Sunday, January 30, 2011

Das Blood-Sucking Auto

I have had my convertible New Beetle for just over a year now, and we have a wonderful relationship.  It is a relationship of equals…I make her car payment, and she gets me where I need to go.  Her name is Serenity, and she does bring me peace and joy.  But there was The One That Came Before, and she was evil.

She wasn’t evil when I purchased her, however.  Like any other batterer, she came into my life like Prince Charming, or more accurately, the stallion he rode.   She was also a red, convertible New Beetle, tantalizing and alluring.  Even though I was aptly warned about falling for a fast little hottie that had been around the block a few times, I was in love with Christine at first sight.  She represented all I felt I wanted in my life at the time: youth, a fresh start, a little preppy rebel.  The relationship was great for the first year.  Sure, we had our ups and downs.  I would forget to have her oil changed. She would blow a tail light.  We had the usual little bumps all car/car owners experience at one time or another.  Overall, we were happy; a perfect match. 

The road became rocky, though, when she went in for her 80,000 mile service visit.  The appointment took much longer than I expected.  I had taken the shuttle to the mall, and was so immersed in my shopping experience that those six hours just flew by!  When I finally arrived back at Volkswagen Vehicle Spa and Retreat, a service technician brought Christine to the pick up area.  I was receiving the bill at the counter, when I was told she “needed” an $800.00 belt.  What?  Excuse me?  What do you mean “need?”  Then, our first big fight erupted.  I looked at her complimentary-and I use that term loosely-freshly washed and waxed body, and said to her, "'need' as in 'like fuel to run?' or 'need' like 'all the other Big City Bugs have a fancy belt and I need one too?'"  She did not answer, but I could tell, she was running hot.  Even though I didn’t have $800 for her gold-encrusted, designer belt, I made a follow-up appointment for the fitting.  I admit I felt I had no choice. 

A few months later, trouble reared its ugly head again with a check engine light.  So, I took her to a local mechanic, not the haughty VW service provider, where she met all those country club, double garage-parking, valet-using whore Beetles who were such a bad influence on her.  Tim the mechanic was much more affordable, had a great reputation, and he “knew people” that worked at an authorized VW service center.  Little did I know at that point that Tim would end up becoming a close friend, actually his whole family would, for I was getting ready to spend A LOT of time with them over the next YEAR.

It turns out that the check engine light’s source would remain a great mystery for several weeks.  Meanwhile, I was fortunate to have my trusty back up Camry to drive…Oh what a feeling, not.  My heart hurt for Christine.  Many warm days passed, and I longed to be with her…her top down, my hair blowing in the breeze…ahh, kismet.  Looking back, I was just idealizing our relationship by convincing myself that things weren’t really that bad between us.  A month later, I received “the call.”  Everyone at work knew that if Tim called, I was to be summoned immediately.  Whether I was working against a deadline, in a therapy session, or in a meeting with the Board of Directors, I was to be interrupted.  The source of the check engine light had been identified…the turbo doohickey.  This time, the bill was $1500.00.  Deep Breath.  Okay.   I just got my tax return money, so I don’t guess I will be paying off my Sona MedSpa balance.  I will have her back, though.  That’s what mattered.  We were going to have a second chance!  I immediately went to touch up my rouge and fluff my hair, then to the bank, and on to pick up Christine.

For the next couple of weeks, we were on again.  She was sensitive to my need to travel back and forth to work, and I, in return, took her through the no touch car wash.  We were in the honeymoon phase.  But as everyone who has been in an abusive relationship knows, the cycle will continue, and I soon felt the tension between us building.  She began to occasionally jerk when she was pulling a hill, and I had a sickening feeling that this may be the beginning of the end.  As we all sometimes do in bad relationships, I lied to myself, and made excuses for her.  “That wasn’t a skip in her transmission; her tire just hit a pebble.”  How many pebbles can one car hit?  Reality was setting in…I asked her what was wrong, and she just shut me out.  Finally, after many sleepless nights with Christine sitting obstinately in my driveway unresponsive to my pleas to tell me what was wrong, I realized I could not trust her to even get me to the grocery store, much less work anymore.  I had to call Tim. 

I took the seizing VW to Tim’s shop. This time, several months passed.  Christine would not give up the secrets of what ailed her.  Numerous calls were exchanged.  Many possible solutions examined, but to no avail.  The bill was now mounting to yet another grand.  I was actually so deep into her that I thought, “Wesley has $900.00 in his savings…No, what am I doing?  How desperate have I become?  Sacrificing my child’s well being for her?  Stealing from my child?  What has she given me but two years of pain and upheaval?”  I needed an intervention, so I called my stepfather Bill and asked him to meet me at Tim’s.  I had to end it. 

Tim confirmed that it was time to cut my losses.  I was so glad Bill was there.  I needed a supportive, auto-savvy person.  Even though I knew it was over in my heart, hearing someone say it out loud was tough. 

Some decisions now had to be made:  Let her continue to control me by replacing her transmission for $2,000 plus (Tim still wasn’t sure the replacement would alleviate her issues); Let the abusive cycle continue by selling her to another unsuspecting, life-transitioning, forty-something woman struggling with situational self-esteem issues; or force her to face her abusive behavior by trading her in on another more reliable mode of transportation.

Tim agreed to keep her at his shop, knowing it would be easier on me to make sounder decisions if she weren’t in my driveway eliciting emotional responses. So, I spent the next couple of weeks reviewing the facts, which were:  I still owed close to $3,000.00 on her (although it is in this area that Christine got her final punch); money was tight in my single income, recession-crippled, oblivious-to-a-budget world; Christine was still beautiful; and no other vehicle would make me look as perky and youthful as Christine.  After several more sleepless nights and a refill on my Lexapro, I decided to trade her sorry ass in.  Nobody puts Ballerina in the corner.  Nobody.

