Monday, December 26, 2011

New Year's Greetings from a Forlorn Bulldog

I am Lord Stafford Hall Grant, and this is my annual synopsis of the year past.  It is with great sorrow that I bring you this recapitulation.  The last 365 days have been ridden with woe, thanks to the Bastard Hound who was thrust upon me late 2010.  Said creature has taken great pleasure in repeatedly stealing my 2011 spotlight.  In stark contrast, this year has been wonderful for my minion humans--a marriage for Tom and Angie with a honeymoon in the Bahamas, a new domicile for all of us with room to cavort and make merry mayhem, AB Honor Roll for Master Wesley Boles, Dean’s List for Lady Jessica, and an acceptance to the prestigious Citadel for Lord Paul.  Yet, I weep…in addition to my reign as Alpha male continually being challenged, I have suffered multiple health issues and have been confined nightly in my crate.  Topping it all off, I have been hidden away during family functions, thus depriving the general public of my many charming attributes.

The dog called Moe Moe should have been dead months ago; alas his passing remains mysteriously at bay.  Daily, he eats out of my royal dish and hogs my toys. His favorite pastime is blocking my path from the den to the great room by positioning his freakishly elongated body sideways. He growls each time I make an approach. 

As I am prone to excessive ear wax production, The Creature oft corners me to lick said wax out of my ears in an act of blatant irreverence.  I must admit that on many levels I enjoy this, a forbidden act in the Grant household.  However, I tend to feel cheap and dirty following these audiologic escapades…another way Bastard Hound attempts to thwart my power.

Besides the annoyance of Dead Dog Walking, I have been struck with odd ailments that have made 2011 difficult.  Yeast infection in my facial folds, severe conjunctivitis that required optical steroid use, and an embarrassing scrotum malady plagued me.  I will take this opportunity to aver that I have overcome the awkward nature of this last illness in an effort to raise awareness to the affliction commonly known as “Raw Balls.”  As an English Bulldog, I possess a genetic predisposition for many conditions, including Raw Balls.  Through education, therapy, and an Elizabethan dog collar, I have recovered and found the courage to disclose my painful journey so that no others must suffer.  Besides an interesting discolored area, my scrotum is back to normal.  I would be remiss if I did not add that the high stress of living with Bastard Hound has weakened my delicate immune system and most certainly caused the aforementioned afflictions.

My crate reappeared after I urinated on my new dog bed for the second time.  In an effort to “stick it to” the Bastard Hound, I peed on my own bed.  Yes, oh dear readers, I know this speaks to my pure disdain toward him, for me to sink to this level, but it worked beautifully the first time.  My human underlings assumed that I would NEVER soil my OWN bed.  And given my nemesis’ failing excretory system, plus his bend toward bullying, he was the obvious culprit.  Thus, ‘twas Moe Moe who faced nocturnal confinement in the master suite for a wonderful 4 weeks…until I again peed on my bed, then completed my restful slumber that evening on the forbidden recliner…where I was found in the morn…by Lord Tom.  Why, you might ask, would I again wet my bed?  I do not have an explanation…only the English Bulldog is the third stupidest breed of dog, according to Wikipedia. Truth bites. 

And, because of a feverish pursuit of the pipe dream to remain Alpha male, I am no longer allowed to enjoy parties and family functions.  Pre-Bastard Hound days, when guests visited the Grant Clan manor, I was the center of attention with my adorable wrinkles and flat face.  Guests would flock to love on me despite my flatulent nature.  With his bizarrely long ears and malformed stubby legs, it is around he that guests congregate.  I had no choice but to perform some attention-seeking activity.  Activity du jour…leg humping.  Alas, no more appearances at social functions.

So, there you have it…the grief that was 2011.  Moe Moe will be 12 years old in January, even though the life span of the God-forsaken breed is 8 to 10 years.  He is showing no sign of decline.  Apparently it is true that having a sense of purpose in life will increase longevity.  Unfortunately for me, Canine Methuselah’s sole aspiration is making me miserable, 24/7.  Wishing all of you well in 2012, and may it be Basset-free!

With warmest regards, I am

Lord Stafford Hall Grant

Saturday, December 3, 2011

Boo, Gobble, Ho: The Tao of the Walmart Holiday Kiosk

My husband Tom and I decided to host this year’s family Thanksgiving celebration, which was a fantastic idea in July when discussed over mojitos.  Not so much so the third week of November, as we made mega to do lists in a filthy house with Halloween decorations still up.  None the less, I “manned up,” as my ten-year-old son says, and set to making Thanksgiving a holiday to remember.  I took Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday off work to prepare the domicile for Thursday festivities.  I figured in three days I would have plenty of time to clean, shop, and even squeeze in a little time for me…yeah right. Wednesday night at I found myself heading back to the God forsaken land that is Walmart for the eighth time in two days.  Yes, I needed tea, turkey gravy mix, and picture frames.

I assumed my step father Bill had gotten the tea, because it is a major item on his finicky list.  He finds tea manufactured in bulk much more to his liking than homemade.  He is a connoisseur of generic, artificially-sweetened tea products, and when he finds a brand he likes, no other will suffice.  He took to bed when his all-time favorite tea supplier, the Winn Dixie Grocery Store chain, downsized and closed all local outlets.  Winn Dixie apparently produced a tea that was brewed by angels with water from paradise.  After an inappropriate amount of mourning, he painstakingly and begrudgingly searched for the next best mass produced tea. A year later, he found it under the Great Value label with an orange top at Walmart…thus one of my reasons for a Thanksgiving Eve visit to Sam Walton’s Shopping Mecca.  I thought Shiraz and tap water was a good enough selection for our meal, but what did I know?   

