The Best Thing Ever

It is of Uber that I would like to speak to you today. Have you ever heard about Uber? It’s a relatively new, and revolutionary, type of car service where average people with cars offer to be chauffeurs to perfect strangers – all for about the cost of gas (unless there’s a rate surge and then you get screwed, but this is a dog eat dog money making world, so what can you expect). But in general, it’s a relatively cheap way to get around. Can you imagine how much that saves on taxi fares? Or on the cost of renting a car, not to mention the stress of dealing with mass transit or the wear and tear on your mind of driving in the city?

Unknown traffic patterns that change seemingly at random, weird one-way streets, exits five lanes over from where you need to be with a gazillion cars in between you with no time to get over there and certainly no-one willing to let you over may not prey on your mind, but they certainly do mine! Big time.

I used Uber for the first time just recently, when my daughter and I went into the city. And it’s a big city. You may have heard of it. We’ve sort of been on the news lately. And not in a good way.

I have a difficult time driving in crowded cities, especially when the road system seems to have been designed by someone with a sadistic desire to torture drivers.  It’s especially nerve-wracking when you have to make split second decisions to get into the correct lane to get to the correct exit if you’re not sure where you’re going.  And if you miss your exist…how the heck do you get back to it? Even with GPS, it drives my anxiety wild.

Because of this anxiety of mine, I usually either re-route our way thru a scenic area (which is never a bad thing, admittedly) or I have to find an alternate way of transport to get there (like the light rail train if it’s the city, but I have to say that that’s not always safe if it’s at night and it’s just the two of us.  And of course they don’t run everywhere a person wants to go).

My other alternative is to rely on people – friends or family – to get wherever it is I need to go, if it’s an anxiety inducing location, and sometimes that involves people I’d really rather not have to rely on.

Well, enter Uber. This is the greatest invention since sliced bread. It’s like having a friend with a car on call willing to take you anywhere for the price of gas and maybe a pizza. Did I mention that it’s way cheaper than a taxi? And they’re only like 3 minutes away at all times. It’s, quite simply put, perfect.

I tell you what, there is just no holding us back now! On our trip back from the city, Sarah and I were conspiring on just where we were going next! We plan on using the hell out of Uber now that we’ve tried it the one time! And with promo codes galore online, my frugal little heart is in heaven.

Sure, I suppose I have some gung-ho readers who think I should just bite the bullet and work my way through my anxiety of driving in hectic, jam-packed cities, but to you I say…well…no, I won’t say it. Unless you want to pay my insurance when it skyrockets due to an accident caused by either my road rage (just barely under control at the best of times!) or bad split-second decision-making skills while being harassed by hundreds of other drivers who’ve never heard of the “courtesy of the road” and expect everyone to know where they’re going at all times.  Believe it or not, road rage notwithstanding, my driving record is pristine.  I’d like to keep it that way.

Uber – you are my hero!

Once Upon a Time There Were Rhinos

Hang your heads in shame, patriots. The hunt is on. Remember my previous post about Corey Knowlton, America’s poster boy for wildlife conservation? Well, he’s finally gotten approval from the US Fish and Wildlife Service to bring back—as a trophy—the critically endangered black rhino he paid the Namibian government $350,000 to wipe off the face of the earth. It’s basically the US government giving him the thumbs up for helping to annihilate a species.

Of course Mr. Knowlton (so tough to type out his name, my fingers start to ball up into fists when I get halfway through) isn’t going to prance around in a black mask and black cape and tell you he’s a horrible, rotten, no-good villain. He’s still trying to desperately spin his bloodlust into some positive PR routine so that people will believe he’s actually helping the conservation efforts of the rhino. Uh huh. Killing to save lives, you say? Who would fall for such a ridiculously hypocritical stance? Oh, our government. I kid, I kid. Truth is our government wasn’t fooled by Knowlton at all, they were simply bought. Apparently hundreds of thousands of dollars can buy just about anything these days.  As if we didn’t know that already.

I know Knowlton says that the money he paid for the hunt is for aiding the anti-poaching and conservation efforts, but my original question still stands:  Why not just donate the money? I wish someone would slap him up side the head tap him on the shoulder and tell him his money is still good, even if he doesn’t kill something critically endangered just for the chance to hang its head on his wall.

click photo for info

click photo for some actual facts on the whole mess

My Son (or Paul Bunyan Redux)

A carnival gypsy once told me that the love of my life would be tall, dark and handsome.  Somehow she failed to mention he would arrive on the waves of excruciating labor pains.  Now, 23 years later to the day, my son can legally buy alcohol, towers over me, and resembles Paul Bunyan.    He’s out on his own and I couldn’t be more proud of him. Still, whenever we talk, I oftentimes offer unsolicited advice.  No, really, I do.   Other mothers do this too, right?  Right??  Well of course Jake’s response is usually one borne of frustration because, according to him, I’ve not kept up with his birthdays all these years and therefore don’t know just how old he is.  My response is one he will never understand until he has kids of his own – he’s always my baby regardless of how old he may be.  Or how tall.  Or how thick a beard he decides to grow (I mean really, you do own a razor after all Jake!).

