Monday, May 28, 2012

326 Days - Honoring My Own Personal Red(head), White and Blue

And down the stairs he ran… (thump thump thump thump thump thump thump thump) “What??? Barbara, WHAT??? WHAT IS IT? WHAT????”
I looked at him through my tears while holding a towel between my legs and uttered the following sentence: “Todd… (sob)… my… my water (sob) b-b-rroke (sob),” to which my nervous, usually brilliant husband responded “Okay. Okay. Are you sure? Are you sure you’re just not peeing?” ………………………………………………(crickets)…………………………………………………………
………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………. and thus began the story of Roman’s birth.
Six years ago today my beloved son was born at 4:11 in the morning after thirty-seven weeks’ gestation. My Roman had finally arrived as an eight pound, six ounce bundle of fatty chubness but with one little extra added bonus that neither of us had expected.
“Awwwww” said Nurse Tabitha as she walked him over to the sink for his bath, fresh from mommy’s uterus. “We’ve got a redhead!!”  The look on my face must have said it all (to everyone else) but I personally felt that more needed to be expressed, so I looked at my ‘baby daddy’ and added a very simple “Is she fucking serious?” to make the moment complete. Oh, she was serious. Nurse Tabitha, a redhead herself, could spot redhead brethren from three miles away, and while Roman was practically hairless other than the male pattern baldness above his ears, it was clear that those small patches were indeed of orangey-red tint. I simply could not believe what I was seeing, or the fact that I had birthed a redheaded baby boy. I had officially created an offspring of my mother’s father, Harold Henry, who had as fiery a top as anyone had ever laid eyes on. And I had never been happier or more proud once I held that little bastard in my arms for the first time. He was, and continues to be, the bright orange sun in what has been a sometimes grayishly dismal existence. Roman the Red is six today; Memorial Day. And I’m happy he is able to share this day with not only my brother, and cousins, and uncles, all of whom served proudly in this nation’s armed forces, but mostly with the redheaded great-grandfather that sadly neither he nor I ever knew in person.
Harold Henry Hoke was born in 1899. He was father to Allen, Jack, Robert, June, Arthur, Janet, Joyce, and Jay and served as a member of the United States Army in both World Wars. Eighteen Ninety-Nine… can you even imagine what that man had witnessed in his lifetime? Grandfather Hoke, according to legend, was not only a devoted military man, but also, a runner and overall athlete. According to this little snippet from a Philadelphia newspaper, Gramps, or “Red Hoke” as he was known, was one of the most outstanding athletes in the 111th infantry, and had, as a schoolboy, been the first in the entire state of Pennsylvania to run 100 yards in 10 seconds. I was blown away when I first read that article both from pride and from sadness that I had never known the grandfather that my mother was always so proud of. And I often wonder what life would have been like if I had grown up knowing any of my grandparents. It’s weird how you can miss someone without ever even meeting them, you know? And even though I know he would have had to have lived to be 107 years old by the time Roman was born, I still envision him as a fifty-year old badass serviceman with a heart of gold, bouncing his great-grandson on his lap with pride in his eyes that this boy was a carrot-top like he was. I imagine him smoking a cigarette and drinking a beer, and yet still being soft and caring like my mother always said he was. The mind can be so much fun when you allow yourself to let it be free and open enough to create stories and build images of something that can never be. We should dream a little bit more, even in the hours when we are most awake.
Today’s blog post has little to do with my getting older except for that fact that my son is getting older, which of course goes hand-in-hand. But I wanted to make a post today that would last forever, written in internet stone, because one day my great-granddaughter might be a tall, lanky grey-eyed brunette with wide shoulders and full lips who may just want to know what her great-grandma – the woman whom her mother and her grandmother tell her she looks like all the time – was like. I wanted to do something that Red Hoke never thought to do, or maybe, ever had the chance to do… paint a picture of myself for future generations to see, because I think that my Roman would have loved to stare at a beautiful painting of Harold Henry and know exactly what it was that he was thinking, or why he was smiling that silly Hoke smile.
Happy Birthday, Roman.
Happy Memorial Day, Gramps.
Your mother, and your granddaughter, loves you.

