Monday, November 28, 2011

Gifts for the ones you love. Or hate. I can't decide.

Did you opt to sleep in on Friday rather than fight the crowds (while getting pepper spayed) for deals, only to now find yourself scrambling for gift ideas?

I'm here to help.

Remember when I shared ideas? Apparently those were just their normal, every day offerings. This weekend their Christmas catalog came and it was even more spectacular! I would be terribly remiss if I didn't pass along these gift ideas to you, my internet friends.

Let's start with this. Who doesn't want an adorable statue of a dog urinating? And the great part? The hydrant is sold separately! You could skip the hydrant all together and strategically place the puppy wherever you want! I mean, what could be cuter than putting this little guy next to the leg of your couch? Really, the only thing I could think of that would be better is if I could get a statue of a dog squatting and taking an enormous dump! Maybe next years' catalog...

And then we have these. I just...Well, I have no words, really. Wait, yes I do. There is a seriously messed up sculptor out there making a lot money off of freaks.

These made it on the list not only because they're odd (I really want to meet someone who would hang these in their home or garden) but because the description in the catalog made me laugh. "Choose your favorite sin OR buy four sins and get three sins free!"

Then we've got this. The table itself isn't so bad. Well, O.K., yes it is. But when I look at it, all I can think of is what the rear view must be.

Speaking of tables and asses, next up we have this little gem. I know that when I'm designing a room, the number one thing I look for in a piece of furniture is whether or not it looks like a serial killer lured a prostitute to his home, severed her body, and turned her lower half into a table for drinks.

And finally we have this. I've always wanted the child murdering tree from Poltergeist in my garden! If only they sold the clown who tried to eat the kid's face, I could have a complete set!

(All items can be bought HERE. Why you would want to, I don't know. But there you go.)

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Obligatory Thankfulness Post

Happy Thanksgiving Eve, internets! I hope your Thanksgiving is full of gluttony and sloth and whatever other deadly sins you choose to participate in.

To mark the occasion, I feel obligated to make a list of all the things I'm thankful for.

  • I am thankful for public school, where my kids get to be someone else's problem for seven hours a day.
  • I am thankful for celebrities who get fat because it makes me feel slightly less bad about my own body.
  • I am thankful for bacon.
  • I am thankful for Adam Levine.

  • I am thankful for cats who fall in the toilet regularly, because really, how can you have a bad day after you just watched a cat fall in the toilet and freak out?
  • I am thankful for Tim Gunn, without whom my Friday nights would have been far more sad and lonely than they already are.
  • I am thankful for Netflix, because it keeps my kids occupied during the hours they're not at school.
  • I am thankful for super secret groups on Facebook.
  • I am thankful for bacon. I know I've already said it, but that's just how thankful I am for its existence. And that I'm not a kosher Jew. Because if I had to choose between bacon and eternal salvation, I'd pretty much choose bacon every time.
  • I am thankful for texting and e-mail and facebook and chat and any other technological advance that allows me to not have to interact with people face to face.
  • I am thankful for hand sanitizer and bleach and antibacterial soap, because people are pretty disgusting.
  • And most of all I'm thankful for the internet. I've said it before, but I'll say it again. I wouldn't have any friends without it.

Monday, November 21, 2011

The Walking Dead

Just a snapshot from our last family reunion.

As I said in my last post, my parents were here for a few days last week. While usually that's a good thing, this time their presence may have scarred Liam for life.

You see, Liam looks a lot like my biological father. He died while I was pregnant with Liam and we weren't very close, so my kids don't really know much about him. When someone talks about their grandfather, they only think of my step father or my husband's father. My biological father never even enters their mind.

One morning Liam was downstairs alone with my mother. Apparently she told him he looks just like his "dead grampy." Liam was a little confused by this. My mother explained further that he died of cancer before Liam was born.

She meant my biological father.

Liam assumed she meant my step father. They guy who was seemingly alive and well and walking around upstairs at that very moment.

