Category Archives: cool places

Florence + Flowing Skirts + No Fights = Fab Night

{Not me}



After wasting an afternoon playing fatter, wrinkly Barbie doll attempting to find something hip yet age appropriate to wear to the Florence + the Machine concert (then embarrassing myself by posting my options online) I did what women usually do when suffering from a wardrobe crisis: I went shopping.  I kicked all the outfits back into the dark recesses of my over-stuffed closet.   I bought new dress. It was inexpensive. It was pretty.  I didn’t have to pick out accessories. It made me feel good.  Perfect.

The Hubby and I slogged through rush hour traffic in the rain and eventually made it to the tourist side of town. As we ran through Universal CityWalk we placated ourselves with dreams of a fabulous show and cold beer. Yes, I said beer.  Wine is for home appreciation, good food, the Opera, and upscale bars.  Beer is for concerts, NASCAR, and our English Pub.

Once inside the Hard Rock we slithered our way through the crowd to find the perfect best available floor space.   I needed a clear view of the stage.  I needed to have room to dance.  And I needed to have no assholes in my direct vicinity.

Hubby claims I am an asshole magnet at concerts.  There is almost always some jerk who feels it is necessary to completely invade my personal space, yell over the music to his asshat buddy or into his phone, spill beer down my back, and accidentally grope me repeatedly.  Though I am shy and timid in everyday life, don’t f@ck with me at a concert.  I simply will not put up with that sh$t.

Until very recently, I never though much about what I wore to shows.  Standard uniform was black tank (velvet, sparkly, or vintage rock band), jeans and big black boots. Beer + big black boots = bravery.  Get into my space and I would stomp you like fine grapes in a barrel.   If someone dared to get pushy I would bum a cigarette and use it as a prop; a few burns and they would scurry away.  Worked every time.

But now I wear heels or occasionally flip flops if it’s raining or an outdoor show. Stomping doesn’t work nearly as well.  No one can light anything in doors anymore (which is nice because I hated coming home smelling like an ashtray).  And I am with my Hubby who wants to be The Man standing up for his woman, but can’t really get involved. He’d be fired in a heartbeat if he was ever arrested for fighting.  So I am on the lookout to avoid assholes and trouble.  We stood five feet from security.  I felt like such a grown-up.

{not Me, buy MY hair}

I did get a couple of “nice hair” comments and stares on the way to the bar and bathroom.  Florence Welch, the lead chanteuse/siren, has my hair.  I’m older, therefore it was mine first.  I thank her everyday for making my I’m too lazy to straiten my waves in this humidity hairdo stylish.

The audience for Florence was mixed:  emo teens, hipster adults sporting glasses and flannels, and a profusion of women.  Many holding hands.  Many whom I first thought were flannel-shirted hipster guys (sorry).   Hubby surveyed the crowd and informed me point blank, “You are NOT allowed to get in a fight with a dyke tonight.”   Nothing against lesbians whatsoever; most of them could have chewed me up and spit me out without blinking a mascara-free eye. Would not have made a fun night.

An Amazon stood in front of us with a child about Kiddo’s size.  He was falling asleep at her feet.  I don’t mind kids at concerts (we took Kiddo to see Paul McCartney last year) but not when it’s a sold out, standing room only venue.  The poor thing was hugging his lovey and fighting to keep his eyes open.  I feared he would be mashed into rock show road-kill.

As the floor filled around us, a perky, pig-tailed and bejeweled 40-something bumped into me. When I whipped around she hugged me and shoved her ten-year-old between us, raving about how he just looovveed Florence + the Machine.

Our one night out and we were surrounded by kids. Not funny, Karma.

Once the the band took the stage everything around us was forgotten.  Florence Welch enchanted the crowds with her powerful pipes, haunting lyrics, and sheer Gucci-goes-goth get-up (see hot pants).  Her gauzy costume floated across the stage as she whirled and danced like an ethereal pagan goddess while belting out tunes such as The Dog Days Are Over, Rabbit Heart (Raise it Up), and Howl.  The band was tight; her vocals pounded through the venue and mesmerized the awe-struck audience.

Florence + the Machine is one of the few bands who truly sound great live.  Florence proved how the award-winning debut album Lungs earned its title: she has one hell of a set of them.  Beautiful.  Ethereal.  Utterly fabulous.

