Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Theological Showers and Zombie Jesus

My six year old is sick. I thought we had made it through this Winter that Never Was unscathed. Z has allergen and illness induced asthma, and we generally spend at least a few weeks every winter hovering with our battery of nebulizers, vaporizers, and synthesizers (ok, not really. I just needed another -izer in there). This season we thought we'd escaped, thought we'd made it through. Then that tell-tale cough appeared Sunday morning and I knew the honeymoon was over. By Tuesday, the kid was pretty much full on miserable. Luckily, the Flake is on vacation this week, so once he finished getting the alien cut out of his eyelid (that's another disturbed story for another disturbed time.), he'd come home and take care of the Z-Man so I could head to work.

One of the things that always makes me feel better, no matter the ailment, is a nice warm bath. So I turned on the space heater, filled the tub with warm water and some coconut bubbles, and helped him slide in the sudsy water. Killing two birds with one stone, I hopped in the shower myself, figuring he would play and relax and benefit from the warmth and steam, and I would manage to get myself to work before it was time to leave again. Soon, the bathroom turned warm and foggy, filled with the scents of coconut suds and whatever crap they put in that overpriced shampoo I buy.

We do this every so often, my little one and I. I'm always amused and somewhat enchanted by the conversations that spring up, voices rising to carry over the shower spray. There's something about the separation of a shower door between that seems to drive us to unchartered territory. Perhaps it's something safer than face-to-face, a confessional for the early elementary set. Tuesday was no different.
It was Mardi Gras, after all, and the kid had questions. We'd been watching parade feeds courtesey of Fleurty Girl, and he'd been enamoured by the tremendous floats, the throws soaring through the air, the crowds of people. So while I sudsed up my hair, I wasn't surprised to hear him ask "Why do they have big parades on Mardi Gras, mom?" A simple question, a loaded answer.

"They do it to celebrate one last time before Lent begins, baby."

"Lint? The stuff in the dryer?" Great, now he's imagining the entire city of New Orleans engulfed in massive piles of dark grey dryer lint.

"Lent. L-EH-nt. It's something that some religions practice in the forty days leading to Easter."


"Catholics, mainly. Like Uncle Chris and Aunt Angie and the girls. They give up something for that whole month before Easter to understand the sacrifice that Jesus made. When he died on the cross."

"Can God die?"

While we're Christian, believing in God and his Son who did in fact die on the cross for humanity, we're not church-goers. I was raised Catholic, genuflected and Hail-Mary-ed my way through Catholic elementary school, but I was raised a very liberal Catholic. By the time I hit high school I began seeing all of the fissures between my beliefs and what the Church tried to tell me was so. Try as I might, I couldn't gel together what I felt in my heart and soul what was true and the path the church set in front of me. We had a parting of ways. And even though a Catholic mass is like my own version of spiritual meatloaf, comfort food for the soul, I still can't seem to reconcile the chasm between my beliefs, the beliefs I personally want to instill in my children, and that of Rome.

I know a lot of people, many of them close friends, find it somewhat tragic that my boys haven't been raised in a church family. And yes, sometimes it bothers me too. I want my kids to have a good spiritual base to lean against. But where to find that? We preach to our children that love between two consenting adults is love, period, and that love should be celebrated. I have found several churches with a vibe I liked, only to feel my heart and soul fall into my shoes when a sermon began to wrap in the evils of the homosexual agenda. I want my child's minister to be someone they look up to, someone whose beliefs are their beliefs... and that is not a belief I want my child to have.

We keep looking, though. Yet during certain times of year I feel that little tug in my heart, that yearning for the beauty of Catholic ritual. Advent always leaves me thinking about the candles, the mystery of the Nativity, the beauty of the church as it prepares for Christmas. And the solemnity of Ash Wednesday, the marking of foreheads as a reminder of your own mortality in this world. There is a poignancy in it.
But on this Ash Wednesday, I was having a theological discussion with my child from behind an opaque shower door.

Z has begun to ask a lot of questions about religion, about God and Jesus lately. I don't mind. He shows a curiosity that his brother never expressed. There are days he is adamant that we say a blessing before each meal. I encourage him to take the lead, and my heart swells as I hear his little voice rise up and thank God for the blessings of good food, a warm home, and Imagination Movers reruns on On Demand. I answer his questions as best I can, scaling down what can sometimes be complex answers to his level, to allow him to process his own thoughts on the matter. And so, with the steam rising around me, I did the best I could to explain the concept of a never-ending diety who can't really be seen, but whose works are all around us, to explain the idea of the Son of God, yes, born a baby like you were, who gave his life for the world, then came back to show us that he was, indeed, who he said he was.

That's the part that always gets him.

"So, Jesus was a zombie."

Oh Lord. "No babe. Jesus wasn't a Zombie. It was a miracle."

"Like when Daddy remembers to take out the trash."

"Pretty much."

"But he died?" Yes. "And then he came back, and that's why we have Easter." Yes. Good, right track. "But if he died and then was alive again, doesnt' that make him a zombie?"