Now, more decisions had to be made…trade her in for what?  I polled my family, friends, and professionals.  Here is what I heard:  My son Wesley said to buy a Jeep, for it was still a convertible (too manly); Mom said perhaps a Mini Cooper, because it was cute and sassy (possible); Tim said I needed a Ford Fusion, for it was affordable to maintain (WTF!).  Bill and Fiancé Tom refused to give me their opinions.  I also did research on vehicles, a lot of soul-searching and an honest self-inventory.  The final decision was reached—I would call VW Sales, be completely honest, and see if the company would right ITS wrong.  You see, being cruel is a learned, programmed in this case, behavior.  The source of Christine’s tirades could be traced back to her origin, and that was where I was going to remedy MY problem.

At the protests of all my consultants, I called Flow VW in Greensboro.  Connected with sales, I began to pour out my heart to David, the Sales Person fate chose, about my vehicular woes.  Sensing my sincerity and desperation, David ran the numbers, spoke with the sales manager, then called me back, and said, “We are going to help you get out of the abusive relationship.”  Thank you, baby Jesus, and Jonathan Browning (President and CEO, Volkswagen of America.)

Christine and I took our final ride together on a nippy November afternoon, she was jerking and I was crying. 

 David and I went over the particulars of the sale for my new New Beetle, Serenity.  The only thing I was concerned with was the warranty…I needed a hefty one for peace of mind.   I call the warranty my pre nuptial agreement, and I keep it in my safety deposit box.  Christine got her final jab in as David called for her payoff information.  Apparently, counting the number of little coupons left in your payment book and multiplying it by the payment amount is not indicative of what you have left to pay…at least not in Christine’s case.  I owed double what I thought.  It turns out that on the last coupon in my book, in very tiny print, it says that a new payment book will be mailed if more money is owed.  My monthly payment on Serenity increased by $100.00.  Bite me, Christine!  I am glad I trusted David because after the payment increase, I really wasn’t listening.  I had a major math headache.  Just show me where to sign.

David helped me transfer all my stuff from Christine to Serenity, and we left.  I took one last look at Christine in Serenity’s rear view mirror.  I love the way you lie, I whispered.

A. Ballerina

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

What’s In A Name?

Every week I have the disgusting task of putting gel on my geriatric dog’s teeth, well, the ones he has left, to prevent tooth decay.  Oscar Moe Moe is my 11 year-old Basset Hound, (or Bastard Hound, as my cousin Beth has dubbed the breed).  The dog recently re-entered my life after his litter-mate and life partner, Madison passed away in October.  When my ex-husband and I divorced, Oscar and Madison stayed with him, happily cavorting and rebel-rousing in my former gi-normous backyard. (The dogs, not the ex-husband, at least not to my knowledge). Thus, to our son Wesley, the hounds became known as his “Dogs at Daddy’s.” 

When Madison passed, confusion immediately ensued with regard to his true identity.  Wesley and his Dad kept calling the deceased dog “Oscar,” but described him as the dog I remembered to be Madison.  I shrugged it off as my mistake, given that I had been absent for six years from the lives of the creatures great and small that inhabited my previous backyard.

Even though two dogs* already resided at my now humble domicile (with petit backyard), I couldn’t abide the thought of Madison being alone after 10 plus years with his BFF.  I went to get Madison, and, much to my astonishment, I found Oscar. More confusion ensued. Wesley was grieving the loss of “Oscar,” and I was calling the dog I brought home with me “Oscar.”  Every time I did, Wesley would break down into tears.  The house was absolutely chaotic with three dogs in a state of adjustment-one of whom did not know his own name, Wesley sobbing at least six times a day, and the unbearable stench of Unnamed Dog’s bad breath. 

I took the Hound Formerly known as Madison to the vet to find out what had turned rancid inside his mouth.  After hearing my rambling report of the “Dog Name Debacle,” the vet became confused, thinking he had put down the Hound Formerly Known as Oscar two weeks prior.  Unnamed Dog was given a thorough physical, obviously complete with DNA testing, because the costs ran upwards of a grand.  With 98.6667% accuracy, I was told that Unnamed Dog was, in fact, Oscar.  The vet techs then had electronically resurrect Oscar in the computer system. 

Once identified I was told that New Oscar, formerly Unnamed Dog, had to undergo surgery to remove several cysts from his skin. (Basset’s are genetically pre-dispositioned for these expensive, dermatological pustules and my account with Sona MedSpa was useless in this matter.)  Additionally, I was informed that five of his rotten teeth had to be removed as they were the probable source of his chronic halitosis.  Suddenly it occurred to me that it may have been less expensive to buy a house with a bigger backyard than it was going to be to rectify New Oscar’s post-traumatic dental-dermatological issues. Nonetheless, I proceeded.

During his pre-op visit, Oscar exhibited signs of elimination shyness, and would not give a urine sample.  So, at on the morning before the surgery, there I stood, plastic cup in my left hand, a Mag-Lite in my right hand, sporting pink sock monkey pajamas and squinting.  Without going into any further detail, let’s just say we were successful.  I went inside, washed my hands thoroughly, and waited for the vet’s office to open so that I could deliver the “goods” and the canine producer of the “goods” for surgery. Thankfully, the procedure was also successful and after a night of post-op monitoring due to his maturation, New Oscar came home with much nicer breath. After such an ordeal, certainly, he now merited a name that he recognized, AND one that could keep my nine-year-old tear-free.  

I called a family meeting to try and reach consensus on the Formerly Unnamed Dog’s moniker.  Despite the DNA results for which I had paid handsomely, the four of us agreed to memorialize both Basset Hounds, by re-naming the Formerly Unnamed Dog, “MO,” short for Madison/Oscar.  Granted, Moe was now known to his medical provider as “Oscar,” but I was too exhausted to explain that they would need to virtually eliminate New Oscar and revive the Hound Formerly Known as Madison.  I just let that one go.  Besides, Moe now had a cabinet full of prescription meds, all in the name of “Oscar Boles.”  So, he is now known casually as Moe Moe, or more formally, as Oscar “Moe Moe” Boles.   

He can be an ungrateful Basset-ard, bullying Stafford, our English Bulldog, at every opportunity.  Moe Moe howls when Stafford approaches his food bowl, steals ANY toy Staffy or Milli chooses for play, and growls when Staffords’ normal movements threaten to rouse him from his marathon siestas, which generally last between 10 and 12 hours.

