Tag Archives: arizona

Chin up, Buttercup, a New Day Dawns

Rang in 2016 with my mother, my mother-in-law, Maddy, Lily, and two of Maddy’s best friends. It made for a very joyous, very full household. We blew noisemakers, threw confetti, lit amateur hour fireworks, twirled sparklers; all in the street in front of my little ten year old house. Fun, simple, sweet – all words I cannot apply to 2015 itself. A sentiment Mads echoed with her NYE countdown, “Okay, guys! Only three minutes left of this TERRIBLE year!” It didn’t help that the last days of said terrible year were filled with tears, as we watched Scottie pack up a U-Haul and move to DC.

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By now, friends reading this know Scott accepted a job offer in VA. A job he was offered the day before Halloween. A job we had to keep mum about, for two months, in case the whole thing fell through. After a six month long struggle to find local employment befitting his talents (aside from a part-time, on-call, secret squirrel gig that required actual disguises and a Beastie Boys “Sabotage” style ride that ended in him hosing the interior of a rental car with projectile vomit), he cast his net wider and, what do ya know, he landed in his old stomping grounds.

MD/VA/DC is home for him, and the job – helping catch international bad guys, behind the virtual wheel of a motion sickness-free desk – excited him. Win, win – right? We certainly never intended to settle in Arizona. This decade long AZ run due only to an unlikely set of freak circumstances. But, by the time he retired from the Army, we’d got comfortable. Sierra Vista was familiar. Life here was easy. A known (sucky, but known) quantity. Oh, and then there was also the matter of the house. The luckless, piece of shit, housing-market-bubble-bought, albatross of a godforsaken house we purchased in 2006. The house we currently can’t sell back to Satan to save our souls.

Already I feel badly for bad-mouthy-blogging my house. It was perfect once. The perfect starter home for two adults in their early 30s and their four year old daughter. And all the beautiful memories made here; they’ll show up in my dreams for the rest of my life! Nonetheless, we were hopelessly stupid home buyers. Coming from a young adulthood of apartment/city-living, the two of us were all, “Gold fixtures? Well that’s perfectly acceptable. And the world’s tiniest backyard? You mean we have a BACK YARD??? Sold!” Five years, one additional daughter, and a heap of material stuff later, we’d outgrown our starter home. Sadly, like a great deal of the United States, we were also underwater on our mortgage, and in one of the worst housing markets in the country.

So, that’s all that’s keeping us here; holding me and the kids hostage. This house, and the difference between what it sold for in 2006 vs. the 50k less it will sell for now. That’s what’s splitting up our family. Funny how the military only did that once, but a bailed-out bank has the power to do so indefinitely. And imagine my complete shock at learning that, because we’ve never been late on a payment, or any payment of any kind – and because our debt was relatively nil and our credit outstanding –we might not be able to prove a “financial hardship.” Because we are responsible adults? Because being financially raped by a pre-recession banking hustle – that is today, without dispute, recognized as having been both inherently and abhorrently corrupt – is just what we get for being young and dumb. But if we’d blown ten credit-card-lender-grand here, and twenty frivolous thousand there, then we would qualify for relief?
Then we’d be primed for a…oh, what do they call it again…a…BAILOUT?!

(DEEP BREATH)

All to say, I’ve stayed behind to deal with the house.

Today my boss called to offer me a job in Alexandria, VA – a stone’s throw from my Scottie. Someone just resigned in our office there, and, “say…just how soon will you be moving out here, anyway?” Excellent question! Soon? Soon-ish? In a wee bit? In a while? A few months from now? Summertime? Next fall? Winter?  Maybe goddamned never?
I had to decline, and ask to be kept in mind.

But, as always, I’m keeping my chin up…like an exceptionally grumpy buttercup.

"dem skies, tho...."

“dem skies, tho….”

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Because Wine.

The fabulous owner of our beloved local vino bar, Hoppin’ Grapes, has invited me and two other lucky ladies to an industry wine tasting event in Tucson, later this month, and my cheeks are all aflush just thinking about it.

