Monday, April 14, 2014

NO Name-Dropping in Restaurants and Other Things I Shouldn't Have To Tell You

Like This.  Only WAY less interesting.
First rule of thumb:  If you go to a restaurant and like to name-drop and talk LOUDLY OVER EVERYONE about yourself, your income, your cars, your vacations, your kids, etc., etc., puh-leese, don't be surprised at all if everyone in the room seems to hate you.  We are not impressed.  We don't wish we were you.  You are just making yourself look like an insufferable jerk.

If you see this look, it isn't envy.  Stop kidding yourself.
We don't go out for dinner much any more, but every once in awhile, we'll just...go.  One of my very favorite places around is this tiny Greek/Mediterranean place that serves my Favorite Dish in the Whole World Ever:  chicken ravioli--which is actually cheese ravioli surrounded by a cream sauce that makes you melt, floating with chunks of soft chicken and feta cheese and Parmesan flakes.  And bread to dip in the sauce.  Heaven.

UNfortunately for us, it is also kind of a hip hot spot for the Who's Who in our area to gather and NAME DROP VERY LOUDLY OVER DRINKS, because it's a martini bar, too, and apparently martinis don't mix well with the concept of CAN YOU PLEASE NOT TALK SO LOUD THAT EVERYONE IN THIS WHOLE TINY ROOM HAS TO HEAR EVERY NAME-DROPPING RICHY-RICH WORD YOU SAY?????

So...a lot of the diners are dates and business dinners and girls-night-out type stuff, which is fine (except for the ubiquitous table of three divorcees laughing way too loud over their wine glasses).  When you throw in a bunch of martini-swilling local Main Streeters, in a room the size of most people's bedroom, elbow-to-elbow, it can get a little claustrophobic and irritating, like having a sliver in your shoe, but you CAN'T stop and take it out.  Sometimes I just order the dish to go and bring it home to enjoy it in peace and quiet.

But--we went the other night, as a treat.  We were seated in a corner, next to a table of four business-y types in probably their late 40s.  There is always music there in the background, but it's never nearly loud enough, so you basically get to listen to whoever's at the next table TALKING VERY LOUDLY OVER DRINKS.  It was super annoying, and since we couldn't hear our own conversation over the sound of theirs, we turned it into a game, where we sort of joined their conversation from our table, sotto voce.  It didn't help that the woman sitting closest to us, who did most of the REALLY LOUD NAME DROPPING, also had just about the most cringeworthy, whiny, nasally voice in the whole world EVER.

This all seriously happened, right next to my elbow:

Me:  So, I talked to my brother the other night.

Shane:  Oh...(distracted by 100-decibel conversation of people at next table).

Loud Woman Neighbor #1:  ...So, yes, our ESCALADE IS PAID FOR.

Loud Man Neighbor #2:  ..but what we NEED is a Corvette paid for.  Haha.  You know.  Because we need it, right?

Loud Woman Neighbor #2:  Oh I know.  Our Z is paid for...

Loud Man Neighbor #2:  Don't forget the Lexus is also paid for.

LWN#2:  Oh, RIGHHHT.  The Lexus is paid for too.

LMN#1:  But we need a Corvette.

Shane:  When's he coming to visit?

Me:  Umm, what?  Oh.  June.

more conversation drifts over, talking about their savings...

LWN#1:  We're thinking 5 MILLION is enough, for our golden years...

LWN#2:  Oh girl, your "golden years"?? You guys aren't that old.

LWN#1:  I know, but we have to have something set aside.

LMN#2:  Yes, but 5 million?  I guess that would be enough, if it was earning interest...

LWN#1:  It's easy to have that much, because we make SO MUCH MONEY right now--we are practically using hundreds as firestarters.  (Ok, I added that part.  Don't judge.)

Shane:  What date in June?

Me:  --

LWN#1:  YOU KNOW WHAT I MISS?  EUROPE.  And ROME.  We have GOT to get back over there.