His bladder continues to be sensitive; so on those rare occasions when he engages in physical activity, he dribbles, like a urinary GPS tracking his every move.  He has to have daily eye drops because his body is so old that his tear production has ground to a halt and  he sometimes wanders aimlessly during the night; toenails clicking on the tile, in some kind of doggie sun downers haze. 

As if that weren’t enough torment, his fur is thinning and his hair permeates the air.  Some days, walking into my house is like traveling to the Texas panhandle during the 1930’s and experiencing the Black Blizzard.  On the table in the foyer we now keep bandannas, respirators and masks designed to filter out small particulates.  (These devices also come in handy with Stafford’s frequent, noxious flatulence; apparently a result of the short digestive track the English Bulldog breed is privy.)

I must admit, however, that I am in love with Oscar Moe Moe, despite his expensive upkeep, bad disposition, and slug-like secretions. Like a rock star and her canis familiaris stalker (if the stalker had incontinence issues), Moe greets me with all the vigor his senior body can muster when I come through the front door.  He follows me from room to room, laying at my feet until I move to another room.  He lays on the bedroom rug when I sleep, the bathroom rug when I shower, and the kitchen rug when I cook…okay, so he never lays on the kitchen rug…but if I did cook, he would be there.  In those aged, red, and irritated eyes, I see unconditional love, the vastness of which certainly can’t be encompassed by just one name.

*Lord Stafford Hall Grant and Milli Vanilli Hughes Boles deserve their own blogs, which I am sure will be forthcoming.

Saturday, January 22, 2011

The Miracle of Spanx

In opposition to the Trend-Setting, Chic Mom persona I don, occasionally I find myself sorely out-of-the-loop on some extremely important fashion advances.  For a decade, Spanx has been making the talk show circuit and the cover of popular magazines.  I vaguely recall hearing about it over the last several years, but I dismissed the garments’ fame as a gimmick. Ten Years of Great Rears, seriously?  But only last week my life was transformed by the body shaping miracle.  In my eyes, Spanx is well on its way to the veneration status of the Uber Undy.  Like Pope John Paul II blowing passed Mother Teresa on the fast-track to sainthood, Spanx is skyrocketing beyond the Playtex Cross-Your-Heart Bra to the pinnacle of Undergarment Everest.

In preparing for my third marriage…don’t judge me…I recently found myself explaining to a bridal shop consultant why I did not want a strapless gown.  “My boobs are tiny, situated low on my torso, and sagging.  The bodice of a strapless gown would end up in the vicinity of my hips, a location where my breasts are most comfy, much to my chagrin.  In their defense, forty-five years is a long time, and they are tired.”  The consultant seemed unmoved by my explanation.  With a flat affect, she said, “I haven’t met a set I couldn’t lift.  It’s all in the undergarment.”  Whatever. 

So I followed Ms. Thing to the fitting room, and she said, “I have several dresses in mind that would be perfect for you!  I will be right back.”  She then handed me a strapless bustier/long slip made of alien material.  The textile was tiny, light and soft.  I laughed.  First, like this was going to fit, and secondly, like this was going elevate my chest to the “normal” position.  For shits and giggles, I will try to get my leg in it.  (I know I sound big and tough in print, but in the real world I don’t like to disappoint anyone, including Ms. Thing.) 

Surprisingly, the wonder garment went on with minimal effort…it fit…it cradled my ta-tas at the appropriate height… I could breath… it was comfortable.  And then there was silence.  I listened for apocalyptic thunder signaling the end of days, for they must be nigh.  No thunder, though.  Just a pleasant moment of alone time with me and my new BFF, Spanx.  I whispered “I love you,” to my Spanx as Ms. Thing, whose status had just upgraded to “Goddess, Giver of the Sacred Body Shaping Knowledge” returned with dresses…including strapless ones. 

I came out of the private dressing area adorned with the first dress, and tried uselessly to get my Mom’s attention.  As usual, she had made friends with some other brides-to-be and was chatting them up during my fitting room epiphany.  Mom is the ultimate socialite; she has some issues with focusing.  She easily strays off-topic, and if something shinny appears in her peripheral vision, she follows it.  Apples don’t fall far from their trees.  Lord only knows what she was sharing so intently…So, I wave my arms frantically, and finally get her to come over for an opinion.  She says, “How did you get your boobs up there?”  And I knew.  Miracle Verified.  Beatification.  Bra-llelujah!  

I did not purchase a strapless gown, but my Spanx should not be blamed.  That distinct honor goes to the nasty flab that has taken residence on my upper arms.  C'est la vie.  Of course, I bought my Spanx, which I have affectionately dubbed “Franc,” and considered 2011 to be a success the moment the transaction was completed.           

Here is a little history of Spanx…..Spanx is shapewear, which includes pantyhose, full bodysuits, bras, tights, shorts, vests and panties.  Men’s wear is also now available.  Sara Blakely began this phenomenon after cutting out the feet of her nylon hose to smooth her figure in slacks and give her shoe style options.  She has grown her idea into a multi-million dollar business, complete with a charity foundation to help women through education and entrepreneurship.  She launched her Foundation with a “Give a Damn” Party.  In the days since the dressing room revelation, I have begun to revere Sara…soon she may move up to Bethenny Frankel status.*

However, buyer, beware, there are imposters afoot…from infomercials to discount store shelves, pseudo-Spanx abound…creating exaggerated muffin tops, increasing the sales of Lexapro, and mass-producing feminine chaos. Generic options simply can not compare. My combination of nylon, Lycra, cotton and latex is heavenly, and I truly believe the Slim Cognito Mid-Thigh Shaper has the tautness to hold back Lake Mead, if the Hoover Dam were to burst.

Now that Franc is in my life, no more will I experience driving home from work feeling my stomach flab escape the top of my Jaclyn Smith Kmart control top tights.  Never again will I feel said stomach laying on my thighs…just stretched out, relaxing.  I have battled Grand Master Flab most of my life, and its appearance on the drive home after a long day tires me.  But, alas, I now have Franc Spanx… and all is well with the world.

