Taking Berlin by Storm – kind of a light drizzle (Day 6)

When we found that we were coming to Germany, I texted a friend who grew up here. We don’t mind hitting the big guys on a trip, but some of our favorite vacations have taken place in little villages off of the beaten path. When she suggested that we bypass Munich and Frankfurt and head north to Dusseldorf, we jumped right into a car. We do, however, have a WWII buff in the family (The Giant) and, when we sat down to plot our course, Berlin kept coming back up, so we just bit the bullet, ate the travel time and headed here.

Typical.  My water glass next to my beer. #iloveeurope

Typical. My water glass next to my beer. #iloveeurope

Berlin is cool and edgy. In area, and infrastructure, it’s most comparable to New York City, but with about one half of the population, the streets are a little haunting. Our apartment is in a very art-driven area of town next to a custom hat boutique where I could spend an entire morning watching gorgeous women in crisp white shirts habberdash the day away, sewing feathers and ribbons onto the most delicious fashion hats I have seen since the horse racing scene in My Fair Lady. There are coffee shops, restaurants, art galleries, prostitutes, casinos. . . wait, what?!?! Yes, I got to watch my teenaged children see a prostitute for the first time. And what a scene it was, clad in two hot pink tube tops (one as a skirt) and a tight leather jacket, she was WORKING it in the middle of a busy city street directly across from the quaint little local eatery where we ate.

The "hat ladies" are photo shy so you get this instead.  On the other side of the camera are two teenagers rolling their eyes at their embarrasing mother.

The “hat ladies” are photo shy so you get this instead. On the other side of the camera are two teenagers rolling their eyes at their embarrasing mother.

We had fallen into the restaurant late the evening before for late night drinks away (we share space with our kids on these trips but we try to recognize that everyone needs a little “alone time” so we will let them hang with the wifi in the room while we have little mini dates, my man and I) and loved the feel of the place. It is equal parts bookstore and bar that happens to serve AMAZING food. I ate, and no I’m not joking, schnitzel with noodles (spaetzle) and there were several delicious non-wiener options which delighted everyone. You see, we like sausages, we do, but COME ON Germany! Really?! I thought that all of the sausage mess was just another lame Euro-stereotype but alas, it’s true. Almost every dish here is tube meat. Now that I think about it though, they do eat a lot of croissants in France. And a lot of pasta in Italy. The chocolate in Belgium IS pretty good. . . shit, I should have been more prepared for all the footlong fantasticness.

This is a landmark.  There are a lot of letters in the name.  I think that they have operas here.  But there are also bubbles.

This is a landmark. There are a lot of letters in the name. I think that they have operas here. But there are also bubbles.

When we storm a large city, we like to find a way to do a brief overview, get our bearings, plan our attack. Sometimes, the best way to do it is by taking a big fat touristy bus tour. So we did. Knowing absolutely nothing about Berlin except what we had seen when booking our hotel, the bus tour drove us past and identified all of the interesting spots we might want to visit. We can use the vantage point to determine which things we have seen enough of with just a quick drive by and which things we want to explore further.

Look kids!  Big Ben!  Parliament!  I kid.

Look kids! Big Ben! Parliament! I kid.

Every vacation we take is an exercise in my trying not to murder The Ginger. When people meet him, they can’t say enough about how hilarious and adorable he is. And he is, truly. In private though, he is kind of a stick in the mud. He likes to sleep about 13 hours a day plus take siestas. He doesn’t like to walk anywhere. He doesn’t like to go anywhere. He wants to sit at home with the air conditioning set to 65 degrees, binge drinking Pepsi and eating banana Runts. Just the bananas. So, when he piped up during the bus tour to let us know that he wanted to eat lunch at the Berliner Fernsehturm (a giant tower with a revolving restaurant at the top), we were overjoyed that he wanted to do SOMETHING. Also, it continued our lame-and-owning-it trend of going to the top of the tallest thing in every town we visit and taking goofy pictures. The Fernsehturm is 368 meters tall. I can’t tell you how tall that is in relation to other tall things that we have gone to the apex of because, well honestly, because of three things: first, I can’t convert meters to feet without using a calculator, second, remembering how high up we were makes my butt pucker, and third, being a person who has female parts, I am genetically indisposed to give a crap about things like “tallest,” “biggest,” or “fastest.” There I said it.

Look!  It's VEEEEERY tall! (please say it in a Jersey accent for maximum effect)

Look! It’s VEEEEERY tall! (please say it in a Jersey accent for maximum effect)

This Ginger.  Must take ten photos to get ONE.

This Ginger. Must take ten photos to get ONE.

Having consumed mass quantities of Italian food (don’t tsk at me, they had VEGETABLES, honest to goodness vegetables which German food is allergic to, by the way) and having maybe a couple of beers, we missed the last tour bus back to civilization so we hiked to Checkpoint Charlie. I love the idea of this place. I hate that there are German tour mongers dressed in American Army uniforms charging 2 euro per person to photograph it. They tried to ruin our picture by harrumphing rudely behind us while we got a couple of lovely other tourists to take our photo, but they underestimated our giant-ness. You can’t even see them!!!

Can you see the fake army douchenozzle behind my husband? Ha! He’s gonna need a stepstool to foil this family photo! What is the Giant DOING all squatted down like that?! Why does someone have to ruin every family photo?

It’s hot and the hotels don’t really have air conditioning (asking for it makes them roll their eyes at you, “stupid Americans”) so I’m exhausted. Tomorrow, more Berlin adventures. . . . till then.

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Yes, I’m Talking German Toilets (Day 5)

On the fifth day in Germany my true love gave to me, a fiiiiiive hour looooong drive. Just kidding, not about the drive, but about making it seem like it wasn’t a very good time. We woke in Dusseldorf, stumbled to the corner for milchkaffee and pastry sandwiches and headed back to our apartment to get ready, wash a load of laundry and check out. The night before, we had pulled out a map of Germany (finally) and planned the rest of our trip with the kids. In case you are desperately reading every last blog and buying themed outfits/snack food in preparation, we are headed to Berlin for three nights, Amsterdam for two nights, Brussels for two nights (it was the kids’ favorite stop during our last Europe trip and they just wouldn’t let it go), and then the Luxembourg border area to tour the site of the battle of the bulge.  I’m sure that you think that I’m kidding, that I would never fly with my children to another country and have absolutely no plan. . . nope!  For other evidence that my husband should  be given some kind of Nobel prize read this.

This is how I plan a vacation, four days after it's started, BTW.  Again, Kevin should get a medal.

This is how I plan a vacation, four days after it’s started, BTW. Again, Kevin should get a medal.

We let The Ginger and The Giant shower first so that we could take advantage of the free wifi and find places to stay for the next couple of stops and each of them ran the shower for a while but came out of the bathroom with dry hair. Suspicious, and a little nervous–have you ever smelled a teenaged boy? Washing is an every day mandatory affair. We asked what was going on and it turned out that the water heater had broken. The apartment owner sent a handyman over immediately, but we were assured by him that the unit was, indeed, “Kaput!” This was certainly a stinky turn of fate.

We spit shined ourselves to the best of our ability, jumped in the car, made a brief stop for bread and pastry (the baking here is no joke), and pointed the car towards the Autobahn. Driving on the Autobahn is EXACTLY as much fun as you think it is. Everyone drives really fast without being aggressive (except maybe Kevin). Truth be told, all German still sounds like cursing to me so all of the drivers could have been road raging. I’d never know.