LMN#2:  I KNOW.  Last time we were in GERMANY, they had this blah blah.

LWN#2:  I want to do another cruise.  You know, and I miss France right now, too.  Why don't we all do a cruise?

Me:  I think the 3rd of June...

Shane:  What's the 3rd of June?    What is with these people?? I can't hear myself think.

Their conversation is now about college...

LWN#1:  ...We give our son a $5,500.00 allowance during college.  FIFTY-FIVE HUNDRED.

LMN#2:  Per year?

LWN#1:  No, dear, per SEMESTER.  FIFTY-FIVE hundred.  And our daughter's at blah blah, doing blah blah.

Me:  Graduation is the 8th.

Shane:  --

Waiter to Neighbors:  Is everyone ready for dessert?

We were like NO, they are NOT!  For the love of God, no dessert!!!  But nooo...it was LWN#1's birthday.  So, of course, lots of applause, waiter fawning, more general loudness.

Us to ourselves:  (Oh, we're sorry.  We're just sitting right here next to you, trying to eat our dinner).

Waiter to Them:  Would you all like some more wine?

Them:  Actually, we need a round of your best COGNAC for her birthday.  And please bring EVERY DESSERT IN THE PLACE AND SOME MORE ALCOHOL BECAUSE WE NEED TO BE LOUDER IN THIS 10 X 20' ROOM.

Us:  Oh. My. Gosh.  Seriously?!?

Their conversation morphed over to a 20-minute monologue on SAMSUNG products.  Samsung phones, Samsung printers.  Samsung the company.  Samsung versus Hewlett-Packard.  Samsung's stock values.  Samsung, Samsung, SAMSUNG.  

Us:  We're out.  Can we get a box for this?

We did mess with them a little, from our table two feet away, since we couldn't have a conversation with each other.  I think they probably totally thought we were having way too much fun, judging by how much we were giggling...We pretended we were *almost* part of their group; so throughout their whole conversation, we'd interject comments that only we could hear:

Shane:  I KNOW.  We need a Corvette paid for too.  Lexus is such a boring ride.

Me:  And I think 5 million isn't nearly enough, but *sniff* if that's all you can do--you gotta start somewhere.

Shane:  We really should plan a trip to France.  AND take a cruise, too.

Me:  We could cruise to France.  Maybe they can hook us up.

Shane:  And that poor KID.  $5,500 per semester?  The nerve.

Me:  I know.  Our kids will totally have unlimited allowances at college.  Cheapskates.

Shane:  At least we'll know where to find them some SAMSUNG products.

Waiter:  Can I get you two another round?

Me:  *giggling uncontrollably while holding up one finger*  Yes.  Yes, I think so, please.

So--after all--it turned out to be a pretty fun night.  And we got a TON of food to bring home...

I can't tell you how many times I actually almost asked them to please shut UP.  One more key lime martini, and I probably would have...

Reaction GIF: shut up, despair, Megan Mullally, Karen Walker, Will & Grace
Shut. Up.


Had to get that off my chest...


Friday, April 11, 2014

So, Charlemagne

Meet my 40th great grandfather CHARLEMAGNE


So.  On my dad's maternal side, we descend from German nobility, a bunch of French, Italian, and Austrian kings and princesses, and another big bunch of Holy Roman Emperors/Empresses, INCLUDING Charlemagne.

Actually, there are THREE lines that go back to Charlemagne, so far...

I think my friend Kristi is right--Someone totally owes me some back rent on some castles, or the Vatican or something.  Right?

(Of course, on my mom's side, I descend from Polish coal miners and bee keepers, so there may be a discount for that--unless they go back to the Russian Czars or something).

I still have another whole branch of my dad's side to research--this was just on his mom's family tree, but really, after Charlemagne...what else is there?

Guys.  You should totally check yours out.  

Thursday, April 10, 2014

I Prefer "Your Highness" Actually...