..... ummmmm.......

"But a good zombie," he continued. "One that didn't eat brains or anything. He just kind of walked around and said 'Hey' to everyone and handed out candy because it was Easter."

Clearly, we have more work to do. Best to save that for the next shower.

Monday, February 20, 2012

Beads, Financing, and that sweet, sweet Addiction

Tis the Season...

It's 8:51am, and I'm sitting at my dining room table, sleep still heavy in my eyes, morning having come way, way too early. I wish I could say my slow step and mumbled responses come from a night full of celebration for Lundi Gras, but the only celebrating I did was finally getting my feverish six year old to sleep after 1am, only to be awaked far too soon at 6 to take the 12 year old to speed and agility class.
Ah, parenthood.

So I'm sitting here with a steaming cup of coffee, trying to pretend that it's really chicory cafe au lait and wishing it was gearing me up for a day of parades and revelry rather than a day of smiling politely and asking customers if they have everything they need, and if they're aware of financing opportunities. Today is Mardi Gras, and I want, more than anything, to party. I want to dance and sing and laugh and shout and reach for throws. I want to make new best friends whose names I may never remember.

I'm not a native New Orleanian, or Louisianan. I'm not even a transplant. I'm a tourist, someone who saves her money for 51 weeks in anticipation of four glorious days surrounded by the sights, sounds, and smells (oh, the smells!) of southern Louisiana. I don't go for the cheap thrills, the titilation of naked flesh, or the drunken debauchery. I go because I have to. It was a done deal by the end of my first trip. New Orleans is not an option; it's a necessity.

I believe there are two kinds of people in this world- those who can take or leave the city and those for whom it gets into their very blood, their soul, and settles in all comfortable like. The former can certainly enjoy the city; they can rave about it's cuisine, and how the city seems to have really bounced back from the horrors of years past. They can enjoy the music and the street performers. But it doesnt' become a desire, the nearly physical need to return and hear that music, smell the thick perfume of the camelias in the air. The former doesn't go through the twitching withdrawls when they see images of the Butterfly King's float gliding majestically down St. Charles, or when they pass the jazz station on the local radio band. The former can pack their bags full of trinkets and treasures and head for home with a smile, a fondness perhaps, but nothing more.

A junkie can't do that. And that's what we are, isn't it, those of us who crave New Orleans deep inside? We're hooked on it's atmosphere, it's energy, it's spirit. We're hooked on that mix of Southern gentility, European sophistication, African mysticism, and Caribbean soul, that particular social gumbo that swirls around like eddies in the Mississippi. Getting people to understand can be difficult. People still hold onto the images of a post-apopolyptic Waterworld, of vice, flesh, corruption, and crime, or that of a perpetual spring break, where the booze is cheap and the participants are easy. With a single raised eyebrow they'll pat you on the back, nod politely, and then go back to gossiping behind your back about what dickens you must be getting up to down in the Big Easy. They'd never believe you if you told them your greatest vice was devouring an entire Xocolat mousse on your own.

One day, I like to dream, I will own a little piece of NOLA for my very own. An apartment, perhaps, in one of the grand old homes in the Garden district, with a little courtyard to sit and have a cup of coffee in while the world wakes up around me, and enough room to bed down my friends who have caught this particular bug as well. Until that day comes, I will keep saving my pennies and looking south. And on this particular day I will finish my coffee, smile at the cold sunshine outside my window, and throw on a few sets of beads before I head to work. Now, would you like to hear about our financing offers....

Now THAT is indulgence...

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Your Personal Penguin

Fifteen years ago tonight, my entire life changed. Sitting in the passenger side seat of my Valentine's Chevy Cavalier, trying to warm up after walking through a bitter winter wind, the path of my life changed forever. The flowers had been beautiful. The Toad the Wet Sprocket CDs were awesome. The candy, delicious. But the little velvet box sitting in the palm of his hand...

I'd been teased about it all day long. "What are you going to do if he pops out a ring?" everyone had asked, and I'd just rolled my eyes. We hadn't been dating that long, just a few short months. Both of us had recently broken off serious relationships. And, uh, newsflash- I was NINETEEN for crying out loud! Emphasis on the "teen"! There would be no rings!

And then there was.

It wasn't an engagement ring, he was quick to explain. It was a promise, a promise he wanted to make to me. I'll admit that I didn't hear the rest as well as I should have. I was too busy staring wide eyed at that tiny twinkle underneath the thin light of a parking lot arc-sodium. It mesmerized me. Suddenly, I took a ninety degree turn from the path I had been clumsily navigating. Maybe it wasn't "smart". Maybe it wasn't what my parents wanted me to do. Maybe it wasn't what I "should" have done. But I didn't care. I wanted 

Fifteen years later, and it's Valentine's night. Fifteen years, 3 kids, four states, seven houses, three cats, two dogs, and a brief assortment of fish later. We've dealt with the harshest of heartbreak and the greatest of personal triumphs. We learned to rely on only each other as we moved far away from family and friends. We've celebrated rauccously, and we've grieved deeply. We've grown and changed, some for the better, some for the worse. And I realize now, just shy of February 15th, that I wouldn't have changed a thing. Well, maybe one or two things.

