Friday, July 27, 2012


I got the most wonderful early birthday surprise this week.  My sister and my daughter, who are like two peas in a pod, teamed up to re-stage my home office (with my mom in absentia).  While I was at work, they came in and de-cluttered, de-hoarded, and delightfully created a beautiful space for me to make the magic happen.

Here is what my office looked like before:

Here is what my office looks like now:

And this doesn't even show the rest of the room.  It's cleaned and balanced and beautiful.  I have a new lease on life because they got rid of the crap and left the good stuff behind.

I love that concept - out with the yuck, in with the yum.  I have been talking a lot about that with my daughter this week, as she navigates life as a tween and deals with the disappointment of good friends gone wrong.

How many times do we reinvent ourselves and re-evaluate our relationships?  How many of those choices and changes actually stick? How many punches can you roll with until you are completely black and blue?

I don't have a great answer for this, but I keep going back to a quote by Minor Myers, Jr. "Go into the world and do well. But more importantly, go into the world and do good."

So that's it.  Just do the best you can and never be the reason for someone's tears.  Putting a smile on a friend or family member's face is so much better than revenge.  I have a big grin because my loved ones used their time and talents to make my world a happier place.  Time to pay it forward.

Until next time, keep crowin'!

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

You Can Put a Dress on a Pig ...

I saw an oinker of a show recently, made worse by the fact that I dragged my family along.  I thought it would be a story my kids and niece would enjoy, and hopefully my husband and brother-in-law too, but there was no hiding the fact that it was simply the worst theater production ever encountered by a human being.

It was eternally long, the room was hot, and it was replete with monotony and tragic performances.  I can't blame the actors.  They clearly did everything the director had asked of them, with big smiles on their faces. The choreography was straight out of a Barney video and with two exceptions, the characters were all portrayed exactly the same way - one-dimensional with a cockney accent.  It was misery to watch.  Just when you thought it had to be, please God let it be, over and couldn't get any worse, out came another ballad or jazz hands that made me want to roll on the floor and scream.

Many people left at intermission, but I could not as I was judging the show for the theatre awards program - of which I am President.  I was very tempted to go, if for no other reason than to save my family from further pain.

But I stayed.  Why?  Why do we do needlessly suffer?  Why did I sacrifice my loved ones for the sake of the arts?  Why didn't I storm the stage and put the director in a headlock until she promised to never work in this town again?

The answer is because I'm a lady.

And a lady tolerates the intolerable.  She goes to tea with women she hates, and tells them they have lovely shoes.  She volunteers to help over-privileged children in resource-rich schools, and pats herself on the back for it.  She smiles at the mothers whose daughters have reduced her child to tears, and asks them when can we get together again.  She tells her boss it is absolutely fine to pimp her out to do free work for other people.  And she drinks more than is acceptable in polite company.

Yes, my friends, I'm a lady.  So I sat through that damn travesty of a performance, as I am a firm believer that you pick your battles.  And while I knew it was the pits, I played along, because the show must go on. 

BUT, I do need satisfaction for this injustice, so watch out.  You never know who or what could be the straw that breaks this camel's back.

Until then, keep crowin' and watch out for well-dressed swine.

Friday, July 20, 2012

Crime and Punishment

You reap what you sow.  You get what you give.  You are what you eat.  It's all about the yin and yang of life.  I was on the yang side this week, as I had to face the music and pay the piper.  Yes, it was Traffic Court Day.

I awoke at 4:00 a.m. with a rumbling stomach and a panic rushing through me.  I tried to tell myself to stay calm, but my body naturally reacts to stress, independent of my brain.  There was no reason to be nervous.  I was fully prepared for this day.  I had reviewed the speed limits in the area where I was snagged.  I had analyzed the most appropriate, and alluring-but-not-trashy thing to wear. And I had done my research on the judge's interests and club memberships.  I had devised a way to bring up the fact that I was racing to a volunteer appointment, because service and adventure have been instilled in me by my father, who was also a Rotarian and a pilot and a golfer - and I have a friend with a horse.

