Thursday, October 27, 2011

The Time I Tangled* with Chestnuts and Lost

Years after her visit to Taipei, one of the things my mom continues to remark on is the traffic. Often there are no sidewalks or they're very narrow/not well kept or they've been taken over as a parking lot. In Taipei everyone shares the sidewalks and roads equally be it cars, motor bikes, bicyclists, pedestrians, food carts, etc etc.

So that's my preface to the time I lost a fight with a food cart.

I was on my way back from one of my teaching jobs trying to navigate a particularly difficult sidewalk. It was very narrow, full of cracks and potholes, there was one huge tree you had to carefully circumnavigate...and all the other people trying to do the same. I had a strategy that involved a lot of duck and weave which usually worked for me, except for when it didn't. There was one evening when the foot traffic was pretty heavy and I was doing my duck and weave but apparently didn't duck enough.

I will further preface this by saying that I often wore my hair in pin curls because it was an easy way to get 3-4 days out of one hairstyle AND beat the incredible humidity there. I think this was before I discovered hair product and so needed all the help I could get.

Back to the ducking and weaving. There was usually a vendor on the corner of this street who sold roasted chestnuts. Usually I was able to get around but between the many pedestrians, my usual distracted state, and the fact that I'm a wee bit taller than your average Taiwanese person (who probably all fit under the cart roof just fine); this time I had a problem. One of the pin curls got caught on the edge of the cart roof. Without my noticing. Until I tried to walk on. And got yanked viciously back.

It took forever to untangle me. I could only feel whatever mess was going on up there and the poor little man who ran the cart was trying to help but couldn't reach my hair. I was doing my best to assure him that it was ok and no worries etc etc...but still. And of course it felt like the entire country was there to stare at me as they walked/drove by.

I did get a a handful of free chestnuts out of it though. He felt so bad he insisted I take some. I must have looked a sight walking the rest of the way to subway...big white girl whose hair was kinda crazy to begin with now made worse by some errant dangling curls and pins munching on roasted chestnuts.

*Also, get it? Hair, tangled...hahaha

That particular sidewalk featured in several embarrassing moments for me. In addition to the hair incident, there was also the time I fell down. This time it was the blasted tree that did me in. I was trying to step around the roots that had pushed their way through the sidewalk when my foot caught. And I went down. Hard. I fell flat on my face and lay sprawled across the sidewalk.

That's not's my hair. Just so we're on the same page.

There's an interesting little quirk about Chinese culture that I learned...others' embarrassment is so embarrassing for everyone (which is one of the reasons my roommate said I was Chinese...I even have to cover my eyes during movie scenes in which people do embarrassing things). So people in Taiwan often went out of their way to avoid noticing someone so as to not further their embarrassment. Which meant that before I recovered and lay sprawled across the sidewalk with my feet dangling into the street, other pedestrians ignored my plight and stepped right over me.

It was really quite polite of them if you think about it.

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Not Even Escalators Are My Friends

I had this tradition at my previous job. The day I traveled for work (or the day before if I were leaving on a weekend) I always had lunch at the 5 Guys in the International Square food court. I figured since I'd be stuck on airplanes for 8+ hours with nothing that resembled actual consumable food, a bacon cheeseburger with extra bacon, mayo, lettuce, fried onions and ketchup and a side of Cajun fries wouldn't kill me.

Until one day it almost did.

The escalators at International Square are of the super narrow kind that only has room for one person (rather than two people side by side). I was still in the throes of fear over the scariest experience of my existence so rather than walking down the very short escalator as I had done in the past, I not only stood for the ride but held onto both railings. However not even that saved me.

To this day I am unclear as to what actually happened. The best I can guess is that I misjudged how close to the bottom of the escalator I was so when I stepped off, thinking solid ground would be right there, it wasn't. And I managed to fall down the last two, steadily disappearing, escalator steps. My right foot folded under me and for a wee moment I was standing on my ankle before I completely collapsed. I can only be grateful that my embarrassment was limited to the one gentleman behind me (rather than the hoards of people who usually swarm International Square). He was thankfully far enough behind me on the evil people mover that we did not collide because I couldn't get up. My problem being not only what I was sure was a broken ankle, but the fact that I was trying to use the escalator rails to push myself up but the buggering things kept moving me forward. So maybe I half fell down a few more times.

I was finally able to launch myself into a semi standing position and all but threw myself on the lip of the giant cigarette ash urn thing that was handily located right at the bottom of the escalator. Once I was out of his way the gentleman  rushed to me to ask me if I were ok while nicely ignoring my previous floundering. I assured him that I was fine (I was decidedly NOT fine), that this happens all the time (sadly true) and that I just needed to rest for a couple minutes. I sat there for about 10 minutes until my ankle went from screaming pain to a throbbing dullness, all the while smiling at everyone who passed as though I sit on cigarette urns every day.

When I felt well enough, I dragged myself reluctantly off the urn and limped to 5 Guys. Because hell yes I was still getting my bacon cheeseburger and fries. As if I was going to have nearly killed myself for them and return to the office sans their artery clogging gloriousness.

Shortly after getting back to my office and demolishing my well deserved burger I realized that the trauma and grease had made me quite thirsty. I gazed longingly at the empty water bottle sitting on my desk but my ankle, which was propped up on my CPU, had vigorously renewed it's throbbing. I guiltily sent a Skype message to a coworker with whom I'd been working only a short time and asked if she would do a very menial task and please get me some water. Bless her, she came right over and when I explained what had happened she suggested she get some ice for me as well.

