25 February 2011

happy 84.

a lifetime of love., originally uploaded by Luna Soledad.

Today is my Grandma's 84th birthday.

She has certainly seen better days. Visiting her now is always bittersweet for me as the essence of the wonder-woman I grew up with has all but moved on waiting patiently for her soul to follow...

She's tired, I know this, and is winding down. Her health is failing and her appetite gone. It's hard to convince her to eat anything especially when she's quick to argue about the big breakfast she just cooked and how she can't eat another bite, even though it's 6pm and she hasn't been in front of a stove in years.

She sleeps a lot these days, making up for all that she's missed in her long lifetime I suppose, but a couple of weeks ago she fell into a deep, sound sleep giving quite a fright to all who love her. When she finally woke in the evening, she indicated to my aunt that she was fine and had spent the day talking with the Lord. The Lord told her that soon he would heal her and take her home; she said that was fine by her.

That is so Grandma.

Grandma has always had a strong faith in God though she rarely went to church. Her church was the outdoors, her gardens, her flowers, the wilderness, and wildlife. I believe Grandma knows the truth. I also believe that her truth is one of many.

She died once, many years ago on the operating table during a procedure. She told me of how she watched from above all the commotion as doctors and nurses scurried frantically about her body in attempts to revive her. Like so many others have recounted of near death experiences, she saw the "tunnel of lights" and felt completely at peace, ready for the journey. She saw a hand move away from her and understood that it was not her time... She awoke later in the hospital with vivid memories of her encounter.

When I was young, Grandma and I had many conversations about death and dying and God and what we thought happened next. We made a promise to each other that whoever went first would try our best to come back and let the other know we got there okay.

I don't know how I will ever face it, but I know that time is coming.

Kevin, the kids and I went to see her recently and took some of her favorite foods in hopes that she would eat: pimento cheese (yuk!), fresh strawberries, applesauce, and a couple of new things to try - blackberry flavored water and a Starbucks coffee.

Grandma always loved her coffee and sweet tea (the mother's milk of the south). After more than eight decades, I decided it was high-time she had her first Starbucks. So I took her one: a sugar-free 1/2 decaf. Cinnamon Dolce with whole milk.

Each time she tasted it, she said it was downright delicious. She ate a quarter of a pimiento cheese sandwich before telling me again about her big breakfast. She tried the blackberry flavored water and told me how she could make it taste much better because it wasn't sweet enough, "All you gotta do is stew some fresh blackberries with a cup or two of sugar..." she said, which kinda defeats the purpose when you're diabetic but I'm sure she was right. After a slice or two of strawberries, she began trying to feed the children, who were happy to eat Grandma's strawberries and Grandma was happy to see the children eat them.

"Okay Grandma, how about you have the applesauce and Liam will eat the strawberries, he hasn't been eating well."

I turned to my son, "Tell you what, for every bite of applesauce Grandma eats, you have to eat a strawberry," I said as I was cutting the berry halves into minuscule pieces.

Worked like a charm and both Grandma and Liam finished all of their fruit while Isabel gobbled down the remainder of the uneaten pimento cheese sandwich. Grandma was very proud of Liam for eating all of his strawberries. ;-)

84 years: 1st Starbucks., originally uploaded by Luna Soledad.

"Oh Grandma," I said for the dozenth time, "I brought you a coffee to try. It's from a coffee shop called Starbucks. I think you'll like it; it has cinnamon in it."

And once again, she would try her very first Starbucks latte and proclaim in surprise, "Well Crys, I've never had coffee like this before but this is downright delicious."

Happy Birthday Grandma!
I love you! Always and always.

"Grandma always made you feel she had been waiting to see just you all day and now the day was complete."

...Marcy DeMaree

21 February 2011

ice cream floats.

Eve & me, originally uploaded by Luna Soledad.

IBC Root Beer, in my humble opinion, is the best stuff. And makes the most awesome root beer float, even with the diet root beer. Not sure why we fool ourselves with the whole diet soda bit when coupled with something like ice cream or a Big Mac, but we do. It's as if by shaving off a few soda calories we're giving ourselves permission to indulge elsewhere, but whatever...