Hubby left with a huge crush on Florence Welch.  Which I suppose I can deal with; when we looked up the YouTube videos of the show Kiddo raved how she looks just like me.  Well, maybe if I was ten years younger, taller, thinner, had legs up to my armpits, and could carry a tune anywhere besides the shower.  It’s nice to dream…

If you haven’t listened to them, give them a try.


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Godspeed Discovery, Godspeed—A Space Shuttle Launch at Dawn

 April 5th, 2010. The Space Shuttle Discovery was scheduled for launch at 6:22 a.m. at Kennedy Space Center.
As a native Floridian, I witnessed Space Shuttle launches from backyards and schoolyards since the program started in 1981.  I have countless of memories of bright streaks of orange rising over the treetops and billowing vapor trails climbing through the clouds before breaking through our atmosphere  into space.  But I had only been up close and personal once.
This particular launch fell during Spring Break, the weekend of my 10th Wedding Anniversary, and I finally had a child old enough to burn a launch into his memory.  Everyone was free from work and school. It was time to go and feel one up close.
Getting to and from the Space Coast on a launch day is an adventure in itself. A sixty mile drive home can easily take over five hours. Highways clogg to the point you are forced to turn off your car engine to avoid overheating.
But this early morning launch was essentially a night launch. The last night launch scheduled. I had never witnessed the spectacular show up close. It was worth the trouble.
After an extremely dramatic weekend (Paul McCartney concert in Miami, Easter festivities in Orlando, and a near scalping by the family cat only hours earlier) we dragged ourselves out of bed at 3 a.m. I hastily packed a bag and carried my sleeping child to the car for our journey.
We made it to the Space Coast in decent time and parked a few blocks from Rotary Riverfront Park directly across the Indian River from the Kennedy Space Center. We could see the shuttle lit up on the colossal launch pad across the dark water. The crowd was massive. Thousands of drowsy tourists and locals lined the shore of the tiny park. Carrying a sleeping 6-year-old made the task of finding a clear view a little tougher, but we finally squeezed into a perch on the boardwalk.
The countdown was on.
Though we were crushed together in the darkness, the international congregation surrounding us remained on their best behavior. We chatted with a young couple from Sweden, some German Sailors on leave, tourists from California reverently waiting to witness a moment of scientific glory.  Sleeping children crashed on blankets and folding chairs. Adults adjusted camera settings and zoomed in on the  launch pad. The excitement in the air was palpable.
Suddenly the final countdown was on. Everyone seemed to hold their breath in anticipation of a safe launch. Fingers poised above camera shutters. Only whispers spread through the crowd before we tensely, excitedly chanted down  10…9…8…7…6…5…4…3…2…1… liftoff!
Cheers erupted as Discovery’s orange flame illuminated the black sky. Children stared in wide-eyed wonder upon parents shoulders and a collective cheer sounded above the roar of the rockets engines. We could feel the powerful engines booming across the water after a slight delay.  Discover had made it! We had lift off! 
We stood glued to the spectacle above us until Discover faded into the darkness. The crowed breathed a communal sigh of relief as the light of the last booster rockets dropped into the sea. Strangers from around the world shared hugs of congratulations and relief.   Tears of pride and joy mingled with cheers that beautiful morning.
Some tried to escape the melee before the sun tickled the horizon. Knowing the traffic would be horrendous, we stuck around for a bit to savor the sunrise over the Cape.
The blue dawn crept in slowly around the shuttle’s gray vapor trail. Within minutes startling oranges and yellows illuminated Discovery’s path like a flame licking through the sky. The view changed every moment; the startling colors in each frame captured by my camera morphed through every color of the rainbow. The early morning ocean breeze slowly shifted the spectacle from a con trail to a dragon to an ethereal face smiling down upon us from the heavens.

Godspeed Discovery, Godspeed.


