Monday, April 30, 2012

Z is for Zombies


I am the first to admit that I cannot and should not watch horror movies. Or movies that might be scary in any sense of the word. Or movies that might hint at something scary. I especially should not watch ANYTHING to do with zombies.

But I do. I break this scared and most cardinal rule all the time now.

Back in 2004, Scott and I decided to watch the recently released remake of Dawn of the Dead on DVD. We snuggled down on the couch in our tiny apartment and before the title even appeared on the screen my heart was already pounding and I gripped Scott’s hand.

“If you can’t handle this,” he said. “Let’s just turn it off. I’ll watch it later.”

“No. No.” I insisted. “I’m fine.”

Two hours of jumping and twitching and squeaking and closing my eyes, the movie finally ended.

“I loved it!” I told Scott.

He raised his eyebrow at me.

“No. Really!” I exclaimed. “I really did.”

“Your eyes were closed for most of it.” he said as he stood up. He grabbed my hand and pulled me up. “Come on, bed.” He pushed me into the bedroom.

I was just a bit unsure about the whole going to sleep thing, but I gamely changed into my jimmies and crawled under the sheets. Scott gave me a kiss and turned out the light. As my eyes adjusted to the dark, I started hearing things moving around outside.

“I’m glad we’re on the second floor.” I whispered in the dark. “All we’d have to do is break the staircases.”

“They’re made of concrete.” Scott sighed. “We don’t have a sledgehammer.”

“We need one.”

“Go to sleep.” He growled.

I fell asleep a few minutes later. I’m not sure how long I slept for but when I woke, it was still dark. Light from a street light filtered in through the blinds casting a yellow streaks on the wall. As I often do, I rolled over to snuggle Scott for a minute before I fell back asleep. Scott lifted his head off the pillow as I slid my arm around his waist and growled low in his throat. His eyes were dead and I could see in the dimness part of his face was missing. He was a zombie! I screamed and threw a punch right at his face then scrambled from the bed. He grabbed at me and I froze for a split second before I started flailing my arms and legs.

“Ow! Shit!” Scott yelled. “Heather! You punched me in the face!”

I screamed again and Scott clamped his hands down on my shoulders as I flailed about under the sheets.

“WAKE UP!” Scott yelled again and shook me.

My eyes popped fully open and I looked up at Scott.

“You were a zombie!” I cried tears streaming down my cheeks.

“You punched me!” Scott shook his head. “How would that have helped if I was a zombie?” He let got of my shoulders and turned on the light.

“I was trying to get away.” I said trying to calm down.

“It’s a good thing you don’t know how to actually throw a punch.” He chuckled, just a bit, because he was clearly still upset. “You are NEVER watching another zombie movie again!

A few years later, I started added a minor addendum to the story. I didn’t just punch him because he was a zombie. I cured him! Also, this is the reason why I am not allowed to have anything more dangerous than a piƱata stick on my bedside table.

Sunday, April 29, 2012

Y is for Yellow


(NOTE - Clearly I am off schedule for the Blogging A to Z Challenge. I really struggled with a topic for Y and I was also pretty busy yesterday so I took Saturday off.)

When Scott and I bought the old house, painting the girls’ rooms was easy and done before we moved in. The downstairs however, was one giant L shaped blank slate. Very open concept, the living room/dining room had so much wall space it was really hard for Scott and me to decide on a color. Quite honestly, Scott didn’t care at all what colors the walls were and left the decision mostly in my hands.

Mom and my sister, now pretty much next door, had lots of opinions about the walls. They would come over with fabric samples and color swatches trying to help me make a choice. The white walls were covered in bright splotches of spackle where Kirsten and I had filled in nail holes and small cracks. I was okay with it, for the most part, but mom and Kirsten were not. They got frustrated with my indecision.

For over six months I hemmed and hawed about paint colors. Finally, one day in early autumn mom came over with fabric swatches for me to look at, three different patterns in golden yellow, teal and orange.

“What if I make curtains with them?” Mom asked.

“Sure.” I said. “I like them.”

“What about the walls?”

I shrugged. “I don’t know. Maybe. I really don’t care all that much, honestly.”

I liked the colors, but on the wall? I wasn’t so sure. It wasn’t that I didn’t want the walls painted but with so much wall, I was nervous of the color being overwhelming. After a few minutes argument about the wall colors – me insisting that I liked the spackle spots just fine, I finally gave up and told them that if it bother them so much they could do something about it.

The following week after a particularly hectic day, I picked up the girls and headed home. It was getting dark and I could see lights coming from inside.

“Did I not turn off the lights this morning?” I asked as we pulled in the driveway.

Ashleigh shrugged.

I was a bit nervous about going inside at this point, but in we went. All the furniture was pulled away from the walls, tarps were thrown on the floor, blue painter’s tape covered up the trim and my sister perched on a ladder happily painting the walls of my dining room yellow. The smell of fresh paint clung in the air despite the sliding glass doors being wide open. Mom painted around the trim between the dining room and kitchen. The living room was mostly done except for a corner behind the entertainment center.

“Wow,” I said slowly. “Yellow.”

“Isn’t it great?” Mom asked.

“It’s really…yellow.” I said slowly trying to wrap my head around it.

“You said you didn’t care.” My sister said.

I nodded. “Yeah…I didn’t…” I looked around the room.

“You hate it,” Mom said disappointment heavy in her voice.

“No…no, I don’t hate it.” I replied. “It’s just really yellow.”

“If you really hate it, we can change it. It’s just paint,” my sister said.

“No,” I sighed. “It’s fine. I’ll get used to it.”