And yet, as I was getting ready that morning, I found myself constantly gagging and throwing up in my mouth.  My son asked me what was wrong, but I didn't deserve sympathy - I had dug my own grave.

Walking up to the courthouse --- pretending to be a lawyer and not a defendant --- was easy until I got to the front door.  There was a sign that indicated no cell phones in the building, so I had to do the walk of shame back to my car.  Second time was a charm, and once inside, I submitted my purse for inspection to the guards. 

Officer: "This is a big bag for so little in it."
Me on the inside: "Oh God, what does he mean?  Am I going to be strip searched?  It's a shake-down."
Me on the outside: nervous laughter

I was directed to the courtroom, where I encountered a gathering of other lost souls.  The doors weren't open yet, so we were forced to stand in the hall and stare at the floor or pictures of the historic downtown area. There were people from all walks of life, from roads I don't usually travel.  One woman kept trying to make eye contact with me, but I would not engage.

Once inside the courtroom, I checked in, they pulled my file, and I sat and waited.  And waited.  And waited. Without my cell phone, I was forced to look at my foot and pick at my nails for what felt like an eternity. A man with a meth-itch sat in front of me, and kept turning around to look at me every time I cleared my throat.  I get it - I HAVE ALLERGIES!

A no-nonsense attorney came in and began calling people up one by one.  She presented them with their options and they plead their case.  Wait - what?!!  No judge?!  I don't have witty banter for a female prosecutor!  I'm screwed!

But the judge did appear, and my nerves swept over me once again as I realized my plan would most certainly fail. He was older than dirt, and gave a speech similar to one Andy Griffith might give Opie.  It was full of good old Southern charm and grit, and I realized I was not dealing with Matlock but Mr. Magoo.  I started devising in my head how I was going to have to tell my husband that I plead guilty out of fear and ran screaming from the room.

Yet in the end, I never even got the chance.  The prosecutor called all us speeders up en masse, offered us a plea deal (a fine, no points on driving record), told us to raise our hands if we accepted, and sent us on our way. 

It was a pretty hefty fine, which I again had to wait to pay.  I sat on a bench next to a 2-year-old who was with her grandpa, a sweet little girl who kept looking up at me like I was about to steal her shoes.

As I left the courthouse, I reflected on my secret desire to become a cop.  It's something I've wanted to do for years - I even toyed with going to citizen police school.  But I left that dream behind on this day, as I realized that I didn't have the "stuff."  I was scared of everyone and everything in my legal experience, and it was time to let it go before I had a complete breakdown.

The next day, I punished myself by getting up early to attend a focus group to help pay for my ticket.  It wasn't too bad, but it is safe to say that my speeding habit is cured.

Until next time, keep crowin' and watch out for the po-po!

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

They Call Me Ishmael

If you have seen Heart of Darkness, the documentary of the making of Apocalypse Now, then you may remember the unnerving scene with Martin Sheen. He has a complete, screaming, mental breakdown, naked and bloody, in a seedy motel room in the middle of a humid and violent foreign country.  I never connected with that scene until yesterday.

The day had been long - we had not had air in the house for two days, and the heat beat down on me as I struggled to work at my computer.  A chatty repairman stopped by and claimed he fixed the upstairs AC unit, but after a few hours, that was proven to be false.

As the day wore on, my body lost all of its fluid and my brain started turning to darker thoughts.  I couldn't focus or complete a task.  Wine tasted like bath water and sweated out of me before it could take effect.  And then the clouds gathered.

It was an ominous summer storm, one that you can smell in the air, musty and evil.  The sky grew dark with anger and the thunder rolled, heralding a judgement on humanity.  Lightning cracked against the house like a woman scorned.  I was alone with my children - my husband was on a mission in our nation's capitol, trapped on an airplane that could not fly in such a monsoon.  The phone rang and a neighbor child, scared and also alone, left the shelter of her home with her shih tzu and joined us on our sinking vessel.

