Monday, February 16, 2009

Band of Gypsies (Who Knows): Valentime's in Four Parts.

Part One.

Valentime’s Day is an event. It typically costs money. It always costs money. And we like to spoil each other. Mr. Husband is my lover. And I am his ever-adoring fan. But for this year’s Valentime’s Day, we did not spend the actual day staring deep into each others’ eyes until we started to feel sick—maybe vomit a little in our mouths—no, we did not. We changed things up a bit this year and went to spend Valentime’s Day with Grandma Jean Stewart who recently lost her Harry. We gave ourselves, the gift of time, and spent our Valentime’s Day listening to stories about the “best nine years” of two people’s lives. Two people who had 40-50 year long first marriages and then unexpectedly found love again when their spouses passed away. Here was Jean, alone on her first Valentime’s Day after Harry’s death. Here was Jean full of stories and details and love.

Before taking off to Nashville, we celebrated in thrifty style. This was a big change from last year’s Valentime’s evening at Chez Lulu. It was way cheaper. Way.

We celebrated Valentime’s Day evening on Thursday night. Upon the advice from my boss, we were recommended to the local Little Caesar’s for the $5 walk-in pizza. What a deal. Walk in. Pick up. Maul. Eat without breathing. Do not chew. Swallow. Nom. Nom. Nom. We didn’t even sit at the kitchen table or make it to the couch—that is how violently we both attacked the pizza, killing it like we were a pair of Roman Brutuses. Neither of us had eaten Little Caesar’s pizza for years. For me, it was the stuff of hockey banquets and Sunday night Star Trek on TV. For Jeff, it was everything. The man loves him some pizza. My Mr. Husband has four loves in life (in this order): 1) Video Games, 2) His wife, 3) Beer, and 4) Pizza. He’s a simple man, and I’m simply his wife who likes to feed him. We inhaled the Little Caesar’s and then opened up cards and gifts. We spoiled each other, which we shouldn’t have done during these economic times, but it is right and proper and good to hear that squeal of delight that echoes through a house upon successfully surprising a loved one with a gift that screams, “I listen to you!”

I also got an iPhone, but that was not for Valentime’s. That was simply because I deserved it and my Verizon contract had expired. My life is anew. It is fresh. I am connected. Like. All. The. Time. There are no barriers. I am everything. Well, at least my iPhone likes to make me feel like that. Not a bad feeling at all. I licked my iPhone the other morning. I couldn’t help myself. Mr. Husband supported me fully. In fact, I believe he gave me a round of applause. That’s super support.

Later that night, we packed our suitcase for Nashville with the goal of seeing Jean, seeing a museum, seeing the Schermerhorn Symphony Hall, and seeing a free wind performance at Vanderbilt. We accomplished a lot in Nashville. Jean put us up at the world’s finest guest lodging—the guest room at Richland Place, the retirement home where she and Harry first met. On Saturday morning, we ventured to the Frist Center for the Medieval art exhibit where we examined lots of reliquaries that supposedly contained pieces of saints. Yes. Pieces. Like bits and pieces of St. Thomas. An ear or tooth from St. Denis. Pieces. Awesome. And the boxes and containers were so magnificently decorated, that one forgot that they contained dead pieces. Pieces.

I really found this fascinating. I was genuinely cracked up over it. Clearly, you see this as evidenced in my repeating the “pieces” point. Driving it home, I am. Pieces. Jean and I would lean in and exclaim about the beauty of an object, and then we’d read the description. Oh! Oooh. Not so endearing and beautiful when the object d’art is something that is so lovely to look at in order to distract from the gruesome ... pieces. The truth—someone is dead in there, at least a piece of someone, and we’re supposed to revel in the beauty of its container. The pieces container. Seriously, I cannot use italics enough to convey our surprise and amusement.

