...because everything is funny when it's happening to someone else!

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Mr. Clean and Dirty Politics

I clean when I'm angry.

Right now, you could pretty much eat off any surface in the downstairs of my house.  Since I will likely be pretty PO-ed for a while, the upstairs should get its turn, too.

Watching the majority of this country short-sightedly vote their own personal agendas ahead of national security and prosperity was a stunning wake-up call.  It is not over-dramatization to say that I don't feel very safe anymore.  Marijuana legalization and gay marriage?  Really?  When we're TRILLIONS of dollars in debt and madmen who hate us simply because we don't adhere to their religious beliefs are working toward nuclear armament, when our schools can no longer educate children because they're too over-stressed with trying to provide food and structure to the children resulting from parents who are children themselves, or on drugs, or just plain sorry...when all these things are crushing us under their weight, we really CARE about whether weed is legal?  It really MATTERS if a "domestic partner" can be added to your health insurance, when your employer is being taxed out of existence to provide it?  Enjoy it while it lasts, because it's simply unsustainable and won't last long.

This country has turned its back on Israel and ignored a deadly terrorist attack on US soil (yes, the consulates overseas are US soil) and voted for a charismatic, empty-shell orator who is useless without his speechwriters and Tele-Prompters.  Is this the result of too many people watching too much reality TV?  Do we really just want the glitz and the catch-phrases and not give a rip about truth, integrity, honor, service?

Oh, God...let that not be so!

Another post will come, when I feel a bit less wobbly.

Til then, I have more cleaning to do...

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Time Flies

Did a lot of running around today in preparation for a Taj trip tomorrow.  Extra prep was needed, since we'll be celebrating Tank's birthday with family while we're there.

He's FOUR.


Dude, it was YESTERDAY when he was born.  I swear it!  I've had migraines that went slower than these past four years.  One day, he was a 9-pound wad of fluff, snot and poop and the next, he's 3 feet, 9 inches tall, 52 pounds and ruler of the universe.  (In HIS mind, anyway)

Holy crap.  How did that happen? 

Last night, I went through a box of clothes some friends gave us that their youngest son had outgrown.  I'd put them away six months ago, since they were sizes 7 and up...thinking it would be simply FOREVAH before he grew into them.

Yeah, NOT.

He's in a SIX now.  One of his legs weighs more than the baby we brought home from the hospital.

And going through his outgrown clothes makes me an emotional wreck!  I just ache to have Baby Tank back, just for a little bit!

I miss the sweet snuffles of a baby against my neck; the feel of his little round bottom that fit just perfectly in my palm when I cuddled him.  I miss the precious baby clothes (from 5T on up, it's skateboards and skulls...no more puppies and airplanes).  I look at his baby clothes and I just want to sit and weep over the loss.  Stupid, I know, but there you have it.

Would I trade for those days back?  No...I am even more in love with the spunky, spirited toddler he's become.  Every part of his personality that emerges from the rather generic fog of babyhood is better than the last.  Oh, but for one more hour of him napping on my shoulder!  Just one sweet, Dreft-and-baby-powder-scented snuggle with his downy little head tickling my cheek.

Oh, it goes so fast!

And it's worth every wonderful, terrifying, worrisome, exhausting, beautiful minute!

Happy Fourth Birthday, Tank!


Wednesday, August 29, 2012

IKEA, etc

So...IKEA.  We went, we saw, we conquered.  If you enjoy the concept of "personal space", I highly recommend that you do NOT shop the Atlanta IKEA the Sunday before school starts.  Just a little tip, there.  Having never been to an IKEA before, it took me a bit to adjust to the shopping style there.  I probably annoyed some folks at first, before I caught on to the follow-the-gray-concrete-road concept and blended into the wall of humans pressing through the showroom.  Interesting idea, painting arrows on a walkway and herding shoppers through in a single direction.  Not the way I like to shop, but given how crowded the store was, I guess it's a survival technique.

Did I love IKEA?  Yes and no.  I had some drooly moments in the kids' section, particularly over these things:

The Mammut collection is just so fun and Dr. Seuss-y that I found it hard to resist.  I did resist, though, even though I thought everything was pretty reasonably priced.  I just figured Tank would outgrow the toddler-sized bed in about 8.2 seconds, so I oohed and ahhed and walked away.

College Girl Niece found a double bed she luuurved, so we somehow strapped that on and in the Jeep, along with all four of us and made our way home.  Me?  I bought a vase.  Hey, I was walking out of there with SOMETHING, dammit!

Will I go back to IKEA?  I am sure I will.  While uber-streamlined, blonde wood DIY furniture isn't my style, I did really like some of their stuff and again, you can't beat the price.  As long as you buy it with an eye towards needing to replace it after a few years, I think IKEA purchases are great.

So, what else?
Well, the Tankster's birthday approaches.  I've been asking him what kind of party he wanted this year and I get a different response almost every time.  Egads--do they have a special training for kids on this?!  We've been through dinosaur party, Thomas the Tank Engine party, Cars party, baseball party, sea turtle party....and on and on and on.  Since he's said baseball the past several times and gone back to it after forays into other ideas, we're doing a baseball party.  Last night, I ordered cute mock baseball card party invitations.  Which virtually ensures he'll change his mind between now and his party and be all, "What's with the baseball shizzle?!"  Consistency, thy name is NOT toddler!

Oh, and there's another project soon to get underway at the Taj.  Shawn found a great deal on a fridge--we've been using Nice Neighbor's dorm fridge for a year now and we were just SO OVER THAT.  So, Shawn went to a new and used appliance place and found a fridge that had been in a model home.  We got it for a used price (1/3 the retail), but got a new warranty on it.  So...yay!  But wait...if you've read this blog before, you know better than to start celebrating just yet.

