Thursday, June 30, 2011

The 12 Steps of Vampirism

Hello, my name is Ashley and I’m a vampire.

Don’t freak out.  There’s no need to run to the store and buy up all of the garlic and there’s no need (although some would argue otherwise) to call for the good folks in the white coats.  I’m also not Goth Girl, either...although I did give my parents a bit of scare for a short time in high school (it’s really hard to snap your fingers and tap your toes to that Goth music...yowsa).

I also don’t do so well with blood.  I’ve always maintained that, if I could at least stand the sight of the stuff, I would be a doctor and would therefore be retired on a beach right now sipping pina coladas. 

So, by now you’re thinking, “’re not really hitting on the vampire criteria here.  Why in the world would you say that you’re a vampire?”

The sun.  The sun hates me.

As my dear brother so eloquently puts it, I have “the complexion of a Nordic albino.”  I could get a sunburn in the middle of the darkest night on Antarctica.  As I write this entry, I am in a building with a reasonably insulated ceiling on a cloudy day and I am probably getting a little too pink.

I attended a celebrity tennis tournament in Hilton Head, South Carolina one year and I shellacked myself in the highest SPF sunscreen they sold at the time and donned what I can only describe as the American version of a burka (I got it from a catalog).  I got a sunburn.  I also got a sunburn on my left arm and the left side of my face when I drove to Fayetteville a couple of months ago with the car windows rolled up.  It’s absurd.

I try every new sunscreen on the market.  It makes no difference.  I could slap on SPF 500 waterproof,  sweat proof, tear proof, laser deflecting, stealth, bulletproof sunscreen and I promise you that I would still be a crispy critter if left exposed for more than half an hour.  At thirty-one minutes, you will begin to hear a sizzling noise akin to bacon in a frying pan. 

I must admit that I’ve gotten a tad weary of being labeled “the pasty white one” among my friends and family.  “Ashley’s so pale she could glow in the dark!”  Hmpf.  When I was young, my argument was that I actually had to work during the summer and it was hard to catch a tan from the fluorescent lights inside a law firm.  After that excuse got old, I comforted myself with the fact that I would be pristine and wrinkleless when the sun worshippers turn into brown leathered raisins.  Plus, I think that we can all admit without the Charlie and the Chocolate Factory reference that spray-on tans are a total joke.

I’m sure that dermatologists across the country are going swoon at this admission, but I am working on getting a bit of a tan this summer.  As you know, I’ve committed to going to the damn beach dammit at least once a weekend, so I have to find some sort of middle ground.  Thus far, “middle ground” has been near continuous reapplication of sunscreen, a shady tent and a prayer.

The sun doesn’t just hate my skin, it hates my eyes.  I have very light sensitive eyes.  I can’t sit anywhere facing a window.  My office blinds are shut and my co-workers have dubbed it the Bat Cave because it is so dark inside.  I tell them that they bump around into the furniture when they come into my office for a few minutes, but I have to bump into furniture and everything else when I go out into the light.    It’s very Nosferatu...I often feel like that character when I step out into the morning light.

Just in case you’re wondering, my light sensitive eyes are actually a medically documented fact.  I can get blinded for periods of time as the result of having nothing more than a flashlight shone on my face.  I also get insane migraines as the result of more light than my eyes can take.  I have many, many, many pairs of fabulous sunglasses and they are on at all times—I’m even considering respectfully requesting a special judicial dispensation so that I can have them on in court and look like “the cool lawyer.” 

Ashley + Sunlight = Catastrophe’m a vampire.  Let’s 12-Step this bad boy:

  1.  I admit that I am powerless over the sun and that I feel like a rotisserie chicken...

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Let's Go A-Tackying

I’m sure I’ve said this before, but it certainly bears repeating:  It doesn’t matter if your family name is blazed across some enormous building at an institution of higher learning or if it is blazed across a WANTED poster in the post office:  Every family has to get a little tacky at one point or another in their lives.  Yep, stop giving a crap, let your hair down and have fun.

My poor husband. (I know for certain I’ve said that before.)  After 18 years, he knows me pretty darn well, but he still gets shocked at the things that occasionally come out of my mouth.  For example, my darling dear was quite nonplussed a couple of years ago when I told him that one of my dream vacations has always been to go cross-country in a travel trailer...well, I might as well have told him that I was pregnant with quadruplets.

Granted, Scott had a right to be shocked.  I’ve told you myself that I am a gal who likes my creature comforts.  Up to that point, Scott knew very well that I wasn’t receptive to vacation plans that didn’t include the words “spa,” “room service,” “first class,” or “Ritz.”  Still, a trailer with running water, power, durable walls and furniture isn’t exactly roughing it and I think the Baby Belles would love it.

Actually, Scott was so shocked at my declaration, that I kind of let the second part of my plan drop.  Yes, I want to load the family up in the trailer and proceed across the country whilst stopping at some of America’s tackiest and weirdest tourist traps.  There are so many options that it’s impossible to hit them all, but here’s a little snippet of what I picture: 

It’s only right that we pay homage to home-grown North Carolina tackiness before we proceed out of state.  Of course, our first stop isn’t without a little bit of controversy.  Rose Hill, North Carolina claims to have the largest frying pan in the world.  The problem is that Brandon, Iowa also claims to have the world’s largest frying pan.  Hmm...but can Brandon, Iowa claim that Godforsaken smell that wafts from the a poultry plant while you take in the sight of the massive piece of kitchen ware?  When I was on tennis team in high school, our bus had to travel through Rose Hill in order to get to several of our away games and I swear to you that every trip nearly converted me to the vegetarian lifestyle.  Naming the town “Rose” Hill is ironic to say the very least.

