Monday, February 28, 2011

Maid A Mess - Part 4

You can only imagine what was going through my head when my husband told me he was chasing Kimmy down in the car. Namely that I was missing all the excitement. What could have happened, I wondered.

This is what went down, as told to me by my husband.

When he went back to my parents' house to get the baby medicine, Kimmy was still there. When he came in she jumped up and started fluffing pillows and acting like she was doing something other than sitting in my parents' house alone while they were on vacation. He asked her why she was still there and she said she was waiting for Paul, her husband to pick her up.

Something just wasn't right.

Husband went back and sat in the driveway in his car to keep an eye on her and Paul never showed up. While husband sat there, he noticed a silver car, not Paul's Scion, driving very slowly up and down the street and he felt even more uneasy. He said he felt like the car was casing out the house, so he continued to sit there.

A little later Kimmy came outside with a large overnight bag that he hadn't noticed before. She saw him in his car and panicked. He rolled down the window and asked Kimmy where Paul was.

"He's picking me up at the 7-11."

The 7-11 is like a mile away and Paul wouldn't make her walk down there. It was an idiotic answer, so Husband called her bluff.

"Ok, I'll drive you. It's not safe to walk at night and I'm going in that direction anyhow."

"No no no. It's ok. I'll walk! Really!"

And Kimmy tried to high-tail it out of there, practically running down the street.

Husband waited about five minutes and decided to drive off in the direction of 7-11 to see if Kimmy was really headed in that direction, but instead he saw Kimmy in the driveway of a darkened house a couple doors down, hastily getting in the silver car that was not Paul's. As the car sped off, Husband followed it, taking down the license plate. 

The silver car noticed Husband following them and tried to get loose him. Meanwhile, Husband decided to call Paul. He had his number because we had hired Paul to do some electrical work.

"Paul," Husband asked, "Are you supposed to be picking up Kimmy at the 7-11?"

"Uh, no," he replied.

"Do you know where Kimmy is?"

"She said she was babysitting for you guys all night and was sleeping over there at your in-laws."

"Well that's not true and I just saw her get into a silver car and drive off towards the Southwest. I got the license plate number if you want it."

"Umm, no."

And Paul hung up.

About that time, Kimmy, who must have been totally freaking out, called Husband. She didn't make a lot of sense, but she said she was having personal problems and Husband said he didn't care about her personal life. He just wanted to know what the hell was going on and why was she lying and sneaking around and using my parents' house to do whatever she was doing. She hung up.

The rest of the night Husband spent changing all the alarm codes and locks on the house. He called my parents who had him make sure all their valuable jewelry and electronics were in tact. They were.

The next day we tried calling Paul, but there was no answer and he never called back. Kimmy also never returned any calls. We have no idea what happened.

I tried to do some detective work and found Kimmy's facebook profile and it certainly painted a different portrait of her than what we thought. She had no privacy settings at all, so we could see all of her pictures and let me tell you - they were pretty shocking. It appeared that Kimmy was a very naughty girl.

My parents talked to the Eyebrow People and it turns out Kimmy had revealed much more of her real personality to them than to us. Why I don't know, but obviously Kimmy wasn't the brightest. You'd think she would have known that they would tell us. Kimmy apparently was a mail-order bride and she was into kinky sex, as was evidenced by her facebook pictures. She liked to do drugs, smoked pot every day and went out partying after work. She and Paul, she told them, would go to strip clubs, pick up strippers and have threesomes. I began to suspect that Kimmy herself was dancing as well.

We haven't heard from Kimmy or Paul since. We really have no idea what was going on, only that Kimmy was a liar. She was nothing like the wholesome innocent she tried to portray. So why would she lie? Working at my parents' house, you'd think she would have figured out that no one would have cared about her personal life if only she did her work responsibly and didn't steal. We don't know what she was up to that night. Was it a robbery attempt gone awry? Was she simply cheating on her husband and got caught? Could it have been both or could Paul have been in on it? The Eyebrow People said some things about Kimmy that made us even suspect that Kimmy was a hooker and Paul was pimping her out. Were her text messages to a lover or to her johns? Maybe she was rendezvousing with a client in the silver car. This might explain Paul's seeming lack of emotion on the phone with my husband and could explain why he didn't want the license plate number, but maybe he was just in shock and was embarrassed.

There's no way to find out, as much as we'd love to know.

My mother said she's never letting someone from Craig's List in her house again and next time she's checking references. Its been almost a month now and we haven't hired anyone else. My mother's been cleaning herself and says the house has never been more spotless. She's decided that when she's ready she's just getting someone to come once a week and clean for a day. 

Kimmy was our fifteenth housekeeper. Maybe sixteen will be the magic number or maybe our family's just cursed when it comes to domestic help.

The End

Sunday, February 27, 2011

Maid A Mess - Part 3

I had a bad gut feeling about Kimmy. I couldn't quite put my finger on it. It wasn't only that I thought she lied at Christmas and it wasn't only her slacking on the job. No, there was something else about her that was bugging me, if only I knew what it could be and I felt like we couldn't trust her anymore.

Things went down Super Bowl weekend. My grandmother, aunt and cousin Bella came down to visit and meet Baby Lawns that weekend. They arrived on Thursday and were going home on Sunday. They were staying at my parents' house. My parents though, were scheduled to go on vacation Saturday. The plan was for my relatives to continue staying at my parents' house without my parents there Saturday night and then leave for the airport from there Sunday morning. I guess Kimmy didn't realize that.

My parents departed Saturday afternoon and we stayed at their house visiting and playing with the baby. I was wiped out. Baby Lawns was (I know now) teething and gassy, and had been extremely fussy. She hadn't been sleeping and I was at my wits end, so we decided to make it an early evening. We got take out Chinese and when we finished Husband and I decided to go ahead home. My relatives were tired too and wanted to go up to their rooms and read and relax before their trip back home the next day. They said goodnight and Husband and I cleaned up the kitchen and got Baby Lawns together to go home.

My parents told Kimmy to take the week off since they weren't going to be home and to come back to work when they got back. She said she was glad to have a vacation.

But then, just as we were packing up, in comes Kimmy. It was around eight at night and she seemed very surprised to see us there.

"Oh, um, I forgot my phone charger so I had Paul drive me back here to get it and plus I left a load of laundry in the washer and I can't leave it there all week. Your mother will get so mad at me if the wash gets all moldy," Kimmy said.

Suspicious, but whatever.

Husband and I got home. We live about a five minute walk away.

"Funny," I said, "I didn't see Paul waiting outside for Kimmy. If she just needed to run in, why didn't he wait for her?"

We got home, gave the baby a bath and I nursed her some. About forty minutes had gone by when Baby Lawns began to throw a royal fit because her stomach hurt and I realized I had forgotten her bottle of gas medicine back at my parents.

"Do you want me to go back and get it?"Husband asked. 

I said I did and he left on his skateboard. Naturally while he was gone the baby fell asleep and was fine. He came back with the medicine and then said he was going to go back and get his car out of the driveway and bring it back to our house. He had left it there earlier in the day.

I didn't hear from him for forty minutes and I was starting to get mad/ concerned so I called him.

"You'll never believe this. I'm in the car and I'm chasing down Kimmy. I have to go. I'll call you right back!!"

To Be Continued...

Saturday, February 26, 2011

Maid - A Mess Part 2

"She's like an angel from Heaven."

"I never have to worry about her stealing from my home."

"She won't try to mess with my husband."

"I just really feel I can trust her with my life. I don't have a fear in the world about handing her the keys to my house."

These are all things my mother said about Kimmy.