And I did. I like the color despite there being so much of it. The one drawback? Every single photo taken inside made people look sallow and jaundiced. 

This is an old photo and one of the only ones I could find were I wouldn't be embarrassed by clutter or large piles of socks.
 

Friday, April 27, 2012

X is for X-Ray


I looked up at the parallel bars and took a deep breath. I was next and I knew, I just knew, that I would not be able to perform the task Coach set for us. I fidgeted in the line and tugged at my gym shirt. This was the first year I had to change for gym class. I missed jumping rope and playing kickball. Why did middle school P.E. class have to have units? Why did we need a gymnastic unit?

I watched in awe as the girl in front of me pulled herself up and propelled herself across the bars. I could see her arms straining as she held herself up and was impressed that she made it nearly all the way across before dropping neatly to the mats below.

Coach waved me forward. I tugged at my shirt again. I scuffed my feet across the floor, my sneakers squeaked and chirped. I stopped in front of Coach and listened with half an ear as she gave me instructions.

“Alright?” she asked.

I hadn’t understood a thing she said.

“Please, Coach,” I whispered up at her while my eyes were fixed on the bars looming above my head. “I can’t do this.”

“You need to at least try.” Coach gave me that look. The one that makes you feel small and like crap because you’re afraid. I was overweight in 5th grade and Coach seemed to think I was trying to get out of any exercise.

“Coach,” I implored and nodded to a small group of girls jumping rope. “Let me do something else. I can not do this.”

“Heather,” Coach was patient but insistent, “Everyone has to give it a try first.” She leaned down, her eyes sympathetic. “I don’t expect you to be perfect. I expect you to try. That’s all I’m asking.”

I nodded even as tears pooled in my eyes.

I walked up to the bars. I could feel all sorts of eyes on my back. It made it worse. I reached up for the bars and had to go on tiptoe before I could grab them. It wasn’t as hard to pull myself up as I thought it might be, but I knew that it was going to be near impossible to lift my body up over the bars. I struggled. I pulled. I strained and grunted. Coach kept giving me very loud words of encouragement. And then I was up, my upper body over the top of the parallel bars. My arms burned and then, all of a sudden I was on the mat, my left arm bent funny underneath me.

I screamed and the tears that I had gotten a head start on flowed freely. Coach crouched beside me, assessed and gathered me to my feet. She walked me to the nurse’s office where a quick phone call to my mom had her speeding to the school. By the time she arrived my arm was puffed out twice the normal size and turning an ugly bluish purple. My tears had yet to stop. I had ice wrapped around my arm and was quickly shuffled off to the doctor’s office.

Back then doctors did everything in-house. There wasn’t a specialist just the general practitioner. Dr. Smith ushered us into an exam room, threw some lead pads over my chest and snapped a few quick x-rays – the first I’d had except for dental x-rays.

I sat as still as I could while the x-rays were being developed. Mom stood by me smoothing the hair from my forehead. The room felt too warm. I felt too clammy. Everything seemed like it was spinning and a roller coaster at the same time. I closed my eyes and gulped. With every heartbeat, my arm felt like it swelled and ebbed like the ocean tides.

“Mom?” I whimpered.

“It’ll be fine, sweetie,” she said.

I wanted to believe her. And then the doctor came back in. He waved a shiny, floppy black x-ray at us.

“It’s definitely broken.” He shoved the picture onto a light box. “Both the radius and the ulna.”

He pointed to the breaks. My bones were clearly not in the right place. The x-ray showed that just above my left wrist, both snapped – thankfully not too much and certainly they weren’t poking out through my skin. My stomach rolled as I stared at the x-ray.

“I’m going to need to set it.” 

He took out a bowl, plaster and rolls of gauze and thick cotton. I watched as he prepared everything next to the exam table setting each tool needed on a shiny stainless steal tray.

“I don’t feel so good,” I mumbled and lay back down.

“This is going to hurt, Heather,” Dr. Smith said. “I won’t lie. But I need you to lie as still as you can, understand?”

I nodded and my mom moved closer to my side. The doctor took my arm in his hands and began to gently rub.

Then SNAP! My arm clicked back into place, one of the single-most disturbing noises I have ever heard. I shrieked, my voice cracking and echoing in the room.Tears exploded from my eyes. The room spun about and tilted oddly. The door pounded open as a nurse rushed in expecting to find someone dead.

“I’m going to be sick!” I screamed and turned my head.

Mom grabbed a plastic bowl and shoved it under my mouth as heaved up my lunch. I sobbed while I puked, the smell stinging my eyes and eliciting more tears. When I was once again calm, with nothing else to come up, my mom helped me clean up and got me a drink of water to rinse my mouth out.

Dr. Smith, working quickly, wrapped my arm in the thick cotton and began slapping on warm strips of gauze dipped in plaster. My arm, throbbing slightly less than before, felt heavy and warm. The shiny white cast weighed my arm down. I felt off balance. Dr. Smith fitted me with a sling.

“The cast will need to stay on for six weeks,” Dr. Smith said. “Keep her calm – don’t let her run around. You don’t want her falling again.”

“Does this mean I can’t go to gym?” I asked staring at my arm.

Dr. Smith nodded. “I’ll give you a note.”

I smiled.

Thursday, April 26, 2012

W is for Wishes


I’d like to take a break from my favorite memories today and talk, just for a minute, about a few memories I wish I had.

My grandmother, if she were still alive, would be 85 today. My last memories of her are from Christmas in 1991. My nephew was a year old and Grandmother came to visit us. He was the first great grandchild and the only one she ever got to meet. She took such delight in him, holding him, snuggling him, talking to him and responding to his baby babble. Although my nephew has no memory of this, I am nevertheless jealous that she knew him but not my children.