Coincidentally or not, she's now a very good friend.

When she came back to my office with the requested water and ice our ueber boss was in there talking to me. She made this little gesture towards me like, do I give this to you with him in here or not. I waved her forward because I didn't care, set the water on my desk and slapped the bag of ice on my ankle, which my boss was now noticing was propped up on the CPU. I just looked at him and said, quite simply, "I fell down again."

He just rolled his eyes at me and continued talking.

I had an opera opening that Saturday so I did not leave for, Moldova I think it was, until Sunday. At the opera, the season opening no less, my lovely black cocktail dress and black sequined shoes looked odd against the Ace bandage holding together my ankle. For the flight I found a different kind of wrap, this odd blue gummy thing that acted like an Ace but was cold! It was brilliant for the flight. Of course then I had to change planes in Germany and go through security and almost miss my flight cause they were all 'what the heck is that'. Despite the many times I have almost missed flights in Germany (due more to my office's travel agent and his "legal" layovers that to the Germans) I will say that as uptight as Germans are about security, they still manage to be more efficient, more polite, and don't require that you off your shoes than the invasive, power hungry, masochistic folks at the TSA.

So yeah, from then on I stopped being so cocky while on escalators and now I firmly plant myself (on the right, thank you) and ride the escalator all the way down.

Monday, September 19, 2011

Mutant Spider Attack

When I first moved to Taiwan I lived in a dorm somewhat on the fringes of the city. I initially chose the dorm because, well how was I going to look for an apartment from Michigan? and because they'd pick me up at the airport. I moved out after about a month I think.

 You can see why I moved out.

However while I was there I was attacked one day by a mutant spider! We have spiders in Michigan but nothing like this. Mostly we have Daddy Long Legs which I don't think are actually spiders...they're creepy insects with itty bitty bodies and super long spindly legs. We also have Wolf Spiders which are freaking scary. They range from quarter to silver dollar in size, are fat and hairy, and JUMP. They're super hard to kill because they JUMP. This mutant spider was not like either of these.

I saw it first on the wall of my dorm. It was not a small spider and I think the largest one I've ever seen. And it was black and fat and hairy and scary. I briefly considered throwing a shoe at it but vetoed that plan as I'm not a good thrower and was afraid of pissing it off. So I ran.

I looked back at the creature once before slamming the door and noticed that it had, unbelievably, grown even larger!

I want first to the front desk and tried to explain that there was a mutant spider in my room and someone needed to call Taiwan's SWAT team to deal with it. Unfortunately at that time I knew neither the Mandarin words for 'spider' nor 'mutant' (蜘蛛 and突變體 btw) so the front desk guy wasn't a lot of help. He did give me some bug spray but I was sure nothing short of napalm would stop this monster. So I rounded up some of the people I knew and a few more came to my aid out of curiosity.

I'm sure the big white girl shrilling about a mutant spider was entertaining.

However once other people say the creature, which by now had grown to be larger than my desk, they were also convinced that it needed to die. Armed with the bug spray, some shoes, possibly a broom, several of the onlookers attacked the beast.

It was surprisingly fast for a creature so large. Surely a genetically mutant freak should have a flaw? If the continuously growing spider beast had one, slowness was not it. Eventually though, the brave offensive attack was successful and the creature was vanquished.

And the villagers celebrated.

I danced around crowing that we had killed the monster while everyone looked at me sceptically wondering what was with this 'we'? While they went in to attack I cowered in the hall. Well not cowered specifically...more like provided moral support from a safe distance so as not to interfere with their tactical maneuvers.

The scary spider was about the last straw for me and I started to look for an apartment shortly there after. Granted the place I moved into often had dead gecos in the bathroom, formerly had a rat problem, had no heat, and had demons...but it did NOT have mutant spiders.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Hair Flips Are Dangerous

My showers are a fairly involved process due largely to my hair. Before I discovered quality conditioner and product there was nothing that would help get a comb through the frizzy, tangled mess that it was. What did work was loading my hair with tons of conditioner and combing it in the shower before rinsing. Even after discovering really good conditioner I have continued this practice because, even though no longer strictly necessary, it makes things easier.

A couple years ago I was taking a shower and doing my comb out thing.

I wanted to hurry because we had guests and I wanted to join them. Apparently I was in too much of a hurry and at one point flipped my hair to the side with a little too much enthusiasm.

So much enthusiasm in fact, that I threw myself right out of the shower.

Totally not kidding. I actually hair flipped myself out of the shower. After the initial shock I thought it was pretty funny. I mean, how many people have ever hair flipped themselves out of a shower? I lay there laughing hoping that no one heard the crash and thought to run upstairs to check it out. Sure I thought it was funny but I was still lying half in and half out of the shower stark naked. I also thought I was pretty lucky that I neither pulled down the shower curtain nor flipped myself the other way. If I had tossed my head powerfully enough to catapult myself out of the shower what would have happened if I'd gone the other way? I could have smacked my head against the wall, got knocked out, and drowned.

That would have been somewhat less funny.

So think of this as a cautionary tale and think before you flip your hair. A little forethought could save your life.

