Category Archives: stupid people

The Camping Trip (a.k.a. how to freeze your a$$ off in Florida)

Camping with my family was just another part of growing up in Florida. I knew how to relieve myself in bushes and bathe in alligator-infested rivers before I could to read.

During my tween years, I was a member of a kick-ass Girl Scout troop. We camped across the country, crashed Boy Scout conventions, and beat them at their own competitions. (Yes, this girl whipped the boys canoeing, tent pitching, knot-tying, and lip-syncing to Madonna.)

I could gut a fish and even earned my hunter’s education certification. (Not that I’d EVER willingly shoot an animal—come the apocalypse, this girl will live off wild berries and palm hearts or something. Plus I couldn’t hit a target to save my life.)

But you get the point—I was outdoorsy.

WAS.

I hadn’t spent a night in the wilderness (not counting the night I slept in my backyard hammock) for over twenty years.

And my husband had NEVER been camping—or the kiddo.

It was long past time to introduce my boys to the great outdoors.

So, when a Groupon popped up for a “campground resort” (a.k.a. KOA) practically around the block from kiddo’s soccer fields, I snatched it up. Though on the river and a part of a huge protected wildlife area, it was twenty minuets from home, and ten minutes from a SuperWalmart. Seriously. How rough could it be?

Being the ex-Girl Scout that I am, I made lists. I shopped for lanterns after carefully reading reviews. I dug through Pinterest for campfire cooking recipes. I forced everyone to pitch my parent’s old tent in the backyard so they had a clue what to do when I barked orders. I had this down.

The Morgan’s First Camping Trip was scheduled during Spring Break. The weather in late-March is usually gorgeous here in the Sunshine State—not too hot yet, but perfect for pleasant days at the beach and springs.The mosquitoes usually aren’t around yet to carry me away.

But this year, Spring Break was ridiculously COLD. Like we were running the heat at night. IN FLORIDA. Weather forecasters predicted a freeze night we were scheduled to arrive, so I pleaded with the campground’s office to push our reservation back a day, and we crossed our fingers for a speedy warm-up.

Yes, this is the SAME tent as above. I won’t mention how old it must be.

Upon arrival, the weather seemed glorious. The sun shined, the thermometer hovered in the 70s, and a dry breeze rustled the trees around the creek. We pitched the old tent without a hitch, unpacked, and explored. The campground centered around a huge old-fashioned Florida spring, and though the water remained at a chilly 72° year-round, kiddo was brave enough to play.  It was a good day.

Did I mention we have always used a gas grill at home? We brought along a cute little portable charcoal grill for cooking. We planned to toss firewood in later for our campfire and s’mores. Uhm—execpt we couldn’t get the damn charcoal to stay lit. Even with the handy-dandy fire starters I’d crafted from cardboard egg cartons, dryer lint, and wax.

So, diner was a little late, and my boys were ready to go all wildman and eat the meat raw by the time I warmed our food. When we tried to arrange the wood to make a campfire, the logs were twice the size of the fire pit/grill. And we had no ax. Well, shoot. Have you ever tried breaking up wood with a utility hammer? Not how Honest Abe used to split logs.

Once the sun went down, the temperature dropped. Rapidly. And the winds picked up. By the time we decided to retire into our snug tent, we realized it was going to drop back into the 40s overnight.

Then I discovered I didn’t pack our sleeping bag.

I swear, I packed half the house in the car. I remembered the air mattress, the air pump, the sheets. But no blanket or sleeping bag to keep us warm.

Did I mention IT WAS REALLY FREAKING COLD?

Hubby offered to drive out to Walmart and buy us a new sleeping bag. Stupid, stubborn me refused. We came with what we came with. If we were in the “real” wilderness, we would figure out how to survive.

Big mistake.

We layered every stitch of clothing I’d packed. Huddling under both sheets, the picnic blanket, the beach towels, and even the plastic table cloth, we tried to quiet our chattering teeth. Yes, I contemplated the whole bare-skin-to-skin method for warmth, but we were in public basically, with our snoring WARM kid not two feet away. I’d remembered HIS sleeping bag, complete with the zip-around-the-head warm hoodie.

We survived the freezing night, sleeping in freezing fits, as my frigid ass kept hitting the almost icy ground (turns out the air mattress had a slow leak, too.)

The next morning, we huddled outside, trying to light a fire for warmth in the wind.

