Thursday, December 20, 2012

Reality For Me

It’s Theme Thursday again and this week’s subject is Reality TV.

And that’s awesome because I love Reality TV…which is kind of embarrassing because I’m an ENGLISH MAJOR.

My blog should start with the line “I love Shakespeare.”

And I do…I love Shakespeare and Chaucer and Arthur Miller and Harper Lee…in fact, if you haven’t read To Kill A Mockingbird, you need to get off the computer, go to the library, get a copy and do nothing else until you have read the whole amazing thing. It’s on my list of top ten books all Americans should read before they die.

But I love Reality TV too.

Not all Reality TV…not those horrible shows that allow parents to exploit their children…Dance Moms, Toddlers and Tiaras, that horrifying new Honey Boo Boo mess…those seem like borderline child abuse…but maybe that’s because I freak out if my mom tries to show people my awkward adolescent pictures; I can’t imagine the amount of therapy I’d need if those years had been documented and witnessed by millions of bored, judgmental Americans.

But if consenting adults want to flaunt their particular brand of crazy for the chance at fame and fortune…I say that’s good TV. America’s Next Top Model, Hell Kitchen, Cops, I Love Money…bring it on!  I’ve actually even used it as a classroom motivator.  Before starting the online monitor phase of my life, I worked with inner city kids in St. Louis…and one semester I made a deal with my little darlings that if they stayed focused an worked during class, we would take the last five minutes each day to discuss the latest Flavor of Love episode and vote who we thought should be the next to go.

I’m not exactly PROUD of that educational decision…but it worked.

But I think my favorite reality shows are the precursors to our modern reality programming… those court shows where “the litigants are real” and “the judgments are final!” The things people will sue for—and admit to on national television—send me over the edge. Like, just the other day I was watching The People’s Court and this guy was suing the daughter of a former friend because her dog attacked him and bit him in the crotch.

“Your penis?” The judge clarified.

And I started giggling like a junior high girl.

Now, in my normal reality I try to be a compassionate person. I wouldn't giggle at the victim of an unprovoked crotch biting. However, in my normal reality, most people I know wouldn’t discuss their genitals on national television—much less pantomime the alleged attack with Michael Jackson-esque crotch-grabbing maneuvers. And they certainly wouldn’t explain that they needed $6,000 because their poor scarred junk is now less attractive to women.

So, yes, I giggled.

And when the guy’s girlfriend testified and finally admitted that his penis wasn’t any uglier than any other penis, I laughed so hard I almost choked to death on a handful of popcorn.

Critics of Reality TV say that this is because I am practically a sociopath, that these shows satisfy my base human need to feel superior to others. And I don’t know if that’s really it…I don’t know if I feel SUPERIOR exactly…but I admit Reality TV does make me feel good about my own life.

Like the night after the Crotch Biting Case…my husband and I were lying in bed talking and feeling a little stressed out because things are crazy right now. One of our dogs is getting older and starting to have health problems, we need to rebuild our back porch, and we’re paying two mortgages until we can rent or sell my old house…we have a lot going on.

But still, I could lean over and whisper lovingly in his ear “At least we didn’t talk about your penis on national television.”

And just like that, I’m grateful for my own life again.

Read other Theme Thursday posts:

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Weddings and Weird Cousins

Well, I’m participating in Something Clever 2.0’s Theme Thursday again (see link to the right) and this week the topic is weddings…which is an easy one for me since Opie and I just got married a year and a half ago.

Here we are:

And yes, of course, our wedding was romantic and beautiful and perfect in every way…and that’s not bragging because I really didn’t have anything to do with making it perfect. See, my parents are great at organizing things.  And I am equally great at letting my parents organize things.  In fact, right after Opie and I got engaged, I said to my mom “Hey, you’re going to sort of…you know…take charge of the planning, right?”

And she allowed as how she thought she better or else there was a distinct possibility that—on the day of the wedding—I’d be all “Flowers?  Oh crap, I forgot to order flowers.”  And “What do you mean we had to RESERVE THE CHURCH?!”
Which, sadly, is a 100% fair assessment.

So I cheerfully handed over the reins (retaining only the power of veto) and went on my merry responsibility-shirking way.
But there was one responsibility that I couldn’t avoid: Seating assignments at the reception.

