Monday, October 19, 2015

Chapter Two I think I fell in love with you

The title of this month's post is a tribute to Elvis Costello for three reasons:

1. It's Elvis Costello, do you really need a reason other than that? If so, we cannot be friends.
2. This summer, DB and I saw him in concert with the Imposters, and it was the best show we've ever seen, together OR individually. No contest.
3. He just released his memoir, Unfaithful Music & Disappearing Ink, which is already packed in my suitcase for this weekend's trip to Pennsylvania (because my nephew is getting married).

And, since we're talking about matrimony and Appalachia, I've decided to post a chapter from my magnum opus (she says sarcastically) that discusses both. Also, to my writing group, who, "Stood by me in the middle of Chapter Three," I know you think it's bad juju to share this since it hasn't been published; but, seeing as this story is also about the Blues, maybe Albert King is right, "If it weren't for bad luck, I wouldn't have no luck at all." With that...

Chapter 35: It’s a good day for the Blues. 

Not only is that one of the greatest songs ever written, Malford Milligan, Storyville’s soulful, sage, lead singer is right, “Sometimes you fly so high, you can’t find a place to land,” but still ... “It’s a good day for the Blues.” Well, I get it. Though I’m the recipient of countless, huge blessings, when I’m stressed, even a little, like I was while planning DB's and my wedding in 2011, I have a tendency to snark at people about any and everything. And frankly, it’s unacceptable. In fact, on that same trip home, at my nephew’s party, my mom was so exasperated that she called me on it and said, “Do you think we created language as a species to accommodate your inner need to whine? If so, do you suppose Mother Nature gave me feet to walk away from you while you do it?”

I ask you, in all honesty, do you understand how I became this person? Do you?

Cynicism notwithstanding, the worst part of that conversation is that she’s right. On second thought, the worst part is that she had our entire family jump on the bandwagon. And I don’t mean my brothers and sister with whom I actually will fight. I mean her cousins and aunts: women in their 70s, 80s and 90s. People you simply can’t debate, and not just because they’re deaf or because your mother will kill you for being disrespectful. Women you can’t bitch in front of because they actually have reasons to complain and still don’t do it. Women who have buried children and partners, witnessed more than one war, and fought for the right to vote, the right to fair pay, and the right to live their lives as they see fit. Women who did all of it admirably ... grateful for the things they had ... not devastated over the things they lost.

So, when they tell you that you’re missing out on the happiest times of your life, you listen. After all, like Woody Allen once said, “Life is full of misery, loneliness and suffering, and it’s all over much too soon.” The trick is to find people to share that desolation with, especially the big moments, which is why a few years ago, DB went to Pennsylvania with me for a wedding.

Just so we’re all on the same page, unless you’re a local, nuptials in Appalachia are like nothing you’ve ever seen before. Because, not only are the Blue Ridge mountains home to the world’s best Bluegrass music, they’re also a Mecca for mullets and preachers who handle snakes, all of which you’re likely to experience if you’re there for a special occasion.

Don’t get me wrong. Where I grew up is honestly one of the most beautiful landscapes on Earth. So much so that the natives say they only inbreed to, “keep outsiders from coming in and ruining it.” But, like everything in life, it has its pros and cons. Pro: Mountain people definitely know how to party. I’ve actually attended receptions where the bar served homemade moonshine then handed the empty jugs over to the band so the music could start. Con: After too much moonshine, I’ve played the jug ... on stage ... and there’s a fine line between being so drunk that you go blind versus being just drunk enough that you’re willing blow “whoo whoo ... whoo whoo” into a bottle while a large bearded stranger in overalls sings, “Billie Jean is not my lover.” Sadly, while you may be tempted to believe that’s hyperbole, it’s not. Nor is the fact that it didn’t just happen to me in Pennsylvania. It also happened to me in Mississippi at a barbeque festival. Though I remember neither incident, I’ve been told I’m a natural.

You know, it’s sad that Storyville broke up in 2000. I feel like we could have made really beautiful music together.

Note: Dear Mr. Milligan, on the off-chance a snowball landed in hell and you’re reading this, please call me. I’m totally available for your reunion tour, and (spoiler alert) I also play the spoons.