We must have looked pitiful. So pitiful that our neighbors in their Mac-Daddy setup brought us some fresh wood to stoke the fire. (These pros pulled in with their fancy RVs and had canopies unfurled, fire pits roaring, steaks grilling, and booze flowing in less than ten minutes. I’m hooking up with them next time.)

Within hours, we shed our gloves and doubled-up socks and donned our swimsuits. We enjoyed a peaceful canoe trip along the gorgeous Wekiva River.  Later, we waded through a clear stream to the springs, where kiddo constructed cities in the sand and the hubby and I relaxed with books and beer.

We survived. My boys say they even had fun. We’ll try again soon. I’ve already bought a new tent.

Now I just need to remember the damn sleeping bags.

*****

Hooking up with Mama Kat again. Come join the fun.

Are you a camper or is a Holiday Inn your idea of roughing it?

10 thing to do today besides work on my query letter

 photo Banging-head-on-desk.gif

1. Practice drawing the perfect heart across my draft with a red pen. Switch to blue pen. Draw stars instead.

2. Search for a ‘real’ job because there is no way I’m ever going to sell this book. Build frustration level—I’m not even qualified to be a lingerie maid or sign spinner.

3. Contemplate a bike ride. Obsessively check the radar and decide the possiblility of a shower makes this a bad idea. Decide it takes too much effort to pump up my bike tires anyway.

4. Clean out every closet in the house. Oh, crap — did that last week.  Kitchen cupbords?

5. Stalk agents on Twitter.

6. Ooohh, maybe I should bake something. For my family. There should be thousands of ideas on Pinterest…

7. Organize my notes from my first writer’s conference last weekend. Search for all the speakers on Twitter. And Facecbook. Hell, maybe they’re on Pinterest and have a great cookie recipe listed. Check.

8. Nap. Working this night temp job is killing me. I’ll feel refreshed and ready to write after a nap.

9. Check the garden. Maybe another tomato ripened since earlier this morning. I’ll bet my zucchini has grown a tenth of an inch already. I should investigate.

10. Reread every blog post related to writing queries. Imagine Nathan Bransford, Janet Reid, and Jane Friedman are my BFFs. Lurk through hopeless writers forums for snippets of wisdom and success stories. Disconnect internet and stare at blank page.

****SIT ON MY DAMN YOGA BALL AND JUST WRITE****

Rezoning: An Ode to my Neighborhood & School

My newspaper, local television stations, and Facebook feeds are flaming with irate parents throwing temper tantrums over our local elementary school rezoning proposals. It happens every few years, it’s just another round of shouting, fist pounding, and chest beating; in the past I’ve calmly turned my back on it just as I ignored my 2-year-old’s fits. Of course no one wants to shift their kids from the schools they love or move them to a bad school, but one of the schools they are outraged their kids may attend is…OUR school.

Why is my son’s elementary school worthy of such contempt and outrage? We’re not talking about a destitute inner-city facility. It’s just another highly-rated suburban neighborhood school. Most of us who send our kids there are not dirt poor, nor are we wealthy. We have a slightly higher percentage of students who receive free or reduced lunch. Some believe that means the education their precious babes might receive at our school would be inferior, and they fear their property values will nosedive if their children are forced to attend a slightly less affluent school.

I disagree.

And frankly, I’m insulted.

A large chunk of the kids come from my neighborhood. And I love my neighborhood. We painstakingly chose this place to be our forever home, the place where we’d settle and raise our family long before we began buying pregnancy tests and pacifiers.

The average home here has 3.5 bedrooms, a two-car garage, a Honda in the driveway, and a swing-set nestled beside an in-ground pool in the backyard. We have basketball hoops instead of tennis courts. Our homes are around my age—and like women my age, some have undergone extensive remodeling and look peppier than when they were twenty; some have let themselves go a bit.

It’s a neighborhood where I feel safe with my windows open and my glass door spread wide to let in the babble of the pool and the aroma of orange blossoms.

At the heart of this neighborhood sits a park, where I’m spread out on a blanked with a book in my lap on a gorgeous January afternoon. Sunlight filters through a canopy of oak leaves and shines a puzzle of shapes over the kids tearing up the slide during a fierce game of tag. Over on the baseball diamond, a father plays Frisbee with his kids; he calls out each toss and catch like a Mexican soccer announcer. Another father/son pair passes by wearing matching crisp golf tournament visors.

A toddler’s birthday party spills from the new pavilion. Festive balloons and streamers billow in the breeze, and the aroma of something slightly more exotic than hot dog carries on a drift of balmy air. Bratwurst? Chorizo? It smells like heaven.

