Hullabaloo

(Disclaimer: I’m cleaning out my drafts and this was originally written in August 2017. It was 90% done, so now it’s finished and published.)

I don’t socialize with my coworkers anymore.  I used to. There used to be a time when we’d go out for drinks and dinner after work and I would help them move and drive them to airports and loan them money and listen to them complain about (insert relationship here) and go to their kids Christenings and bake for them and fix their hems and all other sorts of things a coworker-turned-friend would do.  But then I always got too close. And I always got screwed.

“June” though, is different.  She doesn’t work with me directly on a day to day basis (she’s on of my business contacts).  We see each other outside of the office every six months or so, or when either of us has a life crisis and needs to cry/bitch/wallow to the other.  We can shut down a restaurant (we will tip you very well to leave us alone) and talk for hours.  There is no judging, no taking advantage of and tons of laughter in this friendship.

The way it should be, right?

So this summer, it really took a lot for me to finally accept the invitation to the Out East Hullabaloo from one of my coworkers, Magee.  I’ve been getting this annual invite for 10 years or so and I always turned it down even though it was only 15 minutes from our beach house.  Magee and I get along (despite him almost killing me- a story for another day) but I just couldn’t bring myself to go to his house and socialize with the all the other people in my department that he invited.

Enter my wing man, June.  She couldn’t go to the Hullabaloo last year, but this year she really wanted to go-she wanted to step out of her comfort zone after ending her 13 year relationship and have a good time. I was doubtful about the good time, but I agreed to go.  If it was unbearable, at least we’d be drinking.

Surprise, surprise- it was one of the best times I’ve had in a very, very long time.

MR, June and I showed up very early and paid our $2 each to compete in the Horseshoe Tournament.  We slapped our name tags on, grabbed some beers and sat down under one of the umbrella tables next to the pool.

I wasn’t expecting this.  His house was nice, the grounds and pool were beautiful and his family was so kind and so welcoming.  We chatted with relatives, family friends and long-time attendees of the Hullabaloo (this was the 20th year).  We made a few connections, exchanged a few email addresses, cooed over babies and dipped our feet in the pool.  June the Mermaid eventually jumped in while I hovered over her hoping she wouldn’t drown (it was deep and she is short and not an experienced swimmer).  Then MR and I were called for our round of horseshoes.

Horseshoes are awesome.

Let’s just say that I am now called The Ringer.  All those years of bowling league and all those years of dart tournaments certainly helped my aim, stance and arm in horseshoes.  I took off my sandals, hiked up my skirt and MR and I made it to the final four round.  The hardcore throwers couldn’t believe I was keeping up with them (MR was a natural, of course- he was really the backbone of our team) and soon the trash-talk began.  I don’t play that so I was glad we were finally beaten and that opposing team went on to win.  After the tournament, these big, gruff guys came over to us and gave me a big hug and complimented me on my game and didn’t believe us when we said I had never played before.

It’s nice when you’re good at something, even if it is a fluke, and people recognize that.  It doesn’t happen often, lol.  It’s also nice to find a group of people you enjoy hanging around with.  The Hullabaloo will be something we’ll be going to again.

If we’re invited back.  Nobody likes a ringer.

Serious Eats for One Month- I Am Tired

I’m pooped.

I got home late last night from seeing KINKYBOOTS with April. If you get a chance to see it, go! We quoted the movie lines along with the actors, we cheered for for the beautiful Angels, we cried at Simon’s secrets. Lauren, the co-worker was hysterical, I could have watched her all night. Going out with April is always a good time. At any moment, even in the restaurant, she would scream “KINKYBOOTS” and scare the crap out if me. She compared going to see this (long-waited-for) play to a kid waiting on line for Santa. With sprinkles. And candy canes. And hot elves.

Dinner was our usual Thai, at Pongsri on West 48th Street. We had almost three hours to kill before the show started. Appetizers, beer, Pink Valentines and curry dishes were a nice change of pace to the frantic pace of cooking I’ve been doing this week.

It’s also been crazy at work this week. We are vacating 299 Park Avenue, my home for the last five or so years. I’ve been packing and cleaning for the move tomorrow- how have I accumulated so much shit in five years? Granted, my line of work comes with a lot of baggage (plotters, rolls of paper of plans, cutters, binders and rulers) but all the personal crap- where did all this come from? I guess it’s time to throw all those ketchup packets away.