I made Kimmy a list of things to do in the house every day. She asked for instructions because she wanted to do what we wanted, so I typed up a detailed set for her right down to what towels went in which bathrooms and how to feed the dogs. Kimmy even asked me questions and made notes.

Kimmy came and cleaned the house every day. She waited on us hand and foot although we didn't ask her to (remember this is when I was living at my parents' house last summer because my house had mold).

She came to work on time every day and every night Paul would come to pick her up. They seemed so wholesome and so virtuous that I actually felt ashamed of myself for watching True Blood when she was in the house.

Things were great. My parents left for California for a month and I felt completely at ease with Kimmy being in the house when I wasn't there. I thought, wow, we finally found someone great. I enjoyed her company because she was sweet, innocent and funny, but things started to change after my parents came home and after the babies were born.

I spent at least six weeks after Baby Lawns' birth in a total haze of new parent chaos and anxiety. I wasn't sleeping. I was recovering from a C section and trying to figure out how to keep an entire human being alive that depended wholly on me for her survival. I didn't even remember Kimmy existed until I saw her at Thanksgiving and my mom mentioned that Kimmy was getting lazy. She had caught her sitting on boxes in the garage texting when she thought no one would find her. She stopped following her list. Some of the toilets were getting mildewy and the floors hadn't been vacuumed in far too long. Each time I pulled a dish from the cabinet I'd have to rinse it off because it would be oily or have food crusted on it. I started noticing dog hair on the stairs, laundry piling up and dust on the furniture, yet still Kimmy was coming every day. What on earth was she doing then? 

I gave Kimmy a pass because my parents' friends the Eyebrow People came back to stay for a couple weeks and brought their six month old baby boy. The Eyebrow People got really friendly with Kimmy and they were paying her to babysit after she was done cleaning on certain nights so they could go out. Kimmy also helped them out during the days as needed, so she ended up being kind of like their nanny. I thought this was probably keeping her too busy to assume her other duties and that as soon as they left she'd be back to her old, hardworking self again.


On the afternoon of Christmas Eve, I was at my parents' house baking what ended being an avalanche of cookies. We were all there getting ready for the evening. This year we did Christmas Eve at my parents' house and then Christmas day at our neighbor's house, so we were preparing a big dinner for that evening. Kimmy was scheduled to work and assured us she would be there and had no problem working on the holiday. It is important to note here that no one required Kimmy to work on the holiday. My family is compassionate and easy going and not so spoiled that we can't clean up after ourselves if need be. We don't prefer to if we're paying someone an actual livable wage to do it for us, but we can wash some dishes and scrub the stove if we have to. We aren't a snooty, spoiled bunch of people and my parents are the kindest people you'd ever want to work for. I mean honestly. They bought Socorro a car for Christmas one year and they never complained about giving their housekeepers days off to be with their own families on special occasions.

But that said, Kimmy told us she was working Christmas Eve and day and we planned on having the extra help.

As I added the last bag of chocolate chips to the batter, Kimmy burst into the house an hour before she was scheduled and she was in total hysterics.

"I can't work. I'm so sorry. I just find out my grandma have cancer and they're taking her off life support and Paul is driving me to the airport so I can see her in Connecticut. They're waiting to take her off life support for me to get there. I have to leave right now. I won't be back until the day after New Year's Day."

Then she cried and made a scene and asked for her paycheck early so she'd have money in Connecticut and after my dad wrote it out for her, she left.

"Oh what a shame. How sad to have that tragedy during the holidays," my mom sighed, "What awful timing."

"She's full of shit," I said.

Everyone looked at me in horror.

"Why would you say that?" my dad asked.

Look, I taught college. I can tell when young adults are full of shit. I've seen so much bullshit that I could have worked at a cattle ranch. The one excuse they always use, every time is the dying grandparent. I've had so many of my students' grandparents die that you'd think something about being in my class was causing it. My students were constantly trying to tell me their grandparents were dead/dying to get out of exams, papers or even just having to come to class. I've heard every possible variation on the theme of the dead grandparent and Kimmy delivered her yarn just like one of my students with all the drama and none of the good sense to keep her story straight or even factual.

"Umm, " I said, "The fact that she said she's on her way to Connecticut right now and that Paul was waiting in our driveway to drive her straight to the airport but she's wearing a halter top and shorts with flip flops is certainly a red flag. Not exactly what you'd wear to New England in the winter is it?"

Not only that it was the timing - Christmas Eve to the day after New Years? Come on. How convenient is that? That's the week when no one wants to work. That's holiday week. She just wanted a vacation. Flat out. She was a liar and I was on to her game.

"Well, we'll give her the benefit of the doubt even though it's suspect," my parents said.

I decided to keep my eye on Kimmy and it's a good thing I did.

To Be Continued...

Friday, February 25, 2011

Maid - A Mess Part 1

This is going to be one of my serial stories, both because I'm busy this weekend and because the story is complicated.

Recently we've had some drama with my parents' latest housekeeper and once again we prove that the freak magnet installed in the foyer of my parents' home is still working.

For as long as I could remember, we've always had problems finding help. My mother has always been busy and at various times in their lives, whenever they could afford it, my mother has sought assistance from housekeepers. When I was growing up they were live-ins. We went from one to the next from Tammy to Nadia to Maxine and Nury and several in between. Something always happened and they never worked out.

Once my sister and I were grown up and out of the house my mom, when money was good, had a weekly cleaning lady. These too came and went and most were unremarkable. Then my parents moved into their dream house and all of a sudden they started entertaining more and having guests, sometimes long term visitors, much more often. Their lives were busier and the house was so big that it was too hard for my mom to keep up with. She needed a full time housekeeper who could be there five days a week and would be able to work on nights when we had parties.

She had the same housekeeper for four years and Socorro was very close with us all. We loved her like family. Unfortunately last winter she was deported after her boyfriend, who was here illegally, used her car, got drunk, got into an accident and tried to run someone over. She got dragged into his legal problems and well, it's a long ordeal of a story, but in short she ended up in court and then got deported back to Guatemala. She decided not to fight it because she said she missed her grandchildren and felt like it was best for her to go home anyway. I miss her very much.

After that my mother found another housekeeper named Miriam. Miriam was Venezuelan and had come from a wealthy family who lost all their money to Chavez's regime. Miriam had a chip on her shoulder because she didn't want to clean houses for a living and was constantly mad. We would ask her to do certain things and she would say no. Whenever we had parties she'd say she was too tired and then call out for several days. Finally, my mother fired her because she was paying her a big weekly salary to tell us she didn't want to clean.

In August my mom decided to turn to Craig's List to find help. She wanted someone with initiative, who was responsible and liked dogs. She wanted someone like Socorro who would be like part of the family and interviewed several before she found Kimmy.

Kimmy had her husband drive her over as soon as my mother called. She was a petite Filipina girl in her early 20s who was married to a young white, American guy named Paul. They seemed like the perfect couple. Paul was a boat mechanic who had been a missionary. He said he met Kimmy in the Philippines while on a mission and fell in love with her. He brought her back to America and they got married. Sure, they were young but they were happy and they had Jesus. They lived with Paul's parents and Paul's dad was married to Kimmy's aunt. Kimmy was a hard worker. She was available whenever we needed her. Seriously, whenever, except of course Sunday because of church.  She was tidy and pretty, exceptionally polite and told us about her six sisters that she supported back home. One of them she had even delivered herself because her mom couldn't get to the hospital in time. Kimmy was like a little miracle. She was exactly what we'd been looking for and we were so excited. She assured us she loved animals and especially loved babies, which was great since my sister and I were both pregnant.

