Thursday, December 29, 2011

A Warm Escape On Winter Break

Aside from college and law school visits, we hadn't gone on a family vacation in over five years, so we were looking forward to relaxing in Nuevo Vallarta. We arrived early at the airport in anticipation of holiday crowds. While we were going through security, we removed our shoes and belts and placed them in the baskets on the conveyor belt. My husband and my two sons added their phones and wallets next to my purse. As they were putting their shoes back on, I grabbed my husband's phone and wallet before I left the line. Shortly after, he realized his belt was missing.

We went back in line to check with security, but there was no sign of his belt. Hubby hadn't packed a spare, and I feared that his Dunlap's Disease would cause his pants to "done lap" down to his ankles. Fortunately, we found him a replacement at an airport kiosk. For the low price of $12.99, he was able to keep his pants on without losing his shirt, not to mention his new love of pleather.

This was the first time that we traveled to a warm climate in the winter, since our boys started grammar school. The few times that we did get away were for ski trips when they were very young. I was thrilled not to worry about skiing into a tree, but with this trip came other worries. Death by food poisoning, sun poisoning or gunfire were at the top of the list. We were armed with Hepatitis A vaccines, 45+ sunscreen, and we didn't venture too far from the resort.

We stayed at an all inclusive resort that provided unlimited food and drink including a fully stocked bar in each room. This was our first trip where my 20 year old son could drink legally, fortunately, he had his older brother and roommate with him, so I knew they would look out for each other.

By day we would play volleyball in the pool or at the beach. One day my younger son went parasailing right on the beach. The Three Amigos also went zip-lining, and swimming with the dolphins. The weather was always sunny and between 80 - 82 degrees, which was perfect for long walks on the beach.

We took a taxi to the Old City in Puerto Vallarta to have dinner and walk along the boardwalk. There were flea markets, performers, restaurants, and clubs with all of the glitz of a mini floating Las Vegas. We walked along cobblestone streets that felt like we were transported back in time.

Though I'm not supposed to spend a lot of time in the sun, I was hoping to get some color. I ended up with red blotches in the corner of my nose, between my upper lip and the tip of my nose, and a red streak on my collarbone . To even things out, I contracted pink eye. This occurred on the day before we left, so I couldn't join the family in the pool, but hubby and I still took one long last walk on the beach together, while the boys played basketball.

On our last night, we dined at an Asian restaurant at the resort. Toward the end of dinner, our younger son loudly let out an inappropriate word. While I was reprimanding him, I noticed blood was trickling down his nose. Then we noticed the weapon lying on the table. Several feet away, a piece of a broken dish somehow flew into the air, and landed in between my boy's nose and upper lip; around the same location as my now peeling sunburn. Within seconds, the waiter came over with napkins, and an alcohol swab to stop the bleeding. Shortly after the host, manager and security medic arrived on the scene. He was examined, and bandaged in time for dessert. Apologies were given in Spanish and in English. Then we adjourned to another location to play cards, before they went off with their new friends.

We left Nuevo Vallarta relatively unharmed substituting gunfire for porcelain pellets, and conjunctivitis for hepatitis.  Our boys didn't seem to mind spending time with us, and were very appreciative. We arrived home on Christmas Eve, which was also the fifth night of Hanukkah. Our greatest gift was the satisfaction in knowing that we really like the young men our sons have become. 

Thursday, December 15, 2011

The Day of the Do-Over: What If Your Teenage Son Wanted To Work At A Bank As A Donor?

DL Hammons, Nicole Ducleroir, Lydia Kang, and Katie Mills are hosting the Deja Vu Blogfest
where writers are asked to "re-post their favorite blog offering, or one that never received the exposure it should have." Be sure to check out  the list of entertaining entries who are getting into the holiday spirit by highlighting their favorite repeats.

My story was written last February, a little over a month after Empty Nest Insider began. Thanks to DL, Nicole, Lydia, and Katie, for inspiring me to dust it off.

What If  Your Teenage Son Wanted To Work At A Bank As A Donor?

