Monday, December 20, 2010

*tap tap tap* Is this thing on?

Let's leave this until next week to get as much money for Heifer as possible. Talk to you next week. --

Just when I thought no one was paying attention because the Indonesian Blog, kewtawa lucu, is kicking my ass, someone sent me a note me about Nathan Bransford, who is raising money for a wonderful cause, Heifer International. Here’s the deal, if I link to his site and this cause, he will redirect people to my site to keep it going. So we should REALLY do this! For each comment that you post on mkromd, I will donate 25 cents on your behalf (up to $50 total).

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 Islam, 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. Never show a Muslim the bottom of your feet. It’s 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? OMG… ME EITHER!

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 next week.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Money. Money. Money. It's a Rich Man's World.

Years ago, in college, I said that I wanted to fix the world. I had no idea that meant one damn thing in my house after another. As with all requests that I put out to the universe, perhaps I should have been more specific.

You see, I live in the Mid-West, and we - like so many other parts of the world - were hit with an Arctic blizzard that dumped over a foot of snow. Now, this is fine... if you're an Eskimo. It's NOT OK if you're a single woman who owns a home but doesn't own a snow blower to go with it. And you may say it's my fault that I wasn't prepared, but I would tell you that there's only so much money in the budget, and I needed those Burberry galoshes.

At any rate, the morning after the storm, instead of blowing the snow out of my driveway, I shoveled it... fashionably.

And for ten minutes, I didn't even mind. Then my neighbor came out of his garage, started his snow blower, waved at me, finished his driveway, waved at me again, then went back into his house. I swear, if I had been a man, I'd have pulled down my snow pants and pissed the word ASSHOLE into his yard. I would have. Instead, I just threw snowballs at his house and kicked snow into his driveway.

I honestly looked like a toddler with Tourette’s syndrome having a temper tantrum.

And... because I’m shallow – I was OK with that. In fact, I was OK until my garage door froze SHUT and then it froze OPEN. Seriously, how does that even happen? Then… as I stood there, eyes freezing shut from crying, shovel in hand, cursing, I realized two things:
1. I literally come from a broken home, which made me cry harder.
2. I have NEVER seen an igloo with a door, and clearly this is why.

So I went inside and sent the following e-mail to my boss, "Hey there, I'm stuck at home. My garage door was frozen shut (?), and now it is frozen open (?). I've called Sears to come fix it. Until then, I'm working from home. Call or e-mail me if you need me. Sorry!"

But this is what I wanted to send to her, "Good morning. I'm sure you already know this, but I'm not at work yet. I'm at home… being held hostage by a garage door that hates me almost as much as I hate it. The damn thing froze shut and then... it froze open. I’m sure had I watched the Weather Channel, this event wouldn’t have shocked me as much as a person who was tazered and never saw it coming, but I didn’t. Instead, I was watching Netflix, which I am tragically addicted to. You should also know that I have PHYSICALLY moved two feet of snow, offended small children in my neighborhood, and actually threw my shovel at the snowplow because he pushed a foot of snow BACK into my driveway once I was done. I’m not proud. So, to make myself feel better, I let the puppy mush into my neighbor’s yard and pee. Don’t worry – I covered it with snow. See you tomorrow."

And I'll talk to you next week!

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

These boots are made for walking...

Regardless of the fact that my sister and I are polar opposites (she’s perfect and I’m a train wreck), I love her to bits. We’re incredibly close, and the universe made no mistake by putting her first in our family’s birth order. She’s brutally honest, amazingly sweet, and is the one person who will always walk in when everyone else is walking out.

She’s also the reason I have an expensive love-affair with good footwear.

You see, when I was four, we went to see Cinderella at the theater, and when I begged to see it again and again and again – she indulged me. When I asked her if she saw it over and over because she was getting paid to babysit me or because she liked it as much as I did – she said, “Any woman who figures out that the right shoe can change your life, deserves to live happily ever after.” And that winter, she bought me my first pair of dress boots for Christmas. Please know this - I loved those boots more than a pimp loves money. I wore them all day, every day, regardless of the event or the season. I even wore them to bed. And when I finally outgrew them, I wept. I also refused to wear shoes for two days straight, until my mother said, "Clothes don't make the woman, but naked people don't get very far in life. Let's go shopping."

As fate would have it, that experience not only had a profound impact on my psyche, it prepared me for Aunt-hood… when my beautiful baby niece fell in love with the fairy wings from her Halloween costume. She wore them everywhere for everything. We all let it go, thinking she’d outgrow it, until her pre-school called and said, “It’s becoming an issue.”

That’s when we staged an intervention.

As my entire family sat around the dinner table, explaining to her why she couldn’t wear wings to school anymore, I shared that I had ‘literally’ walked a mile in similar shoes and could relate to her pediatric passion for fashion. And that’s when my adorable, waifish niece looked me dead in the eye and said, “I’ll give up the fairy wings, Auntie... but it’ll cost you.” So I picked her up, carried her to the car, buckled her into her car seat, took her to Bloomingdale's, and bought her a pair of boots.

I love my gene pool. Though it's shallow and could use some chlorine, it gives me hope for the future.

But I digress. This post isn't about my niece, it's about my sister. And years ago - when I graduated from college and needed clothes to interview in - I flew home to go shopping with her and my mother. So there we were… in Macy's… bickering over the difference between what’s fashionable and what’s trendy… when my mother handed a pink, cashmere sweater-set to me. Being the dutiful daughter that I am, I begrudgingly tried it on. When I walked out of the dressing room, my sister looked at me, then looked at our mother, then looked back at me and said, "If God doesn't destroy that outfit right now, he owes Sodom and Gomorrah an apology. She looks like the tooth fairy on crack." And instead of defending me, my mother said, "I just thought it would look better on." … on fire, maybe.

Clearly, I'm not a sweater-set kind of girl. I'm the go-go boots kind. I guess I have been all my life. Just ask my sister. Talk to you next week.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

No Rest for the Wicked

About six weeks ago, I got a text from TB, which said, “This is not a drill. Pack your bags. We’re going to Orlando for seventy-two hours to consume as much sunshine and tequila as possible… and not in that order.” When I texted back, “OK, but why Orlando?” she replied, “Because I just booked our Gaycation there.” Clearly, even though we're straight, we're not narrow.

That said, the next time I suggest a holiday surrounded by gorgeous men, I'll remember to be more specific.

At any rate, I realize that, if you don’t know me, you wouldn't believe how par for the course the following is: me… in Florida for a long weekend… with my best friend… and her husband… and some gay friends of ours… at Disney. DB couldn't go, so that left me sharing a room with TB and her husband, whom I also love to bits. When people saw us together and asked him if we were Mormon, he said, "No smart man can serve two masters." So he just let people think TB and I were lesbians instead. Thank God she's hot.

But I digress... The point is that we desperately needed a reality break, and where better than Walt Disney World to take one. Because, not only is it a small world after all, it's one of the only places left on this planet where no one thinks it's wrong to have Buzz and a Woody at the same time. However, since time stands still for no man, when you only have seventy-two hours in the Magic Kingdom, you have to plan the work and work the plan. Enter the Gay Agenda.

Now, for the record, let it be said there's
definitely a Gay Agenda. It's just that the Religious Right has it all wrong. It doesn't include the global domination of heterosexuals. It includes Starbucks for breakfast, a nap after lunch, and a drinking binge through Epcot. So trust me when I say that they aren't coming for you or your children. I mean sure, they want to exercise their civil liberties like other citizens, but they also want your booze and your Prada. And, if we aren't going to give them gay marriage, that's the least we can do to help.

All jokes aside, on the flight home, as I was nursing my hangover and trying to keep down a breakfast of Gatorade and Tylenol, it dawned on me that maybe we'd make more political progress if our mantra was closer to Obama's, "Yes we can" instead of Queer Eye for the Straight Guy's, "Oh no you din't." Who knows? What I do know is that I had a lovely weekend with Prince Charming, who just happens to be a Queen.

Talk to you next week.

Friday, November 12, 2010

The Heir and the Spare and the Spare's Hair

I have two brothers, and they couldn't be more different. My oldest brother (SMS), from last week's blog, is an Accountant who tells me that he's brilliant simply because Einstein once said, "The hardest thing in the world to understand is the Income Tax." And... since SMS does my taxes for free, every April 15th, I even let him believe he's right.

My second brother (KPS), on the other hand, took Timothy Leary's advice and "tuned in, turned off, and dropped out" of life for a while. It ended up OK, I guess (given that he really is the gentle genius in our family). Because, unlike SMS, KPS actually understands all of Einstein's relevant quotes (like E = mc2) and graduated from Penn State at the top of his class with a degree in Electrical Engineering and another degree in Biomedical Engineering... a truth he finds less relevant than the fact that, regardless of his credentials, he had to cut his waist-length hair to get a job.