I wish my grandmother could have watched me graduate from high school and later from college.

I wish my grandmother could have met my daughters.

I wish I had more time with my grandmother to hear her stories and make more memories.

I wish I could remember her voice and her laugh.

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

V is for Velcro - Update

When I was a week old, we moved to Maine. We lived in a trailer on the same street as my grandmother. My room was the smallest in the house and to maximize the space available, my mom converted my closet into a crib/bed.

I tried my best to illustrate.


 Although I tease my mom about putting me in a cage, it was a remarkable use of the space and made sense. I was little and didn’t take up much space for sleeping…my toys on the other hand seemed to exponentially grow out of control.

My mom is a problem solver. She has always amazed me (as much as I deny it) with her ability to look at a problem and see many solutions. She is a doer, a crafter, a fixer. She can’t help it; and although she often has great ideas, her approach to helping my keep my room clean ended up in vivid nightmares (mine) and endless yelling (hers).

Like many little girls I had a large collection of stuffed animals. And like many little children, my stuffed animals never found a single home – I spread them out across the room and probably never put them away. How could I? They were my babies and pets!

My mom, in a decisive moment of “I’ll fix this problem if it kills me” took all of my stuffed animals and sewed little Velcro dots on the backs of all their heads. Sewed! On their HEADS! She then hot glued the other half of the Velcro dots to the wall of my room. Right across from my crib cage!

I was too young to remember the conversation, but I imagine it went something like this:

“Look, Heather,” Mom pointed to the wall where rows upon rows of black dots lined the wall.

“Oh no!” I exclaimed, “The wall is sick!” I’m sure I said something precocious and adorable which made my mom laugh and smile and ruffle my fluffy blonde curls.

“No,” Mom said, “It’s Velcro. Look at Super Pooh.” She showed me the back of his head. A matching black dot was stuck fast to his head.

“Oh no!’ I must have cried in distress.

Then she took Super Pooh and STUCK HIM TO THE WALL! Hanging him dead right in front of my eyes! She then took the rest of my stuffed animals and showed me how to hang them all up nice and neat.

The trouble started that night. After I was put to bed, I lay in my crib cage and stared at the wall. Dead soulless eyes stared down at me. I closed my eyes but I could still feel the animals looking at me. I tried to sleep. I knew my animals were angry at me for allowing this to happen to them. I tossed and turned. I must have fallen asleep because then the nightmares started. And when I jolted awake to find them still staring I couldn’t take it anymore. I’m not sure how I escaped from my crib cage, but out I got and down came all the stuffed animals from the wall. I scattered them across the floor like they were supposed to be and got back into bed.

The next morning my mom came in. Shocked at all the animals on the floor she began yelling at me and putting the toys back on the wall. This routine repeated nightly for I don’t know how long…maybe until we moved. But it wasn’t until I was nearly an adult that my reasons behind my nightly destruction of my room were revealed.

I still have Super Pooh. He sits in a spot of honor on my dresser as a remembrance of this tragic craft-fix. 




UPDATE - According to my mom (who denies she put me into a outright cage...claims it was only a "bed rail") the stuffed animals were actually Velcroed up INSIDE on the walls my crib cage! Meaning they were even CLOSER staring down at me! Which on one hand makes more sense as to how I was able to tear them off of the walls every night without breaking my leg climbing in and out of my bed and on the other hand is slightly more disturbing... 

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

U is for UFOs


Scott and I had been dating for about five months when after a particularly romantic Italian dinner we went for a stroll on the beach. The moon wasn’t up yet and the stars sparkled like mad all over the sky. Hand in hand we walked along the nearly deserted beach. It was about ten o’clock and after some smooching I returned my gaze to the sky.

“Look,” I said pointing to a bright light that seemed to be zipping across the sky alarmingly fast.

“Yeah,” Scott said, “I see it. It’s probably one of the planes out of the base.” He pointed north. “The base is only a few miles up that way a bit.”

“Hmm. Have I told you about the time I saw a UFO?”

“They don’t exist.”

“No! Really!” I insisted. “There is even a book that was written all about the one I saw.”

Back in the Eighties in upstate New York where I grew up, a series of boomerang UFO sightings were reported. One night, my brother Karl, an amateur astronomer, called us all to come to the upstairs porch where he had been stargazing. Gliding across the sky was a large array of lights in a large boomerang shape. We watched it as it moved silently across the sky blotting out the stars behind it. In stunned silence, we stood on the porch until the craft was beyond our view.

“We don’t really ever talk about,” I finished up. “My mom brings it up now and then, but I can’t remember when my brothers or sister have ever mentioned it again. Supposedly, the sightings were of the Stealth bomber, but according to the book I found, the Stealth bomber was never testing in that region.”

“Interesting,” Scott said.

“You don’t believe me?” I asked a little hurt.

“You said it yourself, you were really young.”

I looked back up to the sky. A single star catches my attention. It is brighter than the others and I try to recall if any of the planets are supposed to be visible this night. I can’t think of any and then the thought of planets flees as the light starts growing.

“Look at the Scott,” I point to the light.

Scott stood still next to me as the light continued to grow and then all of a sudden began to shrink again. And then, almost imperceptibly, the light began to wobble around in a small circle. I took my glasses off, cleaned them and looked again.

“Did that light just-”

“Yeah.” Scott didn’t even wait for me to finish.

“Probably a plane…circling…right?” I asked.

“I…don’t know. I don’t see any blinking lights.” Scott was hesitant and he took my hand. “Let’s go.”

“Go? No! Let’s watch for a few more minutes.”

