Those sad, celebrity blues

Brooke Burke-Charvet, a model, host, former Playboy Playmate, and general low-level celebrity who rose to stardom mainly because she had a nice face and a surgically enhanced body, was just recently fired from her hosting gig on Dancing with the Stars.  She was apparently devastated and was “blindsided.” This news story has been all over the internet the past few days and I’m sorry but I don’t exactly know why any of us should care.

When a celebrity gets fired from a job, my empathy towards them is non-existent. Let’s take Ms. Burke-Charvet as an example. I don’t want to speculate, but I’m sure she got paid a little more than $20/hour for the time she put in as co-host. A lot more, actually. She won’t have to worry about paying the mortgage next month, let’s just put it that way. Plus, she gets fired and all this PR is instantly stirred up letting the world know, “Hey, there’s a pretty woman looking to get back in front of a camera.” If you think she doesn’t already have her pick of new jobs, given how well-publicized her recent availability in schedule was, then you’re crazy.

Now I do feel  for the average Joes out there who get blindsided by a pink slip after putting their blood, sweat, and tears into a thankless job for 5, 10, 20 years. After providing much-needed services — for peanuts compared to celebrities — people in this country routinely get booted because cheaper work is available. Or the job is no longer necessary due to automated processes.  Or the fat cats upstairs want more money in their pocket and to do that they eliminate a position, figuring that someone else can handle twice the workload. Whatever the reason — those people I feel sorry for.They are thrown into a tailspin without any sort of media campaign letting the world know they could use some work. It’s very possible that the fear of not being able to make the car payment or mortgage becomes reality.

But what about that baseball player who got cut from his team because he was juicing himself full of human growth hormone? ESPN will debate about his merits for hours on end, but he (and this is just an anonymous player) just made $13 million last year alone. I’m sorry, but someone who gets paid a ludicrous amount of money to hit a ball with a wooden stick, or introduce dancers onto a stage… I just can’t feel bad for them when they’re kicked to the curb.

Then there are supermodels that pout and complain about how difficult their lives are when they’re forced to put on a bikini and stand in cold water or, vice versa, wear a parka when it’s a balmy 85 degrees on the Santa Monica pier on shooting day.  I mean, that’s horrible! They should call the labor board for such atrocious treatment on the job!

Recently I read an article featuring today’s “It” girl Kate Upton. For unknowable and ludicrous reasons, Sports Illustrated put her ass in a bikini and shoved her into an anti-gravity chamber. First off — what!? Models floating in space in swimwear for a sports magazine? None of those things go to together. Secondly, in the article she was talking about how hard it was for her to do the shoot. Really!? It was hard to float? It was hard to look at a camera and smile? Was it hard to do all that rigorous, back-breaking work with the six figures they paid you?

A couple of things right off the top that I think may just be harder than putting on makeup and getting my picture taken: pouring hot tar in the middle of the summer for a highway construction project 50 hours a week; breaking up knife fights in juvenile detention centers; going around house to house at 6am every morning  emptying the festering trash out of garbage cans into the back of a truck; storming into a building that is on fire to save people; taking a call to the scene of a crime with no idea  what you will be facing. These are just a few examples of jobs that might, just might, be a little more difficult than Kate Upton’s daily regimen. And something tells me those workers aren’t getting even a fraction of what she’s making.

This goes for celebrities too whenever they complain about the trials and tribulations of their job when they’re being paid millions of dollars to do what they do (i.e. memorize lines and say them). Are you kidding me!? They not only complain about how hard it is to do their job, which is ridiculous enough, but then they also denigrate the movies or the movie franchises that made them household names. Or they sign up for and complete a movie only to complain about the end result (namely a bad movie) as if it had nothing whatsoever to do with them. I wonder if, in those cases, they return the money they were paid? Since they obviously are sooo sorry they were ever associated with the film. Somehow I doubt that.

