Saturday, July 26, 2008

White Porcelain, Not My Favorite Color

My head (and arse) has remained free of white porcelain for 36 hours now; long enough to guarantee I will live. And, to let you all know I am alive.

As soon as I was in recovery mode my niece text me asking me to take her to the doctor, that she figured death was immanent for her as well. I have not seen her in some time so I am certain I was not the cause for any germ transfer.

It's going 'round folks. Consider yourself warned.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

When I Talk to Myself It Sounds Like This

Keeper: Jo. You don't mind if I call you call Jo do you?

Me: Of course not, my brother calls me Jo all the time.

Keeper: You have quite a set of bags under your eyes.

Me: Thanks for noticing, not!

Keeper: What's up girlfriend?

Me: well I had a case of insomnia last night, fell asleep at's a hormone thing and,

Keeper: You really should get to the gyno for a check up of those hormones.

Me: excuse me [self] I was not finished.

Keeper: Sorry.

Me: The thunderstorm was wild and King Ralph was...well I can best describe my broken slumber at 6am, that was hard to get, with this childhood limerick: it's raining, it's pouring the old man is snoring.

Keeper: You should have nudged him to roll over, maybe pinched his nose. Back to the gyno check-up.

Me: I did nudge King Ralph, I pinched his nose but my old man didn't budge. One of us doesn't have a hormone imbalance. And, if you'd like to know I made an appointment for today with my favorite gyno (since my reminder card said your last visit was 5/23/06) and then Aunt Flo came to town unexpectedly and I had to cancel. Believe me I was okay with it. I hate throwing my legs up in the silver stir-ups with my who-ha flashing at a man with a pair of rubber gloves. You know what, I am not discussing this with you any further. I'm tired, slightly crabby and I HATE the gyno. So there!

Saturday, July 19, 2008

Chlo-Yo- Husband Wanted, Magicians Need Not Apply

Chloe Yvonne, my youngest niece who we affectionately call Chlo-Yo--I have a soft spot in my heart for her. I have said before not sure if the soft spot comes from being present when she entered this world or if she is the baby of the family; realizing youth ends with her.

Chlo-Yo worships her teenage cousins. There is something alluring to her about there style and "worldliness". Because at nine, fifteen and eighteen seem so worldly.

There is a beauty of reignited youth among the five girl cousins when they get together--suddenly at eighteen you are nine again. They find they are never to old to play dress up when-- you can paint the faces of your younger cousins and dress them in your formal dresses. An affair of this magnitude calls for a fashion show and a photo shoot. The danger of a another girl, the dog, feeling left out was captured on film--the laughter sparkles the moment.

The purity of Chlo-Yo's age allows her to find the spider in the grass everyone else sees past and, the desire to want to catch it in her hand.

Thursday evening she looked at me and said "I wish we could spend a day alone like we did the time we went to the zoo together and you pulled my tooth".

It is hard to refuse that cute round face. So we had the day she so desired. She sat next to me in the office coloring pictures, getting snacks of chocolate and flavored water from the staff lounge and helping a fellow co-worker stock a few shelves with office supplies. Next she enjoyed a magic show in the school's lobby. Then we went to lunch together; she ate a mushroom pizza and garlic bread and I had a small salad. I told her she was best lunch company I have ever had the pleasure of enjoying.

We came home and played Yahtzee--two games. Tricky Auntie that I am knew a game of Yahtzee was a summer way of jump starting her brain with those math facts on a three month hiatus. She is a bit worried about starting fourth grade--I know she'll do just fine.

It was on our ride home from lunch that she told me all about the magician who turned a banana into a bandanna. It was what she said next that makes me miss the innocence of my own daughters. "Auntie" she said, "how do you think the magician turned the banana into a bandanna?" I replied that magicians amaze me because I can never figure the trick. Then she says "I can't marry a magician because they don't make a lot of money but I think I will date one so I can find out how they do all those tricks then I'll know."

When the sun rises tomorrow and the cousins return to Michigan they know they will forever remain--connected.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

I think I should title this...STOP MOANING, SHUT UP AND HAVE A DRINK

I am going to make a public statement...I much prefer being a building assistant to being a secretary.

Okay next moan.

I have never had to change laminator film before. (Don't get me started on why only two people in the office know the trick of the trade). Today I did. Between answering phones and doing attendance. It was like a scene from Dumb and Dumber. I had to call in the Calvary to save me. The Calvary, known as Kim, saved me. I can not begin to thank her enough!

Next moan.

I think King Ralph is in mourning over his final year as a forty-something. Today is his birthday and for reasons unknown to all, he-is-crabby.

