The New Princess

Listening to AM radio this morning on the way home from driving my daughter to school, I caught wind of the petition by a young Virginia woman who wants Disney to create a plus-sized princess. Her change.org petition already has more than 22,000 signatures. And a whole lot of people piping up, and sparing no expense whatsoever, to be cruel and heartless on the subject.

This very brave girl, Jewel Moore, is a plus size girl herself and wanted to see Disney model its princesses after real women. Just like her. It’s a simple request, one would think, since the average weight of a real woman is 165 pounds.

The cartoon and animated characters we see Disney create today weigh probably all of 90 pounds soaking wet. And like one comment I heard this morning, their eyeballs are bigger than their wrists. So true. Never thought about it before, but yes, they certainly are.

princess

I heard the radio host getting very distressed about the fact that Disney princess are cartoons, dammit, animated characters based on an idea in the drawing room at the studio and why should women want to model themselves after a character that isn’t even real?

Point taken.

But here is another point.

As an avid watcher of the Disney Channel, I  can assure you that the channel’s marketing campaign aimed at young girls titled “I am a Princess” would not be nearly as effective if girls didn’t want to model themselves after the kinds of characters created over the years by Disney. The campaign is about the character traits and attributes — kindness, strength, perseverance, etc.. – that every Disney princess embodies.The campaign uses real girls. Girls with braces, pigtails, acne, tall girls, short girls, thin girls and not thin girls. Girls who can achieve greatness just by believing. I’ll admit, it made me choke up. I like it. It has a great message.

I immediately thought of this when I heard the comments from the show’s host, callers and even an exchange by two female members of a morning news show (it might have been Fox and Friends but I couldn’t find it during a search.) I will spare you the ugly details, but the naysayers equated plus size with obesity, heart disease, laziness and diabetes. They said it sends a bad message and other comments that would lead one to believe that because you don’t fit into the skinny model, you should not be a princess. One very snarky comment by a woman was “Why don’t we just create Diabetes Princess?” It was so cruel. To think that because one is plus size that she, or he, is lazy and doesn’t take care of their health is just plain ignorant.

There are plus size women, and men, who can go to the gym everyday and work hard at keeping good health. And then there are those who can work hard at doing nothing, smoking cigarettes and eating junk food everyday and because of some metabolism glitch, not gain a  pound. And the masses can see the two people next to each other and assume the one with more pounds is the unhealthy one.

Didn’t your mama ever teach you not to judge a book by its cover?

I think Jewel Moore has an excellent idea. Real women as princesses. How about a Disney Princess modeled after Queen Latifah? Or Emme, who is not only one of the most famous plus size models in my memory but I think she was the trailblazer for the term. Or one after Kate Middleton or Diana? Or Oprah or Eleanor Roosevelt?

It doesn’t matter her size. A Princess is a Princess. She is smart, and kind, and helpful, and strong, brave and determined. Someone who doesn’t give up. Someone who can change the world.

Someone like my daughter.

So I say this:  Jewel Moore, you’ve taken that first step with your petition. You are a Princess and even if Disney doesn’t create a plus sized one for you, you have the opportunity to do it yourself. Write a book,. Create a graphic novel,. A comic book series. Write a song. Make a You Tube video. I am sure it will go viral.

Just like the Disney Channel’s I am a Princess campaign says: You can make a difference.

Here is the petition: http://www.change.org/petitions/the-walt-disney-animation-studios-make-plus-size-princesses-in-disney-movies

A Party With Out the Bag

I have officially become a rebel. A square peg in a round hole. A non-conformist.

Call me what you want, but I am ditching the party bag.

ditching. the. bag.

Was that a GASP? Did you drop your coffee on your keyboard? Did you think, how could she?

Listen, my daughter is having a birthday party tomorrow. I booked the roller rink, sent out the invites, need to get the cake, etc. etcetera. RSVPs in. All set. And then.. BAM. I start having anxiety about the stupid party bag.

The dreaded bane of my existence. A little bag filled with a bunch of crap that almost never makes it out of the back seat of my car. And if it does, the contents more than likely end up in the dog’s mouth or underneath my foot, which of course is then followed by my cursing up a storm after having stepped on a very cheap, and sharp, plastic kazoo.