Turns out the new fridge fits juuuuust barely into its assigned spot.  So tight, in fact, that you can't open the left door.  Our options were to take it back and get a smaller one or to widen the offending doorway between the kitchen and dining room.  Since the kitchen is a notoriously dark room and that doorway was smaller than standard anyway, we opted to open the doorway 24 more inches.  We COULD have done it ourselves, but I advocated against that.  I know...can you believe it?!  I was afraid we'd wreck the old plaster walls and make a huge mess of it.  Plus, the trim on the dining room side has to be custom-made o match the other windows and doors (kitchen has different, more modern trim).  So, we made a call to the Sainted Singing Plumber/Contractor and he's going to handle it for us.  He's also going to get rid of the cheap, ugly wood paneling that is behind the fridge and up the stairway to the bonus room.  Hello, Drywall!  Where you been all my life?!

The good news is that the refrigerator and dishwasher work great and life at the Taj is about to get a LOT more convenient!

Wednesday, August 8, 2012


Don't worry--it's not what you think!

I found the site IKEA Hackers today.  I don't know how I've managed not to see it before but I've really enjoyed wasting half the afternoon briefly glancing at it!

This in particular caught my eye.  Follow the link for instructions.

Not to be overly picky, but Jeeps have a seven-slot grille!

So, the Farm Maven and I are plotting a trip to IKEA soon.  Maybe genius will strike.  Hey..it could happen!

Anyway, that's all I have at the moment.  Back soon with tales of misadventure and mayhem!

Monday, July 23, 2012

(You Can't Even) Take Me Out to the Ballgame...and We Wobble

You'd think that, as much death-defying stupid crap I do in a day, injuries are fairly commonplace around here.  I always forget to lift with my legs, I check the milk by drinking instead of sniffing it, I have been known to lean precariously on a ladder to reach just a leeeeetle bit farther with the paintbrush...you get the idea.

Yet miraculously, I don't usually sustain any real damage.  The occasional strained back muscle and a constant collection of bruises notwithstanding, I am invincible.

Oh, but let me go to the minor league baseball game and it's all over.

Tank was walking behind the bench I was on (I had moved up a row to sit and talk with a friend, while Shawn stayed in back, talking to more friends).  I reached out to playfully smack Tank on the rear and SLAMMED the back of my hand into the metal frame of the bench.  I hit it right on the back side of my palm, at the base of the pointy finger.  HOLY SH*T, that hurt.  And now, it hurts to grasp anything or make a fist.  I can't live through a day if I can't make a fist, people!!  Oh, the humanity.

Well, despite my little pointy-finger drama, we had a great time.  Our team won and Tank got to hug the team mascot twice.  For years, Tank had a love/hate relationship with the mascot, but this year it's been pure love.  He stalks the mascot, pantomiming that we should "sneak up" on him and attack unexpectedly with many hugs.  Thank goodness the person inside the costume is a kind soul and patient with fixated toddlers!

So, all in all it was a great day.  We didn't stay for the whole game, so we missed the "Sweet Caroline" audience sing-a-long and also missed the mascot dancing the Wobble.  That alone is worth a trip to the ballpark!

There's not a video from the game online, but here's the dance.  Just imagine a 6-foot bug doing it and you've pretty much got it:

Happy Monday...now go get your Wobble on!

Friday, July 20, 2012

Big Lots Bargains and I Dismember Mama

Yesterday, Tank and I got a touch of cabin fever and we decided to go stake out the local Big Lots to see what was new.  I haven't been in a Big Lots in a year or so, but I do love to poke around for treasures once in a while.  On this trip, I scored a few fun things:

Jessica McClintock Home
Cute ceramic apple and pear with metal stems and leaves.  Just $3 each!

This starfish photo frame has soft sea glass colors and will work with what I'm trying to do in the master bedroom:

But it's not all fun and games, you know.  I do still have to get up and drag myself (and Tank) to work.  Yesterday morning, we went to my part-time job at the church (stop laughing, they DO let me in!).

The pastor is out of town, so it was just the two of us in a big old church.  Tank wanted some juice, so we went to the kitchen where I promptly lost about ten years of my life:

Yes, it is a severed mannequin leg.  Not what I was expecting to see when I went to throw away the lid to my yogurt container.  What the #*$&T%^ is that thing doing in the church trash can?!  And, more importantly--is it so wrong that I immediately started trying to figure out how to turn it into a lamp? 

Don't worry...I left it right where it was and abandoned the lamp idea. 

The questions, however...those remain.

Hope you get a leg up on a great weekend!

(oh, like YOU could have resisted!)

Wednesday, July 18, 2012


Well, despite a number of hiccups, we made it through the 10-day revocation period on the adoption I mentioned in the last post.  The birthmother hasn't been in touch since Saturday, and while I hope that she is staying sober, I doubt it.  I can only do so much and, like anyone who interacts with an addict, I have to maintain a safe distance between her messes and my life.  The baby was released from the hospital without needing a prescription for methadone, which is wonderful!  The happy new family have returned home to the Midwest, where this child will enjoy all the love and support her parents have to give.  I am confident that she'll have all the tools necessary to meet her full potential.  I've bene working to get birthmom into a rehab program, but she is resistant.  I can only hope that the judge in her DUI case will mandate treatment.  Even then, it's a long shot that she'll get sober and stay sober; addiction has been her life for too long for this to be an easy recovery.

After all the madness of the last two weeks, I really needed to unplug for a while.  Tank and I headed to the Taj MaHell to decompress and hang out with family.  Shawn stayed behind at Gilligan's Island to catch up on some work he needed to do.  Unfortunately, the craziness I was dealing with bled over into his work life, too, since he had to leave work early several times to keep Tank while I ran back and forth to the hospital.

Tank and I laid low for the most part, although we did tie on the feedbag at the Farm Maven's a couple of times...wonderful, fresh-from-the-garden veggies and even some home-made ice cream made with milk from the Maven's new cow!  Yup, she has a cow.  Me, I'm sticking with Publix, but I'm all for her freedom to shovel cow sh*t if that makes her happy.  And it apparently does!