It’s a large, annual event held at a beautiful resort where vendors ply merchants with free booze and food. Excellent booze, superb food. Some friends of mine were invited to go last year, and they described the experience as something close to a celestial playground for lushes.
A fermented nirvana.
Heaven for winos.

“I had a 300 dollar glass of wine, and do you know what? It tasted like a 300 dollar glass of wine! I tasted every dollar of it. Every. Dollar. It was amazing……… I think it changed my life.”
That may not be a direct quote, but close enough.

Thus my team of wine-tasty ladies and I have already booked our master suite and, it likely goes without saying but, MY EXCITED MENTAL CARTWHEELS OF EXCITEMENT ARE SO FREAKING EXCITED RIGHT NOW. Because, if there’s a chain in this scenario, anywhere, I’m completely certain this event is going to fly the frack off it!

The only draw back might be that I’d recently decided to make ever-so-slight changes to the amount (abundance?) of intoxicating beverages I consume. Perhaps a contradictory goal in light of today’s “Whoo-hoo! Let’s party, bitches!” war cry. But……it’s all good. And fine. And well.
Pay no mind to the drunken woman behind the curtain.

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Ending Agony in Fry Town

When Sierra Vista became an incorporated township in 1956, it excluded a half square mile of land that was originally owned by turn-of-the-twentieth-century settler Oliver Fry. Mr. Fry resisted inclusion with the town growing around him, and as a result his land, which came to be known as Fry Town, remains un-annexed and has steadily fallen into disrepair; its residents poor, its crime rates high.

Residents of Sierra Vista proper do not go untouched by this, either. Crime is not conveniently contained within Fry Town’s historic blocks, nor can Sierra Vistans easily ignore such a relatively small section of disrepute. Not when Fry Town and its many bedraggled residents are so prominently on display at Sierra Vista’s main entryway. It’s the first thing newcomers see. It’s not a problem that can be swept under an indifferent rug. It is front and center, and it demands our attention.

Fry Town’s annexation into Sierra Vista’s city limits seems long overdue, but Fry residents have voted against this appropriation in the past. And, while annexation would certainly offer Fry Town residents many city benefits they’re currently bereft of, it is not going to eradicate the problems derived from a socio-economic petri dish of poverty, drug abuse and crime – one that’s been left to fester over the last half century.

Similarly, recent city and county led efforts to give Fry a cosmetic makeover –demolishing abandoned, dilapidated mobile homes and raising new, more aesthetically pleasing, low-income housing – merely whitewashed the neighborhood for appearance sake. It did little toward the long-term health of the community. And, without investing in the future of the residents themselves, it’s only a matter of time before those new developments look like the graffiti-laden relics they replaced. Real change starts with people, not real estate.

To be certain, residents, city leaders and law enforcement have debated the issue for years, and there have been several efforts on all sides to address it. But, ramping up police presence and tearing down structural eyesores amounts to adhering Band-Aids to gushing wounds. And, while not all of its inhabitants live in abject poverty, many do. Many of Fry Town’s inhabitants are trapped in a hellish cycle of poverty. They grew up with crime as not just a fact of life, but a way of it, learning no honor among countless thieves. Their parents were poor, uneducated, abused substances, and abused them. They grew up to do the same, and their children, and their children’s children, in one, long, ghetto nightmare.

Helping these people break the cycle, that is the solution. Granted, there are programs in place designed to address this issue. Unfortunately, Arizona isn’t all that keen on funneling tax dollars toward welfare subsidies; thus, said programs are not adequately funded. Most agree that welfare isn’t intended as a way of life, but rather serves as a helping hand; a hand that pulls one up from the gutter and helps them stand on their own feet.  That is the definition of a working welfare program, and the impoverished population of Fry Town desperately needs it.