So last night, I made myself a (diet) IBC Root Beet float with Bryers chocolate, vanilla, and strawberry ice cream. Liam thought it was the strangest concoction he'd ever seen until he tasted it. --My mistake. That's like feeding a dog from the table - then you have to listen to it whine and beg throughout dinner.

My favorite part of an ice cream float is when the ice cream freezes from the cold soda and produces those delicious little ice cream flavored icebergs in the mug - a cold crunchy delight. =)

I remember once back in Germany, hanging out with my sister Evelyn... We hit the Baskin Robbins on post at Leighton Barracks for ice cream floats. Oh the days of simple joys... As we continued our stroll across base, me sipping my yummy float and hunting for icebergs, Eve suddenly makes a mad dash for the nearest trashcan as if she would vomit up bile and spat out a mouthful of her ice cream float.

"OMG, it's ROOT BEER!" she exclaimed in utter disgust.

"Uhm, yeah, that's generally how ice cream floats are made," I replied.

"That's disgusting. I hate root beer. It's supposed to be Coke!"

"Coke? THAT'S disgusting," I said looking at her as though that was the craziest thing I'd ever heard. "A Coke float? On what planet?"

"Puerto Rico!"

"Age does not diminish the extreme disappointment of having a scoop of ice cream fall from the cone."

...Jim Fiebig

18 February 2011

a perfectly good diaper.

baby + prunes..., originally uploaded by Luna Soledad.
So yesterday I took a break from life and lost myself in the safe, soothing labyrinth of words, wisdom, and personal amusement commonly referred to as "the bookstore." --The day had been such a downward spiral of aggravation riddled with angst and irritation that I had no choice but to remove myself from the rat-race and fade into some deliriously enjoyable escape that can only be found in solitude between the covers of a good book... I collected a pile to review, found a lone vacant chair, popped a Klonopin, wrote a few lines of nastiness in my red Moleskine, and thumbed through my selections waiting for the daggered edge to leave me.

After an hour or so, I calmly, coolly, and collectively rose from my hideaway and made my way toward the register, only to find myself distracted en route by a book entitled, "Sh*t My Kids Ruined." How could I not pick that up?

I stood alone in the store flipping page after page through a glorious pictorial of the joys of parenting in its finest moments... and the wake of destruction left behind by our spawn. Photographs of everything from microwaved Barbies and Hot Wheels cars... strewn cereal, baby powder, flour, condiments, and nearly anything imaginable found in a household that comes in a box or bottle... a carpet cleaner filled with a gallon of milk... fantastic poop catastrophes... the artistic devastation that only Sharpie markers can create - on leather sofas, carpet, cabinets, and walls... broken windows, appliances, shower doors, plasma TVs and laptops... and my personal favorite - that literally had me laughing out loud: a photo of someone's hard-earned college diploma from Louisiana State University completely adorned in a toddler's scrawl!

It was exhilarating! Like an unmistakable sign from the universe that screamed at me: "YOU ARE NOT ALONE!" Yay I thought! =D

And this little therapeutic antidote began as a website started by a fellow frustrated and no-doubt exhausted mother, whose pain (and comedy) I deeply feel.

I mean sure, I could probably write my own book complete with pictorials of shit my kids have ruined over the years -- from clothing, food, and furniture to floors, carpet, walls, VHS tapes and DVD's... beautiful days and perfectly good diapers... not to mention my sanity, which leads me to this post:

Once upon a time when Liam was but a wee lad of 7 months, the family unit and I set out for some quality time on a lovely spring Saturday in April (because like pets, you feel guilty if you don't take them for a walk once in a while). We spent a few hours at a local carnival and as it was such a lovely day, we decided to ride out to the beautiful Duke Gardens in Durham, North Carolina for some fresh air and sunshine in a scenic atmosphere in hopes of capturing some life long memories in photographs.

Well, we certainly accomplished that!

We pulled into a parking spot and began to disembark though quickly discovered, much to our disgust and horror, that we had had a major blowout. "O.M.G." cannot even begin to describe the sight I beheld...

I called to Kevin, who, cued by the panic-stricken shriek in my voice, bolted over to my side of the car where we both stood, mouths gaping open like black holes of disbelief at our darling, happily-smiling cherubic baby son, completely covered from head to toe in SHIT. Yes, that's right, s-h-i-t. --It looked as if this child, clothing, car seat and all, had be dipped into a well-used septic tank. How on earth one tiny being produced such an explosion of foulness I will never know. Wow. It was truly impressive. Not a proud moment mind you, but impressive none-the-less. Holy hell.

"Give him prunes she said..." Kevin finally says in his best wife-mocking voice breaking the spell -- just as shitty happy baby stops flailing his fat little arms and legs in delight -- and completely in slow-motion to the viewing world around him -- reaches up with his little diarrhea-coated dimpled fist and plants it right in his mouth!...

I'm not sure if I gagged first or shouted, "Nooooo!" while leaping with the stealth of a Cheetah to grab his hand (again it was all a slow-motion blur) but irregardless, my prey escaped me and thus the day forevermore became known as: "The Day Liam Ate Poop."

As I said, it was a beautiful spring day. A lovely day for a wedding in fact, of which there were two. --Imagine the looks of horror, disgust, judgment, and pity on the upturned faces of many an old money wedding guest crossing the parking lot adorned in their finest formals, off to celebrate the blissful unions of their loved ones. And here we were laughing hysterically and taking pictures (memories to last a lifetime ya know) engaged in the shit-fest of the century, disassembling a crap-covered car seat, with trash bags full of dirty clothes and yucky baby wipes - and a naked, brown-speckled baby on the asphalt.

I don't think I've ever felt like such a hillbilly in my life, though we did have the good grace to deposit our abundant garbage in the proper receptacles - only after of course giving baby Poo-zilla a quick sink bath in one of the wedding reception hall's bathrooms...

And yes Liam, my little love, you can expect to see this photo again one day... in your own wedding reception slide show! ;-)

"Ninety percent of everything is crap.”

...Theodore Sturgeon

10 February 2011

adventures in ALE.

cheers!, originally uploaded by Luna Soledad.
A lot of people don't know this about me... I was once a "narc" - though the slang term is somewhat misleading. More accurately, I was an undercover volunteer with a Raleigh division of Alcohol Law Enforcement, interestingly enough during my aspiring underage drinking days of high school. Of course, I justified this hypocrisy with the fact that even as an young immature party-goer I had strict self-imposed rules about drinking and driving (riding with my lunatic alcoholic high school boyfriend Stephen was more than enough to scare anyone straight) and the fact that my life's ambition at the time was to join the DEA. Go figure.

Even then I was smart enough to know that such a gig would look great on a resume... and it came with an adrenalin rush all its own.

It all started one evening waiting tables at the little seafood and barbecue restaurant on 50 Highway (way before I-40), the Country Squire, where I used to work. I had a six-top of unusually mixed fellows who didn't look at all like they belonged together with some clean cut in suits and a a couple rough-neck-looking types in leather motorcycle gear. Naturally I was suspicious until a jacket fell open and I spied a badge. Aha. The curiosity was killing me so I just flat out asked who they worked for. The next thing I know they collectively interviewed me and I gave them my number. I was 16.

As an undercover minor, my job was to drive some piece of shit impounded drug car to various convenience stores and bars and attempt to purchase alcohol with my valid NC drivers license looking like the teenager I was complete with pony-tail and orthodontic retainer. I would drive up alone, go in the store, pick out a six pack of beer, and go to the counter to purchase it. Soon to be followed by an undercover ALE agent picking up sodas, snacks, and gum or whatever else was on our collective wish list. If the cashier asked for ID, I showed them and often they still made the sale. I was amazed how easy it was. I mean, I knew all the hot spots in Johnston County to purchase anything but that was out in the sticks; JoCo still had bootleggers for Pete's sake. But wow. --If there was a bust, we'd meet up and do paperwork, statements, etc.

I also acted in several service training videos over the couple of years that I worked for them, though I never saw them. Betcha didn't know I was such a movie star either. ;-)

The most interesting sting I was part of involved Fairlanes bowling alley in Raleigh which no longer exists. A bartender there served 12 pitchers of beer to three teenage boys one night... one of them never made it home. WTF? TWELVE pitchers?!! That's FOUR a piece. What makes anyone think that even a legal adult should be allowed to tank up like that and turned loose on the roads? Oh, I was all in for that one.

So the night of the Fairlanes bust, I went in alone allegedly waiting for my fictitious boyfriend and friends who would never arrive while the entire ALE division bowled at the other end of the alley. --A waitress came up and asked what I'd like to drink; I ordered some domestic beer or another as my taste had yet to mature so I didn't know any better. I see her at the bar chatting with a handsome young fellow obviously full of himself and checking me out (hey, I was purdy cute back then)... She quickly returns to tell me with a wink that I would have to order from the bar but not to worry he was cool. So I walk up to Mr. Cool Bartender and place my order. He asked for my ID and I handed it over. He takes a look and smiles at me, "I'm sorry sweetheart, you've got to be 21 to buy beer." Before I could even reply, he flips my drivers license over and slides it back to me across the counter. "Let's try this again," he says, "how old are you?" "Sixteen," I respond with my best retainer smile. He kind of shakes his head like he cannot believe how stupid I am and then decided to give me one more chance, "One more time. How old are you?" "Twenty-one." He smiles and pours my beer. I walk off and pretend to sip my beer as the agents conclude their game.

It was the same bartender who had served the teenage boys.

My first time ever in a court room was as a witness in the Fairlanes case and yeah, I was nervous as hell when I took the stand. Needless to say, the handsome bartender wasn't smiling at me then. The defense attorney was your stereotypical hard-ass and did his best to bully me into confessing that I had intentionally deceived the unknowing bartender so each question that he asked repetitiously five different ways was answered something like this: "After showing Mr. Cool my valid North Carolina drivers license stating that I am sixteen years of age and after verbally telling him once that I was sixteen years of age, then yes, I said that I was 21 as he indicated that's what he wanted to hear..."

He was convicted and Fairlanes was fined. I remember the judge saying something he thought wise, like the moral of a story in the even he ever was quoted for something great, such as, 'If we can raise our children with strong morals and values until adulthood and shield them from harmful influences, they will be better equipped to make mature decision and use good judgment as adults...'

I thought that was sound wisdom until I moved to Germany and realized that if you could reach the bar you could order a beer and that strangely there wasn't a huge problem with teenage alcohol abuse. I mean, even in a country which brews the best beer in the world, in a society where ale is traditionally a staple with meals and kids grow up with access, where's the fun in sneaking around and getting shit-faced when you can sit down and have a beer with your parents at dinner? Besides, the public transportation is so superior that no one need ever drive a car and cannot afford to really until well into their 20's when they've had time to save the $2000 or so it costs to get a drivers license. Sure, DUI's happen there too (and believe me, the Polezei don't play), but more often than not, they're on bicycles. --So sure, raise your kids to be good people, I get that, but I also believe greatly in the temptation of forbidden fruit.

Anyhoo... working undercover was an extraordinary (and dare I say fun?) experience and has been an interesting topic of conversation in job interviews ever since though ultimately my career path inevitably veered after my first born. --I'm always quick to point out too, that during this time period, I was also a full-time high school student, drove an elementary school bus, and waited tables 20-30 hours a week as proof of my ability to multitask with great efficiency... though again, this was once upon a time well before marriage and children another world ago. Most importantly, I gained a unique perspective into the working lives of the men and women in law enforcement and a healthy respect for the truly good guys. I did go on to major in Criminal Justice and had a heck of a lot of fun participating in Officer Survival Training playing the role of a criminal, not to mention DUI training... but that is but another blog...

And as it so happened, my connections got me out of a few traffic tickets over the years as well, but of course these days, I have The Husband, Esq for that. ;-)


"You can't be a Real Country unless you have a BEER and an airline -- it helps if you have some kind of a football team, or some nuclear weapons, but at the very least you need a BEER."

...Frank Zappa

07 February 2011

Jabba the sub.

Warning : "Explicit Lyrics" =)

So Monday is a dry, merciless Twat.

This morning started out with the alarm clock not going off because either there is a poltergeist in our house with a bad sense of humor or one of the small, furniture-climbing children turned the volume off, again. In any case, I woke just in time to bolt up-right, panic, rush to wake / change / clean / groom Isabel, and run downstairs to find a message on the machine from the bus driver saying that there would be a sub today at the regular time... No sooner than I had Bell’s sneakers on, I hear the bus pull to a stop outside and begin honking - at 0645. I dash out the door with daughter in tow and scale down that steep-ass cliff that is our drive-way to find Jabba the Hut at the wheel of the school bus. Holy shit.

I mean, I’m not one to throw stones here -- let’s face it, who doesn’t need to shed a few pounds these days? But when the seat belt which barely reaches around your massive carcus is lost in folds of blubber, I’m thinking it’s questionable whether you can perform any duties at all and it’s way past time for a life change. Oh, but let’s not pick on an obscenely obese person for being the size of a Volkswagen when we can skewer her for being a hatefully rude, nasty, disrespectful bitch and all-around miserable human-being...

I approach the bus with a confused look on my face as I see that Isabel’s assigned Transportation Assistant is also not on board but instead a older gentleman with graying hair and a cap. I politely inquire. Jabba yells at me and tells me, “She aint here!” Really, wow, because I thought perhaps that Ms. R. had had a sex change and grew a beard over the weekend? And why I thought it important to indicate to her the specifics of my daughter’s IEP regarding transportation I have no idea except that it was OMG-thirty in the morning and I had yet to have my coffee, but never-the-less I did and the response was more yelling, something to the tune of, “She aint here! It’s not my fault. What do you expect me to do about it? If she aint here, she aint here!” So I tell Jabba that I would just take my daughter to school myself this morning and I thanked her for being so pleasant about it all. Then asked if she would be driving again? And if so, could she please refrain from honking at 0645 in the morning?

“Ma’am, I can’t sit out here for five minutes waitin’ on you!” Jabba barked.

“You were not out here for five minutes,” I corrected Jabba, though what I wanted to say was: Look you fucking bitch, you weren’t out here for five minutes; you were not even out here for two minutes! My hand was on the fucking door knob when you pulled up and started honking your fucking horn. What’s your fucking hurry you inconsiderate cow?!! Is there an ‘all-you-can-eat’ special at Biscuitville this morning? or are you trying to make sure your bus hours don’t cut into your disability check for being the size of a Volkswagen?

But with that she began bitching about not having time for whatever and slammed the bus doors in my face and drove off with the older man standing there with a “WTF?” expression on his face.

Are you kidding me?!!

Needless to say, this little scenario inspired a phone call to Jabba’s supervisor who apologized that I had this ‘experience’ this morning. Fine, whatever; don’t ever send that woman back to my house again. Well what do you want us to do when your regular driver needs to be out? She’s the only sub we have... WHAT? Seriously?!! The only substitute bus driver in all of Wake County? Come on - I drove a school bus in high school and I assure you it’s not brain surgery. Yes, but not every driver is qualified to operate a lift bus. (This is where I started laughing...) IT’S A LEVER! My daughter could operate a lever! --And I am pretty darn certain that there is no way in hell Jabba could fit her enormous body down the bus isle to even get to the lift to begin with assuming she could walk three steps without getting winded and/or giving herself a heart attack. Are you people dropping acid over there? or do you just not give a shit?

So I tell her again, [paraphrasing] not to ever send that miserable bitch back to my house and to call me next time and I’ll take my own child to school... What in the hell makes her think I would put my child - who cannot even speak to tell me if something happens to her - in a vehicle with such a vile, disrespectful, and hateful person?

The supervisor apologizes again for the ‘experience’ and assures me that she will ‘speak’ to Jabba which I took to mean she would inform Jabba of how badly she pissed me off this morning. I mean, she’s the only sub they have right? What are they gonna do, fire her?

