Sunday, December 19, 2010

She's Comin' Home This Christmas Day

I was listening to Trans-Siberian Orchestra in my Christmas mix the other day and for the first time caught the lyrics to "She's Comin' Home This Christmas Day".

Now, I know the song was written about a man who has lost his woman. He messed up Big Time in some way and she left his sorry ass. But somehow he's been forgiven and she's coming back to him at last. And on Christmas Day.

So he's getting out the tree and decking those halls and celebrating with great joy.

But as I listened, I thought about my Mom. And my Nana. And how wonderfully awesome it would be if they could come home for Christmas.

My mom would not have cared for Trans-Siberian Orchestra, by the way. I remember when we used to play hard rock or even soft rock music for her and at the end ask, "Did you like that, Mom?", and she'd always answer very carefully, not wanting to hurt anyone's feelings, "Well..."(slight pause) "it had a good beat!"

That was my mom. Always wanted to be positive. Even if she didn't like something, she didn't want to come right out and say so. Too polite for that.

One of my favorite memories of Mom and newer music was once in the car when I was driving us to go shopping. Marvin Gaye's "Sexual Healing" came on the radio:

And when I get that feeling
I want Sexual Healing
Sexual Healing, oh baby
Makes me feel so fine
Helps to relieve my mind
Sexual Healing baby, is good for me
Sexual Healing is something that's good for me

"What on earth is that man singing?" Shock in her voice.

I glanced over at Mom; her expression was a mixture of confusion and disbelief.

"He's singing, 'sexual healing', Mom. It's the name of the song."

She grew more confused.

"They can say that on the radio?" Stunned.

Suppressing a laugh, I said, "Well, yeah, mom, they can say the word 'sexual' on the radio.. And it's a positive song, really, I think if you listened closely to it, you'd rather like it."

Marvin sang, Come take control, just grab a hold
Of my body and mind soon we'll be making it
Honey, oh we're feeling fine
You're my medicine open up and let me in

Mom breathed something like, "well...I never!"

Mom never really grew past the 40's when it came to music. Frank Sinatra was a little too wild for mom sometimes.

I think Trans-Siberian Orchestra would just blown her mind. Hard rock Christmas music. She wouldn't have understood it at all. She probably would have plastered a big fake grin on her face while she waited painfully for it to be over.

Nana was deaf in one ear from a childhood accident (don't ever stick bobby-pins in your ear, kids) and so was mercifully immune to music she didn't care for. She smiled all the time, no matter what music was playing; she was just damn happy to be with the family and having her Once A Year Beer in her hand.

Mom and Nana, unlike the rest of the family, were practically teetotalers. Sometimes at a family gathering they'd have one beer. And there was always a big discussion about it.

Nana to my mom: "Are you having a beer?"

Mom: "I was thinking about it...what do you think?"

Nana: "Well...maybe. Are you?"

Mom: "Well, now...I'm not sure. What do you think?"

Nana, giggling: "Maybe we could have just one...what do you think?"

Mom: "Well, now...just one couldn't hurt, could it?"

Nana: "I don't know, what do you th-"

At this point, either one of my brothers or I would hand them two beers.

"Here, have one. They're nice and cold." They'd always respond like giddy schoolgirls, like they were doing something naughty as they sipped delicately at their bottle.

One year, with complete and utter abandon, they had two beers. It was as if the world had come to an end.

"Shall we have another?" "I don't know, are you?" "Oh MY! Should we?" "I don't know! Do you think we should?"

So we got them two more beers and they were so shocked, they were speechless at the sinfulness of it: TWO BEERS!

My Nana finally stammered out, "Mercy!"

That was her word, "mercy", for whenever something was so mind-boggling, she couldn't wrap her head around it.

They were awfully cute.

And I miss them. I miss them most at Christmas time.

I wish you were here, Mom and Nana. I wish you could see how your family has grown. I wish you could see the new little ones, how you'd love them, how much you both loved babies. How you'd hold baby Sara and bring out her gorgeous smiles and coos. How you'd love seeing Lucy dancing about on her sturdy little legs, laughing.