Poor Liam grappled with this new information all day. I mean, learning your grandfather is a zombie is a lot for a seven year old to take on board.

He didn't ask about it directly because everyone else seemed to think it was perfectly normal to have a dead guy walking around the house, but in hindsight I can see that he was asking things to try to figure the situation out.

First, he asked if people could be resurrected before Jesus came back. I thought it was an odd question at the time, but I assured him that it was unlikely.

Then he seemed to take a very special interest in my step father's CPAP machine. I explained that it helped him breathe when he slept, because his body wanted to stop breathing. I may have even made a comparison to Darth Vader's respirator.

So, now Liam was not only dealing with the idea that his grandfather was a zombie who apparently was able to stay animated with the use of a special breathing machine at night, but that he might also have gone to the Dark Side.

Tuesday evening my family was out of the house and Liam nervously approached me. His unease at having a zombie grandfather was too much. He had to say something.

"Mom, how many people in our family are dead?"

"Oh, a lot. But most of them died before you were born."

"How about in our house? How many people in our house are dead?"

"None. What are you talking about?"

"Well, grammy said grampy is dead, but I don't understand how he can walk around. I think that breathing machine makes it so he can walk even though he's dead."

"What do you mean grammy said grampy is dead? Grampy is alive. I promise. Dead people can't walk around."

"She said I looked like him and he died of cancer before I was born."

And then I realized the confusion and explained who she was talking about.

He was extremely relieved, but he still eyed my step father suspiciously the next day.
You just can't trust a zombie. They're a sneaky bunch.

Friday, November 18, 2011

Who's gonna feed them hogs?

My grandfather and his new BFF.

My grandfather has been a fan of Tom T. Hall my entire life. Some of you may know exactly who he is (Congratulations! You're old!). For the rest of you, he's a Grammy winning, country music hall of fame inductee singer/songwriter. Even if you aren't familiar with the songs he performed, chances are you at least know a song or two he's written (Harper Valley PTA, anyone?).

When my grandfather found out we were moving less than hour away from where Tom T. Hall lives, it became his mission to meet him.

Tom and his wife, award winning song writer Miss Dixie, live a pretty normal, down to earth life. So much so that they're listed in the white pages. Including their address.

So, the first time my grandfather came to visit us here, he insisted that we visit their house. We didn't just visit once. I believe over the course of the trip we hovered at the end of his driveway no less than 5 times. My grandfather had gone from avid fan to stalker.

A few weeks ago my grandfather found out that has very little time left. In addition to several chronic health issues he's already been dealing with, it was discovered that he has cancer that has metastasized to several parts of his body.

The one thing he wanted to do with the time he has left is to actually meet Tom T. Hall. Not just stare down his driveway.

My mother had somehow found Miss Dixie's personal e-mail address (again, they're very normal, un-celebrity like people) and wrote to her about my grandfather's situation and request.
She immediately invited them to their home for a visit, and also to attend a concert where Tom T. (as everyone seems to call him) would be playing.

So, this week was the week.

On Tuesday my grandfather and parents drove down and spent the afternoon hanging out with Tom T. Hall at his home recording studio. I wasn't there, but from what I understand Tom T. pretty much made my grandfather's life.

Wednesday night we all drove back to Nashville and attended the Music City Roots show which was going to be a tribute show to Tom T. Hall, with him performing a few songs at the end of the night. He'd said he was going to sing a song for my grandfather, but I don't think any of us expected him to give so much time on stage to talk about him. If my grandfather's life hadn't been made at the visit on Tuesday, it most certainly was that night.

(Tom T. talking about my grandfather)

After the concert he got to spend another few minutes with Tom. T and Miss Dixie. When other concert goers realized he was the Skeeter Plummer Tom T. had mentioned in the show, they wanted their picture taken with him too.

My grandfather the groupie.

It was a fun night, with good music (even for someone like me who isn't a big country fan).

