I’d rather be the hammer than the nail

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Everything is connected. All the time. Don’t you think? Let me explain. My husband and I snuck off to see the movie Wild on Friday night. It was the first book I read when I joined my book club a few years ago. Great book. Great movie. Great book club. But this isn’t about the movie or the book club. This is about the soundtrack to the movie. I need to back up a few years.

In 2010 my husband turned the big 4-0. He only wanted one thing to celebrate – a trip to Munich, Germany for Octoberfest. Turned out that 2010 was a celebratory year for that event (I can’t remember if it was 150 years or 100 years). Either way it was a big year for them too. So we went, and it was a blast. Him and I are really good travel companions (not in an Amazing Race kind of way, but in a relaxed House Hunters International kind of way). We stayed about a mile from the fairgrounds and headed there the first night we arrived. It was out of control and amazing. Crowded. Loud. Did I mention crowded? Our favorite haus introduced us to all kinds of characters (we were almost lured into a tricky situation but that’s another story). We had a blast. A couple of notes for those who have never been. There are a lot of Italians there. A lot. Molto. Also, John Denver is their God. Everywhere you go – in every tent – every 5 minutes – they play Take me home, country roads. The entire place stops and all the Italians and all the brauhaus servers sing along holding hands. True story. I’m off the rails. Back to why everything is connected.

By the third night we were pretty much done with all the fest fun. My husband suggested we find a small, local pub off the beaten track and spend the evening there instead. And because he has a tracking device for such places, we found one on the other side of town. Quiet. Small. Almost empty. Dark. Perfect. We settled in with our beers, ordered some food and chatted with the two other people in there. Did you know Germans are very friendly? Did you know Germans in a bar with beers are even friendlier? They are. After about an hour of hanging out there, the doors to the pub flew open and an entire oompah band walked in. Have you ever seen an oompah band? Sorry I’m asking so many questions. Oompah bands aren’t petite. Here’s what they kinda looked liked.

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Imagine this group with those instruments walking into a small, dark, pub – you notice. Turns out that the oompah band are regulars here. And they don’t just put their instruments down and relax, oh no. They play. They play loud. By the time they got there, we were ready for some excitement and my husband started hooting and hollering as he often does and recording them with his phone. We bought them beers. We sang along. It was great fun. At the end of the night they played Simon and Garfunkel’s El Condor Pasa. My husband leaped out of his seat and started yelling and screaming. What can I say? He likes Simon and Garfunkel – and we were so happy not to be hearing John Denver. They played really well and I thought I knew the song but couldn’t remember. My husband turned to me and said,” you know, I’d rather be a hammer than the nail…yes I would, yes I would.” I nodded and smiled. Oh yeah, I said, sure I remember. Truthfully I had no idea.

Days after we got home from the trip we would play that song and even John Denver to remind us of the trip. We even made the kids listen, showed them all the videos. Eventually the videos got deleted, because unless our kids in them – they really don’t seem to make the cut.

A few months after the trip we were still thinking/talking/singing about our time away. My husband decided to Youtube videos of Octoberfest one night – that’s how desperate we were to relive our time. He watched videos of all the differnt brauhaus fun. Then he typed in El Candor Pasa Oompah band. And the first video that popped up was the one he clicked. He turned it up. It ended. He watched it again. Turned it up louder. It was a dark video of an oompah band playing the song in a small pub. No way. He called me over. He said, “do you recognize this?” He played the video and it looked kind of familiar – but it was so dark, I couldn’t make it out. Then he turned it up and pointed to the corner of the room – where there was a dude recording a video of the band and hooting and hollering. NO!! It couldn’t be!! But it was. Someone else from that bar had recorded the band too – and in the background was my husband holding up a phone and yelling. You couldn’t really make out his face, it was blurry – but it was him! Come on!! That’s fantastical no? I feel my kids rolling their eyes somewhere out there in the universe. We’ve told them the story a few million times. It’s a good story.

Ok I’m getting excited again. Back to the movie. Told you it wasn’t really a review. The soundtrack is amazing. It’s the one thing that kept my husband awake the whole time. And I know he liked the movie, even though he kept tapping me and asking,” when does it get WILD?” every few minutes. He’s hysterical.  I’ll ask one last question. What song do you think they played all throughout the movie? Yep. That’s the one.

Everything is connected, even if it involves oompah bands and book clubs.

Racism. The old fashioned kind.

