123Valerie Strikes Again

Unprecedented Self-Indulgence.

Monday, January 04, 2010

Bat Medicine

I have been so inspired these past months – inspired by those who are living out their dreams, those who are shifting their focus, those who are downsizing and those who are thinking big.

Slowly, but surely, I have begun to let myself day dream and play and imagine. Right now, I am heartily enjoying making things, making up stories and songs, and even making some mistakes.

With so much on my Want To Do list, I think it's time to give this pink, little place a sloppy goodbye kiss, a nice smack on the bottom for luck and skip away in a trail of sincere thanks while I search for the next something that delights me. I hope you're inspired to make some new discoveries, too.

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Friday, November 27, 2009

The Missing Piece

"Something's different about you, Val."

"Must be the haircut," I said, sheepishly. But the truth is, something has changed.

My family met up in Northern Kentucky for the holiday, bringing together an unlikely cast of characters all bonded by that peculiar connection of marriage and, thus, "family." And, whether they be Pentecostal or Pagan, farmers or financiers, young or old, each commented that something is different about me as we talked with plates of ham, turkey and green bean casserole before us.

And that something isn't even me. It is the love from a man I wanted here to introduce to my extensive acquired family, proudly, sure that he could show them everything I love about him and more. The love from a man I wanted here to goof with the kids, to give them piggy back rides and play "Giant" with tiny broccoli pieces and Barbie clothes. The love from a man I wanted here who leaves me sweet notes and brings flowers to remedy bad days.

But that man was stuck at home, the Thanksgiving holiday sandwiched between two of a restaurant's busiest days of the year, cooking for strangers when I wanted him to be eating with family. He made the best of it, spending his day off putting up Christmas decorations at my place, entertaining the dog and dinner out with his folks.

"Plenty of leftover spaghetti and meatballs here when you get back," he told me.

"Trade you for Nan's cranberry and cabbage Jell-O salad," I offered.

"Tell you what," he said, "I'll consent to putting up your Michael Bolton Christmas ornament if you promise not to bring any of that home."

We struck a deal and hung up the phone, both of us sad because of the distance, both of us surprised that in a matter of a few shorts months we have come to rely upon and appreciate each other for the morale support, perspective, humor and a much-needed embrace after a long day.

I am so thankful for my beautiful, wonderful, mad-cap family and for the chance to have everyone together in one place, if even for a short time. For my parents who have given me the wings to fly and a safe place to land. For my sisters, who give me so many reasons to laugh and permission to cry. For my Nan, who has kind words, wonderful ideals and size 4 shoes. For my aunts, who have hearts of gold and brass balls. For my niece, who starts the day eager to find out what it holds. For my nephews, who understand the meaning of friendship and adventure. For all of them and more.

But, for the first time ever, this year I felt we were incomplete, that someone was missing. It was him. And it scares the shit out of me.

In the Comments section, tell me what your favorite holiday leftover is. Hard to believe, but it's not Nan's cranberry and cabbage Jell-O salad. I did, however, wrap up the remainder of her chipped beef and cheddar ball, as well as a couple of pieces of her make-you-swoon caramel turtle cake.

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Thursday, October 08, 2009

What Do You Want Me To Do? Spit Nickels?

Dudes. I have become that girl. The one who forsakes all of her friends for some guy.

Well, not real-life friends. I see and talk to them a lot. But my Internet friends. I dropped ya'll like it was hot. Because you are hot.

But, he is hotter -- and he cooks me food, tells me I'm beautiful and finds it endearing that I've been wearing the same jeans for a week straight. I can't say the same for any of you. So, unless you want to pick up the slack and make me a sandwich or something, he's probably going to continue getting the lion's share of my attention.

But I have been keeping up with what's new in your worlds, honest I have. I still read your blogs religiously, so don't you worry about that. In fact, you all have much more interesting things happening than I do. Sock puppeteering. Encouraging children to hit one another. Making the bed. Cool stuff.

