18. Something isn’t right with that math.

Jeff left the restaurant ahead of me. They were in the middle of remodeling, so I had to follow some signs to the temporary exit. I came to a dead end. I backed up a few feet, looked at the sign again and tried another route. Once again, I found myself at a dead end.  I could see where I needed to get to, but I was surrounded by frosted glass walls at every turn. I felt like a rat in a very beautiful maze. Helplessly, I stood there for a minute, contemplating my next move. Jeff texted me asking where I was. I texted back, “I’m lost. I can’t find the way out.” A family came behind me and I said, distressed, “It says this is the exit, but there’s no way out.” The woman walked towards one of the glass walls and asks, “Did you push on this door?” I stared as she pushed the wall open. I mumbled, “There’s no handle. It doesn’t look like a door.” In truth, this was the second time that morning I had been stymied by a frosted glass door; I had a momentary panic earlier as I found myself unable to figure out how to exit the bathroom in our hotel room. In my defense, it was pre-coffee, and frosted glass can just be confusing.

As we made our way through the hotel, we came to discover that many people were in town for the Gem show. Jeff felt pretty confident that he could spot the gemologists that were in town for the event. But soon I began to notice that  most of the time when he said under his breath “gem show,” a gaggle of attractive women were passing by. Throughout the next couple of days this became code for pretty girls. Sometimes, perhaps out of guilt or some sense of fairness, he would occasionally throw in a “gem show” after a man walked by. Eventually I said, “Clearly you and I have different ideas of ‘Gem Show’ men. You say ‘Gem Show’ but all I see are Abercrombie model- wannabe d-bags.” The next night, as we entered one of the shows we attended, the tall, very dark and handsome man at the door took our tickets. I said, “Gem Show.” That was the last time he uttered the phrase on our trip. (* editor’s note- Jeff disputes this retelling of events. If you would like to hear his version, you will have to ask him.)

The other groups we noticed a lot of were the bachelor and bachelorette parties. These were easy to spot: The bachelorette parties all wore matching pink t-shirts, one of whom was wearing a sash and/ or tiara. Usually both. The bachelor parties were either wearing matching tuxedo t-shirts, or were discussing the idea of buying matching t-shirts, usually ones that said, “wolfpack.” We passed by four different groups of guys saying something along the lines of, “You know what we should do? We should all get wolfpack t-shirts!” Genius.

We spent most of our days relaxing poolside, reading, writing, and drinking something called “The Miami Vice.” A combination of pina colada and strawberry daiquiri, a “Miami Vice” tastes like Sonny, but makes you feel like Tubbs, so we limited ourselves to just one per day. I should say, It’s not that we didn’t miss our kids, but we definitely enjoyed the time away.

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Our second night in town, we went to see a Motown tribute group called “Human Nature.” Last year when we were in Vegas and deciding which shows to see, Jeff tried to get me to see this show. My answer was the same last year as it was this year when he brought it up- “But…they’re white. And Australian.” In my mind, I imagined “the Wiggles” singing Motown. It felt sacrilegious. It was just wrong. Jeff said, “It’s like the highest rated show in Vegas.” In a town where ventriloquists, creepy magicians and Donnie and Marie thrive, this was not a glowing recommendation as far as I was concerned.

He said, “Look at this. May 30th only- special event. Some actual people from Motown will be there.”

Now THIS peaked my interest. If REAL Motown people were willing to sit through this show, then so would I. And boy, was I glad I did. Besides being adorable, those white boys can dance and sing like nobody’s business. The accents didn’t hurt either. And instead of just being a Motown cover band, they were clearly passionate about the music.They had been performing Motown and their own Motown- inspired music for 23 years since three of them were in high school and one was 12 back in Sydney. Australia.

Even if it had just been them that night, standing less than 5 feet in front of me singing and dancing their… hearts out, it would have been worthwhile. But having a member of the original Four Tops, Duke Fakir, sitting right behind me, and then Mary Wilson of the Supremes coming up on stage and singing so close that I could almost reach out and touch her, sent me over the moon. And it didn’t even bother me that the drunk Australians next to me kept singing along loudly out of tune. After the show, we walked out shoulder to shoulder with Duke, and I was able to get my picture with him. I am only mildly ashamed of the fact that I used my cleavage to talk him into taking the pic after he had said the picture before me was the last one.