Turns out she also liked strippers, hookers and drugs but we didn't find that out until three weeks ago.

To be continued...

Housepainting Poll Closed

Thanks for all your votes in my house paint poll. That was pretty fun. The dark green won by a landslide, but I'm not in love with it. I want something a little more olivey and less wine bottle green I think. I may also go with a pale yellow as many suggested.

I have some great news though! My sister and brother in law closed on the house next door and we're now neighbors! They're working on the house and will move in in a month or so when it's done. I can't wait. We have already cleared the yards and plan to do one big combined yard for the babies to play in when they get bigger.
Thursday, February 24, 2011

A House Painting Poll

The time has come to paint the outside of our house, which is now looking pretty icky. At first I was enamored of the idea of a pink beach house, but as we ripped out all the landscaping and repaired rotten wood and stucco, I realized my house was not the cheery Bermuda pink I wanted. Instead it was a gross 80s shade of mauve. Being that the roof is orange spanish tile, I thought choosing a new shade of pink wouldn't be the best idea. Plus, when you have a pink house, you really have to commit to living in a pink house. You have to really own living in a pink house and I can't quite do that. Instead, we decided to go green, but I can't decide which green would look best. That's where you come in. I thought we'd have a little fun with it and I'd let you guys weigh in on a little poll. Please look at the picture above, form an opinion on the house paint of a total stranger, keeping in mind that in Florida we have more garish colors on our houses than in, say, Nebraska, and then vote!

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

$##@#@#$@#@ Ants!!!!!

When I found out I was going to be a parent I decided to try to stop cussing. I even tried to stop cussing (for the most part) in my writing. I did this because I didn't want to have a foul mouthed child and I didn't want to be crass and classless as a mom. I also did it because I thought on my blog maybe people didn't want to read a bunch of profanity. I did ok with not cussing. There were moments during pregnancy when I was so miserable that I said to myself: "Look, I can't drink. I can't eat lunch meat. I had to give up coffee and I even had to quit sugar. I am going to cuss and that's all there is to it. I have nothing left."

I swear (no pun intended) I've been trying not to, well, swear. I've turned into my grandmother who has always used substitutes for cuss words.

Flip, freak, shoot and shine.

"Cheese and rice, I am sick of this fudgy sugar!!!" is a typical sentence.

When I get mad I sound like a street corner schizophrenic.

There's one thing that really gets me riled up though and because of it, I fear my baby's first words are going to be:


Ugghh. My new home is infested with ants. It's like living with thousands of freeloading roommates - you know, the kind of roommates who leave messes, eat all your food, get into your stuff and invite all their friends over for wild parties without your permission while doing nothing nice in return for you and the problem is, I can't seem to evict these unwanted squatters.

I live in a constant state of awareness about the ants. I have to put all the food away fast because the ants'll get in it. I vacuum up ant superhighways speeding across my floors several times a day. I'm ever vigilant about ants crawling on me, ants getting on the baby and more ants getting in from outside. I'm positive there is still a dead ant encased in an amber of wax stuck in my ear canal from the night back in December when one of them crawled inside while I slept.

I feel like my life revolves around these damned ants, who are notoriously difficult to get rid of and don't think I haven't tried.

I've attempted all the natural remedies. These ants trot right across boric acid. They remind me of those people who psyche themselves up to walk across hot coals. The ants do the same thing with the boric acid. I mean, they have to. There's a tiny fleck of bacon on the floor by the stove.

My next step is going to have to be hardcore poison, but I've been avoiding the exterminator for several reasons. I don't want poison in my house getting around the baby and the cat. I know what you're saying. Do I want ants getting on my baby instead? No. I don't want ants or poison, but looks like this isn't possible.

So where did the ants come from? Partly they come from living in Florida. Ants love it down here. They're like senior citizens from New York in their passion for South Florida. Every home I've ever lived in down here has dealt with some degree of ant infestation. My mom has them. My sister has them. I have them worse of course because whenever I do something I do it big. Living down here you get used to having to put everything in the fridge, even things like bread and sugar, to keep the ants out of it.

I have declared war on ants and by the way, you ever notice how we always refer to ants in militaristic terms? They're like a massive army, always on the march, all working together. They get a lot of work done too when they want to. One day I killed a roach on the floor and left it to go get paper towels. In five minutes the battalion has amassed around the dead roach and they had begun to carry it away like microscopic pallbearers. I already said I saw some of them carrying my hair into their secret fort in my baseboards.

The particular species of ant that I'm battling here is called, get ready for it, Crazy Ants. That is their actual name. I'm not kidding. They are so named because they wander around aimlessly and get themselves all worked up and spin in frantic circles like madmen with antennae. That's when I particularly enjoy stepping on them. I chase them down just to watch them run with their crazy little selves. I'm sadistic when it comes to ants.

Crazy Ants are the hardest kind of ants to get rid of. I've read up on them. I've become an expert on Crazy Ants. They don't always respond to traps or poison. They are relentless once they move in on your property. They're like the Pacific Heights of the ant world.

Crazy Ants. I can't get rid of them. Figures doesn't it? 

There's gotta be a metaphor in there somewhere.
Tuesday, February 22, 2011

What Happened to Murky H20?

I'm trying to figure out how to make this less google-able here, so bear with me.

I am a big fan of a certain blog, which we'll call Murky H20, and I know many of you are too. Some of you have contacted me regarding what happened to it because last week all of a sudden it became invitation only.

No one has an invitation right now.

The author, Ms. Murky, is out of town and won't be back for a little while. During her vacation, it came to light that a nasty member of her husband's house of worship, who already didn't like her, found her blog and did not approve apparently. Trust me, I of all people know how this feels and it's pretty scary and upsetting. Because I don't trust this person, I tried to make this post not google-able.

Ms. Murky assures me that when she gets back from her trip she will start a new blog and when she does I will let everyone know where to find it. I hope she does it soon because I love her stories and I'll really miss her. I'm sure you all will too.

In the meantime, let's show our support to her and pray that this nasty person doesn't cause her or her family any more trouble.

If you'd like to leave her a message you can comment here and I'm sure she will read it.
Monday, February 21, 2011

Ok and the Lemon Sweet Potato Pie Too

I needed to share this Lemon Sweet Potato Pie recipe with the world. I have never had a sweet potato pie that could rival this one and Lord knows I've tried a lot of sweet potato pies. Please try it. I think I'm going to have to make it for Sunday Dinner next week.

A Non-Nasty Assed Recipe

I've had a couple requests lately via email and Twitter for Non-Nasty Assed recipes and I thought for President's Day I'd oblige.

It may seem that I am anti-casserole, but the truth is that I don't really mind my food mixed together as long as it doesn't involve canned soup, mayo, any kind of crushed chip, canned vegetable or Velveeta. To prove that I will eat a casserole under the right circumstances, I thought I'd share with you my favorite casserole. This is my go-to potluck dinner offering. This is what I make for new parents, families of people in the hospital and for funerals. Sometimes I just make it for my own dear enjoyment. It's excellent, easy and not too unhealthy at all. I love it and the recipe is from Southern Living, which is where I find quite a few of my favorite recipes, including my squash casserole and lemon sweet potato pie which are two all-time favorites as well. Whenever I make this casserole I also make steamed or sauteed green beans to go with it. They seem to compliment the dish a lot, as does cranberry sauce, but I put cranberry sauce on everything.