Saturday, May 26, 2012

328 Days - Pole Dancing 101 (part 1 of 4)

Her name… was “Love.
“How y’all feelin’ today? Y’all feelin’ good? Y’all feelin’ nervous?  Anybody in here feelin’ nasty? YES! ‘Cause I need all of y’all feelin’ nasty.”
And I immediately knew, I would love Love.
She had the biggest, brownest, and most beautiful booty I had ever laid eyes on, no bullshit, and man, this woman was fluid. She moved like she never stopped moving. Like all she did in life was flow. You know people like that; people who know what living is really about. This woman was living - no question about it - and she was about to live all over the thirty or so women in this class and teach us how to flow like Love flowed, and be fluid like Love was fluid, and be downright motherfuckin’ nasty, like Love’s big ol’ nasty booty. And I was the first one to step forward when volunteers were asked for. I wanted me some Love. And I got some, and then some.
We were short, tall, brown, white, young, old, skinny, full-bodied, fragile, and big-boned, but the one thing we had in common was that we were there to show ourselves and no one else just how sexy we could be. Oh, and that we were all showcasing our platform Stilettos. High heels and childbirth are the two things in the universe that will always make women far superior to men. They’ll just never get it and that’s why we will take over the world by 2037, but that’s for a future post, so let’s get back to the booty. Love taught us the basics first: How to stand and how to lean. How to have an attitude even if you were completely still, and how never to pick your shorts out of your butt no matter how much they disappeared in there. She showed us how to strut around our poles and how to never take our eyes off of the audience, even if they were someone else’s man. In fact, we were hoping they were someone else’s man. That’s how we roll in pole class. We fantasize and visualize while we exercise our sexy thighs. OH SHIT! I JUST MADE THAT UP!! HOLY HOLY SHIT! I’m so getting t-shirts printed and selling them at the next class. I’m a goddamned genius (mentally high-fiving Love in this fantasy).
Once our basics were mastered (HAHAHAHA!!!) Love decided it was time to show us a bit of choreography starting with a little move called “The Camel Rock.” The Beavis in me giggled as I immediately thought of another camel-related term but I quickly composed myself as she called for group one to come forward. Right arm high on the pole, left hand low and palm out, ass in the building next door eating KFC; that’s pretty much the stance you start out with. Then rotate each leg outward while you lock the other, making your butt look like the boat from that movie with Marky Mark and George Clooney. This, is the Camel Rock, ladies. Where is Butthead when I need him?
Next up? “The Body Roll”… Oh, I got this. If it contains the word “roll,” I’m all over it. Tootsie Roll. California Roll. Hoagie Roll. Rock n Roll. I can take it, baby. BRING. IT. ON! Love told us to cross our hands over the pole (again, another Beavis moment every time she would tell us to grab the pole. I swear I’m a fourteen year old boy some days) and tuck our heads before coming up into a roll, then once we arched our back we should drop our chest to our knees and slowly stroke the pole on our way back up. I mean, I was pretty much losing it internally at this point. I had to stop myself three times from yelling out “That’s what she said!” which I’m really glad I did, because by the end of class I was stroking poles, rocking camels, rolling bodies and doing… are you ready? LIFTS!!
My friend Sunny said to me, “Buy kneepads!” when she found out that I had enrolled in this class, and I laughed and kind of half took her seriously, until today. These lifts are no bullshit, and you will seriously F yourself up if you’re not dressed appropriately. But I tackled it. In fact, Love called me out for how well I did it. What? You mean I got extra attention for something? Oh, I LOVE HATE that! Yeah, I was a natural, which is a little bit disturbing, says my husband. And yet, he still wants video, so, not quite sure what that says about him. Possibly, that he has a pulse. Anyway, point is… I don’t remember what the point is but a different point is that I had a shitload of fun, and seriously cannot wait to feel more Love in my next class. You coming with me? (That’s what she said.)

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

331 Days - “So Where Did You Go To College?” and Other Questions Asked by the Educationally Degreed Yet Socially Inept

It’s coming. I can feel it. Jill and Jennifer went to Georgia. Deborah went to Georgia Tech. Kathy got her MBA from Northwestern. And the “other” Barbara went to UPenn just to make it more fucked up for me. Thrice I tried to change the topic. Thrice. When Kathy began telling the story of her initiation week at Karma Magma Llama (I have no idea) I started discussing that scene in Austin Powers when Dr. Evil talks about the “Liquid Hawt Magma” while the only person in the room holding a straight pin dropped it for what felt like all of the Milky Way to hear. As I bent over to pick it up, the slow-motion part of the scene kicked in to gear, and yeah, right around that time I knew I was about to be shot in the head with the bullet of inevitability.

“So, Barbara" (said other Barbara as she chuckled her Ivy League chuckle), "you never mentioned where you went to colllllleggggge…”

I have often wondered what it would be like for an ex-con to stand before a suit during a job interview. I wonder what could be going on in their head as they go through the motions while awaiting the elephant-in-the-corner-question that is bound to get their palms sweaty, their heart racing and their cheeks flush. I wonder what they truly feel and what regrets they have as they are made to answer something so painful, and then today, I stop wondering because today, my brunch dates smashed me in the face with a reality pie.
In the past I have tried to waltz around the question with answers that were not untrue, but that were definitely over-glorified. For example:
  • Answer given: “Oh, you know, I didn’t finish school. I was taking courses at Emory and it just got too much with the position I had taken at the time.” Translation: “I took two non-credit courses of French and one course of ballroom dancing at Emory’s Center for Lifelong Learning for which I not only did not receive a degree, but also never fully got the concept of the Fox Trot.”
  • Alternate answer given: “I decided I was going to wait and have a family first before I finished school.” Translation: “Did I say finish? Oh, my, I’m sorry. I meant to say 'start'." Goodness, I always get those two confused. Probably because I never went to school (polite laugh/painful smile/tear wipe).” 
  • Additional alternate answer given: “Harvard.” Translation: “How you like me now, bitch? Yeah, that’s right. HAR.VARD. That’s what you get for asking a question like that….YEAH! And guess what? I lied!”

But these days I prefer to make the asker of the question (i.e. I.L. Barbara) feel just as uncomfortable as the askee (i.e. me) by being as honest and as short in my answer as I can be, because the reality is it’s the truth, and if all your college dollars couldn’t buy you some social skills, then allow me to teach you a small lesson that I learned in the highly acclaimed school of hard knocks… if you’re not ready for the answer, don’t ask the question.

“I didn’t go to college, Barbara.”