Over the weekend we were trying to find a good movie, and came across a review for The Kids Are All Right; a story about a lesbian couple's teenage children who decide to find their biological father. Though one of the leads, Annette Bening is up for an Oscar for best actress, the movie wasn't playing in any theaters, but a slightly different version started playing in my imagination. My story takes place before the children in the movie were conceived. Think of it as a prequel to The Kids Are All Right from a mother's perspective.

The story begins when 19 year old  Paul arrives home from college for spring break. He is filled with angst as he is dreading spending his vacation with his family instead of being crammed in a crummy hotel room with 8 of his buddies at a rundown beach resort. Though he is incredibly angry, he is blessed with thick, wavy brown hair and looks like a young Mark Ruffalo (the biological father in the movie). Then his mother, brilliantly portrayed by Susan Sarandon (only because she must be kicking herself for not getting the award winning role of the mother in The Fighter) walks into his room and tells him to stop sulking and start looking for a summer job before all the good ones are snatched up. After a series of failed interviews at various establishments around town, he decides to embark on another career.

The next day young Paul sees an ad that offers a way to earn easy money while still being able to stay out all night and sleep until the middle of the afternoon. After filling out a detailed family history, going on an extensive interview, and submitting samples of his work, he would find out if he was a candidate for the job.  His mother was quite excited that her lazy son was suddenly so enthusiastic about finding employment until she comes across one of his work samples in the refrigerator.

When she asks him about what's in the container, he explains that the bank does drug tests on all of their employees. Then she smiles at the thought of her son working at a bank, but realizes that he has no experience and wouldn't be working bankers' hours. When she questions him, he tells her that he is applying for a special internship where he would be working from home and would just drop off deposits every once in a while. After he leaves for his interview, she starts rummaging through his things when she sees the ad for the sperm bank buried under a huge pile of dirty laundry.

The next scene is Black Swan meets Diary of a Mad Housewife when the mother is screaming madly, yet dancing divinely around the house looking for clues to why her son would do this to her. She is dancing on her tippy toes to avoid stepping in any remnants of work samples. Flashbacks of Paul's innocent childhood appear on the screen. All the years she spent yelling at him for forgetting his homework and spilling food all over the kitchen floor; reminding him to wash his hands after he went to the bathroom, a week before he graduated from high school. His mother remembers that even as a little boy, Paul loved to take over the house scattering little pieces everywhere he went. Suddenly, she springs up on the table like a cat, wondering if there was any safe surface in the house that wasn't turned into a science lab.

Later when Paul returns home from his physical/interview, his mom takes another swig of cooking sherry and calmly asks him to sit down. She unties her apron, gently wipes the kitchen chair off with a rag before she tosses it into the fireplace and joins him for a meaningful discussion. Careful to mind her tone, she inquires if they mentioned anything about providing a company car as her chassis is prone to bumps. She also tells him that she found out that several of the bank employees were coming down with carpal tunnel syndrome and it would behoove him to find something less debilitating that he could put on his resume.

Then he smiles and says that they told him to apply again after he graduates from college. Tears of joy stream down his mother's face as she asks, "Why don't you seem disappointed?"  Then he replies, "I decided I wasn't interested after they told me I'd have to give up alcohol." With that his mother puts her dishwashing gloves back on, and gives her boy a big, warm hug.  Fade to black.

Monday, December 12, 2011

Blogging From A to Z Challenge and Latest Awards

 Arlee Bird is preparing for the Blogging from A to Z April Challenge by revisiting some of our Reflections from 2011. I am honored that he has asked me to lead off the December celebration today. Please stop by to collect your 2012 badge skillfully designed by Ada Z.

A special Christmas A to Z post by the talented Hilary Melton-Butcher will be featured on Tuesday. We are all looking forward to the upcoming challenge which promises to be even more exciting than last year's event, that introduced us to more than 1000 bloggers from around the world.

Now I'd like to thank some wonderful bloggers who have been generous enough to pass along some awards to me. A long overdue thank you goes to Carol Kilgore at Under The Tiki Hut for bestowing me with The Versatile Blogger Award. Carol has proven to be an ideal recipient, as she hosts guest bloggers, writes prompts, and is known for her Friday's Top Ten lists.

