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31 posts from March 2010

March 31, 2010

Dusting My Pickax

Dusting My Pickax

By Elaine Viets Alty-free-cartoon-clip-art-of-a-happy-red-haired-housewife-or-maid-woman-wearing-an-apron-while-singing-and-dancing-and-using-a-feather-duster-by-andy-nortnik

It’s eleven o’clock at night and I’m in my office, working.

I’m not writing. I’m dusting my pickax.

I got the pickax two years ago at the Left Coast Crime conference in Denver. Yes, it seems odd that Denver hosted the Left Coast Crime conference hundreds of miles from the west coast beaches, but it was fun.

Denver is better known for mountains and mining. The engraved miner’s pickax was the Lefty Award for the funniest novel of 2008. I probably have the only engraved pickax in south Florida. Maybe the whole state. I wasn’t about to take it home on a plane. UPS shipped the pickax in bubblewrap.

I keep the pickax in my office. Where it got dusty.

Last week, I was seized with an insane desire to dust the pickax – and scrub, shine and vacuum every object in our home. 8191-picture-of-a-woman-vacuuming-by-jvpd


It’s spring cleaning.

Florida doesn’t have spring like my hometown, St. Louis. There are no daffodils or flowering dogwood. An outburst of palm-tree pollen makes our eyes itch, but that’s nothing to celebrate. Yesterday, a small tornado took out a fence and some tree branches. That did remind me of a St. Louis spring.

My family is German-American, better known as the Scrubby Dutch, which is a corruption of Deutsch. For the Scrubby Dutch, cleanliness isn’t next to godliness. It’s a whole religion. If certain female relatives met the Pope, they’d ask his Holiness how he got the cobwebs off the Sistine Chapel.

Scrubby Dutch women held cleaning competitions. If they could clean something the neighbors never considered, they won. One woman managed to clean her furnace ducts. I have no idea how she did that, but she showed her pristine ducts (sounds dirty, doesn’t it?) to everyone. She was the envy of the neighborhood.

Grandmother was no slouch at cleaning. She washed, ironed and starched her kitchen curtains every week. She scrubbed her floors on her hands and knees and attacked the dirty wax buildup with a knife.

Spring only upped the ante for competitive cleaning. When the Scrubby Dutch ran out of things to clean, they started rearranging the furniture. I’ve seen 70-pound women move heavy three-cushion sofas like they were made of balsa wood. This spring event created great bouts of unclean language when husbands tiptoed in late from bowling and fell over relocated coffee tables.

I swore I would never be a Scrubby Dutch fanatic but I still have occasional ancestral outbreaks. Once, Don found me scrubbing the light-switch plates.

"What are you doing?" he said.

"I’m celebrating!" I said. "I got good news."

"Most people use champagne," he said.

"Leaves a sticky residue," I said, as he gently pried the cloth out of my hand.

When I was fired from my newspaper job in 1994, I went into a cleaning frenzy, following Don around the house with a howling vacuum. He was afraid to walk on the floor.

That ended when a plasterer showed up to fix our ceiling. His boots were covered with thick white dust. "Wait!" I told him. "Your boots are dirty." I got down on my knees and gave the astounded plasterer a shoeshine on the door mat.

I’d gone clean out of my mind. I had to either clean houses for money or write for a living.

Fortunately, the mysteries sold. I’ve resisted the siren song of the sponge mop and bucket. Our home is only reasonably clean.

Until last week, when I started attacking dust. It was everywhere, on everything. I took the wing chairs apart and vacuumed under the cushions. (And found two ink pens.) I polished candlesticks and ornamental tables. Saturday, the first sunny day in weeks, I escaped the house and cleaned the car.

I wish you could have seen how it shone.

Too bad it’s rained ever since. I’m stuck inside, where I noticed the vents at the bottom of the fridge look a little dusty.

March 30, 2010

I, Long Sufferer, Take Thee, Butthead...

By Sarah

Yesterday, Hank wrote about proms and so logic follows that weddings should be next. Charlie and I will Dumb bride  be celebrating our 21st year together in a few weeks which means that not only have we survived a few hurdles, but we've arrived at the yummy time in our lives when the really big hurdles (aging, disease/death) are looming on the horizon. Yippee!