And many times during these mutually frustrating conversations, a mental picture of him will pop into my head.  Like when he and I went outside to play in the yard like maniacs during a freak midnight snowstorm when he was 4.  Or when he was a very convincing snowman in a school play at the age of 5.  Or as a 6 year old on a trip to Luray Caverns….which is actually a pretty cute story and one that I go to often in my mental rolodex of memories because it never ceases to make me smile.

We used to make the trek to Luray Caverns every year, sort of a family tradition.  These trips were always a great time.  For those not familiar with the area, near Luray is another set of caverns touted as “The Endless Caverns.”  To me, that sounds sort of horrible. The idea that you could possibly get lost and never find your way out of the dark, stone tunnels, eventually succumbing to starvation with your body going undiscovered for maybe centuries didn’t fill me with a great amount of intrigue.  Sort of like an “always erupting volcano” or “constantly snowing tundra.”  Okay fine, maybe that’s a bit melodramatic….but hey, it could happen.

Well, on this particular trip when we passed one of the billboards emblazoned with “Endless Caverns” Jake asked just what “endless” meant.  Remember, he’s only 6 at the time so he was still trying to figure out the intricacies of the English language which can be tough on anyone.  Being the vocabulary nut I am, I was thrilled to explain to him “Well, Jake, endless means that something doesn’t have an end…. never-ending.”

This is where I have to take a small sidebar and let you know that my husband’s running compliment for me at that time was “hot.”  It could also be interpreted as a running joke.  And having the goofy mentality that my husband did he was always coming up with a “you’re so hot…” comment.   As in “You’re so hot you make lava look cool.”  I know, I know….but what can you do?  I married him anyway.  Not sure what that says about me, all things considering.

So, back to the story….as the meaning of “endless” registered with Jake, he perked up and said, “Oh, so it’s like you. You’re hotless.  Never-ending hot.”   Why yes, Jake.  That’s exactly what it means.

To this day I hold that small, innocent remark in my heart as one of the best compliments I’ve ever received.  Not because it’s true and certainly not because Jake fully understood “hot” as it related to women,  but because it came straight from his beautiful, ever loving six year old heart as meaning something special.  Jake will never understand that when I look at him, I still see that wide-eyed, precocious boy who stole my heart the day he was born.   I don’t think that will ever change.  And quite frankly, I hope it never does.

Although seriously…. a razor wouldn’t hurt now and then.

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jake pier

jake and shaylee

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My Mom Can Beat Up Your Mom

You think your Mom is great? I’m sure she’s a lovely woman, but I hate to break it to you – my Mom deserves the Mother of the World award. Hands down. Don’t believe me? Need proof? Well, for starters, she’s still sane.  No small feat given the fact she had to deal with my brother and me.

If you’ve been to this blog before, you’ve probably caught some of the questionably shameful entries about the terrors my brother and I would inflict on each other and the world around us. But they were just the tip of the iceberg in our quest to break our mother’s sanity.  We really tested the ‘kids will be kids’ adage on a daily basis. In our case ‘kids will be evil little, unpredictable, heart attack-inducing devils.’

I’ve been reflecting over our childhood as Mother’s Day has been looming and thought of some more examples of the things we did that, now as a parent, have me shaking my head and wondering how my Mom was able to keep it together.

For instance, on one of our many trips to visit our grandparents in West Virginia, my brother decided one day to just wander off. That might not be so bad except he was only about three years old at the time. A group of cousins were supposed to be watching him and apparently they didn’t take their job seriously. The consensus was, he followed the family dog, Coco, down the shale-covered road past my Grandparents’ barn and off into the woods.  And just like that, poof, he was gone. Swallowed up by the fields.  I know, I know. Sounds like the start of a not too great-ending fairy tale.

Of course everyone went on a mad search, looking for him. Another set of cousins, twins, who were probably 6 years old at the time, were the evil entities in this horror story…every horror story needs at least one, right? As everyone searched, they kept following my mother around calming whispering truly evil nothings into her ear. Things every mother longs to hear in a situation of this sort, things like: “he’s gone,” “yep, he’s never coming back,” “we’ll never see him again I bet,” “oh, he’s long gone by now.

My brother eventually came back. Coco the dog, who, through it all turned out to be a better babysitter than the older cousins, had decided to return home, and my brother, who was still in hot pursuit, followed along. I can only imagine the roller-coaster of emotions my mother went through on that day. From her desire to kill the naysayer twins who were following her around planting seeds of doom to the wave of relief that swept over her when her little boy returned both mixed with her internal criticism of how she would never let him leave the house ever again. I bet she wanted to laugh, cry, yell, and jump all at the same time. Speaking as a mother myself, I know I’d probably lose it once it was all said and done. And maybe she did, but she recovered because she lived to deal with a hell of a lot more shit from us.

