Wednesday, November 26, 2008

I Think I Ate A.....(meow)

So, we left off with the Cabo story yesterday. As I was saying, we were strolling down the street and decided to just wing it and find a restaurant on our own. As we were approaching the Hacienda del Cuervo, there was a lively mariachi band playing at the entrance to beckon us to come in. We hesitated, but after glancing at the daily special posted, we decided the price was great, the atmosphere looked great, and the band was great. How bad could it be? And we might have a new favorite restaurant logged in our travel memories.
We were quickly ushered through an open air courtyard and seated. There were about 30 tables and exactly three of them had customers seated; including us. We ordered the special right away (3 tacos, chicken, beef, fish and one beer: $5) and as we waited for them, I looked over to the nearest occupied table and the American couple seated was arguing with the server about his bill. Details are sketchy, but American couple was standing their ground, despite the 9 mafia-looking servers standing to the side, hands behind their backs, watching the patrons every move, and taking turns approaching the table to find out why they were being so "difficult".

Suddenly, the happy, festive music stopped. I looked to the entrance of the courtyard where they had been playing, and realized, they weren't the Hacienda del Cuervo band; they were roving from one eatery to the next. For some reason, it gave me a crystal clear signal that things were not as they appeared on the other side of the courtyard gate.

It was very quiet, and the two other tables of customers had very worried expressions. I looked at Hubby and said, "Let's get outta here. I have a creepy feeling." If it weren't for the beers we were drinking and the food we'd already ordered (oh, and a dozen mafioso looking dudes staring at us), we'd have bailed.

Then came the bizarro exchange. One of the waiters, very young, maybe 15ish, came to the table and Hubby asked him a question. Bizarro laughed really, really hard. Hubby laughed along with him, to sort of soften the awkwardness of what we thought was a language barrier. Bizarro's eyes suddenly turned e-vil and he mocked Hubby's laugh, as if Hubby had been firstly mocking his laugh. Un. comfortable. Bizarro walked away, El Ticked Off-o.

Our food arrived and the presentation was actually good. There were three rolled tacos, stacked and garnished in such a way that would make Ramsay proud. Bizarro had a weird smirk on his face while he gave us our food, however. I tried to brush it off and chalk him up as "not right". Now, there were supposed to be three kinds of meat, chicken, fish and beef. The first one I took a bite of was stark white meat. I chewed, and chewed and chewed. The mafia was watching every bite we took...(*imagine crickets chirping*) More chewing, no swallowing. It was not fish. But it definitely wasn't chicken. Or even pork. I looked at Hubby. He was still chewing his first bite as well. We had panicked faces, but decided to try the next taco. I had to discreetly spit my food into my napkin. I just couldn't swallow it, it was like a tough piece of steak that just wouldn't go away.

I bit into the next taco, and the meat was identical looking. I cut open the third taco. Identical stark white, stringy meat. We chugged our beers, and asked for the check. They totally overcharged us by double, but we were so uncomfortable and sick to our stomachs, that we just paid and left. The whole time, the servers and kitchen crew were standing on the stairs watching us. It was the craziest restaurant experience I've ever had, and I just had a terrible feeling I couldn't shake the rest of the trip.

Later that night, we finally discussed it. It was like the experience was too hideous to talk about for several hours. We analyzed the white meat. We went over and over what meat it couldn't be, because of the missing obvious characteristics of poultry or fish. It was unidentifiable. There was no other meat like it that we've ever had.
And that is when we decided, it was probably cat.
PS. If you click on the link, you'll see the restaurant is now out of business. Hmmm...wonder why?
PPS. Who here thinks I did eat a cat? Could anyone help soothe my soul by telling me another less repulsive possibility?

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Why I'm Cutting Down on Eating Out

At first thought, you may think this is going to be about the terrible economy, the rise in the cost of living, and maybe me giving you a few tips on how to stretch your budget. Nope, not a chance. I'm as baffled as you. No, this story is in the gross category, not economics. A couple Thursdays ago, I actually put the laptop down *gasp* and turned on the TV. As I was flipping the channels, I saw the previews for a show that was coming up next. It involved lots of screaming, an embarrassed fat guy, rotten food, and cockroaches. Setting: a Mexican restaurant in New York. Behhhh...I just had to watch it!

For those who are addicted to this show like me, you know already which one I'm talking about. For those who don't, it is Kitchen Nightmares, with screaming-abusive-obscenities-F-bomb-dropping-chef-who-always-turns-nice-in-the-end Gordon Ramsay.
So, as I watched him go inspect the filthy kitchen and freak out when he found green chicken and garbage cans full of beans being served to the customer, I couldn't help but start mentally making note of all the restaurants in our town that were not dissimilar.

I not only have a cockroach phobia, but I also have a phobia of dirty kitchens and dirty cooks preparing MY food. We've all heard and passed on the Urban Legends about dirty eateries....for example, the Taco Bell burrito that was filled with something brown, but those weren't beans! You know the stories.