The kids are as colorful as the party decor; smiles radiate from faces of every shade between marshmallow pale to an ebony rich as dark chocolate. You’re more likely to hear the kids calling out names like Aiden or Jack, but chances are you’ll  hear a Lashawn and a Jose, too. The kids don’t care. You are welcome as long as you know how to play freeze tag.

A girl striking enough to be on the cover of Teen Vogue (should she trade Nike trainers for heels) bickers with her mom in a sing-song Portuguese. Later, when she chats on her iPhone, every cadence of accent evaporates.

Yes, the teens and moms carry  far more Coach bags than Louis Vuittons. I myself am sporting a metal bike basket passed down from my Grandfather, now loaded down with picnic gear. No one has given it a second glance.

Families arrive pushing strollers and pulling wagons, by foot, by mini van, or on bicycles, like us. This park backs up to a 14-mile paved trail, and we’re still recovering from our 7-mile bike ride under its cathedral of trees. There’s nowhere I’d rather be on a Sunday afternoon than soaking in this tranquility.

During the sweltering summer months, day campers descend upon our park; my son and a few hundred other kids run wild over the four-square court and the kickball fields. It’s not a formally structured educational camp; the kid wranglers counselors are local teens. There are no equestrian lessons or overnight escapes to the mountains, but there are plenty of trips to the theme parks and Chuck E. Cheese. He loves it.

This park, this neighborhood, this school brims with good kids and hard-working families. More of us may be social workers than CEO’s, but we are good enough for you.

We  love our school, our teachers, our staff. They graciously receive more homemade cookie baskets than day spa certificates come Christmas, but they not only teach our kids, but love our kids just the same. Our PTA does not run the school with a bejeweled fist. I rather like it better that way.

I pity those parents who chose to hold themselves above us, who waste so much precious time fretting over how our school may be detrimental to their kids lives. It’s their loss.

If their PTA is better than ours—fine—please come share your success stories and help build our group up. We’ll listen. Volunteer here, share your time and knowledge; you’ll see you are no better or worse than us. You’ll be welcome—if you are kind, and if you care about your kids as much as we care about ours.

We all want our kids to succeed. But the people of this county voted for the elected officials who have gutted the education budget. The school system must adjust to the cuts whether we like it or not. Why cause our school board to spend any of its insufficient funds fighting these battles? Let’s take that time, that energy, and use it to help our kids instead of dividing them. Let’s keep that money in the classroom instead of the courthouse.

And if my kid somehow ends up shifting schools… Will I be “happy?” No. I’m sure many tears will fall. No one likes change. But we’ll accept our fate. We will support our child and his school no matter what.

Buy More Girl Scout Cookies to Sate the Hate

I’m feeling rather stabby today. I don’t know if it is because of the rain, my sore throat, the recent death in the family, or the massive car repairs, but my mind is lingering in gloomy places. Even the cat refuses to come near me.

In addition to all this crap I’ve had to deal with, over the last few days I’ve seen several young girls broadcasting messages —confrontational, stupid messages — and I just want to rip them to shreds. They are just kids. Technically teens. If you put yourself out there on YouTube or the Today Show, you must realize people are going to judge and comment on your message, right?

Earlier this week I ranted about the sexy high school yearbook photo controversy.  Yesterday I found a video of a young teen asking us to boycott Girl Scout Cookies.

Boycott Girl Scout Cookies? Is she insane?  I sold those evil divine cookies for a cause for a least seven years, and ate them for at least thirty more. Why on Earth should I boycott them? According to this girl: because some troops refuse to discriminate against transgender children, and allow them to participate. The horror.

This little Girl Scout obviously worked hard on her message, practiced the delivery, and attempted to present it like a well-thought out argument. I’m assuming a parent recorded it for her, or is at least aware of her posting the video on YouTube. While I applaud her standing for what she believes in,  I vehemently disagree with her.

 I will buy twice as many Girl Scout cookies this year just to show how much I disagree with her bigotry.  (I suppose it won’t hurt that every little girl I know is selling them this year and has already hit me up.)

 

I am biting my tongue (or restraining my fingers) because I totally want to go off on this girl, but I remember how words can maim, and I did vow to be nicer.

Though I enjoyed a sheltered childhood and kind parents, others still spit comments which cut like a razor and seem to linger forever. I’ve suppressed most memories of the mean girls’ taunts in school and blacked out a good part of my college years (when I when I was not exactly a stellar friend either). I know so many people suffer far crueler jabs on a regular basis, but I’m cranky, so I’ll throw these little nuggets of venom out there for the world to judge:

No.  I just don’t like her. ~ Overheard from Mr. McGreggor, 4th grade P.E. coach, on why he wouldn’t let me join the safety patrol.