Tonight MR and I went to the local ethnic food store specifically for dried Ancho chilis, tortillas and dried guajillo peppers. We got the tortillas, but go figure, the Spanish store didn’t have the peppers. I started cooking as soon as I got home, but I literally ran out of steam. I stopped halfway through frying up the peppers and asked if we could finish up the Pot Pie we had at the beginning of the week.  I heated up the other half (that thing provided two dinners and one lunch) for MR, Zombiegirl and myself.  When Utah came home, she ate some of the pizza from Tuesday that I had cut and frozen.  Four meals cooked, five nights  of dinners.  And four lunches.  If I weren’t so tired right now, I’d calculate how much this cost me per meal.

Sorry, I think I just zonked out for a minute there.

I went back after dinner and finished up tomorrow’s meal so it’s all ready to pop into the oven before MR picks me up at the train station. I had to make a few changes on this one- i don’t know if it’s because I’m out of it or what-I couldn’t follow this recipe at all.

I did end up with a killer hot sauce.  More on that tomorrow.

Rambling, disjointed post.  Just like old times, right?  Doesn’t matter, take one thing away from this post- go see Kinkyboots at the Al Hirschfield Theater.  Ask for Lola.

Countdown to Christmas – Wintuk!

Oooh- one more day until I pick a winner!  It’ll be sometime tomorrow morning, and I’ll email the winner immediately!  I was going to throw everyone’s name in a hat, but there are too many!  Random generator it is.  I’ll just call him “Santa”.

If you’re looking for something to do with your kids for Christmas, consider getting tickets to see Cirque du Soleil’s Wintuk at the Theater at Madison Square Garden.  It’s the last season they’ll be performing and there are still plenty of seats left- at least the night we went.

I was a little skeptical about seeing the show since the reviews weren’t that favorable.  But then I rarely listen to reviews since the Highbrows and myself usually don’t like the same things.  Z-girl really wanted to go and since I’ve taken the older girls all those years to the Christmas Spectacular at Radio City courtesy of my workplace, I figured since it was the last year, she should see it.

Wow.  Really.  Wow.

It’s Cirque du Soleil so right there you have acrobats, crazy costumes, ethereal music and stage settings.  Add in skateboarders, rollerbladers, 20′ hills, huge storks, rock monsters, trampolines, hoola hoopers, cops, robbers and bicycles and you don’t know where to look first.  And the sheepdogs?  A little weird but very cute.

Then it snows.  On the audience.  A couple of times.  Tons and tons of paper snowflakes (that don’t taste good.  Don’t ask…)  I looked to my friend Ronnie (who brought two of her four kids) and I literally couldn’t see her through the blizzard.  I felt like the little kid on the commercial looking up and grinning like a maniac and laughing with glee.  I guess everyone in the audience felt like that…when the snow cleared I saw a lot of happy faces.

I tried (simultaneously) not to get upset at the amount of paper waste  and figure out what I could make with the millions of pieces of tissue paper that floated down on us.  The kids were gathering it up by the handfuls and I finally had to ask an usher how they cleaned it up after every performance.

They “leaf” blow it and then vacuum it up.

I’m sorry I didn’t get any pictures of this very visual show and the snow that followed. 

It was pretty spectacular.

Countdown to Christmas – Need a Gift?

Holy hotcakes!  I can’t believe how many comments there are so far for my humble little tutu!  Y’all are so sweet saying so many nice things about it.  I can’t wait to pick a winner!

If you have someone on your list you have no idea what to get for Christmas, I know people.  I have friends in high places who sell stuff.  Check out their websites or give them a call to get that perfect gift:

  • Kelli at Gobbie’s Goodies has beautiful handmade gifts and cards.  The cards are awesome- she took all the pictures herself.  Christmas plates, decorations, kids stuff…email her for pictures and prices.  Kelliw@mindspring.com
  • Eileen sells Jewels by Park Lane.  I’ve bought many pieces from her- their deals are awesome! No matter what piece I wear, I always get complimented on it.  Email Ei with your order- mikenei@aol.com
  • My soccer peep, Jan sells Tastefully Simple food products.  I can’t tell you how many of their spices I have in my pantry.  Don’t get me started on the Bountiful Beer Bread Mix.  Oh, yum.  Search for Jan Petersen in the Consultant Search or email her at entertainwithez@optonline.net.
  • Denise sells Pampered Chef.  Have you tried their pizza stones?  We make pizza on one every Thursday night- they are awesome!  (Now if I could perfect the sauce…)  I love Pampered Chef’s stoneware- they’re easy to use and to clean!  Email Denise at soccermom1514@hotmail.com or visit her website above.
  • Nanette is my Avon lady.  Everyone needs one at this time of year because their stocking stuffers are adorable!  Order at her website at the link above.
  • Finally, the greatest saleswoman of all time, my business Mom, Becky Vance.  Becky sells Passion Party– if you haven’t checked out Passion Parties, you’ve been missing a LOT of fun.  (NSFW, BTW)  If you don’t want to order for Christmas, keep in mind that Valentine’s Day is coming up!
  • Oh, yeah.  Then there’s me.  Check out my Etsy shop.  I have to add tutus to it.  If you want to purchase a tutu, please let me know!

