Summer time and my toes are freezing

How is it that it’s 487 degrees out there and I’m wearing socks and covered up in a sweatshirt?

heatSeriously, how is this even possible?

Last night, when it cooled down to 87 degrees, I went out on the porch to read. Within minutes I was drenched. I stayed out there though and read some more. “It’ll acclimate you,” I said to myself. “There’ll be a breeze along any second,” I said. “It can’t stay this hot forever,” I said.

I was wrong.

In the words of my family, “It’s hotter then 10,000 poopie tails.”

Today will mark the fourth day of 90+ degree heat since we returned to South Carolina, uhmmmm… four days ago. Our weeklong trip to Kentucky was blessed with 70 and 80 degree days where we lounged comfortably in the sun, or took shelter in comic book stores during the rain. Our return home was met by a wet blanket of heat and humidity that no one in their right mind could get comfortable sleeping under.

In fact, as I write this, it is 95 in Anderson, SC, presumably on its way to 147 Kelvin, while it’s a balmy 82 in Versailles, Kentucky (my hometown) and 78 in Cincinnati (where we lived before moving here). How is THAT fair?

I know the heat is the pay off for the definite lack of snow during the winter months, but still… give me a few days of a polar vortex in February over 90+ degree heat for three months any time.

cold-indoorsStill, here I am, wearing multi-colored polka dot ankle socks and a red sweat shirt. Why? Because I’m freezing!!! Go figure!

This year, in order to save a little money, we raised the thermostat to 74 degrees for the air conditioner. When you get a $250 electric bill, you tend to do things like that.

And, in deed, it is a balmy 74 in here – up from 72 from last year, and 70 the year before. But since I get cold when it gets to 70, I’m still in trouble. Because it’s hot outside, I have on shorts and a tank top. But given that I’m no more than six feet from any air vent in this entire house at any given minute, I need the sweatshirt and socks to keep my extremities from turning to icicles and falling off of my body due to the air conditioning keeping the temps low.

My guys are all walking around without shirts or shoes. Well, when they change out of their pajamas anyway. And here I am barely able to stop shivering long enough to fix myself a glass of sweet tea.

Is this a sign of aging? I remember when my grandmother was older, she’d turn the thermostat up to 90 on a summer day because she was cold. I’m beginning to feel a little like that. Am I really that old?

woman cooling herself
woman cooling herself

It’s not like I’m cold all the time though. Everyone once in a while, I’ll get so hot I’ll feel like stepping into the freezer and living there, but after a few minutes the feeling goes away and I turn over and go back to sleep.

Surely, this doesn’t have something to do with the fact I got an AAPR membership application in the mail today, does it?

To solve it, I know I’ll venture outside here in a minute. I know that I’ll be sweltering before I can turn on the car’s air conditioning while my make up runs off my face and my body gains that healthy glow that one can only get from producing a gallon of sweat every five minutes.

At least I won’t be freezing anymore…

Copyright (c) Liz Carey 2015

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So Bruce wants to be Caitlyn… So what?

This morning, like practically everyone else on the planet, I awoke to the news that Bruce Jenner now wanted to be called Caitlyn and was gorgeous.

The only thing I could think to myself was … So?

I remember Bruce Jenner as the athlete of my youth. And I vaguely connected him to the Kardashians about a year after they squirmed out from whatever ooze they had been living in and thought “Surely, that can’t be the same guy.” And I read something one day in the grocery check-out line about him wanting to become a woman.

I thought then, as I do now, so what?

Honestly, it’s a pretty good name, Caitlyn… I guess if I wanted to be a guy, I’d go with something totally unlike my name, like Jackson or James or Todd. And she is really attractive, as any woman photographed by Annie Leibowitz with enough make-up on likely would be.

But I still don’t think any of that is news.

Whether a person identifies themselves as a man, a woman, gay, lesbian, bisexual, transexual or whatever, just really isn’t news. It’s not something anyone chooses to be, it’s who they are. Since when is being who one really is newsworthy?

Maybe it’s because of the way I grew up, or the people I was around, or the beliefs I’ve come to hold dear, but I just don’t think that a person’s sexuality, sexual orientation or sexual preference is worthy of a cover spread on an international magazine.

When I was in my 20s, I spent a good deal of time at a pretty out there bar in Cincinnati called The Warehouse. My then boyfriend, and now husband, was a bouncer; the owner was a good friend and frankly, it was among the coolest places to be in the Tri-state area. Mummies hung from the ceilings. Girls danced in cages. Sofas lined the back wall. The bar from “A Rage in Harlem” ran the length of one part of the dance floor. It was loud with technopop blaring from 9 at night until 3 in the morning, and as the crowd surged with the pulsing beats, everyone got to know each other well.

