The Nameless Silver Fox


The Mom and I are in Indiana for the week to help The Grandmother around the house. This all started as a whimsical idea of helping empty out the “junk room” that could have its own episode of Hoarders, and then the Grandmother got excited. We have now completely re-carpeted the house, moved all the furniture into other rooms, and we will paint at least 2 rooms in the next two weeks. Maybe… maybe we will get to the infamous “junk room” by the end of the week.

so much to do

Apparently completely re-doing a house is a normal step in the moving-on process when a spouse passes away. The Grandfather died about a year and a half ago, and now we have been recruited to do every household process he didn’t like in the span of 6 days. He kept saying no about the carpet? TA DA! He kept saying no about new paint colors? TA DA! And let’s go spend all the money because… well… we can! I have been recruited for such a massive rehaul and deep cleaning of the entire house that you may not be able to recognize it from the previous house (though the endless collections of Precious Moments and teddy bears may give it away).

It should be said that my family has always had a fairly healthy outlook on family members passing away. Grieving takes time, and it’s important to remember the person – good and bad. And it’s completely okay to experience every emotion in the book. To put it into perspective, every time I called during the week of The Grandfather’s funeral… it was like comic relief. One time The Grandmother was talking lovingly of the 55 year marriage, the next she would be saying if he were there she’d kill him herself because she had just found another drawer full of receipts from 1957. There was also a massive plot to hire a cowerson of bagpipers (THANK YOU GOOGLE FOR THAT WONDERFUL WORD) for the funeral because The Grandfather hated… and I mean comically hated the idea of a bagpipe version of Amazing Grace. It was almost too perfect to pass up, as it had always been a family joke that at his funeral he would certainly rise from the dead if a bagpiper walked through the door. I’m sure some people would have been shocked by the playfulness that we all associate with that week, but it brought everyone closer when The Grandmother needed it most.

bagpiper dream

It’s been fascinating to watch The Grandmother go through so many changes in the past year. She hadn’t driven in 5 years. She had not ever lived on her own, and she had never managed bills or written a check. She had also never made a political decision on her own. A 55 year marriage when it starts at age 20 didn’t leave time for too much individual exploration. So each phone call is filled with new discoveries that you may associate with a teenager really getting to know herself. And, honestly, for the first time I can really relate to The Grandmother. She’s learning what she loves and what she wants at the same time I am. We’ve bonded over paying bills and pursuing new dreams. I never ever thought I’d have some of those conversations with her.

The funniest part of this transition, though, has to be her newfound awareness of other men in her life. Life doesn’t stop at 77, folks! Add some classy pick up lines, and you can easily get one embarrassed Grandmother! There’s this Wayne – a churchman that is too smooth and talkative. Why on earth would he ever say so many things in so little time? He wears fringed jackets, and she will definitely tell you what that fringe means. There’s also men who act too old. And then… there’s the Silver Fox.

Within four whole minutes of walking in the door yesterday, The Grandmother started to blush telling me all about this man she met at the Walmart Pharmacy last month — a place of infamous romance, I tell you. He was very tall and had wavy, silver hair. And, he was a dandy. A true Richard Gere type! He entertained The Grandmother with stories of wintering in Texas, where the selling points are that nothing is open after 6 pm (a hot commodity). He also fishes, and he’d love to see how she does on a boat. (Though the last time she was fishing, she was told she talked too much. Oh the hilarity!) And get this… he finished filling his prescription and then escorted her to the counter and waited on her. That’s modern day chivalry! He just talked and talked and told story after story… and really, who was The Grandmother to refuse? He was a gorgeous, tall man who was “just the sweetest” she had talked to in a long time.

grandmotherly swoon

Oh, his name? She has no idea… he’ll forever be the nameless Silver Fox at Walmart. A brush with fate. A brush with gorgeous, tall, wavy fate.

A week full of hard labor and boy talk with the Grandmother? This is gonna be a hoot!

