Thanksgiving Envy

With mere hours toturkey day go on the Turkey Day countdown, you’ve probably checked most items off your official Food Network Thanksgiving Planning To-Do List.

Yeah, me neither.

According to the Food Network guide, my menu should have been planned one month in advance. That’s ridiculous – mine has been planned for much, much longer – almost a year to be exact. I’m not all that organized, it’s just that my bill of fare revolves around that Holy Trinity of Thanksgiving – turkey, dressing and taters.

Duh.

The planning guide says to make my guest list early. When did Thanksgiving ever have anything to do with guests? They’re called relatives. Thanksgiving, as mandated by federal law, specifically requires you to spend your day off engaging in awkward family encounters. Which is, of course, why the gin and tonic was invented.

At the two-week mark, Food Network says I should choose my décor. I could create a neutral, earth-toned place setting, a lovely fall floral arrangement, or design a minimalist, less-is-more holiday table.

Because everything about the Thanksgiving holiday screams minimalism.

But I decided to go with something that felt more natural, with a hint of autumn whimsy – my Halloween cobwebs. It’s the easiest decorating job ever. I leave them up year-round.

Food Network suggests I create my seating plan before the Big Day. But that’s one detail best left until the very last minute. Because the seating arrangements must always take into consideration how many gin and tonics have been consumed, and by whom, prior to actually gathering round the table.

Some families require seating charts that are put together with the precision and diplomacy of nuclear disarmament talks. Because putting your ACLU card-carrying nephew next to Tea Partying, Sarah Palin lovin’ Grandpa is a recipe for a holiday disaster that would send Norman Rockwell screaming from the room.

Also at the one-week mark, Food Network says I should plan for leftovers.

Double duh. Part of the planning is making sure you HAVE leftovers.

Even without the benefit of their website, I can plan for any food related event far in advance. Because I tune in to the Food Network every time I get on the treadmill.

Clearly I have issues.

While Food Network insists I make many plans, I’ve discovered a few things that the folks at this fine channel would never approve for a Turkey Day spread.

No how. No way.

I present Exhibit A – Turducken. The name alone elicits a gag reflex. Turducken is an example of engastration – where a deboned chicken is stuffed inside a duck which is stuffed inside a turkey which will be stuffed inside your own personal gut.

And if you thought it couldn’t get any worse, I present Exhibit B – Turbaconducken – engastration lattice wrapped in bacon.

Somewhere in Connecticut, Martha Stewart just threw up.

If your guest list includes Ozzy Osbourne and his entourage, you might want to consider the Supersized engastration – the True Love Roast. This is the Big Daddy of them all, a turkey stuffed with a dozen different fowl including a pigeon. It has 50,000 calories, takes 8 hours to cook and can feed 125 guests.

But Ozzy gets dibs on the pigeon.

The final Thanksgiving Oh-No You Didn’t is a recipe for a special Turkey Day Cake. Ground turkey meat is cooked in cake pans, frosted with mashed potatoes and garnished with cranberries. This simple, yet imaginative, dish will cut your guest list down significantly.

Odds are, you’ll be eating it alone.

Makes me wish I could sit down to Grandma’s 100% Nothing Natural Thanksgiving in a box from Winn Dixie complete with her trademark still quivering cranberries in the shape of the can. And a couple gin and tonics.

 

photo courtesy of 123RF

Performance of a Lifetime

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Some people know from an early age that they belong on the stage. They are the kids who never hesitated to jump up in front of family or friends and belt out a rousing version of I Just Can’t Wait to be King, don a pair of tap shoes, or recite a Shakespearean sonnet. They are born to be in the spotlight.

I am not one of the people.

So it was a little surprising for me to learn that I’ll be delivering a theatrical performance of my very own. I’ve been practicing diligently since mid-April, when I first learned of my new role. And if I may be so bold, I’m betting this performance will have Oscar written all over it.

Move over, Meryl.

While this show may have the shortest run in theatre history, it in no way will diminish the need for a script delivered with believability and careful attention to detail. In an ideal cinematic world, it should be the perfect blend of Bette Davis and Katharine Hepburn.

It’s gotta be that good.