I went to get a book for my friend’s son (a boy so beautiful he would blow up the blogosphere – but alas, his smart mama keeps him off the interweb). I try to get a book he will like and his parents won’t hate reading 1,000 times to him.
As I was perusing, I found this Thanksgiving book. I was drawn to it right away. Because of the way it was drawn.
None of that cultural sensitivity stuff from the newer books. Just good old fashioned stereotyping.
I grew up in the 70s and 80s. Everything that we called normal is now called hazing, bullying, sexual harassment, ADHD, cultural insensitivity and it’s evil twin – racism. Many 40+ olds like me are now in therapy or spending quality time in a bar reflecting and learning why none of that was normal. And it wasn’t normal or right. We were just too busy wearing shoulder pads to notice.
That’s why I was so surprised to see this book, published pretty recently.

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Look at these old school images.
Squanto and his pals actually have feathers on their heads – and mohawks – you know, cause their Injuns (which I now know is an offensive epithet and not a cute abbreviation. See, all that time at the bar helped). I’m obsessed with these pics. I can’t figure out why one of the pilgrims has a groovy Afro or why some of the pilgrims have hipster mustaches.

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The picture below brings me right back to elementary school. I’ve seen a version of this pic a million times. The pilgrims facing the cold, hard winter. Why don’t they just go into the warm wood cabins behind them? Duh. I should have been a pilgrim.

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Once they explain the “origins” of Thanksgiving, there’s a picture of a modern family enjoying the feast.

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I’m digging the addition of the African American grandparents – but where are the descendants of Squanto? Atleast 3 culturally insensitive jokes come to mind. I won’t write them. Cause I know what cultural insensitivity feels like, I’m an Injun too. Dot, not feather.
(I did not buy this book. I bought a Halloween book called Dem Bones instead. Much more politically correct )

Picture Imperfect

We finally had another book club meeting tonight. It’s been a long, bookless summer. Because why would I read a book if I’m not getting credit for it? Duh.
We read Let’s Pretend This Never Happened by Jenny Lawson. If you read my post yesterday you’d know that I straight up crammed the book in about 24 hrs. I’m so happy I did. It was LOL funny. How can you not love a book that waxes poetic about taxidermy, miscarriages, and blogging. You don’t think they belong together, but they do. Did I mention that the author curses more than a truck driver? (And can we change that expression? I’ve never heard a truck driver swear. Maybe it should be “she swears more than the Kardashians).

Instead of meeting at a member’s house, we were invited to The Artist’s Cellar. You’ve seen these right? You wine, you paint, it’s all good.
We had a blast. Babes with Books (BWB) rocked it. Here’s me and the beautiful woman who created BWB (I think. I mean I KNOW she’s beautiful but I’m guessing about the other part). We took a selfie. It was her idea. Or mine.

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We had adorable instructors named Cayla, Cameo and Jessica and the place was awesome. Booze, loud gals and detailed instructions – what could go wrong?!

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Here’s my masterpiece in the making.

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As always with this group, we talked about the book…oh…for a hot second. And then we talked about psychics, grandkids, medication and other miscellaneous items of urgency. A good time was had by all.

Here’s the painting we were supposed to draw:

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Here’s what I drew:

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You don’t see four trees you say? That’s called creative license! It doesn’t have anything to do with four trees merging into two blobs that I had to make into trees. Stop judging me.
We had a blast.

And here’s some pictures I took while I should have been painting.

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BWB!!

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Culture Vulture 2014 – Winter Edition

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The Good Wife

One of my best gal pals has been telling me to watch this show for a long long time now. But I wasn’t interested because her taste in pop culture is….how do I put this…non existent. She watches minimal TV and when she does, it isn’t on Bravo. Sometimes I have to explain the cover of US Weekly to her, just sayin’. So this past week I was on a plane or at an airport for approximately 12 hours of my life…perfect binge watching environment. I gave the show a shot because frankly I’ve seen everything else (except Lost. Can’t go there). She was right. The show is fantastic! Move over Olivia Pope, make room for understated acting and writing. The show had me at Christine Baranski – and I haven’t even gotten to the Alan Cummings season. I hope Huma Abedin, Silda Spitzer and Jenny Sanford all watch this together.

All Is Lost

As you all know, after the holidaze my husband and I hibernate until Easter. There’s the odd get together here or there, but in general, we work and we stay home. Or go to a movie. This year we had a lot of good choices. We’ve seen almost all the ones that have been nominated – but my favorite so far is this little movie. Simple and complex, quiet and devastating. You don’t need any 3D glasses to feel like you are a part of this story. A man stranded alone on a boat after an unfortunate accident. There are a few voice over lines in the beginning – and a couple of words in between. Other than that there is silence and isolation. It’s like Castaway without Wilson or a neat, happy ending.

