Thursday, June 30, 2011

The Downside to Marrying an Older Man

Sending photos from Neal's camera in Iraq is a lengthy and complicated process. Because his "office" is secure, they don't allow any cameras. This means if he is going to take pictures during the day, he has to go back to his CHU, get the camera, take the pictures, drop the camera back off at the CHU, go back to the office. Then to send them, he has to return to his CHU to retrieve the camera, walk over to the Internet cafe (I use the term cafe culottes loose), upload the photos, send them, and then drop the camera back off at the CHU before heading back to the office in time for shift change.

If your head is spinning and you are experiencing some boob sweat just from reading that, then you understand why I don't post many pictures. I don't have many pictures to post. But today I got about 20! Several are for another compare/contrast post (since my page views go through the roof when I write those. Not that I'm writing for page views...but y'all seem to like those and I'm here for you. I'm a giver like that).  And then there's the boys (and girls...for my male readers) of summer playing volleyball in the 120 degree heat. It is going to take me a couple of days to decide what to do with so much awesome.

However, today I must talk about how my husband is fast-tracking us into the AARP age group. 

A couple of days ago, I woke up to my usual barrage of emails...Pottery Barn is having a 20% off sale (I wish there was a spam filter that would only allow email from retail stores when the sale was 50% off or more)...The National Massage Therapy Board is warning me that my license is about to expire again (I know. Massage therapy is a great skill to know. I'm done with rubbing on strangers)...and I have been invited to join the VFW Ladies' Auxiliary.

Wait. What??

My grandmother was in the VFW Ladies' Auxiliary.

I think Neal has confused my recent blonde highlights with white. And yes, war tends to wrinkle both of us, but I am so not ready for the VFW Ladies' Auxiliary.

Come to find out, Neal has joined the National VFW. In all fairness, it's $35 for an annual membership. That's basically pizza and a couple of movie tickets. So, money well spent because I'm sure the dues help fund the work that the VFW does (which I support completely).

But we are about one PCS* away from squandering our Saturday nights in a smoky pool hall, ripping pull tab lottery tickets and tossing the losers on the floor. Neal will become bff with guys named Bud and Frank and I will talk about going to the beauty parlor to get my hair rolled.

We are half the age that Neal thinks we are.

But because I love my husband and I am all support-y, I became a fan of the National VFW Ladies' Auxiliary on Facebook. They aren't getting my $35 just yet. I have to know what I'm going into. Right now, they have 7 photos posted. Of those, 5 are stock photos, 1 is of a memorial ceremony, and 1 from what looks to be a St. Patty's Day party...where, had I been in attendance, I would have still been the only one who wasn't alive when Kennedy was shot.

I know the VFW and the Ladies' Auxiliary both do a huge amount of work to support our military and their families and my disapproval at joining them at the ripe age of 32 has nothing to do with the organization and everything to do with how many Friday nights I spent at the VFW as a weeAlly. I am all hung up on how I remember those evenings...or as much as I can remember considering all of the smoke hung at my 5-year old height. It all might have changed and I might be slamming the door on a perfectly good opportunity. Or I might just be postponing our chance to win $5 on a pull-tab lottery ticket.

If you are currently a member of a VFW Ladies' Auxiliary chapter and would like to share what you do in the organization, as well as if someone in their early 30's would enjoy being a member, please do so in the comments. I'm not above being persuaded in the other direction. 

*PCS: Permanent  Change of Station (or the fun that ensues when burly men driving an Atlas semi show up and throw all of your things into cardboard boxes, which are then driven to and dumped at your new home. Happens roughly every 3 years.)

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Too Good to Not Pass Along

Y'know how some days I push you off onto other bloggers because I am overrun with accidentally stabbing myself in the face with jewelry pliers or trying to stop water from gushing through my windows or tracking packages that somehow the USPS delivered to the wrong city?

Today is different.

I have several posts waiting but I feel it is my duty to my readers, as well as the entire human race, that I send you over to Shana's today. Remarkably, she managed to articulate her reaction to New York's marriage equality law with both feet planted firmly on the ground (as opposed to, say, a soapbox). And that's not easy to do considering she is a New Yorker and has plenty to say on the matter. Go over for her perspective. Go over because she's witty. But most of all, go over because it's astonishing to read the stupidity that people will spew all over the comments section of a news story.
Shana reveals all in Can You Back That Up??