Tank also had a blast in Papa's pool...now that he will use the water wings we got him, he loves swimming from one end to the other and would stay in all day, if he could. 
One happy dude

Since I can't resist tackling a project, I primed the back porch/mudroom.  On our last trip to the Taj, we removed the old upper and lower cabinets that used to be there.  While the extra storage was nice, they just weren't doing it for me.  The cabinets were hung off-center which made the doorway to the kitchen tight and created a useless corner next to the window.  I took off the old chair rail, since it had been cut around the cabinets.  The chair rail was nailed on with 3 1/2 inch nails, so that was tons-o-fun right there.

Here's the mudroom when we bought the Taj:

Here it is, minus the cabiets and chair rail:

And here it is, primed.  The plan is to paint the bench either red or black, add a coat hook above, refinish the floor and just generally spiff it up.  But for the time being, this is an improvement!

A couple of trips ago, we bought twin beds from the Amazing Sister In Law.  She'd painted them black, but I needed white in Tank's room, so a few coats of primer and paint later, we had white twin beds.  The bedding is from Target...it was a great deal and should be versatile enough for whatever we decide to do with his room.  I still haven't finished the toy box.bench, since I'm not sure what I'm going to decorate his room with.  Leaning towards baseball, but we'll see.

And I couldn't resist painting this dresser while I was there.  We scored this at a yard sale on Gilligan's Island for $10.  The drawer slides are broken and will need attention, but for now it provides storage for t-shirts and shorts and we can deal with floppy drawers until I get around to fixing it.  At least it's painted and has new knobs!

And after all that, who wouldn't need a mini-treat, courtesy of a local Mexican eatery?  I said I wanted a margarita the size of my head.  I had to make do:

Until next time.....

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Is it just me? Wait...don't answer that!

Sometimes I don't post for a week or two because I really don't feel that the thoughts in my head ever need to be set down for other eyes to see.  This has been one of those weeks.

I started a post about it and realized that some things are just too messed up to communicate.

As I've mentioned in other posts, I have worked for several years in the adoption world.  It's a crazy, beautiful, heart-wrenching thing and I have felt lucky to be a part of it.

But sometimes it just sucks.

For the past six months, I have been working with an addicted birthmother.  Working with addicted people is never a walk in the park, even if they're currently exercising some sort of control over the addiction.  Combine addiction that is not under control with pregnancy and you get a hot mess.

In the last nine days, I have been on a non-stop rollercoaster of emotions, stretched between a birthmom whose demons are in the drivers seat in her life and a terrified family who are already in love with the baby that joins them all together.  Watching a once-pretty woman sink to the lowest point possible to a human brings out all the compassion within you; but then you walk a few steps to the nursery and watch an innocent baby in the throes of withdrawal.  Compassion goes out the window for me and I just want to pick up the mom and shake the snot out of her.  How could you DO that?!  Why don't you CARE?!  I honestly cannot fathom an addiction so strong that it takes away your humanity, that it can make you look without pity on a newborn who is struggling to survive because of your own actions. 

 The nurses in the NICU told me that a baby who's detoxing feels like she's falling all the time.  Pats and jiggling motions, comforting to most babies, only make the withdrawing baby more anxious and frantic.  Imagine feeling as if you are falling backward down a tunnel that has no end.  No touch is comforting, no voice can soothe.  That's what this mom's pharmaceutical adventures did to her child.

And the hospital released the birthmom with 30 Percocet two days later.  Less than 48 hours after she left the hospital, she returned as a patient in the ER.  Handcuffed to her bed because she'd gotten high on her pain medication and had slammed her truck into a daycare bus loaded with kids.  Everybody lived, which is a miracle.

What's not a miracle is that the SAME hospital released her home 20 hours after the accident with a prescription for 60 Percocet.

There's nothing cute or funny to say about all this.  Not right now.  Maybe not ever.

The only thing that I can hold on to is the fact that the baby who is now just a few days old is set on a course for an amazing, beautiful life.  After a gazillion stupid-ass choices, this birthmother made one good one.  She gave life to her child and then she gave a GOOD life to her.

That's enough for me.

Monday, July 2, 2012

Full of Sound and Fury, Signifying Nothing

Well, howdy.

We had a massive wind storm last night here at Gilligan's Island.  As a couple of neighbors and I chatted in the den, the trees outside did their best to bend double...quite the show.  In the end, we got a bit of rain and a brief respite from the triple-digit temps of the day, so that was good.  Even better, we didn't lose power!

But if we lose power in the future, I now have a plan, thanks to Dante Shepherd over at Surviving the World.

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Polka dot, polka dot, polka d--- DAMMIT!

This song will apparently leave my head...never.


At least Tank enjoyed the movie.

Friday, June 22, 2012

In Which My Head Explodes

I've been a bit busy lately.

There's the slightest chance that Shawn will transfer jobs and that this will necessitate a move to that state just south of Georgia that has a lot of oranges.

Like any normal person (bwahahaha!), that means that I've been in a bit of a tizz lately, what with all the dramatic worryings over the what-ifs involved.  The main worry is all the To-Do items on the Gilligan's Island house.  Holy crap, people...it's like I LIVE with a freakin' paintbrush in my hand; how can it be that so much stuff needs to be painted?!

So, anyway.  That's been what's up recently.

While I tried to work on a few things and also do my two part-time jobs, I have let Tank watch more TV than usual.  As in, WAY more.  And my descent into TV-parenting has been quite the education, let me tell you.  For instance, I've begun to ponder some of life's biggest questions:

- why do the kid voice actors on Dora the Explorer and Go, Diego, Go all sound like they're being squeezed?  I'm sure it's supposed to sound like ENERGY!  and ENTHUSIASM!  but it just comes off sounding like a boa constrictor got hold of them.  "And WE need YOUR HELP!"

- where are Dora and Diego's parents, anyhow?  She's always off tramping over mountains and rainbows and crap and Diego's swinging from vines over hostile terrain and rescuing God-knows-what kind of flea-bitten, diseased creature.  Is there no parental supervision in cartoons?

Hi, we're Dodo the Exploder and El Diablo.  We're here to shove Spanish down your ever-loving throat!

- when the HELL did Fred and Daphne and Velma and Shaggy hook up?  Was that really necessary to sell a friggin' CARTOON????

- I can't say anything bad about Kick Buttowski.  Kick actually kinda rocks.