Also, the younger generation is getting married and having kids. My sister in law is a Great Aunt! My own nephew got married awhile back, but did anyone tell me? No. Then again, his brother didn't go to the wedding which pretty much puts the Duh in Dysfunctional. Piece of advice - in your next life, don't check the box asking if you'd like to come back as a Strohmeyer.

Anyway, there are a few things I would have advised my nephew, such as the importance of writing his own wedding vows. No, not THOSE wedding vows. I'm not talking about walking "hand in hand into the sunset of life" or "always being there in the snows and rain, to be my partner and best friend." Please! 

Marriage is a blood bond, a sacred oath to do battle together against enemies and, often, as enemies. ABraveheart   union of a man and woman (check your state law) is a violent defiance of universal oppression from which children are often (not necessarily) born and houses redesigned despite obvious domestic budgetary deficiencies. Only the strong survive while the weak take out the trash. 

It's true, and you know it. The fluffy wedding dress. The white cake and pastel flowers. Mere ploys to sucker in the chemically imbalanced.

So, here's the standard Christian vow ripped right of the BCP. 


I, ________ take thee, _______, to be my wedded (husband/wife)

to have and to hold from this day forward,

for better, for worse, for richer, for poorer

in sickness or in health, to love and to cherish, 'til death do us part,

This is my solemn vow.

These simple words are barely sufficient to lay out the conditions for lifelong commitment. My Comcast cable contract has way more terms. Which is why I suggest the following:

I, Naive Bride, realize that marriage is a dated idea based on property ownership and the sexist notion that women are chattel. That said, I also realize that going it alone in this often cold and unfriendly world is asking for trouble and that I find you, for reasons that escape my family, to be a reasonable, stable and relatively humorous guy who's probably not going to cheat on me on the first boys' weekend after our honeymoon. I like you. You like me. The sex is pretty good and from what people say, that can get you through a lot of crap.

Shackles  I promise not to belittle you in front of my friends/family, to support you when you're right and honestly disagree with you when you're wrong. I promise not to get hung up on stupid shit that doesn't matter like when was the last time one of us fed the cat and what kind of detergent did I use on your itchy boxers. I promise to try my best to make the good moments better and the not-so-great moments not so bad. And if we have kids, I promise to keep my criticisms of your lousy parenting to myself when we can be alone and I can rip you a new one.

I promise to keep separate checking accounts.

When we get old, if I don't shoot you first and make it look like an accident, I promise to advocate for you in the hospital and take notes during the cancer diagnosis. I promise to change any and all bags necessary without making a face. I will NOT wipe your ass, so save up for home health care now. I promise to be at your death bed, holding your hand during those last moments with a photo album and memories, to kiss you goodbye.

I also realize that, as with any contract, this marriage is valid only if both parties are sane. I know about me, but the jury's still out about you, buddy.  Just saying.

This is my solemn loophole.

So, that's my boilerplate. Please feel free to add your own vows.  I'm warning you, though, any sappyOmg   stuff about sunsets or always listening, will be blue penciled into oblivion.


March 29, 2010

Some Enchanted Under the Moonlight Fantasia

Prom dresses

by Hank Phillippi Ryan

Yeah, so what was your prom called?

Do you remember? Junior, or senior, your call. And no fair looking it up in your yearbook. (If you can find your yearbook.)

But you do remember how important it was, at the time, right? If I remember correctly, and sometimes I still do, we all started wondering about THE PROM beginning in about our freshman year, if not before.

Sidebar: We called it 'The Prom.'  Not: 'Prom.' How about you? For instance, we said--who do you think Bill will ask to The Prom?  If someone had said: Who do you think Bill will ask to "Prom," we would have known they were interlopers from another school (or planet). Is this a regional thing?Prom dreses 2

Geeky me did not have much more than hope about his event. There was, possibly, the potential that in the years between freshman awkwardness and sleek seniorness, I would turn into a swan. I know my mother was crossing her fingers about this. However, that did not happen, and I went to the junior prom only because the school's guidance counselor fixed me up with the exchange student. He did not speak English, and we'll just stop this story right there.

As a senior, when I was voted "Most Individual" and they put my photo in the school newspaper (wearing a micro-mini-skirt and striped tights) upside down, I took the prom matters into my own hands and invited the kid who was such a "troublemaker" he was kicked out of our high school and sent to miltary school.