There are rough spots along the road, and sometimes you get stuck. That's when you need each other, to lend a hand and dig your way out, and help you celebrate the triumph. That's when you need...

A Personal Penguin.

I've always loved Sandra Boynton, and this was one of my favorite books. And tonight, on this Valentine's Day, I want to tell my special Flake... as much now as fifteen years ago... I want to be your Personal Penguin.

Love you Babe.
(look babe! Sims!)

Monday, February 13, 2012

Slap Me!

One of the prevailing mental images of New Orleans, especially during Mardi Gras season, is that of the Go Cup, alcohol on the move. Its true- in New Orleans there's no need to curtail your drinking to the inside of an overcrowded bar. Feel free to grab that perspiring bottle of Abita Amber or that glistening plastic cup of a classic Hurricane and set out to see the sights.

This February marked my third annual trip to the Big Easy for the classic French Quarter Krewe du Vieux parade, a bawdy, satirical poke in the eye that never fails to leave me shaking my head and asking myself "Did I really just see that?" On each trip I've learned something to make the next year's journey better: when is the best time to get to Cafe du Monde to beat the crowd (too early for this girl)? Where can I find a good, hearty, cheap breakfast the morning after (Daisy Duke's on Chartres)? Which corner marts will open your purchased bottle of beer for you, and which ones will have you asking a guy toting a cooler for assistance? And just how DO you score sweet parade throws (showing the "girls" is just a myth, people. Unless you're on Bourbon, keep em covered!) Going into our 2012 adventure, I knew one thing I needed for this year's trek- a good koozie.

Yes, a Koozie, those wonderful neoprene cup holders designed to keep your beverage frosty and your hands dry. This is important, people. Slippery hands can be a drink's- and your own- downfall. An uneven sidewalk, the press of Gulf humidity, the jostle of a raucous crowd on Bourbon Street... any of it can lead to a bittersweet ending. If you're not careful, that tasty local concoction you just waited 15 minutes in line for could quickly become gutter water- if you're lucky. Many times I've seen some poor girl in a bar bathroom, clothes splattered in that tale-tell Pat O Hurricane red, bemoaning the drink that quite literally slipped from her grasp. And no matter how laid back the Crescent City is, sucking spilled rum from your soiled t-shirt is always a no-no.

With all of that in mind and an epic weekend in the making, I turned to the awesomeness that is Team Cocktail (www.teamcocktail.com) . Described as a "drinking team with a clothing problem," Team Cocktail produces those perfectly soft and worn-in island style t-shirts that will have you daydreaming about island waters and rum punch. They also sell a little something called the Slap Koozie.

If you remember the slap bracelet craze of the late 80s and early 90s, you've got the form and function of the Team Cocktail slap koozie. All rolled out it's a rigid, insulated reminder that Team Cocktail is "Where Happy Hour Never Ends." A simple flick of the wrist and a pop around your bottle or cup, though, finds your drink cozy and your hands delightfully dry.

Therein lies the beauty of the slap koozie- it fits EVERYTHING. Drinks in New Orleans are far from "one size fits all", and while a regulation cup holder may easily fit my bottle of LA-31 biere pale, what about the shorter, stouter bottle of Purple Haze I pop next? And while my usual koozie will take that standard size cup of rum punch I purchase from the outside window of Maison on Frenchman, I'm hosed when I go for the ridiculously oversized Bourbon Street Kool-Aid. The Slap Koozie is an equal-opportunity device- no beverage too large nor oddly shaped. Like your wingman, it's always got you.

It wasn't just my crew (or krewe, perhaps) that was loving on the koozies. All over New Orleans eyebrows raised when we slapped on our brightly colored beverage accessories. So pretty! So functional! So awesome that you didn't have to worry about spilling your drink as you snuggled it in. Even the bartenders were loving on it. Raven, our mixologist at the Rivers Edge, was totally smitten. She and her housemates have all types of drink holders, trying to make sure there's a fit for every cup, can, and bottle. The idea of one item taking the place of their entire collection? Inconceivable. And the fact that it comes in twelve amazing colors? Beyond belief.

In total, the two slap koozies that made their way through the streets of New Orleans snuggled up to 24 cups or bottles of local beer, 10 glasses or plastic cups of rum punch, 8 of Pat O'Brien's potent Hurricanes, 4 large bottles of water, 2 Diet sodas, a beautiful blue Margarita, and a couple of 57 Chevys that came out of nowhere and left us flat on our backs. Every beverage stayed safe in hand as we dance, sang, and yes, even stumbled a bit through our adventures. The final verdict? Next year, we're buying a Party Pack and handing them out.

The only way to walk your Hurricane!

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Lost at Sea

It's been six months since I posted last. Oops.

Let's see.... kids in school, doing well, moderate personal drama, diagnosed with ADD, on meds now, oldest dog passed away, cat still evil.

I think that covers it. Now... where were we?