Oh, but I am not done yet.

What infuriates me most of all - on behalf of my own child and all of her sweet, simple peers and their dog-ass tired families who have more than enough bullshit to put up with every damn day and are so beat down by the system they think they have no choice and than to have to listen to shit like this from some ignorant, hateful person - is this : if that nasty cow would talk to a mother with her child standing in her own driveway like a damn dog, how in this world does she treat the special education students who ride her bus when no one is around to protect them?

Oh no: Fuck You Jabba! You done messed with the wrong mama!
I am not done with you yet...

"If we lose love and self respect for each other, this is how we finally die."

...Maya Angelou

04 February 2011

this is not a toy.

this is not a toy., originally uploaded by Luna Soledad.

O' how he makes my heart laugh! =)

"I think that children have a power to imagine that is almost magical when compared to the adult imagination, and this is something irrevocable that a child loses when he or she becomes bound by logic. We adults continue to have our children's power of imagination only in our dreams... Of course it's awfully necessary that children not run their entire lives on the basis of such thinking; they do need to learn how to think logically. But the world will soon teach that to them. And in overabundance. I think we should do everything we can to make it possible for children to hang onto the power to imagine in the almost magical sense for as long as possible."

...Joseph Weizenbaum, Out of the Mouths of Mathematicians

the rebirth of zen.

the rebirth of zen., originally uploaded by Luna Soledad.
This is a photo taken from last weekend's collaborative shoot with my photographic partner-in-crime, Rob Miracle, and our lovely model Randi. What a fantastic shoot!

I hesitated to blog this one just yet because I just love the image and the symbolism of the finished product... I couldn't help feeling that it needed some magical words to accompany it, a story, a poem, fable, or at the very least, some pearl of wisdom from a true zen-master about finding peace within one's self and the world around. Alas, that is something I know both a lot and very little...

Peace is not a thing to be found, but rather a state of mind, heart, and soul which requires a lot practice and constant vigilance, much like a garden, in order to grow and cultivate and become something beautiful. Then seasons change and we must do it all again.

Easier said than done.

My Grandmother was the ultimate zen-master of all things green... A woman with only an eighth grade education, she was and is still, among the wisest women I've ever known, especially when it came to growing stuff to feed the body and feed the soul. She could grow anything from anything and her gardens would flourish in a symphony of life.

It amazes me still how she managed to juggle acres of vegetable and flower gardens in various locations around the 54 acre farm... rows and rows of corn, tomatoes, peas, squash, cucumbers, and melons, to name a few, and countless flowers that I don't even know the names of... anything that was rooted in the earth, Grandma could tell you all about it and even through the toughest summers, she could grow it and produce enough to can, freeze, and share. And somehow she always found time to do all that, keep the house, watch the occasional Shirley Temple movie, cook three meals a day, and never did anything go to waste. There was always a bouquet of flowers on her table and plenty of food to eat. --How she divided her time between all that demanded her constant attention (including me) on the farm is beyond my comprehension... I can barely find the time in the day to clothe myself, get the kids off to school, and accomplish a few menial tasks before picking up some fast food crap for dinner... but Grandma was Magic like that.

There isn't a doubt within me that her mastery of gardening fed her soul's splendor as much, perhaps more, than her plentiful yields fed the family and community.

It goes without saying that I inherited my love of fresh flowers and vegetables from Grandma, though the 'green thumb' completely escaped my genetics. Heck, I've been known to kill ivy plants and I'm told that is quite a feat. But that doesn't stop me from trying... Last summer I managed to grow from seeds, tomatoes, cucumbers, and peppers in pots. --A small success but a success none-the-less, and such a success never tasted sweeter in a salad. Grandma would be proud. =)

Perhaps it takes a lifetime of practice, mindfulness, and dedication to overcome our lack of green thumbs and rediscover the art of life... to grow and become a thing of selfless beauty and substance...

Not unlike a zen-master and her garden.

"It isn't enough to talk about peace. One must believe in it. And it isn't enough to believe in it. One must work at it."

...Eleanor Roosevelt