Somewhere, and you will not see it here, happily for your fashion sensibilities, is photo of us. Craig is wearing a bright bright bright blue plaid tuxedo. And my dress is all pink and green flowered. I mean, FLOWERED. We look like someone took a box of crayons and went crazy. My hair is lacquered into a huge updo, with like a bowling ball sized fake pouf in the back. I loved it. 

Talking about The Prom is one of those things that sometimes makes me wish I had a daughter. A daughter to  tell--don't worry about this, honey. Very soon, it won't matter at  ALL, and if you go or if you don't, it'll make no difference to you in your future endeavors. 

How many prom queens are happy today? I'd love to know.

But if that's true, why do I think about it, every spring?  I think of all the girls waiting for their iphones to ring, or to get the text they KNOW will change their lives. Or gossip over lattes and decide what to wear and what to do after. Pick a dress that makes them feel like Beyonce or Xtina or, I don't know, Miley.


And  there's always the controversy: this year, in Mississippi where the Itawamba County Agricultural High School decided to cancel the prom rather than allow a girl student to bring another girl student as a date. Puh-leese. Have we not outgrown this? Who cares? Dress up. Go to the dance.  Dance. (And it's not okay for her to wear a tuxedo, long pants, shirt, jacket, tie; but it IS okay for girls to wear incredbly low-cut short-skirted trollop dresses and stiletto heels? I must be getting old.)

And now there are events called a "MORP"--prom spelled backwards--where the students take over,dress however they want, invite whoever they want, or not,  and just have their own kind of party.

It is a rite of passage, I suppose. Whatever you call it.  ( I found this lace prom dress on Google. I honestly think this is the dress I wore to high school graduation, and got sent home because it was too short. But that's another blog.)

Did you go to the prom?  What do you remember? What did you tell your daughter or son?  Guys? Did it matter to you? What do you wish someone had told you?

March 28, 2010

The Best Worst Movies

By Sarah

So, this weekend I did it. I finally bought Big Trouble in Little China. And, as I predicted, Charlie was smitten.

Big Trouble in Little China has to be the Best Worst Movie ever full of cheesy dialogue and a cliche heroBig trouble   played by Kurt Russell. When I accidentally saw it in the theater decades ago, after another movie was sold out, I left an hour in. Of course, I didn't get it then. I thought it was real when, actually, it was a clever spoof of the kung fu, John Wayne-ish action flicks so popular in the 70s. Having never seen a kung fu, John Wayne-is flick so popular in the 70s, the art was lost on me.

Supposedly, it's one of those movies that grows on you.

Like The Big Lebowski, fast becoming one of my favorite movies of all time and most oft quoted by our 14-year-old son. The first time I saw The Big Lebowski, I fell asleep. Second time, too. Maybe even the third. I love the beginning of Cohen brothers' movies - the first half hour of Raising Arizona is priceless - but I don't think I've ever lasted through one of their classics to the end.

Now, after close to ten viewings, I can recite Big Lebowski lines by heart. ("A toe? I can get you a toe.") The Lebowski  Vietnam War addled Walter with his adherence to Jewish law and eagerness to pick a fight is a fantastic character. Then there's "The Dude," amiably played by Jeff Bridges and none other. Ferrets in a bath, Philip Seymour Hoffman rubbing his hands gleefully and a bunch of erroneous bowlers. One question: just how much dope do the Cohen brothers smoke?

Love, Actually? Not one of my favorites, either. It was panned by the reviewers asLove actually   trite, manipulative (a prime minister falls in love with the household help?), and sexist (Colin Firth prefers the woman who can't talk). But that opening scene in the airport got me and now it's a Christmas gem, along with A Christmas Story, Elf and the Alistair Sims version of A Christmas Carol.

Other movies I thought were stupid - Idiocracy, which I now consider to be so prophetic, it's no longer funny. The stupidest man in the military is leaps ahead five hundred years to find every item of clothing is polyester and marked by a brand, that televisions are omnipresent and people live on trash, literally. As for literacy, forget it. Even moderately intelligent dialogue is considered "pompous and faggy." Another quoted one at the dinner table.

Bill and Ted. Forget it. Nearly threw the VCR tape across the room. But what a brilliant piece of comedy!