Chicken and Wild Rice Casserole

Yield: Makes 6 servings


  • 1  (6.2-ounce) package fast-cooking long-grain and wild rice mix
  • 1/2  cup  butter or margarine
  • 1  small onion, chopped
  • 1/4  cup  all-purpose flour
  • 1 1/2  cups  chicken broth
  • 3  cups  chopped cooked chicken
  • 1 1/2  cups  half-and-half
  • 1  (6-ounce) can sliced water chestnuts, drained
  • 1  (4.5-ounce) jar sliced mushrooms, drained
  • 1  tablespoon  chopped fresh parsley
  • 1  teaspoon  salt
  • 1/2  teaspoon  pepper
  • 1  (2.5-ounce) package sliced almonds


Cook rice mix according to package directions; set aside.
Melt butter in a Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Add onion, and saute until tender. Add flour, and cook, stirring constantly, 1 minute. Add broth, and cook, stirring constantly, 1 to 2 minutes or until mixture is thickened and bubbly.
Stir in rice, chicken, and next 6 ingredients. Spoon into a lightly greased 11- x 7-inch baking dish. Top with almonds.
Bake at 350° for 15 to 20 minutes or until thoroughly heated.
Sunday, February 20, 2011

Sunday Dinner

My mom did a lot of things right growing up and now that I have my own child I've been trying to consciously remember these things so I can recreate them for Baby Lawns. 

One of the greatest things my mom did was to make sure that we always sat down and had a real dinner. Most nights growing up, both with my grandparents and with my mother, I had a real, sit down dinner. I think this fostered in me good eating habits and gave me a sense of security and stability. It also gave me quality time with my family where we could talk and share food. I really believe that my healthy attitude towards food came from having a real dinner on the table with my family every night. Not only that, I learned manners and eventually how to cook.  One thing I'm going to insist on is that we have dinners as a family sitting down at a table almost every night. It's not negotiable.

The other thing my mom did right was Sunday dinner. Growing up, we always had Sunday dinner on both sides of my family and it was really important. We couldn't imagine a Sunday without Sunday dinner. I think a long time ago this was the norm, but now the tradition's fallen out of favor. I wonder why? It makes me glad I grew up in a small, rural town that was a little slower to modernize.

Sunday dinner was a special time to stop everything and spend time with family. It gave us a holiday every single week and we all had something to look forward to midweek at work and school. We came together, without fail, every week over a meal.

Sometimes I spent Sundays with my mother's family and sometimes with my father's, but it didn't matter. There were cooks on both sides. Growing up on the Eastern Shore our Sunday dinners almost always consisted of slippery dumplings, which are not puffy and don't contain anything except flour, Crisco, salt, pepper and water. Usually we had chicken and dumplings, but we could also have beef or turkey with dumplings too. Once in a while we'd have a ham and macaroni and cheese, but usually we did chicken and dumplings. When I was very little, my great grandmother who had once owned a legendary chicken and dumplings restaurant, would slaughter one of her own chickens and stew it up. Everyone used to fight over who got the cooked, unlaid eggs that were still inside the chicken.

We still do Sunday dinner at my parents' house. Since the babies have been born we recommitted ourselves to the meal, just like we remember. Each week a different member of the family gets to choose his or her favorite meal. We have a rotation going. Since there are quite a few of us, the meals can be pretty diverse and unpredictable according to our moods, but yes, we still have chicken and dumplings too. My sister chose it last time. When it's my husband's turn we have BBQ or taco night. My brother in law likes Italian spreads and the last time it was my turn I chose fried fish. It seems we all usually choose the foods from our childhoods that we loved the most. Sunday dinner is all about comfort food and that's what makes it special.

I picked fried fish because it was one of my first taste memories. My mother, recently single, lived in a little pink house on the beach. She was poor and would paddle a rowboat out into the bay and fish for flounder, which she'd dredge in peppery flour and fry in butter for me. I loved it when I was a toddler and I still love it the same now.

When it's my next turn to choose I might ask for dumplings again, but I don't know. We'll see what mood I'm in.

Another thing I love about Sunday dinner is that it becomes a bit of a potluck. Each of us has things that we like to cook and bring. We enjoy showing off our specialties. My mom loves coconut custard pie, so for tonight's meal I'm making her one. A few weeks back I made my grandmother's apple cake. My brother in law makes from scratch baked beans and I think he's making them for tonight.

Sunday dinner is in a few hours and I can't wait. It's the best part of the week and it makes me so happy to not only eat my favorite meals and spend time with my family all together, but also to know that I'm giving my daughter the same sense of tradition I had, baked with the flavors of our collective memories. I hope she will look upon her childhood Sundays as fondly as I do.

Tonight we're having a whole roasted beef tenderloin with baked potatoes. We'll all tear into it, eat until we're stuffed and then we'll find room for dessert. When all the dishes are dried and put away and the take home plates wrapped in foil and packed into grocery bags we'll start talking about what we're going to have next week.
Saturday, February 19, 2011

Johnny Depp's Boat

Readers, this is Johnny Depp's boat and it is moored about a mile, possibly less, from where I live. This is one of my claims to fame - I live a mile from Johnny Depp's boat. I always tell my out of town guests this and it seems to excite and impress them for about fifteen seconds. Don't think I'm the only one who does this though. Everyone who lives within at least a three mile radius of Johnny Depp's boat is equally obsessed with Johnny Depp's boat. Everyone in the neighborhood talks about it.

"Hey you see Johnny Depp's boat?"

"Johnny Depp's boat's gone. Wonder where it went."

"Oh look, Johnny Depp's boat's back."

"You think Johnny Depp is on his boat?"

Johnny Depp's boat is a continued source of conversation around these parts.

Partly this is because Johnny Depp is an unusual character. He's mysterious, eccentric, massively A-list, more famous than anyone who has ever been in this town probably and well, he has a pretty cool-ass boat. I mean, look at the thing. It's like no other boat in the marina. It practically screams "I AM JOHNNY DEPP'S BOAT!!"

I love the teak and the brass trims and the gold filigree work. I love the pointy, sleek look of it. It's a neat boat. If I were Johnny Depp I'd definitely have a boat like that too. He's got good taste and to me I can just imagine Jack Sparrow jumping around on deck with a saber.

The boat even has an odd name. It's the first letters of the names of his wife and kids. I have no clue how one might pronounce it. It's called the "Vajoliroja." Don't ask me. I already said Johnny Depp was eccentric.

I have elaborate daydreams about Johnny Depp's boat. Namely that I'd run into Johnny, Vanessa and the kids and they'd love me and take me sailing. We'd go to Johnny Depp's island. I have no idea if he even has an island (seems like he would though) but in my fantasy Johnny Depp owns his own island. We'd get there and the island would look like a set from a Tim Burton movie and in fact, Tim Burton would be there and we'd hang out with him and drink pina coladas served to us by real Oompa Loompas and then there would be some pirate escapades, a tree house and maybe a Tiki Bird show. Wait, I think my childhood memories of Adventureland at the Magic Kingdom may have invaded my Johnny Depp daydream a little.

Oh well, I can dream. While I wait for the Depps to cruise up to my dock (that I don't have being that I live on the land side of the street), I thought you might enjoy seeing the boat too. If you want to know more about it, you can read here.
Friday, February 18, 2011

Telogen Effluvia

I managed to survive the dentist yesterday, but it's going to be the first of many trips and I'll need about six hundred dollars worth of repairs. See, that's what happens when you skip your cleanings and check-ups. Learn from my stupidity and go to the dentist twice a year. I had an embarrassing number of cavities and I'll live.

Turns out that cavities aren't my only problem. I'm currently suffering from a condition known as Telogen Effluvia. Sounds serious doesn't it? Well, it isn't. It's just annoying and it's nothing more than a fancy word for all your hair falling out after pregnancy. I knew it happened, but I had no idea it was this dramatic.