For the record, I HATE party bags. Always have. I see no point to the party bag. You host a party, shell out all the cash for this, that and the other thing. Give them cake. Ice cream. And experience. The pleasure of your company. Yada. And then  you are expected, even encouraged, to present your guests with something for coming to your party that you threw and paid for.

I don’t get it.

Of course, if the party bags were like the ones they give the Hollywood A-listers at the post Oscar celebrations, that’s a whole different story. Fantasy land this is not. Just small town Connecticut. No iPad minis or GoPros in these bags. Maybe some Pinterest-worthy party bag assemblage by some crafty moms. You know who you are. And we know I am not one of them.
partybags

Have you been there? The Love-Hate relationship with party bags and their breakable contents. The cute little temporary tattoos that no longer look cute when they are on your wall. The old-fashioned silly putty that was fun when you could copy comics from the paper but is no longer fun when you are waiting for the dog to poop out the neon green blob you begged your kids not to leave around for him to get. The little rubber ball attached to a band that you are supposed to hit with a paddle only it breaks the first time you try.

Am I right?

I am. It’s been a long haul with the bags.

I am taking this first step. A baby step if you will.

Come to the party. Roller Skate. Have fun with your friends. Eat cake. Go home.

And next year. No presents. I tried to convince my daughter that this year, in lieu of presents,we should have the kids bring donations for the local food bank. I told her all the other kids were doing it and that her birthday is so close to Christmas and all that.

“Next year Mom.” That’s all she said.

Fine. A little compromise then.

I told her that I was ditching the party bag. Her eyes welled up. Big brown blurry discs of pure sadness. I. Am. The. Meanest. Mom.

She didn’t even have to say it.

Eh. She’ll get over it.

And so, I am certain, will the 10 little 8 year-olds at the party tomorrow who leave. Empty handed.

Screened

I remember seeing this pretty great Christmas card. A family of four, all festively coordinated in their best holiday red shirts, sitting on their couch, next to their lit Christmas tree. All staring down into their iPhones, iPads, iSomethings. You can’t see their faces, but the dad in the picture is holding up his one finger, (the pointer) in a gesture of “wait one sec…”

I chuckled and said to myself, “that won’t be us.”

And it wasn’t. Because we were not keeping up with the Joneses at all. We had one lap top, one television and the wii. That was it. I have, and still do, a crappy phone, with no data plan and 200 texts per month. (And  I am almost there, so call me if you need me, kay?) My husband has his work laptop and his Blackberry. We were bare bones.

And, according to an article in Woman’s Day in October, really behind the times.

Panic set in as I showed the article to my husband.

The kids will lag in school! Their friends will make fun of them! They’ll be shunned from society! WE NEED TO UPGRADE NOW!

After I calmed down, we decided that it really was time to bite the bullet and get caught up with the rest of the world. At least partially.

So I did some research and we decided that Christmas would be a good time to introduce some technology upgrades to our household. I went to the ATT store and looked at all the new fangled phones that you could actually text on without sliding up half the phone to reveal the keyboard. Wow! (But there were too many choices. I got scared. So I still have my old phone.)

We  did, however, decide to purchase an iTouch for our 10-year-old son. It had been on his Christmas list for the last three years. Though oddly, he hadn’t mentioned it at ALL this year. I mean at all. (Though given he was in a phase, a World War II phase that meant EVERYTHING on his list had to do with outfitting him to be a reenactor of sorts.)

So I looked and found last generation’s model, which by the way I just don’t get. Even when you are trying to upgrade, you are still behind the times with Apple. The cool people have the new one. The uncool people have last generation. What evs. The iTouch 4 was cheaper and I am nothing if not cheap.

I also decided to get an iPad for the “family.” Although granted it was high on the list of my 7-year-old daughter’s wants from Santa, it would be for the family. I was certainly not going to get my daughter a piece of technology like an iPad solely because she wants it. I mean, we are behind the times, but going from 0 to 60 for a 7-year-old was out of the question. Right? Right?

ipad

I settled on an iPad (again, last generation — am I a glutton for punishment?) from Wal-Mart. I think I got a good price, certainly the best one I could find.