The countryside was a breathtaking mix of lazy blonde cows relaxing in country farms with brick barns and hay bales, ruins of castles overgrown by emerald green thickets, and spindly tall pines. It was lovely, picturesque and all of that yada, yada, yada, but here’s the REAL story people–the truck stops in Germany are AWESOME!! Sure, they have the usual suspects: a Burger King, a convenient store, and islands of gas pumps. But from there, it gets really interesting. They have cafeterias with delicious food (by delicious, I mean, “if you like wieners, this country is for you”) served by clean adults, there is a full bar where they will serve you a cold beverage or a delicious coffee drink (in a real mug with a cookie), you pump your gas first and then pay inside like it’s 1955, and they have PAY TOILETS. Now, this is not my first European rodeo. I keep a euro in my bra at all times (you will only laugh until you have had to pee in an Italian alley and note that it is oddly cleaner than some of the actual Italian toilets you have paid to use). I know that peeing comes at a cost. But these toilets were WORTH THE MONEY. In fact, they were so worth the .70 that I paid to use them that I ran to my car to get my phone, paid to use them a second time so that I could film it for you! No kidding, you have to see this. Watch the whole 20 seconds. I promise it will change your life.

Berlin is a strange little animal. Still recovering from the Second World War and the 1936 Olympics, it is striving to be a great city. You can see it everywhere you look. Our apartment is a win (don’t tell my husband I said so, but he outbooked me this time). Beautiful, modern, clean and centrally located enough to walk to the touristy sites, but far enough away that we can take all of our meals and drink at night with locals. Our smaller apartment wasn’t ready, so we had to be upgraded to a three bedroom suite for the night (woe is me).

Apartment Bath

Apartment Bath

Looking for dinner and something cold to wash the road off (Beer. You understand that I mean beer, right?), we stumbled too far into the touristy section to a restaurant where the waiter was hard pressed to suggest a good local beer. I finally said, “Just bring me a GOOD beer, okay?” and he nodded. “Yes, GOOD beer. Yes.” I was sure that I was on the path to nirvana. Until he showed up with HEMP beer. Yes, beer with THC. Our waiter was obviously a stoner. Weird.

Hemp beer (low THC) and MAYONAISE.  So. Much. Mayonaise here.

Hemp beer (low THC) and MAYONAISE. So. Much. Mayonaise here.

Tomorrow, we take Berlin. By storm! I meant to add by storm, I swear!

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Adventures in Dusseldorf (Day 4)

For some reason (beer), I have veered from the normal schedule that I would keep in blogging an adventure because I am so TIRED at night (beer). Hoping to put this back on track, I am vowing (beer allowing) to get this missive off this morning and another tonight (beer).

Yesterday was all about getting our bearings. While some people are able to go with the flow and recover from jet lag well, we have discovered through experience that my children (I am mentally including my husband in the children count) do not. While I ran the banks of the Rhine and wandered the streets of old town writing and drinking coffee, they slept. While I turned the kitchen of our adorable apartment into a yoga studio for an hour and worked out the kinks of travel, they slept. While I showered, dressed and checked Facebook, they slept. Then I lost my shit and made everyone get the hell up and see the city.

My run. . . not a bad way to start the day.  I like it when the universe makes it about 68 and breezy, too. :)

My run. . . not a bad way to start the day. I like it when the universe makes it about 68 and breezy, too. 🙂

We wandered the streets of the old town together and found a gorgeous outdoor market. We read menus, ogled shops and ate a mystery breakfast in a chocolate shop. You see, we hadn’t really planned on having a vacation in Germany so it never occurred to us to learn any German! I speak French and Kevin speaks Spanish so we’ve always been able to fumble our way through menus in countries with romance languages but this is HILARIOUS. Honestly, we spend a lot of time making “apology face” for our bare American-ness and pointing at items on menus or in glass cases. The Giant is soft spoken and hard to understand on his best day and Kev and I, veterans of years of airplane cockpits and rock concerts, are always asking him to speak up, but it turns out that mumbling inaudibly as if you are shy is much less conspicuous than the alternative of loudly proclaiming your idiocy. . . but I digress.

I was as close to the edge as I was going to go. . . SCARY and beautiful.

I was as close to the edge as I was going to go. . . SCARY and beautiful.

Dusseldorf is a city of amazing contradictions and unexpected charm. I expected that there would be charming spots of older architecture and “Octoberfest” style Bavarian-ness. I expected to see clean modern buildings with glaring utilitarianism. What I didn’t expect was that there would be block after block of well preserved medieval architecture melding seamlessly with stunning innovative modern art-chitecture (yes, I sometimes make up words, but what else can you call a building that is breathtakingly obviously a piece of art that people live in?). Fanning out easterly from the Rhine River, the area is all at once sleepy and lively, medieval and modern, earthy and cerebral, artsy and industrial.

Great architecture.

Great architecture.

The Giant--larger than life.

The Giant–larger than life.

Having procured an apartment an hour before arriving while driving on the Autobahn, we had no right to tumble into such a wonder, but we did. Our apartment is located smack dab in the center of Bolkerstraße–a street that is considered to be the world’s longest bar with 260 pubs. The next street over is an incredible shopping area filled with pastry shops, European clothing boutiques and vendors selling everything from sausages (he he) to Vietnamese food. Dotted throughout the gelato shops where the scent of fresh waffles curlicues through the outdoor cafe tables to mix with the wisps of cigarette smoke emanating from red faced locals having animated conversations over coffee, the cobbler’s shops with leather shoelaces hanging in the windows like hanks of hair and the punk rock shops with painted leather jackets and spiked boots are 13th century courtyards and churches that have been converted to modern art and film museums intermingled with fast food stands that will sell you french fries with every conceivable topping (Hollandaise?).
We made our way to the river walk and meandered to the Rheinturn Tower and took an elevator to the top where we had a birds-eye view of the entire city and the surrounding countryside. Spying a building that was designed by an architect that The Giant had spent a semester studying in school, we set out to find it on the ground and walked through city parks with pieces of the Berlin Wall on display amid skateboarders practicing their tricks. Unable to resist the magnetic pull, we finally succumbed to a lovely cafe table and surrendered by ordering fresh waffles covered in Stracciatela gelato and scalding cappuccinos that were served with miniature cookies. We laughed at the statues, guessing at their meanings–we thought about downloading a translation app, but the costs of data were too great so it would have to wait until we retired to the apartment to use the wi-fi. Also, I am a staunch believer that the stories we make up about the world around us are far superior to reality so the language barrier pushed our novelty to new heights.

When evening fell, we sat outside a bustling restaurant eating platters of roasted meat and potatoes, playing poker and drinking beer until exhaustion pushed us to fall into bed for our last sleep in Dusseldorf.

These kids!!!

These kids!!!

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Definitely Miss Adventure (Day 3)

I hope that you don’t mind, but I have to skip over the monotony of the end of the second day. Yes, there were a few succulent tidbits–sitting all afternoon in a passenger terminal with eight Air Force K-9 dogs and their handlers, knowing that the dogs would be awarded seats with greater priority than I and wondering if I could find it in myself to be even a little bit offended by that (I couldn’t), wishing wistfully for a hot yoga class or a quiet corner to stretch the kinks out of my spine only to turn a corner and see the C-5 that was getting ready to take us on the next leg of our adventure stretching into an unbelievable downward facing dog to ready itself, the cacophony of screaming children, the loadmasters who all wore fictitious name tags with unbelievable names because they so loathed pretending to be flight attendants. . .it was all a delight, but also all of it a traveller’s story that has been told a thousand times.

“We don’t need no stinking kennels! First class all the way. I Heart Air Force.

C 5 With the nose and aft up--an airplane in Down Dog!!

C 5 With the nose and aft up–an airplane in Down Dog!!