- but Curious George.  Ohmysweetpantaloons, what the @*$&% is up with that damn monkey?!?!  He is the biggest f-up of all time and if I were that man in the yellow hat, I'd have tranq'ed his little monkey butt and sold him to an organ grinder.

- Super Hero Squad.  Easily the most annoying theme song of all time.  And with catchy lines like, "A Norse is a Norse, of course, of course", who could possibly resist?  ME, THAT'S WHO!

- which brings me to the point of all this which is that TV is bad, kids.  Bad, bad juju.  Leave that stuff alone.  Which is what Tank will be doing from now on, since he decided to jump me unexpectedly and rupture my spleen with a Hulk Smash.  I had only a split second after hearing him shriek, "HUK SASSSHHH!" to react.  I probably saved my large intestine, at least.

Here's hoping your spleen has a great weekend...

Sunday, June 10, 2012

Trash to Treasure - Sweet Child O Lime

Here I am, broadcasting live from the Taj MaHell!  We drove up Friday night and our best pal/neighbor on Gilligan's Island drove up yesterday morning so that we could all get out on the river in canoes.  THAT was way less fun than anticipated.  The short version is that the water was about 3 feet too low, even with recent rains, and we walked more than we rowed.  By the end of the 3 1/2 hour trip, we could barely lift our arms! But, a bad time with good friends is still a good time, right?!  And Tank thoroughly enjoyed his first canoe outing, so all's well that ends well.

Tank, rocking the Personal Flotation Device.

I had to drop some stuff off at Goodwill the other day and just as I got there, the bottom fell out.  Rather than stand out in the rain getting my butt soaked while I strapped Tank back in his car seat, I decided to poke around.  I happened upon this little (about 10" tall) lamp and thought it had potential.

I snagged it for a whopping $3.99

Important first step:  make sure it works!

Next, tape up whatever you don't want painted:

Quick coat of primer (it dried amazingly fast in the hot sunshine!):

Then, a coat of color.  And then a second coat of color!

Here's everything I used.  I couldn't decide between the two appliques unti I saw them with the painted lamp base.  They were each $3.49 at Joann's Fabrics.  The lamp shade was $7.98 at WalMarxist.  Already had the fabric fuse.

After holding both appliques up to the shade, I liked the bird better,
although both were cute.

So, here's the finished product.  I have no idea what I'm going to do with it, but I just love the fun color!

We'll be loading up shortly and heading back to Gilligan's Island.  Hope your weekend was great!

Thursday, June 7, 2012

A Good Day to Be Little

As a mom, I am always trying to find new ways to do it better.  Not to spoil Tank or try to create in him all the attributes I wish I had in myself.  Being a good mom--to me--is about just being there with him and for him.  So, I have a lot of little customs and traditions with Tank.

One is when he wakes up in the morning and I go into his room.  I tell him that I missed him while he was sleeping.  And then I ask him, "Is today a good day to be little?"  He always says yes.

It's my job and my joy to make every day a good day to be little.  Not to buy him everything he sees or to take him fabulous places.  For Tank, like all children, a grown-up's time is the best gift in the world.  For now, at least, a half-hour of Mommy lying in the floor playing Matchbox cars is better than a new toy...and I love that!

Having said that, it's time to admit that I am not above spoiling him a little! 

Today, we were going to take him to the beach, but the weather didn't cooperate and unusually high tides were expected to flood the road out to the beach.  So, we went with Plan B and took Tank to a pathetic little "carnival" that had set up in town.  It was really sad and the gray evening did nothing to improve it.  Ten old, creaky rides with the paint peeling off them and more lights missing than not were plopped down in front of the National Guard Armory and a sign that read "CARNIVAL!" directed us into a muddy parking lot.  We were one of two families enjoying the big event. 

But here's the thing:  when you're little, it's magic!  Tank didn't see the missing light bulbs and the peeling paint.  He wasn't mentally calculating the odds that the guy running the mini-Scrambler was wanted in six states.  To him, it was the biggest and best thing in the world.

And that's why every day is a good day to be little.  It's the lesson I try to take from Tank...to see things with new, less cynical eyes once in a while. 

To let the magic sneak back in.

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Sniffing Too Many Paint Fumes

Well, apparently it's been too long since I've had a project going, because I'm starting to go a little nuts.

On Saturday, I convinced Shawn that we should paint the living room here at Gilligan's Island.  So, we hauled all the little stuff out, moved the big stuff to the center of the room and got going.  Honestly, it didn't take all that long.  In 4 hours, we had painted the walls and the trim and felt oh-so-self-satisfied when we took off that evening for a minor league baseball game and pizza.

The living room wasn't offensive, but its yellow walls just weren't working for me.  The room had been yellow when we moved in and I later painted it with a color called something like Navajo Sand or something...which turned out yellow.  I mean, EXACTLY the same shade of yellow as before.  Out of ideas, I left it alone for a while (four years) and just didn't give it much thought.

We had some paint left over from the Taj MaHell that I just loved...Gallery Taupe by Behr.  It's a great neutral that isn't too light, but isn't too dark either.  The living room doesn't get much light, even during the day, so I didn't want to go too dark, but I do like it when there is a discernable difference between the wall and trim colors.

I don't have any good photos of the room before, but here's a patch job in progress over the mantle...you can see the yellow paint:

Not too awful, but...meh.

Here's the room, after a couple coats of Gallery Taupe and Behr's Ultra Pure White in semi-gloss for the trim:

It's hard to really see it from these photos...today is rainy and blah, so that might be part of it.  But trust me, as much as we did NOT want to repaint this room, both of us keep looking at it and saying, "Wow.  I REALLY like that color!"

Here's a sample of the color from The Internets:

You heard it here first, folks:

I am excited about...beige.

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Tank Does Dollywood

I never did update after our trip to Tennessee.  I was worried that Dollywood would disappoint, but it did not.