Me, I have a degree in Anthropology, and when I told my parents that I dropped out of Political Science and Pre-Law to study Liberal Arts, my mother said, "That's a hobby, not a major." But, at any rate, this week isn't about my oldest brother or my mother or even my sister (who can only escape my keyboard for so long). It's about KPS, to whom I have always been incredibly close. Actually, it's about his hair.

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

You know, contrary to popular opinion, a degree in Anthropology has unique advantages
. Sure, it doesn't really qualify you for "employment," but it certainly helps you identify how closely some of your blind dates swing to the tree. Seriously, when you're sitting at dinner with someone, and you're wondering about his cranial capacity... and not in a hot way... you know you received more than a college diploma. You received an education. Seriously, thanks to Evolutionary Biology 101, I've dodged a second date with more than one Piltdown man, and not every woman can say that.

But I digress... The point is that, outside the obvious benefits stated above, Anthropology has its own unique set of perks, one of which is field school. And two decades ago, as a college student, I got to study in Sardinia for a semester when Italy was hosting the World Cup. It was an AMAZING experience, complete with NO drinking age. Anyway, one weekend, I went to Rome with a group of friends to watch a soccer game. And, because we also wanted to see the Vatican again and do some shopping, we decided to go early and stay late - which gave me just enough time to get a desperately needed haircut.

Unfortunately, after scheduling our appointments, we didn't head to the Spanish Steps as planned. We went to a cafe next to the salon and watched various soccer games and proceeded to get drunk instead. After several hours, beers, and matches, the time came, so I stumbled next door, sat in the stylist's chair, and tried to explain in slurred Italian that I wanted my hair, “all one length.” She said she understood, and she started cutting.

Now, of course when you’re sitting there getting your hair cut, you make small talk, right? And of course when Italy is hosting the biggest athletic event in the world, the conversation leads to futbol, right? WRONG! Cause here’s just a good piece of life advice: Never insult Italian soccer players to an Italian fan when Italy is hosting the World Cup… especially if she’s cutting your hair… and you’re drunk.

She shaved my head.

I was, quite honestly, almost bald, which wasn’t truly awful until I got back to the States at the end of the summer. See, I’d told my parents that I’d gotten my hair cut in Italy and they immediately assumed it was chic and European, and it was – if you consider Sinead O’Connor to be chic and European (which I do). So, there I was... at the end of the semester... still bald... heading home to Pennsylvania... with a bandanna wrapped around my head. I'll admit it, I was a little nervous, but I was also home-sick, and when the plane landed, I quickly de-boarded and ran straight to my family, who was standing at the gate, dying to greet me.

Like any reunion, we were hugging and laughing and talking over one-another, when my mom said, "So let's see this haircut." As I took the scarf off my head, my father literally stopped dead in his tracks and said, "GET back ON the PLANE... go BACK to ITALY… and GET YOUR HAIR!” On the drive home, he kept looking in the rear-view mirror, shaking his head, and telling my mother, "I don't understand. I just don't understand. Our son has hair down to his ass, and our daughter's head looks like a bowling ball." My mom, trying to maintain the peace, simply replied, "I'm sure it's just what kids are doing these days. It'll grow back."

Now, for the record, if you ever find yourself in a similar boat... it's WAY better to let your parents think you're "going through a phase" than it is to tell them the truth: that you were the drunken victim of a passive-aggressive hair stylist. Because honestly, how does one even begin to explain that... especially right after it happened. Hell, it was twenty years ago, and I'm still a little bitter that she had the nerve to ASK FOR A TIP. When I said, "I'm BALD." She actually replied, "Si, but it's all one length." So I gave her a tip, "Next time you put money down on a team, pick Germany."

In my defense, she turned me into a skinhead. She had to expect a hateful reply.

Anyway... unfortunately, my timing couldn't have been worse (well, for my parents anyway), because that summer - my father had chosen to retire, and my mother had chosen to have 150 people at our house to celebrate that fact. At any rate, the day and time of the party arrived, and I was standing with my brother, catching up, when our father came up to us with his friend and said, "John, you remember my youngest two children, KPS and mkromd." And no shit, the guy turned to me, shook my hand and said, "KPS, you have turned into a fine young man." Then he turned to my brother, kissed him on the cheek, and said, "You, mkromd, have become a beautiful young woman."

My father looked at his friend, then looked at KPS, then looked at me, then looked back at his friend and said, "The one whose head looks like roll-on deodorant is my daughter. Now if you'll excuse me... I need another Scotch."

Thank God that, before it could get awkward, my beloved, laid-back brother said, "It's OK dude. Even though I'm straight, I'm six feet tall, I weigh 130 pounds, I have long, blond hair, and I'm working this party like Twiggy on a catwalk. You're not the first guy here to want my number." To which the man replied, "And if I weren't a heterosexual man of the cloth, I'm sure I'd want it, too." Turns out, we had just been re-introduced to the minister who performed our parents' wedding ceremony in December of 1962. I guess Einstein understood more than Physics and Engineering. He understood life - as evidenced in his quote, "Logic will get you from A to B, but imagination will take you everywhere."

Talk to you next week.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

And now for something completely different...

I know that I've been writing about my family lately. I even agree that it's been cathartic, but this week something happened that brings the past to the present, and I feel the need to share it.

Last night, I fell off my treadmill.

No, you didn't read that wrong. I fell OFF my treadmill. My bat-shit crazy dog was playing in the basement, and she chased her ball across my treadmill... as I was using it. To quote the great Muhammad Ali, "It was a two hit fight." She hit me, and I hit the floor.

This is why I miss my goldfish, Mr. Carp E. Diem (may he rest in peace). Not just because his name was clever (given that goldfish ARE members of the Carp family), and not just because he was so easy to take care of (which he was), or even because he was the Chuck Norris of fish who killed each and every thing I put into his tank (seriously, he was the reason that fish sleep with their eyes open), but because in the ten years that I owned him - he never, ever gave me a bloody lip.

Don't get me wrong, I love my dog, but last night, I was at my wit's end. And, as I was getting ice from the refrigerator to control the swelling, I played a sick fantasy in my head about slipping the groomer an extra twenty dollars to shave a bulls-eye into her pelt. I had the same fantasies about my neighbor, and that’s when I knew that DB and I needed to move. But... unlike my neighbor (who I have seen in his underwear), she wouldn’t notice or even care about what I shave into her back hair. This is an animal who eye-balls you while she masturbates on her dog bed. However, I have a theory about why she’s so bat-shit crazy and destructive.

She was a heroin addict in a previous life.

She was, and while that may make you feel sad for her, DON’T BE! She hasn’t learned a damn thing though reincarnation. If it were up to her, she would live this life like she lived the last one… in a spiked dog collar… with all eight nipples pierced… and track marks up all four of her legs. I swear, one day I expect to walk into my house and find her wrapping the leash around her doggy arm and tightening it with her teeth. The only thing that might be missing when she dies this time is cheap beer and a pimp. So don’t feel bad for her AT ALL. Instead, feel bad for ME.

Adding to my current misery, in the two years that I've owned her, she's eaten numerous pairs of shoes, $150 worth of underwear, a $75 bottle of perfume, and a $250 pair of glasses all for the low-low cost of several trips to the vet at $100 a pop (not to mention the thousands of dollars I've paid in carpet cleaning expenses). I’m not sure what I was mumbling under my breath as I was telling my sister about my treadmill trauma, but it couldn’t have been good, because - after she laughed she said, "Are you going to kill her like you did the lizards?” OK, yes… many years ago, we had pet lizards, and I killed them, but it was honestly an accident.

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

You see, growing up in the Appalachian Mountains with two brothers, it is a given that - at some point in your life - you and/or your siblings will own box turtles, lizards, dogs, cats, and fish. And, much to my mother's chagrin, we were no different. We owned everything we ever saved, found, or caught. A fact which may have contributed to me being a vegetarian who minored in Peace Studies (yes, really). I can’t even eat an animal much less kill one. So while it’s true that I killed our lizards, their death was never premeditated. In fact, I LIKED the Anoles. They were wickedly fast and incredibly cool to watch. They ate live crickets, and I felt bad about that… UNTIL ONE OF THOSE DAMN INSECTS ESCAPED AND LIVED IN OUR HEATING DUCTS FOR A WEEK.

Do you know what it’s like to be laying in bed… trying to fall asleep… and suddenly hear bug chirping… that ECHOES… through your WHOLE HOUSE? Do you? It’s like living in a Kafka novel: Metamorphosis, the home edition. For the record, Eric Carle was wrong. Crickets aren’t quiet unless you crank your heat to 90 degrees and let karma handle the details, which is exactly what happened.

I don’t like playing God, but I’m not opposed to it when my sleep is on the line… Regardless of how old I am.