I am sorry to report that we will have to drive right on by South of the Border as we make our tacky way.  I know what you’re thinking, “How in the world can you claim that you want to go to the tackiest places in America and not see Pedro?”  Well, I agree that bypassing SOB might be troubling to the purist, but have you seen the place lately?  It looks like you could get tetanus from nothing more than taking the exit off of I-95.  We haven’t had our shots. 

I must admit that I’m not too surprised to learn that Texas has cornered the market on tacky tourist traps.  Everything is bigger in Texas, you know.  There are so many mindboggling things to choose from, but I don’t think you can go a-tackying through the Lone Star State and bypass Cadillac Ranch.  Cadillac Ranch is out in the middle of the vast Texas nowhere and it consists of lots of Caddy’s buried vertically and hood-first in the dirt.  The cars are painted very colorfully in a style reminiscent of the Breaking 2: Electric Boogaloo Genre.  (Don’t act like you don’t know what I’m talking about.)

After that, you simply must see the the Barbed Wire Museum in Devil’s Rope.  Gee, between the name of the town and the museum, it just sounds so cheerful I could die.  On a genuinely interesting note, the museum was built for and located on the old Route 66 and was there for the glory days.  Apparently, the museum features its own holdings and the items of private collectors.  I’ll just let the fact that there are people in this world who collect barbed wire sink in for a moment.  La di la da back?  Okay.  They also claim to have a rousing “Dust Bowl Exhibit.”  There’s not enough Prozac in the world.

So, you’re probably bored to death at this point, allow me to recommend the National Museum of Funeral History in Houston where their motto is “Every day above the ground is a good one.”  Their exhibits include:  The Papal Exhibition, Day of the Dead, 1900’s Casket Facts, Civil War Embalming, 1921 Rock Falls Hearse and Fantasy Coffins.  Yes, Fantasy Coffins “designed to capture the essence of you.”  You may select from an airplane, a Mercedes Benz, a fish, a canoe, a leopard, a chicken (I would haunt the shit out of whoever put me in a chicken for all eternity), a bull, a crab, an eagle, a lobster, a shallot (yes, an onion) or a Yamaha outdoor motor.  I have all ideas that they can be challenged to come up with something original and exciting for visitors...I plan to ask about Diet Sun Drop bottles.

You’re probably more than ready to get out of the Lone Star State by this point, so go on up to Nebraska and take a gander at the Cornhusker State’s answer to Cadillac Ranch:  Carhenge.  Yep, in an homage to Stonehenge and Caddy Ranch, junk cars are painted gray and stacked out on a field in an exact copy of the Druids’ original work.  What more can you say?  Well, nothing. 

Since you’re out that way, you might as well swing on up to the Corn Palace in Mitchell, South Dakota.  As I am sure you have been able to brilliantly deduce by this point, the Corn Palace is an enormous structure (with turrets and such so as to look castle-ish) made entirely of...corn.  My husband and my father have already seen this particular wonder of the world since Mitchell is one of the towns they drive through to get to their hunting ranch each year.  On a personal note, I need to be positively vigilant with Baby Belle 2 when it comes to this particular destination:  The kid loves to eat corn—she still tries to gnaw on those dried colored corn displays folks do up for Thanksgiving. 

After that?  Well, I’m gutted to inform you that the Liberace Museum in Las Vegas closed.  Thankfully, I was one of the fortunate souls able to visit the museum before its untimely demise and it was breathtaking.  The gold lame and the rhinestones shone so bright that I nearly had to put on my sunglasses just to look at several of the exhibit items.  Just to clarify:  I am more or less ignorant of Liberace’s music and I don’t really have the desire to educate myself on the subject, but, good Lord have mercy, that man had flare.  They had all of his bedazzled cars, clothes and jewelry and pianos...I simply don’t have words sufficient to convey the splendor.

In spite of the loss of Liberace, I feel fairly confident that we can find something in Vegas tacky enough to serve as a substitute.

Where to end?  Well the Mecca of tacky, of course:  Hollywood!

Heaven knows, this certainly isn’t a definitive list.  There’s more than enough tacky to go around.  One day, I’m gonna do it.  Look out for the Southern Belle in the Winnebago!

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

The Sensitive Flower Method v. The Kamikaze Approach

It shouldn’t come as any great surprise when I tell you that I love the water.  I grew up at the beach, after all.

Yep, oceans and pools and I’m your gal.  I don’t go freshwater:  Too much slime, too many creepy crawlies and not enough visibility to see it all coming at you. 

It never occurred to me that I would have a child who was scared of the water.  Of course, after I had been lulled into complacency with my first child’s aquatic trepidation, it never occurred to me that I would then have a child who did not know the meaning of fear.

I’m too damned polite to name names, but I strongly believe that a certain “fight or flight” swim course taught at a local institution of higher learning was the impetus for Baby Belle 1’s problem with the water.  The course is touted as a “tough love” approach, but I’ll be John Brown if I can figure out where the “love” portion of the program is. 

Parents aren’t allowed anywhere near the pool, but they are allowed to observe from cordoned off bleachers on the second floor.  About 30 seconds into the lessons, the reason that parents are kept away because readily apparent:  Mamas, Daddies, Grandparents and anyone else would be jumping in to the pool left and right in order to save their precious angels. 

Small children were attached to sorry excuses for flotation devices and were summarily thrown kicking, screaming and sobbing into a pool where allegedly qualified college students watched with no emotion as the poor babies flailed desperately.  Kids were clinging to the sides and to their heartless instructors and screamed in horror as they were shucked off like barnacles and abandoned.