Friday, August 12, 2011

The Most Terrifying Experience OF MY LIFE

A few years ago, my roommate and I went to China for three weeks. While there we visited several cities including Beijing. Obviously while in Beijing we had to take an excursion to see the Great Wall. Little did I know it would end up being the most terrifying experience of my entire existence (including the time I got hit by a truck pulling a boat, both of my dad's heart attacks, and the 2009/10 DC Snowpacolypse).

We thought we would be so clever to not go on the Badaling tour and instead took the Jinshanling tour. Badaling is closer to Beijing and the time you spend on the wall is much shorter so we thought we were getting a good deal.

In the end I did not find this to be so.

We got to Jinshanling to discover a crumbling ruin. If you see the Great Wall on the Discovery Channel or in travel brochures and it's all smooth and reconstructed then you're looking at Badaling. If you see a crumbling ruin with steep, broken, sometimes barely there steps (which vary from 6-18 inches each in height) then you're looking at Jinshanling.

Have I mentioned I don't do stairs very well?

At the beginning of the tour we were joined by several locals. These folks apparently make the hike (was it 8 miles?) at least once every day and look for the weak members of the group. Onto these they glom in order to "help" people along the path. At the end they do their darndest to make you buy extremely overpriced souvenirs. Clearly in this group I was the weak member.

Actually it ended up turning out pretty well for me to have the helper. My roommate was at least a (guard)tower ahead of me most of the time and I got to practice my Mandarin. I hadn't really spoken Chinese in years, not since moving back to the States from Taiwan. It's funny how certain words come back in certain situations. For example, during the hike I clearly remembered the words "terrified" and "going to die". I have a feeling that she thought I was pretty funny when I wasn't crying.

I alternated the entire hike clinging to the wall when there was one and whimpering and crying and desperately hoping I wouldn't slip thereby plummeting to my death far below into the chasm that was China on side and what used to Mongolia on the other.

 These were seriously some of the most unpleasant hours of my life. I rested for a couple - ten minutes at every tower to get my breath back and stop shaking. If only for a couple minutes. At one particularly harrowing downward slope (where there was maybe one discernible stair and a drop on either side) I clung to the crumbling wall at the top and was openly crying. The tour leader and my guide were chattering too fast for me to understand but my roommate was at the bottom of the death drop and told them I was fine with an offhand "she's afraid of stairs". Which is true.

Finally, what seemed like years and multiple grey hairs later, it was over. And I wasn't even the last one to finish. And I bought an extremely overpriced paper fan from my helper. In retrospect I probably should have bought a couple things from her. As my roommate and I approached the last tower before we broke off to go back to the tour bus we paused for a few pictures. It was over. I had done it. I conquered Jinshanling.

And now I never have to do it again.

Thursday, August 4, 2011

A Monkey Tried to Eat Me Once

While I was living in Taiwan I finally did something I’ve wanted to do since I first read books by Francis Hodgson Burnett…I went to India. I spent three weeks traveling around northern India and I’m still not sure if I enjoyed it or not. I went to markets in Delhi, saw the Taj Mahal and got stuck for two days in Agra (which is a horrible city), spent several days in the holy city of Pushkar and another couple days studying massage in Daramsala. There were some good things: I discovered coconut coffee frappes (dude you haven’t lived!), butter chicken, and did some major shopping. There were also less pleasant things: being groped, 50C weather, long pants and sleeves, hiding from my massage instructor who asked me to marry him…and I got attacked by a monkey.

Pushkar was one of my favorite places I visited. Even though it was low season I actually met a fairly large amount of foreigners there; an interesting mix of Europeans bumming around and Israelis who were all just released from the army. One of the people I met was the petit little blond thing who chirpily informed me that she was a fighter pilot. That was weird.

Pushkar was a great place to just be and absorb. It gets mad busy during the season and if you want to go to the big annual camel trading festival you have to book your camping spot like a year in advance.  The Pushkar Lake is sacred and there was plenty to see along the ghats. There was a restaurant I frequented several times that looked over the lake. I liked to go in the evening for a lassi and watch the GIANT BATS fly over the lake. There are also several temples including a Brahma temple to Lord Brahma, one of the holy trinity of Hinduism. There was also some pretty awesome shopping.

After a couple days I gave up wearing shoes all together because every time I entered a temple or shop I had to take them off. Saved so much time just not wearing any. However before that happened I was out exploring one day, just wandering around with my camera and a bottle of frozen water (50C desert, thank you) and I came to a bridge that crossed part of the lake. At first I was busy looking around admiring the pinkish orange stone that made up so much of everything but then was literally hot footing it barefoot across the holy bridge because it was baked by scorching sun. 

Once I crossed the bridge to path on the other side I took a moment to put my shoes back on. I poked around a little but didn’t see much worth going on for. As I turned around to go back though I noticed a large monkey sitting in a niche in the stone cliff face only about two feet away from me.

Ah ha! How opportune! I was two feet away from a monkey and by golly I was going to get a great picture!

You know this is going to go badly for me.

I picked up my camera and tried to creep a little closer because I was greedy. I don’t know if it was just me being there, the creeping, the camera, what…but the monkey was not happy. He leaned forward on a rather massive fist and glared at me then slowly opened his mouth really wide to show me his freaking enormous fang like teeth. Then he screamed at me. 

I’m not entirely stupid so I fled instantly. 