So, while I may have deliberately killed that cricket (who TOTALLY had it coming), I swear I didn’t intentionally kill the lizards. In fact, I was trying to be helpful. I was cleaning their tank, and I put them on our patio in their carrying crate. When I came back twenty minutes later, they were more dehydrated than the apricots in your trail mix. The spare tank had reached 120 degrees… So I stood there… tapping the glass… hoping beyond hope that I was wrong… trying to figure out what to tell my family, and the only message I could craft was, “Well, at least you can catch them now.” They didn’t find it comforting, and clearly my sister is concerned history could repeat itself with my current pet. Like a good little-sister, I told her, “Not to worry! I can’t fit the puppy into a lizard-sized carrying crate.” That said, if that damn dog does disappear one day, follow the money…

Talk to you next week!

Monday, October 25, 2010

He ain't heavy. He's my brother.

My oldest brother is a shit. Don't get me wrong, I mean that in the nicest way possible. He's smart and he's funny, and the whole world thinks he's charming, but he's a shit. That said, though it pains me to admit it, he's also a very good big brother, and I love him to bits. At least I do now, anyway.

You see, growing up, he was the bane of my existence... even though the funniest moments of my childhood involve (and often revolve around) him. In fact, it wasn't until he’d left for college that I realized how much I actually missed him. Lucky for me, he didn't go too far away, so I still had front row seats to his stupidity. One time, while he was pledging a fraternity, he called my mother and said, "I'm naked, and I'm at a pay phone. Can you please come pick us up?" My mother said, "You're in a phone booth... and you're naked? Why… and exactly WHO is the US you want ME to pick up?" My question was... where the hell did he pull the quarter from so he could make the call.

With all my heart I hope he's reading this, and I truly hope I finally get the answer I've waited so long to hear. Butt I digress...

The point is that I can't remember a time when we weren't at each other's throats, even though we always had each other's backs. My earliest recollection is probably when I was in fourth grade and he was in tenth. I was just starting to care about my appearance, and he had a full length mirror in his bedroom. So, one day, I went into his room to look at my outfit, and I noticed that his mirror was crooked. Being the anal-retentive person that I am, I straightened it. Lo and behold, a Playboy fell from the back. Please note that, while I had NO idea what it was, I was certain my mother would and that she would be pissed. So I did what any good, little sister would do... I put it up my shirt... carried it downstairs... put it into an empty coffee can... went into the woods behind our house... dug a hole... and buried it. Then I proceeded to draw two treasure maps: one for him and one for my mom.

Given that our mother was always home at exactly 5:30 PM, I waited until 5:20 to hand the map to him. When I explained what I had done, he threatened to kill me. Then I reminded him that mom's copy was also finished and his ten minute lead was a courtesy not a requirement. I believe the phrase I used was, "TICK TOCK." Needless to say, he found it before she got home. That night at dinner, as he passed my plate to me, he blew on my food. When I asked him why, he whispered, "Because revenge is a dish best served cold." I had no idea he meant that literally.

Now, growing up in Appalachia has certain drawbacks; however, it also has certain perks. Every house sits on a hill… every yard gets several feet of snow… and every kid is guaranteed at least two snow days each winter. Our childhood was no different. And that Christmas, after the Playboy “incident,” instead of getting coal, we got new sleds, specifically the kind of sleds that had brakes. If you've never seen them, they're AWESOME! They’re your run-of-the-mill plastic sled, but with hand brakes, like the kind you see in a car, except the brakes are on each side of the sled. When you pull the brakes up, they dig into the snow, and they slow you down until they stop you completely. And when your front yard is a one acre long, forty-five degree slope, brakes are a VERY good idea.

Anyway... there we were, ready to go outside. But this was the 1970s… you didn't wear North Face, Patagonia, or Marmot. They didn’t even exist yet. Instead, you wore three pairs of corduroy pants, an L.L. Bean sweater your grandmother gave you for Christmas, and a snowsuit that you had to lay on your kitchen floor and be zipped into. You honestly walked like Frankenstein after he’d shit himself, but you didn't care because you were warm, you had a new sled, and you were getting ready to use it. And better than that, it was a snow day.

In other words, you had two feet of snow and no school.

After zipping up our snowsuits and handing us our sleds, our parents went onto the front porch to watch their DNA in action. My sister went first. My brothers went next. Then I took off... The last thing I remember hearing in my head was Orson Wells saying, “Rosebud.” It was like Jackass meets Citizen Kane, the home edition. My brother… the one who is a complete shit… had sawed off one of the brakes on my sled… just one. It went something like this:
1. I took a running start.
2. I landed on my sled.
3. I accelerated.
4. I caught air.
5. I landed.
6. God reminded me that he hates me.
7. I pulled the brakes.
8. I went into a NASCAR-esque tailspin.
9. I flew OFF the sled… ACROSS the yard… and INTO a bush.
10. I lay there… unconscious… peeing in my pink snowsuit.

Thank GOD my dad got it on film. Because, clearly, there's a moral here that we need to be reminded of every holiday: when you bury your brother's porn, it's a slippery slope to violence.

Talk to you next week.

Friday, October 15, 2010

The best part of me is him

I love my mother. After reading my last post, "Putting the Fun back in Dysfunctional," she called me to say, "mkromd, I'm not at all the way you described me. I am NOT the epitome of a White Anglo Saxon Protestant Woman," and she actually even believed her own PR... until I reminded her that - when I turned eighteen - she handed me the keys to my car on a Tiffany's key chain with a card that said, "Happy birthday, sweetheart. The keys are the real gift. The key chain is because every woman should have a college education, a black bra, and something from Tiffanys... and she should know how to use all three." To this day, she thinks that's, "Just good life advice."

But this week's story isn't about my mom. It's about my dad.

You see, my father was born during the Great Depression. By three, he was performing in street theatre. By five, he was playing drums to help pay the rent. The story goes something like this... Every day, my dad would sit on the front steps of his apartment building and play popular tunes on garbage can lids and passersby would stop and watch. One day, the owner of a local shoe shop heard him and was so moved that he went to his store, got some leather from the back, and made a drum for my dad - the first one he ever owned. Mr. D liked to say that he discovered my father. My father liked to say, "There's probably some truth in that."

At any rate, by the time my dad was seven, you could tell he was talented. By ten, he was getting noticed. By fourteen, he was sneaking into clubs and playing Jazz all night with locals and legends. By eighteen, he was married, divorced, ex-communicated, and enlisted. And even though it was around the Korean War, the military actually saved his life.

Supposedly, one weekend on leave, my dad and his buddies went out, and my dad did what he always did. He got on stage, picked up the drumsticks, and played. Turns out, someone who knew someone, who knew someone, was there and got him an audition with the Commander and Conductor of the Air Force Band.

When the day came, he and the Master Sergeant for Percussion asked my dad to play something, so he did, and they were impressed. Then they handed him a sheet of music and asked to play something specific... and he couldn't. He couldn't read music. So, he did the next best thing. He asked to hear it played once, then he played it back to them... perfectly. They agreed to take him, but on one condition - that he learn to read music. When my dad said, "Why? If I hear it, I can play it." the Master Seargent replied, "But what about all of the music you never hear?"

He not only became my dad's mentor, they became lifelong friends.

And while our local shoe shop owner loved to take credit for my dad's career, it was actually during those years that he evolved as a musician and learned to play piano. In fact, as a result of being in the Air Force Band, he abandoned drums altogether and became a jazz pianist... a decision he never regretted. It was truly the second love of his life. The first he'd met some years later... it was our mother.

When they were introduced by a mutual friend, my mother thought my father was dashing and Beatnik. He read Kerouac and quoted Allen Ginsberg, and he was worldly and interesting and funny... He thought she was beautiful and brilliant and "a little intimidating," so he asked her out. Much to his genuine surprise, she said yes. So there she was, a week later, ready to go out. Too bad my dad had forgotten the day and time. He stood her up.

She was so offended and so irate that she called him the next day and lambasted him. Horrified, my father very sincerely apologized and asked if he could make it up to her. Begrudgingly, she agreed. Then he stood her up... again. He had gotten the flu, only this time - at least he called her beforehand to explain. Begging for one more chance, and reminding her that, "the third time is always a charm," she gave in. Turns out, it's genetic. God hated my dad, too. Because, on the way to dinner to meet my mom, he got a flat tire.

While he was changing it, my mother drove by, honked, waved, and kept driving. Within 15 minutes, they had both arrived at the restaurant and met in the lobby. My mother - calm, cool, and collected. My father - dirty, sweaty, and late. Instead of saying hello to her, he said, "Why didn't you stop to help me?" Without skipping a beat, my mother replied, "I only came tonight to tell you that you're an asshole. You were changing your tire. I figured you didn't need more bad news. Now that your tire's fixed... You're an asshole." And she walked out.

Clearly though, that's not where the story ends.

The next day at work, she got a long, slender, white box delivered to her office. When she opened it, thinking she'd gotten roses and an apology, she saw something that looked like a giant crowbar. The note read, "Next time you see me with a flat tire, you have to stop. You have my tire iron." Then he signed the card, "the Asshole." She still has it... the note, not the tire iron.