Solution to said stress--martini x's two.

King Ralph and I each had two before dinner with a shrimp cocktail, followed by BBQ. I may pass on the birthday rootbeer floats.

Excuse me I must part; my Michigan nieces and daughters are preparing to present a fashion show. It will revial Bryant Park, I am certain...I think.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Into the light of the dark black night

So life just keeps getting better for my M.

This morning she finds out on August 6 she gets her [teeth] braces off.

She once described herself as a cracked glass. I thought of her more as my black bird--now I sing to her:
Blackbird singing in the dead of night
Take these broken wings and learn to fly
All your life You were only waiting for this moment to arise
Blackbird fly, Blackbird fly
Into the light of the dark black night.

Spread those wings, set sail my Maddi-Phyl.

Monday, July 14, 2008

Burning Party? Not Quite, But Almost.

M & I spent the afternoon at The Spine Center; there is nothing quick and timely about these appointments. You are totally at the mercy of the receptionist, the waiting room, the x-ray lab, another waiting room, the holding cubicle (some call it the examination room), the fellow, the brace maker, and the spine doctor himself. Seeing Dr. Bridwell is like finally getting in to see the wizard.

Today, the wizard gave good news. In six days after M has weened herself from her back brace by wearing it six waking hours a day...hasta la vista baby. Well, at least for four months.

Since M is a smidgen from being fully grown (so shows her hand x-ray, which was an, ugh, second trip to the lab), that her "improved" curvatures has remained the same for the last 12 months; they are going to see if her spine stays stable at the 23*/18* curves. Crossing our fingers it does so the beastly brace stays hasta la vista.

In four months if all is good and the brace is to be no more for certain...burning party invites will be going out in the mail.

If that wasn't good luck enough M found $5 in the hall on the ground as we made our way to the parking garage.

Friday, July 11, 2008

Introducing the Craziest Member of our Family

I thought you all might enjoy, not only a twenty-five cent tour of our local zoo but, also a glimpse into what kind of family members we have.

It is hard having a "famous" personality as a member of our family but somehow we manage.

So without further ado I would like to introduce you to Dan aka Opticman aka my sister-in-law's spousal equivalent aka Funkle(fake-unkle)Dan (all it takes is an "I do" for an upgrade to uncle).

This video is exactly how he is all the time. We are never short for laughs when all get together.

If you want more of Dan's humor you can listen to him each afternoon (3-6pm) on KTRS 550am on the Frank O. Pinion show.

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Vacation Moments That Had Me Asking...

What were you thinking? That is the question I often asked myself when we were on vacation.

Like the couples that hiked to the top of Gregory Bald and another to the Abrams Falls--both steep incline trails of thick raised tree root and rock--IN FLIP FLOPS. Come on you have to ask yourself, what were you thinking. Even a sensible amateur hiker would lace up sneakers before hiking in thin flip-flops. You know those poor SOB's had aching soles and arches when they finished out that day. To hike in flip-flops I believe you need toe nails fit for tree climbing to grasp the earth as your heel slipped back on ascending inclines.

I especially love the parent on the Hen Wallow Falls trail who let her (looked like around eight years old) son hike barefoot. I'm not sure if that mom needs a V-8 to charge her brain or a good clubbing. You say to yourself, what were you thinking.

I love grown women who hike in white flouncy mini-skirts. Or high heels and ankle length cotton dresses. Hello. Hiking is not a fashion statement; it's sweat, dirt, and hard work. What are you thinking? Sometimes, as these quacks rounded the corner I found those words slipping out with an audible tone.

I also love the sense of a parent who think giving a four-year-old sparklers to run around with in a crowd of 50,000 plus is a safe and responsible idea. Yes there where a few passer bys who were brushed on their upper arms as the sparklers red hot metal punk grazed. I believe it was King Ralph who said "hey stupid what are you thinking".

I love people in cars driving the Cades Cove loop at 5 miles an hour and snap pictures of deer. Deer. It’s a deer, not a bear. You can see a deer anywhere. A matter of fact we stood at our campsite in Cades Cove with a doe and her two fawns, as if they were our pets.

I think a daily constitutional is one of those bodily functions that are pretty private. However when you are camping you have to learn to crap with the crowd. So when you are at a campground that has only two stalls for a parking lot full of people you need to do your duty fast and move on. So lady that brought your reading material to the bathroom…what were you thinking? Please reserve leisure poo for home.

