Monthly Archives: January 2010

When cliches aren’t so funny anymore

So I’ve been having a pretty good week, all the regular stuff happening. Kids are good, house is good, husband is doing well. Nothing out of the ordinary has really happened at all. But earlier this week, I had to write a story for the newspaper I work for, and it was not good. It was the third story I’d written this month about a missing kid, and it was not a happy ending.

A 19-year-old named Erich Alley walked out of his house in Braidwood on Dec. 30, telling his Dad he was going out with a pair of friends for a while. He never came back. Erich’s mom lives in California, and she called us frantic, asking if we could help get the word out. So we did. I talked to her and her ex-husband for a while, learning about their son and where he might have been. He occasionally got in a little trouble, but not major trouble, and had never disappeared before. He had a cat who he absolutely adored that he would never leave. He had a best friend who he was always in contact with. He was due to come out to see his mom in California for vacation starting in mid-January. There was just no reason for him to be gone.

On Monday, after the rain had washed away much of the snow, a woman out walking her dog spotted Erich in a ditch. For almost a month, he had laid there, covered by the snow that fell the night he disappeared, and further covered when the plows came through. When the police questioned his friends, they said they had done a mixture of sleeping pills and alcohol that night, which frankly, blows my mind. I’ve taken sleeping pills. They put you to sleep. Why this would be a recreational drug is beyond me. While his autopsy results are not yet complete, police think Erich, attempting to walk home, either fell into the ditch or just laid down, and died that night. For a month, he laid there in the cold and snow, as people drove by or kids played in the nearby field or potential homeowners toured the house for sale just 100 feet away.

I feel so bad about this story. Obviously, it’s always sad when someone young dies. But it’s the way he died that has stuck with me this week. I remember as a kid, how often my mother would say, “Call me when you get there so I don’t think you’re dead in a ditch somewhere.” I myself have said that multiple times to my husband, when he’s going to be late coming home or he’s going out with friends or the weather is bad and he has to drive somewhere. It’s almost like American folklore. But for these two parents, it was real. While they worried and fretted and called the paper and posted every picture they had of their child on their Facebook pages, he was dead in a ditch somewhere.

I called Erich’s mom on Tuesday, and expressed my condolences. She responded by thanking me. THANKING ME. Thanking me for putting her son on the front page and calling her and keeping updated by the police. She said a few things that made me cry.

First — she mentioned how sometimes, boys and moms have really great relationships. Erich was her only child, and they really were almost like friends in addition to being like a parent and child. She said to me, “What am I going to do without my boy?” As the mother of two sons, I got a little sad over that.

Second — I asked her when Erich’s services would be. She said they were on Saturday. Then she paused for a minute before she told me a story about the two of them. She said that Erich was a fan on the group, “Bowling for Soup.” He had pestered her to take him to a concert, and last year she finally got them tickets to a show. She said they went and they had a blast. She said it was really great. Erich noticed that the band would be playing in California while he was due to be there on vacation, and asked if they could go again.

“I got tickets to go,” she told me. “We were supposed to go Saturday. But instead I’ll be at his funeral.”

You had better believe my two sons got the hugs of a lifetime after I hung up the phone. And I can say this too — I’ll probably never again in my life use the phrase “dead in a ditch.” It’s a nightmare that came true for a mother I’ve spoken to, and it’s just not funny anymore.

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It’s on, little man

I don’t normally write two entires in one day. I realize that all of you are so insanely impressed with my witty story telling abilities and my astute observations that reading two entries in a single day could very well strike you blind with joy for having read such awesomeness.

But I will chance it. Because this was too good.

When I was a kid, my sister Laura used to hide in the damnedest places and scare the ever-living hell out of her younger sisters as they walked past. She once stood on the vanity in the bathroom and jumped out at Amy as she walked in to the room. Good thing Amy was in the bathroom already, if you catch my drift. Once, long before Mom and Dad put the addition on the house on Casa Solana Drive, Laura was standing on the kitchen counter the opposite side of the refrigerator as I walked in. I think it’s possible that I let out a scream so high-pitched, the neighborhood dogs started howling.