They were married for forty-five years until he passed away from cancer in 2006.

There isn't a day that goes by where I don't miss him, and when he was dying, he pulled my sister, my brothers, and I into his hospital room and one-by-one told us, "I can't believe God is so cruel that he wouldn't let me take one memory of each of you with me." Then he proceeded to tell us what those memories were. Here is the one he wanted to take of me...

When I was in sixth grade, I told a dirty joke at school... and I got caught. The joke goes something like this (I apologize in advance if it's not politically correct. It was the 1970s, no one was politically correct): Two midgets went to a convent. The first midget rang the doorbell, and when the nun answered to door, he said, "Excuse me Sister, are there any midget nuns at this convent?" To which the nun replied, "No son, there aren't. I think you've made a mistake." Then she thanked him for his time and closed the door. A minute later, he rang the doorbell again, and she answered again, only this time he said, "Excuse me Sister, are there any midget nuns in the city?" To which she replied, "No, no there aren't." And though she continued to nod disapprovingly, he continued to ask, "What about the state... the country... the world?" Frustrated, the Sister replied, "Sir, I have been all over the world, including the Vatican, and I have never, ever, EVER seen a midget nun. Please go away." When she slammed the door in his face, the second midget turned to the first and said, "Told you that you made it with a penguin."

In my defense, it wasn't a funny joke but it wasn't awful... unless you happened to attend Catholic school... which I did.

Luckily, when they called my house, they got my father, who immediately came to school, only to find me... feet kicking the air... sobbing... outside the Principal's room... again. With a slightly exasperated look on his face, he walked past me and shut the door to her office. After five minutes of dead silence, I heard him laugh at the top of his lungs. Clearly she'd told him the joke. Within a few more minutes, the door opened, he walked over, grabbed my hand, and walked me to the car. As we pulled out of the parking lot, he turned to me and said, "I told you that you made it with a penguin?" and he chuckled. Then he added, "Funny, but wildly inappropriate. Comedy is all about timing... and knowing your audience." When I laughed, he said, "Speaking of knowing your audience, let's not tell your mother about this." And we never did. We went for ice cream instead. We never told her about that either. Instead, the only thing he ever told her about it was, "Anyone can raise an ordinary child."

But now... it's my turn. I get to tell you my favorite story about him.

When I was a Freshman in college, I had a roommate from New York City. She introduced me to smoking, mixed drinks, and swearing. She was a terrible influence, and I loved her dearly for it. At any rate, like most students, Fall Break hit and I went home for Thanksgiving. There I was... full of independence... armed with an arsenal of crass phrases... helping with dinner. When the timer went off, my mother asked me to get the food out of the oven but warned me to watch out, as the dish would be hot. Without paying attention, I reached in, grabbed the food, scalded my hand, dropped the pan, and screamed, "FUCKITY FUCKING FUCK FUCK FUCK" at the top of my lungs.

Please note that, prior to that awkward moment, I had not once, not ever, sworn in front of my parents.

And, if my sister hadn't been so shocked that she'd dropped a plate, the silence would have been deafening. In fact, my father was so appalled that he couldn't even scream. Instead, he whispered very loudly, "mkromd, go into the sitting room and wait for dinner. I'll come get you when it's time to eat." After what seemed to be an eternity, he walked to the door and found me much like he had that day in grade school... sitting on a chair... Dr. Martens kicking the air back and forth... sobbing... waiting for my punishment. All he said was, "Come eat." When I got to the table, he explained that, "Tonight, when you need anything, you'll use the words fuckity fucking fuck fuck to describe it. For example, if you want the mashed potatoes, you need to ask for the fuckity fucking fuck fuck mashed potatoes. When you want the milk, you need to ask for the fuckity fucking fuck fuck milk."

While this may not sound awful to you, there is no way to describe how horrifying it was to me, as I was always loathe to disappoint my parents.

Thinking that this would be my Last Supper, the home edition, I tried desperately to avoid asking for anything, but in a large family with siblings who are DYING to torture you, there's no reality in that goal. And when I "forgot" the expletive, my dad would correct me. Until finally, at the end of dinner, my father said, "mkromd, in this family, if you cannot use a word in polite dinner conversation, you cannot use it." Then I got stuck with the fuckity fucking fuck fuck dishes. As I stood at the sink washing them, my father came up beside me and said, "Anyone can raise an ordinary child." The lesson stuck, because I never swore again in front of my parents, and I'm 273 in dog years.

Anyway, gotta go. Sorry for the lapse in writing. It's been crazy busy. Talk to you next week.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Putting the fun back in dysfunctional

My mother is amazing. She’s five feet two inches, weighs 110 pounds, and has an Executive MBA from one of the top business schools in the country (which she received in 1974 as the only woman in the program). She is incredibly well read and equally well-travelled, and - when you ask her for advice – she’s as likely to quote the Godfather as she is Churchill, both of whom she believes were “brilliant at the art of negotiation.” And though she is the epitome of a White Anglo Saxon Protestant woman, she sent her children to Catholic school because she believed that any curriculum devoid of Latin was not an education… a belief she still holds at seventy.

In short, she’s my hero. And not because her list of accolades is long, distinguished, and well deserved; but because the only two of them that ever mattered to her were the ones she received for being a good partner and parent. In return, my father adored her all of his life, and my siblings and I love her immeasurably - regardless of the fact that she has handed us some very expensive shoes to fill. That said, being her daughter has not always been easy.

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

Growing up in Appalachia in the 1970s as the youngest of four had its own unique set of pros and cons. Kids still walked or biked everywhere. Most TVs only had four channels - ABC, NBC, CBS and PBS. And - not only was dinner on the table at 6:00 every night - everyone was around the table to eat it. And it's true that we had a housekeeper/nanny, but only because my father travelled a lot and my mother worked 50 hour weeks. I assure you, our caregiver (Marlene) was not a perk, she was a necessity who became an extended member of our family and deserved EACH and EVERY dollar she made. Not only did she shuttle four kids to and from school and athletic activities, but she cooked and cleaned up after us as well. No small feat, given that my parents' home is a 10,000 square foot Victorian... and we were not good children.

When Marlene was on vacation, the task of watching us fell to my grandmother... who was deaf. And while some of you may think being unable to process sound is a curse, you never got stuck supervising the four of us. To this day, I don't think she ever felt like she "suffered" from hearing loss. To the contrary, I think she relished it, and some days my mother probably prayed that it was hereditary and that she would inherit it. Ironically, it skipped a generation and hit me - but only in one ear. It's the reason I don't have an inside voice (at least that's my story and I'm sticking to it).

At any rate, my mother and Marlene had an understanding - no one was to call her office unless there was blood or vomit involved, and even then - there had to be significant amounts of either before she could be interrupted at work. Turns out, my mother's Administrative Assistant was also informed, on-board, and (as they say in politics) on-message. So, when we would squabble, which we did... all the time, and we called our mom to complain, tattle, or cry, her secretary would say, "You know the rule. Is there blood? Is there vomit?" When we would honestly reply, "no," she would tell us, "Then she'll see you tonight at 5:30."

Clearly, my mother believed that our self-esteem mattered... She just subscribed to the rule of parenting which said that self-restraint and self-reliance were equally important life skills.

And yes, my parents' home is beautiful, I won't lie. As an adult, I cannot imagine owning it, but as a child - I could not imagine growing up anywhere else. We each had our own bedroom, and each bedroom had massive windows the size of patio doors, and each window in each bedroom led to a wrap-around porch - the roof of which occasionally acted as a race track for my brothers and me... but only when my dad was gone... and my mom was at work... and Marlene was on vacation... and my grandmother's hearing aid was off.

As fate would have it, from time-to-time, those planets would align... kids from the neighborhood would assemble... and a second story 100 yard dash would ensue. We called it the Appalachian Games, and thankfully no one ever got hurt... until my mother found out.

You see, one day, half way through the first heat, someone left a window open, and our cat jumped onto the roof, which wasn't really a problem... until the dog ran out after it... which still wasn't really a problem... until we couldn't get them back in. All of a sudden, it was like dog racing meets Jackass - the home edition. After numerous failed attempts, we rock-paper-scissored, and the loser called our mom for help. As I dialed her office, sobbing, I asked my sister, "Why should I have to do it?" To which she replied, "One because you lost, and two because you're the youngest. We haven't had you very long, so we'll miss you the least when you're dead."

She was only half-joking. I really was the youngest.

So there I was... seven years old... wailing... waiting for my mom's Admin to pick up. When she finally answered, we ran through the drill, "Is there blood? Is there vomit?" To which I replied, "No, but the dog is on the roof." After an awkward pause I heard, "The DOG is on the roof?" Then I heard my mother in the background scream, "THE DOG IS ON THE ROOF! PUT THEM THROUGH." Within two seconds, I heard my mother's voice say, "mkromd, why is the DOG on the ROOF?" To which I replied, "Because it was chasing the cat." Then I handed the phone to my sister and walked away.

