Among Other Things, A Series Of Selfies

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I was packing my walking shoes for the trip to Key West I was taking with Madre when I noticed that I’d worn out the bottom of my shoes. There was a large spot in the center of the shoe that only separated my foot from the sidewalk with thin pieces of rubber and stuffing. I suppose that says a lot for the amount I’ve walked since Easter, when I bought the shoes, and a lot for the amount of work my pedicurist had to do when I last visited her. I crammed the shoes down as far as I could and zipped the case closed.

Madre and I had been planning this trip since Poppa died but only 18 months later did we plan it in earnest. I think Madre didn’t want to leave her comforts, her safe places, and I had other trips already planned with My Girls. But plan it we did, and on a Monday night we flew out of Nashville into Miami on a puddle jumper that rattled in uncomfortable ways.

For six days Madre, Auntie Anne, Auntie Susanne and I enjoyed nearly every nice thing the Florida Keys have to offer. Aunties Anne and Susanne have lived there for a while now, so it’s lovely that we can visit whenever the hurricanes are not in season and when the Aunties are not travelling elsewhere. I get my love of travel from Auntie Anne, the person who took me to Chicago at seven, New York at twelve, and Europe at nineteen. I celebrated my twentieth birthday in Chamonix, a chilly little ski village in France and found myself an Italian boyfriend for two days in Sienna thanks to her. Not everyone can say that, I assure you.

The four of us packed up Auntie Susanne’s boat one day and headed out to the Marvins, the one place I was desperate to go. All the pictures in green, the ones that don’t look real, those are the Marvins. Madre and I walked around the island in the middle of the ocean, swishing our feet over the sandbar and swimming in the tide around the parts that were too deep. We nearly proved ourselves inadequate for that task, but we made it around the island feeling tired and virtuous. I could happily spend the rest of my days on that island, but it seems to me that I say that about every body of water I’m parked near. I guess I’m a water baby.

I met Seaborne, the dog you could tell was over me and my selfies. I met Chico, whom I’d have taken a selfie with but I had a suspicion Chico would have eaten my face off had I folded myself Indian style next to his carriage. Auntie Anne is the one with the very short hair, Auntie Susanne is the one fiercely captaining her ship, and Madre is the one with the sponge man, a strange yet delightful Key West oddity. The car door has a car painted around it and can be found on the wall outside of my bedroom at the Aunties’ house. The tarpon you can see underwater probably weighed nearly what I do. The trees are Banyans. They grow in ropes and are massive. The art belongs to the University of Miami, where Madre and I took a walk and got soaked in a torrent of rain about a mile from our destination, rendering me a liar. I’ve now been in public in a wet t-shirt. The snail was simply scootching along, minding her own business, enjoying the heat and the humidity.

Speaking of the humidity, I’ve never in my life had such unruly hair. In the normal state of things, humidity and heat cause my hair to go limp and sit lifelessly on my head. In the Keys, however, my hair took on a whole new persona, one that was fluffy and large and often unmanageable. If you think that upset me, you are sorely mistaken. I reveled in the bigness of it and gleefully tried to comb it out every night, admiring how the sides of it barely fit into the image I saw in the mirror. My skin was hydrated, dewy (sweaty) and covered in mosquito bites by the end of the trip. My body was relaxed after days of lounging in the pool or lounging in the hammock or lounging in a chilly bedroom with a good book. I read five.

Madre and I packed our belongings to come home. I stuffed in my walking shoes, even thinner on the bottom now as Madre and I walked every day and zipped my case closed. It was fatter than when I arrived (shopping) and at the airport, they made me unpack it so that it would fit in the carryon bin of our puddle jumper airplane. I tried rearranging everything but finally resigned myself to the fact that the shoes were not coming home with me. I threw them in the trash, re-zipped my case and passed through security with flying colors. Madre and I discussed how I would get a new pair of shoes when I got home and how she now knows that she can leave the comforts of home for other comforts and not worry. She can let go and relax and not hold everything on her shoulders that she and Poppa used to shoulder together. She has others who will shoulder it with her and for her when she wants to visit her sister and take some time to laze in a hammock.

Thank you, Auntie Anne and Auntie Susanne, for allowing us to be your houseguests. I’ll be back soon, Woney in tow, and let her see for herself why your house is such a wonderful place.

Mississippi Woney

Woney used to live in California. Remember that? Remember that she used to work with her hottie hot hot trainer, Tony, who incidentally is no longer enlisted in the Navy? That means he no longer wears that hottie hot hot uniform and I no longer wish to speak about him. What a disappointment.

Anyway, Woney used to live in California and I used to visit her with some regularity. This is what a visit to California Woney looked like.

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Now Woney lives in Mississippi and I still visit her with some regularity. Mississippi is a far cry from California and now our visits look like this.

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The only non-blurry picture of Boo

The only non-blurry picture of Boo

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Accessorizing your home with a vehicle of matching paint is important.

Visits to Mississippi Woney also look like this – a much better representation of her new city.

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This is the Vicksburg Military Park. The Battle of Vicksburg was fought here, and that combined with the siege for the city served as a turning point for the Civil War. It was here that the Union Army gained control of the Mississippi River and the Confederate Army lost all communication with their Confederate forces. You can read all about that in any American history book but what you cannot experience is how it feels to walk on that land. Woney and I did that twice this visit, and I spent a lot of time afterwards feeling somber and heavy. A lot of lives were lost there. It wasn’t just sadness I was feeling – it was reverence, too. Those men – oh, it just makes my heart ache.

If you can take the oppressive heat and humidity, try going to visit Vicksburg on July 4th. It’s impressive what that city does to honor those lost lives. It will break your heart.

