May 31, 2010

"Yes, mama?"


"We absolutely had NOTHING to do with all these shoes scattered all over the place."

"Nope."

"Um...did somebody say 'treat,' since we are so obviously good boys?"

"For reals, make with the treats."

"..."

"...Mama?"

May 28, 2010

Between you and me and that tree over there...

I confess.

I'm a killer.

If something green is growing, I will treat it like that big cartoon character, petting and loving it and calling it George until I've "loved" it to death.

I'm hoping that 2010 will be the year I turn over a new leaf. (I'll wait while you stop laughing at my awesome pun.)

(...)

Because if I can't figure out how to NOT kill green things, we'll have wasted a lot of money. Money I could have used to buy shoes.

We started out with something it'd be hard for even me to kill: some juniper bushes and a magnolia tree.


The sidewalk area leading to our driveway has always been a problem. The idiots who built our house (tellingly, they went bankrupt shortly after selling the houses on our street) decided it'd be a good idea to just spread gravel on either side of the sidewalk, ensuring no grass would grow, and rendering it nearly impossible to install any kind of flowerbeds.

Finally, I came up with a solution: Let's stick with the rock theme and just do a rock bed with some strategically-placed planters so it still looks like things are growing there.

Voila!

And even though I planted them myself, miraculously, THEY LIVE! (Below: snap dragons, asparagus ferns and dahlias)


I also bought hanging baskets and plopped them in the two smaller planters -- I'm hoping the vines spread out a bit in the rock bed:


And...drum roll, please...HERBS!

Bolstered by my adventure at Herb Daze (heh), I decided I had to give it a try. Thus, I'm now the proud mama of some starter oregano, dill, garlic chives, thyme, parsley and rosemary:


And...lavender!

I've been reading up on how/when to harvest -- we'll see how it goes this weekend. (I'm intrigued by the idea of freezing herbs in olive oil.) Wish me luck...

And since we've actually had a proper spring this year (vs. skipping straight from winter to summer), EVERYTHING else is blooming like crazy.

Our insane, wild lilac bush that I refuse to trim because I love how crazy it looks:


The one surviving Lily of the Valley I planted last year -- it hasn't bloomed yet, but at least it's ALIVE:


Some kind of geranium that I think is just gorgeous:


Our out-of-control rhododendrons:


And, and, and! Our pear tree is finally bearing fruit!


Hooray for growing things! And for me (hopefully) not killing them this year!

Have a wonderful holiday weekend, y'all.

May 27, 2010

Why does time go so fast when you're having fun yet so slow when you're not?

To teach us patience?

To help us to savor the good times?

Because the universe is a big old meanie?

Your guess is as good as mine, but this is definitely one of life's more annoying rules.

(Maybe if I tell myself that my two-hour conference call today is FUN, it'll go by really quickly? Sigh. Even I'm not that deluded.)

Ask me anything

What's the oldest piece of clothing you still own and wear?

I (very, very sadly) still have a “Rugby” shirt from 10th grade. That would be…1992/1993. As a testament to the Rugby shirt industry, it is still in excellent condition after nearly 20 years and countless washings.

While I don’t wear it, like, in PUBLIC or anything, I do still occasionally bust it out to work around the house. While singing “Smells Like Teen Spirit” and dreaming about Kirk Cameron. Naturally.

Ask me anything

What's the furthest you've ever traveled?

"What's the furthest you've ever traveled?"

Really, random question assigner?

This…is not an excellent question. It’s potentially a one- or two-word answer. And why “furthest” as opposed to “most beautiful” or “worst” or “smelliest, but also coolest”? Bad random question assigner!

Therefore:

  • Furthest: Probably Vancouver (I haven’t as yet, unfortunately, ventured across the pond)
  • Most beautiful: Garden of the Gods in Colorado Springs (sigh)
  • Worst: Detroit (more specifically, the Detroit airport)
  • Smelliest, but also coolest: New Orleans (parts had the absolute worst garbage juice smell, but come on: New Orleans is awesome)

Thankfully, only one more of these randomly-assigned questions, and then we're on to everyone else's!

Ask me anything

Formspring three-pack

Since I'm unable to access Formspring over my lunch break (thank you, overambitious firewalls at large corporation who shall remain nameless), I'm going to answer a triple-play backlog of Formspring.me questions this morning.

Enjoy! :)

(Or, if you don't like that kind of thing, please accept my apologies.)

