Monday, March 31, 2008

Sunday Denial

So yeah, it was Sunday again. Just like every week, only this upcoming week is Spring Break for the kids. This is good news, in that I don't have to get up early or supervise the homework, or (thank any and all deities involved) have to line up in the retarded insanity that is Car Poop. The down side is the ever enlarging mini manic monkeys are home all week. Half of the living room is already under siege and littered with Imaginext, Legos, and Playmobil flotsam as far as the eye can see. I gave them a cleaning ultimatum a half an hour ago, and it still is going pretty slowly, the carnage removal. This is pretty much what my week is going to look like, but at least I can stay up late and sleep in - they are good boys when it comes to that, though its due to many early morning awakenings, where the monster formerly known as Mom came out swinging and roaring. Now that they're bigger, I have to remember to wear underwear when I rampage, because Angry Mother Bush is far more scarring at 8 or 10 than it was at 3 or 4.

Are you reeling from that last sentence? Ms. Q just spit her coffee, I feel sure. So you're telling me that none of you ever walked around in the buff when your kids were little? Did you don your little pilgrim hat too? Yeah, thats what I thought.

Where the hell was I? Spring Break, that's right.

So this past Sunday, knowing the fate of my week ahead, Bea and I went out for a day of Sunday Denial. The hub-man was only too happy to finance the trip, because it got us out of the house, so he could watch the NCAA playoffs and drink beer without any interruptions. We went to see "The Other Boleyn Girl" and then went out for sushi afterwards, both things that he would rather chew his leg off than do.

I knew the film was going to be WAY off in its historical accuracy, just based on the trash novel by the same name, but I wanted to see Natalie Portman play Anne Boleyn, and I just can't resist a film about Tudor England, even if they are going to fuck it up. And boy, howdy, did they screw it up!

I will be giving my review of this film later this week, along with the far more sordid, and juicy true story of Anne Boleyn and Henry VIII, that for reasons unknown to me, they chose to ignore completely when they made this film.

But for now, I must leave you, dear blogosphere, and go in search of lunch-like comestibles to appease the restless and unruly native pygmies that have overrun my domicile.

Friday, March 28, 2008

Trip to Wales~Part II

Part I can be found here.

On our third day we went to the Carmartheshire County Museum, which is housed in the former Bishop's Palace in Abergwili. We stopped off in Llandovery to take this picture of Llywelyn ap Gruffydd (Hloo-well-an ap Griffith, for the phonetically curious) after discovering his line was intermarried into the Toys. He was a lesser Welsh lord and landowner near Llandovery who led Henry IV of England all over Wales for several weeks on a wild goose-chase, looking for Owain Glendower, the other irascible thorn in the king's side and the leader of the Welsh revolters. When the jig was up, he was brutally tortured and murdered as an example to the Welsh up risers. Unfortunately for the English, his martyred death only served to solidify the Welsh cause. To this day, the Welsh are adamant about maintaining their language, their culture, and their right to govern themselves. You can see why we loved them!

The Bishop's Palace in Abergwili was the site of where William Salesbury wrote much of his Welsh translation of the New Testament, a document that Welsh historians agree was pivotal in preserving Welsh as a living language. My interest in seeing this book stems from the knowledge that Humphrey Toy paid completely for the publishing of this culturally vital tome. Granted, he was from an early printing family in England, and I believe he published it at his mother's insistence, but he still is the guy who's credited for making it happen. There is a copy of it in the United States; in the Archives of William and Mary College, in Williamsburg, VA. I'd love to know how it ended up there, as Williamsburg is mighty close to Gloucester County, VA. which was the home of another Humphrey Toy, from 1655 to about 1700. The first printing press in Virginia was also in Gloucester County, which leads to even more speculation.

There were a lot of cool things in the County Museum. They had several standing stones, some outside as well as inside. This stone was probably made long before the Latin inscription was added, commemorating the leader of the Demetae, Voteporix, as their protector. The cross in the circle is an ancient, pre-christian symbol for earth. The early Christians borrowed it and then conveniently forgot where it came from, which is pretty much how they do things everywhere they go.

Outside, on the grounds of the Bishop's Palace, we encountered some odd trees and plants as we strolled around. There were things that looked like Rhododendron bushes, only with bright yellow flowers, and oddly shaped pine trees called "Monkey Conifers". This tree was just an oak, but it made a good backdrop.

Carmarthen and the area around it is reputed to be the birthplace of the Arthurian wizard Merlin, the original spelling being Caermyrddin (Care-Myrthin); Caer, meaning fort, and Myrddin, meaning Merlin. We walked down to the fields and lilypond behind the palace, hoping to catch a glimpse of Merlin's Hill off in the near distance. This Hawthorn tree was immense and if you've ever watched the film Elizabeth, with Cate Blanchett, this is the same kind of tree she meets her new council under when she's made queen.

After the Bishop's Palace, we headed down the road to Carreg Cennen, or at least, the ruins of it. The first castle built here was in the 13th century, but legend has it that Urien Rheged, a knight of the Round Table, built the first fortress here. Modern excavations have also found Roman coins and prehistoric human remains in the cave underneath the castle, so this place has been in use for some time! We stopped in at the Castell Farm below, to pay our admission fees and browse their wonderful shop of handmade crafts, which were nicer and far cheaper than anywhere else we went. I also bought some of their Caramel Sticky Bars as a quick energy burst before climbing the hill. Oh my god - they were Sin Incarnate!