And I guess my phobia of restaurant filth not only goes back to my Super Hygienic OCD mother about cleanliness, but also my first job. People scoffed and laughed and made fun of me, but I truly believe that my super work ethic I've carried with me through each job was because of my first job.
McDonald's. And the McD's that I worked at was spotless. The managers were all Nazi SS guards, and believe you me, if there were no customers, you were not kickin' back sipping a Shamrock Shake, you were cleaning. And if it was already clean, too bad for you, you were cleaning it again. If something as small as a ketchup packet fell onto the floor, you threw it away. You did not under any circumstances put that thing back in the bin, or god forbid, into a sack of outgoing food.

I never once saw a single vermin in that McDonald's. The only vermin there were the managers. And the grill cooks. Because I took my job so seriously, they kept me back on the grill for way too long. Don't the teenage girls usually get mainlined right to the till? I flipped burgers too well. I was stuck with zitty, perverted, nasty guys who thought they were so clever when they said my name and then shot their mayonnaise gun. I was ultra shy back then, a bit naive and didn't know anything about sexual harassment laws.

These pervs are the reason I will order my burgers "without pickles" every time. When the Gestapo wasn't looking, these idiots would launch sliced pickles at each other's faces, pus filled zitty faces, rack up a point for every "stick", then peel it off their faces and put it on a burger going out.

If I want to be technical, McDonald's wasn't actually my very first job. That would be the two days I worked at a disaster of a French restaurant, located in a strip mall, with a screaming owner that would make Chef Ramsay look like a little lamb. Again, I lasted two days. When a plate was coming back into the kitchen to be washed, the owner saw they didn't eat their tomato garnish he had made with his own hands. He screamed and yelled how idiotic those people were, grabbed the tomato off the dirty plate, stuck it on the next plate going out, and then hissed at me, "You didn't see that!!!!" I quit that night.

And now after watching several episodes of Kitchen Nightmares, thanks to I can watch them as often as I want to, I have decided that as much as I love to go out to eat, I might have to scale back to just one. Our Greek restaurant, where the owner's kitchen is in plain view, and clean...and he's a friend. I've already had major reservations with two of our many Mexican restaurants, though we eat at them fairly often anyway. One of them is a family run business and Hubby and I went to school with the son, who is now the manager. We sort of feel obligated, plus they make the very best homemade flour tortillas in the world. The rest of the food is sub par. And it has the nickname "El Squirtos" by everyone in town, because most people leave with the Hershey's Squirts. But people still keep going there.

The other Mexican restaurant in question is an overpriced, over popular place in town. I don't care for it at all, but 90% of the town does. It gives me the creeps, this place, and I have heard rumors of roaches and rancid chicken. They were confirmed last week. Our friends went in, sat down, ate some chips and when the waitress came over to take their order, the wife noticed a ROACH crawling up her leg! She screamed and the waitress beat it to death and then said with a snarl, "You brought a cockroach from your house! That is not from here!" My friends were not only insulted, they were disgusted and could not stay.

I've had a nightmare eating experience in a Mexican restaurant...actually situated in Mexico. A few years ago Hubby and I went to Cabo for a few days. We'd eaten well, based on restaurant recommendations from a friend who lived there. But one day, we decided to wing it. And I don't mean chicken wings.

To be continued....for now enjoy watching the grossest Kitchen Nightmare to date in Cassoulet's opinion....

Monday, November 24, 2008

Licorice The Mouse

Continued from this post here.

So the mouse in the cage did not look like our pet mouse Licorice. I screamed, and told Hubby that he just picked up a wild, disease-ridden rodent! Panicked expression on his face (he's a Germ-a-phobe), he ran to the cage and insisted it was Licorice, but with a 'fro. It's true, Licorice had a new 'do. It was a 'fro. And a little lighter color, less charcoal grey, and more, dust ball grey. Like she'd been camping out in a dust bunny. Or got lit up by the pilot light in the furnace.

So, she stayed there in her cage for a few more days; enough to fake us out that she'd stay. And then *poof* disappeared. There were mouse droppings all over the garage, showing us that she was definitely not changing her address.

As I was leaving to take a walk last week, I saw the red carpet runner that I threw out in the garage after I destroyed it in the dryer, and not wanting the neighbors to think I was trashy (you know, the kind of neighbor with a mice breeding ground in their garage), I picked up the carpet and walked it over to the trash can that was about to be picked up by the garbage man. I almost made it, but I felt something lightly scurry across one of my hands. Having just written Cockroach Chronicles, I was a tad bit jumpy.

I screamed hysterically (maybe more than a tad bit) and threw the carpet! Something leaped off my hand and made a muffled splatting sound on the driveway. I stopped screaming when I saw it was not the Cockroach Chronicles Revisited, but just Licorice. She had been living in the discarded rug and when I picked it up, she scurried out and jumped on my hand, then got flung off when I went crazy.

I'm sure the neighbors got a laugh. I reached down and picked Licorice up and put her back in the cage and told Hubby that we have to take her to a field and let her go. No one pays attention to her, and I definitely don't want her getting the romantic attention from a wild mouse.

This morning, we had to make a run to the dump. As we were loading up empty boxes, Hubby picked up the red rug. Out plopped Licorice, and because Hubby is skittish and has short-term memory, he jumped and yelled when she came out. That was enough to make my day right there!

So, as it stands, we still have the mouse. Any creative ideas about how to get rid of a pet mouse, nicely?

Friday, November 21, 2008

Once Upon A Time...