Naturally, as someone who was scared near to death as a child by someone spooking me, it seems only right for me to pass this on to my own children. And looky here — I happen to have a 7-year-old. Perfect.

A few weeks ago, I got him. Man did I ever get him. He was in his room, reading (I know, could I be any more disappointed?). And I snuck in, almost to the side of the bed, before yelling out…..

“HANK WHAT ARE YOU DOING!!!!!!!!!!!!!!”

I knew the moment I did it there were two possible outcomes. He would either burst into tears, or he would laugh like he just found a candy fountain in the shower. Thank the Lord, it was the latter.

Then my boy did something I did not expect. He waited. Several days later, coming out of my bathroom at about 8 p.m., I snapped off the light and walked into the dark, when all of a sudden:

“boo”

It was so quiet and so sudden and he was RIGHT there. You better believe I screamed. I was impressed, but not convinced that this was an endeavor he wanted to start on.

So today, I was looking at my computer (this one right here), leaning over the kitchen counter where it was plugged in charging. When suddenly…

“Boo!”

He even touched me.

I absolutely yelped.

Naturally, I gave chase. Around the kitchen, around the dining room, up the stairs, to his room, back downstairs and past the sofa where George had fallen asleep, but was now rubbing his eyes, likely scared by his mother’s screams. I finally caught him. I looked into those eyes, MY eyes, looking right back at me. My resolve was strong. I pointed my finger directly into that little boy’s face.

“It’s on,” I said, sternly.

He did not hesitate.

“Like Donkey Kong,” he stated, unflinching.

And so it begins. My son and I, as long as we roam this here earth, will forever be engaged in a game of “Who can scare the crap out of the other one.”

It. Is. On.

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Redeeming qualities? Who needs ’em!

I have been known from time to time to acknowledge my love for all things completely and utterly useless.

I get excited each week when my “Star” magazine comes in the mail. I watch trashy TV shows. My husband and I have a drinking game revolving around when David Caruso takes off his sunglasses. We cannot make it through the weekend without “The Soup”. And of course, there’s my time spent watching GleN Beck. If that’s not proof that I enjoy the ridiculous, what is?

Enter these fine folks:

Oh looky loo, it’s the cast of “Jersey Shore.” And let me tell you… they are AWESOME.

I wholeheartedly admit, we tuned in to this show for one reason and one reason only. We saw the preview when Snookie, the tiny little one on the right there, got decked right in the grill by some drunk guy in a bar. We HAD to see this. Of course, in the week between the time they showed the preview and the time the show aired, MTV realized that maybe showing physical violence against women in an effort to boost ratings wasn’t the best idea. So they scrapped the footage… the footage that by that time had been seen on multiple news and entertainment shows and was a YouTube sensation.

So here’s the deal. These young folks got picked by MTV to live in what I can only describe as the crappiest beach house ever for the summer. They drink and invite strangers over for random sex and then they sleep until 3 p.m., then they repeat it. In the meantime, there are awesome conversations about “creeping” and “juicing” and “Guidos” and “Guidettes.” Everyone they see is called “kid” and the men in the house will throw a punch at anyone EXCEPT for the drunk dude who popped Snookie right off her bar stool (he was arrested though, but not a one of these guys even grabbed him. I’m pretty sure Jim would have knocked his drunk butt on the ground, and he’s not exactly Mr. Bench Press. Seriously guys, someone hits a woman, it’s kind of your JOB to hit him. I’m just sayin’). There’s a lot of fuzzing out of female body parts while ladies dance. There are size 2 clothes on size 6 girls. And of course, there is the mantra:  GTL — gym, tan, laundry. The boys of Jersey Shore do NOT go a day without accomplishing these three things.