There were hipsters, and emos, and preppies. There were gay men, lesbians and drag queens. And there were girls like me – non-descript blondes with a tendency toward shyness and a few wild hairs up her sleeve now and then.

So when I went in one night in a fitted black dress with a big skirt and a fake white lace collar, it wasn’t really that much of a shock to me that the person who said I looked like Lara Ingels was a drag queen.

Shirocco was a 6-foot tall, black drag queen with legs like Tina Turner and a face like Diana Ross. She was beautiful. She danced in cages with reckless abandon. She wore short skirts and figure hugging tops. She had a quick wit and even quicker tongue. She had men buying her drinks and women asking for beauty tips. She was your typical drag queen in the middle of 1990s Cincinnati.

And she nailed it. I looked like someone had picked me up out of my Little Home in the Prairie and deposited me in the Land of Oz. She just happened to point it out to me.

Did it bother me that she was prettier than me? Heck no. I hated make up back then. Did it bother me that she was built better than me? Not so much. I knew mine were real. Was it any of my business that she was anatomically a he? No. None at all.

And more to the point, was the fact that she was a drag queen newsworthy? Was it something that as a young reporter I felt compelled to share with the world? “Drag queen seduces young men in local bar – film at 11!”

No. It wasn’t.

It was her choice to be who she wanted to be. It was her choice how far she wanted to go to be a woman. And it was her choice how far she could go and still be a man. It wasn’t up to me to tell anyone who didn’t need to know. It’s just who she was.

The same is true of Bruce/Caitlyn Jenner. It’s his, now her, life. It has nothing to do with us. And it’s nothing that should be blasted all over the headlines – unless, of course, that’s what she wants to happen.

I watched as some of the comments about the Vogue magazine spread riddled across the Internet this morning. It really made me stop and think. What business is it of ours?

If Bruce Jenner had stayed a man and decided to finally smack the stupid out of his daughters and tell them all to grow up and get real jobs, would that be newsworthy? No, that would be his choice… and a damn good one too. And that certainly wouldn’t keep the tabloids from making a buck off of it. If he decided to put on lime and orange colored pants and challenge John Daly to a game of golf, would that be news? Not really. Might be a bad life decision if he put money on it, but still…

And this is no different. A person’s LGBT status shouldn’t be any more important to anyone than my hetero status. It’s just who I am.

One little twit – a washed up, has-been teen star who never really made it off Nickelodeon fandom – decided to make a name for himself by saying he’d still call her Bruce. Really? How disrespectful and rude. As if a celebrity like Jenner would ever come calling on him for anything… and as if any of the rest of us cared. Granted, a few thousand people did care enough to give him crap about it on Twitter, but still…. Jenner’s decision has nothing to do with any of us and none of us have any right to say diddly poop about any of it.

In today’s news, Lindsey Graham dubbed social security an “entitlement program,” while saying it supported him and his sister when they needed it; researchers believe they may have found a way to unlock the body’s immune system to fight cancer; reports surfaced that the TSA missed 95% of the explosives they were supposed to find in a drill and in my hometown, a bear was spotted roaming around an elementary school…

Do we not have more important things to worry about than whether Bruce/Caitlyn Jenner wants to be a man or a woman? Do we really have so little going on in our lives that we need to voice our opinions about someone else’s life, especially someone we don’t even know?

One thing I do have an opinion on though is about Vogue – they certainly got a few million people to do their advertising for them today, didn’t they?

And for that privilege, the choice was all ours.

Copyright (c) Liz Carey 2015

Car repair for girls

Woman-Broken-Car-1969081There’s nothing more frustrating than being a girl and trying to fix your car.

This past month, my 2007 Jeep Commander had a bumper that needed to be fixed… and by fixed I mean, reattached to the rest of the car with anything that does not resemble Duct Tape.

In complete girl logic, I just assumed that if I put off fixing it, it would stay the same until I got around to it.

Wrong! What happens to you, when you’re a girl trying to keep things together with fingernail polish and bobby pins, is that men look at you and laugh.

If you don’t take the time to put in that rear wheel well (which actually fell off last year during a traumatic tire explosion on the way home from the beach with a car full of teenagers), what happens is that bumper/fender assembly pulls away from the rest of the car and decides to flap dangerously in the wind, like a really stiff champagne-colored shirt in a 40-mile an hour gale ready to come undone and blow onto someone else’s car at any second.