And boom! We are in the 21st century. Or sort of.

When I found out about my upcoming surgery, I figured an iPad would be just the ticket for me while I lay in bed recovering. So, since I was going to be monopolizing the iPad, I decided to get my husband a Kindle Fire. (Yeah, yeah, I know. I did actually blog that I would never get a Kindle. I meant for myself. I swear.)

Anyway, so I went to Staples, got the Kindle Fire HD and I swallowed hard.

We just bit the bullet.

So in the month of December, we tried to fish around with the kids about technology. My daughter was still firm on the iPad. But my son said he did not want an iTouch. At all. Great. Just great.

Anyway, fast forward to Christmas morning and everyone was thrilled with the new electronics under the tree. Even my son, who jumped for joy with his iTouch.

Over Christmas break, I walked into the living room where my family was. The cat and dog were in front of the blazing fire, the Christmas tree lights twinkled and the boughs of holly that hung gleamed bright over my window panes.

And there was silence.

My daughter, with her new pink headphones, was plugged into the iPad playing Temple Run. My son had his head buried in his iTouch playing some army game and my husband was fiddling with his new Kindle Fire HD.

They didn’t even know I was there. At all.

Guys? Guys? Family?

So I shouted, “Isn’t this bliss!” And got a chuckle or two, but no one raised their eyes from their iThings.

Okay then. We are now that family on the Christmas card.

I realize things are new, and I hope that the desire to be on the damn things constantly will dwindle.

It will dwindle, right? We won’t be that family that grunts answers to each other because we all have our heads buried in some screen will we?

I think I miss being blissfully under the technology bar.

Well, at least I have an idea for next year’s Christmas card.

Happy Screen Time.

A little itch, a big itch and some glitter, I think

I have, thankfully, never suffered from allergies — seasonal, food or animal hair. I have “allergies” though they are probably more like just bad reactions to penicillin and some other families of antibiotics. All duly noted in my charts and I am given other types of antibiotics when I infrequently have to take them. Usually under the penalty of death, or I just can’t take it anymore. I just hate taking them. Even for a headache, it’s usually where my head is pounding like I am marching in a band before I open the bottle of Advil.

So having to take all these meds post surgery is well, pretty sucky. An antibiotic until all drains come out, some nerve thing, Valium, and Percocet. I stopped taking that one because frankly it kicked my butt so badly I couldn’t function. And the pain was doable with a higher dose of Tylenol. Like I said I am usually an Advil or Motrin kinda girl, but its a no-no for me right now.

As far as the physical recovery, it’s been pretty ok. I had 3 of the 4 drains taken out so now I look less like a plumbing supply truck and more like a person. One who wears oversized shirts and has pretty smelly hair. No showers till ALL the drains come out. It’s fine. I never sported the grunge during high school. Missed it by a decade. I was ruffles and shoulder pads then in the mid 80s. So, well I guess here we are now. Perhaps the grunge look will come back among stay-at-home-moms?  I’m guessing no. I kid. It’s not that bad. I can bathe just a little bit and have actually been to the salon for some washings.

In any case, things were moving along swimmingly with my recovery. That is until I began to itch. Like really itch. Like give me Freddy Krueger claws to scratch my skin till it comes off kind of itch.

freddy-krueger-glove

Of course I googled “itching after surgery” because, let’s face it, the Internet is here solely for self diagnosis and to keep up with entertainment. And Facebook, of course. But anyway, I found lots of stuff.

Mostly I read that the itch was due to healing. Healing schmealing. The itch on my torso and under my arms sucked worse than surgery itself or even having a catheter up the hoo ha for three days.

Needless to say, after at 2 am I hadn’t had more than 5 minutes of sleep, I said screw it and reached for the Percocet. I had a few hours of uninterrupted unitchy sleep. It was nice.

The next day, however, still the itch and the visiting nurse said to try hydrocortisone. So my husband was able to strategically place the lotion away from any incision site and  give me some relief.