Upon leaving the Frist, Jean asked us Granddaddy Harry’s favorite question upon leaving any type of museum or attraction: “what was your favorite part of the exhibit?” This was a no-brainer for me. Me, all mesmerized and giddy over the reliquaries and their various pieces that I could not see but was obviously deep in imagination land and living with deeper now. Mr. Husband, while not sharing my utter sarcasm-has-nothing-on-me-fascination with pieces, agreed with me about my favorite part of the exhibit: the world’s oldest known zombie hand. If you love video games, you can appreciate zombies. Mr. Husband and I were positively giddy in front of the case filled with reliquaries when we realized the gilded silver encased hand was obviously that of a zombie. There was no doubt. We read through and above and over between the lines that the Frist Center cleverly offered to the casual museum goer to find this:

Found: First known zombie hand chewed off by infected Saint Denis after his being compromised by a band of violent gypsy zombie artisans. The band of gypsies promptly encased their first zombie hand in precious metals and worshiped it with fervor, fever, and bloodthirsty hunger. You never can get enough zombie hand.

What we especially appreciated in this between-the-lines reading was the marketing grab for attention at the end. Those zombies! Always trying to get you hooked!

And that was our Valentime’s Day up until noon: 2/14/2009.

Sunday, February 8, 2009

Symphony = Loaner Son.

It’s always busy in Stewartville. This weekend we were awarded with one of our very favorite excursions: The Birmingham Symphony and Concert Chorale. The reason that we have a Loaner Son at all is due to this wonderful combination of music and singing that results in occasional performances at the Alys Stephens Performing Arts Center on UAB campus. Mrs. Loaner Son is a singer in the Birmingham Concert Chorale. We are certain that she is one of the best singers in the whole group. She must be. This is actually how she and I became such good friends years ago—I got the family ticket for her performances. I was the single girl at work who loves classical music. I was the boring geek girl who’d willingly give up a night at a bar for a night living the live NPR dream. I was the obvious choice for the free family ticket. This week, Mrs. Loaner Son had singing practice almost every night, so we had a lot of Loaner son practice as a result.

Here are some wonderful things that the Loaner Son has learned to do in this past week:

1) Pick his nose constantly to make me gag and amuse Mr. Husband.
2) Try to eat his boogers to hear our screams and protests.
3) Learned to eat an entire cupcake without pausing to breathe.
4) Jumping on the couch and screaming in a bid for more attention.
5) Take apart Transformers.
6) Draw a series of Picasso-like ducks with Crayola crayons.
7) Watch Shrek over and over and over and over.
8) Go an entire day without peeing in his big boy pants (Diego style).
9) Sing his ABCs, conveniently leaving out every third and fourth letter.
10) Bowling: he knocked down more pins than most adults.
11) Continue to pick his nose.

We had a full Loaner Son week that commenced with our having him stay the night last night as the Symphony and Concert Chorale celebrated their first ever five-star review for a performance: Carmina Burana. This was probably the most exciting part of our week EVER. We’d looked forward to having an entire evening with the Loaner Son for weeks. His mommy packed lots of books, various toys, his Diego sleeping bag, Diego pillow, and fun pajamas to get him ready for his big night out. And for Mr. Husband and I: Parenting 101 just got more involved. We were kind of worried, but we had each other to lean on—we figured we’d pull it off with finesse. We went to dinner at Don Pepe’s and then went to Dairy Queen for Blizzards. The whole time, we pretended to be a real family.

Mr. Husband and I sat there with our private thoughts, wondering if it will be like this when we have our own child to take care of through the night. The Loaner Son is an exceptionally good kid, despite the recent trend to pick the nose. If our child is like me, the child will be wild and non-stop, so we hope the child is like Mr. Husband: reserved, good humored, and quiet. Most likely, we will not get that lucky.
But this experience gave us the perfect opportunity to think really hard about it. To get ready. To hope. To dream. To want.

Last night, after our exciting night out where we ran up and down the sidewalks at Lee Branch after dinner, the three of us sat on the upper porch and watched the neighborhood below us. The Loaner Son crawled up on my lap and we rocked as we talked about the day. Soon, his eyes were starting to close. I rocked him and sang a made-up bedtime song as he fell asleep in my arms. Mr. Husband smiled next to me, watching the calm scene that included no nose picking (finally).