Now don’t get me wrong, I absolutely love movies and there are certain actors and directors that I have a lot of respect for — but it’s usually for their philanthropic activities and the fact that they are always “classy” and dignified when it comes to interviews, comments, or criticizing others (as in, they don’t). It’s the whiny, bitchy celebrities that get on my last nerve. I have no sympathy for them…at all. Seriously, we should all have such things to complain about.

I feel for firefighters who have to risk their lives or police who could get shot at any moment — all for paltry sums. My heart goes out to the single parents who work two minimum wage jobs just to keep food on the table.  Those people—they can complain, deservedly so—I get it.  Celebrities not so much.

My Mother, the truly amazing yet possibly deceptive chef

My Mom is an amazing cook.  She always has been.  Back in the day, she cooked West Virginia style which meant lots of heavenly home-made gravy, melt-in-your-mouth scratch biscuits and some of the best fried chicken you’d ever stick a fork into.  Although seriously, who uses a fork with fried chicken?  Dinner was always an occasion in my house growing up although I didn’t appreciate it nearly as much then as I do now. Like my Grandmother before her, my Mom’s cooking is southern perfection.

Sadly, times change.  Several years ago my Mom started cooking a bit healthier, but she still retained her original Top Chef skills. I do feel sorry sometimes for my Dad though – he sure does like his food…it’s a true, deep down enjoyment with him. A soulful experience if you will. And now he’s relegated to healthy lifestyle inspiring menu items, which we all know what that means.  Luckily he has my Mom to put her touch on what could otherwise be some pretty boring and unappetizing dishes.

Pretty much everything that came out of my mother’s kitchen was “from scratch.”  It’s only in very recent years that she has stooped to using things like instant rice or canned “cream” soups as a base…but that’s about as far as she’s willing to go with these newfangled food ideas. She tried to pass down her cooking techniques to me and did in fact teach me some nifty little tricks in the kitchen. I can create succulent dishes with the best of them, thanks to her.  BUT…and maybe it’s nostalgia or maybe it’s idolatry … BUT I swear no matter how hard I try I can never get anything I cook to taste as good as my Mom makes it.

It’s not for lack of trying. In fact, I might be trying too hard! I follow her instructions obsessively, but no matter how disciplined I am I can never get the fried chicken or potato soup to reach that “Mom” level of yumminess. I’ve begun to think that it’s my strict adherence to the rules that has kept me from achieving those upper echelons of cooking mastery.

My Mom gives me these recipes that I follow to a T but I know for a fact that even she doesn’t follow them that closely. She’s flat out told me so. She treats her recipes more as a useful list of suggestions rather than a set of requirements to check off. The end result is that every time she cooks something it’s a tiny bit different from the last time. Perhaps there’s a bit more pepper or a bit less salt or tarragon instead of thyme (because she was out of thyme and another seasoning that starts with the letter “T” is probably just as good). Is this the reason her concoctions always taste so good? Are the small changes she introduces with each new iteration of a recipe what keep my taste buds titillated?

That all sounds reasonable, but I’ll confess to thinking a bit irrationally at times and have begun to seriously wonder if she leaves out an ingredient on purpose. Is she intentionally switching up the baking time because she knows three minutes more or less is going to alter the taste just the little bit that she needs? You may be thinking, “Well, maybe you’re just a mediocre chef.” Ridiculous. I’ve literally stood next to my mother and watched her every move when she’s cooking and I still can’t duplicate what I watched her make with my own eyes.

There’s some sort of deception involved here and I’m going to figure it out. Until then, I’m going to need my mother to live as long as it takes for me to be as good of a cook as her. She simply cannot die. Period. Not just because I’d lose my best friend in the world, but because I really need her fried chicken.


My Parents

My Parents

Political Dinners – Not for the Weak

Aaaah, a wonderful family dinner is at hand. Everyone is there, gathered around the table, raising their glasses, and basking in the warmth that can come from mothers, fathers, aunts, uncles, cousins, and grandparents coming together to break bread. These are special occasions where wine flows and hot food is kindly passed between generations. It’s a wonderful—wait, what did Uncle Bob just say about abortion—oh well, I’ll let it pass. Huh? Did Undergrad Nephew Drew just say what I think he did about gun control? Nevermind. Focus on the family. Focus on these rare moments when everyone I love is in—oh hell no Grandma did not just say that about Michelle Obama. I have to say something.