We love camping next to girls who leave there cooler and food spread out on the picnic...they are no where to be found. It was a side show for us to watch the ranger confascate those bear magnet items. His nice big wooden sign that said "we got to your stuff before the bears did" was a welcome when they returned. Oh course no one budgets the $75 fee it takes to get your cooler back from the park jail.

Now I know you want to know this; did we see bear? Yes we did, two, one on Cades Cove Loop Road (after we finished hiking the Abrams Fall) and another standing smack in the center of the Blue Ridge Parkway. The BRP bear stood sideways on the road (as our car approached) and took up the entire highway lane. It was a Volkswagen bug sized bear. Impressive in size, no doubt. No there is no record of the bear sightings since, as fast as a camera can be grabbed the beasts are on the move. We are told we missed a mother bear and her two cubs on the Gregory Bald trail. Which is just fine by me; mother bear can be aggressive when her cubs are in tow.

Wednesday, July 09, 2008

Smokey Mountain Memories--Part II

Day Seven

The day we escaped the KOA. The view of the work shed was more than I could handle. Having my camper parked in a place that felt more like a parking lot and less like a mountain vacation...heck I just needed out.

One last Asheville destination--Biltmore Estate and Winery

If I could I would put a for sale sign in my yard and move into the Biltmore Estate. I would. I can't even begin to describe the grandeur of the estate. I really think my house would have fit into the Ballroom. The gardens--incredible. The winery--tasty. After six hours roaming and drinking our way through the estate we hit the road back to the Smokey Mountains National Park.

Since no road trip is ever complete without a visit to the Cracker Barrel we stopped and ate dinner before restocking at the Super Wal-Mart and setting up camp at the Cosby Campground.

This huge campground had only 12 camp sites occupied. It was a completely different feeling from Cades Cove (which was filled to capacity). No store, no visitor center; just us and nature. The first night a wicked thunderstorm storm with heavy rain rolled through the mountains. It was thunder like I have never heard; actually made my heart skip beats. We saw wild turkey stroll through the sites in the morning. We existed in a butterfly garden. Hundreds of butterflies lined the road sides, even resting on the edge of our campsite. It was a spectacular sight. With the campground being so uninhabited when the sun set darkness took hold. Then in the midst of heavy darkness as we rested we would hear the screech of an owl followed by the trademark whoo-whoo. D found it spooky while King Ralph and I found it to be an unimaginable sound.

Day Eight

We hiked to Hen Wallow Falls. Our least favorite hike, a short 5 mile round trip that lead to a 90 foot waterfall; that was not to my "usual" fall standards. (Princess A refers to me as a waterfall snob). It was pretty but more of a trickle as falls go. Not to mention there was no where to sit, eat lunch, gaze and read a book...instead you got stung by sweat bees and nibbled by nats. When we got back to camp we played games, sang Norah Jones songs and laughed. Laughing is something that our vacations are all about; it just makes us all love more.

Day Nine

We always like to end our hiking vacations on a good hike note. We set out to see the Mt. Cammerer Lookout by way of the Low Gap Trail to Appalachian Trail. It was a good, nearly six mile, hike up hill-- which made us look forward to the descending return trip. We hiked up and down to the rumble of thunder and a constant threat of a storm. We positioned our rain coats for quick grab but cared more for our water to quench our thirst as the start of the climb up was hot and humid; till we reached the AT. There is nothing more invigorating than a good sweat al fresco-- mountain air to cool the skin. It was fascinating to see all the 20-something backpackers making way across the AT. Natures beauty makes this hike well worth it. I would break from hiking to find myself just standing and gazing around at all that surrounded-- the hum of rushing waters in streams, the whisper of the wind in the thick-tall, hardwood trees, the magnolias.... It almost felt like being planted into the movie Fairy Tale A True Story; the moss covered rocks by the streams make you feel as if fairies could appear as any moment. As we climbed the rock that takes you to the edge of the mountain and entered the lookout the clouds let loose, heavy rain poured. We called that perfect timing. And, as fast as it came it left. When I looked out at the trees below the sun glistening rain drops rested on the leaves to where it looked as if silver sequence confetti was sprinkled about. We ate lunch while absorbing the 360* view at 5000 feet. As much as we desired to mark this fabulous hike with one of our self timed family photos no one had the bewitching powers to set up the camera, run to the top of the tower before the camera snapped photo. So instead we took a girls only photo.

When we got back to camp, which was to be our last night, King Ralph suggested we hit the road--for a hotel. He wanted to pack down the camper while it was still dry (there is nothing worse than putting a wet tent down). It took little arm twisting. We packed it up in record speed. We popped in the Carpenter's CD and all sang a song we found fitting for the days hike I'm on top of the world looking down on creation its the only explanation I can find....