How I miss you both.

Merry Christmas, wherever you are.

I wish I could say, "She's Comin' Home this Christmas Day".

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Pizza Hell

Anyone who knows me well knows I dislike pizza. And yes, before you ask, let me reiterate I've eaten pizza before. Many, many, WAY too many times over my entire life.

I started out disliking pizza because I can't stand marinara sauce or most things tomato-y. And, until fairly recently in American culture, pizza without marinara sauce didn't exist. These new razzle-dazzle pizzas brushed with olive oil or encrusted with tofu, or goat cheese (3 kinds!) that you can order today in fancier pizza restaurants just weren't around back when I was growing up.

Pizza was a slab of round dough, covered with bright red tomato sauce, then layered with mounds of cheese and/or various types of salty processed meat.

And I *loathed* it.

So when the Alternative Pizzas began showing up over the last 10 years or so (artichoke heart and pineapple pizza! WHEE), I thought, hey, maybe I'll finally find a pizza I like.

But I didn't. No matter how innocuous they made the pizza, I still couldn't stomach it.

Part of the problem is, I'm just not that fond of bread or anything remotely like bread. Don't get me wrong, I really love the stuff we layer *inside* sammiches. But you'll never hear me say,

"Man, I'd just LOVE to get sum BREAD in mah belly!".

Oh no. You're never going to hear those words leave my mouth. Now, you might hear me say, "Man, I'd just LOVE to get me sum POTATOES in mah belly."

In fact, I've been known to actually say those very words. And frequently, too.

But bread? Nope. As a matter of fact when eating a burger or a subway sandwich, I usually end up taking a few bites, then surreptitiously pull out the innards and eat all the yummy insides without the yucky floofy bread parts. I even rip the bread up a bit when in public and leave it scattered about on my plate, to make it look like I ate more of the bread than I did and thus avoid offending the sensibilities of all you bread lovers out there.

Then there's the salt issue. I'm not a big fan of salt. And pizza is incredibly salty. Whenever I'm cooking and I ask someone to taste my sauce or soup, they invariably suggest I add more salt. No matter how much salt I've already used, they always suggest more. For all you salt-heads out there, I salute you but I do not share your passion for the whitest of the seasonings.

No. No, I do not.

Plus, aesthetically speaking, I do not care for the way pizza tends to glisten. Have you noticed that? It...glistens. So shiny. Almost...obscene, in a way.

This is typically the point where I'm given an incredulous look and asked with disgust if I'm a Communist.

Oh please, that's just not true. Although, to give credit where credit is due, on paper Communism seems pretty cool. Everyone shares, just like in Kindergarten, one for all and all for one, just one big happy family together. But even I know that if you dig a little bit more into the reality of how Communism actually works it fails miserably as a viable form of government.

Unless you're one of the lucky few in the upper echelon class. In the society where there are no *cough* class *cough* divisions. *ahem*

So, no, I'm not a Commie just because I don't like Pizza. I'm a loyal American, I love our capitalism, I love being a mindless consumer, I love our freedom, I love being able to say, "Fuck YOU, American Government!" if I want to and not be dragged off to jail for being a dangerous political agitator.

stops and looks around

Well, I *think* I can still say that.

If this blog goes silent after this post, I guess we'll all know why.

So yes, I love being an American and I particularly love American food. I love fried chicken, steak, mashed potatoes and gravy, turkey, french fries, ham, scalloped potatoes, bacon, eggs-over-easy, fried potatoes, apple pie, hash brown potatoes, ice cream, baby red potatoes roasted with rosemary and olive oil, fruit salad, twice-baked potatoes, au gratin potatoes, potato soup, POTATO SALAD...OM NOM NOM NOM!

And I love international foods too, because I'm the kind of American who actually realizes there are *other countries* in the world outside America. Yes, yes, there are Americans like me who understand other countries exist, I know because I'm one of them. Rare though we are.

I love Japanese food, Chinese food, Italian food, Mexican food, Thai food, German, Indian, Spanish, and even French food. Even British food! I love a good shepherd's pie.