Monday, September 7, 2015

La Isla Bonita

Like most of the posts this year, let me start by apologizing for dropping the blogging ball. I always mean to write more, but life has a funny way of interfering with those plans, and by that I mean, “Why does crazy shit always happen to me?” Allow me to elucidate… 

Last month my step-daughter, her mom and I went to Isla Mujeres for vacation. When we were planning the trip, I asked my husband if it was odd that his current wife and ex-wife were taking his daughter to Mexico, and he said, “Nope. In fact, I think it speaks volumes for me that I have such great taste in women.” And, since he made it all about him (instead of the fact that his ex and I are good people who became good friends because we act like grown adults), I replied, “Yup. And, just think… if you and I don’t make it, odds are we’ll like your third wife, too.” I’m kidding. I love that man with all of my heart. He’s not getting out of this marriage alive, and I think a very real part of him knows that. 

Anyway, I’m pleased to report that a great time was had by all, including the day we went paddleboarding. Turns out, the only thing I know how to surf is the Internet. My step-daughter, on the other hand, looked magnificent: think Pocahontas standing on a large paddleboard… perfectly posed… with the beach at her back... steering majestically through the waves and into the sunset. Me? I had to lay down on the fucking thing and hold on for dear life, and not because I got caught in one of the Gulf’s infamous eddies; but, because I had spent the earlier part of that afternoon working my way through the resort’s bar menu. It’s a little vacation tradition I like to call “Hakuna some vodka.” 

At any rate, if you’re looking for a perfect place to unwind for four days, Isla Mujeres is it! It’s this beautiful little island off the coast of Cancun. Only don’t lose your Customs and Immigration documents like I did, especially if you’re carrying a hand-painted Day of the Dead skull in your carry-on as you try to leave the country. Yes. Really. Somehow, I left my form in our hotel room and had to purchase an official replacement at the airport… which meant the numbers didn’t match… which was a red flag already… compounded by the fact that TSA scanned my purse… and saw the outline of a head. Thankfully, however, because it was ceramic, I dodged the body cavity search… this time. But not for lack of trying. That’s right, when they asked, “Is there anything else in your bag that could cause alarm?” I actually said, “Just a few bowls.” Upon seeing the globally-recognizable look of “Fucking really?” on the guy’s face, I realized what I’d said and attempted to over-explain by screaming, “OH MY GOD! NOT LIKE THAT! ARTISAN BOWLS MADE FROM ADOBE, SEA GRASS AND PORCELAIN, I swear! Please do NOT get out latex gloves.” Thank God the guy was bi-lingual (and could translate stupid PERFECTLY). Otherwise, I fear my purchases AND my dignity would have stayed in Mexico.

With that, I'm off to work on edits to my book. Talk to you later.

Sunday, June 7, 2015

Ain’t no mountain high enough...

Three kids, two women, one minivan, no haters, and that’s where this story begins… kind of. First, let me apologize for dropping the blogging ball… yet again. Between the trip to Appalachia for my mom’s birthday in March, the ski trip out West with TB and her kids in April, and my beautiful step-daughter wrapping up her Freshman year of college in May, life has been insane, which, for us, seems to be par for the course. Seriously, I no longer think I’m going crazy with everything on my plate, I think I am crazy. I just go sane from time-to-time. You’re welcome.

At any rate, Winter Park was AWESOME… for the most part. Stay with me here, I swear I’ll try to bring it full circle. The skiing was incredible. We hit almost every mountain (except Cirque) until Vasquez Ridge hit my nephew right back. True story: We were off the beaten path in some powder stashes, when TB’s son took a jump, landed it, and went head over ass over snowboard. We initially thought it was nothing, since he was coherent and mobile. It wasn’t until he screamed and collapsed that we realized something was clearly amiss. After getting him down the hill to the medic station, we learned that he had damaged his ureter (the tube from your kidney to your bladder) and had to be ambulanced to Denver.

I’m pleased to report that he’s absolutely fine. In fact, he was back on the slopes just hours after he was discharged, which only proves my point that seventeen year olds not only believe they’re invincible, they actually are. Not kidding, at forty-three, I’ve injured myself yawning and decided to stay in bed simply to avoid further bodily harm. Like they say, “An ounce of prevention is probably why I have several pounds of ass that I can’t get rid of.”