Once upon a time, there was a nice little family with 4 little kids. The mommy and daddy had had wacky/bad childhoods respectively, but they made a surprisingly normal life for their own children. The kind of life that they wished they'd had, but without spoiling them.

The kids were actually nice little children, with good manners in public usually. However, at home, they could be naughty. They tormented each other, fought with each other, and often made their mother cry because of it. The little kids had a love/hate relationship with each other. Probably like most siblings.

The two older kids, Oldest Sister and Oldest Brother, would relentlissly tease Baby Brother. You see, the two oldest children had dark hair, dark eyes and olive skin and definitely looked like siblings. Even though they had the same two parents, Baby Brother was the opposite of them. He was blond haired, hazel eyed, and quite pudgy. He also developed a temper at 2 years of age, worsening as he got older. But Younger Brother was so cute when he was mad, the oldest children thought. It was entertaining for Sister and Brother to tease him.
At about age five, Baby Brother began developing annoying "quirks" and weird habits. He cleared his throat a million times each hour,resulting in being verbally assaulted by the others. He got angry a lot, and would turn himself into a little billy goat and ram his siblings with the top of his head. They would laugh, which would make Baby Brother even more angry. He would foam saliva at the mouth with frustration that they weren't taking his anger seriously. Brother and Sister laughed even harder. The mom and dad didn't think the teasing was funny nor acceptable.
Soon, the older siblings came up with the brilliant fabrication that Baby Brother was adopted. This is what they told him when he was acting up or being extra annoying with his throat clearing or hand washing obsession. They would try to prove the Adoption Theory to him by saying, "Look at ourrrrrr hair, it's brown, yourrrrrrs is blooooond. Look at ourrrrr eyes, they are browwwwwn, yours are haaaaaazel." and so on. They didn't perceive that instead of tears coming out, it was rage bottling up inside his little body. Their mother knew. She pulled him into her room, got out the special box of secret treasures, and showed him the photos of his very own birth to extinguish his fears.
Next time the Elder Siblings tried to say he was adopted, he replied with a "NanananaNAHnah...I have pictures of me coming out of mommy's tummy, so I know you're liars!" Lying was something Baby Brother detested. It was something he was compulsive about not doing. Even if it meant telling and retelling stories until he got each and every detail just perfect. Just so his conscience was clear that he didn't accidentally lie.

But there were many good times too. Baby Brother was fun when it was just one on one. He had the best sense of humor and was always making the others laugh. He was funny, he was sensitive and he was creative. He always had a soft spot in his heart for the underdogs in the world, as well as for babies...prompted by the birth of Youngest Sister, when Baby Brother was 5 years old. He often worried about people biting Baby Sister's fingers off. Could it really be done? He asked The Mom 99 times each day. Oh, he would never have dreamed of doing it, he was just worried it could happen. Maybe? Possibly? What if? He lost sleep over things like these.
Even though there was fighting and teasing, Baby Brother and Oldest Sister ended up having a very close relationship, even though they did fight more than the other siblings did.

In time, the Siblings grew up as all children do, and Oldest Sister got married. Then Older Brother left home. Then Oldest Sister had her first baby. Baby Brother and Baby Niece developed a bond from the night she was born that grew and grew.

Let's change Baby Brother's name to Younger Brother. Time passed, and Younger Brother left home and discovered the party life. But Younger Brother had previous issues. He was often depressed. He often had panic attacks. We realized his quirks and obsessions actually had a name. OCD. And his OCD was out of control often. So, Younger Brother decided that he felt better when he was drinking alcohol. But that brought only problems.

When Younger Brother would come Home to visit, he never drank. He was too worried about making sure Niece and Nephew were safe at all times. He played with them. He drew with them. He did Mad Libs with them, with gratuitous use of the word "poop" and its synonyms, resulting in hysterical laughter and pure joy for the Niece and Nephew. Oldest Sister trusted him completely with her children, for he would have fought to the death to protect his flesh and blood. He adored them, and they him.

When he left, it was always with tears and promises and plans. But, when he returned home, he always turned back to the party life.

Younger Brother was always disposed to anger, so when he drank, he liked to fight. Usually there were lots of other inebriated "boys" who thought this was good sport as well. And thus started the ritual of barbaric fun, so glorified by mainstream entertainment today.
Oldest Sister was always worried. Oldest Sister wondered if her teasing the many years before somehow turned Younger Brother's anger on. Oldest Sister wondered if she bears the responsibility for his outcome.

One day, Oldest Sister received a phone call. Her cousin was shot dead at a party the night before. Younger Brother was always with Cousin. In fact, he had previously saved Cousin's very life in a bar fight Cousin started, and Younger Brother went to jail for kicking the man who had Cousin in a choke-hold. Younger Brother stopped drinking after this, didn't stay in jail and cleaned up his act. He knew that drinking was only creating problems.

One night, he got a call from Cousin begging him to come to The Fateful Party. Younger Brother refused repeatedly saying he didn't want to go, because there would be alcohol and he didn't want to be tempted.