I have to skip to this morning–to the delightful little flat that we have rented in the old city of Dusseldorf Germany filled with shops whose keepers wear waxed aprons and pubs where you don’t even order–you are greeted with frosty cold glass after glass of the crisp amber house beer in an ancient international, “hello.” I spent last evening jet laggedly unable to sleep finishing the book I was reading and reveling in the pretense that this was our home–separated from the Kabob house and brew house below by an intricately carved spiral staircase through a nearly invisible door–the Kabob makers live behind the shop and we live above. They filled the rain fresh night air with lovely well humored revelry that mixed beautifully with the music wafting from the apartment above. The guitar player was good and his friends knew all of the words to the songs. It was such a surreal scene that it didn’t even occur to me to be irritated by the noise until I found myself singing along with them to Everlong at about four a.m. I hope that today we will meet them.

Um, I kind of LIVE HERE!  For now.

Um, I kind of LIVE HERE! For now.

I woke this morning and wandered a sleepy cobblestone block to the Rhine for a run. I’m not exactly a runner, per se, more like a person who moves a lot and likes to wear running clothes. People ask me, occasionally, whether I’m fast and I never know how to answer. “Sometimes” seems dismissive when I don’t mean to be but the truth, “I don’t know,” doesn’t seem to satisfy anyone who is truly curious. Now, this morning, I can say a few things with certainty. I run faster than a barge carrying fresh asphalt up the Rhine River and slower than a barge carrying fruit down it. I run faster than a garbage truck but slower than a beer delivery van. I run as fast as a group of seven German Polizei on their morning jog and have a short burst of ‘Kick Your Ass’ left over to embarrass them when they stop running and I’m just getting started.

My run along the Rhine--yeah, didn't suck.

My run along the Rhine–yeah, didn’t suck.

I returned to find the courtyards of my new street yawning to life. I’m writing to you while sitting at a table at a small bakery drinking milchkaffee with sugar and trying to hear the locals pronounce the names of the pastries and the breads in the case so that I can try to order without the humiliating simian dance that I typically revert to while trying to procure pastry in foreign countries. Embarrassing, yes, embarrassing enough to prevent me from eating my weight in pastry while in Europe? Nope.  I had ordered two milchkaffee intending to bring one to my husband but I might save him from the torture of becoming addicted to the delicious nectar and let him continue to sleep.

A REAL BED!!!!!! And, how cute are my new running shoes?!

A REAL BED!!!!!! And, how cute are my new running shoes?!

Today we are going to explore Dusseldorf on foot. . . most of you will probably just get a dirty postcard. While traveling might make me more worldly, it certainly doesn’t make me any more mature and I have seen some doozies in the shop windows this morning.


This is on the side of the bank. I don’t know what it says, but I can’t imagine that the truth is far from my imagination. This should be on the side of every ATM everywhere.

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Mis? Adventure? (Day 2)

Yesterday’s dawn brought mixed feelings–Friday’s notices had shown three flights headed to Spain with room for passengers. Saturday morning, the notice changed and there was one flight with only sixteen spaces. Kevin popped into the terminal before breakfast to check us in and we were second on the list–right after a family returning to their home base in Rota after a month stateside. Since we had our truck, Kevin helped the family return their rental car and then came to grab us. We floated onto base with optimism and confidence only to see that the list dynamic had changed and with sixteen available seats, we were passengers seventeen through twenty-one. The boys read books while we waited for role call and looked around for alternative options. All of the passengers ahead of us on the list were present for role call, so we found solace in a bag of homemade chocolate chip cookies I had packed for the flight and then brainstormed our next steps over chicken wings and fried cheese.


Spain was giving us the Heisman. . . then this happened!

We found a flight to Germany leaving Sunday afternoon from New Jersey so we set out to see what we could do for fun while we were stateside for another night. The Giant is pretty sure that a military academy is in his future and, though he has another branch in mind, we noted the proximity of the Naval Academy at Annapolis on the map. One quick phone call confirmed prospective student briefings if we put a little sauce on our timing, so I Nascarred our way through the Maryland countryside doing my best to run every old codger in an aging diesel off the road and we squeeled into Annapolis for a two o’clock tour. In an effort to keep Kevin from observing how raucously I was abusing his truck, I asked him to Stubhub the area for a night game and, because the universe is a lovely cat, we found one.

The Ginger is working on his RBF this vacation--nailed it!

The Ginger is working on his RBF this vacation–nailed it!

I love a baseball game. Really, on an American summer evening, there is nothing finer than fans, cold beer, a hot dog and a game. And, if I’m honest, I will admit that I think that a double play is one of the sexiest things that has ever happened. And the designated hitter is the least. The home team didn’t pull through, but it was a fine spectacle and the fans in Baltimore are top notch.

Sea of Orange and Black.

Sea of Orange and Black.

While our first plan didn’t pan out, I am having the grandest adventure laughing and hanging out with The Giant, The Ginger and my fantastic husband who has thrown all spreadsheets out of the window in order to fly by the seat of his usually gnat’s assed pants with me for a while.


The Giant and me working it for free junk.

The Giant and me working it for free junk.

Edit!!!  The plane we “missed out on” was broken and the passengers say on the Tarmac and in the terminal all day in the heat until the flight was eventually rescheduled for the following day.  We actually got to have a great day together as a family doing amazing ad hoc fun and it was BETTER than if we had actually caught the flight!

Beer, ball and the love of my life.

Beer, ball and the love of my life.

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A New Adventure

Sometimes I get a hankering for an adventure. You know what I’m talking about, right? A deep itch for something different? Not a vacation. The word “vacation” infers that daily life has worn a rut in my soul and I need space from my everyday. No, my every day remains a delight. I don’t need to “get away.” I need a throw of the dice. A haphazard gamble of a trip with a destination and itinerary unknown. So I’m taking one.

The New Jersey Turnpike is more beautiful than the name implies. Inky bands of freeway nestled into tufts of dark emerald trees–it’s as eerily sweet as black licorice ropes in absinthe and just as surreal. With a new traveling playlist of obscure road songs by well known artists, I’m sitting in the passenger seat blinking at the divider lines and wondering at the miracle of lightning bugs sparking up the deep woods in a show that guarantees that holiday lights will always be second class citizens to the miraculous sizzle that is Mother Nature. It is all at once a petrifying and dangerously inviting way to start a magical journey.

The French have a phrase, “L’appel du vide” which translates literally as, “the call of the void.” It refers to an instinctual desire to jump off of the edge of a high place. Psychologists actually call it “High Place Phenomenon.” I haven’t jumped off of a bridge yet today, but I like to imagine that the distance between where I am and where I am dreaming of being is less a continental length, but rather, a soft place where I will fall if I can just put my head around getting to the top of the cliff and jumping over the edge.

Today I’m jumping. And since I always leap with my eyes open and my arms outstretched, I’m pretty sure that I can fly. I’m trying to jump to Spain to catch a bull running in Pamplona and get close enough to smell the paint fumes of a few Picassos but if the wind changes, I might end up in Germany hiking through summer fields to a castle and cooling my toes in a river while drinking icy beer. If you are raising a glass tonight, I’m toasting to jumping. And to grand adventures. May your feet find wings and your heart have the courage to strap on a parachute.

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I spent ten minutes this morning chasing a fly around the kitchen. Mostly, I was chasing the little bugger because my dog wouldn’t leave it alone and having a 160 pound dog storming all over my tiny kitchen trying to catch a fly was getting to be moderately destructive. You know the sense of victory that you get when you finally GET the fly with the swatter? You know, maybe one molecule of elation less than finishing a marathon or winning the lottery? Well, I felt it. Then, the worst thing ever happened. I KNEW that I had murderized the fly, but I couldn’t find its dirty little carcass anywhere! I opened and closed the window (of course he made me squash him on the window leading to later window washing–further evidence of fly jackassery), I moved the radiator cover, I pulled out the table and swept the floor (don’t do this-ever- it’s gross) and, upon giving up and deciding that I had not just eradicated the fly, I had VAPORIZED him, I took a triumphant gulp of coffee. And swallowed a dead fly.