Does this situation sound familiar to you? It’s absolutely mind-boggling how politics can turn blushing brides and adoring grooms into Roman gladiators. Political stances have a way of worming their way into relationships and corroding them like no other. One simple statement that falls on the ears of someone who doesn’t agree and that person you look to for unconditional love in times of war and peace turns into an arch-enemy.

Worse yet is when some of these same loved ones try to bait you into arguing. They intentionally dangle that carrot in front of you, knowing exactly what buttons to push to make your internal pressure gauge slip into the red.

when politics collide

What is this affliction? I almost think it should be included in the DSM. Political Insanity Disorder or Righteous Stance Disease. Politics can turn people into Neanderthals. Or better yet, Neanderthal bulls crashing through the china shop of love. All to defend their perspectives and rarely understanding that it’s okay if not everyone agrees with them.

The most terrible part is that all this chest puffing and soap boxing is to stand up for someone they don’t even know! It’s as if their governor is closer to them than the person they supposedly love. The sad truth is that politicians…they don’t give a shit. Come on, I mean the only thing politicians care about is that you put their name on the ballot when you step into the booth. The rest of the time, they couldn’t care less about us, our situation, our family, or our well-being. For 99% of the time, we pretty much don’t exist to them…except to be used as pawns in their grappling contests for political power.

Politicians care about one person and one person only. I’ll give you three guesses as to who that might be. They certainly wouldn’t defend you to their family with the same vehemence, so why should you? Sadly, many people are willing to damage their relationships or at the least cause some seriously hard feelings with people they love…all because of the need to defend a person or group who really don’t give a damn.

So next time the steam starts to shoot out of your ears or you perhaps feel the need to instigate a politically driven frenzy within someone close to you, just try to remember that the person in front of you, the one you love, is the person who holds a special place in your life…they are the one who deserves your loyalty and care. Not some politician who doesn’t even know you exist and wouldn’t care even if they did.

I Have Political Views

artwork by Haley Wolfe — click on graphic to visit her site

Where can I get a Wife? Seriously.

Like everyone else out there, my life is filled with plenty of stress. I never seem to have the time to work through everything on my plate. With a family and work and my own life all vying for attention I routinely find it difficult not just in getting ahead but staying in place. Sound familiar? Well, lucky me, I’ve finally figured out the key to how I can finally juggle all these challenges. I offer this suggestion up to you as well – take heed as it may be the perfect solution to all of your woes as well.

I need a wife. I really, really need a wife.

Imagine how great it would be to have a wife helping out. Oh my god, wives are the best! Instead of just being one I’m giddy about how much easier my life would be if I had one. In the morning I would be able to wake up and actually enjoy a cup of coffee. Perhaps even while sitting down (the thought alone makes me a little woozy). My current way of drinking coffee is a bit convoluted.  You see, first I wake the kids up and get them ready for school (anyone with kids will know how that endeavor usually works), then I make the bed, take the dog out, start a load of laundry, clean cat litter, drive the kids to school, run errands, and then upon my return home, I finally have coffee as I sit down to start my work day. So the idea of simply waking up, stumbling to the kitchen and having a cup of coffee while sitting and enjoying the nothing that would be the start of my day could very well be Nirvana.

vintage housewife

In the evenings, with Wife streamlining activities, I’d be able to sit down and eat dinner. NOT a dinner I slaved over, mind you, which has cooled on my plate by the time I’m able to sit down. Oh no.  Instead I’d be able to waltz into the dining room right as it’s being plated up, able to savor the aromas, and have that sense of wonderful surprise when I find out what’s been prepared. “Veggie casserole? My favorite! Wife…you’re amazing.”  Of course I’d also have the privilege of turning my nose up at the meal if I happen to not be in the mood for it. “Eggplant parmesan? Meh, not really feeling it today. We had to have this?” I could also nitpick and complain about a missing spice or how the noodles aren’t truly al dente. Oh yes, this would be nice.

Another fantasy of mine that Wife could make a reality is the hot shower. I could take a hot shower.  As in, jump right in when the water’s hot and take a shower. I’m grinning ear to ear like a fool right now just pondering the joy inherent in such an event. There’d be no sorting of the laundry left lying on the bathroom floor. Or picking up stray towels. Or wiping down the sink (I mean, really, does no one else see that!?).  Just a beeline right to a piping hot shower with a towel that someone else had washed and stacked neatly for my use.  I could get used to this!

vintage housewife 2

To end the night I’d be able to collapse directly into bed. I would announce to all and sundry “I’m going to bed,” and simply go to bed. I wouldn’t have to do the nightly inspection of every room to clean up errant cups and re-organize scattered papers. I wouldn’t have to check to make sure the kids have done their homework (homework? what’s homework?). The pets would already be fed and the litter—which seems to always require attention—would be taken care of. I wouldn’t have to stress over what tomorrow’s dinner will be or make a mental grocery list or get anxious about whether or not I’m going to remember the kid’s doctor appointment or try to figure out the best time to drop off the overdue library books or remind myself for the 3rd time to call the insurance company to question that charge in the morning or spend the last minutes of my full day figuring out how to rob Peter to pay Paul to get the bills paid. No.  None of that.  I would just drift off into a dreamless sleep and actually rest, mind unfettered with the myriad of mundane details in running a household.

vintage housewife3

And best of all.  Best. Of. All.  Wife would nurse me back to health when I’m sick. How great would that be?  No doing chores with a head cold and fever. Instead I’d have soup brought to me (without my having to explain where the soup is or how to make it).  Tissues would be placed at my bedside with the old nasty ones being carted off and thrown away.  I could stay in bed wrapped in the covers recovering from whatever illness has taken hold drinking tea that Wife would have made for me (much like with the soup, Wife would already know the location of the tea and what to do with it to turn into a delicious thirst quencher). And it’s not like the chores would just be left, undone, waiting for my return to health.  Wife would have taken care of everything.  I have goose-bumps just thinking of it!

These Wives are pretty nifty inventions.  I’m not sure why I didn’t think of this before.  But I think we all need to jump on the Wife bandwagon and snag one as quickly as we can.


The Riveting Sound of a Shotgun

Just because you’re for one thing, it doesn’t necessarily mean you have to be against its opposite. If you love beaches, that doesn’t automatically say that you hate winter wonderlands. If your favorite food is steak, it’s perfectly okay to still opt for a spring mix salad whenever you want. Same for gun control. Wow, that was an unexpected turn wasn’t it? Yeah, I teased you with thoughts of Tahitian paradises and filet mignon only to sucker you into a political rant on guns.  No, not really.  This isn’t that type of post.

To me, being pro-gun control doesn’t mean you have to be anti-gun altogether. I was raised around guns and I get it. Guns have a purpose.

For example – and I just had this discussion with a variety of family members over a recent holiday dinner and we all agreed – you have to be able to defend yourself and protect your home.  This lively dinner discussion quickly jumped to the scenario of a female being home alone in a rural area and the options available for her to protect herself should a burglar break into the house in the middle of the night.

Knives under the pillow were considered and tossed aside. Besides possibly cutting off a finger as you shifted your pillow while slumbering in dreamland, it’s just not practical.  Unless of course you’re a circus performer and your specialty is knife throwing, or, if for one crazy summer you took lessons from Danny Trejo. (Seriously, how cool would that be!?)

A particularly vindictive member of my family, who shall remain nameless, suggested a cast iron skillet which, if you could get close enough, would certainly do the job…and then some. Another idea brought to the table was keeping a pistol in the nightstand — a very effective choice. But way too serious for this wine inspired conversation of ours.

