Saturday, June 30, 2007

Juggling Freak: Rebel or Criminal?

On our way to the Mecca of Consumerism that is Orlando, we hit an area of bogged-down traffic. We were approaching an overpass, and here, the traffic just stopped cold. We had passed a sign a few miles back that informed us that the right hand lane would need to merge left, so I stayed in the leftmost lane, hoping that we'd breeze right on through. Silly me. I should have known better. Every trip down I-95 is characterized by a construction boondoggle of some sort or another.

We reach the place where the right lane is supposed to merge into the middle of the three lanes, but the flow of traffic just stops deader than the proverbial doornail. The right hand lane is still continuing to creep along (thanks to a well-placed off ramp), but the other two lanes -- the ones that SHOULD be flowing well -- are not. At all. Which is vexing to say the least. Finally, enough traffic simply throws its hands up in the air and heads off in the direction of the off-ramp, and we manage to move forward enough to see daylight through all of the cars and trucks. At this point, we see a police officer, waving laconically at the traffic.

I stick my head out the window, and he says: "Folks, if you stay in this lane, it could be 45 minutes to an hour before you're free." We ask if it's okay if we run over the grass a bit to get to the off-ramp, since we are now slightly past it. He gives us a shrug, and off we go, jouncing through the weeds. As we pull up to the end of the off-ramp, we noticed what's caused the delay up on the overpass -- a multi-car pileup, involving at least seven vehicles, and one of those a semi. Apparently, someone in the right hand lane neglected to heed the "merge left" signs some ways back, and when crunch time came, well... CRUNCH was what happened, all right.

As we pull off the ramp, we see that we can head down to the next traffic light a short distance away, hang a u-turn, and be right back on the interstate in no time. I am the last driver in the long line of cars making the u-turn, and as I crest the signals, this jackass in a gold SUV in the lane to my right decides he's going to jump into my lane with me. He comes right on over, narrowly missing my car. Had he struck us, he would have hit the right hand passenger side, right where Offspring was sitting. I honked madly, letting him know that I was NOT happy with his (lack of) driving skills. He honks back, as if to say *I* was the one in error! The absolute effrontery!

As we rocket up the on-ramp, Gold SUV Asshat decides that almost clipping my car isn't enough of a driving faux-pas. Obviously, this person needs his own laminated copy of the Ten Commandments of Driving. So, he speeds up, and damn near runs me off the road in his hasty attempt to make it in front of me, and back to I-95 before we can. JF, not one to sit by calmly in the face of such disrespect, is practically hanging off of the car like a monkey, and yelling comments out the window. When multiple fingers come out of Gold SUV's windows, JF is up like a flash, whisking down his shorts, and mooning the occupants of the other car, flipping them off all the while.

We're going about 80 down I-95. We've just passed an horrific accident site, and my husband is trying to mush his ass against the windshield of our car in order to torment the asshats in front of us. Vacation is off to a rip-snorting start. Aren't we a classy bunch?


Reading Amy's post today reminded me of this incident (maybe I was trying to block it all out?) and so informs me that had JF been caught, he could have been sentenced as a sex offender under Megan's Law. Now, I'm all in favor for laws that protect children from vicious predators, but you can now be labeled a sex offender for streaking? Public urination? Skinny-dipping? Most people I know would be in jail now! Including both of my parents! Not that that is all that much of a revelation, come to think of it....

Thursday, June 28, 2007

Purely in the Interest of Science, You Understand

I'm one of those bloggers that asks the hard questions -- the questions like: "Was it YOU who farted in the elevator?" And: "If 7/11 is open 24 hours a day, why is there a lock on the door?" And: "If I were to donate this excess bag of flesh I call a body to science, how much would it net me?" And, lo and behold, here is the answer!


Not bad, huh? Probably more than I'm worth, though. Wish I could collect that BEFORE my untimely demise.....

Monday, June 25, 2007

Wheeling the World

Ever since I broke my foot back in April, I was apprehensive about this year's trip to Disney World. Each year, we typically walk about 7 miles a day. I knew trying to keep up with this demanding schedule might not be possible, and the strain on my foot would be terrible.

After many trips to the orthopedist (and quite a lot of money), I determined that I may need to use a wheelchair. One of the amenities Disney hotels offer is complimentary wheelchair use. We were staying at Port Orleans French Quarter, and I called them before our arrival to see if there would be a wheelchair that I could use for the duration of our stay. The desk clerk told us that what wheelchairs they had were available on a first-come, first-served basis, and they could not assure me that one would be there when I needed it. So, I decided to rent one from an outside company that the desk clerk recommended. The company told me the chair would be delivered to the resort the evening before we arrived, and would be picked up there the morning after our departure.