But the next day at the plastic surgeon’s office visit, she took one look at me and my now very red, itchy and bumpy self and said I was allergic to the steritape they used during my surgery. She and her nurse promptly ripped EVERY single piece of tape off me. I mean it when I say ripped. I only wish there was some on my chin so she could have taken those pesky whiskers too. They wouldn’t have grown back in a year. Ouch.

So now I am a reddened, bumpy, little less itchy and tape-free version of my former grungy self. She gave me a prescription for some kind of anti- itch thing, like a Benadryl on steroids or something like that. She said it would make me very less itchy. And sleepy.  I couldn’t wait for that.

I think the lack of sleep the previous two nights combined with this new med to make me not itch, and sleep, was a recipe for a Jimi Hendrix-like out-of-body experience. It wasn’t that bad, but it was pretty funny, at least I think so. So I will share.

Yesterday was a snow day. I heard the phone ring at 5:30 a.m. and I knew it was the alert call that school was cancelled cause there was like 2 inches of snow on the ground. In New England. Where it is supposed to snow in the winter. But whatever. So, I fell back asleep. Then around 7 a.m. each kid came in to tell me that there was no school, kissed me on the cheek and went downstairs.

And here’s where it gets funky.

I feel my daughter take my foot out from under the blankets and start playing with it. Only I can’t really feel it. I thought it was weird. Then I hear her go into her room and come back and begin to outline my face with something cold. Then I hear her pad back into her room and come back and begin to shake something on my face. I realize she has just put glue on my face and shaken glitter on me. I actually feel the excess glitter sliding down my neck. Only I can’t open my eyes or talk. I think I hear myself call her name. I think I open one eye. I feel myself grab her by her pajamas and bring her close and whisper “get Daddy now.” Then I hear her leave. And then silence. I can’t move.

And then all of a sudden, I wake up, my own pajamas balled in my fist, and sit up in bed. No problem. No glitter. No glue. Just happy kids downstairs watching tv on a snow day. Holy Hallucinations.

But as far as hallucinations go, having my sweet daughter put some pretty glitter on her sleeping mommy’s face to brighten things up isn’t so bad, now is it?

Anyway, the second night, no strange and sparkly hallucinations to speak of. Now as far as the itching madness from the steritape, it’s better. I won’t talk about the other itch that comes with antibiotics. Unless of course you want me to.

I don’t think you do.

One drain to go and then I’ll stand in the shower for 6 days. And frankly, I can’t wait.

Life, Boobs and Meds on an Empty Stomach

I can’t actually call myself much of a blogger anymore since I looked back at my stats and, gasp! the last blog was in October. Yikes. How times slips by. But thismomisalwayswrite is still my blog and I can come and go as I need to. It’s been an outlet for me. Where I try to be witty at times, poignant at others and then just darn corny at others. Cant help it. It’s just me.

In any case, so much has happened in the last several months, I don’t even  know where to start.

I guess the beginning would be good.

We can really talk first about Sandy. The hurricane. Remember her? Darn bitch too if I can be truthful here. Caused soon much physical damage, and pain and anguish to so many people it just is unimaginable. Sure up here in the sticks, we lost our power for a while but we a did get a generator the day before and a kind electrician trudged through downed limbs and floods to hook us up the day after. And I picked up my mom who lives near the Connecticut shoreline and she stayed with us for a while until her town’s power came back on. No biggie. A Halloween Trick or Trunk event where the town’s park was lined with decorated cars and people gave out candy to kids was a sure light in our darkened town that Halloween night.

But then seeing the photos of Staten Island and Queens and Far Rockaway, a place that my own mom had lived for y ears,completely decimated, and I just couldn’t bear not to try to help. A teacher at our town’s middle school grew up in Breezy Point and did an everything drive for residents out there. Me  thinks I bought out the whole Kmart store and packed bins of whatever I could think of and dropped them off in the lobby of the school that was already so full of things from people willing to help. A beautiful thing in the aftermath of the awful.

