Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Dear Clock, Please Move.

I wasn't even going to attempt my usual 'Wednesday' writings today...figured that, heck, I'm about to be off the grid for 3 weeks, who'd even notice?

Except as of one hour ago...

I think time stopped.

As you know, the big trip to Northern Europe commences tomorrow.  Actually it commences tonight when my parents hole me up in a hotel minutes from the airport.  It's not that they don't trust me.  It's just that my history of narrowly making flights makes them leery of my airport skills.

Surprisingly, I haven't been laying awake at night fretting over packing, flying or how many extra pounds I'll bring home in my saddlebag.

However, I did wake up this morning and suddenly think, "What the hell is even IN my suitcase??"  As packing (for me) is a process that drags for several weeks...I no longer am in touch with what is at the bottom of the pile.

An unplanned distraction came last week with an unplanned trip to Myrtle Beach.  We'd lost our grandmother a few weeks before and preparations for an October memorial service had to be initiated before we all hopped on a plane to leave the country.  I had full intentions of skipping this process, but was harassed enough by my brother about family time to join in.

If you've ever met my family you know already...we can make anything fun.  So we alternated discussions and planning with side adventures.  One of which was hopping on a boat and traveling 15 miles into the ocean...80% recon on ashe spreading...20% fishing. 

My nephew brought along his friend, Matt.  Matt will never be invited back to the Carolinas.  Matt is one of those people who is good at everything.  While I was at work one day - the boys all hit the driving range.  It was Matt's first time with a golf club in his hands.  He was driving the ball nine billion yards, straight as an arrow.

Matt came along on the boat with us.  Matt was the fish whisperer.  We hate Matt.  I was not the fish whisperer.  I was the fish-throw-it-back-it's-too-small-whisperer.

We also used this trip as an opportunity to hold our annual Mini-Golf Championships.  Here's the format:  Mom is the ref and the rest of us try to beat my brother.  Three holes into the championships and it started misting a bit.  No big deal.

Until minutes later when it turned to a torrential downpour.  I mean buckets of rain.  Cats and Dogs.  Suddenly, we realized, this course was going to change completely.  Because, really...why would we do the logical thing and postpone?

Have you ever tried mini-putting on a green that has so much water on it the balls actually float? 

Moment of the weekend?  Matt figured that if he really, really whacked the crap out of his floating ball, it would scamper towards the hole.  Which he did. 

Issue One:  When he whacked the ball, his club went through three inches of water. 
Issue Two:  When you swing a golf club through three inches of water it creates a small tidal wave. 
Issue Three:  Mom was standing directly across from him when he did this.

Ever had that moment of scary Mom-Silence?  The one where everyone tries to quickly be her favorite by saying, "Dude, you just splashed my mom?/grandma?/wife?"

We let Matt live.  The look of utter panic in his face was punishment enough. 

All in all - it was a fun way to get my mind off the packing list for a few days.  As of last night at about 7.30pm...I realized, I was pretty much ready to zip up the suitcase, throw on my travel wear and hit the road.  If only this pesky work day wouldn't intrude!

You'll have a nice break from my ramblings - and I'll be testing out various Ice Bars in the Baltic Area.  Oh yeah - and let's not forget the Baltic Sea Kayaking tour...and when I say 'let's not forget,' I mean, um, cross your fingers.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Back in the day...I didn't have a pretend fan base.

My friend just emailed me this "When I was a kid..." thing for the over-30 crowd (I haven't aged out into the over-40 group yet, phew!).  These always crack me up - and also make me wonder if life isn't more complicated with all this technology stuff.

Here's the synopsis...with more of my stellar thoughts below.

When I was a kid, adults used to bore me to tears with their tedious diatribes about how hard things were.

When they were growing up; what with walking twenty-five miles to school every morning.... Uphill... Barefoot... BOTH ways…yadda, yadda, yadda (For the record, my dad DID wear stone shoes and carried potatos in his pockets to keep his hands warm - and then he had to eat them for lunch.  Or so he claims.)

