Friday, November 29, 2013

Thanksgiving: the good, the bad, and The Great Wine Fiasco of 2013

11 years ago we celebrated Thanksgiving as Hawaii residents for the first time, by flying back to the place we still considered "home". We had only been living in Maui for about 6 months, and I was terribly homesick. I loved Maui, I just felt lonely and isolated. I hated my job. I missed New York City at Thanksgiving.

10 years ago, we decided to really go for it, and host Thanksgiving dinner at our home in Hawaii - which was now, just a year later, feeling much more home-like. We invited over our crew of island orphans, I set a pumpkin pie on fire, I think we rented a bounce house. Things got nuts. It was a great day.

And so began our tradition of holding big parties 2 or 3 times a year. Thanksgiving, my birthday, and our anniversary. This Thanksgiving we were expecting most of the regular crew. (The only "bad" part of our Thanksgiving this year is that a few folks will be off-island, and they will certainly be missed - but Thanksgiving is Thanksgiving, and the show must go on.)

In the morning? A pie party and Capture the Flag tournament.

In the afternoon, Holley came to help set up, while I roasted 2 turkeys, made stuffing, simmered the cranberry sauce, and slaved over my famous creamed onions. (Famous to everyone who likes creamed onions, that is.)

Max set up the pop up tents and tables on the patio.

Lucy decorated the tree and put up Christmas lighting.

There was some last minute frantic bathroom cleaning and bed making.

Then we got dressed up.

And Sarah carved the turkeys.

And Sam poured wine and filled coolers.

And I bustled around as the house filled and then overflowed onto porches.

Dinner is served promptly at 6-ish. Or whenever we're ready. It was a gorgeous, starry night. Cool and clear.

After dinner the bonfire was set. The pie table open for business. Also, drunk pumpkin custard served in mini pie shells (take THAT Martha Stewart) and holiday-themed shots. Things sometimes get a little crazy at this point.

But not crazy enough for what we will forevermore refer to as "The Great Wine Fiasco of 2013".

I say 2013, for the sake of clarification. It will not surprise you to learn that this is not the first time we have had a Great Wine Fiasco. Previous Great Wine Fiascos have included:

2005 - The year that we moved the day before Thanksgiving, and all of our wine openers inexplicably disappeared - a fact we did not discover until dinnertime and all of the stores were closed. That was the year we opened bottles of wine with steak knives, and poured everything through a sieve. (This was a revival of the Great Wine Fiasco of 2003, another missing wine key snafu, which had a much less positive outcome and a lot of broken glass.)

2008 - the year I learned that some people still enjoy white wine. WHO ARE YOU PEOPLE?

2009 - the year that a friend's boyfriend told me that my wine - which was admittedly a $3 per bottle varietal - tasted like shit. Which was the year I stopped providing wine and told everyone BYOB.

2011 - the year we ran out of wine. But it was BYOB so really, not my problem. We didn't run out of turkey, now, did we?

This is our Thanksgiving 2013 bar. We set it up outside this year, right beside the gate. You walk in, and there you are, face to face with cups, coolers, wine keys, ice, bottle openers, even a sharpie to mark your own cup. Literally the first thing you see. I was way ahead of the game. There would be no Great Wine Fiasco on my watch, dammit. People didn't have to drag their coolers all over the house, it freed up some counter space, and it was under a tent next to the recycling bin. A comprehensive set up.

But it turns out that despite the best laid plans, people will still lose all common sense and decorum where alcohol is concerned.

Now, this year we did have a few mitigating factors to contend with. There was, to start, a bit of a wine shortage, and also some cheap wine in the mix. Also, some heavy drinkers, and some who prefer to sip and savor. We also have those who follow directions, and those that think rules are for people who can't make their own way in the world. All of which led to this, the Great Wine Fiasco of 2013.