Those are my friends and they’re all awesome ladies.  They do great parties and their customer service is terrific!  Makes buying gifts easy…now I have to go and place my orders!

Better Than Ebay

Going once, going twice- sold! to bidder number 36.

What a rush!  Before last Saturday, I’ve never been to a live auction, let alone bid in one.  I’ve been a member of eBay for over 10 years and I’ve experienced the adrenaline pumping joy of sniping something at the last minute and the agonizing defeat of losing a much-wanted item.  I’ve amassed most of my Vintage Fiesta pieces online, bidding out other collectors.  It’s a sweet win.

But the rush of actually seeing who you’re bidding against while little beads of sweat start breaking out on your forehead hoping the price doesn’t go too high?  No online auction can beat that.

MR’s sister Lau and her husband Ick (actual nicknames used to protect the innocent) belong to the Peekskill German-American club– an adorable little Bavarian style club.  German eagles (made by MR, hisself) and the requisite “Das Boot” beer mug hangs over the bar.  Handlebar mustachioed men walk through the crowds holding foot-tall Franzikaner beers.

It’s all quite quaint.  I wish we belonged to a club like this closer to home.

So last Saturday, the club held an auction fundraiser with Ross Art House.   There was “sports” art, “music” art- an Eric Clapton signed album and a drum top signed by the members of Pink Floyd- as well as prints by Dali, Erte, Kinkaide and Chagall.  Quite a lot of the prints were signed and numbered by the artist.  There were a few original pieces as well as a few Disney Sericels…basically, something for everyone.

When we first walked in, my first impressions was, meh, these are all old lady paintings (no offense to anyone who likes Thomas Kinkaide.)  But as I roamed the tables, I saw more pieces I liked.

Such as this:

And this:

And this:

But we REALLY liked these:

These are by Graciela Rodo Boulanger, a Bolivian artist noted for her whimsical, child-like paintings.  The first one is called “A Koala Bear for Sandra” and the second is “A Puma for Josquin and Mathieu”.  They’re small prints, mounted in beautiful frames.  They remind me of Maurice Sendak illustrations.

I wanted them.  Zombiegirl and MR agreed.

We placed our cards in the frames, which indicated our interest in bidding.  When they came up for bid, the auctioneer said they were going to do things a little differently with these.  Give me a number, he said.

I called out $50!

Okaaaay, he said.  That IS a number.  (How rude!)

Bidding was fast with myself and two other people interested.  MR said there was a woman down in front that kept shooting me the stink eye since I was bidding against her.  I was exasperated at the man on the other side of the room outbidding me.  After another flurry of bids, I was the winner!  When the second piece came up, the woman in front was determined to have it.  I, on the other hand, had plans to put one each on either side of our wall unit.  (Always have a place to put your artwork before bidding or buying!  Otherwise it’ll end up in a closet and you’ll never enjoy it.)  The second piece went a little higher than the first, but I won that one too!

In your face, old German lady!

(Just kidding.  I don’t know if she was German or not, and besides, everyone was very nice at the club…)

I was high on the power of the paddle.  I needed to buy something else, but I knew I couldn’t afford anything- the starting bids on almost everything with the exception of the Boulangers were well over $100 each.  During intermission however, my sisters-in-law were talking of splitting the cost of one of the signed pieces my Mother-in-law had her eye on.  Since she’s SO hard to buy a gift for, I said MR and I would also like to go in on it, allowing us to bid a little higher.

Who’s going to bid, and what’s the cut-off?

Lau had to work the credit card machine, so she couldn’t participate, and Paula was afraid to raise her number.  So I graciously (laughing and cackling under my breath) offered to bid.