Yup. 'Tis fact. I didn’t go to college, and it is without a doubt the biggest regret of my life. Actually, I‘d even go as far as to say that it’s the only regret of my life because while I know I’ve made some mistakes - and some bad ones, at that – I have learned from them all and don’t regret any of them. College, well, that’s my elephant. It’s my crime, and my shame, and when I’m asked such a stupid question that I know I shouldn’t get upset over, it makes me feel as if I were standing in a cell in Riker’s Island wearing an orange jumpsuit with numbers across the chest. My high school diploma is my prison and I vow to get out of it in time with good behavior.
Oh don’t worry, I let ol’ I.L.B. off the hook after all was said and done. The look on her face alone as she tried to clamor for a reason why my “not going to college was a good thing” was punishment enough, so I told her to relax and said, “Look, I know it’s hard to believe that someone in this day and age didn’t go to school and is still successful, but I was really lucky. I worked almost my entire adult life for guys who also didn’t go to college and ran successful businesses. I don’t recommend it, and don’t want it for my kids, but it’s worked out for me” and I Ieft it at that and allowed them to talk more about Pinterest before I politely excused myself for the day and purposely drove my car into the biggest oak tree I could find on the way home.
It’s rarely on purpose that someone asks something like that, but like I tell my husband, “just because you didn’t mean it that way, doesn’t mean it didn’t hurt.” And while as a society our skin has gotten thinner and thinner with each passing decade, please do try to remember that some topics are sensitive; that there are women out there who are unable to have children before you ask them why they haven't had kids yet, or men out there who have been unemployed for 2 years forcing them to be foreclosed on their house before you ask them what they do for a living, and that there are people out there, just like Yours Truly, who didn’t go to college because they didn’t have anyone to believe in them and tell them that they could, before you ask where they went. If you want to strum up a conversation with a woman, there are a multitude of other topics available. With a guy (or with me) go for something sports oriented. If he wants to tell you what he does for a living, he will, and if she doesn’t want to talk about kids, she won’t, and since we’re not four-legged creatures but rather humans with social graces, we, as a society, should know the difference.

Fun Fake Degree from

Friday, May 18, 2012

336 Days - Thanks For Helping Me With My Midlife Crisis, Groupon!

Allllllllrighty, kids! Let’s get this shit STARTED. Let’s talk about something fun! Something hot! Let’s talk about… coupons! Wait… ¿que? Holy hell. I did it. I finally sound like my father (insert Charles In Charge-esque dream sequence flashback effects and theme music here).
It’s early Sunday morning and there are newspapers spread all over the ugly pink colored carpeting. He’s there on the floor as he always is, box cutter in hand, T.V. tray in lap, making Swiss cheese out of the Philadelphia Enquirer. Slicing, cutting, searching, clipping. Ten cents here. Twenty-five cents there. Double coupons on this thing, on a Tuesday, between 3 and 6 pm, in the month of May. He’s there, beating the system in his mind, only to spend what was saved on another car he can show off, or another handgun he’ll use to threaten the neighbors’ kids, or another bottle of Calvert whiskey he’ll eventually piss away while I get made fun of for wearing bobos and borrowing prom gowns from my relatives and friends. Actually, screw it. Let’s end this dream sequence. It was more of a nightmare then anyway, so queue closing Charles In Charge-esque flashback effects and theme music. Happy times are here again.
Y’all know what Groupon is, right? Come on, now. You get the emails. You want laser hair removal? Teeth whitening? Tummy tuck? Mani/Pedi/Faci combo while eating strawberry ice cream off the nipple of a Venezuelan yard boy? Yeah, man. Groupon is the money-conscious-but-somewhat-vain-aging-lady’s wet dream. And to be honest, since the thought of coupons always took me back to a miserable part of my childhood, I rarely ever opened those Groupon emails. That was until last week, when I logged into my once-a-month Gmail account that is only used for crap like this and read a subject line that stated clearly “Four Pole-Dancing Classes for 27.00.” Well played, Groupon. I’ll bite. I’ll play your game. You’ve got my attention. Now let’s see if you can deliver.
1.       Four classes - my choice between Pole Dancing, Belly Dancing, Lap Dancing and Striptease?
2.       Saturday classes available?
3.       At a location that is within two miles of my house?
4.       Register online?
Crafty, Groupon. Crafty. You’re pulling me in, just like the mob. I have to admit it. They say it’s a great ab workout. They say it does wonders for your butt. They say that when you tell the man in your life that you’re taking pole-dancing lessons he shows up after your first class with a bottle of cheap champagne and a fur (haven’t had the first class yet but I’ll tell you afterward if this one is true or not). They say you’ll be the envy of all of your ex-stripper friends (pssst… Chartreuse… call me.) Yeah, Groupon. Yeah. I think you got me, bitch. I think you check-mated me like a character in a Gabriel García Márquez novel. And so, it began.
In these upcoming weeks I will be experiencing the best of what Groupon has to offer my middle-aged-reaching rear end in the form of Pole Dancing, Boudoir Photo Shoots, Rock Climbing and To Be Continueds. And it’s not stopping there because I intend to document each experience right here on this very blog. Gasp, you say? Did I hear a gasp? Oh, just a little heartburn, was it? Sorry, yeah. Been there. Thought it was a gasp. Hey, Groupon has a 75% off deal going on right now for an endoscopy if you’re interested. I was going to get the colonoscopy one but, you know, the time ran out before I had the chance. I know, bummer, right? With all of this Fifty Shades of Grey hype I was kind of looking forward to something going up….
Uh… never mind. (Awkward.)
So yeah, look for the post on this blog after my first pole-dancing class on May 26th. I’ve been told I need knee pads for it. Oh, wait, maybe that was for the… or, wait, maybe that was a request by… You know what, I’ll wear long pants instead.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