Spinal tap  Other movies that had to grow on me: This is Spinal Tap, The Meaning of Life (I know, a Monty Python film I didn't care for! Love it, now), Stranger than Paradise. (Set in Cleveland. "Wanna go look at the big lake?"), and, finally, despite my Jersey years, Clerks.

So, what's on your list of Best Worst Movies that, now, you wouldn't live without?


March 27, 2010

Hello, Sweetheart. Get Me Rewrite.

By Sarah

Now that I've turned in this heavy duty manuscript (which will need yet another heavy duty rewrite), I've been thinking a lot lately about my original heroine, Bubbles, and what it would take to bring her back. Bubbles  Not a day goes by where I don't get at least 10 emails either begging or threatening me (literally!) to resurrect my girl or else.

But what a different world it would be for her. And when I say "different," I mean, "boring."

Bubbles is a hairdresser in a steel town who finds she has a knack for investigative reporting when she lands a job at the local newspaper. Right here you can throw down the pencil: no steel factories around. No newspapers, either.

In Bethlehem, PA, the inspiration for Bubbles's town of Lehigh, the old plant is now a casino and the building in which my father churned out the "daily miracle" of the Globe-Times was converted to a video store. Though, now that video stores are obsolete, it's probably something else. It's like two Kevin Bacons away from modernity.

Also, Bubbles used to take rewrite and obits. This was the starting purview for many rookie reporters and I did my share for years. Funeral directors, cracking gum or smoking Marlboros, would call up after closing hours and recite the lamest life descriptions on the planet all while charging their poor grieving clients oodles of money for the privilege. I learned to go around them, straight to the family, and get a far better story - much to the chagrin of Zymanwinksi & Sons who didn't want it publicly known that, when it came to local papers, there was no mystery to publishing an obit.

Look, EVERYONE has a story, even - or, maybe, especially - the housewife who, according to the funeral director, did nothing more with her life than be a daughter, a nee, marry, raise four kids and serve as a member of the Order of the Eastern Star (surprising how many there were of those). He would have given her three paragraphs. I would give her ten, including tales of her award-winning strawberry jams and how she once saved the life of a neighbor boy by rescuing him from the creek and performing CPR.

But I digress.

The point is the days when reporters used to stand outside pay phones after the local sewage district meeting and call in stories to rewrite have disappeared. They just email the article from their laptops.Pay phone   Ditto for funeral directors. Bubbles used to have to frantically find a pay phone to call for Stiletto and, humorously - or so I deluded myself - never have quite the correct change and would have to beg the operator not to cut her off. With an iPhone in her pocket, though, no need for change. No need to deal with a cranky operator. Stiletto would be on her "favorite" list, one depression of a long pink nail away.

Consider Shutter Island - a freaking fantastic book that I've had on my shelf for ages and couldn't read because there's some kid-jep in there. But now, as a mother of teenagers, I find quite enjoyable :). One of the beauties of Lehane's story is the sense of total isolation: a hurricane hits so all communication from the island where the criminally insane live is cut off. Today, Teddy could whip out his cell and call for backup.

Or could he?

The days when Stiletto needed to get his film developed, also gone. Digital. One press of the button and it's already cropped and on the Web. Fuggedaboutit. Maybe this is why Sue Grafton keeps Kinsey Milhone in the dark ages. It was far more fun.

So, how to handle this dilemma. Should I keep Bubbles back in the 80s, early 90s or whenever that was? Or should I bring her to the modern age? And what do you miss about those days?  Jukeboxes. Record Bon jovi  stores. Busy signals?

No matter what, one truth stays constant: Jon Bon Jovi is still on tour and is hotter than evah!

Maybe, that's enough to wake up my girl.


March 26, 2010

Choose Your Superpower!

Choose Your Superpower

By Kathy Sweeney

Jitcrunch.aspxOur kids do not like to go to sleep.  They never have.  Ever.  Other families had babies on lovely schedules. Ours? Not without Robitussin, and even the most sleep-deprived parent knows better than to cultivate a junkie personality at 6 weeks.  

Kate was clever about it.  I went to sleep first. She would be charming and entertaining until Tom got tired and put her in bed (NOT exactly an early hour) and then she would shove her little legs through the slats of the crib and yell, in her most pitiful voice: "Stuck! I STUCK!"  This child talked at 6 months, and now I realize why. The first time I jumped up in a panic.  The 12th time, I knew she was playing us, and had a few choice words, including ones that would make a nice Seussian combination with stuck, before I got to her room.  It wasn't until a couple of years later, after she taught herself to read, that she went without argument and read under the covers.  