Because we forgot to take a Mississippi selfie on the battlefield or at the pool, here’s an old California selfie of Woney and me. We are the cutest.

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Checking That Off The List

As a single adult who is spoiled and often gets her own way, I’ve always maintained that the best way to spend a Saturday is by going to Rock Island or to the State Fair with friends. Lounging on the beach or in my marshmallow bed with a book and a movie while a storm rages outside also rank high on my list of amusing things to do. Never once have I ever claimed that spending a Saturday morning getting your hoots smashed between two glass plates sounded like fun. That never sounds like fun for any day, actually. However, two years ago I made an appointment for the breast smash and last Saturday I finally showed up for that appointment.

I had made a few plans for Saturday and had the faint notion in the back of my head that if those plans stayed intact, I’d just reschedule that mammogram. (See above: spoiled, gets her own way.) I’ve done that for two years, what is one more week, right? Well. My calendar had other thoughts and all the fun plans I’d made disappeared, leaving me with the lone option of finally, finally visiting an imaging center to fulfill my “I-turned-40” medical obligations. Sigh.

Armed with my paperwork and some vague directions, I arrived early for my appointment. Accompanying my sweaty, nervous self was my other personality, the raging snatch I carry with me for every cookie doctor appointment and for any scheduled time which involves me removing my clothing and donning a paper gown, open in the back, please. She was sitting on “go”, just waiting to make her appearance the precise moment my wait in the lobby clicked over from five minutes to six.

The receptionist who did not ensure that the building was marked well enough so that I could see from the street that it was the location I needed would be the first to encounter that heifer. The billing specialist who’d give me the total and the arm band for the procedure would be next because he was leisurely drinking his coffee and filing his nails. And the imaging specialist? Oh, she was in for a treat. I’d been gunning for her since the day I made the appointment, two years ago. She was to receive every tear, every curse, every single insult I could hurl at her without getting arrested, simply because she was the reason for my humiliation, for the fact that I have breasts at all, and because the screening process was surely designed by a man who had never had his testicles smashed between two plates in an attempt to screen him for cancer.

I was prepared.

So was the receptionist.

Turns out, the building was marked just fine and the receptionist was pleasantly chirpy in the face of my snarkiness when she indicated that I was in the right spot. Huh.

Also, the billing specialist said to me as I sat down, “I’m so sorry you had to wait. I was to be here at 7:30 this morning and I got here at 7:35 so that wait you had is on me. Let’s get you squared away so that we can get you back there and out on time, okay?” What the . . . I hadn’t even gotten my lecture about his insouciance fully prepared in my head and here he was preempting me. I was stunned into silence. This was not the normal state of things.

I still had my shot at the imaging specialist but I was feeling a little off about that. I hadn’t had a chance to work myself up into a proper lather what with the receptionist and the billing guy being fantastic, so when that poor, sweet woman called me to the back, I could only muster up the tears from my arsenal. My other ammunition had disappeared and I was adrift.

Still, tears. I blubbered, “Look, I’m not the best patient when it comes to this stuff. I’m the nicest person in the world when I get to keep my clothes on in front of strangers, but here, today, I’m awful. I’m sorry in advance. It’s just that you are going to give me a gown that is too small and is made of paper and I’m going to desperately try to cover both sides of my chest with it but that won’t work, and then you’ll have me traipse up and down the halls in a paper towel and then you’ll make me wait and I’m not good at that. This is humiliating and you get to keep all your clothes and I don’t and I hate this!” And then I said, “See?! I’m trying really hard to be nice and I just can’t!”

And bless her heart, she handed me a real gown, a fabric one, and said, “It’s not too small. I promise.” And it wasn’t. In fact, it swallowed me whole, like a muu muu, and it was the best thing I ever wore in my whole life. Plus, it was purple.

We were halfway through the procedure (and let me say here as an aside that I’ve never been manhandled in such a fashion before – I believe she is more familiar with my funbags than I am) before I stopped crying. I’m surprised it took me that long because while I’m a dreadful patient when naked, I’m also quite curious.

“Can I see what you are looking at over there,” I asked as she took another picture.

“Sure,” she said, “come on back.”

I wrapped my purple muu muu around me after every shot and trotted over to her screen to have a gander at myself. I knew she couldn’t/wouldn’t tell me anything so I didn’t ask but I was just a regular chatty Cathy over there. “Would you lookit that! I had no idea it would show up all white. Lookit how round they are! Is that normal? Is it easier to take pictures of big boobs or small boobs? Do you think if we could smash testicles in those plates we’d get a new screening method? I bet we would. I bet it would only take two weeks.”

Y’all, the procedure was totally painless. I mean, it wasn’t pleasant but it also wasn’t awful. There was a tinkly waterfall in the background, the lighting was set on “mood” and also “dim” and the muu muu smelled faintly of laundry detergent. I exited the building exactly one minute after my scheduled departure time and was never more shocked in all my life, both that I was done and that we all had survived the apocalypse that is “Jimmie, Naked at the Doctor’s Office.”

I drove to my next event which was my four mile Greenway walk with Daisy. I had partly planned that walk to calm myself down from the state of hysteria I was certain to be in, yet my non-hysteria flummoxed both of us a bit. Daisy wasn’t sure what to do with her offer of all the ice cream and all the chocolate she was sure I would need to ease my bruised feelings, and I wasn’t sure what to do with all the Kleenex I had stuffed in my car. I’m not going to say it was my favorite day, it’s not Rock Island after all, but I lived. And until next year when we do this all over again, I’ll maintain this: “Mammograms – Not That Bad.”

