Friday, May 29, 2009

The Reality Of Unreality

I'm not a big fan of Reality Television.

I'll pause a moment and wait for you all to ready your rotten tomatoes to fling at me for what I am about to disclose.

I do not like Survivor. Dancing With The Stars bores me to tears. I have never in my life watched a single full episode of American Idol. Extreme Makeover - Home Edition has occasionally caught my interest, but usually only because I happened to be a captive audience on an elliptical machine at the gym. I do not watch Amazing Race, The Bachelor, or its feminine counterpart, The Bachelorette.

American Idol is so pervasive that some of it penetrates my perception. I know Kelly Clarkson won one of the contests. And one of the guys that was on it "came out" a few years ago much to nobody's surprise. But when my friends begin to bandy about names like Kris and Adam I get completely confused, until someone stops and patiently translates AI-speak to me. The only time my fingers might pause on the remote for a moment is to listen to a bit of Simon Cowell snarkiness. If there's one thing I appreciate it's snark. And he does it so well.

There is little to no reality in these shows. I mean come on. If those Survivor contestants were TRULY on that deserted island or swamp or desert or whatever locale they're sticking them in these days, with no modern conveniences or comforts of home, the girls would have armpits like men, dreadlocks on their legs, and those bikinis they regularly compete in would be sporting some untamed bushes.

While I generally don't participate in American Pop Reality Television Culture, I have a few guilty exceptions. I like Paranormal State even though some of the ghostly occurrences are a tiny bit staged, and Ryan narrating sotto voce is often more humorous than suspenseful. I also appreciate What Not to Wear (speaking of snark.....), and I've even been known to tolerate an evening with the Duggars.

But my true love of Reality TV has always been Jon & Kate Plus Eight.

Unless you live under a rock, you know that Jon & Kate Gosselin are experiencing some well publicized marital problems. It seems everyone has an opinion on this from their families, to former employers, right down to maintenance guys at the local Motel. Every single person that has ever passed them on the street has an opinion. There seems to be a growing movement of "Team Jon" or "Team Kate".

Just for fun I'm going to toss my hat into the ring and let everyone be entitled to my opinion also.

Does Kate come off as a shrew sometimes, reprimanding her husband as if he was one of her many children? Yes she does. Have I ever done the same thing? Absolutely. Are either one of us proud of it? No. She's stated this publicly.

Does Jon come off as lazy, clueless, or inattentive sometimes. Sure does. And I'll bet he's not real fond of some of his flaws either.

But the reality of their relationship is not what we see on television or in the tabloids. Remember a reality show isn't actually reality. If you saw them all day long going about normal business and nobody ever blew a gasket, or had a temper tantrum, or slammed a door, or walked away from a conversation, it would be a REALLY BORING SHOW. So what we see on television is carefully edited for maximum viewer retention.

Trailers that say, "Tune in for the next Jon & Kate Plus Eight, where we see Kate clip her toenails and Jon wash the van, and the kids all mull around looking in the refrigerator all day to see if something has grown there since last time," just don't pique the public interest.

As for the tabloids reporting Jon cheated, Kate cheated, he's done with the marriage, she spends all her time on the road - let me remind you of an old saying. Don't judge a person until you've walked a mile in their shoes.

This is someone's real Mom & Dad. EIGHT someones. These are two real people that fell in love with each other, faults, farts, leaving the toilet seat up, compulsive organization and all - just like you or me. I suspect neither one suddenly developed a new personality since they took their vows. This is a real married couple having real marital problems. And those shoes I have walked in. And they hurt. It doesn't matter what he did or she did, it takes two to make or break a marriage. I've worn the shoes of the betrayed wife. And believe me, those ain't no Jimmy Choo's. But at the same time I cannot say I was 100% blameless in the break up of my marriage either.

All I can say is that in this case, there are Eight Little Faces behind the unreality of this reality show. For their sake, let's give this couple a break and hope they can work it out.

NOT on television. In reality. Where we don't see it.

Monday, May 25, 2009

In Memory

I am fortunate to have never lost a member of my family to a war. Although we certainly have plenty of veterans in my family. In fact I have a family member to represent every branch of the military.