But not being blessed with a theater gene, I am more than a little concerned. Despite all the hours of rehearsal I’ve put in, I fear my performance will more closely resemble something between Lucy Ricardo and Melissa McCarthy.

This one-woman show opens and closes tomorrow afternoon in an off, off-Broadway venue. It’s a peculiar setting to be sure and it’s difficult to imagine that a performance such as mine has ever been delivered there before.

That’s because it’s happening in Washington, DC in Dulles Airport. Between Baggage Claim #1 and #2, to be exact. That’s where I’m dropping off Younger Boy tomorrow to begin his high school exchange program. For the Whole. School. Year.

Clearly I’m not taking Phase One of my Pre-Mature Empty Nest very well.

In the flurry of pre-trip preparations, I’ve been too busy to think about it too much. I’ve taken my mom role as Organizer of the Overseas Adventure quite seriously. Lists were made. New, less ratty looking clothes and shoes were purchased. Piles of clothes were put in the suitcases. They were then taken out again when said suitcases strained to zip shut.

All the while, I’ve kept a smile on my face. No one would ever be the wiser that I’m popping my molars like bubble wrap as I blurt out phrases like, “This trip is going to change your life!” And while I do sincerely mean that, it doesn’t change the fact that I’m going to miss him like crazy. But I’ll never let him know just how much.

This is his time.

But long ago, it was my time. Way back then, I was leaving for Peace Corps and my dad said those very words to me. And I believed him. After a whirlwind of preparations, friends and family gathered at the airport the day we were leaving. Before getting on the plane, I hugged everyone a little longer than usual. Especially my dad. As I looked back, he smiled and waved.

Years later, I watched the video a friend had taken that day. It recorded that final wave before we boarded. A few minutes later, the shot panned across the group, who was looking out the window at the plane. The camera then focused on my dad. And what I saw couldn’t have surprised more.

There was a tear running down his cheek.

Perhaps I’ve underestimated my acting gene.

The good news is, there’ll be an encore performance at Dulles in about 10 months when Younger Boy returns. But that one that will require no rehearsal at all.

*It was, indeed, my best performance so far.

photo credit: 123rf

Yakasses on a Plane? Say it Ain’t So!

airplaneWe’re less than a week away from the busiest time of the year in air travel – the Christmas holiday season.  According to the American Air Trade Industry, between December 17 and January 6, 15 million people will line up for their pre-flight TSA grope.  And if the FCC gives the green light, those 15 million people will probably be talking on their cell phones. 

Right next to your head.

I’d be less alarmed if Samuel L. “Snakes On A Plane” Jackson was wrestling a pit viper out of the overhead bin at 15C.

As if the holidays weren’t stressful enough, getting there may now involve your melon being bookended by a couple of Droids.  Especially if you drew the short straw of airline travel known as the middle seat. 

Give me a screaming baby any day.  For all I care, that baby could whip an unfiltered Camel out of his diaper for a few puffs to calm his frazzled nerves.  I’d rather have Junior blow smoke rings in my face.  Because I could deal with that more gracefully than having a Yakass two inches from my noggin for the duration of my cross-country flight. [Read more…]

The Last Best Place – But Not For Haters

 

greenmanI’ve lived in Bozeman a long time.  One of the things I’ve always appreciated about this community is how welcoming it is – to everyone.  It reminds me of my Southern home where when company comes, we roll out the red carpet to show folks we’re glad you’re visiting.  We throw a little extra supper on the stove and invite our guests to stay awhile longer, just because.

Today, Bozeman, we have company coming.  Between you and me, I’m not feeling all that hospitable.

Members of the Westboro Baptist Church are coming to town.

My first inclination is to do what my crotchety Great Aunt Willadean would do when unwanted guests showed up on her doorstep – pretend nobody’s home.  You can knock all you want WBC, but Bozeman will just ignore you.

But I don’t think that’s the answer.  That might give them the crazy idea that our indifference legitimizes their message.

They’ve got enough crazy ideas as it is.

Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you’ve probably heard of WBC and the appalling tactics they take to share their reprehensible message. And they’ve chosen two institutions in our fine community, Montana State University and Bozeman High School, as places to visit.  They are adamant about exercising their First Amendment right to spew their venom.  And the Constitution gives them the right to do just that.

Frankly, I’ll take venom from snakes any day.