The turkey gravy mix request came via text from my Mom while I was en route to Wally World, in case Tom couldn’t master giblet gravy from scratch…a safe bet.  “It will probably be in a holiday kiosk on the grocery side,” her text said.  Holiday kiosk…yes, Walmart’s one-stop shopping creation to make you buy more shit than you need for any given celebration.  Example:  “Hey Rita, where did you get those mammoth, albeit interesting, football earrings?”  “Well, at the Walmart super bowl kiosk, of course.  I was buying goalpost plates and napkins for this party, and there they were.  And, look at the little doggie jerseys and matching jock straps I got for the Bichons….”

The picture frames were my last minute frantic requirements.  You see, as I visualized my home full of relatives, I realized that I had no pictures displayed that included ANY of Tom’s family members!  And what would they think?  That I didn’t think them significant enough in our lives?  That I cared more about having a wall full of my pets, even dead ones, than their smiling faces?  Or that I had every intention of hanging their photos, but had only been in the new house for eight months, and just hadn’t had time?  The last one was true, but I just couldn’t risk them opting for either of the first two…so I had to get some pictures on the wall of the Grant clan posthaste before they arrived.

When I walked into Walmart, I found it eerily spacious.  There were NO holiday kiosks, none.  Apparently, in preparation for Black Friday, Walmarteers had removed all riot- hindering obstacles.  But it was Wednesday!  What about all the Turkey Day procrastinators?  Where were they going to find their mammoth turkey earrings?!  Where was I going to find the turkey gravy mix?  Just as panic was about to set in, I had a brief moment of sanity which I had not experienced in three days… the sauce isle!  That’s where it will be!  I found a crowd of people huddled in front of the gravy mix section, eyes glazed over, staring at the selection.  I elbowed my way to the shelves, and surveyed the wares…brown gravy mix, chicken gravy mix, poultry gravy mix, beef gravy mix, red eye gravy mix.  Not one turkey gravy mix.  WTH?  Really?  So, I texted mom, “isn’t turkey a type of poultry?”  No response.  People were now rudely pushing forward, so I grabbed two poultrys, two browns, and one red eye (just for shits and grins.)  I then headed to the refrigerated section for the orange top tea.  Okay first unit…milk, eggnog, no tea.  Next one…orange juice, grapefruit juice, eggnog, no tea.  Next, grape juice, fruit punch, Sunny D, eggnog, no tea.  No tea could be found in any of the 15 refrigerated units.  I started to sweat.  No mass produced, generic gallons of tea?  My mind raced to the worst case scenario…E. coli recall.  Thanksgiving spent in the hospital with Bill.  “No!” I said to myself, “Focus, Angie. It must be somewhere else.  Maybe with the other name brand teas? Where were they?”  So I texted mom again, “Where is Bill’s tea?”  No response.  I had circled the store two times and went in and out of all isles and found no pre-made tea, of any kind.  The panic was truly closing in now.

Mom really needed to respond before a police officer showed up at her doorstep, explaining that I was found rocking back and forth in a video gaming chair midway down the wine isle, smoking my e-cigarette, hugging a carton of eggnog, muttering incoherently about E. coli, poultry gravy, and turkey earrings.

On my third round, I happened to glance into a refrigerated unit in the middle of the grocery section, full of spiral hams…and eggnog.  Underneath a ham butt, I saw the faint image of an orange top.  I began to dig feverishly through the porky heap, and there they were…an orange sea of Bill’s tea.  My phone vibrated.  Mom had responded.  “Yes, dear, turkey is poultry.  The tea is with the spiral ham.”  Well, what was I thinking, of course tea would be housed with ham butts, it makes perfect Walli-sense…I grabbed two gallons, then set out for the frames….now where might they be?  With the feminine hygiene products or in Electronics?       

After locating the frames (which were in Housewares, go figure) and checking out, I stood in the Walmart parking lot feeling violated and confused.  Do the store layout planners and marketing strategists smoke crack at their meetings?  Is Walmart secretly owned by the US government? Did I fall down a rabbit hole?  Whatever the case, reality and Walmart mentality are two totally different beasts, and I currently didn’t have time to ponder the conundrum.  I headed home to frame and hang pictures until dawn. 

A. Ballerina    

Saturday, September 3, 2011

RuPaul is NOT Running for President...My Incredible Journey to EnSIGHTenment

After sixteen consecutive weeks of wearing my last pair of “daily wear” contacts, I was forced to schedule an appointment for my “annual” eye exam. I had successfully avoided a check up for two and a half year (my personal best), but the time had come to replenish my depleted lenses repository.  The game was up.

I postponed an eye exam not because of my natural bend toward procrastination, but as a deliberate act of protest.  I hoard my lenses like a survivalist stockpiling organic radish seeds, merely for retaliation…Retaliation against the insurance companies who monopolize the corrective lenses industry. Retaliation against the ophthalmologists, as their drones, who will not write anyone a prescription, even if it’s the same prescription, if it has been more than twelve months since their last eye exam.  Oh, yes…and retaliation against the retail vision centers that treat two-year-old prescriptions like expired milk.  Try telling any of these optical gods that your vision hasn’t changed and you will be labeled ignorant, called a liar, or asked where you received your Doctorate of Optometry.  After you have been demoralized, you are forced make an appointment, submitting to the ever-rising annual co-pay as they dangle the fantasy of fresh lenses as an enticement.  Therefore, as a form of personal protest, I stand blindly and do not take the bait, until all my optical options have been spent.

Alas, I knew that time had arrived, as I dug in the blurry bowels of my bathroom cabinet hoping to unearth some extra pair of lenses I had in sixth grade to no avail.  SIDE NOTE:  .5, 2.0, 5.5, exact prescription strength matters not, in a bind.  I can raise those hard, warped, tiny orbs from the dead when I am trying to prove a point.  A little peroxide, saline, a voodoo chant, and voila!  New eyes resurrected from 1978.