Cousin went without him. As the party was ending, he was shot at point blank range in the stomach with a shotgun, trigger pulled by the host of the party (a life long "friend") for reasons we'll never know. Oldest Sister, Siblings and Mom and Dad knew there was another death besides Cousin, pending notification of next of kin. The Family had no news from Younger Brother. For two days. Oldest Sister was sure he was laying in the morgue, with a tag on his toe reading John Doe. For two days, Family agonized. Younger Brother's phone was ringing unanswered. His cell phone was going immediately to voicemail. Oldest Sister decided that she now knew what it was like to lose a sibling.

And then Oldest Sister's phone rang...and on the other end was quiet sobbing, if it can be described as such. It was Younger Brother. He was not ok. He felt he should have been there to save Cousin...again. He drove to the scene of the crime the day after it happened, and saw the bloodflow down the driveway. He was not ok.

Oldest Sister got on a plane and went to Younger Brother, 1000 miles away. She saw his eyes. And knew change for the worse was imminent. Survivor's guilt is something that can morph into something very hideous and self-destructive. Younger Brother didn't talk for hours. And then, he said to Oldest Sister, "All I want is what you have. A good marriage mate who is also your best friend, and kids. I want that for myself."

Several months went by after Oldest Sister went home. One day, Younger Brother called and said him and Girlfriend were just minutes from Home. It was a surprise visit! The Family had 7 short but almost perfect days together. Photos were taken, moods were good, spirits were lifted...until it was time for them to leave. Girlfriend sparked a fight with Younger Brother, and he vowed to make her go the 1000 miles back home without him. He told Oldest Sister that he knew what he wanted, and it was to stay here with The Family and watch Niece and Nephew grow up.

Oldest Sister begged and pleaded for him to just go back with Girlfriend, then he could pack his stuff and come back the right way, without making her drive 1000 unfamiliar miles alone, crying and heartbroken. Oldest Sister regrets this conversation.

Because soon after they left, an Old Friend of Youngest Brother called Oldest Sister and said he would be in town and could he have his phone number to say "hey"? She gave it to him. She regrets answering this phone call.

A week passes with no word from Youngest Brother. Old Friend's father calls Dad and says, "My son is in jail. He was with your son. Do you know where your son is?"

Frantic calls are made. Details are sketchy. Bar, drinking, fighting, arrests. Phone calls go unanswered. Oldest Sister Googles the County Jail. Inputs Younger Brother's name. And The Family's world flips upside down. Just like that.

Younger Brother finally calls The Mom a few days later, crying. Blaming himself for Cousin's death, he had started drinking again. He went to a local bar with Old Friend that night. Joined in a fight in the parking lot. Cops came, everyone ran, except Old Friend and Younger Brother. He's crying, and of all the things he could say, he sobbed and said, "I'm so ashamed. I can't believe I'm going to miss Niece and Nephew growing up."

Oldest Sister doesn't appreciate Blame Games, or Playing the Martyr, but she does feel that she could have done things differently for a better outcome and a better childhood for her brother. She knows the teasing and her impatience of his "quirks" didn't help him at all. Oldest Sister knows Youngest Brother best. And this is what gives Oldest Sister the power, endurance and courage to be there for him and to support him through his consequences for using alcohol and fighting to try and get rid of his demons. For she knows what his potential is.

The Family is all Younger Brother has left now. The "friends" all disappeared. The Girlfriend bailed.  No one was left except The Family. It's a good family, and Younger Brother writes and tells them this in each letter he composes. He knows what he lost. He won't lose it again.

I know what his potential is. Because he is my baby brother.

Oil, Self portrait of Younger Brother, by Younger Brother, 2008.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

My First Blogging Award Ever!

What a Superior Day! Wow, I needed it. I received this award for Superior Scribbling skills (aka: my blog) full of French-y-fied drama, complaints, reflections, memories, obsessions, humor, food/drink and utter gross-ness. I received this award from a, The Weasel, The Red One Herself, La Belette Rouge.

  1. So, I now have to follow as well as post The Award Rules.
  • Each Superior Scribbler must in turn pass The Award on to 5 most-deserving Bloggy Friends.
  • Each Superior Scribbler must link to the author & the name of the blog from whom he/she has received The Award.
  • Each Superior Scribbler must display The Award on his/her blog, and link to This Post, which explains The Award.
  • Each Blogger who wins The Superior Scribbler Award must visit this post and add his/her name to the Mr. Linky List. That way, we'll be able to keep up-to-date on everyone who receives This Prestigious Honor!
  • Each Superior Scribbler must post these rules on his/her blog.

So, drum roll please, I am awarding this to these Five Fabulously Scribbly Blogs (in random order):

