Last week, one of my co-workers told me, with eyes filled with terror and trauma, that she had seen a snake in her backyard. She spun wild tales of snakes slithering amok all over our city and wanted to rally all of the exterminators to decimate these reptilian invaders.
I politely shook my head at the nerve of those pesky snakes and gently told her not to worry because, of course, they were just harmless little garter snakes.
Then I went all Jon Snow on her, telling her not to kill the obviously dangerous beasts in our midst because I am so noble, brave, and kindhearted.
There is no way this ends with anyone getting hurt….
But, much like Jon Snow, I know nothing.
When I got home later that day, I threw on some old cut-off jean shorts because I had to do some gardening and then, once I was done in the yard, I went inside and started cooking dinner. Country Boy stayed out in the front yard to continue planting those bulk plants that I told you about back in March. Yes, we are STILL planting them. Country Boy and I have never met a project that we didn’t want to start and not finish.
A while later, Country Boy popped his head through the front door and asked for a glass of water. I began preparing a glass of cold refrigerator water with ice to positively reinforce his decision to finish up the garden, but, before I could finish that artisan water cocktail, he stopped me and told me that warm sink water would be just fine.
I looked at him.
I knew I was about to ask a question to which I did not want to know the answer, but I just couldn’t stop myself. I’ve never met a bad decision that I didn’t like.
So, I asked “What do you need the water for?”
He sighed, recognizing my error, and responded “To clean up all of the snake blood off of the driveway.”
I whispered, with eyes filled with terror and trauma, “Excuse me?”
And, he, with a barely suppressed eye roll, said “There was a snake, so I killed it with my shovel. It got blood everywhere. I just need to wash it off before it stains. Relax. It was just a harmless little garter snake.”
I said “Right. That’s totally normal. Here’s your snake-blood-cleaning water.”
After Country Boy went back outside, I took a few deep breaths and talked myself down off the ledge. I reminded myself that snakes are living creatures that people keep as pets. People also keep puppies as pets. Ergo, snakes are totally the puppies of the reptile world. And puppies are awesome. So, snakes are awesome? Logically, this was no big deal.
If a snake is good enough to be friends with Britney, then it’s certainly good enough for me.
All was well until I realized that I had BBQ chicken cooking on the grill.
The grill that was outside.
WHERE THE SNAKES LIVE.
And then I became like this guy, because snakes are not friends. SNAKES ARE NOT FRIENDS!
It was all terror and trauma up in my kitchen. I did not want to go out in the backyard.
But, I also did not want to starve.
So, I took a deep breath and evaluated my options.
I quickly realized that there was only one option. I had to go to the grill.
Apparently, my love of BBQ chicken trumps my fear of poisonous snakes. It’s good to know that I have my priorities in order.
There ain’t no mountain high enough, ain’t no valley low enough, ain’t no snake scary enough, to keep me from getting to you.
But, I’m not dumb.
So, I armed myself with a rake just in case Mr. Dead Front Yard Snake was friends with Mr. Alive Back Yard Snake and his crew. I also cracked a Coors Light because liquid courage is never a bad idea.
And that’s how I found myself wearing grass-stained jorts, swigging a cheap American beer, and grilling meats while fighting off vermin with a homemade weapon on a Tuesday night.
Back in 2006, after more than four years together and just after the time period for an annulment on our marriage had expired, Country Boy decided to take me to his maternal grandparents’ farm in Northern Indiana for the first time for Christmas dinner.
The farm is a three-hour drive from Country Boy’s parent’s house, and, at his parents’ insistence and for reasons that are still unknown, we took only two of the available four cars to travel to the farm despite needing to transport nine adults and one toddler in a car seat. Nothing says family bonding like wedging yourself into a two-door Saturn with four big guys. I bet you can guess who was riding bitch between Country Boy’s 6’1″ and 6’7″ tall teenaged brothers. That was the moment that I truly understood the many meanings of the word “cozy.”
It looked a lot like this except that, instead of clowns, the car was filled with corn-fed giants and one very overwhelmed PinotNinja.
Once we arrived, unfolded ourselves from the back seat, and regained feeling in our limbs, I was ushered into the farmhouse to say hello to Country Boy’s family. As I walked in the door, I realized that I had missed the memo that the official holiday outfit on the farm was Wranglers, a plaid shirt, and cowboy boots. Contrary to what I had learned growing up in Connecticut, a cardigan and pearls is not always appropriate.
It also became apparent at that moment that I was the only woman in the house between the ages of 18 and 25 without at least one baby on my hip. This fun little fact was repeatedly pointed out to me as I was asked eight (EIGHT!) times over the course of less than an hour why I had not had a baby yet. One relation actually asked “Where’s your young’un?” before asking “What’s your name?”
Not to be outdone, Country Boy’s 10-year-old cousin approached me and very shyly asked “PinotNinja, are you going to die?”
Way to bring the heavy little girl.
As I pondered how to explain to this sweet child that, one day, we will all move on, she decided to throw me a follow-up bone as I was obviously struggling, saying “I meant soon. Are you going to die soon because you must be really sick since you haven’t had a baby yet?”
I asked her where she heard that, and she said that her mom and Country Boy’s grandmother had told her that I had to be dying because I didn’t have any babies. SERIOUSLY. Because I didn’t have a kid at the ripe old age of 26, it was assumed that I must be terminally ill.
I have never needed a drink so badly as I did at that moment.
But, there was no drink to be had because Country Boy’s grandmother considers alcohol to be “the devil’s elixir.”
Apparently, news of the 21st Amendment has yet to reach rural Indiana.
Yes, you read that right. This was a completely dry Christmas dinner with my in-laws. There was no alcohol ANYWHERE. There wasn’t even any cough syrup in the many medicine cabinets that I checked.