Anyway, while TB was in the hospital in Denver, I had the other two kids at Winter Park. In other words, I needed to make a contingency plan to get them back to the Mid-West, should she need to stay in Colorado with her oldest. Now, before I say anything else, let me say this, “HUGE SHOUT OUT TO ENTERPRISE RENT-A-CAR IN AURORA, CO. You have a customer for life.” Why? Not only were they super friendly when we picked up the car on the way to Winter Park; they were beyond cool when I called and explained what happened and why I might need another vehicle. Not only did I get the same guy who helped us the first time, he totally remembered us. I shit you not, that sweet twenty-something college kid said, “Yeah, the lesbians! Three kids, two women, one minivan, no haters. Of course I can help you out. That sucks about your son. I hope he’s OK.” All I could say was, “Thanks, man! Book it on my wife’s account.” Turns out we didn’t need it, but it’s better to be prepared for an emergency that never happens, than not be prepared for one that does.

Later that night, when we knew everything was OK, I told TB what happened. After ten minutes of laughing until we cried, she said, “You know, I wish we were lesbians, just so we could piss off homophobes.” Now, frankly speaking, I think the moral here is three-fold: One, hate is not a family value. Two, don’t surround yourself with people who think it is. Three, if you’re going to pass yourself off as someone’s wife, you better know her birthday, last four digits of her Social Security number and height. However, if they ask you for her weight, lie. That way the person on the other end of the phone knows your relationship is legit. #EnterpriseIsForLovers, #StraightButNotNarrow, #IhaveNoIdeaHowHashtagsWork

Talk to you later.

Sunday, March 8, 2015

Mary J. Blige said it best, "No more drama."

This month, in honor of International Women’s Day, #DearMe is encouraging women to reach out (and back) to our younger selves with some good advice. With that…

Dear fifteen year old mkromd – Do not get that perm. Contrary to what you think, it will not change your life. In fact, it will cause more problems than it solves, and your family will photographically document all of them.

Dear twenty year old mkromd – Spoiler alert, you do not go to law school, and that’s OK, because you eventually learn that Woody Allen was right, yet again: The problem with attorney jokes is that lawyers don’t think they’re funny, and no one else thinks they’re jokes.

Dear twenty-five year old mkromd – Listen to me, this is the ONLY YEAR OF YOUR LIFE THAT YOU WILL ROCK A BATHING SUIT. Go put one on now, and wear it all day, every day until your next birthday; but don’t take photos, just in case you’re wrong... In my older self’s defense, you make loads of bad choices at this age. Inventing selfies could be one of them.

Dear thirty year old mkromd – Well done you, you learn that, “Everything matches black, especially black,” and your wardrobe is forever changed. This simple fact alone helps you dodge the whole, “Pink is the new black” bullet of 2001. Because, note to self, color of any kind makes you look like the Easter Bunny on acid. If you don’t believe me, just look at pictures of the fifteen year old you ... the one with the perm. She's wearing pastels. Seriously, God should have smited her on the way to her first day of high school for that look. That he didn't kind-of makes me believe he owes an apology to the 24,000 people he killed for complaining about their bread (Numbers 21:4-9). Also, clearly you haven't yet repressed the eight years of theology you had in grade school.

Dear thirty-five year old mkromd – This is the hardest year of your life. Your entire world gets shattered, and it may not make you stronger, but it doesn’t kill you either. Also, fuck him. You are not perfect, but you are not your flaws, and anyone who treats you like you are, doesn’t deserve you. You have played that game long enough; and, to quote the late, great Nora Ephron, “It’s time to be the heroine of your life, not the victim.” PS: Really, fuck him. And, not to spoil the ending, but everything ends up OK, even if you don’t believe me right now.

Dear forty year old mkromd – You learn a simple truth that you should have learned decades ago, “Very few people let the truth get in the way of a good story.” With that, two things: One, be grateful that you spent four decades on this planet and only had to learn that now. Two, take your mother’s advice, “Don’t jump off the high road. Even if they aren’t better than that, you are.”

And finally, from my forty-three year old self to my older self – I don’t know how any of it ultimately plays out, but I hope it makes for one hell of a good laugh. And now, I’m off to Appalachia for my mom’s birthday, then Winter Park for our annual ski trip. I mean really, how bad could it be? Talk to you later.

Saturday, February 14, 2015

Black diamonds are a girl’s best friend

That’s right, this year’s ski trip is planned, and the winner is Winter Park. Unfortunately though, that means the loser is me, since Mary Jane is going to KICK.MY.ASS. This is a mountain whose motto is, “No Pain. No Jane.” And they mean it. With an elevation of 11,700 feet and a 1,766-foot vertical drop, she hits like a girl… on the Women's US Olympic boxing team.