  1. Not So Stay At Home Mom This woman's blog caught my attention recently, because she has "one of those kids". As I was reading, I sort of got dizzy and faint and thought maybe she might have kidnapped "Spazzy", my two year old daughter, for her tales seemed eerily similar to ours. Quick check into the bathroom revealed Spazzy had not been nabbed, for she had opened the linen closet and scaled the shelves to the tippy top where all the Poison-Control-Should-Be-Called-Soon items were hiding. Oh, weren't we supposed to not be talking about me right now? Anyhow, NotSoSAHM has one of those kids, and when I saw the photo of her daughter, I officially blacked out for .12 seconds because she not only acts like Spazzy, but could be her twin separated at birth (if I'd have actually been pregnant with twins, and one was ripped away from the hospital room in the night, and shipped to NotSoSAHM). Spazzy's Twin, Ashlyn, also Scribbles on her mommy's blog, and is a must read.
  2. Debbie Does Drivel cracks me up. She lives in Maine (ME) which is where my Grampa was from. And she is freakin' hilarious without even trying, it seems. (Duh CC, she's a Humor Blogger...they don't receive that designation for nuttin') Her post The Creature From the Garage Loft made me laugh so hard it inspired writing about my own pet drama.
  3. Completely Alienne is a new blogger with superior scribbling. She's had a terrible tragedy and is trying to cope and continue living, while raising teen daughters Lenin and Attila (names have been changed to protect the innocent mom). This woman is strong.
  4. The Preppy Princess not only is a very thorough Scribbler, she gives us eye candy to go with it. We love her multiple viewpoints (or is that personalities?) blog and we love her comments on our blog. We love how she says "we" and "our" and we want her/them to have this award for her pretty, preppy, pink and very conversational web log.
  5. What French Dream? (or Living the Dream...not!) hits close to my heart. As my readers may or may not know, Cassoulet Cafe started as an ex expat in France blog, dishin' about all the good and crappy things about France. Speaking of crap, the first post I read on What French Dream? was this post about French toilets. It's hilarious and it's all true! She also took my challenge on Cockroach Chronicles by posting her own nasty bug experience. Exploding couscous is also on the menu.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Still Life (Still Alive)

"Art enables us to find ourselves and lose ourselves at the same time."(-Thomas Merton)

We received a very special delivery the other day. Since my brother is being transferred to another prison, he was required to send home most of his possessions. This means his artwork, supplies and art books. This is bitter sweet, because it means his masterpieces, which were a virtual window to the outside world, are now here with us. Sweet for us to be able to have in our possession. Bitter that he doesn't have them anymore.

When we opened the boxes and looked through his hundreds of doodles, sketches and practice pieces, I felt as if he was home. I didn't feel so far away. There was something on the bottom of the box, a rolled up piece of canvas. I pulled the canvas scroll out, seeing my brother's name and compulsory inmate number written on it. It tied by a string. I untied and unrolled it, and when I saw what it contained, my heart skipped a beat and I gasped. It was his paint brush holder, with all his brushes.

Maybe it's because the only things previously allowed to make it out of his cell are paintings and letters, or maybe it's because I knew what these brushes have created in his hand. But, to behold his brushes made tears well up.

It was as if I was seeing his very hands. These brushes have created his expressions and feelings for four years now. These brushes have been the key to his very survival and his literal life line. They have created his virtual escape of the six-by-nine foot concrete box he lives in with another person. They've created his portal to exotic places and back home to people he loves.

As most prisoners do, they learn to make something from nothing. My brother often put in orders for art supplies, paid for them, and never received them. His brushes were getting worn down. His solution: grow his hair out to harvest and make "new" brushes with. (He also convinced an inmate who had a pet gopher that died, to let him get some hairs from him for his brush before the burial. ) These are the brushes I beheld.

The still life that he did is something I cannot quit staring at. I've never really been into still life art before, though I do appreciate it. But, this is captivating me.

What do you see?

PS. Sorry for the poor quality photo I took of his painting.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

A Baby Sitting Job

I had lots of baby sitting jobs as a teenager. Some of them were tolerable and two in particular were downright disturbing. But the most important baby sitting job I had was also the most fun, and the one that taught me and touches me the most. The one I'll never forget.

For me, most good things seem to happen in summer, my favorite season. This was no exception. My summer job was to baby sit "B". I knew his family well, and I was so excited that they actually trusted me enough to care for him during the work day. I began when he was 3 years old. I was not only thrilled to have a job, but I actually liked B! Besides being cute, he was also...quirky. I happen to love quirky kids.

When I would get to his apartment, his mom always ran down the usual list of things that made him crazy-hyper that were forbidden: sugar. I would laugh and assure her I remembered. She would tell me this for my own protection. As I had a long day ahead of me, she warned me how hard my job would get if I gave in.

When she would leave, we would turn the TV on. But not to Barney or The Smurfs. These were the days when MTV actually played music videos, and B seemed to know the words to every single hit. My favorite was watching him perform "Pour Some Sugar on Me" by Def Leppard. He was my little 3 year old entertainment.

After we did that, I would usually sit in the recliner with him to "read" his favorite book. Which was not actually reading, but a game we played. The book was My Book of Bible Stories, and his mom read them so often to him (you know how kids are) and he listened to the stories on tape so often, that he literally had memorized the entire book, Adam to Armageddon. So I would say, "Ok B, tell me Story number 66" and he would start to recite. I would follow along in the book to see if he got it right. He did. Every single time. Over 100 stories and he knew them all before he could even read a word.

This book also had vivid illustrations. One time B's mom had taken him to the store. When they got to the cash register, she said the cashier had tons of makeup and jewelry on, with very long red nails. She was trying to engage B in conversation, but B was having none of it. When the lady wouldn't give up, he finally said, "Wady, you wook wike Jezebel!!!!!!!!!!!!!!" His mom was mortified, but then admitted to me, "Well, she did look like her.... sigh..."

