Thursday, May 28, 2009

The Possible Future Me...

"This is the best thing to wear for today, you understand. Because I don't like women in skirts and the best thing is to wear pantyhose or some pants under a short skirt, I think. Then you have the pants under the skirt and then you can pull the stockings up over the pants underneath the skirt. And you can always take off the skirt and use it as a cape. So I think this is the best costume for today".
Edie Beale

Watching the Maysles brothers' documentary "Grey Gardens" tonight was interesting... hilarious... enlightening... scary. I felt like I was coming home; to an alternate universe. I saw the alternate ending to my life: I am an aging, decaying, impoverished aristocrat decomposing in my self-made prison, except that my mom is way nicer to me.

I laughed, I cried, I felt their anxiety over their filth. I applauded Little Edie in her "staunch" wearing of the scarf to conceal her alopecia, and her constant wearing of her swimming suit (I can SO relate!).

It was just a precious moment in my life. I wanted to share. Net Flix this documentary right now.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

I'm not in any danger of taking myself too seriously...

I love this photo:


I keep it on my desk, not in a frame, mind you... just out, because it makes me laugh and it makes me feel loved.

It was taken the summer of 1994. That summer, a few months after I had mono, I developed Bell's Palsy. The right side of my face was paralyzed to the extent that my right eye wouldn't even close or blink. My mom is taking the picture and saying, "Come on everyone, smile! Carrie, I said SMILE!" I am belly laughing. I am close to tears, but you wouldn't know it. That's what makes me laugh. Imagine walking around with that face (not to mention those high-waisted-pleated shorts and vest). I had to life-guard with that face... talk to people daily with that face...

The part that makes me feel loved is that my siblings (and even the dog) are about as sympathetic as siblings need to be. Largely, they are laughing AT me, but there's a tiny portion of their teasing that's laughing WITH me... which makes up for the facial paralysis.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Florida: The Finale and Denoument

Good-bye fancy hotel and convention center.


Hello husband!


Wait for it...


Wait for it...


Wait for it...


We made it!


All week I had been striving for a glimpse of Disney World. Remember how I even drove there trying to find it? Disney is cleverly hidden amongst acres and acres of forest so that you are suddenly surprised by it's presence when you are THERE. The reason I could not see Cinderella's Castle from any vantage point outside of the park is because it is TINY. I remembered it being SO much bigger.

So Todd and I, Disney novices, embarked upon a day at the Magic Kingdom. We weren't sure if we could bring in food and drinks, so I left my bag in the car. We could have used all the waters and snacks, but it was also nice to be unencumbered. We knew that food was expensive in the park and just expected to pay for it. Disney is not cheap.

This is one of the first things we saw...


Jesus 4 gives me for going to Disney World? OK. Since there are no sinister activities and no alcohol I guess I don't mind the blanket forgiveness.

It was VERY hot. 93 degrees + all the people + the highly reflective pavement. We embraced the sweating.

It seemed very crowded to me, but what do I know? There were a lot of school groups there, and thousands of people who had the day off like us, but the lines were never that long. The longest we waited was MAYBE 10 or 15 minutes. The only fast pass we needed was for the Peter Pan ride which is mysteriously crowded all day long. Maybe there were sinister activities going on in the line which we missed out on.

Although this photo just looks like Todd is smiling really big, we are going REALLY fast on Thunder Mountain...


I LOVED the Swiss Family Robinson House. I loved the movie growing up, and I was always jealous of their fine tropical wilderness contraptions. I wonder what a fiberglass tree house is going for in this economy?

Why do Americans throw money on everything?


We rode everything... except Splash Mountain. We really didn't feel like getting wet even though it was so hot. Besides, my shorts were really dark denim and they would have turned my legs blue. Most of the rides are kiddie rides, but we had a good time anyway.


My steering wheel was covered in glitter... only at Disney...


We stood in line for this mysterious ride called the Astro Orbiter. It was a glorified Dumbo ride except it was rockets. Maybe the ride operators, or cast members, want to be validating, but they never should have let both of us ride together. We delayed the beginning of the ride as the cast member came over and tried to help us better squeeze ourselves into the same rocket. He called me princess, as in "stand up there, Princess, and let him get his legs in there first." I wanted to punch him (the cast member). We are smiling even though this ride hurt more than my pride.


By lunch time, I was in need of some serious food. From the second I looked at the map I knew I wanted to eat at the Liberty Square Inn. I just hoped the food was as good as the Colonial decor. The menu was small and kind of had really heavy dishes like pot roast (who wants pot roast on a 93 degree Friday afternoon?). But our cheerful server suggested the Pilgrim's Feast (turkey, stuffing, mashed potatoes, and gravy) and I said, "Bring it..." I was not sorry. It was really delicious, and even though it was a huge not-light lunch it kept me going for the rest of the day. I was SO happy with my cold root beer.