The light grew brighter again jolted up and down in rapid succession. Then all of a sudden from the north, three flashes of light zipping through the sky caught my eye.

“Look.” I pointed at the new lights.

“They look like fighters flying in formation.” Scott said. He grew on and around the base and would know what planes flying in formation would look like.

The planes shot to the first light and began circling it. Circling it. Zipping around all the while the original light kept growing in brightness and then suddenly dimming.

Scott grabbed my hand tightly. “Let’s go.” He insisted. “Right now!” He pulled me down the beach and back to the car.

Once safely in the car, safely driving away from the beach, I look back at the sky. The bright light was no longer there and the three planes seemed to be flying back to the north.

“Do you think that was a UFO?” I asked.

“I don’t know.” Street lights flashed across his face as we drove. “I’ll tell you what, though, I’ve never been as freaked out before.”

“Cool.” I grinned as Scott looked over at me.

“Cool?”

“Now I’ve seen two UFOs!”

Scott shook his head. “I’ll feel a lot better about this once we get back to the house.”

To this day, Scott still does not like talking about that night!

Monday, April 23, 2012

T is for Three-Fingered Willy


For as long as I can remember Three-Fingered Willy has haunted the woods around my Grandmother’s house in Maine.

My maternal grandmother lived in a two bedroom home and with barely any room had a bunkhouse for storage and for the grandchildren to use when we visited. Really a small shack, the bunkhouse had three windows with stapled in screens and shutters on the outside of the building. My grandfather used it as a workshop as well, so there was a ton of old tools, cans and odds and ends.

It was my greatest joy to spend the summers with my siblings and cousins running through the pine trees, playing on the beach and having lobster bakes with all the family gathered around the stone fire pit in my grandmother’s yard. As twilight eased into night and fireflies twinkled in the trees, we would sit around the dying fire, making s’mores and telling ghost stories.

I never really paid too much attention to Three-Fingered Willy’s background. I knew he was a ghost or undead. I knew he was angry and tormented. I knew he had only three fingers on each hand because his thumbs and pinkies were lost in some kind of accident (in one story he is a mill worker, in another an iron works employee). Most importantly, I knew that when he came around he would scritch…scritch…scritch…on the walls outside to announce his presence.

One summer, when schedules permitted, my three siblings along with seven other cousins arrived at my grandmother’s house all at once. My oldest brother, Erik, was the oldest. And I think in this case the instigator. He, my other brother and my cousin Mike locked my sister and I along with four other female cousins in the bunkhouse.

I was little at the time and some of the details are fuzzy…did we know we were locked in at first? I’m not sure. But I remember that first long scritch down the back of the bunkhouse, the side that faced the woods. We tried the door. Scritch. My heart was pounding. So many stories about Three-Fingered Willy had primed me for panic.

More scratches and then pounding on the walls.

Minutes seem like hours when you are little and scared. I don’t know how long the boys kept up the torment. My sister tried to get a window open all the while the boys scratched and scritched at the walls and windows. I can’t recall how long we were in the bunkhouse before the boys let us out. Clearly I survived. I hope that the boys got in trouble but I have no recollection of any consequence.

Saturday, April 21, 2012

S is for Snakes

NOTE: I'm cheating a little bit here. This is a repost of one of my favorite memories with Cyra. I was really stuck for a topic and quite honestly I'm just a bit burnt out with all the posting. Not to mention that I was (for a change) pretty busy today. The following story took place shortly after we moved into the new house in July of 2011. I'll be back on Monday with all new posts to wrap up the last week of the Blogging A to Z Challenge.


Having an outdoor space that we can actually move around in is one of the reasons why Scott and I liked this house so much. The girls have a great place to play and run around and actually get to be kids. Towering trees, a pond and a gazebo make it an excellent place for young explorers.

The only draw back we’ve discovered is that despite all of our camping trips, the girls, mostly Cyra, are not 100% sure which bugs, spiders and snakes to avoid. So I found a friendly blog about snakes that live in Florida that had some amazing pictures.

“Look, Cyra,” I say pointing at the screen, “this one is an Eastern Diamondback Rattler. Stay the Hell away from this one.”

“Do they live here?”

“Yes. But you probably won’t see on in the yard. Besides, you’ll hear it before you see it anyway.” I click on the next picture. “See this one?”

“Yes.” Cyra says. “What is it?”

“It is a Southern Copperhead. Stay the Hell away from this one.”

“Okay, Mommy.” She pulls her feet up onto the couch and looks anxiously at the floor.

“Okay.” I tell her clicking on the next picture. “This is a Coral Snake. Really stay the Hell away from this one.”

“Mom, but the Scarlett King snake is okay.” Ashleigh pipes in.

“Yeah, but to be safe, stay the Hell away from both of them,” I reply.

“Mommy, I know that if the red and yellow touch it’s venomous,” Cyra states.

I nod and click on another picture.

“Look, this one is a Cottonmouth. Stay the Hell away from it.”

“I get it, Mommy.” Cyra says.

“Good.”

“Mom? Shouldn't you just tell her to stay away from all the snakes?” Ashleigh asks.

“Well, yeah, but like this one?” I click to another photo. “Eastern Indigo. Good snake to have around. And they’re pretty.” I look at the picture for a minute. “This is the one you saw, Cyra that made you jump 12 feet into the air shrieking like a banshee!” I pause, “You should probably just stay away from snakes.”

I swivel the desk chair around to face the girls. Cyra’s feet are tucked up tight beneath her.

“I am never going outside again,” she says.

“That’s silly,” I tell her, “What are you going to do when you see a snake in the yard?”

“Stay the Hell away from it!” she exclaims.