(Also, if you're so inclined, go to Formspring.me and ask me a question! Just search for "WrittenPer.")

(Thank you.)

May 26, 2010

We're calling it performance art.

Apparently, my brother is encouraging his daughter to experiment with creative headgear.

I approve:

According to my mom (or "Nana," to my niece), my brother plopped this colander on Cadence's head one night, and she's now obsessed with it.

She is clearly destined for greatness.

"Does this colander make my butt look fat? Oh, wait...that's my diaper."


(How cute are the kitty footie PJs? I mean, really.)

People I Want to Smack: Next up, Katy Perry



Her new song, "California Gurls" (...ugh) includes the lyric:

Sun-kissed skin
So hot, we'll melt your popsicle

It's so bad, it nearly made me drive off the road.

Katy Perry is not only annoying, she's dangerous.

May 25, 2010

Yes, THAT Kevin Costner


So, apparently, Kevin Costner is brilliant or something.

According to this article:

Kevin Costner has devoted 15 years and approximately $24 million dollars into developing a cleanup system that could help oil spills.

The “Kevin Costner Solution” has a unique way of sifting oil spills, which could potentially stop the spill altogether.

BP and the U.S. Coast Guard are planning to test six of his stainless steel centrifugal oil separators next week.

"It certainly is an odd thing to see a 'Kevin Costner' and a 'centrifugal oil separator' together in a place like the Gulf of Mexico," said actor Stephen Baldwin, who is producing a documentary about the oil spill and Costner's device. "But, hey, some of the best ideas sometimes come from the strangest places."


Yep. The same guy who showed his bum in Dances with Wolves, protected Whitney Houston (and chewed massive amounts of scenery) in Bodyguard and made the atrocity that is Waterworld (irony?) is going to save the ocean.

Here's another article that includes this awesome subtitle: "Will Kevin Costner Save Us All?"

Let's not get carried away. This is still the guy who played Frat Boy #1 in Night Shift.

May 24, 2010

Remember the River Walk! Er...

The most common response when we told people we were taking a trip to San Antonio: "Cool! Uh...what's in San Antonio?"

It's not an unreasonable question. It doesn't, at first glance, appear to be a typical vacation destination. But we had a little extra money in the vacation coffers this year, and we wanted a kind of "side" trip to take in addition to our usual two-week jaunt in the fall.

T had been in San Antonio during college when the town's River Walk was under major construction, and he'd always wanted to check it out. Add in the Alamo and Sea World (shut up; Shamu rules) and it seemed like a perfect little trip: relaxing, with a hint of educational fun. (Heh.)

But first, we had to get there. The plan: Fly down super-early Thursday morning, return home late Monday evening. However, Delta (which we began calling "Smellta," and later several much uglier words) had other plans. We arrived at the Akron-Canton airport at 4 a.m. on Thursday, eager to start our trip. After three flight bumps, delays, some weeping and gnashing of teeth, and a growing belief that we would never see anything other than the inside of airports (not just that day, but ever, for the rest of our lives), we arrived in San Antonio after midnight, having lost an entire day of our vacation.

(Note: Delta initially tried to do the right thing and gave us some vouchers for both food and future flights. But as the indignities piled up, and every single solitary Delta employee was either dismissive or downright rude to us, it ceased to matter. More on this in a future post.)

On the upside, during our eight hours stuck in the Detroit airport, we got to see the famed (read: weird) tunnel connecting the various airport concourses. I have no idea why someone thought people running with heavy bags + strobe lights set to weird music = positive customer experience. We saw more than one person nearly take a header into the tunnel's moving walkways. It does, however, look cool in this picture I took on said moving walkway:


After collapsing at the hotel, exhausted (and apparently sleeping through tornado warnings), we awoke to find...torrential rain. (The lowest levels of our hotel were actually flooding because the river was OVERFLOWING.) At this point, my theory that our vacation was cursed appeared to have legs.

Thankfully, the floodgates closed later that afternoon, and we discovered that the view from our hotel room (which looked down on the River Walk) was actually lovely:


And from that moment on, we had a WONDERFUL time. The River Walk is amazing. It's essentially a big public park, built along the San Antonio River, lined with restaurants and little shops, waterfalls and beautiful bridges and monuments, flowers and huge, gorgeous trees:


A statue of San Antonio:

Most, if not all, of the restaurants along the River Walk have alfresco seating, so you can eat while enjoying the heat and humidity of Texas and trying to protect your food from the sneaky gangs of pigeons, barn swallows and ducks swimming by and, in many cases, doing fly-bys directly at your head. (Seriously; I nearly lost my right eye to a rogue pigeon with murder in its tiny, twitchy heart.)