I started the bid with the asking price.  MR was behind me, and wasn’t aware that I was bidding on Mom’s piece.  When the price went up to $120, then $130, he started hissing at me to stop bidding- what, was I crazy?  I hissed back that it was for his mother, and I was actually able to get it for less than what we all agreed on.  Slap down!  I won again!  Mom is now the proud owner of John Bond’s “Long Lost Summer”- signed and numbered.

And Johanna, being the most awesome MIL ever, bought the Boulangers for US for Christmas!  Shweet!  Thanks, Mom!

Lau had her eye on this:

Marc Chagall’s “Ceiling of the Paris Opera”.  It’s pencil signed and #209 of 500.  It was a big piece, easily three foot square.  Bidding started with Ick opening the bid and continued fast and furious until it stalled at $650.  Going once, going twice- then Ick bids $700! He really loves Lau.  The gasps were audible in the audience (mainly from the front where Lau was sitting and amongst us, the family.)  When he won the piece, we speculated that when they got home, he was either going to have the worst or the best night of his life.

Turned out it was the best.

It was an exciting Saturday night.  I’ll post up better pictures of each of my little gems.  I’m hooked.  If you want to hire me to bid on something, you wouldn’t even have to pay me a comission.  I’ll do it for the thrill.

The Worst Camping Trip Ever

Our annual camping trip with highlights in no particular order of importance.  All spelling errors are intentional

Fresh mountain air

Smoky blazing fires

Gooey marshmallow s’mores

Drink of the day

Food cooked outside

Fishing on a misty lake

Propane lanterns

Sharing coffee

“The other day…I met a bear…”

Gathering for dinner

Pear and walnut salad

Sandy volleyball games

Ranger Stan

Big old lap dogs

6 a.m. pasta salad

Lake swimming

Scooters and Ripstiks

Forgotten stoves

My Dad, the hero!

Dunkin’ Donuts

Perc’d coffee, not drip!

Hot pushbutton showers

Yummy orange brownies

Scratchy sexy beards

Black dyed feet

All day hangovers

Shipoopi

Paddleboats and kyacks and conoes

Hot chocolate fondue

Newts, frogs and toads

Porkchops at the Pavillion

Messages in a bottle

Messages from home

Toasting weiners

Drippy tarps

Omlettes in the rain

Mud puddles

Freezing nights

Imaginary skunks

Waking up too early

Going to sleep too early

Skinned knees

Catching catfish

Green lasers

Name calling

Obnoxious boys

Irritating girls

Felt food

Sliced fingers

Speckled fawns

Divorce court

Once a day crying

Michael Jackson imitations

Sleeping in the car

Crashing into DEC trucks

Laundromat hag

Yelling at kids

Immature pranks

Wishing for pork-fried rice

Wishing for chili

Wishing for tie-dye

Wishing for hikes

Washing dishes in cold water

Muddy clothes

Paddleboat hogs

Is he OCD?

Hoedown Throwdown lessons

Borrowing kids to keep warm

Really bad ghost stories

Music Man vs. Oklahoma

“Pretty pretty five”

Mopping out tents

Visiting neighbors

Gathering firewood by the armful

Buying firewood by the carload

Overpacking and U-Hauls

Wet, tired and cranky

We’re outta here…a day early.

Absence Makes the Heart Grow Fonder

Yes, well, it doesn’t look like I’ll be writing those reviews of our adventures in Puerto Rico anytime soon.  I’m stuck trying to meet the deadlines of projects at the job, and working on a few super-secret projects in the little spare time I have. 

It’s also been a hassle trying to get pictures into Work since Big Brother doesn’t allow the use of flash drives or CD’s.  I’m looking into photo sharing sites like Flickr that a) don’t cost too much, b) can be accessed at work and  c) can hold my many, many photos.  I even stopped putting photos on Facebook because loading them was incredibly tedious and time-consuming.  So until I can find a site that satisfies, pictures on this blog are going to be few and far between.

Adding insult to injury- or coming up with more excuses why I don’t post more often- I’ll be away at our annual Soccer Family Camping trip in the Catskills for five (long) days.  Yes, this is the trip I look forward to every year but by the third or fourth day I’m ready to string a few people up in the trees for the bears to eat.  I have to put up with whining, complaining, immaturity, squabbles and attitude.  And then there’s all the kids to deal with.  Add to the fact that MR has either the flu or a really bad cold and I don’t feel all that well myself.  I think it’s because I’ve been begrudgingly eating meat. 