At the time of the course, I was extremely pregnant with Baby Belle 2 and I vividly recall trying to make mental corrections for the shift in my center of gravity so that I could dive from the second story and make the pool instead of the tile.  Scott called me at one point to see how it was going and he couldn’t understand a word I said because I was crying and hyperventilating so hard.

Baby Belle 1 was completely (understandably) miserable and begged me weakly not to make her go back.  Good God how I wanted to give in, but I was scared of setting a very significant precedent in addition to the fact that all of the parents and coaches I spoke with swore by the program.  If the girl was going to grow up in Wilmington, she had to achieve some level of comfort with the water.  I gritted my teeth and made certain to dry my inevitable tears as I waddled downstairs to pick her up from her torturous lessons.

I probably shouldn’t be as proud of this as I am, but—when Baby Belle 1 realized that she was stuck in classes to the bitter end—she adapted the situation to her rather than adapting the herself to the situation.  The kid took so many potty breaks that I know they had to wonder if the girl was drinking half the pool and they were real seventh inning stretches, too.  Plus, at the end of each lesson, the instructors would take the kids over to the diving pool to throw the poor little souls off of the diving boards into the water.  Every time the lifeguard grabbed Baby Belle 1, she would position herself just so that if he threw her, his trunks would go down, too.  They let her down every time and they eventually stopped trying to get her at all. 

What was the result of this magnificent and revolutionary program?  Baby Belle 1 is 7 years old and it wasn’t until this year that we were able to get her to go in the water without her pink life vest approved “for ages 3 and under.”  It was getting to be a pure tee chore to get her into the thing and it was so tight that I don’t know how she could bear it, but she had to have it on...even in shallow water.

This is also the first year (we’re in a very groundbreaking era) that we have been able to get Baby Belle 1 to put her head under water.  The negotiations to spur the action were of levels approaching the Versailles Treaty and the Geneva we had to buy purple goggles.

So—here we were with this kid who refused to leave our side in the water (even when we wanted her to) and then along comes Baby Belle 2, or as I like to call her:  “Kamikaze” Council.

The kid sees water and makes a beeline for it.  Whether or not you are ready isn’t her problem.  I can’t tell you the number of times I have looked the little buzzard in the eye and said, “Wait for mama to put her stuff down.  The water is over your head,” and she slipped off the side and right into the pool just as defiantly as you please.

A couple of weeks ago, we went to the pool one evening.  It was a light crowd, so the lifeguards were able to goof off a little.  Two of them took running jumps off of the diving board and that was evidently the first time that Baby Belle 2 had ever seen the board in use.  She looked like it was Christmas morn:  She broke free of me, scurried up the stairs and looked at me as though I was the biggest dunce in the world for staying put.  She pointed at the diving board and said, “I’m going!”  It was all I could do to catch her before she performed her triple lindy.

The water wings from last summer were a mess and I’d been trying to manage without them, but after the diving board incident, I realized that the safety devices weren’t optional.  I went to Target and got the last pair in Wilmington.  When we went to the pool yesterday, I took them out and Baby Belle 2 looked at me like I’d lost my mind and said in disgust, “I don’ wan’ dose.  Dey’re too safe!”

We’re screwed.

Monday, June 27, 2011

Grizzly Belles

            Scarlett O’Hara wasn’t a total princess.  She stood in the barren fields of Tara with her sad little radish and declared before God that she would never be hungry again.  Before the Civil War, Scarlett didn’t look like she could be bothered to lift so much as a piece of paper which made her fighting and clawing to stay alive all the more impressive in the end. 

Such is the essence of a Diamond Magnolia:  We is gorgeous, but we kick ass.

            Most of the time.

            I can tough it out with the best of them when the situation calls for it (I’ve quit counting how many hurricanes and resulting power outages I’ve lived through), but I’m not afraid to tell you that I like my creature comforts very much...very much indeed.

            As I moved toward the end of my elementary school education, I attended summer camp in the mountains of North Carolina for three years.  It wasn’t exactly the lap of luxury.  The cabins had screen windows and one had to take an outdoor excursion to the latrines and the showers.  Even those meager comforts were denied us when we were required to camp out for one night during every two week camp experience. 

Camp time was hard core:  We didn’t even get tents.  During one of those torturous evenings, I couldn’t sleep for all of the damned wildlife noises, so I dragged my sleeping bag close to the gurgling stream.  The stream helped me sleep until I rolled over into it.  Those scenic little mountain streams don’t ever warm up all that much. 

I have participated in a smattering of camping trips since that time.  On one trip—much to the irritation of my “roughing it” companions—I took a battery powered television because I was damned if I was going to miss Carolina play Duke in March Madness.  As a matter of fact, I remain unrepentant about that particular decision to this very day.

 I’ve nearly sweated into a puddle and I’ve practically frozen my tushie off.  I’ve gotten powerful hungry when the only thing to eat was hot dogs roasted over the fire and I hate cylindrical, over-processed meats.  (A girl cannot live on s’mores alone...although I’ve tried.)

Then came the nail in the coffin:  Grizzly Bears.

I’m a gal who prefers the History Channel, the Discovery Channel and the National Geographic Channel to WE and Hallmark and all of that.  Of course, my preferences are not without their drawbacks:  Thanks to Deadliest Catch, I can’t decide if I should eat crab legs in support of those dudes working their fingers to the bone to catch the little buggers or if I should avoid them in protest of the rough conditions of the workers.  I also learned entirely too much about bears.  Bears are really mean.

