Category Archives: Awards

I’d Prefer Flowers, If It’s All the Same To You

At my house, we’re not big on Valentine’s Day.  We have a nice dinner, John gets me flowers and I get him a book.  This year the book I got him is on the Civil War.

I don’t get mad if he forgets.  I mean, we’ve been married 27 years.  I know he loves me.

But I would certainly start a Civil War of my own if this was his idea of a Valentine.

Photo Credit, CrooksandLiars.com.  Thanks for the laugh!

Photo Credit, CrooksandLiars.com. Thanks for the laugh!

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Filed under Awards, Books, Family, Holidays, Humor

Vote for ME Please, If It’s Not Too Much Trouble

One of the many reasons I’ve never run for public office is that I hate asking for things.  It makes me uncomfortable.  It makes me feel unworthy.  Unloved.

Votes have always been especially hard for me to ask for.  So this is really hard for me to do.

But one of my earliest bloggin’ buddies, Lorna of Lorna’s Voice, nominated me for the BlogHer “Heart:  Feel it” Award!  And I need your vote to avoid total humiliation.

It is for my story/blog post, Letting Go.

Letting Go is a very heartfelt piece.  You see, it was written with my dog Cooper asleep at my feet.  Written knowing that the vet would soon come for his last, and saddest, visit with my ailing Cooper.  But it isn’t a sad story.  Because it is about a very special walk with a very special dog who made a very special friend that day.  Or tried to, anyway.  And it happened many years earlier, when Cooper was young and healthy and carefree.  The story really did help ease the pain of his passing, even as I was facing it.

So please click on this link, register (sorry!) and vote.  For me and for Coops.  For Letting Go.  (There’s a link to the post through this link.)

http://www.blogher.com/node/1393485/voty?category=VOTY%20-%20Heart%3A%20Feel%20it.

And pretend you’re in Chicago — vote early and often!

Thanks, Lorna!

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Filed under Awards, Bloggin' Buddies, Campaigning, Cooper, Dogs, Elections, Humor, Pets, Writing

When I Became Famous. Sort of

Damn, I’m getting old.

So old, that I forgot to mention that I once broke a Guinness World Record.

It’s true.  Not only did I receive two, count ‘em, two Oscars, but I broke a Guinness World Record, on New Year’s Eve, 2001/2.

Now, I will admit that it wasn’t really a big deal for me.  I had already achieved my 15 minutes of fame by that time, and it had happened just a few days before breaking the record.

Oh, have I gotten ahead of myself again?  Sorry.  Fame does that to a person.  At least it does it to me.

It was our last year in Europe.  One of the reasons I had wanted to move to Europe was because I wanted to see Europe.  John had spent his junior year of college abroad, in Edinburgh, and fell in love with the place.  So whenever we crossed the Atlantic, Scotland was somehow where we landed every damn time.  During our 5 years living in Europe, we still found our way to Scotland.  Strangely, it became very much like going home to me.   I mean, they speak English there.  Sort of.

Edinburgh has the biggest New Year’s Eve celebration in all of Europe – Hogmanay.  It is a week-long party, complete with medieval revelry and modern touches — Jacob especially loved the carnival rides set up along some of the main streets.  And the fire.

As all things in a good European city with a castle in the middle, the real kickoff starts at the Castle.

Google Image

Google Image

The Scots build a replica Viking ship like the ones that raided their shores for centuries.  They haul it from the Castle down through the medieval street called The Royal Mile which leads downhill to Holyrood Palace and then across town and up again, to Calton Hill, another high spot in the city with magical views of Edinburgh Castle, Holyrood Palace, and the land formations known as Arthur’s Seat and the Salisbury Craigs  (where John asked me to marry him).  The crowd gathers around the Viking Ship while looking over the majestic city.  Seriously cool stuff — you can smell the history.

Oh, did I mention that they set the bloomin’ Viking Ship on fire first?  And pull it through the streets?

Or that literally everybody is carrying a bloomin’ flaming torch ­­– regardless of their age or state of inebriation?

Parade of Death (Google Image)

Parade of Death
Inebriated Revelers and children who should not be playing with fire
(Google Image)

It is brilliantly fun in a “this will be a memorable way to die” sort of way.

Jacob was 10 and thoroughly into it.  The flames, the burning ship, the old buildings, the bagpipes.  He was in a 10-year-old’s version of heaven.  Which meant that I was expecting one or all of us to die at any given moment.

When we reached the end of the parade and a film crew from the travel bureau was interviewing volunteers.  Looking for revelers to tell the folks at home what they loved about Hogmanay in Edinburgh, Jacob jumped right up.

“I’m gonna be on TV, Mom!”  he said excitedly.