Their plight calls for a program that offers drug rehabilitation, where necessary, and intensive therapy. No one abuses drugs because they have a healthy sense of self-worth. You don’t do that to your body, or to your life, if you’re not already in a profound amount of pain. These people, whether they’re abusing drugs/alcohol or not, need to be armed with healthy, psychological tools in order to combat their own mental anguish. Fry Town needs a crackdown on mental health; a SWAT team of counselors at the ready.

If part one of a successful welfare program teaches life skills, then part two offers job skills and employment training. Of course, that would require there being viable jobs for which to train. Sadly, there’s a vast wage gap in Sierra Vista. The local middle class sustains itself with government jobs, government contracting jobs or healthcare work. And, as the government downsizes, it’s a very small employment pool to draw from. Sierra Vista must work on drawing new industry to the area. After all, food service and retail work does not a middle class make.

Yet, the most important, most sure-fire resolution to the woes of Fry Town is this: educate its children. If children are the future, let us plant the seeds that ensure a bright one – and those seeds are called tax dollars; tax dollars that fund their schools and tax dollars that fund the social programs these children require. Some of these kids play in dirt lots and crumbling streets, some with empty bellies and bruised bodies. I know. I have seen them. They exist. They need their community at large to help. They need citizens who are invested enough in their city’s future to pay it forward in taxes, just as they need a city council and a school board that won’t mismanage those taxes.

You can avoid Fry Town all you like, ignore its struggles if you wish, or be satisfied with quick-fixes to its unsightly surface but, eventually, Fry Town will call on you. Whether its presence drives your property values down, its criminals steal your car, or its drug dealers sell their wares to your kids, its suffering spills over those half square mile borders, and its consequences will affect you. It is not their problem, it is our problem – and luckily, it’s one we can fix.

Dumb Deer Diary

Around 7:20 AM, going 65 mph, heading west on Arizona Highway 90, with the sun – having just finished its dawn-makin’ business in New Mexico – rising in my rear-view, I saw an impressively large male deer leap across the pavement before me.
And stop.
In my lane.

There were no other cars, though traffic was quickly rounding the bend behind me. And while I had my headlights on, he didn’t appear mesmerized by them. He came to a halt  (this breathtaking buck; this absolutely magnificent creature, with his enormous antlers, his soulful eyes) about ten feet from the hood of my car (my car…. the one with the awesome brakes) and he slowly turned his massive head my way. Nonchalant. If I spoke deer, I bet he would’ve said,”‘sup.”

My hurtling black death machine was purely an afterthought to him. And when I try to understand the reason behind his sudden, dangerous pit stop, I try to imagine his thought-process…and it sounds like this (…and he’s very fancy): “Alas, weary am I from all this graceful jaunting, to and fro, in forest-like peace and tranquility. Hark! Tis civilization, yonder! Me thinks I shall rest these weary antlers… but where?  Hmmm, I see a fast approaching contraption of certain death. What luck! I shall stop right in front of it. Splendid!”

My oh my, he was GORGEOUS. His gaze was the gaze of the ages.
And he was very stupid. And he is very, very lucky to be alive.

As traffic caught up to us, I held my right hand high over the passenger seat; Jedi-forcing the oncoming traffic to slow their mornin’ roll – which they did. And after that beautiful buck had properly assessed me, with all the interest his fairy-tail ass could muster, he bounded the remaining lanes of the highway, toward safety.

Actually, he headed toward a suburban development. So, probably not safety. But that’s okay because, as we all know, you don’t have to be smart when you’re that pretty.

I drove away from the encounter awe-struck; nearly convinced of it’s spiritual import.  A random AM eye-lock with the glorious divine. But the rest of the day proved far less enigmatic. In fact, the overwhelming theme of the office that day ( and I’m working again….but we’ll talk about that later) seemed to be that of rampant stupidity. Not by way of my co-workers, but rather their overall report of the active corporate world at large. Shocker, I know.

So was my handsome buck a celestial totem, or just the universe presenting me with its official Ambassador of Dumbass; warning me of the day ahead. Or, of course, he could just have been a deer, doing what deer have done since the dawn of motorized vehicles. But, my goodness, he was a joy to behold!
And magical. And I’m going with that.