Friday, April 20, 2012

R is for Recall


I don’t pay much attention to cars. That’s my husband’s job. I want my car to get me from here to there with minimal effort on my part. So when something goes wrong with the car, I get exceedingly frustrated.

Back in 2005-ish, the turn signal in my Malibu went berserk. It blinked like a toddler after a nap – ridiculous fast and without reason. The rapid blinking went hand in hand with the turn signal lights refusing to function. This went on for a good six months or so before I noticed a news story online about recent Chevy recalls.

After some minor research on my part, I found that indeed there was a recall notice about the turn signal that exactly described what I was experiencing in the Malibu. I sent Scott to the Chevy dealership to get the problem fixed.

“How’d it go?” I asked when he returned nearly two hours later.

“Well, they told me that what was happening was not listed under the recall and to fix it would cost about $300 dollars.” He sighed. “We just don’t have the money for that right now.”

“Of course we don’t!” I was mad. “But it shouldn’t cost us anything because it is a recall.” I sent him back.

An hour later he returned shaking his head. “No go. They insist it isn’t a recall issue.”

“We’ll see about this.” I mumbled.

After a few minutes searching Chevy’s website I found an 800 number to the Chevy headquarters. After getting the run-around with automated voices and punching buttons, I finally got a real actually person on the phone.

“Hi, I’ve got an issue with my car.” I said.

“Umm…You should probably call the dealership, ma’am.” The woman replied.

“Yes, see that’s the issue. I’ve been to the dealership and they refuse to help.” I could hear my voice getting a bit more terse and clipped.

“Okay,” the woman sighed, “tell me what’s going on and I’ll see if I can help.”

I recapped the problem with the turn signal and explained that we had seen the recall for the problem exactly as I had described it.

“Huh,” the woman finally said as I came to a halt. “Well, honestly, if the dealership doesn’t think that it is a recall issue, there isn’t much I can do.”

Now I was pissed.

“Excuse me,” I cut in, “Did you not just hear the part where I said the dealership didn’t even LOOK at the car? They just told us it wasn’t covered under the recall?”

“I-” she tried to get in.

“No. I have been a loyal Chevy customer for ages. And if this is how you are treating your clients, that you can be damn sure that I will never buy another Chevy and I will make sure that none of my family will either!”

“Ma’am, I am very sorry,” she started verbally backtracking, “I didn’t mean to imply that the dealership was correct. Can you hold on one second and let me call the dealership.”

“Fine,” I scoffed.

A few minutes later the woman came back on the line.

“Ma’am, can you get the car to the dealership in the next half hour?”

“Yes.” I told her.

“Okay, they are holding an appointment for you and they will take care of the problem…But I must inform you that if the problem is not covered under the recall then you will be expected to pay for the work.”

“Fine,” I told her.

“I hope that this resolves the issue and you will consider keeping Chevrolet part of your family.”

“I’m hesitant to agree to that.” I told her honestly. “I’ve had to jump through a lot of hoops to get this issue resolved.”

“Yes, Ma’am, I completely understand.” She gave a small embarrassed laugh. “I would be frustrated too.”

I finished up the call, sent Scott back to the dealership for the third time in one day and when he returned another two hours later, the car was fixed.

“It was covered under the recall.” Scott smiled. “And you need to be the one to deal with every company we have to deal with ever again.”

“I was sort-of bitchy wasn’t I?” I laughed. “But it got the job done.”

Later that night I checked my email to find two 50% off coupons for car service: one from the dealership and one from Chevy.

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Q is for Quilts


My mom is a quilter. She has vast stores of bright fabrics, tucked away in a closet, organized by color. I can remember her insistence that I learn how to quilt. I was reluctant at best. Quilting requires math and precision, attention to minute details and straight lines. I learned. I can quilt, but by no means do I possess any significant talent in the art.

My mom, on the other hand, does. Straight lines, pointed corners, hand quilted stitches that are virtually perfect. Although quilting is not a craft I enjoy doing, I certainly can appreciate and admire talent when I see it.

Every year a city nearby holds a massive quilt show. And though I wish my mom would enter some thing, she never does! Instead, we all go to the show. It has become a very favored tradition of mine. I may not sit down with mom to quilt – just like she doesn’t sit down with me to scrapbook – but we can certainly enjoy the finished results together.

Here are a few photos of this past year’s show. 







Best of Show winner. The back was just as amazing as the front!

This is a mini-quilt. The blocks are a scant 1 1/8 inch square.

This was probably one of my favorites.

Reminds me of olives!


Wednesday, April 18, 2012

P is for Photographs


In my Intro to Philosophy class at Flagler, Dr. K. took us outside to the gazebo one day. She stood in the middle and presented a scenario:

Your house is burning down. All of your family members are safe. You have time to run back inside to save one thing. What would you save?

She gave us a number of choices: family heirloom, jewelry, important documents, pets, photographs, and a few others I don’t remember. And she had us sort ourselves into groups based on what we’d save.

I, without hesitation, walked to the corner of the gazebo she had designated for photographs. A few others joined me there, but by far, we were the smallest group. Most people went for heirlooms, pets or jewelry. Dr. K. approached our group and explained to the class that she knew exactly who would go to this group. This was the group with children and the photographs of their kids would be the single most irreplaceable items in the house.

I raised my hand.

“I actually have all my photos in one single storage bucket that I can grab easily if I have to leave in an emergency.” I smiled. “I also have a folder with all important documents ready to go too.”

Dr. K. laughed, “I’m not surprised.”

She went on to a discussion about what our choices revealed about our character and our virtue.