Summertime is hot and calls for cold drinks. What better to battle humidity with than a Slurpee from? 7-11 happened to be near B's house. So, I suggested that we take a walk down there. When we got there, I told B we were going to get Slurpees. "What's that?" I got one for him and let him taste. His eyes grew huge at the first taste of the sweet, cold, sugar-laden drink. It was soooo good! We slowly walked home, slurping all the way. Every 1 or 2 minutes, B would say, "What is this thing called again? A slimy?" "No B, it's a Slurrrrrpee." No matter how many millions of times I told him that summer, he always forgot and called it a Slimy. "Are we getting Slimies today?" "No, B, you had one yesterday and went crazy-hyper. Your mom's gonna kill me."

So, we'd curl up in the recliner with a book, and B would start rubbing my elbow. This little boy loved skin. He especially loved to rub people's elbows with the palm of his little hand. He rubbed ever so softly, in a circle, smiling up at me every now and then. We would tell stories and play games. I thought he was the cutest little boy in the world.

As it does, time passes. Quickly. B was older, about 9, and I didn't need to babysit him anymore and besides, I was in a flurry of wedding plans. I remember being told that B asked his mom if he could come with her to my bridal shower. I was honored! Maybe he did still love his baby sitter after all. During the gift opening, he sat in the front row with the little girls to watch the gifts being opened. All the little girls were killing each other over who was going to pass the next present to me. Not B. He sat there with a sly little grin on his face, watching, and I felt so proud that he was secure enough to ignore the fact that he was the only boy there.

A few days later, his aunt told me that B said, "Wow, now I know why people go to bridal showers! They get to see down the bride's shirt every time she bends over to pick up a present."

More years pass. B grew up. B is 24 years old now and married. Nine months ago, they had their first baby. I could not imagine B being old enough to be a daddy, because to me he is still a hyper, Slimy Slurping, precocious little 4 year old. Though I can totally imagine him being a daddy. And a darn good one. Rubbing those little baby elbows, toes, head. A great dad.
Three days after he first laid eyes on his new baby daughter, he received a call from his doctor. He was dying. A newly discovered, rare form of kidney cancer with no successful treatments.
Four months of painful surgery, recovery and backfiring experimental medication....and in July he was given 2 weeks more to live. But he is still here, albeit ravaged with tumors in every part of his young, but failing body.

The only thing I could do was write to him. I did. I told him how much those summer days meant to me, in charge of him. How he made me laugh, and how those memories have always been precious to me. I told him that in life, there are people who touch us profoundly, yet we sometimes let them slip away and it becomes months then years that we haven't talked to them. But that doesn't mean that we don't still love those people. That we don't still think about them each and every day. I told him he was one of those people in my life.

Monday, November 10, 2008

Cockroach Chronicles: Part Two (Ewww!)

So I didn't creep you out enough yesterday. You're back for more! It's like sniffing a sponge over and over. Or smelling sour milk repeatedly. You just have to go back and make sure it is as bad as you thought it was the first time.

Have you ever stepped on a roach barefoot? More specifically, a roach on carpet, while in your half asleep 2am stupor trying to make it to the toilet? Roaches are cold. For three long years I flipped on the bright hallway light to make sure there were no roaches dying on the path to the toilet. I would say 50 percent of the time, there was one there acting as a road block.

But that pales in comparison to what happened next.

We made plans to go hike a water fall with friends. We got ready and went to pick them up. We made the hour drive to the falls, got out and began the hike. It took about 45 minutes to get to the falls. In all, from the time I put my shoes on earlier that day, until I reached the waterfall, it was 4 hours.

I hate wrinkles in my socks. I kept feeling like there was a wrinkle in the heel of my sock. I pulled and pulled but there was no possible way it was a wrinkle. I thought maybe it was a tiny little twig or piece of straw that wedged its way in there. I suffered through, trying to ignore it, like my mom always told me when I had sock-wrinkle phobia as a child. When we got to the top of the trail, I'd had enough. I took my shoe off to see what was causing me the discomfort.
Do you see where I'm going with this???

It was a big, fat, juicy cockroach! I started hopping backwards on one foot, with my hands over my ears, shrieking like a crazy girl. My shrieks turned into howls and tears and actual retching. My husband and our two friends thought I was having some kind of a seizure. Everyone at the previously peaceful falls watched in horror. I was convulsing and managed to spit out, "R-r-r-r- (retch) ROACH. ROACH. SHOE." (retch again). My husband and his friend ran over to the shoe, kicked out the roach, and grabbed some rocks and started stoning it to death. I will never, EVER forget how many direct hits it took until it finally died.

The creepiest thing is that it was trapped under my heel for four hours, and it was still alive. (Now is not the time to tell me that horrid story about how roaches live for a week with their heads cut off. I already YouTubed it. I cannot discuss.)

I ripped the contaminated sock off, refused to put my shoe back on, and hobbled the rest of the way back to the car.

And if you mention "sock", chances are.....I have a roach story to go with it. Fast forward a few years. Parent's house again. Put on a fresh pair of socks to wear around their house (no shoes rule). Something was tickling my pinkie toe. I screamed and said it felt like a fly was in my sock! My sister said, "With your luck, it's probably not a fly, but a roach." I ripped that sock off and there was a baby roach that was cut in half but still alive. Cut in half by my pinkie toenail. And did I mention, still alive?! And you know I don't have to actually type the word 'screaming' for you to visualize me now.