338 Days - My “Non-Trial” Marriage

My husband and I are a match made in hell. You read that correctly. It wasn’t a typo. Here it is again for those with short-term memory loss: My husband and I are a match made in hell, but if you’re anything at all like I am, you already know that hell is way more fun than heaven anyway.
You know how we met. You know the story. Los Angeles. NBC studios. The game show. The Weakest Link. The final two. Against each other. The final question, and the ultimate win… for him, that is, since even though he lost, he walked away with me. He likes to call me the consolation prize. I like to remind him that I’m the one who got the money. He likes to remind me that I spent it all on him anyway, so what did it ultimately matter? And I like to remind him how much of a big fat prick he is. See? Hell. And we wouldn’t have it any other way.
On May 16, 2004, I married a 6’2” light brown-haired, Anglo-Saxon, Orlando-born, Southern gentleman by the name of Stanley in the fine, fine city of Asheville, North Carolina. Oh, I haven’t told you about Stanley? Oh, yeah, he came before Todd. He was my fou…no, no, fifth husband. Yes. Stanley. OH, I'll STOP. Stanley Todd is my husband’s full name, which, duh, I laughed at tremendously when it was first leaked to me and still giggle at once a week (at least.) Obviously he goes by Todd because he would be an idiot not to and because this isn’t 1963 no matter how much “Mad Men” you watch. So, eight years ago today I married Todd at an antebellum mansion overlooking the Blue Ridge Mountains. I had grown up a lot since my first marriage – or, my “trial” marriage as I like to refer to it – and while I thought I knew it all as I stood there in my eggshell-colored Belgian lace gown with matching flower in my hair, I look back on that day today and realize just how much I’ve learned, and continue to learn from him, and from us, and from life. Every. Goddamned. Day.
Here is a short list of eight awesome things that my husband has taught me over our eight years of marriage:
  • How to set a table, properly. I came from a house where if you were right-handed, everything went on the right side of the plate. Where napkins were paper towels. Where you only had ONE fork. ONE spoon, and ONE plate, and if you didn’t like to eat your salad after your meal on your dirty macaroni gravy plate, then you better be prepared to wash all of the dishes, because your mother was not your maid, miss snottie-pants. “What are you, better than us or something?
  • I don’t ever have to open my own door, or pull out my own chair, ever. Granted, it took me years to learn both of these things, and after I finally got used to it, I figured out just how much of a feminist I am not. Viva la Chivalry!
  • Never say “SoandSo and I at the Brittany concert” as a caption to a picture on any social network.  It’s poor grammar, and not in the usual “your welcome” sort of way, either. You would say “This is SoandSo at the concert” and you would also say “This is me at the concert,” but you would never say “This is I at the concert” because you would sound like a dick. So, just add SoandSo and me together, and, viola!! English language saved!
  • Debates do not equal vase-throwing contests. I’m Italian. I’m loud. We’re all loud. That’s what we’re used to. But apparently, these proper Southern folk use things like “words” and “discussions” to get their points across. I was not familiar with these terms. I did not speak in this foreign tongue. But after eight years, six vases, two remote controls and a fairly expensive painting by a local artist, I now proudly say that I speak the language about as fluently as high-school Spanish. Meaning, I can recite my days of the week, but, I’m probably still struggling with the correct way to ask for change of a twenty. Good enough, eh? Thanks again, babe.
  • If I don’t change the oil in my car, it will eventually be fucked up.  It will run shittily, start to smoke, make weird noises, slow to a stop and eventually, commit suicide. Come to think about it, my tenth-grade boyfriend died the same way, although I didn’t ride him nearly as hard (insert rim shot here) (I said SHOT!!) Thanks to my guy, I haven’t had to worry about my car in ever. The rule is, he never cooks, and I never do car stuff, and we like it that way and will never try to change it.
  • Vacations do exist outside of the Caribbean and wine does exist outside of a box. Oh, man, have I learned a thing or two about travel, history, culture, language, food, wine and the truly finer things in life from this man. Mexico, Canada, Italy, Switzerland, France, Belgium, Holland and just about every cool-ass city in the grand old U.S. of A has welcomed us with opened arms as we tasted its flavors, sampled its wine and basked in its surroundings and all that it had to offer. We are pilot and co-pilot. Skipper and Gilligan. We have sailed the open seas and toured the open roads and I would never trade a single solitary second of any of those moments, ever, for each one has built me, and helps to make me the person I’m becoming.
  • No matter what, NO MATTER WHAT, he will never stop loving me. He knows what this means. I know what this means. Cryptic? Yes. But this is for him, so you’ll have to deal with it for a second. I am not an easy person. Who just passed out from shock? Message me when you wake, please, so I can punch you in your face for being dramatic. I am vain, I am demanding, and I need to feel appreciated. I want to be treated as an equal, but also want to be put on a pedestal. I want to be wined, dined and… SQUIRREL! I need attention. OKAY WITH THE FAKE PASSING OUT! I need coddling. I want to be told, every day, that I’m beautiful. I like gifts, of the expensive kind, wine, of the any kind, and husbands, who are always kind. I need to feel smart, but never want to stop learning. I want to feel like I’m the only one who ever existed - ever - which is a hell of a lot to ask of anyone. I like diamonds, leather boots, a good arguer and a better listener. Like I said… demanding, and through all of those things and so much more, he has stayed the course of husbandry and he’s worn that badge proudly and bravely, because let me tell you all right now… Barbara Palumbo is NOT and never will be, for the weak at heart.
  • Lastly, he taught me that anything is possible. ‘Nuff said. Never believed it before, but I totally do now. Anything is possible, if you want it, and fight for it hard enough.
So today, and I speak to you now, my husband... my Todd... my Toddly. Today I want to thank you for all that you have taught me, and shown me, and been to me, and are to me. And I want to tell you just how much I know you love me; that you have proved it more recently than ever, and that I promise you I will never turn my back on that fact, or on you. Ever. Yes, you didn’t get “Wyoming,” and yes, that fact is bittersweet to you now for reasons that belong to all of us, but you know what you did get? You got Susan Lucci, Rumpelstiltskin, Bob Guccione, and me. And we’re all one big happy family. I hope that’s enough.
Happy anniversary, Mas el dude. I love you. H.