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From Scratch: Inside the Food Network

When I was little, my mother was obsessed with the cooking shows she found on TV – mostly on PBS. Paul Prudhomme, Julia Child, Martin Yan, these were the faces in our living room. She would never make a perfect roast chicken and I’m pretty sure she still hasn’t tried Chinese food – but she couldn’t get enough of those shows. I remember very clearly how happy she was when The Food Network started. To this day it’s her goto channel. Like a true mother’s daughter, I’m just as obsessed. This book isn’t about the celebrity chef drama – there’s no mention of downfalls or scandals. This is how and why the network got started. If you get off on back-of-house info like I do, this book is for you.

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Babes With Books (BWB)

Last night I hosted the monthly meeting of a book club I joined this past year. I know I’ve told you about it before (This ain’t no Oprah’s Book Club ). Did I mention the name of our club? BWB. Oh roll your eyes all you want, it’s cute.

Each month the host of the meeting also picks the book we all read. For October, it was my turn. I picked, “Where’d You Go, Bernedette?”

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Have you read it? Did you love it like I loved it? Here’s the Amazon blurb:  Bernadette Fox is notorious. To her Microsoft-guru husband, she’s a fearlessly opinionated partner; to fellow private-school mothers in Seattle, she’s a disgrace; to design mavens, she’s a revolutionary architect, and to 15-year-old Bee, she is a best friend and, simply, Mom. Then Bernadette disappears. It began when Bee aced her report card and claimed her promised reward: a family trip to Antarctica. But Bernadette’s intensifying allergy to Seattle–and people in general–has made her so agoraphobic that a virtual assistant in India now runs her most basic errands. A trip to the end of the earth is problematic.To find her mother, Bee compiles email messages, official documents, secret correspondence–creating a compulsively readable and touching novel about misplaced genius and a mother and daughter’s role in an absurd world.

It’s funny. It’s quirky. It’s heartbreaking. My three favorite things to be. I adored Bernadette. She and I would be fast friends. Who doesn’t love a woman that outsources her daily life? Here’s some of my favorite quotes from the book,

Your mission statement says Galer Street is based on global “connectitude.” You people don’t just think outside the box, you think outside the dictionary!

…And I’m going to let you in on a little secret about life. You think it’s boring now? Well, it only gets more boring. The sooner you learn it’s ON YOU to make life interesting, the better off you’ll be.

…I’d say I never considered myself a great architect. I’m more of a creative problem solver with good taste and a soft spot for logistical nightmares.

I’m seriously adding the last line into my resume, “I don’t consider myself an event planner. I’m more of a creative problem solver with good taste and a soft spot for logistical nightmares”.  You should steal it too.

In the book, Bernadette gets derailed from something she was passionate about, and it almost destroys her. Without being overly dramatic, I can say that I totally relate. I’ve moved further and further away from everything I loved about event planning.

It’s natural, I guess, to become a bit more cynical as you progress in your career. But it’s been a bummer. I spend more time on conference calls debating headcount than I do debating flower or menu choices. Actually I spend zero time on the latter. I blame the corporate environment! I blame the economy! I blame the man! Just kidding. There’s no man to blame. It’s marketing after all. It’s an island full of amazon women who look normal on the outside, but inside – they’re trained mercenaries trying to outdo one another.  Just kidding again. That’s the island Wonder Woman is from.

What I’m trying to say is… I love event planning and I miss my old event planning self. Where’d you go?

So in honor of Bernedette – I pulled out all the stops to last night’s meeting.

Individual appetizers were served in a ridiculous but awesome tray/cup contraption. There were enough chips and dips to make an 80’s housewife proud. There was even a cheese platter with cutesy little ceramic signs and decorative table coverings. Decorative table coverings!! Who’s got time for that? Not me. But I did it anyway. And it made me so happy. (If you are wondering how I had all this stuff – a good friend who knows the buried planner inside me gifted them to me last Christmas)

Here’s a picture of the lovely ladies. This was taken about a minute before we pulled up twerking videos on YouTube and one of these BWBs, not sayin’ who, got up and tried the move. Take that Diana Prince.

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This ain’t no Oprah’s book club

Besides working and mothering and wife’ing – I try to have some fun. Just a little bit. Because I’m a frustrated English major deep inside, I’ve been talking to a few of my ‘hood moms about starting a book club. We talked a lot about starting it. For months we talked. But nothing happened. Then one of these marvy women suggested we join a club already in progress. One started and run by a group of responsible women who actually do what they say they want to do. Cool concept right?