And when that happens, many men would rather do it for you instead of watching you do it on your own.

This, of course, is what happened to me when I was driving back from Greenville and was traveling in excess of 60 miles per hour. That bumper looked like it was going to break off like a piece of the Apollo 13 space craft.

Houston, we have a problem.

duct tape carWhen I looked into my rearview mirror and saw what was going on, I stopped at an auto parts store for help.

That’s where I met Mr. Johnson, whose initial solution was to take some Gorilla tape and attach the bumper to the rest of the car.

(Okay, not to be too picky, but let’s review here – champagne SUV, black gorilla tape, wildly swinging back bumper… can you say redneck?).

After several minutes of back and forth between a plastic parts aisle and my car, Mr. Johnson determined they didn’t have the part I needed and that I should go to Low Ray’s, an auto parts store down the street, to ask for the right rivets.

I asked him what part I should ask for. He just looked at me and said, “Don’t worry, honey, if you tell them where it needs to go, they’ll know what it is.”

So I went to Low Ray’s two days later and found, much to my surprise, that the auto parts of was filled with enough toy pedal cars and hobby horse airplanes to start a toy museum, which, you know, seemed odd to me as it was an auto parts place.

But that’s where Mr. Johnson said to go, right? As I walked in, I saw a fence behind all the toys and asked if they had the part I was looking for. I told them Mr. Johnson sent me.

car parts storeThe guy I was talking to abruptly disappeared into this auto parts cave for a few minutes. He never really looked at the car, never asked what I actually needed outside of my vague “I need the things that hold my rear bumper on to my car.”

Believe it or not, they didn’t have my part. He recommended the Internet.

So, I went home and got online. For more than an hour I searched for the parts I needed. I even chatted for help.

HC-chat-rep-620x344Auto parts website chatbot: Hello, my name is Brett. What can I help you with?

Me: (not answering because being on chat hold for 18 minutes tends to make me diddle around on Facebook)

Auto parts website chatbot: Hello? Is there anyone there? I haven’t heard from you in a while.

Me: Yes, I’m here. I was on hold for so long I went to another website.

Auto parts website chatbot: Great! We’re glad you’re back. My name is Brett. What can I help you with.

Me: Hi, Brett. I’m looking for a part for my 2007 Jeep Commander. I need the things that hold the bumper into the frame and the wheel well into the body of the car. Do you have a those?

Brett: Great. Let me check on that for you. Do you have the part number?

Me: No. I looked on your website, but I couldn’t find anything that looked anything like the little plastic doohickies I need.

Brett: That’s okay, I can look them up for you. While we’re waiting, Liz, would you like for me to sign you up for our email list?

Me: Well, honestly, Brett, since I was on chatbot death hold for 18 minutes, I’d really just like to get the part I was looking for.

Brett: I understand. To speed up the process, why don’t I just use the email address you entered when we started this chat, Liz?

Me: Brett, why don’t you just look up the part for me so I can order it and \ will no longer be driving around with duct tape holding my car together?

Brett: I can do that. Do you know what the part is called?

Me: If I knew what it was called, I probably wouldn’t have watched “All of our representatives are currently helping other customers. Someone will be with you shortly” repeat on my screen for nearly 20 minutes.

Brett: Okay, let’s see. We have the rear passenger-side bumper assembly package here for just $137.11. Can I place that order for you, Liz?

Me: Brett, I have the bumper. I just don’t have what I need to attach the bumper to the car. Don’t you just have those little thingamabobs that you stick up into the car to hold it on to the metal part?

Brett: That’s what the rear bumper assembly will do.

Mfrustrated on computere: That’s crazy. Why do I need to buy the whole kit, when all I need is those little spindly thingies? Whatever. Will it fit my 2007 Jeep Commander?

Brett: Uhm, no. We don’t really carry a lot of parts for the Commander.

Me: Seriously? Couldn’t you have just told me that to begin with?

Brett suggested I go to a dealer.

Which, of course, I did.

I dressed up in my best “Yes, I’m a girl but I can use a screwdriver” look and hoped they would take pity on me and help me find the right parts for my car for less than $50.

They didn’t.

In fact, they nearly smirked when I drove the car to the dealership and they showed me the drawing of what it was supposed to look like and how difficult it would be to install.

