Saturday, December 31, 2005

Happy New Year!

Friday, December 30, 2005

New Year's Resolution for 2006

I was chuckling the other day, watching my son angrily snap, "I can do it BY MYSELF!" Chip off the old block, that boy. Just like me. I have always been independent, and proud of it. I was always loathe to have others help me or do for me - just part of my personality, I guess.

Another part of my personality dictates that I always extend help but never ask for help, not from anyone. I have survived divorce, layoffs, unemployment, financial devastation, and have never really asked anyone for anything, not even an ear or shoulder. I have always donated time, money, clothing, food and anything else that I could gather for "the needy", those weak people that require assistance. Up to now, I have considered that particular feat a triumph and a source of pride. Stupid pride.

In the grocery store yesterday, my daughter and I were making our way up and down the aisles when she spotted a school friend. "LeAnne!" my daughter squealed, and the two girls happily chatted while I smiled and nodded to LeAnne's mother. LeAnne was beaming when she told her mother "This is my friend from class, and I help her get ready for the bus!" My daughter was equally happy, telling me "LeAnne helps me zip my coat and backpack and walks with me to the bus!"

There was something on LeAnne's face that I recognized immediately - pride from helping others. I am very familiar with that half of the equation. The warm feeling that you get when you help someone.

The look on my daughter's face I didn't really recognize at all. She displayed the face of a thankful recipient. It dawned on me that she didn't seem embarassed or angry at needing her friend's help as I would have been. At the tender age of 10, my daughter has accepted her disability with grace, and she rewards those that offer their assistance to her with a smile that lights up a room.

I started to wonder . . . how many times have I refused help from others when I really needed it? How many times has my pride short-circuited the chance for me to feel the gift of someone's unselfish efforts, or their chance to feel that they helped another? How many times have I wallowed in martyrdom, doing everything alone, when the people that I had angrily pushed away watched my struggle?

Another side benefit of my daughter's enlightenment - she is unfailingly accepting of other's weaknesses. Because she needs help from other people, she just naturally assumes that others need help as well. She is patient beyond belief, forgiving, hopeful, and never fails to see the best in other people. She is the first to approach a new person with an open smile and a belief that she will be accepted, and she always is.

People love her in large part because she is sweet, but also because with her, they feel needed, appreciated and accepted. It has dawned on me, this last day of 2005, that I make people in my "real" life feel that I don't need their help or support. I intend to try to rectify that this year, if I can.

I knew I would have a lot to learn to take care of my daughter, I just didn't realize so much of the learning would be about ME.

Thursday, December 15, 2005

Taco Hell

(This is a tale that bears repeating. I penned this last spring, and damned if it didn't just happen again. Enjoy.)

Far be it from me to give fast food workers shit, but I had the WORST experience this afternoon at the local Taco Bell.

I was lured in by the promises of their new delicious Cheesy Crunchy Gordita Mondo Taco (or something like that, who the hell knows?) So I did what you do when you are craving a CCGMT; I pulled into the drivethru and the dance of madness began:

Order taker: Hi! Welcome to Taco Bell! Which combo would you like?
Bumbling Customer (Me): Uhhhhhhhhh, I don't want a combo. I would like a Cheesy Crunchy Gordita (I kind of trailed off at this point). The new thing. I would like one of those.

Order taker: Anything else?

Me: Yes please. A small Coke

Order taker: I am sorry sir (Sir?!) We only have Pepsi products.

Me (trying to sound more feminine): Pepsi would be fine.

Order taker: Hold for a moment please.

- - - - - - - - - time lapse 3 minutes, I kid you not - - - - - - - - - -

Order taker: Hi! Welcome to Taco Bell! Which combo would you like?

Me: Thanks for the second welcome. I'd like to talk to the old order taker, he already knows what I want.

(lots of murmuring and static)

Order taker: Sorry sir (Goddamnit! Sir again?!?!) Can you repeat your order? My headset went out. (Did it take the other kid that was taking orders out with it?)

Me: I would like a Cheesy Gordita Super Taco

Order taker: I'm sorry, we don't have that. Would you like a Mexican pizza?

Me: (Did I ask for a fucking Mexican pizza? - that is what I said in my head) Um, I just want the new thing that you have on the sign here.

Order taker: Did you mean the Cheesy Crunchy Gordita Super Taco?