So we dove in. Kind of. Work, kid stuff, and personal marital commitments (such as trying to see my husband for 5 minutes every night) got in the way. But I finally made a few meetings. And it was great.

The women who started this group are, ahem, seasoned. They’ve lived through divorce, remarriage, kids in college, retirement and multiple health issues.  There’s a mix of life stages – women with young kids, older kids, grandkids and no kids.  We rotate houses every month – this is my favorite part about the club, access to new peeks into how people live. If there was a club called just-go-see-how-other-people-live-every-month I’d so join it. I’d be the president of that club.  And by the way, I am not interested in judging. I’m just extremely curious. inquisitive. Nosey.

Admittedly, all the books we’ve picked have been a bit morose – but the conversations have been anything but!  Here’s a short list of what was covered in the last few meetings:

  • A second chance romance and love story by the host of the night that involved the Italian countryside and sangria
  • Did you know you can get a tummy tuck paid for by insurance if you partner it with a hysterectomy? True story.
  • No matter how Kosher you are, take a xanax if you need to. I don’t know what this means but there was a lot of time spent on it.
  • A field trip to a master bath that featured a bidet toilet seat cover combo (heated with a remote control).
  • Baby daddies, the Philadelphia public school system and wars started because of false religious beliefs.

We fit in some books too…

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Here’s a synopsis of what we thought –

  • 10 year olds shouldn’t get married.
  • spoiler alert – the pajamas were actually a concentration camp uniform
  • you don’t need no stinking man when you have a horse.

Can’t wait for the next meeting!

Family Mythology

I’m sure your family has some too.

Legends. Myths. Epic Stories. Exaggerated fables.  Things we talk about year after year and sadly or hysterically, pass on to our kids.

For example, my father came to this country with $8 dollars. Sometimes that figure goes down slightly due to current market fluctuation, but it’s around that number. My sister and I would hear about how he got a job, an apartment, and a car solely with his work ethic and determination. “How did he take a taxi home from the airport?” “Where did he stay?” “How did he find a job?” we’d ask. But that wasn’t part of the story.

A friend of mine told me that his Aunt Judy’s favorite story is about how her parents fell sick with the flu one winter and she and her brother (ages 5 and 7) cooked all their own meals for a week. This seems plausible if by “cooking” they mean making a peanut butter and jelly sandwich or a bowl of cereal. I could live on that for a week. And I have.

My husband and I have continued this great parenting and child rearing technique. We tell our kids in vivid detail about the night my husband proposed (tears, laughter, and a man purse were involved).  We tell them about how, as a young child in NYC, he tried to jump an open cellar on 87th street and missed (a trip to the ER and multiple stitches were involved).  We tell them how he ended up at Billy Joel’s ranch in Long Island as a teenager and has dozens of pictures of Christie Brinkley to prove it (then they ask who Christie Brinkley is). I tell them about interning at “Live with Regis and Kathie Lee” and ironing Brad Pitt’s shirt because his luggage never made the flight in.  I never met him. I handed the shirt to an assistant producer who handed it to a producer who then gave it to his agent to give to him. But it’s like I basically touched Brad Pitt.

What’s great is that now my kids have their own family legends to tell. My daughter was born in the hospital room next to Al Roker’s wife giving birth to his first daughter. This was the pre stomach reduction Al. My mother rode down the elevator with Al and in her beautiful accented English regaled him for minutes with the marvelous coincidence. He was nice and nodded.

Year’s later, while we were vacationing in Montauk – we had another legendary incident. On a particularly cloudy afternoon, we decided to skip the beach and go bowling. Before we hit the ally, we stopped for pizza in a small town outside of the Hampton’s.  I don’t remember if I’ve told the story before – so I won’t go into the details now – but that’s when we ran into and  had our 1.8 minute conversation with Sir Paul McCartney. Epic.

This past week, while on vacation, we added to one of our legends.

My husband went back to work a few days into our week at the lake.  He texted me from the train that sitting in the car in front of him, blocked for privacy, was none other than Al Roker – post stomach reduction. Apparently he has a house just miles from where we were staying (that’s what it said on the internet). I begged him to take a picture or start a conversation with our old friend Al. It could go something like,” hey! Remember me? I fathered the kid that was born next to your kid.” or “Hi, small world! We have our firstborn together and now this!”.  He refused. He did however stalk him off the train and get this shot going up the escalator at Penn Station.

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This picture is going right in the photo album.

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