After negotiating myself through that sober procreation minefield, I was ushered into the kitchen to sit down for dinner.
What was for dinner you ask?
How nice of you to join us at Christmas.
Yes, Christmas dinner was mother f*cking raccoon in a mother f*cking crockpot.
I AM SERIOUS.
Raccoon. The kind with a mask and paws. The kind that eats your garbage. The kind that has never been featured on the menu of any restaurant anywhere ever.
There was no way that was going in my mouth, especially sober.
But, before I could run away, Country Boy’s grandmother pushed a steaming plate of vermin fricassee into my hot little hands in front of Country Boy’s extended family. I knew that a simple “no thank you” was not going to cut it. You see, I was on very thin ice with Country Boy’s grandmother. I knew that she didn’t come to our wedding because we served “the devil’s elixir” (wine) and played “the devil’s music” (rock and roll). I knew that she referred to me as the Big City Hussy behind my back and believed that I had corrupted her sweet grandson. I knew now that she believed that the only acceptable reason for my not breeding in my early 20s was that I suffered from a terminal illness.
But, I also knew that there was no way in hell that I was eating that raccoon.
My options were very limited, so I had no choice but to take a gigantic gamble. I was going big because I couldn’t go home.
Despite the fact that the night before I had eaten bacon-wrapped filet mignon in front of Country Boy’s younger brothers and sister who were sitting right next to Country Boy’s grandmother and the fact that every item on the table involved an animal product, I told her that I could not eat her roast raccoon because I was a vegetarian. Starvation tastes better than road kill.
I then shot a glare at my young siblings-in-law that sent a visible shiver up their spines. They all got the hint and kept their little traps shut about the fact that I had only become a vegetarian in the past 30 seconds.
PinotNinja — lying and threatening children on Jesus’s birthday since 2006.
After my delicious Christmas dinner of air, Country Boy’s fringed leather jacket wearing uncle cornered me. I had never really talked to him before, and the horrified look on Country Boy’s face when he saw his uncle pull me aside tipped me off that this was not going to be an ordinary conversation.
Never trust a man wearing one of these. Just don’t.
Country Boy’s uncle me if I believed in the higher power. Since it had already been a day, I threw caution to the wind and decided to hop on that train and see where it went.
I told Country Boy’s uncle “sure, I believe in the higher power.” And, with that, we pulled out of the station and hurtled towards crazy town at top speed.
Country Boy’s uncle proceeded to tell me that, through the higher power, he would be able to cure that pesky terminal illness that was keeping me from popping out babies. He told me that he would speak about me to his prayer circle and that they would call on the higher power to move to energy of the universe to realign my chakras. With my chakras realigned, all of my illnesses would be cured without the need for those “pesky know-it-all doctors.”
Who knew that a 1970s power rock band could solve the nation’s health care crisis?
I navigated away from the uncle and took a moment to gather what was left of my sanity. I turned to see Country Boy putting on his coat, and, feeling a wave of relief wash over me, I asked “Are we heading home?” by which I obviously meant “Are we headed to the nearest market where you will buy me all of the wine to make this evening disappear immediately?”
His response, however, was “Not yet. I’m just going outside to shoot my uncle’s AK-47.” Because you know who needs a semi-automatic weapon with a night scope? That guy.
While Country Boy was outside firing a machine gun into the darkness, his uncle came back for another round. He approached me, fringe swishing, and emphatically pronounced “You are a red with hints of purple.” I had no idea what that gem meant, but i just nodded and acted like I did because I was not about to ask a question that I didn’t want to know the answer to.
Luckily, before that conversation could turn back to babies, roast raccoon, or chakras, Country Boy swooped in, grabbed me by the arm, and told me that it was time to climb back into my cozy spot in the Saturn.
That was the best Christmas gift that I have ever received.
I love Parenthood even though it makes me cry every time I watch it.
Just looking at this makes my eyes well up.
For example, two weeks ago, I only made it 6 minutes and 40 seconds into the episode before I was bawling so hard that I was gasping for breath between snotty hiccups. NOT EVEN SEVEN MINUTES in and I was inconsolable as a result of the look that Vietnam Vet Zeek Braverman gave to Sergeant Ryan York, his granddaughter’s off-again, on-again boyfriend, upon his return from a tour in Afghanistan. In that one look was everything — relief, hope, happiness, fear, and understanding — that comes with the tangled mess that is returning home from war.
One look and I was out.
Y’all are lucky there was no video clip for this, because you would be in danger of waterboarding yourself with your own tears.
And that was not an isolated incident. When it comes to ripping the emotions out of my cold little heart, Parenthood is a damn pro.
Take last season as another example. Parenthood focused largely on the story of Kristina Braverman, the mother of three children ranging in age from 18 years to 18 months, who abruptly found herself battling breast cancer. As she lay recovering from a surgery that would reveal her chances of survival, the following scene unfolded (get your tissues at the ready):
Take a couple of deep breaths and just let the tears wash over you. Trying to fight them after that is useless.
But, Parenthood isn’t just a somber sob-fest. The magic in it is that it deftly mixes humor with completely raw emotion. The show understands that life is the most comedic tragedy ever written.
A clip from last night’s episode illustrates perfectly Parenthood‘s mastery of the happy cry. Sarah’s and Amber’s discussion about her unexpected wedding to Ryan was that perfect mix of comedic moments — “I was wearing a tragic skort” — and feeling so powerful that there are no words for it — that poignant look shared between the incomparable Lauren Graham and Mae Whitman when Sarah says that she wants to give Amber the wedding of her dreams.