Gary Larson's The Far Side®Gary Larson’s The Far Side®

Veggie Tales

In our alcove of Arizona, school children participate in an annual event called Cowboy Poetry. My first born is on her 7th year of this and she hates it. She’s an advanced reader, and not an inept writer (you can both infer the meaning and engage in the feeling behind her usually funny words) but she doesn’t come by vocabulary, spelling and grammatical structure naturally (it’s genetic), and finds it all to be a chore. She tested into honors science and honors math. Enough said, right? Does the world need another female english major or another female engineer? In any case, she’s just not into cowboy culture.

But she was inspired this year, when her literature teacher instructed students to brainstorm and extrapolate on words that might form into poetic verse. The teacher said, “And what comes to mind when you think of pigs? Bacon. Dinner. Food.” And my daughter blurted out, “Or they could live.”

Silence.

No one said a word. She told me all heads had turned her way, and the teacher looked at her as though she’d just ripped off her adorable eleven year old mask to reveal the freaky, hippy, PETA activist beneath. Her teacher ignored the comment and moved awkwardly on, while her best friend shot her a look that asked, “Are you insane?!” Later, that same friend put it to her, “WHY DID YOU SAY THAT?” My baby replied, “Because it’s true.”

And it’s our fault. We’re terrible parents. We taught her to think critically.

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She endeavored to explain that, from her point of view, it doesn’t make sense how we only eat some animals and keep others as pets. And the thought of eating those pets (beloved cats, dogs and, God forbid, horses) horrifies and disgusts people. Yet in Korea they’re serving puppy stew. And India thinks us vile for devouring the scared cow (with exception). Pondering this, logically, critically, it’s a little wacky. But that point was lost on her peers.

Again, it’s all the fault of our parenting. My husband is a compulsive debater. He’s not a jerk, he’s actually very light-hearted and fun, but he’s a stickler when it comes to accuracy and validity. It’s just the way he’s wired: “Just the facts, ma’am.” If you state something, particularly with passion, you’d better be able to come irrefutably correct (or that facebook thread will NEVER END). Meanwhile, I long ago chose to be honest with my girls about the questions they pose, in an age-appropriate manner. That includes the truth, as I understand it, about what we eat. And other than laying down some basic expectations (I insist they be honest, compassionate and respectful; towards others and themselves) I don’t demand they think, feel and operate the way I do. I share my opinion on topics such as politics and religion, and ask them to make their own decisions (and yeah, I’m aware kids are developmentally incapable of making informed decisions, hence the whole needing adults to survive thing, I’m merely laying a foundation). The result being, my kids think.

Evidenced by the incident last week, when my family sat down for dinner and the four year old refused to eat turkey bacon – the same way she refuses burgers, lunch meat, diced chicken in anything, so on. It sparked a discussion. Up until that night she hadn’t been taking a moral stance, she’s just picky. Yet, on that particular night she asked where the bacon had come from. I told the truth: traditional bacon from pigs, turkey bacon from turkeys. Her eyes grew large and she shouted, “I don’t want to eat animals! I LIKE ANIMALS!”

Now, I’ll make my kids eat broccoli. I will demand they finish their green beans. I won’t force them to eat meat. “You will not get up from this table until you have swallowed every last bite of the tortured dead cow that was fed another tortured, diseased, chemical-laden cow. And, for godsakes, sit up straight!” Inhumanity aside, it’s common knowledge the meat industry is churning out a product that isn’t healthy or safe. I won’t force my children not to eat it, either (there are grass-fed beef options, etc.). It’s their choice. Giving my girls the freedom to make some of their own choices gives them the invaluable opportunity to think about WHY they’re making those choices. Or so I hope.

