Today is Kenneth's birthday.
He's our youngest. Which, can't be right because no one his age can be our youngest. I won't say how old he is. This is still my blog, after all. I'll give you a hint though, this photo is more than ten years old...
I have to confess I'm not sure what an ode is. I think it's poetic. Even though I could find out in half a second what it means, I'm not gonna. I just like it. This is still my blog, after all. In this instance, it means "Shout Out."
Kenneth is one of those people who are not appreciated enough. So, today, on the anniversary of his birth, I'm gonna appreciate him, show him some love, with one of my favorite things - a list.
This is a list of some of the things I love and appreciate about Kenneth.
Almost everything I know about baseball, I know because of Kenneth. Well, his Dad too, but it isn't his Dad's birthday.
I know a double-header lasts a hell of a long time.
I know what a change-up is.
I know its important to count pitches.
I know there's no half-time, cheerleaders, points, or crying, in baseball.
What I still don't know is why the coaches and the managers wear baseball uniforms. Kenneth doesn't know why either.
Kenneth is thoughtful.
He bought me this leg lamp because one Christmas TBS played A Christmas Story over and over for 24 hours.
I said, "I love that guy's leg lamp. How awesome would it be to have a leg lamp of my own?"
Now I can tell you, it is indeed, AWESOME. Because Kenneth bought it for me.
You know you want it.
Kenneth carries groceries without me asking him to. If you're cold, he'll give you his coat. He's never late. If he says he'll do something, he does it. He fixes stuff. He helps me with the techno crap on my website and Facebook page because I'm a zero.
He once spent all day trying to hook up my new MP3 player in my car.
He's that kind of guy.
He was Best Man at our wedding.
He made a toast that he'd thought of himself. This was big. Kenneth is shy, not terribly fond of public speaking. But, I've never heard a better toast.
Except for the one his Dad made at our daughter's wedding. But, it's not his Dad's birthday.
He cracked open the champagne and poured us a glass.
He made me cry.
This photo and memory means the world to me, and his Dad.
All of our kids were fantastic on our wedding day. But, it's not their birthday either.
This is Cosmo. This is Kenneth and his sister Kristen's arms. She gave him this rabbit for his birthday, a zillion years ago.
I love that he gave his rabbit such a cool guy name. Even though she was a girl rabbit.
I love that he will probably be embarrassed that these photos are here. He will probably be embarrassed by this whole post.
But, that ship sailed.
Not sure why Kenneth's head is cut off in this photo. But, I love that he planted these roses for us. He worked at it all day.
They were beautiful and the only thing I missed, and miss still, since we sold that house.
I love that Kenneth thinks anything happening below the waist is hilarious.
Fart jokes? Fuggetaboutit!
Naked fart jokes? Stop...he's dyin!
Oh...he laughs at my jokes too. That's key.
He also read both my books, in manuscript form. Even the first, really crap one. He didn't even say it sucked.
I love that.
I have stuff on my book shelves that can only be called, tacky. My sock monkey Jesus, my naked fat lady salt and pepper shakers, my Van Gogh figurine sans ear...
Kenneth baptized this shelf my tacky shelf.
I LOVE it that Kenneth has kept this tradition alive and has his own tacky shelf.
This is Nunzilla (she rolls and spits sparks out of her mouth) and the Expanding Nerd. He started out a minuscule sponge like thing and when soaked in water, he expanded.
You know you want one.
I love it that Kenneth is a good cook and made this meal himself last Thanksgiving.
No, that's kind of a lie.
I love it that Kenneth re-creates the exact meal that I've made at holiday time for the last decade, plus. Right down to the apricot jam I spread on the bottom crust of the pumpkin pie.
That's really something.
Traditions are for carrying on. To know that this dinner has meaning to him, well...that's everything, isn't it?
Speaking of carrying on.
This is Kenneth and Madison, our now 11 year old granddaughter.
It's hard to believe how much time has passed since I first met Kenneth so many years ago. Before Madison was born.
The funny thing about writing is it never goes the way you plan.
This blog, for instance. I wanted to salute Kenneth on his birthday. But, I noticed there's a pattern here. It's as much about me as it is about him.
Kenneth makes me feel like my best self when he's around.
That's the gist of it.
I feel like a good mom, a good friend, a good cook, and don't forget, funny!