Of course, bears have every right to be mean.  We’re the folks that are encroaching on their territory.  We can’t go all up in our nation’s amazing national parks with our Twinkies and Doritos and expect a bear to find a trout that it would actually have to work to catch more enticing.  Of course, the aforementioned statement is one of my many reasons for not camping.  We don’t want to make things harder on the bears.  Uh-huh.

It’s those damned documentaries they broadcast about bear attacks:  World’s Deadliest Bear Attacks, World’s Goriest Bear Attacks, Grizzly Terror!  They contain interviews of folks with no arms, no legs, missing everything below the belly button or the sobbing family of the dearly departed that describe bite-by-bite and claw-by-claw how they were scattered, smothered, covered and chunked as they quietly minded their own business in their tent one night.  

The reenactments they do during those documentaries are really swell, too.  They start off showing an unsuspecting little camper walking through the woods and then the narrator (who always sounds like the guy they use for the movie previews) says, “It appeared to be a perfect day in the woods of Montana and camper John Higgins was determined to make the best out of it.  [cue the dramatic music]  HE HAD NO IDEA OF THE HORROR THAT AWAITED DOWN THIS PRISTINE NATURE PATH.”

Cut to the actor whistling a jaunty tune and loping along with his walking stick until he sees...a bear cub!  Oh crap!  Even the most dedicated city dweller can tell you that getting between a bear cub and a mama bear is not a good life insurance policy.

Cut to dizzying flashes of fur and claws and fangs with the occasional human appendage smattered with blood.  The director might even get really artsy and add a shot of blood splashing across a tree trunk.

Of course, you must remember that we are talking about National Geographic, after all.  They have to keep their cred lest they become nothing more than a When Animals Attack Volume XVII on TruTV.  Accordingly, they throw in some half-hearted afterthought about bear safety precautions and tips on what to do during a bear attack, but we all know that if one gets unlucky enough to find themselves in such a situation, they are screwed, glued and tattooed.  Sayonara little camper.

            “They” tell you that running from a bear is not an option and “they” are not kidding.  One ran across the road in front of me and Scott when we were up near the Pamlico Sound and it was so quick that I barely registered what it was.

            So, thank you, National Geographic.  Thank you for traumatizing me about bears to the point that I simply don’t believe that I will ever be able to camp again.  (No—really—thank you.)

Friday, June 24, 2011

The Thou Shalt Nots

Maybe it’s the heat.  Maybe we are getting perilously close to critical mass in the dumbass population.  I can’t say as I’m certain about the cause, but there has been a serious uptick in the inappropriate treatment of our fine Southern Belles these days.

I’ve written about it before, but I obviously didn’t get through, so let’s try it again, shall we?

Never, everevereverevereverevereverever underestimate a Southern Belle.  Such idiocy could very well be the last thing you ever do.

Thou shalt not tell a Southern Belle that she can’t do something:  Disallowing a Belle’s chosen course of action will likely blow up to the extent that you will find yourself on the list of those in need of a face transplant if you dare try.  As a matter of fact, you could prohibit a Belle from doing something that she had no intention whatsoever of doing in the first place, but—by your very attempt to exercise some sort of authority over her person—she will make it her mission in life to defy you if it kills her.  The following are true examples with names withheld to protect the guilty:

1.      As the poor, misguided boy walked along the pier with his girlfriend, he had the nerve to caution his swimming champion, scuba certified and lifeguard trained beloved not to walk too close to the railings so that she wouldn’t “do something stupid and fall in.” 

Up to that point in time, “falling in” or otherwise exiting the pier in an unapproved manner hadn’t even occurred to our fair Belle, but the inane admonishment turned on an angry little light bulb in her head.  Who in the hell did he think he was?  Accordingly, she snatched his keys off of his belt and horse vaulted over the side of the pier.  She waived happily from the water at her flabbergasted beau and she met him on the beach with his keys.

2.      In another instance, a young lady in her junior year of college attended a very large family function one Christmas many, many, many moons ago.  Our Belle harbored the desire to be an attorney since she was a little girl.  The aforementioned factoid came out at one point during the party and one of the more senior party guests decided to levy her unwanted opinion.

Now, let me first caveat that our elders are to be treated with courtesy, even when they don’t know what in the hell they’re talking about.  So, when one of those elders heard of our Belle’s goal, she said, “You’re not going to law school.  You don’t have any business there.”  The Belle smiled very politely and held her tongue.

Mind you, our Belle was resolute in her determination to go to law school anyway, but the old crone’s declaration served as a bit of a power boost.  As a matter of fact, the Belle only sent out one law school graduation announcement when the time came and I’ll let you guess where she sent it...

Thou shalt not ignore a Southern Belle:  Seriously, why don’t you turn your back on a cobra, dumbass?  We don’t speak just to hear our own dulcet voices, for God’s sake.  We’re often trying to impart information for your own well being, such as “If you drop all of your crap on my freshly cleaned counter top it will be your last act on God’s green earth,” or, “I have yet to see a note from any physician verifying that you are color blind, so the white clothes go in the white laundry basket and the colored clothes go in the colored laundry basket.”

There have been cases of folks being left behind in grocery stores, gas stations, restaurants and parties simply because they failed to put on their listening caps. 

Many times we’re trying to be helpful:  We know we only like the best and that makes us hard to buy for, so we’ve been known to drop little hints containing birthday, anniversary and Christmas ideas here and there.  As a matter of fact gents, let me toss you a freebie:  If you walk into a room and there is a catalog such as Ross Simons or Neiman lying open, pay attention.  Also, if your toddler not only recognizes the Cartier logo, but knows how to pronounce it—well, there’s a chance the little tyke has been coached.