*My Rowdy Friend Amy gave me some updated information on Frankel.  Apparently, Bethenny has also created Skinny Girl Sangria. Perfect for culturally correct Mexican-themed parties! (Hispanic-themed parties? You know what I mean!)  Next on the Rowdy agenda, the “We Give a Damn Fiesta,” proceeds to benefit “Dress for Success.”

A. Ballerina

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Traditional GPS or The Mom Mom?

I love the road less traveled! Through the years, I have suffered unending ridicule from friends and colleagues concerning my questionable sense of direction and my nonchalant attitude when attempting to get to appointed destinations.  I have always preferred the scenic route, that much is true, but my internal bio-sonar system genetically rivals that of a bat.  I can spend all day swooping down on prey with lightening speed, ie Stein Mart prime parking spaces, and locking in on targets like Starbucks.  But, eventually I flap my way back to the cave of my choosing. Yes, I always arrive at my desired destination…or at least a destination that proves more interesting.
I do not own a Global Positioning System because of my expert skill of echolocation, as referenced above. For some reason, I also become mean and irritable in their monotone, know-it-all presence.  I do not like me when I am I a vehicle sporting a GPS, especially sassy ones like Wilma, Velma, whatever. (I have blocked her name from my memory as a defensive mechanism to thwart her control.)

My frolleague (friend and colleague), Julie, owns Velma and she is a Grinchy Garmin; Velma, not Julie!  Velma goes with us to conferences and workshops throughout the region, ensuring that we arrive at our desired destination.  Increasingly, Velma makes me nervous and tense, two emotions I do not enjoy on the open road.  I grow weary of her constant demands, and the condemnation I detect in her voice.  Velma is also irritatingly passive-aggressive.  Case in point:  On a recent work-related trip it was my turn to drive and Julie brought Velma. She, Julie, had programmed her, Velma with addresses of the workshop and our hotel. (Although, between me and you, sometimes I wonder who is programming who in their relationship….I’m just saying.)  We were close to the workshop location, running a little late, and traffic had been horrendous for the entire two hours we had been on the road.  Velma said, “Turn left and u-turn….turn left and u-turn, turn LEFT AND U-TURN NOW….sigh… recalculating….turn left, then go two miles….sigh…recalculating.”  I lost it…. Starbucks Mocha Latte spewed from my mouth as I yelled, “There are “NO U-TURN” signs everywhere, bitch!  I am driving in Charlotte rush hour, so SHUT THE HELL UP!  And it’s Charlottetown Road, Not Char-lot-a-town Road!” 

Granted, yelling profanities at technological devices while correcting their pre-programmed annunciation is grossly immature, but ripping her ass out of the dashboard wasn’t an option.  Velma knew where we were headed…Angie did not.  After my outburst, Velma grew strangely quiet and I had a sinking feeling that she was busy plotting her revenge.  Several miles later, she said, “Turn right NOW… onto US 77 Business.”  I was in the far left lane, going 70 miles an hour with cars bumper to bumper in all four lanes.  Then she said, “recalculating,” in an unmistakably condescending tone. Royal Bitch.  We arrived at our destination, and as Julie hustled into the conference, I took solace in watching the seconds tick down on Velma’s screen until she fell fast asleep.  Game Over, Battle Ax.

But honestly, Velma is not the only GPS that rattles me. A few years ago I gave my fiancé, Tom, a GPS for Christmas. I don’t know her official name, but I know she is a Slut. She flirts with Tom continuously and yesterday, I swear she giggled, and called him Honey.

I have given this a lot of thought and I believe it would be beneficial for me to design my own, personalized GPS.  I would call it The Mom Mom. She would boast several different personality options, thereby allowing me to choose the one I wanted based on my emotional, physical, and spiritual state at any given point in time.

For example:  The Whinny Kids option for when I needed to get somewhere quickly.  “Turn Riiiiightttt, I’m huuuuungry.  When are we going to beeeeeee there?!” she would screech. Dogs everywhere would begin to howl as she droned on, “ Follow the highlighted roooooute, My DS’s battery is deeeead!”  

If I were having self esteem issues, I could choose the smooth, crooning voice of Barry White.  Yeaaah, Baby.  You look soooo good, behind the wheel of that minivan, turn left onto Main Street.  Take your time….Cause I Can’t Get Enough Of Your Lovin….Arriving at destination on the right, yeaaaah, the Forest Day Spa.  Enjoy your appointment, you deserve it, Looking soooo fine.”   

Finally, there would be the Tele-Evangelist voice option, for when I am facing a moral dilemma, or haven’t been going to church regularly. “You-wa are coming to a fork in the row-ad.  Which path are you goo-wing to take?  The one on the left is the Path of Repentance, and the shorter, more direct route on the right will lead you straight to Hell-ha!  Confess your sins-ha or make that turn on Lucifer’s Cul-de-Sac-ha.  Fire-ha and-ha brimstone-ha await you-ha if you don’t-ha u-turn, now-ha.  Arriving at Community Christian Church of the Guilty Conscious, on right.  And all God’s children, can I hear an amen?  AMEN!”

The Mom Mom would be available in 42 colors, including tangerine, mocha, and canary.  Projectile vomit-proof, with a nearly indestructible shell, also available in 42 colors, The Mom Mom would be safe for children 12 mos. and up. Once approved by the FDA, with one touch, the device will shoot out yummy chicken nuggets or grilled cheese sandwiches directly to the back seat for hands-free, on-the-road snacks.  And when the power is off, the screen doubles as a handy make up mirror.  Pre-programmed destinations would include: Forest Day Spa , Speedy Drop and Go Daycare (liability forms pre-signed), and CVS (for picking up Mommy’s Prescriptive Helpers!) Of course, The Mom Mom is patent-pending and compatible with you Bedazzler.

So, look for it soon at K & B Toys, BabiesRUs, and your local Christian book store …brought to you by Rowdy Moms everywhere and Tyco! 