Monday, June 27, 2011

Awareness for Wounds Without Awards

My grandfather was shot in WWII. A man who was half his size slung my grandfather over his shoulder and ferried him to safety. They were both awarded medals for their respective bravery while under enemy fire. My grandfather's Purple Heart now hangs proudly in my mother's house.

My dad found himself closer than he cared to be when a grenade exploded in Vietnam. His hearing was never the same. His own Purple Heart is presumably stowed away in a box in the basement of his house...he is the most humble, least entitled man you would ever meet.

The point is, they both received recognition for their sacrifices during times of war. They could point to a ribbon and say "look what I got." They could feel noble, standing in their decorated uniforms, with their tangible proof of a physical war wound.

But that was then. That was when wars were fought by men who didn't want to die. Rules of engagement were set and followed...each side praying to return home to wives, kids, and a parade in their honor.

Now the war is fought by men, women, and children who volunteer to die for their cause. An attack can happen anywhere and our United States military must be on their constant guard...even when walking to chow...even when sleeping. Our men and women have narrowly escaped harm and witnessed horrific acts of terrorism. But at the end of the day, there is no Purple Heart to point to on their uniforms. They can't compare surgical scars at the VFW. They are not granted special privileges back home because they returned with one less limb.

They are our faces of PTSD and often you would never know it.

But live with it for a day and, I have been told, you feel like the war rages on right there in the darkness of the living room.

I am not saying that our Veterans of previous wars did not come home with PTSD. They absolutely did. But it is time to rip away the cover of shame. Give these men and women a voice, a face, and let them tell you their stories of how fireworks become mortar attacks and a pothole can become an IED under the tire tread.

Today is PTSD Awareness Day. Every day should be PTSD Awareness Day...but we can start with just one day. Build up to 365.

Neal has never exhibited any signs of PTSD. Maybe it's his age or life experience or just plain dumb luck. Lucky that he has mostly been out of direct combat. Not many of our servicemembers have been so lucky. Unless you know someone personally enough for them to share the private Hell they live everyday, you wouldn't see the signs...and you certainly don't see any awards they have received for their sacrifices. Just remember that their wounds are just as deep as a bullet and remain much longer than a scar. They need our help too.

If you are living with PTSD or loving someone who is (or think you might be), there is no shame in getting help. There is only the torture of living in denial and ignoring the signs. Here are a few resources, but there are many, many more.

Military Missions, Inc. (founded by the mother of a Marine who is living with PTSD, she is paving the way in our community, as well as nationwide, for military personnel to receive excellent and qualified care for all of war's invisible wounds.) (an overview of PTSD, as well as links to additional resources.)

National Center for PTSD (a division of the VA, listing the signs and symptoms of PTSD, as well as the resources available through the VA.)

If you would like additional information, Laura @ Live. Laugh. Photograph. has written an excellent post today about PTSD.

Saturday, June 25, 2011

He's Got Kind Eyes

Thank you to everyone who let me know they couldn't post comments on the blog. Right now, I think it's just Hutch. Sorry Hutch. I know you still love me, even if I don't hear from you.

I am spending the weekend reading the 191 unread posts in my Google Reader and commenting on as many as I can. And then I am going to flesh out our r&r trip to Paris that is finally going to happen. So, I hope to return Monday with a surprise combo post with Neal. Until then, please enjoy his handsome face. I know I do.

OK, he looks a little cray-cray here....hold on...

Ah...that's better. Skype is saving my sanity for now and I'll be a sad panda when they lose their Internet as part of the shut-down process. But not as sad as Neal is now that they've taken away the generators that heat the shower water. Cold showers build character. Or...something....

Happy Weekend!!

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Testing, Testing....Is This Thing On??

Will everyone who has been unable to comment on my last blog post please email me at the address on my profile? I need to see how big of a problem this is going to be before I open a can on the Blogger HelpDesk. Thank you!

Friday, June 17, 2011

Champagne Friday: Easy as 1, 2, 3!

Thank you, NBC Store at Rockefeller Plaza for meeting all of my Smurf needs. 

 Happy Champagne Friday!

I am wearing ONE fabulous new, red shirt from Target today. 

I have TWO fantastic announcements to make regarding Daisy & Elm:
1) The website is almost ready to launch!! You will be able to view all of the pieces I currently have for sale, as well as many of my previous custom items in case you would like a similar piece. While Facebook will still show all of my jewelry, the website will be a great resource for anyone who is not on Facebook. 

