Friday, December 25, 2009

Merry Christmas!! And Our Christmas Eve Party Crasher

Merry Christmas everyone! I hope you all have a healthy, happy holiday.

I just had to share this though.

Last night everything was going smoothly. It was so pleasant that I swear, it was almost boring. We were putting the finishing touches on our meal when my parents' housekeeper came and told me in Spanish that Canela (my cat) was at the front door and to please come, it was an emergency.

Obviously it would be an emergency if Canela was at the front door because I thought I had left Canela at home, safely in my apartment. There was pretty much no way short of teleportation that Canela could have been at my parents' house, so I went to see what was going on.

Sure enough there was a tabby cat at the front door meowing raucously to come in as if it lived there and how dare we shut it out. It definitely was not Canela though. It had a ridiculously long tail and Canela has a very short tail, which she is sensitive about so I'd rather not write any more about it publicly.

I opened the door and the long-tailed tabby tried to head butt his way inside. As soon as I got outside it started bunting at my legs and meowing and rubbing itself obscenely all over me. We got it some water and cheese, played with it for a little bit, because it was ridiculously friendly, and then went back inside. I am pretty sure this was someone's cat because it was a neutered male, nicely groomed and just too friendly to be wild, unless someone abandoned it. I don't know. This was one outgoing cat. I told it to go home and it strolled out of the driveway.

Then I went back in the kitchen and resumed dinner preparations. By this time we had about twenty or so people over. It was a muggy night and we had the back door open to let some air in. Some people were out in the backyard and at this time of year it's just nice to keep the doors and windows open down here.

About fifteen minutes later there was a ruckus the likes of which could have awakened the dead. Guests were running and screaming. The dogs were going completely ape you know what (I'm still not cussing), barking, howling and growling. There was hissing and screeching. I heard things fallings and people scrambling. It was basically mass hysteria.

It turns out that the pushy cat had gone around to the backyard and just sauntered right on inside the house through the open back door, not anticipating dogs. It probably wanted more cheese or just to hang out and be a part of the family. Well, no one really noticed it, except the dogs and the dogs went after the cat. The cat fought back and tried to scratch one of the dogs and the bigger dog tried to bite the cat, but the cat jumped on top of the couch, all arched and fuzzed out like a bottle brush, hissing. This whole event frightened several guests and the dogs tried to jump on the couch to get the cat, who then decided to open up a Costco-sized can of whoopass on them. By then my mom, who is so good with pets, managed to corral the dogs, get them out of the room and then set to work calming the cat so we could collect it and get it back outside. Then we discovered that in terror, the poor cat had peed itself, so we had to wipe up the cat. We gave it a thorough inspection to make sure it wasn't hurt (it was fine, just nervous) and once we had it calm and purring, we put it back outside where it took off running down the street, never to be seen again. I really don't think this cat will be back anytime soon. I also think it learned its lesson about not inviting itself into the homes of strangers.

But my goodness, that certainly added some excitement to our Christmas Eve.
Thursday, December 24, 2009

Christmas Eve

It's Christmas Eve! I've always liked Christmas Eve more than Christmas Day. When I was little it always seemed more rowdy. I love that sense of anticipation and excitement for the next day. On actual Christmas that's kind of gone. The day always seems more solemn.

In my family, even though we aren't actual Italians (that we know of) we do the Feast of the Seven Fishes. We have an enormous Italian meal with all kinds of seafood and pasta, baked fish and on lucky years, lobster. It's probably better than what we have for Christmas dinner. Then we gorge on cookies and fizzy cocktails and talk about how we want to go to Midnight Mass, but we never make it because someone gets drunk, someone else gets tired or we just stay up too late talking and forget what time it is. It's a lot of fun. I love it.

I have great childhood memories of Christmas Eve as well. My grandparents used to have what they called "Open House" where all their friends would come over for drinks and snacks. My grandmother made big platters of rolled up deli meats and cheeses, which she'd serve with potato rolls and chips and dips. Christmas Eve was the only night when we had ginger ale, so it was very special. Often, we'd have punch with lime sherbet floating in it. I loved this too. Then, we'd go to a candlelight service at church and then drive around town looking at Christmas lights and the nativity scenes in front of all the churches in town. The Episcopal church had the best one.

Then one year, a man no one knew, who lived on a lone country road in a big farmhouse, bought an animatronic nativity scene from a mall that had closed down and put it in his front yard! I had never seen something so beautiful in my entire life and it caused a huge sensation in Millpond. The figures were life sized and wore real cloth outfits. The animals had actual fur! They blinked their eyes and turned their heads. Really, words just can't describe this nativity scene. It was so lavishly over the top and it was in our little town. Most of the churches just had two dimensional wood cut-outs for their creches. When this man put out his nativity scene, people from three counties started driving to see it and the cars would line up down the country road to crawl past it and marvel at its beauty. I remember wanting to just stop and stand and stare at it. Last year, when I was home for Christmas I went past to see if he still did it, but I couldn't find it. I wonder what ever happened to it. Wherever that man is and whatever happened to that nativity scene, I would just like him to know how much joy it brought not just me, but our whole little town. We felt so special having something like that in Millpond. I have searched the web over and over to find a picture of it or one like it, but to no avail. If my memory serves me correctly, the nativity had originally come from a JC Penney window display.

I've always thought nativities were so beautiful. In Millpond and surrounding areas, every church had one in the churchyard, but every church up there also has a graveyard too. It's not like that in Florida at all and I miss it. There is only one church that I've found down here that has a real nativity scene. It's a Catholic church and they don't put Baby Jesus in the manger until tomorrow morning. That always cracked me up for some reason.

Right now as I write, I hear church bells ringing. It's cloudy outside. It feels like Christmas; not like in Millpond where they're having one hell of a white Christmas this year, but Christmas-y still.

I just wanted to share some of my favorite Christmas memories with you as you are all, hopefully, making your own tonight, and of course, if you don't celebrate Christmas, I hope you have a lovely evening still.
Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Nasty Assed Recipes - Christmas Candy

I have been dealing with several disasters, namely my fridge dying over the weekend and trying to get a new one, and coming down with a bad cold. I just wanted to make a nice pan of fudge. Just a nice, smooth, velvety, dark chocolate cube of comfort with maybe some toasted walnuts. I couldn't find my fudge recipe so I went online to look for popular recipes and what do I find but this atrocity. Velveeta cheese fudge. God help us all. I hear Paula Deen has really popularized this nasty-assed mess and for that, I despise her even more. She and Sandra Lee are the queens of Nasty-Assed recipe land. Behold. I do not make this up.

1 lb. butter
1 lb. Velveeta cheese
4 lbs. confectioners' sugar
1 c. cocoa
2 1/2 c. chopped walnuts or your desire
1 tbsp. vanilla
In top of double boiler, melt butter and Velveeta cheese. They do not mix well, so be sure and stir well. While cheese and butter are melting, in large mixing bowl combine confectioners' sugar and sift in cocoa and mix well. Add nuts and mix well. When cheese and butter are melted, add vanilla. Mix real well and add immediately to sugar, cocoa and nuts. Mix well. Pour into chilled buttered 9"x13" oblong pan, spread evenly and chill until cool. Cut and serve.

Yeah, don't forget to include "Your Desire" when you make this. No recipe is complete without a nice heaping spoonful of raw, unchecked desire. Desperation is often pretty tasty too.
Friday, December 18, 2009

Wide Lawns on Twitter

Ok, so I have signed up for Twitter now and my name or whatever you call it on there is: widelawns. I am still trying to figure it all out and I have it on my phone now and it appears to be working. If I can figure out how to link to my Twitter I will, but be patient because technologically I am stuck in 1994. If we could have all stuck with AOL on dial-up, I'd be ok.

Nasty Assed Recipes - Wedding Edition

I just had this brilliant idea that I would make breakfast for everyone tomorrow morning so we wouldn't have chaos trying to figure out what to eat, or a bunch of hungry people who want to stab each other. My ex-fiance had a mother who was certifiably psychotic but the woman could look like nothing else and she made this wonderful breakfast casserole thing that was so easy, in one dish and nicely fed a large group of people quickly. I want to make it but didn't have the recipe, so I started looking and God help me, I found something that made me literally cringe when I read it. I found a recipe as wrong as the nacho dip with Cool Whip in it. A Chipped Beef Casserole. My grandfathers, when they were alive, both adored cream chipped beef on toast. Maybe this was because they were both children of the Depression and also military men. One of them was a POW in a hole in the ground in Korea with nothing to eat but powdered milk and rice for six months. Because of that experience, there was nothing the man wouldn't eat, including creamed chipped beef on toast. Compared to half a year on powdered milk and rice, I'd probably think it was pretty tasty as well. But this recipe, I'm not sure even he would have eaten.
1/4 lb. cut up chipped beef
1 c. uncooked elbow macaroni
2 hard cooked eggs, diced
1 can condensed mushroom soup
1 c. milk
1/2 lb. (2 c.) grated cheddar cheese
2 tbsp. grated onion
Mix all ingredients. Pour into greased 1 1/2 to 2-quart casserole. Cover and refrigerate overnight. Bake uncovered at 350 degrees for 30 minutes or until bubbly hot. Serves 4-6.

Comment: Easy to prepare and generally liked. Good.

Clearly, the best part of this recipe is the comment at the end. "Generally Liked." Mmm Hmm. Ok. Sure. I think the recipe would be "Universally Liked" if you switch out that fancy grated cheddar and replace it with some real man's cheese - Velveeta and then top the whole ordeal with some crushed potato chips. Sour cream and onion. Needless to say, we will not be having this as our pre-wedding breakfast tomorrow.