Coincidentally, I learned the name of the condition from watching the Today Show. They had a woman on a few weeks ago who was an expert on female hair loss and she was talking about pregnancy hormones and their effect on hair and she used the term.

My hair is falling out everywhere. When I was pregnant I grew a lion's mane of hair and it stopped falling out. I've always been an epic drain clogger, but it just stopped until about a month ago when all that hair that I had grown decided to shed. I feel like a tree in the fall all of a sudden. Actually, this is probably how my cat feels. She's always shedding. When I brush her, I get at least a kitten's worth of fur on the comb.

With all the hair I'm losing I should find a use for it. I could make all sorts of weaves and extensions out of it. Hell, I could stuff a mattress with it all. I should make Baby Lawns a little wig since she has no hair at all yet. Hey, there's an idea - baby wigs. I bet they'd be a hit on Toddlers and Tiaras just like those fake adult teeth they make those kids pop into their mouths.

I vacuum every day just to keep up with it all and it never ceases to amaze me just how much there is all over the floor by the next day. There are coils of it on my tiles, gobs of it in my tub. Strands and webs of my hair are laced through every room in my house and every thing I own.

Top Ten Places I Have Found My Hair

1. In a cake I made my grandmother.
2. In my cat's poop. How is my cat swallowing my hair?
3. Outside in my neighbor's bougainvillea vine.
4. In my dust bunnies under the bed.
5. Used as a bookmark in The New Yorker Scientology article.
6. Swinging from the ceiling fan.
7. In Baby Lawn's mouth (not amusing at all)
8. Being carried across the floor by a troop of ants. What were they going to do with it, I wonder?
9. Floating in a bottle of wine.
10. And worst of all - wrapped around the baby's finger in a nasty little tourniquet that was pretty hard to remove.

I've pretty much found my hair everywhere except on my head. When will it end? Is it going to go back to normal or will I have thin hair forever?

And you know what the worst part of it is? None of the grey hairs are falling out. Nope, those suckers are in there tight. You never lose the hair you want. Any man can tell you that. How many men have you seen who are bald on top but still have to wax their backs? I mean, I'd be fine if my leg hair decided to fall out. That would save me a lot of time in the shower. But no.

I guess I'm just going to have to keep brushing, washing every day and vacuuming for the time being. Don't worry. Since the hair wrapped itself around the baby's finger, I've developed a new OCD obsession and check her fingers and toes constantly to make sure it doesn't happen again.

The worst part of the falling hair so far happened at 3am the other night when I got up to nurse my non-sleeping child. In the dark I stepped on a knot of my own hair and in my tired haze I thought it was a giant, wooly spider. I nearly had a heart attack. I broke out into a cold sweat and had palpitations before I realized what it was.

By another coincidence I just read a fabulous piece of short non-fiction in this month's Brevity, which deals with fallen hair and all the things our bodies expel. I could relate. Maybe I'll make a hair patty and start wearing a big, Mennonite bun.
Thursday, February 17, 2011

Oh God. The Dentist.

I'm going to the dentist this morning. In an hour and a half, I will be at the dentist. I'm leaving the baby with my mom. Both of them will be thrilled with that arrangement. Baby Lawns loves my parents and visiting their home (lots of sparklies to look at there).

I am 100% freaked out. I haven't been to the dentist in six years people. I am embarrassed to admit that, but it's true. I am more terrified of the dentist than of any other doctor. Dental procedures scare me more than anything else.

This is a totally irrational fear. I know this. I have had oral surgery. I have had a tumor irradiated and a C-section. A dental cleaning can't possibly compare, yet I am petrified. I could barely sleep all night thinking about it.

So why am I so scared of the dentist? It's not pain I fear. It's not needles. I am totally desensitized to needles at this point in my life. It's gagging. I have a hyperactive gag reflex and I can't stand the feeling of metal and especially cotton in my mouth. I'm scared I'm going to throw up or not be able to breathe. I feel claustrophobic in the chair and trapped and awful. To me, there is no worse feeling and so, six years ago, after my oral surgery and after getting six veneers I started procrastinating going to the dentist. I skipped my six month cleanings. Then it was a year. Now it's six, just like that and the six years flew by. I didn't mean to go six years.

After five years I started imagining that I had incurable gum disease and was going to lose all my teeth and have to wear dentures. The thought of that made me scared to go to the dentist because I didn't want to hear bad news, so that added to my procrastinating in a way that I understand doesn't really make sense. I know how stupid I'm being.

One of my other New Year's resolutions, being that I've killed all the plants, was to stop neglecting certain aspects of my health like my eyes and my teeth. I think it's just that over the past few years I've had to go to the doctor so much that I got sick of it and didn't want to do anything else medically related. This might surprise some people who know me. I know there are family members etc. who think I'm being dramatic and that I go to the doctor too much and have too much blood work. To these people I say, well, you don't want to know what I say, but look - I don't want to ever go to the doctor at all or get blood work done ever, but it's not exactly a choice here. I have a chronic condition and it needs to be monitored pretty much forever. Because of that I let other things slip. I let my phobias rule.

A few weeks ago I finally got my behind in the eye doctor's office. I had been having recurring, painful inflammation in my right eye which I was convinced was something that was going to make me lose my whole eyeball and make me half blind so I'd have to wear a glass eye or a pirate patch. Turns out I have a mild condition called episcleritis that is related to my autoimmune illness and I just need to use some steroid drops when it flares up and no, I will not go blind from it. It will just annoy me periodically and my vision is perfectly average for my age.

I had really been terrified of the eye doctor too. I thought he was going to stick needles in my eyes. He didn't. I was fine.

Let's hope I can survive the dentist. Wish me luck! I'm doing it! I'm facing my fear!
Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Old Photos Update

I have a final answer on the old photos issue! Last week my mom went up to Millpond to visit my grandmother and uncle. While there, my mom mentioned to my grandmother about the photos I had framed and displayed. My grandmother had no problem with it at all and then she said that if I liked the old pictures so much and was doing something with them that she had more to give me. She didn't need to keep them around now that she is remarried and her kids are all grandparents now too, so she thought I would appreciate them more than anyone else. She was right! My mom couldn't have brought back a bigger treat for me. In the stack of photos are even my mother's wedding pictures to my biological father and she has no hang-ups about these either, though I certainly won't display those. Now I have to get my scanner set up and running again to preserve the pictures. One of the comments on the photo post said I shouldn't display the old photos because it will ruin them. I should have explained that I scan the pictures and then get reprints done at Costco and then keep the originals safe. They are precious, precious memories to me. I am so glad to have these pictures.

New Year's Resolution - Shot

It only took me a month to blow it. I'm kind of proud that I lasted a month though. It's like some kind of record for me.

My resolution this year was to get some houseplants and not kill them. I dreamed of a house full of green living things all thriving and making clean air. There'd be lots of herbs on my dining room windowsill. I'd pluck them and cook delicious dishes. Ehhh. Me and my fantasies.

And jeez, wasn't that a simple resolution? I wanted something realistic, not some huge BE A BETTER PERSON kind of resolution, though in my world being able to not kill plants IS being a better person, but oh well.

I got the herbs - basil, rosemary and peppermint. They were gorgeous on the day I brought them home. It was pretty much downhill from then on.  I got an aloe, which is still ok, but starting to look wrinkly. Then my husband got in on it and got a bunch of big, potted palmy things at Costco (of course because he is physically incapable of shopping anywhere else).

Things were looking ok.  For a day or so.

I am feeling so negative writing this.