So, happy birthday to Kenneth. I'm thinking of him today and all the years we've gotten to know one another, and all the ways knowing him has made me happy. I wouldn't trade them, or him.
He's my youngest kid, and that's that.
I know one thing for sure, when Kenneth gets married...she won't be good enough for him and I'll be the mother-in-law from hell.
You could ask my sons-in-law to elaborate...but it's not their birthday.
This is George and Alice.
To the untrained eye they look pretty much like everyone else.
They are SO NOT like everyone else.
I'll start with George. He's tallest.
George is a musician, engineer, attorney, quasi-geologist, father to twins, husband. A conversation with George goes like this:
George: That was when I was a pirate.
George: Yeah, pirate. I used to swing in on a rope. Aaaaargh.
There was more to this story, but he had me at pirate.
George: Yeah, that was when I fixed the air-conditioning at the Chicken Ranch.
Me: The whorehouse Chicken Ranch?
George: Yeah. When I was in high school my parents retired and moved to Nevada.
Right. I'd forgotten that the natural progression was, you go to high school, your parents retire, then you're fiddling with the air-conditioning at a whorehouse.
Me: You just happened to find yourself there when the air conditioning broke?
George (with an aren't you simple look on his face): No...my mom sent me. She made friends with a lot of the girls.
George: That was when Ray Charles came to my house...
George: That was when I went camping in Australia and got invited to the male puberty ceremony with the aborigines...
You follow me.
Then there's Alice.
She's a pipeline engineer, mother of twins, wife, and entrepreneur. She owns and operates a Chinese restaurant, a chain of massage stores, and I'm not sure if she still owns that factory.
Alice left China, her traditional Chinese family, her culture, her language, to come to America, alone. She arrived not speaking much English, but still managed to buy and operate a business with thirteen branches.
She is the only person in her family to not have had an arranged marriage. She married her pirate-friend-of-Ray-Charles-whorehouse-repairman-male-aborigine-puberty-ceremony- guest-guy, because she wanted to.
Because, she told me, "He's the best, purest man I've ever known. He's all the way good."
Be warned, if you sit still next to Alice long enough, she'll buy you, remodel you, bring a couple of her cronies over from China to bitch slap you into shape, hang an "Open" sign around your neck, and expect you to turn a profit in a week.
Alice didn't like the food at the only Chinese restaurant in their town, so she bought it, remodeled it, brought a couple of her cronies over from China to bitch slap it into shape, hung out the open sign and its going gangbusters.
Lucky us, we were treated to a feast there with George and Alice, just recently.
The food kept coming. We kept eating. I think they brought about 65 lbs. of food to our table. I thought we'd died and gone to Chinese heaven. If Buddha ate Chow Fun, he got it at Alice's restaurant.
BTW...sometime during the evening, perhaps mid-pirate story, George quoted something from my blog.
Me: George! You read my blog?
George: Yep. My sisters do too. I passed it onto them.
Let me tell you, finding out that George reads my blog and passed it on to his sisters is like discovering Francis Ford Coppola watches the videos of your 1st grader's school play on YouTube and forwards them on to Sophia.
The first time I met George and Alice, they'd attended a company soiree. George and hubby work together.
A little known fact - All Asians know when there's another Asian in their midst. They might not know how Asian you are, or what kind of Asian, but if you've got a drop of Asian blood they will find you. And when they do, you're in the pagoda for life.
Alice found me. My soul sistah. She's treated me like family since that day.
The second time I ran into George, he'd attended a company soiree, alone. Alice had taken a fast boat to China to buy a factory or some such (Alice buys factories in her off time). I had the opportunity to talk to George.
Me: Where's Alice?
George: China. Buying a factory.
Me: Oh, well...nice to see you, at any rate.
George: Can't stay long.
George: Because Alice is in an all-girl Chinese band. She plays the Chinese mandolin (I could be wrong on the exact instrument, but what's a girl to do?) and sings.
Me (not catching on): Oh...well...she's in China, right?
George: Yeah. I'm taking her place.
Me: You play the Chinese mandolin and sing in Chinese? (I let the fact that he wasn't a girl, slide)
George (shrugs): I do all right.
As he was leaving, he told me:
George: You know, I got married really late in life. I'd given up. I didn't think marriage was in the cards for me.
