I don’t care if Monday’s blue

Last night my two youngest kids did this annoying thing they sometimes do where they both outgrow all of their clothing while they sleep.  I promised I’d take them shopping right after school, but in my haste to send them out the door in short and snug pants I didn’t check that they had everything they needed.  Halfway to school my daughter announced she was going to need me to bring her gym bag later.

I got home and set out to clean the house from the weekend of birthday partying and Fakesgiving feasting.  I washed down the cabinets while the iRobots battled it out on the hardwoods.  While I was mopping, one of my slippery ribs, well, slipped.  It’s not dangerous but rates a solid, “ermph” on my vocalized pain scale; above an, “uh…” but well below a sound that you’d just have to hear because I can’t spell it.  It’s usually due to some randomly generated inflammation, so I took a couple of Aleve and called it a day as far as cleaning was concerned.

I left the house to grab a smoothie for lunch and dropped off the gym bag at school.  As of this writing, these are the only two tasks at which I have succeeded today.

I came home and inventoried the pantry and refrigerator, deciding I’d make meat loaf for dinner.  Except for a green pepper I had everything I needed, so I drove to Target because Starbucks.  It’s not my favorite coffee, but counting the one inside Target, I live in the greater tri-Starbucks area, so it is the most convenient.  One green pepper and a box of Good & Plenty later (It’s technically my wedding anniversary, and even though we don’t celebrate it until the day after Thanksgiving, I’m acknowledging it with his favorite candy, which I realized I had not given him in a really long time), I am standing in the checkout line dumping my finally-cool-enough-to-drink venti Christmas Blend all over the floor.  Because Monday.

I seriously cannot account for the rest of my afternoon.  Maybe I was abducted by aliens, but they beamed me back home after I fucked up some expensive space shit.  I don’t know; I really can’t remember.  But, I was home in time to drive carpool, so that’s what I did.  I arrived first and as I waited for the kids my sister-in-law texted to tell me that Kohl’s was having an online-only sale.  Thank.  The.  Lord.  If there’s anything I hate more than sticking my hand into a mystery hole at a Halloween carnival, it’s shopping.  Once we were home, I sat down with each child individually and filled our online cart with everything they’ll need to last them through another night’s sleep, then I proceeded to spend the next forty five minutes trying to check out because Kohl’s will neither recognize that I have an account, nor let me check out as a guest because I have an account.  They’re having a difficult day, too, and I should be more understanding.  But I’m not because I end up having to empty my cart, close my browsers, delete my cookies and re-select 27 items (in the correct colors and sizes).  But I still didn’t get my damn Rewards points.  And until every last item shows up on my door step, I’m not ready to declare this a triumph.

By this time, it’s 5:30 and I am ready to start that meat loaf I was going to make for dinner.  Except guess what?  What I thought was an onion in the fridge was actually a turnip.  Turnips couldn’t possibly be any good inside a meat loaf.  I call Mike and ask if he’s near home yet.  He is.  I ask him if he will pick up the onion I need.  After a pause, he says he will.  Then he asks how long the meat loaf will take.  I tell him an hour, at least.  His silence tells me he doesn’t want to wait that long to eat.  I forgot; he’s 50 now.  He’s an early bird.  Or, I suggest, he could pick up Chinese.  He thinks that’s a great idea, even after I tell him I’m still going to need that onion so we can have meat loaf tomorrow night.

Sarcastic asshole smiley faces.

We have a pleasant meal, though the beef and broccoli had a strange cinnamon-y taste I wasn’t expecting.  I give Mike the box of Good & Plenty and suddenly remember why I haven’t gotten him any in a really long time; black licorice causes him to have heart palpitations.  I guess on this, our third anniversary, my subconscious just wants his heart to skip a beat for me the way it used to. You know, back when he still ate licorice.

Between the cleaning, the shopping, the cooking – hell, even the coffee – I feel like I’ve failed at basic womaning today.  I’m going to go soak this Monday off with an oatmeal stout in a bubble bath.  If the aliens don’t drop toasters into the tub as retribution for whatever damage I caused up there in their UFO, tomorrow’s going to be much better.

Sister Schubert, oh your time has come

The Bird
Look, Ma.  I traced my hand.

I have no trips of any significance planned until January and ‘tis the time of year when I shift from the Will Travel to the Half Nuts part of my blog:  The Holidays.

Our Brady Bunch will be far-flung this Thanksgiving; my stepsons are going to visit their mothers in Florida, my younger kids are heading to Virginia to see their father, and my oldest is (gulp) spending the holiday with her boyfriend’s family at the coast.  Before all that scattering, though, we get to have Fakesgiving.  I spent the first half of today grocery shopping, and the second half grocery chopping.  Tomorrow I start baking and I won’t stop until the last college kid walks through the door Friday night.