Your so clingy. Stop following us around like a puppy dog and find your own friends. ~ 8th grade “friend” (who had the nerve to send me a friend request FB recently).

My, your so pale…and you’ve gained weight. ~ Aunt. I was 5’4 and about 104 lbs at the time.

But everyone else likes me. There’s obviously something very wrong with you. ~ Whispered by Mr. Arico, 10th grade biology teacher.

And this song goes out to (*insert my name here*)…they must have written it just for you…{cue Cold as Ice by Foreigner} ~ High school friend/massive crush/d.j. LIVE over the airwaves (because he couldn’t get into my pants).

What, you think you’re gonna be a brain surgeon or something? You’re JUST A GIRL… ~ Mr. Zagacki, 11th grade physics teacher.

Yeah,  you’ve gained weight. I can see it in your back. ~ (EX) college boyfriend.

You’re a Nazi, and you will be a terrible mother someday! You shouldn’t be allowed to even have  children! ~ Certifiably crazy employee (who I WAS NOT allowed to fire. At the time, at least.)

I guess I just need some sunshine and Samoas. Thin Mints would work just as well. Luckily, I think may still have a box or two lurking in freezer and/or Aldi is down the street (have you tried their ‘fake’ G.S. cookies yet?). Yup, cookies and sunshine…works every time…well, at least when it’s too early for wine.

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Yes, It’s Too Sexy for ANY Yearbook

So there is this big brouhaha going on about a Colorado high school student’s yearbook photo. Sydney Spies, an 18-year-old Durango High School senior, and her mother are making the TV talk show circuit, claiming the teen’s freedom of expression is being squelched.

Spies told 9News, “I’m a dancer, I’m trying to be a model, I really enjoy photography and I think that this is a good thing to represent me and I think they are taking away my freedom of expression.”

As a former high school yearbook editor, I think this is a crock of crap.

I am all for freedom of the press, personal expression, yadda yadda yadda, but this is high school. There are things called dress codes and editorial discretion. These rules are in place to protect the children. Spies claims the student yearbook editors first voted to allow it, then changed their minds. Good for them. Perhaps they had time to think about their decision, and cooler heads prevailed.

This is a PUBLIC high school.  The dress code requires students “fully cover the chest, back, abdomen, and sides.”  Clearly this get-up violates the code. Period. That’s not even getting into the come hither, practicing for Playboy pose or the photo’s inappropriateness. 

Stick it in your modeling portfolio, Honey, but not in the public school yearbook.

I’m not sure if I’m more irritated with the teen or her mother, Miki Spies. Yes, it is a mother’s job to support her child, to stand by her, and encourage her to stand up for what she believes in. But this is more like shopping her out for a modeling contract or a reality show. It’s cheap. It’s tawdry. This girl is totally getting pimped out by her mother.

By pushing this issue and the photo into the media, Miki Spies has allowed open season on her daughter.  I’ve read comments calling the teen a future porn star, a stripper, and stating she’ll be knocked up before she graduates. Is this fair? No. We don’t know this girl. She could be a straight-A student on her way to Harvard. Which she can pay for by working for an escort service. (Oh, damn, I did it myself.)

And before you say I am judging the mother/daughter duo too harshly, check out the alternate photo Spies submitted to the yearbook (which was also rejected):

Seriously? These photos weren’t stolen from a cell phone or leaked without permission.  This isn’t a character assassination. They flaunted these on the Today Show (see clip below).

This is the type of situation mothers should protect their daughters from, not promote.

Now Mama is saying they are hiring a civil lawyer to take on the case. Give me a break. There is no case. This is a shameless quest for notoriety and publicity (granted, yes I am feeding it, but it ticked me off).

You’ve had your five minutes of fame. Stop embarrassing yourselves, put some clothes on, and go back to school.

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Let’s (not) Talk About Money

There was a time when no one ever talked about money. Not how much you made, nor how high your bills soared; it was utterly uncouth to mention what you spent, or even how much you generously donated to charity. Money talk was a complete taboo in polite company, and even behind closed doors within a family it was simply not discussed.

Now everything is flaunted out in the open like a tacky Nude Girls Here flashing neon sign.

In these tough times, it seems as if friends and family are always talking about money — be it how much they have, spend, splurge, or charge.  And it’s getting damn hard to differentiate when to keep my mouth firmly clamped and when to call someone out.  With everyone in such fiscal fluctuation,  personal finance often becomes a main topic of conversation.