I flew across the bridge having totally forgot to remove shoes but apologizing to the Hindu gods during my brief flight. Convinced he was pursuing me I tried to dash up the narrow set of stairs which lead up from the bridge only to have my path blocked by a cow. I am not Hindu; I am Catholic and find cows to be one of the tastier animals. However I was hesitant to offend the local gods twice in a row by both neglecting to take off my shoes on the bridge and then by shoving aside the cow. Also I was afraid it would step on my relatively unprotected, sandal-shop foot and break it. So I kind of stood there for a few minutes feeling stupid and making little shooing motions at the cow.

The one bit of good news was that the monkey was sufficiently happy with scaring the daylights out of me and had indeed not made a pursuit. And it was a scorching hot day so the only ones around to witness both my lack of cultural sensitivity and general idiocy were the monkey and the cow.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Never Stick Your Tongue on a Frozen Flag Pole

No, I've never done that. Thank you I do have a few cells of common sense. Just a few though mind.

*Thought of this because it's like 100 F in DC right now. Ugh.

In addition to living in the middle of nowhere surrounded by nothing but trees and more trees, my parents also have a semi natural pond that my dad has enlarged. There's a hill (which is basically all the sand dug out of the pond) that makes for great sledding in the winter and if the pond froze quickly enough it was good ice skating. Mostly though it didn't freeze quickly enough so the surface wasn't smooth. It would semi freeze and then all the millions of trees would drop the last vestigages of leaves at which point the pond would totally freeze...leaving (ha ha) leaf bumps all over the place. A couple times my dad tried to flood it after it froze to create a smooth surface. But then it would snow again. He also tried, just once or twice I think, to clear the surface with the snowblower. Like our very own zamboni.

He stopped doing that when the snow blower fell through the ice.

Despite these issues we did a fair amount of ice skating as kids. At night my mom would even drive the car back into the woods and run down her battery shining the high beams on the pond for light. Much as with any sport, my sister was always better at skating than both my brother and I were.

I thought I was pretty hot stuff when I learned how to skate backwards. Slowly and very wobbly. Bernadette could cross her feet (and later skated around thusly on roller blades) while Brian and I satisfied ourselves with less fancy footwork. I tried the cross over once. And fell on my face. One time I fell down and just did not feel like getting back up. I'd fallen one too many times that day and just wanted a time out. So after I rolled off my face I lay there for a while contemplating why it was I bothered to bother, while Bernadette zoomed around me showing off her triple lutz.

Ok so maybe she couldn't do a triple lux. It could have been a double axel. Whatever it was it just rubbed salt in the wound after my mom told me that I could not be both a professional ice skater and a nun (one of my choldhood goals). I still think she might have been lying. In any case, I did lay there a good while contemplating my ice skating failures. And then I tired to get up.

And promptly slammed my head into the ice when my curly hair bounced back. Small problem; I was frozen to the ice. I had not considered this possibility during my quiet contemplation. So I solved this problem the same way I solved many problems back then; I yelled for my mom.

After she stopped laughing at me did offer a solution that did not involve cutting off all my hair; that was Dad's solution. She brought over a thermos and pour hot chocolate all over my head.

While I was happy to be free I was less than thrilled to be drenched on hot chocolate. It's really sticky. And my the time I'd trekked back to the house I had frozen, sticky hot chocolate all over my head. Awesome.

So the moral here is the same as with flag poles. If something is frozen, do not allow any part of your body to rest on it for a period of more than about 3 Mississippis.

Friday, July 1, 2011

The Time my Dad Tore off my Thumb*

A million years ago there was this water park in Michigan called Pleasure Island. Unlike the water parks you have visited though there were no overly chlorinated pools. This place was all natural and the water was brown. I think my most vivid memory of the place is a slightly snotty (and shockingly not on my end; I was very taken aback) encounter with a girl who would later turn out to be one of my best friends and eventually a cousin by marriage.

But that has nothing to do with this post.

One of the rides at Pleasure Island involved a sort of zip line swing that went over the water. So you hang from the bar, speed down an incline, and let go to cannonball into the brown pondy thing. We must have praised this things awesomeness when we got home because my dad promptly built one. Not over water though. This one was stretched between two trees by the barns and extended over the driveway adjacent. We climbed up a ladder to a little stand he built around a tree, sit on the bottom bar of the swing and ZOOM!
 Requisite red farm barns. The yellow thingy is the chicken coop/rabbit holder place.

It was fun. All our friends we mad jealous.

We had the thing for I don't know how long and, as things that are left out to the elements do, it got a little broken down. I think that the bottom sit on bar of the swing broke? We solved that by just swinging like we did at the park, gripping tight with our hands and hanging down with no support what so ever. And that was fine.

Until it wasn't fine.

I had a friend over one day and we were zooming and zipping along on the thing. During one of my turns the swing finally gave up the ghost and died. The hold onto bar broke and I took one (of many over the course of not quite 32 years) face dives into the gravel. Side note to clarify that not all my face dives are into gravel. Sometimes it's asphalt or concrete or dirt.

More embarrassed than anything I got up to dust myself off. That's when I notice that my dusting off was rather ineffectual as I was smearing blood down my front. I looked at my right hand and noticed that it was dripping blood and MY THUMB WAS HANGING BY A THREAD!!!

Not really but that's more dramatic, no? There was a big nasty gash though and it was bleeding rather profusely.

On the way to the emergency room we had to make a side trip to drop off my friend and I could hear my mom's internal monologue thanking the Good Lord that it was her daughter's thumb nearly ripped off and not the friend's. The emergency room is cheaper than a law suit.