At Least I Didn't Get Money Nails

I'm afraid my mother is going to have a heart attack. If you've been watching the weather channel, you'll know that we're having severe weather down here. There are flash floods and it hasn't stopped pouring since lunchtime yesterday. We even have a tornado warning right now until one. It is a mess. It's the perfect day to stay inside and drink hot chocolate, but we have the wedding rehearsal, so that's not an option. I also have to pack because I am staying at my parents' with my sister tonight and I have to transport my uncomfortably snug dress in the rain. I kept feeling like I was forgetting something and then I realized, yes, yes I had forgotten something and that was the speech and toast I'm supposed to give. I'm going with this excuse - everyone wants to drink and no one wants to hear me yammer on, so I'm keeping it short. I've done some of my best work at the last minute. That's pretty much how I got through years of schooling anyway.

Yesterday we went to Nail By Asian Movie Star to get our manicures and pedicures and they were so excited about our special occasion that they really wanted to bling out our nails, although that isn't our style. My sister refused. I told them they could make one flower on my ring finger and that's it. Well, this was ignored and before I knew it my ring finger looked like it was going to get a blonde weave, wear blue contacts and ditch the bridesmaid's gown for a set of pasties and some booty shorts. At one point, it asked me to get it a 40 of Old E. I showed it to my darling and very diplomatic cousin Miriam who said that "it's really not your style I think." I asked them to please tone it down. One flower only. They just couldn't resist. They added some dots and then, horror of horrors, they put a tiny diamond in the center of the flower. The Asian Movie Star girls were so excited that I just let them. It was better than the first attempt and they thought it was so beautiful that I didn't want to hurt their feelings and be a pain and make them remove it. It is better, as I said. Now my ring finger just looks like it hangs out in the Super Wal-Mart parking lot for fun and eats bags of Krystal burgers in the car. I can promise you that my cousins in Millpond would think my nails were the most beautiful and wedding appropriate thing they had ever seen.

Last night a friend of mine, who is beautiful and perfect (one of those girls who never eats or poops) came over and I showed it to her.

"Oh my," she said, "And are you wearing a grill for the wedding too?"

"Girl please," I said, "Of course I am."

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Twitter Verdict

OK, at least by commenters, it's official. I am going to start my 30 day trial period of Twitter. Here's the deal though. I am signing up because I can post from my phone, but when I went to download the app that I assumed existed, there was no Twitter app. I thought it was like Facebook for the iPhone. Apparently it is not. Looks like there are several apps which one can use to Twitter. So, I am asking you all, which ones are the best? Which are easiest? Which are real and which are scams? And how do I put the little Twitter widgety thingy on the blog so non-Twitterers can see the posts? Dammit. I am NOT SAYING TWEET. I will not do it.

Twitter or Not?

Ok, so I have about all of three minutes to write this because I have to shave my legs because I am getting a pedicure and don't want the nail technicians laughing at me in Vietnamese for having legs like a saguaro.

I've been toying with this idea for several months now. I think I want to try Twitter for a one month trial period to see if I like it. There are several reasons why, in spite of the fact that all the constant talk about Twitter on TV and the radio annoys the pants off of me.

Here are my reasons in order of importance:

1. To improve my writing. Last year I took a workshop where we had to write micro-nonfiction pieces and I realized that I have a serious issue with overwriting everything, including too much detail and rambling off on tangents. To be a better writer I need to get more concise. I found the limits in the workshop a wonderful challenge and I wrote one of my best stories ever in under 450 words. I think Twitter would serve as a writing exercise and help force me to keep it simple.

2. Sometimes ridiculous moments occur during my days that would make such great two liners, but I can't work them into a whole coherent story, but I want to share them anyway.

3. Sometimes if I don't write these things down immediately, I forget them. I have notes on my phone and scraps of paper all over the place and then I lose them. Twitter on the phone could serve as a repository for all of my little image and moment collections.

4. I would post more because of the economy of time and space and lack of needing a computer.

5. Creative NonFiction has a daily Twitter contest and I want to win it.

6. I can kind of "live-post" certain events as they happen in short quips rather than having to wait for the whole big story to end. For instance, my sister's wedding would be more interesting done in Twitter posts, I think, than a whole blog story.

7. I refuse to say "Tweet" and I refuse to become as annoying as Rick Sanchez on CNN every afternoon obsessing about his stupid "tweets." I will not do it.

8. I only want to do it for 30 days to see if I like it or if I have improved my writing. If not, I'll delete the whole thing.

9. I will not abandon my blog in favor of Twitter. That isn't a reason though.

Still, I have reservations and I feel cheezy. Is it cheezy? I can't decide. After all, it's only 30 days. So I ask your opinion. Yes or No? Should I do it, or is it a stupid idea?

(Also, I'm done with school now FINALLY, so I will be writing on here much more because I have really missed you.)

I'm going to shave my legs now and get acupuncture and nails done. After that, I'll come back, check the comments and make my final decision at that time.
Wednesday, December 16, 2009


Ok, I just wanted to let you know that no one has yet been murdered because of this wedding. Yet.

If you see on the national news in the next few days something about a family massacre at a wedding in South Florida, well then you'll know it was us. And lest someone take me literally and call the police, which would be all I'd need about now, I am kidding. And because this is South Florida and family massacres are an unfortunate, regular occurrence around here, I guarantee you that one will happen this weekend and someone will swear it was me. It will not be. I am joking.

Here's some advice - don't get married at Christmas at home with only two months to plan. Please don't do this. For my sake. Don't do this and thank God I only have one sister so we won't have to go through this again.

Additionally, I have to walk down a long marble staircase wearing heels and carrying a bouquet as part of the processional. I have imagined every detail of the scenario in which I fall and roll the rest of the way down. I even have it planned out that I'll take the video of it and send it to America's Funniest Home Videos (please tell me it's still on) and win the grand prize $25,000. I will win that prize. I may even put the video on Youtube and go viral because I can not look at that staircase without seeing the image of me tumbling to the bottom of it, pieces of hair, ripped blue satin and torn flower petals tumbling with me and crushed under my weight.

Please tell me it is going to be ok.
Thursday, December 10, 2009

Just Peeking In From Final's Week


It's finals week. I don't like it. It's also the holidays and my sister is getting married this week. I have also been getting terrible service everywhere I go. South Florida just doesn't have much Christmas spirit. Maybe that's due to the record heat.

I need like three or four personal assistants.

Here are some brief vignettes from my past week:

Husband and I went to a restaurant that is a personal favorite of ours. We don't get to spend much time together, so it was a big deal to get to have a date alone with him. When we got to the restaurant we ordered and got our food and then discovered and I kid you not, that the restaurant was out of forks. And they didn't tell us this when we ordered. There were no forks period. Husband had to run across the road to a Taco Bell to get some sporks. No one apologized. In the restaurant's defense, I wrote them a letter when we got home and they are sending me some gift cards, but seriously, how on earth does a restaurant not have forks?

Then we went to get a Christmas tree. We've never had one before and part of my birthday gift was that this year we would finally have one. I was enormously excited. I love the whole idea of bringing a live tree inside and hanging stuff on it. So we get to the Christmas tree lot and there's fake snow and carols playing and a gigantic man comes running after us with a chainsaw screaming. It was like "The Nightmare Before Christmas."

"WE CLOSE!! WE CLOSE!!" the man with the chainsaw yelled.

"What time do you close?" Husband asked.


It was 8:45.

Husband went into the store that was in charge of the Christmas tree lot and got a manager who looked like a Mormon school principal from Utah. The manager was livid that the Christmas tree cutters were slacking and he marched outside and made them give us a tree and the whole time you could tell that they were secretly hoping our tree contained a nest of rattlesnakes that would wake up, slither out and kill us when we got it home. It wasn't the cheeriest Christmas tree shopping experience. It definitely wasn't what I had imagined for our first time choosing a tree, but the tree is very pretty, even if I only have seven ornaments, none of which match. It's a little on the Charlie Brown side, but it's ours and I think it's beautiful.

Then I had to go get my bridesmaids dress shortened. I went to the same place I always go to for alterations, but I hadn't been in a while. My normal tailor was an old Indian man whose claim to fame was that once, back in the 70s, the Osmonds had been in town and had needed alterations to their costumes and he had been the one to do it. He had signed pictures of the Osmonds all over the shop. Every time I went in, he'd tell me about the time he sewed costumes for the Osmonds.

This time, the Osmonds' favorite tailor was gone, replaced by his mean nephew. The mean nephew had the most elaborate bouffant hairstyle. It must take him hours each morning, and he was wearing pleated slacks, a silk shirt and far too much cologne. He explained that his uncle had retired and that he was taking over the shop. He was extremely surly and he had his son in the backroom at a desk. Every few minutes, he'd look over at the kid and yell at him:


In addition to my dress for the wedding, I also took in some pants that are too long and a dress that needs taking out in the waist and he proceeded to tell me that I wanted my pants too short and that my dress was cheap. Then, as I stood on a block while he pinned up the hem of my bridesmaid's dress he told me I had a gut. Really, the man is lucky that I didn't kick him right in the head. He wasn't in a good position to be saying things like that to a woman in high heels.

After that he told me that I have no shape and the bridesmaids dress is flattering because it gives me a shape. I wanted to put pins in his eyeballs. The Osmonds would never have put up with something like that. I'm finding a new tailor the next time I need something sewn, which is likely to be in several years.