Apparently, some Italian Americans were upset at how the show portrayed both Italians and people from New Jersey. Seeing as I am an Irish-Polish chick from the suburbs of Chicago, I cannot relate. But I can say this: I don’t care.

These people are awesome. One of them is called “The Situation.” How awesome is that? Not just a nickname, but one that starts with THE. I mean, who pulls that off? The Donald. The Hulk. And The Situation. That’s some mighty fine company, there. Jim and I were so impressed with their nicknames, we tried to come up with some of our own that also start with THE. Which reminds me, from now on, I will only answer to “The Oscillator.” It represents how I catch everyone’s eye when I walk in a room, my head scanning the crowd like an oscillating fan. Nice.

The cast of the Jersey Shore is reportedly asking for more money. A lot more. From a few hundred bucks an episode up to $10,000 an episode. And I say, GIVE IT TO THEM. These people have absolutely no redeeming qualities whatsoever. They are shallow and weird and slutty, every last one of them. Young Snookie was planning on sleeping with a guy one day, noting that he was handsome, so “he must be clean.” Dude — YOUR MOTHER IS WATCHING. The Situation had sex with a drunk girl in the hottub, and she was so schnockered, I’m surprised she didn’t press charges in the morning. The big punchy guy (I don’t know his name, he clearly doesn’t have a cool enough nickname) chased after a guy and knocked him out cold in the street, then acted shocked that he got arrested. And instead of bailing him out, everyone else went home and went to bed!

No. Reedeeming. Qualities.

Yet still, I watch. Sometimes, you just need a mind numbing escape. Thanks cast of Jersey Shore. See you next summer!

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Operation Gaga, entry 2

A highly successful past few days in my quest to spread the word of the growing Gaga Nation.

My mother, after watching Lady Gaga on Oprah, said she was “impressed” with her, and admired how she spoke about the importance of family. She said she would listen to her more often. Win.

Kayla told me that every time she hears Lady Gaga, she thinks of me. And since I know Kayla spends nearly every waking moment thinking of me, maybe she is thinking about Lady Gaga ALL THE TIME. Win.

Then, this morning came. I was driving the kids to school, Hank in the front, George in his booster, and my favorite 7-year-old twins, Jake and Alyssa from next door, piled in the back seat. As we backed out of the driveway, I said, “How about some music?” and hit play (no need to load in the CD, of course Lady Gaga was already in the player). Then, this conversation:

Lady Gaga and Hank: “Ohh ohh ohh ohh ohhhhhhhhh ohhhh ohh ohh ohh ohh, ohh ohh ohh caught in a bad romance!”

Alyssa: “Hey, we have this on the radio in our room!”

Marney: “You like Lady Gaga?”

Jake: “Yeah!”

Lady Gaga, Hank, Jake, Alyssa, George, Marney: “Ra ra uh uh uh, roma, ro-ma ma, ga ga, ohh la la, want your bad romance!”

Big fat win. Carry on, Lady Gaga. I’ll continue to spread the word here in suburbia.

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Why Rush doesn’t matter

I have been hesitant to write this week about the tragedy of the earthquake in Haiti, only because I am so frustrated with the responses of certain individuals with over-sized personal pulpits that reach coast to coast who seem to not really care, and was afraid that the point of the matter would be lost in my venting. But I’ve calmed down to the point that I think I can articulate it without, you know, freaking out.

I can’t believe that in the wake of such a tragedy, GleN Beck would air an hour-long interview with Sarah Palin rather than scrap that show for a day or two and talk about the rescue efforts. Honestly GleN, 37 seconds? That’s how much time he devoted on his show to the crisis in Haiti before getting on with the interview, which I assume was pre-recorded. I mean, Sarah Palin WORKS for Fox now. They couldn’t wait a day or so for that one?

Bill O’Reilly and Sean Hannity were about the same, carrying on their shows as usual while other networks devoted most of the same news hours usually reserved for commentary to live reports and updates from Haiti.