In retrospect, I think that some people attending a BYOB event may not be familiar with the BYOB concept - or maybe they just don't care because they are such drunks consequences mean nothing to them. They approach BYOB as a chance to drop off the crap booze and grab an upgrade. Or perhaps once they start drinking they lose all sense of decorum. Or all of the above. Probably all of the above. Not for me to say - I can only speak for myself when I say that once I start drinking, everything is fair game, including whatever you have in your glass. This is why I no longer drink.

But I digress.

And so it came to pass that someone brought a lovely bottle of wine for their dinner, opened it, poured a glass, and set the glass and bottle aside, far, far away from the bar area, next to their bag. When later they went to have a sip of their chosen beverage, the bottle was missing. And, upon further research, the glass as well. We found the bottle empty in the trash. Someone else was drinking out of their glass.

Poor form indeed. Or pour form. Whatever. This is like showing up with a case of warm, cheap beer and then helping yourself to someone's cooler of microbrew. Don't be that guy.

In the season of holiday giving, you better keep your hands to yourself where other people's alcohol is concerned. It's all about the love, until it's about someone drinking all of your wine and tossing the bottle in the trash as they walk off with your glass. Next time, I'm buying boxed wine and locking up the glasses.
Problem? Solved. Bonus? We can all enjoy a rousing game of "Slap Bag" because, clearly, this is that kind of crowd.


Tuesday, November 26, 2013

The end of the world as we know it: the drama queen gets a migraine

I got a shot in the ass the other day.

It was vaguely nostalgic, reminded me of the time we spent going through fertility treatments, except that it was a total stranger shooting instead of my husband. I don't know, I think injections are a thing couples should do together, in private.
I'm old fashioned, I guess.

This shot was not trying to stimulate anything, however. I had a migraine and the very last thing I needed was stimulation. What I needed was to be knocked unconscious.

I haven't been writing, or doing much of anything, really, because I have been lying around having a migraine pretty much since I got back from the BAMF book tour. Three long flights in the most uncomfortable airplane seats known to man, plus dehydration from recirculated air, then throw in some jet leg and BAM. I staggered off the plane and went home to suffer in peace.

Dealing with my migraines takes up a lot of my time. Besides the injections, and the visits to the chiropractor, and then my friend the good doctor who makes house calls and doesn't even mind if I throw up in the middle of his visit, I went to see my friend Whit, who is an incredible massage therapist. I know this because the first thing she said when she saw me was "Sister, I am not giving you a massage today. Did you know your right shoulder is about 2 and a half inches lower than your left?"

"Can you fix it?"

"Uh, yeah, I don't think so. Let's get you stretched out."

Which are the five worst words in the English language when you have a migraine.

But in the end she was right. I lay on her table and we stretched (a little) and I did feel better the next day.

"You need to drink more water than you can even imagine tonight."
"I don't drink water."
"Maybe that's why you have a migraine and a knot the size of a plum right here."
"Yeah. That. That right there. It's ridiculous."

It takes a village of people stabbing me in the ass, sitting on my chest trying to get my shoulders to go down, jumping out of the way of my vomit, and hydrating me by force (or IV if it gets really bad) - but in the end a one week course of steroids, a few controlled substances and a reluctant uptick in water consumption got the job done, and I am a whole new woman.
Sort of.
Not really. If I was a whole new woman I would have better boobs.
But I do feel better, finally.

I used to think a migraine was just a terrible headache, and then I got one and I thought I was suffering a brain aneurysm.

In fact when I get a really horrible sudden-onset migraine, I *always* think I am about to have a stroke.
So during this migraine that lasted off and on for the past three weeks, I spent a good part of that time lying down or carefully propping myself up in just the right position, deciding which songs they should play at my memorial service based on lyrical content and emotional response to aforementioned lyrics. Anything to distract me from the pain, and pass the time in a darkened room while I suck on ice chips and insert fresh anti-nausea suppositories as needed. I have a lot of time to kill - no pun intended - and the details can get pretty elaborate. It's going to be kind of a long service based solely on the soundtrack, so I suggest packing a granola bar or something.

For the record, I have nothing to wear.

Monday, November 18, 2013

Where I was when I heard the news: finally, in a good place.