Suffice to say that, with me, all the important things are good. Family. Friends. Finances. Flip flops. Flamingos. Fort Lauderdale. Ficus Tree. Oh, sorry – I started playing a game of Scattergories with myself.

Back to the matter at hand. I'm good. My hair is also good, what's left of it, anyway.

My what big eyes you have! I look very 'curious' here, don't I? Yes, out of the 20 or so I took, I thought this was the best one. Not a very good photo day, I'm afraid.

Whee! I love it. In fact, my new beau, who I had chatted with a few times before whilst wearing my "other" hair, said it was my new hair (or lack thereof, I guess), that solidified his crush on me. He'd been mulling it over for a few weeks, I guess. So ladies, it's really true what TV tells you: A new hairdo can change your life.

Speaking of someone with beautiful hair, Neko Case almost got into my sister's minivan. You know how it is. She was in town for a show, and also apparently visiting with some friends who were driving her around in another sweet minivan. They were leaving a restaurant and Neko, thinking she had found her friends' car, tried to open to door while my sister watched from afar. Then Neko's friends realized what was happening and called her back. Kind of anti-climactic but, oh, Neko – like I needed another reason to adore you.

In other celebrity news, Megan Jane almost accidentally ran over Anne Lamott and I had another Scott Savol sighting in which he may, or may not have, been cruising in a sweet ride himself – Buicks offer both comfort and performance, so good for him.

That seems like a good place to end, lest I overwhelm you with the excitement of my life.

In the Comments Section, tell me your new favorite music crush. I need some new tunes.

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Tuesday, August 04, 2009

Hall and Oates of Shame

I just downloaded some Hall & Oates tunes to my music thingy. I'll thank you kindly to hold your judgments.

Excepting bad music, all's good here, though minor annoyances abound: I am still jet lagged beyond belief, dog training sucks dog water, and I am in desperate need of a good haircut. But, I am happy to report that all of the big stuff is fine. Health, wealth, well being, etc.

Vegas was grand, thanks for asking. I am a blessed, blessed woman when it comes to friends. Oh, I'm gonna get all Misteeeh eyed thinking about it, so enough of that emotional hoo-ha.

We made fun of Carrot Top. We played Sexy Black Jack and it was everything we hoped it could be. We danced to cover bands. We ate fried foods. We hiked in a desert canyon in 110 degree heat. And I ran into a random co-worker at an In-and-Out Burger.

It's good to shake it up now and again, but I think that going forward, I have to put a three-day limit on my Vegas excursions. I mean, I managed to come home with my bank account and dignity in tact, but my nerves were all sorts of sizzled from the sun and crowds and Carrot Top's mush plastered all over God's Astro-Turfed Green Earth. Vegas is my kind of town, but only for a little while.

It's good to be home. Go ahead and laugh, but I missed Cleveland. Also, Megan Jane might have set me up with a fine young Irishman who is visiting Cleveland this weekend. Like, for real Irish. So, that may have something to do with my excitement at being back. That and Dollar Dog night the Jake.

In the Comments section, tell me about a place you love, either home or abroad.

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Thursday, July 16, 2009

Good 'News' In These Parts

So, a new dog found me:

Meet Teeny. The Dodge Dog and I were out walking along when she just bumbled up to us and was like, "Hey, guys. I'm gonna hang out with you, if that's cool."

I said, "Oh, no dog. You go on now. Get." And then I noticed she had a shoelace tied around her neck, for crying out loud, and so I asked her, "Where you came from -- that wasn't a very nice place, was it?"

And she got real quiet and blinked at me. I gave in. "All right, dog. You can come with us tonight, but I'm taking you to the shelter tomorrow, deal?"

"OK," she said. "You won't even notice I'm here."

Well, tomorrow came and went. Suffice to say that Cleveland is terribly anti-Pit bull. The no-kill shelters aren't allowed to take them and the other places said, "Well, sure, we'll take her, but she's going down."

"Wait! Why? She's such a good dog!"

"Well, you can keep her, but you'll need insurance, a muzzle, a six-foot fence, and no longer than a three-foot chain to walk her."