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Making New Friends. . . and My Boobs in a Bathing Suit

I have a new friend, I think. As a child, it’s easy to tell when another kid becomes your friend. Really, it is the instant that you make eye contact with each other and one of you doesn’t stick your tongue out. Friendship was simple then. As an adult, it’s harder to tell.

Ipad dump 2-26 166

For women, finding friendship is like bathing suit shopping. When you were young, you just walked up to a rack, found something in your favorite color, saw that it was about your size and made a commitment. As a grown woman, you research, you shop, you spend agonizing hours in a greenishly lit room trying on and turning around, checking every angle, hemming and hawing, deciding whether to commit, thinking, “Will this support me enough? Is it in the vicinity of my income bracket? Will it work with my kids’ activities? Will my husband like it? Does it fit with the things that I already have?” Truth is, I think that we’re all looking for the same suit—one that downplays our flaws and insecurities and bolsters our best features and confidence. A suit that we can feel comfortable having fun with and that we can trust not to leave us feeling exposed.


I have been lucky in friendship all my life. The friends that I made in elementary school are still lighting up my life like little fireflies on the periphery. They are as warm and endearing as summertime childhood photos of me in hand-me-down swimsuits from my popular and well dressed cousin who had a pool—and boobs. They make me grin and remember that bathing suits are MADE for a good time. The women that I have befriended in adulthood are some of the most radiant and genuine souls that exist. I spent almost $200 on a bathing suit once (in case you are one of those women who doesn’t think that is a lot of money, you’re wrong and I don’t mind telling you that you are more than a little bit ridiculous) because it was perfection in spandex. It was black and cut to flatter. It contained a system of panels and underwires that made me look and feel like Marilyn Monroe. That is what my friends do for me. They boost me up where I need it. When I’m falling apart, they hold me together in a way that makes me feel like I could put the world onto a polka-dot pool floatie and twirl it around while laughing and chugging champagne. And I have my mother. If you get to be best friends with your mother, it’s like knowing that your birthday suit is already perfect. It’s the most amazing lovely warmth.

swimsuit marilyn

When I left home and struck out on this new cross country adventure, I knew that I would be pushing the limits of spandex and that I would have to find new friends here. I tried to believe that my luck would follow me but it’s been difficult! New Englanders are always reported as cold, but I like to say that they are like Crème Brulee—you really have to work to crack the hard candy coating, but there is a dreamy creamy center. I’m a tough cookie, but jack-hammering at the burnt sugar has been exhausting. Having been friends most of my adult life with women for whom being a hot mess was a brag-worthy feature and sharing the mutual misery of our ridiculous husbands, our awkward and misbehaved children and our dirty houses for so long, I’m having a tough time assimilating into a society where you keep all of that to yourself and only put out the shiny sugar coating. Listen, I can’t help it. Hot mess is a compliment for me on most days. I STRIVE for “hot mess” because it is one step above my actual state of “natural disaster” and my shiny candy coating is typically smeared with chocolate, has red wine stained teeth and her tampon string is showing.

swimsuit 7

Don’t get me wrong. I’ve made some “pals.” I think, for the most part, they keep me around for comic relief, but they keep me around and that’s a start. I’ve found a few women who I’m on the verge of cracking, but I think that I finally found one great creamy center. And I’m a little giddy about it. She’s a different kind of water clothing than what I’ve worn before, but in a good way. Once, I ordered something from LuLuLemon and, when the package came, it contained not only the black pants that I had ordered, but an orangey red rain jacket. I called LuLuLemon and offered to send it back to them, but they told me that if it was my size, I should keep it and enjoy. It took me a while to get used to—I don’t wear orange OR red, I lived in the desert, it has a frill. . . but one day, I grabbed it for a run and it was a perfect fit. Instead of holding me in, it supports me in a way that makes me hold myself better. Instead of pushing me up, it has room for days when I am feeling high and is equally accommodating on days when I’d rather strap myself into a sports bra. The color is flattering, but in a different way than I expected. Instead of looking like Marilyn, I’m more of a Lauren Bacall in it-classy, cerebral, thoughtful. . . so I’m wondering, in this new phase of my life, will I find new friends who are bathing suits or have I matured into a person who needs more of a rain coat? I guess that time—and the weather—will tell.

swimsuits 8

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Glue Boogers and Other Important Miscellany

May we speak for a moment about a few issues that are really important to me? I know, I know, this is a SOCIAL medium, not a SERIOUS one, but honestly, I need a forum for soapboxing and today, this one has the biggest audience–

First, The Commercial Glue Booger. What IS this substance?! It is appearing, at this point, in my everyday life–in mailers holding a tri-fold brochure together (have you tried staples?) or adhering a faux credit card to a credit application (do people really fall for this trick?! Do they hold the fake credit card in their hand and think, “THIS is what it feels like to hold a plasticine item of this size in my hand?! All these years and I didn’t know what it felt like to have something of this size? Well, I’ll absolutely apply now!”), in magazines holding make-up samples in someone else’s color palette to an otherwise unsuspecting page–note to magazine people: go back to fold over perfume samples which make the world (and my underwear drawer) a sweeter smelling place, and in commercial packaging where they are discretely melding my rightful property firmly to offensive backing. This weird, quasi hot-glue/rubber cement love child is gross. It makes me think that my ladies magazines were pre-read by teenaged boys for nefarious purposes. And people, if the name of your store is Dick’s, don’t use copious amounts of sticky goop of indeterminate origin as a schmeg-filled surprise for your coupon mailers. Just no.

Second, people who save sauce packets. This makes me crazy. Why does it seem that everyone I know has a drawer in their kitchen that is a black hole for unrefrigerated, expiration dateless, crusty, sticky condiment packages? Listen, you know where condiments go–IN THE REFRIGERATOR! And you know that food expires, so should be marked with a date. You are never going to go for a Chinese food picnic at the park or roast weenies in a solar oven you made from a Pringles can on your lunch hour then top it with a questionable relish packet from this drawer. You aren’t going to have a visiting physics professor from Asia to your house for dinner who refuses a fork and you, luckily, have a paper-wrapped pair of crappy chopsticks that he can use to eat the tacos you’ve prepared. Throw. That. Crap. Away.

Finally, THIS–


Yes, these are jeans.  They are, in fact, a demonstration of what EVERY PAIR OF MY BOYS’ jeans looks like when I take them from the hamper to wash them.   These jeans that, if left to be washed in the status quo, will come out of the dryer 7/8 washed and dried, and 1/8 damp, wrinkled ankle tulip that, “CAN’T be worn, Mom.”   So, it gets put back in the dirty laundry to be washed, dried and folded AGAIN.   The mystery here is HOW do you get pants to do this?  I have tried several methods of pants removal (quit yer giggling-I’m retired, I have time for this stuff) in an attempt to discern whether this particular configuration is, in fact, the result of the world’s most efficient and wonderful trouser expulsion system.   It is not.   It is simply the weird way that my children disrobe.  I have failed as a parent.   And neither of them will ever find love.  They are doomed to suffer a life of one night stands where their partners wake in the morning, see the pants on the floor in that unbelievable shape and run for the door.

Whew. I feel so much better having gotten this off my chest. Thank you for listening.

P.S.  When searching for an image on the Google to insert, I found the below horror.   Honestly, do people eat this much fast food?   I am considering dedicating my afternoon to finding this person and conducting an intervention.   At least that is a refrigerator drawer.   At worst, though, I’m pretty sure that it’s the one meant for veggies.


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Notes from my Workout Journal (5/6/15)

I keep notes in my phone about workouts. I actually keep notes in my phone about everything (including weird chapter-starts for books that I’ll never finish-lame) and if I ever lose my phone, whomever finds it could write a very strange book about crap that poured out of my head. . . . . but today is about workout notes.