While I wholeheartedly disagree with what they have to say, how they say it and everything that they stand for, I took an oath as an attorney to uphold their Constitutional right to do so.   I take those words as seriously today as I did when I first uttered them twenty years ago as a new member of the bar.  In a democratic nation, we have to honor and respect that right no matter how offensive and objectionable we may find their words and actions.

But by the same token, we possess that exact same right.  And I intend to exercise it.  Right here, right now.

So to our visitors, know this:

You have chosen to bring your message of hatred and intolerance to two of the finest institutions in Montana.  Montana State University is committed to providing an outstanding education to the daughters and sons of this great state, from across our nation and around the globe. Montana State University opens the minds and hearts of students, fostering more than just their intellectual curiosity, but teaching the critical thinking skills necessary to become informed, rational and thoughtful members of a free society.  Our university teaches tolerance and respect so students will enter the world not only with a college degree but with emotional intelligence and compassion that are essential to being human.  Bozeman is proud of these fine young people who leave Montana State University as intelligent and enlightened citizens of the world.

Likewise, Bozeman High School is an outstanding educational institution charged with preparing students for the next level of their academic careers and their lives.  These dedicated teachers and administrators, not only at Bozeman High but also throughout our world-class school district, go above and beyond each and every day teaching our children more than just the standard curriculum, but nurturing a spirit of kindness and empathy.  These educators should be applauded for their tireless efforts in the classroom and in our community that helps shape our children into fine young adults.

WBC, if you would consider life beyond your picket signs and narrow-minded views, I’d encourage you to take a moment to learn something about the world you inhabit.  Education is a proven cure for injustice, intolerance and ignorance.  You really should give it a try.

Regardless of our gender, our ethnicity, our religious views, our sexual orientation or our race, there is one common denominator not only in this community but across our planet, we are all people.  The citizens of Bozeman are proud to live in a supportive open-minded community who choose to co-exist. We actively embrace and celebrate our diversity.  It makes our town and our world a better place. We are better people and a stronger community because of it.

So WBC, don’t expect our typical warm welcome when you come to town. There will be no red carpet.

While you’re here, you will most certainly observe that our town is a kind, peaceful and tolerant community.  We like it that way. The people of Bozeman are tolerant of many things, WBC, but I can promise you this – hatred will never be one of them.

 This column appeared in the Bozeman Daily Chronicle on September 8, 2013.  

A Convert Comes Clean

They say that converts are the worst.  Reformed carb addicts have been known to snatch a piece of still warm baguette from your hands while shrieking, “You’ll THANK me for this!”  Reformed smokers complain the loudest when a whiff of a stray puff so much as crosses their nostrils.  And I may be the worst convert of all – because I, too, am reformed.

I’ll admit it; I’m a former Hug Hater.  Now without warning I may embrace you in a bear hug like Joe Biden on the campaign trail.

hugging

This conversion is particularly noteworthy because I was not raised by a family of Huggers.  My tribe has never been prone to displays of affection.  Not that we were Luddites or lacking human emotion, but all of us would agree our personal space needs are bigger than most.  Hugs were an expression deemed acceptable only on special occasions.

Most of my life I wished I could deploy an Anti-Hugging Vest.  Much like the airline safety floatation device, I could pull the rip cord on the AHV which would inflate in the event of an unexpected hug.  The AHV could provide that body space buffer zone to make that awkward encounter a little more tolerable.

I was perfectly content with all acknowledgements expressed in the form of Hug Substitutes. An animated wave, a hearty handshake or even a high five were totally acceptable.  But when anyone attempted to breach my space bubble by coming in my direction with outstretched arms, I’d freeze in place, most likely with my face frozen in a look of complete horror. [Read more…]

Give me fitness. Give me abs. Give me a Hawaii Chair.

workout woman

Experts say it takes three weeks to turn a new behavior into a habit.  So if my past experience is a predictor, at two weeks into my New Year’s fitness regime I’m going to be, well, bored.  Cardio intervals? Yawn. Core fitness? Zzzzzz.  Eat less, exercise more?  What-EVER.

Give me gimmicks.  Give me fads.  Give me a piece of exercise equipment I can hang wet laundry on when I’m tired of using it.