In Puerto Rico, it’s hard to follow a vegetarian diet if all you want to eat is mofongo or rice and beans.  So I had a little chicken here and there.  We’ve been so busy packing for camp that I haven’t been making special meals for myself- I’ve just been eating what everyone else was eating.  Now my bowels are making me pay for it.

I’ve loaded up on the fruits and veggies for camp and hopefully I’ll be back on track and feeling better in a week.  My bowels will be happy, but I still may want to put out bear bait…

So see you in a week.  Unless I can get reception on my Droid.  Then I’ll put up a post from the woods!

Memorial Day Weekend Was Memorable!

Do you  find it odd that while one is home for two days sick in bed with a stomach virus that one does not update one’s blog?  You would think with all the time spent watching Real Housewives of New York City and You’ve Been Cut Off, one might pull oneself away from the television and actually post something?  You might think that sitting in bed, one might take the laptop and actually do something productive, instead of playing online Sudoku or trolling Facebook for past friends.

Yeah, I thought so too.  But I just couldn’t get up the gumption to actually post something during the last two days.  My stomach was making sickly noises and I felt like I got kicked in the gut by a mule.  At one point, before I got up this morning, my stomach actually growled “ZOOL.”  Zool?  Will I start levitating?  I looked over at MR to see if it woke him up.  Nope.  I’ll have to battle the gatekeeper on my own.

I did take advantage of this down time to go through the 700 plus pictures I took at the soccer tournament we went to over Memorial Day weekend.  One of the reasons I bought my Canon Rebel was the “sports” mode of shooting.  I needed that to catch the action on the field.  I end up taking way too many photos and have to weed them out before posting them to Weplay or Facebook.  So I was doing this for a good part of the afternoon when I was inspired to write about our Memorial Day weekend in Hampden, PA.

One of the advantages of being on the travel team is you get to travel.  Our weekly games don’t go so far out on Long Island, so when the chance of an invitation to play in another state, and be able to go to Hershey Park as part of the package came up, the coach accepted.  I was excited just to watch our girls play soccer and spend a few nights in a hotel bed.  Mmmm.

Of course with everything, there was conflict.  With all organized sports there is backbiting, sniping, complaining and espionage.  “Who picked the hotel?”  When will we go to Hershey park?”  “Why does it cost so much to play?”  “Who are these ‘guest’ players?”  Blah, blah, blah.  And then all the other parents chimed in….

No, only kidding.   My only complaint was that we weren’t given a choice of hotels.  We were told, by the coach, where we were staying.  Some of us are accustomed to 5-star hotels, and some of us (me) are content to go camping.  But after the fact, I’m glad we stayed where we did.  The Hampton Inn in Mechanicsburg was awesome.  Heated pool, patio with tables and umbrellas, lush landscaping, great rooms, wonderful staff, lounge with large screen TV, couch, nice breakfast, computer access and CLEAN!  I’m not sure all Hampton Inns are like this, but this one was very thoughtful -free chips in the lounge and coffee all day.  Chicken soup when it got chilly.  It really felt like I was staying with relatives instead of a chain hotel.

I’ve always liked details.  As an architect, I guess I appreciate them more than most.  The Hampton Inn, which is a Hilton family chain, was full of details.  There were black and white photographs on all the door numbers (we had a tractor).  The clock radio (which you can purchase on their hampton HOME collection) had b & w photos for each of the preset music stations a rock for Rock, soda pop for Pop, etc.  Their coffee urns had old gas pump photographs on each- “High Test” for the robust coffee, “Unleaded” for the decaf.  Just everywhere you looked you saw a lot of thought put into their presentation.  I like that.

We were the first ones to arrive on Friday, so of course Z-girl spent the rest of the afternoon in the pool.  It was a little weird seeing all the parents, grandparents and girls in a setting other than the soccer field.  Soon the whole pool was filled with splashing, shrieking 11-year olds.  All shapes, colors and sizes- all getting along and having a great time.  OFF the soccer field.  I think this epitomized the true meaning of the word TEAM.

And the parents?  I consider myself lucky to be associated with this bunch.  I’ve made some lifelong, strong friendships with most of these people.  How often can you go away with twenty-eight parents, fourteen athletes, a few handfuls of siblings, a sprinkling of grandparents, a smattering of extended family and come out of the weekend exclaiming it was one of the nicest weekends you’ve ever had?  I don’t think the girls realize what they have, but I’ve spoken to the parents afterwards and they all agree- we’ve got something special and unique in our group.