Road Trip: Costa Rica and the Oh My God Bridge

Costa Rican road trip day 4: a supposedly “relaxing” journey from the Arenal Volcano to the Pacific paradise of Manual Antonio. Hubby and I were crazy enough to drag a 5-year-old through a Third World Country for an adventure of a lifetime.  Our ride was a manual 4 x 4 Diahtsu Bego,  which is a Central American version of a Kia Sportage or basically a tin can on wheels.  But it was a gutsy little tin can; it had already climbed rain drenched mountain roads and forded two rivers and a washed out bridge without a cough or a sputter.  The same could not be said for me.  Costa Rican Imperial beer was our reward for surviving each day…

A little background on the roads: there are no street signs or addresses in Costa Rica,  no “highway” exits are marked, and the traffic lanes have this particular way of ending with absolutely no warning.  Mountain roads consist of two of the narrowest lanes known to man smashed between a rock wall and a cliff. No guard rails. There can be two lanes then suddenly there is a one lane bridge with a several hundred foot drop on either side.   Roads go from pavement to dirt without any rhyme or reason and the potholes are big enough to eat a small car. It took me a while to learn how not to wet my pants or scream as we traversed the treacherous “roads.”

We said goodbye to our beloved Volcano Lodge perched just below the constantly erupting Arenal Volcano and made a quick stop to collect some pumice stones and sand along the banks of the rainforest river.  We spent a couple of hours cruising along the far side of Lake Arenal before settling down onto the flatter roads of the Central Valley.  Troops of monkeys chattered in the trees above us, herds of cattle moseyed across the broken pavement, and powerful mountains puffed away in the distance.

Not long after lunch we were pulled over in a speed trap.  We played the roles of stupid Americans as Hubby learned how to correctly bribe the Policia in a Third World Country.  Perhaps a nearly sobbing wife and a cute 5-year-old smiling in the backseat helped us get off with only a $15 “fine” and a promise to slow down.

We broke for a pit stop at a little cafe by a large river.  As I held my wiggling child with a vice grip we crept across a narrow concrete bridge as semis overflowing with logs and watermelons barreled past us only a foot away.  Below us lay dozens of crocodiles: wild, fearsome, and really fricking big.   As the massive trucks rumbled by I wondered if I would rather let us get plowed over by a semi or jump and take our chances with the crocs if I had to pick.  I chose getting the hell off the bridge instead.

We dipped our toes in the Pacific for the first time on the beach of the famous surf town of Jaco.   Tanned boys tamed massive waves against a breathtaking backdrop of cliffs and rainforest as we wandered between the cigarette butts and used condoms.  Time to move on.

A little further South we pulled alongside a beach side bamboo shack shaded by coconut palms.  We dangled our feet in the black sand as we sipped papaya smoothies and watched the waves roll in along the deserted Hermosa shore.

Kiddo sang Dave Matthews at the top of his lungs and hand surfed as we drove through lush palm oil plantations.  There was no dvd player, no cartoons for amusement, just a new world passing by through the open windows.  It was enough.

Traffic came to a sudden standstill.  The road instantly narrowed to one lane.  A lumbering metal structure caked with rust and age rose ahead of us.  The bumpy asphalt ended, replace by jagged ancient wooden planks.  We waited as cars and motorcycles bounced across the so called bridge, their shocks squealing in dire protest of the rugged conditions.

Oh my God.

An old pickup across the river flashed its headlights.  It was our turn.  Hubby revved it up to a whopping 10 km per hour.  The old metal railroad trestle didn’t start for at least 25 feet.  There was not even flimsy  wooden rail separating us for our impending death in the river.  The planks were spaced unevenly and there was not much clearance on either side of our narrow car, which I knew would crunch like a soda can if we fell off the bridge.

Oh my God, oh my God…

Strips of metal were laid  across the boards in a few places where ruts wore the wood down to splinters.  The car hit one with a resounding crash, jerking us up and down.  In a few spots the wood was completely absent.  I could see the river directly below.

Oh my freaking God…

My head hit to roof on the last violent buck.  As we neared the end, patches of pavement were plopped around like blobs of play-dough over the worn wood.  River grasses crowded the edge as we hit the solid pavement of the actual road with one final thwack.  We had survived.

That was fun!  Can we do it again?  Kiddo cheered from the backseat.

 Oh. My. God.

Mama’s Losin’ It

This post was in response to one of Mama Kat’s fabulous writing prompts.  Check her out. 

Frozen at Age 36

Thirty-six.  Most days I simply cannot believe that I am a grown woman, age 36.   Yet apparently, I am the perfect age now.   The Guardian’s Observer Magazine proclaims 36 is the age of the “year-zero” face.  The age women are spending tens of thousands of dollars to remain looking like forever, attempting to stop the hands of time with plastic surgery and botox. 
I was intrigued as this morning I read a BlogHer article debating the issue.