I tried though. I swear to God. I made it part of my daily ritual to water the plants. Then I thought I was watering them too much so I eased up and went to every couple of days. The rosemary started to get all limp and brown and dropped needles. I didn't even get to use one sprig in one pot roast dammit and I wanted roasted potatoes and pork roast. Then the peppermint dropped all its leaves.  After that the cat palm from Costco started doing something called "brown tipping" and I looked it up and it's caused by too much or too little watering. This sent me into a fit. How could I know which one?? I decided to cut the brown leaves off.

Then my husband, in an attempt to remedy the herbs took them outside, but this caused an out of sight out of mind syndrome to occur and I let them perish the rest of the way until I saw the basil struggling. I brought it back inside and put it in the sink and watered it. This I got to use a few leaves of in some tuna pasta last week, but I don't know if it's going to make it.

I just suck at growing houseplants. I guess that's why I'm not a farmer. I have a black thumb and it's so sad because I desperately want to be one of those people who grows things but every attempt I have ever made at keeping a plant alive has failed dramatically.

I used to say that I should never have kids because I couldn't even keep a simple houseplant alive. I'd never manage a baby, I believed. Well, the baby is four months old, thriving and doing well.  Apparently babies are easier than houseplants.

Can I start over with a new resolution?
Tuesday, February 15, 2011


I hated dating. I really did. I tried it all - blind dates, set-ups from friends, saying yes to every guy who asked and even online dating. I could write a book comprised of nothing but my disastrous dates and all the strange things guys did and said to me. On several occasions I felt like the men I dated were sizing me up based on rigid standards they'd devised, like they were trying to fill a role with the characteristics of a fantasy woman they'd created who likely didn't exist. They'd give me the weirdest reasons for dumping me or even not wanting a second date. One said I didn't have the body type he desired and another told me I didn't look Jewish enough. He liked a more Semitic looking woman and I'm just too French looking. Others even eliminated me based on musical preferences. I couldn't believe how shallow some of these guys were. Thank God I'm not dating now.

My cousin Bella, however, is dating now. She came to visit me last weekend and met Baby Lawns who cemented her desire to officially never, ever, ever have children ever period. While here Bella told me her own dating horror and it was so strange to me that I had to share and Bella would like to hear some of your opinions.

Bella has been dating a guy, we'll call him Cal, for a couple months. She says she's taking it slowly because she's not sure of some things, while other things are perfect. Cal has some reservations about Bella as well and recently he brought them up to her in a serious heart to heart.

Cal was concerned that Bella is selfish. When she asked why, he told her the following story.

Cal's favorite movie of all time is A Bronx Tale. I like this movie too. I even saw it as a one man play two years ago. Now in the film, one character gives the main character dating advice. He says that you have to test a woman when you date her. When you go to get in the car and the man opens the door for the woman and she gets in, the man has to go around and get in the driver's side. During this period, the woman, if she isn't selfish and therefore a worthy woman, will reach over and unlock the man's door for him proving that she thinks of him and not just her own comfort. Cal took this advice to heart because he loves this film that much.

Bella didn't pass the test and to Cal, this was a really, really big deal and he was extremely upset about it and made Bella feel terrible, but also mad.

You see, Cal has power locks. He unlocks the door of his car from his key chain before they even get to the car. Bella's car has the same thing and this is pretty much standard these days. Bella couldn't even remember the last time she was in a car that didn't unlock this way and neither can I. She tried to explain to him the logic of this, but he wouldn't relent. It was the thought that counted, he said.

"But why?? The car is already unlocked! You want me to reach over in an empty gesture for no reason other than to prove something to you based on a movie?"she asked.

Cal said yes.

A Bronx Tale takes place in the early 60s when cars and people were different. The rules aren't the same and neither are the cars. Sometimes Bella drives on their dates. That would have been unheard of fifty years ago. Did Cal reach over to fake unlock her door? I wonder.

Determining whether a date is worthy of you shouldn't be based on tests or a set of criteria. It should never be based on a movie, no matter how great the movie is. It's important to be with someone who isn't selfish, but a fictional test from the 1960s that no longer applies because of advances in technology and gender equality isn't the way to figure out if your date is considerate enough for you.

Bella wonders what to do. I gave her some advice of my own. What advice would you give her?
Monday, February 14, 2011

Coconut Shrimp from The Caves

Here's my recipe for tonight. I love that I found it. In the upper corner, out of the photo, the chef signed his name and his name was Shabba which is the coolest name for a chef I've probably ever heard. We went here for our honeymoon and if anyone is looking for an incredible vacation spot I highly recommend it if you can stand to rough it a little without AC and TV and want a more authentic experience. The food was out of this world good and it was real Jamaican food, not fancied up resort food. I loved it. I could eat like that every day. Let's hope I can recreate it.

Happy Valentine's Day

Happy Valentine's Day! I hope you're all having a good holiday.

I don't have a lot of patience for Valentine's Scrooges ( so why did I always end up dating these types?) - you know those people who say it's not a real holiday, it's obligatory romance, it's all about spending money or it excludes single people. Valentine's Day doesn't have to be any of those things.You can make it whatever you want, just like with anything.

I suspect some of the Valentine naysayers act this way as a defense mechanism because they're scared they won't have a Valentine or that their significant other won't do anything nice for them. Others are cheap or cynical and the rest are just lazy types who don't want to put any effort into anything.

I have a friend who has lately been putting up all kinds of anti-Valentine stuff on facebook and it's totally obvious to me that she is doing this because she wants her boyfriend to propose and thinks he won't and she's trying to avoid setting herself up for embarrassment or disappointment. I hope she has a nice day anyway.

When I was little I remember we always had a party in our classroom that involved loads of sugar and red dye and little paper cards. I loved our in-class parties. The kids would be bouncing off the walls from all that candy, so I pity the grown-ups who had to deal with us, but we loved them. Rumor is that they don't allow parties like this in school but I don't know if this is some Fox News bull crap to get up in arms about and blame liberals for or if it's actually true. I hope kids still get parties in school.

I'm not doing a lot for Valentine's Day. I like to celebrate with candy, a peaceful dinner and maybe a movie. I ordered a box of Sees Candy, but it hasn't arrived yet. Let's hope it gets here before dinner or I'll have to make brownies. You have to have chocolate on February 14th. Growing up with my grandparents, my grandfather always brought my grandmother a heart shaped box of chocolates and a dozen red roses. He wasn't original, but he was consistent and I love him for that. He splurged on the big, red box too. I used to hate the candy inside, but I couldn't wait for the adults to eat it so I could get at that box. I used to like to play with those boxes. I thought they were so beautiful and they always came with a big, lifelike plastic rose glued to the lid. I'd pull the rose off and pretend it was a corsage or try to stick it in my hair. I thought it was glamorous.

My grandparents instilled in me my love of holidays. My grandmother redecorated the house for every holiday. We truly celebrated everything. She had hand towels and pot holders for every occasion, as well as little paper cut-outs that she'd scotch tape to the front door and the picture window. I loved them. I don't quite go that far, but I have the hand towels and pot holders. I'm also guilty of themed candy and soap dishes too. I can't help it. I love the kitsch. It makes me so happy. In the above photo you can see what I did to my dining room. I went all out with a runner and napkins.

For dinner I'm making a recipe that I got from the chef at the place where we went on our honey moon. I found it the other day when I was unpacking some boxes (yes, STILL) and I realized I'd never tried it. It's for a Jamaican style shrimp curry and I had all the ingredients already.