Ands then there was the other Sandy. Sandy Hook Elementary School, just a few short miles away from here. Words can not even begin to express the sadness and grief the world is feeling. For most of us around here in our little Connecticut neck of the woods, it was not a six degrees of separation situation. It was one degree. Everyone knew someone affected by this awful tragedy. A child, a teacher, a principal, a mom, a dad, a first responder, a friend, an ER doctor, a funeral director. Someone. And the dark grey cloud has been over us since. Yes, life does go on and the kids are now back in their new school thanks to the kindness of neighboring Monroe. And everyday gets easier. Maybe. I don’t know and can’t even imagine. But yes life does go on. We pray everyday for the sadness and heavy burden to ease.

So that brings this to my own life. As I type this latest blog, I am resting in bed after surgery. I was diagnosed in early November with breast cancer again. Not a recurrence. So that part is good. It’s a new breast cancer, in the other breast. It’s been 15 years for me, so needless to say, it was a shock to hear the words again.

For those who know me, since I came out of the closet so to speak as a breast cancer survivor prior to my first Avon Walk for Breast Cancer in 2007, I have been a diligent and perhaps at times annoying advocate for early detection, breast exams and mammograms at 40, regardless of what new AMA directive came out. Every year I wish my friends, family and those brave enough to be my Facebook friends a Happy Breast Cancer Awareness Month in October with a little reminder to get checked: how ever you need to. Dense breast ultrasounds, regular mammos whatever.

I even had my annual mammo on 10/10/12. Looking back, that sounded like a lucky number. In early November, my breast surgeon’s office called to remind me of my annual appointment with her. I hadn’t written it down, forgot about it and almost canceled. I thought better about canceling because she is the lady and I may not get back on her crazy schedule for a looooong while. So I went.

And when I got there, she threw my mammos up on the xray film thingy and said “They missed something. Here.” I didn’t have my cheater readers on so I couldn’t make out the microscopic things she called calcifications up there on the film. She even called the radiologist while I sat there and basically asked him WTF? How did you miss this. (She’s awesome by the way. I love her.)

In any case, she immediately set me up for a stereotactic biopsy the following Monday. In case you don’t know what that is, you lie on a table, boob through a hole, they squeeze it in a mammogram machine from underneath and then take samples. Yeah.

So that was fun to look forward to. But while she was examining me in her office, she found a lump, one that I had been feeling but thought it was one of the gazillion fibroid adenomas she’d already biopsied. Nope. New one. Damn. “Have five minutes and we’ll test it now?” Sure. I had time and she, being so diligent herself wanted it done. So one core biopsy (like a staple gun) later, an ice pack in my bra and instructions for Monday at the hospital for the stereotactic and I was good to go. She was pretty confident that this little thing was nothing. She was more concerned about the two other ones she’d get next week. I’d have the results from the core then.

Just so you know, procedures before a weekend suck. Your mind goes to dark places, yup. Dark.

Anyway, Monday came and my daughter was sick. I begged and bribed her to go to school so my husband could drive me. No go. She really was sick. So off I went alone with my very now blue and black and yellow boob from the core biopsy.

I don’t need to go into details. An upside down mammo with your boob in a hole and neck in a funky position — could only have been designed by a man. Maybe a nicer man would have used tempurpedic, but that’s for another discussion.

Anyway, after the first lesion was tested and my doc was getting ready for the second, she sat down in front of me and gave me the results from her office biopsy. “You have cancer again.” It threw me and my initial reaction was a few tears and then anger. Get these things off. Now.

She didn’t even get to the second lesion. I was going to have a double mastectomy with reconstruction and that was that. It was something that I had been thinking about as the one that I had radiated 15 years ago was smaller than the other, which was really now a B long. It hung there and I had to pad my bra to get some symmetry. She asked me every time I saw her over the years about reconstruction and I just didn’t want to do it. I had an excuse every time. Want to breast feed, kids too young, don’t want to go under anesthesia if I don’t have to, there’s nothing wrong with the good one (except the droopiness) blah blah blah.

She looked at me while I sat on the table, wiping away a few tears and told me, “Now you have too. I am making you.” And that was that. My decision was made.