I had really bad sweaty-hat-hair all day long. It's better than nose cancer.

Cinderella's Castle is more like a tunnel from Main Street to Fantasy Land, but in that tunnel are some really well done and beautiful glass mosaics. They weren't too Disney... they looked like the mille flore tapetries of medieval Brussels.


I love the little girl looking up at the story. She reminded me of Mathilde. Sorry it's blurry.



I was amazed at how many people are employed at Disney. This guy's job was to play in a marching band a couple times a day. How sweet is that. And everyone was so friendly. It was just me standing there on the side walk, and he still waved.


This set up might become a series.


Remember this one time when Todd was riding a giant rainbow shrimp and was a little motion-sick?


Luckily for us, Todd was not motion sick the whole day. Maybe it was because his horse was so tiny...


I love that handsome face!

By about 4pm the heat had taken a serious toll, so we rode out to Tom Sawyer's Island on the Huck Finn raft and had a little relaxing time.


This was my favorite part of the day. Holding hands with Todd, sitting in our rocking chairs watching Old Man River flow on by...


Then the Liberty Belle steam paddler blocked our view, and we went in search of a cold drink.


It got more and more pleasant the further the sun went down, and pretty soon it was time for the nightly fireworks.


It was really fun to sit on the sidewalk with all the other families and wait for the show. It was just like the 4th of July or something. The anticipation had a pleasant feel. I couldn't wait for Tinker Bell to do her fly-by...


There she goes... She's hard to photograph.

I love fireworks. They make me cry, so do parades and choirs.


It was such a fun day spent with my favorite person in the whole wide world! This picture pretty much sums up the day...


It's interesting that by the end of the day, the Castle had grown HUGE! I guess the magic worked!


The next day we were WORN OUT. Our feet hurt and we were weary. We had some time to kill and Todd really wanted to see some of the sites I saw, so we made a stop by the Mary, Queen of the Universe shrine/church, and I stopped by the Catholic store and bought myself a St. Martha figure (Patron Saint of Cooks). The cashier reminded me to go to the priest and have it blessed... I just said, "OK." Todd wanted me to, but I didn't.

Next we drove the 54 miles out to see if we could see the space shuttle. It was further out than we thought so we settled for the beach at Cape Canaveral.


This is all the beach Todd got. I felt bad seeing his wistful look at the seashore. He had worked SO HARD all week long. I hardly saw him, and I went out everyday and did fun things while he made sure everything was going smoothly. I am grateful he brought me with him. I love to see Todd in action, he is amazing. He is really smart and his clients and his co-workers think he is funny. They really like him.

It was a fun 9 days, but if felt good to come home again. This was a vacation that left me feeling rested and happy. What more could I ask for?

Monday, May 11, 2009

Florida: Part Cinqo de Mayo or A Lesson in Getting Over Oneself


So on Thursday I had an opportunity before me. I had called the Cocoa Beach Surf Company in Cocoa Beach about a surf lesson, but they hadn't called me back (and I was kind of glad). But they did call Thursday morning so I had to make a decision. Here were the Pro's and Con's:


Surfing is fun
It would be a challenge
It would be cool to blog about
I was successful last time I tried surfing
I might be successful again
I would be at the beach
When would I get to do this again?


I am generally a homebody (who happens to like to travel)... the pool is fine
I am scared to do it alone or without Todd
I am the fattest I have ever been in my life
This activity requires me to be in a swimsuit
I am recovering from OHS and it has had a dramatic effect on my body and energy
Due to that, I am REALLY out of shape right now, even for me
Surfing is rigorous

My Con's were weighty upon me. I have been frustrated over the past few years at how I have let my physical state diminish my confidence. It's been a huge problem (pardon the pun :) I have felt powerless and impotent and unable to change things and habits I don't like. Yoga has helped a enormously, but I haven't gone in months ( plus, the doctor said no yoga for a while after the OHS). But it would only add to my self-loathing if I didn't do this. So I called and set up a lesson.

I drove about an hour due east to the Atlantic coast, and on the way I saw the headwaters to the Everglades, a nuclear power plant, and Kennedy Space Center in the distance including the GIANT buildings in which they house the space shuttle. It would be amazing to sit on the beach and watch a launch.

I found where I needed to go and then, because I was early, I drove on to find the beach to wait and get myself psyched up for my adventure.