They said I had to call and tell her. They didn't say how long I had to wait for her response.

It may well be the only time my mother ever came home early. As the four of us and the dog stood on the roof, watching her car come up the front drive, we knew the Appalachian Games would be more like the Olympics... they would be every four years because that's how long we would be grounded.

Talk to you next week.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Where am I going... and why am I in this handbasket?

I have a confession to make. I love Adam Sandler. I've seen every movie he's ever made. I've watched every Saturday Night Live skit he's ever done, and I own every song he's ever written. No, I'm not some crazy stalker chick (unless you happen to own the Indonesian Blog kewtawa lucu - because in that case, yes - I blog stalked you, but only that one time, I promise). I just think he's brilliant, and I love that he can make fun of himself and let us in on the joke, too. And though some people think he's low brow, his album, "What the Hell Happened to Me" falls squarely into the category of possessions you would only get because you ripped it from my cold, dead hands.

But I digress... The point is that this week was one of
those weeks. You know the kind - where God keeps sending hate messages to you but you still somehow think you can "turn it around"... and you can't, so instead - you pull out your sanity toolkit and just try to survive it. Yeah, that kind of week. When this happens to me, I dig deep into my bag of tricks and pull out two staples: Krispy Kreme and (yes, you guessed it) Adam Sandler. The good news is that I made it. The bad news is that my pants don't fit. I look pregnant, which only makes sense, because the second I ate that box of doughnuts, I knew I was fucked. But that's still not the point.

The point is that, as I was driving and listening to "What the Hell Happened to Me," I began to wonder why God hates me and (more importantly) how I ended up as this person. How did I actually become MKROMD? Personally, I believe I should blame my large, codependent family. I firmly think they deserve it. When I ran the idea past my mother, she said, "You read too much into things. Maybe this world is just another world's hell." And while she's probably right, she still didn't answer my question. So I asked my therapist.

Given that I'm a squirrel on Jolt, it shouldn't surprise anyone that I have one.

You see, I got divorced two years ago, and anyone who has ever been in that boat knows you're so mentally and physically exhausted and so emotionally and spiritually depleted because of it that you simply do not have the wherewithal to deal with your own problems. You aren't ready to face your trust issues or answer the question, "Who am I?" So, you outsource it... much like you do your housecleaning and your pet care, and you let someone else do the work for you, at least for a while anyway. As Meatloaf said, “You can’t run away forever, but there’s nothing wrong with getting a good head start.”

And normally, this philosophy has worked pretty well for me… that is until I realized that my life is at a STOP sign, and I can keep looking left - into the past. Or, I can look right - towards the future. I simply cannot look both directions at once anymore. And I'm ready to move forward. When I asked my therapist (Dr. A) "How?" She said, "MKROMD, you're the most guarded person I've ever met. You don't allow yourself to feel anything. Every answer you give is one hundred percent logically processed."

At that moment, three thoughts went through my head:
1) As a highly competitive person, I thought, "Sweet! I just won the MOST GUARDED HUMAN BEING SHE'S EVER MET award."
2) I do too have feelings, because right now I feel EXHAUSTED! And trust me sister, it’s real!
3) My therapist thinks I'm “emotionally challenged.”

So, when I have these revelations or a crisis of conscience, I do what I always do... I call my best friend. Now, you should know something. TB is an amazing woman. And while there are literally thousands of adjectives to describe her (wonderful, gorgeous, logical, brilliant, athletic, funny, and sincere), there are two that have never been used: soft or vulnerable. She is as street smart as she is book smart, and she is the most determined soul I have ever known. And when I told her that I was diagnosed as being emotionally disabled, she said, "I don't disagree. I just don't understand why that's a problem, and I think it's ironic that you FEEL like she THINKS that you're an emotional charity case... Besides, why do you give a shit what anyone thinks about you anyway?"

Clearly, this is why we're best friends.

We also agreed that it was probably for the best that I didn't tell Dr. A, "I have feelings... it's just that when one occasionally pops up, I beat it into submission, shove it into a bell jar, and drown it with tequila. Then, if after ALL OF THAT it still has the nerve to bother me again, I kick it one last time for good measure." I'm joking... I don't really drink anymore.

Anyway, after hearing my best friend's perspective, I was very interested in hearing DB's, and when I asked him what he thought, in his calm, Buddhisty way, he said, "I don't agree that you're emotionally crippled, but you're very guarded. Everyone sees you laugh every day, but I may be one of the only people in this world who have ever seen you cry. Some emotional archaeology might not be a bad thing." Since my degree is in Anthropology, I told him it was my professional opinion that trust was good, but control was better.

Then I realized something... Maybe he's right. You can't trust people you can't trust, but you don't have to distrust everyone, and I actually don't. I do trust DB. In fact, I trust him with my life. He is the one person in this world where I can simply be myself. He is this amazing refuge from the world when it all starts spinning out of control. And for the record, maybe Kandinsky was wrong. Maybe control isn't the counterpart to chaos. Maybe calm is. And DB brings me to that. He takes me out of the storm and pulls me to the center where it's actually peaceful.

He often says, "Just because life gets crazy, doesn't mean you have to be." But he says it far more eloquently than I ever could, and I love and adore him beyond measure for it. And I'm ready to do more than sell two houses and have one home. I'm ready for us to have a life together. So, much to my family's chagrin, I'm going to do a little emotional archaeology. And Mel - you're finally going to get your wish. I'm going to write about growing up in Appalachia. And to my large codependent family whom I also love beyond measure, I hope you laugh as hard when you read it as I will when I write it. And to DB, let's do this.

Talk to you next week.

Monday, September 6, 2010

Woody Allen said it best in Sleeper: This tastes awful! I could have made a fortune selling it in my health food store.

The following is my attempt at a public service announcement. It should be said that I'm not a doctor. I don't even play one on TV, but I recently discovered something important about Addison's Disease, and I want to share it. Please note that, for the record, by no means am I suggesting you should listen to me instead of your own physician, about this or any other topic.

Two years ago, my doctor had me tested for Addison's. As far as diseases go, it's not a bad one to have, so long as you never go into a state called Addisonian Crisis, which thankfully I never have... and that's good considering that I don't actually have Addison's. What I have is a pretty lethal allergy to flax. Yes, flax. And here I thought it was the taste that would kill me... Turns out it's the actual grain itself. All jokes aside, it was poisoning me to the point that, if we were playing Clue, it'd be MKROMD, in the kitchen, from linseed. But I digress...

The point is that it was a fluke we figured it out at all. You see, after several brutal nights of leg cramps, I'd had it and logged on to Google to research my pain management options when I stumbled across an obscure article/blog that said, "Flax allergies can present as Addisons." So I read it and cut flax out of my diet. Within one week, most of my symptoms had gone away; however, because God hates me and trust is good but control is better, I immediately called one of my best friends who is a doctor and called in a favor.

Now, I try to respect that, just because she's a physician, she isn't my physician, but she owes me, and she knows it. You see, after I got divorced and before I started dating DB, she and her husband invited me out on their sailboat. I've known them forever and she's wonderful. She may actually be one of the nicest people I know, and not just because she is professionally obligated to, "First do no harm." But because this woman radiates kindness and warmth.

Clearly we're only friends because opposites attract.

Anyway, you can imagine my horror when she no longer exuded love or had my best interests at heart, and she set me up... on a date... on their boat... where I was trapped... on a lake, but I’m NOT bitter, and I want to officially state - for the record - that I thought it would just be the two of them and me. That's why I agreed to go. But no, it wasn't just the three of us TAKING MY MIND OFF MY DIVORCE. It was the two of them, another couple who had just gotten engaged, and a friend of theirs who was also divorced. It was awkward to say the least, and the second that all of us were introduced, the divorcé and I understood that our marital status and Sunday plans were NOT coincidental. We were being set up. Thank GOD for us the newly engaged couple was fascinating to the point of distraction. He was forty-six and she was twenty-seven. He was also a surgeon, and the closest she'd come to medical school was the boob job he'd given her. A boob job that I couldn't stop staring at! In my defense, we were on a boat.... and it was choppy... and when a woman's very large breasts don't bounce with the waves, you're intrigued. So I'm mouthing to my good friend, "THOSE CAN'T BE REAL" when Barbie catches us and says, "Of course they’re not real. They were an early wedding present. Want to touch them?"

Now you need to know something about me... I am drawn to the bizarre like a moth to the flame. I wish I wasn't, because it NEVER ends well for me, but I am! And it isn't that I wanted to touch them so much as I NEEDED to know what a boob job feels like. So I did it, I touched one. And I’m standing there… on a boat… getting to first base… with a woman who is engaged… in front a man who is my date. Before things could get weird, my friend handed me another Bloody Mary and said, “This isn’t a BLIND date, you idiot. HE CAN SEE WHAT YOU’RE DOING.”