Mainly, I jot down a little bit about what temperature it was and what I wore (not for fashion, but because I live 3000 miles away from where I used to and it is like quantum physics for me to figure out how to layer in my new environment), how I felt after my workout , what to bring/leave at home next time, you know, just adorable little “post its to myself.”

training run

This morning, getting ready for my run, I pulled it up to see if I was cold the last time I ran the Penwood Trail at this time of day and, in a ridiculous effort at procrastination, I scrolled through some old notes to myself. Here’s a random selection of the positive little things that I tell myself:

After an especially difficult hot yoga class: Next time bring a towel, you yeti. You bent over and sweat dripped up your nose!!!

After a series of one minute intervals over 3.5 miles: You kind of suck at this. How hard would it be to just run faster? Come on!

After a pick-up work out in the park with a super cool personal trainer: Note to self-work out with her more often. Everything hurts so GOOOOOD.

And, in case you think that I’m always mean (not true, the nice notes just aren’t as funny as when I’m picking on myself)–

After a recovery yoga class on my last long run day: Somebody did pigeon without crying! Look who spanked the pigeon! Woot Woot! (P.S. cheering is frowned upon in this studio-especially pigeon spanking themed cheering–dumb)

star wars yoga small

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Life Hacks for Lazy Chicks (24)

You know how, every once in a while you drop something behind the stove and, when you move the stove out, you want to die because it’s pretty much the grossest thing that ever happened? Well, I made a promise to myself that when I had more time in my life that I would move the stove and clean it every month. For the last year, I’ve had that kind of time and let me tell you something–it’s the SAME AMOUNT OF DISGUSTING! Really, stop beating yourself up. Either stop using the stove or just remove it and put in a wine refrigerator. I think that the stove LIKES to be filthy. It’s the Pigpen of major appliances.  It has no shame.


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My Garmin Must Die.

Since the Ragnar Trail Relay was sixty days away and I recently stumbled upon the knowledge that all of my teammates were training a little more diligently than I, I decided to do something drastic—I made a schedule. I researched traditional half-marathon programs, trail relay programs and sixty day accelerated programs and came up with a hybrid schedule that I could live with. I won’t be breaking any land speed records, but hopefully I’ll outrun the ticks.

ragnar hurl

Six days a week, we wake our teenagers up at 5:00 for a family workout. It’s as charming and lovely as you can imagine <sarcasm>. And since the family runs on Monday, Wednesday and Friday, I shifted a traditional Tuesday/Thursday long run Saturday schedule to the left so that I can at least START my runs with Kev and the boys (they’re pretty wretched by the end of the workout, anyway, so I am not missing anything by finishing alone) and I can get my long trail runs done on Friday when the trails are less packed—because I’m blissfully underemployed, this works for me.

youre a monster

Monday morning this week dawned the first day of my Nine Week Ragnar Push (yes, I named it) with 3.5 miles of 1 minute intervals. I had never used the intervals function of my Garmin before, but I felt that it was time to learn. I prepared the evening before, hunched over the ridiculous device programming the intervals. This was kind of a big run for me, being a drastic change from the “run when you want, as far as you feel like” regimen that I had been rocking for a few weeks. The boys were set to run 30 second intervals at the high school track, so using an online mapping program, I mapped the distance from the school to my house (2.5 miles) and planned to run intervals with the pack for a mile at the school then run intervals home while they drive. In a warm car. To a waiting pot of coffee.

garmin staring

I had a new playlist of quirky run tunes. I was KILLING it on my intervals. I looked HOT in my LuLuLemon long sleeved shirt that covers my muffin top. My thighs were burning, and Greta (this is my Garmin’s first name. I name all electronic devices. It feels better to lecture them like misbehaving dogs when they act up than acknowledging that it could be MY problem) was working like a CHAMP. She was chirping to let me know when I had three seconds to go, vibrating a little to let me know when to transition. All in all, I couldn’t have been having a better first day of training. Then it happened. I could see my street up ahead and I looked down at Greta to see whether I could start my cool down. And she said 2.93 miles. TWO POINT NINE THREE MILES?!?!?!?! Are you shitting me?!?!?! I had been running my ASS off. How could I not be done? In my head, I revisited the evening before when I had mapped the distance between the school and my house. Could I have put in a weird route? Could I have made some circuitous mistake that <shit, interval-SPRINT you lazy ass> made the distance further than it actually is? Then I started lecturing myself for not driving the route. I should have Googled whether MapMyRun was accurate. I should have used YahooMaps <aaaah. You can jog now. You’re almost there. Don’t walk. Walking is for losers. > I should have walked the dogs to the school with Greta on so that I had a more accurate measurement. Did I take a short cut? <just go around the block. Maybe the distance between houses is further than you think> Have a just discovered a new, faster way to drive the kids to school? <Fuck. Sprint AGAIN? Greta, you bitch> What about that HILL in mile two? If I quit now, can I say that it was a very hilly run so I had to compromise? <PUSH you jackass. PUSH. You gave birth, you can do a one minute interval!> In the end, I went around the block FOUR TIMES and didn’t quit until Greta grudgingly gave me the 3.5 that I was so desperately seeking. BUT THIS IS NOT THE FUNNY STORY.

garmin morgan

This morning, I was scheduled to run three miles with 10 minutes of tempo running. This was perfect. I had newly discovered (thank you Monday) that the house was more like two miles from the school than 2.5 and their run was a mile—perfect. The run started pretty much the same way as Monday’s had. And, yes, I washed and wore the same shirt. It covers my love handles. I might wear it every day. I drove to the school with the family, we all ran the first mile together and when they peeled off to the car, I ran home. Oddly, though, when I was about .6 miles from the house, I had already reached the 3 mile point. . . . what???? How could this be? Where could I have miscalculated? Did I miscount track loops on Monday? Did I miscount track loops today? What had I. . . . . oooooooooh crap. NOW I get it. Greta doesn’t track the distance you travel between your intervals. Only your sprinted distances count. The bitch turned my 3.5 mile first day of training into almost a 4.5 mile day of 1 minute sprint intervals. If I could afford a new watch, we would be going to Reno to get a quickie divorce.

garmin trail

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My Dog Takes Drugs

While we were on vacation, Peri developed diabetes. She’s pretty much the most housebroken dog that you’ve ever met so an accident is pretty telling, but our worry does nothing to change the fact that when a 165 pound dog has an accident in your house, you pretty much want to die. Or just turn that room into an indoor pool.


The vet diagnosed her and called in a prescription for insulin and needles to Walmart (I don’t usually Walmart, but apparently they are notorious for practically GIVING away pharmaceuticals and all the cool dogs get their insulin there). Upon my arrival at the Walmart Pharmacy pick up counter, I was ordered to “Go to the Drop Off.” “But I’m not dropping off,” I explained “You texted me to let me know that my prescription was ready.”

“For the DOG?” she said (imagine disapproving eyebrows and a facial expression that pretty much infers that I am personally murdering children in lesser developed countries with my white girl problem of buying needles and insulin for my DOG).

“Yes, for the DOG.” I answered (with a facial expression that pretty much let her know that this dog had been nominated for not one, but two Nobel Prizes and was one miracle and a sacrificial death away from Sainthood, thank you very much. None of those things are true, but she makes me feel better when I’m sad and that’s pretty much the same thing.)


“Then go to the Drop Off” she spat back (imagine a facial expression where she tries to maintain composure while I unflinchingly show her with my eyes that there will be a rumble at the bike racks at 3:00. And she’s gonna lose her milk money. And her yellow Swatch Guard).

I sauntered to the Drop Off–all the while shooting eye daggers at the Pick Up bitch–and came face to face with a girl whose name tag said, “Merian” but will heretofore be referred to as, “Mensa.”


“Pam Eikleberry.”