The hard part was the timing. Just my husband and I knew as we hosted Thanksgiving with smiles. And lots of wine. And then we waited to tell the kids. There was always a reason not to. We decorated the tree, my daughter’s annual Nutcracker, my sister’s visit from LA, a party. Just not the right time. And then on December 13, we sat them down and told them about it. My daughter cried a little and my son hugged me and said he would say lots of prayers. It went smoothly. We had prepped each one of their teachers at the parent/teacher meetings as well as the school social worker so we were good to go. I had the best night’s sleep I’d had in a month.

And then Sandy Hook happened and everything, I mean every single thing paled in comparison. I cried for days for these people, did what I could to help with the things happening in our town and tried to tell my own kids that things like this don’t usually happen. That school is still safe and a police officer would now be there making it safer for them. I could not hug my kids and every friends’ kids enough. So close. Too close.

The grief and sadness I felt for the people of Newtown was the one thing that took my mind off of what was happening here at home. It was easy not to tell people about me. And it was good not to think too much about it.

But eventually people were finding out and I felt I needed to explain. So cowardly I did it in an email! Not really cowardly but hey, it was now three days away and I just wanted people I cared about to know. And for them to know that it was caught early and a sentinel node biopsy would determine whether surgery would be enough.

And thankfully it is. Negative node, surgery, lots of pain and some new boobs that will soon stand at attention. Yay!

A downside is the type of surgery I had, latissmus dorsi flap that takes a back muscle and tunnels it through to make a new boob on the one that was radiated 15 years ago. (I know .. TMI.) I haven’t looked but my husband was kind and said the scar wasn’t that long. And one of the visiting nurses said “wow that is a big incision.” Yikes.

So there are a lot of things happening. Recovery, from the cancer, from Sandy Hook and trying to get into a comfortable position. Through this ordeal, all of them really, I have learned that Hillary Clinton, though I don’t agree with most of what she has to say, was on the money when she said “It takes a village.”

The support for Hurricane Sandy by strangers and the world over was really awesome. The continued support for the victims of the Sandy Hook tragedy is something I have never seen. It makes me cry every time I see someone reaching out to do something. (And if Extreme Makeover ever sees this, please please please raze that school and give those kids a new place to start over.)

And for me, the continued support I have received from friends, family and neighbors is enough to swell my heart to full. I feel like George Bailey. The richest man in town.

And the very latest thing I have learned is two fold: Do not attempt to blog while on Valium and take meds on a full stomach.

I promise this won’t be a blog about breast cancer, but since it is about my life, and there is that, well, bear with me. 🙂

xoxo

Fearless. Or Not.

Monsters. Things that go bump in the night. That chin whisker that grew six inches overnight. AAAAAAH! Pretty scary stuff as far as I am concerned. Mu ha ha ha!!

So you guessed it. This is a post about fear, and what with Halloweeny around the corner, what better time for some stuff about being scared?

Now for some, fear is merely just fun. An adrenaline rush that leaves them as quickly as it comes. They would be the ones who bungee jump and scale tall mountains. And watch movies like The Exorcist, The Omen and the Blair Witch Project. Or my friend Jane’s scary movie.

Then there are others for whom fear can be an incapacitating thing. That saying “scared stiff”, well it was said for a reason. For these people, fear makes them stop in their tracks. And let me tell you from experience, sometimes, even though you are scared, you shouldn’t stop.

Last spring I found out that I was scared of bridges. Unfortunately it was when I was about to drive across one.

On our way home from Gettysburg and Antietam over spring break, I was driving through Maryland and Delaware and I saw the signs for the Delaware River Water Gap and Memorial Bridge. I was going on my merry way, my husband reading beside me and the kids all snug in their seats behind me. But then, when I saw in the distance, the top of the bridge, I started to panic. Like sweating, nausea, that kind of thing. But the shoulder had already narrowed to two lanes and there was nowhere to pull over.

I grabbed the steering wheel as tightly as I could and then blurted out to my husband “I don’t think I can do this” as I proceeded to slow to about 35 miles per hour.