But no pizza.

However, this is a Pizza Loving World I live in and I accept that. I do. I know I'm in a very small minority group that is often eyed with suspicion. I'm a lot like that Goth kid back in high school; clothing and hair dyed black, wearing uber macro eye makeup, sitting in the back of the room picking sullenly at my dark purple fingernails during History class and hoping everyone was being suitably impressed by my obvious angst.

Definitely the odd one out when it comes to pizza.

Except, for me it's not by choice. I really wish I loved pizza too; it would make my life much easier.

I'm a fitter-inner; I don't like being the outcast.

But it's okay, really; not only have I come to terms with being different, but I support my Pizza Loving Friends and Family. Over the years, I've even ordered pizza for dinner when we've had people over. For one thing, it's the only food around here that is delivered cheaply and BONUS! Nobody has to cook. I love watching people enjoy their food, even if it's food I don't care for. I simply order a salad and/or pasta dish for me and everyone else can snarf up as much pizza as they want. Nommers.

So I never make a fuss when someone says they want to go to a pizza place. Although usually someone else in the family brings it up; "But Mom/Annie doesn't like pizza."


And I'm forced to explain once again that it's okay we are going to a pizza place, that I can find something else to eat there, really, it's not a big deal, please stop saying "we can go somewhere else if you want to, Annie" because that makes me feel bad.

I don't mind watching other people eat pizza; I just don't want any of it myself.

The other night we ended up at a pizza place for a family get-together and there were 9 of us there. Family, Happiness, Goodness YAY. Everyone ordered their nasty pizzas, with some meatball sandwiches on the side to boot (shudder, shudder) and I ordered my usual pasta with mushrooms, garlic and white sauce.

Our waitress brought "breadsticks" before the main course arrived; which were basically naked pizza crusts with cups of marinara sauce to dip them in. Rather horrifying for me but the platter was plunked down in the middle of the table and I was on the end, so I didn't have to look too closely at it.

So we're all talking and laughing, having a great time. Good times all around.

Then the pizzas came. Not on the flat platters that go down on the table as God intended platters to do but perched up on high on these pedestal platters that raised the pizzas up in the air.

So we could all get a super close-up shot of all that cheese and meat and shininess.

And the waitress plopped one tall platter of greasy pizza right in front of me.

I mean, like right under my nose.

Gulping, I feebly shoved the platter a little bit away and tried not to look at it.

Everyone else oohed and ahhed at the enormous amounts of glistening (except me) and everyone else started grabbing and passing around slices (except me) and everyone else began to devour their food and meatball sammiches (except me).

I kinda sat there in shock, trying to look at something other than the pizza. Which was seriously freaking me out.

My pasta didn't come. Several minutes went by while I waited and tried not to look at anything and my pasta still didn't come.

Just as I was about to hail our waitress, she showed up with a bowl, shoving it onto the table in front of me, right under the high-top platter of pizza. In fact, my bowl of pasta was actually shadowed, literally, by the pizza tower.

I looked down at my shadowed pathetic pasta and as usual they had gone overboard with the white sauce so it was swimming in a little soup of its own.

Not only had they completely drowned the pasta with goo, but they had also snuck in some freshly cut tomatoes.

Those sneaky pizza people and their tomato-fetish.

Because of the platter covering my plate, I had some difficulty getting my fork from the bowl of soup pasta up to my mouth without bumping the bottom of the giant pizza tray but I managed it for a while. Then eventually gave up.

The horror...the horror...

Friday, December 10, 2010

Ring Around the Rosies

The other day when LuBear stayed with us while Jason and Laura moved to their new house, I remembered the old game "Ring Around the Rosies". Although I can't imagine anyone reading who doesn't know this ancient children's game, it goes like this; you hold hands and walk slowly in a circle while chanting the following:

Ring around the rosies
Pocket full of posies
Ashes, ashes,
We all...fall...DOWN!

When you say "down", everyone falls down. Little kids love this game because it's fast, it's simple and they can do it before they can sing it.