Which probably seems like a pretty innocuous task but stressed me out no end…for the 3 following reasons:
1.    The wedding was being held in the small community where I grew up…and in small communities you just naturally have family friends who were once married to, dated, or worked for other family friends but who now are married to, dating, or working for different family friends.  And while it’s all very civilized, it can still be awkward to have them sitting too close to each other—particularly at an event that includes copious amounts of alcohol.

2.    I still remember my friend Martha’s wedding when this HORRIBLE woman had her boyfriend interrupt the formal receiving line to complain about her table and demand a different placement.  When that didn’t work, she tried to hijack my seat.  And I couldn’t even scream at her because I try not to cause embarrassing scenes at my friends’ formal events…though, rest assured, I did get my seat back.

3.    I’m also still tortured by the memories of the worst wedding seating I’ve ever been forced to endure.  I was just out of college and I’d been dating this guy, Carl, for about six months.  When one of his cousins got married, we went to the ceremony together and I met his ENTIRE family for the first time.

The wedding in and of itself was a little odd…ultra conservative, very religious-which is fine, I had a traditional religious ceremony myself—but one that focused a little too much on that Bible verse from Ephesians that talks about the wife submitting to her husband.  It was included in one of the readings and quoted in the vows…the ceremony was even punctuated with recordings of the bride singing a song about it that she wrote herself, the refrain of which was so horrifying that I still remember  it all these years later.  “I submit to you with all my will, my master, my leader, my lord.”

Equally horrifying was the fact that NO ONE else in the entire church seemed to catch the completely inappropriate slavery/S&M overtones.
Being the most generous of souls, I was willing to overlook these oddities and enjoy the reception.  Although, to be honest, that generosity could have been due to the fact that there was an open bar.    Which, considering the conservative religious nature of the ceremony, was a miracle in its own right.

But one we weren’t able to immediately enjoy because as soon as we walked into the hall, Carl’s sister gabbed his arm and hissed “Weird Cousin Wayne’s at OUR table.”
There’s probably a Weird Cousin Wayne in every family…he’s one of those guys who stands a little too close, stares a little too long, bathes a little too infrequently, and generally speaks in grunts.

To make matters even worse—and due to some tricky maneuvering on Carl’s part—I , not he, ended up right next to Wayne for dinner.
Which goes a long way toward explaining why THAT relationship was doomed to failure.

In any case, the worst part of the evening  occurred right after dinner.  Carl had just gotten me a fresh drink—I was deep into my amaretto sour phase at the time—and I took 3 or 4 healthy sips before putting the glass on our table and heading for the dance floor.
A little while later, we came back to our horrible assigned seats just in time to see Wayne taking a big old drink out of my glass.

Perhaps he didn’t know it was an open bar, maybe this was a result of my violating some drink abandonment statute…I don’t know and I didn’t ask because as soon as we made eye contact, Weird Cousin Wayne put the glass back down on the table and began slllooooowwlly sliding it back over to me.
“No, no,” I said quickly.  “No need to return that.”

And he snatched the glass back, cradling it to his chest and smiling the kind of smile I imagine a rat has right before it eats its young.
Seriously, I feel like showering just remembering it.

Now, neither Opie or I have relatives THAT creepy but I still stressed trying  to figure out seating arrangements…and if anyone who is reading this was at my wedding, I certainly hope you liked the people at your table and that you had fun….
Because believe me when I tell you it could have been so much worse!

Please feel free to share your own horrible wedding stories below (unless, of course, it involves MY wedding :-) ) and check out some the other Theme Thursday wedding posts:

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

O Christmas Tree!

HIlarious blogger at Three Monkeys and a Martini (see link to the right) is hosting a Christmas Tree contest and—although this tiny little tree isn’t really much of a contender—it’s got a cute story behind it so I thought I’d share.

Years ago, my nieces Abby and Haley visited my house a few weeks before Christmas and I had tons of decorations but no tree.  Which sent them right over the edge-they were still deep into the whole Santa Claus thing and couldn’t figure out where in the heck Santa was going to put my presents.

“It’s no big deal,” I assured them. “I spend Christmas with Grandma and Grandpa,  Santa will put my presents under their tree.”

And I thought it was over.

Because I didn’t have any children of my own and didn’t realize how tightly little girls can grip an idea…and how they can worry and stress and drive their parents completely insane.