I see my friends who don't have kids wince and groan their way through Facebook and emails, suffering the blunt-force trauma of wedding/pregnancy/baby photos that for one reason or the other hit them in a place they would rather not be hit. Holiday card season is right around the corner, folks. Prepare yourselves to be served a heaping pile of "It's a Wonderful Fucking Life".

Today I realized that I received recent news of pregnancies, births and baby showers with a sense of calm.......normalcy? An acknowledgement that yes, someone else is doing those things and I am not, and then instead of the heart-stopping agony of defeat, I felt fine. Happy, even. And not happy for them - I am ALWAYS happy for someone else's happiness, thankyouverymuch - but happy for me.

MY LIFE is fucking wonderful. This is a revelation. (Not really, of course - I know I have a great life filled with wonderful people and beautiful adventures and generosity around every bend. I know that and am grateful for it.) This is a revelation because, instead of reminding me of all the things I cannot have that I want, I was reminded of all the things I will not have again that made me fucking miserable when I had them.

Wedding planning? No need, I had my big day. Sure, trying on the pretty dresses was fun, and going to a cake tasting was the best way to spend a Saturday, but I can wear dresses and eat cake whenever the hell I want. LET THEM EAT CAKE is something I say far more often than Marie-Therese EVER did.

Pregnancy? Never again, and that is A-OK. My body is a size and shape I can deal with, and I am not currently defending my right to breathe deeply or hold my pee for a few extra minutes. My boobs no longer leak, tattoos cover my stretch marks, and I haven't thrown up in almost a year.

Newborns? Not to worry, it's just a matter of time before another one gets dropped off and I can gleefully add his or her picture to my news feed for everyone to oooh and ahhhh over.

World Travel? It looks pretty, but after a rousing tale of the sea lice "problem" during a friend's Fijian honeymoon, a spate of emergency landings on the news, and the crappy weather bringing death and destruction around the globe, plus the exchange rate in Europe, I think I'll just sit here in Hawaii with my toes in the sand, all for the cost of a 5 mile drive from home.

New car or house? More insurance, new repairs, and living in fear of damage from the first "whoopsie". You will have one, it's just a matter of when. So enjoy that shiny new thing you just got, while it is still shiny and new. And make sure you post a picture as soon as someone gets pregnant and throws up all over it, okay?

For all of you out there moving and shaking and killing it with your acquisitions and accomplishments and status changing life events - Whoo Hooo! I am going to let you enjoy your ride. I have been there and done that. And for the record? I fucking NAILED IT. It is your turn, so do me proud, would you please?


Thursday, November 14, 2013

The Wheels on the Bus: My kids use public transportation - this does not make me a bad parent

"You guys have to take the bus today" I informed them as they were sitting on the couch playing Minecraft this morning. They looked up: one unconcerned, the other dismayed.

"Mama, I don't want to ride the bus."

"Well, you have to ride the bus, because I have to work and the bus stop is right across the street from the restaurant. You can come in and have a snack while I finish up my shift."

There was much pouting. This is new. They have only ridden the bus a couple of times, it's an event that happens about once a month, and it has always gone off without a hitch. So what's the problem? Why the pouting?

A bus ride should not equal a guilt trip, people. I work. I work outside of the home. Sometimes, I have to work until 4pm, and school ends at 3pm. Luckily, the bus rolls by campus a few minutes after 3pm heading straight for town. And my kids - ages 13 and 8 - should be able to walk down the block, board the county bus, and ride it two - TWO - stops to the bus stop that is across the street from the restaurant.

Yes, they should.