For an amusement park, it's really not bad!  Clean, safe and well-run, we found the park to be a lot of fun.  The other patrons were polite and waiting in lines wasn't unpleasant at all.  (I'm too tired to do it, but just assume there's a snarky remark here about the jackasses at Six Flags Over Georgia)

Tankie rode his first rollercoaster, Blazing Fury, and got a bit unnerved.  Ever the Tankster, he didn't miss a beat before requesting to ride it again.  Shawn was thrilled to see him tackling his fear head-on.

Didn't take many photos, as we wanted to ride the water rides and I left the backpack in one of the lockers.  Here's a pic of Tankie looking longingly at the toy cars in one of the shops:

And here he is, enjoying his first ice cream cone.  Apparently, ice cream makes you nutso.

So, a great time was had by all and it was a good introduction for Tank into the world of thrill rides.  We'll definitely go back.

Note:  Shawn wants it noted that he questions the logic of putting an all-you-can-eat country buffet in a theme park.  The good news is, nobody hurled.

Saturday, May 26, 2012

My arch-nemesis, Betty Crocker

So, it's Memorial Day weekend, here on Gilligan's Island.  We're going to the house of some friends across the street for dinner tomorrow and I volunteered to bring a dessert.

Those of you who know me, are laughing right now.

It's not that I can't cook, per se.  It's just that I don't.  And when I do try, strange things happen.  I've had accomplished culinary artists provide me with a "foolproof recipe", supervise my every move and be rendered speechless by the ensuing tragedy.  It would be funny except that I am hungry.

When we were waiting and hoping for a child, people didn't ask what we'd name a son or daughter, but what we'd feed them. 

I do manage to keep us all alive, but it's usually only because I rely heavily on processed and pre-packaged foods.  I'm working on that, but two jobs and two houses and an active little dude all add up to me not having a ton of time to LEARN how to cook.  As I explained to my sister, the Farm Maven, I don't have a repertoire of recipes available to me.  There was silence on her end of the line as she digested this news.

Then, always the Fixer, she began to recite a "foolproof and easy" recipe for a dessert that I could take over to our friends' tomorrow.  After the seventh ingredient, my eyes rolled back in my head and I started looking at the tubs of cookie dough at Kroger.  Seriously...who has the TIME?!

But, in Country Living this month, there was an easy-peasy recipe for petit-fours.  THREE ingredients:  pound cake purchased from the grocery store, confectioner's sugar and water.  I CAN DO THAT, I thought to myself!  AND IT WILL BE SO PRETTY, JUST LIKE THE MAGAZINE PHOTO!

Damn you, Country Living, you deceitful wench!

First of all,  in order to pour the icing over the cake, I needed cooling racks to set the cakes on.  I do have them, I swear...but they're at the Taj MaHell.  Not wanting to buy something I already had and DEFINITELY not wanting to go to the store on the Saturday before Memorial Day in a seaside community...I improvised.

With spaghetti noodles.

(Hey, it actually worked.  Don't be a hater)

So, cooling rack dilemma solved, I got started.  My next disaster  minor setback was that the ratio in the recipe was all wrong.  Two cups sifted confectioner's sugar and four tablespoons water does NOT make a "60-second frosting."  It makes a six-hour hot mess.


I kept adding more and more sugar until it finally reached a consistency somewhere between snot and cement.  As you can see, it didn't neatly cascade down the cakes, but instead just made a couple of uneven streaks and called it a day.

I sliced up TWO poundcakes and used so much sugar that I only got about a third of the dang things glazed before I ran out.  So, I DID have to go to the stupid store on the Saturday before Memorial Day, in a seaside community.  Tank was a good sport and went along for the ride, which was good because...like he had a choice, right??

Since he was such a good boy, he was allowed to pick a Matchbox car as a prize.  I believe he chose most wisely:

A Hong Kong Phooey car.  Awesome on a number of levels.

Sadly, the awesomeness ends right there.  The petit-fours experiment was abandoned and all the Rhesus monkeys were set free, before more harm could come to them.

I've decided to take a no-bake pie tomorrow.

I know what you're thinking...no way she can eff that up.



The Farm Maven read the above and had this to say:  "Well, if nothing else, you can be proud that you've managed to somehow reach this point in your life without actually learning to cook."

We celebrate the small victories here, folks.

Friday, May 25, 2012

Before You Gorge on Burgers

It's Memorial Day weekend--woooohooooo!

Before you get all crazy with the baked beans and potato salad, humor me a bit and give a look to this video. 

And here's your quick history lesson to get you started:
Pretty much every country has a memorial to unknown/unidentified fallen soldiers.  The main one in the US is the Tomb of the Unknowns/Tomb of the Unknown Soldier at Arlington National Cemetery--either name is fine, as it has never been officially named. 

Quick factoid:  Arlington is built on property once owned by the family of Confederate General Robert E. Lee.  What else was built on land once held by his family?  Well, I'll give you a hint:  it's just outside of Washington DC and was named for the family's old homeplace in England...Langley.  (If you're not a spy geek, Langley, VA is the home of CIA headquarters.)

The Tomb of the Unknowns holds the remains of a WWI soldier killed in France, who was not identified and whose remains are unlikely ever to be identified.  It is a memorial to all soldiers whose remains have not been identified and returned to the family for proper burial.  The last line of the inscription on the Tomb reads "Known But to God."  Other remains were added later, to represent the fallen in later wars.

Since 1937, the Tomb has been guarded 24/7/365.  During inclement weather, during a hurricane of all things, the soldiers guarding the Tomb have refused to leave their post and to take cover. 

It is the highest honor to serve as a Sentinel at the Tomb.  Sentinels are selected from the ranks of the 3rd Infantry Regiment (The Old Guard) and undergo rigorous training.  The Sentinel does not wear any indicator of rank, so that he does not outrank the Unknown, whatever his rank had been.

Tourists flock to see the Changing of the Guard...a wonderfully precise military exercise that's well worth your time if you happen to be in the DC area.