Happy or sad. Good or bad. Parenthood brings on the waterworks. After last year’s season finale — where Jasmine married Crosby while a choir sang Make You Feel My Love (Download that song immediately. You won’t regret it. TRUST.) — I actually contemplated whether it was possible to die from tear-induced dehydration. That’s how aggressive my crying was.
Country Boy is completely perplexed by my addiction to Parenthood. He recognizes that it’s a well-written show with a cast composed of some of my all-time favorite television actors. Where else can you find Coach Hayden Fox, Lorelei Gilmore, Nate Fisher, Ann Veal, Luke Cafferty, and Jess Merriweather all in the same hour? It is simply glorious to have them all back in my life again.
However, despite acknowledging the amazing cast chock full of my best television friends, Country Boy doesn’t get why I would willingly watch something that makes me so emotionally overwhelmed. He wonders why I would watch a show that so completely spends me that I often fall asleep on the couch in a crumpled heap the minute it’s over.
But, here’s the thing.
All that crying is actually amazing. It’s cathartic. It’s cleansing. And, it heals me.
Watching Parenthood in the safety of my own home allows me to finally let my own guard down. It lets me feel something about a fictional family that I won’t let myself feel about my own family.
I cry about Kristina’s illness because I can’t cry about my own family’s medical battles.
I cry about Sarah’s struggle to let go of her selfish addict ex-husband because I can’t cry about the bad relationships that are plaguing some of the people who I love the most.
I cry about Crosby’s and Jasmine’s wedding because I can’t cry about the tidal wave of emotions that are hitting me as both of my younger brothers get married this year.
I cry about Zeek and Camille’s struggles to start Act III of their lives together, because I can’t cry about my parents having two very different ideas of how to spend their golden years and that they don’t seem capable of reaching an agreement.
I cry about Ryan’s struggles to return home from Afghanistan, because I can’t cry about the overwhelming worry I have for my veteran family and friends even once they are home safely.
I cry about the love and loss shared between the Bravermans, because I can’t cry about my fear that I will be utterly lost without my family and that I can’t prevent them from one day being taken away.
I cry about all of the meaning in the moments of silence shared by the Bravermans, because most of our family interactions occur in those moments between the words. Those moments when we are trying to find the words and take in everything that is happening around us. When we are grasping to accept the change that occurs as we all grow even though everyone wants every moment to last just a little bit longer. I feel those moments all of the time, but I just push them down because I don’t want to be the one who falls apart.
In sum, I love Parenthood because it lets me feel ALL of my feelings without having to explain them. Or justify them. Or feel like I should be stronger than I am. Or worry that everyone in my family will think I am a crazy, emotional wreck. When Parenthood is on, I can just point at the screen, shrug, and bawl away, because I’m crying about someone else.
So, thank you Parenthood, because there really is nothing better than a good cry, especially one that you didn’t know you needed.
* Oh Bravermans, I’ve been cryin’ since I met you.
I thank you for dissipating over the ocean. I mean, Tropical Wave sounds much, much cooler than Storm, right?
You have no idea what you’ve done for my family’s sanity. As you are aware, Chantal, my family has been targeted by the Vacation Gods in the past, particularly a few of your sisters that managed to reach hurricane status. So, thanks much – I hope you enjoyed your stay in the Caribbean, but please stay away.
Hugs and Kisses,
I feel that the above letter is necessary given that I have been biting my nails and near panic since I first heard of Chantal. Our family has a beach vacation planned for next week, which could have seriously ended up in jeopardy if Chantal kept her shit together. Praise be to the Vacation Gods that she didn’t, because it doesn’t always work in our favor.
You see, my family history doesn’t contain anything sexy or sordid. There aren’t many stories to tell that get folks laughing or crying. No bootleggers. No illicit affairs. No quarrels from the Old Country. We are pretty average folks, and I’m okay with that.
There is one thing, however, that we have become known for: disastrous vacations.
Now, these aren’t life-threatening trips like PinotNinja’s, but they are life-threatening in a different way. There are so, so many stories to tell and my friends are very familiar with this phenomenon. Enough that I received two text messages from friends this week asking if my family was planning on vacationing soon. I was surprised and responded “Yes! Trip next week! How’d you know?” Their responses fell vaguely along the lines of: “LOLWTFBBQ, you know there is a tropical storm lined up, right? Of course you guys are going on vacation.”
I thought: Oh, bloody hell. The curse continues.
I don’t know what it is about my family, but the Vacation Gods are just tickled pink when we actually commit to a trip. It could be a natural disaster or a man-made one, but we somehow have earned the ire of the Gods who just want to screw with some seriously well-deserved vacations. Here are just a few of my favorite.
Case #1: My family lived near a cruise ship port for a few years in the mid 2000s. Now, we aren’t your fancy cruise-going people, but the idea that we could simply drive down to the port and hop on a Caribbean-bound boat proved much too tempting. So we booked a cruise through a company that sounds like Smarmival and took off on a five-day spin around the Gulf of Mexico.
Once we boarded, we should’ve known to get off the damn boat. The pool was closed because it was leaking. Then we found out the casino was closed, because the pool was leaking into the casino. Cool.
As made our way into the Gulf, the boat listed so severely that our forced dining companions appeared to be eating a half-story above us. We were like this for some time, during which Titanic was actually playing on TV and my brother thought it would be hilarious if he walked around in his life-jacket asking where the muster stations were. It was, indeed, hilarious.
The next day, we found out the sewage system had leaked into the staff quarters, which explained the smell. Then we lost power in our engines, so we drifted in the Gulf for about a day.
This boat was the “Money Pit” of boats.
I may have even said “Look, it’s an old boat, it’s gonna take some work.”