We finally got the emergency room and the blood soaked/dripping towel wrapped around my hand got us seen pretty quickly. I had some nice drugs and remember only wondering why emergency room rooms need to be that awful green color. The doctors had my hand splayed open to flush the gaping wound and my mom was hanging over their shoulders exclaiming how 'cool' it all was. Until they started picking out all the bits of gravel and dirt and probably the clover that grows in the driveway. Then I totally lost my supportive parent as she had to go away before she got sick.

That is now one of the many scars I have. There are a couple on my knees from the falling down, one on a knuckle from a scythe (yes, I was scything things), one that goes from my lip up into my right nostril, and this one.There might be one on my pinky finger too from the time my brother slammed the sliding van door on my finger and then my mom locked the door while I was frantically tugging and wailing trying to get it out.

That's a different story.

*Re the title...obviously dad built the swing thing so it's his fault. The swing isn't there anymore but the line still is. My dad's dog's leash is tied to it and he runs up and down and up and down and all you hear is zzzzzzhhhhhhh with the occasional bark.

Also he thought maybe it would work better the second time around and built another one. This time actually over the pond. I don't see how this will work out better but me and my thumbs are staying far away from it.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

The Strawberry Shortcake Debacle

Baking is one of my favorite hobbies. I started making birthday cakes for people at work mostly so I could bake and try out decorating techniques (that never really worked out) on unsuspecting people who just wanted the sugar. I have always liked to bake and that extended to the interminable summer dinners when I lived with my parents that seemed to consist largely of strawberry shortcake.
My dad is what my mom calls a ‘hobby farmer’ which means in addition to the variety of animals we also had some small crops. Among them were strawberries. Have you ever had to spend your summer under a hot sun hoeing weeds around freaking strawberry plants? Not fun. Although I, cleverer than my siblings, discovered pretty fast that if you weren’t helpful, Dad didn’t want you to help. So a couple perfectly healthy strawberry plants were slaughtered while I feigned ignorance over what was strawberry and what was weed. I was relegated to the house. Drat.
Part of the trade off was that I hulled, washed, mashed and froze the berries when my brother and sister brought them inside. So much easier, thank you. One night I also volunteered to make the biscuits for the strawberry shortcake.  
They came out of the oven and were so beautiful; lightly golden brown and light and fluffy.
We all poured strawberries of the warm biscuits and dug in. And then noticed something odd. Have you ever heard of Pop Rocks? They were this great candy the fizzled and popped in your mouth, kind of like Rice Krispies to nth degree. Well that’s what the strawberry shortcake was doing. And then the biscuits turned purple.
How strange. What was going on here? 
The mystery of the fizzing purple strawberry shortcake was soon resolved but people were not happy to have their dessert delayed. Particularly not my grandfather. My mom quickly made another batch of biscuits and in end everyone had their non chemistry experiment sweet fix. But what had gone wrong?

I learned an important lesson that day; there is a difference between baking powder and baking soda. Huh. Who knew? Well probably a lot of people did but not I. I do now though.

Sunday, April 24, 2011

The Frozen Bunny

In honor of Easter which always seems to be accompanied by bunnies and chickens and bunnies that cluck...

We had lots of animals growing up. Most of which weren't pets. Included in the category of 'not pets' were the rabbits. Them was fer eatin'. I am not a fan of the rabbit meat, quite possibly because taking care of them was one of my chores and I knew all their names.

Rabbits breed like, well, rabbits. So we had lots of them. Mostly Dad tried to control the birth rate but every once in a while a couple of them would get out and get busy ... And if we didn't know one was pregnant we wouldn't also know to put a box in its cage. Which means that we lost a lot of little baby rabbits. Sometimes to the monther who, like all rodents, ate off their heads*, and sometimes to cold.

On one of these occasions my sister Bernadette rescued one of the dead. Bernadette's wanted to go into medicine for as long as I can remember and she wanted to put the dead bunny in a jar with formaldehyde. Until said fromaldehyde could be fetched the bunny went into a Ziplock freezer bag and went into one of the deep freezers. Stopping somewhere on his way home from work to get the fromaldehyde was not high on my dad's list of things to remember so the bunny lived in the deep freezer for a pretty long time. We, being the extremely sick children our parents raised us to be, got it out every once in a while.

We'd wait for company to come over then sneak out the bunny when no one noticed. Then we'd cup it in our hand, stroke it, and approach the poor unsuspecting person and say something like "One of our rabbits just had babies. Do you want to see it?" Almost always the answer was yes and was accompanied but some sort of cooing.

Then as the poor innocent mind reached out for the bunny we'd toss it him. 

The cries of shock and horror and scrambling to try to catch the dead rabbit were always hilarity inducing. And when the person didn't catch it, or did but dropped it after the shock of the cold weight registered, the very very frozen rabbit would thunk on the ground and clatter a little bit.

The looks of reproof and awesome horror only egged on our laughter. We were never repentant and it probably didn't help any that our parents looked on such antics with fond patronism. A friend of mine refers to my parent's home as 'the dark farm' but I prefer to think that we simply grew up with a healthy knowledge and understanding of death.

Interestingly enough people still want to see that baby whatever we have at the moment. Granted the baby whatever is almost always alive now though. Maybe it's time to put the fear back into people. I shall have to think on this.