On this particular day, wearing my mummified, weak ass, disco-era contacts, my eye sockets were bone dry and I was experiencing extreme blurriness.  My final lenses were in their death throws, and my cupboards wert bare.  The down side of long gaps between appointments is I always forget the name of the ophthalmologist I saw last.  No problem.  I just pick up the phone book, hold it extremely close to my face, and squint down rows of names in the yellow pages.  Eeny, meeny, miny, moe …Hell, they all do the same thing; all I need are my tinted Royal Blue Focus Daily Wear Lenses, 5.0.  Begrudgingly, I will jump through their hoops…look into that machine and answer confusing questions.  “Are the numbers clearer here….or here?  Is this better, or is this better?”  Honestly, there is not a damn bit of difference.  Really, it’s like looking at sheep, one looks just like the other.  And give me something to look at besides numbers.  Numbers do not interest me.  Whether it’s a two or a five, a three or an eight; I just don’t care, and I will say anything just to make the numbers stop.  Show me something worth looking at….maybe, SHOES! If they would show me rows of shoes, I could pick out even the most subtle differences.  1” kitten heel from 1 ½” spike…. swing back pump vs. sling back peep toe….copper or bronze?” Now those are questions I could answer with certainty.

But on with my story…I chose Doctor X simply because he sported the biggest ad in the yellow pages, and I could read the office number.  When I made the appointment, I was asked if I had ever seen Doctor X before.  I answered truthfully and politely, by responding, “I don’t know, have I?”  And the receptionist, who must have thought I was being a smart ass, said, “This is important information, ma’am.  Have you ever been to our office or not?”  I floundered…“Maybe, maybe not.  Can you check for me?  And, God knows, don’t search by last name.  I have had several and sometimes even I get confused.  Let me just give you my social security number.”   After several minutes, Ms. Sunshine determined that I had never been a patient at Doctor X’s establishment, meaning I would have to fill out all the new patient forms.  I was instructed to arrive 15 minutes prior to my appointment time, so I could get through the mass of documents.

I arrive on the correct day of my appointment.  I thought I deserved a prize for that.  Granted, I was not a full fifteen minutes ahead of schedule, but Ms. Sunshine (yep, working the reception desk) didn’t need to loudly scorn me in front of other patients.  Where was my right to confidentiality? How do you even contact the HIPAA police?  The entire waiting room stared at me as if I was the sole reason that the appointments were backed up.

So I blindly rush through the reams of paperwork, thinking, why must I answer these pointless questions?  What does my alcohol consumption have to do with my optical health?  “Who do we contact in case of an emergency?”  How the hell do I know….Annie Sullivan? What kind of frickin’ procedures do they perform here that would render me incapable of making a medical decision?

Paperwork complete, I tossed the epic through the window while HER head was turned (probably on the backside of a 360).  I was relieved when one of my names was finally called, and I was able to leave the glaring, hate-filled stares of the other patients in the waiting room. 

Seated in the exam room, I went through the routine…pealing my dying lenses from my corneas and entrusting them to the case provided by the assistant, telling the assistant that I forgot to bring my glasses, and struggled through the numbers questions.  Then, she said follow me to the adjacent room.  “Where exactly are you?” I asked.  Without my contacts, it was like being on a psychedelic mushroom trip… I would imagine.  Colors blending and moving, I tried to follow the assistant through an indistinct, but beautiful, haze.  I could have easily stumbled, fell, and hit my head on some blurred object leaving me unconscious.  Ah…thus the reason for the emergency contact question….

When I met Dr X, he looked in my eyes (I presume) and said, “You need torque lenses.”  Acid flashback ten years when I attempted those devil lenses.  “No,” I said.  “They make me nauseated.”  “I have never heard of that,” he said.  “Yeah, well, try leaving a professional conference with your boss and driving down a curvy mountain road, hung over, with your lenses rotating in random directions, independently of each other. 

I bet you would be forced to stop on the side of the road four times to hurl.  That little experiment brought down my evaluation for two years!”  “Hummmm…Perhaps other factors influenced your predicament,” he said.  Oh no you dit unt!  “The torques have been perfected.  They don’t move when you blink, now. Besides, with your astigmatism, you need torques for your best vision.”  I wish I could see you now…so I could get you in my crosshairs….

After a few more minutes of “discussion,” I reluctantly agreed to give the torques another chance. The fact that I was blind and could not find the Exit sign weighed heavily on my decision. If he was wrong, Doctor X could afford a hefty carpet cleaning bill, I thought, with my co-pay and all. 

So, I put the lenses in my eyes.  The heavens opened up and sunlight streamed through the ceiling tiles…It was truly an epiphany.  I COULD SEE! And no nausea.  Wow.  What exquisite details….

And there was Doctor X., not at all what I expected…young, olive skin and ebony hair.  How long do you have to go to school to be an eye doctor, anyway?  At the moment, it mattered not.  I was basking in the sharp angles and brilliant colors of the world…Then I literally saw the shit hit the fan.  “Your prescription is too strong for colored torque contact lenses,” Doctor X said as he perused the computer screen.  “Oh, no!  I must have my royal blue eyes. They are essential to my keen sense of fashion….  Keep looking,” I said.  “Nope.  No luck.  Not with a power of 5.0, a cylinder of -1.5, and an axis of 23 degrees.”  “Search another longitude and latitude, Doc…I need Royal Blue.”  Nerd boy. 

He had the audacity to then say, “tinted lenses are not as popular as they once were.  People just aren’t wearing them anymore.”  Sure. And they aren’t getting boob jobs, either.  “I don’t care what other people wear.  Without my royal blue lenses, my eyes are stone gray and unattractive...corpse-like, really.  At 45, I have to use all the illusions I can buy to enhance my face.  Just give me my old prescription of Focus 2 Week SoftColors Contact Lenses…Royal Blue.”  “Well I guess you could have both lenses, and wear the blue ones as accessories, you know like when you were going out to a club or something.”  A club?  Really?  Why don’t you just run back across to the Sesame Street Science Lab from which you surely originated. "Just don't drive wearing them."  Okay, enough, Baljeet.