“Not your name. The PATIENT’S name.”

“Periwinkle. Um, I guess, Eikleberry.”

“I don’t have it under Periwinkle. Is there another name it could be under?”

Now, bear in mind that this bitch is standing THREE FEET AWAY from the Pick Up lady. There is not another soul in the pharmacy and they both have obviously been talking about my dog and her meds. They texted me that the prescription was ready. Now, I can’t tell if they are actually the stupidest people alive or if they really are fucking with me. “Um, yeah, Pam Eikleberry.”

“Oh, I see it here, Pam” a nervous upwards glance, “I have to ask you some questions about the patient before we can fill your order. First, may I have the patient’s name?”

I was dumbfounded. Actually could not speak. With a shake of my head, I finally stuttered out, “Periwinkle. Periwinkle Eikleberry.”

“Date of birth?”

“Er, July 2004?”

“I’m sorry ma’am, that’s not correct. I need an exact date.”

“Um, July 15, 2004?”

“No, ma’am, that’s not the date that the doctor gave us.”

“Well, nobody knows the date, we’re all just guessing here. It’s a DOG for Pete’s sake. Can you just give me a hint?!”

“It’s July 1, 2004, ma’am. Insurance?”

“She’s a DOG.”

“Yes, ma’am, may I have your insurance information.”

“My insurance doesn’t cover my dog.”

“So, she’s uninsured?”


“Here. This pamphlet explains the Healthcare Act and ramifications for being uninsured. Do you know that there are costs for being uninsured?”

“My dog doesn’t read pamphlets. Her depth perception is poor and the glossy print is difficult for her to discern. Is there a braille version available?”

“Maybe, would you like me to check?”

“No, thank you. I’ll take this.”

“Does the patient have any drug allergies?”

“Tylenol.” My dog isn’t allergic to anything, but I couldn’t help myself. I really couldn’t. Mensa started typing. “Wait. I was kidding. No. No drug allergies.”

“Any food allergies?”

“Peanuts.” Really, it was just too much damned fun. Mensa started typing again. “No! I was kidding again. No, she has no food allergies. ”

“Phone number?”

“For the dog?”


“Will you be calling her?”

“Yes. When her prescriptions are ready.”

“She doesn’t have thumbs.”

“Then I guess your number is fine, then.”

Truly. This was the worst experience that I have had at a Walmart since. . . . well, since the last time I was at a Walmart.


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Parents Break Promises

Driving to school this morning –

Me- would you guys rather have roasted chicken or grilled pork tenderloin for dinner tonight?
The Giant-tenderloin.
Me- What about a vegetable? I could roast up some brussel sprouts with lemon and pine nuts?
The Giant- You promised me that you would never make me try brussel sprouts.
(This is true. Before I discovered roasted sprouts, I had vowed that they would never stink up my kitchen but, honestly, does this kid have to remember EVERY WORD I’VE EVER SAID?!)
Me- Well, I may just have to eat my words.
The Giant- they probably taste even worse than brussel sprouts.
The Ginger- Especially the mean ones.
The Giant- They’re not so much mean as grating. Like, you wouldn’t even have to grate cheese in advance if you ate it with your words.
Me- Mmmmm. Words with creamy mozzarella.
The Ginger- No, REALLY grating Mom. Like you could grate a Pecorino.
The Giant- Forget a hard cheese. Think more along the lines of nutmeg.
…..pulling up in front of the school…..
The Ginger- Is anyone else having Mustard? You know? Like Dijon-vu? I’m pretty sure I’ve seen this place before.

Day drinking, anyone?!

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History Makes Me Dance

We want our children to measure their lives by experiences, not possessions. We want them to know first hand that the freedoms and lifestyle that they enjoy are the direct descendants of the sacrifices, hard work and ingenuity of real people who overcame adversity, obscurity and failure to painstakingly pave the roads we travel with leisure. I’m gonna tell you, sometimes it sucks. Sometimes they would much rather plug in and tune out. It turns my vacation time into an exhausting 24/7 sales pitch where I am trying to find the details, viewpoints and experiences that will appeal most to their teenaged minds. And then sometimes it clicks. The moment I see it on their face, I dance a little inside. Gettysburg had a lot of dancing.


The Giant might be a statue goofing prodigy. Proud


I mean, there are some shoes to fill. . . .


Howzit –


The Ginger, not to be outdone, chimes in with statue goofing despite his lifelong ban on photos or, pretty much anthing fun besides seven card stud.

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The Ambassador of Sun

For friends of Charlie Carter, the world is your ocean and you carry the beach with you wherever you go–and it’s an easy companion.  The owner of Chaos (there is some talk to be had here, I think about whether a man ever truly owns a boat or whether a boat owns a man, but for me, I think it tends to be a delicate dance somewhere in the middle-maybe this is why boats are always a “she”), a gorgeous 45 foot Cabo Express docked in Cabo San Lucas, Charlie was, for us this last weekend, The Ambassador of Sun.
At the helm of Chaos every day is Captain Ivan. Now, there are men who fish and then there are fishermen and the chasm between the two is as wide as the sea.  Not since the difference between Ishmael and Ahab has a distinction been so clear.  You know his kind–it is hard to tell if a life on the water has carved his face into an expression that could be a grimace, but is more likely a white toothed expression of eternal contentment–staring somewhere in the distance at a spot in the water where he sees potential where others only see blue.   It’s true, if you charter his boat, he will take you wherever you want to go, but he’d much rather you just sit down, drink a cold beer and let him take you to the fish while the crew does a melodic dance as old as time.  They bait the rods, cast the lines, laugh, and make sure you’re comfortable, all the while cleaning and polishing a boat that means more than a lifestyle to them.   It means a life.
There are fish that you eat, there are fish you can keep, and there are fish that belong to the sea–perhaps a life of negotiating with drunk men who fish has given these men an ease in telling you which kind your fish is–matter of factly and without apology.  They simply let you know, “No, those don’t taste too good and he needs to go back, to get bigger” while letting it free. Your fish can stay just long enough for a photo, then it needs to be released back to the world so that it can become what it is meant to be.
Ivan and his crew are not employees of Charlie’s.  They are family.  Watching their bromance is like seeing a long choreographed salsa of easy camaraderie.  When you’re a client, your are treated like a first class passenger on a lovely cruise–you land all the fish, your drink is never empty, never warm, they chop the fish as they are pulled from the water and make homemade ceviche with fresh tortilla chips that is food from the gods.  When you are a guest of Charlie’s, it’s even better.  You are related, embraced, you become “one of” not “one apart” from this crew.  The music, the laughter, the food and drinks, the abject revelry of our jolly little cruise brought the whales and dolphins from the depths, curious to see the party and to enjoy it for a while from the periphery.  It’s every man for himself on the rods, but every fish landed is a victory for all.  Every ice cold beer tossed into a waiting hand is met with a smile or a joke. . .. a brotherhood.  When you are family, you get to really know these fishermen.  They bring their sons on the boat and you see that these quiet boys are cut from the same cloth as they are–just like the sea, they are hard men to know, but easy men to love.  Warm. Unforgiving. Free.



From the front of the ship, lying on beach towels with fresh drinks pushed into our hands more often than sunscreen, whomever was steering  often turned the boat to troll another direction just to insure that our tans were even.  They roused us from our sunny slumber whenever whales surfaced nearby, when dolphins appeared to frolic in our wake, and whenever a sea turtle or ray showed its curious back.  For the record, every time I see a whale up close or a dolphin jump with mischievous frivolity, I tell myself,  “O.K. Next time, you can be mature about this, next time, you won’t be filled with such childish wonder,” but I’m wrong time and time again.  The novelty never wears off.   Their proximity and willingness to share in my day are a bottomless well of bonelessly relaxed elation.
I guess that what I am trying to say is this, if you fancy a long weekend in Cabo, I recommend that you spend it on the Chaos.  No matter what the quality of the fishing, the very good times are always a catch.  