I’m not going to lie, the holidays have been hard the last six years.  First there was the loss of a huge part of my family I called in-laws, who defined our traditions and held tightly to the sacred and secret holiday recipes.  I suddenly didn’t have my children for half of the holidays anymore.  And then there was the addition of a huge group of new people that I now call in-laws who have their own traditions and recipes.  And despite having six years to get used to this, I still underestimate how much alcohol I need on hand to cushion the special kind of loneliness that comes from being in a room full of people.  But here’s a little secret I’ve discovered: the liquor store doesn’t celebrate Fakesgiving so they won’t be closed when I run out of rum again.  And this year it’s just Mike, and our kids, and me – so probably I won’t even need booze.

Burnt Cake

He thought ‘Satan’s Food’ was too inflammatory, so he called it Demon Cake, instead.  Isn’t he cute?

I’d known Mike for two years already, but our courtship was in its infancy; he was still pretending to like spicy food and I was pretending I had the capacity to give a shit about corporate Christmas parties.

He’d asked if I had any interesting recipes for the dessert competition being held in his office, and I suggested my Satan’s Food Cake.  It’s a scratch-made chocolate cake that bites you back.  He told me the name wouldn’t fly; many of the co-workers hold bible study several mornings a week.  I told him to call it whatever he wanted, or just pick up a box of Krispy Kreme.  In hindsight, I probably wasn’t holding up my end of the pretending all that well.

He feigned some ignorance and I offered to help him with a test run on the evening before his birthday.  It went well, up until we burnt the cake because we were out in the driveway kissin’.  I still blush when he tells the story, mostly because he changes it a little bit every time, but depicts little old me as the aggressor.

In the six years since, we’ve stopped pretending a lot of things.  Next week we mark the third anniversary of when we stopped pretending we weren’t going to get married.  On most days, that one still blows our minds.

We won’t be burning a cake in celebration this year because he’s turning fifty this week, too.  There will be plenty of better, unburnt cake to be had.  If you’d like to not burn a cake along with us, I recommend the recipe below.


Satan’s Food Cake
1 ½ cups Swans Down cake flour
1 cup sugar
½ cup unsweetened cocoa
2 teaspoons cinnamon
1 teaspoon baking soda
½ teaspoon Mexican chili powder
¼ teaspoon salt
1 cup cold water
¼ cup canola oil
1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
1 tablespoon Madagascar vanilla extract
Combine all ingredients with electric mixer until smooth.  Pour into a greased 8 inch round cake pan and bake at 350 degrees, until done (about 25-30 minutes).  Remove and cool on wire rack.
1 cup confectioners’ sugar
½ cup cocoa
3 tablespoons water
3 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
2 fists full of strawberries
When the cake has cooled, whisk together everything except the strawberries.  Pour the glaze over the cake, and use the strawberries for decoration.  They don’t have to look demonic, but it’s a nice touch.

Ticket to a Happy Marriage


I’d already snapped a photo and was putting my phone away when he said, “Oh God.  You aren’t going to have your phone out all the way across Europe, are you?”

Understand, we won’t actually be in Europe for another 5 months, and I’d just taken a quick picture of my pasta salad so I could try to recreate it later; pasta shells, feta, black pepper, shredded basil, and tomatoes.  No dressing.  Simple.  Delicious.

He exaggerated on, using his own phone as a prop, “Snap. I need to post this.  Snap.  I need to post this.”  God, he’s unattractive when he mocks.  I know he thinks the same about me.  I wait for him to finish.

“Yes.  My phone will be out all the way across Europe.  So will my giant camera, probably even across the Middle East, too.”  I add the last part because I know he does not think I should go to Israel.  He thinks I should not because he does not want to go himself.

“In fact I’ll probably do many things, nay, all the things that annoy you so maybe now is a good time to start planning your own itinerary.”

When I dreamed this trip, I’d had in mind that it would be solo; a detail that was supported by his vehement push against it because Rome in the middle of winter will be miserable and cold.  I’d explained that the end of March is not the middle of winter and the whole point of going was to be there for Easter.  I can’t very well expect the Pope to reschedule Easter for more agreeable weather.  It came as a surprise when he began saying the words, ‘we’ and ‘us’ when I discussed the trip.

Soon enough, I realized that getting to Rome could be much less expensive if I take the long way around – like I do.  As such, last week I booked our flights into London and out of Paris.  The outer walls of my odyssey are in place, with a nine day nebula in between, propped up by one pillar; I must be in Rome for Easter.  The time for extending the pilgrimage into Israel does exist.  We can use small, local airlines to maneuver us fairly inexpensively where we need to go around the region.  And having him with me in Paris, in the spring, won’t suck.

“God, why are you always so quick to tell me to go do my own thing?”  He rephrased that question twice more in rapid succession before I interrupted him to answer.

“As much as you don’t like the annoying things I do, I don’t like being reminded that I am annoying.  If you tell me how much you don’t like me taking pictures across Europe, I will still take pictures across Europe, but be very aware with every click that I am bothering you.  You will ruin an otherwise lovely experience.”

He defends himself, “My trip won’t be ruined by your taking pictures.”

But mine will be ruined by knowing it annoys him, and I’m not built for the force it would require to drive this dull point home.