2) I have chosen a third military organization to benefit from R.E.D. Fridays. Upon the suggestion from several fans, I am going with Sweet Dreams Pillow Picture Project, which donates picture pillows to any child with a deployed servicemember. They ask for a donation, but the pillows are free. Thank you to everyone for your suggestions. I love that we have an organization in the mix that benefits the children of the Armed Forces! 

As promised, I have THREE R.E.D. Friday items to post today!  

God Bless the U.S.A.

Let Freedom Ring

Baby Bird

All jewelry descriptions and prices are listed on the Facebook fan page. If you do not have access to Facebook, please let me know in the comments or email me and I will send you the information. 

Happy Shopping and Happy Father's Day to my unicorn of a husband and all of the amazing fathers out there who make it look so darn easy. I hope y'all observed Mother's Day because Karma is an early-rising, child-sized, pain in the butt. But she could have been wooed with chocolate and diamonds.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

ShanAlly Chronicles 2.0

First the bad news: I have contracted something between ManCold 2011 and Sinusitis Greenus Snottus. This means less productivity, more Grey's Anatomy.

The good news: It also means a little couch time for me to post Part 2 of the ShanAlly Chronicles. It's a little long because I'm wrapping up the rest of the trip today, complete with insights and photos...but it will probably be my last post until Friday. So...there's that...

What I learned...And check out Shana's post for her perspective on part 2!

1. As stated by Shana, not all art is meant to be understood. Or even liked. Plus, teddy bears are cute...until they are 4 stories tall with button eyes the size of a car. Then they are just creepy.

2. You can find God in a place like St. Patrick's Cathedral. You can also get yelled at for trying to take photos in a restricted area. Make your sign bigger, St. Patrick's. That's all I'm sayin'.

3. You should let Johnny and Jenny play with Legos for as long as they want. They may grow up and create a giant Legos sign made entirely of little Lego men, which will be displayed for the world to see in Rockefeller Center. Or they could choke on one and die. But you have a 50/50 shot. I like those odds. 

4. A little gold goes a looooonnnng way. But you can never have too many American flags. 

5. Wearing a headband comprised of dualing light-up penises either speaks to your age or your maturity level. Even if you are a bachelorette. Even if you are in the middle of a drag show. 
6. Some men hide their candy better than others.  

7. Some men just need the excuse of a drag show to let their freak flag fly (this is just a nod to the car commercial they play ad nauseum on Hulu and not a judgment in any way).

 Lucky Cheng's...where audience participation is not just encouraged, it's mandatory. It's also how you find out that a group of friends are there to have one last night out before their friend is deported back to Norway. 

8. Coffee always tastes better when served with a verb-embroidered napkin and a serving of custard-like french toast. 

 E.A.T. - one of Eli Zabar's cafes in Manhattan. Bread that will make you buy bigger pants and blame it on the birth control.

9. Alexander McQueen was a misunderstood genius who took his leave way too soon. 
 Savage Beauty, the Alexander McQueen exhibit at The Metropolitan Museum of Art is WORTH the trip. It was well designed and offers a glimpse into a dark and brilliant mind.

His philosophies mean a lot to me as a jewelry designer of custom and unique pieces. Quotes like:

  • "I believe in that one-on-one sell. I don't really believe in flooding the market with loads of goods that don't mean much, and (you) lose your identity." 
  • "Clothes and jewelry should be startling, individual. When you see a woman in my clothes, you want to know more about them. To me, that is what distinguishes good designers from bad designers." 
  • "You've got to know the rules to break them. That's what I'm here for, to demolish the rules but keep the tradition." 
I relate specifically to this last one because it is true for everything, but especially in design. If you don't know the rules, you can still break them, but it just becomes a trainwreck instead of art. 
 Titanic Ballerina by Alexander McQueen via Google Images

10. Speaking of ballerinas...they wink for spare change in Central Park.

11. And ducks will catch a ride on the first thing floating by...

12. And flowers do grow in the city park...

13. I hear night-boating is becoming prevalent in New York...
 Double-decker brownie points if you can name that movie...which, apparently even Mama Virgo has seen. I must stop watching so much History Channel.