Saturday, January 15, 2011

The Art of Shopping, Ballerina Style

As you well know, I detest labels.  Case in point, the term “Shopaholic” is so overused and undoubtedly cheapens the whole lot of us.  It also implies a certain pathology with which I am not comfortable.  I prefer “Domestic Purchasing Specialist” or DPS, which lends an air of class, professionalism, and moxie.  One might say it even creates a sense of control, albeit, a false one.

I sport a plethora of multi-colored charge cards in my knockoff Prada wallet because I CAN’T say no to The Deal.  It is the “10 % off your entire purchase today if you open an account with us” gimmick.  The offer always takes me pleasantly by surprise.  The clerk who introduces this “offer” will inevitably add, “and it will only take minutes.”  The sales professional has now hooked me on two levels:  1)  She fulfilled my need for purchase justification, “It was on sale,” and 2)  She spoke to my hectic-probably late for something else lifestyle, “It will only take minutes.”  Okay, sign my ass up! I realize it’s a genius marketing strategy, to which I always succumb.  However, I must note that it is this awareness that separates the DPS from the shopaholic.

Some, in my Rowdy circle, have actually advanced to the level of VDPS or Virtual Domestic Purchasing Specialist, using the World Wide Web as a vehicle to take their obsession global.  There are benefits to this approach, i.e.—speed, unlimited access to stock, and shopping in the comfort of your pajamas.  Although I do dabble in the virtual world, I just can’t give up the “thrill of the kill” traditional shopping gives me.  Besides, converting dollars to Euros gives me a math headache, not to mention the fact it depresses me.

As a DPS, I need the excitement, the adventure, the warfare of in-person shopping.  All of my senses must be engaged, including taste, touch and smell.  The risk of being trampled for “while they last” sale items…The adrenaline rush of standing in the check out line, almost late for the next appointment, cursing at the lady in front of me who is blasting the clerk with idiotic questions. “Can I use this 20% off coupon for this brooch?”  No, bitch.  Read the fine print, it clearly states “excluding cologne and jewelry.”  I so hate it when people are ill-prepared for combat!  Yes, I never feel more alive than when I am prowling through Women’s Sportswear, on the fresh scent of red dot items!

If you are looking to raise your game to DPS level or beyond, a well-honed skill of using expired coupons must be ever-present.  I use this strategy at least once a month, just to maintain battle-preparedness.  Example:  The clerk says, “I’m sorry, but this coupon expired last year.”   I spring into action…the ultimate challenge at hand.  Instantly, my eyes well up with tears.  “I am so sorry, ma’am.  I can’t see very well since the unfortunate laser tag incident where I was given a faulty eye protection device.  The ophthalmologist’s bills keep piling up.” Sniff, sniff. “Everything’s still tied up in litigation.”  I then pick up the Jones New York blouse, pending a reduction in price, and ask, “Can you please tell me what color this is…fuchsia?  carnation?  hot pink?”  Uncontrolled Sobbing.  50% off, babes! Target eradicated.

So the next time you see a tall, bottle blonde foraging through a sales bin in Accessories, or whirling passed Home Décor, stand back and watch—It is the art of shopping, Ballerina Style.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Yeah, It’s Cold – But It Could Be Worse

It is going to be 17 degrees tonight.  Will the Snow Miser’s evil, frigid grasp ever release?  Well, there is no point wallowing in, excuse me, ON the frozen tundra.  To deal with my current subzero neurosis, I find it helpful to reminisce about warmer days. 

A little over six months ago, I was riding on the back of a motorcycle toward the Florida Everglades from Key West, and had my first near-death experience brought on by severe heat exposure.  The trip down to the Keys was certainly a fiery challenge, but the trip back proved even more so…perhaps due, in part, to the absence of Skinny Girl Margarita.  I avoided alcohol for this leg of the journey because of its dehydrating qualities.  Yes, even I can make a conscious, healthy decision every now and then.  Besides, the alcohol budget was depleted.

Bill, my stepfather, has several idiosyncrasies when he takes to the road on his bike, like scalping for low room rates.  He also only stops when his Harley is in need fuel, every 120 miles or so, selecting gas stations on the right side of the road only.  The Dao of Motorcycle Riding with Bill is a novel in and of itself.*

During the first day of the return trip, the thermometer read near 100 degrees. Bill and Mom’s bike was leading the way, as Tom and I faithfully followed on our trusty steel horse.  We avoided Miami traffic, going a different route--which turned out to be through Hell. 

From my perch, my head towered above Tom’s.  I caught the full force of the choking humid air and the panoramic view of dwindling buildings synonymous with our fall into incivility.  I wondered if Bill was ever going to make the day’s second stop…or, more importantly, if there was actually going to be a place for us to stop.  At least the fringes of Miami proper had people, crack houses, and Walmart.  The scene that spread out in front of me was Stephen King’s Waste Lands.  It was absolutely the most desolate, desert –like place I can remember being, physically speaking.   I was hot, thirsty, and on the verge of a panic attack, when Tom yelled over the roar of the cycle’s engine, “We have got to get fuel.  We only have 20 more miles.”  Thrown over sanity’s edge, I began to play out a funeral service in my head, with my paranoid, attention-deficient tendencies in full force…I hope people will actually attend, for there is nothing sadder that a funeral service with less than 10 people in attendance.   I hope Steve Perkins will sing, “It is Well with my Soul.”  I hope the casket is closed.  Oh, that’s right, there will be nothing left for a casket…my remains will be picked clean by buzzards, and my bones will be seared to ashes in the solar, death rays which are currently beaming down on my shoulders.  What does my Will say…do I still have ex-husband number two as my beneficiary?  Doesn’t matter…I have nothing to bequeath.  What a sad life I have had, and such a tragic end.

Meanwhile, the conditions in the external world continued to worsen…As the miles ticked down and the road stretched eternally in front of us, I focused on what seems like hundreds of power poles lining the highway for as far as I could see.  Pole with transom...pole with transom…pole with transom. The surreal scene reminded me of the biblical description of Jerusalem’s outskirts under Roman rule, when people were crucified and left to rot on crosses as a crime deterrent for people entering the city.  I am not sweating anymore.  That can’t be good.  There are buzzards circling, and I just seriously saw the skull of a cow.