Unfortunately, the laws required that a parent  go on film with him, though, because Jacob was under age.  The parent wouldn’t have to participate, but it was necessary that John or I stand next to our son.  On camera.  John, true to form, backed away and tried to hide.  It was the last thing that I wanted to do.  But it was for my son.  And I knew I’d be able to use my participation against my husband for decades.

Did I mention that I don’t like being filmed?  It’s true.  You see, cameras always bring out my psychotic side.  No matter what I am doing when they start filming me, I look like Jack Nicholson in The Shining.  Or Lizzie Borden on her way to buy the axe.  Or Carrie, when she discovers how to get back at all the people who were ever mean to her.  I look rather frightening.

“Please, Mom?  We can be on TV!”

How could I say no?  He was so excited!  So I took a deep breath and asked my husband if I looked OK.  It was a cold night;  we were layered up, Michelin Man-like, only not so photogenic.  Heavy down coats, and so many layers that my arms rested at 45 degree angles from my body.  Not exactly the way a girl who once dreamed of Hollywood wants to look for her first time on TV.

“You look fine,” he assured me.  “Warm,” he said, choking back his laugh.  The light of the thousand deadly torches shown in his damn dancing eyes.  It would have been so easy to just push him off the edge of the cliff he was backing towards.

Jacob and I turned back to the film crew.  They positioned us, turned the klieg lights on, pointed them at us, held a microphone up to Jacob and said in a lovely Scottish lilt:

“So, where are you from?”

….

“Ummm, what is your name?”

….

“What brings you to Hogmanay in Edinburgh?”

Jacob stood frozen in fear.  I tried to urge him on, silently, as the camera was rolling.  He just looked at me with his big, terrified eyes that positively screamed ‘Help me Mom!’

The reporter and camera crew were busy, however.  Three strikes, therefore, and he was out.  They turned the microphone – and the camera – towards me. Shit!  What could I do but answer their questions?

I had to explain that we were Americans, living in Geneva, and we’d come to enjoy the biggest party in Europe.  That we had all fallen in love with Edinburgh, and had returned many times.  This time, however was our first Hogmanay.

“What are you enjoying most?”

“My son, Jacob, loved the torch-light parade.  We couldn’t believe that they lit a replica of a Viking ship and paraded it through the ancient streets.  It was so cool, wasn’t it Jacob?”

“Yeah,” he said.  “Really cool.”

They asked him another question, and he froze again.  Poor kid.  Fame is hard work.

So they turned back to me.

“What would you say to the folks back home in America if they were considering traveling to Scotland?”

“I’d tell them that it’s a lovely country.  The cities are beautiful and filled with history.  The countryside is stunning.  And they speak English here.  Sort of.”

The reporter interviewing turned wide-eyed to her cameraman:

“Did you get that last bit?”

“Aye,” he said. “That I did.”

I was a star.  They were pleased.  But then they hadn’t seen the film yet.  As far as I know, it was never used.  Except perhaps in training reporters for signs of potential freezing and psycosis.

Still, there was anther, more lasting way for us to achieve fame during that trip.   We broke a Guinness World Record!

It was two days after my film debut – on New Year’s Eve proper.

Earlier in the day, we heard that the Hogmanay folks were planning on breaking one of the Guinness World Record.  Jacob was excited, and wanted to figure out how so he could watch.  But it turned out even better.  We not only watched, we helped break that Record!

Several city blocks were cordoned off — a block away and parallel to Princes’ Street, if you know the city.  A stage sat up at one end of the street with a Ceilidh band — a traditional Scottish folk band that played traditional Scottish folk reels.  A swarm of volunteers with clipboards snaked through the crowd taking names of folks who wanted to participate in the effort to break the world record for the Longest ‘Strip the Willow’ – a Scottish Highland reel – in the World.  The Guinness folks were on hand to verify if, in fact, the record was broken.

John, Jacob and I, not having the slighted idea of how to strip a willow, or even if it was a proper thing to do with a 10-year-old boy, joined in.  Yes!  Even John danced!

Edinburgh’s Hogmanay: “Longest Strip the Willow in the World”

We did it!  We broke the record!  And I must say it was total pandemonium.  Because virtually everybody in the world, it seemed, joined in.  Once it got going everybody was dancing.  Many folks like us didn’t really know how to strip a willow.  That made for a whole lot of people bashing into a whole lot of other people.  Fortunately, alcohol eased the pain.  Mostly we grabbed arms and swung our partners in time to the beat of the Ceilidh band.

We had a blast.  The Scots are the most wonderful people.  Friendly, crazy.  Willing to show us how to do the dances.  Willing to let us bash into them with abandon as we enjoyed reeling with the lot of them.  And that was, possibly the most challenging bit of it.  Because normally when I dance, I don’t wear a winter coat.  Or long johns.  Or a 25 lb backpack on my back.  I’m less graceful when I do.