I intended to use the chair as measure to help save me any more wear and tear on my foot, but all too often people rent wheelchairs at Disney World so they can avoid standing in long lines. Disney World often has separate, shorter wait-time lines for handicapped people, and the abuse of these lines has prompted stricter measures about wheelchair use. People who have actual need of the wheelchairs should bring a doctor's note to Guest Services at any of the parks, where they will be issued a Guest Assistance Card. This card will allow them "front of the line" access. I did not need this kind of assistance, but able-bodied people will sometimes rent a wheelchair in order to try and get to the front of the lines.

While the wheelchair was a great help in keeping me from further injury, I was very distressed at the way the general populace treated wheelchair occupants. It seems that most people at Disney World are so self-absorbed that even bothering to check their surroundings is a major task for them, and to have to keep an eye out for wheelchairs is more than their overloaded brains can deal with. While I always have a great time on our trips, the one thing that I never enjoy about the yearly jaunt is the crowd factor. I wouldn't say that I have claustrophobia, but we sure aren't friends.

Now, being injured, I had been rather paranoid about getting kicked/knocked into/stumbled over in the hurt foot, and I was especially vigilant while at Disney World because I know the propensity for people not paying attention to anything around them. I can't tell you how many times people stopped dead right in front of me, nearly walked into me, or even actually collided with me. The staff at Disney was great -- as they always are, but regular people? Completely unaware of anyone but themselves and so focused on their own enjoyment that they cannot spare a glance for anyone else. (This was also reinforced by the sheer number of times that we saw small children, alone and crying because they were lost. You would think that parents would keep an even closer eye on their small ones in such crowded conditions, but no. They don't. There was even a case in the Orlando Sentinel that happened WHILE WE WERE THERE where a couple was arrested because they left their small child in a stroller in the blazing sun for about an hour while they rode Pirates of the Caribbean. When the child was discovered by WDW security, she was lethargic and hard to rouse due to heat exhaustion.)

At any rate, I have a new respect for those who are in wheelchairs. They say you never really know a person's struggle until you've lived it yourself, and in this case, it's true. On one hand, I knew that being in a wheelchair was a challenge, but knowing and experiencing it for yourself firsthand are two quite different things. I have promised myself that I will be much more aware of my surroundings, and for those with disabilities. I can only hope that living it, even for such a small amount of time, will make me a more compassionate person in the long run.

Meeting Marni

When Marni and I learned that we were both headed to Florida right around the same time, we decided that it would be a perfect time for a blogger meetup. Marni had read my post about JF's favorite Orlando eatery, we arranged to meet there for dinner and a chat.

We had a great time meeting Marni, her husband, her two great kids, and her father, the irrepressible Coffeypot, and Marni's stepmother, Sweet Tea. I didn't get to talk with Coffeypot all that much, but we did manage to joke through mouthfuls of pizza. We laughed a lot, even though our dinner was over all too soon. I was worried that something would happen, and our meeting would fall through, but it came off without a hitch!

In this picture, Marni is secretly worried that I am a psycho killer out to terrorize her family. She's only partially right. I probably *did* terrorize them to some extent, but they all survived our meeting, and were unharmed when we parted. And I have alibis for the rest of the week.

Sunday, June 24, 2007

Safely Home

We've made it home without mishap from the annual trek to Mouse World. Had a great time, and will update once all the pictures are uploaded and stuff is cleaned up off of our living room floor.

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Praise Jesus and Pass The Napkins!

We are off this Saturday for our annual jaunt to Disney World. There are so many things that we look forward to, but one of Juggling Freak's favorites has to be the pizza.

We discovered a restaurant called Giordano's on one of our first few trips there, and Juggling Freak about imploded from the sheer ecstasy that is their stuffed pizza. And when I say "imploded", that is no exaggeration. The man begins to dream about the pizza each year about this time. He wakes himself up at night because he's drooling in his sleep. We had to buy an electric cooler/fridge so that we can transport pizza home with us. You see the attachment? I assure you, his love for this particular establishment's pizza is not mere hyperbole. It's almost scary.

On another note, I discovered a few days ago that Marni and her lovely family (including her hilarious father, Coffeypot) are scheduled to be in Orlando the very same time that we are, and we are trying to arrange a get-together, possibly one at this very pizza establishment. I will make sure that JF does not maim them, should they come too close to his conspicuous consumption of pizza. I only hope we don't scare the bejeezus out of Marni and her family.