Five miles later, however, a convenience store oasis came into view.  A “Gas-n-Go!” And it’s on the right!  Thank you baby Jesus!  We fueled up there, had copious amounts of water, and grabbed a Subway sub.  Civilization!  For some odd reason, we ate at a picnic table by the dumpster…outside…in the heat.  Seven feral, emaciated cats were under our feet, rubbing against our asphalt-encrusted calves, meowing for morsels of food.  I didn’t care. I threw half of my Sweet Onion Chicken Teriyaki on whole wheat to my feline friends.  Bon Appetit!  I was ALIVE.

When we finally reached the Everglades, it was strangely void of the alligators Bill so wanted us to see.  We were told by a Park Ranger at the viewing facility that it was currently too hot for alligators to surface.  A Mesozoic Era species that had survived 200 million years, weathered an apocalyptic meteor which eradicated the dinosaurs, and avoided the Lucchese brother’s bloodthirsty quest for their scaly skin to mass produce incredibly over-priced cowboy boots, couldn’t take the heat.  It was pretty damn hot. 

Seventeen degrees is not so bad after all.

A.  Ballerina

*Might I say that I LOVE traveling Bill-style.  He makes vacationing an adventure.  From stopping at every eclectic roadside bar, the locations of which he has already mapped out in his head along with an odd story to share about each one, to veering off the beaten path to see something that is interesting (like thousands of Everglades’ gators), there is never a dull moment. 

Tuesday, January 11, 2011


Being trapped in Snow-pocalypse* is not one of the things I enjoy.  It seems that central North Carolina has fallen prey to Nasty La Niña, and today marks the third wintry event of the season.  I was definitely created for a much more amicable climate.  Unlike people who apparently can “make the best” of any frozen situation, I loath being inconvenienced by the weather, not to mention that being cold just makes me damned mean.  While neighbors are building Norman Rockwell winter wonderland villages in their yards and posting bundled up children’s rosy cheeks on Facebook, I am binge-eating to soothe my homicidal tendencies.

Not one to sleet on anyone’s glacial parade, but let us be realistic.  Doesn’t anyone have a job to worry about?  Deadlines?  Reports due?  Appointments for Botox injections?  Apparently not.  They are too busy sledding and snowball fighting to worry about paying the huge ass power bill they will inevitably receive next month, or to fret over the impending formation of uber crow’s-feet, I’m just saying….

I have so tried to be a fun-loving snow bunny.  My last attempt occurred in February, 2010 when Tom and I took the oldest two of our blended crew skiing in the mountains.  In preparation, I researched Vail fashion and bought an incredible pair of teal snow bibs, which matched my fake blue eyes and complimented my unnaturally blonde locks.  I created and expressed excitement for the kids’ sake, hoping I would take naturally to the slopes.  Yeah, right.  With no coordination and a mantis-like frame, “thinking positively” sky-rocketed to the level of “freakin’ delusional.”  The mountain condo was tiny, the snow never stopped, the temperature never reached freezing, and the cutting, Arctic wind never stopped blowing.  Skiing, was, you guessed it, not my forte.  A natural skier, I am NOW told, has a low center of gravity, which my almost 6’ frame does not possess.  Maybe this is why we never see NBA players on the slopes.  I posed for several photographs and took some forced ones of Tom, Paul and Jessie, before heading for the lodge bar.  By golly, no one has to know how miserable we were.  With the proper editing, the 2010 Ski Extravaganza in photo review will make my Facebook friends envious.  Ah ha…perhaps that is what all my winter-loving neighbors and virtual friends are doing...creating the illusion of frosty happiness.  And I will judge them not.  Producing a false or misleading impression of reality without the use of psychotropic drugs is an art.

In an effort to look on the sunny side of things, here are five helpful, good-to-know tips for your outdoor winter activities I learned from my alpha and omega ski trip:

1.)     No one can look thin in ski bibs without the magic of airbrushing.
2.)     Inside, good.  Outside, bad.
3.)    There really isn’t bourbon in a mountain rescue dogs’ barrel. They actually don’t carry barrels…anywhere on their bodies, and they definitely don’t like for you to check.  Sorry, Bernie, my bad.
4.)    When the ski shop employee at the condominium complex calls the local police department to ask for current weather conditions, and gets no answer…It is not a good omen.
5.)    Waterproof mascara will not survive wind gusts in excess of 40 miles an hour, no matter how much you paid for it.  Wearing it is pointless, anyway.  People cannot see your lusciously, long lashes because your swollen, snot-covered, red nose takes first dibs for attention.

  1. Ballerina

*Stolen Term - Thanks, Melanie, via Brice, via Carter

Sunday, January 9, 2011

The Dark Side of SGM

Order and Chaos, Yin and Yang, Darkness and Light, Felix and Oscar—everything has an equal and opposite force.  Skinny Girl Margarita is no exception.  Over the past six months, SGM has brought me much happiness, and I have chronicled my fondness of her all natural ingredients, her low calorie demeanor, and her tantalizing elusiveness.  But I would be remiss if I did not mention her dark side. 

After the initial six-bottle order I placed to Supplier Steve, I back-ordered 12 more bottles; like a survivalist hoarding gallons of purified water and pallets of generic canned goods.  Reducing my precious stock was serious business, but when I decided to take a much-needed fall vacation, I did not hesitate to grab three bottles of SGM to take with me.  For the record, I was not going on vacation alone.  Several friends and family members were also enjoying a few days off.  One bottle was intended as a hostess gift, the other two were for communal cocktails.  However, nary a drop got communed.  Yes, I and I alone drank an entire bottle before we left the house.  After hydrating and rehydrating myself throughout the four-hour journey to our respite destination, I felt comfortable opening the second bottle upon arrival.  So, I did.  I drank that bottle, then things get fuzzy…I know I hid the hostess gift…I found that one two days later in the condo dryer.