The climb to the top seems deceptively easy, until you've been at it for 15 minutes or so, but the view from the top is incredible.

I had to stop and catch my breath when we finally made it to the top. I love the fact that we're sitting on the wall, right next to the caution sign. "Visitors are warned to take every care to avoid accidents." You think they meant sitting on the wall in a high wind?

The wind was really kicking it up at the top of the ruins. My brother was standing on the opposite wall when I took this, and I swear it looked like he was going to take off and catch a mighty draft! The sun came and went all day, so sometimes we took beautiful, sunny shots, and five minutes later, the pictures would be all dark and cloudy looking. Hey, at least it wasn't hot and there was nobody up there with us, so the experience was that much more intimate and powerful.

" Yes, yes, yes!" The descendant of Welsh royalty tips his hat, and we play along, because we know he's buying the first round at the pub, later on. I should never have told him about Llywelyn ap Gruffydd. There's another guy with the same name who was the last Prince of Wales, but I don't think he was the guy we're related to. Try telling that to His Royal Highness. Yeah, not so much. It was hard enough to convince him that the Welsh would be speaking their own tongue in some places. He was just astounded when he figured it out, kind of like the amazement of toddlers at Christmas. It reminded me of Steve Martin, talking about visiting France; "Its like those French have a different word for everything!"

The coolest and creepiest part of Cerreg Cennen was the natural cave that sits underneath the castle. This is the beginning of the tunnels that take you down, down, down, to the cave. I think this shot is looking back up the way we came.

This would be my Lovely Assistant, coming out of the tunnel above.

This is the view from where my Lovely Assistant was standing. Note the bizarre little red caution sign, showing a guy slipping. My dad, after seeing this sign, responded, "Well of course he fell down. Look at how he's dancing around!" I know- he's just a Laugh Riot, isn't he?

Ahh! Entering the cave! It was so dark and slippery in there I about busted my ass twice. The floor is really uneven, as well as slick, so you can see why that little guy on the sign was looking all discomfuckulated. My brother took these shots, because he had the better camera and let's just say it; he is a far better photographer than I am!

Supposedly this spring in the cave is a magical site. I swear it - I read an entire book about sacred sites in Wales and this one is supposed to be a wishing well. You're supposed to bring a pin with you, wish on it, and throw it in the well. Our B&B hostess even asked us if we had wished while we were there. I am sad to report we did not take advantage of the wish potential of the place, but honestly? It was way too dark and creepy down there to want to hang around for long.

Coming back up and out of the cave, I stopped to take a shot of the farmlands out the window. I loved how the ancient and rough stone made an abstract kind of frame around the view. We are definitely NOT in Kansas, Toto!

We're smiling but my ass is so sore right now! The wind was ripping our hair and clothes so badly, we look like we've been on a bender, but for the moment anyway, we are quite sober.

We left and repaired to a pub for the rest of the afternoon. We actually were trying to find somewhere we could get a bite to eat, but everything shuts down at 3 PM, which is just about the time your immense Welsh breakfast wears off. So there we were, hungry, in a pub, eating "crisps" (chips) and drinking pints, in an effort to stave off hunger. The outcome? Four drunk Americans scaring the hell out of the local color. I do think the barmaids liked us, at least; Tipping is not only NOT a city in China, but it isn't a city in Wales either, which didn't keep us from doing it, no sirree bob. Looking back now, I'm all worried we were Ugly Americans. Aww man! At least we tried to learn some Welsh - cwrw da! (good beer) Iechyd da! (good health) Croeso (welcome) - which is more than I can say for the Ugly Americans we met later in the week. They reminded me forcibly of the tourist couple in Monty Python's The Meaning of Life, reading the philosophy trivia cards (do you know who I mean?) We did have to buy Dad a coffee mug with Iechyd da on it, so he could remember how to say it, but does that make us Ugly?

Jesus, so now I'm a pompous serializing windbag (I'm just teasing, Ray!) AND an Ugly American in the bargain as well.

Tune in next week, for the final installment of

The Epic Saga of Our Trip to Wales

Thursday, March 27, 2008

Trip to Wales~Part I

Two Springs past, I took a journey to the UK with my husband, my father, and my younger brother. I was on a mission. They came along to drink beer, drive, and occasionally, pick up the tab and my luggage. This is the story of

The Epic Saga of Our Trip to Wales

It was a bit of a bumpy start, trying to leave. We huddled in a glass bus shelter when we first arrived at RDU, listening to the pinging and smacking of hailstones, hoping the bus would arrive before the imminent tornado, which I later learned from Bea, actually did, only closer to home. The weather delayed all of the flights out that afternoon, so when we finally arrived in Newark, we were just in time to watch our flight leave without us. Evidently bad weather is not a good enough reason to hold the plane, and since we were headed to Bristol, England, a smaller airport, we had to wait until the next day to fly out. As you can see, we were very excited to spend an entire day in Newark. We did try to make the best of it, but it was still a drag and we just wanted to be on our way to the trip we had planned, before we spent all our money on lunch in the airport. The transvestite waiter-ess was kind of diverting, but my god - no one should spend 200.00 on four burgers, even if the condiments do come in cute little bottles (Which I stuffed in my bag, just like my mother would have done. Augh!)