Pat Robertson. I mean honestly. What the hell? The worst part about his statement about how Haiti pretty much asked for it because of their “pact to the devil” is that he was historically inaccurate. The Haitians who revolted against the French to pull themselves out of slavery didn’t make a pact to the devil. They made an animal sacrifice as part of a Vodou (voodoo) ritual. And despite what Hollywood and even the fabulous city of New Orleans has done to promote voodoo as some sort of extension of devil worship, it’s not. It’s actually a blend of African tribal rituals and Christianity. Apparently to Mr. Robertson, praying to anyone other than HIS Christian God is akin to devil worship. These few sentences are really more mention than he deserves.

But the most notable of the on-air comments devoid of decency and common sense, in my opinion, were those of Rush Limbaugh. When Rush first spoke about the tragedy in terms of Obama gaining favor with both “light-skinned and dark-skinned” blacks, he was making a statement about the recently disclosed comments of Harry Reid about Obama being a good presidential candidate in part because he was a “light-skinned” black man. To this comment, I could have said to Rush, point taken. He was right, the left was far more forgiving when Harry Reid used the exact language, and Rush efficiently exposed a glaring double standard. You’ve got us, Rush.

But the man just wouldn’t shut up.

He continued on about how anyone who goes to the White House website to donate money for Haiti relief was risking having their money stolen by Obama himself. He said that the U.S. already gives to Haiti in the form of the United States income tax (a remark that frankly, I don’t get). When a caller asked him why he would tell people not to donate to the Haiti relief effort, he told her she had “tampons in her ears” and said he never discouraged donating, just said it should go to private organizations. So (taking the tampons from my ears), I hear Rush saying that the United States government has no business leading the way or even supporting the relief effort at ALL in Haiti. Just churches and civic organizations and anyone who can raise funds. Let them do it. The government needs to stay away.

But here are 2 reasons why Rush doesn’t matter:

1 – I know lots and lots of people who are conservative, republican or both. Not a single one of them seems to feel this way. I know that Rush, GleN, O’Reilly, Hannity, Pat Robertson and their entire ilk have millions of followers. But I don’t know a single one of them. What I do know is that people by the thousands have texted “HAITI” to 90999, an instant way to donate $10 to the Red Cross. In the past few days, that simple act has raised, at last count, more than $8 million, all one $10 donation at a time. Yes, I know that people who listen to Rush and Pat Robertson are likely among those contributing as well. But I have yet to hear anyone agree with the vocal vomit that either of those men spew.

2 – We are Americans. This is what we do.

As simple as that sounds, it’s true. When people say “send in the calvary,” they’re talking about us. We go to places where hope seems lost. We send soldiers in to keep peace and deliver goods and clear dead bodies from the road and hand Beanie Babies to small children. We send in the Navy on a floating hospital. We send in the Coast Guard to evacuate people and deliver aid. We send in volunteers and doctors and nurses. When a Belgian medical team leaves a field hospital for security reasons, it is an American doctor, Dr. Sanjay Gupta, there as a journalist, who puts down his microphone and forgoes his reports to CNN so he can treat victims. When others step back, Americans step forward. We promote this quality about ourselves as the one thing that makes us better. Then for some reason, Rush asks us to stop. What makes him think we would do such a thing?

I remember reading an online article after September 11, the author of which I cannot remember for any reason, but I am pretty sure it was a British guy. He basically talked about how the United States often gets the short end of the stick. Other nations will curse America and what it stands for as they burn our flags and effigies of our leaders in protest. Americans are snobby and priggish and unworthy. Americans are fat and lazy and cruel and barbaric. Worldwide, disdain and disrespect for the United States and its people is widespread. But when a crisis hits, the first thing those same people want to know is, “Where are the Americans?”