I scraped together a meal as the winds raged outside.  I opened the doors, oblivious to the danger, in hopes that the hurricane winds would provide just a moment's relief.  Again the phone rings - this time it's my husband:

Him: "Well, we're just sitting here on the plane, and they think we may take off soon, but they won't know for awhile so we're just hanging out."
Me: "I don't have time for this.  We have to get out of here.  It's so hot, too hot ..."
Him: "I know, I know."
Me: "You don't know.  You haven't lived through this.  I've got to save the children."
Him: "OK.  Just go in the basement."

No, it was too late for that.  I went upstairs to give the abandon ship call, when I felt a drip on my head.  Water was coming from the ceiling and covering the floor.  We had sprung a leak.  With swift feet and fearful heart, I bounded up the attic stairs to a dreadful scene.  Water, water everywhere.  I ran for towels and began sopping up the mess, desperately hoping to plug the holes.  I cried out to the children: "More towels!  A bucket!"  They came running with supplies, and we formed a line of hope across the house. 

Then the moment of truth.  "Turn it on.  Try the AC now."  And with a clink, clink, clink that sounded like an angel's song, the AC churned back to life.  Water continued to run, but I didn't care.  We would not die this day.

I kept the boat afloat until my husband returned home well past midnight.  His had been the last plane out.  As he began investigating the damage, I fell asleep with dreams of the ocean.

This morning, he woke me with news of a solution. 

Him: "I have fixed it" he said.  "I have run tubing out of the unit, so the water can drain.  I just need you to do one thing for me."
Me: "Anything.  What is it?"
Him: "I need you to regularly suck on the hose."


Martin, I get it now.

It is amazing what one will do in dire circumstances. I have just been immersed in the book, State of Wonder, which tells the story of a doctor in the rain forest who goes native and starts gnawing bark off a tree.  Given my frame of mind and the primal nature of my existence at this moment, I didn't question the directive to suck on a hose. 

The hose on which I have been sucking.
The water I suck out then drains into the bucket. 
And yes, this is my closet.

I do not like sucking on the hose.  The water tastes bad and I feel like a baby pig being nursed by a fake teat.  My husband is going to have to suck his own damn hose when he gets home, or else I'm voting him off the island.

Until next time, keep crowin' and never doubt your inner warrior!

Monday, July 9, 2012

Tongue and Cheek

As the president of a community theatre organization, I have the opportunity to see a lot of shows. Many of them I will be reviewing and rating as part of our awards program. I recently went to see a musical with my sister, and gave her a glimpse into a world that is really best entered only after you drink the Kool-Aid.

We walked into a pleasant theatre space and were greeted warmly. I was introduced to the head honcho, whom I've never met before. Without further ado, he launched into a well-rehearsed, yet nervous speech, about one of his ingenues who was puzzled as to why she had not received an invitation to perform at the awards ceremony. His eyes were wildly rolling around their sockets and his skin tone was quickly going from white to pink. With hands flourished in some type of interpretive dance, he kindly inquired as to whether this was some "difference" from years past.

Ah yes, I moved the trash can. I have been told that your first year in any new leadership position, you should maintain the status quo. Don't move the trash can or paint the walls. But I did. I changed the format of the ceremony from having our musical actress and actor nominees perform to having the nominated shows select something to present.

I did this because of a snafu we hit last year when one of our performers dropped out at the last minute due to a recently-discovered extra-marital affair. Her soon-to-be-ex explained to me over pasta and chianti at the after-party that one reason for the split was some faulty equipment issues on his part - but he adamantly assured me that everything was working again. It was one of those conversations where you keep a very calm, still face on the outside, but on the inside you are screaming, "Didhejusttellmeabouthispenis?!!"

But I digress.

As I explained the ceremony changes and apologized for the confusion, I heard my sister behind me making sympathetic noises and soothing tones towards the man. It's a natural reaction, to sing a lullaby to a crying baby. Once placated, he then told me about the great sacrifices he was making to attend the ceremony this year. And with a turn and a two-step, he was gone.

