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, http://blog.nathanbransford.com 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.

I literally PULLED MY NYLONS THROUGH THE TOP OF MY UNDERWEAR AND TIED THEM TOGETHER IN THE BACK.

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.

Friday, July 4, 2014

P.S. (A Toad Retrospective)

In 1992, when I was a college student at the University of Wyoming, I went to see Toad the Wet Sprocket in concert. They’re still an awesome band; but, if you’ve never heard of them and are wondering what the hell their name means, they took it from the Monty Python skit, Rock Notes, where Eric Idle plays a journalist who delivers the best music news report ever, "Rex Stardust, lead electric triangle with Toad the Wet Sprocket, has had to have an elbow removed following their recent successful worldwide tour of Finland. Flamboyant ambidextrous Rex apparently fell off the back of a motorcycle. "Fell off the back of a motorcyclist, most likely," quipped ace drummer, Jumbo McClooney, upon hearing of the accident. Plans are now afoot for a major tour of Iceland."

Anyway, in 1999, the band released a compilation album, P.S. A Toad Retrospective; however, today's story isn’t about Toad the Wet Sprocket OR Monty Python. It’s actually about toads. To be specific, it’s about our toads. That’s right, they’re back; and, in their honor, here is last year’s, “Frog and Toad are Friends.”

PS (no pun intended): Sorry for recycling content again, but this may truly be one of my favorite mkromd posts ever. Also, I promise something new next time. Since getting back from Spain, I've been working on the book, and I'm ridiculously excited. Things are finally looking up, so keep your fingers crossed for me. And, finally, with that . . .

Frog and Toad are Friends

I love our house. It sits on an acre of woods with a stream behind it; and, on any given night, you can watch fireflies while listening to the owls and frogs. Likewise, on any given day, you’re bound to see rabbits and cardinals, as well as the occasional sandhill crane, heron or turkey if you’re lucky. Lately though, our yard and patio have been covered with toads… hundreds of tiny, baby toads.

However, before I can tell you that part of the story, I have to tell you this part first. For some reason, I like eating breakfast outside. I do, and every day I pour a glass of orange juice, make a bowl of oatmeal, grab a cup of coffee and a tennis ball, then sit on the steps and play with the dog while trying to wake up. Now, in the spirit of full disclosure, I’ll be the first person to admit that I’m not a morning person. I’m barely an afternoon one, so when I saw my entire patio hopping, I said to myself, “Self, if you’re still dreaming, please turn this oatmeal into the world’s biggest doughnut right NOW.” When that didn’t happen and the disappointment subsided, I became so intrigued that I needed to know what the hell was going on.

And that’s when I saw them… dozens upon dozens of adorable, little toadlets… everywhere… which immediately made me think of the book of Exodus… which immediately made me want to fall to my knees and scream, “I knew I should have let God’s people go!!!” But I didn’t. Given that I started running again and my poor neighbors have endured enough these days, I went inside and got DB instead.

Now, for the record, I love and adore my husband immeasurably. Not only is he warm and brilliant, but he has this charming, Buddhisty innocence that makes me want to be a better person. And, as we stood there, watching the baby toads, we saw two of them climb onto the patio together. One was curious and brave and determined to blissfully bound and rebound on any and everything around it. The other stood at the edge and watched him like, “What are you doing? Do you NOT see those two giant humanoids staring at us? Come back.” then furiously hopped over to him, all-the-while thinking, “ARGH… Really?! I swear to God, if someone picks me up, I will pee all over them. That's right. They will be covered in warts and toad stools if I plan it right.

And in that moment, I was immediately reminded of the children’s book, Frog and Toad are Friends, and I’m Toad. I’m cynical and I’m gun shy and I’ve been on enough patios to know that it can all go horribly wrong in ways that you can’t even predict. And DB is Frog. He’s that friendly, fearless, calm being who believes the world isn’t a terrible place. Sure, it’s big and bad things happen, but it’s more exciting than it is awful and if you don’t hop out of the grass, you’ll never experience the splendor. Also, at the risk of setting the bar low, I want to be that kind of amphibian, but I’m not. I cannot rally that kind of optimism anymore, which is ironic when you consider that, throughout my life, I kissed a lot of frogs who didn’t turn into princes (at least not mine), then fell in love with a prince who also happens to be a Frog.