As soon as we touched down, rented a car, and stowed our gear, we were on the road, headed for Wales. Okay, I confess, we did take a quick detour down to Cheddar, to have some cheese shipped to us - a costly and kind of iffy venture, and what a tourist racket! I would just eat the stuff next time. But then we were well and truly off to the Brecon Mountains area of Wales. I had booked us rooms at an immaculate B&B, located right on the Tywi River. The main part of the house had been a 16th century drover's pub, and the huge inglenook fireplace made of river rock, and the black beams supporting the ceiling were all original. I chose this place because it offered direct access to the river Tywi, one of our main reasons for being there.

I know you're just dying to ask the question, "Why did you go to Wales?", so I'll tell you. We went to Wales to conduct genealogical research on the origin of our last name. I had done online research for about two years before we went, and found three groups of one Toy family living in London and Bristol, in England,and Carmarthen, in Wales. What made them significant and worth looking into was the use of several names that not only showed up all three branches, but were also the names used by a group of Toys who settled in the Jamestown, Virginia area, prior to 1660. What makes that significant, is that it proves the name Toy is not only of English/Welsh origin, but that they were here early enough to have one of them intermarry with a girl in the Swedish colony in New Jersey.

I know, I've lost you. You're asking, "So what?" and maybe even, "What the Fu?" The reason for this convoluted explanation is that the results of my research proves that the data stubbornly adhered to by many of my fellow researchers of this family name is incorrect. Their Swedish ancestors didn't live in a cultural vacuum, and there is harder proof for cultural intermarriage producing the name Toy in the Swedish colony, than there is for it being a bastardization of a Swedish patronym.

And that is why we went to Wales. Well, that's why I went. My dad wanted to see the Afon Tywi or Towy River, my brother was there to drive like a bat out of hell and drink beer, and my husband was just "jazzed to be on the show", and to be my lovely assistant in researching, of course. What we didn't realize was that we would all come home raving about the Welsh beer. Even me, and I don't usually like to drink beer. I'm not sure what the secret to their outstanding beer is, but I drank like a proper sot the whole time and never got a headache or felt hung over. Welsh beer is awesome!

With that in mind, it shouldn't surprise you that our first stop, other than asking some poor, unsuspecting Welshman at the gas station for directions (he's probably still shaking his head!), was at a pub in the darlin' town of Llandovery. It was maybe 2 pm, so these are career drinkers hanging out in the background. A couple of them were friendly, but most of them had a hard day's drinking to do, and left us alone in our touristy-ness.

This stitch has flaws in it, but it gives you the idea of what it looked like inside.

When we toddled out of the pub and headed to the B&B, it was just a few miles down the road. I was a little worried my dad would be negative about staying in a nice place (he's got this whole "all I need is a sleeping bag and some frank-n-beans" stoic thing he likes to play), but he loved it, as did we all. Here we are upon arriving, taking time for a photo-op.

Then we headed down to the river to see our possible name originator up close and personal. We were all struck by how much it looked like Western Pennsylvania, only with more hedges and sheep, but with similar rolling hills and a lush verdancy that says home to me wherever it is. Even the rocks in the river were similar to the shale and fossil-rich rocks of our beloved Oil Creek back home. My brother went in the water and drank a handful of it, because he has a parasitic collection in his gut that keeps him from ever getting sick from bad water, the bastard. On at least one occasion I have gotten dysentery from drinking the water in his canteen, and water-borne bacteria is a personal nemesis of mine from way back.

The next day we headed into Carmarthen, the county seat and the 16th century home of the Toys I was researching. We had an appointment at the Archives later in the day, but we stopped in at St. Peter's Church to look around and see if there was anything to glean from there. Carmarthen was an odd town, ancient, crumbling buildings leaning against newer, uglier, and squat businesses. It had peaked as a town in the early 1600s, but a variety of economic pressures caused it to slide afterwards. The period I believe my ancestors left in was around 1640-50 a period when the plague was so prevalent that much of the regular government business was conducted out of town. Not hard to see why Virginia would have looked good, and there was many a Welshman who came and settled there during that time. Right inside the church doors was a Roman house altar that had been found in one of their restorations of the church. There had been a church or temple on that location since pre-Roman times, and in typical early Christian fashion, they erected their church on the site of an earlier pagan temple. This is a pet field of research for me, so don't let me get started on that digression - we'll never finish!

This is a view of what had been the south porch of St. Peter's, but is now a Lady's Chapel. This is where our boy, Humphrey Toy, was buried. At least until they turned it into a chapel - no one seemed to know where the people buried in these walls had been re-interred at, when the renovation occurred. I did find a book in the local library that had a copy of Humphrey's tomb inscription and where it had been, so at least we found that data to go with this picture.
There is more to tell, but I fear I have to break it into sections to keep it from becoming too long to reasonably read. I do hope this doesn't render me pompous. Rambling, I can live with. Long-winded, also okay. But pompous? Me? Ya think? Maybe its more like I need that serialization because I suck at writing short stories, and all my stories seem to be of epic lengths.

Coming soon; Trip to Wales~Part II

(I know- you just can't wait!)