And it was the little one’s dinnertime declaration that got big sister thinking. She’d always been on the vegetarian fence. She’d never been comfortable with the slaughter of animals, but she also relishes in the yum of a juicy burger. And, unfortunately, she thinks most vegetables are gross – though she’d happily subsist on carbs alone (wouldn’t we all). Really, it’s easier to just not think about it. It’s easier to be like everybody else. But later that night, without warning, she posted the following on her facebook page:

“So I have decided to try to be a vegetarian. It’s just not right to have these poor animals suffer, even my little sister said she doesn’t want animal meat anymore. I am going to try it for 30 days, see if I can do it, see if I am willing. This is just my opinion on it, you don’t have to agree.”

NOM NOM RAWR RAWR - By Pistachio

NOM NOM RAWR RAWR – By Pistachio

And even though she made that announcement before checking in with the lady who prepares her meals, I told her the family was not just behind her, we were on the meat-free board with her. It was my mister’s suggestion. We’ve been making changes in our diet for years; cutting out pork, cutting back on red meat. Tofu vegetable stir fry and Morning Star products had been in regular meal rotation for some time. We also have many a vegetarian and vegan friend among our ranks. Most influentially, our good friend and health coach at From Here to Whole (<—–click, go, see, be dazzled by her charm) who'd introduced us to fabulous resturaunt options (Lovin’ Spoonfuls, so good) – proving that deliciousness comes in all sorts of meatless packages. Consequently, my kiddo’s decision wasn’t sudden, and our following suit seemed only natural.

The next step was to prepare her for the backlash. Seems the minute someone affirms they are a new vegetarian, someone else is moved to defend meat eating. As if, “I’m a vegetarian” translates to “I’m better than you” or, “Meat tastes terrible” or, “I’m openly condemning your barbaric, terrible tastin’, murder-lovin’ artery-hardened ways….because I’m better than you.” There are the holier-than-thou types, and many of the militant “meat is murder” ilk, but not nearly enough to warrant the immediate “You know you want you some meat, mmmm, meat-diggity-meat-meat-baby-back-meat!” reaction. People who regard vegetarians as weird and/or silly all appear a little annoyed by it, too. And why is that? What’s so threatening about someone declining to chow down on a sausagebaconlambchopkchickenfriedsteakmcmuffin? Being irritated by something that hurts no one, and something no one is forcing you to partake in, maybe THAT is silly and weird.

Just ten years ago my own mindset towards a meatless existence was no friendlier. I never rolled my eyes at the notion, but it went against the grain of my cynical worldview. And that view was: this isn’t a fluffy, kind, cruelty-free planet. It’s dog-eat-dog, man-eat-beast, and man-destroy-man. It’s hard, and it’s cold, and suffering abounds. And while that sucks, it’s also the inevitable way the game is played, here in the insane asylum of the universe – otherwise know as Earth. Thankfully, my perspective has since expanded, and softened.

Avocado, you complete me.

Avocado, you complete me.

If charged with the task of having to kill my own food, I might starve to death. Then again, I might consume the stiff, frozen remains of my dead best friend – if left stranded, in dire hunger, atop some snowy mountain (it’s been known to happen). But, at present, I don’t see where my animal-based meals come from, so I’m not forced to think about them. I also don’t NEED to eat them. I don’t live in a society that must hunt beasts to avoid starvation. I live in a society with a Trader Joes. And the glory of avocados in abundance!

And therein lies the lengthy veggie tale (having nothing to do with a talking cucumber who tells Bible stories, sorry) of how our family came to be on day eight of a meat-free experiment. We’re all still alive, obviously, and well. As yet, no one has had the shakes, or sold their blood for a little hit of protein. But there’s been seafood in the mix. Planning a month’s worth of meals, without knowing what I was doing, I decided to start us slow. Every third or fourth meal has incorporated fish. When I mentioned to big sis that we were technically Pescetarians, she said, “Pescah-whaaaaaaaah? Yeah. I’m not going to say that.” To each their own.