Sunday, May 13, 2012

341 Days - "I'll Always Love My Momma..."

There will only be one Mother’s Day for the duration of the year+ in which I will be documenting my life in this blog, so I thought, “Why the hell shouldn’t I have a post devoted to Mother’s Day?” To which I answered “Why are you talking to yourself? You’re not fifty yet?” and that conversation continued for a while until first me decided that second me was a real asshole and that I wouldn’t entertain me anymore. In other words, I won, so here’s the post:

It’s Mother’s Day! Happy Mother’s Day to the mom readers out there!! This is not a mom blog! This is a MILF blog with the occasional mom content! I’m yelling! I’ve had wine! Yay, Mother’s Day!!!

My relationship with my own mother has always been rather odd. June is who she is and I am who I am and for the most part we accept one another for the oddities that society sees us as. She was never really “girlie,” hence, why I’m the chick you want on your trivia team when a sports question comes up. She tells little white lies… ALL… THE… TIME… hence, why I will never and could never sit down at a poker table... “I’ve got a flush! I do! ME! I’m going to beat your hand!!! What do you have, sir? Well, that wasn’t very polite now, was it? GO FUCK YOURSELF. I’VE GOT A FLUSH!!!” And, she is not and never will be a conversationalist, hence, why this blog exists and everything I have ever voiced before this blog existed. I am very unlike my mother in many, many ways, and yet very much like her in more ways than I care to admit. But what I do take away from my mother that I consider to be good, and to fall into the “not fail” category are the following things:

  • Loyalty: My mother has been with my deadbeat father through shit that would make your eyes bleed. For forty-two years she has put up with more crap than your local high school’s janitor. Oh, sorry, I mean your local high school’s “Facilities Maintenance Engineer” (shout out to the liberals in the hiz-ouse!) The woman deserves sainthood and I shall rally for it on the steps of St. Peter’s when her final days are over.
  • Patience: Well, actually, I like to think that I get this from her but to be frank, I’m not patient in the least, so lets just say that she is and that this is a wonderful thing for her to be and move on, shall we? Am I acting jealous because my mother is patient and I’m not? Absolutely. But it’s my fucking blog, now, isn’t it? My game. My toys. My house. My blog. And I’ll cry if I want to. Cry if I want to. Cry if I want to. You would cry too if it happened to you (bum, ba-dum bum.)
  • Toughness: So obvious. Next.
  • Positivity: Believe it or not, I’m more positive than I am negative, and that largely comes from my mother’s optimism. I often describe her outlook as one of “puppy dogs, rainbows, and lollipops” which is likely why she’ll live to be a hundred and nine and I will die last Tuesday. But seriously, Mom’s general outlook on life after all that she has lived through drives me to stay positive, because I know in my heart that someone out there has it way worse than I do, and that makes me happy… er, I mean, scratch that. How exactly do I say this without sounding like a douche? Um… things could always be worse? Yes. There ya go. Less douchie, by far.
  • Work Ethic: I saved the best for last on this list. My mother’s work ethic is unlike any woman’s I have ever known or ever seen. At 69, she is still working her fingers to the bone to make ends meet and provide for her husband (insert cringe here.) She is up at 4:00 am every day to get ready for her work day and doesn’t stop until her head hits the pillow. She is driven, determined, spirited and genuinely enjoys her job, and oddly, I believe, her life. I like to think that I work the way that she does, but I’m sure she is still teaching me a thing or two about acceptance, determination and overall happiness. 

In closing, with regard to my own mother on this Mother’s Day, I will say that I was always proud to be her daughter, no matter what our differences, because when the shit hit the fan, despite our odd relationship, she was, in a nutshell, there. And when the day comes that my daughter writes her own blog documenting her mental anguish toward me and how I made fun of her chubby rolls on Facebook to my friends, or her bitchiness, or her hair color, or general bad attitude towards anything that was not cake related, that she will make a list like the one I have above that will allow not just her readers, but also her, to look at both the positives and negatives of me – her mother – and that she will close her post out the way that I am right now by saying at the very least… “My mother loved me, and when I needed her, she was there…”

So, Mom, today and every day, I love you. And thank you. Thank you for being there when I needed you most. And thank you for not abandoning me when I probably deserved to be abandoned. Thanks, Ma. I mean it. I love you and I won’t just love you for the rest of your life; I will love you for the rest of mine. 