We literally kissed the disgusting pavement of the port when we returned. I will never go on a cruise again.
(Post Script: we got a partial refund and were told that the ship was being put in dry dock before being sold to, no joke, “a third world cruise line” (???!). About 4 years later, I was interviewing a student who shared that she was going on a cruise for spring break on the same ship, same cruise line. I didn’t have the heart to share my story).
Case #2: My family rented an old house at the south-end of a beach town in South Carolina. BigBrawler and I would be getting married in the area later that year and it was an opportunity to get together, see some of the sights, and enjoy some sun.
And, y’know, other things.
We all eagerly met up in the coastal town, reviewed our surroundings and jumped right in. The first day started off great – beach and jet skis. Until my brother saw a shark while jet skiing, was thrown into the water by his jet ski pilot and seriously almost had a break down before he could be retrieved. At the end of the day, he was still in shock, had developed an ear infection from something in the water (???) and had a sunburn so severe that he needed to see a doctor (who told him about the ear infection and asked how the hell he managed that). Perhaps karma for his incitement of our fellow cruise-goers?
Then my mom got sick, we suspected food poisoning and threw out all of the potential culprits, which left us with chips and beer. Actually, not the worst thing to happen on vacation.
And then, freakishly strong storms accompanied by some of the heaviest rainfall on record put an end to our beachy dreams. The coastal flooding was pretty remarkable… at ending our vacation. They weren’t calling it a tropical storm, per se, more a tropical disturbance. Completely accurate.
Case #3: This particular vacation is my thesis. Jersey Shore vacation just two short years ago. We stayed at a friend’s house that was pretty much the oldest house on the block. It could’ve been held together by duct tape, I’m not too sure. But what the hell – it was vacation!
Things started off great. For the first two days, we drank wine, sat outside, played cards and enjoyed the beach for hours on end. We thought the curse had been lifted.
We thought the worst thing that could happen would involve the Jersey Shore cast.
On our third beach day we felt a tremor. My mom startled – we all laughed that she should roll back the wine spritzers. Turns out people were genuinely freaked out, including my dad who was back at the house. He called in a panic because the house had shook so forcefully that things fell off the walls, and broke. He actually thought he was going to die in this ramshackle shore house. A quick Google search revealed that there had been an earthquake. We all compared stories, surveyed the damage, and concluded that vacation would proceed as planned. No one was hurt, nothing major lost. We high-fived and toasted one another that perhaps we had just survived the vacation assault. We were pleased. A little too pleased.
Later that night, we tuned in to see what was going on in the real world. Idiots. Hurricane Irene had her sights on the Shore. Just one day later, we received mandatory evacuation notices.
We tried to get it up for the last night of vacation, negotiated with the local authorities because we didn’t have enough sober adults to manage the drive home. We decided to grill all the food and drink all the wine, but we didn’t have a merry evening. We were all nervous about the evacuation and just ended up watching the news in silence.
The next morning at 4 am, we packed up the whole place and drove back home – leaving three days of vacation that could have been.
The only acceptable Hurricane on a vacation.
There are easily three or more stories where these came from, but what I am getting to is the real issue: I really, really could use a full vacation, with sturdy craftsmanship, and nice weather. Granted, no one has tied a dog to a bumper, no one has been jailed (though there was a close call on one trip), and everyone is still “with it.” So I guess we should call our trips successful overall?
I have begged all of my family members to please just return whatever tiki idol they stole from an ancient burial ground just to make it stop. I hope they did, because I am not ready to high five over Chantal only to be attacked by locusts or whatever else the Vacation Gods have in store for us.
What say you, readers? I know you have some vacation disaster stories to share. Care to make me feel any better about my prospects?
My husband, Country Boy, has three younger siblings and we took each one of them on an international adventure while they were in college.
Sounds great, right? A chance to create an awesome memory together and to bond as adults.
And, I’m such a good person for doing this for my in-laws, right?
Wrong. Because, despite my best intentions, as soon as these trips began I turned into Bluto and these kids become my Delta Tau Chi pledges.
The second I encounter an in-law while out of the country, this happens.
Seriously, I managed to accidentally haze them all. And I hazed them hard.
My initiation ritual is the PinotNinja Death March (trademark pending). Screw cotillions and bar mitzvahs. In our family you aren’t an adult until you survive a brush with death on a mountain that was caused by your bungling wino sister-in-law.
First, there was Country Boy’s oldest younger brother. Back in 2009, he was studying abroad in Geneva and we flew over to visit him. It was late October and we took a day trip to Montreaux. It was lovely.
Just a nice afternoon relaxing by the lake while eating some crepes.
Not satisfied with my fancy foreign pancake, I decided that we HAD to get up close and personal with the Swiss Alps. I had read about this great hike in a guidebook and the cog railroad that would take us 10 miles up the mountain to the trail head left from just down the street. Once off the adorable train, we would take a nice walk to the top of the mountain, check out an amazing view of the lake, and then catch the train back down. I convinced Country Boy and his brother that it would just be a lovely afternoon jaunt. No big deal.
When we went to buy our train tickets, the woman at the ticket booth asked me “Are you equipped for the mountain?” Between the three of us, we had one Toblerone bar, one coat, three gloves, and no water, so my answer to that question, obviously, was “Yes. We’re equipped.” It was only October and we were all relatively fit people. What could possibly go wrong?
We got off the train and everything was perfect.
Does it get any more Swiss than this?
But, then, about two miles into the hike, we encountered this:
Three people. One coat. Intermittent snowfall. Hmm….
And, then, we had to traverse this:
It’s kind of a bridge?