As we move forward, in support of her 30 day goal and possibly beyond, I hope she remains compassionate and objective with her naysayers- but doesn’t take any shit, either. A few days ago she was invited to a birthday party. The birthday girl proclaimed everyone must wear neon, and joked, “If you’re not wearing neon you will get a smack in the face and no fried chicken!” My baby countered, “Yeah, okay. I’m a vegetarian.” Her friend replied, “Then….you’ll get a smack in the face and NO VEGGIES!” Hah! Like my daughter wants veggies! But hooray for my baby standing her newly discovered ground. And should she eventually revert back to her burger worship, I hope she doesn’t beat herself up. I know plenty of former vegetarians, too.

On a final, light, maniacal note: I presented the little one with a slice of cheese pizza on night ONE of this undertaking. Little brow furrowed, she asked, “Where’s the good stuff?” What good stuff? Did she mean pepperoni? Yes. “Well, that’s an animal, and you don’t want to eat animals anymore, remember?”
“OH!” A look of relief came over her and, happy to clear up the confusion, she said, “No. I want to eat THAT animal. That animal is delicious!!!”

Little stinker.

A Timeline of Halloween Coolness

My family has cultivated something of a reputation for manifesting the spirit of Halloween Awesome. Beginning in 2006, when our eldest (back then, our only) child asked us to dress as a family of devils. Since then, each autumn, friends and family eagerly await the unveiling of our family theme; often asking for hints months ahead of time. My favorite years are the ones where our costumes are such an ensemble they function as pieces of a puzzle. Like this year, when we wandered the local mall. We were following each other, single file. First someone would see me, smile, then the little one, and smile, then my mister, and smile, then the eldest….and upon sight of the eldest it clicks. They get it. The big picture. The story we’re trying to tell. And, young or old, they always gasp, their eyes light up and they shout, “OH! THAT’S SO COOL!”

I love that. It makes me happy, my spouse happy, our kids happy and makes others happy: a whole lot of positive juju for a supposedly wicked holiday.
And…so….the story goes…..on a dark and stormy desert night…….

2006: Family From Hell
Our daughter asked if we could be a family of devils. My husband, who stands 6 ft. 5 inches tall, painted his bald head red, super-glued horns to it, attached pointy ears, shaded his eyes and mouth black, inserted fangs, donned a heavy black robe (which has served for many a costume since), added leathery wings, clawed hands and made babies cry. Truly, though, he unwittingly answered the door for a 10 month old trick-or-treater. That poor baby gazed up into the eyes of Satan and started bawling. And my husband, approaching the little guy, with his clawed hands out, saying, “Oh no! Oh I’m so sorry, little guy!” with his razor rows of teeth flashing, somehow managed to make it worse.

Family from Hell

Family from Hell

2007: The Addams Family
The eldest was five years old and had come home from a summer at her Nana’s house announcing she would be Wednesday Addams for Halloween. She pointed at me and said, “You’re Morticia.” Then pointed at my husband and said, “You’re Uncle Fester.” DONE. For a couple of former goth kids, who love horror flicks and have a cabinet in the living room full of (completely tasteful, beautifully ornate) skulls, it was like Christmas! We stole the Halloween show! And Miss Wednesday stayed in character the whole night. Never smiling for a photo. We were so proud.

The Addams Family

The Addams Family

2008: The Wizard of Oz
The eldest, officially in charge of our Halloween theme, had fallen in love with the land of Oz. Again she assigned roles. Mommy: Wicked Witch. Daddy: Flying Monkey. Finding a flying monkey costume to accommodate my husband’s giant (figurative) ass was not exactly easy. We ended up ordering online (for something like $120), some essentially chintzy blue/grey carpet suit with wings. And, October in Arizona isn’t like October in a place that actually has seasons. It’s warm. It’s especially warm dressed head-to-toe in Muppet. I was also 8 hundred years pregnant at the time, dressed head to toe in black Wicked Witch regalia. And Dorothy, six year old Dorothy was an absolute doll and had a marvelous time.