Saturday, May 12, 2012

342 Days - Nine Years and a Shitload of Doughnuts

What can happen in nine years?
I was a wee lass of thirty when my “U” hauled its way southward to the land of fried chicken and Houses du Waffle. It was nine years ago that I landed my loin-built spacecraft on the fertile soil of the Ay-Tee-El. Nine long, short years. I’ll spare you how many months, days, minutes, and seconds that equals. Been there. Did him that. And in all that time I can honestly say that I have likely lived my life more vividly and passionately than my parents, grandparents, and illegitimate children put together have. Oh, hush… to misquote Carol Leifer, I only have two kids… “that I know about.”
Nine years is a long time to a ten year old. It’s four Olympic Games (eye roll due to the Olympics being split up between summer/winter [shakes fist at Olympic voter pussies] and every two years,) two Presidential elections, one point five senate elections, four point five representative elections, nine high school student council elections, and one-hundred and eight Krispy Kreme doughnut flavors of the month. You can do a fuck of a lot in nine years. And you can also fuck a lot in nine years, so, see how that works out? I chose all of the above and more, meaning I loved, lived, travelled, voted, gave birth, voted, learned to speed skate, voted, medaled in archery, voted, gave birth, voted, voted, voted again in Pennsylvania illegally, and ate doughnuts, all in less than a decade and all while living in the gloriously asinine South. Hey, if there’s a state that knows how to look ridiculous to humanity other than Arizona, Florida and South Carolina, it’s Georgia! GooooooooOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO Bulldogs!
Yesterday was nine years since I packed up what I still wanted of my belongings and started the two-day trek to what would be my new home. Philadelphia and I had made love the night before, said our goodbyes and were prepared to let one another go with the attitude that we could always go back if we wanted to; that we would still be there for one another, even after the breakup. And it was that knowledge that allowed me to take the leap of faith and look at what was to come as a new dawn, a new day and a new life. Oh… SHIT. I now owe my high school choir teacher fifty bucks for quoting Michael Buble. Fuck. “I told you you’d quote him at least once in your life, but I can’t believe you used something so mainstream. I thought you would have at least gone with, ‘And I’m surrounded by, A million people I, Still feel all alone, Oh, let me go home,’ but hey, a bet’s a bet. Pay up.” What a bitch, he is.
So along with Pearl Jam’s “Rearviewmirror” I posted the following to my Facebook page yesterday:
Nine years ago today, I said goodbye to the city I once loved so dearly. I threw away a mediocre existence, packed up what had become a meaningless life and set out in search of greater, grander, and more purposeful things. In the rearview mirror of my Chevy S10 pickup I could see the silhouette of the city fading as the sun rose high on the highway ahead of me. It was morning on that day, in more ways than one. It was dawn on my life. My aurora was waiting and in some ways, she waits for me still.
And nine years ago TODAY the sun shone high in the sky, brightening the paths that lay before me. It was high noon, my eyes were open; my belly full and I could see the world more clearly than ever before. I took a deep breath, inhaled my surroundings, smelled the opportunity and smiled widely at the magnolias. It took thirty years to get there, but I was finally home. And as Michael Buble said:

Let me go home
I’ve had my run
Baby, I’m done
I gotta go home
Oh COME ON!!! ANOTHER fifty bucks??? What a BITCH!

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

345 Days - My Life, The Pie

I guess any person has to be a bit self-centered to have a blog, especially if the blog is centered around said person. I don’t think anyone who knows anything about me would be surprised to find out that I have a fairly high amount of self-confidence. In other words, I kinda dig me. Like, in the “I would want to hang out with me if I were a gal” kind of way, or the “I would definitely date me if I were a dude” way. I think that liking yourself is important to every aspect of your life, but I also think that you have to earn your wings of established self-likeability and that if it happens too soon in your existence, you’re bound to come crashing to the ground, and one doesn’t want to break one’s solid gold (plated) antique hand mirror, now, does one? 
My pie metaphor is about as old as my first tattoo. Don’t ask. And no, it’s not a spider. Oh God, future blog post spoiler alert. Anyway, I’ve always been fairly decent at math, charts, in particular. I truly get off on percentages and graphs and line charts (oh, my!) but pie charts… ohhhhh, man. Oh, yeah. Oh… what I can do with a pie chart. Mmmm, mmm. God damn I’m good at those. And somewhere, some trigonometry student is pitching a tent. Right. Fucking. Now. What was I saying? PIE, yes. Pie. My life is a pie. I said MY LIFE is a PIE. A thirty-nine year old pie. What?? Don’t you dare make that face! Hey, if you haven’t had thirty-nine year old pie, you don’t know what the hell you’ve been missing. Ask around. Ashton Kutcher will tell you. He enjoyed it. Well, for a while anyway. Until that pie got a little, shall we say, flaky? And, a little too old… and started to crumble… and started tasting funny… and then, well, simply fell apart.
Okay, I’m going to go cry now.
(extended pause)
SO, a pie, for those who don’t bake or live in Somalia, cannot be made without patience and great care. It takes time and effort and requires a variety of different skill levels. The Shell can’t be store bought, because people will know – they’ll see right through it – and no one likes a fake pie. It must be handled with delicate hands and shaped in just the right way because it’s the only thing holding everything else in place. The shell is the backbone of the pie. It’s the thing keeping it all together. Without it, you’ve got more of a cobbler. And while a cobbler is really rich, often loved in the South, and can be quite good at the time of consumption, overall, it’s a bit of a mess. Think, the Lindsay Lohan of pies.
On to the The Upper Crust (HAHAHAHAhahahaha). You know what, forget I used that term. (Rich people terminology makes Barbara feel icky.) The “Crust” (yes, the crust – much better) is about as important as the shell but reflects more of the personality of the pie. All backbones are the same. One backbone isn’t fancier than another, so in turn, all pie shells are pretty much the same, but, all outer crusts are not. The outer crust is the beauty of the pie. It’s what you see first. It’s the hair of the pie. Eh, disgusting. Scratch that, we’ll stick with personality. Some crusts are more open than others… we’ll call those crusts “slatted.” Slatted crusts will show you what is inside of them without giving everything away. They allow goodness to seep out, and warmth to soak in, and they exist because pieces of dough worked together in harmony. However, some crusts are thicker and harder to pierce. We’ll call those crusts, “men.” No need to elaborate. And then, there are the pies with no crusts at all. The meringues. The pumpkins. The sweet potatoes. And of course, the Key limes. I usually categorize those in the “burning man” section of my recipe box. You know, they all taste really good and look kind of pretty, but in reality, they let it all hang out, don’t have a ton of substance and really only stick around at certain times of the year.
Which brings us to The Filling. What are you made of? What gives you flavor? What separates you from all of the rest? This is the heart of the pie. The soul of it. It’s the thing that can be had without the shell or the crust and would still be worth every last bite. Your filling is what will either make you successful, or make people turn away. It will either draw someone in, or turn someone off, and it should contain every ounce of giving and determination that you put into it, no matter how long it took to make it the best that you could. It is your inside; your core. And don’t you dare fuck it up.
Recently I used a shortened version of my pie metaphor on a young man who was having trust issues with his girlfriend. I said to him, “Kid, life is a pie. You make it over time, through the blood, sweat and tears that you put into it, and then, you find someone, and you give some away. And then, you have kids, and you give more away. But everyone needs to keep some for themselves. If you want to give all of yours away, that’s on you. But everybody isn’t you, and most people still want a piece of what they made because frankly, they’ve earned it.”
We may have sampled other pies in our lives, gang. We have tasted some of the worst and likely, some of the best. But we have one chance to make our own and earn the blue ribbon at the county fair. Give some to your job, and some to your lover, and some to your kids, but don’t ever neglect yourself, because that pie is just too damned delicious not to savor until the day has to come where you take your very last bite.