However, before I can tell you the rest of the story, I feel the need to explain something first: The term vertical drop refers to the distance between the summit and the base, measured straight down. And, while 1,766 feet doesn’t sound all that intimidating, trust me on this one–it is. Sixty percent of Mary Jane is expert terrain. In other words, there will be bumps, trees, grade and stupidity… but not necessarily in that order.

At any rate, I guess what I’m trying to say is that if I’m going to survive this, I need to bring my A-game, which is just funny. Because, if you know me, then you know that I didn’t even have an A-game when I skied competitively in high school and college. At best I was a B minus... graded on a curve. At forty-three, now I just bring my F-game, as in “What the F was I thinking?”

That being said, I’m not going to lie, I’m crazy excited (with the emphasis on excited not crazy). I’ve never done Winter Park, but TB has, and she loves it. Me? I love the fact that Mary Jane is named after the local mining camp madam who bought the land in the late 1800s. And, just so we’re all on the same page, I’m not judging. Like I told TB, “If you had to pick between your dignity and your own mountain, what would you call the resort?” Exactly.

With that, I’m off to work out. Talk to you later.

Thursday, January 15, 2015

It’s the most wonderful time of the year…

When people everywhere “leave the poor choices of their past behind and look forward to the future.” Only, unlike Queer Eye for the Straight Guy, I’m not talking about Fashion Week. I’m talking about New Year’s resolutions. That said, statistically speaking, I probably won’t keep the ones I’ve made, so you really shouldn’t listen to me—especially since there’s actually a betting pool about how quickly I’ll fold on some of them; which, quite frankly, doesn’t even make sense. It’s not like anyone would know anyway; because, honestly, unless I trip and smack my face on a treadmill, no one wants to hear about my workouts. But I digress.

The point is that, thanks to your comments, mkromd has purchased a bag of ducks for Heifer (and, no autocorrect, I really did mean to type bag of ducks, but well played on your part). Furthermore, seeing as how I need all of the help I can get, I also bought Kanye West and Kim Kardashian prayer candles, which (God help me) I love almost as much as those two love themselves. Almost.

Also available, “HOLY CANDLES, Batman” and Lionel Ritchie in case it’s Him you’re looking for. I should warn you though, I don’t think modern idolatry works. No matter how many Kurt Cobain and John Lennon candles I light, Justin Bieber and Miley Cyrus have yet to be raptured. On the up note, at least it’s not the end of the world (but I bet there's a Michael Stipe candle just in case).

In any event, happy 2015, and thanks again for helping Heifer. Talk to you later.

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

I’m dreaming of a white Christmas.

But if that runs out, I’ll happily drink red. Also, I’m sorry for being incommunicado. For the last six months, I’ve been working on my book with the most amazing editor ever (you know who you are). Oh, and I wrote a children’s book, which is a crazy-ass story in-and-of-itself (why and how I wrote it, not what I wrote). Though, in the spirit of full disclosure, if you were to read both projects, you wouldn’t believe they came from the same person. In other words, I love being bipolar. It’s awful.

I’m kidding. I’m not bipolar; but, if I were, I’d be fifty fucking shades of it with no safe word. The truth is that I just needed a break from working on the same manuscript for so long. That being said, this post isn’t about either one of my books. It’s not even about a biPolar Express kid’s book for the holidays. It’s about Nathan Bransford’s Hooray for Heifer drive. mkromd has participated every year, and this year is no exception. If you've never done it, here’s how it works . . .

Each December, sends this ripple of kindness across the blogosphere and challenges each of us to raise money for a wonderful cause, Heifer International. It goes something like this, if I link to his site and this cause, he will redirect people to my site to keep it going. So we should totally do this! For each tweet or comment you post below (until the first week of January 2015), I'll donate 25 cents on your behalf, and for each person who “joins” my karma ran over my dogma, I'll donate one dollar (up to $50 total). This is the fifth year we've done it, and I'd like to keep this tradition going, including sharing the post below. As dysfunctional as it is, it's become the mkromd equivalent to, "Twas the Night before Christmas." Yes. Really.


Just when I thought no one was paying attention to my blog, someone sent me a note about Nathan Bransford, who is raising money for a wonderful cause, Heifer International. Now, if you aren’t familiar with this organization, they use donations (like this) to purchase sustainable items for indigenous people around the world, many of whom I’ve personally offended at one point in time or another and need to apologize to en masse. Hopefully this will help me make amends (and improve my karma); and, for those of you who regularly read my blog, you know I need all the help I can get. You even already know that years ago, in college, when I studied in Sardinia, I was attacked by a passive-aggressive hair stylist who shaved my head. But, what you don't know is that, as tragic as that event may have been, it was far from the worst thing that's ever happened to me abroad.