Me: (banging my head against the steering wheel) Yes . . . . . please.

Order taker: Anything else with that?

Me: Yes. A small Pepsi.

Order taker: Thank you sir, please drive around.

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

So, as I dutifully drive around, I notice that the parking lot of this place is a ghost town, nobody, anywhere. The kid at the window was probably about 16, and a very angry, stout, middle-aged latino lady was yelling at him. Now, I remember a little high school Spanish, and I can guarantee you that she was NOT asking him where the party was, or whether Marta and Juan were cousins. Beyond that, your guess is as good as mine.

I am handed a drink and after a great while, a paper bag that weighed no less than 3 pounds. The kid closes the glass window, and I peek in the bag, as you probably would if you had just been handed a 3 pound taco.

I cannot tell you what conglomeration of crap was in that bag. Two misshapen food items that looked like rolls of uncooked refrigerator biscuits, and several packets of Fiery sauce and some krinkly things.

So, I politely wave to the young man, and I swear he is looking my way, but he is just staring. Not drooling, exactly, but close. No response.

I beep the horn, nothing.

I finally drive around the building, and go back to the order window.

- - - - - - - - - - - - -

Order taker: Hi! Welcome to Taco Bell! Which combo would you like?

Me: Hi, yeah. I am the person from just a minute ago. Can you meet me at the pickup window?

Order taker: Can you repeat your order?

Me: (in as clear a voice as I can muster while leaning out of th window with my hands cupped around my mouth) Please open the pickup window when I drive around!

Order taker: (crickets chirping)
- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

When I drive back around, the kid is kind of desperately looking at the register and adjusting his headset. When he opens the window, he squints at me as though I have just dropped out of the sky. I wordlessly hand him the bag, and he says . . . . .
Did you need sauce?

At this point, I explain to him that I would never have waited outside his window, honked my horn, driven around his building, summoned him through his drive thru speaker and handed him a full bag of food if indeed I was seeking additional sauce. I calmly inform him that I have received some small family's order.

At this point, he stomps his foot and throws the sauce packets he had ready to pacify me down onto the counter. "Dang!" he mumbles, and starts looking around on the floor, I suppose just in case my order happened to be around his feet.

It is at this moment that the matronly latino approaches the window, and asks him what the problem is. He begins to explain that I received the wrong order, and she begins yelling at him again, and reached behind him and produces a bag that I am guessing contains my order. From the look on this kid's face, you would have thought she had just pulled a quarter out of his ear. More yapping ensues, and I am just sitting there, watching and sipping my Pepsi.

So, I make an executive decision at this point. "Can I just get a refund, and you two can work all of this out later?" I ask.

Wordlessly, he hands me $2.37. Never mind that I actually gave him $4.65. I was glad to get it.

As I sit here, I summon the strength of all of my years of study of the beautiful lauguage of Spain and one lyrical phrase forms in my mind:

Yo no quiero Taco Bell.

Wednesday, December 14, 2005

Worst. Party. Ever.

In the inimitable words of Comic Book Guy . . . .

I attended the Worst. Party. Ever. this past weekend.

First, some backstory. Longtime readers may recall that I have a circle of friends, some inherited from my husband, and some that I added to the mix after meeting the ringleader of a huge pack of brilliant dorks during one of my contracting engagements. The latter belong to a circle that could only be described as "eccentric". Other names also fit the bill:

Socially Inept

Now, granted, Atlanta has more than its fair share of Nerdlingers - I blame Tech. They flock here, Texas Instruments calculators and NHS medals in tow. Once graduated, many of them settle uncomfortably among us "regular" folk to begin a life bereft of social interaction and chock-full of dorky, geeky pursuits like gaming conventions, ToysRUs stalking and anime porn collecting. But every once in a blue moon, one attempts to scale the cravasse, to make a connection, to be . . . . social.

So it was that I received an email from one of my Nerdlinger friends last week. It was brief, and appeared to be both to and from him (he had put all of his attendees in the bcc: field to protect their anonymity, I guess. He is a real stickler for privacy issues, which is funny, because there is no one else on earth with less to shield from prying eyes than this guy.) The gist of the message is that he was throwing a housewarming party for himself and his two new roomates who had recently all moved into a 3 bedroom apartment together. I won't even go into the ridiculousness of 3 grown, nearly 30 year old men sharing a 3 bedroom apartment when each on his own earns enough to support a family, yet they always appear 2 steps from poverty and appear to get their furniture and clothing from the Goodwill while getting their computers from NASA.