* * *

I knew the importance of photographs well beyond the ones of my children. A long time ago, my mother’s photographs, stored in a cardboard box in her closet, were destroyed in a roof leak. It’s why I don’t have many baby pictures of myself.

So when Ashleigh was born, I never got just one set of photos printed, I always ordered doubles. I stored the negatives in special negative holders. I made sure that my back-ups were in plastic bins not cardboard.

But when digital photography entered my life, I got lazy. I stopped making double copies when I printed out pictures, I didn’t store copies anywhere except on my hard drive. I became complacent in technology.

Until The Incident. Go ahead and read about it here. (It's part of the second item - if you just want to skip to the chase. I'd tell you about it again but I have a solid pact with Scott about not talking about it. Ever again.)

That day spawned a new Super Heather capable of multi-system backups and copies. I had lost three years of photographs. All I had were the very few I had printed out. The few that my mom or sister took at the same time. Birthday parties, holidays, travel all wiped out. So I learned to backup obsessively.

* * *

Let me flash forward to a few weeks ago when I got into a major spring cleaning mood. I have a terrible habit of packing things up and then not thinking about them again – especially right after a move. In the old house, I had boxes in the attic that I hadn’t even thought of in six years! You can bet Goodwill had a field day!

In a box labeled “computer crap” that I had packed up way back in the old house during another crazy cleaning phase, I found a stack of CDs in paper sleeves. As I started going through them I realized that for some odd reason, maybe to share with family members or as a backup, I had actually copied a number of photographs onto the discs.

It took me a minute to realize what I was holding. The first one was labeled “spring break 07.” 07? I thought. As in 2007? We went to Montgomery, Alabama that year to visit my sister. That was one of the years lost in the Incident! I held my breath and popped the CD into the computer. Photos popped up. Photos I knew I would never see again. I started crying. And laughing. And screaming for the girls to come and see what I had found.

Cleaning forgotten and ignored, the three of us sat scrolling through images long forgotten. I have since copied them onto my hard drive and my external hard drive and a jump drive. I don’t take chances anymore. I’ve built in a system of redundancy when it comes to my memories.

In the even of an emergency and we need to bug out I’ve got all the important things ready to go: camping gear, food, important documents, my external hard drive and a large bin of very irreplaceable photographs.

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

O is for Ocean


I’ve always been drawn to the ocean: the soothing lap against the shore, the invigorating crash against the rocks, the call of the seagull, and the boats bobbing across the horizon. It doesn’t surprise me at all that I live near the coast where the ocean, though not my backyard, is only a few minutes drive away. 

As an angsty teen, I would sit on the rocky beach in Maine and stare out across the water daydreaming of a future where I took to the seas like a modern day Magellan. Buoys bobbed, bright sparks of color on the blue-gray water, while lobster boats tooled across the cove. I went to the ocean when my grandfather died. Snow was still on the ground and the air was a bitter cold and I stood, my feet freezing, for hours while the adults talked about what was to be done. Years later, when my grandmother died, I sat on the flat rocks, the same rocks she sat on, and cried until my head throbbed and I was gasping for breath. The sounds of the ocean and the warmth of the sun did little to comfort me at first, but the longer I sat there the calmer I became.

My years at Flagler were half spent at the ocean shore. No longer the rocky shore of my youth, the long stretches of sandy beaches didn’t hold much appeal. I liked them okay, and sitting on the sand was pleasant enough, but without tide pools to explore or rocks to climb, I had trouble getting excited about the beach. It wasn’t until Ashleigh and started going that I learned to love the sandy beaches with the crashing waves. We learned to boogie board together. Catching waves and gliding to the shore. We bobbed together over the rolling waves waiting for just the right one. When I was pregnant with Cyra, I would drag a pile of textbooks to the beach with Ashleigh. While she played in the wave, I listened to the ocean and studied.

Today, we go to the ocean for fun and relaxation. The pounding waves still sooth my heart and I find myself drawn back to the shore to stare across the water whenever I am feeling lost or sad. All my life the call of the ocean has been strong. I dream of a time when I can sail across the ocean and explore the world.

It is unfortunate that I am stricken with mal de mer.

Monday, April 16, 2012

N is for Names


Both of my girls have a unique to them name. Although on the surface, Ashleigh’s name may appear common and popular her name is actually a reflection of Scott and me. Scott’s middle name and mine were combined to form her name. She is as close to a “junior” as we will get. And it was easy to decide on her name; equal bits of names from both of us signifying that she was ours. We made her and we would love her unconditionally forever.

Cyra’s name was a little more complicated. You see, I was convinced she was a boy. I didn’t want to find out the gender when I was pregnant and even though I told the sonogram technician I didn’t want to know, she exclaimed in the middle of the scan, “Well, I can’t get a good shot, but I’d say 80% likely for a girl.”

I was mad. I didn’t want to know number one and number two, I was having a boy. It was clear in all aspects of the pregnancy: A boy name was easy to decide on. I carried all in the front like a basketball. Every thing felt different from when I carried Ashleigh. How could I not be carrying a boy?

In any case, once the technician said what she did, I knew I needed to have a back-up name. Just in case. I spent hours in Barnes & Nobles looking through baby name books. Ashleigh and I would sit in the kids section and while would play with the train I would call out different names to her.

“Anna.”

“Nope.” She pushed the train along the track.

“Georgia?”

She shook her head, blonde hair flipping.

“Prudence?”

“Mommy! No!”

On and on this went, week after week. With the due date looming I was becoming quite anxious about names. I knew that, if it was a girl, then the middle name would be after my maternal grandmother. All the while, every time I talked to Scott (at the time he was driving over the road), I would throw names at him as well. Each one shot down succinctly.