There was really nothing to be done with my backpack other then wear it on my back and hit unsuspecting dancers with it whenever I spun.  Which is exactly what you do when you Strip the Willow.  You see, the backpack contained my wallet, John’s wallet, passports, keys.  Necessaries for the day out away from our hotel.  Everything that we couldn’t do without which was why I had it all there to begin with.

So if you look at that film, which may or may not be from the year when we were actually there (they break the record every year, a technicality we did not know at the time), look for a Michelin Man with curly reddish-blond hair bashing into every single person within a 2-block radius.  That’ll be me.

If only I’d thought to have the Guinness folks on the lookout for the most dance-induced bruises, my name would actually be in the book!  As it was, the event made it into the 2003 Guinness Book of World Records, but not the names of the thousands of participants.

Sigh.  Fame is so fleeting.

*     *     *

If you ever want to go somewhere special for New Years Eve, I highly recommend Edinburgh.  It is a wonderful, joyous, fun party.  The Scots are wonderful people and will welcome you to their city, which is magical.  You can feel history in each step you take in Edinburgh, and it is magical.

Besides, in Scotland they speak English.  Sort of.

*     *     *

 This post was inspired by Art who, ably assisted by Trent and X is valiantly trying to break a blogging record for the most comments ever on a blog.  Go on over and abuse him if you haven’t already.  Because breaking records is fun.  For no real reason, but it’s just fun.  Just leave your backpack behind if you’re dancing anywhere near me.

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Filed under Adult Traumas, Awards, Bloggin' Buddies, Family, Holidays, Huh?, Humor

Boaring Followup

When I wrote my story about Cooper and the wild boar he tried to befriend, well, I did it as a way to make my peace with my furry friend’s passing.

And as frequently happens when I write about things that hurt my heart, my blogging buddies have all helped me through what has been a sad few days.  Thanks.  It has made a difference.

Karen, from Mom in the Muddle commented that she’d never known anyone with a wild boar story  And it occurred to me that I have several.

So I thought I’d tap that keg one more time, and tell you my other wild boar stories.

Spoiler Alert:  Nobody dies.  You’re welcome.

Boaring-story #1

Linda was an English angel.  We met when she came to my door about six months after we moved to Switzerland.  By that point, I was incredibly lonely – my French was, ummm, sucky, and I knew very few people.

Then Linda knocked on my door. She spoke English.  And she was moving in down the street with her husband and two, count ‘em two kids – a girl Jacob’s age (Catherine) and a boy (James) a year younger.  Friends for my son!  Did I mention that she was English.  And that she spoke English?

While Linda was visiting that first afternoon, John called. I told him that we had a new neighbor who spoke English and that I wasn’t going to let her leave.  I said this in front of Linda.  Somehow, she didn’t take me to be some sort of psychopath and became my friend in spite of what must have seemed like a creepy thing to say.

Anyway, one evening after Cooper and I had our encounter,  Linda was driving down the busy road that was next to our house.  Linda drove a large, green Mitsubishi Montero, and that night she struck a fully grown, male wild boar.  Only a car that size could have won such a jousting match.  Linda was unhurt, and she called the local police, the gendarme, to report it.  The men in uniform came rushing.

Now what do you think was their first question?  Did they ask if she was hurt?  If her car was alright?  If she was traumatized by hitting and killing a beast that weighed as much as a truck?

No.  Wrong on all counts.

“Madam, do yu vant it?” they said in heavily French-accented English.  “Ze sanglier?  Ze body?  Ze boar?” 

You see, the meat from wild boar is a much sought after delicacy in Switzerland and France.  Linda was unaware of that fact.

Linda straightened her British backbone, stiffened her British upper lip and said in her most refined British accent:

“Why No.”

Image from gourmetfly.com

Image from gourmetfly.com

Linda’s boar was given to a local bistro in the next town.  The served sanglier à la chaise for the rest of the season.

Google, natch

Google, natch

I didn’t try it out of respect for Cooper’s pal, the boar who didn’t kill us.  It only seemed fair.

*   *   *

Boaring story #2

In mid-2000 we moved a short ways away, across the border into France.  There we had a lovely house, but the dog walks were less spectacular.

Still, every night after Jacob went to bed, John or I would take Coops for a walk.  We took turns, because Jacob was still too young to leave alone.  We were still surrounded by farm fields, but the views and the walks now along town streets that meandered alongside of farm fields, instead of farm roads that criss-crossed them.  These roads were built for cars, and darn it all, people used them to drive on!

John insisted on taking a flashlight whenever he went for a walk at night.  I thought he was a pansy.  I mean, really, there were streetlights here and there, plus your eyes adjust to the darkness and I for one could see just fine in the dark, thank you very much.  I was not a pansy; I didn’t carry a flashlight.