I sent the picture to Zoe, as the “Four Tops” song “I Can’t Help Myself” (otherwise known as “Sugar Pie Honey Bunch”) was on her baby video, and a very special song to her. She, in turn, texted it to all her friends with the caption, “Look- my mom with an old man.”

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( I made it black and white. It somehow seemed appropriate.)

Tune in tomorrow for part two of our Vegas adventures- ” Mr. Baxter I presume?”

Caramel Apples and Bean Dip

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Sixteen years ago today I walked down the aisle. Back when I was still a blonde.  I was a slobbering mess, in full on ugly cry. I remember when it started. As soon as I heard the opening strains of Pachelbel’s “Canon in D” I could feel my chest tighten, my breathing go shallow, and the tears started flowing. I tried to stop it. I knew I was ruining my makeup, and I knew that 200 people were about to witness my emotional breakdown. My mother looked at me and said, “I think this means you understand the significance of what you’re about to do.”

It was true. This day was four years in the making. Actually, 4 years and 5 days. The day after my 21st birthday, Jeff dropped a note on my desk at work asking what I was planning to bring to the department potluck the next day, he was making his famous bean dip, and did I want to combine forces. I wrote back that I was going to attempt to make caramel apples and suggested that he come over after work for dinner. (I later learned that Jeff himself had never made his own 7 layer bean dip, but that his mom had always done it for him.)

Up until this point, we had just been good friends. Our co-workers often teased us that our friendship couldn’t possibly be platonic, but it was. I had come to work there about 9 months before. When I came in for my interview, Jeff had peeked his head in and given the supervisor interviewing me the thumbs up. He requested that I be seated next to him. He tended to do that with all the girls he thought were cute. He would often pass me funny notes that would cause me to burst into laughter while speaking with a client on the phone. Sometimes we would write stories together. One of us would start and the other would continue. We would take turns adding to it. He usually took my stories in a completely different direction than where they were headed. We would go to lunch, or just hang out. We enjoyed just spending time together, talking.

But we had both recently come out of long term relationships and, for the first time since we had met, we were both single. We weren’t each other’s types. Our previous boyfriends and girlfriends couldn’t be more different. His ex-girlfriends were athletic, type A, energetic, highly motivated. I was more “go with the flow.” And my ex-boyfriends were… nothing like Jeff. I remember having conversations with him and realizing he was like no one I had ever met. He was extraordinary. He was smart in a way I had never encountered, he was people smart. He knew how to read people, he knew how to get them to do what he wanted them to do, and still leave feeling they had gotten their way. He read interesting books, and had a singular focus towards success. He made me laugh constantly with his absurd and lightning fast take on any situation. He was going someplace, and I wanted to go where he was going.

We didn’t share our first kiss the night of the caramel apples making debacle. (It’s harder than it looks, trust me.) But we laughed the whole evening. And though nothing was said or done to indicate it, something had changed between us.

I won’t pretend that the road we took was the smoothest, easiest road to take. There were many times I didn’t think we would make it. Only a year and a half into our relationship, we had our baby girl Sydney Anne. She was a surprise, but one we’ve never regretted. Doing things backwards makes for some tough times. We fought to make a family for her where none existed, but our love for her was strong motivation.

By the time we said, “I do” on May 31, 1997, Sydney was 2 1/2 years old. She was our flower girl.

In the years since, we’ve had 3 more babies, lived in 3 states, started our own business, struggled through loss and uncertain times, made mistakes, celebrated victories and accomplishments,  enjoyed vacations and adventures, and through it all, we’ve laughed. If anyone asks me the key to marriage, I’d put laughter as number one every time.

Sitting at the pool yesterday I asked Jeff his favorite memory of our marriage. He said, “It has to be in the last 72 hours, because that’s as far back as I can remember.”

He did surprise me by telling me the things he remembers about our honeymoon in Cabo- that we danced a conga line at Cabo Wabo and that our plane tickets were $357 each. (He wants me to clarify that he doesn’t remember that because of the money, but because he’s a numbers guy.) What I remember about our honeymoon is being told I was no longer allowed to speak during negotiations at the street market because I was working with the merchants against him ( I tend to do that). I remember that we went on a sunset dinner cruise where they threw Jeff in a chair and attempted to shoot tequila down his throat as he cried out “no mas!” They forced us to do the macarena, and then allowed him to steer the ship. I am always amazed at the things he can talk people into.

So 20 years together, 16 years of marriage later, here we are living it up in Las Vegas. While many things have changed, we still know how to have fun. Tonight we are headed to a nice dinner, followed by a comedy show. I can’t think of a better way to celebrate our life together than laughing until we feel like we’re gonna pee our pants.