But I would not be daunted. I ordered the parts, picked them up a day later and took them to a friend’s garage to work on the car. My friend said “You know, I can do this for you, so you don’t have to lay down on the ground and get dirty.”

Sigh.

I’m not that kind of a girl.

When we figured out the parts guys hadn’t given me the right rivets, it wasn’t until I went back and dropped my friend’s name that the parts guys took me seriously. When they came back with the wrong part three times in as many days, it wasn’t until I started to cry in frustration that they found the right part. When I asked them how much it would cost to fix a shorting fuse in the lift gate, it wasn’t until I told them I had already done my research that they came down from their $600 estimate to a $200 part.

mechanic girl_car repairAnd it wasn’t until the female parts assistant came in to help me that I got treated like an actual person without being talked down to. She was the one who told me I needed a rivet gun and she was the one who helped me get the right pieces to use.

And after that, I did it. I fixed the bumper. I reattached the wheel well. I put the flair back on. I learned how to use a rivet gun. I laid down in the dirt and didn’t even get upset when mud and oil from under the car fell into my face and hair.

I didn’t cry when I broke a nail.

Sure, I didn’t do it ALL by myself – I had help from my husband and my friend, who showed me what to do and how things went together. But I did the work.

And for that, you gotta give a girl credit. Even if I don’t know all the parts’ names, or how to use all the tools, I can still do it.

I am not helpless.

I’m just a girl who likes fixing her own car.

That, gentlemen, is nothing to laugh at.

Copyright (c) Liz Carey 2015

A mother’s curse

When I was 12 years old, my mother cursed me.

And I don’t mean she yelled profanities at me, I mean, she put a curse on me through my future progeny.

I remember the day clearly. I was home watching ZOOM! in the living room.

Write ZOOM!, Z double O M, Box 350, Boston, Mass 0-2-1-34
Write ZOOM!, Z double O M, Box 350, Boston, Mass 0-2-1-34

Remember ZOOM on PBS? It was an after-school show where kids did all sorts of fun stuff sent in by other kids. It was one of my favorite shows and identified me early on a dork of enormous proportions.

On this particular episode, they were capturing spider webs. In this scenario, clearly not intended for children without adult supervision, you took a piece of construction paper and placed it behind a spider web. From there you softly sprayed spray paint onto the web. What wasn’t web would show up on the construction paper as paint, leaving behind the design of the web in negative. Easy enough, right?

My sister was at work.

My mom was at work.

I was home alone, hoping to find something interesting to do.

“Well,” my little pre-teen brain said. “This looks like fun.”

pedal carSo, I went into the garage and got the only can of spray paint I could find. It was bright red. Fire engine red, in fact. I know it was fire engine red, because it was the same spray paint I used to paint the antique powder puff blue convertible pedal car my Dad had gotten me… I don’t recall mom or dad being too happy about my actions that time either.

Anyway, spray paint in hand, I went looking for construction paper.

One would think that the house of a kindergarten teacher, my mom, would be filled with construction paper in many different colors, but I couldn’t find any.

Granted, I was 12, so without it being in the open, on top of a stack of anything other than laundry and with a six-foot-tall neon sign saying “THIS IS THE CONSTRUCTION PAPER YOU’RE LOOKING FOR!” pointing to it, I wasn’t likely to find it even if I tripped over it.

After more than six whole minutes of dedicated searching my pre-adolescent brain decided I didn’t need it. In fact, it came to the conclusion that in this activity, construction paper was like coconut in a cake, completely optional and most likely not at all necessary.

Armed with a spray paint can and an eagle eye for anything arachnid, I ran outside and searched the yard for spider webs to create art.

I didn’t see any webs on the grass and I didn’t find too many in the bushes and I didn’t notice any at all in the trees.

I did however find a number of them in the garage windows.

spraypaint11Let’s take a moment here to recap the ingredients in this particular activity – several spider webs, one can of red spray paint, one willful 12-year-old tomboy, several garage windows framed with white paint.

No matter how you mix it, it was a recipe for disaster.

When my mom came home, every window on her garage facing the street had little circles of red covering the corners of the window frame and onto the glass itself.

To say my mother was a more than just a little mad, would be like saying that Ghandi was on a low calorie diet for a while.

“Mary, what have you done?” she screamed.

As hard as it may be to believe, this wasn’t the first time I had heard those words.

“My windows, Lord Almighty, my garage windows!” she screamed. “What on earth possessed you to spray paint the garage windows??? What were you thinking?”

I looked at her incredulously.

momdaughter yell“They were they only ones with spider webs on them,” I replied matter of factly.

I’m pretty sure the fact that I didn’t say “duh!” is the reason I am still alive today.

Mom closed her eyes, grabbed her head in her hands and gathered together her wits. You could almost hear her counting to 10 in her head.

And then, it came.

“Mary Elizabeth Carey, I swear, one day I hope you have a child just like you,” she said.

There it was.

The curse.

The longest running curse in the history of womankind, bestowed at one time or another on every misbehaving kid on the planet by their mothers.

And it worked.

I have a child who is just like me.

When I was a kid, for a while I wanted to be an Olympic bicyclist, until the day I wiped out on gravel and ended up in the hospital with 22 stitches in my leg.

My youngest son, Max, was determined to be a super hero when he was five, and jumped off a slide to prove he could fly. When he landed successfully the first time, he decided to do it again to show his friend, and promptly fractured his foot on landing.

When I was a kid, I couldn’t find a brush one day, so I used one of those little pot holder loom thingies to comb my hair. The resulting rat’s nest of a tangle required an emergency visit to the stylist.

Max decided one day he didn’t like his bangs or his side burns, so he cut them himself, using a razor, leaving one inch stubble over his right ear and bangs slashed diagonally across his forehead. This also required an emergency trip to stylist and an entire summer growing out a crew cut.

When I was a kid, I wore my favorite red patent leather go-go boots until they were so tight that my second toe on both feet grew crooked because I wouldn’t let them go.

Max had one pair of pants that he would wear all the time. All. The. Time. until they could no longer be called “floods” or “highwaters,” as much as really long shorts which I had to steal from his room in order to throw them away.

When I was a kid, I would stay up late at night, reading Nancy Drew and Trixie Belden mysteries until my Dad came to tuck me in or I passed out asleep.

Max will sneak his way to reading Creepy Pasta and other things online on his Chromebook until the wee hours of the morning, or until I walk into his room at 1 in the morning and tell him it’s time to go to sleep.

I have a nasty habit of just walking off, away from the people I’m with, if I see something that interests me. When Max was little and we visited the zoo, as we often did, my husband, older son and I routinely took turns at “Max duty,” to make sure he didn’t walk away and end up figuring out a way to get into the giraffes cage or end up petting the Bengal tigers.

Now I understand what my Mom went through raising me.

I understand the sheer terror of wondering what your child is up to because the house suddenly goes quiet.

I understand the fear of not knowing whether or not you child will survive into adulthood even without the threat of you beating them to death.

I understand what kind of conflicted emotions she must have felt the day I accidentally sucked the gerbil into the vacuum cleaner trying to help out with the chores, or when I spilled India ink on her new carpet while drawing her a picture.

I’ve stood in her shoes.

It’s not exactly a true curse, and it’s not exactly a true blessing, but I think it’s a little of both.

581719_3662309190010_2038050352_nMothering any child had its heart-stopping moments. But having a child like me, helps me to see the world through my mom’s eyes for a while, and helps me to understand the world Max sees as well.

I hope that as Max grows into a man, that I can be like my mother was with me – patient (most of the time), willing to let me be me and understanding of her willful adventurous little girl.

Mom taught me a lot about letting your child be independent and responsible and capable of facing up to the consequences of their actions – especially if it involves stealing the family car for a joy ride at 14 and knocking over a basketball pole, something I pray Max never does.

And I hope I can be as firm as she was in her resolve to teach me how to be a better, calmer, more focused person. It’s a daily task, I’ve learned, that isn’t easy and forces you to look into your child’s hurt and confused eyes while you dole out punishment. She taught me how to do that, even if she never told me how hard it was.

How she did it alone, and without killing me, is beyond me.

Thanks to her, I think I turned out pretty good. And because of the things I learned from her, I think Max will turnout pretty good too. After all, he’s well into his teen years and he’s still alive, so… there’s hope.

It goes without my saying anything that one day Max will have a kid just like him.

And my mother and I will have given Max all the tools he needs by then to deal with the curse.

Hopefully, he will see it, as I do, as a blessing instead.

Copyright (c) Liz Carey 2015

Garden hose

It’s time to get the garden in, so naturally I made a beeline for my underwear drawer.

Gardener with Wooden Seedling TrayIt’s the same every year.

Well, okay, not every year.

There were those three or four years when the kids were younger and we lived on the river. A general disregard by my kids for anything that could be construed as a vegetable and the fact that floods don’t pay much attention to fencing, sort of made planting a garden a bad idea.

Not that we didn’t want to… we just didn’t have the time or money for that kind of failure.

This whole garden craze started when my dear husband and I were first married and moved into a house on a street in Cincinnati that easily could have been built in San Francisco. Clearly, the fact that our house was on land that could have been better described as vertical made it the perfect spot to build a raised bed garden.steep streets

Clearly.

With railroad ties and a truck full of dirt, we put in a little garden that held all the foods we would eat over the winter – tomatoes, corn, green peppers, eggplant and Brussels sprouts. And we put in a bed of herbs – basil, oregano, chives, peppermint and dill.

Let’s just say, I THOUGHT growing eggplant would be great, but I was wrong because once you grow them, you have to actually eat them. And I THOUGHT that two Brussels sprouts plants would produce enough buds to adequately feed two people, but I was wrong because it only produces enough Brussels sprouts to contemplate the correct spelling of “Brussels sprouts” on search engines when it becomes clear that bugs are eating more of them than you are.

And herbs? Here’s a tip – unless you really, really, really like the smell of dill, or the flavor of peppermint, don’t ever, EVER plant them directly into the ground because they will take over every available inch of ground they can find, from your garden well into the neighboring football field, if you let them. Even if you don’t let them, they will still do it and mock you for your feeble attempts to control them.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

On the other hand, we had tomatoes and green peppers and corn!

I was so excited to go out and grab food that I had grown. I couldn’t wait to grab the tomatoes straight off the vine and plop a few ears of corn off the plants and into a big pot of boiling water.

But by the time I got around to it, they were gone.

I went outside and our harvest was no longer on the plants waiting for me to pick it. In fact, it was thumping along the back wall in a plastic bag, trailing two kids from our neighborhood who had come into our little backyard for a little vegetable buffet.

I suspect their mom sent them. Seriously, what kid steals vegetables?

Those little set backs didn’t stop us though. Most everywhere we went – from a row house in Newport, Ky., to a three-story mansion in the middle of Cincinnati, and here in our home in Anderson, SC – we planted a garden.

We were like the Johnny Appleseed of green vegetables and overgrown herb beds….

This past year, we had heirloom tomatoes, squash, green peppers, jalapeno peppers, carrots, radishes, basil, oregano, sage, parsley and even a few okra plants.

zukesOur tomatoes were great, as were the squash, but honestly, we just gave up on harvesting them after a while because we got tired of eating them. Do you have any idea how much an average zucchini plant produces? I would estimate it at about 728 bushels based on the number of plastic bags of zucchini I had in my freezer one year when I got the idea that if I harvested them and grated them, I could make something like zucchini bread with them later.

That was a teacher Christmas gift that went over well, I’m sure.

So, instead, we just left them there. The birds ate holes in the tomatoes. The squirrels ate the green peppers. Some other unknown entity ate the lettuce and carrots. After eating our fill, we left the rest for nature to consume. It was just too much work to worry with.

And then, there was the whole watering thing. Also, a lot like work.

We just not the type to water plants. I’m sure that our peace lilies, who have been with us for more than 16 years, tremble in fear every time we get the Christmas decorations out because they know that is the sign they’ll be coming inside, into the desert of our living room, until it gets warm outside. dead lilyOften, between December and February, I will walk by them and say to myself “Jeez, I really should water the plants,” but never actually do. It’s a wonder they haven’t gotten together and grown legs so they could strangle us in our sleep for forcing them through the torture of neglect.

When it came to the garden though, I wasn’t ever going to spend a fortune to end up with another failure. And what’s the point of spending a small fortune on a garden, if your desired result is to get something for almost nothing?

So, we came up with alternatives.

Need mulch? We use old clean cardboard boxes and newspapers.

Want an irrigation system? We poke holes in the bottoms of empty two-liter bottles and bury them in the ground near your most neediest plants to regulate a water supply that lasts for a few days.

Need plant supports? Well, … here’s where the underwear drawer comes in.

Our tomato plants are planted in front of an old trellis that I have had for more than 15 years. Tomato plants don’t generally take to being trained up a trellis and they’re pretty fragile, so tying them up can be problematic. Sometimes, even string can cut into the tender vines and leave you with nothing but a stem that’s beautiful on the bottom, but withered and bare on the top. The Solution? Old panty hose. They have just enough give in them to be supportive for the tomatoes while holding them in place.

tying-tomatoes-pantyhoseWhich means one of my first stops when setting out the garden is to rummage through my underwear drawer to find hose with runs and rips and tears in them. Since no pair seems to last for more than 378 seconds, happily, they aren’t hard to find.