(Please note the utter lack of ANY railings ANYWHERE. There were children and elderly people running and/or hobbling everywhere on the uneven walkways, with nothing but a prayer and maybe a duck between themselves and the murky riverwater. We were aghast; perhaps Texans think railings are for sissies?)

Here, Mr. Written Permission contemplates...something...during a rare bird-free moment while dining along the river at Casa Rio:


One of our objectives in going to Texas was eating some real, authentic Mexican food (check!), and some good, hearty Texas barbecue. (What, you don't map out your menus before you go on vacation?) (OMG, we are nerds: Our vacations have objectives.)

Anyway. We may have overshot with the barbecue. Here, T digs into a rib that we could only assume was taken from an elephant. Or a T-Rex.


He said it made him feel like Fred Flintstone.

We spent a sweltering day at Sea World (the so-called "Splash Zone" was not as advertised; nary a sprinkle):


And then, the Alamo. (We remembered to visit it--hahaha...boo.)

In all seriousness, it was pretty amazing. The shrine itself was really cool, filled with all kinds of artifacts that belonged to Davey Crockett and James Bowie (he of the Bowie knife).


Since it IS a shrine, they don't allow cameras inside. Instead, here's a closeup of the very cool front door:


And, the grounds were absolutely gorgeous.


In addition to our sight-seeing jaunts, we did take advantage of a few nightlife-type things along the River Walk. (Well, "nightlife" for us, anyway, which means someplace we can sit and have a few drinks, vs. boogeying on the dance floor or some such.)

On our last night in town, we ventured to a local bar for some karaoke, where I (bolstered by a dacquiri or two) brought it home on some 80s power ballads (woo!) and (once I built up my nerve) some Etta James. T is not a singer, per se, but he did bring a tear to a few fellow Southern boys' eyes with his rendition of "Simple Man." :)

Not sure if we'll ever go back (it's one of those "been there, had a nice time, check it off the list" places), but we had a lovely time. :)

See?

May 22, 2010

Who would win in a fight: pirates or ninjas?

An excellent question. Thank you, random question assigner!

This is a tough call: Ninjas are quick, nimble and great with swords. And while both tend to travel in packs, ninjas just seem like they’d be more organized.

But, as Johnny Depp has proven, pirates are charming and look great in eyeliner, and could potentially disarm the ninjas with their bumbling wit and dreamy eyes.

I'm calling this one a draw.

Ask me anything

Add "bandwagon-jumper" to my profile


Since I'm sure the world is just dying to know whether or not I think a pirate or a ninja would win in a fight...

(...crickets chirping...)

...far be it from me to deny you any longer.

I'm now "WrittenPer" on Formspring.me.

Ask me anything!

(Bonus points if your first question is "Why are you such a joiner?" Or a probing question about my dogs.)

May 19, 2010

Anticip...ation

When I got back to the office today after a five-day vacation (and one day working from home; thank you, boss!), this was waiting for me on my desk:


It's a promotion from the company that runs our cafeterias. And I think it's pretty brilliant.
  • It says right there, in huge letters, that I WILL WIN SOMETHING if I open this.
  • But...I can only open it if I go to the actual cafeteria and open it in front of a cafeteria (I'm sorry: CAFE) employee.

(Also: Let's call a spade a spade: It isn't a cafe; it's a cafeteria. You get a tray, you pick out your food, you pay, you eat. There is outdoor seating but...no.)

Anyway.

I could win a free beverage, a free lunch or a catered lunch for me and 10 of my friends (er, coworkers; not necessarily the same thing). Uh, who doesn't like to win stuff? And the company gets you into the cafeteria. If you win a free drink, chances are you're just going to go ahead and buy your lunch while you're down there. And if you win a free lunch or catered lunch, they're hoping the food is just so very tasty (...) that you'll become an instant repeat customer.

Not exactly groundbreaking (and I'm not sure a cafeteria-catered lunch could be considered "winning big"), but still smart.

But my favorite part is the "Do Not Open" element. It makes it very Christmas-morningish, and makes me way more excited than I would be if they'd just, say, a coupon dropped onto my desk.