Not to be topped by my brother’s little disappearing act, I decided my next escapade needed to involve more gore. So when I was about 5 years old, I ran through a glass storm door and sliced open the major artery in my wrist…quite deeply. I didn’t want to of course. It was my cousins’ fault. Our storm door never latched on its own. We never had to actually touch the doorknob to go through the door, just push on the door and it would swing open. I was pretty used to doing this when I wanted to go outside. It was like this since forever. Can you see where this story is going already?

When my cousins were over for a visit, someone (I blame them although it could’ve been my aunt or uncle as well) pulled the door shut so it latched firmly. Damn their conscientious souls. Sure enough, later that day I was running out of the house at top speed, expecting to simply push the door open in mid-flight. Instead of the door flinging open, it held fast and I ended up running right through it. Chaos, predictably, ensued. I was rushed to the local firehouse (which would’ve been cool had I not been spurting blood everywhere) and then to the hospital.  It was pretty bad. I still have a serious scar and some damage.

Of course I didn’t have any concept then, but being a parent now, I can well imagine my mother’s fear and anxiety as her daughter lay splayed out on the porch, bleeding out, and then later listening as the doctors’ explained the damage. And miraculously, her sanity held.

I could go on and on – for instance, I could tell you about the night my paternal grandparents’ house caught on fire when my brother and I were little. Oh, but that wasn’t the highlight of the evening.  The highlight of the evening was that while my parents were gone to help, my brother and I were left with my maternal grandparents – and during a round of roughhousing, my brother promptly fell (with no assistance from me, mind you) down the steep wooden stairs of their old farmhouse. Now, right smack at the bottom of the stairs was a cabinet, against which his head made a satisfying thump as he landed. Can you imagine coming home from the chaos of such a crisis only to be faced with a son who might have a concussion? Yep. That was my mother’s life.

Sadly for her, our foibles also spilled out into the public domain. Now, we never engaged in any active warfare in public (Mom wouldn’t have allowed it) and we never went missing while chasing after errant dogs or collided with clothes poles or fought with storm doors while out and about in the world, but we did offer up other embarrassments for her. We were glad to do it. It was sort of our ‎forté.

On payday, we’d go out to eat as a family – it was my mother’s futile attempt to show people that we were functional members of society (or maybe it was just the one time she was able to take a break), but rarely did my brother and I cooperate. There was the infamous mushroom incident of course. But in addition to that, there was one time when I was very young – before I realized the ways of the birds and the bees and how women’s bodies worked – that I discovered the “napkin dispenser” in the ladies room of one particular restaurant we used to frequent. I don’t see them much anymore, but back in the day these were a regular thing. Well, at this restaurant they were ripping women off by charging 10 cents per “napkin.” Can you imagine!? Something usually set out on the table for free, women had to pay for in the ladies room of this snooty place! My little 6-year-old self was outraged!

Well, back at the table, my parents were discussing the prices on the menu and me, who didn’t have a quiet bone in my body when I was little, shouted out indignantly, “Yeah, well, that’s NOTHING!  In the women’s room, they charge 10 cents for NAPKINS!!” The whole restaurant heard me. I bet the whole block heard me. I can only imagine my mother’s dismay and desire to suddenly become invisible.

Pretty audacious, I know, but my brother always had a flair for the dramatic and he did trump me on that story. In another restaurant there was a jukebox that made a rat-tat-tat noise when it switched records. One night, we’re all sitting in a booth enjoying our dinner out and minding our business. The place was quiet. You know how that happens? When there’s that one instance of total silence amongst a crowd? Well, in this one moment of silence, the jukebox just happened to switch songs and made its usual rat-tat-tat sound when out of nowhere my brother clutches his chest and screams “ACCKKK! You GOT me!!” in his best gangster voice. He slammed back against the booth as if he’d been shot and then slowly slid down the seat in his rattling death throes to the floor. Dinner AND a show ladies and gentlemen!  It was quite impressive. I’m not sure my mother appreciated his talent, but that’s probably because she had all the drama she could take from us at home.

My mother raised us well and she tried to keep us safe, from ourselves and from each other. We just weren’t very cooperative. And quite frankly, it’s a wonder my brother and I weren’t ever put up for adoption by a mother whose nerves just couldn’t take anymore. THAT is worthy of an award and I can think of none better than Best Mother Ever. The fact that she loves us more than anything despite our attempts at putting her into a straight-jacket is just icing on the cake.

Happy Mother’s Day Mom! I’m glad to call you my mother as well as my friend.

 

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what my mother looked like most of the time we were growing up