But seriously — should it be?

I’ll admit, I am guilty of this faux pas. But for me, it’s more of  a defense mechanism, a last ditch justification. It’s certainly not bragging, although I do want to encourage others to find great deals.

My biggest problem is legitimizing any money I spend. We live on such a shoestring, I constantly feel the need to explain each buck I dole out. For example:

Friend: Wow! I love your new suede skirt and boots! {I think she is looking at me with her eyebrow cocked in a challenging, possibly even accusatory, manner. Panic sets in.}

Me: Oh, thanks! It cost me next to nothing, really. {whispered} The skirt was only three bucks, the boots five. My “secret shopping place,” of course.

Now, why can’t I just say “thanks” and be done with it?  Accept a compliment, instead of rising to a (most likely imagined) challenge?

But then there’s the other side to the coin: the braggarts. We all know them. We might groan inwardly when they open their Chanel-lipsticked mouths. But we never know just what to say to them.

Friend: I just had the most amazing dinner at {insert fancy & overpriced restaurant name here}.  You’ve been there, of course, right?

Me: {smile and shake head politely} Nope. Haven’t made it there yet.

Friend: Well you simply MUST go there. I had {insert $50 Kobe beef burger or $65 prime rib here} and it was just amazing! Really, why don’t you go there tomorrow night? You simply have to!

Me: {fake smile getting painful} Sounds delish. We’ll have to check it out, someday.

Friend: But you MUST! The restaurant is right around the corner from you. Our bill was only $250 for the two of us. And of course we left a $50 tip. You should go. Treat yourself!

Me: Really. Sounds great. We don’t just eat out much.

Friend: I insist!

Me:  Are you treating?

Friend: {aghast} NO!! I am on A BUDGET!

Me: Well, so am I. And dinner there would cost more than my entire month’s grocery budget. Okay? I probably won’t be going there anytime soon.

Friend: Oh. Well…{waves hands in the air dismissing all that I said} Did I tell you about the surf and turf I had at {insert another schmancy restaurant here} last night?  It was only $60. The appetizer was cold,  and my steak wasn’t cooked right and I had to sent that back to the kitchen twice, but the lobster was divine and…. 

 {My eyes glaze over as I imagine the waiter spitting in her food…}

Wasn’t there a time when this conversation was absolutely socially unacceptable? What is the right thing to say when this drivel is shoved down your throat? Sometimes you just can’t walk away, change the subject, or punch the offender.

Another modern phenomenon: friends and family who brag about their new $400 cell phones and $1,500 3-D TVs, and insist on telling you how much they spent on them down to the penny. Then, about a month later, they subtly hit you up for a “loan” to pay their cell phone and cable bills. They’d mow you down if you dared mention the fallacy of their actions. And it really is none of your business how they spend their money.  Except, well, when they spend so much time talking about it, it does become your business, even if you do your best to change the subject and ignore the chatter.

Times are tough for so many people now.  Unless you are Suze Orman, you shouldn’t be judging any person’s financial habits. So…can we just stop talking about it so damn much?

It’s quite possible, the next time you brag about buying the family (all seven of you) Disney season passes (it was only $2,500) then you whine about how you can’t pay your electric bill, I’m just going to walk away.

Or the next time you spend an hour telling me about the six new dresses, three handbags, and ten pairs of shoes you bought yesterday (but they were on sale at Neiman’s), then ask me to install a new garbage disposal in your kitchen because you can’t afford a plumber, I’m going to hang up on you.

It’s one thing to vent to a friend or need a shoulder to cry on, and those are not the situations I’m talking about.  It’s the bragging. The blustering. And the flat-out lying.  Can’t we just all agree to keep our mouths and wallets shut?

Killer Whales and Kindness

*After reading articles in the Orlando Sentinel over the last few days regarding the Sea World vs. OSHA trial, I decided this post, recycled from last year, was once again relevant and appropriate.  In a citation issued by OSHA after a six-month investigation, the agency has recommended that trainers never again have close contact with Sea World’s killer whales without a physical barrier or an equivalent level of protection. Sea World is challenging the finding.  Original publication date: April 27, 2010.

,

 

Sunday the Kiddo and I escaped to Sea World for one of our Mommy & Son bonding days full of sharks, sandboxes, and, of course, Shamu. We have had annual passes since the Kiddo was not even two, and although we cannot go nearly as much as we used to due to school schedules, we cherish these days of fun and learning.