Sunday, June 29, 2014

The rain in Spain stays mainly in the plain

I apologize for dropping the blogging ball, but I swear… this time I have a good reason. In June, my beautiful step-daughter graduated from high school; and, because she got into one of the top forty universities in the country (yes, really), her grandmother took her to Spain to celebrate.

When they asked me if I’d like to join them, all I could say was, “You had me at hola.” DB on the other hand said, “Nope. My daughter, my wife and my mother are the three most important women in my life, and I’d like to keep it that way. Have fun without me.” You laugh, but I have to admit that his argument has merit… especially since my favorite mythical creature is the happy bitch in tampon commercials.

Anyway, while building our itinerary:
  • My step-daughter, who eventually wants to study in Spain, said, “I’d like to see Madrid and Barcelona.”
  • My mother-in-law, who is an artist, said, “I’d like to do the Museo del Prado, the Thyssen-Bornemisza Museum and the Reina Sofía."
  • I, as an academically-trained Anthropologist, wanted to experience Spain’s religious culture and history, and by that I mean churches, soccer and the Inquisition (which no expected me to say; but, then again, no one expects the Inquisition).
In any case, I’m pleased to report that a good time was had by all.
  • Madrid and Barcelona are truly beautiful.
  • The collections at all three museums, combined with the Sagrada Familia and Park Güell, are beyond description.
  • The churches are magnificent. Seriously, if I were a writer for Fodor’s, Lonely Planet or Zagat’s, I’d give all of them four stars: Great bread; disappointing wine selection. All jokes aside, the only reason they didn’t get five stars was because every single one of them charged admission. I understand cathedrals but churches?
As for futbol, I was crushed. Given that Spain had won the 2010 World Cup, I had such high hopes. Not only did I brag that Espana would kick EVERYONE’S ASS and that I would be there to see it happen, I bought my jersey before they lost to the Netherlands (five to one). Had I waited ninety minutes, not only would I have NOT paid full price, I could have gotten it for free from ANY Spaniard I’d met on the street. People were literally throwing their shirts away. When we got back to the hotel and I asked the front desk clerk, “What the hell happened on the field today?” He said, “Tonight Spain is nothing but pain with an S.”

Because I felt like he felt that I was mercilessly interrogating him, I felt badly. Girl Scout’s honor, that’s the only reason I did a lobby rendition of Monty Python’s, “NOBODY expects the Spanish Inquisition! Our chief weapon is surprise...surprise and fear...fear and surprise.... Our two weapons are fear and surprise...and ruthless efficiency.... Our *three* weapons are fear, surprise, and ruthless efficiency...and an almost fanatical devotion to the Pope.... Our *four*...no... *Amongst* our weapons.... Amongst our weaponry...are such elements as fear, surprise.... I'll come in again.”

You know, I think the Bard was right, 'All the world really is a stage.' With that, talk to you later.

Saturday, May 10, 2014

Our house is a very, very, very fine house

It's funny that the second album by Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young, Déjà Vu, has the song Our House. I say that for two reasons. One, because this week's story is actually last year's Mother's Day post. Two, because I'm heading home to Appalachia to see my mom and celebrate it with her. In a way, I feel like recycling content is cheating; however, in my defense, I almost never do it. Besides, more than that, I firmly believe George Carlin was right, "Déjà vu is way better than vujà dé . . . the feeling you've never been anywhere before."

Bad Company
For the last two weeks, I've had the flu, and - when I'm sick, I have a tendency to whine, sleep, and read. In other words, it's not all that different from when I'm healthy. At any rate, the other night, after finishing my book, I ended up reading Rolling Stone's, "100 Greatest Singers" and saw that Paul Rodgers from Bad Company came in at number fifty-five. Though they don't need my approval, I must admit - it was a good pick. After all, when Jim Morrison (number 47) died, the Doors wanted him and - more impressively, after Freddie Mercury died, Rodgers toured with Queen. For the record (no pun intended), Freddie Mercury was number eighteen on Rolling Stone's list.