We live in a rural area. The fact that there is even bus service is exciting. I want it to stay. I want to support public transportation. And when it is so convenient, riding the bus should be a no-brainer. This is not the same as navigating LA or New York City alone by any means - but you know what? KIDS IN LA AND NEW YORK RIDE THE BUS TOO. I rode the train and the bus in NYC at a very young age with my slightly older cousin. I don't know how old I was - maybe 3rd or 4th grade? I was young enough to be wearing a small, royal blue, child-sized L.L. Bean backpack with my initials embroidered on it. I remember this clearly, because one night - not late, but after dark - I forgot it on the floor under my seat on the city bus, and my cousin left me standing on the corner, alone under a street lamp in the middle of NYC, while she ran after the bus to retrieve my backpack. I remember it all so clearly, the cold air, the taxis whizzing by, the homeless man sitting nearby - this was a defining moment in my life. I have never left anything behind on a bus ever since. And you know what else? I was perfectly fine standing there on the corner alone.

My husband rode public transportation to school in Boston every single day and lived to tell the tale. He was also a "latch-key kid", and survived that experience relatively unscathed as well. This is a fact which - given the stories he tells about fashioning blow torches out of cans of hairspray and lighters to melt his GI Joes - is far more shocking to me than that he managed to navigate public transportation successfully, given his distinct lack of direction and inability to read a map.

The bottom line is this: My husband and I were both scheduled to be at work today, and a bus was able to bring my children to me in under 10 minutes, and dammit that should be fine. That bus should be a solution to a problem.

But no. No, riding the bus IS the problem, apparently. So I handed my kids $5 and told them they had exactly six and a half hours to come to terms with the fact that their parents are gainfully employed, and that they would need to use public transit from time to time.

"I know, it must be so hard to bear, this hardscrabble life in Hawaii, attending a private school and having your own bedroom and two parents with two cars pretty much at your disposal 24-7. To be forced to use an alternate mode of transportation occasionally must just break your heart.

Life. Is. Tough."

"But mama, I really don't want to ride the bus."

"I get that. I really do. And you know what? I don't really want to go to work today. But I am going to, and so are you."

So I went to work, and they went to school. And still, I felt guilty. I didn't want them to be upset or feel overwhelmed by the responsibility of riding the bus. Because I am their mama, and I hear them when they are worried. So I considered my options carefully. I am a "pick your battles" kind of mom.

Just for the record, they got a ride home with a friend.

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Help me help you help me. Support your favorite creator

Over the past month I have learned an awful lot. Most of it was a hard lesson in "not everyone is going to like/understand/appreciate you" and through these experiences I have clearly matured at top speed, because now I don't respond to every "Um, no thanks" with a "Fuck you, buddy." This is a sign of intense personal growth on my part. My mom is SO PROUD.

I wish I could say this new-found maturity was around to prevent me from having not one but two altercations in the grocery store parking lot last week, but, well. Baby steps, I guess.

And also, sometimes people are assholes. Or terrible drivers.

But the point of this post is not to proclaim my (admittedly, questionable) maturity, but rather to answer the question that a lot of people have been asking lately: "So, you wrote the book...... what next?"

What next? An interview with Oprah, obvs.

But until the Divine Ms O gives me a jingle, I am going to have to do some serious legwork. And that takes a village, people. Not just because of my legendary brand of lazy, but because I live by the old adage "Help me help you help me". Yes, I know there is an extra "help me" on there. Because seriously. Help Needed.

Whether your favorite author is on the best seller list (wouldn't that be nice!) or selling a book door to door (ahem) everyone who has written a book benefits from the same actions. Actually, these can be twisted around to fit almost any scenario.

Share the love, people. Just share the damn love.

1.  Buy it, man.
If you love  or even like - the person you want to support, then put your money where your mouth is. No, not literally. Money is dirty, you guys. But do show your support for their venture by throwing some money at it. . You can be the one who gets the best of the best - whether it is an item, or a service, or a seat at an event - because you've got the hook up. Buy direct, buy online, or ask your favorite store to order it and buy it from them: finally, you can be the fancy person that special-orders something! Self-published authors with stacks of books all over their house will happily send copies to your local bookstore. They will also sign them, so be sure to ask for a signed copy. And if it is something other than a book? Well, sharpie pens work on almost everything. Even boobs. Forget I said that. Let's stay focused. Support their business and their bottom line. And you can share this special feeling with others:

2. Talk it UP, my friend.
You like something? You talk about it. So make sure you are talking about this - and by all means let people know the creator is a friend of yours. It means your friends are AWESOME, and everyone feels good by association. Write reviews - on Amazon, on Goodreads, on Facebook, on Yelp, on Twitter: where ever you spend time take a minute to share your thoughts. Let people know that it was worth your time and money, and is worth theirs as well.