All torqued up, I left in a raging huff….Until I stepped outside and experience Technicolor with 20/15 vision. The world seemed brighter and clearer, and my sarcasm began to fade, briefly.  Maybe I wasn’t depressed after all.  I can actually read street signs and see children playing dangerously close to the road.  Maybe now I could even try to stop the Beetle before I passed the stop signs?  Maybe…just, maybe… I could live with these new eyes…even if they weren’t royal blue.  My trip back from Doctor X’s office was very enlightening.  I realized that people were not actually selling funnel cakes from random houses in my community. Those sign actually read, “SLOW Funeral Ahead.”  Oh, and it is Ron Paul my neighbor wants running for President in 2012, not RuPaul.


So, with the exception of my work-wife Julie who said my new eyes make me look “high,” very few people have noticed.  In fact, I think some folks might be jealous. Just the other day I shared the gripping drama of my new bionic eyes with my BFF Melanie, expecting her to share in my celebration of enhanced vision. Instead, she freaked. “BITCH…for two years I have let you drive my ass through metropolitan shopping districts at night! For two years I just thought you got ditzy on the high of retail therapy and all this time you COULD NOT SEE?!”  God, it is always the ones you love who hurt you most….

A. Ballerina 

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

My kids probably have scurvy and I probably am an alcoholic

Thanks to my BFF, the Rowdy Chick seeking Elusive Balance, I came to know the uber hilarious Jenny Lawson, aka The Bloggess.  Jenny had a post not too long ago that sparked a series of events that gave my life purpose and meaning, at least for a couple of days.  The topic of the blog was scratching messages in bananas.  The “notes” magically appeared hours later, because that’s just how writing on bananas work…due either to the general decomposition process governed by the laws of nature or because they are the fruits of the Devil’s labors.
Undoubtedly, you could scratch sweet notes to children, significant others, and the like, to demonstrate how much you (or the bananas?) care.  But Jenny’s amusing twist of this agape was to write paranoid messages on her bananas for the family. I was inspired by this whole Message in a Fruit concept, and decided to take it one step further.  Not only could I freak out the husband and kids, which is admittedly fun in and of itself, but I could get my way in the process.  SWEET.  Why not use anonymous edicts from produce as a tactical maneuver to force the clan to do my bidding? I thought.   I faced a dilemma; however, after embarking on a painstaking search, I found no bananas at my house.  In retrospect, the end result of my futile banana search should have been evident, given the smell of their yellow, rancid skins makes me puke.  As a matter of fact, there weren’t any fresh fruits in my kitchen, except mangoes...but they were ONLY for blending with tequila and triple sec.  Yep, I know…my kids probably have scurvy and I am probably an alcoholic.  But back to my fantasy… 

I then just couldn’t go buy bananas.  My family would have become immediately suspicious, and by my own warped moral code, I could not financially support the banana industry.  My search did uncover year-old Dora the Explorer fruit snacks that Wesley wouldn’t touch because they are “girl snacks.”  Side note:  I bought the Dora snacks by mistake, thinking they were Scooby Doo fruit snacks.  In my defense, I bought them in Walmart, where I am generally disoriented, AND the two purple boxes were side by side, AND, damn it, she looks like Velma!

Anyway, I decided to spell out my messages using Dora the Explorer fruit snacks.  With 10% fruit juice, I was hoping they would yield at least 10% compliance.  My plan was to get up way early to leave messages to my minions.  (Insert Maniacal Laugh) When Wesley came downstairs for breakfast, he would find the unfolded napkin beside his plate dotted with miniature, stale, but fruity Doras, Bootses, Swipers, and magical backpacks.  WASH MOM’S CAR.  At the same time, Tom would discover his message left on the master bath’s counter top.  AFTER LAST NIGHT, SHE DESERVES FLOWERS.  Jessie and Paul would find there messages smeared with Jello Snack Pack pudding (because fruit snacks won’t stick to ceramic tile) on their respective showers’ walls.  VACUUM THE LIVING ROOM and FEED THE DOGS.

Alas, after two weeks of preparation, I have yet to execute my plan.  Truth be known, I will not get up earlier than absolutely necessary due in part to mango margarita consumption, and the kids are too vitamin C deficient to carry out complicated tasks.  Not to mention the fact that I deserve way more than flowers…  

A. Ballerina

Friday, July 22, 2011

The Little Tikes Battlefield is not for everyone…

Last week I heard on CNN that the owner of McDain’s, a restaurant in Monroeville, PA, has completely banned kids under the age of six from his establishment.  “Their volume can’t be controlled and many, many times, they have disturbed other customers,” owner Mike Vuick said.

Preschoolers…prohibited?  Finally, someone has the guts to take action for an underserved, downtrodden, and unappreciated population…the parents of young children (PYC).  You see, Vuick has just given PYC an excuse to get a sitter, go out, relax, and ENJOY dinner.  He is your friend and advocate, people!  

I admit that I have never been in the running for Parent of the Year.  That auspicious title always eluded moi.  So my ten-year-old son Wesley has only recently been allowed to grace the doors of a “sit down” restaurant.  As a matter of fact, I avoided taking him out in public, except for limited appearances at family functions, until North Carolina General Statue forced me to register him for Kindergarten.

Infants and toddlers are just not pleasant, nor fun to be around.  They are unpredictable, egocentric, violent, and, well, stinky 90% of the time.  Thank God they are cute, or the lot of us bipeds would go extinct.  