At 36, I look in the mirror and I am relatively satisfied with what I see.  Hours at the gym and a healthy diet have kept me somewhat fit and lean but cannot erase the slight sag still stretched across my lower belly or the few faint silver scars that remain as a testament that this body that has grown a child.  The first signs of sun damage are appearing, freckles and stubborn age spots that refuse to fade.  I’ve come to accept the deepening creases creeping from the corners of my eyes.  I will try to slow their growth with drug store face creams, but no botox or plastic surgery for me.

But what if not only our bodies were frozen at age 36, but our entire lives?

At 36, I have the most amazing child I could have ever imagined.   He grows more independent and self-sufficient each day yet he still  needs me, my unconditional affection, support, and guidance.  He is grown enough to be reading and riding a two-wheeler but is still lost in the magic of childhood fantasy and beliefs.  He knows wars are real, but so is the Tooth Fairy.  I may have yearned for more children in the past, but at 36, I know just one child, this child, is right for me.

At 36, I have found the love of my life and we will be celebrating 11 years of marriage this Spring.  He is my best friend, my partner, my lover.  I wouldn’t change a thing.

At 36, I am not forced to slave away at a job I hate.  I’m still not sure what career I will hold when I grow up, but I have the luxury of a little time to discover myself as I transition from “just a SAHM.”  I have time to read and write and think.  My family is far from wealthy but we have enough to feel safe and pay our way.

At 36, I have a true home.  It may not be grand, but a wave of calm and security washes over me each time I step inside.   I can look at the wood floors, the shower tiles, the sun streaming onto the sunflower walls and feel a sense of pride that my sweat, my hands created this small haven.

At 36,  I am grateful to still have my parents and  family nearby.  I’ve matured enough to respect their choices and I often look to them for their wisdom, support, and understanding.   I’ve lost some loved ones over the last few years and I may not spend as much time with my extended family as I should, but I still cherish each moment I have with them.

At 36, I’ve stood in the ruins of the Colosseum, exchanged wedding vows in a 2,000 year old Roman monastery, and splashed through a flooded Venetian piazza.  I’ve stood transfixed in the pre-dawn light watching lava crash down a volcano as the rainforest woke around me.

At 36, I have a good life.

But I don’t want to stay frozen here forever.  I will let my body age with pride, confidence, and grace.   With my husband beside me, I will guide my child through times of joy and turbulence and watch him grow into the fine man he is meant to become.  I have books to write, skills to develop, a career to grow, passions to discover. I still have many acts left to be written and performed in my life. I have an entire world to explore.

At 36, I still have so much to learn, experience, and feel.

Crashing the RWAs

Last Wednesday night Orlando was overrun with women with only one thing on their mind–romance.

The Romance Writers of America Annual Conference was held in a sultry and magical corner of O-town and from the moment I learned it would be here I knew I must be a part of it…one way or another.

I’m not a RWA member yet. I think if–no WHEN–I actually finish my first draft I will feel as if I deserve to be considered a genuine writer instead of just another hopeful hobbyist. Since I am not a card-carrying member I couldn’t attend the workshops, meet and greets, and networking events even if I had coughed up the $500 bucks it cost to attend. I just wish it could have been held here in O-town next year or the year after when I will be ready–and so I wouldn’t have to find the dough for plane fare and hotels in some far-flung city. Oh well, perhaps it will be a fabulous (and tax deductible) excuse for a mini vacation next year…

I wanted to get a feel for what it was like to be surrounded by so many professionals, and secretly hoped some of their insight and talent could be stealthily soaked up by some miracle of osmosis. Luckily a couple of my Book Club Girls decided that we should pay a visit during Wednesday night’s “Readers For Life” Literacy Autographing. My heart audibly palpitated at the thought of being let loose amongst 500 published authors.

Funny thing was, I had never heard of the vast majority of them. Of course I recognized Nora Robers, Jayne Ann Krentz, Sherrilyn Kenyon, and Linda Howard since their books regularly grace the NYT Best Sellers List…but I don’t read their books. I discovered that my idea of a romance novel is actually considered Contemporary Women’s Fiction, Chick Lit is a dying genre (oh no!), and trashy bodice-rippers are still heavily en vogue.

I (along with a couple thousand fellow book lovers) arrived armed with book bags, cameras and cash to find ourselves swimming in a sea of estrogen and expectations. Authors were lined up in neat rows, their books stacked in front of them displaying covers illustrated with fanciful images of lust and love.