While she still feels awful for trying to set me up before I was ready, we laugh to this day as we wonder if he thought I was a lesbian or just a skank from Mid-Life Crisis Women Gone Wild. And since she crossed the friend line and set me up, I crossed the professional line and asked her for her take on things. At lunch, she agreed and said, "DEFINITELY, but remember what Mark Twain said: 'Careful about reading health books. You may die of a misprint.' Cut out the flax for a month then go see your doctor." Turns out, we were right! So if you're reading this blog because it appeared as a reference for Addison's, do yourself a favor. Read about flax allergies and go see your doctor, even if he or she isn't a friend of yours who has tried to set you up.

Talk to you next week.

Friday, September 3, 2010

If blogging were an Olympic sport, I'd be losing to Indonesia

I'm officially addicted to blogging. It’s true, I am… I log on every night to see if people post comments for me to read. I'm still learning how all of this works; however, since I never see any - I'm hopeful that I'm not just missing the obvious. And, if I am, then I'm REALLY sorry.

But I digress.

The point is that, a while ago, when I was researching what it takes to "maximize my blogging experience," I stumbled across a tracker that tells me things like how many hits I get every day, the number of new visitors to my site, etc. And this really appeals to me, especially the competitive side of me. So not only do I log on every evening to write, I now also spend time checking out how I'm doing compared to other blogs.

Right now I'm 368, and actually… that’s not too bad considering I started out in 500th place. But the thing that freakishly fascinates me is that I'm always right behind an Indonesian blog called, "ketawa lucu". Now, if you know me, and some of you may, then you know I'm shallow on the surface and curious to the core. Either one of these faults by itself is fatal, combined they're the makings of an Aristotelian tragedy. But I NEEDED to know what they have that I don't, so I checked their stats and I visited their site. Yes, I blog stalked them. And here's what my exercise in futility uncovered: It's not in English, they get more hits every week than I do, and they have a bigger following than MKROMD.

In other words, if blogging were an Olympic sport, I’d be losing to a country who isn't even good at Cricket.

When I met TB for lunch and told her about it, she said, "Jesus, if that isn't a metaphor for your life, then I have no idea what is." I hate it when she's right. And MORE than that, the thing about this self-imposed "cold war" is that I now sit and wonder if there’s a middle-aged, single woman somewhere in Southeast Asia addicted to her “kewtawa lucu” blog, typing into the wee hours of the morning, posting, then tracking her progress and thinking "Aku akan makan anjing Anda.” Which is Javanese for, “You're damn right your karma ran over your dogma. You're going down, and I'll eat your dog, too.” And that makes me like her. It makes me believe that the Internet actually CAN forge relationships between like-minded people, regardless of their geography, and that a little friendly competition is not only natural, it's healthy.

That said, let’s be honest and admit that if blogging can be a unifying force between some people and cultures, it can also be dangerously divisive in others (albeit indirectly sometimes). And to prove my point, one day, not so long ago, when I was completely sleep deprived from working all day and writing all night, I had to call a Computer Help Line because of some software issues I was having (ads about Indonesian women kept popping up on my home laptop). This wasn't the first time I'd been in this boat, and like before - the Asian man on the phone who was trying to help me didn't think this was actually a problem, so he wasn't really going to do much to fix it. And that's when I snapped. I knew I was an addict because I actually heard myself say, "kewtawa lucu isn't the only ass I'm going to kick."

After a brief, awkward pause in our conversation I realized that I had used my out-loud voice, because I heard him say, "It's funny. Laugh."

Once I could regain my composure, I apologized but added that I wasn't amused. To which he replied, "No ma'am, kewtawa lucu means it's funny, laugh." And I did... I laughed harder than I'd laughed in weeks, and I STILL think I should post a comment on that Indonesian woman's blog so that she could laugh, too. Clearly, we have a lot in common... other than the occasional desire to see my destructive, bat-shit crazy dog in a large pot of boiling water.

Talk to you next week.

Friday, August 27, 2010

It takes a village...

Have you ever played the game Marco Polo, where you close your eyes and shout, "Marco," and the other people reply, "Polo," until you find them? It's like hide-and-go-seek, but you rely on sound instead of sight. I was always really bad at it since I'm deaf in one ear. I'm also a vegetarian who is short, blind as a bat, and has a Bachelor's Degree in Anthropology with a double minor in Women's Studies and Peace Studies (yes, really).

In other words, I don't have any real "life" skills.

And as shallow as that sounds... and it is... it never bothered me until this month, when I was working on my house, and I had to paint ceilings, wallpaper bathrooms, stain decks, and plant flowers. None of which I knew how to do, and I still don't... unless you want to buy my house, because - in that case - I did an AWESOME job. Besides, who doesn’t want to live next to a guy with crop circles? Because, I promise you, if you buy my place, you will definitely make time to watch the grass grow, even if it isn't your own.

But that’s not the point. The point is that, at the end of last week, after hours upon hours upon more hours of manual labor, I was so exhausted that the only thing I could do was watch TV. And that’s when I became addicted to a show on the Discovery Channel called Dual Survivor. Have you seen it? Two men, one of whom is a complete Naturalist and the other of whom is an ex-Army guy, go into remote terrain with very little supplies and survive on their own merit. While both of them are amazing, one of them - the granola environmentalist - is the MacGyver of fire. I swear, he can make it from used chewing gum that he found in a river. All jokes aside, it's pretty impressive to watch. Because prior to this show, I thought "Lord of the Flame" meant something very different. In fact, I would have told you, "Not only do I know the Lord of the Flame (SA), he's a good a friend of mine, and there is NO way in hell that he's on a mountain or in a desert. He's on his couch watching Glee." And if you had added, "He's in a cave with an ex-Army guy." I'd have said, "What happens in the rain forest, stays in the rain forest, and if you don't want to know then don't ask, don't tell. Personally, I'm already texting him for details."

And that shallow queen would totally provide them... but I digress.

The point is that, after watching this show, I began thinking about human evolution and how the keeper of fire would have been a pretty important person in the village, which made me wonder, "What skills would I have brought to the tribe?" I could not have been a Hunter, because the only thing I'm capable of catching is a cold, and I loathe gardening so there is no way in hell that I could have been a Gatherer. And that's when it dawned on me...
I started out a berry picker, but I ended up as dinner.

Yup - I invented cannibalism.

Seriously - just hear me out. This makes total sense. I'm round, I'm slow, and I'm deaf. I'd never have heard you coming. And, at some point, there would have been a shortage of food, so I would have been complaining... again. At which time, someone would have thought to his or herself, "Self, I wish she would shut up, and I'm SO hungry. Hmmmmmm...." At any rate, if I wasn't the justification for cannibalism, then after a miserable day of gathering - I invented expletives and you should thank me for giving you George Carlin, who used them better than anyone else in history and who also once said, "Your village called. They want their idiot back." Who knows, maybe that was my job instead.

Talk to you next week.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

A rose by any other name... still means yardwork

Have you ever seen the show, Pimp my Ride, where they take cars and trick them out? If you haven’t, they basically start with a pretty normal vehicle and add things like spinners to the rims and shag to the interior. It’s a huge hit! They even have a version in Asia called Pimp my Scooter (yes, I’m serious).

If you haven’t watched either show, that's OK. I'm actually more interested in whether or not you've read a book that was published YEARS ago by SMITH Magazine called, "Not Quite What I was Planning: Six-Word Memoirs by Writers Famous and Obscure." If you haven’t, do! It’s fabulous. In fact, when it came out, I loved it so much that it changed my entire mode of communication. And I don't mean that I found my inside voice... because I didn't. I mean that I began limiting my responses in conversations to six word summaries. When I told TB, she said, "Finally my prayers have been answered." After I caught the sarcasm, I told her I decided that my six word autobiography was, "My karma ran over my dogma.”

Ergo the name of this blog....

However, those days are over (the karma... not the blog)! I'm bound and determined that the remainder of this year will be better than the first part of it, and my fate will not overrun my philosophy again. From this point on, I’m going to Pimp my Karma so it’s FLY! I have to. I’ll need all the good luck I can get for the remainder of 2010 since DB and I have finalized our blueprint and picked the lot to build on. Now we just have to get two houses sold so we can break ground.

Scratch that. First we have to get the houses ready to sell.

For my place, the realtor said that I needed to, "Enhance my curb appeal," but what she really meant is, "It's clear you spend more time at Ann Taylor than in your yard." Now, if you know me, then you know that's true. I hate manual labor like the Grinch hates Christmas. In fact, after eight hours of moving mulch and staining deck rails, I was positive that I was suffering from dé·jà vu. Without a doubt, I was certain I'd read about this very experience in Dante's Inferno. So much so that I went to Barnes and Noble and purchased a copy in Italian... just in case landscaping was dropped from the English translation.

