My Mother And the Middle Finger Salute

My mother, who we call Ninny, is one of the funniest people I’ve ever known. And the funny part about that is that most of the time she doesn’t mean to be funny. It’s completely unintentional – it just happens.

Some people are just funny because of things they do or the timing of when they say things. Ninny is a master of both of those things.

A perfect example of this would be what I call the “Glasses Adjustment” story.

And it goes like this:

My sister Cathy and her husband, Jonathan were at my parent’s house for a cookout, along with me and my husband. Jonathan and Dale have always had great son-in-law/mother-in-law connections with Ninny. They love to mess with her and she is just as quick to dish it back to them.

Jonathan was in the middle of telling us his favorite story about Ninny. She was staying at their house watching the kids while Cathy and Jonathan were out of the country for their anniversary. She was running late to pick the kids up from school but couldn’t find the car keys. She finally found them, jumped in the car, hit the garage door opener, and backed their brand new Mercedes into the garage door.

You see, in her haste she neglected to see that the garage door was already open and when she hit the button, the door closed, resulting in a dented car, damaged garage door, and a deflated Ninny. 2653_57801271098_5312612_n

Jonathan laughed as he told about Ninny having to call them in Italy to tell them about the accident.
We looked across the dining room table at Ninny, who was looking straight at Jonathan. She was giggling but he noticed that she was also adjusting her glasses…with her middle finger.

Jonathan said “GOOD GRIEF, I think that Ninny just shot me the bird!”

More giggling from Ninny.

My husband choked on his sweet tea, while my sister sat there with her mouth open. Jonathan started laughing.

I stared at my mother.

Our Ninny? Sweet Ninny? Did she understand what she was doing? Shooting someone the bird? The middle finger wave? The one finger salute?

And doing it so discretely that no one even noticed?

Not even her???

Until now.

The conversation moved on and we continued eating. Every once in a while someone would giggle.

“Does anyone want dessert?” Ninny asked.

“No, I’m good,” I said. “I’m trying not to eat so many sweets.”

Papa looked over at me. “You’re too thin. You don’t need to watch what you eat. You’re not fat like Ninny………..(enter LONG PAUSE HERE)……….and me.”

Dale ducked under the table in fear of flying dishes.

Cathy again sat there with her mouth hanging open.

Jonathan clapped his hands and laughed a huge belly laugh.

I looked over at my mother.

Who was looking at Papa.

And she was adjusting her glasses.

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To Eat or Not To Eat

For years I was not a good cook. Not because I didn’t know HOW to cook, but it was hard because cooking for only two people wasn’t always easy. (I’m REALLY not good at math so dividing recipes was a nightmare. Sorry, Mrs. Wylie, but that math tutoring on fractions you helped me with in high school DID NOT stick with me).

My son, Matthew, was always pretty easy to cook for because all I needed to do for him was boil water for his beloved Ramen noodles. Water is boiling? Dinner’s ready!

My friends from my previous employer all knew of my poor cooking skills. (I have been rumored to burn water and I MAY or MAY NOT have made a grilled cheese once, forgetting to add the cheese). On one company trip, the Vice President came to our condo stating that she had been told I was cooking…with vodka…and she was a little nervous. No need to worry, I told her. Turns out, I was a pro at making jello shots!

When I got remarried I was sort of forced to fine-tune my cooking skills. Now, not only was I going to be cooking for five people, but there were now food allergies being thrown into the mix. My step-son, Austin, has Celiac disease, so he can’t eat anything with gluten. My step-daughter, Bailey, has a nut allergy and also eats only gluten free food, and my husband can’t have MSG.

Oh, the joy of cooking…yeah, right. Not ONE of my new family members can eat Ramen noodles…it’s chock full of gluten and MSG.

Making two to three different meals for one dinner time isn’t easy, so I began to get creative with recipes so that I could make variations of the same meal.

Yummy AND Gluten Free!

Yummy AND Gluten Free!

I realized that most ingredients can be easily substituted with gluten free products. This past week I made shrimp scampi – one with regular breadcrumbs, and one with gluten free breadcrumbs. It was a hit. Austin gave it two thumbs up and actually asked for me to cook it again sometime. That was a shock because he is extremely picky…I never know what he is going to like or not like.

Bailey’s favorite meal is my homemade fettuccine Alfredo. The Alfredo sauce is naturally gluten free, but I use GF pasta for her and regular pasta for us. She asks for it every time she is over at our house and it makes me smile because it’s something special that I can make for her.