14. For me, Central Park is an exotic and famous greenspace and the back drop of so many fantastic movie scenes. For New Yorkers, it's a place to snap a couple of wedding pictures...

pop a squat after graduation...

or shoot a commercial (where you can walk right through the long as you keep moving). 

15. NY cabbies have wised up. The only mode of transportation that is nearly as cost effective as a rickshaw? A Prius. 
We did meet our fair share of not-so-smart cabbies. We had to get out of one cab because the driver didn't know how to get to City Hall. Not some random club in the basement of a dentist's office....CITY HALL. Seriously?? And even though they have credit card machines in the cabs now, they do not have GPS for the drivers. I bet Garmin would be willing to strike a deal. Just sayin'.

16. Oprah is right. Being fitted for the right bra and then investing a little money in your bras will build your confidence, from the cleavage, out. Also, after approximately 20 years, I finally know the correct way to wear a bra. And to think, I've been unknowingly hanging out of them for all these years. 
 Many thanks to Linda and her ladies at Linda's on Lex. And they are hiring. But not men, as we found out when one tried to apply as we were finishing the fitting. Because, really men, unless you moonlight at Lucky Cheng's, what do you know about over the shoulder boulder holders?

17. When in New York, you must eat 3 things: cannoli (because if your first one is bad, you'll never eat another. If your first one is amazing, you'll know a bad one before it ever hits your lips), pizza (something about New York's water and the dough), and dim sum (which is a must if you have ever seen Sleepless in Seattle. I apologize if you now have Bill Pullman Walter's dim sum jingle stuck in your head). We managed to hit all 3. 

18. New Yorkers do not say y'all, they are not mild-mannered, and they are not soft-spoken. They do sprinkle curse words through nearly every sentence, they speak with passion and enthusiasm, and they are boisterous. It is difficult to leave the city without using your hands to speak, talking 20 mph, and cursing. Especially when you have lunched on Staten Island...where J attempted to prove that it is possible to fit a round man through a square hole. 

19. Champagne Friday is forever ruined now that I have celebrated it at The Plaza....where we were upstaged by the table next to us - 3 generations of women donning their fascinators and gloves. But we had pink champagne, so we win. 

20. I learned several other tidbits along the way, as well....

  • There is no need to arrive at the Long Island airport 2 hours early. You'll just be sitting for 1 1/2 hours. 
  • Just because a movie wins an Oscar, does not make it worthy of your time *ahem, looking at YOU, Black Swan*. 
  • If you have the opportunity to visit either the Harry Potter exhibit or the Pompeii exhibit, take it! Just make sure you've seen the Harry Potter movies first (or run the risk of annoying the crap out of your hostess with an endless array of questions). Also, know that the Pompeii exhibit features the shells of decayed residents of Pompeii...preserved by the layers of ash that fell when the volcano blew. It's haunting but worth it. 
  • New Yorkers are mad for their diners. In Kentucky, we eat at diners when nothing else is open. In New York, it is sometimes their first choice. And they do serve a helluva cobb salad.
  • If a cab driver's credit card machine is not working, you do not have to pay the fare. Wait, is there more to this? Shana?? 
  • All of the stuff Shana puts up about J? It is all true. He really is like that. And I have never met 2 people who are more perfectly matched. Because anyone else would be tempted, at times, to serve him a knuckle sandwich.
  • When Neal and I went to NYC, he asked me at the end of the trip, "so how did you like the city?" I said, "meh. It's OK. I like Chicago better." But that's because I had been to Chicago a bajillion times and had moved past the touristy stuff and into the heart of what makes it Chicago. Shana took me to New York's heart and I will never be able to look back. There are too many people in too small of a space but when you feel the rhythm of a city that is constantly moving under your feet, you can't help but want to be one of those people. 


Saturday, June 11, 2011

Ally and Shana Take NYC: Part 1.5

Happy Champagne Friday, pretty people! it just me or did this week sort of last forever? And yet, last week was like riding backwards on an express train. Clearly, vacation weeks and Twilight Zone time warps are inexplicably linked.

Here's the sad news: I don't have a R.E.D. item for you today because I am just now digging out from the tumbleweeds of cat hair and the Great Smoky Mountains of laundry. But have you ever known me to slack? (no comment necessary from the 400Wakeup family members) So, I will return next week with at least 2 and probably 3 R.E.D. items to post to make up for it. And maybe by then, my resin roses and I will have reached an understanding that doesn't involve coming apart (by either of us).