Thou shalt not contradict a Southern Belle:  I’m not going to sit here and tell you that Southern Belles are always right, but we are right an above average amount of the time.  We are gracious when we are wrong, but we are tenacious when we are right.  We have been known to search for hours on the Internet in order to wake you up at 3:00 AM in order to waive proof of our correctness under your sleepy nose.

One little survival tip with regard to this particular Thou Shalt Not:  Regardless of whether or not we are right or wrong, it does not behoove you to correct your Southern Belle in front of other Southern Belles.  Do you watch the National Geographic Channel?  Have you ever seen the prey circled by the predators as they close in?  Picture yourself as the prey.    

I suppose the argument could be made that those who refuse to remember these very simple rules are setting themselves up to be culled in some Darwinian capacity รก la Survival of the Fittest.  As a Democrat and as a criminal defense attorney, I prefer to believe that most (even I can’t commit to “all”) folks are redeemable if given enough direction.  Either way, I’ve done the best I can to educate the uninformed.   

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

My Broke Ass

As the criminal defendant’s mother said to her criminal defendant son, “Boy, you’d better get up off your broke ass and start acting like you got sense!”

Amen.  Truer words were never spoken.

As you might suspect—thanks to my profession—I hear numerous references to some sort of “broke ass” in one way or another on a daily basis.  Of course, when I hear the aforementioned reference, it hits me rather personally.  You see, I quite literally have a “broke ass.”

The famed grace of the Southern Belle doth continue to elude me.  Sigh...

Once upon a time—about ten years ago—fun loving Aunt Ashley was trying to entice her niece/goddaughter into going down a wavy slide at the park.  It was a long slide and the waves were up and down rather than zig zag/side to side. 

A couple of other children went down the side while we watched and they not only lived to tell the tale, but they laughed and squealed on their way down as though they were having actual fun.  Unfortunately, my niece wasn’t going to be satisfied until I’d personally checked the survival rate of the equipment.  “No big deal,” I thought to myself, “I can get up there without a problem and it really doesn’t look all that bad.”

Accordingly, I kissed Sweet Pea on the cheek and climbed onto playground equipment that is much more complicated in this day and age than what you and I have ever had to deal with.  Nonetheless, I made it to the top, waived to my excited little Monkey Pie on the ground and slid down into the abyss. 

As has been pointed out to me so many times that it is really frigging annoying, I am not an engineer.  Accordingly, in my race to appease my sweet little Pudding Pop, I’d failed to take a couple of important factors into consideration:

1.      The little shits that went down the slide before us were wearing jeans which are a thicker and rougher material than the knit pants I had on.  Thicker and rougher means more resistance and results in a slower, safer ride;  and

2.      The little bastards were, in fact, little.  Gravity didn’t pull at their tiny little bodies quite as badly as it did at mine.

So, I went on down the slide and, the faster I went (and I was really gaining speed), the more air I caught each time I slid over a bump.  By the time I got to the last bump, I flew up in the air high and fast and my butt hit the bottom of the slide with a powerful whack.

The pain was immediate and indescribably intense.  I also had the extra obstacle of hiding the searing pain from my three year-old niece.  It hurt like a sonofabitch to keep sitting there at the bottom of the slide, so I creakily stood up and that hurt like a sonofabitch, too.  I tried as calmly as I could to suggest that my niece and I walk on home and she agreed quickly since my slide performance still appeared to be a touch too harrowing in spite of my bravado.

I waddled pitifully back to her mama and daddy’s house where my Cupcake loudly told all present that the slide “broke my Aunt Ashley.”

We were visiting in Raleigh and I had a long ride home to Wilmington in my all too immediate future.  Seat belt laws be damned, I rode home with my knees on the passenger side floorboard with my head resting in my arms on the passenger seat and my fun was only just getting started.

Being as categorically graceless as I am, it proved very fortuitous over the years to live right behind my orthopedic surgeon.  Of course, such familiarity doesn’t necessarily prove helpful when your doctor can barely stop laughing long enough to tell you that you have a broken coccyx and that you have to sit on an inflatable donut for four to six weeks.  There’s nothing else to be done—although I strongly feel that they should allow removal of the stupid bone since we have evolved past the need for tails.

So, there I was with my broke ass.  I screamed every time the car went over railroad tracks.  Of course, I could barely get in and out of the car as it was.  I’ll spare you the narration on the potty trips.

And then I had to take my broke ass to work...

It was plenty bad when I had to sit on my donut in the privacy of my office and stifle my whimpers caused by the pain of standing up and sitting down, but having to go to the courthouse was just a whole new level of hell.  I got to hobble around, carrying my donut for all to see and let me assure you that folks at the courthouse aren’t the kind of folks that let you live things down.  As an additional humiliation, an attorney is required to stand up every time he or she addresses the Court—an objection that normally would have taken thirty seconds took about five minutes with the majority of that being up and down “travel time.” Dignity, where art thou?

Well, things in the posterior area finally started to improve and I eventually got to the point where I could drive over speed bumps without crying.  Of course, things would get sore “Down Yonder” on cold and rainy days or after long car or plane trips, but it was manageable.  No, it wasn’t until this past Easter that I seriously angered my buns.

Me, Scott and the Baby Belles stayed with my parents and my brother at a house on Bald Head Island for the holiday.  The house was one of those typical inverted styles that folks like to do these days with the living area and the master bedroom on top for the better views.  The other bedrooms were located downstairs.  The entire house was floored with lovely wood that might possibly have been pine, but the only thing I can tell you for certain is that it was slick as pig shit.