My sister and I had excellent seats for the show, a raunchy tale that promised profanity and brief nudity. Since we were front and center, we were able to observe every ripple and dimple on the dancers' scantily-clad rear ends. Our neighbors probably thought I had a nervous tic, as I was constantly averting my eyes so as not to catch a glimpse of a stray pubic hair or part of someone's hoo-ha. There were some stand-out moments, but also so much to deconstruct and explain to my sister.

For instance, the longer an actor's program bio is, the larger their ego. There were people in the show with no more than a few lines who took up several paragraphs discussing their "celebrity" "artistic talents" and "triple threat" status. The amount of awards they claim is proportional to the number of times they've gotten laid.  And if they don't thank the cast and crew, it's because everyone hates them.

Another thing is nepotism. People get parts all the time because they are best friends or brothers with the director. Such was the case for at least one poor soul, who, after we realized he was a man with a girl's name and not a woman in drag, demonstrated that he had never danced before in his life. The choreographer had created such a complicated routine to showcase her genius, but this guy just flopped around the stage with his eyes glazed over and his mouth hanging open. It was both uncomfortable and fascinating, and segued into a locker room scene that provided more unwelcome views of hairless chests and the revelation that puberty may have been severely delayed in some.

The show ended with a whimper as the grand finale song withered on the vine, but we did get one last peek at the women's "cheeks."  Then my sister and I bypassed the receiving line and the eagle eye of the pinkish head honcho and high-tailed it out of there. We were on sensory overload and needed to decompress.

Sister: "Is it always like this?  I mean, how do you handle it?"
Me: "It makes me feel normal."  And secretly, I can relate to all of these people more than I care to admit.

So, with that, the season has begun and I look forward to sharing it with you.  But not too much ....

Until next time, keep crowin'!

Thursday, July 5, 2012

That Big Woman is Starting to Hum a Tune

Happy 5th of July ya'll!  I was pretty sure I wouldn't live to see today. But, the Fat Lady Did NOT Sing, so I am still here to tell you the tale.

My 9-year-old son and I participated in a 10K Road Race yesterday.  Originally, it was to be my husband and I, but that didn't work out, so my son took his number.  Our day began very early, when my husband and daughter dropped us off at the subway station.  We navigated the crowds (about 60,000 runners participate in this event) and held our ground as we were all jostled and thrown around the speeding tin can.

As we disembarked the train, I immediately encountered a friend from college - what are the odds?  She saw my son and said, "Oh, is he running it too?  You have to be 10 right?  My oldest wants to do that next year."


So now, not only was I anxious about the massive crowds, the heat, and surviving the race, but I also was scared that we were going to be publicly humiliated and kicked out of the event for age-cheating.  We tried to blend.

Once at the race location, we moved with the other lemmings, not questioning direction or destination, just hoping for the best. It took about 30 minutes to find our assigned starting point (out of A-Z, we were "U"), and then an hour to wait for our heat to begin. My son and I enjoyed the people-watching - there were men dressed in nothing but American flag Speedos, several Supermans and Batmen, and plenty of booties jiggling in Spandex. 

After what seemed an eternity, the race began.  My son and I started off well - an easy pace, which was made easier by the fact that we were crammed into a sweaty human sandwich.  After about ten minutes, we moved to the slow side and began our pre-planned walk/run strategy. 

We were doing very well, taking breaks when we needed, figuring out how to get in good position for the water tables and the spray stations.  We must have been almost 4 miles into it when the bubble burst.

On the horizon, in between the spots in my vision, was Mile Marker TWO.  Two miles in 30ish minutes is not really good in the running world.  Especially when you are already going partially blind and your back is in spasms.  And you haven't even hit the hills yet.  I started to re-evaluate my strategy.  Do I need to finish this race?  Will my husband hear the phone if I make the rescue call?  It wouldn't be the first time he has had to pick me up by the side of the road.