File:Bayeux hawking.jpg
The Fam

Some of you may know that, aside from being a history geek, I'm also a family history freak, except when I'm sick. I was casting about for something to do yesterday (aside from yard work and laundry), so I took up an offer for a 14-day free trial on Ancestry.com, where I have done research before.  It usually turns into an obsession pretty quickly.  I ended up doing nothing else yesterday, but spent all day and almost all night (*yawn*) following my father's family tree back and back and back and back and back...there was no end to the links!

I got all the way back like 974 and found that OH YES, WE ARE TOO ROYAL.  See?

HugoKapet kronika.jpg
My 33rd great grandfather, Hugh Capet, or Hugh "The Great", wondering who he has to beat with that stick to get someone to invent pizza.
Actually he appears twice in that branch of the tree (so, yeah).

Also his son, Robert II Capet of France, aka The Pious or The Wise (I like both), my 32nd great grandfather:
Gramps!  I totally see a resemblance here, seriously.

And HIS son-in-law, Baldwin V Count of Flanders, my 31st great grandfather:
Balduin5Flandry.jpg
Yep.  I see it here, too...


And HIS daughter, Matilda of Flanders, my 30th great grand aunt.  Our family comes down from Matilda's sister Judith, Countess of Bavaria/Duchess of Northumbria, who was married to the brother of the last Anglo-Saxon king, Harold II, but I don't see any statues of her.  Probably because after Judith's brother-in-law William the Conqueror killed Judith's other brother-in-law Harold II at the Battle of Hastings, William was probably all "Oh, no WAY your sister's getting a statue!"  But Matilda got an AWEsome one:

Kidding aside...this is beautiful!

 In case you're not a history geek...Matilda married William the Bastard (man, some mistakes really stick, don't they?), aka William the Conqueror, which has a nicer ring to it, (or "Uncle Bill", as I will be calling him now), which makes him my 30th great grand uncle:

Bayeuxtapestrywilliamliftshishelm.jpg
Does this chain mail make me look fat?

And then, all of that whole Norman Conquest/Battle of Hastings stuff happened, and we got the Bayeux Tapestry and a ton of crazy-interesting people to read about.  If you haven't seen the tapestry, you should totally check it out right now.  (Go:)  

So--Where do I sign up?  I'm pretty sure I should at least get a statue.  

Meanwhile, I really need to get some yard work done!!  




PS--Also, if you're bored...you should totally check out your family tree.  Who knows what you could find?






Monday, April 7, 2014

The House Next Door--A Sad End Caused by a Bad Choice


I woke up at 5:30 this morning and started crying.  Nothing's wrong, don't worry...but there is a story that I need to tell that has been weighing on my heart for about 8 months.  It seemed to be healing, but yesterday I started to work outside in the garden on the first beautiful day here this spring, and it hit me again, and I felt sudden tears ready to fall.

Last July 4 while camping, we received a text from our neighbor of 14 years.  We were riding ATVs about 70 miles from nowhere, with only one spot on the whole mountain where there was any cell reception, and we were there when her text hit my phone.  I immediately opened it, because I figured she was texting to let us know that our pigs were out, or the water main was broken and flooding everywhere...the usual stuff.  Instead, my mouth dropped in shock as I read it.  She was letting us know that her husband had been killed at 1 a.m. that morning in a motorcycle crash.

I attended his funeral a week later and sat through the whole thing with silent tears streaming steadily for the whole hour.  I cried myself to sleep that night.  I kept in touch closely with her over the next weeks, trying, in that awkward, after-a-funeral way that we humans have, to show her we care, that we are here, that she is loved.  Even when I couldn't think of what to say, when a hug seemed to be all I could offer...it didn't seem like enough.  I was bereft for her.