That's about it. I have a hundred papers to grade. Literally. I am just exhausted. I need some Christmas cheer.
Tuesday, December 01, 2009

Someone Was on Drugs When They Came Up With This

There is simply no other reasonable explanation. I remember back in high school when I was friends with a bunch of kids who had dropped out of school and well, life in general and all they did was smoke pot all day long. Mostly they never went anywhere except to see the Grateful Dead if they were in town or to a drum circle. They just got high all the time. Once they got high they'd want something to eat naturally, so they'd concoct weird dishes from the stuff in their moms' refrigerators. Then they'd crack up at their inventiveness and resourcefulness and spend the next several days talking about the things they ate when they were stoned and about how stoned they actually were. That is the only feasible excuse for this recipe.

1 lb. Velveeta cheese
2 cans chili - no beans
1 med. can ranch style beans
1 can Ro-Tel tomatoes
1 sm. Cool Whip
1 bag tortilla chips
Melt cheese and add the next 3 ingredients. Heat until real hot. Add Cool Whip; melt. Add chips.

I need someone to help me with this. How is this a taco and who the hell thought to stir Cool Whip into beans, Velveeta and tomatoes?? And why??? WHY??? Also, don't forget to heat until REAL hot. You don't want it to be fake hot. REAL hot. OK? That step is very important. Cool Whip and Cheese needs to be REAL hot.

I'm Not Bakin' These Friggin' Cookies

Again, does not disappoint. Last night I got it in my head that I wanted to make these no-bake cookies that Aunt Janey used to give out every Christmas. I couldn't just call Aunt Janey and ask for the recipe seeing as that she lives on an Elk Ranch in Colorado in the literal middle of nowhere and does not have electicity. I kid you not. She has an outhouse. To communicate one must post an actual letter on a piece of paper, wait for it to get there, wait for her to drive forty miles to the post office to get it, wait for her to get back and reply, wait for her to drive forty miles back to the post office to send the reply and then wait for it to arrive. This could take months. I want cookies now. I took to the Internet. The cookies, which I finally found a similar recipe for, are cooked on the stove and then mixed with oatmeal or corn flakes. They involve Pet milk, Karo, cocoa and peanut butter. They sound a bit trailer park, but they kick ass and they are gluten free if made with the right cereal and oatmeal. I need to have them. I'm getting a salty/ sweet craving that could cause me to hurt someone if I don't get these cookies. While searching for the recipe last night, I found many, many a concoction fit the for Nasty Assed Recipe box. But this one was the best, not for its ingredients (which will make a rock hard cookie, so don't even attempt this recipe no matter how good it sounds) but for the spelling. I couldn't not share this.

1 (12 oz.) chocolate or butterscotch morsels
1 c. peanut butter
5 c. corn flakes
Melt morsels and peanut butter over low heat. Stir in corn flakes; mix until flakes are well coated. Drop by rounded serving spoons onto a buttered cookie sheet. Place in refrigerator until solid.

Oh and just wait. There is more to come. We might have to set up a Nasty Assed Christmas Cookie Recipe Exchange.

Here Comes Saba Claus

Thanksgiving this year was pleasant and heavily decorated. Pretzel salad made an appearance but hardly anyone dared to eat it. My mom made some people try it, but you could tell they were being polite and disguising their horror. We didn't have as big a crowd as previous years, though many people came in and out throughout the night and several neighbors popped by for dessert and coffee. Nothing untoward happened and the evening felt festive because Christmas exploded on my parents' house. Because of my sister's wedding in two weeks, my mother has decorated the house like never before. It's as if she's trying to break a world record for most decorations in one place. I remember seeing portraits of Queen Elizabeth I where she was so decked out, bedazzled and stuffed into elaborate costuming with jewels, ropes of pearls, high collars, crowns and vests and laced bodices that she no longer looked like a human being under it all. When I first stepped into my parents' house last week, seeing it decorated that way for the first time, I thought of Queen Elizabeth I. That's how the house looks and you know what, I like it. I should take some pictures of it.

So no one acted up. Nothing ridiculous happened. All was well and it was a nice holiday although I now need carbohydrate detox in order to fit into my bridesmaid's dress. I was alarmed at its sudden snugness.

My old world, Jewish grandparents Saba and Savta (grandma and grandpa in Hebrew) came and I hadn't seen them in a while. A lot has been going on with them lately and I believe my grandfather is up to no good here, but more on that in a minute. It was good to catch up with them.

Recently my extremely religious grandfather retired his post as Cantor of the Basura Bat Yam Synagogue. He is in his 80s and was still working over 40 hours a week. He loves to work. The man worked through stomach cancer a few years ago. Now, although he is very old and just had half of his head gouged out from skin cancer, he still wishes to be active. It amazes me how much energy my grandparents have at their age. Compare them to my grandparents in Millpond, who were a couple years younger, and it's really shocking. Up until my other grandfather died in June of 2008, those grandparents had basically spent the past decade in easy chairs watching TV from All My Children to Jeopardy, with the occasional, twice yearly trip to Red Lobster. Saba and Savta are the total opposite of that and are older! Every summer they tour Europe and then go to Israel where they spend two months there visiting relatives.

Since retirement, it's been almost impossible to track down Saba and Savta. I've wanted to go visit them a couple time in the past month but every time I try, they're suddenly out of town. Where were they going, I thought.

"Kentucky," my dad said.

"Kentucky??" I replied.

The next time they were in the Ozarks. Why?

Then all of a sudden my ancient, Orthodox grandparents were on a cruise to the Bahamas. After that, they went on another cruise. Something was up.

"You've been traveling a lot," I mentioned to my grandfather.

Then the story came out.

Last summer a time share company contacted my grandparents. This is a common scam. They offer you a free weekend somewhere and then force you to spend most of it touring timeshares and sitting in on an endless presentation. Afterward, sales people torment you endlessly with hard sell tactics designed to break your spirit and make you buy a timeshare.

But my grandfather is on to them and wants to beat them at their own game. He accepted the first trip and told them he was definitely going to buy a timeshare if only he could find the right location. He wanted to try out some other spots. They sent him on more trips. Then, all of the competing time share companies somehow caught wind of this and also began courting him. Now, every time he gets an offer to go check out some new timeshare, he accepts the free trip, sits through the presentation, which he says is relaxing because he just naps through the whole thing and then tells them he's definitely buying a timeshare somewhere at some point but just can't decide. This must drive the salesmen out of their minds.

"They are thinking they will break me," Saba explained to me on Thanksgiving, "I am not broken."

My grandparents actually had to leave early that evening because they had an early morning flight to New Orleans, where, you guessed it, they are looking at more timeshares that they aren't going to buy. The whole thing seems to have turned into a matter of great pride for my grandfather. He feels he is beating them at their own game, perhaps.

But the timeshare trips aren't the only unusual thing going on with my grandfather.

Not having seen my grandfather for some time due to his excessive travel schedule, I was surprised to see that he had grown an unusually long and bushy white beard. This is not like him. He's always had a beard, but it's always been very tailored and clipped quite short. This new beard is out of control and very suspicious. He also seems to have put on a few pounds and he's normally very slim and small. In addition, with all this new free time he has, he has been missing most afternoons for the and evenings for the past two weeks. On numerous occasions we've tried to call (when we knew they were in town and not off exploring timeshare options) and have found my grandmother at home alone and weirdly evasive.

"Where is Saba?" we ask.

"Oh you know," she will say.

"What is he doing?"

"You know, he is just out doing things," she replies.

Then she admitted that Saba was at the mall. Several times, Saba was at the mall. This is very out of character, as Saba is not a big shopper. He might go to the mall, begrudgingly, once a year if he has to and it's always with Savta. Now he's been at the mall by himself more than once in one week. I mean, he could be taking advantage of some of the holiday savings. He could be Hanukkah shopping. Maybe he's joined one of those mall walking fitness programs for the elderly.

My cousin said it first, and this is particularly notable because my cousin is also devoutly Jewish and also Orthodox, or Conservadox or whatever they're calling it these days.

"Dude," said my cousin, "Saba looks like Santa Claus."

"I mean, I wasn't going to say it, but I thought the same thing," I said.

I decided to confront my grandfather.

"Saba," I asked, "Are you playing Santa Claus at the mall now that you've retired?"

My grandfather looked shocked that I would ask such a thing. Then he laughed wildly and walked off to the bar where he poured himself a shot of this horrible, black Czech liqueur that only he enjoys. I'm serious. This stuff makes Jagermeister look like watery Kool-Aid.

But he didn't deny it!

I can't express what a scandal this would be both within the family and within the strict, gossipy community of petty, nosy old Jewish people that my grandparents are a part of. They live in one of those housing developments for people over 60 that are so common in South Florida. Remember Del Boca Vista on "Seinfield"? That's where my grandparents live, except it's Orthodox and all anyone there does is spy on their neighbors to see if they're breaking some obscure rule in the Talmud and then if they are it's a major scandal and gives the old people something to bitch and moan over for several months.

You have to understand how religious my grandparents are. My grandfather was Jewish clergy for Heaven's sakes. My grandmother has never worn a pair of pants in her entire life. They've never flipped a light switch on the sabbath or eaten non-kosher foods. They don't drive on Saturdays. Before Passover they make a bonfire out of bread in the backyard and when their oldest son married a shiksa with a shiksa kid, their devastation knew no bounds. Christmas is anathema to these people. Even acknowledging its existence seems dirty and wrong to them. I think when they look at a Christmas tree, they need Visine. Once, my grandmother admitted in a muted whisper that she found Christmas trees pretty and I guarantee she went home and flogged herself over it.