But I learned…because about two weeks later, my brother gave me this tree.   “Just put it up!”  He ordered, clearly frazzled beyond endurance.  “And be sure to tell the girls you did!  Because if I hear anymore about the fact that you don’t have any place for Santa to leave gifts, I’m going to KILL SOMEONE!”

And I’ve put it up every year since…tiny little tree that it is.

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Over the River and Through the Puke...

'm joining in Something Clever 2.0's (see link in Blogs I Read or at the end of this post) Theme Thursday for the first time and the topic is What Do You Love/Hate About Christmas.  And I  got so fired up by the topic, I inadvertently created a POUS (Post of Unusual Size).  Sorry!

To be honest, my favorite things about Christmas are probably just like everyone else’s…food, family, presents and more food. Those are the things I’ve always loved.  But the main thing I hate about Christmas  is a more recent development: traveling.  See, my husband, Opie, and I  got married in 2011 and moved from St. Louis to Oklahoma…we are now 6 hours from his family and 8 from mine.  But we go home every year…

Which wouldn’t be a problem if we would just FLY like normal people.  But I am not "normal people"  I am one of those freaks who ascribe human emotions to their pets.  And I just know that if we leave them in a kennel—especially on Christmas!—they will be traumatized, emotionally scarred, and probably suffer lifelong abandonment issues.

And, yes, I know that’s a little bit completely insane…but you should see these animals when I start packing.  Peek-a-Boo, my Chihuahua, goes and gets his favorite stuffed toy and gets in his crate.  Then he gives me the sad eyes and occasional yip.

He KNOWS we’re leaving...and he's a good traveler so I never even consider leaving him behind.
Prince the Cat is NOT a good traveler, in fact he's the worst traveler ever but he also knows we’re leaving and actually packs himself, daring me not to take him:

To be fair, Bubba, our ½ Rottweiler ½ beagle, never picks up on the “we’re leaving” clues but it doesn’t seem right to leave him behind just because he’s kind of dumb.

But the drive is a NIGHTMARE.
Last year, we made what can only be categorized as the “worst decision ever.” We decided to leave a day earlier than planned, right after Opie got off work, so it would get dark quickly, all the animals would go to sleep and we would zip down the road in Yuletide bliss.

Because nothing says Yuletide bliss like digging around in the dark back seat of a car, looking for something to wipe up cat puke.
But I’m getting ahead of myself…here's how the drive went in (sort of) a nutshell:

4:30 PM  Opie loads the car. Peek is in his travel crate, Prince is in his travel crate, and both are safely seat-belted into the back seat.  I spend a few minutes worrying that Bubba will think we love him less since he doesn’t get strapped in… But we rescued Bubba from a bad situation and he spent too much of his early life in a cage; it would take 6 ninjas, a Navy Seal, and about 3 rolls of duct tape to put him in a travel crate.  Instead Opie wrestles him into the front seat and Bub & I get into a shoving match over who gets the actual seat and who’s going to sit on the floor.

I win the battle but it’s not what you would call a decisive victory…I’m pretty sure he’s just regrouping and planning a new strategy.

4:58 PM We pull out of the driveway.

4:59 PM Prince decides that we put him in the travel crate by mistake on our part and he yowls a few times to make sure we're aware of our error.
5:05 PM Prince realizes that we aren't listening, don't care, or have gone deaf.  He exponentially increases the volume of his cries.
5:07-5:52 PM Opie and I randomly—but frequently—assure each other that the cat will eventually tire himself out and stop crying—maybe even before our eardrums burst.   Bubba starts to empathize with Prince—possibly remembering his own crate issues—and begins panting and shaking and drooling all over my leg.
5:53 PM I finally snap and, with Ninja-like agility, twist in my seat, yank the cat out of his crate, maneuver him into his harness, click on a leash, and manage not to break a limb or accidentally-on- purpose break his neck.

5:54 PM Cat saves own life by curling up into adorable ball on my lap and going to sleep.  And we have almost 40 minutes of peace…until
6:27 PM Prince wakes up, leaps to his feet, and lets out the most disturbing yowl I’ve ever heard…then throws up all over my lap.  While I’m still trying to mentally process THAT, Prince yowls again, and I almost get him into the litter box in time.