3. The gift that keeps on giving, am I right?!
Give this amazing wonderful thing made by YOUR FRIEND as a gift to anyone you think might appreciate it. Especially if it is a book. Too few people give books these days, and mmmmmmmmmm books smell good. Better than a candle. I wish I had book-scented candles.

4. I love you, buddy.
Let your friend know that you are supporting them. Let them know you appreciate their work. It's not that people need (or want) a cheering section, and many people create because it is something they have to do - not something they choose to do. But to know that their efforts have entertained or enlightened or pleased someone in some way - well that feedback is invaluable.

Thursday, November 7, 2013

Notes from the road: The BAMF Book Tour November 5th Re-entry is a bitch

"What happened to his hair, Sam?" I am sitting in my bed. It turns out my mattress sucks. I have become accustomed to much cushier digs while I have been traveling around "on tour" - which sounds so fancy but is really the least glamorous thing that there is - and my own bed does not meet the standards to which I have become accustomed. Also, my mother is no longer around to help me run errands and buy me food. This is unfortunate. But the thing that is currently upsetting me is my son's new haircut: he decided to shave his head last week, and my husband made the unfortunate decision to help him do it  since I wasn't around to man the clippers. I can assure you he is regretting that now, and the results are, um, well...... not very flattering. I'll say that. We are trying to talk it out, but there is not much talking going on. More of the yelling and obscene hand gestures.

The past few days have been brutal. I came home late Sunday night after 22 hours of travel; exhausted, dehydrated, slightly congested and totally constipated. I needed a hot bath, a cup of tea, and a bong. Sadly, I do not own a bong, and I'm pretty sure my bong days are behind me. So I had a bowl of ice cream instead. Almost as good.

Not quite, but almost.

For the first 12 hours, I cried.
I cried because I was tired and feeling like crap.
I cried because I couldn't find the book I wanted to read.
I cried because our homeowners insurance was renewed with the wrong company.
I cried because my son had decided to shave his head the week before school picture day.
I cried because during my trip I had sent home gifts for Christmas and they had been distributed to their recipients already, even though it was only October.
I cried because even though I had bought a ton of presents, I forgot to buy Sam a birthday present.
I cried because I needed to unpack my suitcase.
I cried because the stove was dirty.
I cried because the shower was dirty.
I cried because we don't have a housekeeper and I was going to have to clean the stove and the shower.
I cried because the grapes weren't organic.
I cried because the cream was expired.
I cried because the crying made my eyes all puffy and I looked ancient.
I cried because I need a bikini wax.
I cried because - after 2 weeks of complaining about the cold on the mainland - I was hot.

This went on and on and on.
Sam stayed as far away as possible, and practically skipped down the driveway to go to work on Monday.

The kids, who had thought they might want to stay home from school to spend the day with me because they had missed me so much, decided by 8am that school sounded like a really good idea after all.

I cried about that too.

I didn't used to cry much, until I did. I guess reading that chapter out loud last week was like pulling the cork out of my emotional dam, and now? Waterworks. All day long.

I've been home for 3 days now. I stopped boo hoo-ing like an idiot yesterday, but I still get all misty-eyed when I remember that the shower needs scrubbing. I thought I would return from the mainland feeling triumphant but instead I feel like the world's biggest failure: I set up a series of readings that a handful of people (THANK YOU FOR BEING THERE YOU GUYS WHO WERE THERE) attended, contacted a bunch of bookstores that said no, and left a box of books sitting on my mothers floor unsold. And my kid is bald and my house is filthy.

I am not victorious.

And yet.

Every day, several times a day, someone calls or emails or texts to thank me for writing the book, or to tell me they enjoyed it, or that they gave it to a friend.