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

I am in a dark place right now.

It isn't surprising to find myself here, lower than my toes in spirit. I've struggled with depression my entire life. I don't want to be medicated for feeling less than euphoric all the time. I don't want to sit in an office and talk to someone who has one eye on the clock, while they pretend to listen. I grew up in the house of one of those people and that gentle, inquiring tone of voice asking you how you feel is a sham; I know what they sound like when they're not in their offices. I know how it feels to be on the receiving end of their crazy shit, after hours, when they don't have to be calm and collected anymore, and can whale on their kids and wife at will.

I've been in this dark place before.

I don't want to talk about it with my friends, because they have their own shit they're swimming in right now, which I would have to set aside my own problems to listen to, and I just can't, right now. I can't talk about anything, it seems, with my husband. No matter the time of year, there is a sporting event going on that is more important than listening to me. I told him this morning I was feeling depressed and my concerned, loving, comforting answer from him was, "...... I'm sorry", and he changed the topic to his work schedule.

So here I am, still in that dark place.

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Rattling a Few Bones~A Personal History~Part IV

*WARNING* If you are SQUEAMISH or EASILY OFFENDED, it might be in your best interest to STOP NOW and go read something a little less gorey. Don't say I didn't warn you...

The rest of the story can be found here:
Part I
Part II
Part III

It was near the end of September when I finally saw an OB/GYN. I had been pregnant since late July; violently so at first, but by September, my symptoms of nausea, fatigue, and tenderness had dissipated, leaving me feeling frantically awry and a little depressed.

When the doctor did an ultrasound he could find no heartbeat. He tried again and again, before gently breaking the news that there was no baby. It had begun and ended, after about a month of gestating, leaving only a yolk sac as proof there had been anything at all. I think we both cried when we got the news. It was no surprise to me, but I had hoped I was wrong about what I knew in my heart. But my poor husband; he had been so excited, and called everyone we knew to announce the good news, even before a month had passed. Now he would have to tell them all that it wasn't going to happen.

I couldn't bring myself talk to anyone about it - it was too close and the weight of everyone's disappointment was a palpable burden on my shoulders. I know they were all just trying to be sympathetic, but when I'm in a dark place, like I was then, there are very few people allowed in.

I decided not to undergo a D&C right away, preferring to give my body the chance to take care of things its own way. (Note to past self - this wasn't a good call.) About two weeks went by, and nothing happened, other than me getting progressively more depressed and more afraid that things weren't going to resolve themselves. At the end of that two weeks, I decided I was going to drink a margarita, come what may. It wasn't like it was going to harm any fetus, was it, and somehow I thought a little thinning of the blood might be a good thing.

The next morning I woke up, feeling distinctly like crap. I noticed I was beginning to bleed, so I called the OB/GYN's office to let them know and find out what to do next. The nurse seemed to think I should just sit tight, and wait until a more convincing flow of blood began. A couple hours later, suitably hemmoraging, I called back, and they pencilled me in for an appointment that morning. Since my hub-man was at work in a galaxy far, far away, the ETA of which is roughly a 45 minutes' drive, Bea came home from work and took me to the doctor's office. After checking me the doctor decided it was time for the D&C procedure, but it would have to be scheduled for later in the day, so I went back home to call the hub-man and rest until then. Bea stayed with me, against her better instincts (she faints at the sight of blood - I shit you not. It really brought her candy-striper career to an abrupt end, but I digress...) in case I needed help before the man got home.

I went to bed, but I couldn't sleep. I could tell I was bleeding heavily, so I went into the bathroom for the changing of the guard, so to speak. As I sat down on the toilet, something large fell out and went "Splash!" I looked and there was the yolk sac I'd seen on the ultrasound, floating gently down to rest against the bottom, swaying lightly in the toilet tide. "Bea!" I shrieked, a little rattled at this turn of events, this unexpected visitor. I knew I couldn't leave what had once been the beginning of my child in the toilet, to be flushed away. I also knew that the doctor might find it important to see what had fallen out. "Can you bring me a little plastic dish with a lid?" I inquired of Bea, who was cautiously approaching the bathroom. I told her what had happened and why I needed the dish. She turned right around and went into the kitchen, where she found me a grated cheese container and brought it to me, averting her eyes as she came near me.

Using a metal hanger as a rather grisly scoop, I caught the sac and put it in the cheese dish. It was about this time I realized I couldn't stop bleeding long enough to get a clean pad under the flow. I yelled down the hall again, to Bea; "Can you bring me a bag to put this dish in, so I'm not toting human remains around in full sight?" I was so preoccupied with trying to staunch the frighteningly continual flow of blood, I didn't see Bea until she was right there, looking away as hard as she could, with an absolutely HUGE paper bag in her hand. It just struck me, there in the middle of all that trauma, as hilarious. Bea had brought an immense bag to put a tiny little plastic dish in. No way anyone would know what we had in THAT bag! I started laughing at that ludicrous paper bag and couldn't stop. When she asked me what the hell I was laughing at, I told her and we both laughed, albeit, Bea was still a little shaky and studiously not looking at me.