Taking Lucy's hands in mine, I began to sing and go in a circle and Lucy walked along with me.

However, as the end of the game loomed, it slowly dawned on me that, 1) I was going to have to fall down on a hardwood floor, 2) the last time I played this game I was (*ahem!*) several pounds lighter than I am now, and 3) I'm 54, not 20 months old.

When I fall down nowadays, or get down on the floor for any reason, I'm definitely concerned about the process of getting back up again.

And did I mention my knees have been shot since my 20's, due to riding/jumping and/or jogging on cement too much?


So when the big moment came and it was time to "fall down", I sort of lurched over awkwardly and tried to collapse onto the floor gently without doing too much damage. Even though I tried to use my hands as much as possible to absorb the shock, I still ended up wincing as my knees hit the unyielding wood. LuBear eagerly followed suit, flinging herself with abandon onto the hard floor, giggling happily.

At only 20 months when she falls, intentional or not, she practically bounces off the floor, she's that flexible and light.

Her Nana? Not so much.

Which brings me to another flaw in bringing up this game. One of Lucy's favorite words is "again".

"Again!" she squealed.

Oh good god.

"Again?" I asked, hoping against hope maybe I heard her wrong.

"AGAIN! AGAIN!" Lucy clapped her hands excitedly.


So around we went again, this time with Lucy pulling on me with all her strength, trying to fall early in anticipation the way kids always do.


When we reached the end, I let go of her hands and gleefully she plopped onto the ground without a care in the world, waiting with a huge grin for Nana to join her.

Nana groaned while she did her unintended imitation of a walrus sunning itself on the beach.

"AGAIN!" Lucy shrieked.

Nana tried to smile.

"What about 'e i e i o'?" I asked, trying to divert her to another favorite, "Old MacDonald Had A Farm" which has the wonderful benefit of no physical challenges.



We had to play Ring Around the Rosies at least 8 more times, my knees getting more and more upset about it, 'til Nana finally had to say "no more, Lu" which brought on an instant barrage of noisy protests.

"AaaaAAAAAAAaaAAAAAAAA, AGAIN AGAIN!" she screamed, tears rolling down her face.

But although one of the worst things in the world for Nana is seeing little LuBear crying her heart out, Nana and her crackling sore knees were all done.

Thus goes the story of Nana's Epic Fail at Teh Ring Around the Rosies.

(By the way, in case anyone is interested, I found out that, although Daws teased me about teaching an innocent young child a rhyme that actually refers to the Black Plague, there is no basis to that old rumor and some version of "Ring Around the Something" where you fall down at the end is very old and present in most cultures worldwide. Who knew?!?)

Thursday, December 9, 2010


"Owwww! DAMN!"

"What happened, Annie?"

"I sliced my thumb open with a steak knife while loading the dishwasher!"

Wincing, I stuck my poor bleeding thumb under the kitchen faucet, rinsing the blood away and still muttering little "ow ow ow ow's" under my breath.

"Lemme see." Daws examined my thumb and made sympathetic noises.

"Want me to get you a bandaid, babe?"

"No...I have to finish rinsing and loading."

Even I didn't buy my overly-exaggerated martyred tone. But Daws chose to indulge me.

"I'll finish, Annie, you go sit down."

Making a few feeble protests, mostly for show, I caved almost immediately and went to sit on a bar stool.

Daws started to slide the packed dishwasher racks in when he stopped, exclaiming, "What kind of mentally challenged individual loaded this washer?"

Actually, he said, "What kind of retard loaded this washer?" but that's un-PC, so I changed it.

"What's wrong with the way I loaded it?" Bristling.

Giving a short, rather condescending laugh, he shook his head and started the washer up, saying, "I'll show you how to load properly next time I do it."

Are you friggin' KIDDING ME? Daws, I've watched the way you load the dishwasher and it's WRONG! All WRONG!

In fact, ALL of you reading this probably load your dishwashers the wrong way. Honestly. I've seen other people's dishwasher-loading skillz and it's pretty ugly out there.