Meet The Flintstones

Once upon a time, a long time ago, I had a husband. That husband met my parents and liked Daddy-O enough to plan a trip down to Florida so that he and Daddy-O could go fishing. Husband showed up at Daddy-O’s house at the appointed time and found Daddy-O cutting back trees in the yard. Daddy-O asked Husband for assistance with those trees before they left to go fishing and eight hours later, Husband said, “I don’t know about you, but I’ve never done any fishing like this” as he carried the final bunch of limbs out to the curb. They never did go fishing together and both learned a valuable lesson – sometimes plans fall apart.

Once upon a time, very recently, I made plans to hang with Woney and her parents in Georgia for Memorial Day weekend. We were going to attend parties, have some cocktails with my friends, Miguel and Will, and lounge by the pool. I wasn’t worried at all about liking Woney’s parents because, hello, Woney. And I wasn’t worried about them liking me because, hello, Jimmie. I showed up at Pa Fred and Ma Wilma’s house ready to party but instead I moved furniture. Someone in the family sold a house and someone else felt like it was a marvelous idea to schedule a surprise clean-out on the only three-day weekend this family was gonna get. I wasn’t dressed at all for moving as I like girlie dresses and floppy shoes, and after a long time of me uselessly flapping around saying “What should I pack next? Whose truck does this go in? I can lift this end if you can get the other end,” we finally got to sit down and eat pizza in our dirty, sweaty clothes. I said to the Flintstone family, “I don’t know about you, but I never attended any parties like this before – usually there is a pool and a barbeque,” as I wiped the sweat and mascara from my cheek. We never did get to meet my friends for drinks, either. I learned a valuable lesson – sometimes plans fall apart.

Lest you think I have my panties all in a twist over the surprise moving party, I’m going to tell you that my Memorial Day weekend was fabulous. It really was. Woney’s parents, Pa Fred and Ma Wilma, were just the nicest parents ever. When I arrived, Woney was showing me all around the room, introducing me to her family, and mentioned that I was the friend she took to Ireland. She was telling the story about how I would not kiss the Blarney Stone (y’all, it has been urinated upon) to receive the Gift of Gab (that’s what it promises), and Pa Fred said, “She already has the gift of gab – she doesn’t need it!” I hadn’t even said hello to him yet but I could tell we were gonna see eye to eye, Pa Fred and I.

Oh, I loved those people! Ma Wilma made a salad for the family but because I don’t eat maraschino cherries, she left them out. Aunt Collette offered me some of Aunt Sue’s belongings even though I never met Aunt Sue and won’t because her house was the one that was sold after her passing. Niece McKenzie, the most beautiful 16-year-old girl I know, is making plans to travel with Woney and me in the near future. All Woney’s brothers treated me like they treat Woney except maybe nicer because while I’m sister-like, I’m not really their sister and don’t deserve to be picked on just yet.

I also met Woney’s new cat, Boo. Isn’t she cute?

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Well, she’s cute in real life where she is exactly this blurry as she tears all around the house and finally stops when she claws her way lickety split up your leg and you knock her off. We came home from moving to find Pa Fred kicked back in his recliner, a bandage fashioned from a paper towel and secured on with a ring of electrical tape around his leg to staunch the bleeding inflicted by Boo’s claws. He reminds me of Poppa. “I hate that damn cat,” he’d say but then five minutes later you’d catch him stroking her furry, blurry head.

I got more hugs that I deserved from these people. The Flintstone family gives great hugs, just like my family. They share their inside jokes and make fun of each other and have dinner together at a table that is ever so slightly too small but it doesn’t matter because they all like each other and want to sit close. I got more apologies than I deserved, too. Each person apologized to me, their guest, for being forced into a move no one planned on the weekend meant for parties and barbeques, which I really did not mind. I hate to tell them but when they meet my family, they will have to move tree limbs in order to earn pizza and fishing. It’s all going to come out in the wash!

Tropical Cruise Part Five: Pissonia

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Today I’m wrapping up the final words about my cruise and truthfully, I’m a little melancholy. Spring is here finally, so yay sunshine, but the people I vacationed with are not. I’m going to miss the half marathon in May so I’m not sure when I will see My Girls again, although if I know us, it won’t be long. Spring makes travel feel so hopeful.

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Even though I feel so connected to My Girls, we still have a lot to learn about each other. We did so much talking on the ship. Every night at dinner we would pose philosophical questions and take turns asking each other stuff. One night the four of us were lounging in the restaurant in our sweet sundresses and red sunburns, discussing our marriages. Rather, Woney and I were discussing our divorces, neither of which was pretty. Divorce is never pretty but sometimes marriages aren’t either and unfortunately, Woney and I had some rough times with our respective spouses. We were discussing our horror stories and Squash and Nurse Bananahammock were “mmm hmmm”-ing and patting our arms when I realized that the couple sitting next to us, a young man and woman wearing wedding bands, had slowly stopped talking to each other and were just going through the mechanisms of dinner.

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Y’all, I felt terrible! Here Woney and I were monopolizing the whole conversation with ugly stories about being married and this poor couple had no choice but to listen to us only a chair’s width away. I’m not known for being particularly quiet. Needless to say I introduced myself and then explained that as newlyweds they were not to listen to us but listen instead to Squash and Nurse Bananahammock, both of whom have lovely marriages. And then I told them about Kevin and how I was now betrothed and invited them to our wedding. I rounded that out with nosy questions of my own about their engagement and marriage and with all that, we found new friends. (You will ignore the fact that I browbeat them into that friendship and rest assured that they were thrilled to meet us.) Jonathan and Jennifer are the loveliest people and very happily married (I was wrong about their being newlyweds – they’ve been married 13 years) so I feel good that I was not a part of another wrecked marriage.