After staunching what flow I could, I crawled back into bed and called the doctor's office again. I told them what had happened, expecting a cancellation of the afternoon's procedure, and maybe another trip to their office for a check up. Oh no, once you schedule a procedure at the hospital, you are bound to it! May be they were right and it was necessary. Maybe they were just covering their asses. Maybe, if I had known what a craptastically inefficient piece of shit hospital it was I could have refused to go. But the ole hindsight just wasn't there, so when the hub-man got home, off we went, giant paper bag in tow.

The people at the hospital were nice enough, but they didn't listen and they didn't really care about my well being. They knocked me out cold with anesthesia, after I pointedly said no, I don't want to be unconscious. When I woke up, disoriented and upset, I wasn't allowed to have my husband near me, as the one other patient in the recovery room had six visitors. Does this strike anyone else as complete bullshit and really poor care? Let me just say that I will never use that hospital again, for anything, after the crap care I received there. Oh, and they billed me wrong too, so the misery of having been there stayed with us for three months afterwards, while we tried to get the billing straightened out. Did I mention I hate that MF hospital?

We went home to heal and pick up the pieces of our life. I was incredibly depressed afterwards, even up through Christmas. I painted and internalized and brooded, which maybe isn't that healthy sounding, but its how I cope. In early January I realized I was pregnant again, and the rollercoaster ride was starting all over.

Monday, March 24, 2008

A three day Easter holiday is a stinkin rip-off, but it has its perks.

The kids headed back to school today, still strung-out from all the sugary carb stuffing of yesterday and as evil-tempered as a pair of chihuahuas trapped at a pre-school. The Bohemian likes to see just how much of his candy he can eat that first day, and child - it is scary to think of, just based on the aftermath of decimated containers and sad little foil parings that once covered lovely dark chocolate lumps of goodness - am I rambling? Did it at least sound good?

He (the Bohemian) did try to weasel a day off out of me, by coming in to my bedroom groaning and giving me his best "I'm Sick, See?" face, but I wasn't biting. Oh hell no! Not after the insanity of maniacally excited pre-Easter kids, who twitch and jabber endlessly, just in anticipation of the sweet feast. Then they wake up on Easter at the butt crack of dawn and make poor night owl Mama (moi) get up right after she's just gone to bed, so she can watch them run around the house, cramming candy into their mouths, while she tries to balance a shaky cup of coffee and lean against the wall, moaning like Billy Crystal doing his old Jewish man schtick. This was the fun part, right? Oy.

No, they were going to school today, if only to give me a little peace. I smiled gaily as I dropped them off and headed for home and that first blissful cup of coffee, drank in complete silence.

Ahhh! School is a wonderful thing, best appreciated after a weekend of sugary debauchery.

Thursday, March 20, 2008

Excuses, Excuses

Excuse #1
Nothing like a looming holiday to kick up the volunteer schedule at school - I'm headed back again this afternoon for an Easter egg hunt/math center with the second graders, so of course, I'm NOT writing and finishing up the Rattling a Few Bones~Part VI. Its giving me a hard time anyway, but the increased demand for my volunteer services doesn't help either.

Excuse #2
I meant to write a two-part piece on our personal quest to have kids, and its gone on and on, turning into a four-parter that's already so long I feel like maybe I'm rambling. I'm deeply afraid that "this isn't writing, its typing", in the words of Truman Capote .(via Robin Williams; I'm just not "deep" enough to want to read ole Truman, so sue me.) But whatever the shoddy reason, I'm not done with it yet, and its getting out of hand long, so next week, I have to finish it and then edit the crap out of it.

Excuse #3
Are you ready for Sunday morning, and that damn rabbit, who craps jelly beans all over my windowsills, mantel, counter tops, tables, etc? Because I'm not egg-actly (HAH! I'm funny! OK, maybe not so much...sigh) ready for the big sugar fest quite yet, and with TWO DAYS !!(stifled scream) left to get ready, I'm thinking a headless chicken dance is in order. (Note- the management would like to apologize to any vegetarians who are offended by that image, and assure said vegans that no chickens will actually be decapitated; at least where they can see!) (Muhahahaha!) the spirit of the season, I do have a picture the kids and I made last year that really sums up our favorite aspects of the season:
I know, its corny, but the guys just giggle their heads off when we say this. Ah, simple joys!

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

A True Rant

Oh My God, I hate my husband at this moment.

We still have the big pavilion up from Bea's party this past weekend, and yesterday I asked him if we should be taking the cover down, at least, because today its supposed to be gale force winds bringing in a big-ass storm.

Naturally, women never can read a radar screen, or put two and two together, so my question was pooh-poohed. "Oh, it won't be anything to worry about," he assured me.

So here it is, Wednesday, and the frigging wind is taking the whole tent-thing up in the air, shoving it into the side of the house, and catching plant hooks that hang from the soffit.

How about now, honey? Would now be a good time to take the GD thing down? Now that you're at work, and I have to be back at school in an hour - yeah, that's the perfect time, isn't it?

Guess what I did on my lunch break? That's right - took down a giant 20' plus tent, all by my lonesome.

Grrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrr...adrenaline is a powerful thing - I got that sucker down faster by myself, than it took the three men to put it up. Nothing like rage to impel you.

Ask me if I'm making dinner tonight...go ahead, ask me.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Bea's Surprise Birthday Party

Let's start with a bit of back history. Last year, when Bea turned 40, I proposed throwing a party for her. She was having a bit of a bumpy adjustment with the whole Four-Ought thing and completely refused the notion outright. But this year, when I asked her what she wanted to do, she said, "I don't care - do whatever you want. All bets are off."