Ty, on the other hand, made a huge racket until he was old enough to get out of his crib and then he just set his own schedule.  I swear the kid was rappelling almost before he could walk.  Usually, he just came into our room and went back to sleep, but sometimes he tried to pick the locks on the gates first.  He may end up a cat burglar at some point.

Blog SP incrediblesThe latest ploy, now that they are teenagers, is to distract us with discussions when it's bed time.  Ty is particularly good about this, and starts setting the foundation early in the evening.  I now know to be wary of a random question between 7-9.  So I shouldn't have been surprised, after an odd chat about Captain America, to find him in our room 20 minutes after he was supposed to be asleep and asking:  "If you could do anything, what would it be?"  I looked at him over my glasses (I put them down my nose when I'm doing the 16x16 Sudoku so I can keep a global eye out for patterns.) "What, like a superpower?"  "Yep", he said, "if you could do whatever you wanted, what would you do?"

My instant response surprised even me: "Heal people."  "Good one! Now we need to make a kind of superhero logo for art class."  Sigh.  Even so, we ended up having a good discussion.  We talked about flying or the ability to win everything, then I realized what time it was and sent him back to bed. Foiled again.

Blog SP milkYou see where this is going - even if I didn't have insomnia, I would have spent some time thinking about this one.  Altruistic responses aside - I am happy that my subconscious came out with healing, especially because it's Lent and My Mom will know that all her praying is paying off - if I could really do anything, what would it be?  Which Superpower would be mine?  The whole flying thing is very tempting, I must say.  Winning would be cool, but if you don't have to try, would it really mean as much?  

The real truth finally came to me, and it's so simple, I can't believe it took more than 30 seconds.  Mind control.  I mean, what else do you need?  If someone is acting like a jackass, you just zap them with the MC Superpower and BLAM! They become a reasonable person.  A kid who doesn't want to go to bed?  WHOOSH! Instant sleep.  A client who won't listen to advice, does the opposite, then wants me to fix it?  ZAP! They realize I am always right and then do whatever I tell them forever after.  They also pay their bills on time and don't call me with stupid questions at 5:00 on Friday.

People like Glenn Beck?  Still bed bug crazy, but not on TV, because the first time he said something idiotic, POOF! his boss would have the instant urge to fire his riot inciting, racist, sexist ass.

War in the Middle East?  Oh, look, suddenly all the leaders of the various factions decided to get together and SHAZAM! settle things over a nice game of rock, paper, scissors, lizard, Spock.  Done.

Serial killers?  The most they get is two - after the first one, POW! the second one is themselves.  See, they get to kill again and we don't have to spend all that time and money incarcerating them.  Everybody's so much happier. 

Blog SP what's yours  Not that I have, you know, control issues or anything.  But someone else needs to choose healing - I just can't stomach other people's bodily fluids, especially if I have to touch them.  Hey, I wish it were otherwise, but when choosing a superpower, one must know one's own limitations.

So, wise men and women of TLC, choose your Superpower!

March 25, 2010

Tell Me a Good One

Tell Me a Good One

by Nancy  Go to fullsize image

I'm really bad at telling jokes.  This character flaw is a big disappointment to my husband, who loves jokes. But I  tend to forget some crucial detail or I flub the punchline. More often than not, I can't remember a good one when I need it.

Today I need a good one.  Or twenty.

I'm spending the day in the waiting room of our local hospital while my husband of 30-some years has surgery. He has never been sick--really sick, that is, and has only taken one and a half days off work for headcolds in the time I've known him. But today we're accepting the fact that he's got something bad.

He doesn't want me blogging about this, so that should be your first clue.  But since he's under anesthetic at the moment, I'll tell you this much: He has been diagnosed with one of those illnesses that guys don't want to talk about. And they certainly don't want sharp instruments in that particular region, if you get my drift.

When faced with the three options his doctors gave him, he kept waiting for the fourth, which didn't come.  And the docs were in agreement that surgery was the only real option, so Jeff finally caved.