"Not a leash? A chain?"

"A chain. See, we really don't want Pit bulls in our city."

Hell's bells, kids. I need the muzzle more than she does. So, I fretted and I researched and I called rescue organizations like For the Love of Pits. And in the meantime, Teeny and Dodger came to love each other, alternately romping and spooning.

He tolerates her sitting on his head, and she lets him chew her tail. It seems to work for them.

So, from the We Totally Saw This Coming Files, I decided to keep her, fully aware of how biased people are toward the breed. I have relied on my PR training so much in these past days, trying to dispel any myths or stereotypes we hear from people on our walks.

"Oh, those dogs are mean! Is it gonna attack me?"

"She'll kill you with kisses," I say. "Come over here and say hi to her." And by the end of it, they're enlightened and Teeny is reveling in the attention. Suffice to say we're both happy with the outcome.

So, a new dog (my lone complaint is that she eats the crotches out of my underwear, a la Murphy, but I needed some new ones anyway, so it all works out). And a new place, though I'm literally just down the street from where I was, so I can walk my laundry over to my sister's house like a real adult. I'll spare you the Moving-Is-A-Gigantic-Pain-In-The-Ass rants, but let me say that this particular move was a real doozie.

Oh, and a new 'do. I chopped off my hair and I'm back to red. It looks good and feels better.

And, lastly, I ditched the boy so I am also newly single. It also feels better.

So, to balance out all of this newness, also on the docket is a trip to Vegas at the end of the month with dear old friends Megan Jane and Camie. I haven't seen Camie in nigh 20 years, so this is going to be fun on so many levels! Pictures (possibly mug shots) to follow.

So, yeah, a full, new summer thus far. Sorry I've been such a turd when it comes to keeping up with you kids -- I figure that's what the winter is for, right? I'll settle in, hibernate for a few months and catch up on your archives.

I have fallen in love with a new favorite band The Be Good Tanyas. In the Comments section, tell me what's new with you.

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Monday, June 15, 2009

What a Ball!

It was a real yes-siree-good-ole-American kind of weekend, complete with hot dogs and baseball.

The boy and I went to the Indians/Cardinals game Friday and enjoyed the win (and some vertigo) from the cheap seats.

And yesterday, my sister and I took my nephew to a farm-team game with the Lake County Captains and the Lakewood Blueclaws, which, believe it or not, was a far more exciting time than the pro game.

First of all, a player got ejected for yelling at the ball. Seriously. The ball landed on the third base foul line, and the guy literally got down on all fours in the dust and started blowing on the ball and yelling at it, a la Happy Gilmore. Apparently the ump didn't find it nearly as amusing as I did.

Then a player broke a bat on a hit, and wood went flying everywhere (that's what she said).

Then a player got knocked out after colliding with another player.

And then I had chili cheese fries.

Plus, they let the kids run the bases after the game, which was all sorts of cute. The day got an A+.

This weekend took me back to when I was growing up and played softball. While I was no Shin-Soo "Coo Coo a Choo" Choo, I did enjoy running around and hitting things.

Here are some low-quality pictures of pictures of my first year playing (my scanner is schizo); though they're a bit fuzzy, I think it's the last documentation of my real hair color. I was about eight or so.

"Moose" wasn't my nickname (fortunately) -- the local Moose lodge sponsored us. I still have the shirt, which is into its second decade. Now, though, the only one that can fit into it is the dog, though he does so begrudgingly and only with the aid of peanut butter cookies.

"If I had thumbs, I would cut you for this."

In the Comments section, tell me what your favorite relics from your childhood are and/or if you like to dress up your dog.

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Thursday, June 11, 2009

It's Only Natural

The boy and I hit up Cleveland's Museum of Natural History last night, which is open until 10 on Wednesdays AND for only $5 per person -- holla!

I love that kind of junk -- fossils and soil samples and gem stones and such. Oh God, the gem stones! So, so lovely and such crazy names! Zoilite. Andamooka opal. Kornerupine. Grossularite. Bixbite. Potch. All of them lovely despite their silly names.