And this is where Opie’s brand of crazy rears its ugly head…normally mild-mannered and easy-going, there is something about cross-country travel that brings out the obsessive-compulsive in him and he gets absolutely manic about “making good time.” He plans the routes, the one and only potty break, and every other detail down to the exact second.   And he’s so obsessed that he manages to keep driving like nothing is wrong, flying past exit after exit.

“We need to pull over,” I tell him.
“I was going to stop and get gas in Springfield,” he says.

“Springfield is a hundred miles away,” I snap.
“No…maybe ninety,” he counters.

And he is absolutely serious.
Which is why I am forced to start screaming at him “If you think I’m spending an HOUR AND A HALF covered in cat puke and gagging on the stench of cat shit, you are OUT OF YOUR DAMN MIND!”

And, in his defense, I only had to scream at him three more times until he pulled over.
Of course it ended up being a tiny little gas station in the middle of nowhere…and of course there ended up being a million people there…and of course there were already two ladies in line for the single stall restroom. But women are awesome.  All I had to do was announce “My cat just puked all over me,” and they grasped the gravity of the situation immediately…it was like Moses and the Red Sea…they parted and waved me to the front of the line.

7:15 PM We get back on the road and manage to travel for an entire hour and a half with no drama.  Until…
8:45 PM We stop at Opie’s designated rest stop, walk both the dogs and let the cat roam free in the car for a few minutes. The cat decides to refigure the seating arrangements and settles himself on the driver’s side dash board—furiously fighting my attempts to dislodge him.

8:50 PM I get the cat back on my lap and try to remember why I once thought declawing was cruel.
9:45 PM We hit a huge pothole, the entire car shakes, Bubba decides this is the scariest thing that has ever happened and concludes that the best way to make everyone feel better would be if he threw his huge Rottweiler self on my lap too-which doesn't really work in our compact car. I spend most of the rest of the drive pushing his paws, head, and other random body parts off the seat as makes about 30 attempts to force his way onto my lap.  I try to remember why no one declaws dogs.

10:30 PM We turn onto the highway that will take us the last 70 miles…a little two-lane highway right through the middle of Deliverance country.  I begin imagining dueling banjos and freaks who comment on the beauty of my mouth.
10:47 PM Prince wakes up, stands up and makes the horrible sound again.  And I know what that sound means now so I start screaming “Pull over, pull over, pull over!”  But not before Prince, once again, vomits all over my legs.

Opie has learned enough from our first puke episode that he begins looking for a place to stop but it's difficult because we are on a back highway in the middle of the night, plus there’s a cop in front of us, pulling someone else over.
But we are risk takers—and a little desperate—so we shoot around the cop and whip into the parking lot of this tractor business that was closed for the night.  I grab the cat, preparing to run around to the back of the car and throw him in the litter box, when not one but TWO cop cars pull in behind us with lights and sirens going.

I still want to jump out but Opie is emphatically against springing out of a dark car in front of armed men with a suspicious bundle in your arms.

Anyway, I wait until one of the cops approached the window and Opie calls “We’ve got a sick cat here.”

Then, pushed to the edge by the proximity of more puddy-cat poop,  I leap out yelling “Sick cat!  We’ve got a sick cat!”  over and over while running around the car and flinging Prince in the litter box in the nick of the time.
A few seconds later, crisis averted, I pick him back up and the cop gets a good look at him for the first time. Which is, admittedly, a touch disconcerting for anyone who doesn’t know him.

“Is that one of those hairless cats?”  He asks.
When I say yes, he nods and kind of stands there sheepishly for a long minute…so I say “Do you want to touch him?  Because everyone does.”

And you know what?

He did.
11:00 PM We finish cleaning everything up and getting the odor of the car down to a bearable level and get back on the road. 

And Opie says  “I told you we shouldn’t bring—“

“If you finish that sentence,” I say with frightening calm.  “I will actually kill you.  I will rip your head off with my bare hands and throw it out the car window.  Then, when I go to trial, I’ll plead temporary insanity…and if there’s even one woman on the jury, I’ll probably walk.”

I think it scared him that I had everything so well planned…but at least the journey was almost over and there was wine waiting for me at his parents’ house.  And I guess the drive was worth it because we had a wonderful time seeing all the family and not worrying about the pets’ emotional well-being…and we haven’t learned a darn thing, because in just over two weeks, we’re packing the whole car and the whole clan and doing it all over again…
Be afraid!

To read other Theme Thursday posts by the people who inspired me to write mine, follow the link below: