Wednesday, December 13, 2017

Vacations are No Vacation

A gorgeous resort in Cancun we won't be staying at.
So, are you going anywhere for the holidays?  She asked.  We're going to Cancun and Cuba.  Oh I've been to'll love it! What resort are you staying at?  We're not staying in a resort.  And we're not actually even staying in Cancun. We're travelling around and staying in Airbnbs and hostels.  Be careful, I've heard it's dangerous outside of the resorts in Mexico!  Are you taking your kids?  Yes.  All of them?  We did consider leaving some of them at home, but it being over Christmas and all...yes...we're bringing all four teenagers.  Wow, what a trip!'s always a trip, trust me.

Not only do we travel on the cheap; it's also the way we prefer to travel.  (Ok, my husband and I prefer gritty, adventure travel.  Our kids would probably prefer an all inclusive 5 star resort if they had a say.  But, they don't.)

It begins before we even leave the house.  We'll be moving around a lot and you've got one bag so pack light.  We may not have access to laundry facilities to wash clothes so don't forget to pack enough socks and underwear.  And for god's sake pack (and use) deodorant!  Oh...and a toothbrush.  

We prefer to stay in apartments with a kitchen so we can cook breakfast and dinner, reducing our costs by only eating out once a day.  Which is a bonus for me because I love to check out the grocery store and see the different foods indigenous to that country.  In Australia Campbell's sells cans of condensed pumpkin soup.  And in Morocco they sell chopped up pumpkin that sits out unrefrigerated all day swarming with flies.  Not only that, we also eat street food.  And boat food (think food truck, but on a boat).  Which is how we got food poisoning in Thailand a few years ago (yes, ALL of us) and how I acquired a parasite who attempted to hitchhike home with me, all snuggled up in my intestines from Vietnam last year.  He was really comfy, I was not.

We've done pretty well on accommodations if you like being covered in mud sleeping in the rain forest in a farmhouse without windows to keep the swarms of mosquitoes out like we did in Costa Rica.  Or a couple of years ago when we camped in Patagonia in the rain, which then turned to snow because of course it did.  We've slept on the floor of a stranger's house we didn't even share a language with in Morocco.  And we've also slept in a tent on safari in Botswana with a lion outside.   That last one was particularly adrenaline filled.  Not to mention the time we got scammed out of a place to stay and stranded at the Sheffield Airport in the middle of the night when we were traveling to London.  But, that seems civilized in comparison to the others.

At this point, you may have figured out that we don't spend our vacation actually relaxing.  Sitting on the beach sipping fruity drinks constitutes a half day of the trip, at most.  In fact, our trips are utterly exhausting.  Like hiking to and swimming into one of the biggest caves in the world with a spelunking light and bats flying over head.  Or traveling to Egypt after the revolution when the US had issued a travel warning because the country was ruled by martial law; then getting caught in the middle of a protest.  (And yes, we are aware that there is a US Travel Warning for Cuba at the moment.)

So, this is the part where I tell you that I'm taking a couple of weeks off writing to go have an adventure.  What could possibly go wrong?  I'll be back to tell you in 2018.  Happy holidays to you and yours!  (If you're interested in reading about some of our other adventures, our trips are categorized by country in the labels section of my blog located on the right hand side.  Keep scrolling down.)

Wednesday, December 6, 2017

Season's Eatings

Directly after pumpkin-spice-flavored-everything season begins the peppermint-flavored-everything-season.  You'll know this when you shop at Trader Joe's and the cashier finds a subtle way to bring up the conversion from pumpkin season to peppermint season.  "I see you like our know what's nothing like apples are our Candy Candy Joe Joe's (generic Oreos with candy cane bits in the filling).  Have you tried them?  They are seriously so good!"  Seriously...does Trader Joe's withhold cashier's paychecks if they don't talk up their products or what?  Because every cashier does this every time I shop there.

Not all of the season's eatings are tasty. 
In fact, some are downright disgusting.

Like candy canes.  Yeah, I said it.  I think it's fairly obvious that the best uses of mint are in toothpaste, gum, lip balm and mojitos.  Because eating anything peppermint is like eating an arctic gust of air: cold and unsatisfying.  And now, not only do candy canes come in peppermint, but they also come in every other conceivable (and inconceivable) flavor.  Including:  fruit, bacon, sriracha, gravy and wasabi.  Thus, elevating candy canes to an even higher level on the disgusting scale.

Every year when I see fruitcake in the stores I wonder who in the hell buys that crap.  And yet someone does because there wouldn't be a supply of fruitcake in the stores if there wasn't a demand.  With all the Christmas cookies, English toffee and other delicious holiday treats out there in the world, who would waste a shitload of calories consuming fruitcake?  In fact why do dried fruits like raisins exist at all?  Never send a raisin to do the job of a perfectly capable (and superior) chocolate chip!

Did you ever receive one of those Hickory Farms gift boxes from your boss?  Wait...meat and cheese  products needed to be refrigerated.  How come this gift box sits on an unrefrigerated shelf?  Also, how long ago were these mystery meats and cheeses packaged?  And do they in fact contain any real meat or cheese?  How long is it's shelf life?  If they don't sell this Christmas do they recycle it and put it on the shelf to sell again the next Christmas?  It's just occurred to me that the easiest and cheapest way to instantly become a Doomsday Prepper would be to collect all the unwanted Hickory Farms gift boxes from your friends and family and you'd be set for years.  And if you collected all the fruitcake you'd even have dessert.

There are two types of people in the world:  those who like eggnog and those who know that those people are wrong.  It's not that it's a beverage made with raw eggs that makes it gross.  Although that is revolting.  The worst thing about it is that it's so thick it's like drinking gravy.  But instead of meat flavored gravy it's a cold, raw egg gravy with a little nutmeg in it.  I suppose it would be more tasty if you had a spiked version with some rum in it.  But on second thought, why not just take the rum, add some coke and sprinkle some nutmeg on top?  It probably tastes a lot better that way.  And BONUS, it's just half the calories so you have more room for Christmas cookies and English toffee now!  You're welcome!

And Happy Season's Eatings to you! 
P.S. Don't forget to stock up on antacids.

Wednesday, November 29, 2017

Tropical Depression

Every year over the kids' Christmas break from school we take a family vacation.  Which is more of an international, off the beaten path adventure.  My husband voted that we take a break this year and stay home.  Because how we travel is anything but relaxing.  But, I pleaded with him that this may be the last year that we're all together as our boys are now adults.  Technically, according to the law anyhow.  It was after we found cheap air fare that he (reluctantly) acquiesced.  Cheap tickets to Puerto Rico.  We don't even need passports! And hurricane season is over in December!  This is going to be the easiest vacation ever!  (Yes, I actually said that.)  Of course, the next week after we bought those tickets, Hurricane Maria obliterated the island.  Putting us in a tropical depression.

Turns out, we were more delusional than we were depressed.  Because we sat on those tickets for two months.  Maybe they'd have electricity and clean water by December.  They still have gorgeous beaches we could visit and spend money which would (indistinguishably) help their economy.  Or maybe we could go and volunteer our time in the relief effort.  We didn't want to abandon Puerto Rico, especially when Trump already had.  But, short of us arriving at the San Juan airport bearing federal aid, there wasn't much we could do.

The final decision came after my husband spoke with someone with family in Puerto Rico.  Not only is there still not electricity and clean water on most of island, but the beaches are contaminated with waste.  The hotels are full of people left homeless by the hurricane and relief workers who flew in to help them.  Many restaurants are only open during the day, because evenings without electricity lend themselves to crime.  And debris and garbage line the streets making it's a breeding ground for disease.  It doesn't get more depressing for the people of Puerto Rico.  And that's when we made the decision to change our travel plans.  After making donations to World Central Kitchen and UNICEF, which would help more people there then we ever could.

In the wake of all the suffering in Puerto Rico and elsewhere in the world, I feel guilty that our tropical depression story has a happy ending.  Or at least I think it does.  Because we're still in the midst of planning our trip to Cancun and then on to Cuba.  (And no, we won't be staying in a resort.  But, we may be renting a VW van.)   That is of course, if Trump doesn't reinstate the ban on Americans traveling to Cuba as he's threatening to do.  Which, with this administration, could happen at any day at any time.

How does the story end?
Will this tropical depression be lifted?
Stay tuned...

In the meantime:
Check out the good work done by World Central Kitchen and consider making a donation to help feed the hungry people in Puerto Rico (and elsewhere around the world) here.

Wednesday, November 22, 2017

Once a Year

It happens once a year.  Thanksgiving.  Holiday parties.  I wear a dress and heels and try to balance a heaping plate full of food at the buffet line while maintaining a smile and polite small talk at my husband's Christmas party without twisting my ankle, falling or spilling food.  This is my Olympics, people!  And it's another reason why I hate the holiday's extremely social.  While I am extremely antisocial with a side of social anxiety.

During the bustling holiday festivities, you'll run into almost everyone you know.  Including the people you hardly know because you only see them once a year.  You'll see their vaguely face and think, who the hell are you?  But since you can't say that, that's when I'll introduce myself.  For the 5th year in a row.  Oops.  Well, that was really embarrassing.  Especially when someone knows things about you and your life and you don't know anything about theirs.  Which would be okay if I was good at making conversation from scratch.  However, I assure you, I am not!  But, I can make things awkward from scratch though.