Most of all, it reminded me that there are still celebrities out there for whom fame is secondary. Being a good, kind person who takes time for others when they are under no obligation (or when there will be no media coverage as they do it) comes first.

(If you're interested, you can watch the whole show HERE.)

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Still mortifying after all these years.

In honor of my family being in town for a few days, here's a repost of one of our more mortifying family memories.

(Originally posted July 20, 2009)

Once upon a time there was a sixteen year old named Brandi. She was happily living in the Connecticut suburb of Fairfield, hanging out with friends she'd had since she was eleven, growing up among children of The Very Wealthy and even a few future celebrities like John Mayer (jerk) and Justin Long (nice guy) .

Out of the blue, her evil parents decided that it would be a good idea to pack up and move from the cultured, well-bred suburb thirty minutes outside of New York City to the back of beyond in Evanston, Wyoming.

(Evanston. My personal hell.)

Brandi kicked and screamed and hated her evil parents, but she had no choice but to go.

Eventually she settled into life in Rube-ville, where the only claim to fame is that it's the training location for the Jamaican Bobsled Team. Where the only place to shop is Wal-Mart, and the only things to do for fun are setting off fireworks and getting knocked up. She even managed to make a few good friends.

During the summer after she graduated from high school, Brandi's evil parents moved the whole family into their tiny pop-up camper (long, sad tale about a contract on a house gone sour). Needless to say, quarters were tight and there was no privacy in the camper in Rube-ville. Brandi spent most of her time with her friends and at work anyway.

Since she and her friends were not into fireworks and getting knocked up, they found entertainment in piling into a four-wheel drive vehicle and driving recklessly through the back country. Sometimes they'd spot other vehicles out in the hills. Parked. These would be occupied by the kids who were into getting knocked up.

One form of amusement for Brandi and her friends, when a parked vehicle was spotted out in the dark, secluded hills, was to turn off all the lights and slowly drive up behind the parked vehicle. Usually, the occupants of the parked vehicle were too, notice Brandi and her friends approaching. Once in position directly behind the parked vehicle, they would turn on the high beams (and fog lights, if available). Hilarity would ensue.

One cool summer night Brandi and her friends were out riding around in the sagebrush covered hills just outside of Rube-ville, when off in the distance they could see a parked car. They turned off the lights and made their approach. When the high beams were engaged, what to their wondering eyes should appear but a white Pontiac Grand Am with Connecticut license plates.

And to this day Brandi's friends will not let her forget about "that one time, when we caught your parents parking..."

The End.

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Her future's so bright I've gotta wear shades.

I've got a special guest post for you today, internets.

This was written by Patricia Minnick, who, in my head, is still a twelve year old kid coming from soccer practice to babysit my kids. The truth is, she's not much older. Just 16. So young she probably doesn't even know the song I referenced in the title.

I received this essay that she'd written and was blown away. She's not even old enough for a driver's license, but she writes far better than most adults I know. And with her (and her mother's) permission, I wanted to share it with you.

Some of you aren't going to like the content. That's O.K. We're all entitled to our own opinions. Some of you may not like how it's written. That's O.K., too. Writers will always have critics. However, I have turned on comment moderation because the bottom line is, she's only 16. While constructive criticism and opposing opinions are welcome and will likely be published, I will not publish any comment that attacks a child (or her parents).

I think she's brave for being willing to share her personal journey, even while knowing many who read it will disagree with her or even judge her harshly. And I want to give her the writing platform I wish someone had given me as a 16 year old.

Patricia--I hope you keep writing. I think you have a very bright literary future ahead of you, and I will publish your work anytime. (And when you get a book deal, put in a good word for me with your publisher, O.K.?)

It’s every parent’s dream to have a perfect child with a perfect life, and they do everything in their power to make this dream reality. When I was born, my parents joined the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, better known as the Mormon Church. The Church seemed like an excellent choice for two young parents who wanted the best for their child; it was known for its strong values and morals. Growing up a member of the Church has changed who I could have been, who I am, and who I could be.