He did not want to do this, and it wasn't just his Christian Scientist upbringing that made him resist the surgery so adamantly. He just doesn't like the idea of being sick in the first place, or going under, getting carved up and waking up to a bunch of unpleasantness ahead of him. He also hates to take time off work unless a beach is nearby.

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Surgery itself doesn't seem like a big deal to me anymore. Maybe women are more accustomed to surgical procedures and medical personnel poking around our most tender parts. In just the last four years, I've had back surgery, foot surgery, breast surgery and a countless number of examinations that involve stirrups. I won't even list the number of gynecological procedures I've had in my lifetime, or the labor and delivery stories. (Except: My second child weighed eleven pounds, two ounces, folks.  No C-section, either.) None of these medical events concerned me much. Even the back surgery recovery, which was supposed to be gruesomely awful, turned out to be pretty much a snap. Long ago, I quit filling the prescriptions for post-surgical pain meds because a.) I don't like using them and b.) Tylenol seems to work just fine and doesn't make me want to throw up and c.) I always seem to have a supply left over from the most recent procedure.

For Jeff, though, today is the first time he's had anesthesia. Ever.

You'll notice I'm ignoring the life-threatening aspects of today's surgery, not to mention the illness itself, entirely.  I'm not ready to discuss, and he--perhaps as a result of his upbringing--ain't talking much either. This coping technique works for us. But the elephant is definitely sitting here next to me as you read this. Let's just not go there, okay? Not today. I don't need to hear about your uncle or your friend who had this same experience, because . . . I just don't. Tomorrow, maybe, but not today.

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My dear husband has been at my bedside every time I woke up from an operation. He brought me snacks when the hospital food was inedible. He purchased newspapers and InStyle magazine. (Still the best mindless reading for hospitals.  It requires so few functioning brain cells. Is there a male equivalent?  One that won't insult the nursing staff, that is?) He tells me the same stories I've heard dozens of times, but it's comforting for both of us that he talks and I listen. Before he leaves the hospital, he always carefully shows me how to use the television clicker when I'm woozy.

The least I can do is get everything right the one day he's on the other side of the equation.

At home, I have a slew of diversions ready to keep his mind off the grim aspects of his recovery and the prospects of chemo or radiation down the road. I have a couple of seasons of Mad Men (which he's never seen) and various action movies, too. There's always ESPN, of course (still hockey season--yay!) and the NFL channel, which shows games that were played thirty years ago, but he's entralled. When he's ready for reading, a stack of mystery novels and thrillers on his bedside table looks like some architecture in Pisa, but if you have suggestions for more, I'm listening. My daughter sent him DVDs of TV shows he's never heard of and will probably like because they're funny.

But today I need jokes. When Jeff wakes up and needs to be distracted, I want to be able to amuse him. He loves a good joke.  He's particularly fond of puns. (I married him in spite of that weakness.) So, c'mon, dear friends. Help me out. Got a good joke?

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March 24, 2010

The Princess, the Pirate and the Postman


By Elaine Viets

Saturday, our friends Angela Napoleon and Chris Schmidt had a fairytale wedding in Florida. A real fairytale. Angela was Cinderella at Disney World in Orlando. Chris was a Disney pirate.

Because the couple had worked for the Mouse, many of the wedding party and guests were Disney princesses – hired, retired and fired. "Forever" is not a word the Mouse believes in, and wishing won’t make it so.

It was easy to spot the Disney princesses in the wedding. They all have wide eyes, good skin and high cheekbones. You expect cute animated creatures to flutter around them.

Angela is famous for her Florida Lottery commercials – so famous, the priest bragged about them at the wedding Mass. (That’s Angela in this video, looking adorably unprincesslike in pigtails and fishing gear. http://tinyurl.com/ydloct7 )

Chris plays the postman in the new movie, "Letters to God." You’ll see Chris in the first few seconds of the trailer. http://tinyurl.com/y9g5er3 The only bad thing about the movie is you can’t see how funny Chris is. WARNING: This movie is about a little boy who has cancer, so you may find the trailer upsetting.

Many of Chris and Angela’s friends are actors, so nearly everyone at the wedding looked vaguely familiar. The "Letters to God" boy’s father, his red-haired mother, and the black man in the trailer were all at the wedding.

Weddings are supposed to be joyful occasions, but outside of Disney World, that ain’t necessarily so. Some marriages are mismatches. Some are hasty. Some are so doomed, the wedding guests pray that the couple won’t kill each other before their first anniversary.