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Come Fly With Me

 

| Aeroplane safety card. Image shot 2007. Exact date unknown.

I am currently slathered in oil, sitting in the sun by a pool in Las Vegas. In this moment, I am at peace.

But 27 hours ago, peaceful was NOT how I was feeling. 27 hours ago, I was sitting in a traffic jam of epic proportions, having a mild panic attack, in danger of missing our flight.

I awoke at 7am, exhausted from the previous night’s school concert and all of the preparations I had made at the last minute to fly out of town for 5 days. I felt I was moving at an ok pace, considering I had yet to eat or drink any coffee. We had determined 830 was a reasonable time to leave for the airport. What I was unaware of, was that at 4am that morning a double trailer fed ex semi truck had jackknifed on I 5, burst into flames and was, at that very moment, blocking all lanes of the freeway. A post on facebook by a friend let me know what was going on. I turned on the radio. You know it’s bad when the  traffic reporter says, ” I got nothin'” and simply offers condolences. We decided to leave 30 minutes earlier than we had planned, eliminating all possibilities of coffee and food. Later on, as we sat unmoving, the guys on the radio said, “Unless you left an hour to 90 minutes earlier than you normally do, you’re probably screwed.” Helpful.

We rushed to get out the door and soon realized we were indeed screwed. It took us over 40 minutes to actually get to the 405 freeway, and another 20 to merge onto it. It would normally take about 10-15. The merging of two onramps and a carpool lane into the mess that already existed on the freeway was a brutal endeavor. Let’s just say these circumstances didn’t highlight the best of humanity. As traffic crawled through the rain and time ticked away, my anxiety level rose higher and higher. What if we missed our flight? Our long-awaited vacation flashed before my eyes. No sunshine. No fruity drinks with the cherries and pineapple wedges by the pool. No fancy dinner and no relaxation. I couldn’t bear the thought.

But God answers prayers, even the selfish ones sometimes, and eventually traffic began to break. I high-fived Jeff and he said, “We aren’t there yet.” As our car began to speed up, my breathing began to slow. At the rate we were now going, we’d get to the airport parking lot, hop on the shuttle, breeze through check-in and security and have enough time left over for the much-needed coffee and muffin that awaited us just on the other side of the body scanners.

Alas, it was not meant to be. We arrived at the check-in counter at just after 10am. Our flight was scheduled for 1055, and were told to be at the gate by 1025. This is Southwest, and they aren’t kidding. Load ’em on, slap ’em in some seats, buckle up and take off. As we entered the security line, a morose TSA agent handed me a piece of paper that said “time study” and he had written 1007 on it. Jeff confidently estimated we would be through the line in 5-10 minutes. I could see starbucks like an oasis just on the other side. We shuffled along, winding through the queue with all the others who looked like they had probably just endured what we had to make it there, only to find themselves in security hell. The line was barely moving. The old woman on the other side of the rope from me nervously twisted and crushed her empty water bottle in her hands. It was like nails on a chalk board. When I finally made my way to the TSA agent checking boarding passes and ID, I handed her my stuff along with the time study paper. She wrote 1026 and tossed it in a bin below. Jeff was getting increasingly agitated. I was concerned his frustration would earn us a body cavity search. I’m a rule follower by nature, with a healthy fear of authority. The last thing I wanted to do was make a government official angry. I whispered, “I’d rather be safe.” When we finally got our bodies and our bags scanned and we were through 30 minutes after we had entered the security line, I heard Jeff mutter something about incompetence. As he stomped off ahead of me he said, ” I’d rather not be safe.”

We raced to our gate only to find our flight had already boarded. So much for paying extra for priority boarding. Jeff was ahead of me, getting on the plane. As I moved towards the gate a TSA agent jumped in front of me to ask to see my boarding pass and ID again. When I got to my seat I mentioned this to Jeff and he said, “Well, with your lack of caffeine and food this morning, you do have a bit of an unstable, dangerous look about you.”