Then there are the people that you do recognize and think, wow, they've really aged!   How did that happen in only a year?  Then they pull out their phone to show me pictures of their grandchildren.  And I step back.  "Is that a boy or a girl?  Can you expand that photo?  No?  Hold on...let me get my reading glasses from my purse."  And that's when I see them.  While I have my arm stretched out holding someone else's phone, with my reading glasses on...the age spots on my hands.  Maybe I think I'm not aging because I can't actually see myself all that well.  I've bathed myself in that flattering soft focus lens that they use on Elizabeth Taylor in that White Diamonds commercial.

Right after this is when the mismatched couple approaches.  Oh, you know the one I'm talking about. That couple that you can't figure out how they ever got together in the first place because one is exceedingly more attractive, intelligent and witty than the other one.  In fact, they don't seem compatible in any way.  But, yet,they've been together for years.  And you just want to inquire about the elephant in the room...which is the invisible bond that holds them together.  What is it?  While simultaneously staging an intervention.  Have you considered a trial separation?  Which is probably what people think about my husband (the life of the party) and me (the party pooper).  Why is he with her? He's so laid back and she's so pretentious!

Then there's the person you know stuff about. That you don't even want to know. But, someone you barely know told you a secret about them years ago and now every year when you see this person at that annual party, it's all you can think about. And the whole night I'm thinking, whatever you do, do NOT blurt out their secret! Or talk about any topic in any way related to it.  Which of course, then is all I can think about. (This party is coming up for me in a couple weeks and since I'm writing this, I've already started thinking about what not to say. But, I still have no idea what TO say to this person because I don't really know them, although I do know some very personal things about them.)

Thank god the holidays only happen once a year!

Wednesday, November 15, 2017

That Time of Year

It's that time of year.  The air is crisp and my lips are chapped.  My asthmatic cough brought on by the cold dry air is back and I won't use an inhaler because I DON'T HAVE ASTHMA!  (If I keep saying that it will be true.) And I left my chapstick in my jeans pocket and ran it through the wash again.  Why do I always do that?  On top of that, it's birthday season has begun.  (75% of my family and friends have November and December birthdays.)   Thanksgiving is just around the corner and now the stores are starting to play Christmas music.  I hate Christmas music!  In fact, I hate the whole holiday season because it's so stressful.  But, this post isn't about that.  It's about my vagina.

You see, it's time for my annual pap smear.  That I haven't had in 3 years.  Because I never got a reminder card in the mail urging me to make my annual appointment.  Or maybe I did and I lost it.   And then when I realized I did, it took me a couple of years to pick up the phone.  What is it about making a phone call that is so exquisitely painful?  Making an appointment and preparing for the appointment make me more anxious than having a stranger touch my vagina and stick a cold metal device up it.  Wait, I forgot to factor in my anxiety of peeing or farting on the stranger fingering my lady bits.  Nope, making the phone call and worrying about the appointment are still worse.  Plus, I get to lay down a table in the middle of the day, amidst the stress of birthday/holiday season.  I mean, how restful is that?

I am never more immaculately groomed than when I go to the gynecologist.  My legs are shaved perfectly smooth.  With special attention given to my knees and big toes, which I usually half ass.  But, when your legs are in stirrups and the doctor is sitting on a stool in directly in front of you, knees and toes tend to be quiet prominent.  And it's not that I take off my socks.  I don't, because it's always freezing in there.  But, I didn't take my socks off when I got a mole check at the dermatologist either.  Turns out, I was supposed to.  Then, she proceeded to take my socks off for me and spread my toes to look between each one.  Which totally freaked me out.  Because who knows what's in there?  I don't look.  Maybe I've got an embarrassing fungus.  Or sock lint.  I'll tell you what I don't have there, I don't have a cancerous mole.  So, now in addition to wearing nice, cute, coordinating underwear (just in case someone walks in when I'm still disrobing), I'll have to check between my toes before I put on a pair of unholy socks. I have any of those?  Oh man, I might need to buy new socks for the gynecologist.

Nothing quite prepares you for stepping on the scale at your appointment and coming to terms with  the reality that your jeans did not in fact shrink an entire size (or two) in the wash, you've just* gained weight.  And now, you've got to peel those tight jeans off to put on a paper gown and lay on a cold and crunchy paper lined table with your legs spread in stirrups, lady bits bathed in florescent lighting for the doctor.  I don't know what my vagina looks like, but I'm going to venture to guess that this isn't the best lighting or angle at which to appreciate it.  I also wonder if I have some of those outlying, long, straggly pubic hairs on my inner thigh.  Until the doctor mentions the bruises I have there.  I'd forgotten I have bruises all over my body that make me look like a battered woman.  I had to explain them to my dermatologist when she inquired too.  No, husband isn't abusing me.  I'm just abusing myself.  With a metal pole.  Because I'm a pole dancer.  

 It's always the season for awkward conversations.  

Wednesday, November 8, 2017

The Man I Love

I thought he was good man at first.  But, I learned quickly it was all a facade.  Not only is he controlling, a self-absorbed narcissist and homophobe, I also suspect he's a criminal.  And a despicable human being.

And yet, 
I love him despite these things.  

Not because I don't see the worst in him.  Because I do.  I absolutely do.  But, because he's given me the best things in my life.  My four children.  Even though he was reluctant to do it.  Even though he had his own selfish reasons for doing so that had nothing to do with me.  He still did.  

And for that, 
I'll always love him. 
How couldn't I? 
Who could blame me, really?

Putin on the ritz.  
The only thing harder than raising kids is trying to adopt kids through a corrupt system ruled by an autocrat.  I know because I did it four times.  The first time, back in 2000 was the worst.  There was a Russian government official who "lost" our paperwork multiple times.  If you have never been subjected to criminal background checks, letters of recommendation, financial verification, home studies, and the time consuming and costly apostilles required for each document (at $25 a page depending on your state), the process is grueling.  After all that, there's a hefty adoption fee (which is supposed to go straight to the orphanage to feed the children, which I'm extremely skeptical it does).  Then there's the gifts.  To all the Russian officials who have ever touched your paperwork.  Even the ones who touched and then lost it to try to prevent you from adopting Russian kids. (Don't forget a bottle of Jack Daniels for the judge!) Russian kids who likely won't be adopted by Russian parents because adoption has a stigma in Russia.  Which only perpetuates the plight of the country's orphans.

In 2012, Putin banned adoptions of Russian children by Americans.  Not for the benefit of the over 120,000 children who reside in orphanages who are eligible for adoption.  But, for political leverage. Specifically, retaliation for the Magnitsky Act that bars Russians accused of human rights violations from traveling to or owning assets in the United States.  This was the turning point in the deterioration of relations between our countries.  And why Putin was supporting Trump, in hopes that he would  repeal the Magnitsky Act.  Because he knew if Clinton got elected, she wouldn't.  What kind of a sick bastard denies children (ones who are already destitute mind you) for political gain?  But, it's an even sicker bastard who'd repeal a human rights act to placate a power hungry tyrant.

That's why Putin remains the man I love... hate.

Wednesday, October 25, 2017

The Curse

It generally happens at least once a month.  I get uncontrollable mood swings.  Ranging from annoyed to angry.   Irritated to irate.  I don't want to be like this.  But when it happens, I don't have any command over my emotions.  Biology makes me this way.  We as women are cursed.  And not just with our period.  Because that's not what I'm talking about.  I have this super power.  All women do actually.  Like Wonder Woman, except completely different.

You know when someone in your family does that thing?  That thing that is so fantastically annoying.  That thing you've told them a million times to stop doing.  But, they don't.  That's the trigger for my impeccable memory of every single time that particular person has done that particular thing.  Complete with a date and time stamp.  It's like I have hyperthymesia, but just for things that really piss me off.  Then my anger compounds with interest.  And that's when I become enraged and explode recounting every similar situation with some choice curse words thrown in.

I hate when I get like this.  But not as much as my family does.  But, come on, how hard is it to flush a goddam toilet?  That shit's gross!  And really?  Am I the only person capable of putting extra toilet paper in the bathrooms?  Look who saved your ass...again!  Wait, maybe I really am Wonder Woman!   Because there are several things in my house that only I'm capable of.  Like putting the cap back on the toothpaste, using the washing machine and keeping a mental inventory of what is in the house at any given moment and exactly where it is.  Because there's sure to be a pop quiz.  You know what's weird, is how preventable all of this is.  Oh, not on my part, but on my family's end.

Even though it's totally and completely not my fault for releasing this cataclysmic event, if I knew how to stop being this way, I would.  Except I'm pretty sure it involves getting a sex change.  Because every woman I know has this curse and does the same thing I do.  And every man I know is completely oblivious as to what he can do to prevent the woman in his life from erupting like this.  And while there is no known cure, cleaning the shaving stubble from the bathroom sink sure wouldn't hurt.  I may have mentioned this about a hundred times.  The last time I mentioned it was last month on a Tuesday when I made meatloaf and everyone left me to do the dishes.  Again.


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