In memory of those who have served, and made the ultimate sacrifice for their country, and most especially for the wives, husbands, children, mothers and fathers they left behind, I dedicate this entry.

I may not support our wars, but I unconditionally support every soldier that serves this country.

Thank you.

Eternal rest grant them O Lord.
And let perpetual light shine upon them.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Glutton For Punishment

It's official. We've decided to return to Myrtle Beach again this year. I made the final payment today on a three bedroom oceanfront condo. We decided it was actually cheaper to go to the beach than visit nearby Hershey, PA, which was our original plan. While calculating all the admissions fees for a family of five at the various Hershey Attractions, I realized we would need close to $1,000. And that's just the parks, zoos, and attractions. That doesn't include the lodging and if we wanted to do other spontaneous things, like, oh...say, EAT. At Myrtle Beach, we pretty much just go to the beach every day all day and play in the sand, sun, and surf. Which conveniently enough is free.

Most of you are probably thinking "If this is punishment, bring it on!"

The beach itself is fantastic. I love the beach. Everything about the beach. I crave the beach all year long. I am a child of the water who had the misfortune to be born in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, nowhere near the sea. The Mon is great and all, but for swimming? Well. Ick. And we're a little short on beach.

The trouble with being born in Southwestern Pennsylvania is that to reach the ocean, one must either drive very long distances or fly on an airplane. I am not fond of flying on airplanes. Nor is my wallet.

That leaves the Very. Long. Drive.

With three small children. That pee. A lot.

But beyond that, I suffer from panic attacks. I began having these panic attacks when I was about 24 years old right after I plowed my 1989 Pontiac Grand Am into the rear end of someone's Buick on Dravosburg Hill. It wasn't too hard to figure out the trigger for these panic attacks. Every time I traveled down Dravosburg Hill, I had a panic attack. The panic attacks bring on a feeling of not being able to breathe, my arms and legs and face begin to feel strangely numb as if they're being deprived of oxygen and I am certain I will pass out at any moment.

Now the typical advice for someone who suffers a panic attack is to let yourself experience it. Go through the entire panic attack and allow yourself to see that you do not, in fact, die.

The problem with this logic however, is that if I am driving a car at 65 MPH and I pass out, I will, in fact, DIE.

The Dravosburg Hill panic attacks eventually passed (good thing since my son attended Pre-School in Dravosburg three days a week) and I had been pretty much panic attack free until last year on the way to Myrtle Beach.

I had too much caffeine, had been driving way too long already, and as I approached a tunnel somewhere in Virginia, I pulled into the left lane to pass a slow eighteen-wheeler in front of me. I felt confident doing this as there was a big sign at the entrance to the tunnel stating "LEFT LANE NO TRUCKS" Whereupon another eighteen wheeler decided that didn't apply to him and he began to barrel down on my ass at 70 MPH.

I suddenly remembered all about panic attacks.

I got through the tunnel and immediately pulled over on the shoulder of the road much to the surprise of my husband who (quite rightly) pointed out what a stupid place I had chosen to pull over. I explained it was either pull over or pass out and die, and he wisely shut up and got in the driver's seat.

I could not drive the rest of the trip until we reached two lane roads.

Since then, any old highway can set me off. Driving 279 North, which is as familiar to me as the back of my hand, is now a serious challenge. I recently drove Jamie to a birthday party in Monroeville and the Squirrel Hill Tunnels, which are pretty darn tame, set me off so badly I had to fight not to pull over then and there and call Dave to come pick us up. I'm grateful I've managed to avoid the Liberty Tubes since I'm fairly certain the police get cranky when they have to rescue the crazy bitch that parks her car in the middle and refuses to move.

We're leaving June 19th so I think therapy is out of the question. Unless anyone knows of any super-charged ultra turbo head shrinker that can work miracles in 30 days or less (Hey if Domino's can do it 30 minutes or less......), I think I'm going to need to experience better living through chemistry.

Do they make tranquilizers that taste like M&M's?

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

The British Are Coming! The British Are Coming!

I met Melissa when she transferred to my small Catholic Elementary School in Third or Fourth Grade (she'll correct that detail I'm sure).

Our friendship began in Fifth Grade when the yearly Talent Show was approaching and I could find no one else willing to participate in my goofy dance routine with me. Not only was Melissa willing, she had a big living room, stereo equipment, and a piano playing big brother named Derek.