Thankfully we were able to find two seats together. The girl sitting in our row looked about 15. Or 25. It was hard to tell. She had that wholesome look- no makeup, side braid. Put her in a gingham dress and she’d fit right in on the set of “Little House on the Prairie.” She had that “homeschooled” look about her. When I sat down, she was pouring over the inflight magazine, with her bag at her feet. Since we were in the last group to get on the plane, it was a very short time before the announcement came over the speaker that it was time to make sure our electronics were off, our trays and seats were up, and our bags were stowed under the seat in front of us. She made no move, just kept on reading. I considered pointing out to her that, in case she hadn’t heard, it was time to stow her bag. I decided to wait, sure that she was about to do it any minute. I was wrong. I waited, but still that bag sat at her feet. In fact, it caused her to have to slant her legs to the side, invading my foot space area. More and more agitated, I kept glancing at her bag. As the flight attendent walked by I tried using mental telepathy to get him to look my way so he could see my distress, and I could direct him with my eyes to the bag at her feet. Then, of course, he would remind her to stow her bag. No luck. His cursory check completely missed our row. He came back again. I willed him to look. I Begged in my mind. He glanced at the row across from us as he passed by.

From overhead again, a more insistant voice came on that said, “Everyone needs to be in their seats. We can’t push back from the gate until you get out of the bathroom!” All eyes were on the sheepish man as he made his way from the back of the plane to his seat. Soon, we began moving. As we backed away from the gates the voice overhead reminded us that for takeoff all devices must be turned off, all seats and trays in their upright and locked positions, and all carry ons stowed under the seat in front. He couldn’t have been more clear. Surely now she would nudge her bag the 12 inches forward. She did not. I struggled internally. Should I I tell her? Does she not understand? Doesn’t she know this isn’t ok??

I looked meaningfully at Jeff and then sharply down at her feet. He looked confused. I did it again. Still no comprehension. Finally I leaned towards him and whispered, “It’s driving me crazy!”

He said, “what is?”

I said, “Her BAG! Her bag is under her feet!”

He stared at me. “So?”

“So?! Her bag is supposed to be stowed under the seat in front of her! They’ve said it twice! Why won’t she put her bag under the seat?!”

He looked at me like I was unhinged and said, “It’s not a big deal.”

Not a big deal. Rules are in place for a reason. I am so worried that I don’t know how to completely shut down my laptop, and that this will cause the plane to crash, that I have removed the battery. As I sat and stewed, Jeff said, “It will all be better when you’ve had coffee and something to eat.”

After takeoff, which was surprisingly smooth so I didn’t leave quite as deep fingernail indentations in his arm as usual, the bell of relief (as I like to think of it) chimed to indicate we had successfully taken off without nosediving into the space needle. It also meant soon I would have the precious coffee in hand, along with a snack.

However, when the flight attendant came back on, she announced that there was a peanut allergy on board. Not only would they not be serving peanuts, they didn’t even want anyone opening anything they had brought on the plane that might contain peanuts. It was at this point that I actually felt myself begin to crack. There would be no snacks. I wasn’t sure if I was about to start laughing hysterically or sobbing. But soon- what was that I heard? Is that the rustling of snack bags? And then the flight attendant’s melodious call, “Delightful snacks! Yummy snacks! Tasty snacks!”

There were snacks! There were snacks after all! I wondered what it could be! Cookies? Some sort of exotic nut free trail mix? The possibilities were exciting. It had to be better than peanuts! It had to be! As she moved closer, the rustle grew louder and my anticipation grew stronger. She made it to our row!

“Delicious tasty snacks?”

“Yes please!”

She threw down the bag. Cheese Nips. I stared at them. Jeff chuckled. Wholesome girl barely looked up. She sucked her apple juice through a straw.

The first half of the flight she had spent feverishly writing in her journal with her bright fuchsia pen. I tried to subtly peek at what she was writing so earnestly, but the glare from the ink made it impossible. Now she was intently staring at the seat pocket information pamphlet. She called back to the woman in the seat behind her, “Mom, where is Portland?”

A voice from behind us said, “Oregon. Didn’t you know that Portland is the capital of Oregon?”

O_O

Please God, for her sake, don’t let her be home-schooled.

After we had landed I found myself musing that such a wholesome girl was being raised in Sin City, as I had heard her father mention something to another passenger about heading home. As we filed off the plane, i heard him say, “Just a few more hours and we’ll be back home in Salt Lake.”

Of course.

So, we made it. It wasn’t pretty getting here. It took a few hours for us to begin to decompress from all the stress of the getting here. But we made it. Tomorrow we celebrate our 16th wedding anniversary. In a lot of ways, that crazy journey isn’t all that much unlike our crazy journey to get to our vacation: A rocky beginning where we weren’t sure we were gonna make it. Some interesting characters. A bit  of neuroses. A patient husband who keeps me laughing at myself. And yet still we push on, because of the reward that awaits.