So given all this, my grandfather secretly working as the mall Santa Claus would be just as shocking as my grandmother wearing fishnets and a leather mini and strutting her stuff through the streets of Millenium Bay for the 90 year olds on rickety golf carts. If anyone found out, they'd be run out of the neighborhood. The Life Alert circuits would be jammed from all of the octogenarians in their complex having chest pains upon hearing the news.

Still, I think this may be what is going on. I think my grandfather is the Jewish Mall Santa Claus.

Perhaps if they offered him a timeshare at the North Pole...
Thursday, November 26, 2009

Happy Thanksgiving!

Happy Thanksgiving everyone! I just wanted you all to know how thankful I am for all of you. Thank you for reading my stories. Thank you for your encouraging comments and your inspiring emails. Thank you for sharing your own stories and thank you for being polite, funny and compassionate and for understanding when I can't write as often as I used to being that I have about 15 jobs at the moment. Don't worry - that only lasts for two more weeks and then, after my sister's wedding, I'll write up a storm.

May you and your families have fantastic holidays. Enjoy your meals, your football, your kids, animals and crazy relatives. Good health, good energy, creativity and good laughs to you all. May none of you have to eat something like this:
2 lbs. hamburger
1 med. bag Dorito chips
1/2 lb. Velveeta cheese
2 cans cream of celery soup
1 can Rotel tomatoes
Brown hamburger meat and drain. In large casserole dish layer all ingredients. Bake at 350 degrees for about 25 minutes or long enough for cheese to melt and warm thoroughly.
Tuesday, November 24, 2009

A Thanksgiving Miracle

No, it's not that my family has suddenly decided to give up casseroles. Don't worry, there will be pretzel salad on our holiday buffet. But I have experienced what is to me at least, a Thanksgiving miracle. It is a small miracle and a deeply personal one, but a miracle nonetheless, and I wanted to share it.

This year my four year wedding anniversary is on Thanksgiving Day. Each year on our anniversary, Husband and I reflect on our wedding day and remember all of the lovely little moments that combined to make it a perfect celebration of love. One of my favorite parts of our wedding day was when we were all getting ready. I was all dressed in the hotel room we were using to get the girls all done up. I had just put the finishing touches on my outfit and makeup and we were about to pin on my veil when a knock came at the door. My husband sent his friend to deliver a present to me with a note. Honestly, the note would have been enough, but with the note there was a bag and inside the bag was the most beautiful necklace I had ever seen and it matched my dress perfectly. The necklace was delicate and elegant and just so perfectly me.

After our wedding I treasured that necklace. I wore it all the time because it was simple and matched everything. The funny thing was that everyone who saw it assumed it contained real diamonds, but the stones in the necklace are crystal. The crystals are set in some kind of silver colored metal. At a glance, the necklace looks like diamonds and white gold and if it were, the thing would cost a fortune. I can't even imagine. You could probably buy a house for the amount it would cost. I am very glad that my necklace is crystal for several reasons. If the necklace were diamond, I would be too scared to wear it. I would also have probably killed my husband for buying it because I'd rather have a house than a necklace any day.

I kept my wedding necklace in a small box that my aunt gave me. Also in the box were my diamond earrings (those are actual diamonds), a seed pearl bracelet that I just love and an antique ring with blue stones that I also love and have had since I was a teenager. I kept the box on my dresser.

One day, almost two years ago, I went to put my necklace on and the box was gone. It had simply vanished. I thought I was losing my mind and I searched the whole apartment. I even looked inside of shoes and flipped the mattress. I cleaned out my entire closet searching, but the box never turned up. Although there had been no signs of a break-in, it appeared that someone had stolen my jewelry box containing my necklace. My wedding necklace that meant so much to me was gone for good.

At the time my sister was dating the con-man Brad who lied to her about everything and cleaned out her bank accounts. I had suspected him long before everything came out about him. That summer, when Brad ended up in jail, I put two and two together and assumed that Brad had seen me wearing the necklace, assumed it was real, and used my sister's key to my apartment to come in while I wasn't home and steal the jewelry box. It just made sense. It was the only way a box could just disappear like that. Well, at least I had the wedding pictures showing me receiving and wearing the necklace. I had my memories. It was just a thing - a material thing. I shouldn't get so attached to objects. As disappointed as I was, I figured that what was most important was not a thing, it was my husband and our relationship and the memories that we create together and no one can ever steal those, but sometimes I thought about my necklace and how I missed it.

Sometimes I tend to place too much sentimental value on objects that represent a memory for me, rather than the actual memory. One of the reasons I write so obsessively is to preserve these memories before I forget everything. I think that I am so passionate about the experience of life and being here on Earth that I just want to make sure that I appreciate every moment and remember everything I do. Being a visual person, sometimes I need a thing I can see to keep a memory fresh. For example, a couple years ago I became fixated on a set of Pyrex mixing bowls from the early 50s. These bowls were very common and most people's mothers and grandmothers have a set. There are four bowls of different sizes which nest inside of one another for easy storage. The outsides of the bowls are primary colors - yellow, blue, green and red, while the insides are an icy white. My grandmother, Mommom Jewel, who raised me for a good part of my childhood had received a set of these bowls on her wedding day, July 1st, 1950. She used them every single day that she cooked supper and in fact, still does. Before I was born she had broken the largest bowl, which was yellow, but after sixty years the red, blue and green bowls are going strong. The image of the mixing bowls represents some of the best parts of my childhood. I remember Mommom pickling fresh cucumbers in the blue bowl, dipping sugared strawberries out of the red bowl and mixing cake batter and chocolate chip cookie dough in the green bowl. I can't even count the times she told me about her wedding day and how when her parents gave her the bowls, she had no idea how to cook a single thing. She had to learn on her own and over time she figured it out and she kept her original set of bowls because they held up and because they reminded her of how in love and excited for her new life she had been as a young bride. They reminded me of that too and they symbolized stability to me. Those bowls lasted for my grandparents' entire marriage.

A couple years ago I was Christmas shopping. I like to shop at sales, auctions and junk shops. By chance I came across the yellow bowl, independent of the rest of the set. Just the yellow bowl, all by itself in a pile of junk. What are the odds of that, I said to myself. The only one Mommom's set is missing is right there without the others. I had to get it for her. It was fate. I bought Mommom her missing yellow bowl for Christmas and re-completed her set.

After that it kind of nagged at me. I wanted a set of Pyrex mixing bowls just like Mommom's. I wanted to recreate my childhood memories and I wanted to have that symbol of family, nurturing and endurance in my kitchen too. I looked all over, determined that no matter what cost, that I would have my own set of Pyrex bowls and that was all there was to it. Finally I found the bowls on eBay, won the auction (because there was no way I was losing it) and got my bowls.

Once I got the bowls I looked at them for a long time and then decided that in order to not break, mess up or lose them, that I would just keep them and one day when I got a bigger place I would find a way to display them in my future kitchen. I put the bowls in the farthest, most hard to reach, inaccessible cabinet in my tiny kitchen and left them there for safe keeping.

The other day, after having the bowls imprisoned for about two years without using them, I finally decided that this was idiotic. For Thanksgiving I was going to cook in my mixing bowls. First because I miss my family far away and the bowls remind me of them and second because the festive colors just make me feel good. I got on a chair and carefully heaved the nested bowls down from the top shelf. Once I got them on the counter I absolutely could not believe what I saw.

Inside the smallest blue bowl, there was my missing jewelry box.

I blinked. There was my box. I blinked again. The box was still there. I opened the box and there, just like new, sat my wedding necklace along with my ring, bracelet and earrings.

I had found my wedding necklace!! I could wear it again for my anniversary in four days! I had it back and it hadn't been stolen from me after all.

I have wracked my brain trying to figure out how the jewelry box got in the mixing bowl. I have thought and thought and tried to remember. I just have no memory of putting it there and I have no idea what would have made me want to hide it in the first place, unless it was because at the time I lost the box I was so paranoid and suspicious of Brad already. I really don't know. It isn't like me to hide things like that. Ultimately that doesn't matter. What matters is that I have the necklace back and that I am using my mixing bowls.

What really matters is the memories, the many things I am thankful for - my loving husband, my family, my grandparents who were married for 58 years exactly, a set of unbreakable bowls and the glitter of crystal.
Sunday, November 15, 2009

A Series of Fortunate Coincidences - The Good Macaroni and Cheese

This year for Thanksgiving I decided to adopt two families through a local charity. It's simple. All you have to do is say you want to do it and then fill up a box of food for the family or families you adopt, drop it off and there you go. First I was going to do one but then I felt like doing two. Then I got my students in on it in two classes and had them decorate the boxes. I obviously provided all the materials and because I am a hateful, evil teacher I decided to force the poor things to actually write about Thanksgiving and wealth and gratitude and poverty and all kinds of things that they hate writing about. I am so mean. I told them if they could spare something that if they wanted they could bring things for the boxes, but they didn't have to go out and spend money because they are just students. They are so sweet. Some of them even brought the tuna cans and ramen packs from their dorms. I welled up when they did that.

But ultimately, the adoption of the two families was my own project and I had intended to pay for the whole thing myself, which is not really a big deal since I didn't have to provide a turkey or anything refrigerated. I planned to go shopping this weekend.