So, here's your video link.  This is 9 minutes long...but if you can't dedicate 9 minutes of your life to someone who fought and died for it (guilt, much?)....skip to about 4:30 to get past the inspection of the Sentinels.  Contrary to some smart-ass remarks you'll hear, it is not disrespectful for the Sentinel to wear the sunglasses; the glare off the marble is so intense, he could not see otherwise and he DOES have duties other than just marchng back and forth in front of the tomb.  Sadly, it's his job also to keep punk-ass individuals from defacing or damaging the Tomb, or just in general acting disrespectfully.

So, without further ado-be-do-be-do, here's the changing of the guard at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier.

Now, go have a great weekend!

Friday, May 18, 2012

Headlines Make Me Gassy

So, I'm reading the news online and a headline grabs my attention:  "Man Has Trouble Paying Child Support For 30 Kids."  Seems this THIRTY-THREE YEAR OLD man has 30 children by 11 different women and...hold on to your hats, folks...he can't manage to pay child support on his minimum wage.  I'm not making this up!

Hey, I've got a idea...give me two #2 pencils and a rubber band.  We can stop him at 30.

And then I read an update on the Univeristy of West Georgia grad student who's battling necrotizing fascitis (flesh-eating bacteria).  This young woman is extremely sick and just learned that not only has she lost one leg to the hip, but she will lose both hands and her other foot.  Her response?  "Let's get it done."  I am just amazed at her resilience.  I find it hard to believe that I would find anywhere near that level of strength, if I were in her situation.  What an inspiration.  And you know the really sad thing?  I bet she doesn't end up with 30 kids.  She would probably do a good job of it; teach them perseverance, determination, the value of education.  Oh, heavens no, we can't have THOSE kind of people procreating!

Who'm I kidding?  No grad student can afford kids....they have to go get a job and get taxed at damn near 50% of their earnings to support the 30 kids the other guy has.   Between Shawn and me, we have four jobs (1 full time and 3 part time)...and we can comfortably provide for probably two kids, max. 

Man. If only I didn't work...then maybe I could afford more kids!

Can you tell I'm in a MOOD?

Well, that's what happens when I stop posting for a long time.  All the angst gets built up inside until I either get a big pimple on my chin or a gas attack.  It's really best that I vent my angsty opinions regularly.  And by "best", I mean for me.

We're at the Taj, but just for tonight.  Heading up to the mountains tomorrow to take Tankie to Dollywood.  I have only been once, the summer before he was born, but I remember being astounded at how clean the place was and how I didn't have to spend the whole day looking at random strangers' underpants sticking up out of their droopy-ass pants.  And no little punk-a thugs were spitting in the water that gets recycled up for shooting at the people on the water rides (big shout-out there to Six Flags Over Atlanta--The Nastiest Place on Earth!).  I'd forgotten how nice life can be when nobody's pissing you off every 30 seconds.   For the sake of all the innocent Tennesseans, please pray fervently that Dollywood hasn't gone thuggy.  I am a hair's breadth from going off on somebody for breathing too loud.

No new projects here.  We came last weekend and worked in the yard and I snagged 2 twin beds off my SIL Bobbie...painted them white and now they're in Tank's room and he is happily snuggled into one of his Big Boy Beds!  I'll get a photo of those soon, once I clean up the massive chaos that I created when I rearranged all his furniture.

Well, that's it for now.  I'm ready to turn in for the night and gear up for the big Tank Goes to Dollywood adventure.

Hoping the Mood fairy passes by your house without dropping in...

Monday, April 16, 2012

Nothing died. That's good, right?

I have been a total slacker on the blog-posting front lately.  Now that progress on the Taj has slowed to a crawl, there's just not much to talk about.  (Not that that's ever stopped me!)

Our next Taj project will be to get a refrigerator.  Not exactly glamorous, but the tiny cube dorm fridge we borrowed from the neighbors isn't working long-term.  The space we have for a refrigerator is an inch shorter than the standard height of a side-by-side and we really don't want to trash the big upper cabinets.  We found a slightly smaller scale side-by-side at Lowe's, so that's the plan.

The only other big project we have on tap for the Taj is to take down a diseased oak tree and get a pool cover.  Sadly, the pool itself won't make the project list this year, but maybe next year, we'll be swimming in a sparkling oasis and remembering the "bad old days" when we had to sweat all summer like the little people.  I can dream, right?!

This Taj trip was mostly about family.  Tank and I scooted up here on Thursday because Cousin Boo was in a talent show.  The Mayberry Arts Council put on a Grand Ole Opry themed talent extravaganza and Boo sang "I'll Fly Away".  She did beautifully and was a huge hit.  On Friday, we had another cousin's birthday to attend and then yesterday, the Farm Maven's youngest had her 6th birthday party.  Tank had a great weekend...he was spoiled by Mimi and Papa while I went to the talent show, then he got to go out to Shawn's brother's farm for a birthday party.  Yesterday, he had a whole afternoon of playing with cousins and running around like a crazed, sugared-up monster.  It was great!  So great that he couldn't settle down enough to sleep last night and was lying in bed, whispering softly to himself as he recounted the amazing adventures of the day.

But, even on a family adventure weekend, I can usually find a project or two!  I went by my favorite junk store on Friday and scored a couple of finds:

A somewhat sad looking little toy box/bench.

A cheap, red storage unit on casters.

After some sanding and painting, the formerly red unit is now black and holds laundry detergent in the master bath:

The toy bin/bench just has the base coat on it.  I'm still debating what to do to dress it up, but I'm leaning towards painting some sailboats on it.  The great thing is, it can be repainted and revamped to match whatever we end up doing with Tank's room in Mayberry!

Well, that's it for now.  I may tackle one other project this trip, or I may just take it easy and then head back to Gilligan's Island this afternoon.


Sunday, April 1, 2012

Life's a Bowl of Chairies

Quick update from the Taj before Tank and I head back to the coast tomorrow.

The Smell:  gone!  The Pest Dude's suggestion to run a box fan at the access door under the house worked like a charm.  So did the cheap box fan I bought years ago at Fred's and that we have severely abused.  The latest indignity was being run outside during a thunderstorm to get Possum Stank out from under the house. 