And I remember promising myself that when I grew up, there was no way in hell I was going to lay a bunch of crap like that on my kids about how hard I had it and how easy they've got it! But now, I can't help but look around and notice the youth of today. You've got it so easy! I mean, compared to my childhood, you live in a damn Utopia!

And I hate to say it, but you kids today, you don't know how good you've got it!

I mean, when I was a kid we didn't have the Internet.  If we wanted to know something, we had to go to the damn library and look it up ourselves, in the card catalog!!  (Which I never understood - I mean, that's why the librarian was there, right?)

There was no email!!  We had to actually write somebody a letter - with a pen!  Then you had to walk all the way across the street and put it in the mailbox, and it would take like a week to get there!  Stamps were 10 cents! (I dream of 10 cent stamps....)

Child Protective Services didn't care if our parents beat us.  As a matter of fact, the parents of all my friends also had permission to kick our ass!  Nowhere was safe!  (And household items were fair game....wooden spoons, paddles, frying pans...)

There were no MP3's or Napsters or iTunes!  If you wanted to steal music, you had to hitchhike to the record store and shoplift it yourself!  Or you had to wait around all day to tape it off the radio, and the DJ would usually talk over the beginning and @#*% it all up!

There were no CD players! We had tape decks in our car.  We'd play our favorite tape and "eject" it when finished, and then the tape would come undone rendering it useless.  Cause, hey, that's how we rolled, Baby! Dig?

We didn't have fancy crap like Call Waiting! If you were on the phone and somebody else called, they got a busy signal, that's it!  (UGH...and when you called someone, only to get a busy signal - you had to sit there forEVER trying again and again...and you couldn't leave the side of the phone because it was CORDED to the wall...and God forbid you wanted privacy - all your allowance money went to a 90 foot phone cord that you could loop through the house to the upstairs hallway)

There weren't any freakin' cell phones either. If you left the house, you just didn't make a damn call or receive one. You actually had to be out of touch with your "friends". OH MY GOD !!! Think of the horror... not being in touch with someone 24/7!!!

And then there's TEXTING. Yeah, right. Please! You kids have no idea how annoying you are.

And we didn't have fancy Caller ID either! When the phone rang, you had no idea who it was!  It could be your school, your parents, your boss, your bookie, your drug dealer, the collection agent... you just didn't know!!!
You had to pick it up and take your chances, mister!

We didn't have any fancy PlayStation or Xbox video games with high-resolution 3-D graphics! We had the Atari 2600!  With games like 'Space Invaders' and 'Asteroids'. Your screen guy was a little square! You actually had to use your imagination!!!  And there were no multiple levels or screens, it was just one screen... Forever! And you could never win. The game just kept getting harder and harder and faster and faster until you died! Just like LIFE!

You had to use a little book called a TV Guide to find out what was on! You were screwed when it came to channel surfing!  You had to get off your ass and walk over to the TV to change the channel!!! NO REMOTES!!! Oh, no, what's the world coming to?!?!  (Admit've continued watching something awful when you realized your remote was dead...)

There was no Cartoon Network either! You could only get cartoons on Saturday Morning.  Do you hear what I'm saying? We had to wait ALL WEEK for cartoons, you spoiled little rat-finks!

And we didn't have microwaves. If we wanted to heat something up, we had to use the stove! Imagine that!
And our parents told us to stay outside and play... all day long. Oh, no, no electronics to soothe and comfort.
And if you came back inside... you were doing chores!
And car seats - oh, please! Mom threw you in the back seat and you hung on.  If you were luckily, you got the "safety arm" across the chest at the last moment if she had to stop suddenly, and if your head hit the dashboard, well that was your fault for calling "shot gun" in the first place!

See! That's exactly what I'm talking about! You kids today have got it too easy.
You're spoiled rotten! You guys wouldn't have lasted five minutes back in 1980 or any time before!

So now of course I'm sitting here remembering more hard times...the days before 'instant' anything - oatmeal, jello, pudding....where you had to plan ahead for a meal....