I realize that the first five years is extremely important in brain formation, learning, blah, blah, blah. I also recognized my limitations as a parent in the area of brain formation, and entrusted Wesley to the professionals. Weekends, said professionals were Vincent Van Goat and Bard the dragon, of Baby Einstein’s DVDs--Baby Van Gogh and Baby Shakespeare, respectively.  During the week, I worked while Wesley’s brain formation continued at an endorsed, licensed daycare facility.  I found that learned sages at daycare centers and other child development agencies have extensive training in instructing, guiding and directing tiny tyrants.  These people have CHOSEN to work on the front lines of the Little Tikes Battlefield, so our species will survive.  It brings a tear to my eye just thinking about the unselfish sacrifices.  They are unacknowledged martyrs, our clandestine SEAL Team 6…Ooo-rah, Able Annie’s Daycare and the Rockingham County Partnership for Children!
And just like there are experts in bambino tutelage, there are also communal venues specifically designed for children, and yes, these include eateries.  You know, Chuck E. Cheese, where a kid can be a kid…unpredictable, egocentric, violent AND stinky. (The franchise should consider this more accurate tag line.)  Regrettably, again because of legalities, we can’t just drop off our toddlers at Chuck E. Cheese and go grab a latte at Starbucks.  Yes, we are tagged with matching bracelets upon entrance and forced to endure that gi-normous mechanical rodent that spontaneously breaks out in song, screeching children, the dings of trillions of electronic games, and, of course, the insidious stench of pre-schoolers.  Fortunately, the management understands how adults are debilitated by Suck E. Sleaze and serve beer.

Other restaurants have subtlety made dining with your toddler manageable.  Case in point, Chick-fil-A, whose company owners are surely closet advocates for PYC.  An observation unit with toddler-enticing equipment is located inside the restaurant, where you can peacefully watch your child, with those of his own kind, reeking havoc and general mayhem as you enjoy your meal.  You cannot be any taller than 42” to enter the transparent, sound proof padded exhibit room.  In other words, no parents allowed!

In my opinion, there are too few places that preschoolers aren’t allowed:  Strip clubs, bars, and now McDain’s.  Those little crumb catchers have the run of our world!  And if you are a PYC, you know I speak the truth.  Now we all know those Queens of Denial who may say, “But, I love to spend time with my two-year-old, Ballerina!  I just have to be a stay at home mom, for I can’t imagine being away from Junior one second!”  Stop the lies!  Stop the cover up! Junior knows two words:  “Dad,” whom he never sees during the work week, and “No,” which is his response to everything.  He still poops in his pants, but now has the capability to reach into his Pull-Up, grab a handful, and smear feces on your freshly cleaned walls. Yes, while your exhausted ass is boiling and pureeing fresh zucchini you harvested from the garden planted so he can have nutritious, organic, meals, Junior is spraying Febreze Air Effects into the dog’s eyes.   Let’s face it:  It sucks being home with Junior, that’s reality.  Again, thank God he’s cute or you would eat him.  And taking him out to a restaurant?  A Bengal tiger or Black-backed Jackal would be my pick before a toddler. 

I have now come to the end of my ranting, so I will leave you with this final question:  When is your child fit for public restaurants?  Perhaps when he or she stops finding the box more interesting than the toy in which it came?

A. Ballerina

Friday, June 17, 2011

Melanoma Mildred or Freaky Freckle…It’s a Fine Line, People.

Last Sunday, as I was ritually examining my face with the magnified mirror for new age-related flaws to obsess over during the coming week, I spied an interesting dark splotch beside my nose at 5 degrees northeast.  Hmmm.  Upon closer inspection with my industrial strength magnification device, I identified these nasty spider-like tentacles branching from the center.  Yow! This cannot be good.  My thoughts started to race, my genetic-based defense mechanism to generalized crises.  Automatically, I was tumbling down the sudden, yet predicable path to a full-blown Paranoid Delusional Episode.  In a nutshell, this winding road begins with “woe is me” and terminates at “ironic death imminent; commence funeral preparation.” 

So the warped thought process goes…Well, doesn’t this just beat all?  I spend over five grand to reverse the 40 years of sun damage. I endure facial laser strikes akin to the epic Battle of Endor (The Return of the Jedi...Star Wars IV).   I spend seven days as a “hide-your-face-lest-you have-to-explain-excessive-peeling” recluse, appearing only at night like a psoriasis-ridden vampire. And finally, there was the PAIN. The facial bombardment HURT LIKE A MOTHA!  AND, I had not one treatment, but THREE.  Yes, THREE.  When I had healed properly for the third time, I actually had to darken my roots to provide some contrast for my ashen cheeks that were slathered daily with 70 SPF sun block! So my bleached blonde hair and suntanned face were sacrificed for fewer wrinkles and NOT GETTING SKIN CANCER.  And now I am staring at Melanoma Mildred, whose grapnels have most certainly snaked into my nasal cavity and are heading post haste to my brain…

I have had trouble breathing lately…and the dizzy spells?  Yes, Mildred has metastasized and I have a brain tumor…definitely.  Probably two months, maximum.  I want Steve Perkins and Debbie Joyce to sing a duet at my memorial service, perhaps Amazing Grace. No, too trite; that is the fallback tune when no one really knows the deceased...when they are a recluse…a paranoid recluse…a paranoid recluse targeted to die because she valued her looks above all else!!!!

The weeping, wailing and gnashing of teeth come next, and it is too pitiful to even describe in print.  Let’s just say there were excretions from every orifice and I am grateful that I was in the bathroom while convulsing. Suffice to say I was now on the tile floor in a fetal position reeking of vomit, my mega magnifying device grasped tightly in one hand as the other hand made the sign of the cross.  I confessed my laundry list of sins.  I was a chaotic, hypocritical mess.  Hell, I wasn’t even Catholic.  

The next day, I awoke with a little more sanity, or perhaps a more accurate word would be clarity, on the subject, and decided that, for insurance purposes, I probably needed to make an appointment with my dermatologist so she could confirm my undeniable diagnosis.  Hopefully she could see me in the morning, so I would have the afternoon to fill my prescription for Oxycodone, quit my job, gather my family, and begin living out my remaining days on the coast of some island near Belize.  Peace out! 