This should be a new reality show. Contestants load a dishwasher, then a panel of qualified judges come by and rate everyone on how well they did.

Why not?

They have a reality show on *haircuts* for god's sake. Why not household chores?

New reality show: "Fill! That! Fridge!" Contestants are given random groceries and told to pack a refrigerator. They are judged on speed, creativity and practicality. Think of the drama! What if your groceries contained items you'd never packed a fridge with before!? What if you broke an egg? Ran out of time? Insanity! Mayhem! Entertainment galore!


I'm writing Mark Burnett about it right now, right this second.

Make a fortune.

Sunday, March 7, 2010


One sentence reviews of the 2010 Academy Award Best Picture Nominees (WARNING! Semi-Spoilers):

The Hurt Locker - New Hotdog shows up in Iraq breaking all the rules, existing crew is hostile to New Hotdoggger, several obvious bait-and-switches by the Bad Guys, stereotypical scene of clueless liberal soldier gettin' what's comin' to 'im, war is bad, war changes people, all with nonstop nauseating shaky cam Cinéma vérité pretentiousness.

Inglourious Basterds - Quentin Tarantino reboots World War II as a surreal western starring Brad Pitt who miraculously doesn't act like Brad Pitt, one of the most Evil Nazi SS characters EVAR is introduced and best opening movie scene on record.

Precious - Poor, abused black teenager overcomes wrenching poverty and ignorance, shockingly good acting jobs by all involved, even Mariah Carey can apparently act (YES YOU HEARD ME, MARIAH CAREY CAN ACT! And very well!) and you'll bawl like a baby at the end. (my choice for Best Pic, although I don't think it will win)

An Education - Overly educated young British girl loses her virginity, almost to a banana, in the early 60's and is labeled a whore for this by Emma Thompson, but prevails despite it all.

The Blind Side - Sandra Bullock and a cast of nobody else I know gets involved in the life of a young black boy from the ghetto and everyone in her family is so nice and so perfect you'll cry and wish someone rich had adopted you when you were a teenager, too.

Up - An old man ties balloons to his house and flies away with a young Boy Scout; adventures ensue but not pervy ones, as the previous statement seems to suggest, just really really boring ones.

Up In The Air - George Clooney posturing and mugging as himself while flying all over the country firing people, gets involved with a woman who pwns him, tries to teach people life is meaningless and the movie ends rather flatly and pompously, as if the message was, "Hey, did you know the economy sucks right now?" and you're supposed to react, "GEE WOW REALLY? WHO KNEW??"

District 9 - Aliens come to Earth, spewing vomit and disgusting fluids everywhere and are treated badly in return, shaky cam in full effect to give that "gritty realism" directors love so much these days, broad comparisons to apartheid and racism drawn, mockumentary style a'la Borat, and blah blah blah, very boring.

Avatar - White men of European descent can always do everything better than the indigenous tribes they've come to conquer; taking over their leadership positions, impregnating their women and even becoming their species, too, if necessary because White Men of European Descent are just that good at it.

UPDATE! We just now watched the final contender, A Serious Man, hours before the Oscars:

"American Beauty" meets "A Beautiful Mind" meets "The Burbs" but for Jews instead of Goyim (not that there's anything wrong with that).

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

You're Doing It Wrong

It's strange finding myself on the other side of parenting; the grandparenting side.

I'm not raising the little one this time around; she has two awesome parents for that.

Now I'm in the position of being the "older generation". And I'm telling you, I'm amazed my kids even made it to adulthood. For one thing, child car seats didn't have to be specially fitted into our cars; we just stuck them on the seat and strapped the seat belt around them. As a matter of fact, when I went home from the hospital with Newborn Baby Laura, I held her in my lap the whole way; we didn't even HAVE a car seat yet. Although it was on the list of Things We Needed For The Baby When We Could Afford It.

And food. I don't remember exactly when I started giving the kids solids but it seems to me it was pretty early on. Oatmeal, I believe, at 4 months or so. Eventually I would grind up whatever was grindable from what we were eating and spoon it into their mouths. As they learned how to grasp, I'd chop up foods we ate and put it on their highchair tray. And we'd all eat together.