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Fire Safety


As a human who lived in the cohabitational prison that is a dormitory for several years, my re-acclimation into the real world has been punctuated by stumbles and glories… who are we kidding? It’s mostly glorious to be out of such an athletes’ foot-ridden, stupid messy girls, holy smoke why would anyone skateboard up a wall kind of life! One of my most recently discovered freedoms is candles. Tall candles. Small candles. Scented Candles. Colored Candles. I have become a classy home-maker pyromaniac in the past several months.

In my new enlightened state, though, I remain the ditz I have always been. I leave the house to go do adult-y things like running errands, eating with friends, going to work and it hits me! Did I remember to extinguish my home-making pyro display before I left the apartment? When the answer might be anywhere from a slightly plausible ‘no’ to a ear-splitting ‘YES, YOU IMMATURE HUMAN!’ the immediate paranoid spiral of every fire safety program from elementary school begins.

The whispers of every cuddly forest fire critter remind you that an unattended flame will definitely lead to apocalyptic conditions. The tables quickly turn on this new-found freedom. I am longer Suzie Home Maker dabbling in pyrotechnics… no. I’m now the sociopathic neighbor that burns down the subdivision for some sick form of enjoyment!

burn baby burn

Logic really has no place in incessant fire safety lectures in a mind. I mean I know such a tiny flame looks so innocent in its Yankee Candle jar and decorative shade when I sit next to it for four hours. Nice dinners, discussions, any ambience your heart desires. You have successfully contained a life force! Go you!

But unattended for four hours?… Well who knows what kind of destruction could unfold in my absence! I can only imagine it’s some sick form of Toy Story – except now it’s not cute and friendly toys springing to life. It’s nasty, horrible, life forces prepared to conquer and doom the home you have decided to make with your naive, Pinterest-ridden hands.

fire worship

Okay so maybe the cat hasn’t been converted to fire worship quite yet.

Yet…

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A Father’s Approval


WARNING: I’m going to break my own rule about never writing about topics that are at all risqué, but sometimes rules are meant to be broken!

After dating only a few months, The Man and I took a big step and decided to spend the holidays together with family. We drove the 12-harrowing hours out from New Jersey to Indiana to spend time with The Parents. Our thought was that, if by some miracle, we still liked each other after such a long drive, we’d be okay for the long haul. It was a major step in our young relationship. You don’t consider breaking up lightly once your grandmother has made your boyfriend beef n’ noodles. It’s just a fact.

beef n noodles 4ever

The Dad, known to passively aggressively threaten boyfriends past, had decided The Man was pretty awesome. He was pretty appalled actually. It was his job, after all, to threaten his life if he hurt me. And he LIKED him! Here he was – pretty much in love with The Man like me. (He’s pretty cool, ya know.) So The Dad decided to show his approval. He had the perfect idea for a Christmas gift to show guy-to-guy that he thought it’d be cool if The Man stuck around.

Both The Dad and The Man play guitar, and The Dad thought it was fitting to give a themed gift: Elixir Guitar Strings. He event wanted to clean up The Man’s 12-string for him. Being a man not-quite-comfortable with his apparent appreciation for his only daughter’s boyfriend, the giving of said gift was bound to be awkward. And boy – The Dad is one to impress.

The Dad walked in during a rousing game of Scrabble and began what I can only assume is his very manly version on Vanna White. Holding the purple Elixir box with joy, he began to describe their special coating, how long they last, and that he’d even help The Man put them on. He told The Man he had been thinking of giving them to him for a long time, and he knew it was the perfect gift.

long lasting and a special coat

The Mom and I were so happy to see the two bonding, but the reaction wasn’t quite what The Dad had in mind. In fact, The Man responded with awkward levels perhaps fitting to lima beans attempting to be lawyers… or at least a grad student at a real person party. He stuttered some form of “thank you” and began to look around the room frantically for what we could only guess would be a very deep hole to dive into or an exit to anywhere but where he was at that moment.

The Parents scooted out of the room as if there were a wounded animal in their presence saying something about catching a movie, and I turned to interrogate The Man about when he forgot about basic etiquette and/or forgot what a guitar was.