After managing to survive the circus trick that was crossing that “bridge,” we shivered our way to the summit while bickering about who was hogging the jacket. We then started to hike back down the mountain only to realize that we had missed the last train off the mountain for the night, it was starting to get dark, we were exhausted, and we were starving. There was nothing on this mountain other than a few sleepy farms and we hadn’t seen a car or another person in about 6 hours. So, we had no choice but to find a way down, which we knew was approximately 14 miles. We spent the next two hours running down the mountain (thank you gravity), taking any trail or road we could find heading towards the lake, as the sun set in front of us.
We came skidding into Montreaux just as the sun dipped below the mountains on the other side of Lake Geneva. We congratulated ourselves on not dying on a Swiss mountain and my brother-in-law promptly passed out from sheer exhaustion.
I swore that I would not do this again.
So, when we went to Chile to visit Country Boy’s second younger brother last December while he was studying abroad, I researched a great hike to do ahead of time. It was on our way back from ConCon (where we had already almost died), promised great views of both the Pacific Ocean and the highest peak in the Argentina, and how cool would it be for the three of us to do a hike in the Andes together. A lifelong amazing memory, right?
The guidebook did say that this was one of the hardest hikes in Chile, but I didn’t believe it. There was no way that could have been right, because it’s not like we were in Patagonia. And guidebooks exaggerate all the time to make sure that couch potatoes and grandmas don’t end up in over their heads out in the wilderness. But, we were young and fit. This was going to be no big deal.
Plus, the trail map said that the hike was only 7 kilometers. We could do anything for 7 kilometers.
We decided that there was no way that we were hiking to that cloud covered peak. That would just be ridiculous. We were very wrong. That cloud covered peak was exactly where we were headed.
At the outset, everything was cool. The trail was a little steep, but we still felt totally under control.
Just a little walk up the side of the mountain. I knew hiking the Sendero Andinista trail would be no big deal.
And then this happened:
See that big slope of loose rocks? That was the trail. Apparently, they have not yet heard of safety first in Chile.
And then there was this:
The trail map said to just walk right on up this sheer rock face. Just right on up there. Is this a map for mountain goats?!
Luckily, at that moment a wave of fog rolled over the mountain. This was lucky because we assuredly would have died trying to scale the rock face and because it also caused us to realize that we have been hiking for over 6 hours, still had not reached the summit, and the sun was starting to set. Turns out that the trail was 7 km each way, not round trip, and because the terrain was so treacherous it had taken us forever to get up the mountain. This was a critical error.
So, yet again, I had led everyone into a situation where we needed to run down a mountain, in a foreign country, to beat the onset of freezing darkness and death from strange international animals. We made it down, just in the nick of time, but not before getting into multiple stress-induced screaming fights and sustaining multiple injuries (including a concerning amount of blood loss on my part when I tumbled down the side of the mountain and into a giant life-saving thorn bush).
Last month, Country Boy’s younger sister was in Seattle for an athletic training camp, so we decided to meet her in Seattle and take her on an adventure to Vancouver and the San Juan Islands since she had never been out of the country before.
The third time is the charm, right?
Not wanting to tempt fate, I opted out of doing any hiking while we were in British Columbia. Just urban walks and bike rides for us. Once back into the good old US of A, I figured that we were safe.
We were not.
We arrived on Orcas Island around noon and immediately hopped into kayaks and spent a couple of hours chilling with the harbor seals. While on that delightful outing, I spotted a mountain.
You know where this is going.
After we got out of the kayaks, I consulted the trusty interwebs and it told me that we could do a great hike to the top of Turtleback Mountain in about 3 miles on an easy and well-groomed trail. While I was mapping out our route, Country Boy and his sister had found an ice cream shop and procured gigantic chocolate ice cream cones to eat for sustenance. Perfect!
And, at first, it was.
But then Country Boy’s sister got really quiet. She muttered something about not feeling well, but it didn’t sound like it was serious.
And then shit got real.
My poor sister-in-law got a panicked look on her face and said that she needed to get off of the mountain, and back down to the restrooms by where we parked the car immediately. Turns out that kayaking for two hours, wolfing down a huge amount of dairy, and then briskly climbing a mountain was not an award-winning combo for her body.
So, yet again, we took off sprinting down a mountain while danger was imminent.
Just once I would like to walk down a mountain.
We didn’t make it down in time.
But, I couldn’t just leave it at that. Making someone soil themselves wasn’t enough for me.
The next morning, we had some time to kill before our ferry back to Seattle. I had read about a hike. It was just 3 miles and only had a 200 foot elevation gain, so I dragged everyone to the trail with the promise that it would just be a “light morning walk.”
We started hiking and it seemed like we were going downhill at a pretty steep grade, but I confidently proclaimed that the trail would level out at any moment because the elevation change was so minor. Because we were going downhill, we didn’t really realize how far and how fast we were going. Then Country Boy checked his watch and realized that we needed to hustle because our ferry was leaving relatively soon.
We turned around and saw this:
Umm…We have to go back up that?! In a hurry?!
The three of us then spent the next 45 minutes hauling ass up the mountain. We were sweating profusely. We were swearing. We were grunting. Our bodies were screaming in pain. Our spirits were shattered. Once we made it back to the trail head, I realized that the sign said 1200 foot elevation change, not 200 foot.
Opps doesn’t even begin to cover it.
At least I never made anyone accidentally kill a horse?
Back in December, Country Boy and I went to visit his younger brother (the Giant) while he was living in Santiago, Chile. The three of us took a weekend trip to the tiny beach town of ConCon to get in some surfing. After a long day on the beach, we stopped at the market and grabbed a few bottles of wine, a box of spaghetti, and a jar of marinara sauce for dinner.