 

 

 

The Art of Banana Management

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“Looks like it’s time for someone to make banana bread!”

In case you’re wondering, that “someone” is always me. And the person so helpfully pointing out that the bananas have gone bad? My husband.

This is an ongoing issue in my house. Several years ago, Jeff turned to me and said, “You know what your problem is?”

I stared back at him, not quite sure what he could possibly be talking about, as the question had come out of left field.

“You have a banana management problem.”

I wasn’t sure if this was code for something, a metaphor, or if he was actually criticizing me on the state of bananas in our house. Looking back, he was probably actually talking about bananas. In the years since, however, it has come to mean so much more.

I buy bananas. Sometimes they get eaten in 2 days, and then I hear complaints about the fact that there are no bananas. I buy bananas again the following week. This time, they hang there, forgotten in the corner of the kitchen, forlorn. They are untouched. They become limp and even less desirable day after day. Soon, they are brown, mushy. Their only company? The three thousand fruit flies that  have appeared out of nowhere to signal their demise has finally come.

The truth that “Better Homes and Gardens” is afraid to talk about, is that banana management is way more difficult than one might think. I took home-ec; Mrs. Beckmeyer never prepared me for banana management. To truly excel at it, you almost have to have a triple masters in anthropology, biology, and sociology, with a dash of psychic ability thrown in. It requires predicting the consumptive behaviors of the 6  people living in my house, along with any guests that they might invite over.

It means watching for the signs that Sydney, who has eaten a banana or two every day for the past month, may soon hit the limit on her banana phase, just as she did her mango phase. There was a period of time a few months ago when Sydney became obsessed with mangos. On the grocery list she would simply write, “anything mango.” I knew she was headed for mango burnout. No one can consume that much mango in that short period of time without coming to despise it. I remember when the mangos started rotting in the crisper, the juice expired, and the most recent mango jam sat unopened in the pantry. She had broken her mango taste buds, possibly forever.

“Banana management” has come to represent my role as a homemaker in general. It’s all about anticipating what my family needs and wants before they even know they need and/or want it. A full bunch of black bananas hanging from the hook indicates a failure on my part- a breakdown of my system. When they still had some yellow on them, they could be salvaged for banana bread, or maybe frozen for smoothies. But once a banana goes black, it never goes back… to anything palatable.

Here’s where things get tricky: Just because the bananas rotted this week, doesn’t mean they won’t all be asking, “Where are the bananas? Why didn’t you get bananas? Are you going to the store soon? Will you get bananas?” And just because they asked, begged, pleaded for bananas, doesn’t mean this batch won’t rot also. And people wonder why moms are all crazy.

The “banana management” theory also loosely applies to the laundry situation. While my laundry issues are many and varied, and a whole other topic for another day, there are definitely aspects of my laundry conundrum that correlate to my banana management struggles.

In the laundry version of banana management, in addition to your other skills, you must also have a firm grasp of meteorology to forecast the weather ( and therefore whether to focus on sweats and jeans or shorts and t-shirts), in addition to having everyone’s weekly schedule memorized, particularly sporting practices and games. You must not wash too many loads of darks in a row, otherwise everyone will have jeans, but no socks. Too many sheets and towel loads, (which are what I call my ‘lazy’ loads-The easiest to fold and put away) and everyone has to go naked for a day. The clearest sign of poor laundry banana management? When I find myself doing the “crazed uniform dig” -desperately praying that by some miracle I already washed it because the game is in 30 minutes, but all the while my gut is telling me that my kid will be showing up in a moderately stained shirt, smelling an awful lot like Meadow Fresh Lysol.

Usually, though, it’s the socks and underwear that are my downfall. First, they always sink to the bottom of the basket. Or pile. Oh, who am I kidding, the mountain that has formed on the floor of my laundry room. Second, I absolutely detest the sock and underwear load. All those pieces. Unfoldable. Get stuck in the folds of the washer. Doesn’t transfer easily into the dryer. And then comes the sorting for 6 people. I believe sock sorting is one of the torture techniques banned by the Geneva Convention. I really hate the sock load. Really.

Jeff and I are going on a trip this week, and my mother-in-law is coming to stay with the kids. This has thrown a kink in all things “banana management.” My husband walked into the room a little while ago and said, “I don’t hear laundry going!” He says it in a sing-song voice, as if it’s something I should get excited about. This is his version of “helping” me with my pre-trip banana management- he’s telling me in a nice way that he will be annoyed if he goes to pack for the trip and he doesn’t have clean clothes. I suppose it’s better than the alternative if he said, “Wash my clothes, woman!”