He looked at me as if I had somehow offended his great grandmother, face contorted in some speechless agony. That’s when he started to giggle hysterically. At this point I was positive this small act of fatherly kindness had sent him right over the edge. We had broken him. He was doomed to the loony bin – all because of guitar maintenance. That’s when his eyes bugged out and he held up the box.

condoms they were not

Sure enough – a purple box with some swirly lettering strangely resembled that of a box typically associated with family planning. After laughing for about an hour straight, I couldn’t wait to tell The Dad! What’s family for, but to provide hilarity for years to come? The Dad found out about the misunderstanding the next day and was immediately horrified that he had spoken so long about their special coating and even offered to put them ON for him! I’m pretty sure that wasn’t the kind of approval The Dad had in mind.

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Scare-Tactics


Every educational career is punctuated by educators feeling it their duty to scare the living poop out of you.

My fifth grade teacher told us about the horrors of middle school, while attempting to drill those pesky parts of speech for the 879th time. They’ll expect you to work harder, she said. They’ll think you remember everything you have learned until then, she said. We freaked out all over ourselves at the very prospect of being losers with no friends and the worst fate we could imagine: chronic hanging boogars. In order to commit to middle-school success, many took drastic measures. We bought our first academic planner. (Mine were always decorated with some sort of sticker and/or colored duct tape. Be jealous of my organizational cuteness!)

I organize stuff

My eighth grade teacher took an entire day to teach the values of note taking. Apparently if we did not master our own system of bullet points and outline formatting, we would certainly fail out of school… and eventually life (dying I guess?). I spent months making keys for all my notebooks to know that a triangle meant vocabulary and a shaded box meant history. But DON’T mistake an unshaded box for history, that meant “fun fact.” (I liked those a lot.) Failure was not an option! I would not meet death because I was a lazy note taker!

icon crazy

If every scary thing every teacher said were true, we’d all have died of coronaries at the beginning of every year. It’s always a pleasant realization when you get to the next step, and you realize the scare-tactics worked. You’re totally prepared to take on the new challenges of middle school, high school, or a college career. Things change, and stress is always present. You may not like it, but you’ve got this. Bring on the next step!

Then there is graduate school.

Graduate School is not required. It’s EXTRA school… a place where masochistic crazies go to hang out. And your teachers are no longer the only people throwing out the scare tactics. Have you watched a movie recently? Any movie that involves law school, med school, PhD programs… that’s some scary times, dude. There’s a particularly scary scene in the otherwise cute and fluffy movie Legally Blonde when a professor asks a student to stake another student’s life on an answer. WHO DOES THAT? And then there’s A Beautiful Mind. Graduate School actually makes you the insane kind of crazy. Not the enjoy-working-long-hours-and-try-to-fix-the-world kind of crazy… like hardcore seeing other people and making up trippy side stories kind of crazy.

Mass media, your teachers, even your momma is telling you that you are not ready for the craziness that is existence in graduate school! So you are terrified the whole time you fill out applications, interview, and visit. You are terrified when you buy books and notebooks and number 2 pencils (they still use those blasted things in graduate school). And then it begins, each moment bringing new realizations… staggering realizations…

First you know you aren’t ready. All the horror stories are true. On my first day, I had a professor ask a question. I answered it quickly, impressed with my background and the fact I could remember such things.

Is that a true statement

only truth from now on

reaction

realization

they actually do that

Next, it clicks. The amount of work you put into a single day has literally altered your chemical make up. I wrote an honors thesis at The University. It took a year and a half to put together a cohesive argument and write enough to defend. It was 40 pages long, and it was the longest paper I had ever written. At The Grad School I wrote 40 pages a week, sometimes 15 pages in a night, all semester. I couldn’t do that before! My brain is actually a different thing.

who are you?

Then the idiom “come hell or high water” finally makes sense. No really. I spent all of Hurricane Sandy reading for a class. I read something like 130 pages on different kinds of movement in sentences. I was faced with mother nature’s scare-tactics, and they were NOTHING compared to that of my professor.