Well-played.

(On an unrelated note, my office currently smells like burned toast and Fruit Roll-ups. What the hell are people eating in here?)

Update, 12:35 p.m.: I won...a free drink. As did every single one of the other nine people in line with me. The woman sitting at the (very sad) little table with three (very sad) balloons was so bored, just opening our envelopes and saying "Free drink, redeem over there. Free drink, redeem over there," over and over and over. I wanted to ask her if she'd given away anything but free drinks all day, but I was afraid that might destroy her very last bit of will to live.

May 13, 2010

"Yeah, it's Joe."


Let's talk about how we answer the phone. Yes? Join me, won't you?

The title of this post is what prompted me to write it in the first place. I was sitting in my cube at work when I heard someone bustle past, on his way to the elevator. His cell phone rang (a bit too loudly for an office environment, I thought, but that's another blog post), he pressed the appropriate button and said: "Yeah, it's Joe."

Um. What?

I'm sorry -- when did a polite "Hello?" go out of fashion?

When I was growing up, our parents made us answer the phone thusly: "Hello, Mast's residence?" It quickly conveyed both a polite greeting and confirmation of who you had reached. And since our home phone number appeared next to the number for my parents' pharmacy in the phone book, it let potential customers know they'd dialed the wrong number. And, it didn't sound as though you'd possibly reached a seedy bar, unlike any greeting that begins with the word "Yeah."

I recently spoke to a co-worker about this. Her parents had taken it even further than mine: They were required to answer, "Hello, this is the {last name} residence. This is {first name} speaking. Who may I say is calling?"

Possibly a bit overboard, but still: I'd rather wait patiently for the 30 seconds it takes to say that than be greeted with, "Yeah, it's Joe."

Even just "Hello" is better than that. Growing up, my best friend P's mom had the absolute best "Hello?" greeting. I wish there was a way to adequately describe it in words. She's very soft-spoken, and the "Hello" was almost a whisper. And it was very gentle, almost as if she were saying hello to a tiny baby.

I blame Caller ID, largely, for the abandonment of traditional phone greetings. If I see who's calling and it's someone I know, I can simply answer with, "Hi, Mom! How's it going?" or "What's up??" or, as was the case this weekend, "You are an ass." (The latter was after my brother played a mean trick on me. He knows he's an ass.)

Perhaps if "Joe" had known his caller, "Yeah, it's Joe" would possibly be an acceptable greeting. But, based on the conversation that followed (which I also eavesdropped on, of course), he didn't. Another friend of mine routinely answers his phone by saying, "What?" whether he knows the person or not.

Why the loss of basic politeness? Is it because we don't really talk on the phone much anymore (except for work and when dealing with telemarketers), choosing instead to text and e-mail and Facebook and Twitter where actual greetings are unnecessary? And, if so, is that a bad thing or a good thing?

I have no idea. But if someone ever greets my call with "Yeah, it's Joe," the last thing Joe will hear is a big fat CLICK before I lose his number.

May 12, 2010

My favorite new celebrity nickname


"Drinksy Lohan."

Hee.

(Seriously, though, she looks awful. Can she be declared unable to care for herself properly yet?)

May 11, 2010

And in non-celebrity non-news...


Appropriate follow-up questions to the above "news" "story" from People.com:
  1. Uh, who is Colin Hanks?
  2. Seriously, who is he?
  3. Whoever he is, he looks emaciated. What's up with that? Can I give him a sandwich or something?
  4. OK, so he's Tom Hanks' son. Has he done anything on his own? Is he a good actor? {Pause while everyone laughs hysterically.}
  5. So, why is this news?
Exactly.
(Also kind of sad: Tom Hanks' first wife is now apparently officially known as...Tom Hanks' first wife. Because having your own identity is totally overrated.)

May 10, 2010

A few thoughts on friendship

As a "part 2" of my vacation recap, I promised you some deep thoughts. Turns out, that also equals many, long thoughts. So grab a snack and settle in. I hope you'll think it's worth it.

**********

When I was a little girl, having a "best friend" was everything.

It didn't matter if your best friend changed every year, or even every week; you just had to have one.

Someone who sat by you during lunch and made up silly games with you at recess, who invited you to her sleepovers, and got into giggle fits with you, and told you all her best secrets.