Me: I was speechless, for once.
George: Then I met Alice. She opened up my life in ways I never imagined.
So, no. George and Alice aren't like everyone else.
We're so lucky to know them, to call them friends.
Yep, George and Alice are the cherry on top of our Chinese chocolate cupcake life.
Is it pathetic to check every say, five minutes or so, to see if anyone "likes" you?
I already know the answer, but that's where I'm at these days.
Now don't misunderstand, every time I get a new "like" on my author Facebook page I'm excited, grateful. Time is a precious commodity, so when someone chooses to spend some with me, however fleeting, it's a pretty big deal.
But, I wish it didn't have to go this way.
Getting a book published these days ain't what it used to be. Back in the day, writers wrote, agents found one of the six major publishers to take your book and publishers published...and then sold your hardback book to giant bookstores and distributors, then the paperback.
Now, a writer writes, an agent (that is, if you even have one) finds one of a kajillion publishers to take your book (after multiple rejections from the major six and most of the other kajillion) the publisher publishes in e-book and paperback only and the writer tries to sell their own book in cyber space cause there are no more giant bookstores and distributors.
So, here I am, in cyber space where it is surprisingly crowded...considering it's space and all. Throw in the self-published - who pretty much corner the market on outrageously successful self-promotion - and it's a free for all.
I feel like I've been thrown into the roller derby with one skate.
I'm getting killed.
I don't understand most of what's happening out here.
What the hell is this? TYSM @aWRITERchick Happy LOVE @Awannabeangel @BobbeBrooks_ @Angie_Mac @managementbrad @Etibom |||> Be a @JoYAmbassador
You probably recognize it as a tweet. A tweet with a bunch of hashtags.
Aren't hashtags what your mother warned would get left in your underwear if you didn't wipe? Did I miss something?
I don't understand that tweet. My eyes cross. I start to sweat. Worse, there's five hundred more where that came from. I simply can not read them.
What's a Vine?
Pinterest is what?
I've got to have a deep well filled with clever, timely, and hopefully illustrated "stuff" to post on my Facebook page. I've got to wrack my shrinking, overloaded brain for pithy, funny and wise observations to blog about.
Oh...and my second novel. I've gotta write that too.
I realize this all sounds ungrateful. Which is the exact opposite of what I am.
I just can't help but wish for a simpler time when writers shut themselves in their rooms with a bottle of whiskey, a carton of cigarettes and some aspirin.
Writers were read, not seen.
You could be a hugely successful writer and a complete recluse.
Then, I realized...
In order for anyone to know, or care, that you're a recluse - they've got to first know who you are.
And, we're back to square one.
Madison turns 11 this month. Not sure how that happened. How can my granddaughter be an age that I can still remember?
That's just wrong.
Anyhoo, I just hope her birthday celebration goes better than when she turned 5.
"OH MY GOD! I am so EXCITED," my daughter, Kayla said. "We're taking Madison and her friend Alexis to Knott's Berry Farm for her birthday."
Now, Kayla didn't have much money when Madison turned 5. So, I know this trip was a sacrifice for her. Some bills would go unpaid, I felt sure.
But, clearly, she was happy to do it. OH MY GOD.
"She's gonna JUST DIE, Mom!" Kayla yelled into the phone. "They do this thing at Knott's Berry Farm with Snoopy, Charlie Brown...all THOSE guys."
I guess buying jam there wasn't excitement enough anymore.
"We got her the birthday package and Snoopy... wait till you hear this, Mom...you'll JUST DIE," she assured me. "Snoopy COMES TO THE HOTEL ROOM with games, and food, and he PLAYS WITH THE KIDS! She's gonna be so SURPRISED!"
I gotta admit. I thought that was pretty much the bees knees myself. What kid wouldn't go apeshit crazy over that kind of thing?
Over the next couple of weeks, I talked to Kayla frequently about Madison's upcoming shindig. The closer it got the more excited she got. And, me too. Nothing like a double dose of happy, when your daughter and your granddaughter are OH MY GOD so excited.
The weekend finally arrived - off they went. I could barely contain myself. I couldn't wait for them to get back home so I could get the Snoopy scoop from Madison.
A decent interval passed. I called.
"OH MY GOD, Madison!" I felt gleeful. "How much FUN did you have?"