I wear rubber soled flip-flops even when I’m at my own house because I am a spazz and tripping or slipping is always a possibility on the table.  Because of the kids, we had the master bedroom upstairs.  As the result of our little possums insisting on sleeping with Mama, Scott decided for a quieter, more peaceful rest in one of the bedrooms downstairs. 

Naturally, Baby Belle 2 woke up in the middle of the night deciding that she wanted her father instead of her mother.  I was barely functional, so I picked her up and forgot to put my shoes on.  At the very first step, my feet slipped right out from under me and I landed on my butt.  My priority was making sure Baby Belle 2 didn’t hit anything and I did just that as I proceeded to bump down seventeen stairs on my behind.

Thank the good sweet Lord and all that is holy that Baby Belle 2 was unharmed--although deeply pissed off, but things haven’t been right since on the back 40. 

My tailbone might or might not be broken, but I refuse to fork out a co-pay only to be told there’s nothing anyone can do.  I suppose I can go to the Toys R’ Us and buy one of those little toddler pool rings...maybe even a Spongebob Squarepants or Disney Princesses or something nifty like that.

O Dignity, thou art lost forevermore...

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

My Baby Belles' Daddy

***I realize that this blog entry is a bit late, but I was busy making Father's Day as perfect as possible for my beloved.  I opened pressurized biscuit cans.  Did I mention that?  Yes, I opened pressurized biscuit cans.  My bravery knows no bounds.   

It’s a sad, sad thing, but having a father in this day and age is more of a luxury than a certainty.  Yes, of course it takes two to tango, but many fathers act like nothing more than drive-by sperm donors and some fathers don’t even deserve that much credit.

My Baby Belles are lucky beyond the telling of it.  They are blessed to be able to open their sweet little eyes in the morning to see their daddy and hear his voice and they are so fortunate to be able snuggle in bed at night and tell their father about their day.  He relishes reading The Hungry Caterpillar to Baby Belle 2 and hearing about Baby Belle 1’s high jump rope score.  If you think the look on his face when his girls come running at him as he walks in the door says it all, you should see the happy look on the faces of the Baby Belles. 

So, what are Scott’s super cool Daddy Powers?  Well, there’s a big ‘ol pile to choose from, but I’ll see if I can cull the top of the crop.

1.      THE BABY WHISPERER:  The man is the best snuggler in the history of the universe.  He radiates heat like you wouldn’t believe.  Of course, my beloved was known for his tranquilizing abilities before the Baby Belles hit the scene:  When his niece and nephews were little and pitching a squall, Uncle Scotty would pick them up and, after a little chat and a little quiet time, they were out like a light.

As you might imagine, the Baby Belles don’t stand a chance against Daddy when it comes to bedtime and nap time.  Daddy pulls the precious pumpkins onto his lap and—if they achieve stillness for any appreciable period of time—zzzzzzzzzzzz...goners.

I will caveat that Captain Snuggles can have a down side.  Back when Scott and I were dating, he could take me to a movie, put his warm arm around my shoulder and zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz...

It was understandably bothersome for Scott to fork out money for tickets and a jillion dollars’ worth of snacks just to have me sack out shortly after the previews.  We just hold hands now.

2.      “WE CAN REBUILD IT, WE HAVE THE TECHNOLOGY:”  The man has a degree in mechanical engineering from North Carolina State University.  His personal motto is “Go Big or Go Home.”  What does that translate to?  Daddy can fix anything!

He found the Baby Belles one of those battery powered cars that kids can drive around in the yard.  The vehicle was a Jeep and it was in really good condition, but was it good enough for Mr. Council?  Are you on crack??? 

No, Scott actually put the toy car up on blocks in the garage and pimped his toddlers’ ride before they were allowed to get in and crank it up.  The Jeep now sports actual brake lights, turn signals and a radio.  I’m not sure if he removed the speed restrictor plate on the Belles’ Jeep like he did with our niece, but I sincerely hope not since our children can’t seem to learn to apply the brakes and instead choose the “running into a bush” method.   

Yep, Daddy can fix anything.  If “it” isn’t broken, no worries:  Daddy can make it better—stronger, faster, more powerful!!!  The Baby Belles are so proud of their Daddy’s skills that they brag and have even been known to loan him out to only very deserving people on occasion.  They won’t even allow me the opportunity to try and fix something—granted, I usually do end up saying, “Okay, I can’t do it, go get Daddy.”

Just a couple of weeks ago, Baby Belle 2 came up to me with a marker that had run dry and said, “This needs batteries.  It won’t work.  Where’s Daddy?”

3.      THE TOUGH GUY:  By far, the hardest of all Scott’s super powers is his ability to be the tough guy when the situation calls for it.  Let’s face it, I am the wussiest wuss in all of Wussville.  It’s easy for a parent to get sucked in by big eyes glistening with tears and cute little bottom lips all poked out and quivering, but it’s a zillion times harder for a parent to say “no” because it’s the right thing to do. 

When a parental “no” sparks loud and dramatic temper tantrums, it’s very easy to cave in to the gnashing of teeth, wailing and rending of garments and tell yourself, “Oh, for the love of all that is holy, just one won’t be the end of the world if it will make her stop!”  It takes a spine of steel to not give in for a temporary fix for a larger and deeper problem.