One of the things that I will always remember the most about the church is that no matter where I went, it was always the same. My family only moved a few times, but the first day at a new church was always the same: everyone greeted us with friendliness, and my family instantly fit in. It was amazing how at home they made you feel in a brand new place.

Since I’d been going to church my entire life, the values I’d learned at church were deeply rooted in me. I was just like any other child my age, but at the same time I was so different. I was taught to believe that the world was out to get me and that the only way to be safe was to stay true to the Church. My teachers at church taught me not to drink coffee or tea or any other caffeinated drink; alcohol, tobacco and any drug was out of the question; tattoos were unacceptable, and any piercing other than one hole in the ear was ungodly; wearing shorts or skirts that came before the knee was inappropriate, and if I even thought about wearing a sleeveless shirt I was disappointing God.

The teachers and leaders always taught that I should surround myself with people who upheld that same values and standards as I did, and that those were the ones who mattered most in my life and would bring out the best in me. In addition to this, they taught me about the people who didn’t believe in the same things as me, the nonmembers. They told me that just because the nonmembers were different than me didn’t man that they were bad people. They wanted me to accept the way others lived their lives, yet they didn’t teach me how to. The Church’s idea of acceptance was making my beliefs known to nonmembers, and encouraging them to live the way I lived. I was never taught to accept an individual; just to advertise for my church. I remember going to my grandma’s house when I was younger and preaching to her about the dangers of drinking coffee, and how God still loved her, but he was disappointed in her. God’s disappointment began to draw closer and closer to home.

Every Sunday, my family and I would wake up early, eat a big breakfast, get dressed in our nicest clothes and go to church for three hours. When I was eleven, I started to recognize a pattern in my mom’s church attendance. Every few Sundays she would be sick and stay home from church to get some rest. As more time went by, her strange sickness started showing up more frequently, and before I knew it, she was sick every Sunday. I realized that “sickness” was another ways to say “I don’t want to go to church anymore” when she got a job at the local gym and began working on Sundays. I was concerned, but I tried my best to encourage her to come to church, and sometimes it worked. I thought there was still hope for my mom.

One morning when I was around twelve, I remember getting in the car with my mom and smelling coffee, but I shrugged it off and figured I was imagining things. But the smell didn’t go away as we kept driving, and I looked in the cup holder and saw a brown ring around the bottom. I couldn’t just leave it alone and forget, so I coyly brought up that the car smelled like coffee. My mom told me it was the new air freshener she’d bought, and that was the end of the conversation. I desperately wanted to believe that, but I knew that it wasn’t true. A few days later, I had to go out to the car to get something, and I discovered a stash of empty coffee cups under the car seat. I was so appalled by this that I didn’t even realize that my mom had lied to me about the coffee smell. I probably cried for three hours, and of course, I gave her the passive-aggressive treatment, but I never found the courage to confront her about it. Then, when I least expected, she confronted me. She apologized for lying to me, and told me that she was an adult and could make her own decisions. I was too blinded in disgust to care about a word she said. I felt so betrayed. I couldn’t understand how my own mother could go against everything she’d taught me, and drink coffee. This feeling of betrayal stayed with me for years as I silently criticized and judged all of my mom’s actions.

I didn’t start to accept my mom until I started public high school, and was exposed to things that my private-Christian-school brain couldn’t begin to comprehend. I was surrounded by “the kids I was warned about”; teenagers who smoked, drank, had sex, did drugs, swore. The list could go on and on. I made friends quickly, but I always found myself judging them and the things they did. About halfway into the year, I was just like them. I even started drinking coffee. Somewhere along the line I’d decided that I had no right to judge people for who they were and what they enjoyed doing, and that there was so much in the world that I hadn’t experienced. I wanted to know everything, to do everything, to make mistakes, and to be satisfied with my life.