We took this haul of epicurean goodies to our apartment, which was a rickety three-story wooden building that was precariously built into the side of a cliff. While such a structure should have made us fear for our safety, the stunning views of the Pacific made us forget all about it.
Once we soaked in that view, we decided that, since spaghetti was such an easy meal to make, we should wine before we dined.
And, wine we did. Somehow, when we weren’t paying attention, two delicious bottles of Veramonte Primus slide down our gullets as we watched the sun set over the Pacific.
But, we decided that getting a little accidentally drunk was no big deal because all that we needed to do was make some spaghetti.
That is a task so simple that three drunk people working together can totally do it, right?
Everything started out fine. We unpacked the spaghetti and sauce out of the grocery bag. We found a pot. We filled it with water. We placed that pot on the burner. High fives were exchanged.
And then we tried to turn on the burner.
High fives were retracted.
After a few moments of hard thinking, we realized that all we needed was a match to light the pilot light. I scoured the kitchen for matches, but found nothing. All three of us then scoured the entire house for matches. We found nothing. We actually cursed the fact that all of us were non-smokers.
I suggested just calling it a night and having cereal for dinner.
But, Country Boy and the Giant would not be stymied! They were dudes! They were drunk dudes! They were going to produce food!
In a moment that he still describes as “sheer genius,” Country Boy remembered that the apartment had a gas-powered tankless water heater, which he had previously noted because it seemed like a horrible idea to have a flame-based water heater located on the rickety wooden deck of a rickety wooden building. But now, that gas-powered water heater was the greatest idea ever, because it required a burning flame to operate.
So, Country Boy and the Giant, so named because he is 6’7″, concocted a plan. Country Boy took a cardboard cereal box, flattened it, and twisted it to make a torch. He then instructed the Giant and I about our tasks and sent us to our posts.
Here’s how things went down:
The Giant was stationed in the bathroom closest to the water heater. He turned on the hot water in the shower. The running shower kicked on the water heater, which then tripped the burner in the water heater.
Once the burner was tripped, Country Boy shouted to the Giant. Country Boy then stuck his cereal box torch into the water heater and lit it with the burner. Then, because it was so windy on the cliff side, the Giant stood between the wind and the torch and shuffled along next to Country Boy in order to serve as a literal wind shield until Country Boy got the flame inside of the apartment.
Once inside, Country Boy yelled to me. I turned on all of the burners, flooding the kitchen with gas, as he sprinted up a spiral staircase carrying the rapidly burning torch above his head while screaming “FIRE IN THE HOLE!”
Never has that phrase been so apropos.
Country Boy came sliding into the kitchen and threw the torch at the stove seconds before the fire would have burned his hands off. Miraculously, the burner lit without injury or explosion.
This guy had nothing on us.
Shortly thereafter, we had a spaghetti feast and commended ourselves repeatedly on our ingenuity and steely nerves in the face of potential death.
Totally worth risking death for this.
Later that night after the wine haze wore off, I decided to clean up the kitchen. I opened the cabinet next to the stove to put away the oven mitts, which I had taken out before we had started cooking. Right there, on the shelf closest to the stove, sat a giant box of matches. You know, on that obvious shelf that I had looked at multiple times while proclaiming that there was no matches to be found anywhere in the apartment.
My brother-in-law’s dog just sent me a friend request on Facebook. You read that right. His dog.
Do I need to accept it?
I mean this in the larger sense too. Do I need to accept that a person who I wantneed to please has put me in the awkward position of having to accept or deny his dog’s online friendship?
I’m sure Baxter’s a great pooch. But, seriously?! HE IS A DOG. He can neither read nor type due to his lack of language and opposable thumbs. I mean, I recognize that everyone is on social media these days, but him?!
This contempt is coming from someone who has an admitted quasi co-dependent relationship with her own dog. I became one of those people over two years ago when my dog entered and changed my life.
I may be the type of person who thinks of her dog as her furry child. The type of person who responds to dinner party invitations with, “can my dog come too?”. I acknowledge my dog has a very powerful presence in my life. She may have one too many obnoxious costumes and toys lying around.
For reference, this is what my dog looks like on a boat:
Doing her best “George Washington Crosses the Delaware” impression
Indeed, I may even force my entire extended family to arrange their lives around my dog. I spent the better part of a year politicking to host last Christmas at my place, which is nowhere near where anyone else in my family lives. Nevermind the fact that I can’t cook and I don’t own enough dishes/silverware/bedrooms/chairs to host a large holiday extravaganza. Yet, I insisted that my family members should go against tradition and come to me. My sister was the first one to call me out. She accused me of hijacking Christmas because I wanted my dog to be a participant at the festivities. She was right, but she missed an important and specific detail. I wanted my dog to wear an adorable Santa costume during the festivities. I couldn’t admit this ahead of time and ruin the surprise though.
This was totally worth a plane flight to see in person.
But you know what I, the admitted obsessive dog owner won’t do? Let my dog have a social media account.
I had always wondered where I would draw the line with my anthropomorphism of my dog.
Today, I found that line.
And, it has nothing to do with my fear that my dog would have more Facebook friends. Nothing at all.
That honor immediately rocked the Stunted Adults world.
By the time we finished hyperventilating and fearing that this was all a horrible practical joke because, really, how could our blog possibly stand out among the over half a million blogs being considered for a Freshly Pressed nod, we realized that we had a whole new crew of readers and commenters. And this crew rolled deep. How is it possible that so many people were reading what we wrote?! And they were into it?! And then they started following us?! HAS THE INTERNET GONE MAD?
We couldn’t be more surprised or thrilled. Y’all moved us to tears, which had nothing, NOTHING, to do with the celebratory morning wines that we were drinking. And, yes, morning wine is totally a thing.