In the meantime, I bring you the first several days of The Shanally Chronicles. 

Leonardo da Vinci once said, "It had long since come to my attention that people of accomplishment rarely sat back and let things happen to them. They went out and happened to things." 

I would venture to say that we sort of happened to New York. And we learned quite a few lessons along the way.

1. You are never too old for balloon art. Be it a flower...
Jeff Koons' balloon flower near World Trade Center 7
 or intermingling boy and girl parts...whichever...(sorry, but I refuse to spend my Saturday picking through dirty spam comments. So, let's just leave the textbook terms in the textbook.)
Lucky Cheng's (because I am a glutton for punishment and specifically requested a NYC drag show)

2. A decade is not quite long enough to build a memorial. I have faith that 2021 will be a big year. 
 Ground Zero with the new tower going up slowly, but surely. 
3. Tourist photo of Statue of Liberty is less exciting than Statue of Liberty on the Diagonal. 
 Exhibit A
Exhibit B (I know, right?)

4. But Statue of Liberty on the Diagonal is not as exciting as Statue of Liberty with a Light Up Her Ass. 
5. There's nothing more beautiful than a girl who is proud of her roots. 
 I adore this photo and I swear, Shana, if you make some comment about how you look too fat or too sweaty or too windblown or...too...New York...I will come through your screen and give you a titty twister. (hugs!) 

6. It is possible to sucker a friend into buying a Statue of Liberty foam hat on the ferry. 

7. I am ending the debate here and now: Miss New Jersey is as big as a boat. 
OK, it just occurred to me that you may not be able to read that...boat's name? Miss New Jersey. Ha.

8. When I was applying for colleges and I was asked on the application what was most important to me in choosing a college, I always wrote in "the city must have a skyline." So, yes...Lexington has a skyline...but this is a gentle reminder of what I was missing. 
9. The arms of recruiters reach far and wide and, apparently, embrace all age levels. Well done, Marines! 
 Fleet Week means more than just white-clad eyecandy rolling into the city.

10. The Brooklyn Bridge is exactly like The Golden Gate Bridge in that it is impossible to take too many pictures of it. (Also there is an excellent Ken Burns documentary on the construction of the bridge...y'know...if you're tired of watching Mean Girls and looking for something different.)

 See what I mean, Vern?

11. It is possible to get a funky cabbie photo from the Brooklyn Bridge. However, Shana says she has a better one. Somewhere. If she can find the photo, it has a reserved spot in our guest bathroom.
12. Stop complaining about the sweaters Grandma knits for you every winter. At least she isn't toiling away at a sweater for your bike, too....

13. It is seldom a good idea to kick off a drinking contest at 1 AM. Also, I think it may be the first sign of alcoholism. And refrigerators are highly overrated. Really you just need a food tray and 6 handfuls of ice. (Clearly Sophie realizes this is a bad idea as she is giving the stinkeye to Mama for letting the shenanigans continue.)

14. The Bronx Zoo has ruined me for the typical pet. I am now ready to adopt one of these
 and one of these
 and one of these....
 But y'all can keep your free-roaming peacocks (who does that??). 

15. There are creatures at The Bronx Zoo that I thought only existed in Disney movies. 

16. Neal is directly descended from monkeys because I get this look a lot. 
17. "Spring" (term used loosely to indicate May even though thermometer indicated July) is the best time to visit the zoo. That's a little baby tucked in the arms of Mama. The "awwww" factor was off the charts. 

18. I really need to get laid. What I see here is not a feisty tiger lounging under a toy...I see a ball gag. A year is a really long time, y'all....

 19. Nobody...and I mean NOBODY makes mojitos like the cubans. 

20. The name of the show makes Mama Virgo blush, but it is well worth the ticket price. Also, it is a great introduction to New Yorker 101. But they do say "fuck." A lot. 

21. Always wear your maternity pants to Serendipity. The ice cream comes in 3 sizes...large, extra large, and something that resembles the size of Staten Island. (And it is perfectly acceptable to remove your Spanx in the 1-person bathroom and stash them in the tampon pocket of your purse if you eat too much.)

22. Times Square never sleeps. Amazing if you are a night owl...unfortunate if you are trying to roll yourselves home in a brownieicecream sugar coma.

Speaking of sleep...
More adventures tomorrow. It's bedtime for a certain pretty princess.