What could be better? Vacation, pizza, AND a blogger meetup? I'm so excited!

Friday, June 08, 2007

Thank Friday, It's God

I've been thinking a lot about spirituality and religion these days. No particular reason, just as something that's slightly missing from my life. Not a huge, gaping hole kind of missing, just something comforting and grounding.

As a child, my parents used to shepherd me to the neighborhood Presbyterian church. I don't recall that we were ever members of that church, but whenever I have memories of Sunday School or fidgeting during the sermon, they always take place in the small church at the edge of our neighborhood. Our attendance was very sporadic as I grew up. I seem to recall going less and less as my brother and I grew older. Pretty soon, we were Christmas and Easter Christians, and then no kind of attendant Christian at all. Mama always said that God knows when your heart is true, and it doesn't need to be bound within four walls. Mama must've been related to Forrest Gump's Mama somehow. Still, I took that adage to heart, and tried to live what I thought was "the right way."

In late high school and early college, my best friend's family were full-throttle churchgoers. And Lutheran, to boot. Whenever I stayed over at their house on Saturday nights, it quickly became just another habit to pack a Sunday church outfit as well, because it was understood that I would attend with them. I guess that was Mama T's way of trying to bring some salvation to my heathen little soul.

As time progressed, I started taking membership classes, wanting to know how "Lutheranism" differed from all of the other Protestant sects. I became a full-fledged member of the church, and attended without Mama T's insistence. After my second family moved away, I continued to attend services there, even though I was a little lost without their guidance.

My church was an older congregation, and when I say "older", I don't necessarily mean the median ages of the congregants. I mean that they were an established congregation, who had had the same leadership for quite a while, and who were obviously set in their ways. They liked things a certain way. To buck the norm was to set their beehive hairdos aquiver with distaste. For example -- ladies wear dresses to church. Not slacks, and certainly not anything that one would consider "wash and wear!" Heavens, no!

Now, I'm not a dress kind of girl, and throw pantyhose in, and you have the makings of a soapbox rant on your hands. But, I sublimated myself for years for the sake of my soul and salvation, and dressed appropriately. But, slowly, the blush began to fall from the bloom. I became more and more dissatisfied with the people that inhabited my church. Instead of being stick-in-the-mud matrons who disliked pants, the ladies became gossip-mongering harpies who had nothing better to do than use the Lord's Day as an excuse to trash anyone who did not meet their ideal. The men were no better, with their attendance on Sundays, but their infidelities and tax manipulations every other day of the week.

I thought it was me. I thought that I was just becoming dissatisfied with where I was because I no longer had the presence of my friend and her family as my spiritual backup. After a while, I had a falling out with the friend, and I felt that the pastor of the church, when told of the falling out, judged me, and harshly at that, for my role in that sad affair. Granted, he had known their family a lot longer than he'd known me, but I honestly believed that he would weigh the situation fairly, but being only human -- he did not. Instead, he insulted me, and I left the church, never to return.

Shortly after my break, it was discovered that the man who ran the youth services division had been molesting an underage member of the congregation. Distaste coupled with disillusionment led to quite a few years of shying away from attending services of any kind.

My husband has often quoted his dislike of organized religion to stories like these. He claims that he's an atheist, but I tend to think that he just has an innate dislike of hypocrisy, rather than a firm belief that there's no higher spiritual power out there. He's a "show me!" type of person, needing physical evidence to explain away all the mysteries of the cosmos. We married in a Christian ceremony, to which he did not protest. A lot of his dislike stems from the fact that he was labeled as a 'troublemaker' in his wild youth. In Sunday School, he asked the hard questions -- "Why does the Bible say 'an eye for an eye' and then say 'turn the other cheek'? Which one do you do?" When no one had a good answer for him (for that question, or many of the others he had) the Sunday School teacher merely asked his parents not to bring him back.

All of this apathy has led to years of non-observant behavior. My daughter knows nothing of being forced to sit still during Big Church on hard pews while the clergy drone on and on. I have tried to raise her right, though -- telling her the Bible stories that I recall from my youth. I've tried to instill in her the Judeo-Christian ethic, but I find it lacking. I'm no learned sage, no prophet; title be damned. There's a gap in her education. A large one. And I can't help but feel that gap in my own life as well.