I couldn't find a public beach which usually has bathrooms or changing stalls so I had to change into my swimsuit in my Pontiac mid-sized sedan with non-tinted windows. I think the only skill I gleaned from 7th grade gym class was how to completely change my clothes without exposing anything. If we were to have been graded on that skill, I would have gotten an "A".

The beach was lovely.


The waves on this side of Florida were bigger than on the Gulf side (gulp). As before, I took some photos... as I gazed at the camera display screen I noticed that this side of the beach was WAY more populated that the other side, and as I zoomed in, I could see the surf board rentals and people surfing.


"Wow..." I thought. "There are a lot of people down there, and they are all going to witness my forthcoming struggle with the sea." That thought almost derailed my plans.

So I sat and thought about it for a minute.


One of my (many) problems is that in my head, I am just me, me at a constant. If I were to be plugged into a math equation, I would be "C". I feel the same as I ever did, in my head. I haven't really began to feel "older" yet. But then I catch a glimpse in the full-length mirror, and suddenly I am no longer "C"... I am now a variable, an unknown, a mere "c". I find it shocking. How can I reconcile my "C" in my my head with the "c" I see before me? Blind myself? Never look in the mirror again?

Going to the beach is always an exercise in self esteem. Initially, I compare myself to everyone. I feel a little grateful to all those people who care less than I. They are a little less well shaped and a lot more exposed. And then I notice that tan fat is really forgiving. In fact, it's downright handsome. Then I realize that most people (like myself) usually are only thinking of themselves and thinking that everyone is looking at them when really everyone is thinking the exact same thing and no one is really looking at anyone in a way other than mild bemusement. No one is really being judged, we are just being entertained.

Looking around I see how AVERAGE I am. There are always people that are going to be MORE something than me: more thin, more fat, more tan, more white, more exposed, more covered, more sober, more drunk. I feel my confidence rising as I revel in my averageness. Glory, I think I am ready to surf!

I parked in the garage of the surf shop and rode the elevator down where it opened right up in to the shop. I was immediately intimidated by the three muscle-y, deeply tanned, tattooed, pierced, and goatee-ed men standing at the counter. There was an almost unperceptable rolling of the eyes as I shuffled up and said, "Hi, I'm here for a surfing lesson." I felt as if two of them were gloating and one had lost a bet. I wanted to share in the joke, because believe me... I get it, and I'm laughing, too!

I was introduced to the scariest-looking one of them, but who had a name that matched his personality... Teddy. I signed away my life, paid my way, and Teddy ushered me into the "instruction room." Time to turn off the over-self-awareness, time to go with the flow.

Teddy gave me the run down on jellyfish, sting rays, and rip currents. Check. He was surprisingly shy considering his scary looks. We practiced laying on the board and standing. I found out I am leg-bidexterous. I was worried that in the tense moment of trying to stand up on the waves, my feet would fight for the front seat of the board.

I was an attentive student, and I avoided the full length mirror in the room. I was a "C" standing there in my cute, ruffle-y gold fish swimsuit, board shorts, and my second-hand rash guard jauntily thrown over my shoulders like a prepster having drinks with the dean.

"Let's go get your board," gave me a small jolt of adrenaline. Surfing is an equal opportunity sport... ladies carry their own boards. Luckily, the beginner board are long but soft, so with my board on my head, Teddy marched me out and down the two blocks to the beach. I tried to make conversation to put myself at ease, and Teddy happily obliged.

Once we got on the beach I struggled a bit more, but I focused on Teddy's voice and didn't look at anyone. If I looked anyone in the eye, they would know I was a counterfeit and that I didn't belong there. But "C" said I did.

For the next hour, the battle was not "C" vs. "c"... it was "C" vs. sea. Holy cow. The waves were 3-4 feet which is awesome if you are not holding onto an 8 foot rigid sail. I would get onto the board, Teddy would turn me into the waves, he'd say "here we go" and push me onto a good one, I would struggle to get my slippery feet underneath myself, try to stand and ride it out until I was dumped off or I fell off, and then I would battle the waves to get 100 yards back out to where Teddy was waiting. It... was... AWESOME!

I realized at one point that I was really focusing on my task at hand, so I told Teddy, "You know, I am having a really good time." I think he appreciated this because it was probably hard to tell. I was getting beat up. I got up a couple of times, and got onto my knees more, but getting back out to the starting point was the hardest part. I remember asking Teddy how much time we had left and he said we still had 30 minutes. I remember thinking, "This is my last run. I can't take this much longer." But what I lack in strength right now I make up for in stamina. After an hour, I felt great.