We have lived next to this family for 14 years.  One of our earliest memories in our house was of him, standing at our door on our first night moving in, smiling his personable smile and holding out a huge pizza as a welcoming gift.  We have watched each other's properties and gardens evolve and mature. We have swapped tractors and produce, kitchen tools and canning recipes.  We have plowed each other's driveways. They have rounded up multiple loose pigs for us and herded them out of our garden and back to the pen, whenever we've gone out of town (because that's the only time pigs will get out).  She taught my daughter preschool at her house the year we moved here, then miraculously went to work at the school and taught her kindergarten as well.  We have watched their kids grow up, two to three years older than our own two.  We have watched them learn to ride bikes and drive cars.

Her oldest daughter sat through her father's funeral, 9 months pregnant--his grandson would be born 3 weeks after his funeral; she was married a month later, with the reception in their back yard.  I made the cake (my last wedding cake), but it was a very subdued event.  I decorated the cake with sugar sunflowers to match the sunflower patch that still bloomed, absurdly cheerful, outside their kitchen window.  Those flowers were the last thing they had planted together as a family last spring, when everything still seemed normal from the outside.

Over the years, we have always known that theirs was not the happiest of marriages.  We are about 5 acres apart, and while we had a great over-the-fence neighborly relationship...we weren't close to them, but even at this distance, it was hard to miss that their tone of voice was usually discordant.  They never seemed to laugh together.  More often than not, the sound that carried across the field was of them yelling at each other over the lawn mower, but we shrugged and said to ourselves, "Well, you know.  Not everyone has what we have".

As the months after the funeral unfolded, we didn't pry into what happened.  We didn't ask how he happened to be out at 1 a.m., speeding, drunk, on a motorcycle on the morning of the 4th.  It didn't seem to matter.  We tried to be there for a grieving family, and it grieved us to watch them going through the motions of a summer without their father and husband, no matter what the relationships had been.

My husband had spent enough time visiting with him over the years, in their twice-a-year visits over the garden fence, to get the impression that he was definitely not a faithful husband.  He worked out of town in sales and always made suggestive comments about how great it was to work in Vegas (*wink wink*).  We hoped it was nothing.

About 3 months after the funeral, she called and said she wanted to come over and tell me what had happened.  I told her it wasn't necessary, but she felt we should know.  Very long story short(er)...he had been having an affair that she had discovered in the usual way, the prior October--by picking up his phone one day to find texts and explicit photos on it from another woman.  That had effectively ended any marriage that was left.  They spent last winter and spring pretending at a marriage, because their daughter's pregnancy was at risk, but they had filed in fact for divorce, which was to be final in July.

She explained that since the funeral, her daughter and son had also stumbled onto more explicit messages and photos, ruining whatever legacy he may have left for his children's memory of him.  She was fairly incandescent with rage as she told me of having to pay off an $8000.00 bill on their jewelry-store account, to pay for an engagement ring for the other woman, to save what little credit she might have had, since everything had been in his name.  She related having learned about enormous debts he had accrued by secretly borrowing against their house, to fund his world travels with this woman.  She found more photos of them together...in her house, in the sports car he bought her for their 20th anniversary gift, and more.  I do remember seeing her standing at their burn barrel outside last summer, black smoke trailing up into the September sky.  I didn't realize she might be burning hurtful photos and drinking herself to oblivion every night.

Until then, we had no idea anything was seriously wrong, aside from the signs of what appeared to be an unhappy marriage and possibly a 45-year-old man going through his own midlife crisis.  In retrospect, I saw him winking at Shane when talking about Vegas.  I saw him cruising up and down our street on his new hot-rodded-out Harley Davidson motorcycle.  I saw myself sarcastically wondering at the new full upper arm/shoulder tattoo he was proud to go shirtless to show off, and the spiffy new "sparkle butt" jeans that we teased him for wearing.  Of course, we didn't think there was a miserable story behind any of it.  It also called into question that age-old human conundrum--If you are sure of someone's infidelity, at what point, if any, should you warn a friend that they are being betrayed? I didn't know her well enough, and we didn't have proof other than a lot of gut feeling and some strong red-flag hints, so we watched the train-wreck from the sidelines...