So the option we finally settled on was the shotgun.  Why, you ask?  Well, because by God that unmistakable sound of a pump shotgun being racked will definitely get the attention of any intruder who has had the misfortune to choose your house.  Definitely an “oh shit” moment from the burglar’s perspective.  And it’s amazing just how far that distinctive chick-chock sound of a shotgun can travel.  Even in the dark, that universal sound of “it’s about to hit the fan” is clear and recognizable. I mean, can you imagine being in the process of sneakily ascending a set of darkened stairs only to hear that noise emanate from the invisible landing above?

Another perk (because one of us was apparently less inebriated than the others, practicality somehow snuck its way into the conversation):  although you do have to be able to aim the gun (obviously), a shotgun loaded with buckshot is just a bit more forgiving on aim than other guns.

The only downside we came up with would be having to wipe up the pee off your floor after he’s gone, but hey, totally worth it.

Grandma Mooney & the Case of the Vinegar Valentines

Valentine’s Day always reminds me of my Grandma Mooney (more specifically, she was my Great-Grandmother). That may seem odd to some people (to think of grandparents around a holiday meant for couples), but there’s a reason behind it.  She was actually quite a colorful character….and then some. And one of her favorite things to do centered round Valentine’s Day.

It’s not really observed much anymore, but back in the day people would give out what were called “vinegar valentines.” They were basically insult cards with a caricature drawing on the front and a small acidic poem on the back that tended to call people out as being either foolish, a spinster, a loser, etc. You get the idea. They were pretty unflattering for the recipient and not exactly the heartwarming valentines we give out now covered in hearts and roses. Grandma Mooney absolutely loved giving these out to so called loved ones and friends.


It was one of her favorite times of year because, while she may have been thinking these evil thoughts all year, now she was able to put those thoughts to paper. And let me tell you, she got serious pleasure out of poring over who would get what card. If memory serves they were sent out anonymously so the person receiving the snail mail insult couldn’t be sure who thought they were an idiot, but rest assured, someone out there in the world did. The ironic part is that Grandma Mooney would get super pissed if she ever got one. She sent them out by the bucketful but getting even one in return was blasphemous.

I wish I could’ve seen her face as she was picking out the cards and sending them out. It’s hard to picture without having seen it up close, but anytime Grandma Mooney was up to trouble, she’d laugh…not out loud…but sort of an internal laugh so that her massive bosom shook like jelly. Watching her go through her stash of valentines with an intensity more often seen in a tax auditor and the inevitable intervals of shaking as she came across just the perfect one for say…Georgie or Carlene…would’ve been a hoot. Although I’m just guessing that these two were among the lucky recipients.  Grandma Mooney always kept her list top secret so no one could rat her out.

In truth, though, I almost wish more that I could’ve seen what she did when she opened up one that she had received. I’d be observing that from a very safe distance of course.  I mean, there’s just no sense in poking an already pissed off bear. Grandma Mooney would’ve made Sherlock Holmes proud though…because after receiving one of these heart to heart communiqués in the mail, she suddenly became a resolute and determined investigator, examining handwriting, postal stamps, and whatever else would give her a clue as to who sent it.  She’d wander around the house muttering names for a week as she narrowed down the list of suspects. And when she finally had that “eureka!” moment and was convinced she knew the perpetrator of this horrible crime, she immediately began planning the coming year’s list, editing it accordingly, and putting that person’s name in the top position. Ahh…it’s the simple joys that mean the most.

When I was young, my mother used to tell me that I was just like my Grandma Mooney. I’d take offense at that if I could only figure out how to argue the rationale. Admittedly, I can see the similarities — though not to the extremes of my enjoying sending anonymous insults. But I do share some of her ornery eccentricities. In some respects, it may seem like an awful comparison — but along with her cantankerous quirks, my grandmother had a heart of gold and took care of her family above all else. So I guess when all is said and done, I’m pretty happy to be compared to her.