I will always remember his response. “Get us the hell over this bridge!” he yelled as kindly as a husband whose wife was having a panic attack while driving his family over a bridge could. It was a mental slap in the face, a la Cher to Nicholas Cage in Moonstruck.

And believe me, I needed that.

So I did what he said. I put on some mental tunnel vision and only looked forward and tried to beat my fear of this two lane bridge that just seemed to climb higher into the sky as it spanned the Delaware River, the very river I was sure to drive myself and my family into. My shoulders were tense, my hands were cramping over the steering wheel and I could faintly hear my son in the back seat asking if I was okay.

I wasn’t and I couldn’t answer him. My fear had paralyzed nearly every inch of me except for my foot on the gas pedal and a little itty bit of my brain that screamed Snap Out Of It You Ass, You’ll Kill Us All!

Anyway, I obviously didn’t drive off the bridge. I made it to the other side with my family in tact. But my psyche surely was not.

When the hell did that fear spring up?

I remember the things I was afraid of as a kid. Losing my parents topped the list. Ghosts, scary movies and thunderstorms rounded out the rest. That was about it.

Heights didn’t bother me. I went up to the top of the CN Tower in Toronto and thought it was the coolest thing ever. Then the edge of Niagara Falls coming home from Canada was also the coolest thing ever. Bridges certainly didn’t bother me. Crossing the Chesapeake Bay Bridge and Tunnel during the trip we took as a family to Florida was awesome.

But then when I was in my early 20s, I took a quick overnight trip to Seattle for work and since I had time to kill before a return flight home, I decided to check out the Space Needle. And then, as the elevator was going up, I started to sweat. I found that I couldn’t look to the edge once I got to the top. My legs felt like Jell-O and I wanted to crouch in a corner until someone saved me. Holy Crap, I was afraid of heights! Get me down!!! I am not sure I actually yelled that, but I sure thought it.

I guess I shouldn’t be surprised that a new fear (or hell, call it what it is: phobia) could pop up now that I am getting old.

When I got home from my experience over the spring in Delaware, I googled  “fear of bridges” and found out that there are a lot of people out there just like me. So much so that some bridges even offer a service where someone drives your scaredy cat ass (and car) across the big bad bridge. I wonder if they make fun of you when they’ve deposited you on the other side. That would be scary.

Maybe one day I will use the service. I am not sure how to overcome my fear of driving across a big bridge without actually driving across one. Some smaller bridges I can do. Go figure. But I certainly wouldn’t want to have that panic again, for the sake of other drivers out there. I guess I will stick to being a passenger when it comes to a big, scary, death-defying bridge.

There is not nothing to fear but fear itself. Hell no! There is a huge and scary bridge that spans cold water!

Anyway, that’s my scary story for Halloween. It may not include monsters, things that go bump in the night or even six-inch chin hairs.

But hey, what about you? What are you most afraid of?

A Brand New Day

When I was growing up, my mother was fierce and feisty about her particular brands. It was brand loyalty to the thousandth degree. Only I didn’t realize it then. It just was.

In our house, we only used Bounty paper towels to wipe up. Our spaghetti dinners were made with Ronzoni and Ragu. Our PB and Js were made with Skippy and Smuckers. Tide cleaned our clothes and Charmin cleaned our bottoms. Electrolux (along with my mother) sucked up the dirt. Tuna was Bumble Bee, cookies were Chips Ahoy or Oreos. We drank Coke or 7-Up and my dad concocted his nightly Greyhound cocktail with Smirnoff and Tropicana grapefruit. We were Welch’s grape juice people, Marcus Dairy milk drinkers and Pepperridge Farm bread eaters.

There were literally NO exceptions. No sale, coupon or low introductory price could keep my mother from her brands. Though on a few occasions after we beat her down, we did get Wonder bread PB and Js for a field trip. (I think the bread is still stuck to the roof of my mouth. Ick.) We stayed that way even on the occasions when my dad went shopping alone. He had to hightail it back to the store for the “right” thing.