"It was REALLY fun, Mimi." Madison said.
I waited. Nothing else.
"Well, what all did you do there? Was it so AWESOME?"
"Ummm....yeah...me and Alexis rode the log ride thing, and the water slide thing, and the REALLY FAST roller coaster thing."
"And?" I prodded. What the hell happened with Snoopy?
"Oh, and we got REALLY BIG SUCKERS." Madison said. "The REALLY REALLY BIG kind. Those were cool."
Silence. Nothing else.
Oh no. Something must've happened. Maybe Snoopy got the flu. I didn't want to say anything to Madison though because OH MY GOD she'd JUST DIE if she thought she'd missed him.
"Okay, well..." I muttered. "I'm so happy you had such a great time..."
"Oh, I almost forgot," Madison said. "There was this really weird guy dressed up like a dog that came to our room and ate all our pizza. What a dork."
My new blog friend, Julie DeNeen at juliedeneen.com (I just subscribed to hers, and she subscribed to mine. In blog world, that makes us almost sisters, really) did a "I Have a Bad Habit of..." blog post. I decided to steal it and make a "I Have a Habit of..." list of my own.
I'm into lists this week. So, here goes:
I Have a Habit of...
1. Rounding down. By, say...a LOT. For instance, I'll say to hubby, "OMG, you can't believe the ADORABLE shirt I just bought, for like, $10.00! He'll say, "Ummm...it cost $19.99...so it's more like $20...
Not on my watch it isn't.
It's the like that's key. As in, "In 2030 dollars, $19.99 is more like, $10.00."
Hubby has an MBA for god's sake. You'd think he could figure this.
2. Being able to find something I need no matter what store I'm in. I believe this is an art form. I don't care what store, what country, whatever...if I'm there, I'll find something I ABSOLUTELY HAVE TO HAVE, something I MIGHT DIE WITHOUT.
At Home Depot, I'll find random things, like a really cute pot to plant something in. Never mind the only thing I've ever planted is my ass on the couch. Or, HARD TO FIND cleaning supplies. The ones that you can get on TV with a free set of steak knives. The ones I NEED to clean the grout. Like that'll happen. In a pinch, I'll grab a bunch of paint chips. Never know when you're gonna NEED those. They're free, by the way.
Airport Gift Shops in say, Colombia. I HAD TO HAVE a paperback. Yeah, it cost $45 american dollars. Yeah, it was in Spanish and I don't speak Spanish. Yet. I don't know about you but, my motto is "When in Rome..." or should I say, "When-o in a Rome-o."
3. Buying shoes in the wrong size. I'm not one of those really annoying women who buy shoes that are too small because they don't want to own up they've got feet only a lumberjack would love. No, I go the opposite way. I'm very small. I have very small feet. Nothing EVER fits. Here's how it goes in the shoe store.
Salesgirl: "Would you like to try those on?"
Me: "YES. I WILL DIE IF I CAN'T HAVE THEM."
Salesgirl: "What size do you wear?"
Me: "What size do you have?"
So, I pretty much wear whatever size she brings out. That's what shoe inserts are for. You can even double those up.
4. Eating half of anything. No matter what.
If hubby and I order one entree to split, I'll eat half of my half.
If I order the half sandwich and soup combo at the diner, I'll eat half of the half sandwich.
If I order the 2 cheeseburger combo at McDonalds, I'll only eat one cheeseburger. Hubby asks, "Why don't you just order one cheeseburger and get the fries and drink separate?" This floors me. Who would do that? The combo COMES WITH TWO.
He's got an MBA, you'd think he could figure this.
5. Driving my car till the red gas light is on. For a few days.
I don't do gas stations. That's just how I roll.
End of story.
6. Trying to time, by the second, when to arrive for an appointment. Hubby is a get there early kind of guy. I'm a get there with your hair on end, clothes on backwards, with no glasses, wallet, or necessary and important paperwork, and car on empty (see above) because I was in such a hurry kind of girl.
I've gotta make an entrance. I just do.
7. Buying stuff on sale because it saves a TON of money. I don't buy $800 shoes. I buy 8 pairs of shoes for $100 each.
I LOVE bargains. I love knock-offs and cheap costume jewelry. I buy stuff by the boatload, but ONLY ON SALE. Because, I'm an economizer. I know how to stretch and save a dollar.