Once in the dermatologist’s office, I pointed to Mildred, and wept, “It doesn’t look good.”  She responded, “What doesn’t look good?”  “This spot on my face,” I replied impatiently.  “I don’t see anything,” she said, handing me a mirror, “show me.”  “Right here!  It has tentacles!  Like Ursula, the Sea Witch, only a smaller, deadlier dermatological version.”  “Ah, yes.  The freckle-looking spot?  (Not a very medically term) I don’t think it is anything to be concerned about.  I can cut it out now and be done with it, or we can wait a month and see what it looks like then.  If I cut it out it will leave a scar.  I would wait a month.” Obviously my medical degree from the University of Unreasonable Suspicions has not prepared me for this response.  “Don’t you want to take a sample for biopsy?” I said.  “There’s not enough of the freckle to get a testable sample,” Okay, her emphasis on the word “freckle” was completely uncalled for at this juncture.  She requested that she examine my entire body for any other suspicious spots, probably wanting to avoid another impending visit that would not be covered by insurance. 

She then announced that everything looked fine and said, “Could I ask you to try not to get as much sun?”  Sober reality had dawned again, coupled with the return of my smart mouth. “Why, yes, of course, you can ask.”       

In summary, it turns out that Mildred’s tentacles were probably tiny blood vessels that my electron microscope, had morphed into tentacles.  And my stuffy nose was a nasty symptom of Afrin withdrawal.  In my hysterics, I had completely forgotten about working my internal Twelve Step program for Nasal Sprayers Anonymous.  The stuffy nose will go away, and my chip is just around the corner… The dizziness, well, hadn’t eaten the day before in an attempt to slay those last two pounds I had been battling for three months.  According to the experts, you know, the ones with degrees from those accredited universities, a lack of nutrition will cause a drop in glucose which most likely will lead to syncope. But what the hell, I would rather be neurotic, skinny, ashen and dizzy with a runny nose than have to laser another facial scar! May the Force (of Youth) Be With You!

A. Ballerina

Monday, May 23, 2011

E…O…G? O...M...G!

EOG...The three most dreaded letters of third grade.

Hello, blog world! I return to my13 fateful cyber followers after a whirlwind month of marriage, moving, and mayhem.  My schedule is becoming somewhat stable now…well, as stable as it’s going to be for me…and I am ready to be irreverent again!

I have been dreading this past week for three years now.  Yes, it’s the first year my son Wesley had to suffer through EOGs.  End Of Grade testing is the equivalent of the bird flu in elementary academia, bringing about mass hysteria with communal symptoms of fear, anxiety, and frustration.  It knows no boundaries, infecting teachers, parents, and students alike.

EOGs are the gateway into fourth grade, and there is no other route.  We have pre tested and practiced all year.  There have been bench marks, parent meetings, accelerated student tutoring, and even community forums.  Preparation has been ceaseless and involves every aspect of the student – mind, body, and spirit.  No stone was left unturned.  Prior to test week, reminders for what the children need during these critical testing days have peppered my fridge.  I have flyers on healthy eating, lowering the stress in the home, exercise routines, adequate hydration, and, of course, plenty of sleep.

Instead of falling prey to the disease, I initially chose the stance of a celebratory observer.  Yes, akin to a spectator in Madrid’s Running of the Bulls, I tried to actively ignore the scholastic anarchy.  Needless to say, I failed miserably and contracted the eog bug.  As a matter of fact, a week prior to testing, Wesley was eating broccoli, getting daily massages after his yoga sessions, drinking eight glasses of water per day, and doing 20 push ups before bed at 7pm.  

I have never been a standardized girl, EVER.  Big shock.  I somehow managed to jump those hurdles throughout my academic career, however.  Truth be known, my moral compass completely shut down when it came to these tests.  Cheat sheets, cliff notes, and self help books were used without hesitation.  From “Standardized Tests for Dummies” to “How the Pass the SAT using Ancient Mayan Predictive Techniques,” I desperately searched the shelves of Barnes & Noble for the easy way out.  I had no problems skimming the edge of ethics, because coloring outside the lines makes a much more interesting picture.  Speaking of pictures, I remember after the first few questions on my first attempt at a satisfactory SAT score, I sooooo lost interest that I began filling in the bubbles to form the outline of pop icon Billy Idol.  My GRE was an on-line assessment, and I chose the answers based on the names of animals formed by clouds outside the window beside the computer cubicle.  Fluffy Ants and Dingos…that was my strategy!  I managed to get into both undergraduate and graduate schools by the skin of my teeth.  Thankfully, other criteria were also used to evaluate my potential success.

Today, scholastic requirements are much more stringent. And Wesley not only possesses my personal preference for “coloring outside the lines,” but has a brain that does, as well.  He socially and biologically functions against the Bell curve, because dyslexia and assimilation are oil and water.  Besides the aforementioned, the federal government has created more pressure on school personnel by warping “No Child Left Behind” into some teacher-evaluation-incentive debacle, and the Great State of North Carolina opted to use third grade EOG test scores as the sole Gatekeeper to fourth grade for students.   Academic chaos has thus infiltrated elementary school life!

All year practice tests have come home with Wesley.  I have tried to assist him, but the rage takes over at the seemingly endless stream of ridiculous questions, logic, and answers.  I cannot follow institutionalized bread crumb trail to the standardized logical answer. My chaotic aura of being just can’t.  The result:  I never choose the correct answer.  Sometimes, there are even two equally appropriate answers from which to choose.

Example of the ridiculous Question-Answer set: 

Fatima and Ty-Chen have a busy day!  After breakfast at which lasts 1 hour, they have to help their mother in the garden for 2 hour at , clean their room for 2 hours at , and attend a family reunion at for 3 hours.  When is the best time for them to have lunch?

B.    9:00 am

Standardized appropriate answer:  A.  