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Dinner March 17, 2015

The Giant–Soooo, Macbeth is dumb.
Me–Oh? Um, Macbeth the play or Macbeth the character?
The Giant–(looking at me like I just grew a tentacle out of my neck) The CHARACTER, of course. He’s such a cowardly punk. He never sticks to his decisions and his wife is a NIGHTMARE.
The Ginger–(with a mouth that contains a bite of food that could most easily be described as kitten sized) Yeah, what’s her problem, anyway. What’s with all of the whining? She gets to be queen!
Me–Maybe being a queen isn’t all it’s cracked up to be?
The Ginger–Lets ask Freddie Mercury.
The Giant–I did. He said, “Well it’s been no bed of roses….”
The Ginger–No pleasure cruise……
(Believe it or not, I hadn’t caught on to what they were doing at this point)
The Giant–I consider it a challenge before the whole human race…..
Me–Oh, geez, you guys are the WORST!
The Ginger–And I’ll never lose!!!!
The Giant–And I need just goes ON AND ON AND (The Ginger joins in) AND ON!

Topics covered tonight at the table: The Neverending Story–how does it end and, more importantly, WHY does it end? The Last Unicorn–was that guy turning all the unicorns into Narwhals? Was Romeo really 23 and Juliette 13–gross! How regular kielbasa is much more delicious than turkey kielbasa. Why, whenever I ask, “How are you liking The Scarlet Letter?” The Giant brings up an interesting topic about another great book instead and whether this subject avoidance might have greater GPA implications.

Food consumed (by TWO children): THREE packages of kielbasa, six hoagie rolls, two cans of green beans, two boxes of couscous, and SIX warm chocolate chip m&m cookies.


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The Black Spot and How I Became a Surgeon

It had been going on for a few weeks. I had a knife in my foot. I knew it as surely as I knew the nose on my face. My preference with all things medical is to pretend that they are not happening. I’ve never met an illness that responded better to antibiotics than the silent treatment and I have lived a very happy life of avoiding the doctor altogether. If I stopped ignoring it and actually LOOKED to see what was slicing into my foot, it would surely demand treatment-having been acknowledged, so every day I would tie on my running shoes and work like the Dickens to outrun the rusty dagger that had taken up residence in the ball of my right hill pusher. But the pokey bastard was persistent. Stubborn. Rude even. Finally I was forced to do the one thing that I swore to never do–consult an expert.

On the couch, with my foot shoved into my kind husband’s face (yes, he was totally on his way to work and trying to get out the door and, at the time, I couldn’t have cared but in retrospect, I could have probably been a little nicer). He said, “Well, with the expertise that I have–given my AIRCRAFT TRAINING and CRIMINAL JUSTICE DEGREE (yes, he’s an ass, but he’s my kind of ass so I let these little tantrums go sometimes and quietly put sugar in his carbless dishes with a smile) I’m pretty sure that this is a Plantar’s Wart.”

“A WART?! You must be mistaken! I’m adorable. Adorable people don’t get warts!!” I actually shouted this at my husband. Why men aren’t lining up to take me away from him is one of the great mysteries of the world. “No. No, you must be mistaken. Look again!” There’s a very small chance that I pushed my foot at his incredulous face again (he was egging me on with all this unnecessary talk about warts, this is not my fault).

“Well,” he uttered, tossing my foot aside, “It is a plantars wart. And you’re just gonna have to deal with it.” There were a few minutes of pouting, then I slunk away irritated. How dare he. I was obviously on the verge of expiration. This was a mortal wound. I was in PAIN and all that he could offer was a theory that I might have a dirty, common wart.

Alright, I’m going to admit it (I couldn’t be any more mortified anyway) it is true that once, in 2011, I almost wore a pair of unflattering pants out of the house. I got nearly as far as the door before I caught a glimpse of my ass in the glass of a hallway picture. Also there was an incident once in 2006 when I almost passed gas. Almost. So I’m not saying that I’m perfect. What I’m saying is that I don’t. Get. Warts.

That morning, as I was getting ready for my run I thought, “I wonder if I trimmed my toenails shorter, if my feet would be more comfortable when I run.” Nope, she ain’t just a river in Egypt. I get it. And I had yet, at this point, to even look at that offending molecule on the bottom of my foot. So, as I sat, trimmer in hand, ready to make my shoes the most comfortable Sauconys in the world, I thought that maybe I’d take a teeny gander at this so called wart. And I couldn’t believe what I saw. The tiniest black dot! It looked like I had a piece of sand stuck to my foot! This was the knife? This was the dagger? THIS was the reason I had been treadmill gimping?! OH, HELL NO!! And, all of a sudden, a bitchy cacophony of rude insults and unflattering epithets came from somewhere outside of my darling person and out of my ladylike mouth. In a fit of black dot rage, I stabbed at the offending object with the clippers. Hard. And something oozed out.

As I was already disowning this foot (I mean, the nerve of having a wart, right?), it didn’t even occur to me to be additionally irritated at it’s verve. I mean, leaking? When would this horror end?! So, I did what any rational, educated, calm and methodical woman would do. I assembled a professional surgery kit. By professional surgery kit, I mean several implements from my manicure kit that I sterilized with nail polish remover and laid out on a towel on my bed. I took a bracing shot of antiseptic (coffee), tied back my hair and got to work.

I’m going to fast forward here through about five hours (5 minutes) of professional scalpel craftsmanship (cuticle trimmer poking), heroic stoicism during self surgery (cursing, flailing, tantrum throwing) and stunning suturing (wrinkling my nose and choosing carefully between a Star Wars or a camo BandAid–both seemed fitting of my soldieresque bravery at this point) to tell you the moral of this story.

I had a splinter. An offensive, black, quarter inch long piece of wood that was stuck in the ball of my foot masquerading as a knife wielding Plantar’s wart. That’s not the moral, though, that’s the stunning and strange conclusion. The moral here is that my husband was WRONG and I was RIGHT. I am way too freaking adorable to ever get a wart. Also, I am now open and available to receive any and all honorary medical school degrees. Especially if they are conferred on me in a tropical location with all expenses paid. My feet want to recover by running on a beach.


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A Basement Full of Brains (The Cushing Collection at Yale)

There is no publicity, no markings, no signs. Not even an arrow. To find this place, you have to drive to New Haven, Connecticut and find the Yale Medical School, then the Library that is specific to it.  If you can find a parking space in front, it will likely be tucked neatly between food trucks – apparently food truck falafel is brain food–the only place that I’ve seen more food trucks than at the Yale Medical School is in front of the Metropolitan museum of art in Manhattan. I think my kids should eat more truck falafel. If you can’t squeeze in, pick any one of the pay by phone lots nearby and walk it. Truly, you will feel smarter by association, trampling the sidewalks with some of the top young minds in our nation–gaunt, tired and smelling strongly of embalming fluid, tahini and old books.


Creaking open the library doors, I was momentarily disoriented–I had just stumbled into an ancient white rotunda topped building flanked by columns with a security desk that reeked of “official business.” When my eyes adjusted to the light and I realized that the three hundred pound gorilla of a man behind the desk was spitting orders at ME, I managed to stammer out, “Um, this is the….library….right?” He nodded. “I’m, um, here to see. . . Um, the brains?”

At this, he broke out into a giant grin and I almost fainted in relief. I gave him my ID and he tossed me a visitors pass and a few directions. I was expecting brains. I was expecting a library. What I wasn’t expecting was for this library to be so COOL. On the way to the front desk, I passed an amazing exhibit on the history of human teratology–paintings celebrating human monstrosity through time. The antiquities collection in this library includes works as far back as Hippocrates. The presentations are tasteful, interesting and free.