Or when you had to enter the actual bank to withdraw money - in all honesty, I'm not even sure people still work INSIDE the banks...other than the tiny leprechauns that work the ATMs.

Or when your dog could take a dump anywhere and you weren't run down by the bag-your-poo-police.

I remember when we got our first VCR...and the 'remote' was attached to the box by a wire that we had to avoid tripping over during showtimes. Or our first computer - a Tandy - that was little more than a typewriter.

Now I have so many electronics in my house, purse and workbag that I'm probably glowing.  I remember when work wasn't something you COULD take home with you even if you wanted to.  There were actual weekends and holidays where you were off the grid and nobody thought anything of it - they were off the grid, too.

Now, as I prepare to take a three week hiatus...I'm having to remind my team daily that I will be out of contact - for it is such a foreign concept.  

Remember, my trusty sales team, when there wasn't twelve ways to reach your assistant?  Well...hard times are a-comin...


Thursday, August 12, 2010

Yeah, yeah...white after Labor Day...but what about in Europe?

I'm pretty much knee deep in packing for the big trip (t-minus 14 days until take-off).

While I'd done a stellar job of organizing the process - with three different spreadsheets - I was having a hard time actually getting to the listed tasks.  Then on Monday, my brother called full of reasons as to why I should get cracking.  I suspect this phone call was bred from a phone call to my brother from mama indicating that I might be stressing out over the whole project.  Yes, my family knows me well....

So - finally, I scampered up the stairs and decided to use the series premiere of 'Bachelor Pad' as company to the chaos (on a side note - I'm now addicted to this show). 

I've opted to use actors to represent the stages so far.  (When did the word 'actress' go away?  Have you noticed everyone, male and female alike, is now an 'actor'?)

Stage One:  Pull out everything I own and measure it up to the size of my suitcase (one suitcase per passenger please).  Feel a rush of panic as the realization that I cannot take everything I own with me washes over me like an ice-cold-now-you're-awake! shower.
Stage Two:  Start digging through the pile and justify why each piece should make the trip.  Attempt to block out any voices saying things like, "But that shirt's never been ANYWHERE outside of Raleigh - it DESERVES a trip" 
Stage Three:  Begin editing clothes down by color.  In my case - black and white (and a few odd colored pants for touring (well, not really 'odd' - just not black.  Or white)).  Please note the clothing below does not resemble anything I own in real life - however, they are all great looks for people who can pull them off.
Stage Four:  Ziploc and Suitcase.  If you ever travel abroad, it's genius to pack everything in the two gallon Ziplocs...that way when your suitcase gets nabbed for a random search (which ALWAYS happens to me so I suspect it's not so random...which is weird because I've never been much of a drug-runner) the authorities have an easy way to pick through everything without having to then stuff it all back in.  Just a few items per bag.  This also gives you more room in your suitcase if you squish all the air out of the Ziplocs before closing them.
And, I'm ready!  Well almost - as of yesterday, my suitcase weighed 34lbs -well below the 50lb limit.  Which leaves me room to pack 16lbs of underwear and hair care products.  Sweet!

I realize this seems early to be packed for a trip that's two weeks away - but I've got some busy times coming with this out of the way, I can free up some space to discuss my white capris...

I packed white capris - and Mama mentioned maybe that was a bit too summery (she's probably right since it's averaging 60 degrees where we'll be). that all my Ziplocs match, there's no turning back.

Then I got thinking - hold the phone - I realize we have an unwritten rule HERE about white after Labor Day ~ but I'll be in I should be good right? 

Which, of course led me to some research on this rule...or, as I now will call it - this Old Wive's Tale....

It seems that nobody really knows WHY we are relegating our white wear to the summer months...but here are some theories:

*  White reflects the sun better, so isn't so neccessary in the Fall to Spring months (I'm guessing the people in, say, Cuba would disagree.  And it's generally a 'lighter' fabric - so back in the day when folks didn't wear shorts and was more comfortable in the hot months.

*  White used to symbolize in the 1920's...almost any picture you find from that era shows working folks in very dark clothing - therefore, during vacation periods, they switched to white.  (Although, I find this theory has some holes in it - what with all photography being BLACK and WHITE.