He’s also concerned that I will be leaving my mother-in-law in the lurch if I don’t do a big grocery shopping before we leave. What he doesn’t realize is that after 20 years, and in spite of what he may believe,  I’m getting pretty darn good at banana management. I already know that between Zoe’s practice, Parker’s game, Zoe’s trip to the lady Sounders, Nathan and Sydney’s date to the musical, and Parker’s boy scout camping trip this week, she will only have to make dinner Thursday night. I also already know that Parker will talk her into making his favorite- chicken broccoli casserole, the ingredients for which I am already in possession.

And I have no intention of buying bananas that I will not be here to supervise.*

*After I had Sydney proofread my post she looked at me sadly and said, “Wait- are you really not getting bananas?”

What Have You Learned?

If yesterday was any indication of how this coming year is going to go, I have a feeling there are interesting times ahead.

My morning started with a coffee date with Sydney at her favorite local coffee bar, the Spotted Cow. She’s there so often, walking in with her is like walking into “Cheers” with Norm. We sat down at a table, and I must admit I was a bit nervous. Sydney likes to ask probing, introspective questions. “So,” She says. “What have you learned since your last birthday?”

It’s not an easy question to answer. After a moment I said, ” I guess the best part of being over 40 is that your fears become less, and risk isn’t quite so scary.” It’s true. I’ve found myself more and more asking, “why not?” I’ve wanted to try new things, new foods and I started looking at all of the things I’ve told myself I can’t do in a new light- as possibilities.

After coffee we picked up sandwiches and brought them home for birthday phase 2- family games. (Or as my husband said, “we’re gonna play ‘pin the blame on the child.'”) Although there was at least one time out ( who could blame Parker for getting a little upset when he caused the Jenga tower to fall and Zoe jumped up on the kitchen table in a taunting victory dance?), there were many more moments of laughter. Playing Apples to Apples with a kid who is an early reader is an amusing experience. Besides the fact that he giggled and said, “that’s mine!” whenever his card was read, and often didn’t understand the categories, he actually had some surprising success, in spite of himself. When Zoe announced the category was ‘cosmic’, Parker confidently slammed his card on the table. It was “Captain Kirk.” Sydney said, “Do you even know who that is?” He said, “Of course I do! He’s Superman!”

Game time was followed by dinner at the Melting Pot. For those who don’t know, the Melting Pot is a fondue restaurant. Or, as Nathan put it- “They charge us all this money to cook our own food?!”

The restaurant was my choice, I’d been lobbying to take the kids there for a year. However, I didn’t want to come out and demand it, so I dropped the hint to Sydney, who passed it along to her father.  His response was that he’d rather die than take Parker to anything that passes for a nice restaurant and promptly made reservations for the loudest restaurant he could find- Buca Di Beppo. He did call the Melting Pot and explained his concerns, so they booked us into a private dining room with a door that closed in the back of the restaurant. He decided he could live with that, even though he was still convinced someone was getting scalded before the night was through.

After we were seated, our drink orders taken and our waiter had left, Sydney said, “Apparently you have to be very attractive to work here.” Zoe (who had already whispered to me, “Our waiter is very attractive”) quickly agreed, “THAT’S what I’M sayin’!”

The first course of four is the cheese course, followed by the salad course. It was at this point that Nathan, a self-professed cheese and salad hater, realized he had just entered his own personal nightmare. Nathan thinks he hates cheese. I say “thinks” because in spite of what he says, he likes pizza, mac n cheese, enchiladas, casseroles, and nachos. The idea, however, of dipping vegetables in melted cheese was enough for him to declare that he was going to starve because they had nothing he was willing to eat. Eventually he relented and dipped some chips in the cheddar, which he decided he liked. That is, until my father asked what the waiter had poured into the cheddar and I responded, “beer.” Nathan’s head whipped around faster than “the Exorcist,” he stared at me accusingly and said, “You’re letting Parker eat a bunch of BEER?!” sigh. Did I mention Nathan’s fierce protective instincts towards his younger siblings?

As the salad course I arrived, I began opening my birthday cards. The first card, from my husband, said:   photo

I read it out loud and Jeff replied, “Well, 41 is almost 50. Just 9 more years!”

I heard the cute waiter guffaw behind me.