Oh, Hot Damn! I'm throwing a party!

So two weeks before, I called everyone up, and got the ball rolling. Everything was coming together, but as of last Thursday, I still had no idea how we were going to pull off the surprise factor. It was decided that on Saturday, my dad and my hubby would take the D.R. Field and assorted yard tools over to Bea's house to help get her yard tamed and ready for spring. Of course she had to be there to supervise. Okay, so she's busy all day, while we set up, but how to stage the surprise? I decided to tell Bea that Ms. Q. was coming out on Saturday, to take us all out for a birthday dinner somewhere nice, so Bea would be sure to change from her yardwork attire. Then I told her that Ms. Q. had this huge present for her that she didn't want her to see right off, so could she wear a blindfold down to my house? "What the fuck?" Bea asked, and I laughed on cue. "Well, you know how Ms. Q. likes to make a big statement on birthdays! Just go with it." I advised gleefully.

So on Saturday, in spite of all the Murphy's Law kind of mishaps that occur, like the canopy of the tent coming up missing, and the impending thunderstorm on the way, we got everything ready. The hub-man, nattily done up for the bogus dinner out, went to fetch the birthday girl, while the rest of us got our party on and tried to pipe down.

Here Bea arrives at the party in her stylish blindfold, escorted by the aforementioned hub-man.

"You're taking my picture blindfolded?" Bea gasped between giggles. Hub-man couldn't be reached for comment; he was laughing too hard.
We walked her down the driveway, cracking jokes loudly, to cover any crowd sounds. When we took the blindfold off, she was, at first, shocked to see all of us there.
Then the coup addition of my sister, from The Fairies Nest caught her attention. "What are you doing here?!" Bea was a bit overwhelmed. Her hands were shaking. She needed a special birthday beverage...STAT.
It was really a lot of fun to scare the hell out of her. See us all laughing at her near heart attack?
Everyone brought parts of the spread and we ate so much of the appetizers we could barely think of grilling make-your-own quesadillas. Here your hostess and tour guide refurbishes the cracker basket. The homemade hummus, egg salad, guacamole, salsa, cheesy chicken balls (I just like calling them that!), and 7 layer dip, accompanied the veggie platter, cheese tray, and assorted crackers and chips quite well. I feel stuffed all over again, just naming everything! (Note the small roman in the foreground - does that boy know how to accessorize or what?)
Mmmm! Those chips sure are tasty! Bea chats with Sis (Who really was happy, I don't know why she's frowning here; the administration would like to apologize for any unintended inferences or misrepresentations of her as anything but a lovely and happy, HAPPY individual.)as she works on another round of drinks.
Bea smiles for the camera (that's how I know the drinks are kicking in - she would have ducked if she was sober!) from across the pavilion. No party games were planned, but the balloons lent themselves to a bit of frolicking. (Note both Ms. Q. and my sister-in-love are in the background here.)
You will notice that the pictures are becoming blurrier as the day goes on. I would LIKE to blame the darkening sky and looming thunderstorm, but the truth is, I can't stand still for shit after a few drinkey-winkeys. Really a shame, because all the action shots of the balloon frivolities are too grainy and blurry to do justice to anything but the fact that we were hammered.And the pictures of the awesome cake made by my mom for the occasion? Well, I kind of forgot to take pictures of it, the whole drinking thing coming into play again. But it was FABULOUS - six layer chocolate cake with coffee cream and chocolate frosting. Its the kind of cake you feel compelled to eat until its gone, regardless of how ill you might feel afterwards. Needless to say, I'm going to be fasting for a portion of this week, having eaten way too much on Saturday.

Happy Birthday Bea! Hope you enjoyed your big family party!

Monday, March 17, 2008

Bea's Birthday Beverage

Yes, it has been a while since I've been in here. It was really crazy-busy last week in Real Time. ('member? That place you wake up in every day, and have to attend to the washing of clothes, dishes, bodies, etc? Is it coming back to you now? Okayy then!) There was the day trip to the coast to take assorted cats to the vet, mid week, and for the past two weeks, I've been planning and executing Bea's Surprise Birthday Party. Since she is usually on the front line of my nervous breakdowns, its been close to excruciating planning this party, and not being able to vent or spitball, or nuthin'. At one point I just went all Monty Python on her; "Burma!" I shouted out, inexplicably. At her raised eyebrow, I explained, "I just felt like saying it."

But it went off wonderfully. Somehow.

The big hit was our new beverage, Raspberry Lemonade, which slides down so easily, you don't even realize you've drank half of a fifth of vodka, until its too late. Even our loyal constituent of beer drinkers tried a few of these and declared, "M R Good!"

Want to know how they were made?
I knew you would!You will need:
1 package of frozen raspberries, thawed. Puree in the blender until smooth, strain through a sieve and add just enough water to make it pourable.
All natural lemonade. You can make your own, if you want, but I bought Simply Lemonade, because its straight lemonade and no extra crap.
A nice bottle of vodka.