Cooking gluten free can be a bit frustrating for someone whose favorite foods always start with “enriched flour” in the ingredient list, but I’m learning. And there are still days when I throw a piece of fish in the oven because the kids don’t want to eat what we are eating, even if it can be made GF.

I recently got a nice compliment from the kids. Bailey asked her mother if she could make some of the recipes that I make for her when she is at our house because she loves my cooking.

SCORE!

I found that cooking can be very rewarding when people actually like what you’re spending the time to cook, so taking the time to find out what they love is worth its weight in homemade gluten free pumpkin pie.

I Met My Husband Online And You Can Too

Many of you have followed up with that post by asking me about online dating.  Well, here’s my advice and two-cents, which really isn’t much.  After all, it’s only two cents worth so don’t sue me.

If you have read my previous posts, you will know that I was a long time resident of Loserville.  A ten year resident, to be exact and after a friend convinced me to try Match.com where I met the love of my life, I packed up my things and moved out of town for good.

PLEASE PLEASE PLEASE don’t think that I am calling anyone else a Loser for not being married or in a relationship.  I call myself that simply because I was so ready to meet someone that I easily would have settled for Mr. Close-But-Not-Exactly-Mr-Right, or at some points, even just a human, breathing male.  But I got lucky this time.  Or it was divine intervention.  Either way…

Trust me.  If there’s FourSquare in Loserville, I’m pretty sure I’m still the Mayor.

  1. Use your brain.  When deciding to find a date on line, safety is first and foremost.  There are a lot of wackos out there but on the flip side, there are a lot of good people that are serious about wanting to meet someone.  Use your common sense at all times.  Most on-line sites won’t allow you to post contact information.  You must go through their site to contact a person.  Don’t give out ANY personal information until you are sure you are ready to talk in person.
  2. “How YOU doin?”– Introduce yourself . For me, I sent Dale a “wink”, which is Match.com’s way of saying “Hey you’re a cutie and I am interested.”  So yes, since I sent Dale a wink first, I take full credit  for this relationship.  If they are interested, they will respond.

    Dale’s Match.com profile picture

  3. Cyber stalk him.  After we e-mailed each other back and forth I had enough information to Google him and had already checked out his Facebook page and his LinkedIn profile within the first few days.  I saw pictures of his parents before I even knew their names.  I found his ex-wife’s Facebook and Twitter pages.   I found articles on awards that he had received on software he had written.  My point is, do some simple research.  Thank God Al Gore invented the internet so that we could do cyber-research on someone without them even knowing!! You might want to run a background check on them or even find their divorce information on line – it’s all public information.  Now I didn’t do those things, but I’m pretty sure my Dad did.
  4. Talk to each other.  We talked on the phone like silly teenagers – up until 2-3am talking about the most random stuff.  You can learn a lot about someone just over the phone.  Use your intuition – if something seems off then it just might be.  (I didn’t give him my home number – just my cell number.  I knew my home number could be traced to my home address, and I wasn’t ready to let anyone know where I lived.
  5. Don’t be a victim….meet in public.  We decided to meet at a very public park, where it would be more difficult to kidnap me and make a skin suit out of me if that was his intention.  Let someone know where you are going and give them a link to the page of the person you are meeting.  Sounds a bit overcautious but just think about the skin suit and you won’t feel like you’re overreacting.
  6. Go the 20 questions route – talk about everything.   We talked about everything from politics, religion, kids, reasons why we were divorced, reasons why we turned to on-line dating, what our parents do, etc.
  7. Meet his friends and let him meet yours.  If he doesn’t have friends or “isn’t ready” for you to meet his friends within a few weeks of dating then watch out for that red flag…it’s going to be waving at you.  Dale met six of my closest friends on our SECOND DATE.  I was scheduled to do a triathlon with three of my girlfriends and we all met up for dinner to fill up on carbs.  Poor Dale – he was answering questions right and left, but got the thumbs up from my girlfriends before dessert was even served.  Trust me, you may be blind to any red flags, but your friends will openly tell you if your potential date is a raging psychopath.