From ages 6-12, my best friend, P, and I were inseparable. Absolutely joined at the hip in every way. Other friends came and went; P and I were steadfast. We went to church and school together. Her older brothers teased us relentlessly; my little brother drove us nuts. Our parents patiently listened to giggling well past 3 a.m. nearly every weekend. People at church told us, "You know, when we think of the word 'friend,' we think of you two."

Peas in a tiny little, sheltered pod.

P knew every single one of my secrets. From the silly to the very, very serious. To this day, she is a guardian of one of my biggest secrets, and I'm not sure if she even remembers anymore.

When it came time for high school, our paths divided. And while we still called each other "best friend," and we still saw one another all the time...things changed. Other friends entered our circle. We spent weeks apart.

By the time college rolled around, I still loved her, but things had clearly changed for both of us. It happens. It's a part of life.

As one of my favorite bloggers says: Friendships have a lifespan. Very few are meant to actually go the distance. And that's OK. Life happens. It's OK to let go.

I met B when I was 18. Immediately, we had a lot of surface things in common: Both music majors, both singers, both freshmen at a new school. We discovered we both liked boys who didn't like us back, and we agonized over this mutual slight.

And as the year wore on and we spent more and more time together in dorm rooms, concert halls, dining halls, classrooms and tour buses, one thing became clear: B was really, really funny. And she made me funnier. And together, we could make each other laugh like no one had ever made us laugh before.

Me and B, 1996:


And when we started singing together, just us, in coffee shops and concerts and sometimes just in our rooms? It was like something finally clicked in me. Here was someone who could bond with me over the most fundamentally personal thing I had -- music -- and make me burst into uncontrollable laughter at the same time. For me, this was as close to magical as friendships got at that point.

There was something there, something we recognized in one another -- this kind of sameness.

We were as different as two people could possibly be in almost every way: Our backgrounds, family life, taste in almost everything; we're even polar opposites in hair color, height and body type. But when something made me laugh, it made her laugh, too. Even when no one else in the world got the joke, I knew B always did.

At a time when I was barely becoming an adult, and I had left P and my family behind, and I was secretly sure no one in the entire world would ever, ever really GET me?

She did.

B transferred to another school after our sophomore year. I was crushed, of course, but, in a selfishness only a 19-year-old can display, I had other things going on that seemed more important at the time. We were both dealing with a lot of issues, including "What Do I Want to Do With My Life?", and our paths just naturally divided. We still kept in touch and saw one another fairly often. But that feeling of sameness and safety waned.

Our friendship followed the ebb-and-flow pattern that I think a lot of adult friendships follow. Drift apart, drift back together. Drift apart, see one another again, have a great time, drift apart again. We both got married. We moved to different cities. We started new lives. Friendships have a lifespan. It's OK to move on.

And yet, we never quite did, not completely. We still called each other on our birthdays, and had the occasional dinner. B got divorced and moved back to my area. We saw each other a little more frequently.

It's amazing how conversations change as you get older: Suddenly we were talking about things like our careers and having babies and buying houses. We didn't burst into spontaneous songs at the drop of a hat. We didn't talk in weird voices, or make inappropriate jokes about the waiter, or laugh so hard we cried. It was nice. It was grown-up. Grown-up friendship. Not quite the same, but: Nice. It was lovely to have her as more of a regular part of my life.

When we decided to take a trip together, I'll admit (to her for the first time, too): I was a little nervous about it. Yes, we've been friends for 15 years; yes, I still consider her my "best friend," whatever that REALLY means when you're 32. And it's only four days. But...

But we haven't been together for more than a few hours at a time since we were 21. Will we have enough to talk about? Will it be awkward? Will we want to do the same things? Will we fight? Will we annoy each other? Will we spend all day on the beach in silence and then retreat to separate corners every night to talk to our respective boyfriend/husband and secretly sigh, thinking that we have four/three/two/one more day(s) of this?

My fears were assuaged almost instantly. The night before we left, we stayed up almost until we had to get up again, talking with my mom, reminiscing about all the silly things we did in college and giggling like idiots.

When the plane was readying for takeoff and B started looking nervous, I hesitated, then said, "Wanna hold my hand for takeoff?" When she didn't look alarmed or uncomfortable, I knew. It was going to be fine.

I wish I knew how to describe to you what that weekend meant and still means to me. It was a reaffirmation. Not just that I can still honestly call B my best friend. But that, even at 32, the idea of having a friend who is that in tune with you, who gets you, who loves you and listens? Really listens? And who can know all your best secrets and still not judge you, and will give you honest advice? Who can see a clown wig and automatically know what to do with it?