Saturday, May 5, 2012

349 Days - What Mother and Mick Jagger Share

This is not my mother’s forty.

According to Wiki: Middle-age is the period of age beyond young adulthood but before the onset of old age. Various attempts have been made to define this age, which is around the third quarter of the average life span of human beings.
I shall repeat… “The third quarter of the average life span of human beings”
Wait, what??? Half-time is over???? Where the fuck was I? Who the hell performed? J-Lo? Janet?? Oh, don’t even tell me I missed The Rolling Stones. Jesus Christ, if there’s a poster band for getting laid at “old age” it’s the goddamned Stones. Mick Jagger and my mother were born the same year, you know… which means that man will be SEVENTY next year. Seventy. And so will my momma. Which also means that I will be forty…  hence, why you’re reading what you’re reading right now…  eh, harumph. Harumph, I say. But like I said, this is not my mother’s forty.
June Delores Hoke was born on January 17th, 1943 to Harold Hoke and Beatrice Leonard. She was the first daughter and fourth child of Harold’s to survive childbirth (third child of Beatrice) and is now the oldest surviving family member of the Hoke siblings, sadly. June, or “Junie” as my dear Uncle Jay calls her, is a kind woman without an evil bone in her body. She’s sweet, but tough, a bit naïve, and overall a really good sport. She’s the hardest working woman I’ve ever known and has instilled that in me, her only daughter, from day one. She’s not particularly “girlie,” which I’m fine with, and her taste in clothing peaks at her teddy-bear Christmas sweaters, but honestly, I’m fine with that, too, because that makes June who she is, and I wouldn’t have her any other way.
Just days before my tenth birthday my folks moved our family from the apartment we lived in, in West Philly, to a house in the projects of South Philly. They thought this would be a good idea because while the projects are just that, it did allow for me to finally have a bedroom of my own and no longer have to sleep with my mother, so, I didn’t disapprove overall. My mother had celebrated her fortieth birthday just months before (that’s her in the middle with her two younger sisters on either side) and at the time, I didn’t think that forty should look any different. Why would I? She had three kids, lost both parents at a fairly young age, worked her entire life, survived two marriages (one that she was still in that was abusive,) and hell, she had me as a kid, which would be enough to make anyone go batshit crazy and prematurely gray. That is, of course, until I realized that I was forty, or just about, and that I had experienced similar circumstances to what she had growing up. And now, my opinion of forty and of what it should look like has changed quite drastically. Sorry, Ma. To quote a cliché I’ve heard you use hundreds of times in my life… “It is what it is.”
Mother June was, at one time (at least in my mind) fairly fancy. Check out this photo of when she and my father just started dating. She’s got the cool Courtney Love hair going on with some dapper hipster plaid pants and a stance that would make any London-born-wanna-be-rock-chick proud. She looked rad… “edgy” even. And she’s hanging out at the Philadelphia Museum of Art which makes this picture even cooler. I’m sure they didn’t pay admission to go in, mind you. My dad is pretty cheap, after all, so they likely just hung out at the statues around the outside, but still, I’ll give them cred for the thought. The point is that June, at the ripe age of 27 and having already had two kids at that point, was a serious contender for hottie-dom. So why in the hell did she go from frisky to frau in a matter of thirteen years? Thirteen years is nothing, unless you’re five and starting kindergarten, then of course it’s EVERYTHING. But as an adult, thirteen years flies by in a heartbeat. Hell, I got married thirteen years ago… to my first husband. It seems like yesterday, and in reality, I am probably in better shape and look better today than I did back then. So what makes a momma give up on being hot? What made my momma do it? Had she caught the man of her dreams (insert roaring laughter here as I think of my selfish, deadbeat father as the man of anyone’s dreams)? Did she say “hell, I’ve had three kids at this point… screw it!"? Or was she simply just not as vain as I am? Or, even vain at all? And why am I so vain? And where did this biscuit come from? And my, this soup’s delicious! (“Clue” reference for the Eileen Brennan fans in the room.)
I see it this way, kids: Being “older” is not the end of being beautiful. Yeah, yeah, yeah…  I know all about the whole “beautiful on the inside thing” but let’s cut the crap, shall we? Beautiful on the inside is nice, and it gets you things like Ms. Congeniality titles and Nobel prizes, but who the hell wants those anyway, am I right? Does it get you ahead of the line at the club? No. What about free drinks? Nada. Apps at your favorite eatery in Midtown? Shit, no! Oh, I know this all sounds shallow and I’m sure I’ll catch some slack from it, but what I mean to say is that unlike my momma, and I love her dearly, I’m not giving up so fast, so soon. I’ve got years left... YEARS, I SAY! And I give everyone I know permission to poison my scotch if you catch me walking around with a salt-n-pepper Jheri curl and “mom jeans” before the age of seventy. No, you know what… screw it… before the age of eighty. After all, Mick Jagger is seventy and is still totally fuckable.