But the most important realization for some is that for all the crazy, the difficult, and the stupid amounts of work… some people LOVE IT! (I do.) That’s when you know you’ve arrived! And the coolest thing of all the cool things: Now I get to be the person scaring the poop out of people.

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Best Friend Auditions


I grew up in a very nomadic family, attending 7 elementary schools. I was the perpetual “new girl,” rarely staying at any school longer than a year and a half. Being new means a lot of stares, rumors of your actions at your old school, and potential embarrassment by eating alone at lunch. It did not take long for me to have the new school process down to science.

First, identify someone to cling to during the morning. This justifies lunch with that person. Empower that individual to show you the ropes. Repeat daily until relationship yields friendship or you find companionship and/or tolerable lunch buddies through another source.

This process aided in the sheer survival that is required when entering a new school system. One wrong move and you’re no longer the “new kid,” but “that kid.” And nobody wants to be “that kid.” The secondary challenge is to then find a new and local friend of the best friend quality. These don’t just pop up, mind you, so my fourth grade self hit a road block. At that time, we had just moved away from the very best friend I ever had, a co-conspirator in all things regarding our secret society and a big dreamer. She also raised stuffed leamurs with me. Who doesn’t want that in a friend? The answer to my current predicament seemed simple in my head.

Best Friend Auditions.

I figured myself brillaint, so I sat down one Saturday and made a list of qualities that I wanted in a best friend. They must be two things: fun and know how to properly pretend. I was done with those kids that couldn’t stay in character or take a plot out to the end. This was serious business on the playground, and I was done messing around. I needed someone to commit. So the casting call went out. I began to see different girls from school and the church on different weekends and the days of the week. I would put them through a series of tests: conversation, a game of pretend, and whether or not they still enjoyed things like barbies and playdough. The Mom would always check in to see how the “date” went, and I would report back with all but actual  number cards rating their successes when it came to the BFF department.

Two girls started to stand out. I began going to one girl’s house after school on Tuesdays, and I thought there was really something special. She was dramatic and had an affinity for The Wizard of Oz. She also considered herself an actress, which helped with the pretending. A second girl was also in the picture, and she was also a pretty decent pretender, though she had an affinity for pretending as if we were all puppies. I found that to be too childish and wished for more “adult” games such as house, teacher, or the latest peter pan remake in our minds. The two girls however, together, proved to be a ton of fun. Two best friends would be fine, right?

As the lovable center of attention that I am, I would dictate each bout of “pretend.” I really did have a love for Peter Pan. I felt as if that was the only socially acceptable way to be a boy, so I went with it and practiced my crowing as much as humanly possible. Plenty of singing and crowing would happen for hours if our parents would permit it. One day I really thought we had nailed the “moment” when pretending on a slide becomes a real experience in the land of make believe. That’s when disaster hit. The two girls started whispering between themselves while I was demonstrating the proper way to crow, and soon they were off on the swings playing a new game. Just the two of them. Without me.

That was the first moment I knew that girls were really, inherently and consciously mean. Two weeks later and a lot of little girl rumors about me not being cool enough and not being fun enough – and I was crushed. My fool-proof way of discovering a best friend turned tragic. I couldn’t replace The Cohort from the city before. And I wouldn’t really meet anyone comparable until I met The Best Friend of today. Sometimes life just isn’t as easy as holding auditions for perfection.

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50 Shades of White


The Mom has an affinity for rich colors plastered throughout the home, creating the perfect Pottery Barn scene to walk into from work. Dark Coffees, Russets, and Stormy Shades envelop the leather furniture. Add her famous pumpkin dessert and some steaming apple cider to drink during a fall open house, displaying every form of fall decoration a human could ever desire – and you have the home I grew up in. Warm colors hugged you, and I loved it.  A room was, and still is a statement, for The Mom. Welcome to our home. Make yourself comfortable. Now let me light my 93 candles to provide the correct level of ambiance for our thrilling, intellectual conversation about to commence.

The Apartment does the exact opposite.