I stopped going to church. After being an active member of the outside world, a world of surprises and free-spirits and spontaneity, everything about the church was repulsive to me. I hated how they talked, how they dressed, how they seemed so blind. I wanted to save them. It still makes me sick to see how they shape their lives around rules and beliefs that in the end mean absolutely nothing.

At the end of the day I’m kind of glad I was part of the Church. If it wasn’t for fourteen years of brainwashing, I might have made some bad decisions before I was ready to make them. I might even be a better person than I am now. Being part of the church has been to me, sort of a gradual epiphany. I used to view life as a rat race to heaven. Literally. Most of the people I knew had one thing on their mind, and that was where they were going to end up when they died. I didn’t realize until recently that no one can really be sure about their life after death until they die, and by then it’s too late to go back. I’m definitely not the Church’s success story, but now I’m my own success story.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

More than just a day off.

Need a face to help you remember tomorrow?
This is the first time we had seen him in six months.

Tomorrow is Veterans Day, internets.

Growing up during a time when we had not been at war for quite a number of years, I never gave veterans or Veterans Day much thought. In my hometown (or as close to a hometown as I can get), the VFW and the Legion were simply places where people went to get drunk. Or play Bingo on Friday nights. Or have wedding receptions (including yours truly). I was very much an adult before I made the connection that those places had anything to do with veterans. I was even a card carrying member of the American Legion Post 66 Women's Auxiliary and I still had no idea that it had anything to do with veterans. I thought our only job was selling snacks at Friday night Bingo.

It's not that I didn't know any veterans. Several close family members had been in the military during WWII, The Korean War and Vietnam. But it's not something that was talked about much. Or maybe it was but I didn't realize it because I was a kid and we weren't at war and it didn't affect me.

And maybe some of you fall into that category now. Yes, we are at war and have been for a decade, but when it's not smacking you in the face every minute of every day, maybe you forget. Maybe for you Veterans Day is just a day off, or the time of year when old men sit outside of stores giving out paper poppies for donations.

But Veterans Day is more than that.

First, Veterans Day is not Memorial Day. I used to get them confused, too.
Here's the difference, according to the official Veteran's Affairs website:
Many people confuse Memorial Day and Veterans Day. Memorial Day is a day for remembering and honoring military personnel who died in the service of their country, particularly those who died in battle or as a result of wounds sustained in battle. While those who died are also remembered, Veterans Day is the day set aside to thank and honor ALL those who served honorably in the military - in wartime or peacetime. In fact, Veterans Day is largely intended to thank LIVING veterans for their service, to acknowledge that their contributions to our national security are appreciated, and to underscore the fact that all those who served - not only those who died - have sacrificed and done their duty.
So, Veterans Day:

Memorial Day:

("In loving memory of my hero, my best friend SGT Karl A. Campbell
March 15th, 1976 - October 4th, 2010
Forever in my heart"
Also, please note the five children he left behind. Sadly, these vinyl memorials for soldiers--all husbands, sons and fathers--are all too commonplace around here.)

Don't worry. No one is going to get their uniform in a twist if you remember those who died on Veterans Day or thank a living soldier on Memorial Day.

My husband, and every military member like him, make huge sacrifices to protect our freedoms. They leave their families for months or years at a time to go off to war. Even those who aren't on the front lines still face hardship and danger. And those who are on the home front are working to either support those who are deployed, or preparing for their turn to deploy next.

You may not agree with the wars we're fighting (goodness knows I don't), but politics have nothing to do with their sacrifice. Our military members take an oath to serve not a particular political party or a particular president, but to serve and protect our country and all those who live in it. They don't get to choose how and where they keep that oath. You do, with your votes.

So tomorrow as you enjoy your day off (if you have one), take a moment to remember those soldiers who are away from their families. Who have no day off. And don't forget those who haven't been deployed, because by merely taking the oath to serve, they have demonstrated their willingness to put their life on the line if need be.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

My sincerest apologies.

So, I've done some things on this blog over the years that I need to apologize for. Things you shouldn't have been subjected to. Things I'm ashamed of.