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

353 Days - "You’re Not From ‘Round These Parts"

Call me Ma’am, kid. I like it.”

Ma’am wasn’t a title often used where I come from. We Northerners, or, “Yanks,” well, we usually either called our close friends’ parents by their first names, or, if they were older parents or acquaintances, we would address them as Mr. or Mrs. SomethingItalianoVowelAtTheEnd-o.
“Hi Mrs. Gargano. Is DonnaLisa home?” “Hey Mrs. Lucibello! Tell Christina I’ll call her tonight!” “Mr. DelBuono… please stop grabbing my ass. No, I don’t want to see your braciole. Yes, I know what you mean by ‘braciole.’ Yes. You mean your penis. I got it the first time. You’re not that clever Mr. DelBuono. And you smell like garlic. I skeeve.”
But here in the good ole napkin-using South, the word Ma’am comes about as naturally as pecan pie and white hooded cloaks. Errr… scratch that second one. Pecan pie and nature-eating kudzu? Yeah. There ya go. Ma’am, (like Y’all, and Fixin’) was a word I was going to have to get used to once I planted my very own magnolia tree down here in the A-T-L. And while it wasn’t going to be an easy process, I was fixin’ to give it a try, y’all, even if it made me vomit in my own mouth.
I remember the first time someone called me Ma’am. I was visiting Atlanta to see my then boyfriend and now husband on one of what was to be several long-distance relationship dates. We were still in the learning-about-one-another stage, so he decided (after hearing me rant about how I can throw a football like a guy and can hit pretty much anything thrown at me) that we would spend a few hours at the batting cages on the outskirts of town, so that he could challenge me to put my money where my mouth was. We did meet on a game show after all, gang. Competitiveness is pretty much the soul of our existence.
I was dressed in my South Philly finest having just hopped off an airplane… you know, skintight designer jeans, black boots, titty-poppin’ turtleneck sweater and Gucci sunglasses. What? I always wear this to the batting cages. What?? Todd of course knew the neighborhood that we were headed into and I assume probably mentally pissed his pants as he flashbacked to scenes from “My Cousin Vinny” once he saw my dapper attire. He’s a bastard. Anyway, we arrived at the pearly moldy gates and parked the pick-up truck (of course we did) directly next to the “WAYNE’S CHIP, PUTT AND BAT” sign (but not quite near the “Forty Balls for Five Bucks” smaller sign on the adjacent gate.) I, being the naïve 29 year old I was at the time, giddily jumped out of the truck and ran in to start trying out bats. “Too heavy. Too short. Nope. Nope. Oooooohhhhh…. Nope. AH! This one. This will do.” Like a good Italian I was naturally uttering those statements out loud, unaware that both my boyfriend and a rather portly, gray, pre-hipster-trucker-hat-wearing redneck were glaring at me adoringly. “Wayne… I’ll take this one. And the forty balls for five bucks, please.” And then… it happened…
So many movies contain the effect of slow-motion as something bad is about to happen, and this, in my mind as I recall it now, was no different…
Ma’am, I ain’t Wayne. But yer funny. You’re not from round these parts, are ya?”
My Philly instinct caused me to grip the bat tighter in my clutch and start to lift it calmly over my head, but a rather large hand gently grabbed my arm and when I looked over, I saw the headshake and the smile that told me all I needed to know… with his eyes, he said these words: “He’s harmless, killer. Put the bat down. He meant it as a compliment and even if he didn’t, take it as one, because let’s face it… you’re not from ‘round these parts.” And so I gave in and grew up all in one swift motion.
That was a long, long time ago, and since that day I have learned to embrace my inner-Ma’am. Recently I helped a young Alabama man of twenty-four buy a diamond for his twenty-two year fiancée-to-be. He sat across the desk from me with his beautifully tanned Tuscaloosa skin, sparkling blue eyes and his heart filled with hope and said to me… “I sure do appreciate your help, Ma’am. One last question… I’m still in college and this is a lot of money for me…  is there any way I can get a discou…...?” “YES. I’ll take a hundred bucks off. Yes. Just stop looking at me with your youth and your Ma’ams, dammit. You’re lucky I’m a cougar.” Of course he laughed because that’s what you do when you’re cute and twenty-four. But I was serious. If you’re a bartender in this town and you get me as a patron, "Ma’am" it up for tips, ‘cause I’m buying what your selling, kid. Ma’am it up good, too, ‘cause I’m fixin’ to milk this cougar thing for all its worth.
Now, “Y’all” ... that's a whole other story.