Know what else is lovely? Jewelry by the muy, muy talented and clever WendyB. I'm eyeing some of these very tasteful cuff links for the boy's upcoming birthday. I think they would actually be more for my amusement, but as they say, tis better to give than receive.

We'll see, though. To buy birthday gifts for his future birthday assumes that I'll keep him around until then. He's definitely a strong contender, but my track record with stick-to-it-iveness isn't the shiniest, I admit. And sadly, I'm not sure my Dad could really rock those cuff links, so I have to be really sure, WendyB.

But, if we make it through about six more weeks or so, he'll either get those cufflinks or a weekend at Cedar Point. Woo hoo! America's Roller Coast!

I know Ohio gets a bad rep, but, honestly, I rather like it here. I mean, we got coasters, culture, nightlife, dinosaur bones, music, an Iron Chef, and the Duct Tape Festival. What else do you need?

In the Comments section, tell me what you like about Cleveland.

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Thursday, June 04, 2009

What a Waste

Hey Innernet Friends, I have a query for you. Any ideas about green solutions for dog poop?

I already use bio-degradable bags for walks (yes, I do the doo, as it were. So should you. People who don't clean up after their dogs are worse than people who don't return their grocery carts to the corrals, and you know how much I detest those people).

But, I feel like there's a way to make it even more eco-friendly. All thoughts appreciated.

In the Comments section, aside from the obvious advice, tell me what kind of people are worse than dog owners who don't clean up after their pets.

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Monday, June 01, 2009

Weather Permitting

I've become preoccupied with the weather lately. Historically, I was the kind of person who just stuck my head out of the window and adjusted plans and outerwear to the conditions.

These days, I check the hourly advisories and pour over the extended 10-day forecast like it contains the meaning of life. Strange.

Well, maybe not. I've hit a kind of a stride. I guess you could call it a rut if you were feeling less generous but at least I can count on the weather to change.

Fortunately, the new boy is proving to be a comfortable match for where my head's at right now. He's a good apple. Sorry for the vagueness. I told Megan Jane I'm going to give it the "appropriate" space and energy to develop, and I've had to learn the hard way that blabbing the minutia to the Interwebnets isn't necessarily appropriate.

I should probably savor this quiet, since I've got an impending move ahead. Not far -- just a few blocks from where I am now, but you know how even a small move can shake shit up.

Speaking of shaking it, we had a random celebrity sighting in our neck of the woods. We were out to dinner at a little local place and looked over to see American Idol contestant Scott Savol. I'm not a big fan of the show, but it's always nice when local somebodies can make good.

I didn't talk to him, of course, given my track record with celebrities, but our waitress did. She reported that he was very gracious and he said he was spending his time in Nashville and was just home for a visit. So, there you go. Your daily entertainment report.

In the Comments section, tell me what the weather's like where you are. Cleveland's East side is currently enjoying mild temperatures, increasing cloud cover and a 60% chance of rain.

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Friday, May 22, 2009

'Shroom in My Heart

I signed up for a mushroom hunt/hiking extravaganza for Sunday! Sunday! Sunday!

I am all sorts of excited. It's a six-hour trek around Cleveland's nature bits, and at the end, we get to come back to the local nature center and cook up our catches. Tres exciting.

Our 'shroom leader, Nate, said we're going to be looking primarily for morels, which is funny because I will also be trying to locate my morals this weekend. See I've met someone, and it's likely there will be some making out of the teenage variety in my near future. Don't want to jinx anything, but I will relay all of my wild adventures later.

In the Comments section, tell me what wild things you're getting into this weekend.

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Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Busk a Move

So, I've been writing songs and playing my geetar for nearly 10 years now, and you'd think it would get easier to play in front of people, but it really, really hasn't. I mean, not for nothing, I'm a minimalist guitar player, but I sing pretty well and I like writing my little story-songs, though I have a hard time putting myself out there, as the kids say.