So how did our girls do?  We played two games on Saturday- won one, tied another.  We played the elimination game Sunday morning and won, putting us in the championship, where we lost, finishing up the tournament in second place!  The girls played superbly!  There was a little drama (isn’t there always?) during the last game- a case of mistaken identity.  One of our other town teams, the older girls, pulled out of the tournament in the middle of the game because the other team was being uneccessarily rough and the referee wasn’t calling any fouls.  One of their coaches, in the heat of passion, cursed out the referee.  I think pulling the team is admiral- no trophy is worth the girls getting hurt. Anyway, one of our dads was mistaken for one of their coaches and was asked to leave the field.  Things were said, game was delayed, tempers flared, apologies were made, but I think it hurt our momentum a little and we lost the game.   It was okay- both teams took pictures together on the field and all the parents congratulated each other.  I organized (at the coach’s request) a victory tunnel with the parents (facing each other hands up and touching?) for the kids to go through because we were so proud of them! “2-4-6-8 Who do we appreciate? Panthers, Panthers, go Panthers!”  As the kids came out of the tunnel, they formed their own tunnel and started shouting, “2-4-6-8 Who do we appreciate? Parents! Parents, go Parents”.

Yeah, I’m tearing up as I’m writing it down.

It was my first time through a victory tunnel!  I, of course, cried on exiting.  One of the other town team parents congratulated the coach on winning.  She had walked over to see what all the yelling and celebrating was about.  Our coach said thanks, but we came in second.  It’s this team spirit- and it starts from the coaches on down to us, the parents- that makes it so much fun to be a soccer mom.

Coming in second didn’t put a damper on the weekend because all the girls knew that “We’re going to Hershey Park!”  We visited the park on Sunday night on a twilight pass then again on Monday.  I was a little leary going to an amusement park on a holiday weekend, but either the heat or the fact that it was the last day of the weekend kept the crowds away.  The kids were able to go on the rides over and over without a wait.  They dragged me on some roller coaster rides that freaked me out (The Wild Mouse) and I dragged Zombiegirl on her first looping coaster! (Sidewinder)  I fear she’s hooked!  The little thrill seeker is already planning on riding the Great Bear next year!

Unfortunately, due to the drama with the older girls, I don’t know if our team will be invited back next year.  I’m hoping we are.  Even though it was REALLY hot, we had a great time at the hotel, on the field and in the park with all our soccer peeps!

Riding the Roller Coaster with Marlboro Man

Oh, it’s been so long since I’ve blogged. My emotions have been riding this roller coaster, which is mostly engineered of twisting downhill turns and long plunging dives. These past few weeks have been a rackety ride with double dips and zero-g rolls. I didn’t want anyone buy a ticket to my mental ride. Refunds would have been requested.

I admit, a lot of my emotional turmoil could be attributed to PMS. Hating on my friends, exasperation with my family, no patience with work or the commute or the stupidity of life. Well, I’ve bled and I’m feeling better. Better, but still sad.

We lost J.

John Garino- musician, researcher, Big Bottom, grizzly bear, Indian Food lover, Groomsman, Guinness drinker, bucket-game player, doctoral student and good friend- passed away February 13th. It was already a sad day because it was my Mom’s first birthday in Heaven. J went to sleep on Thursday and never woke up.

No one got to say good-bye.

Being friends with J was like being in an exclusive club that everyone belonged to. He always made you feel like you were the funniest, smartest, most talented person he knew. Yet he travelled in such wide circles of life making friends wherever he went. You could go a long time not talking to J but the next time you saw him was like coming home. You fell into such an easy patter with him because he was so easy to talk to.

He was the smartest person you never realized you knew.

The guy playing bass in a punk band. The guy at the bar having a little too much to drink. The guy smoking a butt covered with tattoos. The guy at the Yankee game yelling at the umpire. You wouldn’t think this guy would be as brilliant as J was. Getting first his BS in History, then his Master’s in Library Science while working IT at St. John’s University. Deciding to pursue his PhD so he could teach. He was at home in the classroom as well as the stage. But did he show off his smarts? Was he obnoxious about how much he knew? Nope. Most people upon meeting J never realized how intelligent he was. Sure, he would debate baseball, religion, music and politics with you. But you never came out of an argument mad or exasperated at him. He would show up at your door with home-brewed beer or his mom’s Irish Soda Bread and never looked for praise. He was unassuming to a fault.