Hubby doesn't see this the same way. IMAGINE that.
I'll say, "I buy EVERYTHING on sale. You can't even imagine how much money I've saved us over the years. I'll bet it's A KAZILLION dollars."
He says, "You'd save even more if you didn't buy anything at all."
He's got an MBA. You'd think he could figure this.
I saw something on TV the other day that really bugged me. It got me thinking. There's stuff I see on TV that just bugs me and I think I need to share.
James Bond. Specifically, Sean Connery as James Bond. I know, I know, I can hear the hissing and booing from here.
"He's the best James Bond of all time," you say.
Really? In that outfit?
What exactly is Her Majesty's Secret Service?
I could forgive the bad rug. Don't act like you didn't know Sean Connery wears a piece.
But, a baby blue, terry cloth, shorty short jumper? Come on, now...007 shouldn't have camel toe. A sad fact I didn't even think possible.
Although, as I type this it occurs to me that I might be missing the point. It calls to mind another James. James Earl Jones. As in, Sean Connery must have balls the size of James Earl Jones' to parade around in this outfit.
No, I take that back. If he did, we'd see 'em.
I don't really don't need to be acquainted with James Bond's junk, shaken or stirred.
Cher's 2013 Tour.
Now, I love Cher. Back in the day, she was my soul-sistah. I still know all the words to Half-Breed and have been known to sing them, loud, in my car.
Her Farewell Tour in the 90's lasted five years. And, turns out, she was just kidding.
As much as I love her, I've got to beg...please, please, enough with the see through spandex. Double sided, heavy duty Spanx aren't attractive.
My son (who will not speak to me after he reads this) says, "If you didn't know how old she was, you'd think she looked great."
Well, I do know how old she is. She's 150. I know because I'm 151. I get she's trying to Turn Back Time. Aren't we all.
When you look like you jumped off the table mid-embalming, it's time to wrap it up. And I don't mean in glitter.
Christopher Hitchens is dead but the Kardashians keep multiplying.
The world is worse off because both of these things are true.
If you stuck your religious neck out or took the moral high ground Hitch could set you straight with a perfect, stinging, fatally true sentence.
Who else could write, "The Missionary Position-Mother Theresa in Theory and Practice?" A smart, thoughtful and painful rebuke of the world's most revered Saint. Who wouldn't love him for that alone?
Christopher Hitchens remained an atheist to his dying breath. He knew how to commit.
Tiger Woods' Comeback.
Not gonna happen. Look at this jerk off. Who but a jerk off would take a picture like this?
The man with the world's worst taste in women isn't coming back. In fact, he should just go away.
I think there's a waitress at Denny's with his name on her. My apologies to all waitresses at Denny's.
I was gonna do five annoyances, but I figure this is enough irritating bullshit for one day. Please be warned, if you irritate me, I will blog about it.
I can't remember when I last washed my hair.
I haven't made the bed in 3 days.
I ate peach cobbler with cream sauce for breakfast. Twice.
I've only picked my clothes off the floor to put them back on.
At 3:00 yesterday afternoon I gave some serious thought to opening a bottle of wine. To drink. I reasoned that I'd be going to bed around 7:00 so I was probably actually late, not early.
At 3:30 I opened it.
I never thought I was the kind of girl who only got it together when my man was around.
I never thought I'd get cellulite either.
I'm definitely that kind of girl.
Hubby's out of town and I'm running amok. Well, I'm too lazy to run anywhere, much less amok, but I am definitely on a downhill slide.
The bathroom trash is overflowing. I've looked at it several times over the past couple days, turned out the light and walked out.
I started to put dishes in the dishwasher but then Pioneer Woman came on Food Network.
"I got behind some guy going 30 MPH on the freeway," Hubby used to say. "Poor sap, crawling home as slow as he can." Hubby would shake his head. "Not like me. I can't wait to get home."
If he could see the state of things here, he'd take the wheels off the car and pull it home with his teeth.
On the backroads. In reverse.
I've always looked down my nose at women who show up at the gym in full makeup. Because, to my mind, they're looking for a man. Yes, I'm bitchy that way. I mean, come on, doesn't feminism promise us that we can be ourselves? Isn't it our guarantee that we can forgo the shallow? Isn't it about our brains, not our beauty?