Projects:  none!  Well, that's not entirely true.  I did pick up a neat chair and repainted it.  My sister in law is the handiest human being in the world and she spotted this chair at a local junk store and texted me a picture.  When I said I liked it, she picked it up for me and this weekend, I finally got it from her and slapped some paint on it.  I thought it did pretty well:



I also found this fun old phone at a Mayberry antique store.  At $50 it was a splurge, but a good bit cheaper than the ones I had found on ebay.  Shawn and I had thought it would be nice to have a phone around the same vintage as the house and put it on the built-in telephone table in the hallway.  This one STILL WORKS!  Tank had fun playing with the rotary dial...probably the only one he'll ever see!

"Pennsylvania 6500, please!"

It's pretty late now and Tank's been waking up early the last few days, so I am barely dragging around. 

Hopefully the next Taj trip will see a bit more progress than just a painted chair!

Friday, March 30, 2012

Give Up The Funk*

Oh, Lordy.  Where to start?

Since my last post, I've spent some time navel-gazing and coming to terms with the definitive end of my relationship with my father.  As long as we were both kicking around this old world, the possibility existed that one day we might come to some sort of cessation of hostilities.  With that option gone, there were some things I needed to work through.  So, I took a break from things for a while and dealt with all that stuff and now I'm feeling more like myself.  I'll leave you to decide whether that's a good thing or not.

Today was the annual training/meeting/get-together for the staff of the adoption agency where I work part-time.  The meeting was about 2.5 hours from Gilligan's Island and about 45 minutes from the Taj MaHell, so Tank and I drove up yesterday and spent the night.

But it wasn't quite as simple as that.  Oh, but no.

As soon as I got out of the car at the Taj, I smelled it.  That unmistakable smell of "somethin' dead."  Urgh.  The cloying scent of rotting animal flesh was everywhere.  Tank and I investigated and determined the general area of the crawlspace under the Taj where something had met its end.  I couldn't actually see anything and there was NO WAY I was going to crawl under there.  My unbelievably wonderful in-laws came over and helped try to locate the carcass, but we still couldn't see anything.  I went to bed last night in a stinky house and slept fitfully, waking up every hour or so to remember I once heard that your sense of smell is directly linked to your sense of taste...so that anything you smell has crossed your tastebuds for processing.  All night long, then, I was tasting something dead.  Yum.

This morning, I was up before the sun, getting ready to teach a couple of short sessions at our meeting ( and feeling really unprepared and anxious).  Just when I was about to wake Tank up to take him to Farm Maven's for the day, I realized I'd locked my keys in the Jeep.  OHMYFREAKINSTARS.

Frantic phone calls ensued:
To Shawn:  couldn't get him to answer

To the Farm Maven:  she sent Diamond Dave to come get Tank but didn't have a spare automobile for me to take to the training
To the City of Mayberry Police: whose non-emergency line was unmanned for another hour
To My Inlaws:  who brought me a car and who also discussed the issue with a local City of Mayberry police officer...and that officer later came to the house, unlocked the Jeep and stowed the keys away for me
To the Farm Maven: again and again, because I got lost on the way to the meeting and had to get her to Map Quest my sorry butt

By the end of the day, I'd managed to teach the sessions, had received several texts and photos from the Farm Maven documenting Tank's Excellent Farm Adventures, had an unlocked Jeep (at no charge!), and had returned Papa's car, with a full tank of gas and my undying devotion. 

In the meantime, Shawn had been working hard from Gilligan's Island.  He called a  Mayberry pest company who told him they did not do dead animal removals, but after hearing that I was here alone with a little one, the Very Nice Pest Dude came out, crawled under the extremely stinky house and emerged with one very large, very dead possum.  Well worth the $90 I had to pay him.

And now I'm just sitting in the den, with approximately 900 scented candles burning (now it smells like a flower pooped out a dead animal, but you take what you can get).  Tank is snoozing peacefully in his bed, worn out from a day of hard play with his cousins.  My Jeep key is safely in my pocket and I don't have to worry about power point presentations or flop sweat again for a while.

All in all, this day served as another reminder that life in Mayberry definitely has its advantages.

Yes, I have had some really bad times with some of the members of my original family.  But I am so lucky to have the family that I do have, and so grateful that my husband's family has been so welcoming, so kind and supportive...and so delightfully insane!

Wow.  What a rotten, smelly, wonderful day!

(*we don't call the Taj run-down and funky for nothing!)

Saturday, March 10, 2012

Confession is Good for the Soul

A long time ago...a REALLY long time ago...I was a kid.  I grew up in a big old farmhouse out in the country, near a small town.  In the summer, it was Georgia-hot; my sister and I would turn our pillows to catch that blessed cool spot on the side we hadn't been lying on.  A hassock fan sat on the floor between our twin beds, doing little more than stirring the muggy air around and confusing the mosquitoes.  In the winter, the little electric and gas space heaters tried valiantly, but couldn't keep up with the drafty windows and high ceilings.  I remember running like the devil from one marginally heated room to another, my breath frosting in the air. 

It was wonderful.

My mother had the rare gift of being a phenomenal mother to little kids.  She was gentle and sweet and had this great, throaty chuckle when something struck her as funny.  She'd laugh and then say, "You won't do!"  Mama let my sister the Farm Maven and me trash the attic upstairs.  Our house was supposed to be a two-story, but the downstairs was so big that three generations of our family had not felt the need to finish the upper story, so it was one huge storage space.  In the attic, the Farm Maven and I acted out any fantasy that came to mind.  Sometimes, we ran an orphanage and lined our dolls' beds up in a quasi-institutional fashion.  Other days the same dolls were students in our school.  We were a huge family, she the mother, I the father and about 15 dolls our offspring.  We played church, Christmas, diner and headed west in a covered wagon.  Mama never made us clean up the attic, so we could play all day and then pick up where we left off the next morning.

I had room to roam on our large farm and animals to take the place of the neighborhood kids other children my age were playing with.  The Farm Maven read every book in the rather extensive family library, sitting in the cool living room in the summer, or enjoying a lazy swing on the front porch, one foot keeping the motion going while the bees hummed and the characters in her novel came alive.