It's still possible.

It didn't feel like a "grown-up" friendship anymore, where we have a great time together, but it's all at arms' length, on the surface. There was true honesty there, and an ability to just be myself. Really ME. I can't think of anything more valuable, or more rare.

And while I'm lucky enough to be able to call B my "BFF" in the truest sense of the word, I'm also blessed beyond reason to have a whole group of 14 other amazing women (including our own Two Pretzels, Metacognitive Musings, Trophy Life, Chewlies, Aimless Oasis and Snappy Tulip) who have all those "true" friend qualities, too. They'll stop whatever they're doing to just be my friend when I need them, and they know I'd do the same for them.

Even as we grow older, and our lives change and move and grow, and we become more isolated as we have children and families and careers, and life gets in the way, it's still possible to have what we had as little girls. That feeling of sameness, of family, of understanding.

It's possible to be a wife and a star employee and a mother and all the millions of things you have to be each and every day, and still be selfless enough to listen, and laugh, and be someone's best friend.

And while I've really had that all along, it took this trip to really bring it into focus for me. And I'm so grateful for that. And I'm so grateful for B, and my amazing college friends, and all you fellow bloggers, and everyone reading this right now. So, thank you. :)

And thanks most of all for reading if you've gotten this far. I know it rambled a bit. I'd love to know your thoughts about this, too. Do you have a best friend? Tell me about it.

Me and B, 2010:

May 9, 2010

Happy Mother's Day!


Happy day to all you amazing mamas out there! Thanks for all you do for your babies, whether they're two, 32 or 62. :)

May 6, 2010

Vacation! Vacation! Vacation at the beach!


You know how you’ve got those things you really want to do, but you don’t REALLY think you’ll ever actually get to do? Like, dye your hair blue, or have a pet monkey, or go to space?

That's kind of how I've always felt about a real "girls-only" vacation.

Growing up, I never did Spring Break -- I was always on tour with one choir or another, or we did the dreaded family vacation (just kidding Mom and Dad! Kinda...). Now, I'm 32. I'm married. I have limited vacation time. I just didn't see it happening.

Lucky for me, I had an encouraging husband, a little extra money, a free place to stay and a willing partner in crime.

So, last weekend, my best friend B and I embarked on a journey…to Florida.

Even though we’ve been best friends for 15 years, it was our first time really traveling together. (Unless you count those times we drove all over Ohio and Pennsylvania to see the Indigo Girls back in the 90s; I don’t.) Now that we’re older and somewhat wiser, we can afford airfare without borrowing money from our parents and can both legally rent a car (woohoo!), and we needed a break from the real world. Girl time? Totally pumped!

This trip was made even more special by the fact that it was B’s first time EVER on a plane! Since I, as a young’un, flew at least once a year to visit my grandparents in San Diego, the allure of flying had long since worn off. I was really looking forward to seeing the experience through fresh eyes.

I’ve decided to break this up into two parts: A little recap of our vacation highlights with pictures (below), followed (tomorrow or the following day) by a few reflections. Deep Thoughts by Written Permission, if you will. But, for now, on to the recap!

The Canton/Akron airport started us out on a high note: When I asked if I needed to do anything special when taking my CPAP through security, the surly old man who gave us our boarding passes growled, “Yeah. They make you sing 'The Star Spangled Banner.'” Since he was apparently challenging not only my ability to sing but my willingness to humiliate myself in public, I offered to do a duet of "Islands in the Stream" with him right then and there and broke into a few bars in defiance of his gruffness. That finally got him to crack a smile.

B: “Of all songs in the universe, why 'Islands in the Stream?'”

“Uh, he looked like Kenny Rogers?”

And then, B’s first plane trip! She was so excited she took pictures of the inside of the plane. ? This was not a comforting sight for her upon sitting down:


She did hold my hand during the first takeoff (aw!), and she may have ordered a bottle of wine at 9 a.m. But it was all good.

(As I like to do on planes, I struck up a conversation with the person on the other side of me while B was listening to her iPod. The woman happened to work for Habitat for Humanity, so I eagerly started asking her questions. When she found out I was a writer/editor, she said, “Oh, cool! Can you edit this newsletter I’m working on?” and shoved a piece of paper into my hand. Uh, lady, I’m on vacation? But of course I at least looked at it. It was Habitat, after all. Service work portion of vacation: Complete!)