When Laura was around 7 months, she choked on a piece of bacon that I hadn't cut up quite small enough, or maybe it was just the taste of fatty, processed pork that set her off. Grabbing her up out of her high chair, I gave her a little mini-baby-Heimlich maneuver.

No doubt that is the exact opposite of what one should do for choking babies in 2010 but in 1978 it worked and the piece of bacon flew spectacularly across the room.

Then we both cried.

For a long time after that, the only pig-oriented food Laura got was cut-up bologna or hotdogs.


So I thought nothing of sharing my fried egg sandwich with Lucy the other day when we were taking care of her. She's 9 months old now, going on 10, and she likes to nom on whatever the people around her are nomming on. This is a good thing, babies thrive on this, it's tribal, it's natural.

"EH!" she says when we are eating, reaching out her little hand. Of course I'm going to oblige her, right?

So Lucy and I nommed companionably on my fried egg sandwich together; I'd take a bite, then I'd give her a Lucy-sized bite. She especially loved the runny eggy part, so I gave her as much as she wanted. She loved it.

C'mon, what is simpler than an egg? It's a classic. Imminently NOM-ABLE! And whole wheat bread! A staple food for multiple generations of human beings! Right?

Egg sammich! It's totally made for babies!

Imagine how floored I was the other day when the five of us were at a pizza place for lunch and I tried to give Lucy a piece of my bread roll only to hear...

"Mom, what are you doing?" Laura's tone was definitely disapproving.


"Giving Lucy a piece of bread?" I froze, bread fragment in my hand all ready to go, Lucy's mouth open and waiting like a baby bird, ready for some yummy pizza-place roll-action.

"No, Mom, she can't have bread yet." Laura stared at me, incredulous that her mother could be so clueless about the Evils of Bread when it comes to babies.

Dropping the tidbit back onto my plate, I threw a beseeching look at Dawson. Because everyone who knows me can read everything I'm thinking all over my face and I knew that Laura was going to find out...


"What?" Keeping my voice bright and casual, struggling to keep the guilty tone out.

"Mom...did you already give her bread before this?"

"Well..." Trying not to wince.


" and no. Technically, it was toast."

Laura shook her head, amused and slightly annoyed, both. "She's not supposed to have wheat yet, in case she's allergic."

"It was just a little bit," I lied, "Just a smidgen of my fried egg sandwich."

"WHAT?! You gave her egg, too?? She's not supposed to have egg yet, either, Mom. Not until she's a year old."

"Oh...." Again I looked over at Daws, hoping he'd back me up, but he put up his hands and shook his head silently with a, "You're on your own, babe" husbandly shrug.


We all looked at Lucy who by now was pointing at her mouth frantically, pantomiming that she wanted more bread, Nana.

Okay, not really. But it might have helped if she had.

"But she really liked it, Laura," I said weakly.

Laura glared, then smiled and sighed.

Honestly, I never thought I'd feel so out of the loop. So I raised two kids, so what, what do I know? Apparently not much. We gave our kids eggs and bread and obviously bacon, or whatever we were eating and only now, all these years later, do I realize it's a miracle they lived through my pathetic parenting skills.

We all stopped at Stark's on our way home for some Happy Hour goodness. Since I hate pizza and had only had a roll and a small salad, I ordered a meatloaf slider. Only $1.50 but that's $1.50 packed full of pure happiness and WIN.

As we chatted and laughed together, I kept giving Lucy little bites of my meatloaf slider, relieved she wasn't allergic to bread after all and a potentially disastrous situation had been narrowly averted...


"What?" God, it was the same tone she'd had at the pizza place.

"What are you feeding her?"

"....meatloaf slider?" I said in a small voice.


Oh. Jeez...

We all looked at Lucy, happily chewing and smacking over the meatloaf.

"But Laura...she likes it."

Laura shook her head and sighed. Again.

Oy. Poor Nana just can't get a break.