    2nd date – meeting my friends

  8. Talk about everything.  Dale and I were really comfortable talking on the phone so when we met, the conversation transitioned very easily from introductions to life stories.  Within the first hour of meeting in person, I knew about a near fatal car wreck he had when he was 17.  There are going to be times when you can’t stay up until 2am on the phone.  It doesn’t matter if it’s a long conversation or text messages, or emails, just get to know each other every single day.
  9. Meet each other’s kids, and let the kids meet each other.  We were lucky that our kids were 15, 10 and 8 when they first met.  The oldest worked at an ice-cream shop at the time so it was a perfect place to bring the younger kids.  Make the kids comfortable when they are meeting potential step-siblings.  Things are changing for them so you need to pay extra attention to their thoughts and feelings.
  10. Meet each other’s families – who better to give you input than your families?  My father is retired military, and a judge….and my maiden name was Gunn…so he’s Judge Gunn.  He is extremely conservative, so when I told him that I met the man of my dreams and we were getting married after only knowing each other for four weeks, my parents were more than a bit skeptical…as were Dale’s parents.  We decided to get everyone together to meet.  After dinner, my father pulled me aside and said “Ok.  I get it.  He’s your perfect match.”  (Then I think he ordered a full background check on my new fiancé. LOL!)
  11. Be realistic.  You may meet the love of your life immediately or it may take a few tries.  Don’t try to make something work if it doesn’t feel right and don’t rush it if you aren’t ready.  Don’t settle!
  12. Finally, Have FUN!  Dating isn’t brain surgery.  It’s about meeting new people and seeing if there is a connection.  Look at it this way – even if there isn’t chemistry, you got out of the house and did something out of your comfort zone…and you may have gotten a free dinner out of the deal!  Score!

Overstretched Spanx & A Visit From A Ghost

This past week, my husband and I celebrated our third wedding anniversary (Click HERE if you want to know more about our crazy story of how we met on Match.com) in beautiful Asheville, NC where we spent our honeymoon.

We were originally set to fly to Mexico for our honeymoon however that was the exact time of the bird flu outbreak.  Since it had originated in Mexico we realized that it probably wasn’t going to be the best idea to be stuck in a metal tube flying across the Gulf of Mexico with potential bird flu carriers.

Instead, we chose to drive up to the beautiful mountains of North Carolina and visit the Biltmore Estate, and since then we have been back several times in addition to our anniversaries simply because we love it so much.  More often than not, we choose to stay at the Grove Park Inn.

Grove Park Inn

If you haven’t stayed at the Grove Park Inn, I can not prepare you for how amazing this beautiful resort is…it would sort of be like saying the White House is “pretty”.  Pretty just does not do it justice.  In the 100 years since it opened, the guest list has included numerous presidents, athletes, actors & other entertainers, and now includes such unknowns as myself and my husband.  It also boasts the story of the “Pink Lady” who fell from the sixth floor (eerily, right outside our door) and is now apparently more of spiritual guest in nature than human.  (Apparently she’s harmless but likes to just be playful with people.)

It seems the entire lobby is made out of stacked stones – rather stacked boulders.  Both ends of the lobby boast a huge fireplace so big that you could fit a Mini-Cooper in.  It’s truly amazing – especially if you are sitting in one of the nearby rocking chairs sipping on a nice glass of wine.  The main building of the hotel is considered the “historic” part, as the two side additions were added years later.  Being the history nerd that I am, we always request staying in one of the rooms in the main building.  Yes, it’s a little creepy at times and after dark, the hallways have a tendency to look like something out of “The Shining” but the rooms are quaint with curved ceilings and the original fixtures, and it reminds me of something from “The Hobbit”.

One of my favorite parts of this hotel is the Sunset Terrace Restaurant, where you can have an absolutely amazing dinner with an equally amazing view of the mountains.  I was so stuffed after dinner that my Spanx turned in their resignation.  They were no longer going to be working for me and I must admit, I seriously gave them a run for their money.  It wasn’t their fault.  Blame it on dessert.

My second favorite part is the SPA, oh the glorious spa.   For this anniversary, my sweet husband treated me to a spa day, and after being covered in lavender and frankincense oils, massaged, warmed, heated in a sauna and then dipped in a whirlpool, I looked like a greasy homeless person and felt like an overcooked noodle.  Because I was so relaxed, I was lucky no one was asking me any serious questions.  I was able to answer “yes please” to an offering of water infused with lavender and lemon…anything more than that and people might have thought I had just undergone a lobotomy.

The following morning at breakfast we were talking and my husband asked if I had slept well.  I told him that it was odd he asked, because I woke up in the middle of the night feeling like someone had tickled my nose with a strand of my hair.  He got this funny look on his face and said that he woke up in the middle of the night because it felt like someone had pinched his nose!  Had we been visited by the infamous Pink Lady?

We reluctantly packed to leave, thus ending another wonderful experience at the Grove Park which only makes me already anxious for our next return trip.

And although I’m not a believer in ghost stories, I still gave a quick peek through the folded clothing in our luggage for any traces of pink that might be stowing a ride home with us.