In the morning, the Loaner Son brought Mr. Husband a series of Transformers to fix. Mr. Husband made pancakes, and we all watched cartoons and sang silly songs. We thanked Mrs. Loaner Son for giving us this chance to see if we could make it through an entire night in our own home with someone else’s kid. Bring on the neighborhood kids. We can take it. Please, though, no nose picking.

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Happiness is a warm cold.

Whenever I get sick, I am reminded of the best time I ever had being sick—on our honeymoon. It’s made being sick something romantic for me and for us. Today, I woke up with a sore throat. Sore enough that I suspected I was ripe with infection and only hours away from infecting the whole cube farm at work. My nose started to run in the simplest way to where I knew it would grow into something much more substantial. This was the beginning of the end for me. Remove the dramatics, and it turns out I will not die (most likely), but work was out of the question. For the safety of my co-workers, I sucked it up and took one for the team. I slept all day in a fever with my trusty cat Bonita stuck to my side and working as the best kind of feline heater on the right side of my body. Good cat. Awesome warmth.

Mr. Husband fed Thera-Flu to me before he left for work, braving the work day without his trusty companion and forced to fend for himself at lunch. Somehow he survives and is now looking through a picture book of Scotland with the Loaner Son downstairs. They were looking at Van Gogh books, but the Loaner Son decided that Vincent scared him. Well, ok, Vincent was depressed. I can see how the swirl of life, disappointment, and high intensity at all times can scare an almost three-year-old. The Loaner Son will be three years old in three weeks. Maybe when he’s five-years-old he’ll be ready for Van Gogh? I remember when they brought Van Gogh to Highland Elementary from the Toledo Museum of Art. I fell in love that day as someone’s mom
told us about the ear and the sadness and the never being appreciated until post mortem. I loved him then. I still do.

While I’m sick, I am exiled to upstairs. I sit all wrapped up watching TV without TiVo and suffer through my runny nose. I remember how being sick often doesn’t stop me. We knew when we left for Scotland on November 4th, 2007 that Mr. Husband was going to be sick. He had the beginning of a sore throat. So we packed Thera-Flu and promised each other that being sick would not ruin our honeymoon. No way. Thank goodness for Scottish beer and whiskey. With the happy combination of these wonderful liquids and Thera-Flu and some other Scottish cold drugs we found at the local Tesco, we were able to keep running every day. We would come back to our chalet every afternoon and nap for an hour or so, but we didn’t stop. We ran the entire time. We walked the little villages that we stayed in, Coylumbridge and Aviemore, from end to
end each day, discovering strangers. We became known to some as “the newlyweds.” We were cute and in love and knew that we were sending out infectious beams of happiness to everyone around us. It kept us going. We never stopped laughing and we learned that in Scotland, you don’t use an umbrella—you simply walk in the rain.

My mother taught me to run between the raindrops. Rain was always the enemy. Rain will ruin a good hair day. Rain will make it difficult to drive and arrive to a location in a timely manner. In Scotland, rain is a blessing from heaven. Surprisingly, in November, it wasn’t that cold in The Highlands. We didn’t worry about the rain. We embraced the rain. We walked around for hours in the rain, feeding our colds. We embraced our colds and fought off the desire to lay down and sleep for a thousand years. We did a really good job, too. From the photos, you’d never know that our pockets were stuffed with snotty tissues. It’s amazing what adding a fresh draft beer from the hills of Scotland will do to a cold. Knocks it right out. Or maybe it combined with the cold and gave us super strength. It was the best week of our lives—and the cold didn’t have a chance.

When we arrived home from our honeymoon, we let the cold have her merry day. We fell down. We were sicker than sick-sick. We were super sick. We went to see our family physician, the wonderful Dr. Licthy, and he prescribed awesome drugs for us that helped us get rid of the nasty Scotland cough and sleep out the illness. We got to be home from work sick together for another week. Best honeymoon ever. Being sick together will always be romantic for us. Mr. Husband makes me Thera-Flu and lectures me on staying in bed. He brings me Kleenex with lotion so my tender nose doesn’t hurt. He tucks me in. And I let him.

One of the best gifts in the world is having someone to take care of you when you’re sick. For this alone, marriage rocks. It is marriage perk #529. It is the special care perk. It keeps us warm. It's like so better than stupid chicken soup.