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Another surprising couple we met, and these two are my favorites, have been married for some ridiculous amount of time – maybe 60 years. Grant and Astaar. We met them in the crowded bar that served the fruit in the drinks, and because there were not enough tables for everyone, we invited them to sit with us. Oh, I loved them! Grant was tooling around in his wheelchair, twinkling at everyone and Astaar was very calm and serene about all of it. We ran into them often throughout the week – you know how it is. You see one person one time and then it’s like you see them everywhere.

One night we were chatting with our new friends and Woney asked, “Could I take your picture?”

“Heavens, no,” said Grant. “I’ve got a bounty on my head. A picture would get me into trouble.”

“How much is the bounty?” Woney asked.

“$1.29.” Then he twinkled at us and took a swig of his drink.

Do you see? Do you see why I love them?

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While I’m having a love affair with people, I’ll tell you that I loved Dennis, too, our valet for our room. I liked the cruise director and the comedy team and all the strangers I met. We had a great wait staff, too. I meant to tell you this yesterday and forgot but one night at dinner, Woney replied “nothing” to the question “ma’am, what would you like for dessert?”

This is what she got.

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I always say this, but my favorite part of any trip or any adventure is the people. Traveling with My Girls is just easy as pie and meeting new people, for me anyway, comes naturally. I’m ever so thankful we took this trip. I’d take another, any time. Someone want to plan a trip? I’m in!

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Final round of our game!

Tell me what pissonia is:

A. A non-poisonous snake found in the wilds of Australia
B. A mixer commonly used in cocktails in Australia
C. A small bush found in Australia

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Don’t worry . . . . about a thing . . . . every little thing . . . . is gonna be alright . . . .

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Tropical Cruise Part Four: Crapulence

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Is anyone still here? Did I go away for too long? I’m sorry but I had to go on vacation to recover from my vacation so I spent some time at my Daddy-O’s house, lounging on the beach. I still don’t have a tan. I have no idea what is wrong with me.

Today we are going to talk about food, but before I begin with cruise food, I’d like to tell you about Daddy-O’s food. Daddy-O makes, hands down, the best stir fry I have ever eaten. Have I told you this before? Doesn’t matter, I’m telling you again. Every time I start planning a visit to his house, Daddy-O will ask me if I’d like anything special for dinner as he is just minutes away from a fish market and his love language is cooking for others. I will respond with silence, and then he will respond with, “Right. I meant to say instead, what night are we having stir fry?” Oh, it is delicious! For those of you who would like to visit Daddy-O and JiJi with me, understand that stir fry will be on the menu. If you are adverse to Asian food, well I’m sorry, but you don’t get a vote. Also, we will lounge on the beach and I will not get a tan. Apparently I don’t get a vote in that.

And now speaking of delicious food and not getting a tan, let’s get back to my cruise. Every self-respecting American understands that food on a cruise ship is probably the most important part of every cruise. Ports? Screw that! Excursions? Screw those! Performances? Who cares! What are they serving for dinner? Seriously, you are allowed to eat every fifteen minutes if you like. You can have 14 desserts a day if that cranks your tractor. Your kids eat only macaroni and cheese with cut up hot dogs? No problem! That is served at every meal. It is ridiculous.

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Chocolate Margarita

You know, typing all that up makes it sound like that’s just a recipe for disaster. Somehow it wasn’t for me. I lost two pounds on that trip. How I do not know, but perhaps it is because, looking back, very little of the food was memorable. Who’d a thunk it? Here are the things I do remember, though:

Pineapple – It. Was. Perfect.

Pretzel rolls – small and chewy and covered in salt – I ate about fifteen of those

Mahi mahi – this from the person who would generally rather skip all meals than eat something that comes out of the water. It was amazing!

Bacardi Raz with diet Sprite – Squash ordered this one night and it came with a swizzle stick of blackberries and raspberries. It was gorgeous and I was jealous. I had to have one. Every bar we went to on the ship, every time I ordered a drink, that was the drink I ordered and do you know I almost never got the swizzle stick with fruit on it? Oh, I was disgusted. Might as well have thrown that drink in the trash as it was useless to me. No fruit, no tip. That’ll learn ‘em.

With fruit!

With fruit!

Chocolate Extravaganza – I can just hear all of you over there sighing, saying “Yep. Sounds like Jimmie.” However, I will have you know that I DID NOT ENJOY the Chocolate Extravaganza. Sure, I waited in line and took pictures of all the fancy creations. I filled up a plate with things to try. I wanted very much to love the guts out of that chocolate but after a few small, uninspiring bites, I decided I was over it and Woney and I threw full plates of dessert away. How?! How was that easy yet I cannot leave a bowlful of M&Ms alone?

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Fancy chocolate thingamasomething

Banana donut – That banana donut was my absolute favorite food from the whole trip, and you’ll be surprised to know it did not come from the Norwegian Dawn. Instead, it came from a man walking down the beach in Honduras carrying a huge Rubbermaid container hollering about “Banana donut! Three for five dollars!”

Now I don’t know about you, but I’m not really one for eating homemade food out of a Rubbermaid container in a country where I don’t speak the language. Also, I’m not particularly a fan of the donut. But this woman, who was also on the beach on Honduras, was splashing herself in the water when the man walked by hollering “Banana donut!” She looked at me and asked, “Did he just say banana donut?” There was a tremble in her voice, and it sounded like excitement.

“I think so,” I said, and kind of laughed. As if. Donut from a Rubbermaid container? No.

Y’all, nothing surprised me more than when that woman, delicate and thin and definitely a swankier class of person than I, hauled her butt so fast out of that water you’d have thought she saw Jaws coming for her. She was splashing and flailing and yelling, “Banana donut! I had one last year and it was the best thing I ever ate! Ever!” And off she sailed to get her purse and corner the salesman.

Well. I never.

In short order, the Rubbermaid container man was surrounded by people holding up dollars who then tenderly wrapped those purchased donuts in paper towels. Naturally, I was curious. I stuck my hand in my pocket and found two dollars and offered that to him. “Can I get one for two dollars?” He grinned at me with his gappy teeth, took my money, and handed me a paper towel. I selected a donut and as I picked it up, I realized that this was the heftiest donut I have ever hefted in my life. That thing was heavy. I carefully walked that donut over to My Girls to offer each of them a quarter of it but only Woney was under the palm tree, so she and I split it. Once I took a bite, I was never more thankful in all my life that I only had to give up half a donut instead of three quarters of it. If I had to live the rest of my life and eat only two things until I croaked, I would pick that donut and Daddy-O’s stir fry. I’m so, so sorry that donut is gone.

Now that I’ve made you all hungry, and now that probably Nurse Bananahammock and Squash are mad at me for not sharing (that’ll learn you to go the bathroom when the banana donut man walks by), let’s resume our game.

Define crapulence:

A. A sickness from too much food and drink
B. A state of frenzy arising from over-excitement when sighting a celebrity
C. A period of mild depression lasting long periods of time

Winner gets a donut!

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Every little thing . . . . is gonna be alright . . . . .

Tropical Cruise Part Three: Furfur

Y’all, it looks like I’m getting married. I have been proposed to. A few people told me before I left on this cruise that they either met their husband on a cruise or they know someone who met their husband on a cruise, and so I was expectant. I had high hopes for this trip and they came true!

Before I ever even got out of Nashville, I met a man who I could tell had an interest in me. You know how you just know sometimes? Our eyes met across a crowded airport and he began a slow lumber over towards me, making a beeline (turtleline?) for the available seat next to me.

“I’m going to pick up a rig,” he said by way of introduction. “My boss is sending me to Kansas to drive it back. I do this for a living and I almost never have to fly but this here is a special deal, a real emergency, so I’ll be driving back just as soon as I pick it up.”

“Oh, that’s nice,” I said, and then turned back to my book.

“I make a real good living doing this,” he continued. “I make $77,000 a year before expenses, about $55,000 a year after which is real good. You shoulda known me when I was working for the Opryland hotel, though. Over there I’d get $2 a bag ever time I drove somebody somewhere. That really adds up. I made a lot of money.”

“Really,” I said, and then turned back to my book.

“Yeah, my boss, he trusts me to do the driving. I’m his best driver. He’s having an emergency at home right now or he’d be the one picking up this rig but I’m going out there. I just hate having to spend money on food in these places. I mean, a sandwich here is so much money. I wisht I could have brought some McDonald’s in here. Security is tough.” And then he kicked his Coca-Cola lunch box.

“Right, yes. Actually, I do need to get something to eat before I leave, though, so have a safe trip.” And I was off like a shot.

So that wasn’t the guy. Also, remind me to stop making eye contact with strangers.

Remember Kevin and George, our driver and tour guide in Honduras? Kevin didn’t speak much English beyond “thank you” and “you’re welcome,” and George really had a monologue going, mmm hmmm, so all in all, we didn’t get to know each other very well. After spending the better part of a day with them and arriving back to the ship alive, though, we felt connected. As we were driving back to port, George started hinting that Kevin had a little crush on one of us. He didn’t spill all the details at first because Kevin was still driving and I could see his cheeks getting pink.

All of us in Big Pimpin’ immediately guessed who Kevin was digging on and started the singsong “Squash has got a boyfriend, Squash has got a boyfriend” in our heads, just waiting until we could get her alone to tease her. She’s kind of the resident hottie. We pulled into the parking lot, opened the doors and handed our bags and hands out the doors so that George and Kevin could help us get out. Just as Kevin was grasping my hand, I heard Woney and Nurse Bananahammock from the other side of Big Pimpin’, “Oh, Jimmie! George says he likes the one in white shorts!”

“Sure,” I said, then realized that I was the only one of us wearing white shorts. You shouldn’t feel bad for Squash, though, as she already has a lovely husband. She can’t win them all.

Suddenly Kevin and I were both red-faced. He let go of my hand and jumped into Big Pimpin’ and sped off, his cheeks rosy and his teeth shining in a huge grin.

As we walked with George to the local watering hole, George resumed his running monologue by saying, “Kevin, he kept talking about the girl in the white shorts. He said he would leave his girlfriend RIGHT NOW and marry her. He said she was so pretty. So, what do you think? You like Kevin?”

Y’all, what could I say? I mean, Kevin owns Big Pimpin’, or at least drives it like he owns it. We didn’t die in Honduras in a van so I conclude that he is a good driver. He and George did come back to pick us up from the touristy beach. He’s reliable. This is good information about Kevin. This could work. I have no idea what my new last name is going to be or how, exactly, I am going to get my car over there, but I feel good about it. Should I wait for a ring, do you think?

Fiance Kevin, Bride Jimmie, and Best Man George

Fiance Kevin, Bride Jimmie, and Best Man George

Actually, one of the best nights on the cruise was the night we watched a couple get engaged. We were at the game show knock off thingy and I decided that dancing to the live band beforehand was a great idea. I drug Nurse Bananahammock with me over to the only other person dancing and for two whole minutes we brought the house down with our moves. And then we realized we were alone and were going to remain alone and so the three of us wandered back to our seats to wait for the game show to start.

On the final round of the definition guess, comedian Tim Kaminski stood up to give his definition of the word. He requested audience participation and grabbed a man nearby who had his hand raised. The man grabbed his girlfriend who just happened to be the stranger I was dancing with earlier, and they walked to the stage. Tim was explaining his definition and said as he handed the mic over to the guy he said, “It’s better if you demonstrate it. First you have to get down on one knee and then you have to take the microphone.” I knew. I knew right away. Oh, it was so exciting!

The guy had planned it all in advance, it seems, and the girlfriend had no idea. The next day she probably regretted the fact that she was completely hammered but it was very sweet and she cried and I cried and then realized that the two of us were alone in that, so I stopped. It just made me so happy. I love stuff like that.

Anyway, back to me. I was thinking, should I register at Target? Or Bed, Bath and Beyond? Do they ship internationally, do you think?

With regards to our game, we still have nary a winner. The correct answer is (A), the prancing of a horse. I knew Madre would get it so her answer doesn’t count for a prize. Next question:

Define furfur.

A. The stud mink at the mink breeding farm
B. Dandruff
C. An ivy-like plant used in landscaping

No cheating, leave a comment, yada yada. Please and thank you.

Don’t worry . . . . about a thing . . . .

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Tropical Cruise Part Two: Tittup

For those of you that think My Girls and I just lolled around sunbathing and being entertained on a boat for a week, I’ll have you know that we did more than that. We also sunbathed and were entertained outside of the boat, although you wouldn’t be able to tell it by looking at my skin. The last day of our vacation, Nurse Bananahammock said, “Why are you still so white? We’ve been in the sun for seven days.” Sigh. This is my lot in life, I suppose.

Our superfun TROPICAL vacation included four port stops, and that was the part I was so fuzzy on before leaving. I knew we were going to Central America/Mexico but where in CA/Mexico I could not have told you. Every day at port, I’d be all surprised and excited having discovered that “today we are in Honduras!” Oh, it was like Christmas. Even more so because I got a lot of loot at every stop, mostly in the form of earrings.

Belize

Belize

Our first stop was Honduras, the island of Roatan. It was my favorite port, and I have a story to tell about that. We also stopped in Costa Maya, Belize and Cozumel. The four of us did separate excursions in Cozumel, Woney and I opting for the lazy one which included a beach front, lounge chairs, umbrellas, a buffet and drinks brought to us by a waiter every five minutes, and Squash and Nurse Bananahammock opting for the more active excursion which began with snorkeling. Later they got to lie on the same beach in the same lounge chairs with the same umbrellas but I personally feel like I got the better deal there because Woney and I left the beach first and got to go take a nap. I’m telling you, I was a limp noodle by the end of that vacation. I haven’t napped that much since college.

Honduras

Honduras

While I am a total beach girl and it would make sense that Cozumel was my favorite, the visit in Roatan won my heart because there we got to see real Roatan life, not just the tourist shops and beaches. The four of us wandered around for a bit looking at earrings and crappy t-shirts and then were approached no less than five times by “tour guides” wanting to show us around the island. It sounded like a good, safe idea, no way would we get scammed or robbed, so we opted for salesman Junior in kiosk five and handed over a hundred bucks for a:

–Personal driver
–Personal tour guide
–Private car
–Four hour tour

Junior and Jimmie

Junior and Jimmie

Junior introduced us to Kevin, the driver, and George, the tour guide, and then we walked out to our private car, which y’all? No. Our private car was less of a car and more of a van but a van with a shattered windshield and a collapsing headliner. Nurse Bananahammock and I wiggled our way into the back of the van and prepared to view Roatan through the back tinted windows as the dangling headliner caressed our foreheads at every pothole in the road, of which there were many. Someone at some point had made an attempt to reattach the headliner with thumbtacks that were dotted every six inches or so but that was mostly ineffective. The shattered windshield obviously had some sort of hole in it but we could not see it due to the magazine page that was beautifully taped over the hole. It was a pretty magazine page. So we were stylin’. I christened the van Big Pimpin’, and off we drove for our four hour tour.

Please note the headliner

Please note the headliner

As soon as we pulled out of the gate and onto a real Roatan road, George twisted around in his seat and began a running monologue that went something like this:

“Honduras is made up of three islands, Roatan is the biggest, and we don’t have any crime here, mmm hmmm. We don’t have no drinking age, that’s probably why, mmm hmmm.” Pause. “There are about 116,000 people who live here, mmm hmmm,” pause “and our economy is driven by tourism and fishing, mmm hmmm.” Pause. “The kids, they go to school in shifts, mmm hmmm, and that way if you have to go to work you can still go to school at night. Mmm hmmm.” Pause. “I have a daughter and her name is Hailey and I have her name tattooed right here, see? Mmm hmmm.”

Every time he would “mmm hmmm”, and for the record the “mmm hmmm” was akin to Billy Bob Thornton’s “mmm hmmm” in Slingblade, George would pause and nod his head. He was stuffed full of charisma, though, and I’m afraid we learned more about his personal life than we did about Honduras as a whole.

View from a bar

View from a bar

Our four hour tour included a stop at a local tourist trap souvenir store and a tourist trap beach hangout that served overpriced food and beverages. While the girls and I sat under a palm tree eating burritos, George and Kevin drove off to “purchase gasoline.” I’m assuming that was a euphemism for something but I wasn’t very keen to find out. I mean, we had already stopped for fuel once on our four-hour tour, and only 30 minutes of that tour included the drive in Big Pimpin’, so why they needed to go off again in search of it we could not fathom. However, George left his phone with us as collateral to reassure us that he would come back for us.

Let’s recap here. Squash, Nurse Bananahammock, Woney and I paid strangers, only one of which spoke English, $100 to drive us around a foreign island in a van that probably came out of a scrap yard only to be left on a beach with an ineffective waiter and no way of contacting anyone, especially George because he left his phone with us. We then tipped these strangers for not killing us, either in a vehicular manslaughter type accident or with a machete made out of a palm tree and a conch shell. The consensus was that we totally got ripped off, but again, this was my favorite stop. It was fantastic!