Wizard of Oz

2009: Alice in Wonderland
We’d added a member to our costume crew by 2009. She was 10 months old and had little say in the matter. Big seven year old sister was still commanding the Halloween Family Troops, and was enamored of Alice in Wonderland. By now, she wasn’t dictating costumes to her parents; it was more of a collaborative effort. Of course she would be Alice, but we were free to choose the funnest, most feasible characters we could be. It was the first year I attempted to make costumes. My Queen of Hearts gown was (a lukewarm mess) not what I’d envisioned, and my baby’s Cheshire Cat was just okay (though I was proud of the fluffy tail). My husband had an old-timey suit and pocket watch on hand, just adding whiskers and rabbit ears. And little Alice was the star of our show.

Alice in Wonderland

Alice in Wonderland

2010: Universal Studios Monsters
It was purely collaborative that year. The baby, fast approaching age two, was obsessed with dogs and had been randomly howling for several months, “Ahhhhhh-wooooooooh!” Cutest thing EVER. Meanwhile, big sister wanted to be a vampire. My husband was the genius who suggested the Universal Studios Monsters theme. He was Frankenstein, I, his electroshocked bride, and the girls were Dracula (in drag) and baby Wolfman. We didn’t get a family photo until the very end of the night. My makeup had run off, my mega-wig was limp, the eldest had discarded her own wig hours before, the baby’s wolfman’s cowl never fit properly, but Franky rocked the party all night long.

Universal Studio Monsters

Universal Studio Monsters

2011: The Year Off
The mister was stationed in South Korea, decidedly placing a damper on (everything!) our usual festivities. It was the first year the baby, at that point almost 3, but still “the baby”, requested a costume. Having forsaken dogs after a friend’s ill-tempered one had bitten her, she said, “I wanna be a kitty!” Big sister was big into Monster High Dolls and wanted to be Abbey Bominable (the Abominable Snowman’s daughter). I decided last minute to throw on some ears and be a kitty mama. And that was that.

And it was kind of nice to have the pressure off (…our wallet).

The Year Off

The Year Off

2012: Horror Movies
Back in black, yo! A long black wig for big sister who played the scary Asian ghost girl from “The Grudge”, that same old handy black robe for the mister who underwent five hours of latex makeup to transform into Pinhead from “Hellraiser”, and a black cloud above me as I showered myself in fake blood and mimicked 1970s “Carrie.” Oh, and a black spider costume for the little one, who said, “I wanna be a spider! A black widow!” And we all wondered how we’d fit that into the family theme. My husband replied, “Okay…..uh…you’re from ‘Arachnophobia!’” And it worked out all right.

Incidentally, on a grown-up costume party night out, walking around with Pinhead, I found out what it would be like to be the non-famous person married to someone famous. Five minutes after entering a Halloween block party in Bisbee, Arizona the crowds started forming around my husband, requesting pictures. And slowly, I was pushed back and back until I was outside the circle of his adoring fans. It took fifteen minutes to reclaim my date – and that was just the first adoring, cellphone pic-ing throng.
NTS: Never marry anyone famous.

Horror Movies

Horror Movies

2013: Cinderella

“Cinderella???? After all that? You’re going DISNEY PRINCESS? Nooooooo!” – general consensus when we leaked the news.

We’d decided to let the baby (who is almost five now, but will forever be “the baby”) assign costumes the way her sister had done at her age. We couldn’t very well tell her, “No. Sorry, sweetie. You can’t be what you want to be for Halloween, because the family is doing Star Wars this year and you’re going to be R2-D2. Now, practice beeping and blooping.” Though we really get into the spirit of the season, we’re not assholes.

We also knew, with her, we’d likely be heading down a magical Disney princess alley – she’s obsessed with Cinderella – and no one was thrilled about that. We realized we’d lucked out with the older one, and all her creepy/cool picks. Big sister was never a tomboy, but she wasn’t a girly-girl either; she was just wonderful. Little sister is equally wonderful. And, believe me, she may like pastels, tiaras, frilly dresses, and fairytales full of love everlasting, but she will also CUT YOU. I don’t worry about empowering her as a female. Future her will stab you with her Prada heel. Repeatedly. I advise you to let the girl be girly.