Then the other day my shoe broke. It was a shoe from Ross and only cost me all of about $7.99 but it was a cute shoe and I wanted to fix it. I have misplaced my glue gun and I have no idea where the stupid thing could have gotten to in my shoebox of an apartment. I decided to call my friend Carina. For the past couple of weeks, Carina has been on a crafting bender of sorts. For her job she has to sit in on hours long conference calls. During the calls she makes crafts to occupy herself. All week she has been making satin pillows in the shape of pumpkins. She said she had made me about 25 of the things already and that her house looked like a pumpkin patch already. She was begging me to come get some of the satin pumpkins off her hands. I knew she had a glue gun and could fix my shoe, so I decided to kill two birds and both fix my shoe and pick up my array of pumpkin shaped pillows.

I went by Carina's house the other night for this purpose and she had a couple people over for cocktails. One of the people she had over was one of the douchiest idiots I have ever met - Ed Hardy shirt tucked in and all. Just picture some dude from New Jersey and you've got it. This douchy guy made fun of me and acted like I was some kind of a moron. I don't know why these kinds of people treat me this way. I think it's because I look younger than I am and because I am on the nerdy side and really the antithesis of anything these people find cool. Carina put the guy in his place.

"She teaches college you know!" she said.

The guy wanted to know where and I told him and then he freaked out because twenty years ago he had gone to the same school. He just couldn't believe that I taught at the school he attended. I'm not sure why that was such a big deal to him, but it was.

Carina fixed my shoe and gave me a pile of satin pumpkins and I asked her if she had anything in her cabinets to donate to my can drive. She found some pudding and some bread mix. The douchy guy wanted to know about my can drive so I explained the whole thing to him and he got all excited.

"I'm giving you all the cash I have and I want you to go shopping and buy food for it for your can drive. I want you to do that for me. Can you do that for me?"

Then I went through the "Oh you don't have to do that" embarassed and awkward kind of thing but he insisted so I took the giant wad of cash he thrust into my fist. I thanked him profusely. I really couldn't believe it. I was in shock.

When I got home I counted the crumpled bills and they came to a whopping $95.00. I seriously could not believe it. I almost fainted.

It was then that I realized I wanted to be a philanthropist - a Robin Hood of sorts. I want to solicit money from tacky, arrogant, douchy people, because Lord knows I know and encounter enough of them, and I want to use it to feed the hungry. This is my mission.

I told the story to my students and they had one request.

"Could you use it to get the families the good macaroni and cheese?" one girl asked.

"Yeah! The real brand and not the kind with the powder. Get the kind with the cheese sauce. The good one!" someone else added.

"Yes! Velveeta shells and cheese!!" the whole class roared.

I welled up again. They wanted the families to have the good macaroni and cheese. Just stop and think about that for a second.

I promised my class I would get the good macaroni and cheese.

This morning I went to Winn Dixie. I went there because it is cheaper and because I have a Winn Dixie card which makes it even cheaper. I wanted to get a lot for my $95.00.

As I shopped I began to have anxiety. I wanted my families to have a wonderful meal and some things for everyday. I got them rice and beans, pbj, crackers and cereal but I also got them all the stuff for a big Thanksgiving dinner. I looked at the price of everything I bought to maximize my purchase. I don't do that when I shop. I just buy whatever I want. I am comparatively rich, so when I go to the store I can just have whatever I want. If I want fresh fish I get it. If I want a lobster I can have one once in a while. I get fancy ice cream, fresh vegetables - whatever I want. I have never once considered the cost of my food because I don't have to. That is how lucky I am. I don't have to worry that I forgot something or missed something or that something will run out because I can just go the next day and buy more stuff. But shopping for my adopted families, I had to take all of this into consideration. I wanted them to have the most. I wanted to get them good foods but also some treats because there are a lot of children. I wanted the children to have treats. I really planned everything out.

Winn Dixie made me happy today because they had a lot of specials and Buy One Get One sales on things people need for Thanksgiving. These sales allowed me to get my families even more food. I bought pie shells and pudding mix, corn bread mix, four boxes of stuffing and two different flavors of Jell-o. Then I remembered that I had to get the good macaroni and cheese.

In the macaroni and cheese aisle was a little boy and his very old grandmother. The little boy really wanted some spaghetti-os. He asked his grandmother and she said they couldn't afford the spaghetti-os. He asked if he could have one can of the store brand and she got him one. He was a sweet, polite little boy. Because of him I got my familes each a can of spaghetti-os.

I reached for the Velveeta shells and cheese. I was getting one box for each family, but then I saw it - the big sign. Velveeta shells and cheese was BUY ONE GET ONE FREE!! That meant each family got 2 boxes of the good macaroni and cheese!! Now what are the odds? I was so excited.

My cart was overflowing when I hauled it through the checkout lane. Because of my Winn Dixie card, everyday low prices, good shopping and Winn Dixie's amazing specials, I bought two families crazy Thanksgiving spreads with lots of treats for $87.00. That is it!! I came in under budget.

As I paid, the grandmother and the little boy got in line right behind me and the grandmother started counting out coupons and there was that poor, pitiful, one can of store brand spaghetti-os. I did this because I've seen my mother do this for people a hundred times. I learned this from her. Before her, my grandfather did the same thing. I gave the cashier the other eight dollars and told her to put it towards the grandmother's bill.

"Go ahead and get him some more spaghetti-os," I said.

Then I felt horrible and embarrassed and like maybe I had made them feel badly and like I was some awful, awful white person who hurt their pride in the store, so I pretty much took my cart and flew out the door without looking behind me, but I heard them all, even the cashier, saying "Thank you, thank you!" So I hope I didn't humiliate anyone. I just wanted the little boy to have the good brand of spaghetti-os. That kind of stuff is important.

I wish I could give people the good macaroni and cheese every single day.

So thank you Universe and thank you douchy guy and thank you Winn Dixie and thank you Carina for all those pumpkin pillows and for fixing my shoe and for inviting that guy over at the same time I was there. Is that why they call this Thanksgiving?
Thursday, November 12, 2009

And Yes, I Know You All Want to Know About This

Don't worry, it's coming, but I have to go teach right now. This should at least tide you over until tomorrow afternoon. Unfortunately the belly dancers and fireworks weren't in the picture too.

Thanksgiving Warm-Up - Let the Nasty-Assery Begin

Do not ask me how I ran across this one, but I was doing a little pre-Thanksgiving recipe research when I found a casserole topped with Cheetos. Cheetos. A casserole topped with them and it has chopped up hard boiled eggs in it. I have relatives who would tear this mess up too. I guarantee you they would like it and not just like it, but love it.

4 to 6 chicken breast, cooked and cut up
1 can cream chicken soup
4 boiled eggs, chopped
1 onion, chopped
1/4 c. mayonnaise
1/4 to 1/2 c. celery, chopped
Crushed cheetos for topping
Mix above ingredients together and put in long casserole dish. Crush enough cheetos to cover top. Bake in 350 degree oven for 30 minutes.

Can you honestly imagine?
Tuesday, November 10, 2009

A New Year - What Would I Be?

Today is my birthday and I think for the first time, I am really feeling like I'm starting to get old.

Every year I like to be in a better place than last year. With every year that goes by I try to become a better person than I was the year before.

This past year I think I accomplished that in some areas. I graduated and I found a job that I love. I went on some fun trips to visit family and my husband and I managed our first major road trip together. He got a good job this year too, so we're doing well career-wise. That's a big relief because many people aren't. I've published more work and have had little pieces in a major magazine TWICE! And I'm talking a big magazine that they sell in the grocery store aisle. No, not The Star. I spent some fun times with friends, though not enough and I've managed to stick with acupuncture.

Still, I have a lot of areas to work on. This coming year is going to be two things. First, it's going to be the Year of Family. This means that I want to strengthen my bonds with my large, extended family. I want to be an active part of several families that I belong to. I want to be more family oriented. It also means that I need to come to terms with some family issues I have which I haven't written about. This year, some of my relationships with relatives have suffered severely in a way that has caused me a lot of anxiety and sadness. I don't know how I will deal with them. I will either mend the relationships or I will have to trash them completely and accept with compassionate detachment that some people are fucking crazy and there's no logic to crazy and nothing I can do about it. Maybe I will be able to learn to not take their crazy to heart.

This is also going to be The Year I Work on My Anger Problem. I have an anger problem. I don't think I've written about it here, but maybe I should. I am often angry, rage-filled and bitter. I don't want to be that way. I lash out at the people I love most because I am frustrated. I think I never learned to express anger and stress in productive ways. Sometimes I think I inherited a cruelty gene from my biological father that makes me push away the people who are the nicest to me. He does that and I hate that I do it too.

Sometimes I am the kind of angry that gets violent and wants to destroy or hurt things. This has to change. I know why I'm angry. I'm angry because I feel I was cheated out of certain things that I deserved in life. But really, who wasn't cheated out of something? I am certainly not alone in that camp. I need to get over it. I need to figure out how to stop being so mad. I really have no idea how to do this.

I want to be a better writer. I want to be a better person. I want to stop cussing too. Honestly, I have such a foul, unladylike mouth. It's probably related to my anger, which is probably related to my family. It all ties together. All this stuff is connected. Even my writing. What do you think I write about? Family and anger. There you go. And then I cuss in my writing too.

And then there is charity. Every year on my birthday I give to charity. I do this because I came to Earth to give instead of take. I want the world to be a tiny bit better because I was here. I do it because I just have too much when most people lack. I have so much. The lifestyle I lead is decadent and wasteful. Because I have been given so much, I have to give something in return and I don't give nearly as much as I should.