Over the months since the New Year, she has been forced to put the house and farm where they raised their family on the market and downsize her beloved Dodge truck to a used Mazda.  She got rid of the chickens.  The RV went away.  The extra project cars and her son's wrecked Audi were towed off.  Her kids found jobs and homes of their own, and she has moved out as well.  The house is dark most nights, often without even a porch light.  There is a shroud of blackness and a silent, sad emptiness that is almost visible over there, when I glance out our bedroom window across the dark quiet field between our houses.  No kitchen light.  No glowing late-night TV.  No cars in front of the garage.  No friends sharing a drink on the deck.  No little herd of pugs and daschunds playing outside with visiting toddlers. The swingset hangs still in the back yard.  The only movement is the slightly akimbo realtor's sign in the empty driveway.

We still look over there in wonder at the abruptness of it.  A year ago, we had no idea that anything was wrong.  It was a home full of people, pets, relatives, and activity.  Today, he's dead, and his family is scattered and wounded.  What a sad end.

It hit me hardest yesterday, I guess, like I said at the beginning, because yesterday while we were out doing some yard cleanup and enjoying the first glimpse of sun and warmth, freshly turned earth, and the magical feeling of rebirth in spring, they should have been outside next door, too.  He would have been fertilizing their perfect lawn that I always jokingly envy.  She would have been tilling the garden and trimming around the house flower beds.  They might have been arguing, but they'd have been there.  The little dogs would have been running around outside.  They'd have been getting their pool ready and their firepit set up for summer evening marshmallow roasts.  We'd have waved and made joking hand gestures that mean, "come over here and help us when you get done with all that."

Instead, as we took a break on the bench by the chickens, we studied the quiet, empty property and wondered at the derailment of an entire family from 5 acres away, and we felt grief, again, that a decision he made, however many years ago, and justified to himself somehow, that it'd be OK to take that slippery slope down to adultery and betrayal, had ended up like this.  What a sad, sad end to a family...all because one man selfishly couldn't say no, couldn't remember to honor his vows, couldn't think that his children might face growing up with the legacy of a father who betrayed their mother and them, and then, worst of all, would end up dead in a street somewhere at 1 a.m., possibly coming home from another woman's house.  It seems like there is no closure.  There's no way to confront him.  No healing past the hurt.  No future rebuilding the relationship.  He missed his daughter's wedding and their first grandson's birth, and everything else that was to come.  There will always be an empty chair and the memory of betrayal.

I can empathize.  I grew up in a family that I thought was fine.  I found out at age 17 that my parents' marriage and my dad's "sobriety" had been a sham--that all those years, he had still been drinking and womanizing as hard as he could, and hiding it from us all.  I know what it is to face that particular reality, and divorce, as a young adult, but I have had decades to deal with it all...his betrayals and selfishness and alcoholism.  He and I have had years where we were, if not actually estranged, definitely distant.  Long gaps have passed where I didn't care to call him or want to hear from him.  But he's still there, and I guess I'm grateful for that.  I've been able to forgive him, and there is no real tension to our relationship today, such as it is.  I don't feel close to him on any level, but we do talk now and then, and we still get along.  (Odd..he just called me as I was writing that.  But it's his birthday in two days...so that's no surprise).

Anyway.  I don't really know where I was going with all this.  Just that it's so sad to think that a gravestone and a real estate sign outside an empty house are all that's left of a family, inside of just a short year.  And the grievous thought that, really, it all could have been SO DIFFERENT, and possibly a life saved, if one man hadn't decided he could get away with cheating.

Other than that dark note...everything's fine here, and I'm going outside now to work in the garden, and I will try not to feel the waves of sad empty-house-ness radiating from the house next door.

On a brighter note...it's super nice out there today.  Don't forget to hug everyone you love.  :)

Thanks for listening-

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

I'm No Hollaback Mom, I Guess

I love my texts with my oldest daughter.

She was on her way back from checking out her future university and town yesterday, when I asked her how it went:


Guess I can put my pom poms down now.