You know what makes being The Tough Guy hardest of all?  The fact that your children don’t understand why you are doing what you do.  Sure, you can explain it all you want, but kids who aren’t getting their immediate desires addressed aren’t going to hear a single thing you say.  The Tough Guy somehow has to be content with the knowledge that what he is doing will make a better person in the long run.  That takes what we call balls.

Yes, Mr. Snuggle, Mr. Fix It and Mr. Tough guy are but a few examples of what makes Scott a wonderful father.  He loves his girls with all his heart.  He takes care of them and he makes them feel safe.  He hugs them when the need hugging, he wipes away the [often profuse] tears and he patches up the booboos.  He is an outstanding tea party guest, a professional level tickler and he plays a mean game of hide-and-go-seek.  It’s such a shame that we have to have a special date reserved for fathers in order to tell them how much they mean to us, but Scott can look in the smiling faces of his little Baby Belles (and the smiling face of his wife) and see the love.

Monday, June 20, 2011

Kindly Shut Up, Please

Lord knows I certainly don't claim to be an expert at anything.  Nonetheless, I have had a little training here and there that occasionally gives me a leg up in certain situations.  Not to brag, but I worked as a paralegal for three years, went to law school for three years on top of that and I have practiced as a criminal defense attorney for nearly ten years.  I practice in numerous courts before numerous judges and I've learned a little about most of their likes and dislikes which certainly helps navigation through the judicial waters. 

What am I driving at?  Here I go again grasping for the tact that eludes me...oh well. 

I think I speak not only for myself, but for my comrades of the Bar when I tell you that there is a reason we don't let you talk.  I'm sure you think that our reasoning stems from the fact that (you think) we charge you exorbitant fees and therefore feel compelled to demonstrate our worth by running our mouths.  I'm not going to insult your intelligence--the aforementioned assumption is actually the case in many instances (mostly in those attorneys that charge north of $500 per hour), but in the trenches of District and Superior Criminal Court, we're about damage control.  I'm bailing out the boat as fast as I can and I'll be damned if I'm going to let you open your mouth and release Niagra Falls.

It's rather interesting that the clients who get the most ticked off about not being allowed to speak are the ones that I am so very desperate to keep quiet.  Of course, sometimes the Defendant is going to throw in their two cents' worth and damn the torpedoes!  Oy vey.  

Oh the things I have heard defendants say over the years.  It makes one wonder:  Do they really think they're helping themselves or is there some secret part of them that never again wishes to see the light of day without the frame of iron bars?  Naturally, some of them are as crazy as fruit bats and there's nothing I can do.  Some of them have egos so large that it's a wonder they even fit through the door of the courtroom and they lack all ability to speak to anyone without condescension no matter the price.

Based upon the behavior of my clients before they enter the courtroom, I can usually get a pretty good idea which ones are going to stand there and let me do my job (i.e. help them) and which ones are going to go all Ted Kazynski.  I usually have a little time to mentally gird myself.  When we get in front of the judge and the inevitable starts to occur, I shut my mouth, stand a step back and kind of watch the circus via an out of body experience.  I’ll certainly answer if the judge or the client asks me a question, but I’ve learned that trying to shut the client up in an attempt to return decorum to the situation makes things even crazier and louder.  If they’re going to flame out no matter what, let them flame out as quietly as possible.

What are some of the most memorable snippets?  You have to understand that I am drawing from a deep, deep well here.  It’s quite possible I don’t remember every last one.  Ten dumbass things said before the bench during a plea in no particular order are: 

  1. Your Honor, I was stoned out of my mind, so I really didn’t know what I was doing.

  1. Your Honor, I don’t know why she has a problem with the fact that I like to go out and get a drink every now and again—my other wives don’t mind it at all.

  1. I’m a juvenile, so I know there ain’t nothing you can do to me.

  1. Go ahead and give it your best shot.

  1. I mean...well...yes, your Honor, I am a hooker, but I’m clean and I’m good.

  1. I’m not the crazy one, sir!  No, THEY’RE [pointing around indiscriminately] the crazy ones!  THEY’RE [still not clear who] trumping up these charges because [leans forward and whispers] “they” want to search my body cavities and I ain’t talking ‘bout my teeth, either.

  1. I mean, yeah, I was out partying with my fraternity and the chick’s a cop, but I know she thinks I’m hot and how else is she going to get my digits but arrest me and shit?

  1. [Insert Yankee accent]  I don’t know what I was thinking.  I don’t know why I thought I could retire down here and be happy.  It’s like I’ve stumbled into f***ing Mayberry.

  1. Who do I complain to about judges?  You’re on my list, buddy!

  1. [Pointing to the female victim, his own female attorney, the female ADA and the female judge]  All you bitches is crazy!  You hear me?  Crazy!  C-R-A-Z-Y!  CRAZYCRAZYCRAZY!

Crazy?  Well, we very well might be, but at least we know how to keep our mouth shut.

Friday, June 17, 2011

Mexican Food, Sex and the Junior League

As I’ve told you before, we lived in Smithfield, North Carolina for the duration of my law school tenure.  Being a resident of Johnston County...well, it’s just something that I don’t think I’ll ever be able to adequately convey in words.  At least I can look back on much of my time there and laugh.

Scott and I love Mexican food.  We don’t get it as much as we used to, but we used to have it at least once a week before we had kids.  Mmm...chicken fajitas.  Before I met Scott, I hated Mexican food, but he slowly brought me around to the point where I thought it was some of the best cooking on the planet.

Anyway, I knew that I would miss our little Mexican restaurant in Wilmington when we moved to Smithfield (and it actually closed a few months after we left...draw your own conclusions).  I prayed that there was a decent Mexican restaurant within at least a thirty minute drive of our new house. 