*Rodents often eat their young. There are numerous reasons for this but for some reason, if the mother is not able to see the young, said young are safe. This is one of the reason that our rabbit breeding boxes were full boxes that allowed little light to enter. I had hamsters once and one got pregnant and I woke up one day to watch her eating the babies. It was quite traumatizing.

Friday, March 25, 2011

The Time I Broke My Neck

I'm not big with the exercising. Partly because of my falling down problem but also because I can think of so many other things to be reading or sleeping. I have, however always enjoyed a good dance class. I did bellydancing for a years, during the course of which I both broke and dislocated my roommate's ankle. I've also done some strip aerobics and took a lap dancing class once. The new thing these days is pole fitness and I signed up pretty quickly.

I figured my lack of grace and penchant for falling down could only be improved by pole dancing. Why wouldn't I be sucessful? There's a pole to hang on to so no problem, right? It's really great fun and for all the skeptics out there it's also really hard and a killer work out. The sparkly six inch platform heels really add an extra something to the workout too. I particularly enjoy the spinning. So far I have learned (if not mastered) the: catch, reverse hook, pinwheel, reverse pinwheel, fireman, "Marie's", and one leg sticking out spins. I made up the name of that last one; not quite sure what it's actually called.

That's me doing the pinwheel. Wee!!

One night fairly early into my class taking our instructor decided to get a little advanced with her pole 1 students. So we did headstands.

You can already tell that this isn’t going to turn out well for me can’t you?

It really didn’t seem all that complicated. Granted we weren’t able to pull ourselves up from a prone position using only the strength in our abs as did the instructor…but really it wasn’t that hard. We started face down on the floor gripping the pole and with our foreheads resting on our forearms. Then all went up into a kind of downward dog so our backs were flush against the pole. From there all we had to do was kick up and ta da! And the beauty was that you couldn’t really fall over because the pole was there. The pole also helped keep us supported.

Once I figured out the mechanics then I was fine. Attempt number one and I was a rock star.

Attempt number two and Huston was alerted.

I’m still not really sure exactly what happened but at some point during the upright (or upside down if you prefer) back to downward dog transition my neck went one way and the rest of me went the other. So instead of my head being on the floor the left side of my face was.

I knew there was badness as soon as I managed to get actually upright again. I sat out the rest of the class to test my newly limited range of motion and see how much pain I was in. A lot as it turns out. The couple blocks to the metro was torture, only to be compounded by the jerkiest metro ride ever. If you’ve ever been on DC’s metro you know what I’m talking about. That abrupt start and stop driving method many of the operators like to employ. 45 minutes of that. About halfway home I called my doctor, i.e. my sister who’s a paramedic. This is not the first time I’ve called her for a long distance ‘I’m hurt/sick, what do I do’ consultation. I’ve also called my brother from literally half way around the world to demand he fix whatever computer problem I was having. On this call my sister pretty much just confirmed my ib profin and ice diagnosis but I wanted to make extra certain that my neck wasn’t broken. I mean I was a good 99.95% sure it wasn’t since I could move and everything, but better safe than sorry I think. I have to admit that she was pretty nice about receiving a call at 9PM in the middle of her shift from her idiot little sister who thought her neck was broken…I could barely hear her roll her eyes.

We were all pretty surprised when the next day not only was I mobile but I could even turn my head. Well I could turn it to the right but to look left I had to move my whole body. I was pleased since I had plans to participate in a scavenger hunt organized by my church’s youth group. I think the most uncomfortable I felt all day was when my priest asked how I hurt my neck…

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Why Peter Washed Pilate's Hands

With the beginning of Lent and Catholic Coming Out Day (Ash Wednesday) having just occured, I have the perfect story to start of the Lenten season. When I was in junior high and high school my mom used to be one of the people in charge of Holy Week activities at my family's parish. One of things we did almost every year was organize a Passion Play on Good Friday.

This particular year I was supposed to play the random servant girl who shows up to do something whenever a main character isn't supposed to be doing said thing. So I went with the Sanhedrin guard to arrest Jesus (I think I held a torch), accuse Peter of being buddies with the Nazarene, was supposed to fetch the water and bowl so Pontius Pilate could wash his hands of Jesus etc...that didn't work out so well for me.

A little back ground...I get headaches. I've had chronic headaches for as long as I can remember. When I was younger they were mostly tension/cluster headaches. Bewteen high school and college I went to a headache clinic for a few months where they got rid of the tension headaches. So yay! But then I started getting migraines. Boo. I'd rather have back the tension headaches thank you very much. Over the counter pain killers never touched my headaches and to this day my standard ib profin dosage is 800mg two to four times a day. My doctor tried out a lot of different drugs to help me deal including, but not limited to: Imitrex, Tylenol 3, and Darvocet. There was also this little yellow pill that made me really loopy and the drugs my mom gave me like Fiorecet and Fiorenol (she likes to self diagnose and treat and that was extended to all of us). Imitrex and Tylonel did nothing for me but the Darvocet seemed to work.

Good Friday arrived and I had, you'll forgive me, a hell of a headache. I hadn't eaten a lot that day because it's a fast day and we were busy getting ready and between the headache and being hungry I was just not in the mood for a play. I got out my new darvocet perscription and noted that the dosage directions were one to two pills. I figured if two was good three must be better, right? And I really had to get rid of that headache. So I downed three of the giant, hot pink pills and went on with play prep.

The headache certainly wasn't a problem anymore.