In a pitcher, filled to just under halfway with ice, add vodka to about the 1/4 level.
Add about 1/2 cup of raspberry puree and swirl together until they are mixed, more or less.
Fill the pitcher with lemonade and stir to combine.
In a tall glass, squeeze two round lemon slices and drop the slices in the glass.
Fill to the top with the Raspberry Lemonade. Garnish with a bendy straw.
Suck down quickly and repeat as necessary.

More to come, once everyone signs their release waivers.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Rattling a Few Bones~A Personal History~Part III

*WARNING* This is a tangential piece, but it IS headed somewhere, so bear with me...

The rest of this story can be found here, and then here.

I think we were married for about four years before we really got going on the having children thing. Four glorious years. Bea (Bee-yah) had graduated from college and moved in with us. Then we got evicted from our rental for having too many cats and a roommate, and ended up buying a house of our own. (Don't even GET me started on that landlady and her crazy shit! I will tell you that she got hers later on, when it came time for her to replace all her heating and cooling systems in her rental houses. The company she went through was the company Bea worked for and let's just say she didn't get a lick of special treatment, or special pricing, and she knew who was on the other end of the phone. Its rare and beautiful thing when you get to see karma in action, up close and personal.) With Bea living with us, we all had extra money to spend. We went to kiln openings regularly, and amassed the foundations of our pottery collections during this time. Ah! I could wax quite nostalgic for those easy times. 1996 was a very prolific creative period for me. Long days into night to paint, both canvas and walls. Following my personal muse, and the budgetary flexibility that allowed us to buy beautiful old things to fill our new house.

In the spring of 1996 we began to try for a baby in earnest. I really liked the trying part - I could always blame my randy demands for extra boot knocking on our mutual effort for a child. (I know - I read all the time about other wives who don't want to have sex, but their husbands do, and I am so sorry, but I ain't one of them - I need my weekly (more if I can get it!) dose of progesterone to keep me on an even keel!) By mid-summer I was nauseous and tender and well, you know what that means. That's right - the end of the love fest, dammit! But on the other side of that coin - Mission Accomplished!

My first OB/GYN appointment was in early September. There was a hurricane by the name of Fran churning its way up the east coast, and it was expected to turn and make that once-in-every-fifty-years trek inland towards Raleigh. The last hurricane to do so was Hazel, back in 1954, and disastrous as it had been, it had been a long time since and no one was really prepared for anything of that caliber. I was anxious about the hurricane, but relieved that I would at least get to see the doctor and get things rolling medically, before the storm hit and possibly made it hard to get around.

Imagine my shocked surprise at my appointment when my OB/GYN of over 17 years told me that my insurance wouldn't cover having a baby with them, and I would have to find another doctor, thank you, have a nice day, fuck off, etc. Wow. I came out of there reeling, freaking out over where the hell I was going to find another doctor my insurance would take, and how long was it going to take to get an appointment. Meanwhile, we had about 6 hours to batten down, get all our kitties in a row before the storm hit. Yeah, no pressure. I went home, combed the yellow pages and the insurance directory until I found a doctor, and set up an appointment for two weeks later.

Fran's eye passed squarely over Raleigh, and a healthy portion of the entire state was declared in a state of emergency afterwards. Were we prepared? Hell no! We made ice, and froze some milk cartons of water. I made oatmeal chocolate chip cookies, and some kind of pasta dish that could be eaten cold, but that was the extent of our preparations. Bea was working that night at the tin box that was her heating and cooling company's office. About the time the gale force winds were beginning to pummel the area, they finally closed up shop and let her begin the 25 mile commute home. There are a multitude of things I could say about that company, but let it suffice to say they were damn lucky no one was injured by their stupidity, and they weren't the only business guilty of that kind of myopia. It was typical of the kind of apathy the entire area showed during the pre-storm preparations.

Bea got home, and we hunkered down. At first we sat in the dining room, looking out the picture window at the storm. Then Bea said, "You know, if this was a movie, we would say those people are too dumb to live, sitting in front of that big glass window during a hurricane." We laughed, but we moved into the living room, and sat rigidly, listening to the howling of the wind around the house, and the sound of every branch in every tree near us falling on the roof and our cars outside. We marvelled that the hubby-man was able to sleep through so much noise and implied destruction, though shortly afterwards, he did awake and came out to the living room as well. By this time, around 11:00, the wind had (if you can even imagine it) become an intruder at the door, pounding on all sides of the house, looking for admittance. It was stomach-clenchingly terrifying, to sit passively, while imminent disaster prowled outside, huffing and puffing like the biggest baddest wolf of all. As we huddled in the living room, trying to bolster each other's spirits with jokes, we heard a very odd, very ominous sound. There was a metallic scraping, and a kind of groaning, combined with a swooshing of many branches. The rafters groaned and we wondered if we would have a ceiling there much longer. Then it stopped.
The power having long since given out, we took our pitiful, cheap-o flashlight into the dining room. Water was beginning to leak from the ceiling near the front door. Perpetually jiggling the flashlight up and down, to keep the light to shining, we peered out the tiny front door window into a tangled mass of branches and oak leaves dripping with rain. Afraid to go outside into the maelstrom, we re-situated ourselves in the middle bedroom, and waited out the night in a weary jitteriness, waiting for the other big tree to drop, or the creek to flood the house, until the eye passed and the storm began to wane.
When we went outside the next morning, the carnage all up and down the street was unbelievable. Mercifully, we only had one tree come down on our house, and it missed the picture window. Luckily, we still had water. What was harder to endure was the almost 6 days of no electricity in post-hurricane tropical heat. I stood in my yard and wept when the power trucks finally came. Add on top of all this my concerns about my diminishing pregnancy symptoms. My doctor's appointment had been further delayed by the havoc of the hurricane and I was convinced something was wrong with the baby.