My dear Adelka Ann has told me that it's selfish of me not to share because my voice uplifts people. Megan Jane has graciously assumed the role of publicity manager, extolling my talents from coast to coast. Kirstin said I am every bit as good as Jessica Lea Mayfield, which I still think is a bit of a hyperbole, but the thought of that made me feel squishy inside.

In short, every single one of my fambly members and friends has stood behind me in support.

And still, I get knock-kneed and freaked out at the thought of playing music in front of people. It's not that I don't think I'm talented; it's that I get worried that other people won't think I'm talented and they'll walk away shaking their heads going, "What a hack. Poor thing actually thinks she sounds good."

I know, I KNOW -- I don't understand me, either.

So, this weekend, I decided enough was enough. I packed up my ax, yanked myself by the collar and headed to downtown Cleveland. I parked my guitar case about a block away from Jacob's Field (I'll never call it Progressive Field. NEVER!) and … just played. In front of strangers. Like they do in the movies.

So random.

There's an actual name for it: busking. To busk is to do street performances, generally music, but I've seen buskers who did back flips and puppet shows, so I think there's a lot of room for interpretation.

Even though the Indians lost, people were still so nice. And they stopped to listen and nod and give me compliments and drop monies in my case. I started to realize that I was getting paid to 1) conquer my fear and 2) practice. Yawesome!

I got $22 in a little more than an hour.

But, I still felt dumb the entire time. And awkward. And worried about what people were thinking of me. Those are the things I'm working to overcome.

So, I am going to keep taking to the street stage until I do, until I haven't an ounce of fear left, until I feel confident walking into a coffee shop or tavern or farmer's market and saying, "Hey, I'd like to play music here."

Because, seriously, who wants to work in financial publishing forever?

In the Comments section, tell me what you are afraid of. I am obviously not afraid of sentences that end with a prepositional phrase.

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Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Port of Call

"Half of the time we're gone but we don't know where, and we don't know where." The Only Living Boy In New York

Here in Cleveland, we enjoyed our three days of sunshine for the year. Oh, I kid -- we actually get about 45 solidly sunny days, which is still abysmally low compared to … well, anywhere else.

But we make the most of them, like Amish teens' during their Rumspringa -- when it gets warm after so many months of sedative cold and snow, we go flipping crazy up in here. Behold:

That's right, son. Sun tea next to a giant tea cup full of herbs I just planted. What what! (Giant tea cup courtesy of Kirstin's good taste in birthday gifts.)

Eh, I think I'm growing up, my pretties. A few years back, I would've celebrated the advent of summer with a tube top and drinking so hard that when said tube top would fall down, I wouldn't even care. Now? I make tea and grow things.

I'm all right with it, the transition. I think. I mean, there's no rule I can't wear a tube top while planting things.

I guess I'm in a little bit of a crummy mood because I got some bad news. I just found out that a woman I used to volunteer with, Jude, died late last year.

A few years ago, I came across an organization that provides grocery shopping for people who can still cook and feed themselves but who have trouble getting out of the house. I signed on to be a personal shopper volunteer because it was, like, the most-perfect position for me EVER.

The agency paired me with Jude who, at the time, was suffering from edema and severe obesity. I don't recall how big she was exactly but suffice to say that upon meeting her, I immediately understood why it was difficult for her to leave the house.

The director of the agency said she'd had a revolving door with Jude, but it wasn't Jude's personality -- it's just that neither she, nor her home, smelled very pleasant. Jude's housekeeping strategy was to not do it and, best as I could tell, her bathtub doubled as a storage area for VHS tapes.

Plus, Jude eventually opened up to me that when you're a large person with limited mobility, there are certain facts of life you have to deal with, including that sometimes you can't make it to the bathroom in time.

Now, if I'm painting a sad portrait of this woman's life, let me assure you that, yes, it was. But, the reason that I visited and shopped for Jude for more than a year was that she was full of moxie. She was whip-smart and had a sassy mouth.

She was from upstate New York, a point she liked to make often. "They can't fool me; I'm from upstate, OK?"