Saturday, March 29, 2014

My Daughter's One of My Favorite Bloggers--AND We Collaborate

Here's a link to my oldest daughter's blog--she draws comic stories that make me laugh out loud.  Like today's post about her and her sister at her blog called Running With Cookies:

There is also a post over there where she drew the illustrations and inserted them in a silly highschool report that I actually wrote at age 17 in 1987, then posted it as an illustrated story, which is like...collaborating with your own daughter, at the same age.  If that makes sense.  

I feel like Nat King Cole and his daughter on that song from way back when.  Except that we're both alive, and it's not a song.

Not quite this, but close enough




Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Spring Cleaning and Leftover Cake. How Do I Recycle THESE?

THIS is still sitting in our spare room, on top of the sewing cabinet and some really important puzzle pieces.   What the heck?
Spring cleaning is upon us.  Or, rather, the idea of spring cleaning, for me.  Which means that I read the current Martha Stewart Living and am inspired to take q-tips to my windowsills and pull out the refrigerator and see what's actually back there in the deepest cracks of doom where toast crumbs and milk lids go to languish.  I might even dust the chandeliers.  I know...pretty crazy.

Not that I will do those things, but I did sweep today, and I considered putting the screens back on our windows, but...they never got pulled off last fall, because we like to open our windows all winter due to the fact that we have a wood stove, which means it can easily be 80-82 degrees in the living room, but if you open the windows without the screens on them, the cats will totally get out and be eaten by coyotes.

Louis is super worried about coyotes...

So is Sam...Relax, little buddies.  I left the screens ON.
So, it's like I paid it forward by skipping that chore last fall.   Win.

I'm also totally procrastinating getting outSIDE right now, where I have more work in the garden than a whole team of men named Renato could accomplish, waiting for me.  It's not like one less day will matter...and I'll be happy with anything I accomplish out there this year, because at this point anything will be an improvement.  Our front yard effortlessly gives off the casual appearance of:    "Someone Might Live Here..."
Yes.  This USED to be a nice perennial bed.  With edging. 
What I MEANT to show you, though, was the cake dummies I keep running into when I clean or wander the house thinking about the things that I should be cleaning:  There are four leftover display cakes that we brought home from the cake bakery when we closed it.  They are my last finished displays from the shop.  Two were actually created after we closed the shop, because I got an A+ in Denial.

The grey one was custom-designed for a vignette I put together with some awesome wedding vendors at a bridal event.  The blue one went in a national cake magazine edition that was published the month after I closed the doors, which was surreal. The poppies were my first attempt at hand-painting a cake.  And, the white and gold one at the beginning of this post, which I created for a Valentine's photo shoot at a local venue...I can't BEAR to throw away those flowers that I made!!
The last three survivors, sitting in the middle of our living room upstairs on an air hockey table while I painted the whole room around them.  Now...where to PUT them???

I threw out the rest of the cakes on display when we closed the shop, and Lord help me, that was HARD, you guys.  You can't believe the cake art that went in the dumpster.  But these.  I can't seem to toss them.
Five of these went in the trash, including the one I made for Gordon Ramsey...

What do you think?  Bite my lip and put them in the dumpster?  Disassemble them and use them for dummies later--in case I ever get inspired to want to decorate again or need something to do?  Give them to a wedding planner to rent out?  Keep dusting AROUND them?

I know I should toss them, but *sigh*.  All that work...
See what I mean?  I can't throw these away.

Maybe I could pull them out and put them in a vase...
Or start an Etsy shop! Yeah... no.
I seriously did consider making these flowers for custom orders, but they take so long to make and are so delicate that I wouldn't want to ship them anywhere, and plus, then I'd be back, dealing with more vendor/customer service stuff, which I already have enough of.

I'm leaning toward putting the flowers in a vase and tossing the rest in the trash, but why is it so HARD?




Ever find yourself hanging onto stuff that has no place in your life (or your house), but is too awesome to throw away?