Kevin, Jimmie, George

Kevin, Jimmie, George

Truthfully, my favorite part of any venture into a new place is the people I meet. We met a lot of interesting people in Honduras. What a friendly bunch they were. I think the thing that most impressed me about every port, Honduras, Costa Maya, Belize and Cozumel, was the pride the citizens took in their home. We didn’t meet a single person who wasn’t ecstatic about where they lived. And the care that they took with each other – anything they could do to benefit another business or another person, they did it. Perhaps it was because we were so festive ourselves, or perhaps they just saw us as walking dollar signs, but there wasn’t a single person I met that wasn’t super jazzed about sharing their lives with us.

My favorite photo

My favorite photo

As for the prize for yesterday’s competition, we didn’t have nary a winner. Madre guessed it but she gets lunch with me all the time, plus she already got two pair of the earrings I brought back with me. I’ll have you know that the rest of the audience all picked the same answer you did, (B), but a lobcock is a dull or boring person. Next up:

What does tittup mean?
A. The prancing of a horse
B. The practice of serving cocktails before dinner
C. A tropical bird, native to Caribbean climates

Same rules apply: no cheating, and please leave your answer in the comments section.

Crab

Don’t worry . . . . about a thing . . . . every little thing . . . . is gonna be alright . . . . More

TROPICAL CRUISE, Part One: Lobcock

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Don’t worry . . . . about a thing . . . every little thing . . . . is gonna be alright . . . . .

That song greeted the four of us as we clambered aboard the Norwegian Dawn, ready for our week of vacationing in the tropical sun to commence. Squash, Nurse Bananahammock, Woney and I took to that boat like a fish takes to water (for the most part anyway – there was a slight bit of barfer-ness on my part), and soon found ourselves with two buckets of beer, a rattan table, and a lot of people wearing resort wear to watch.

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Don’t worry . . . . about a thing . . . .

Yeah, that’s catchy.

For those of you not in the know, cruise ships offer a lot in the entertainment department. Really, what are you going to do with 2796 other strangers on a moving city in the middle of the ocean besides be entertained whilst sipping on a cocktail in the sunshine as you (attempt to) get a suntan? Here I must ask you, though. What exactly does it take to get oneself a gig as a lounge singer on a cruise ship? Because if Joy, the woman shouting out the above song at the top of her lungs into a sound system that surely was designed to project sound in a venue MUCH larger than ours, was any indication, one only needs the ability to smile in a perma grin for seven days straight, have gigantic hair (even too big for me, if you can imagine), the ability to sway back and forth with your arms outstretched to any song the band plays, no matter the tempo or rhythm, and also a plethora of pants that fit you like a second skin from waist to knee and from knee to the floor in a violent flare reminiscent of a fish fin.

Every little thing . . . . is gonna be alright . . .

Still catchy. Right? WRONG! Seven days of that song, and in those seven days every time a meal was served or a drink was ordered or a kid jumped into the pool, Joy was up on the lido deck stage warbling about “Don’t worry . . .” Day one was great. By day seven we were ready to stab her with a shrimp fork right into her vocal nodes.

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Speaking of entertainment, on our first night we were introduced via a variety show to Jose (pronounced Joe-say) and Patti, a lovely couple from New York who also found themselves in possession of a sweet gig on the Norwegian Dawn, one show every night and free reign to perform whatever they liked.

“By the end of this cruise, you will love Joe-say and Patti,” assured Dan Dan, our cruise director. “They are fabulous!”

Joe-say and Patti made their grand entrance onto the stage and started belting out their first tune. Patti was shimmying all over the stage, hopping around in her sassy, strappy Mary Janes, and whipping her hair all around. Often she would throw up her hands in the rock star gesture, two fingers out and head bang just ever so slightly. What was incongruous, though, is that Joe-say and Patti were singing “I Only Want to be with You,” a song decidedly not meant for the rock star fingers, nor the head banging. Woney looked at me with her eyebrows raised and Nurse Bananahammock snorted. And then Squash said, “You know, Joe-say looks a bit like Stephen King.” We all analyzed him and decided that yes, there was a definite resemblance except where Stephen King has some talent to detract from his admittedly odd appearance, Joe-say does not. Sure, he could holler out some songs with gusto but in a way that people enjoyed them? Not so much.

I am sorry to say that we, most assuredly, did not love Joe-say and Patti by the end of the cruise. Matter of fact, we did our level best to avoid whatever area of the boat in which they were performing. I think we might be in the wrong age bracket, though. Turns out the senior citizens on our ship loved them.

I sound like an old crone here, don’t I? I’m not. Truth is, we saw some really excellent performances during the week. Tim Kaminski did a fantastic comedy show that I Highly Recommend if you want to see a bunch of strangers make fools of themselves – something everyone should strive for on vacation. I have no idea if you can see him outside of the Norwegian ships but try to YouTube him or something. He’s hilarious!

We also watched some kind of Bollywood something or other. It was a bunch of dancing and singing with an Indian flair, and what I took away from that is a lot of people have muscles that I didn’t know existed. One couple who performed in the Bollywood show had their own Cirque de Soleil-type show the next night which Woney and I very much wanted to see. After watching that couple do the splits on top of each other, the husband hanging upside down in some silks with only his feet holding him up, and the wife doing the splits on top of his splits only right side up and both of them swinging around in a circle above the stage, I felt that perhaps the time has arrived for me to incorporate a stretching program into my workout routine. I mean, I can’t cross my legs with any comfort because my hamstrings are so tight and these two are holding themselves parallel to the floor ONLY USING THEIR ABS AND THEIR FEET. I never felt more American in all my life. I have no idea if you can see them but in case you want to look them up, their names are Alexei and Sally. Have mercy, Alexei is probably the most beautiful man I have ever had the fortune to clap my eyes on. His muscles are astonishing.