Our local news has been in an uproar over the death of  killer whale trainer Dawn Brancheau last month  (February 2010) at Sea World.  Brancheau, an experienced trainer, was dragged underwater by Tilikum, a 12,000 pound orca with a “questionable” past.  The press has been playing a vicious blame game with Sea World, accusing them of unsafe working conditions, animal maltreatment and exploitation. Now OSHA and PETA are also going after them, and even Capitol Hill is supposedly holding a hearing Tuesday to determine if marine mammals should be held in captivity.

Amidst all this unnecessary brouhaha, I made it a priority to see Believe, the current orca show which highlights not only the majesty of these animals but their integral relationships with their trainers. I have seen the show dozens of times over its 4-year run, and it is always different. Some days the whales were ON, seemingly feeding off the audience’s energy, amazing me with their synchronized jump, flips, and splashes. Other days they seemed distracted or perhaps a bit lazy, showing off only a few behaviors, yet still delighting the crowds of first-time watchers. I love it, no matter what they do. Just to be in their proximity is enough. I secretly yearn to be one of the lucky trainers in the water with these awe-inspiring creatures, communicating with them, stroking their shiny skin, feeling their power, their intelligence, their affection.

Sea World trainers during the Believe show May 2009
(before the current “no interaction” policy).

The changes in the show we witnessed Sunday were drastic. The trainers were no longer allowed in the water with the orcas (which was the main component of the show) and they had to stay several feet back from the water even when feeding them. The “show” element did not disturb me however, our entertainment was not the priority, but the lack of physical attention these animals were now receiving saddened me. They are used to getting rub downs, hugs, tongue scratches and genuine affection from their trainers and now it was being forcefully withheld from them. I always believed that the attention, affection, and positive rewards that they received was one of the main reasons they tolerated captivity.


Later that day, we walked around to the rear of Shamu Stadium to the underwater viewing tank. Some days we are lucky and one or more of the whales would be swimming around in the rear tank and we would see them only a few feet away from us. I saw a glimpse of black passing by so the Kiddo and I ran down for a closer look. Kiddo was up right against the glass when the whale swam by and bumped the glass.

Now, when a creature weighing several tons “bumps” anything, it is a bit forceful and quite a surprise. Everyone crowded around the window jumped back a little and gave an amazed laugh. The whale came back again, and bumped a bit harder. When it circled back the next time, it paused directly in front of Kiddo and opened it’s mouth wide before moving on. Even though there was a thick glass, I clamped onto him and gave a very nervous laugh. A visitor behind us asked Kiddo if the whale had any cavities, because he sure saw ALL her teeth. We stayed there for one more loop of the tank and window bump before I decided I had enough. This was not normal behavior. It seemed aggressive, and thought we were perfectly safe, I was uncomfortable.

We started to leave when I spotted the employee usually stationed at the viewing area to educate guests and answer questions. I casually asked, “What’s up with the glass bumping? I’ve been here dozens of times and never seen that.” She gave a very nervous laugh, pasted a fake smile on her face, and said she had never seen it either. She had just called the behavior in to the trainers. Maybe the whale had a toothache and was trying to get someone’s attention. She was obviously trying to communicate something, but what?

I left feeling very sorry for these orcas and the people that love them.

Not because these whales and other animals live here in captivity. I firmly believe that Sea World does an outstanding job of caring for their animals and educating the masses about the wonders of these creatures. No, their lives are not the same as if they were in the wild. Many of the animals in the park have been rescued from certain death in the wild, and if possible they are rehabilitated and released.

Each person that has the opportunity to see one of these magnificent animals (which they would never have the chance to see in the wild) leaves with a better understanding, a greater appreciation, and a heart more willing to help protect them and the conserve their environment. There is just no comparison between watching a nature show on t.v. versus actually seeing a dolphin, making eye contact, watching it frolic and play (sometimes with real toys) to gain an understanding and respect for these amazing mammals. The few kept in captivity are essentially ambassadors for their species.

OSHA and the press need to chill on their witch hunt as well. They are treating the trainers as if they are children who don’t know they are playing with fire and that fire can burn. No one becomes a killer whale trainer without knowing the inherent dangers of the job. It is not a career one chooses because they are tired of flipping burgers. It is a passion, a lifestyle, chosen by compassionate and intelligent individuals whose love for these animals overshadows the risks involved. The bond between the animals and their trainers has now been stretched, and all parties are suffering.