The main course arrived, and it soon became clear that we were inept at fondue. 9 people, 18 skewers, all jockeying for position around 3 small pots. Small children using sharp objects to spear raw meat and then plunge it into boiling oil; I started realizing my husband may have been right.

The final course was the chocolate. I read off the choices and Zoe became very upset when I mentioned “turtle chocolate.” She believed that meant we would be eating turtle, her favorite animal. My father enjoyed stoking that fire a bit, but before her hysteria reached epic proportions I managed to convince her no turtles had been harmed in the making of our dessert.

Three hours after we entered the Melting Pot, we all waddled out drizzled in chocolate, bellies heavy with cheese,  and smelling like we’d been working the fryer of a fast food restaurant all day. I’d say that is the sign of a successful dining experience, wouldn’t you?

But the fun didn’t stop there. I had been invited out for Karaoke with my friends Zac and Heather. My husband smiled gratefully as I left  and said, “Thank you for not making me go with you.”

Zac is a karaoke pro, and Heather is his wife/biggest fan. I have yet to find the amount of liquid motivation that will get Heather up to sing, so I stand in for her on the duets with Zac. I never imagined I would play Lita Ford to someone else’s Ozzy Osborne, but it’s the unpredictability of life that makes it fun, right?

The karaoke bar that we go to used to be a British tea room . The day Princess Di died, my mother and I went and had tea there as a sign of solidarity in mourning. Where the bar is now, there used to be a market filled with biscuits, canned bread, Devonshire cream and currant jellies. In the back of the store was the tea room, with a fresco ceiling covered in blue sky and wispy clouds, lace tablecloths and fine china. While the painted ceiling remains, the delicate formal setting has been replaced with two large pool tables. Unfortunately, the restrooms are in the very back, which means getting there is like running a gauntlet of inebriated men with pool cues.

One of these men, about 55 years old and about 55 inches tall, made quite an impression last night. As he was beginning his performance of Garth Brooks’ “The River,” he pulled the mic cord to our table, as if checking how far it would stretch. I had my back to the karaoke area and was facing Zac and Heather when her eyes suddenly got very wide and she said, “Here he comes!” I turned my head  and suddenly found my personal space heavily invaded, as he was singing right into my face. I leaned away and he moved towards me. I leaned back further and he lurched even more. By the time he tried to touch my face, I had almost fallen backwards off my chair trying to get away from him. Thankfully he finally took the hint and backed off. As she finished recording this encounter on her phone, Heather said, “Looks like somebody is looking for their future ex-wife!”

I will admit, I’ve always wanted to be serenaded, but that was not quite what I had imagined.

As one of the regulars, Hawaiian Joe, began his second Bob Marley song of the night, it seemed like a good time to call it done. After all, it was after midnight and no longer my birthday, and the bar was starting to turn into a pumpkin.

As I drove home I thought about Sydney’s question. “What have you learned?” What I learned yesterday was that too much cheese isn’t a good thing. I learned playing board games with my kids and husband is more entertaining than any comedy Hollywood could contrive. I learned that posting your very first blog on your birthday is the best way to go because everyone has to be nice to you on your birthday. I learned it takes 2 mandarin cosmos to get me to sing Aretha Franklin in front of a crowd of strangers and two good friends. Mostly, I re-learned how truly blessed I am to have the love and support of my family and friends. That’s a lesson I never get tired of learning.

 

 

 

 

 

I’m gonna party like it’s my birthday. Oh wait… it is!

Inaugural blogs often feel like the opening monologue on “Saturday Night Live”- necessary to get things started, but awkward for everyone. So let’s just rip this bandage off, shall we?

I’ve been told a few times that I should consider writing a blog. I like the idea of it- a cathartic release of all these thoughts and experiences jumbling around inside of my head. I like other people’s blogs. However, every time I think about writing one, I feel like it’s a declaration of “Hey everybody! Listen to me! I’m clever and witty! My life is more interesting than yours! And now I’m going to tell you all about it!” Of course, I don’t feel that way about my friends who  are already blogging. But since when does my measuring stick of others ever apply to my own life?

So, here I am. I’m blogging. I must say, it’s not so bad. I thought it would be a little scarier. Of course, I haven’t posted this yet, so there’s that. If you’re reading this, though, it means I took the plunge. I did it. Let’s take a moment and do a slow “80’s teen movie slow clap” for my courage.

Ok, you can stop now. I appreciate the support, but frankly, it’s starting to make me a little uncomfortable.