I grew up (at least chronologically) and changes began creeping in.  My mother's hair, gray since she was a young woman, turned nearly white.  My sister went to college.  Our older brother married poorly, divorced and married poorly again.  Through all the ebbs and flows of our lives, my mother was the constant; I describe her as the sun that kept all our planets in their proper orbits.

Out of the three of us kids, I was the one who just couldn't stay put.  My sister joked that she had to stop writing my address in ink, since I had used up two pages in her last address book.  I once counted 22 moves in 15 years...a personal record.  I stayed within Georgia, but other than that, I liked to keep moving.  I kept my clothes, my CDs, favorite chairs and a bed with me, but my little treasures, things to save but not things you need every day, stayed at the old home place.  They were safe there, the old love letters and high school awards.  My first wedding dress, a plaster bust of Elvis that annoyed the crap out of Mama, a coin collection, letters from my decades-long pen pal in Australia...all of them were kept safe under the watchful eye of Mama.

And then she died.

She complained of pain, unusual for my normally stoic mother.  She went for tests that were negative, scans that didn't show anything.  More tests, more scans.  And then they told us that she had leukemia, an aggressive form.  The leukemia had no intention of letting her survive, but it had an ally in her:  Mama just quit.  Ten days after her diagnosis, she died.

To pick up again with the sun and planets analogy, we all spun out of our orbits.  Nothing made sense anymore.  Who were we, without her?  She was the rock, the safe place; she always knew the right hostess gift and the appropriate outfit for any occasion.

How do you navigate the world without a compass?

We tried, each in our own ways.  The Farm Maven and I took on much of Mama's work in the house and with Daddy.  We fed him, cleaned the now-unused rooms, washed his clothes and tried to cajole a smile from him.  I paid his bills, cut his grass and took his cars for oil changes and service.  My brother and sister in law for the most part laid low in their trailer behind the home place and lived their own lives.

Four and a half years later, my father had two heart surgeries.  We took turns sitting at the hospital in Atlanta, an hour and a half from the Farm Maven and my brother's homes and five hours from mine.  By this time, Tank was 3 months old; the Farm Maven was home-schooling a 15 year old, a 12 year old and a 4 year old.

He was in the hospital and two rehab facilities for five months.  Over that time, the veneer that we had known as our father stripped away.  He became a mean, selfish, nasty man who lashed out at everyone, except his new girlfriend (there had been one before, right after Mama's death, but she didn't last). 

He would glare at us, his children, and demand to know when his girlfriend would return.  "That's who I want to see!" he would growl.  For my part, I didn't want to be there any more than he wanted me there.  I had a baby that needed me and whose face lit up when I returned.  I had carefully planned my life so that I could stay home with my little one, only to find myself sitting in a hospital waiting room or listening to the insane rants of a sick and bitter old man.

It didn't help that his girlfriend was also his attorney.  It also didn't help that they had engaged in an affair when we were little kids.

I would sit, looking at my father's face, contorted in hatred for me and I would think, "Mother fucker...I ought to slap you out of that bed."  But I'd just sit, texting desperately to Shawn or anxiously awaiting the next photo of Tank that the Farm Maven would send while she babysat him.

When the scond rehab facility decided he could no longer stay there (purely coincidence that his insurance quit covering his stay), a decision had to be made.  Because he wouldn't eat, he had a feeding tube.  Because he refused physical therapy, he could still barely walk and couldn't manage basic self-care skills.  The Maven and I thought it was best for him to go to another rehab facility.  I believed that if he could improve at all, it would only happen if going home was the goal.  My brother advocated that he go directly home.  Knowing that we, with our children, Maven's home-schooling and my life 200 miles away, couldn't take care of him, we said he needed another rehab stint.  My brother said no and he and his wife stated that they would move in with him for one week and get him back on his feet. 

My father hated us all by that point, but he had always hated my brother and his wife most of all.  Both my brother, the redneck devil (Beelzebubba for short) and his wife, the Mighty Hermaphrodite were hoarders and had managed to completely trash their home, barn and numerous outbuildings.  My father did not want them in his family home and missed no opportunity to declare this, loudly.

So, I sighed and volunteered to move in with Daddy for two weeks.  To my surprise, he refused.  My brother's anti-rehab facility stance had made him a hero in Daddy's eyes and further vilified my sister and me.  So, in April 2009, Beelzebubba, the Mighty Hermaphrodite and Daddy limped into a big old house with no central heat and air, closed the door behind them and quickly pushed the Farm Maven and me out of their circle.

I sent photos and videos of Tank to my father.  I sent Christmas cards.  I received one envelope...it was a letter informing me I was no longer my father's power of attorney.

Last Wednesday, my father died.

He died at home, peacefully according to his hospice care coordinator, who called my sister a day later.  She said she had asked him if he wanted her to call us, so he could speak to us before he died.  He said no.

He died as he lived, angry and selfish. 

He missed the beautiful life he could have had, as a grandfather to four amazing children.  Four pure hearts stood ready to love him, but he wanted a 70-year-old, chain-smoking home wrecker instead.  He missed all the good things he could have enjoyed in his final years.

My Mama dated him for five years and they celebrated their 50th wedding anniversary the week before she died.

She was not mentioned in his obituary.  The girlfriend was.

People don't know what to say to me.  "I'm sorry to hear about your father," they say.  Then there is an awkward pause.

I'm sorry, too.  I'm sorry he wasn't a good husband, a good father, a good man.  I'm sorry my mother was treated so poorly by a man who never--not even on his best day--deserved her.

I'm sorry that the things I inherited from him include his penchant for snide and cutting remarks.  Beelzebubba and Hermaphrodite will inherit everything else.  Including my wedding dress, my love letters and Elvis.

They say living well is the best revenge.  I plan to prove that.  Tonight, I tucked Tank into his bed and sang "Itsy Bitsy Spider" the requisite four hundred million times.  I told him for about the bazillionth time today that I love him.  I marveled at his innocent love for me, the chubby arms around my neck, the slobbery kisses and the "Wuv oo". 

How rich I truly am.

How staggeringly, embarrassingly wealthy.