Every year I highlight a certain charity that is special to me and ask blog readers to try to give a little bit, especially since many people are looking to give to charities this time of year anyway. You may be saying that last year I didn't. Last year my grandfather died and as a way to honor his memory I donated all year to his church and obviously I wasn't going to broadcast his church all over the Internet. It was part of my grieving process and I wanted to be a little more low key than usual.

This year is different. A few months ago my husband heard a song that moved me to weep. I just couldn't stop crying when I heard this song. It is "Emma" by Emmanuel Jal, an African Gospel Hip/Hop artist. Jal is Sudanese. As a child, his family was killed in the war there and he was recruited to be a child soldier. He was saved and smuggled into the safety of Kenya by a British Aid worker named Emma McCune, who then died in a car accident a couple months later. He got to go to school and became a big star. In the song "Emma" he tells about his life and asks the question "What would I be if Emma never rescued me?"

We should all be a little more like Emma McCune. We should all try to rescue each other.

To honor Emma's memory, Jal is building a school in South Sudan called Emma Academy. You can read all about it here.

Emma Academy is my birthday charity this year. They need so little money - only 250,000$ for the whole thing and they are almost halfway there. I think we can help them get a little bit further. You can donate here if you so choose. I hope you can, but I will still love you anyway, even if you don't.

At the very least, please, please watch this video of Emmanuel Jal at TED. He sings the song at the end and if you don't cry you have a heart several sizes too small. It is absolutely awe inspiring.

Here is the song. Tell me you don't love this song. It's my gift to you.

I think in all of our lives, at some point, there was someone who has rescued us from something, even in a tiny way. I want to be that person to a lot of people. I want you to be that too. If you don't donate, and I completely understand that most people can't, then for me, just thank the person who rescued you, even if they're dead or you have no idea where they are. Call them, write them letters (even if you can't send them), thank them in your blog posts. Look at the sky and thank them. Visit their graves and thank them. Then go rescue someone else.
Saturday, November 07, 2009


I would like to announce my ultimate act of rebellion against my parents. I've mentioned several times before that having parents like mine - who hung out with artists and rock stars and owned night clubs and went to jail for drugs when they were really young - were nearly impossible to rebel against. This made my teen years even more confusing and angsty. I couldn't run off with a boy from a band and pierce my nose. I couldn't smoke pot or get suspended from school to distinguish myself from my parents. Doing those kinds of things would make me just like my parents. Therefore, I turned into an uptight, overly proper, etiquette book reading, priggish, stuck up, judgmental, highly neurotic, overly academic likeness of Lilith from "Cheers." You have to understand - that was the only thing I had. Some kids feel a freedom from their parents smoking hash out of a bent up Mountain Dew can. I felt the same rush sending out Christmas cards with custom labels and doing it the day after Thanksgiving. In real life, I'm so boring. The only time I really get wild and let loose is when I write.

But finally, this week I think I may have committed the ultimate act of rebellion against my parents - specifically my mother. I got the H1N1 vaccine. I even went all out, whole hog and got the nasal mist version. I don't mess around with vaccines. That intramuscular shot is for pussies. It's a wine cooler as compared to the double tequila shot of the nasal mist. I can handle it though.

My parents do not believe in vaccines. This came from Memere Marie's side. That whole side of the family has some kind of wonky conspiracy theory gene. Luckily I didn't get it, unless it's dormant in me and waiting to erupt when I hit a certain age or have kids. Everyone on my mom's side of the family believes in elaborate conspiracy theories involving the Masons, the Bilderbergs, aliens, Men in Black and horrible things the government is doing to control the population and control the world banking system for a powerful, elite few who may or may not be descendants of a powerful race of lizard hybrids who live in the center of the Earth.

Vaccines then are evil. Viruses are manufactured to get rid of undesirables. Vaccines have mysterious additives that are designed to insidiously destroy large sections of the population without making it look like that's what they're doing. The syringes contain nanobot technology or something. Lord knows. It's always different. The big pharmaceutical companies are also behind this. They're trying to get people sick so people need their medicine and products so Big Pharm can make money to pay off corrupt, Communist politicians who work for the Antichrist and who covered up the Roswell crash.

My mother hates when I get vaccinated. I love getting vaccines. I make sure that I always get the mercury free vaccines, but other than that, you can pretty much inject my ass with whatever antibody producing pathogens you want. I've considered visits to Africa just so I can get even more rounds of vaccines that aren't routine in America. I'd like to be immune to everything. It makes me feel oddly powerful, like I could just strut into a room with sick, hacking, aching, feverish people and be like "Ha! I am not getting what you have!"

Yesterday at school they were giving out H1N1 vaccine for free. Since last Spring, in the throes of hypochondria, I've been preoccupied with worrying about getting the Swine Flu. I have 120 something students and they always seem to have some snotty, coughing, sneezing ailment. My favorite is when they get up real close to me to tell me that they aren't feeling well and want to leave class early. I love how they do that. It's so considerate. Then they sneeze right on me. Sometimes I feel like teaching in a Hazmat suit.

I wanted to get the vaccine. I've had the real flu three, miserable, I thought I was going to die, times. I don't want to go through that again. I ended up getting bronchitis each time and was sick for two months. I missed work. I missed my twenty-first birthday and I remember lying in bed moaning. One time I puked so much from coughing that I made it down to a size 2, which is pretty much unheard of for someone of my Amazonian build (nothing and I mean nothing on me can ever be described as petite except my circus freak feet). I just don't want to go through that again. Missing class would cause me a tremendous inconvenience. I'd have to redo my whole syllbus for each class. It would really suck and then I would probably get my husband sick and personally, I'd rather be tubercular than deal with him when he so much as gets the sniffles.

When I saw they were giving out the vaccine for free at school and knowing that my doctor couldn't get any in yet, I got excited.

Then, suddenly, I got scared. What if after all, my mother was right? What is the Swine Flu pandemic hysteria wasn't even real? What if the government made it up as a means of controlling the people? What if the vaccine has nanobots in it? What if because of the vaccine I get some rare form of cancer in fifteen years and no one can ever connect it to the real cause? It appears I may have inherited the conspiracy gene after all.

My parents were very worried that I would get the H1N1 vaccine. I think Glenn Beck planted some seed in their heads that the vaccine contained live Socialism in it or something.

I really agonized over getting the vaccine. In the end I called my doctor friend and he said to absolutely don't hesitate to get it. I am partially considering maybe opening myself up to the idea of thinking about having children, so maybe the vaccine is a good idea just in case.

And then I thought about the stupid party with the white horse at my parents' house. I've been irritated about this party all week. I don't know why. I need to let things go. I really do. It should not matter to me what my parents choose to do in their own home, yet I still get myself bent out of shape over things like this anyway. It's a waste of my time to get upset over what my parents do. My getting upset over their throwing a party is as bad as them getting upset over me getting a vaccination. So I decided to go for it.

I willingly breathed a live virus into my lungs. I did it with gusto and it felt as crazy as making matching placecards for a dinner party or measuring the towels in my linen closet so that they all line up perfectly. It was almost like alphabetizing my spices. It was so good. I felt mighty and fierce. I felt...immune.

I want to add in here that some people are really scared of getting the nasal mist because they fear it might make them sick or that they might have side effects. I have heard of people who got a little ill from it. Not me. I had no side effects whatsoever. You wouldn't even know I took it. It was literally, like nothing.
Thursday, November 05, 2009

Because the Yard is Too Small for the Elephant

This is my life:

The other day my husband got a forwarded Evite to an open party. The Evite said to forward it to everyone you know and that you can bring as many people as you want to this big party that's being held this weekend. When he scrolled down, he saw that the address for the party was SURPRISE my parents' house. It is important to add that this was a coincidence. His coworker who forwarded the invitation had no idea that the party was at my husband's in-laws. Worse yet, the bottom of the invitation said that the party was not only to launch a new charity organization that makes prosthetic limbs for amputee animals, but that it was also to celebrate the birthday of Mr. Lawns and his daughter. Oh yes. That would be ME. MY NAME was on this mysterious Evite. Luckily it was only my first name, but still.

Please be advised that I had no idea about any par-tay for my birthday at my parents' house and that I had already made other plans. No it is not a surprise party because if it was my husband would have known about it and would not have allowed me to make other plans. Also he wouldn't have called me in a panic about the Evite. I also had no idea why my parents would be having a party to raise money for amputee animals.

In addition, the Evite came from a mysterious individual named Winston Toscana. I have never heard of anyone named Winston Toscana. My parents were not included on the Evite list.

I called my mother.

"Are you aware of a party/ charity event being held at your house this weekend?" I asked her.

"A BBQ. I don't know about a charity."

"You're having a BBQ?"


"Do you know a Winston Toscana? And what the fuck kind of name is that anyway? It sounds like porn!"

"No, I have no idea who that is."

My mother had to go because she was playing racquetball.

I called her the next day.

"Did you find out about this charity event?"

"Oh yes," she said breezily, "It's Vinny."

"Vinny Succatella?"

I hate Vinny Succatella, a recent addition to my parents' entourage. I told him off last Spring, but I'll get to that in a second.

"You are letting Vinny Succatella throw a party at your house?"

"Yeah, I love parties. He's paying for it. He's getting spotlights, valet parkers, food, liquor -"

"Valet parkers?"

"Yeah, it's going to be huge. He hired a DJ and he was going to bring in an elephant but the yard was too small so he's going with a white horse instead."

"An elephant?"

"No, the yard's not big enough. We're getting a white horse instead."