Jude loved to debate politics and, whenever I came to her with a story about a no-good boy or a professor who was giving me guff, she always had the perfect retort. I get the sense, though, that she was someone who spent a lifetime thinking about the things she should have said but didn't.

After I'd been shopping for her about six months, she told me that she'd looked up an old boyfriend on the Internet and contacted him. It'd been 30 years, she said. Now he was working at the statehouse or something -- a rising politician.

"There's nothing worse," she said. "I can't believe I used to love him."

She told me that he was surprised to hear from her, but his reply e-mail was pleasant enough.

"I ought to send him a fake picture of a beautiful woman just because," she told me.

That deflated my heart -- I'm sure I'm murmured something about how she was lovely in her own way. At least I hope I did.

In any case, I had to part ways with Jude when I moved to Maryland, but she sent me e-cards every now and again. In one, she told me she'd been approved for gastric bypass and was looking forward to becoming who she was meant to be. I was thrilled for her.

Then I got a change of address card -- she was making a fresh, clean start, she said. New digs. I was overjoyed.

And then … nothing. I assumed she had settled into her happy, new life. I was so majorly bummed to learn she had actually settled into death. So, yes, the sunshine has definitely left me today.

Well, that's not quite true -- this news has me thinking about how I spend my time. And where I spend my time. My dear boss recently quit and took a position that brought her to the beach, and I think a similar change of scenery would do wonders for me. I'm thinking I might summer in Portland, Maine -- any closet Portland readers out there?

In a completely unrelated note, the sunshine spurred me to cover Billy Ocean's When the Going Gets Tough. I told ya'll the heat makes us crazy.

In the Comments section, tell me where you'd like to summer and/or if you're a Portland peep.

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Friday, April 24, 2009

Chow Time

I accidentally ate dog food today.

See, I often put dog kibble in my jacket pockets when I walk the dogs as rewards for nice doggie behavior.

This morning, I was hungry and threw a few smoked almonds into my pocket, which I totally thought was empty ... I guess you can see where this is going.

It tasted like a beef-flavored crouton -- wasn't half bad, actually.

In the Comments section, tell me what's in your pocket.

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Thursday, April 16, 2009

Fantasy Island

Has this ever happened to you?

Maybe you're a single gal and you stumble upon the blog of a funny, intelligent, attractive blogger and spend a good two hours scouring his archives and THEN, 847 posts in, he finally mentions his wife and it crushes you because your fantasy of a whirlwind romance with said handsome blogger has suddenly crashed and burned?

No? Me either. My life is totally balanced.

In the Comments section, tell me about the best part of your day so far.

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Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Playing Ketchup

He found me in the cured meats section. I'd spent seven minutes lusting after some real bacon before finally settling for the 25-calorie-a-slice turkey bacon with the suspect coloring.

"Hey," he said, "I don't have enough money for this sausage. Can you help me out?"

Ohhhh. "I'm so sorry," I said. "I don't have any cash on me" and I didn't. Then I walked away.

I meandered around the grocery, collecting a coconut, some dried thyme, tahini, frozen Brussels sprouts and a couple of lemons. You know, the basics. Then I took my place in line and who did I see?

"Hey," he said, "I don't have enough money for these potatoes. Can you help me out?"

"Again, I don't have any cash … … but I guess you can put them on my tab," I said.

"OK. Thanks, miss," he said, and plunked down his sack of taters. His dilated pupils pulsed under the fluorescent lights as he talked.

I was just about ready to swipe my card when he showed up again with a bottle of ketchup.

"Mmm?" he said, holding up the bottle of name brand catsup by way of permission. I don't even buy name-brand catsup!!

Le sigh.

"Fine. That's it, though."

So, I bought a strange, desperate man with big pupils a sack of potatoes and a bottle of ketchup. I'm thankful I'm in a position to easily afford it. Why, then, do I feel so guilty that I had the security guard walk me a good part of the way home?

In the Comment section, tell me what you would ask a stranger to buy you at the grocery store if you were desperate and hungry. Myself? I'd go for apples, bread and a big hunk of cheese.