Most writers had a few fans in front of their tables and seemed delighted to sign stacks of books lovingly presented to them by their admirers. The stars of the show were stationed in the back of the ballroom with lines of eager readers snaking through the crowd.

I hit Meg Cabot’s line at the start of the evening and picked up a signed copy of her latest lively read, Insatiable. I read the book when it was first released last month (checked out from the library, shhh!) so I already knew the spunky, tongue-in-cheek vamp story would be a welcome addition to my collection. Plus it looks good on my bookshelf (cool spine cover art). I was hoping there would be some copies of The Princess Diaries to pick up and have signed (come on, it’s practically a classic now) but I suppose I should have just brought my own since none were available. Anyway, it was fun to finally meet her after following her witty chatter on facebook for a while.

After navigating my longest line of the evening I dropped by Mary Kay Andrews booth. I love her breezy, Southern prose and I had some well-loved (and slightly beat-up) copies of Savannah Blues, Savannah Breeze, and Little Bitty Lies for her to sign. And I had to pass along how much I loved her beach cottage featured in last month’s Better Homes and Gardens.

Next I headed over to visit Jane Porter with a copy of Flirting with Forty. I have only read her “Modern Lit” novels–I had no idea she did Series Romance as well. I had a chance to chat with her for a little while, and found her delightful and down to earth. And she liked my new accidental haircut. (Never get a new hairstyle when voiceless and under the influence of cold meds.) How could I not love her?

But that was it. That was all the authors I had read.

My friends (and MANY other bibliophiles) went looking for some new books and browsed the author booths as if casually perusing a bookstore. I simply could not do it. There was no way I could walk right up to an author’s table, nonchalantly pick up one of her novels (created through weeks, months, or even years of blood, sweat and tears), read the back cover and then just put it down and walk away. OMG–it’s rejecting her right to her face. You might as well be saying her kid is too ugly or dumb for your taste. I was waiting for one writer to cry out, “Why don’t you want to read MY book?”

I hope they have thick skins. I overheard one woman (whose identity I shall protect) say, “NASCAR romances? Even I couldn’t read those…” It seems she was standing not quite far enough from the author, whose eyes widened in horror at the comment. Oops. But I can’t blame her–no way I could read one either.

Instead, I moved within the crowd, secretly coming up with snarky comments about the covers and titles. I read one Harlequin Romance when I was in high school, and it’s just not my thing. But apparently romance novels are still a hot commodity. Stacks of steamy cowboys, counts, princes, and billionaire tycoons (all with glistening abs of steel) stared up at me from the covers. And it seems only a true romance novel can make getting knocked up a story of passion and promise a happy ending.

Keeping up with the trends, vamps and other supernatural beings are hot, with their sultry, sharp teeth and dark, brooding gazes enticing women of all ages to cross over to the dark side.

And we couldn’t help but notice the abundance of Jane Austin related spin-offs. It seems that Mr. Darcy is eternally the epitome of romance…

All in all it was a fun night. I hope to be at the RWA Conference again…only next time with a finished novel and a book deal in the works…

…after all, the moral of the story is a girl can always dream…

Being There: Volcan Arenal , Costa Rica

My 250 word travel essay.

It was 4 a.m. and it was time to go. I had just woken up and discovered the persistent clouds had finally cleared. The glowing-red cone of the volcano was silhouetted against the inky pre-dawn sky.

Still in our pajamas, we drove over pothole strewn dirt roads to the active side of Arenal, hoping for just a glimpse of the light show I had waited my entire life to see. From the time I was a child I held a near-phobic fascination with volcanoes. Yet here I was, thirty years later, racing with my family to confront my greatest fear…and fantasy.

We parked on a deserted flood plain we had forded during the previous afternoon’s storm and ran to the steel bridge. My 5-year-old son danced with excitement as we caught our first glance of glowing red lava going down the mountain. Rumbles and crashes soon broke the silence as we watched molten boulders the size of cars tumbling down the volcano, breaking into tiny pieces, like fireworks falling into a darkened sea. Again and again they fell, leaving trails of smoke and steam in their wake.

As it grew light, the outlines of the vivid green jungle around us slipped out of the mist. My son and husband collected volcanic rocks along the rushing river bank while the morning sky turned a perfect shade of blue. Just another day in the paradise of La Fortuna, Costa Rica. And it was not even time for breakfast yet.