And you know what? That’s fine. Because it’s our job. As Americans, we didn’t be asked to be born to this nation that is so heavily relied upon worldwide. But neither did the people of Haiti ask to be born to such extreme poverty. It’s just how it is. When it comes to Rush and his nonsense about how the U.S. shouldn’t take the helm, the fact of the matter is, most of us are better than that. Of course we’ll take the helm. It’s what we do. Why in the world would we wait for someone else to do it, when we can. When people beam with pride about how awesome it is to be an American, THIS is what they are talking about — our unwavering determination to do the right thing when the right thing needs to be done. Someone needs to help these people, so here we come. When it is the other way around, and it is the U.S. who needs the help, we know some others will of course come to our aid. But the bulk of the work will have to be done on our own. And we’re ok with that. This is who we are.

I suppose it is that attitude that makes others think that maybe Americans are a little bit full of themselves. But of all the names that those who dislike Americans can call us, I don’t mind being thought of as a snob. If the way the U.S. aids the needy of the world makes us snobby, then it’s a title we should proudly wear.

Rush doesn’t need to shut up. I mean, how great to live in a country where even the most primitive among us are allowed their own platform to say whatever they want, no matter how stupid or silly or ridiculous. But not send government aid to Haiti? What a foolish notion. That’s not us. We’re incapable of NOT helping where help is needed. We’re incapable of that, and we’re damn proud of it too.

We are the calvary. Haiti is where we belong right now.

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Operation Gaga, entry 1

As you all know, I have recently made it my own personal mission to see to it that the musical genius that is Lady Gaga gets recognized worldwide. To date, I have received e-mails and even a phone call from my own father to remind me when Lady Gaga was going to be on television for some reason or another.

Not long ago and without my knowledge, my husband recorded a 3-hour television special on VH1 about Lady Gaga (it was videos and interviews). And at his office Christmas party last month, Jim actually went to the DJ and requested a Lady Gaga song (granted, he could not name one, but he asked that the DJ just pick one and play it).

Yesterday, I received this e-mail message from my mother:

Hey Marney,Lady Gaga will be on Oprah Friday,dad and I are going to watch.

Do you see that? DAD AND I ARE GOING TO WATCH!

Victories abound. My mission is going well.

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Boy wonder

They say that there are two types of children out there: those who love to read, and those who loathe it.

Those who loathe it are not necessarily bad students or destined for low paying, paper-hat wearing jobs for all eternity. Quite the opposite, the ones who see reading as a chore might instead flourish in areas like math or science. They might be great teachers or chefs or astronauts or computer technicians. They just don’t see reading as entertaining. Books for pleasure is an oxy moron. Newspapers and magazines are really only good for lining the bird cage. For some kids, reading just isn’t a pleasurable sport.

But for others, it’s an amazing adventure. For some kids, they’ll sacrifice a good night’s sleep just to see what happens in the next chapter. Those kids crave their first library card more than they crave their driver’s license. Those are the ones who will one day start a sentence with “My favorite book in high school was….” and then insert the name of some award-winning novel that was the bane of the existence for the kids who hated reading. (And for the record, mine was “Lord of the Flies,” but I always, ALWAYS got excited when it was time for the Shakespeare chapter.)

I am a reader. It clearly translated into my desire to write as well. I have favorite books. I have a favorite author (John Sanford) and I look forward to the new release of his books each year, always afraid that this time is when he will take the plunge and kill off my favorite fictional character, Lucas Davenport.

My husband not only loves the library, he calls ahead and reserves books. George will not go to sleep without a bedtime story.

And take a look at this:

This picture was taken at about 10 p.m. on Friday night. I tried to snap the picture in the dark, but it wouldn’t show up, so I clicked on the light. And I swear to God, the child didn’t notice. When the book light that came free with his Snuggie (don’t judge me) broke, he almost cried. Thank God I bought this as a backup! Not only does he read every night before bed, but he actually cannot fall asleep without reading. FOR REAL.

We are a family of readers. Let’s hope it sticks.

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