I am suffering from a severe lack of color in my life, so I’ve begun to name each of the whites I now call home. White, snow, pearl, lace, blonde, seashell, cream, and essence of coolwhip. Each wintery hue is just as anti-social as the next… forcing all color to appear minuscule – a futile attempt to take on the overbearing open. There are no hugs when it comes to eggshell. There are no apple cider sippings in a room of cotton. The Apartment just stares at you… daring you to smile. Daring you to feel at home. Daring you to commandeer the cold, institutionalized, bare, and slightly terrifying white. Daring you to see the difference from one paint swatch to another.

I have responded rashly with splashes of non-coherent color in hopes to cling to what sanity I have left. There are stark, black sheets on the bed. There is a black coffee table – a forest green loveseat. I have begun dressing in very bold and every neon imaginable and somehow managing to pull it off! I refuse to give in to white-washing!

Along with colorful bouts of acting out, I use the therapy of sitting in a Pier 1 or Ikea for inspiration. I touch all of the deep leathers, the powerful red woodwork, and the outrageously bright deck chairs. I live for the decorative owl hangings and the blown-glass vases, coasters, and napkin rings. I sit on the great barrel chairs and look to a day where I, too, will decorate with purpose. I have a dream! I dream of a day when my friends and family will turn to me and say “My, what a beautiful home you have.” I dream of a day when I can look to my children and talk of the nightmare of a ghostly world and tell them they’ll never know it as reality!

But today is not that day. I will continue to fight the good fight. For I say let color gleam from every wall hanging and every poster. Let color gleam from your sheets and your pot holders. Let color gleam! For when we let color gleam from every nook and every cranny, we stand up and proudly proclaim a house to be a home.

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Betsy


I was 15 years old, and all I talked about was getting my license. The days of bus rides to school would be my past, and I would have the opportunity to adorn my rear view mirror with whatever fuzzy items I pleased. I had all these fancy plans of road trips and independent living. I would go anywhere I wanted! I would be so cool! Too bad that my parents weren’t about to buy me a new car. BUT I struck gold with an old family friend and for just 200 dollars, I had my baby.

Betsy was an ’82 Dodge 400. White with a red stripe along the side, red leather interior, and above all – a convertible. She was just the right kind of awesome you could ever want in a first car. She was stylish, no one had a car like her, and she had these awesome “additional features.” For example, she would only start up if you slammed the gas pedal to the floor. You had to commit to driving before you drove Betsy. She also had a mysteriously low idle and would die at every other intersection’s red light, proving an over-achiever with her “easy”  automatic transmission. She also had a built-in weather gauge, as it would both rain and snow inside the car, with the multitude of holes in the canvass top. She was absolutely perfect, and I loved everything about her.

As with most females, if you take off her top – people think she’s more fascinating. Once I let Betsy’s top down for a cruise around town everyone would stare. The old men would wonder what I had done to get my own convertible, the boys would swoon for a drive, and I would ride cloud nine all the way to the 24-hour Walmart for fun times. I have really good memories in that car! A first kiss was made possible by that car. I sang to many early 2000’s pop music in that car. I stuffed inordinate amounts of teenagers in that car in the name of corn mazes and pumpkin ice cream. I also had stupidly spiky hair in that time… maybe that isn’t such a good memory. Anyway, Betsy and I lived the good life.

But that life was cut short. After only a year, I lost Betsy. She didn’t die in a normal way, though. No, Betsy was always the over-achiever. I was driving down the highway, trucking along at Betsy’ maximum of 55 mph, and suddenly I wasn’t going anymore. I steered the car over the side of the road and began to see smoke coming from the dashboard and the front of the car. I quickly took my belongings out of the back and walked to a safe distance, watching Betsy catch fire and eventually incite a small explosion.

My friends were nice enough to attend a humble funeral in her honor, to remember and mourn her grizzly death. A few psalms were read, rewritten with the appropriate terminology of course. I even made the mandated creepy slide show of pictures of Betsy in our life and left it on a mysterious loop in the room for the entire ceremony. After my friend concluded the service with an original tune, we ate cookies and went to marching band practice. Betsy would have it no other way. We had to keep marching through life, with or without her.

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