I don't know about a movie yet. My favorite romantic comedy is When Harry Met Sally. I'll always watch it if I see it's on TV. It's not on today. I may drag out my dvd or I may just settle for last week's Modern Family on the dvr. I love that show. I'm totally addicted. I just discovered it and now my whole family is so hooked we bought the dvds and had a marathon. Now we're caught up, but I saved last week's episode. I think the funniest episode was last year's Valentine show, so I hope this year's is just as good. I'm not kidding. Best show on TV. The writing is fantastic. You have to watch it.

If you're single, don't be sad. Do something with your family or friends or treat yourself alone to something you love. Celebrate everything. Don't be lazy or cynical. Have fun with life.

If you're with someone, go out of your way a little bit and I bet you'll be glad you did.
Wednesday, February 09, 2011

Old Photos

Last week was the anniversary of my grandfather's death, so he was on my mind a lot. It's been so many years, but I still miss him. When he died, my mom took a bunch of stuff from his apartment. He didn't have a lot of mementos. He hadn't been sentimental and he hadn't lived one of those lives where he stayed in the same house his whole life and accumulated a collection of items with meaning and history. He'd moved around a lot, not been stable and I'm sure a lot of treasures were lost in moves or divorces. My mom took what she could - a brass lamp, a marble topped table, some antique ceramic crocks he'd picked up at an Amish market, and a handful of photographs. Just a handful.

I saved the photographs. I was scared that in my parents' many moves and the busy confusion of their home that something might happen to them. Among the photos were a few portraits my grandparents had done when they were married. I kept them locked safely in a trunk for years.

Now I have a house, but it's more than a house. I'm creating a home finally and I'm putting a lot of consideration into how I decorate, what items I display. I wanted to hang up and put out meaningful pictures of family members, old and new, so that my daughter will see these people and know them even when many of them are gone. It's my way of keeping memories alive and honoring everyone who came before. It makes me happy looking at the photos.

My dilemma is that my grandparents divorced. They were married for twenty-seven years, had five children, four of whom lived and then my grandfather had an affair with a nineteen year old who got pregnant. He devastated and humiliated my grandmother and I don't think she ever got over her bitterness. That affair and that baby weren't his first. He was unfaithful to my grandmother often over the years and there were many unproven rumors of children with other women. He was a big drinker and my mother has told me stories of violent fights my grandparents had when she was growing up. They didn't have a happy marriage by most accounts.

I loved my grandfather. My mother loved her father enough to name me after him and in spite of his flaws and despite the fact that he wasn't a very good husband, he was a good grandfather. I have a lot of cherished memories of him. I miss him all the time.

His ex-wife, my grandmother, is still alive. She doesn't speak kindly of him ever, understandably. She has remarried a wonderful man who suits her much better and she has found happiness later in life. She so deserves that and I recognize that her husband now is a much better match for her than my grandfather ever was.

My dilemma is with the photos. My grandfather saved them. I know that later in life he admitted to regretting his choices. He was sorry. He loved his two subsequent kids, but he knew he hurt my grandmother and that what he did was terribly wrong. I also know that my grandmother doesn't like to be reminded of her failed marriage and that she doesn't celebrate the years spent with him very much.

Is it wrong to display the photographs of my grandparents' wedding even though it ended in a nasty divorce? Would my grandmother disprove of these pictures in my home? Are the pictures a reminder of bad memories?

I like the photos because they are beautiful. They show people I love when they were young, unruined and full of hope. I like seeing them that way. Both of them were so devastatingly good looking, like movie stars. I know they loved each other madly when they got married and you can see that in the pictures taken on that day. Once they were happy and excited. To me, the pictures are proof that there really were good times and maybe it's best to remember those moments instead. Maybe the pictures also serve as a reminder not to ruin the possibility of happiness in my own marriage.

But maybe displaying the pictures is whitewashing a tragedy, denying destruction. Maybe it would be an insult to my grandmother. I know she'll never visit to see the photos, but still. What would she say if she knew I framed them and put them out on my mantle?

And then there's my mother who loves what I did and loves seeing her parents happy and young and she comes over all the time. What do I tell my daughter when she asks about the people in black and white? Will I tell her the truth one day about how much I hated having divored grandparents and will she be able to understand my loving a man who was so deeply flawed that he could hurt his own family so much?

I don't know, but I can't bring myself to take the pictures down.

As Promised - The White Castle Dip

I can't believe someone actually made it, took pictures and posted it, but Head Ant did and yes, it looks like barf though she said it was somewhat edible. I was surprised because I thought the ground up hamburgers would be sloppier looking but they were more like breadcrumbs and now I see the absolute necessity of the parsley flakes. Without them it's indistinguishable from a pile of puke, although with them it kind of looks like when the cat pukes after she's eaten grass. Here it is people.
Tuesday, February 08, 2011

Widelawns Bookclub February Meeting

Just Kids 
This past weekend several of my friends were at the AWP conference, which is an annual conference for creative writers. I was sad to miss it. I've never been, but I've always wanted to go. I think I'd just love it. Instead I'm in baby care mode, but I keep telling myself this is temporary. One day I'll get to do things again. This is just a different time in my life now and just because I'm not in grad school anymore and not teaching doesn't mean I can't still enjoy and write about books and writers. I can do it here.

I was really enjoying my summer reading posts when I was pregnant. Since the baby has been born it has taken me longer to read books, but I haven't stopped and I want to continue my Widelawns Bookclub. 

Just Read - I saw Elizabeth Gilbert on the Today show last week talking about her new book Committed that just came out in paperback. She's the author of Eat, Pray, Love as you probably know. I enjoyed this book because I like Elizabeth Gilbert's writing voice. As with her previous book, I couldn't relate to the book's central conflict about marriage. I felt like she was making a mountain out of a molehill. I wish Elizabeth Gilbert would just write travel books. I love the way she describes places I will never visit and people I will never meet but would love to. I don't need a thesis or a  personal revelation. I'd just like to hear about her adventures and her adventures in Asia were the best part of this book and make it worth reading. There were some interesting facts and insights on marriage, but overall I liked the travel stories best.

Reading Now - I decided a while back that I would try to read as many award winners as I could, so now I'm reading Patti Smith's Just Kids which won the National Book Award. It's an account of her relationship with artist Robert Mapplethorpe who is best known for his graphic photography. I am familiar with Smith's work (her music) and with Mapplethorpe, but many of the other artists she talks about I've never heard of so I have to keep looking up names. Read this book with Wikipedia on hand. I'm not complaining though. I enjoy a book that teaches and challenges me. This book won the National Book Award on the richness of its subject matter. The writing is good, but not fantastic and you all know how I am about quality and artistry of writing. Patti Smith is a decent writer, but sometimes the story has too much exposition and too few scenes to really draw me in and there are parts of the story that I felt should be more emotional that felt cold and distant because the writing was too flat. That aside, the subject matter is riveting and fascinating and is what makes me anxious to get a free moment so I can keep reading. I still recommend it.

Waiting on the Widelawns Kindle - I have quite a few books in the Kindle queue which I hope I can get to soon.

Recently I learned that a girl I went to school with, Julie Buxbaum, when I lived in New York is now a famous writer who lives in London and is having one of her novels made into a movie starring Anne Hathaway. Again, it's my curse. People I once knew become famous and I don't. Sigh. But that doesn't mean I'm all bitter, jealous and full of schadenfreude. I'm thrilled for Julie.  I wasn't friends with her, though I wish I had been. She was in a few grades under me and mostly I remember that her brother was on Alf. I guess I kind of feel like if one person from our school at that time became a famous writer then the odds are that I won't and that makes me kind of sad. It's like winning the lottery in a way. A few years back a girl in the English department of my University won the Power Ball, so I decided never to play the lotto because the odds of two people in the same department of the same school winning are pretty much gazillions to one and I figure it's impossible for me to ever win the lottery now. You know why Julie Buxbaum became a famous writer though? Because she actually sat her ass down and wrote some books. This is something I have trouble with, so I really shouldn't complain at all. I think I need some ADD medicine because I always start things and never finish them. I seem to only be able to write essays, poems and short stories because I can finish them without losing interest or momentum. Anyway, I wanted to read Julie's books to support her and I encourage you to do the same. Waiting on my Kindle are After You and The Opposite of Love. Julie also has a blog that I enjoy. This post in particular really helped me know that my new mother anxiety is something other women experience too and I thank her for that.