When we finally landed in Tampa, we got turned around trying to find our rental car. I spotted a traffic controller with a huge ponytail and decided to ask for directions: “Ma’am?” When “she” turned around to face me, “she” turned out to have a goatee and a very deep baritone voice to go along with that ponytail. I believe he actually said, “Uh, I’m a SIR.” Oopsie.

After driving to Sarasota, dumping our stuff at the house and grabbing a quick bite to eat, it was BEACH TIME. But first, sunblock for us white-and-pasties. During my search for sunblock, I discovered, nestled in the back of a hall closet…a clown wig. A big, rainbow-colored, curly clown wig. (This is probably where I should mention that this house belongs to my family, and my grandparents live there part of the year, and they keep games and other weird stuff there to amuse children. There was also a whoopee cushion in there.)

I immediately (as you would, of course) donned the clown wig and resumed talking normally to B. She, of course, erupted in laughter. Because we are who we are, the next logical thing to do was to spend nearly an hour taking random photos of each other wearing the clown wig in progressively more absurd situations. To wit:


Now, I have friends who would appreciate a clown wig for five minutes. I maybe have a few friends who would pose for a picture in a clown wig. But B instantly knew that would never be sufficient. She's the only other person I know besides myself who could take pictures in a clown wig for an hour and still find it funny.

This is how best friends identify one another. :)

*It probably seems as though I’m plodding along and recapping things in painstaking detail. In fact, at this moment you’re probably thinking, “Good heavens, woman – how long is this going to be?! What, 'And then we went to breakfast, and then we drove home, and then...' I have things to do!” Well, here’s where the painstaking detail ends. Because the rest of the vacation went pretty much like this:
  • Wake up
  • Talk and laugh uproariously
  • Eat, talk and laugh uproariously
  • Beach (while talking and laughing uproariously)
  • Eat again (…you get the idea)
  • Watch movies/goof around/snack/laugh uproariously even MORE until our stomachs hurt, and then laugh some more
  • Sleep
It was pretty much my ideal vacation. (More on that in Part 2.)

So, in the interest of not boring you, dear reader, to tears, here are a few other (brief) highlights:

It had been a few years since I’d been to the (amazing, white-sand) beaches in Sarasota, so I’d somehow forgotten just how beautiful they were. Love, love, love the ocean! (Don’t love the sand in every possible place, ever.)


On a quest for a lox bagel (…drool), we detoured to Puppytown, a pet store with pens of puppies set up like a miniature town. As an ardent dog shelter supporter, I have major mixed feelings about these kinds of places, of course, but… The siren call of puppies proved to be too strong. I mean, puppies! In a tiny puppy town! Come on. Beth fell in love with a Sheltie, and I nearly dognapped this English Bulldog:


And the sign is kind of awesome:


Going on a brilliant recommendation from Trophy Life (who used to live that neck of the woods), we enjoyed some of the best sushi I’ve ever had. It was so pretty I nearly didn’t have the heart to eat it (except I totally did, who are we kidding):


At Panera one morning, taking advantage of a little free wi-fi, a group of 80-year-old Sarasotans took up residence next to us. There was some commotion, and we saw one of them chasing something with his cane. Turned out to be a GIANT ROACH, which he was trying to usher away from them…into B’s purse. He actually said, “If I can get it in this woman’s purse, maybe it’ll leave us alone.” Um, no? No thank you, old fella? Thankfully we thwarted that plan, and someone squished it before it could lay eggs in our belongings. Take that, Grandpa!

One of our favorite discoveries (besides, of course, the clown wig): A cache of old VHS movies. Score! Every evening we slogged through another classic: Annie, On Golden Pond and the original Odd Couple. After awhile, it definitely turned into a little bit of Mystery Science Theater 3000 (particularly during On Golden Pond: “The loons!”), and we got a little fidgety. At one point I looked up and B was doing this:


This was later identified as some sort of Windsor Pilates move. I took her word for it.

And, lastly, a few extra shots...

The backyard (Yes, that is a shuffleboard court. Yes, it is awesome):


Beach shot: What, is there hair in my face?


And, finally, B doing a Tawny Kitaen on the hood of our rented Versa (only $20 a day via Priceline -- woot!):


Stay tuned for Part 2: Deep thoughts on friendship…
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