“What about Jamie.” I asked at the end of September once again sitting with Ashleigh in B&N.

“Hmm.” Ashleigh raised her head a bit from the trains. “I like that.”

“Really?” I replied. “Okay. I like it a bit too. Let’s keep that in mind.” And I continued to flip through the pages of a baby name book I hadn’t gone through yet.

A few minutes later, as I was flipping through the Cs again, I noticed a small four letter name I had never heard of before: Cyra. This book listed it as being the feminine version of Cyrus meaning “lord.” I supposed, as I looked at it, that it could be pronounced with a hard C so it sounded like “kyra” but “Cyrus” is pronounced with a soft C and I preferred the softer C anyway. So when I pronounced it, it sounded like “seara,”

“Hey, Ashleigh,” I called, “What do you think of Cyra?”

Ashleigh stopped jamming the train into a building and looked up at me. “Say it again?” she asked.

“Cyra.”

Ashleigh blinked, walked over to me and sat by my side. “Cyra.” She repeated and put her little hand on my belly. “Yes. That’s my sister’s name.”

Saturday, April 14, 2012

M is for Mr. Man and Major Bear


When Ashleigh was a toddler, Santa tucked a silly little doll into her stocking. He looked a little bit like a court jester with his purple top, green legs and big white collar. The tag attached said he was a Hotch Potch doll and included a little booklet with illustrations on how to bend the doll to form different letters. He was a big hit with Ashleigh and she promptly named him Mr. Man.

She snuggled with him at nap time and talked to him in her sweet little toddler babble. He was a constant companion. When Cyra was a toddler, Ashleigh allowed Cyra to play with him too. He went through a lot, Mr. Man did and when just before we moved, he was irreparably damaged, he found himself tossed (not without a ton of guilt and sadness) into the garbage. Although, Ashleigh loved Mr. Man, he wasn’t her primary snuggle (that’s for another day) and she begged for me to try to find a replacement.

I found this in my old photos, back from the days before digital cameras. That is an almost two year old Ashleigh with me and Mr. Man.

Cyra started off with a bunny snuggle, but her love for Princess changed when she met Major Bear. Major Bear is a Build-A-Bear bear she made four years ago at her Daisy End of year celebration. I was a little surprised that she chose a camouflaged bear over a kitty, puppy or another bunny (my goodness the girl loves bunnies!). But she pulled Major Bear out of the large bin of bears and said, “This one.” She didn’t know any military titles so she asked me to name some for her. I listed as many as I could and when I said Major, she cried out, “That’s it! He’s a Major Bear!”

Once he was stuffed, washed and dressed, Major Bear became Cyra’s go to snuggle. Major Bear never leaves her bed, unless she goes for a sleepover or on a camping trip and then he is snuggled right down into the sleeping bag. Major Bear is demanding. He does sit ups and jumping jacks while he waits for her to snuggle into her bed. He yells in his most drill sergeanty voice for Cyra to “snuggle him tighter, close her eyes and GO TO SLEEP RIGHT NOW!” 
Five year old Cyra with Major Bear.

Friday, April 13, 2012

L is for Lobster Bisque

In 2004, for our second annual Birthday Fiesta O’ Fun, Sara and I decided on the theme of Seafood and Chocolate. This was before we started documenting each step of our BFOF with photographs, contracts and fully planned menus. We flipped through cookbooks and picked out recipes that sounded good. One recipe we both immediately decided on was Lobster Bisque.

Our birthdays fall in August, right smack dab in the middle of hurricane season and 2004 was an active year in Florida. That was the year Florida got hit with five storms: Bonnie, Charley, Ivan, Frances, and Jeanne. Two of the storms, Bonnie and Charley hit Florida within 24 hours of each other and came close to ruining our birthday dinner.

Jim Cantore was on the Weather Channel being pummeled by high winds and rain reporting on Bonnie’s aftermath and Charley’s impending landfall and projected path. Tropical Storm Bonnie was casting her outer bands across the area and Hurricane Charley was hot on Bonnie’s heels. Most of the grocery shopping for our birthday dinner was done. Sara and I watched while we prepped for the dinner (which was going to be the following day) in the kitchen of my small apartment. Scott was still at work and the girls were playing in their room. The only thing left to do was to buy the lobsters. I had put it off until the last minute since we needed them alive and kicking.

“You know,” I said to Sara, “I think I should go get the lobsters tonight.”

Sara looked out the window. Rain pelted the glass and just beyond we could see the trees swaying like dancers on a stage.

“Right now?” She asked.

“Yeah.” I said washing my hands off. “It’s not too bad right now. And they’re saying Charley is going to be worse.”

Sara nodded.

“You watch the girls and I’ll be right back.”

I threw on my flip-flops, grabbed my keys, purse and umbrella and took off into the storm. The wind in the breezeway of the apartment whipped my hair wildly and even though I had it pulled back, strands came loose right away. I didn’t bother with the umbrella figuring that the wind would just rip it from my hands anyway. I made a run for the car and before I had gone three steps, I was completely soaked. Unlike the thunderstorms I was used to this rain attacked from all angles slashing and cutting through the air.

The drive to Wal-Mart (the only store that I knew carried live lobster) was only about three miles but it took me nearly twenty minutes. Wind buffeted the car and even with both hands gripping the wheel I struggled to maintain control. I could barely see through the windshield despite the wipers flying back and forth.

The parking lot was practically empty, an unusual sight on any other day, but expected this night. I hardly saw any other cars on the roads and certainly people had already prepped for the storms. I ran from the car my flip flops squishing and splashing water up the back of my legs. I paused just inside the door to try to clear my glasses and took in the chaos I was not expecting! Employees ran around the produce section throwing apples and lettuce into boxes and crates and wheeling them into the back room.