I awoke to a bamboo bedspread beside me, face down in the lime carpet.  When I opened my eyes, I could see.  Shit…still had my contacts in, and they were piercing to my corneas.  The clothes I had worn for the trip were still on (Thank you, baby Jesus), and my head was pounding.  I crawled to the bathroom, just in time.  I began my vomitis marathon at that moment not knowing that it would last a full 8 hours.  During the first break in heaving, I managed to peel the contacts from my eyes--one minuscule strip at a time, then stumble to the bed and fall on it.  Items in the room were spinning, whether my eyelids were opened or closed.  How can one be drunk and hung-over at the same time?  Curse you, Skinny Girl Margarita!  I crawled from the bed to the bathroom all day. 

It wasn’t until that I forced myself to take a shower, and started to feel a little better.  I took little comfort in knowing I had probably just lost ten pounds, given that the weight was mostly comprised of tissue that once lined my stomach.  Emerging from the bedroom with trepidation to face my family and friends, I delivered the dreaded Hangover Soliloquy:

“If I offended anyone, I am so sorry.  If I made fun of your fashion sense, culture, religion, socio-economic level, disability, sexual orientation, or your children, your choice of mates, or your pets…I didn’t mean it.  If I assigned individual, derogatory rap names to you, your children, or your pets, I apologize. If I told you I loved you, it was meant in the same context as “love thy neighbor.”  Furthermore, if I ran the blender without the top on it, and/or danced on the coffee table without my top on, please forgive me.   Lastly, if I revealed any secrets you have told me in the past or announced any of my own indiscretions; please erase them from your memories.”   

I learned by rote this act of contrition during my undergraduate, over-indulging days.  I was surprised it came out fluently and monotone, for it had been 20 plus years since I used it on a regular basis.  My fellow vacationers were kind…a least to my face.  I heard bits and pieces of what I said and did.  Apparently, I told some good jokes and performed some acrobatic tricks that wowed several observers.

Skinny Girl and I took a break from our exclusive relationship after the embarrassing, near death experience she caused.  I now possess the same level of respect for SGM as I do for firearms.  You don’t play around with either, lest you risk being killed or at least you’ll wish you were dead.  I still love and partake of SGM, I just do so with caution.  Moderation is imperative.  Remember, Her Dark Side Is Your Blackout!

A. Ballerina

Friday, January 7, 2011

Skinny Girl Margarita

First of all, I love tequila.  Secondly, I love thinking I am saving a few calories.  Third, well, I love tequila.  I discovered Skinny Girl Margarita, or SGM, during the family vacation adventure this past summer at a quaint liquor store in Brunswick, GA (which also served as a laundry mat).  Bill, my stepfather, loves the quest for the best deal better than the deal itself.  And I owe my discovery of SGM to him and his bend toward cheapness.  On our way to Key West, his eagle eye locked its site on the “most affordable” hotel room for our first night of Interstate respite, which just happened to be in the thriving southern metropolis of Brunswick. 

BACKGROUND INFO:  Tom(my fiance), my mom, my stepfather, and I were traveling on motorcycles in JULY from NC to Key West, FL.  Mom and Bill had actually made several long bike trips, but this was our first…in JULY, heading SOUTH, where it is HOTTER. Sorry, dear reader, I tend to overemphasize A LOT. Also, if tequila does not make your clothes fall off, a 110 degree heat index will. I also easily stray off topic.

My legs still shaky and butt numb, I decided to take in the view on our porch (actually a small piece of sidewalk) of our deluxe, el cheapo, efficiency.  I soon spotted three red dots on a building across the street.  Ah, the international, trans-cultural sign for alcohol.  Damn, you don’t even have to know how to read to get this one….which was good, because my vision was blurred from bug entrails.  Soon I was clinging tightly to a purse which was tucked under my arm while Tom played back up cop on the sidewalk/porch in front of our room door.  Yes, he has a small weapon he keeps in his boot when he travels, but you didn’t hear it from me.  I ducked and weaved through the crossfire of rival gangs to my polka dotted destination…eclectic neighborhood, Bill.  As I was browsing the wares, I saw HER.  She was on a shelf with two liter soft drink bottles…so out of place…so lonely…and too classy for this joint.  I grabbed HER, and then went to find her section…There must be others.  She must have family.  There was not another bottle in the entire store, not even in the laundry area.  I sensed she was a gift from the road gods, and it would be a sin if I didn’t buy her. 

The following day, SGM got me through rush hour traffic in Miami, stalled on the back of a motorcycle with a 110 heat index.  I was so happy…dehydrated…but happy.  I was going to give it to my Rowdy friend Melanie* for her pre-wedding extravaganza when we arrived in Key West; however, it was an emergency situation calling for extraordinary measures.  She would understand.  Besides, I would just get her another bottle when we arrived in Key West.  Hell, it was Key West.  Of course I would find it there….NOT.  Every store, bar, tattoo parlor, and strip club on Duval Streetwas SGM.  After several days, I began to  doubt that it ever existed!  Mom, however, did confirm it…she reminded me that we fought over the last precious sips upon arrival in Key Largo.

Once I arrived home, I began to do a little on line research…Skinny Girl Margarita is the brain child of Bethenny Frankel, NY Desperate Housewife.  Bethenny is an emaciated stick figure who just had a baby and loves to cook…a walking paradox.  She is beautiful, and apparently intelligent and funny, as well.  BITCH.  So, in googling SGM I found that you can make them yourself, with Bethenny’s recipe, or buy the bottles pre mixed…duh, I chose the latter.  Then the task became finding a retailer who actually had it in stock.  After due diligent shopping, I found Joe at the International Wine Shop in Westport, CT.  He will thence forth be called “My Supplier.”   I ordered six bottles.  My Supplier called me several times to let me know my order status…even once on a Friday evening…impressive personal service, which is certainly hard to find now a days. I am enjoying this unusual nectar as often as feasible.  I think the bottles are great to have around for gifts, although I have yet given one…well I did give Melanie one.  She does take care of my son two afternoons a week…sometimes more.  Plus, it was originally bought for her pre-nuptials.  I also know where the spare key to her house is hidden…just in case.   The morning after I gave it to her, she sent me the following text message:  Do not, I repeat, do NOT freeze SGM.  It freezes almost entirely, and you therefore cannot have it for breakfast.  Great information, which probably should take the form of a FDA warning label, Bethenny.  Amazing SGM facts:  drink an entire bottle….only 570 calories.  A Whopper, just as delish, has 670.  A Whopper, however, can’t delude you into believing you are attractive, fun and popular.