When I checked in at the collections desk, a friendly librarian closed her computer, stepped out from behind the counter and gave me a personal escort two stories down into the exhibit in the basement. When the door unlocked, the greenish lights came on and every bit of mystique and wonder you could have hoped to find in a room full of brains in jars was too little, too small. This place is AMAZING.


Doctor Harvey Cushing was a true Renaissance Man. He was a brilliant doctor, one of the pioneers of neurosurgery, a soldier (they named a ship after him!), a talented photographer, a brilliant artist, he earned a Pulitzer for his own autobiography, found love, had great friends, collected rare books and medical equipment, and invented groundbreaking surgical tools. Above all, though, he had a little flair for the macabre and the vivacity to make it look cool. This cool grayish green shark fin shaped basement room contains his restored collection of the photos of his patients and their brains, in jars.


Once you’re in, the library staff leaves you to your own devices (I rub my hands together in mischievous glee). You can open all of the drawers which contain his collections, sit down, read, stare, spin in the chairs, put your fingers on the glass, make fish faces, in short, you can enjoy the entire collection without someone creeping over your shoulder or making you feel embarrassed about wanting to read every. Single. Thing. There are no sighing guards, no unattended children, this is truly a place where you can be alone with your thoughts–and the thoughts of a few hundred other disembodied lovelies.


I can honestly say that I’m changed by this place. The candid glimpse into a great mind showed me that play has its role in greatness–one display shows photos of Cushing and his friend Pavlov (yes, the bell ringer–not Quasimodo, the Russian one with the dogs). They were goofing around in the lab one day with an electric scalpel that Cushing had invented and Pavlov autographed a steak. Cushing kept it in a jar. Cushing posed in the photos with his patients–he was smiling, they were smiling, you got the feeling that knowing him was a grand adventure. His bevy of secretaries were among the most educated women of his time, yet they tirelessly followed him all over the world taking dictation and secretly calling themselves “The Harem” behind his back.

I could have stayed all day, but I couldn’t figure out how to describe my location to a pizza delivery boy and I kept seeing malignant tumors and having random thoughts of falafel, so I will have to visit again with a sack lunch. Of brains. Nom. Nom. Nom.

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PEZ Visitor Center, Orange CT (Review)

Alright, let’s, for a minute, remove the “jugular candy” portion of this tale (I know, buzzkill) and focus on the bigger story–the marketing genius behind the world’s lamest candy product.


PEZ was originally invented in Austria in 1927 by a gentleman playing around with compressing the fancy baking powders that his family sold (if you were thinking, “gross” I second that thought). The mint flavored bits were idealized as a smoking deterrent, so the packaging evolved over time from an Altoids-like tin to a more “hygienic” device that, oddly, looked just like a cigarette lighter (I say “oddly,” but I mean “freaking brilliantly”). The marketing mastery at work with the original “suck ’em if you’ve got em” device (called a “regular”) created the PEZ as you know it today–artificially flavored powder compressed into small rectangular bursts of tongue tie dying mediocrity, double wrapped for freshness in rolls of twelve candies each–exactly the number of candies that a dispenser holds.


In a 1945 post war slump, the company decided to expand to the American market. Since big tobacco was still ruling the roost stateside (and, why not–the Marlboro Man was tasty) and Americans were looking for ways to suck MORE cigarettes into their day, not less, the company decided to market the product to the one market in America with less financial restraint and more pocketbook control than the chain smoking breadwinners–the sweet toothed sticky handed sugar munchkins (children). In an effort to make the (certainly not as delicious as, well, almost any other candy) powdery capsules sufficiently frenzy inducing enough to justify the exportation costs, a head was attached to the top of the dispenser–first an astronaut, then Santa Claus and shortly Mickey Mouse. Eureka was born and by eureka, I mean, holy crap. PEZ has NEVER advertised their product, yet Americans consume more than a billion PEZ each year. The market here is so strong that, in 1973, PEZ candy manufacturing came to Connecticut. Which is how I arrive at the raison d’être of today’s little rant.


Yesterday, I spent the afternoon in the PEZ Visitors Center in Orange, Connecticut. While PEZ is not my first candy choice, I have been known to occasionally indulge for a couple of very mature reasons. First and foremost, they have a very diverse selection of both Star Wars and Batman dispensers. I have secondary reasons, but I think that I could stop right there. Alright, you beat it out of me. . . I think it is super funny to eat candy bricks out of someone’s neck hole. There. I said it. Laryngectomy patients can rest easy, though, I can safely say that my neck chasm sweet sucking obsession is purely inanimate.


The PEZ Visitor Center is located in an industrial area not too far from city center. Parking was free and plentiful. As soon as I exited the car, I was enveloped by a puff of warm, sweet, cherry scented air. We trekked through the sludgy remnants of a New England winter and opened the double glass doors to PEZ Valhalla. Let me clarify something – the PEZ Visitor Center is a PEZ glorifying gift shop with historical information about PEZ on display with windows to a factory floor where beard net wearing dudes supervise conveyor belts full of PEZ. And they charge admission. And it’s worth every penny of five dollars (with a two dollar store merchandise credit, of course). Upon paying the entrance fee, you are given a PEZ lanyard with a PEZ shaped visitor pass attached to it, you are shuffled past the custom PEZ American Chopper in the lobby right smack into the base of the World’s Largest PEZ (an exclusive design, versions of which can ONLY be purchased here at the PEZ Center, of course).

Inside, You are offered a free sample of PEZ candy, and given the opportunity to play a scavenger hunt for an opportunity to “spin the wheel of PEZ” and earn a free dispenser. I opted for “Yes, to all of the above.” I delved into the interactive wall of PEZ history to learn all that I could about the product, I examined the dispenser innovations and historical changes. I swam in a vat of PEZ until my fingers were pruny and pink – oh, wait, that last one was just a dream that I had later that night. The scavenger hunt was challenging and guaranteed that I saw every display intended to delight, educate and sell me on PEZ. Check, check and double check. Despite their claim to have never advertised PEZ in the U.S., there was a fantastic collection of near pornographic PEZ posters. The evolution of PEZ characters through the years is a cool chronicle that speaks of pop culture trends and manufacturing advances, and tracing the transition from adult anti-smoking aid to child friendly candy/toy to geeky adult cult phenomenon kept me entertained for well over an hour.


Upon exiting, I found that I had accidentally spent $100 on PEZ themed crap that I would never have purchased if left to my own devices and budgetary proclivities–a hilarious t-shirt for each of my children that has a dispenser body on the front ending at the neck and, in a cool 50’s style font, “You’re not famous until they put your head on a PEZ,” a “regular” dispenser for each of them since they are not old enough to have outgrown eating PEZ, but they pretend to be too cool to choose a character they feel comfortable necking with, and an educational array of PEZ flavors that I had never seen or heard of for their sampling pleasure.

I give the whole experience 4 stars on a traditional sight seeker’s scale–fun, interesting, great service, friendly staff, good prices, easy to find, easy to park, loses half of a star for charging admission for what is, essentially a gift shop and another half star for not having more access to the factory floor.

On the Patented Pam Eikleberry Giggling Happy Spin Scale, though, the place gets 4.5 spins – the staff was a hoot and they were down with all of my ridiculousness–from inappropriate questions about the staff, the products and the factory to taking hilarious rude photos of me whenever I asked without ever rolling an eye. They laughed at my hilarious PEZ themed jokes and made sure that I had a great time, losing 1/2 of a star for not allowing me to fool around on the factory floor reenacting the opening credits of Laverne and Shirley but with rainbow colored candy tidbits. Do I know that this is not justified? Yes. But it’s my scale so shut it.  P.S.  I may have also been stingy with my spins because none of the staff on the floor realized how funny the collection of PEZ pictured below is.


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