Cinderella

Cinderella

And as it turned out, with the baby as Cinderella, big sister as the Fairy Godmother, Daddy as Prince Charming and myself as the Wicked Stepmother, we had a lot of fun! I took another go at creating costumes from near scratch, and won. The mister built his (spray-painting canning jar lids gold and adhering braided tassels to create epaulettes on the shoulders) from the bare bones of an old air force jacket. Big sister and I lucked out at the diviest thrift store in town. I’d had a hell of a time finding a Victorian dress, anywhere, for under a hundred dollars, yet found my gown at St. Vincent de Paul for 3 bucks. Sewed on a brooch. Wicked Stepmother. Done. Sewed pink satin ribbon into a baby blue hooded bath robe, shaped and attached a pink satin bow via clasps. Fairy Godmother. Done. Big sister made the baby’s choker, I painted her blue headband, daddy worked diligently on his sashes, awards and braiding. And unlike the Alice in Wonderland year, our crafty efforts paid off. Or at least, they seemed to. We made people smile.

Cindarella Halloween

Cindarella Halloween

I’m not sure how much longer we’ll be able to float this family-themed boat. We have a preteen who willingly, happily dressed up with us this year, but only half-heartedly trick-or-treated. How long before her attitude changes: “Um, you guys are, like, hella dumb and stuff. Oh. Em. Gee. I, like, totally hate my life. And you. But mostly just you.” And what about the little one? What if next year her pick is My Little Pony? And the year after, Lalaloopsy? What if our once spooky family Halloween gets hijacked by pink unicorns sparkles of glittery princess cheer?

*Shudder*

There’s an end somewhere. There always is. Family traditions aside, these girls will grow up and move away. At which point I imagine sitting home on Halloween nights, having set up spooky lights and strobes, fog machines, with many a robotic monster in the yard, costumed-up and ready for trick-or-treaters – with a bowl of the GOOD candy! I want all the kids in my neighborhood to be excited and enchanted by my house, year after year. I want to create that one super cool place you remember from your childhood. And, with any luck, my grandchildren will stop by.

Smile

On the corner of Valencia and Alvernon, on a 72 degree Tucson, Arizona winter’s day, stood a familiar sight; the scruffy looking man holding a cardboard sign. The poor soul wasn’t standing on the corner, exactly; he was pacing the median to my left as I was approaching the stoplight, waiting to make a turn in that direction.

A month previous, my daughter and I were exiting a shopping center and drove by a forlorn-looking gentleman clutching that infamous cardboard. As we passed, I made no eye contact, and I realized my daughter has learned to do the same. It occurred to me that she’s never seen me be charitable to a homeless person on the street. She missed those days. The days when I was younger and less cynical. The days when I lived in a city and I spared my change. That fact, combined with it being Christmas time, was enough to get me to drive a circle – through two traffic lights, and holiday shopping parking lots – just to give the four dollars cash I had on hand to the middle-aged man with the sign.

I’m aware of the idea/myth/possible reality that many homeless persons with “Will work for food.”, “Children starving, please help.”, “Hungry veteran. This is humiliating.” signs are just duplicitously playing on your sympathies and, in fact, make more in a day on the freeway exit ramp than you do all week. But I’ve never been quite sure how much of that is true or how much of that is something we tell ourselves so we don’t have to feel bad – or, worse, make eye contact.

So, as I sat in the left turn lane, at the corner of Valencia and Alvernon, with my two children in the backseat, the man with sign approached my window and I stared stoically ahead at a light that could not turn green fast enough. He was the most aggressive panhandler I’d ever known. The minute we stopped he rushed my window, practically pasting his sign on my driver’s side glass. So aggressive that I was compelled to turn my head and read it.

It said, “Smile.”

With a little smiley face beneath the single word. And I did. I smiled. More accurately, I smirked – in the caught-off-guard, “Ah, you got me good” way. And I made my left turn with all sorts of philosophical thoughts about the wackiness of the world. But I think I smiled most at the thought, “Hipster or homeless?”