Tales of a Tattooed Mom

Have you ever had one of those arguments where the logic the person you’re arguing with doesn’t make any sort of sense? He or she tries to draw conclusions using steps that just aren’t connected at all. Like saying, “Well, of course your car needs a new battery. You were drinking orange juice earlier today and there’s a 25% chance of rain.” Frustrating right??

A while back I had one of these sorts of highly intelligent debates with a family member who just so happens to be an all-around creepy sort of individual (no, really, he is). It was about (yet again) my “bad parenting.” Right off the bat let me say that I understand that everyone has their own style and I let them be.  I would appreciate the same in return. Of course if you’re dropping your baby on the head every time you pick him up, we might have a pow wow on proper cradling techniques. Otherwise, I am a firm believer that you can find your own path and I strongly advocate in staying true to what feels like good parenting to you.  But in this case the frustration and annoyance were exacerbated because the insults…umm…I mean advice…were so off the wall as to be considered mere hateful barbs rather than any attempt at being useful.

This familial idiot (it’s okay to talk about your own family this way, right?) had the following gems of debate that he doled out to me in what I’m sure was a well-meaning rant (he’s helpful like that):

1)      Because I have tattoos I’m a bad parent. Apparently, tattoos mean that you can’t properly raise a child. Apparently, as a tattooed mother, you would be teaching your kids something horribly wrong and inappropriate if said children should ever gaze upon your tattoos.  We’re not talking about showing off “down there” tattoos or something wildly controversial and therefore scarring the children for life…we’re talking fairies on the arms…a Celtic knot on the wrist…that sort of thing.  Apparently tattoos in and of themselves are somehow immoral and thereby teach an immoral lifestyle to the children.

2)      Because I use curse words on my Facebook page I’m a terrible role model to all of those impressionable kids reading my oh-so-exciting status updates and looking to me for idolatry.

Well, I can kind of see his point.  You see, in case you didn’t know it, I’m apparently a role model for the millions of children who are on Facebook.   Ahhh…no.   Seriously, about the Facebook buffoonery, let me tell you, I do not have a legion of pre-teens with malleable minds at my beck and call. I have no clue where this idea came from.  For various reasons my Facebook is locked down pretty tight. The only kids I’m friends with on Facebook are my own children and they tend to start worrying about me when they notice that I’m not using curse words.   “Mom, mom, are you okay today??   You don’t seem yourself.” It’s not like I’m spouting obscenities like a Chris Rock special, but words are words (we’ve covered this in another post so I’ll spare you the discourse).

The tattoo argument… I don’t even know how to start wrapping my head around that one. Parenting isn’t about teaching your child empathy or the difference in right and wrong apparently. It’s all about the ink. It just irritated me that in addition to my real-world language use, my body art now somehow damns me from ever being a good, proper mother.  As if I don’t have enough issues to deal with on my slip and slide path to Hell. Oh wait, didn’t I mention I’m going to Hell!? Supposedly they have a “special place” for me, but I’m not so sure about that. I’ve never once managed to get behind the velvet rope in my life.

I shouldn’t have been surprised at his rant really, all things considered. This family member and I — Well, we tend to not see eye to eye on a lot of things. Which I’m sure stems from the fact that I’ve never been one to adhere to the old “in the kitchen, barefoot and pregnant” way of life.  And worse yet, I’m raising my daughter to have a voice of her own. I know. I’m awful.

All this from a guy in the latter years of middle-age who believes that Toddlers and Tiaras is an appropriate parenting resource and guide for young girls. Oh, and while cursing by me is wrong, borderline inappropriate flirting with teen girls by a middle-aged male authority figure such as himself is perfectly fine. Told you. He’s creepy. And why is it always the creepy ones who have no qualms about sharing their “morality” viewpoints anyway?

I guess when I look at all that we don’t have in common I should take his criticism as a good thing. If it’s something he doesn’t agree with, well then it’s probably a pretty good sign I’m doing something right.