You see, when Stunted Adults began we never imagined that it would actually turn into anything. All three of us had been talking forever about how we really should be pop culture pundits. We endlessly lamented that, had we just been more focused when we were younger, we totally could have been staples on the VH1 “I Love The [insert decade here]” circuit.
Really, this totally could have been us! Maybe? Okay, probably not.
We did nothing about our unfulfilled daydreams other than pour another glass of wine and complain about how we ended up in the wrong line of work. We never tried to actually pontificate on pop culture, because, secretly, we all thought that we just weren’t good enough. We were big old scaredy cats.
But then, one fateful morning, we were struck by an errant bolt of self-confidence, stumbled upon WordPress, and created Stunted Adults.
Much to our collective shock, we actually stuck with it and are still writing. It turns out that, when it comes to opening up a can of snark, once you pop you can’t stop.
At first, no one really knew that our blog existed, but we were having such a good time entertaining each other that we didn’t notice. After a few weeks, however, thousands of you started wandering into our little corner of the interwebs. This we noticed, and it was incredible. Stunted Adults began to feel like it was actually a real thing and not just some elaborate inside joke that had gone a little too far.
The almost four months since we started Stunted Adults have been nothing short of amazing, and it has made all three of us much happier people.
We owe a debt of gratitude to a lot of people for giving us this amazing gift. Without all of you, Stunted Adults never would have happened.
First, we have to thank our husbands and friends, who were nothing but over-the-top encouraging when we first admitted to them that we had started a blog. You totally could have made fun of us, especially since, had the tables been turned, we might have lovingly mocked you. But, you didn’t. Instead, you gave us carte blanche to write about you. And that was super awesome.
And, last, but definitely not least, we want to thank all of our new readers and followers who have stopped by since we were Freshly Pressed. Welcome! We are so happy to have you at our joint, so please pull up a stool and make yourself comfortable. We’ll keep pouring the snark as long as you keep walking through the door.
So, dear family, friends, and new readers, this one’s for you:
Don’t even pretend like you weren’t dancing along to that.
While my car was receiving its overdue oil change, I had the opportunity to eavesdrop on a fellow patron. I actually didn’t have a choice, as this woman’s loud bleating and manic phone conversation took place in Miami’s smallest waiting vestibule. It was either eavesdrop or stand outside in the rain. Plus, I was able to practice mi espanol as I pieced together the one-sided conversation. I discovered that my loud neighbor was overwhelmed and stressed at the task of planning her daughter’s upcoming quincenera. A quincenera is like a child-bride wedding mixed with an episode of My Super Sweet 16. From my uninformed WASP-y point of view, it’s a ridiculously excessive, extravagant and pageanty way to celebrate someone turning 15. But what sent me into an eye-rolling, seizure-y, Hulk-like rage was when this mom disclosed that she would be presenting her fifteen year old daughter with a brand new Lexus. What is wrong with people?!
Yeah. There have to be societal consequences for this, right?
I remember when I turned 16, my family celebrated the fact that my parents no longer had to drive me to my after school job anymore. But I didn’t have my own car, so it was still a minor inconvenience for everyone. In fact, just securing a car to take my driver’s license exam proved burdensome and difficult.*
I had to borrow my grandma’s 1983 Dodge Aries K to procure my coveted license. This car was a gem, and I loved it.
My chariot. I had the pleasure of crossing the 200,000th mile!
The K-car shook violently when driven over 60 miles per hour. It had a small rusted hole in the floorboard on the passenger side so you could see the street below, Fred Flintstone style. If you didn’t put your foot over the hole, little rocks and other detritus would fly through like shrapnel. By the time I was old enough to drive it, the passenger side door refused to open. This was actually a non-issue as the entire front row seat was arranged as a bench, so passengers could easily slide over from the driver’s side. The K-car was older than my little sister, and I revered it like an elder family member. This was before MTV educated me on the ways of other teens who received brand new designer cars simply for having a 16th birthday. It never occurred to me to be embarrassed or ashamed of the clunker.
My mom and I both took off of work and school, respectively, for the special occasion of receiving my driver’s license. I even surreptitiously slipped a hairbrush in my mom’s purse so I could do a quick touch-up before my photo. When it was my turn for the driving test, I walked outside with the test instructor who eyed my K-car suspiciously.
I will never forget the instructor’s mixed look of sympathy and bewilderment as he informed me that my car was not up to code and I wouldn’t be allowed to use it for my test. I didn’t understand. He gently listed all of the required repairs as I looked at him with complete confusion. I remember asking with genuine honesty and naivety, “So I can’t get my license? Because I don’t have a nice car?” It was the first time I looked at the K-car with objectivity. It was also the first time I remember feeling self-conscious about my material worth and looked around at the other cars in the parking lot. It was a profound moment, and I know it wasn’t lost on the instructor. He told me I could come back once the K-car had both a rearview mirror and driver’s side mirror. A stickler for details, that guy. I told him I’d see him in an hour.
My mom and I drove to the nearest Dollar Store and bought 2 magnetic locker mirrors and a roll of duct tape. We fashioned the mirrors on like pros from Pimp My Ride and proudly returned to the DMV in under 20 minutes. The instructor beamed and proudly gave me a quick sweet hug. It’s hard to make those DMV people smile. I felt a surge of confidence and redemption.
Magnetic mirrors ain’t just for lockers
I appreciate that I wasn’t handed keys to a new Lexus when I was a teen. Sure, it would have made life easier, and I’d have fewer scars on my legs from the street shrapnel, but I didn’t earn it. I cherish my real gift that day – an amazingly creative and resourceful mom who gave me her time and integrity. Driving that K-car gave me character and taught me lessons that a new Lexus would never have (like how to use hand signals when your electronic turn signals fail!). In addition to a car, I hope the woman I overheard today also bestows her daughter the attitude that anything worth having requires hard work. And duct tape. Don’t ever underestimate a roll of duct tape.