I kept assuring Teddy I was having fun. Walking back to the shop was harder. I was tired, but in that good "just-had-a-good-long-hard-swim" way, and I carried my board like a champ. The tragedy of the day was that I FORGOT TO TAKE MY CAMERA to the shop with me. I would love to show you how nice and friendly and patient Teddy was. I am not exactly the dream client, but he helped me have a fun time and unknowingly assisted me in my exercise of getting over myself. I had to settle for a drive-by...


So the lesson I take from this day:

C > c

Thursday, May 07, 2009

Florida: Part Quatro

So, today I went back to that really cute part of town where we ate at the restaurant Houstons. It is an area of Orlando called Winter Park, and it's where the rich people used to come down for the winter at the turn of the century (the one before this one). The streets are cute and narrow and tree lined and the homes are beautiful Spanish-style mini-mansions.

Park Avenue is the quaint shopping-dining-museum area. It was a little fancy.


The streets are paved in brick and the large oaks are dripping in Spanish moss. This is a Pottery Barn in an old Art Deco movie theater. It's a little bit of a travesty, but at least they didn't tear it down to build the Pottery Barn.


I went there to see the Morse Museum (more Morses... but this museum was put together by the McKeans) which hosts that largest collection of art created and designed by Louis Comfort Tiffany, noted for his beautiful stained glass windows and lamps. I WAS IN HEAVEN. The collection held many large and small windows (these windows were not part of the collection), several priceless lamps, and examples of his pottery and jewelry. I was really impressed with the pottery. I have never seen anything like it; beautiful art nouveau motifs and gorgeous metallic glazes. Art nouveau and the arts and crafts movement are two of my very favorite historic periods of art. The highlight of the museum is the chapel that was created for the Chicago World's Fair. It was an exhibit that was built in New York and assembled on site. It contained an alter, a "podium" (I don't know what it's called, a baptistery, several large stained glass windows, and the coolest chandelier I have ever seen in the shape of a double cross. It was the fanciest thing I have ever seen... in a good way. It was inspiring.

I have been so impressed with the two museums I have visited. Both were small scale museums built by private collectors. These are people who have used their wealth to collect the works of artists whom they believe have really contributed to the history of art. These museums represent hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of dollars in investment. I am so grateful! So many works of art would be lost to the world without these collectors. I think it is a worthy way to "spend your legacy." Philanthropy is great and important, but I appreciate the art collectors also.

After the museum, I went across the street, got some white chocolate macadamia nut ice cream and enjoyed the park and the fancy shops.


I am grateful to be able to come on this trip. Have I mentioned how hard Todd is working? He leaves the room at 6am and is not finished until 8 or 9pm at night. All day long he is making sure things are running smoothly, and it is all done from this temporary room in the center of the registration area affectionately called the "greenhouse".


There are lots of skylights above this area which let in a lot of natural light... and HEAT! I love Todd. It is fun to be here with him, although I feel guilty going into the room to say hi and he and all of his co-workers are slaving away while I've got my beach bag on my arm! And to add to my guilt, they have been taking me out to dinner with them every night.

This night we went back to Moonfish, a beautiful and delicious seafood restaurant run by the company that owns Vito's (certain people who make the dinner decisions don't like to branch out much... they want to make sure they get an amazing meal, and I guess I don't mind, but when you eat AMAZING food every night it stops being so amazing.) I remembered my camera this time.


Such great details. The faucets in the bathrooms were dolphin heads, and the hooks were whale tails.


Here, like everywhere we have gone, has HUGE menus. Huge in actual size, not variety. But they were pretty!



Highlights of this meal were the coconut shrimp. Usually I am more of a fan of shrimp served cold, but these are A-mazing.


Both nights I have been here I have enjoyed my food (with one exception), but what I have REALLY wanted was the sezhuan sesame encrusted tuna steak, but it cost, like, $40 and I just felt too guilty ordering it on someone else's dime. Todd ordered it this time.


Oh, I love this photo. The tuna is seared and rare. Mmmmm... I love mussels and wanted to go a little lighter so I ordered the Red Thai curry mussels.


When they came out in their bamboo steamer I was so excited. I lifted the lid and it exuded a poop smell. No, you read that right... a poop smell. I wasn't the only one who noticed. Unfortunately, it tasted like poop, too; not a good kind of poop like some cheeses, it was just a bad taste combination. I actually sent it back. I felt like an idiot, and the the server (Bruno) and the manager made a big deal about it, but when food isn't good, it must go back. I helped Todd eat his tuna instead. Now I know, go with your gut... get the tuna.

I have had a really nice time with everyone at Wingate. I feel very self-conscious being the only wife and girl on this trip, but everyone has been so nice... they have even indulged my favorite dinner pastime of "tell me your story."


I still have three days to go! I am having a good time.