Now, if you think Paul Rodgers can't bring it, I challenge you to listen to him sing, "I Want it All." Keep in mind that Freddie never performed it live because he was so sick. If you want to hear him, you have to listen to the album, and - if you've never heard it, go do it now. That said, if you listen to it and hear a man ravaged by AIDS instead of an artist's sheer will power and ability to accomplish perfection regardless of his circumstances, you're dead to me.

But I digress, the point is that only a handful of days ago, my mother went into congestive heart failure again. By the time I got the call, she had already been stabilized and was lucid. In fact, I was lucky enough to talk to her shortly thereafter. Like every good mom she said, "You're sick. Please don't drive or fly home while you have the flu. You'll never get better. Besides, if you walk through the door, I'll be convinced that I'm dying and no one wants to tell me."

You laugh, but when my dad was diagnosed with liver cancer, he told the doctors and all of us that he didn't want to hear the details. He knew it was fatal but he didn't want to know how long he had. He didn't want to be told what to expect. He wanted his life to be on his terms, including what he did, how he felt, and when he died... not according to some self-fulfilling prophesy that a team of doctors handed to him. For the record (again no pun intended), it worked. A headache remained a headache, a stomach ache remained a stomach ache, a muscle spasm remained a muscle spasm - not a symptom that the end was near or an omen of terrible things to come.

Like my mom, he was adamant that I not come home when I couldn't. Instead, we talked on the phone several times a week and wrote long, rambling letters to one-another, much like the non-sequiturs that I blog about… and music. We talked a lot about music. As a professional Jazz pianist for more than fifty years he was fortunate enough to meet, watch, and jam with a lot of pretty relevant musicians. Plus, he just knew a lot about music.

Anyway, when I talked to my mom and mentioned that DB is playing in a band again, I was blown away by how much she knew about Blues. She’s a CPA with an MBA who was an Executive all of her life. This is a woman who admits that she voted for Nixon and may have actually missed the Sixties. Seriously. Upon hearing the shock in my voice, she said, “Honey, I spent almost as many nights watching your father play piano as he spent playing.”

You know, I simply never thought about it.

At any rate, given that she dropped a bomb on me, I felt obligated to share my day with her, including the fact that during lunch, my straight, hot friend admitted that he stripped his way through college. Yes. Really. And that’s when I told my WASP mother that I’d missed my calling. I should have been a DJ at a male strip club, because – honestly – if the movie Magic Mike has taught us anything, it’s this... unlike men who prefer their strippers with no clothes or plot, women want their dancers to emote and I want to give that to them. I have no desire to see men pull-off their pants. I want to see them pull-off stripping to Total Eclipse of the Heart by Bonnie Tyler or Man in the Mirror by Michael Jackson. Think about it:
  • Cost of a drink at a strip club - Seven dollars
  • Cost of a lap dance - One dollar
  • Watching some pompous, fully-waxed, twenty-five year old guy's face as Amazing Grace comes over the speakers and he has to drop it like it's hot - Priceless
There really are certain things that money can't buy.

After she told me she’d miss me because she was certain that I was going to Hell, we laughed ourselves into a coughing frenzy. Given that I only had the flu but she was recovering from congestive heart failure, I was certain that this would kill her and that my siblings would kill me because of it. Thankfully, that didn’t happen. Instead, I get the opportunity to spend another Mother's Day with her. That's right. I'm going home to Appalachia. I might be bad company but I’m a good daughter.

Besides, even if it weren't a holiday to celebrate the incredible job she's done raising us, I'd want to see her. Like my father, she’s my hero. Even from a hospital bed, she could laugh and she could make me laugh. I guess that, while the exuberant cry of youth may be, "I Want It All and I Want it Now," the wisdom and temperance of age gives you a different perspective: who you are when it's hard is who you really are and what you do with the time you have is totally your choice. To quote Dylan Thomas, “Do not go gentle into that good night.” It worked for Freddie Mercury... It worked for my dad... Clearly it works for my mother and I hope to God that it works for me.

Talk to you later.