And so began a friendship that has endured for 30 years, several moves - further away each time (strictly on her part), 3 weddings (mostly mine), 1 divorce (that's mine too), 7 pregnancies (I claim the majority on that one), 2 miscarriages (we split that one evenly), and countless hours of talking, whether in person or via several thousands of dollars worth of long distance phone bills.

When we were in High School, I pretty much lived at her house and did in fact live there most weekends and great parts of summer vacations. Every plane trip I have taken has involved Melissa and/or her family. Her parents graciously invited me to accompany them to Disneyworld when I was 15. When I was 23 I flew to Seattle and stayed with her and her oldest brother Chris and nephew Joshua in their home. When I was 24 and getting divorced we flew to Key West together and had a "Girl's Night Out" that lasted 7 days.

I helped to renovate a house owned by her sister Becky and her husband Kris. I still remember having a "blast" sandblasting the walls of their home. I'm pretty sure we were cheap help - we worked for lunch, but it was a good time nonetheless. We paddled in a blue plastic baby pool with her niece Amy, and her other niece Lisa was probably the first baby I saw as a newborn infant.

Her oldest sister Kathy was and is an AMAZING artist, and I enjoyed her paintings and sketches through the years and was delighted to meet her when she visited occasionally from the Seattle area.

Derek, the brother closest in age to Melissa and I, became a good friend and sometimes over-protective big brother over the years as well. He is a superb piano player and I definitely acquired a love of piano music from innumerable hours of listening to him play piano, sometimes while we all belted out renditions of Emerson Lake & Palmer, Pink Floyd, Billy Joel, and countless others. With and without liquid courage.

I began calling her Mom, "Mom" years ago and my kids refer to her as "Grandma Kathy".

So you see Melissa is not only my friend, she is my family. When she moved to England to attend Graduate School, then met a native named Chris (there is some fundamental attraction to the name "Chris" in that family) and planned a wedding, it was assumed I would attend. When I was unsure how I would manage to find the funds (I was single and living in an apartment at the time), Mom and Hank assured me it wouldn't be a problem. Translation = Mom & Hank generously paid my way across the Atlantic and back.

As the date of her (and my adopted) beloved Grandma Ollie's 90th birthday approaches, she and her entire family have made plans to gather from all over the globe. The last time I saw Melissa, Jamie was 3 weeks old. He is now 5, I have another baby, she has an almost 2 year old daughter named Leone, and another baby on the way. It has been FAR too long since we got to gab and laugh 'til the tears run down our faces in the same continent, let alone IN THE SAME ROOM.

I always wanted a big family with lots of brothers and sisters and spent a large part of my youth wishing I had that.

As the time approaches for Melissa and her family to converge and I have reconnected with some of those brothers and sisters and nieces and nephews, and realize that Grandma Kathy and Grandpa Hank have been there for every birth, birthday, wedding and funeral, something has occurred to me.

I have had that big family all along.

Monday, May 18, 2009

Happy Mother's Day!

What's that you say?

That was last week?

Let's just say thank goodness for electronic greeting cards so that at least my stepmother got a Mother's Day card on the proper day. My Dad hand delivered her paper card when I met him for breakfast Tuesday morning.

So in keeping with my tardiness, here's my Mother's Day post. It's just a little bit late. Didn't your mother teach you that saying "Better late than never"?

Mine wishes she never taught me that saying.

Thursday, May 7, 2009

My Kitchen Smells Funny - And Other Tales Of A Domestic Diva

This is going to be the title of my book. The one I write someday. Of course then that would be sort of like work and that takes all the joy out of it.

In between reading blogs, checking my email, checking my OTHER email, refreshing Facebook (I undoubtedly have Internet ADD) I ventured into my kitchen to fetch a glass of milk and noticed something smells odd in there.

It is a tribute to my domesticity that I ventured right back out and sat down to blog about it.

Next I think I will tackle the yearly Spring Ant Invasion. I have the world's dumbest ants in my house. They blithely ignore the dog and cat food. They don't even seem interested in any of the crumbs from the kids' breakfast. I have actually watched them walk AROUND a large crumb in their path. In fact they seem to mull aimlessly back and forth every morning until I suck them up with the vacuum cleaner. Perhaps they are suicidal ants?