WTH!  They are eating lunch 2 hours after they have breakfast!  Childhood obesity is running amuck, and THIS is the official answer?  What happened to Dick and Jane?
And whose mother actually gardens?  And what children actually help in this said fantasy garden?  For the record, it does not take an hour to eat a Hot Fudge Sundae Poptart.  Cleaning their room for two hours is possible, however, where is the 2 plus hours allotted for the whining and stomping of feet followed by some consequence--perhaps NOT going to the reunion--for using a disrespectful tone to the parent who asked for the task to be completed?  Hell, by the time the room cleaning festivities are over, it’s past everybody’s bedtime and the reunion is over.  Lunch/Dinner, therefore, is eaten at and consists of a couple of Ritz crackers and some grape jelly beans dug out between the mattresses during the waterboarding/cleaning fiasco.   And, is not even an OPTION.

But logic and reason are forever lost in the rote, mechanical world of EOGs.  So, I, along with hundreds of other parents will submit to the Academic Overlord during the month of May.  We will feed our children broccoli, force them to go to bed while the sun is still up, encourage them to use their strategies, and make June appointments with child therapists specializing in Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.

A. Ballerina

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Singing The Refi Blues

One of the most humiliating experiences I have had lately occurred this past summer when I made the decision to take advantage of the historically low interest rates.  As you may know, I am not a fan of anything that requires me to do even the simplest mathematical calculations, but I have People.  Said People advised me to refinance...blah, blah, blah…fixed rate… blah, blah, blah…lower monthly payments…blah, blah, Excuse Me?  Lower monthly payments? 

So, potentially, I would have more available cash for the things that make me happy; that make my life meaningful and complete?  Like Stein Mart fashions, Sona MedSpa procedures, Key West excursions, Ben and Jerry’s Coffee Heath Bar Crunch, Skinny Girl Margarita, etc?  All of a sudden I was listening attentively.  My financial People, okay, Julie, scribbled a few numbers and pronounced that I could probably free up about $100 per month to invest in my future.  Now Julie, I-can-dig-up-enough-cash-in-the-bottom-of-my-Vera Bradley Clutch-to-buy-a-small-Caribbean-village, you’ve known me for how long? Invest in my future? Please!  How can I even think about my future when I am in desperate need of these adorable mustard-colored patent leather wedges I saw last week?  Needless to say, I decided to check into this “refi” business. 

Being duly diligent, ‘cause Julie said I should, I contacted three different banks.  All the loan officers were very professional and courteous, but they all talked a little too much about financial matters…blah, blah, blah….mortgage equity, blah, blah, etc.  However, I did remove the pencils out of my nostrils and switched the telephone off speaker mode when one of them starting blabbing about a “cash out” concept.  It seems that, depending on the amount equity you have in your home, you can actually borrow extra money to make home improvements.  Home improvements…like additional closet space? More room to house my wears?  A place where my Ann Taylor slacks and Jones New York blouses could freely roam and graze in the pastures of closet vastness?  Oh how happy they would be…and so would my son Wesley, who was currently sacrificing one third of his wardrobe to the Vera Wang dress gods.

Granted, this refinancing process began very well.  Miracle of miracles, my credit score was really high….the first time I have ever been measured by a number and liked it! Apparently, my lifelong obsession with not disappointing anyone, including the faceless masses at Chase and CitiBank, had paid off.  By my warped calculations, I deduced (math word!) that I had been paying on the house for four years and had lived frugally, relatively speaking.  Well, not really, but God and NeNe and Bill had been really good to me. I had been making a mortgage payment of $600 per month for 48 months.  So, $600 times 48 is $28,800.  Wow, close to $30,000 built up; fashion pastures, here I come!

I made my appointment with the loan officer a la carte after gathering all the requested pertinent documentation, and entered the bank with my near “excellent” credit score, a low debt-to-income ratio, and a sense of entitlement.  Hey, they needed me, I thought, I am going for a 3.5%, and take no more than a 4.0%.  I mean, look at all of the stimulus money I, as the taxpayer, had given these morons.  Geez.  They owe me.  So, strutted in, shook the loan officer’s hand firmly, and sat my cocky ass in front of her over-priced oak desk.  Little did I know I was about to be brought to my knees by the ghostly presence of the Fiscal Grim Reaper.   

“So, do you have your last two banking statements?” she asked.  What a pretty lady—so sophisticated.  Of course, I thought, and handed them over with a smile.  “Where is page 7?” she asked.  My, that dress may be a knock-off.  “What?” I said.  “Page 7 of 7?  Where is it?,” she queried.  “Oh, that page didn’t have anything on it…just an advertisement for a free ham if I charged up the bank’s MasterCard.”  She just sat in silence for several moments, then looked at me over her glasses.  Wow, I hadn’t noticed that wart on the side of her nose.  “I need the complete statement.  The entire document.”  Her hair is kinda messed up, stringy, snake-like, even. “But you have it!” I cried.  “No…I… don’t…I have pages 1 through 6 of 7.  I need PAGE SEVEN OF SEVEN,” she spewed.  Don’t look into her eyes…don’t look into her eyes, lest ye be turned to stone!  “But, I threw it away!” I bawled.  I am certain that her head swiveled 360 degrees as mine hit the shellacked surface of her desk.  And things rolled down hill from there. 

Despite my stupor, I managed to make a list of everything I needed for our next visit, including the original page where my name was written in the Book of Life.  A PDF copy could be substituted if sent electronically directly from Heaven along with a certified, verified list of all of my aliases for cross-referencing.  As I was leaving, I caught a glimpse of the Refi-Underling I had met first.  She walked me to the door, put her arm around my shoulder, and whispered, “I know all these requests seem unbelievable, but everything has to be perfect for the,” she looked nervously from the window to the door and lowered her voice even more.  “The, the… Underwriter.”  At that moment, I could have sworn I heard Bach's Toccata and Fugue in D Minor playing through the bank’s sound system.  