A. Ballerina

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Feeding Literary Urges

I tend to have the urge to write at the most inopportune times, and it seems that I could never find myself in a position to actually put pen to paper, as they say, until this whole blog sensation began.   I would either be running, driving, building a rocket, climbing up the Eiffel Tower, serving meals to the hungry or hang gliding.  When I finally did have time (and utensils), it would be gone…the urge was like the elusive quark.  I wish my urges for Ben and Jerry’s Coffee Heath Bar Crunch would follow suit…but I digress.  Thanks to great advances in technology, I have finally found a medium that meshes with my highly active, somewhat exaggerated lifestyle.  Between my Blackberry mobile phone and my laptop, I can immediately gratify literary urges practically anytime.

Practically…I still have to jot down key words the old fashioned way at times, just to capture my thoughts before they fly out of my head.  Recently I had the urge to write  a “reminder” word as I was illegally parked in front of my son’s elementary school.  BACKGROUND:  A car in FRONT of the school is a huge No No between the times of and .  It was .  We were late, as usual, and my child has enough on his plate (you know, with him being dyslexic AND me being his mom), than to be tardy…again.  Might I say at this point…I hate labels, even if they do provide verbal shortcuts.

I gently encouraged my son Wesley to expeditiously exit the vehicle, run up the stairs, and sprint into the school by screaming, “Go, Go, Go!” As he disappeared behind the double glass doors, I looked around cautiously to see if anyone saw me breaking the rules.  What was I going to write down?  I breathed a sign of relief, discovering no one around as I eased the car to the other end of the school.  In stressful situations, I sometimes find myself reverting to Jean Piaget’s sensorimotor stage of cognitive development, when object permanence has not developed.  If no one sees me…I don’t exist...therefore, I am not really parked in front of the school…therefore, I am not really breaking the rules...therefore, I am not emulating bad behavior for my child…therefore, I am a great mom.  Whatever it takes. 

I will undoubtedly write more about my parental role-modeling skills at a later juncture if this quarky literary urge continues to resurface.  Appropriately parked,  I then found my paper and pen, but not my word!  Damn, gone again!  Defeated, I look at the notes I had already made on the bottom of the three-week-old grocery list (who says I am not doing my part to save the planet), I find “rose-colored glasses,” “Skinny Girl Margarita,” and “zumba.”  Wow, this list is not very helpful.

*Not as huge as bringing a weapon to school, but eerily close.

A. Ballerina

Monday, January 3, 2011

Chernobyl, Cranberries, and Daiquiris

I was not feeling the magic of Christmas this year, for no particular reason.  Therefore, I believe I have an obligation to create an illusion of 2010 holiday bliss through humorous review.  Yes, tacky Christmas decorations is an overused source of amusement this time of year, but just roll with me… 

I decided not to hang my giant, lighted Christmas trees ornaments in the front yard trees this year for two reasons:  one..I was too lazy; and two, I was protesting my neighborhood’s choice of collective holiday decor.  Since number one is self-explanatory, let me further expound on number two.

It was too early to even think about decorating...sometime before Thanksgiving, because the anxiety attacks over holiday weight gain had not started...Anyway, I was coming home from work, turned into my sleepy little middle class suburbia, and I see IT, more accurately, I notice IT.  IT being Redneck Chernobyl Christmas.  My heart was in my throat....IT surrounded my house.  As a matter of fact, my house was the only one in the neighborhood that sat untrimmed.  The Yuletide Lawn Desecration included a potpourri of inflatables, lights, ribbons, bows, and packages sturdy enough to endure mid-North Carolina's unpredictable winter weather.  Yes, the tinseled vomitus was anchored down from property line to property line with multiple, industrial pickets, wires, and bungee cords.  IT was going nowhere.  The inflatables were gi-normous...10 to 15 feet high.  One yard boasted a Santa and sleigh, Santa and Ms. Claus, Santa and Elvis, Santa and with #48 Jimmie Johnson, and Santa with Jimmy Hoffa-mystery solved (a wee bit of exaggeration with Jimmy; Elvis, however, is pure fact).  Multiple interpretive Santas in one scene is completely unacceptable, representing a major Feliz Navidad faux pas.  Snowmen of various shapes and sizes, a blow up star of Bethlehem and carousel composed another genus group.  A carousel, seriously?  What does a carousel have to do with Christmas, Hanukkah, or Kwanzaa?  And how in the name of Mary and Joesph did all this transpire in an 8-hour period? 
At night, the roaring of the generators running the fans made it difficult to settle down for a long winter's nap.  The myriad of colored lights and clear ones; the mixture of big strands and small strands; some lights dancing, some sparkling, others pulsating; vintage and LED living together…plop, plop, fizz, fizz.  Trazodone take me away!  In the mornings, the icing on the gingerbread house, one might say, was the carnage.  Lifeless bodies of red and green lie scattered about the streets like a war torn Arctic circle.  I had to avert my eyes every morning in December as I left for work. 
All was not lost, however.  I decided to use  the  whole debauchery collectively as teachable moments for my 9 year old son.   As we drove through our neighborhood, I used various homes to produce my version of What Not To Let Your House Wear, Holiday Edition.  You know, how less is more; how symmetry is the golden rule; how you never mix sub genres, ie baby Jesus in a manger beside an inflatable Grinch; and how proportion plays out in every scene; and, of course, how we dress our yard like we dress our bodies-we cover our imperfections and accentuate our attributes.  Yes, when life gives you a cranberry, make a daiquiri.