I’ll be out buying plants and seeds this week. And I’ll be going through my underwear drawer.

But I’m pretty sure the kids next door won’t be stealing my tomatoes this year. They have a chicken coop.

Maybe we can trade veggies for eggs.

One more thing to store in old panty hose, I’m sure…

Copyright (c) Liz Carey 2015

Why the Easter Bunny still visits our house

Even though my sons are 16 and 15, the Easter bunny still visits my house.

easter-basketGranted, the baskets aren’t as elaborate as they once were, but they are still full of chocolate bunnies, jellybeans and the occasional Peep.

This year, there was none of the plastic grass that clings to every living thing in the house, and it lacked its usual bevy of toys. But each one did include an envelope full of money, which is all my sons really wanted in the first place.

The solid chocolate break apart bunny was just a bonus.

After all, they’re teenagers and toys, candy, colored eggs and plastic doo dahs don’t do it for them as much as cold hard cash-ola.

Ever since they were born, they’ve been the recipients of gifts brought to them by anonymous mythical creatures who wish to buy their love through sweets and trinkets.

At the same time, we’ve spent their formative years telling them to beware of evil men in cars with lollipops and missing puppies who are waiting for the opportunity to kidnap them and of “stranger danger.”

No wonder this generation is completely screwed up.

Throughout their childhood, from the tooth fairy to the Big Guy himself (you know – Mr. Claus) to the Birthday Monsters, there seemed to be no end to the parade of mystical creatures bestowing gifts on my kids.

Sandra Boynton's Birthday Monsters
Sandra Boynton’s Birthday Monsters

Spoiler alert kids – Some of them are completely made up.

Take for instance, the Birthday Monsters.

When my guys were very little, every year on the night before their birthday, I read to them Sandra Boynton’s “The Birthday Monsters.”

In the story, a group of monsters comes to visit you and proceeds to celebrate your birthday by wrecking your house, opening your gifts and eating your cake, only to make it all perfect again before they leave.

Somewhere along the way, in our house, this turned into a tradition of waking up on one’s birthday morning to find presents on the kitchen table and eating birthday cake for breakfast.

All these early morning discoveries, of course, required a lot of late night basket decorating, stocking stuffing, quarter leaving and present wrapping on the part of one particular person in our household.

I remember one year talking online with a friend and asking them if they thought it would be okay if I left the boys alone in the house, since they were asleep upstairs, and ran to the store to grab more Easter candy for their baskets. They weren’t particularly enamored with the idea. I ended up filling some plastic eggs with spare change that year instead.

More spoiler alerts kids – now might be a good time to go watch a YouTube video or something.

My oldest son, Mason, figured it all out when he was 8 years old. He came to me and said “You’re the birthday monsters, aren’t you?”

Look! Mom has wings!
Look! Mom has wings!

I admitted that I was.

“That makes you the tooth fairy and the Easter bunny too, doesn’t it?” he asked.

I nodded my head.

“Oh… then that means,… hmmm,” he said. He knew it all.

“Just don’t tell your brother,” I said.

When my youngest son, Max, found out he was nearly 13. For years, he had been a believer, even to the point of ringing a Christmas bell around us (while we had to act like it was broken) to prove that the magic in it still worked.

Once the realization the Big Guy was just me, all the other night visitors fell into their appropriate places in history for Max. His belief suspended, he realized the myths for what they were.

“My whole life has been a lie,” he lamented.

I guess it never occurred to him before then that it was a little strange that every few months supernatural beings were breaking into our house, not to mention stalking us and keeping tabs on our behavior.

Of course, these mythical entities were great discipline tools. Mom had Santa’s cell phone number. She would let the tooth fairy know if one of those bicuspids didn’t exactly fall out on its own. And no one wanted to see what the Easter bunny would leave if he got an email telling him they weren’t picking up their room.

But now, those tricks don’t work. They know there will be an Easter basket on the kitchen table even if they fail to change their sheets and that their Christmas stockings will always be full of the little joys they never expect.

So why do these gifts keep appearing?

finger-pointingMaybe it’s because I want them to be my kids always. I want them to know that they are loved. I want there to be one moment every once in a while where I can still surprise them to make up for the all the times I’ve yelled at them about grades and jobs and dirty laundry.

Maybe it’s a chance to spoil them when I’m so hard on them the rest of the year.

Maybe it’s because I like carrying on a tradition we started and which will one day be carried down to their kids.