So the last roach story of Cockroach Chronicles: Part Two, happened again on a summer's evening at my parents' house. We were coming to get the kids after an evening of house hunting without them. My son was a whiny baby, and he was crying and looking out the living room window as we pulled up. I got out of the car, walked up and rapped on the window and make funny faces at him to make him laugh. I swatted away some mosquitoes and moths that were hangin' out near the porch light.

I walked in the door. I felt something run across my face and down my neck. I didn't need to let me imagination run, because my sister's eyes were as giant as saucers, mouth wide open, no sound coming out, staring at me. I did the Roach Run (again visualize Jennifer Grey in Ferris Bueller's Day Off), slapping my face and screaming at the top of my lungs. I slapped that foul beast off my face, it slid across the kitchen floor, looked at me (it's true!) and ran back into the living room.

What is it with me and the bug I fear the most? I can honestly say I have never eaten one on accident, and if I did, you better believe you'd never see another blog post again. I'd be gone. Dead, that is. I know I'd have a heart attack. And if my children ever ate one, well, I'd have to get new ones. Not really. But I might not look at them the same again.

And why are there so many stories about roaches entering body orifices at night? Ears, noses, blehhhh,...and even stories of them eating eye lases and toenails. I. Have. To. Stop. This. Post. Now. For. Sanity's. Sake.

Cockroach Chronicles: Part One

The paralyzing fear began in the summer of '87. There was an incident in my bedroom. This is when I found out....they can fly.

It was a hot, humid Oregon summer. There was a somewhat smallish roach on my bedroom ceiling. I had a friend over to spend the night. We stared at it, planning its execution. As if it could read my mind, it decided to show me who owned the ceiling. It did not jump. It did not fall. It flew right at me. Screaming, I ran the direction I was facing...which required an Olympic hurdle over my foot board. I didn't quit make it. I landed on the floor, and the roach thought it best to land in my dark hair...eerily a perfect camo for the nasty little beast. Had I been blond, they could have gotten it out sooner. They could have seen it right away and flicked it off. But I am not blond (even though that was the summer of Sun-In), and that night commenced my fear, loathing and paranoia of these nasty, repulsive little monsters.

I generally only had to worry about them in the summer and eventually my parents pulled the juniper bushes from the front of the house, which were rumored to be attractive to roaches. These particular roaches were small, didn't invade cupboards, and just basically liked to fly around terrifying everyone. They liked to live outside. But things were about to take a turn for the worse.

I got married (no, that wasn't the turn for the worse), and we moved into a very cute, "retro" if you will, apartment complex. They were vintage 1940, in an older part of town. Moving day went fine...but then the sun went down. We turned on a movie, watched for a bit, and then I decided to go into the kitchen to get some ice cream. I flipped on the light and there were about 30 roaches, frozen-mid-scurry, all over the floor. In point two seconds, they were just gone. I screamed.
The next morning, as new brides do, I got up at the butt-crack of dawn to make Hubby his lunch to take to work. As we weren't yet unpacked, I had to go into the living room and dig through a big box to find the sandwich baggies. I was pre-Lasik, so I was blind as a bat. As I was diggin through the boxes, I felt something cold on the underside of my poor, poor bare foot. I said to myself, "Gross! I hate when I drop lunch meat and step on it. Ewwww!" So I started kicking my foot to get the meat off, because who wants to touch cold lunch meat on a foot? What fell off my naked foot wasn't turkey-colored. It was black. And the size of a date. But dates aren't allowed in my house (nas-tay). I didn't know what that black thing was because I didn't have my glasses on. I bent down within 3 inches of "It" so my nearly blind eyes could tell me what it was. As it started to come into focus, I saw that it was a big, black, fat roach! Not the little flying kind, the robust-crawled-up-from-the-sewer type. Big, slow and shiny. (How do I type a retching noise?)

I screamed bloody murder, and started running in a manner quite reminiscent of Ferris Bueller's sister when she saw the principal at her doorstep. I ran straight into the bathroom, screaming and crying all the way, turned the water on to "scalding" and scalded my foot. After sufficiently sterilizing my flesh, I ran (screaming and crying still) into my room, jumped on my bed and curled up into a ball, and told my husband to call the landlord, we were moving!

Stay tuned for Part 2 tomorrow.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Why I Hate Wal-Mart

Because our other Leap Pad pen cord was used as a leash to pull the Leap Pad around the house with, I was in the market for a new one. I found them very reasonable at gasp! Wal-Mart. I hate our Wal Mart. I hate it almost as much as I hate cockroaches. (And I do realize I didn't do the cockroach post, but I'm working on it.) The price was $24.88. I was running so very late , so when it rang up at $34.88 I just paid and left with the intention of coming right back for a price adjustment.
When I went back, the WalMart drama began. I was behind a car in the parking lot that had its blinker on for 5 minutes waiting for this other car to back out. Frustrated that I chose this aisle (because my special talent is choosing the wrong lines everywhere I go! Oh, and also having tall people sit in front of me at the movies.), I had no choice but to wait. But, in true Wal Mart fashion, trouble was brewing where parking spaces close to the front are concerned.