I’ve known Chris since the 1980s. When I met Angela, she seemed like the perfect woman for him. When they were engaged, we held our breath. There’s many a slip between engagement ring and wedding bells. Last Saturday night, they finally walked down the aisle.

Chris and Angela’s wedding was perfect, the kind of ceremony that makes even stony types tear up. They were married at St. Patrick’s Church in Mount Dora, an enchanted town some 40 miles from Orlando.    

Mount Dora is a laughable 184 feet high. Since Florida’s landscape is flat as a bar top, that’s tall for this state. Mount Dora has gingerbread homes, live oaks draped with Spanish moss – and tons of antique shops to trap tourists.   Downtown Mt. Dora

After the wedding, the guests sent the bride and groom and wedding party off in a cloud of bubbles. They rode the Mount Dora trolley to the reception.

The wedding feast was a sit-down dinner with steak, chicken and wine. All the customs that seem corny, unless you like the couple, followed: The bride and groom danced with each other. The bride danced with her father and the groom with his mother. The flower girl twirled on the dance floor in her ruffled dress until her mother took her home to bed early. Chris and Angela cut a wedding cake topped with Mickey and Minnie.   Wedding reception    

Nearly every table had its own real, live dazzling Disney princess. Our particular princess was a luminous creature who had magical powers: she wore a scarf wrapped in a chic, tricky style. I’ve tried that and look like I have a bad sore throat.

At the head table, surrounded by family and friends, Cinderella looked happy with her pirate/postman.

If fairytales do come true, I think the real Cinderella should have married the pirate instead of the prince. Today’s princes have an ugly, inborn sense of entitlement. And talk about mother-in-law problems. How would you like to deal with your mother-in-law, the queen? As for smiling through those endless banquets and receptions, I’d rather scrub floors.

A pirate, on the other hand, works for his loot. He risks his life. He has no mother to speak of. He earns what he makes. While a pirate may not come by all his treasure honestly, he does have some decency.

At least he isn’t a stockbroker.

March 23, 2010

Sandra Bullock, it's Time You and I had a Heart to Heart

By Sarah

Was it just me, or was there a collective sigh of a thousand women fed up with immature men when it was revealed that Sandra Bullock, days after winning her first Oscar, had to skip out of the London Sandra  premier of The Blind Side because her scum dog millionaire husband was sleeping with a skank ho.

There are so many lessons from this cautionary tale that Sandy needs to be at our virtual kitchen table with a cup of coffee to dish. Because I think only she can explain this.

At a first glance, it was wrong from the beginning when she agreed to marry this so-called "Jesse James" after meeting on the set of Monster Garage. Already married twice, lastly to a "porn star," James was an odd choice for a husband. Plus...Monster Garage??? 

Bullock is fluent in German and grew up with opera. James attracts lawsuits like sopranos bust buttons. She's funny, smart, ambitious and moral. He's...heavily tattooed. His ex wife has been in jail and lost custody of their child to James and Bullock, who has no children of her own. Sandy runs her own production company! James runs out on his own TV show.

In short, out of all the men in America - smart, loving, handsome, enjoyable, uhm, literate - why chooseJames   this guy? Knocking head against wall here.

Then, of course, there's the larger picture. Is Sandra Bullock's love story, or lack thereof, the romantic microcosm for many successful women? My daughter, 19, thinks so. Smart girls dumb down, is the lesson she's taking away from this, having seen her smart friends do the same. 

Or, the corollary, spend too much time working, working, working on building your career and - boom! - you'll end up in your forties scraping the bottom of the barrel for the James's of the world. It's frightening for young women to feel as it this is what'll happen if they don't snatch a husband before the good ones are gone.

Once they do snatch the husband, other issues arise. We old hags know this all too well. Like who does the laundry and who pays the bills and burps the baby and what about that career when you're popping out a family? But I digress.

Back to the matter at hand. I posit that the fault, gasp, lies not with Bullock, but with James. And I wonder if this is a disturbing trend. At a time in our post industrialized world where 1/3 of women in America out earn their male partners (and that despite the existing sexist wage imbalance), can we look forward to more guys sneaking off and sleeping with stripper tattoo artists? If James had conducted an affair with a librarian or CEO of a Fortune 500 company, might we feel different? It's the swamp dwelling nature of his act that so reviles us, no?