I've decided feminism means a lot of things but it doesn't mean my legs should be hairier than my husbands and I'm just as smart in a really awesome outfit and cute hair.
It does mean I should make whatever choices I want without prejudice. So, while I'm free to not wash my hair, eat whatever fat ladened food I want, wear smelly, wrinkly jeans, and drink during the day...
My husband is also free to avoid me like the plague.
So, that doesn't work for me. I'm that kind of girl. I'm the ball and chain with great shoes and I want to stay that way.
I guess I'll clean up. Myself, the house. Or, I'll definitely call someone to do it. But, I have till tomorrow...and there's still some wine left.
This is us. I'm putting a new spin on "till death do us part."
At least I won't have to worry about washing my hair.
"People want to know about you, who you are."
That's what my oldest son said.
It's no secret that I want people to buy, read and like, my just released novel. After it got published, I hit the social media ground running with a website, a twitter feed, and this blog. It's too soon to tell what, if any, difference it's all making. I started down this public road because of my book, and like many reclusive writers I balked at all the self promotion.
I have to say though, I've enjoyed writing this blog. More than I thought I would. And, I hope people read it and enjoy it...more than I thought I would.
So, I thought I'd take my son's advice and talk about who I am, even though it feels weird. Who cares? But, in case anyone does...
I grew up on a highway - this highway. A sort of town, in the middle of nowhere. "Huh? Where is that?" people say when I tell them.
"You don't look like you come from a place like that," used to be the highest compliment anyone could pay me. But, now, I'm not so sure.
After all, it's on this highway that I learned:
how to slit a turkey's throat then stuff it for Thanksgiving.
how to cut the balls off a bull then fry 'em up in a pan.
how to load a gun.
how to shoot clay pigeons and glass bottles at the dump.
how to ride a motorcycle.
how to drive a tractor
how to mix a 7 & 7
what a brooder is.
how to get thrown off a horse, just right.
how to smoke.
how to put peanuts in my coke.
that eating Faye White's homemade maple bars are the closest I'll get to heaven.
What's a town without its people? There're not a lot of them there, but in all my over 50 years, I've never met people anything like those I grew up with and I don't believe I ever will. Eccentricity, to me is normal. Some say the characters in my novels are...well...odd. To me, spending time with them is just like spending a day on the highway.
The folks where I grew up believe:
drinking and driving is a skill set.
getting run over by tractor blades doesn't necessarily kill you.
a dog mauling among friends isn't that big a deal.
Pi aren't squared. Pi are round. Cornbread are squared.
"I thought somebody woulda shot you by now" is the same as "I'm so glad to see you."
pot can grow in barns.
you should be nice to your neighbors, you'll be related to them eventually.
the system is there to work it.
they should put your crippled horse down because you don't have the heart for it.
they should drive you to the grocery store or the doctor or anywhere you need to go if you don't know how to drive.
they should sell things they can't afford to be without so they can pool their money and give you $13,000 in a cigar box to help pay for your chemotherapy.
they should come to your house as many times as you need so they can change your dying husband's diaper because he's too heavy for you to lift.
they should give you their last piece of bread because you're hungry.
eating Faye White's homemade maple bars are the closest they'll get to heaven.
Funny enough, I couldn't get outta there fast enough.
But, the truth is, I go back there in my mind, every day of my life.
It's the well I draw from, they're the people I carry with me, the place I count on to never change. I wouldn't be a writer if I hadn't come from there, or known those people.
Now, my life couldn't be further from this place. I'm a wife, mother, grandmother, retired professional fundraiser, writer, and author. I don't smoke. I live on the 28th floor of a luxurious high rise in the center of a bustling city, downtown. I love clothes, shoes and Le Creuset cookware. This is my life now, it's who I am.
But it's not all I am.
I'm still the girl who:
loves the smell of wet alfalfa, chicken frying in a cast iron skillet, all you can eat buffets and road trips.
won't pay full price. Ever.
loves costume jewelry better than real.
could get down on my knees in gratitude when I go to the grocery store and don't have to put anything back at the checkout counter because I don't have enough money.
never did learn to make maple bars.
And no matter where my life leads, or what I accomplish, inside I'm still that poor, uneducated, pregnant 17 year-old who came from the highway and dreamed of bigger things.