We spent the night at the Country Inn & Suites in Cookeville, TN. King Ralph called first shower; he offered first shower to anyone who could beat his five minutes he stated was his shower needed time--there we no betters.

Each girl who entered the shower took longer and longer to scrub off the hiking funk. We had all had great "whore baths" while in the mountains. I boiled big pots of water, we stripped down and scrubbed...we felt good and clean but, there is nothing like hot water sprinkling down over your head, onto your body for an unlimited amount of time. Ecstasy. True bliss I say. Not only did we shower once but we showered twice. We longed to be water-logged. First shower at night, then in the morning we swam in the pool and soaked in the hot tub, then we showered again before hitting the highway for home (on day ten).

We're home. Some how we manange to end up in different rooms in the house (probably the square footage of the house allows spreading space; unlike the camper). We're home, still with lots of money in our pocket. Which made me realize, it isn't about what we give our kids but about giving them experiences. That I must say we succeeded at--experiences had by all.

Saturday, July 05, 2008

We're in Asheville Having Fun ...But We Want Out of This Campground

Day Five

We packed the car, hitched the big rolling turd, popped in our patriotic CD, sang and...well the big rolling turd did not get hitched properly (because King Ralph neglected to check what his daughter's did) and suddenly as we took a curve on the mountain road the scariest experience of my life, to date; the camper dissected itself from the car. I was shaking, felt like I should have had diarrhea. A nice couple on there honeymoon, from West Virgina, stopped and helped King Ralph rehitch the camper. They said sparks were flying pretty good. King Ralph is fabulous under pressure and was calm through out the situation. I guess it comes from a being cop. God was most definitely on our side. We had to stop imaging the what ifs and go on with the trip. Not to say there wasn't a [nerve-calming] martini out there with my name on it, and of course I answered.

So we arrive at the East Asheville-KOA...enough said. We sat stared at our site (and the wonderful view of the work shed) and debated on leaving but decided to stay, till tomorrow. We are escaping back to the Smokey Mountain National Park. Sometimes even hot water and a shower isn't enough to make us happy. Being plopped in the center of God's creations is worth every sacrifice.

We enjoyed a Fourth of July fireworks display in Downtown Asheville. This city has a bit of a University City loop, a little bit Seattle feeling. Very hippy, very Indy. I think this is a place where weird is normal.

Day Six

I will say this we had a beautiful ride on the Blue Ridge Parkway and a hike today to the top of Mt. Pisgah. Being that it got its name from Moses looking out to the promise land; King Ralph's hiking stick, that we call his Moses stick was proper in fit on this hike. It was raining when we started but quickly cleared. We descended through clouds. But before we did the view from the top was spectacular. Well worth it the short moderate strain to the top.

Tomorrow back to the Smokey Mountain National Park (Cosby)... one last shower at 6am. Oh ya, first we'll spend the day at the Biltmore Estate.

Life is good on the road.

Till July 10....

Friday, July 04, 2008

Smokey Mountain Memories

Day One

You know the travel routine: cooler, kids, car, classic rock selections...and of course one last hot-hot, long-long shower (because we won't be having another till the Fourth of July).

Day Two

Our usual hiking routine: fill back packs with water, snacks, sandwiches....

We chose the Gregory Bald Trail which was a 5.5 mile--strenuous--hike right to the top of the Smokey Mountain. Just about every bit of the 2170 elevation gain was UP hill till we reached 4950 feet. It was spectacular; magnolia trees in bloom, lush green ferns, beautiful river streams. At the top it made us want to sign "the hills are alive with the Sound of Music".... or do this

This is what we saw; hybrid azaleas.

and this
Our usual practice to mark the achievement of a great hike; before heading another 5.5 miles back down the mountain (which was faster but still as strenuous) --a self timed photo;which we managed by stacking all our back packs on top of one another for a makeshift tri-pod.

Day Three

We took on the Pigeon River for some white water rafting. The picture they snapped for us was not worth the dollars so use your imagination of us taking on the waters.

Day Four

King Ralph stepped from the car at the trail head and said "hey kids lets go strain our muscles some more...ooooo this is gonna kill me". It did not but it was an good moderate hike to Abrams Fall; 5 miles round trip with good steep inclines back to the car.

Then we headed back to Cades Cove where we swan in the river's stream. When King Ralph jump in he said "a bath and it's not even Saturday night". A statement that we all might have been getting tired of boiling water and washing down like pioneers.

Day Five

Off to Asheville, North Carolina, a HOT SHOWER and more hiking.