To be continued.

Sunday, March 9, 2008

The Blog Giveth And The Blog Taketh Its Sweet Time

What? You thought this was going to be Rattling a Few Bones~Part III?

You thought I had, all professional-like, written the entire piece and just split it up into serials, to drag it out and mess with you? Seriously? Do I look like I have my shit together enough to do that?

Pickle, its Monday here. Again. All damn day.Bea and I did our best on Sunday to weave a mist and make it Saturday again, but the spell just didn't take. Oh, wait a minute! We were supposed to POUR the libation on the ground, not DRINK it!! Ohhh! Well crap. So its Monday, but what a great Sunday afternoon it was, in spite of it NOT being Saturday again!

Are you with me so far?
It was a bit of a blustery day, on Saturday, but Bea and I, boat drinks in hand, braved the gale force winds to go out and sit in the sunshine. The warm weather this past week has brought out the wildlife, along with the first flowers.I found Mr. Rikki playing with our resident garter snake, who we like to call, rather unimaginatively, The Eighteen Incher. He was a little concerned about all the attention at first, but he did pose nicely for me. I have actually written about half of the third installment of Rattling a Few Bones, but the first part was the easiest. The climax is a bit stickier and I need to get the children out of my hair before I can think straight enough to finish writing it. That and Blogger needs to let me upload more than ONE FUCKING PICTURE AT A TIME - that would really speed things up!
So, would you say your weekend glass was half-full or half-empty? Or would you say you "half want" to take the rest of the week off? Yeah, me too, only no halfways for me - I'm 100% sick with the Spring Fever!

Friday, March 7, 2008

Rattling a Few Bones~A Personal History~Part II

The beginning of this story can be found here.

So we moved in together. This wasn't something my family was going to pop a gasket over; my sister had already paved that road for me (and thanks, btw!), but that guy with the nice butt? Yeah, his parents were a different story. It was actually a touch and go moment when I found out his parents were not only Baptist, but Elders in a really fundie-type church. I had to know what he thought about that kind of religion and whether it was something he felt strongly about. If you have read any of my posts on being pagan, then you will know that this was a potential deal-breaker for me. He assured me that he was more of the scientific bent and since Evolution is a dirty word in his parent's house, he was ready to go wherever I led him. It was tempting, for a minute, to mess with his head and tell him that "candle wax on the nipples, and witchcraft" were de rigeur for me, but only for a minute. The honeymoon period isn't the best time to fuck with a guy's head - later on, after you're married and know all their dirty little secrets is a more prudent time, unless you're TRYING to get rid of the guy! (Or in the case of Bea's poorly chosen male roommate, a little Violent Femmes does the trick nicely, but that's her story to tell!) So we settled in and commenced to living in sin, which pretty much feels the same as living outside of sin, only you get to have sex more often.

Against the advice of my future father-in-law, we told my future MIL we were moving in together. I wasn't sure how she would take it, but I was damned if we were going to live together secretly - who gets to answer the phone when it rings? She wasn't real happy about it, but what was she going to do? I think she at least respected the fact that we didn't try to lie to her, and that, as we told her, this was a definitive step towards getting married down the road.

We got married almost exactly four years after we started dating, and had a groovy pagan wedding outside with my old roommate and his friend playing the pipes and drum as our music. I hear it was a beautiful wedding. I was so frazzled and tired I don't remember much about it, other than my mother being ten minutes late, and her telling me that because she didn't like my mother-in-law, she was washing her hands of doing anything else. That would be my mom - always a pain in the ass in a crisis.

The candid shot

The staged shot

The groomsmen. Can you guess which are my brothers and which are my BILs?

There are epic sagas about my mother for each of my siblings' weddings, far too lengthy and complicated to relate here. Suffice to say that the wedding cake (made by my mother, each time) played a pivotal part in the melodramas that went down at my brothers' weddings, and my sister's wedding went the smoothest of all of them, because Mom took a codeine by accident (she's always putting prescriptions in aspirin bottles) and passed out. I by-passed the possible wedding cake issues by using a chocolate chip-based frosting on my cake, (it would take a blow torch to move that stuff!) but there was no by-passing possible in dealing with the 5 year old that is my mother.

A telling picture

Cutting the cake (and a damn fine cake it was! None of that anemic white cake - it was 5 tiers of 9 layers each tier, chocolate cake and coffee ganache.)

I considered telling you more of the gorey details, but even after 16 years, it still pisses me off, and I might never finish where I'm going with this story if I start recollecting that particular chapter. You're just going to have to either wait for the book or try to divine the story from the wedding pictures. Or ask Bea - she and Miss Q were there to peel me off the walls.

Garter removal (oo, la la!)

Put a fork in it - I'm done!

After the hitching commenced we settled down in Raleigh and spent a couple of relatively peaceful years before we were seized with that mid-life insanity: the desire for offspring.

To be continued.