When we got settled in, we asked our friends who already lived there about where a gal could get a decent fajita.  They weren’t great fans of Mexican food themselves, but they said Mucho Mexico on Main Street was supposed to be pretty good.  I took a peek at the restaurant on the way to get supplies for setting up house and to say that I was dubious is a colossal understatement.  If you looked up the definition for “hole in the wall” in the dictionary, I can promise you that Mucho Mexico would be the example photo right by the side. 

A week or so passed and the Mexican withdrawal overtook our rational thought processes.  Scott and I felt like we needed special shots or something, but we took the chance and went in nonetheless.  The restaurant was...intimate.  It was slightly wider than a hallway and there were about eight or ten booths stacked right next to each other with zero promise of privacy.  We sat, we ordered, we ate, we didn’t get sick or die from some dreaded parasite and we fell in love.  The food was pretty darned good!  It was all settled:  Mucho Mexico one night a week was our first Smithfield tradition.

As our three year sentence glacially passed along, Scott and I got more and more punch drunk about our situation (see my blog entry titled Belle + Wal-Mart = Therapy).  Yes, as a matter of fact, I should probably thank the citizens of Johnston County for unknowingly lifting our spirits and giving us some seriously crazy cases of the giggles, but one night surpassed all and—to this day—remains the hardest my husband has ever laughed in his life.  It happened at the Mucho Mexico.

Scott and I walked in for our weekly fajita fix and took a seat at one of the booths.  We placed our orders with our usual waiter with nothing more than a glance and started in on the chips, salsa and Diet Cokes.  It was a fairly slow night in the restaurant, so I remember finding it odd when the group of four women came in and sat down in the booth directly behind Scott—I mean, you could pretty much hear everything from anywhere in the restaurant, but it was still nice to perpetuate the illusion of privacy. 

The only thing remarkable about the women was that they looked a little more put together than most folks out on a weeknight in Smithfield.  Actually, they looked like they were just coming from a Junior League meeting:  Headbands, monograms on various articles of clothing and accessories, tasteful jewelry, stylish-but-sensible flats, perfect get the drift.  They kind of gave off a librarian/teacher vibe and they appeared to be in their 40’s.  I just kind of noted their presence and went back to my conversation with Scott.

Our sizzling fajitas came, we dug in and a voice behind Scott complained in a feminine Johnston County drawl, “What I hate is all that screaming and yelling during sex.  It’s just fake, fake, fake.”

Scott and I froze and stared at each other in saucer-eyed astonishment.  Did we just hear what we thought we heard?  Well, we certainly thought we heard the same thing.  More importantly, did she mean for us to hear what we thought we heard? 

One thing was for certain, Miss Junior League’s friends not only heard what she had to say, but wholeheartedly agreed.  One of them chimed in with their two cents’ worth:  “I can’t even have one during actual sex anymore.  I always feel like I’m have to give Barry directions.”

Her statement was met with a chorus of drawling “mm-hmms” and “amens” more likely garnered as the result of a particularly fiery sermon.

It was at this point where Scott’s composure started to crack—to be clear, when I say “crack,” I’m talking about a seismic crack on par with the San Andreas Fault.  I had the giggles, but Mr. Council had the full-on heaving laughs which he was desperately attempting to suppress and failing rather miserably.  (It probably didn’t help things when I described the appearance of the ladies since he was facing away from them.)

Really, if the conversation had stopped right there, it would have been plenty traumatizing, but they weren’t anywhere near done:

“Hmm.  You think that’s bad?  Me and Bobby have to make appointments to do it.  Right now, we’re just down to Wednesday nights because the kids are at youth group.”

“Fred and I just lock our bedroom door on Saturday mornings.”

“But, I don’t want to be limited to the bedroom!  It’s my house and I ought to be able to do it any darn where I please!”

Please understand that I am giving you the most G-rated version of this conversation that I possibly can, yet still convey the frankness of the very public oratory.  Suffice it to say that the bitch session digressed into...well...into marital aids and all sorts of other things that I never, ever wanted to associate with four little librarians and the Smithfield Mucho Mexico, but for which I was now scarred for life.

How was Scott faring during all of this?  Well, boys and belles, I have to admit to you that his situation was critical.  If it was possible to have a heart attack from laughing, he was perilously close to the abyss.  He’d turned purple in his noble attempts to suppress the laughter which the ridiculous women frankly deserved. 

Actually, the Sex Auxiliary Committee had to know the effect they were having on the only two other people in the restaurant.  Not only were we crammed right next to each other, the booths were attached back to back.  Scott was shaking so hard, that there was no way it couldn’t be felt in the adjoining booth.  I now realize with horror the inference that could be drawn from the women sitting a booth that vibrated from my husband’s hysterical laughter, but let’s carry on, shall we?

Scott’s food sat abandoned as he tried to wipe the tears that continued to pour from his eyes.  He could barely breathe as the women continued on with their Sex & the Country dialogue.  When he was able to garner enough air to form a few words, he said something to the effect of, “I-I don’t know how...I’m going to get out  Don’t think...I can...might pass out.”

How did we get out?  Well, a third set of customers came in about the time we were planning an escape route.  The customers were a young family with a toddler and a baby and—even though they apparently didn’t have the sense that God gave a fence post—Carrie, Samantha, Miranda and Charlotte thankfully either toned it down or changed the subject to the point where Scott and I could bolt for the door after I ran up and paid our tab.  Thankfully, Scott’s legs didn’t give out, although his rib cage was tremendously sore for days.

Thank you, Smithfield!  Keep it classy.