Perhaps that is what she was trying to tell us…with all of the bureaucratic bumbling, please show us some kindness and don’t forget what we need…

 

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Movie Theater Mayhem


Dear Incompetent Parents of Obnoxious Children:

Please stay out of my movie theater. I beg you. If I had more balls (or technically any at all) I would whip around in my chair and tell you to control your rotten child, but alas, I was raised with manners—unlike you.

I go to the discount theater with my own child fully realizing there is more leniency there. It is where I taught my toddler how to behave in a movie theater.  But I TAUGHT him.

It is not a place where you let kids run wild and free. We are not at the zoo or playground.

I really did not appreciate your little boy bouncing on the back of my chair and blowing spit bubbles into my ear.  I was rather annoyed when he dumped his jumbo candy into my purse (perhaps sugar was not the best thing to give a wired child considering you I wanted him to SIT STILL).  I started getting pissy when he began shouting “I want to go home!” at the top of his whiney voice. Guess what? I really freaking wanted him to go home too. Perhaps that was a subtle clue for you to remove him to a place where you could have a nice little chat about indoor voices.

I understand kids will wiggle around and talk during movies. This is a given. My own child does a bit. But when you converse back with him in your full-on-New-Jersey outdoor voice you really aren’t setting very good example. You kinda need to whisper to him, get close in his ear, and explain that YOU DON’T YELL DURING A MOVIE. You drop your voice to that very quiet but dead serious tone and tell him.  If you do not have that very useful I mean business now voice, get one.  Threaten his life or to take away his TV or video games or his popcorn and candy. Or heaven forbid, tell him if he doesn’t behave he will miss the rest of the movie. 

You see, kids don’t automatically know how to behave in theaters (or restaurants, on airplanes, I could go on and on).  It is not an innate behavior. That is why we must TEACH them how they should behave. It’s kinda our job.

So asking him, “Jakie, don’t you want to sit down?” isn’t really going to work.  Obviously he does NOT want to sit down.  He wants to run up the row bumping everyone’s chairs and making us spill our drinks in our laps. You TELL him to sit down.  Try it. It may work better. YOU are the parent.  And if you cannot control your spawn in any way it is time to leave.

And that brings me to people with infants.  I completely understand it’s too hard and ridiculously expensive to get a sitter. That’s why I have no life. You can bring your infant to a movie if it will stay sleeping or at least content.  But if that baby starts screaming at the tops of its tiny yet extremely effective lungs it is time to STEP OUTSIDE.  I don’t care if you don’t want to miss a part of the movie. THE REST OF US don’t want to miss it either.  When I can’t hear the already deafening dialog over your baby’s wailing it’s time to go.  And bouncing in the isle while the baby wails and you hiss “shhhhhhhh, shhhhhhhh” over the sound of the movie doesn’t cut it either. Into the lobby, I beg you.

What’s missing in these situations is a little thing called common courtesy.  I understand it is no longer common, but please learn about it.

And Incompetent Mom—you are SO lucky it was a cheapo movie.  If I had paid $15 a piece just for us to walk in the door I would have been in the managers face to have you removed.  But alas, there are always a few families like your around, which is why I hardly ever set foot in a movie theater anymore.  Life is too short to pay to be in your presence for 2+ hours.

Sincerely,

A Mom with Manners

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An Open Letter to Bright House Networks

Dear Bright House Networks,

To put it succinctly: you suck.

Our tumultuous relationship has endured so many problems throughout the years I have had to repress  memories like an abused girlfriend.  From the cable going out during the Superbowl to home phone service disappearing while I had a jaundiced newborn, your crappy customer service and constantly inconsistent internet peculiarities are slowly driving me insane.  And help keep my local wine store in business (I should investigate if you own any of their stock).

I know I don’t call you as often as should.  I don’t call at 10 p.m. when the only channel I want to watch is suddenly unavailable because I know I won’t get to sleep for hours; instead I’ll be replaying my fight with the cranky swing shift service rep desperately in need of a Red Bull.

 I don’t call when the TV guide channel mysteriously disappears for days leaving me no freaking idea what is on my 70 to 150 channels (depending on the day, the particular television set and your mood).

I don’t call when the box resets during the season finale of my favorite show or when my child has an absolute meltdown as he discovers his favorite channel has been suddenly dropped from your ever-changing line-up.  I should  require one of your reps take him to Chuck E. Cheese so I don’t have to deal with his tears.

I don’t call when the phone goes out in the middle of a conversation.  It actually comes in handy when talking to certain family members and it would be brilliant if I had bill collectors calling. I don’t use the home phone much anyway but I did just use up 96 minutes of my stingy cell phone plan dealing with your incompetent minions.  You can take that off my rapidly rising bill.