*  With the arrival of Fall came heavy Fall rains...and the danger of wearing white in the Fall was a laundry danger.  Which makes sense because back then I'm guessing washers weren't the C3PO's that they are today.

*  The white rule actually started with shoes...and then worked its way up until anything white on your whole body was included.  Of course, winter brides were exempt.

*   There is even a theory that the white rule started down was more of a dividing of the classes between who could afford more than one wardrobe (summer...and the rest of the year...).  Although that one says you can start wearing white after Easter...much sooner than Memorial Day.

But, the best news of all - it seems the rule has gone out the window. 

Coco Chanel was considered super fashion forward for wearing white yearround...

Michelle Obama wore a white inaugural gown. 
Heck, the Pope wears white everyday!

Nearly every website I hit in this dubious research paper responds to the age old rule with encouragement to make your own rules... 

Which is lucky, because I always have. 

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

We'll just call this one...Therapy.

I know you all think I only have three emotions:  happy, sarcastic and annoyed. 

Currently it's none of the three - so apologies off the top for having an almost 'serious' sounding post.  This is your chance to exit now. 

I warned you.

For those of you who know me really, really, really know I have one remaining grandparent ~ Grandma Marty.  Although to be honest, by the time I finish this post, that may not be accurate.  You also know that my relationship with her can be split into two halves.  The half where spending time with her was a joyous occasion.  And the other half.

I don't remember grandma living anywhere but at the beach - North Myrtle Beach - where she and my grandpa moved when I was still in the single digit age bracket.  I know they lived other places...but my memories start there, on Golf View Drive. 

I remember driving hours and hours to get there from our house in Pennsylvania (can you say "Towanda"?).  My brother, sister and I jammed into one vehicle or another - eventually a sweet maroon mack daddy van with a pull out bed and mini-fridge.  Styling.

I remember sitting quietly in the back seat while my dad tried to worm his way out of a ticket.  Fail.

I remember the excitement of arrival - even the very first time, when I could not for the life of me figure out where the second floor of their house was.  This was the first house I'd ever seen that included all rooms on one story - a concept I couldn't seem to understand.  Surely, there was a hidden staircase somewhere.

I remember being allowed to make the trek to the beach - across the streets, onto the golf course paths, along the ponds where we'd speed up to avoid looming alligator attacks.  And finally, we'd cross 17 to the beach. 

See, when I was a kid, 17 was a spit of a road - safe for young children strapped with rafts and lugging beach chairs to cross parent-free.  If you've been to Myrtle Beach lately - you know those days are long gone.

I remember my grandfather cooking out in the backyard while I tried to teach my brother various types of cartwheels.  Fail.

I remember falling asleep on their chaise lounge in the backyard - and feeling comfort as the whole chair was lifted back into the shade.

I remember the make-your-own-sundae shop - mecca to anyone short of their teen years.  Rows of ice cream and toppings ripe for the building.

It's weird that this is the stuff that is coming back to me tonight - all these parts of the 'happy' half. 

It's also weird that I'm not at all inclined to describe the 'after.'  Because suddenly those years seem smaller and less important.  It's like I had a rock in my hand big enough to hurt when I squeezed - but tossed in a lake, it became just a tiny piece at the bottom. 

So while I have a lot of years built up of wishing I had a different relationship with her - I can look back (at this minute anyway) and see a lot of years where it was good. 

I have spent a lot of time in the past few days doing some sort of emotion check with myself:

Do I feel relief?  A little. More so for my aunt who has been to war helping my grandma work towards her next journey.

Do I feel regretful?  Not really.  I did the best I emotionally could.

Do I feel sad?  Yeah, maybe more than I was expecting to.

Do I still wish things could have been different?  Of course - but then I think of how this path has shaped me - and in a lot of ways, I'm content with how it worked out.

So, for now - I'll wait for the tidal wave of the next few days.  And I'll pocket this list of happy times to carry with me along the ride.