Facing our direction was a Kia SUV that had just happened upon the scene and stopped to wait too, but illegally. He was not there first and he did not even have his blinker on. Could he be so rude as to whip in a take the spot of the rightful owner who was waiting an eternity with her butt blinking? YES, he was that rude! He practically flipped the Kia to get it into the spot before the legitimate lady had time to take her foot off the brake.

It didn't end there. The lady actually pulled her car up behind the Kia and jumped out with a hot Mocha in her hand and started charging at the mullet-wearing Kia driver and his passengers. She was screaming and shaking the Mocha so hard I was a bit concerned she might scald her face. (Maybe it was assault with a deadly...or hot...weapon) She continued her banshee act, but Kia-driving-mullet-boy just laughed at her. Then she just got back in her car and went to find another spot.

PEOPLE! (Well, people of my particular town) Do you not realize that we live in redneck-gun-toting territory? This is not LA, but many people here have visible rifles in their vehicles (just in case they see a deer I guess) and a portion of those people are a few sandwiches short of a picnic basket. Albeit, most gun-toters don't drive Kia Sportages. But whatever. (I'm didn't say I wasn't the Drama Queen.)
Nerves shaken, I still proceeded into the Wal-Mart to get my ten bucks back. And, here's the main reason I hate our WM, everybody there was in their "best" pajamas. Hmmm...must be a special occasion. Oh yes, it was the day before Valentines Day. I love a Pajama Party, but with my close friends, not strangers in the Wal Mart. Even though people were shopping for their loved ones, these same people had them in tow and were screaming at these "loved ones", be it child or significant other, as if screaming loud and trashy is going to get the good attention. Those PJ wearin' screamers were buying cheap Sam's choice candy in mass quantities.. I can't take these people seriously; they were wearing the clothes they obviously slept in for the last week. Couldn't they at least upgrade to sweat pants?! I saw them in Woman's World for $2.88. The same price as the Sam's Choice chocolates. I also have seen reasonable prices on bras in Lingerie (if you could call WM undies "lingerie".) Bras are there to help us. Please use them, even under pajamas. If you can't put on a bra to go out in your PJ's, you shouldn't have freshly filled, polished and decorated acrylic fingernails. It sort of defeats the purpose when they are back dropped by dirty pajamas and grungy slippers.

So, making my way to the customer service counter, I tell them they overcharged me $10. They send a girl to go all the way across the store and investigate. Too bad for me that she walked like she was heading to her own execution. I moved to the side and prepared to wait.

You can't help but people watch when you are surrounded by the wierdest people grouped together in one shop-til-you-drop setting. I swear, in 20 minutes three guys came in to take jumbo size diaper packages back and get some money. They seriously all had mullets. They all wore plaid flannel shirts and black Levis. And all the diapers that came in were the same cheap White Cloud brand, with the packaging looking like it had been dragged through the yard by a Kia with a gun rack. I mean, they'd only be getting about $4 back! Suspicious.

Finally, the slow clerk came back after 20 minutes and reported that all of the Leap Pads were indeed $24.99, except for the one I chose. What was the difference?! Electronically, not one thing. Features different? Nope, exactly the same. But the one I chose happened to be green. I sarcastically said, "Isn't that funny, they're all that price, even the pink girly ones, but the green is $10.00 more. Goodbye!"

I left fuming, vowing I' would never step foot back in that store again.

Until I remembered I have pictures waiting for me in Photo...... Oh yeah, and we don't have a Target.

Monday, November 3, 2008

My Poem

Answering the ring
Hearing my brother’s shame
Telling me where he was
Having no explanation
His Humiliation

Seeing our mom suffer
Worrying about his new world
Understanding he cannot say.

Finding the strength to go to him,
Seeing him at last…
My eyes
Overflowing with tears of happiness,
Stinging in pain of truth.

His segregation

Seeing my baby brother in prison blues
His clothes are
Shouting “PRISONER” in yellow for all to see
Others to guess what he’s done
To deserve this appalling place.

No one understands this boy
Except for us
and especially me.

And then
Seeing his smile as his heart swells with pride
Meeting his new baby niece
Noticing how much the kids have grown
Realizing it happened…
without him.

That yellow word on his pants should read instead,
“Uncle, Brother and Son”
Even just “Someone”

We are
Visiting under their rules
Playing their game
Realizing his dignity is a luxury
that gets taken away,
Even in front of us.

Hating the clock; it bears the news
Screaming all day long at me
Waiting to shatter our lives
at the end of this day

And then
Hearing the words
We have to go
Forcing us to leave
Abandoning him
Saying good bye
Ripping my heart to shreds

Seeing his face behind the bars
Hearing my daughter’s cries for him
Stifling my own

Unable to survive this walk of shame
Down the steps
Away from him
On the Path to the Outside
Because it’s where he wants to be.

Trying to grasp that he can’t come home
I am
Remembering when we were kids
Loving these memories
Because it’s all we have…for now
Visits like this will be erased
Only when he is free.

Watching my own little boy
Knowing my parents watched theirs
Hurting because they cannot hold this one
Or make it all better
This time

Aching because I cannot remove the pain
From anyone

Understanding there is nothing we can do
Except pray
And wait.