"A white horse? Seriously? For what? Pony rides? Are you going to have pony rides at your house?"

"It's a horse, not a pony."

"Are you going to have horse rides?"

"I don't know, I think it's decoration."

"Living things aren't decorations. Is it an amputee? Maybe it's the spokeshorse for the amputee pet foundation."

"I'm pretty sure it has all its legs. I think if horses lose a leg they shoot them, don't they?" my mom said.

I said I was pretty sure they did.

"Are you aware that my name was on this Evite?" I asked.

"It's your birthday."

"I have plans."

"So just stop by. Vinny is throwing this party for you."

"He is not. Vinny and I can't stand one another. And you don't care if someone just comes and throws some big ass crazy party at your house with a horse and a dance floor and a laser light show or whatever?"

"Hell no. He's paying for it. I think it'll be fun."

"Did you find out who Winston Toscana is?"

"Oh that's what Vinny's calling himself. You know he's eccentric."

When we hung up I nearly had a panic attack. I'm not exactly sure why, but the thought of this whole event, horse and all, makes me need to breathe into a paper bag.

Mainly it's because I hate Vinny Succatella. Vinny Succatella is weird. I don't know where in hell my parents found this idiot. He's 27 and everytime I see him he looks like he's suffering from a hell of a sinus infection. My guess is that it's coke. He's skinny and scrawny looking with a freckly complexion and he wears Ed Hardy shirts. Apparently he has money from somewhere (Lord knows what) and he spends it with no discretion at all. He spends most of his nights at the Bubblegum Kittikat sitting around in the VIP section drinking overpriced bottles of Absolut and handing out cash to strippers. He's never alone either. He has a fleet of Hummers (aren't they so five years ago already? Come on) and he and his gigantic, bedazzled posse in their Ed Hardy uniform, douche all over town together in them, just showing up at the homes of random people, univited and unannounced for impromptu parties. I can't even imagine such behavior.

Vinny and I really got into it on Father's Day. I had planned a big dinner for my dad and grandfather and was cooking at my parents' house when all of a sudden this asshole shows up with about 15 people. He brought several bottles of alcohol and platters of stone crabs and proceeded to pretty much get a party going with a bunch of strangers in my parents' backyard in spite of the fact that I had Father's Day plans. Within minutes someone was playing hip-hop and people were cannonballing in the pool. An hour later they decided to go get Chinese and there just completely went my thoughtful, elegant Father's Day dinner. I was mad as fire and decided to cuss out Vinny for rudely showing up unannounced on Father's Day and destroying my plans. I tried to explain to him that you don't just show up and party at other people's houses and that you don't use other people's nice houses to impress your friends. If you want to have a damned party, have it at your own house. If you don't have a house, then go to a club. There are plenty around here and many have pools. Vinny just did not get it. He said I insulted his intelligence and that being as intelligent and educated as I am that I should recognize someone equally as intelligent. This argument made no sense, but that's what he said. Of course because I am intelligent, I recognize the true depth and breadth of his stupidity, though I'd think that would be obvious to a slow second grader.

The thing is, is that while I find Vinny maddeningly rude, excessive and creepy, that my parents find him fun, spontaneous and endearing and it is their house not mine. I have no say in this.

All I have to say is that the SOB better get me a birthday present and it had better not be that white horse.
Tuesday, November 03, 2009

Wedding Update

Do not ask me how, but we are almost finished planning the wedding. We basically put together an entire, formal wedding in under two weeks. What helped was that we just used almost all of the same vendors from my wedding. We just called them all up and told them the date. We didn't have to shop around and do comparisons because we already used them and were pleased with their services. We didn't have to worry about picking a location because the wedding is going to be at the house, which I love because it's just so "Father of the Bride." We aren't going to have swans though.

So far nothing particularly dramatic has occurred. On Saturday we all went to go pick out tuxes for the boys. My mother and I went along because we didn't trust the men to pick out their own outfits and we feared they would look like they just came from a Hot Ghetto Mess Prom. Sometimes boys just don't understand that metallic purple, herring-bone vests don't look very elegant. At the tux rental place, the boys were getting fitted and choosing ties when a bizarre individual burst through the door.

Then man looked dead serious.

"Can I help you?" asked the tux store owner.

"Sir, I was told I could find Mr. Gambino here."

"Excuse me?"



"The Gambino Crime Family," the man repeated.

We all just sort of looked around in confusion but my dad, without missing a beat said:

"You just missed him! He's running across the street. I see him!"

The man thanked my dad profusely and went running out of the store and across the street.

I have no explanation for this. I'm guessing the man looking for Mr. Gambino may have been schizophrenic or otherwise delusional.

So far, this is the only odd thing that has happened.
Friday, October 30, 2009

Good News About the Economy

I know some fairly good news came out yesterday about the recovery of the economy, but I wanted to reassure you that, indeed, it really is true. The economy is getting better.

Last week I went to dinner at the Mullet House, my family's favorite, 1960s time warp of a seafood joint. The madam, Velva Haux joined us. I hadn't seen her in quite some time. Over the summer she showed up on our doorstep once, with a guy with spiked, black hair and several necklaces with various animal teeth strung around his thick neck. She wanted to know when my parents were coming back. Velva was very excited to see them again.

Last year Velva was forced to sell her enormous, waterfront, Key West style mansion with its professionally decorated, Marilyn Monroe themed interior. Business was terrible. When people are short on money the first thing they cut back on is hookers. Obviously, it's not as fun, but pleasuring yourself to internet porn can save you literally thousands. The economy got so bad that Velva's escort service almost went under. She had to lay off most of her girls, start servicing her clients personally and move into a small apartment. When Velva left the neighborhood, I feared we were entering into another Great Depression.

Velva arrived at the Mullet House dressed appropriately in her usual uniform - a spandex dress so small and tight that it practically rolled up upon itself. She wears her clothes so tiny that she constantly pulls and picks at her outfits to make sure no one can see her thong. I've never seen her wear pants. She also wears these itty-bitty numbers with big, furry, clonking Ugg boots, which makes no fashion sense whatsoever. Velva was newly blonde and freshly Botoxed. She brought with her a travel itinerary. The next day she was jetting off to Holland to meet a sheikh.

First she announced that she was building a new waterfront mansion for herself. Then, the entire time we tried to eat our fried fish and hush puppies, Velva took phone call after phone call, routing her girls to various clients around the country. Velva isn't just local. She's big time and works all over the country. Her normal dispatch girl is on maternity leave, so Velva, trusting no one else to do the job correctly, had all the calls routed to her cell phone and was filling in for the new mother, herself.

This is what our dinner sounded like:

"Well we really enjoyed wine country in the RV -"

"NOOO I said MADISON NOT LEXINGTON You dumbass!! Jesus can't you hear me??? MADISON!!!!!!!!"

Then we'd comment about how good the salad was over "OCEAN DRIVE AND 22ND!!! YES- IT'S A HOTEL!!!!!!"

The woman is loud. She shouts everything. I felt badly for our poor server. Most of the Mullet House's clientele is over eighty and none of them wear spandex, thank God. I bet they don't get a lot of madams in there. Then Velva ordered raw oysters (of course that's what madams eat) and she wanted some "minet" sauce when the Mullet House is a strictly cocktail sauce kind of establishment.

"MINET!" she kept repeating.

"Velva, it's actually mignonette and they don't have stuff like that here," I told her, but by then she had taken three more calls and routed girls to hotels in Vegas, LA and New York. The phone never stopped ringing.

At one point it did cross my mind how, umm, interesting a job it might be to serve as the dispatch girl for an escort service. Can you imagine the calls? The material? It would be priceless. The books I could write!! It was almost too tempting. I almost volunteered myself to be the regular girl's stand-in, but then I realized that this is probably not the best thing I could do for my teaching career and that really, my students need me more than a bunch of johns. The last thing I need in life is to get arrested for being involved in anything having to do with prostitution, although I'm sure I could score a book deal out of something like that and probably even get on Tyra. It's simply not worth that though. My goal is to go through life without a criminal record and also without ever having to utter the words: "Yes, of course Desiree does anal" to anyone.

But Velva has never been arrested. I asked her about this and she had an interesting, albeit I have no idea how true this could possibly be, explanation. Number one, no one pays for sex. They go on dates. Sex is optional and not a paid for service. Ok. Semantics. The women don't get paid. They get "gifts." More semantics. There's a lot of word play that goes on to make prostitution legal.

And then, more interestingly, there's Velva's story about how she helped the feds after September 11th, forever saving herself from any harassment by the authorities.

Velva's tale is that before September 11th, the terrorists, including Atta, were regulars and that she knew they were freaky and something bad was up. She just couldn't imagine what. The night before (or a couple nights before, I can't remember) the attacks they partied it up with some of her girls and were behaving oddly so Velva herself went in person to see what was going on. The terrorists paid Velva in cash, which had weird writing on it and she ending up keeping it because then September 11th happened and everything was closed and the last place she thought of going was the bank. As soon as she saw the faces of the attackers on the news, she recognized them as her clients and went straight to the authorities, handed over the cash with the weird writing and told them everything she could. This, she believes, put her in the FBIs good graces and they swore to let her operate in peace forever. I have no idea if any of this is true or not, but I do remember that the terrorists did live down here and I do remember something on the news back then about them consorting with hookers. This is the story that Velva is sticking to in any event.

But really, judging from the number of phone calls she got, prostitution is thriving. People are paying for sex again. The economy is getting better. So now you can go and buy a bunch of crap you can't afford again.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Big News!