There’s a special place in my heart for J. He was practically the only one of MR’s friends I met when I first started going with MR that didn’t make me feel uncomfortable because I had two kids. He made me feel at home with the guys (we were on the dart team) and when he came out to the beach house, he played endlessly with the kids- humoring them in their made up games. He coined the persona I use to this day- Mamasoo, bad spelling and all, because I was the one with the kids. And it never bothered him like it bothered so many of MR’s other friends and family members. I will always be grateful to him for that.

It’s hard to accept that he’s gone from our lives. What will happen to Norman Bates and the Showerheads? I listen to his “Rock of J Bralter” CD over and over, appreciating more and more what a great musician he was.

Yes, my life is dimmer now that he’s not here. But living “The J-way”by accepting everyone (faults and all), living life to it’s fullest and learning new things will definitely make my life brighter. It’ll be hard, but I’m really going to try. I wonder if Guinness helps?

Rest in Heavenly Peace, J. You’ll be missed.

Glittery Stuff

Hi Interwebs friends! Long time no see… or type. This is so hard trying to post from home. Like I have nothing else to do. Add posting on my blog to the list of crap I have to do but never find the time to finish. Like this weekend. We had great big plans for completing tons of stuff this weekend. And what happened? We all got sick. Zombiegirl and MR came down with H1N1, Z-girl on Thursday and MR right behind her on Saturday. I had a sobbing migraine- one that left me crying like a baby- make it go away- all Sunday morning. And I got my period Saturday. All these ingredients make for a lost weekend sitting in front of the TV with everyone feeling sorry for themselves.

This probably explains why I was bitchy to a dear friend last night.

As some of you know, Zombiegirl’s travel team is trying to raise some cash for tournaments and training. I had the bright (?) idea of getting the girls together weekly and making things for the upcoming Holiday Fair at St. Andrew’s. It’s been working out pretty well- the team is bonding as friends, they’re doing crafts, which they love to do, and we might actually make a little money to put into the team account. So last night we’re making fleece hats. They came out adorable!(Come and buy one on the 22nd…) Amanda and I are talking while I’m fixing last week’s craft and she’s gluing crosses for God’s Eyes.

Amanda is reading Twilight by Stephanie Meyer.

I saw red. I hate all things Twilight.

Amanda was excited- she’s not a reader, but she’s reading the book on the recommendation of one of her friends, and she’s really into it. She likes the love story and claims it’s hot. She’s not alone in this opinion. Search “Cullen” in Google and you’ll get all sorts of gushy websites devoted to Edward. Teenage girls and grown women are wetting their pants for vampires who get all glittery.

I want to throw up.

I’ll start my rant by saying I did read Twilight. It was a vampire book, so of course I’ve read it. I’ve been reading vampire books since Interview with the Vampire by Anne Rice twelve years ago. Vamps have become very popular in the last few years. Vampire as lover has always been a theme or trait in books and movies. If you’re a vampire, you NEED to get close to your victim in order to suck their blood. So what better was than to seduce them? But vampires as Harlequin romance books rubs me the wrong way.

Vampires aren’t glittery. They’re dead. Dead don’t glitter.

That’s not the only problem I had with Mrs. Meyer’s book. I thought her writing was immature and a little childish. Her dialogue is stilted. Her characters are shallow and not developed. I thought to myself more than once- get to the point already!- while I was reading it. I had already started with Twilight while her next two books were already out. And I have been told that her writing matures as the books go on. But I’ve also been told that she’s introduced the age old struggle between werewolves and vampires. Gee. Where have I read that before? Only Laurell K. Hamilton’s books, and the Black Dagger Brotherhood books. I’m sure I’m missing a few, too.

I know these were meant to be teen novels, and I really don’t begrudge Mrs. Meyer her success. I think I expected more with all the hype, and I just think there’s SO much better out there. I feel if you’re going to write a love story using vampires, you better have some nasty killing going on. Not races through the woods and sparkly love scenes. But then- to each his own. I like blood with my vampires. Amanda doesn’t. And for that, I owe her an apology for getting all bitchy on her. Sorry, sweetie. Didn’t mean to spoil your fun with fiction!

Don’t mind me. I’m grumpy. Again.