That probably happened in India, after I graduated from college.

You see, every year my large co-dependent family vacations together in a place we've never been before. It's true, we pick some unfortunate destination and descend en-masse, and one year we decided to go to Asia. At any rate, there we were, visiting a mosque in India, when someone suggested that we see the, “lesser known Poor Man’s Taj Mahal.” If you've never heard of it, don't be alarmed. It’s more like a roadside attraction than it is a mosque, but the rules still apply: men can go inside, women cannot, and everyone has to take off their shoes regardless.

So there I was . . . walking around . . . outside . . . in India . . . without shoes on . . . when I stepped in bird poop.

If you know nothing about me, please know this­ - I’m a complete germ-a-phobe; however, luckily for me, there was a big pool of water right there. And, as a recently-graduated, culturally-sensitive Anthropologist, I hopped over to it and stuck my bird poop covered foot right in. No kidding, about twenty-five men immediately ripped their hands out of there the second I'd touched it. Being the polite idiot that I am, I was loudly apologizing/explaining and showing them my foot while saying, “Sorry, I stepped in crap and I need to get it off.”

Now, if you know anything about mosques, then you probably know the following:
1. That’s holy water and it’s used for men to clean themselves before they pray. Women don’t use it . . . ever.
2. In many Asian cultures, showing someone the bottom of your feet is like giving them the finger.
3. Either one of these things is offensive.
4. Both of these things together can be life-threatening.

I now know that too.

That said, as I’m writing this, it dawns on me that the poop "incident" wasn't actually the worst one. The worst was definitely when I was living and working in London because of an international assignment. I tried to warn my boss this was a bad idea, but it wasn’t until I lost my knickers on High Street that he agreed.

However, before I can tell you that part of the story, I have to tell you this part first.

You see, one morning, I’d gotten up and headed into the office to prep for a big meeting with my manager and his peers, all of whom are men. However, because God hates me, I didn't get to work early at all. In fact, I got there late because of traffic on the M25. Already tardy and frustrated, I quickly grabbed my stuff from the car and accidentally slammed the door on myself, which naturally resulted in a massive tear in my nylons. As I looked at my watch, I realized that I could pull it off (no pun intended) and literally jaunted (in heels) to Woolworths on High Street for a new pair.

Though I was able to successfully repress most of what happened next, I still remember running into the store, grabbing a pair of pantyhose off the rack, looking at the back of the package, and realizing that this wasn’t going to end well for me. You see, the problem with buying clothes in England is that the height and weight charts are metric.

Do you know how many stones you weigh or how many meters tall you are? Wow, me neither!
But I grabbed a pair anyway and hauled back to the office where I went into the bathroom, pulled off my nylons, pitched the torn ones into the garbage and opened the new pack. Clearly God hates me, because when I opened them, they were thigh-highs . . . for an Amazon. I’m five foot two, and in no parallel universe would those have worked, even if I'd had a garter-belt, which I didn't.

So there I was, eyeballing the torn ones in the trash and running the numbers in my head, when I realized that it would require a lifetime of therapy if I went dumpster diving for my own used clothes. Instead, I tried to make my B Plan work.


After fifteen minutes of sheer hell (no pun intended), I walked over to my boss’s office, shut his door and said, “We have a problem.” It was (quite literally) five minutes before one of the biggest presentations of my life, so he was clearly upset by this declaration and asked why. That's when I stamped my right foot three times, and my thigh-high fell to the floor . . . engulfing my shoe. As we stood there, staring at each other, not sure what to say, the left thigh-high fell to the floor, too. And no, I hadn’t shaved. That’s when my boss said, “Take the damn things off and tell them you’re French. Let’s go.”

To think I was scared of what could happen on our last family vacation to Peru. No kidding, I was genuinely terrified that I’d hear a blow dart and wake up days later in some South American jungle hut without a kidney. Since that didn’t happen, I clearly still have amends to make before my karma can improve, so PLEASE help me out. Give to Heifer International. Or, post a comment and I will make a donation on your behalf (up to $50 total from mkromd).

Have a great holiday! Talk to you later.