Readers, I need to tell you something.


Oh my effing Christ. My sister is getting married. Yes, that one. My only one. Seriously. My sister.

The whole thing started last week. Not even a week ago my sister called me and said she was getting married. She had discussed it with her boyfriend and they were doing it. I had lunch with the boyfriend. He had lunch with my parents. By Saturday we were drinking champagne and today, I kid you not, I spent my entire school holiday, day off in a bridal shop squeezing my boobs into a strapless gown that was a size too small because they didn't have my size and it made me happy I wasn't born in the times when women put these things on every single day of their lives. No wonder they all died in their thirties. By the end of the day my sister had a dress and I had a dress and we were off the get invitations.

You know why? The wedding is December 19th. That is seven weeks away. This is how my sister does things and demonstrates a fundamental difference between the two of us. My sister is more like my mother. My parents were married within ten months of meeting. They were engaged for like a week. If that. They got married in their apartment rather suddenly. My sister has known her fiance since May and decided upon a rather short engagement. She is not pregnant (and neither am I, yay!). I dated my husband for three years and was engaged for almost nine months and that even seemed whirlwindy and impulsive to me. I am just an extremely slow person. I am slow at everything. One could say I have a phlegmatic temperament. I take forever to do anything. I'm methodical. I like to think about things endlessly without actually doing anything. No one else in my family is like this, so I don't know where this came from.

In seven weeks we are going to have a wedding!! I am really excited. I wasn't shocked, surprisingly. You'd think this all would have shocked me, but nothing anyone in my family does shocks me at all anymore and since I've been getting acupuncture I've learned to practice joyful detachment (isn't that an oxymoron?). Really though. I'm happy. There's going to be a party! The best part is that the whole entire wedding is going to be at my parents' house. Seriously, do you all not even understand the writing material this event will provide?

Such as this:

Because my wedding was methodically planned well in advance, it took me eight months to get my wedding dress. I picked it out quickly but it had to be made and sent from Lord knows where and it took an eternity. Because this wedding is so fast we had to go to an "off the rack" store which is fine and way cheaper, but...they had red leopard bridesmaid dresses and there were people at the store actually admiring them. I should have taken a picture, but I was all beside myself at seeing my little sister in her wedding dress. Which was the hot pink leopard. No, not really. Her dress is stunning. I can't wait to see her in it. I know I am going to cry. I almost cried in the store today but I composed myself so as not to cause a scene. It was such a cliche moment. They put the veil on her and suddenly the whole thing looked for real and then my whole life with my sister flashed in front of me and I remembered things like dragging her by the arm to the bus stop in the mornings, making her a shitty Halloween costume one year when our parents weren't home and taking her trick or treating, the time she and my cousins pooped in a cardboard box not once, but a total of three times, when she got her nipples pierced in high school while my parents were on vacation, the time she ripped the ass out of a pair of white pants before we went out, the time we pathetically attempted to get high on Thanksgiving but neither of us really inhaled, going to Orlando with her one Christmas when we decided to wear matching angora sweaters that we were both allergic to... I could go on endlessly. And there she was. A bride. With a veil. It was too much for me, so I pretended I was cold and went outside.

My sister is getting married. I'm going to have a brother-in-law. Miraculously, I really like him. You would too. The man knows how to disarm land mines and bombs. It's like I'm getting Jack Bauer for a brother-in-law. We needed that in this family too. Not a one of us knows a thing about explosives.
Friday, October 23, 2009

The Senator

This morning I was sifting through the local news on the South Florida Daily Blog, when I noted the site's quote of the day from Charles Madigan. Among other things, Madigan, in this quote, talks about the problem of the staggering number of people in this country who know "nothing about nothing." And when I read this quote, I was in absolute, total agreement. Most people in this country have no clue about politics or current events outside of cheap celebrity gossip.

As a teacher, each week I am in the classroom with over a hundred young people (and a couple of middle-aged people as well). They know nothing about politics or current events. They're interested in sports, pop-stars and reality TV. I don't fault them for this. Their average age is about nineteen, so they're young yet. They don't know any better. I won't go into a speech on the apathy of youth these days. That's not it. They're just young and need to be made aware of the world around them and how it affects them. I make sure that happens as much as possible in my classroom. Then, when I give them some exposure to events and issues, they often become interested and concerned. We don't need to worry about college students being apathetic. They're learning. They're in college. Most of them, if they stick with their educations and watch The Daily Show every night, will be just fine. Sadly though, educated people of all ages are the minority and it's the majority of ignorant people who we need to worry about.

Outside of my few yearly visits to my hometown Millpond, I occasionally forget just how backward a large portion of our country actually is. Most of the US, I fear, is a big, sprawling trailer park punctuated occasionally by equally horrible urban 'hoods. There are moments of hope in many cities and suburbs of cities, as well as in lovely little university towns here and there, but overall America is a trailer park and it's in the middle of being obliterated by a tornado of ignorance.

Yet still, sometimes I forget this, being surrounded as I am by them university liberal elites all the dang time (yeah, please). Then, every now and then something will happen which will make me realize anew how most people really do know "nothing about nothing."

One thing you may not know about me is that I am the daughter of a US senator.

OK, ok. Not really. I kid. I really do. I am NOT the daughter of the US senator and far from it, but one evening, in a bizarre twist of events, I was mistaken for one. This situation showed me that pretty much no one knows who their state senators actually are, which is really a shame being that we should all be writing to them regularly (not in like a stalking way, but in a 'hey you work for us and this is what we want' kind of a way.) This evening also showed me that "Jay Walking" is definitely not scripted and it probably takes Jay Leno less than five minutes to find a clueless fool to say dumb things on camera whenever he goes looking for new material.

One night I was out at a very well known, fancy restaurant that is corporate owned. I was with my family and some of my dad's friends and we were celebrating. The celebrating became a bit rowdy and one of my dad's friends started teasing him about how friendly and diplomatic my dad is in every situation.

"You can talk anybody into anything!" the friend said, "You're like a politician!!"

Everyone agreed and laughed and had a few more martinis. My dad's friend, as a joke, started calling him "The Senator", which was hysterical because everyone was tipsy. You know how sometimes things seem much funnier than they actually are because of alcohol? It was like that.

Soon the waiter comes over and as drunk diners often do, my dad's friend began to engage the poor server in slurring conversation.

"You know who this guy is right here?" my dad's friend said pointing to my dad.

"Umm, no, I'm terribly sorry," the server replied.

"He's a Senator!! Senator Lawns!! State of Florida Senator. Right here. HAHAHAHAHA!!"

Everyone laughed and called my dad "The Senator" some more, but the server had disappeared.

The manager came with our bill and questioned us extensively on the food and service. We swore everything was fantastic. The manager even escorted us outside when we were done and comped our valet. We thought nothing of it other than that the service at this place was great and that we wanted to come back.

"Good night Senator!" the manager called as we left.

My dad laughed and waved.

A couple of weeks later my dad called the same restaurant to make another reservation. These types of restaurants keep a sort of database of all their diners with notes on special needs, who's a big spender, etc. so that the servers can give personalized service and create the illusion that each customer is so special that the server remembers everything about them.

"Mr. Lawns? 8pm, six people? Is this Florida Senator Lawns?" the hostess said over the phone.

My dad thought nothing of this. He thought she was referring to his new nickname and that the restaurant remembered him because our party had been kind of rowdy.

"Haha," he laughed, "Yeah, that's me. Look, I have to apologize for that night. It was a celebration. I hope we didn't get out of hand. We had a great time though."

"Absolutely not Senator. We were honored to serve you. We're thrilled you're returning. Will you need a private room?"

"Oh no. I promise we'll be quiet this time."

"Do you need extra tables?"

"Umm, no. There's just six of us."

"OK sir. You are confirmed. Thank you so much Senator. We'll see you at 8 for 6 people."

Again, he thought nothing of this. He thought the hostess was joking with him.

We arrived at the restaurant greeted by a full security detail staff. There must have been six or seven armed guards at least. They saluted my father and all shook his hand. The managers all came out to greet us immediately and whisked us away to a private table in a room off to the side where the security guards could stand at the door.

"Senator, we are so sorry that last time we weren't prepared for your visit. We had no idea and we hope you can forgive us," the manager said, "You see, Corporate has strict policies on how to handle political dignitaries visiting the restaurant and had we known last time, of course everything would have been arranged. You may have your office call anytime for reservations for now on and we'll never be unprepared again."

To say this was an awkward moment is a severe understatement. I was practically crapping in my pants thinking we were all going to get arrested for impersonating (however unintentionally) a politician and his family. I could tell my dad was equally as horrified. The restaurant had gone to a lot of trouble and expense to set this all up. My dad hadn't realized they didn't know it was all a silly, drunk joke. If he mentioned that he was in fact, NOT a senator then it would be horribly embarassing for everyone involved.

"Thank you," my dad said and that was that.

We ate quickly and got the hell out of there as fast as we could. We never went back to that restaurant, but my dad did call the next day before dinner service to speak with the manager and explain the whole situation. Everyone involved was deeply mortified.

Of course, all this could have been prevented if anyone had a clue who the real Florida Senators actually were. There are only two. No matter where you live, you should learn these two names. Even if you never write to your senators (which you should) at least by knowing their names you will never mistake my dad (or anyone else) for a dignitary and cause an embarassing fiasco.

If you live in Florida, please know that our senators are Bill Nelson and George LeMieux.

Here is a complete list of US senators with their Washington, DC contact information. Please note that no member of my family is on this list.

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