“Attention shoppers,” the P.A. system thrummed, “Due to the weather conditions, Wal-Mart will be closing in thirty minutes. Please make your final selections and check out.” The message repeated and a line of shoppers began to form at the check out.

I squished over to the seafood department. The shrimp and fish from the display case had already been pulled, the ice cleared out and all was dark. The lobster tank bubbled cheerfully in the middle of the floor and I saw that the top had already been locked.

“Who’s going to steal a lobster?” I mumbled.

I looked around trying to find an employee to help me. An older man in a blue vest bent over shelves of chicken, pulling packages of Perdue chickens from the display and putting them in a shopping cart. No one else was around.

“Excuse me,” I said as I approached. “I need some help in the seafood department.”

The man stood up and turned a frown on his face. “What?”

“I need some lobsters.”

“Miss," he said, "the store is closing.”

“Yes,” I said patiently, “I heard. I just need a few lobsters.”

The man turned back to the chicken. “I’m sorry, miss, I can’t help you. The store is closing.”

I walked up to him and touched his arm. “Sir, I’m sorry, but it is a matter of life and death that I get two lobsters tonight.”

He smiled slightly unsure if he should be concerned or amused. “Life and death?”

“Yes,” I said stepping back. “It’s my birthday and I need two lobsters. Right now.”

He looked skeptical. “Do you need me to steam them?”

“Oh no!” I laughed. “I’ll kill them myself.”

“I don’t even know if I can get into the tank.”

“Please?” I wasn’t ashamed of begging. I wasn’t leaving the store without lobsters.

“Alright.”

He went into the back and brought out a plastic bin. He fiddled with the tank lid for a few minutes. He didn’t even try the lock instead he just lifted the whole lid off to the side. I pointed out the two lobsters that I wanted and he fished them out. Over the counter I watched as he weighed the crustaceans and wrapped them tightly in Saran Wrap. I tried to stop him from that, but he was intent on “containing” them. He tossed the wrapped lobsters into a brown paper bag, printed out a barcode and stuck it to the outside.

“Thank you,” I said as he handed the bag to me. He smiled and nodded and retreated back to his chickens.

I made my way to the registers. I stood quietly in the 10 Items or Less lane and when it was my turn I placed the bag on the conveyor belt. The woman at the register smiled a polite hello to me and picked up the bag.

“I thought the seafood department was closed already,” she said as she looked at the barcode.

“It is.” I replied.

She frowned at me and opened the bag. “Oh my God!” she cried. “They’re alive!”

I nodded.

“What are you going to do with them? Eat them?” Her eyes were wide and her mouth puckered in disgust.

I paused, slid my debit card through the machine and shook my head.

“No. I’m with PETA.” I told her. “I’m setting them free. But I can only afford two at a time.”

She handed me my receipt and lowered her eyes. “Oh.” She mumbled. “Well, thank you for shopping at Wal-Mart.”

The Lobster Bisque is now referred to as Hurricane Bisque and we vowed to make it whenever a hurricane came through or at the end of the hurricane season. Here are a few photos of our most recent Hurricane Bisque.

The box it was in made the photo so blindingly white!

We name our lobsters every time and I bet Sara will remember them...I think they were French Canadian lobsters this year.

In the move, I must have lost my crackers. A hammer was an easy replacement!

Starting the stock. You have no idea how seriously wonderful this smelled!

The stock is bubbling away! Holy Delicious Aroma!

Bisque is a cream based smooth soup, so the stock was strained twice to make sure it was so silky smooth!

Cream and lobster meat get added just at the end of the cooking process.

The first bowl. Oh. My. Yum!

Thursday, April 12, 2012

K is for Kentucky Derby


I imagine that a lot of people will write about the Kentucky Derby, if not today then soon, since it is almost here. I never paid much attention to the Derby growing up. It wasn’t until I met Sara, actually, that I began to have more than just a passing interest in the race.

For a few years before Sara went to Japan and our gaming group broke up we gamed every Saturday night. Often times we (Sara and I) turned the gaming session into a celebration. We both enjoy cooking and baking and our weekly gaming sessions gave us the perfect opportunity to cook and bake and not end up with piles of leftovers. When special occasions coincided with our Saturday night game more often than not, we invited the gamers over early to participate in whatever festivities we came up with.

Since Derby Day falls on the first Saturday of May Sara and I started talking about hosting a Kentucky Derby party. Sara planned a menu of Kentucky Hot Browns, Corn Pudding, A Run for the Roses Pie and of course Mint Juleps.

But what would a Derby Party be without fancy hats? I bought a bunch of straw hats from Michaels and the cheap silk flowers. Along with the multitude of ribbons I already had, we had the beginnings of a great project. We spent the afternoon hot-gluing flowers and butterflies, ribbons and buttons to our hats.

We all picked our favorite horse and placed our “bets.” The winner would walk away with a pretty gift bag full of old-fashioned hard candy: lemon drops, rock candy, and root beer barrels and taffy. And if no one won then the loot could be shared.

That year started a tradition that I kept even when Sara was in Japan. We’d wear our hats, paint wooden horses from Michaels (I added that in the next year when we needed another craft), we’d watch the pre-race activities and make a delicious dinner.

The girls look forward to the Kentucky Derby now each year. Sure we don’t follow horse racing. Sure we pick our favorites based on their names and what they look like. But we don’t let particulars bother us. 

from left to right: Jess, Sara, Cyra, My sister, Ashleigh, my mom and me.
PS - you can see photos of the Kentucky Hot Browns and horses that we paint here