And you know, that was probably just as well, because one night while Cooper and I were out, we walked down a road that was busy enough to require me to leash Coops.  And it was a good thing.  Because as we came around a curve I noticed something silhouetted in the streetlight 30 feet ahead of us – a full grown, tusked, wild boar.

Thanks, Google But our boar's tusks were way bigger

Thanks, Google
But our boar’s tusks were way bigger

Male wild boars have tusks that protrude from their lower jaw.  They use these tusks to skewer dogs and people who displease them.

Cooper and I stood very still and watched him.  The streetlight glistened on his tusks which were quite large.  I figured they would easily go through either Cooper or I.  Maybe both.

Unless we died from the stench.  Wild boars seem to have an aversion to water.  And soap.

After about 10 minutes that seemed a whole lot longer, Pumba moved on into the farm field on the other side of the road.  There was a dip of about two feet between the road and the field, and Pumba negotiated it easily.

Phew!  Another boaring averted.

*   *   *

Boaring-story #3

Naturally, I started to become a wee bit nervous.  Paranoid.  Fearful of large mammals that might kill me and my dog.

I was pretty sure I wouldn’t do anything stupid around a wild animal.  I respected them.  I admired their strength.  Their wildness.  Their ability to kill me if I ticked them off.  So I knew that I was safe.

Cooper? There was not even the slightest chance that he would be sensible. So during the fall, when the wild boar were known to be around, I kept him on the leash in the evenings.  I was learning.

I did decide that maybe my husband John wasn’t such a pansy after all.  Perhaps, I thought, just perhaps, a flashlight wasn’t such a stupid idea.  It could let me see what was going to attack me, although sometimes I think you’re better off not knowing what’s gonna hit you.  Still, maybe having a flashlight would give me a blunt instrument with which to defend myself.   I looked at the six-inch plastic flashlight in my hand and realized that I was totally screwed in the weapons department.

One night, not long after Cooper and I had seen Pumba basking in the streetlamp, that we had another sighting.  I was starting to worry that my luck just couldn’t continue.  Time was running out.  How many times can you be in close contact with a wild boar without getting boared?

It was getting on towards December.  There was a distinct chill in the air.  The leaves were off the trees, the shrubs were bare .  The moon was full that night, and so I left the flashlight at home.  I could see just fine in the bright light that needed no batteries.  Of course, just when I needed the moon, it chose to disappear.  And that is when I looked to my left and saw the dim outline of yet another wild boar.   And this one was even bigger.

This wildlife crap was beginning to get on my nerves.

“SHIT!!!!” I thought.  “What is with these pigs?  Do I have a ‘Gore me’ sign on my back?  Or one that says ‘Secretly wants to be Boared?’ ” 

Does Mother Nature truly have a warped sense of humor?

In the dim light, I could just see the animal slowly walking, straight towards me and Cooper.  We slowly backed away, but it kept coming.  Slowly and steadily it lumbered our way, prolonging my fear.  Why not kill me and get it over with?

I swear, this animal was even bigger than the last boar we’d seen.  From its size and shape, I figured it was possibly the largest wild boar on earth.

And then, just when it was at the edge of the field, about 20 feet away from frozen me and squirming Cooper, something surprising happened.

The wild boar mooed

 

There was a whole mess of them Google Image

There was a whole mess of these scary critters
Google Image

The farmer had apparently just moved his herd of cows to that field the other boar had crossed.  It had previously been empty.  The moon came back out and shined down on me, as I laughed uproariously.  Cooper looked confused but he wagged his tail and tugged on his leash.  He wanted to play with the cows.  Of course, they don’t much like dogs, either.

*    *    *

Cooper and I never again met a wild boar.  And you know what?  That suits me just fine.  Because dealing with one sanglier was memorable.  A whole herd of them was just getting boaring

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Filed under Awards, Cooper, Dogs, Family, Geneva Stories, Humor, Pets, Stupidity, Wild Beasts

Second Prize in A Beauty Contest

Do you know Michelle of The Green StudyI discovered her during the holidays when we were both hanging out at C4C, Company For Christmas — the open blog for folks who were alone on the holidays.  Neither of us were alone, actually.  In fact, I don’t think that I “chatted” with anybody who was alone.  But I made some friends, including Michelle.  We followed each other, and I entered her Christmas Story contest.

And I won 2nd Prize!

Second Prize

 Recently, I entered another one of Michelle’s contests, this time for “The Worst Job I Ever Had.”  And I did it again.  I won second prize.  But next time, I’m going to take this bit of advice:

Second Prize -- more judges

Check out the first prize winner, The Wisdom of Life.  That job was way worse than mine.

And check out mine over at The Green StudyThe Gray Zone.

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Filed under Awards, Bloggin' Buddies, Humor, Writing