A final word about the entertainment on our boat. According to Squash’s father, Norwegian has a GREAT library so we sniffed that out, too. Why you need a GREAT library on a cruise ship is a little beyond me, but he was pretty passionate about it so we felt like it was a necessary thing to discover. You know what? When we found it, it was great. Highly Recommend the library. I never thought I’d say that about a cruise ship.

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To end, I’m going to ask you to play a game with me. One night on the cruise we attended a game show knockoff thingy (I cannot help it – I have no television). Three of the “celebrities” on the ship would give a definition to a word and the audience tried to guess which “celebrity” got it right.

Without looking it up (don’t be a cheater, c’mon), what is the answer to the below? Winner gets a prize or lunch with me or something. I’ll figure it out. (Compelling, no?)

What is a lobcock?

A. A device used to make a musical instrument like a trumpet or flute longer to achieve different sounds
B. A boring person
C. The person who serves the birdie in badminton

Give your answer and I’ll announce the winner on the next entry.

Don’t worry . . . . about a thing . . . . every little thing . . . . is gonna be alright . . . .

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The Story Of Us

From left to right:  Squash, Nurse Bananahammock, Woney, and your favorite, Jimmie

From left to right: Squash, Nurse Bananahammock, Woney, and Jimmie

Did I ever tell you guys how Woney and I met? Doesn’t matter, I’m going to tell you anyway. I’m also going to tell you how I met Squash and Nurse Bananahammock because it’s all related.

You guys ever have one of those days where you think to yourself, “Screw it. A whole giant bag of M&Ms is a great idea and ima eat it, all right now. I don’t care if I’m a porker.” Y’all ever do that? Well I do, and I was having one of those rocky patches where I was passionate about M&Ms on a regular basis and I knew I needed an intervention. I logged onto the Weight Watchers message boards and threw out a request for a diet coach. I wanted a stranger who would not be nice to me and tell me that I deserved that giant bag of M&Ms when I clearly did not need them. I wanted someone stern and willing to listen and someone who understood what I was struggling with. Woney, a complete and total stranger to me, responded with “Hey, why not? I’m in.”

Meeting strangers in person after meeting online is always fun I say, so I flew out to San Diego to meet her not long after our initial email exchange; once we established that neither of us were ax murderers or glitter eyeliner thieves, we began traveling together. We average at least four trips a year although now that she’s in Mississippi we get together more often. Oh, and for the record, we diet-coached each other for approximately three minutes before we gave up all pretenses about those giant bags of M&Ms.

About 18 months ago, Woney invited me to a web page where a group of women gather on social media to list three good things every day. It was a practice started on those Weight Watcher message boards long ago, and it gravitated over into other non-weight-loss-related sites. Through that page I met more strangers, two of which you know as Squash and Nurse Bananahammock.

As an aside here, right before I flew to Tampa to meet strangers, someone asked me, “Aren’t you scared? You don’t know anything about them! I’d be so afraid!”

Y’all, it never occurred to me to be afraid. I think of strangers as friends I have not yet met and that there was a golden opportunity to meet some new friends. Plus, Woney already knew them and she was still alive and in possession of her glitter eyeliner. Plus, Florida. There was no question about my going to meet them. The only question was “how often?”

Tampa was our first visit together. My house for Memorial Day was the next. A trip to Memphis for Woney’s 50th birthday was our third. I missed the fourth one because of my filth-flarn car. The fifth one was this cruise.

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Just so that you fully understand me and My Girls, another story is in order.

When we got together at my house for Memorial Day last year, we all arrived at staggered times. Squash and Woney flew in early while I was still at work. By the time I got home, they had already consumed pineapple mimosas (two apiece) for brunch and rum and Cokes (they lost count) for dinner. Also by the time I got home, they had each signed up for a half marathon (happening next month, y’all). Nurse Bananahammock drove in later that evening. By the time she got there, I had had enough rum and Coke cocktails to make me loopy (one) and had signed up for the same half marathon. Paid for it and everything. When Nurse Bananahammock realized how behind she was, she, too, had some cocktails and signed up for the half marathon. And then we had food and movies and more cocktails. It was a great weekend.

About a month or so after that trip, I realized I had a coffee grinder in my kitchen. I don’t own a coffee pot and so I assumed that Woney brought the grinder along with her coffee pot for use at my house.

I texted her, “I have your coffee grinder.”

She texted back, “I don’t have a coffee grinder. It’s not mine.”

Huh. So a few days later I texted Squash and Nurse Bananahammock. “I have somebody’s coffee grinder. You left it at my house.”

Return texts said, “Nope, not mine.”

Huh. I thought about that for a while, completely perplexed. Why in the world was there a coffee grinder in my house?

About a month later I texted Luke about it. I have no idea why. “Do I have your coffee grinder,” I asked, “and if so, why?”

Instantly he texted back, “You guys needed to grind something. Pretty sure it involved alcohol.”

Y’all, not one of us remembers this. No inkling whatsoever of what we were grinding. We, apparently, were diligent in cleaning the grinder out because it was just as sparkly as the day it was new. We are still utterly dumbfounded, and poor Luke. I do vaguely recall making him watch girl movies with us and asking him to hand over his supply of butter for our corn. Oh, the stories he could tell. Oh, the stories I wish I could remember to tell.

Anyway, I’ll be blogging at you soon about this fabulous, wonderful, gorgeous TROPICAL vacation we had. I’m collecting my thoughts and all our photos and trying to gently explain to you that the sweet innocent person you know as Jimmie tends to disappear when she hangs out with Her Girls. Hang on for me, would ya? I’ll be right back.

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