I ran from the FDIC-insured institution, clothes disheveled and mascara running; cursing the liquidity shortfall in the United States banking system that triggered the scrutiny which now plagued me.  For the next month or so, the All-Powerful Underwriter became a source of intense pain and frustration. Not to mention, a serious threat to my wounded self-esteem.  I couldn’t chose my own appraiser because “The Underwriter” wouldn’t allow it.  I had to explain all deposits into my checking account, as well as how I paid for my child’s after school care, in writing, because “The Underwriter” needed verification.  I had to bring my mother into the bank to swear the $3,000.00 she was giving me for closing was a gift (even though I was giving it back to her when I got my tax refund check), because “The Underwriter” demanded it.

The end result was this:  I received my refinancing at 4.3%, barely escaping the dreaded PMI and had NO money for my ubercloset addition. “The Underwriter’s” appraisal came in $10,000.00 below what I actually paid for my domicile, and my tax refund vanished.  Thus far, the brief therapy sessions for economic-related post-traumatic stress symptoms have eaten up my extra $100 dollars a month. And last week at a Chamber Coffee, I found out the elusive “Underwriter” is actually a paid employee of the bank.  Go figure.  Apparently, it is all a deranged math version of good cop/bad cop designed to make the loan seekers submit to their demands.

So, my Donna Karans and Liz Claibornes are still spooning in my closet, and my Ralph Laurens still remain hostages in my son’s repository. But, life goes on. The therapy is working, the embarrassment is subsiding and I even managed to scrape up enough change for my mustard wedges. Of course, I have to wear them every day because there is no place for them to live, other than my feet! Oh well, live and learn and buy new shoes…because looking good is an investment in your future!    

A. Ballerina

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Baby, I Was Born This Way

My name is Angie.
And I am a Consummate Consumer.

I own it.  I embrace it.
Baby, I was born this way.

I am infamously hailed the premiere professional Domestic Purchasing Specialist, but that wasn’t always the case.  The road that led me to this title was a long and sometimes treacherous one.  My story is about overcoming the odds, sacrifice, listening to that inner voice, and never giving up on my dream. Here is the story of my ascent from the family farm to the peak of Kili-Mall-jaro.

I grew up in a now foreign land that my cousin Beth affectionately dubbed “Hooterville,” where I was deprived of the simplest shopping opportunities that others enjoyed.  Throughout my childhood, there existed inside my core a retail void I could not fill.  It wasn’t until many years later, through valid experiential testing, that I learned my condition was biological.  During my formative years, the closest country store, an arduous ten miles away and a full day’s travel on foot, did not satisfy the lusty procurement hormone my spend-gene released.  Hoop cheese, cow feed, and Pointer overalls just wasn’t enough of a selection.  I always left Olson’s Mercantile with a bolt of fabric and cabbage seeds, feeling empty.  Wasn’t there more?

 Why, yes.  Yes there was. 

Upon release from Little Penitentiary on the Prairie, I moved away to a college located in the heart of Shopportunity.  Commerce freedom…the sights, sounds, and smells of the big city trade. Shopping centers, plazas, mezzanines, complexes, emporiums, and marts abounded.  I quickly adjusted to these surroundings that nurtured my internal Shopeteer, and it was magical.    
I rapidly moved through the first levels of shopping forums—shopping centers and malls. I mastered the art of lay aways and credit cards.  I could quickly calculate complex percentage off formulas.  Amazingly enough, my math headaches remained at bay during shopping-related computation.  I was in training, rigorously perfecting my skills daily for the Retail Olympics, held at the final forum…Mac Daddy Malls. 

Only available in metropolitan areas, these colossal purchasing arenas were challenging and dangerous, the perfect complements to my passion. Places where all my training for risk-taking retail would be put to the test…. And I excelled in my element.

I learned that preparation was vital, and like any Shoplete, I created an emergency backpack stocked with supplies in case I found myself in the vicinity of the Super Mall.  In fact, I still have my kit neatly stowed in the trunk of my VW.  It contains all the necessities for a successful mega mall outing:  Special K protein bars (in case I inadvertently stray into an artificial labyrinth of flora, fauna, and fountains and experience weakness), bandages (for shopping injuries, such being trampled by a Power Walker, and I speak from experience), water (hydration is imperative), flip flops (in case I break a heel, or need speed that my 3” peep-toed pumps just can’t deliver), nitroglycerin tablets (to be administered upon the onset of sale-induced chest pain), ammonia inhalants (in case some Shop Zombie wanders in front of me, suffers syncope, splays out, and blocks my path), ibuprofen (for those little aches and pains), hair ties (in case profuse sweating causes my hair to fall and obstruct my vision or I experience Shopper’s Hair after trying on numerous pullover shirts), and incontinence pads (for loss of bladder control when I spy a much desired item or unbelievable deal or for the dreaded Shopping Pee leakage I experience when I don’t want to stop shopping to take a potty break.)

Mega mall shopping requires focus, intense concentration.  It is not a team sport, although it is not uncommon to encounter groups of aisle salmon, heading against the obvious stream of traffic. Fortunately, I carry a laser pointer, perfect for safely guiding the spawning school out of my path.  Yes, the urban shopping jungle is a dynamic place.  To stay on top of the game, I must constantly hone my skills for securing the Gold.

Recently, I experienced an epiphany after watching an episode of Pitbulls and Parolees, Survivorman, or Say Yes to The Dress….I can not recall which.  Whatever the impetus, I am now opening a school for aspiring shopletes, as a way to give back to the community that has nurtured me.  It is time for me to light a path for neo-phyte shoppers that they, too, may reach their full retail potential.

Shoplete Serenity Prayer

Grant me the serenity to accept when the price of merchandise cannot be changed; the courage to negotiate charges which may apply, and the wisdom to recognize the knockoff from the name brand.

A. Ballerina