A long time ago, Rilke sold me on this idea that each partner appoints the other to be the guardian of his solitude, and this month we celebrate the third anniversary of taking our vows to remain separate, but together.  We faithfully work to iron out the wrinkles in how such a union can actually work in practice.  But let me tell you this; it hasn’t been easy in matters of travel.

We will meet for lunch twenty times again, just as we did today, before we leave.  With a little luck and a lot of hard diplomacy, we’ll have it all figured out by then.  In the meanwhile, I need to brush up on my French, learn a little Italian, and maybe make some of that pasta salad.

St. Augustine


Our conversation was likely a little slurred and our walk down Saint George Street may have been somewhat wobbly while Melanie was still not fully grasping what just happened.

“So, that was the real Hank Williams?” She asked for the umpteenth time.

I let the conversation continue with no real intention of clarifying matters.  “He looked real to me.  Did he look real to you?”

“But isn’t Hank Williams a singer?”

“Well, he was.  But I liked him better as a song writer.”

“And now he owns a wine shop in St. Augustine?”

“Don’t be ridiculous.  Hank Williams died a long time before we were even born.”

“Then who were we just talking to?”

“Hank Williams.”  Keeping her confused may have been my passive aggressive revenge for her failure to mention she’d booked this leg of our trip in a hostel.

I’m a low maintenance traveler, really I am.  But try to understand, I was responsible for booking the first half of our trip and we had just enjoyed three nights in the Hyatt Riverfront in Savannah, Georgia.  At best, there should be some sort of decompression chamber for transitioning between a Hyatt Regency and a hostel; at the very least, there should have been some sort of, oh, I don’t know – warning.

But, no.  When we arrived three hours earlier, I stared up the whimsically painted stairs already being scaled by a medium sized palmetto bug and beheld my first indication that things were different now.

Our room had one king sized and three bunk beds and was icky.  Again, I can do icky; I just wasn’t expecting it.  I plopped my suitcase onto the plastic-wrapped mattress of one of the bottom bunks, prayed that palmetto bugs hadn’t learned how to unzip things, and set out to explore America’s oldest city, St. Augustine, Florida.

It took us no time at all to stumble upon The Monk’s Vineyard, where the window sign promised sangria.  Within minutes of sitting down, we learned that the proprietor has spent all of his summers since the 1960’s back in our home town.  He knew familiar people and places, and even had a Peabody’s T-shirt back behind his bar.  He asked our family names, and he knew some of my kin.  I asked his and he said, “Williams.”  As common as it is, I don’t remember any locals with that name.

He is a man who likes to tell stories where the characters say his name a lot.

          My teachers always said, “Hank, sit still.”

          My lady friend always says, “Hank, don’t spend so much time at work.”

          And then Doc said, “Hank, why don’t you just sell your place in Florida?”

Still, it wasn’t until he disappeared behind some boxes to get himself a drink that I put the name together.

“Psssst, Mel,” I whispered, poking her shoulder.  “That man is Hank Williams.”

“What?  Who?  No it’s not.”

“I’ll bet you twenty dollars,” I thought I was going to make some easy money.

“Isn’t Hank Williams famous?”

“Yes.”  I wasn’t lying.

“Maybe it just looks like him.”

“No.”  I meant, he looks nothing like that Hank Williams.  “He actually is Hank Williams.”

As he reemerged with fresh drinks for us, too, I said, “Hey, Hank.  Will you tell Melanie what your last name is?”

“Williams.”  It was almost a question.

I turned to Melanie, holding out my hand, “Ha!  You owe me twenty dollars!”

“I didn’t take the bet.”  She was right.

We left after a couple of hours of enjoying his stories about loading his own shotgun shells and how he’s trying to sell the bar, and that’s when we found ourselves in the circular conversation.

“Then how can that be Hank Williams if Hank Williams is dead?”

“Hank Williams had a son, also named Hank Williams.  Junior.  That’s probably the one you’ve heard of.”  She had no way to know that I was simply making a statement of fact, not answering her question.

“Then that was Hank Williams, Jr.?”  Honest mistake.  Poor girl.

“No.  We did not just meet Junior.  Weren’t you listening?  His father’s name was Hugh.”

“I’m so confused.”

And confused she stayed.  I anxiously await her Christmas letter this year to see if meeting Hank Williams rates a mention.

Speaking of sangria and the holidays, which are clearly now upon us, enjoy my Christmas Sangria recipe.


Christmas Sangria
Therapeutic Alternative to the Holidays

1 cup orange juice

1 cup Fireball whiskey

1 bottle of dry, red wine

simple syrup, optional, to taste.

sliced granny smith apples, oranges, lemons, and lime.

*Soak your fruit in the whiskey for several hours, refrigerated.  Mix all ingredients together, serve over ice.  I prefer no simple syrup, but you may like sweet things more than I do.  Remember, sangria is the perfect way to dress up those wines that you don’t enjoy, that somehow end up cluttering your kitchen counter.  Or maybe that just happens at my house.