Anyhoo . . . the email listed the party as beginning at 12:00 noon and lasting until "whenever". Now, I am no social butterfly, but I have had enough party invitations to make the assumption that a noon party generally means a cookout, or something like that. Maybe a patio party, or an outside thing, or at the very least, a potluck. Especially seeing that the shindig was scheduled to last until "whenever", meaning it could span from lunch to dinnnertime to late evening. Knowing that he is a teetotaler, I wasn't surprised to see that he listed the party as a "BYOB" affair, but I was kind of surprised that he said that he would supply sodas and "junk food" otherwise.

I had some reservations about this party from the get-go. Just knowing who was throwing it cast some doubt on its success, but I tried to maintain a positive attitude. In some ways, he has gotten better over the past couple of years. He drives a very sporty little car, he seems interested in "finding a girl", he can carry on a pleasant coversation, he is (of course) brilliant, has admirable morals, earns great money, is responsible, blah blah blah. Unfortunately, all of that is trumped by him being a monumental dork.

I had to admit that his social skills HAD improved a bit over the past couple of years, mostly due to his exposure to my husband and his friends, who have taken the lad and his ilk under their collective wing and attempted to introduce things like sports, social outings, and a one-time trip to a "shoe show" in the hopes of sanding the sharp edges off of their acute dorkdom.

He mentioned that he had invited better than 50 people, and that he anticipated that it would be a "blowout". I had high hopes that it would be a fun afternoon/evening, and despite his invitation, I planned to make something to add to the party table to show my support.

My optimism was smashed to smithereens when we arrived at the apartment. We didn't get there until 6:00 pm (babysitter issues) and the party was, supposedly, in swing for several hours by then. We arrived to a quiet, dark apartment. There were LITERALLY no lights on in the apartment, save the stark flourescent in the kitchen. There were a handful of awkward guests perched on second-hand chairs, no music, no conversation, and oh yeah, no LIGHTS and when we entered the scene with a couple of trays of Buffalo Chicken Dip, the small crowd attacked like a pack of lions on the Sahara.

As the ravenous guests filled their plates with dip, chips and celery, thanking me profusely for showing up and bringing food, I noticed in the darkness that there was one . . . ONE . . glass bowl on a table. It was filled with a strange mixture of children's cold cereal. Fruit Loops, Trix, Honeycomb, and some other crappy stuff. This was the extent of the food at the party.

I shit you not.

Adding insult to injury, there were some off-brand sodas - warm. No ice. No plastic cups.

A couple of my husband's friends were there - one was sleeping in the corner. This was their second stop of the day - the first had been to the Chili Cookoff at Stone Mountain Park, so the beer and chili quotient dulled their perceptions to the point that they really didn't notice the lack of ambiance, or food, or drink, or fun. The other guests were not so lucky. I noticed that 4 or 5 of the guests were a bit older than I was, which baffled me. Turns out that my friend had extended the invitation to several people at his new workplace that evidently had NO IDEA what they were getting into. Bad enough that this fiasco was being visited upon his friends, but his COWORKERS! I just shook my head.

I circled the apartment, opening blinds, switching on lights, and it was then that I noticed that there was a very nice covered patio outside, with room enough for several people, overlooking a nice wooded area. This would have been the perfect place for a tub of ice for the beer and drinks, but as it was, it was dusty and forlorn, probably never even treaded upon since the geeks moved in the place the month before.

Speaking of the geeks that inhabited the place . . . one of them had just left altogether when people started to arrive, and another was hiding in his room, headphones on, not participating in any way, except once when he had to exit his room to go to the bathroom. He paused long enough to enter the livingroom, turn 360 degrees, offering each person there the hairy eyeball, and, grumbling, returning to his room with the slamming of his bedroom door. My friend seemed absolutely oblivious to this and everything else disastrous that was transpiring.

We lasted about 2 hours, then we left for greener pastures. We ended up going to Summits Tavern for burgers, trivia, and long talks about the viability of this guy ever, ever having a normal existence. After gathering up our courage, we swung back over to the party to drop off our friends at their cars and say goodnight to the host. By this time, Roommate #3 (the one that had run away) had shown up on the scene with a guy and 2 girls from his LARP (Live Action Role Play) group. All were dressed up in their little costumes or whatever the hell you call the outfits that grown men and women wear when they are pretending to be elves, fairies, ogres, etc. (Lightning bolt! Lightning bolt! Lightning bolt!) Wordlessly, the four skulked back to his bedroom together, and when the unmistakable sound of ripping velcro echoed through the apartment, we hastily made our exit.