I got through the Garden of Gethsemane then went to sit in one of the front pews with all the Apostles while Pilate, who was played by the father of this boy we all had a crush on, had his first nunber. Did I mention it was a musical Passion Play? I watched happily from the pew, humming every now and then and grinning big while Pilate dreamed about a man who would be his downfall. I was also getting some odd and concerned looks from the Apostles.

While the play went on I became increasingly euphoric and the people in the crowd cried out for Jesus's crucifixion I became absolutely positive that I could fly. It started tentatively, this idea, first when I noticed that my arms seemed to just float up into the air, only to be batted down by an annoyed Apostle.

Between my floating arms and growing feeling of weightlessness I knew all I had to do was let go and I would be able to fly like Peter Pan. So I did and it was marvellous.

Except all I was doing was standing up and swaying about and making Pilate and Jesus miss a beat in their serious conversation about truth and my mom off in the choir wing be torn between shame, horror, and an intense desire to kill me.

I couldn't have been standing for more than a couple seconds really before the Apostles on either side of me (one being said boy of the crush) grabbed my arms and pulled me back into the pew. They had to keep hold of me for the rest of the play. Needless to say I was in no shape to continue in my role of random, pops up as needed, servant girl which is why when Pilate turned to wash his hands of the sin of condemming Jesus it was Peter who held the ewer and bowl for him. Which I'm pretty sure is not how it happens in the Bible.

The rest of the play went off, as I was later told, beautifully and after we all went to a local restaurant for dinner. I ordered but was finally starting to come down and dizzy and nauseous. You can bet I endured a lot of teasing during dinner, especially from our priest who thought it was somewhat hilarious. When my family finally got home all I could was lay spread eagle in the living room and watch the room spin around my body around and around and around...

I don't take Darvocet anymore.

Friday, March 4, 2011

Star Search!!

Do you remember that show Star Search? Kids and adults who sang, modeled and told jokes? Dave Coulier was on it way back when, Aaliyah (RIP), Adam Sandler, Beyonce, Alanis Morissette, both Britney and Christina....etc etc. Well apparently, CBS is bringing it back!!! That's not what this is about though; it's just an amazing coinidence. In honor of Ed McMahon's birthday (March 6), I should like to recount how we used to re-enact Star Search as kids.

One of the things we did to entertain ourselves was to film everything. We made movies, reenacted TV shows, filmed my dad butchering's just what we did. Now most of these videos are trotted out to horrify and embarrass us. This one in particular. Given this penchant for filming everything and our love of Star Search you can bet that we filed ourselves pretending to be on Star Search. For my turn I was one of the models and did the strutting around in multiple outfits and posing in a bathing suit with a fan blowing on me thing.

It all sounds perfectly innocent and I'm pretty sure I did a bang up job imitating the women on Star Search...but it just didn't turn out very well. So not well that they'd have never put anything like it on network television. For starters, my bathing suit was a maillot-one of those suits with the built-in, stand on their own boobs. Why I had one of those at 12 I don't know because there was no way I could have filled it out at 12. Possibly not even at 31.

After the suit everything just want downhill and did it really quickly. The makeup and the fan and the posing and the flirting with the camera...sigh. It is probably the most hilarity inducing family video we have. Worse even than the ballet recital or the Kids Inc. reenactment. I'm fairly certain that had social services ever got wind of it I would have been taken out of an 'unhealthy' environment. Especially since we refer to it as my "soft kiddie porn" debut.

Yup. Yup, yup, yup, yup.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Steve Madden Hates Me

In my last post I mentioned that I have some coordination problems. Unfortunately for me they extend past dancing and include walking. I fall down. A lot. There’s rarely any sort of provocation, no broken heels or pot holes or cracks in the sidewalk…I just fall down. I also, completely unrelated, have a problem with airports. It’s one of my mildly irrational fears (along with clowns, puppets, and stairs-but I think those three are completely rational). My walking problems and fear of airports have never intersected though...until last September…

I was on my way to Serbia for work and to visit friends. One of my good friends was pregnant at the time and I had offered to bring her baby things that she couldn’t get in Belgrade so I had a lot of luggage on this trip: my biggest suitcase, the large duffel that matched my case, my camera bag (which is a small duffel on its own) and my huge crocodile print red leather shoulder bag-the only one large enough to hold my heavy 17” laptop. I also happened to be wearing my cute new Steve Madden boots. I generally like Steve’s shoes; they’re not as horrifically uncomfortable as many other designers…ahem Franko Sarto. These were also fairly practical shoes for my trip; heading into fall so no more sandals and they’re pull ons which means easy off and on at security. On the whole I was feeling pretty good.

Then, four steps into Dulles International Airport…four steps! I fall down. And I don’t just mean that I tripped and stumbled or landed on my knee or something. I mean that all almost 6 feet of me fell forward like a giant Redwood. I went from being vertical to having my face smacked on the ugly linoleum covered by all my various baggage which somehow all landed on top of me.


Some very nice gentleman ran over to assist me in getting up. Thankfully I was not terribly injured and my glasses had not broken. Landing on my face the way I did that was my immediate concern. I was more embarrassed than anything but grateful that for once the airport was oddly empty. Compared to the THREE HOUR!!!! check-in nightmare of my last flight out of Dulles with United (which is an evil airline; although not as evil as is Delta) there seemed to be no traveling that day. I limped up to the check-in counter eagerly left two of my bags with them, then limped through security; where I suffered additional indignities*.