I don’t think there’s anything especially interesting about my life that justifies me having my own blog. But I believe that life in general offers constant opportunities to find humor, all we have to do is keep our eyes open. I will say that I have an extremely quick- witted husband, who has passed down his quirky way of viewing the world to our four kids. And we are strong believers in the power of laughter to make any situation better. It’s our main coping mechanism around here.

Today is my 41st birthday. Man, that sounds old. Doesn’t that sound old? I asked my friend/therapist/hair stylist Marques this week, “Doesn’t that sound old?” He responded, “You don’t look or act the way I imagined a 40 year old would.” I took this as a compliment. Hopefully it means I don’t act senile and decrepit, and not that I’m just immature.

My husband, Jeff, is still 40. He has approximately three more weeks of being 40, and he is reveling in that fact.  Last year, for my 40th birthday, he was really laying on the “old lady” shtick pretty thick. My daughter Zoe, who was 8 at the time,  was horrified by the gag gifts he gave me and spent most of the evening offended and in tears on my behalf. I wish that I could post all of the hilarious things that my husband says, but most aren’t fit for public consumption. Just know that for every funny thing he says that I recount, there are probably a hundred more that I cannot.

We have 4 kids. Technically we now have 3 kids and one adult, as our oldest, Sydney, is 18. You likely won’t hear much about Sydney. Not because she’s not funny. She is. Mostly because Sydney is a stealth comedian. She doesn’t say a lot, but when she does, it’s spot on. She’s an observer by nature, but she’s also kind-hearted and doesn’t like making fun of other people, unlike her parents. The thing about Sydney is that  she’s truly one of the best people I’ve ever known. I know I’m her mom, but I’d say the same if I wasn’t. I’d like to take credit for her, but as our oldest, she’s endured the spectrum of our parenting learning curve and yet somehow come out the other end a spectacular human being. More of a miracle than an accomplishment on our part.

Our son Nathan is just finishing his freshman year in high school. Other than a mid-year “come to Jesus” intervention of early- onset senioritis, his freshman year has been fairly uneventful. Nathan is our enigma. I’m certain he’s much different elsewhere than who he reveals himself to be at home. Even his voice is deeper when he talks to his friends. I find him a puzzle I can’t quite solve. What I do know is that  he adores his younger siblings with a fierceness that touches my heart. He’s smart, constantly surprising me with poignant, thoughtful questions and interesting facts. His humor is intelligent, and I often hear his laughter echoing up to me from downstairs long after he’s supposed to be in bed. Some day I hope to know him better. For now I just wait for those rare moments when he shares snippets of himself, and I treasure them.

When Nathan was 5 years old, Zoe was born. Whereas Nathan reveals little to nothing of the inner workings of his mind and heart, Zoe wears it all on her sleeve. Bedazzled. In flashing neon. With an accompanying soundtrack. Everything about Zoe is bold; From her deep belly laugh, to her constant throaty full-voiced singing. From her deep sensitivity, to her passionate exuberance and joy. Zoe is the most like me of all of my kids, which means many of our interactions leave me standing motionless, mouth agape. How do you argue with someone who knows how to use your own logic against you? I look forward to Zoe’s adolescent years with great trepidation and full anticipation of the roller coaster that is coming. She’s a walking, back-talking, Ethel Merman-singing, one-girl show.

Our youngest, Parker, Is just completing first grade. In many of my best stories, Parker is the starring character. And what a character he is. The classic baby of the family, combined with a severe height deficiency and a huge personality equate to the napoleon complex personified that is Parker. A bit of a diva, often his only saving grace is his cute little freckled face and big blue eyes. It never occurs to him that anyone may have a valid point of view other than his (I have no idea where he gets that from.) At 7, he still subscribes to the toddler rules of propriety. It’s not with malicious intent- it’s just how he believes life should work for him. And so far, it has. He has no filter whatsoever, so many of the things that come out of his mouth are shocking and often hilarious. It’s hard to encapsulate a description of Parker in just a couple of sentences. His is a personality that just needs to be experienced. You’ll see.

As for me, I’m the ring leader of this circus we call a family. I’m your typical stay at home mom with unfulfilled potential. I guess that’s where this blog comes in- an attempt to keep my brain semi-functional, and an outlet for all the crazy things I am witness to on a daily basis. Sometimes sharing the crazy makes it seem less crazy. Like somehow talking about it dissipates it a little. So, thanks for joining me on this journey. I will do my very best to make it worth your while.