Maybe it’s because the gifts are so appreciated. Today, when they got up at the crack of noon, they both got their Easter baskets and began to immediately make plans for the cash. Soon thereafter, Max came in the living room and hugged me. Mason, in turn, got out of bed and kissed me on the forehead.

They liked the baskets, even if they’re not full of jellybeans and Reese’s pieces and Peeps.

Those are the parts of the basket the Easter bunny kept for herself…

 

Copyright (c) 2015 Liz Carey

Veggie Time

I’m sorry, I have to say it. I really dislike some vegetarians.

I don’t dislike the fact that they are vegetarians – heck, I think everyone has the right to decide what they want to eat. And honestly, if someone would rather eat spinach, cannellini beans and quinoa instead of bacon double cheeseburger, that’s none of my business.

No, the ones I have a problem with are the vegetarians who think that because THEY are vegetarians, you want to be one, or should be one too.

For instance, this afternoon, I picked up a soup cookbook at the library. I have to say I was really excited because a quick look at the back cover included a reference to “pho” one of my favorite Vietnamese dishes.

Beef Pho
Beef Pho

Pho is known for being one of the great Vietnamese street foods, and you won’t see an Anthony Bourdain Vietnam episode without some mention of it. It’s a soy sauce based broth on noodles called bahn pho, with herbs, spices and meat – usually either beef or chicken. It’s just amazing comfort food, give or take the “slurp slurp” noise that sometimes accompanies eating it.

So, I was really excited to get the recipe home and try it our, right? Of course right!

Imagine my surprise then when I open the book to the right page and there, in little words before the recipe, was a disclaimer saying while the original recipe was “redolent with beef” they had made theirs a vegetarian version.

WHAT?!?! I didn’t want a vegetarian version of a meat and noodles soup! I didn’t want faux pho, I want pro pho!

You want me to do what with it?
You want me to do what with it?

And then I realized all of the soups were vegetarian versions with little notes about how, if you gave it as a gift, the recipient could add their own meat later after you left.

Yeah, that’s TOTALLY going to make your friend happy to have to get a gift that makes you work…

It reminded me of a friend a few years ago who was getting married. A guest of one of the invited guests requested that not only did she want a vegetarian dish that the hostess hadn’t planned on providing, but that no meat be served at her table during the reception. I’m not making this up. I was stunned too.

Here’s the thing, if you don’t want to eat meat, that’s cool, just don’t expect me to forego meat with you or for your comfort.

There's plenty of vegetables on there for two...
There’s plenty of vegetables on there for two…

If someone wants to delude themselves into believing that tofu and mung beans taste better than ribs and brisket, that’s fine for them. But please don’t expect me to order a salad and cornbread at the Big Pig BBQ because I’m sitting at a table with vegetarian.

You know; if you can’t take the meat, stay out of the smokehouse.

Some vegetarians I know talk about the poor animals who are murdered for our carnivorous needs and it makes them sad or sick to even see them on a plate.

Or that the animals are poor sweet creatures slaughtered for our benefit.

Uhm, let’s take cows for instance. I’ve worked with cows. A) they stink. B) they poop in their food. And c) they are dumber than rocks.

Not that any of them does anything to deserve being hit in the head with a sledgehammer, cows-in-field2but still … they don’t all look like Bessie on the milk carton or the cute cows you see on Chick-Fil-A billboards. And none of them talk. Honest. They are big, dumb creatures that taste really good roasted over a charcoal pit.

A good steak, medium rare with a nice garlic butter? Awesome. Man, oh man, it doesn’t get any better. Add a baked potato and a good Shiraz or Cabernet Sauvignon. Heaven in dishware.

I don’t think anyone will ever say that about bean sprouts or edamame. I just can’t picture anyone getting worked up about a carrot raisin salad and a side of fried tofu covered in tomato sauce with a glass of sauvignon blanc.

There’s no point in arguing that one way of eating is better than another. It won’t make enough of a difference to a meat eater to give up sausage, and it won’t make a vegetarian choke down some bacon. People should be able to choose to eat what they want. But no one should assume that others should share in their eating habits, just because they happen to be around them and don’t like the smell of what they might order.

You think beef smells bad? Get a whiff of tamarind paste or falafel soaking once in a while.

Stinks worse than the damn cows, if you ask me.

But then again, if you’re a vegetarian sitting next to me, I’m not going to assume you will eat up a big bowl of beef stew just because I’m next to you either.

 

Copyright (c) Liz Carey 2015

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