If they had a million dollars, BNL would buy you a K-car:
*Impulsively, after an ill-fated camping trip during “Hands Across America” in the Texas desert, my mother traded in her sensible sedan for a humongous conversion van. This trade guaranteed that she would never again have to sleep in a tent and that I would never drive the monstrous beast. Conversely, my dad had a tiny 2-seater convertible automatic vehicle that he would graciously share with me whenever I needed to use the car. When the soft convertible top broke, we spent an entire year driving it without a roof. In rain. In snow. No top to the car. It was during this year on a rainy day that I turned 16. I figured the DMV dude may not appreciate the complimentary poncho we kept in the glove box for our lucky passengers. Thus, enter grandma’s K-car for the win!
This morning, my hands started to shake. I became nervous to open the freezer. I felt the urge to buy a piece of NASCAR merch. I started wondering if there would be a talking teddy bear on my couch. And, I became very anxious that someone was going to ask to see my high school diploma.
What. The. Hell?
Then I realized that it is late May, which is the time for graduations.
This is a very dark time for me, because I was completely traumatized by the last graduation that I attended.
Dr. Suess, you have no idea the place that I had to go.
Last May, I, the infamous Big City Hussy,* journeyed to the Heartland for my sister-in-law’s high school graduation.
The trip began innocently enough. My husband and I got into our rental car (obviously a Ford). We cracked open ice cold Coca Colas. We drove through fields of corn while John Cougar Mellencamp blared on the radio. It was an idyllic treat of Americana. Then we stopped off at a lovely cocktail bar in the state’s biggest city, where I was served old timey gin drinks by guys wearing vests AND newsboy caps. I didn’t know who this new Middle America was, but I was feeling pretty good about her.
And then we got back into the car.
And we drove south towards Kentucky.
We arrived at my father-in-law’s house and everything was still oddly normal. We were served a dinner comprised entirely of foods that could have been purchased at a grocery store (no small feat in the place where raccoon and snapping turtle have been past entrees) and topped it off with an ice cream cake.
After we finished that lovely dinner, my husband and I started to clean up. There wasn’t room for the leftover ice cream cake in the freezer in the kitchen, so we decided to put the cake in the freezer in the garage.
I opened the freezer in the garage. There was a white box in there that I needed to move to fit in the cake. You would assume that non-descript white box in a freezer would contain something like bulk popsicles or ice cream sandwiches. Maybe even burgers.
After grabbing the box and pulling it out of the freezer, I realized that it contained something much different.
Not bulk popsicles.
A FROZEN FOX IN A BOX.
There was a m’fing fox in that m’fing box.
A full fox with paws and whiskers.
PAWS AND WHISKERS.
I gingerly put the little guy back in the freezer, marched out of the garage, and did my best to forget about it. But the image of his little face was seared into my brain and I could not stop wondering why anyone would need a frozen fox in a box.
I found out the answer to that mystery the next evening at my sister-in-law’s high school graduation party. If you are my father-in-law, you need a frozen fox in a box to purchase 6 jars of homemade honey via the barter system with a guest at your daughter’s graduation party. SERIOUSLY. Apparently, its still 1847 at his homestead, and not in an ironic hipster I wear a monocle and a stovetop hat kind of way.
The next day, I spent an admittedly ridiculous amount of time getting ready for graduation. I tried on multiple dresses, all the while fretting that what I had brought wasn’t conservative enough for Middle America. After all, I didn’t want anyone realizing that I was the Big City Hussy. I finally settled on a navy blue dress and paired it with heels, a white cardigan, and pearls.
I thought that was a very classic choice.
Then I arrived at graduation.
Apparently, this is the proper attire:
Nothing says milestone moment like a NASCAR t-shirt.
Contrary to what I learned growing up in New England, a cardigan and pearls is not always appropriate.
To pass the time while the graduates’ names were being read, my husband and one of his younger brothers decided that we should play Redneck Bingo. These were their rules: (1) take the list of names from the trailer to movie Ted
and hold a draft where each player picks their share of the names; (2) you get one point for each graduate that had one of your names; and (3) you get five points if the graduate has your name combined with Lynn. I figured that maybe we might get 1 or 2 names each and that this was just a ridiculous way to keep ourselves awake during graduation. There was no way actual people had these ridiculous, stereotypical names. I was very, very wrong. The final score provided by this small high school was brother-in-law 39, PinotNInja 28, and husband 26. There were multiple Brittani Lynns and Crystalyns (one word).
The hits kept on coming after the graduation ceremony ended.
Inside of my sister-in-law’s diploma, she received this:
Tiny diploma in my hand.
That would be a laminated, wallet-sized copy of her diploma. Apparently, in Middle America, no one will believe that you finished high school without on-the-spot proof. Wow.
And, with that, my time in the Heartland drew to a close. Nothing says graduation quite like a weekend of fine American motor vehicles, frozen vermin, NASCAR t-shirts as formal wear, talking teddy bears, and pocket diplomas.
At least no one tried to feed me raccoon?
* This is what my husband’s grandmother refers to me as behind my back. I grew up in a small town in New England. I went to very nerdy schools, and I still spend most of my day with my nose in a book. The most daring piece of clothing I own is a pair of skinny jeans, and I only wear them with a long shirt that discreetly covers my ass. I have been in a committed relationship with her grandson since we were 21 years old. So, you know, total Big City Hussy.