The truth is, I do clean up in a haphazard lackadaisical manner. My house is neither roach infested (ant invasion notwithstanding) nor dirty, but I do believe that expending any further effort than is absolutely necessary is a waste of my time. I have three small children and to quote Phyllis Diller, "Cleaning your house while your kids are still growing up is like shoveling the walk before it stops snowing."

Besides I have that ever-needy Internet to attend to.

Monday, May 4, 2009

Caution: Contents Under Pressure

Sabrina made her First Holy Communion yesterday and there was a dress. A beautiful dress. A dress made of material exploiting several small caterpillars. An expensive dress.

Yeah Sabrina's dress was pretty too.

As I mentioned previously my dress was ordered in a slightly smaller size. And it thankfully did fit, but the dress required a bit of "assistance." When I ordered the dress, the photo showed it on a model that probably had less than 2% body fat and was badly in need of a cheeseburger. I on the other hand display no such deprivation. So while I knew it had a deep "V" front, I didn't realize quite how much cleavage would be displayed on someone who currently wears a "D" cup.

This dress required some serious undercover engineering.

My current bra wardrobe consisted of 3 nursing bras of varying sizes, none of which fit properly, and a piece that can only be referred to as a Granny bra. Not to be confused with Granny panties. Of which I own several.

Plunging silk dresses and graying Granny bras go together about as well as pickles and ice cream. Which sometimes DO go together, but that's what got me stuck with the nursing bras in the first place.

I considered going braless, but untethered, the girls sometimes have a life of their own. And I figured it would probably be a bad idea to flash a booby at Father John what with that whole Vow of Celibacy thing going on. Instead, I went in search of a bra that would provide support without quite so many yards of fabric as my current bras posessed. Comfort is generally last on the list when looking for one of these bras.

I found the bra I was looking for and was in search of something to smooth out the landscape as well. I tried on an all-in-one type deal that was both body smoother and bra that promised to eliminate visible panty lines and back bulges. It was true that I had no visible panty lines, and no bulges underneath where a bra would normally create them.

Have you ever seen those people that take long skinny balloons that are about 4 feet long and twist them into poodles or other balloon creatures? Well this garment had the effect of rolling any excess fat up to the top so that it looked like someone had wrapped one of those long balloons under my armpits.

Instead I settled on a corset. An honest to goodness old fashioned, 500 hooks up the front corset. And it looked great! I was smooth and bulgeless!

I had high hopes for the day of the Communion. I strapped myself into my new Lycra gear and slipped the dress on. There was some serious porn star cleavage going on. I used no less than 4 safety pins to pin the dress TO the bra as well as pinning it shut. There wasn't a darn thing I could do about the cleavage but at least I knew nothing was going to come busting out at an inopportune moment.

On the way to Church I had a peculiar sensation in my midriff. It felt like the darn corset was getting TIGHTER. As I stood in the pew I felt a sudden snapping sensation and realized it had flipped upward upon itself. So I was now essentially wearing two corsets.

My liver was located somewhere around my throat. Breathing was purely optional as my lungs were now stuffed into my armpits. I tried to discreetly push it back down. But pushing that amount of Lycra back into place requires the strength of an ox and looks a little bit like wrestling an alligator. Neither of which are seemly while your child receives a Blessed Sacrament.

To add insult to injury, I realized my pantyhose were also falling down.

I survived the day with several trips to the bathroom for adjustments and the resolution that from now on, I will wear pants to all dress-up occasions. I have sworn off pantyhose, high heels, front hook bras and all forms of Lycra foundation garments.

On a positive diet note, I was unable to eat a thing, since my stomach was squashed into the size of a pea and relocated behind my spine.

Sunday, May 3, 2009

The Serenity Prayer - Extended Dance Remix


Grant me the SERENITY to accept the things I cannot change, such as the fact that it is statistically normal for a 5 year old boy to still wet the bed,

The COURAGE to change the things I can; specifically the sheets at 3:15 a.m - Preferably without swearing,

And the WISDOM to remember to surreptitiously feel the boy's butt to detect if he's wearing a Pull-Up or trying to get away with big-boy underwear again.