Worst. Party. Ever.


4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts (about 2 pounds)
1 12 oz. bottle of hot sauce (Frank's or Texas Pete or your favorite)
2 (8 oz.) cubes cream cheese
1 16 oz. bottle of blue cheese OR ranch salad dressing
8 ozs. shredded sharp cheddar, Monterey Jack or a combination

Preheat oven to 350.
Boil chicken in water until cooked through (about 15 minutes). Drain and shred chicken with two forks.
In a 13x9 inch pan, combine shredded chicken with hot sauce, spread to form an even layer.
Combine cream cheese and dressing in a saucepan, heat over medium heat, stirring until cream cheese is smooth and incorporated.
Pour mixture evenly over chicken, spreading to the edges of the pan.
Bake uncovered for 20 minutes.
Sprinkle cheese evenly over the top, bake an additional 10 minutes.

Serve with celery sticks or corn chips.

Per 1/4 cup serving:
Calories: Don't ask
Fat: uhhhh, nevermind

Tuesday, December 13, 2005

Can't sleep . . .clowns will eat me!

Anyone that knows me knows that I hate clowns. Always have, always will. I don't trust them; their greasepaint hides their sinister underside.

First, there was serial killer clown John Wayne Gacy, who led police to 28 shallow graves under his house that contained young boys that he had lured to his home, tricked into trying his "trick handcuffs", tortured, sodomized and murdered.

Pleasant dreams, kids

Honoring THAT tradition, may I present to you Spanky the Clown.

Now it was no big surprise to me that Spanky the Clown has been arrested on child porn charges. What DOES surprise me is that MORE clowns aren't arrested on child porn charges.

Clowns are evil - especially this one.

They are creepy, all of them.

The ONLY exception to this rule is Krusty the Clown. He is what all clowns should be . . . an aging, jewish, alcoholic, chainsmoking marketing whore. Now THAT I can respect.

Saturday, December 10, 2005


I'm taking the kids to see "The Nutcracker" tonight.

Nope, not "the" Nutcracker. It's not the "Big Show" (i.e. Atlanta ballet production at the Atlanta Fox); it's the more modest Georgia Ballet production at the Cobb County Civic Center Auditorium. It's a nice show, lovely costumes . . . but it's certainly not the Fox.

I feel a little bit guilty that I didn't spring for the big tickets. Guilt and Christmas seem to go hand in hand for me, ever since I had kids. I feel a tremendous pressure to create memories for my kids, and sometimes, that compulsion to spin magical Christmas memories makes my efforts seem trivial to me.

I've been thinking how much nicer it would be to take my kids downtown to the beautiful Fox theater, and see their eyes light up from the magic and splendor. I mean, there's nothing quite so magical as downtown Atlanta at Christmas, at least for me.

My Christmas memories of riding the Pink Pig train to Santa and seeing the lighting of the Great Tree at the downtown Rich's seem so much more grand than anything that I am able to cobble together for my little suburban babies. Is seeing Santa at Town Center just as good? Is going to the Cobb Ballet and swinging by Los Reyes for tacos afterward just as good? Is the artificial tree that I put up as worthy as the fresh cut Frazier furs that we had every year growing up?

I find myself scanning store ads and Ebay, frantically locating the "perfect" gifts for them. I lay awake at night, planning how I will get everything ready by Christmas day. I try to think about how I could make it better. And I worry. Alot.

If I'm lucky, somewhere in the midst of this tinsel-induced frenzy, I stop and remind myself that Christmas probably seemed so magical then because the rest of the year in contrast was generally so shitty. If I am enjoying a moment of clarity, I also remind myself that everything doesn't ride on Christmas like it did when I was growing up, that my kids have other good memories of me, of us, that don't revolve around Christmas cheer.

Those Christmas memories, when I was a kid, when our family came together, when the fighting and craziness seemed to just evaporate and all was well . . . they are all I've got, but it won't be all that they have.

And I am going to enjoy Christmas now, and stop letting Christmas past haunt me.

I vow it.
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