Anyone else reading anything I need to put in the queue?

Another Day

I'm feeling a lot better today, though still sleep deprived. Again, thanks for all of your words of encouragement. I feel more like everything is going to be ok. I really do. If only I could get some sleep, I think I'd have an even clearer head, but that's the nature of having an infant, I guess and I got one of the ones who never ever sleeps. My sister is lucky. Her baby pretty much does nothing but sleep, but Baby Lawns never does. It's rare she even takes a nap, though I try to get her to. I swear I see Adderall in this child's future, but I hope not.

Last night, after a long talk and commitment to specific, concrete changes, I took a nice shower and had a Pepsi. I never drink Pepsi but it was good and then I got a sweet tooth. I said I wanted some ice cream. No sooner had I typed that out then my phone rang and it was my neighbor who said she had some cherry cheesecake for me if I wanted it.

About 15 minutes later she arrived with a huge box of food and the cherry cheesecake. She said she thought she should bring me all of her leftovers from her Superbowl party. There were meatballs, a carrot cake, a key lime pie, pasta salad and potato salad. It was ridiculous how much food she brought me. I had a feast.

Then my husband showed up with ice cream, almond joys, junior mints and hot tamales.

I went to bed and around 9:30 there was a knock at the door and it was my friend Sam walking the dogs and he brought me, I kid you not, a huge slice of chocolate raspberry cake that he thought I would like, just out of the blue.

I have written before of my power to manifest things in my life. This was just another example. The Universe was reminding me, I think, of the abundance that can be in my life if I just ask. It was telling me that everything is going to be ok. I am going to get what I want and need in life.

I'm going to be positive. I'm going to get over this and get through this dark place in my life by being positive and productive and I'm going to give my baby a beautiful life with a healthy family and a warm, safe home.

And since no one believes me, I took a picture of my packed fridge.
Sunday, February 06, 2011

Big Joe

Bombaclaat has gotten all the attention for his antics, but my parents have another eccentric dog that I figured it was time for you all to meet.  Readers, this is Big Joe.

Big Joe is a four year old, 130 pound Doberman who thinks he is a Chihuahua. Big Joe looks intimidating that's for sure and he has a deep, booming woof that would scare any robber away, but the truth is that Big Joe is a big old wuss. An alpha-dog he is not. That title goes to his Mini-Me, the real boss Bombaclaat, who is all of ten pounds. I'm convinced that dogs just don't recognize their own size. You ever notice how tiny dogs always think they're huge and giant dogs always think they can fit on your lap? Our dogs are like that. Bombaclaat thinks he's the biggest, baddest dog on the block and Big Joe, who may well be the biggest (though not baddest) dog on the block, has no clue of his strength and heft.

We love Big Joe's sweet personality. He's more Labrador than Doberman. When you think of Dobies, the image that comes to most people's minds is a ruthless, attack machine who takes orders in German and can rip your arm off in any language.You don't think of a goofy, leaping doofus of a dog who likes to run on the beach, play fetch with rubber chickens and lean his butt against any stranger for a tail scratch. But that's our dog.

Lately, he's been a bit of an escape artist too and he's been giving us quite a few laughs.

First off, Big Joe has turned into a stealthy thief who premeditates his crimes. He's been stealing dog toys from the neighbor's yard.

Now my parents have a backyard that is pretty difficult to escape from, but somehow Big Joe has been getting out and we finally figured it out. It's actually pretty remarkable. They have an iron fence that is way too high for a dog to jump. Big Joe has never figured out how to dig under it and no one ever unlocks and leaves open the gate. The fence runs all the way to the dock. The dock is parallel to the house so when you look out the backdoor you see the canal. The dogs steer clear of the canal because they're scared of water. Our dock runs the length of our property and there's about a three to five foot gap between our dock and our neighbors' docks on both ends. To get out of the yard without scaling the fence, you'd have to jump from the end of our dock to the end of the neighbor's dock and hope you didn't end up in the water. It is important to note that Big Joe is terrified of water. He hates it so much that if people are in the pool he becomes frantic and runs around its perimeter barking because he thinks its an emergency.

But the allure of other dogs' toys was too much for him to bear and Big Joe has started jumping the dock to get into the neighbor's backyard because they don't have a fence. This allows him to run down the street to the other neighbor's house, go into their fenceless yard and steal the toys of a neurotic Bichon named Princess who has a bad case of hot spots and has to wear tee shirts. The neighbor even told us that Big Joe stands on their deck and looks in their sliding glass doors.

It took us a while to figure out where all these new, strange dog toys were coming from. One day he came home with a rubber chicken! Finally, I solved the mystery because I caught Big Joe in the act. I was over at my parents' and I let him out for a couple minutes. I looked in the backyard and he was gone, but shortly thereafter he reappeared with a stuffed mallard duck in his mouth. I had seen this duck before when we had stone crabs at our neighbor's house. Big Joe was busted.

Another time Big Joe escaped the yard and mysteriously came to my house! He ran right up to my front door. The only thing I can figure is that he missed Canela. I tried to walk him home but I didn't have a leash and Big Joe didn't want to leave. I finally had to trick him by opening my car door. Dogs will pretty much just jump in any car I find because they love to go for rides, so I had to end up driving Big Joe home a whopping block and a half away. Crazy dog.

The biggest laugh we got from Big Joe was just last week when he scared the crap out of a huge, Italian, touch guy body builder.

My dad was walking Big Joe around the neighborhood when he met a lady who was walking her female Rottweiler. They stopped to talk dogs and the dogs really seemed to hit it off. The lady, named Renee, thought the dogs would have a good time if they could run free, off their leashes and really play with each other. She said she had a big yard and lived just down the street, so they should go to her house for a little while. My dad said that sounded great and they went.

Turns out that Renee and her husband own a large and popular chain of pizza places and are quite well to do. They have a big house on the beach with a huge walled in yard. They went into the yard and closed the gates so the dogs could run free and my dad and Renee stood and talked while the dogs did their thing.

Renee's house was under construction. She was renovating and there were a lot of workers going in and out, so some of the doors were open. Renee's husband Vito was upstairs taking a shower and he is a huge, body builder type of macho Italian guy.

All of a sudden my dad and Renee hear Vito screaming at the top of his lungs from the upstairs bathroom window.

"Renee!! There's a Doberman outside the bathroom door!! What the hell is this?? I'm trapped! Call 911!!!" he yelled, "HELP ME!!"

Turns out the dogs had decided to go explore the house and Big Joe had decided to see what was upstairs. He must have heard Vito showering and wanted to meet him. Vito opened the bathroom door, all clean and wrapped in his towel to see an unexpected, massive attack dog standing in his bedroom barking at him. Big Joe barks when he wants to play, but if you don't know him he sounds scary so Vito was peeing his pants! He ran back in his bathroom and locked himself in so he could call for help from the window.

Of course when it was cleared up everyone thought it was hilarious, but needless to say, we're not getting and free pizza any time soon!

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