What can I say? I’m a sucker for lazy-woman fitness.

I’ve been enamored with useless home exercise equipment ever since I watched my grandmother unveil her newest apparatus.  “You wrap this band around your hips,” she told me. “Then you flip this switch.”  The machine began to agitate her body with such vigor, she looked like she was in California during The Big One.  “I-I-I-I a-m-m-m e-xxxx-er-cisingggg!” she squealed over the din of the motor sounding like a post-menopausal Elmer Fudd on an infomercial.  After being shaken by the machine for exactly three minutes, Grandma somehow managed to flip the switch off. The band around her hips went slack and fell behind her legs. “Whew, what a workout!” she said patting her forehead with a towel, although she hadn’t visibly broken a sweat.

If this was working out, then I could embrace fitness. [Read more…]

What To Do When The Snorchestra Begins

snoring man

I took off my glasses and turned off the light.  I pulled the covers up, rolled on my side and closed my eyes.

That’s when it started.

Snick. Snick. Snick.

It was like the sound my car made when the alternator died.  But unlike the noise that stopped once I realized turning the key with greater frequency would not revive the lifeless battery, this sound continued.

SNICK. SNICK. SNICK.

The cacophony, which I feared would rattle my glasses off the nightstand, jeopardized not only my martial bliss, but my pre-menopausal ability to catch some Zzzzs without sucking on an Ambien.

The Husband was asleep on his back, which meant – he was snoring.

He denies that his supine slumber treats me to the occasionally nasal symphony.  But that night, I stared Eyes Wide Open into the dark listening to his mournful Call of the Loud that sounded like the guttural musings of a small wounded rhino.  [Read more…]

Is A Baby Sister Really Too Much To Ask For?

2013-04-20 11.16.56My youth was idyllic.  My days were drama-free. It was so darned peaceful that Mr. Bluebird occasionally landed on my shoulder to whistle a cheerful tune.  I never heard those words so frequently uttered by Country Squire station wagon driving dads on family roads trips: “DON’T make me pull this car over!” But my childhood was agreeable, not because I was the spawn of Ward and June Cleaver.  It was not because I was the Perfect Child.  It was calm for a singular reason – I was an Only Child.

But I needed a sibling.  I wanted a Big Brother just like my two best friends.  I begged my parents for a brother.  Without spilling the beans on the birds and bees, they gently explained that this was never, ever going to happen.  My six-year-old brain understood the word “no,” but not the underlying mechanics that prevented my plan from becoming a reality.

As a more worldly seven-year-old, I decided a baby sister would do.

As a second grader, I launched a full-scale Jack Abramoff-style lobbying effort to secure a sister.  I created a grassroots campaign utilizing the alliances of friends with younger siblings to influence my parents.  In a stroke of perfect timing the teacher asked the class to write a story about our family: the perfect opportunity for a journalistic expose of My Life With The World’s Most Unreasonable Parents.  As I read my story out loud, I watched with joy as my teacher’s eyes widened in what I assumed was horror at the situation known as my family life.  When she told me to stay behind at recess, I thought she would say, “You poor dear!  I can’t fathom that you’re forced to live with such selfish parents who don’t understand your need for a baby sister.  I’m calling them right now.” [Read more…]

Knowing What to Expect

Hop on over to What to Expect (yes, that max-family pic 6What to Expect).  I’m a guest columnist on Word of Mom.  Check out “The One Simple Rule for Naming Your Baby.

If you’re pregnant, have babies or toddlers – they’ve been the experts at helping you know What to Expect, literally, every step of the way.

Maternal Instinct

holding babySome women are born to be mothers.  Then there’s me.  The tell-tale signs of my lack of maternal instincts started at a tender age.  While other girls fussed and cooed over their plastic baby dolls, I cut all the hair off mine and left it naked in the backyard in the rain for five days.

When it came time to enter the babysitting ranks, my mother lined me up with my very first job.

It was also my last.

I took my young charges to the park to spend a fun-filled afternoon. As far as I was concerned, we had a great time.  So imagine my surprise when I was not only fired, but forever banned from babysitting, by my very own mother.  She informed me that I exhibited less-than good judgment while taking care of her best friend’s children.

I was perplexed. [Read more…]

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