Two hours of my life were just wasted by your untrained internet support team.  Two hours I should have spent working (or at least pretend to).  Two hours during which I had a feverish child calling for a Popsicle and juice while I was trapped underneath my desk tangled in a pile of wires with a phone squished to my shoulder and a flashlight propped under my chin.  And I understand it is not your fault I do not regularly clean below my computer tower, but thanks for ruining my cute white capri pants anyway.

Yes, I do know how to check if my computer is actually on.  And why yes, I did reset my modem, just as I have had to do countless times before when your services have screwed up.   Thanks so much for making me disconnect my wireless router when you didn’t know how to reconnect it so I then had no wireless service AT ALL.  My husband will be thrilled when he comes home and cannot get any work done on his laptop.  No biggie. I’m sure he won’t mind driving back to his office for a few more hours.  No, I cannot call the router manufacturer; it WAS working before I called you, just slowly.  YOU screwed it up.  YOU need to fix it.  No, I will NOT have a nice afternoon.

Two customer service reps later (they were at least here in the U.S. not Mumbai) and I had your touch and go crappy internet service running once more.  Isn’t this what you pay service technicians to do?  I’d like my $25 an hour for technical services I provided please.  You can take that off my bill also.

Then there is that little issue about your billing. You are not selling used cars.  There is no reason my neighbor should be paying less and getting more services. I have good credit and I have paid my bill on time for over ten freaking years.  Do not make me turn on my car-haggling-bitch mode.  You do not want to go there.  I know you pretty much have a monopoly over this whole phone/internet/TV scam, but I am tired of being screwed.  I feel dirty and used after I deal with you.

Bright House, I would not take this crap from any person (especially one not related by blood).  I think it is well past time we terminate our volatile and contemptuous relationship.  I deserve better.  And you owe me a case of wine for my troubles.

Sincerely,
(who am I kidding…I’m just being polite)

A Soon-to-be Ex-Bright House Customer

P.S.

I found it absolutely delightful your automated customer service just called as I was writing this to take up more of my time with a survey. Just so you are clear about my answers: 

Was I satisfied with my Bright House services?  Utterly and Completely Dissatisfied.

Was I satisfied with the knowledge demonstrated by the technicians?  Who are you kidding? I know you recorded the conversations. Completely Dissatisfied.

Please rate your overall Bright House experience.  I think I made myself clear with the FIFTH rep I yelled at earlier.  Are you stupid?  Completely Dissatisfied.

How likely are you to recommend Bright House services to others?  Baby, I’m telling as many potential customers as possible how much you suck. Unless you can do some major ass kissing, our relationship is OVER.

{click}

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Wine Pairing Playlist for the Apocalypse

 The final countdown is ON.  I never imagined my last day on Earth would be spent at a soccer game.   If I had my way I would be listening to the following playlist while hosting a wine tasting of epic proportions.


One song, one bottle (or at least a taste of each).  No one will really care as 6 p.m. approaches.

 

It’s the End of the World as We Know It (And I Feel Fine)  by R.E. M. with Conundrum California White


Rapture by Blondie with Rapture Cabernet Sauvignon (duh)


Don’t Fear the Reaper by  Blue Oyster Cult with Ghostly White


Hallelujah by Jeff Buckley with Redemption Zin 

Cities in Dust by Siouxsie and the Banshees with Zombie Zin

Death Don’t Have No Mercy  by Grateful Dead  with Velvet Devil Merlot

Sympathy for the Devil by Rolling Stones with Sympathy For the Devil Icewine (a gimme)

Waiting For The End of The World by Elvis Costello with Cataclysm Cabernet Sauvignon

Until the End of the World by U2 with Temptation Zin


My Apocalypse by  Metallica with Return of the Living Red

 

The End by The Doors  with 7 Deadly Zins


Apocalypse Please by Muse with Plum Loco Sweet Plum & Cherry Wine


 When the World Ends by Dave Matthews Band with Pino Evil


 Here Comes The Flood by Peter Gabriel with Clean Slate Riesling


 Heaven is a Place On Earth by Belinda Carslile with Angel Juice Pinot Grigio


The End by The Beatles with Relax Riesling


and, well, since the end is coming anyway why the Hell not… 

Why Don’t We Get Drunk And Screw by Jimmy Buffett with some of my favorite Sin Zin

    Party on, Winos…
    Cheers!