Now, I studied in Italy in college, and my Italian is pretty rusty, but when I got to the Seventh Circle: Violent Sins, and I read Canto XV-XVI - Sins toward Nature, I was sure I'd found it - the missing passage. It talked about getting fucked and paying for it. To me that means wasting insane amounts of time and money on gardening. Turns out, to Dante, it means sodomy. Really... it's kind-of the same thing; we're both on our knees, and - one way or another - someone's ass is gonna end up sore at the end of the day. That said, even though neither activity is my cup of tea, I know lots of gay men who think it's better to laugh with the sinners than cry with the saints.

But I digress...

As for DB's house, it - on the other hand, is in pretty good shape. He did a lot of the work last summer, which is how we actually started talking about co-habitating. See… we were at his place, playing Frisbee with the puppy, when she saw a skunk. Remember, she eats her own poop. So when she smelled that damn thing and it bolted, she immediately thought, “Sweet – fast food,” and she chased it… and then she caught it… right in the face. I immediately ran inside to get a towel and she immediately ran in right after me. I looked at her like, “Really dog! Could you be more destructive?” And she looked me back, dead in the eye, like, “I could be if I had more time, but it’s almost dark now. Thanks for asking!”

And while I wanted to take her to my mean, little neighbor's house so she could run through his place instead of DB's, I thought to myself, "Self - that would be wrong. Do you have ANY idea what your car would smell like if you drive her over there right now? Besides... what if he's home?" So I didn’t do it. Instead, we chased her around the house until we got her outside, and then we divided and conquered. I took the puppy home to bathe her, and DB started ripping the rugs out of his house and doing laundry.

You know, I don’t know who got the short end of the stick in that deal. He had to get carpets scrubbed and laundry done for days afterwards, but I had to drive around for weeks with my car smelling like ass. I literally drove EVERYWHERE with my windows down, and at one point, I parked beside a friend and co-worker, and she said, “If that stank gets on me or my car, we aren’t friends anymore.” I can’t say that I blame her.

Anyway… around that time, we were lamenting that his house and my car would forever stink, so we started looking at And that’s when we found it. This amazing, modern, open floor plan, fenced in yard, home that was more than we wanted to spend but worth every penny. So I called the realtor… which was a mistake… because we all immediately fell in love with this house. When the realtor asked DB if he had a home he wanted to sell, my partner looked at him and I’m sure thought, “No – I’m going to burn mine to the ground to get rid of the smell, and I’m going to use the insurance money as a down payment on this place.”

After the walk through, when I told TB about the place and asked her what she thought (in general), she said, “Oh Sweet Jesus! Do you remember what you were like when I bought my new house? The only thing you moved was your ass… from room to room… talking… non-stop… while I did all of the packing. You do know that when it’s your shit, you’re going to have to move more than just your mouth?”

Turns out it was a wasted conversation... It sold before we could make an offer, and that’s just as well - because our blueprint is AMAZING! It's unique and it's modern and it's warm. And the lot is big and its wooded and its private and its perfect... and we love it. This won't simply be a house. It will be our home. Besides, now that my car and his house don’t stink anymore, and the stank-induced headaches and nausea have stopped, we can take our time and get our houses ready to sell.
And we really are making progress. Not as much as I intend to make with my fly, new karma – but progress.

Keep your fingers crossed that my 2010/2011 six-word autobiography will be better than my last one. I’m hoping for something along the lines of “ Perfect man, great kids, loving home.” Talk to you next week!

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Good fences make good neighbors

At this point in our relationship, I need to introduce you to my neighbor and my dog. First... the puppy. She eats her own poop, masturbates on her dog bed, and costs me a small fortune every month. She eats my glasses, pisses all over my home, shits on the carpet, and cries all night if she’s locked in her crate. In fact, at one point, the crying got so awful that the neighbors started complaining.

Now, let me introduce you to my neighbor - a mean, little man who hates dogs, children, and... well... me. This person is the reason I cannot win the lottery. The universe would never allow me to have millions of dollars because it's wise enough to know that I would waste large sums of money just to fuck with him.


To give you an idea of the level of animosity between us, the other day at Barnes and Noble, I saw a "Do it Yourself Crop Circles" kit and I immediately texted TB to say, "This is not a drill. Want to help me carve 'ASSHOLE' into my neighbor's Kentucky Bluegrass?" The only thing she texted back was, "What night?" Clearly, this is why we're best friends. Sadly though, both of us are pretty busy these days, so we didn't do it - even though he deserves it. That said, I bought the kit just in case. After all, it's better to be prepared for an opportunity that never happens than to not be prepared for one that does.

So how has it come to this? How does one get to the point where "lawn art" no longer means gnomes and flamingos? Instead, it means dressing in black and carving graffiti into a person's yard. Well, I guess it starts at the beginning. See, TB hates him because he yelled at her. In her defense, she had been drinking and was in the front yard, on her phone, bellowing in a drunken whisper, "Let me in." When I asked where the hell she was, she replied, "I'm outside... in your bush... and not in a hot way." In his defense, she happened to be standing in the wrong yard, and it was his.

Personally, I hate him because he answered the door in his underwear when I took lemon bars over to welcome them to our street. Really. What if that’s the last thing I think about on my death bed? I think if you traumatize someone like that, you should have the common courtesy to never look them in the eye again. Or, if you happen to do so by mistake, you at LEAST have the decency to not speak to them. It's still how I treat most of the people who've seen me in my underwear.

ANYWAY, after he complained the second time, I called my vet who suggested that I move the crate to another (more secluded) area of the house. That way, when she cried, it kept neither me nor them awake. So I did it. I moved her and I didn’t hear her at all. It was heaven. It was my first night of undisturbed sleep in months, so I left the crate there. And it worked. For several days and nights I crated her on and off in the guest room. No cries from her and no complaints from next door. I was convinced I could do Cesar Milan’s job… in pumps, but alas, hubris was the downfall of the gods.

One night, I came home from the movies, went to take the puppy out of her crate, got half way up the stairs and started gagging. There was this God-awful smell that was getting stronger as I got closer to the guest room. Against my better judgment, I opened the door and no kidding – I almost vomited. My guest room was like Amityville Horror, the home edition. I have NO idea how that psychotic dog got a hold of A TUB OF VASELINE, but she ate AN ENTIRE BUCKET OF PETROLEUM JELLY. Do you know what Vaseline does to a puppy’s digestive system? It’s like Ebola, but it’s limited to your asshole.

She was literally leaking poop… and it was EVERYWHERE! She had shit in her crate… repeatedly… and what she didn’t eat, she rolled in and shook off. It was on the walls, the carpet, the furniture, the bedding, the curtains, and the ceiling. She was literally SMEARED in glossy, greasy poop and she smelled like dog shit flavored Chap Stick. To this day I believe that I could have buffed my car with that dog’s ass. And do you know that it doesn’t come out of carpet when you clean it? It just gets smeared in and it gets BIGGER. After three minutes of trying to clean it up, I did the only respectable thing a woman who works sixty hour weeks could do. I called my cleaning lady, the carpet guys, and my sister (in that order), and all of them said the EXACT same thing, “Really… it smells like dog shit flavored Chap Stick?”

Clearly they missed the point.

Now I’m sure you get the whole ‘sister and the cleaning lady on speed dial’ thing, but you might be wondering why the carpet guys are in my cell phone’s emergency contact list, too? That’s because I call them every two weeks. They are at my house so often they know my neighbors (the nice ones anyway) and my garage code. Honestly though – I love them. I’m a complete germ-a-phobe, and they have saved me on more than one occasion, the worst of which was not the “Vaseline incident.” It was the time I got a phone call at work, in a meeting, with co-workers from Asia, from the sitter, who said, “The dog pooped.” So I step out of my meeting and reply, “She shits in the house ALL the time! Why are you calling me? Clean it up.” That’s when this person ACTUALLY said to me, “We did clean it – that’s why I’m calling you. How am I supposed to get dog poop out of the vacuum bag?”

Yes, they did it. They sucked dog shit up with my several hundred dollar vacuum.

So I’m in a meeting with a bunch of people who EAT dogs, and I’m thinking to myself, “Self… their culture clearly knows something I don’t.” And I excuse myself again and call the carpet people, who tell me they can meet me at home in one hour. I get there, and once again – I can smell my home before I enter it. I get out of my car in the garage and my vacuum is sitting there staring at me like, “I hate you and I quit.”

So I go inside, and I see that they have literally gone over the dog poop REPEATEDLY… just to get it ALL out (which really means that it’s smeared into the carpet… again). Luckily, the carpet guy walked in two minutes after me (cause they don’t even knock anymore) and tells me it looks like I killed a deer in my living room. I thank him, and as I’m writing the check, he says, “I’ll go hook up the hoses. If you could vacuum the room that would be great, it’ll make the carpet cleaner when I’m done.” Then it dawns on me – I haven’t told him what happened. So instead of telling the story, I say, “You don’t want me to do that.” He assures me that I do, so I go to the garage, I get the vacuum, I hand it to him, and I walk away. Honestly, he turned it on, and that was the hardest I’d laughed in months. Do you know how funny it is to see a grown man who also cleans carpets at crime scenes screaming, “OH MY GOD! SHUT IT OFF! SHUT IT OFF!” I mean really, you think you do, but you don’t… It’s funny.