I'd like to take a moment to apologize for them.

1. I apologize for the whining. Sweet baby Brangelina in a manger, do I know how to whine. I've tried not to write when I'm pre-menstrual, but I'm pretty much always pre-menstrual. Also, I should probably apologize for talking about the various stages of my menstrual cycle so often, but I'm not really sorry so I won't. (FYI: The bleeding just stopped and I'm entering the honeymoon phase where I lose 5 pounds in 2 days and don't hate anyone for a whole week.)

2. I apologize for having music on this blog for nearly two years. When I go to other blogs with music, I want to stab them in the face--even when it's someone I know and like. That's right, I'm talking to you. All of you. Your music makes me want to stab you. IN THE FACE.

3. I apologize for recommending Single Dad Laughing. He has a couple of really good, very powerful pieces. But when I started to read his blog regularly, I found that he is the embodiment of the word douchebag. He's like the Edward Cullen of blogging. Some women read his stuff and think he's the greatest guy to ever walk the planet and they fall at his feet and pay for his internet bills and want to have his babies. The rest of us start to see beyond the surface and understand he's really just a jerk face vampire. Errr...douche-y blogger.

4. I'm sorry for telling you that it's O.K. to talk about sex openly, that thigh high fishnets are perfectly appropriate church attire and that gay people should have the same right to marry as straight people. Oh wait. NO I'M NOT.

5. I apologize for not writing as much lately. I wish I could say it was because I was busy doing fabulous things that would make my life seem so much better than yours, but it's not. Unless reading in a bean bag chair all day with cats on your chest is more fabulous than your life. I've simply been out of ideas. I'm still out of ideas. I have the urge to write. I sit every day (in between the bean bag naps) and try, but nothing comes out. (Yes, I realize that sounds like I'm constipated. In a way, I kind of am. My brain needs an Ex-Lax.) Help me, internets. What do you want me to write about? I'm desperate, so It's pretty much guaranteed I'll write about whatever you want.

Within reason.

Friday, November 4, 2011

It's the most wonderful time of the year. Or something.

It's been a long week.

I'm stressed and tired and yesterday I woke up with what can only be a rare, tropical disease. Or maybe just a cold. I don't know.

All I do know is that two hours ago I woke up dizzy and disoriented, sprawled across my bean bag chair, shivering with fever, Wii remote in hand and some show about Pompeii playing on Netflix.

I have no recollection of even turning on the TV, but unless it was one of the cats, it must have been me.

Welcome flu season!

Also, my downstairs bathroom sink flooded and the whole bathroom is now unusable until a plumber comes and tears up all the pipes in two weeks.

And I'm bloated up like a sausage.

And my kids are being less than cooperative about life in general.

And I just turned down the possibility of a nice paycheck AND free Hostess cupcakes and Twinkies because I promised I wouldn't become one of those annoying review bloggers. But c'mon...$100 AND free Twinkies? That was hard to pass up. (*Edit: I recanted. I totally caved. I applied to do it. I promise that if they let me do it, it will be the LEAST annoying review you've ever read. Money and Twinkies was just too good an offer to resist.)

Anyway, I'm not here to just whine. I'm also here to solicit! No, not really. But I've had lots of people ask if they can send anything to Will or his unit for Christmas, and if there's anything they need.

Yes, you absolutely can! Except they all leave by mid January, so it doesn't make a lot of sense to send a bunch of stuff right before they have to go. So, if you really want to send things, this month would really be a better time to send it.

There's nothing in particular they need, but treats--candy, baked goods, good toilet paper, even just a nice letter--are always welcome. If you'd like to send anything, e-mail me {brandidouglass (at) gmail (dot) com} and I'll get you the address. I'm sure his office will appreciate anything. (Also, please don't feel obligated to send anything. I'm only posting this because of the number of people who have asked.)

O.K., I'm going to go drug myself up so I can be somewhat coherent until the kids go to bed.

Adios, internets.