But then, I looked at my kid, and the 80-year-old man with osteoporosis who was passing us, and the people in wheelchairs watching us from sidewalk of the hospital, and realized that I was being an ass.  So, I just accepted the pain and plowed on.  My son and I celebrated each cup of water and spewing hydrant as if they were gifts from God.  I only lost hope two more times - once when I saw the runners from the earlier waves headed to their cars, and second when I saw a priest on the side of the road throwing holy water on everyone.

I just kept talking to my son, welcoming the rushes of adrenaline when I yelled at a woman for pushing into him at the water line, and also, when a man who clearly has a small penis, remarked to another runner - "I'm in no rush. I've already run this twice today." 

May he rot.

Towards the end, we got our second wind, passing both our personal cheering section and also what we thought was the finish line.  They trick you in a very cruel way with a fake finish line, which is actually just a photo op.  But we kept going until everyone else stopped running, and, holding hands, we crossed over.  We placed 48,663 and 48,664.  And we wore those damn race t-shirts to sleep.

We are sore and have thigh rashes, and will hopefully regain mobility soon, but we feel like we did something great together.  And I can promise you that next year, without a doubt, I will be absolutely celebrating the first anniversary of me never doing that again.

Until next time, keep crowin' and mark something off your bucket list today!

Monday, July 2, 2012

You Probably Think This Post Is About You

My dear friend, who I shall not name but affectionately call Sugar Mama because she and her family are unceasingly generous to me, would like to write a blog. She has the makings of an award-winning column, or at least a starring role on the next Real Housewives series. But, alas, she is afraid to write because, just like "The Terrible Awful Thing" in The Help, people will read between the lines and realize that it was they that ate the shit pie.

So, today babe, this one's for you.

I'm going to lead up to this story by giving you some background. Imagine a world where you must duck inside speed boats to avoid a cocaine bust ... of which you were not privy to until 30 seconds before. A world where baby leopards swim in pools with toddlers and house guests have eaten the lotus flower and think your home is actually a full-service Ritz. A world where people don't give you the time of day until you pick up a guitar in your St. John original and sing Margaritaville with more sex and panache than Fiona Apple.

This is the world in which my friend lives and overcomes.  

She is highly educated and thus, can hold court with all of her husband's clients, not only engaging them in a meeting of the minds, but also throwing them a few nods and winks that elicit more excitement in them than they've had in years. She knows how to work the room. And you want her on that wall. You NEED her on that wall.  Thus, over the years, she has helped the family business grow and become a wonder to behold.

Recently, she was at a cocktail party with her husband, her brother-in-law, and his wife. It was her brother-in-law's territory, but it quickly became clear that there was a lot of ground to cover. Pushing up her sleeves, my friend dug in and did what she does best - closed the deal.  In return, she received snarky comments from her in-laws, such as "Let the men do their jobs" and "Guess your wife doesn't think I work very hard."  

Good times. It all rolls back into the SAHM vs. WOHM debate. If you are a Stay At Home Mom, do you have the right to involve yourself in your partner's business - or do you have the obligation to do so?  If you are a Work Outside the Home Mom, do you have time to stand by your man?  Is it OK to be either a SAHM or a WOHM?  Which one is the better mom and wife?  Which one should be condemned to hell?

Well, I have the answer, and it is, "We all need wine at 5:00 p.m." I have been a WAAOHM (Work At Home AND Outside Home Mom) for 11 of the 12 years that I have been a parent.  And I was a SAHM for one year. And guess what? There is no one good answer. Because no matter what we do, we're going to feel guilty anyway.

But my friend knows that while she is figuring out her life's path, that her commitment to her husband is intact, and he knows she has his back. She is the Yin to his Yang, and that's why he's lucky to have her. She wore the dress, got the gig, took the abuse, and looked fabulous doing it. And while her in-laws turn their heads and pretend that the mail-order crabcakes came from the bankrupt son, she knows, and they know, and we all know, that cream rises to the top, and their poo does stink, just like everyone else's.

So here's to the women who aren't afraid to crow, and to the ones who leave space for their friends and partners to crow too.  And remember the next time you judge someone, that they may be answering someone's prayer, and it isn't all about you.

Until next time, keep crowin'!