And then, of course, I cry. Again.

So that's it. The BAMF tour is officially, as they say in my hometown, OVAH.
I'm still working away - the book is going through a round of edits right now to track down and eliminate all of the pesky little typos and punctuation errors, and then I am going to get it up on a few new platforms and in a few more bookstores. It will be a life-long project, this book. I just want to sell enough copies to buy a new mattress. And a wig for my kid - the crew cut is scaring me.

Saturday, November 2, 2013

Notes from the road: The BAMF Book Tour November 2. That one time I cried by accident

The last few weeks have been a healthy workout for my anxiety and self-esteem. I am in the end zone of this tour now, and last night I performed the most jubilant, cathartic - and admittedly, horrifying - victory dance ever. I had to let off some steam, somehow. It is unfortunate that I chose to do it in public, in front of everyone.

Including my ex-husband's new wife, as it turns out.

In my defense, I didn't know that the lovely woman, who enthusiastically endorsed Amazon Prime and danced near me all night long was, in fact, my ex-husband's new wife. For the record, she has a great haircut, is very sweet, and is one hell of a dancer.

The man has a type, what can I say.

And we danced. Oh, how we danced. Not together, per se, but certainly close enough to have our dancing documented in endless videos and photos which I am just now able to look at without wincing.

I am sure that, for the assembled crowd (even if they didn't realize who the players dancers were) it was all very entertaining. And while it was fun for them, it was cathartic for me. That night in the bar was the topper on a long day, filled with emotion and a lot of weird energy. And not in a good way.

Earlier that afternoon, I had a reading at my home town library. Mom rallied the troops - which is to say, she told my relatives about it. We had a pretty good turnout, all things considered. And yes, the crowd was made up entirely of friends and family, but I'll take it. So we all sat, and I talked a little bit about my experiences foster parenting, and a lot about the system, and then I made the foolish decision to read aloud from the book.

I have to say, at this point, that my book seems to make people cry. I didn't mean for that to happen. But there it is. People read this book and then send me emails and texts telling me that they are sobbing. I never know how to respond - should I say thank you, or apologize? I wrote the book, and lived through all of this, and hardly ever cry about any of it. So it came a huge surprise to me - and a horrifying reality to everyone in the room - when I got almost all the way through the chapter and then started to ugly-cry and was forced to put the book down and collect myself.

Had I simply had a tear roll down my cheek, and sniffled for a few moments, well.......... I could have pulled that off. But no. My mother had to come running over with Kleenex, and it took me much too long (it felt like hours) to regain my composure. I looked around the table at my friends, and family, my English teacher from junior high, my friend's mom, and her friend who was along for what turned out to be a pretty uncomfortable ride. Because, crying.

We - as a family, as New Englanders - do not cry. And we certainly do not cry in public. That is unbecoming. Composure is your most valuable asset, and there should never be a crack in the armor. I am sure most of the assembled crowd was sitting there trying to figure out what in GOD'S NAME would compel me to write a book filled with personal details, and then publish it. But to read it aloud in front of other people? Oh, heavens no. And then to CRY? There would be no further discussion. This little "author event" was over.

I wrapped up the reading shortly thereafter

Embarrassed about the crying thing, I needed to put the afternoon's event's behind me. I went and picked up a friend and we grabbed dinner, then headed to the bar. A band made up of friends from high school was playing, and we knew about 75% of the people in there. Since our friends are all in the mid 30's to early 40s, and most have kids, several people brought leftover Halloween candy. So I sat there at the table for a while, drinking coffee and getting jacked up on sugar. Then I decided to dance. And after that, everything gets a little fuzzy. I blame the Pixie Stix.

I had a great time. In fact, I had one of the best times I have had in a really long while. The memories might be vague, but I remember the evening fondly. However, I could be wrong about that. Was it good for you? Were you there? Seems like everyone was, and they sure looked like they were having fun based on the Facebook coverage. But who am I to say? I am not known for my good judgement.

Or my dancing. At least, not in a good way.