I know my mother was just a little bit frustrated by the commercials on tv that had us clamoring for whatever new item (say Frankenberry or that PBandJ all mixed together thing) hit the stores. She stuck to her guns and alas, we never got them. Unless we went to a friend’s house. I remember tasting my first Little Debbie snack at a friend’s. I was in heaven. (We were Hostess snack people and that little girl on the package of the competitor over at Julia’s house made me want to try them all. Yeah.)

I did still love to accompany my mother on grocery trips. (Even in high school. Whatever. Geek.) There was no big super sized supermarket for her. She was loyal as a Beagle to her neighborhood independent grocer. So much so that when we entered the store, the store manager greeted her and we were allowed to go into the back to the butcher’s department so she could pick out her cut. I remember always being just a little grossed out by the bloody apron on the butcher, a superbly friendly man named Nick whose sweet smile seemed to make up for the fact that he was usually wielding a knife.

Even though the store is not there anymore, it’s now a CVS, I can still remember the aisles and see in my mind’s eye where things were on the shelves. Because we only picked certain brands, it was easy.

And so my mother’s four little apples really didn’t fall far from the tree. As younger adults, out on our own, we all pretty much stayed loyal to the brands we knew growing up. My sisters became unwilling participants in a forced brand choice when they went to California. Some brands just aren’t available west of the Mississippi and they had to take what they could get. My one sister still has my mother send an occassional box of Devil Dogs because she can’t get them out there in LA LA land.

Now for me, sure I was the product of my mother’s choices, too when I first headed out on my own. I stocked my apartment with the same brands as I had growing up (when I had money that wasn’t being used for more important things like wine and beer.)

But then I came to realize that there were so many choices out there, and most were easier on the wallet than the ones I was used to. So I ventured out. And now, well, it’s a free for all when it comes to brands I use. I think my mom just might be appalled looking into my pantry.

Sorry Mom. I eat Jif now. I still like Smuckers, but your grandkids’ butts are cleaned with generic t.p. and the stains on their clothes are treated with whatever detergent is cheapest. And the pasta in that yummy lasagna you ate? It was the Stop n’ Shop brand on sale for 88 cents. Though if Ronzoni was cheaper, I’d be sure to buy that. Just for you. (Ok, just cause it’s cheaper.)

I know that brand loyalty was certainly (at least for my mom) a sign of the times. I think many housewives had the same mind to stick with the brands they knew and loved. Companies loved them back for it. There are still die hard fans of some thing or another who never waiver, I am sure. (Mac or PC anyone?) I wonder how many still do. I think in our economic situation, you sort of take what you can get. Or there’s a buyout, and well then you have no choice if you want something in particular.

I suppose I could go on, but there really was a reason for the subject of this particular blog post.  I swear.

Here it is.

With the cooling weather around here, I had a hankering for a roasted chicken with some root veggies. So I got the chicken (on sale), the cheapest carrots and a loose red onion and sweet potato (or yam, not sure), buttered (Stop &Shop brand)  and garlicked the skin, sprinkled some IGA store brand coriander over the top and BAM! Into the oven it went. I dreamed of how good it would taste as the smell of fall wafted through my house.

When it was done, I had a ton of liquid in the pan in which to make gravy. Roast chicken needs gravy, no?

I turned the burners on, stirred the pan drippings and reached for my cornstarch. I knew it was cornstarch by the familiar Argo name I remember my mother used when I was a kid. So I diluted it with chicken broth and poured it in the pan.

It bubbled a little. And I said Hmm. Oh well. I stirred and stirred and well, it just didn’t smell like the gravy I was used to. But, hey. It will be fine.

So the rest of dinner was ready and I was cleaning up as I brought my gravy to a boil. I took my little container of Argo and happened to glance just a little closer. It was not cornstarch at all. It was Argo baking powder. Who the hell buys Argo baking powder anyway? I guess it was me. It was probably on sale.

The cornstarch, I came to realize later, was in the little white and yellow box in the pantry, a Stop n Shop brand I bought on the cheap.

Yup. I got tripped up by the old brand thing, now didn’t I?

I think my mom is probably laughing at me, drinking her cup of Lipton tea as she pats her own box of Argo cornstarch.

It’s okay. My gravy was never as good as hers anyway.