Just to be sure, of course.

Life Is So Much Better With Your Friends

The 1980’s were such an incredibly colorful and fun time to grow up in. We all had big hair that made us appear three inches taller than we actually were because it was so teased and poofed up like a rooster crown. Our clothes were made up of big, baggy neon shirts with low hanging belts, printed or acid washed jeans, colorful pumps with lace socks, and fingerless lace gloves a la Madonna. Jewelry consisted of earrings that each weighed the equivalent to a TV remote control, Swatch watches, and hundreds of jelly bracelets in every color imaginable that went halfway up our arms. And don’t even get me started on rabbit fur jackets. I wanted one so bad but I got a faux fur jacket instead. Do you know the difference between a real rabbit fur jacket and a fake one? One feels soft and snuggly while the other feels like you took the built up hair out of your hairbrush and made it into a coat. Definitely not the same. (But then I found out how rabbit fur jackets were made and I was glad I had a faux one.)

AND GOOD GRIEF – THE MAKEUP! We would wear purple or blue eye shadow and then line our eyes with darker shades of more purple or blue and we would end up looking like the daughters of Dr. Frank-N-Furter from the Rocky Horror Picture Show. Mascara would be applied in so many layers that it looked like tarantula legs were stuck to our eyelids. Blush was always applied in a dark stripe across the cheekbones, and foundation was so thick that a chisel was the only way we could take it off. Maybelline must have made a killing in the 80’s.

High school is where I spent my time during the 80’s. It’s normally a place that most people try to purge from their memory. For me, it’s the time in my life where I had a really bad overbite that was trying to be rectified with braces. …and not the cool colored kind they have today. Mine were shiny metal and unfortunately for my popularity status, I also had to wear rubber bands and headgear. Anyone that doesn’t know what headgear is clearly did not grow up in the 1980’s. I am confident that somewhere there was a demented orthodontist that created a metal torture device called headgear that you had to clip around your head that other othodontists could use for their own merriment.

But back to high school. It’s where I tried but completely failed at having a Farrah Faucett hairdo. It’s where I had crushes on boys that didn’t know I even existed, most likely because I had a chest flatter than a 10 year old boy.

But while the 80’s are home to some of my most embarrassing memories, it’s also when some of my best memories were made of growing up. I made some of my best friends while cheerleading for the basketball team, dancing across the football field at half time with the drill team (squeeze the marble, girls!), and of course, I made friends in my classes.

My best friends, however, were a group of girls I bonded with like no others. Somewhere along the line, we started calling ourselves “The Hatundas”… I don’t know where it came from or what it meant, but it sounded funny and we thought it was wicked. We would be heading to the latest football game, acting so cool in our class-after-class-hand-me-down polyester uniforms while sitting in the back of the bus screaming “Hail to Hatunda” and “Back of the bus forever!!!” The other girls would just look at us like they should redirect the bus driver away from the football game, and instead head on over to the local mental institution and schedule us for individual lobotomies. We didn’t care. We were just having fun and acting stupid. Isn’t that what you’re supposed to do in high school?

After graduation, the Hatundas all went our separate ways and ended up at different colleges. Some got married and had babies, others traveled all over, and some started jobs in the corporate world. Over the years we tried to get together but it wasn’t until our 25th high school reunion that we really realized how much we missed seeing each other and how much we still really needed each other. Plus we realized we were getting old. And when the day comes that you realize you’re getting old, it’s a bad, bad day.

We have started getting together every other month for dinner and I look forward to each time like a kid looking forward to Christmas morning. Knowing that I am going to reminisce, laugh and talk with the girls who helped shape my life is priceless to me. The endless bags of taco-flavored Doritos, late night pizza and Dr. Pepper menu has changed to Tapas and Mojitos and wine. The conversation has also changed from who were we going to the Prom with, skanky girls that hit on our boyfriends, passing the test to finally get out driver’s license, and curfews… to our husbands midlife lack of hair confidence, the gross time when our son’s figured out what their willie’s do, and simply how hard it is raising kids. Our clothing is much better as well, but the giggles have a tendency to stay the same – especially at the stupid way our kids wear their hair and the way they dress, since the 80’s style is coming back around full circle.

I love these ex-Madonna wanna-be’s with all of my heart and wouldn’t trade my lifelong membership in the
Hatunda’s for anything in this world.

So, Hail to you, Hatunda! WHATEVER that means.

Do you stay in touch with your high school friends? Share your story!

We made the fun photo below using StoryMark – download for free in the iPhone app store and Android Marketplace

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