I finally got through security, was in such a foul mood that I almost belted a lady complaining about “When did they start making you remove cosmetics from your carry-on? That’s such a nuisance. I’ve never had to do that before.” Really lady? Because may I just say…10 YEARS!!

I get my laptop back in my shoulder bag and stuff on my boots before heading toward gate C. The only nice thing about Dulles is the new monorail which is so much better than those awful people movers (which you still have to use when you get off your flight). So there I am, heading to the monorail to take me to gate C when disaster strikes again. The instant I put my foot on the escalator it shoots out from under and I begin to plummet downward. This is not the first time, or even the second or third that I’ve fallen down an escalator. I managed, miraculously, to stop my headfirst dive by desperately scrabbling for a hold on the handrail. However in the process I lost hold of my giant shoulder bag. Which I had not zipped shut. Thankfully there was no one in front of me because as my bag went soaring out flew papers, pens, my passport, ticket, plastic baggy filled with ‘dangerous liquids/gels’ … and a really heavy 17” laptop. After a moment of stunned silence I managed to make a joke about this to all the people on the escalator behind me and all the people on the escalator next to mine.

My immediate concern was my ticket as it seemed in imminent danger of getting eaten by the escalator. In fairly short order I had everything scooped up and back in the back and them limped yet more dramatically to the monorail entrance. While I’d saved myself from falling I managed to strain my hamstrings and wrench my right wrist, shoulder, back, and neck whilst flailing about. After I made it to my gate, limping more heavily than before, I texted my roommate and made calls to my sister and my mom to let them know how pitiful I was. I also stopped at one of the airport convenience stores to buy a small bottle of massively over priced IB Profin.

I am increasingly convinced that I am a walking accident waiting to happen. I swear that I’m not clumsy in the traditional sense of knocking into things; but walking seems to be completely beyond my powers. And apparently when you combine that with airports, escalators, and Steve Madden, I don’t even have a chance.

*A note to all airports: your often redundant and inefficient security lines need to have one line designated for families with small children only! As a very frequent traveler I have my coat and shoes off, laptop out, and my little plastic bag with my eye drops and chapstick sealed inside ready to go. It is annoying; and rage inducing, when I spend a year behind someone who has small children and waits until they’re exactly at the belt to start the disrobing process, take kid out of stroller, break down stroller, go through security, have to come back because screaming child was distracting and parent forgot to remove keys, phone, belt, laptop, liquids whatever.

Friday, February 18, 2011

The Lake of the Swans

February 20 is the anniversary of the Bolshoi's first performance in 1877 of Tchaikovsky's famous Swan Lake (which debuted as The Lake of the Swans). It reminds me of the two careers I dreamed of having as a young girl: jockey and ballerina. Unfortunately for me, even before puberty I was both far too tall and weighed way too much to be either of those. That did not, however, stop me from pestering my mom to death until she agreed to let me stay after school a couple times a week for ballet class when I was in the third grade.

I can't remember if I have mentioned this yet or not...but I am completely lacking in grace of movement and coordination. Completely. This leads to many funny stories. But what this meant for my ballet recital was...well was that it wasn't very good. For one thing, I was put in the same class with the first and second graders instead of with the third and fourth graders. I have no idea why. I am a tall person and I have always been a tall person. You know that expression, 'head and shoulders above'...I was head, shoulders, and sternum above these little girls. So my lack of grace couldn't be hidden behind everyone else.

Also, that part about being too fat to be a ballerina has always been true. I have long skinny legs and arms but have had a beer belly since birth. So me in bright pink tights and a leotard was just not a good vision.! I am convinced my mom bought those without my input. I hate pink. And I had a tiara. And to hopefully make this experience as embarrassing for someone else as it was for was my mom's beauty queen tiara.

My class of girls did a short routine to Swan Lake and much like swans in a lake, we were in a V shape for the entire dance. I was in the back. We began with our heads down and arms crossed that the wrist in front of us. The right arm was to then float up and down (head still down), followed by the left arm. Then the right and left arms again but this time our gaze follows our hands. Then there was stuff in the middle on which I'm blanking...then arms in fifth position walk in a tight circle to the right, then the arms come up and with great drama and speed they, and the head, go back to starting position.

It was all to be very graceful and swan-like.

However if you watch the video, which got trotted out for one cousin's enjoyment every single Christmas Eve and of which there are several copies because I threatened to erase it so Mom made a few and hide them...yes if you watch the video you will notice that I looked anything but graceful and swan-like. For one thing, I am glaring death at the little first and second grade bitches on my side of the V. They weren't in a straight line! They were all crooked and higgledy piggledy and I felt very put out. Other than my sour expression I started out pretty well...but then we had to move.

My arms did not so much float gently and elegantly up and down as they abruptly sprung up and down as though hinged at the shoulder. I'm pretty sure that middle bit went similarly. I do remember trying hard to a) not smile and b) not look at the camera as I was sure neither was cool. But then the ending. Oh the ending. I may not do grace or elegance but boy howdy can I do drama. My arms were raised as high as possible and they, and my head, crashed down so quickly and dramatically my body practically vibrated with the drama. I may have also given my neck a mild case of whiplash.

 Thus ended my brief career as a ballerina. The experience did not end my desire to be one; but it sure did smack me harshly in the face with the ugly reality of the fact that I should probably not be allowed to walk, let alone dance.