I did look around for other churches, years ago, but none struck a chord with me. More than a specific church, I think I want a spiritual family -- people who have my back, much like my second family did all those years ago. I think that's why I blog. You all are my church. My salvation safety net. You inspire me to be a better person while still helping me through the life I live each day. You impart your wisdom and life lessons, and I am comforted by you. You carry me when I am low, and you raise my spirits constantly.

Thank you, friends.

Tuesday, June 05, 2007

Yodeling Expressly Prohibited

Just an update to tell you all that I am, in fact, still alive. I have been off on a journey, scaling Mount Washeteria (also known as the evil piles of laundry in my laundry room, complete with snow-capped peaks). If I do not return by July, please send out the Saint Bernard's. Instead of whiskey, though -- please send hot chocolate.

Oh, and watch out for avalanches below.

Friday, June 01, 2007

Musings From The Shower

As I stood in the searing spray of the shower this evening, I did a little thinking. At first, I was merely wondering if Juggling Freak had any actual flesh left on his body, since he likes the water temperature to hover somewhere between "Sweet Jeebus, that's freaking hot!" and "Holy crap -- is that actual lava coming out of the shower head?!?" As I soaped my scalded flesh, I was slightly amazed to really think about the fact that we are nearing our fifteenth wedding anniversary this fall, and we've managed not to kill each other or warp our child too terribly. (Or burst into flames in the shower, a sight which would surely earn us at least a spot on the local news. But, I digress.)

That got me thinking about how very few couples we actually know have stayed together. Fifteen years is nothing, when compared with some marriages, but these days, it's like forever. Our society is so disposable now -- don't like your spouse? Chuck 'em and upgrade, baby! It's a pervasive attitude of impermanence. The good news is that divorce rates are actually coming down, but for so many young people, divorce is still an easy, fix-it-quick solution.

I thought of a family member; one whom I had recently discovered had had a cheating partner. They were together ten years, and it was a total shock to me, I felt so badly for my family member. I would have never thought of infidelity in that relationship, but all I can say to that is: I did not live in their house; I was not a constant witness to their relationship; and I only saw them as a couple once or twice a year, which is sad, considering that it's a family member that I love very much. That being said, I was floored by the fact that there was such disregard of your partner that cheating seemed like a viable option.

Part of what bothers me, I think, is the emotional aspect of cheating. Now, I know to never say "never", but I feel so sure that JF would never cheat on me that I would worry more about being torn from the belly of an aircraft by Godzilla than I would about him being unfaithful. Both JF and I were shaped by our parents' divorces when we were at impressionable ages, and that really affected him. Plus, he's a man for sticking to his principles. If he promises to be faithful, he will not be swayed from that. For my part, I promised before God to love no other but him, and that's my final word on it.

I think that having sex with someone else would be bad enough, but I would feel more hurt, I think, with the notion that he could have such an emotional investment in someone else. We've known people who have had "open marriages" before, and having other sexual partners didn't seem to make them any happier. It only served to muddy the waters.

(Let me state here that both people in that particular marriage had other partners, and had agreed before the marriage that they could see other people. This is not my thing AT ALL, but whatever you do in the comfort of your home, and with whom are none of my business in any way, shape, or form. I'm not condemning or exalting, just giving you the backstory. I find that oftentimes, most people who tend to think "open marriage" is a good thing are people who are of the mind that "I can cheat because I'll get all backed up if I don't relieve some of this tension, but YOU had better stay pure and chaste." I hardly think that that's fair. But, in this case, both partners agreed beforehand.)

That marriage ended, and I think it ended not because partner #1 had a sexual relationship with another person, but because partner #1 had *an emotional relationship* with another person. I think that partner #2 felt betrayed because partner #1 fell in love with someone else. Never mind that there were valid reasons that partner #1 fell out of love with partner#2 in the first place -- it was this emotional attachment that ended the marriage. The sexual aspect was painful enough, but that emotional bond -- that was devastating. And the death knell for that marriage.

Any why is it that the emotional attachment is so much more devastating than having sex with someone else? Is it the fact that the person you are supposed to trust *most* has had an intimate relationship with another person? If so, why doesn't the sex part bother more people? I know it bothers some, but there are quite a few to whom it is an ancillary problem. Their main beef is with the fact that an emotional attachment has formed with another person outside of the scope of marriage, not that their spouse has has sex with someone else.

Betrayal looms large in both scenarios. Whether it's love or just sex, if a secondary relationship is conducted, the cheated-upon feels a lot of hurt and betrayal. And I don't blame them in the slightest.