It was a definite F.U. to Bullock, especially since his affair began, allegedly, when she started work on the film that would win her an Oscar. Yeah, yeah, yeah. I know every marriage is different and we on the outside can't possibly judge but...come on!

James and sandy  And the sight of them together at the Academy Awards. Breaks your heart, doesn't it? Success comes at last, but not without a price. Certainly, that must have been at least part of the message James was sending.

In my opinion, there's only one solution for couples where both people work and one earns more than the other and that is the very important lesson that money doesn't equate value. A school teacher, a social worker helping troubled kids in the inner city, an aid worker in Haiti, each barely earns the equivalent of what a dimwitted outfielder might bring home after an afternoon in Yankee stadium. And, yet, who's saving the world?

Help me out here. Am I reading too much into this? Or...too little.


March 22, 2010

Ms. Grumpy

Ms. Grumpy

by Harley

I had a grumpy week.

Grumpiness: it doesn’t rise to the level of Outrage, which leads to Revolution, and it doesn’t sink to Despair, which leads to the writing of redemptive novels (or blogs). Grumpy is the shlubby cousin of true emotion, wearing a once-favorite shirt now stained with salad dressing. Grumpy is not a descent into the Heart of Darkness, a Long Day’s Journey into Night, it’s a stay at Motel 6, lit by low-watt desk lamps.

Grumpy is not cancer; it’s a cold sore. Not a plane crash, but a middle seat between people who have a spotty relationship with personal hygiene. Not hell, just a hot flash.

Here are the highlights of my week in Grumpyville:

DSCN0053   · Tuesday, four a.m., a 4.4 earthquake. The only reason I woke up (4.4 is very mild) is that if you’ve lived through a real earthquake, your body remembers and quivers every time a garbage truck rumbles by. Unfortunately, my dog Jinn also woke up. And threw up. Loudly.

· A bird in the house. The temperature hit 90 degrees and I left the doors opened.  Ducks in the pool, fine—but birds in the house fly into windows and freak out the dogs. If anyone knows an effective Bird Eviction technique, please share.

· The Chirp of Doom. The sound produced by a smoke alarm with a dying battery. The Chirp of Doom happens (by law) in the middle of the night, and if not dealt with in a timely manner, will grow into the Screech of Madness, which requires evacuation and/or a shotgun. Jinn, convinced the End was Near, decided her best chance of survival was to burrow into my hair and whine. I contemplated dragging an extension ladder from the backyard into the house and climbing sixteen feet to dismantle the smoke alarm, but ended up under the covers with Jinn.

· GEP ATL. This is some company or other that my tax person tells me I need a W-2 from.  I can’t figure out who they are, what they do, or why they paid me money. One of life’s mysteries that the IRS will execute me for leaving unsolved. I did try Google. The closest I came was a non-available phone number and a business classification of “Unclassified.”

· Half-days of school, due to parent-teacher conferences. I love my kids. But I need to shower occasionally. And clean the kitchen. And write novels. And even though these were half days, I still had to pack lunches.

· Diary of a Wimpy Kid, the movie. In my zeal to fill those half-days (see above) I took my kids to this. Within ten minutes I wanted to ditch the movie in favor of the book in my purse—BLACKWATER: The Rise of the World’s Most Powerful Mercenary Army--which had far more charm.

· Bird #2 loose in house.DSCN0110

· Disneyland. An occupational hazard of parenting in Southern California and the reason that at least 3 friends remain childless. A 12-hour expedition, including traffic. Was it crowded? To quote the parking attendant, “I won’t sugarcoat it.” (Aren’t they trained to sugarcoat it?)

But wait! Against all odds, Disneyland seduced me. The crowds were beautiful, multi-cultural, poly-lingual. The children—everyone’s—were delightful. Their parents visibly adored them. The weather was perfection. The lines moved at a good clip. Employees smiled. Flowers bloomed. Lovers smooched. Fireworks boomed. A crescent moon beamed. Stars got wished upon. It felt like—seriously—The Happiest Place On Earth. It’s never happened to me before and it may not happen again, but it happened this weekend.

Now spring has sprung, and I’ve cheered up, but for future reference I’d like to know what gets you grumpy and more importantly, what gets you through it.

The formerly grumpy,