Anyway, instead of taking the vacuum cleaner to my mean, little neighbor’s garage and swapping mine with his while he was at work, I took the carpet guy’s advice, and I carried it to the curb and put a sign on it that said, “Free to a good home.”It was gone by morning. To this day I laugh as I think about the poor college kid who must have passed my house, picked it up and thought, “Cool – a free vacuum cleaner.” But I still think it would have been funnier to give it to the asshole next door. Then both he and his vacuum would be full of shit.

Friday, August 6, 2010

Jim Morrison said it best: Touch me babe

Last week, I turned thirty-nine. Well, not really. I actually turned 273 since I age in dog years these days. And even though that sounds ancient, I never really thought of myself as old until yesterday - when I was walking out of work and my twenty-six year old colleague asked what DB and I did for my birthday. Instead of saying, "I'd tell you how we celebrated, but you have the right to feel comfortable at your place of employment," I was honest and said, "DB got me an iPod Touch and tickets to see Robert Cray, both of which I love."

After she asked who Robert Cray was, she added that she was heading out to see Lollapalooza, then proceeded to tell me what that meant. When I told her that I not only knew what it was, but that I loved Jane's Addiction and attended the first Lollapalooza in 1991, she looked at me like I said I'd been to Woodstock. In fact, I'm convinced that, had I stood there long enough, she would have asked me where I was when Kennedy was shot.

At any rate, to make myself feel better, I called TB on the way home and told her what happened. That's when my best friend in the entire world said, "She might be twenty-six and you might be old, but you've seen Siouxsie & The Banshees. That has to account for something. Besides, you don't look a day over thirty-eight." She always knows just what to say, including, "Do us both a favor this year. GET YOURSELF A NEW CELL PHONE. Love you, bye."

No really, it's true, I need a new mobile. See, a few months ago, I met her for lunch… and my phone rang… so I answered it. TB stopped talking... mid-sentence... and stared at me in horror. In other words, I needed to hang up RIGHT THEN! I immediately wrapped up my call and apologized for being rude when she said, "I'm not offended that you answered your phone. I'm offended that it's Tampax pink. You look like mid-life crisis Barbie... complete with texting. And here comes seventeen year old Skipper with our food. Put that fucking thing away before anyone sees you with it!" I tried to tell her that pink is the new black, but she called bullshit and reminded me that forty isn’t the new thirty either. Anyway, as always, though it drives her crazy, I felt obligated to explain.

Like most people, I work on a PC all day, every day. So about once a week, I like to tune in, turn off, and drop out. I call it "technology free time." The TVs, laptops, cell phones and yes - even my swanky new iPod Touch - get shut off and put away. That lets me hang out with DB and his kids, read a book or a magazine, and write in my journal.

The rule is simple, between those hours, I act like I'm Amish… minus the pony.

Anyway, there I was, sitting on the couch, reading National Geographic, when I heard this slobbery munching sound. My dog, who eats her own poop, WAS EATING MY PALM. I thought to my self, "Self, I know where her mouth has been, and now her mouth has been all over my PHONE!" In other words, now... Amish night has become more like German performance art (again, minus the pony). And what was supposed to be quiet, quality time has ended up as me… chasing my bat-shit crazy dog… around the house… trying to get my damn phone back. I assure you, at times like this, while there may be a few Kodak moments, there aren’t many value-added ones.

But I digress, and after thirty minutes of therapy-inducing, Kafka-like, stimulus-response games with the family pet, I managed to extract my black Palm from her disgusting, crap-filled, canine clenches… And even if I weren’t a complete germ-a-phobe, which I am, it was simply too mangled to salvage. So, the next day, I rearranged my calendar and went into the cell phone store, where I explained what happened. And while the sales guy was sorry, he informed me there wasn't shit he could do about it (no pun intended), EXCEPT… he DID have a pink version of my Palm, which he was MORE than happy to sell to me for $50 less than my black one, so I took it.

But, the second I’d saved fifty dollars, it was GONE, because he ended his sale by telling me, "You should really get insurance for this one. I had a guy in here last week whose dog ate his cell, but it was on and it was roaming." In case you haven't been paying attention to my life, God hates me. If ANYBODY is going to end up giving a dog a body cavity search, it will be me.

Needless to say, I have an ugly pink phone but a rockstar insurance plan for it.

But... I have to be honest. Like always, I’ve taken TB’s advice to heart, and I rarely use my phone in public. Instead, I now text on my Touch and listen to Robert Cray at the same time. Because if I have to look like something, it’s going to be Blues-loving, Vintage, Ann Taylor Barbie – complete with house, car and 401K, not mid-life crisis Barbie who needs a new phone and a boob job.

Talk to you next week after the concert!

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Dude, you can put your weed in there...

Do you remember that Saturday Night Live skit? It's been done by everyone from Christian Slater to Rob Schneider to Adam Sandler, and it's still funny. Every time I watch it, I laugh. If you haven't seen it, youtube it. Basically, customers go into an antique store, pick up an artifact, and ask the shop keeper, "What is this?" So the owner explains what it is and where it's from then ends the exchange with, "Dude, you can put your weed in there." For some reason, I thought Steve Martin and Bill Murray did the original, but when I looked, I couldn't find any reference before 1993. However, I digress... kind of.

Bear with me for a minute.

Two weeks ago, when we were in Montana for DB's dad's funeral, it brought back memories of when my own father died in 2006. We were very close, and there isn't a day that passes where I don't miss him. He liked a good beer and a bad joke and is the reason that I love Groucho Marx, Charlie Chaplin, and SNL. You see, growing up, if a boy broke my heart, my mom would say, "There are a thousand fish in the sea," and that would be that. My dad, on the other hand, would say, "Was it a Buster Keaton kind of break up or the Monty Python kind?" In other words, was it 'Hard Luck' or 'just a flesh wound?' Regardless, we would sit on the couch and watch something funny, and when I wanted to laugh more than I wanted to cry - the world was alright again.

It's still how I lick my wounds when life has become too brutal. In fact, after my dad's Wake, when I left Pennsylvania and finally got home to the Midwest, my best friend met me at the door that night. We didn't say a word to each other, we just went inside, opened a bottle of wine, and watched the Great Dictator - my dad's and my favorite movie of all time. Then, as "The End" rolled across the screen, TB held up her glass, toasted my father, and added "So that had to be pretty fucking awful." When I finally stopped sobbing, and I actually started laughing, I knew I'd be OK. I also knew that I owed TB a huge favor for pulling me through that night, a favor she's already requested. One that all of us could benefit from.

But, as always, to tell you that part of the story - I have to tell you this part first.

After a death, you have to decide what to do with the deceased person's... stuff, and neither my sister nor my mother could go through my dad's things and decide what should be kept, what should be tossed, and what should be donated. Emotionally, they just couldn't, so the task fell to my brothers and me. Now you should know something, these two men have tortured me all of my life. They are my big brothers. And, even though we're adults now, nothing has changed. No event is too sacred and no person is exempt. We still torment each other, and we still love a good game of, "Would you rather?" Have you ever played it? It's where you provide two untenable scenarios then make the other person pick the lesser of two evils. The best part of which is when they have to explain their choice.

So while going through our father's clothes and shoes and hats and ties and prescriptions, we found ourselves asking each other morally-reprehensible, completely hypothetical questions like, "Would you rather die and have people find out that you liked to buy porn or that you liked to make your own?" And, "Would you rather die and have people find out that you needed Viagra or that you didn't?" Etc. Etc. And, YES - it was WRONG of us. And YES - FOR THE RECORD, had my mother heard us, we'd have been grounded until she died (or we died because she'd killed us), BUT - to paraphrase Churchill ... its better to have vices that you admire than virtues that you dislike.

At any rate, when I was back home, telling TB everything, I told her that we played 'Would you rather' while going through my dad's personal effects. I honestly thought nothing about it. I just thought it was funny. That's when she said, "Oh sweet Jesus... when I die, go straight into my bedroom and get the Adidas box on top left shelf in my closet. I don't care who's there. I don't care who tries to stop you. You are morally obligated to get that thing out of my house before anyone goes through my shit, and if you ever look in it, I will haunt your ass." The only thing I could say was, "Really... an Adidas box? What if I grab the wrong one? What if there are just SHOES in the box I grab? You won't even let me open the damn thing to make sure... Why don't you put your 'unmentionables' in something that's unique?" Then, without skipping a beat, TB and I said, "Plus, you can put your weed in there..." While we may not get high, we certainly get each other's sense of humor. And in thirty years, if I outlive TB, I promise to sit on the couch, watch a movie, have a glass of wine, and laugh... because sure as shit - I'll have the wrong Adidas box.

Talk to you next week.