Melissa Bradley at Melissa's Imaginarium shared the One Lovely Blog Award.

Melissa's writing is always thrilling and she is never afraid to push the envelope. She is even nominated at the 411 Movie Awards for Sexiest Female Author. There is still time to place your votes at  The Movie 411 Blog Awards 2011.

Last but not least,  Beth at Word Nerd Speaks anointed me with this award.

Beth did a wonderful job revealing 7 fascinating facts about herself, and I highly encourage you to visit her blog. Sadly, I'm not that fascinating, and many of my stories detail accounts of my everyday life. So in the spirit of the holidays, I bring you peace and joy. Feel free to visit all of these fabulous blogs, and if you would like any of these awards, please take them with good tidings.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Insecure Writer's Support Group: Still Struggling

Alex J. Cavanaugh is hosting the 4th installment of the Insecure Writer's Support Group. Be sure to catch up with all  of the amazing bloggers who share their stories on the first Wednesday of each month. 

Still Struggling

She runs into his arms sobbing, "The letter came today, and they rejected my manuscript. This was the 15th publisher who turned it down. All of my hopes and dreams are over. I'm finished!"

He gazes knowingly into her eyes and says, " Got anything to eat? I'm starving!"

Then the director yells, "Let's take five everyone!" He gives the chiseled actor an attaboy slap, before he motions the beautiful actress over for a chat. He tells her that her performance lacks realism, and suggests that she spend time with a struggling writer to better understand her plight.

The next day, the beautiful actress goes over to the struggling writer's apartment. She has trouble making her way through the crumpled up papers, magazines, and books until she finally stumbles upon the struggling writer. They are about the same age, but the struggling writer looks worn out in her baggy sweatpants, and oversized unraveling robe. She apologizes for not having showered, as she doesn't have any running water.

They end up spending the day laughing, crying, and fighting over remnants of sweet and salty snacks. The struggling writer shows the beautiful actress her pile of rejection letters while they wrap themselves in blankets to stay warm, because the landlord turned off the heat. SW helps BA rehearse her scenes while interjecting double doses of angst and plucky determination.

They say their goodbyes before nightfall, so that they don't have to continue rehearsing in total darkness. Not once does the beautiful actress offer to invite the struggling writer into her luxurious Manhattan apartment to have a warm bath, a nutritious meal, and sleep in a lovely heated spare bedroom during one of the coldest nights of the year.

The following morning, the beautiful actress confidently strolls back into the playhouse. She is assured that her new "method acting" approach will impress her director, as well as, entice her chiseled leading man. As she gets closer to the stage, she notices that they started without her. Her leading man is facing the director, while another woman is saying her lines. The beautiful actress  with a newly acquired pulsating vein in her forehead, rushes the stage to confront her.

She can't believe her eyes. Her competition is simply gorgeous with cascading auburn hair, breathtaking features, and a perfect figure. Her voice sounds familiar, but she still can't place her. Then the director chimes in, "Sorry kid, you just don't have what it takes. We decided to go in another direction."

While the beautiful actress stands motionless, she overhears her former leading man invite his new costar to join him for a drink later. Suddenly it hits her, " You're the struggling writer that I poured my heart out to yesterday. How could you do this to me? And how could you deceive me by not washing your hair, and hiding under those ridiculous plus-size rags?"

Then the struggling writer/ knockout actress replies, " I deceived you? I bent over backwards trying to  teach you how to act, and in return you let me rot in that freezer of an apartment. Besides you idiot ingrate, I'm the one who wrote this play!"

-Julie Kemp Pick

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Extreme Sibling Rivalry

                                                                                                Julie Kemp Pick

The holidays bring out the best and the worst in families. My brother and I don't necessarily see eye to eye on everything, but he is always the first person to make me laugh when I need it the most. We could be arguing one minute, not talking the next, and yet he'll still come through for me in his own way.

Recently, I asked him a medical question, and within seconds he told me to pull up my yearly test results online. Though he is not a doctor, he spent more time explaining every detail of  a routine CBC (complete blood count), than any of my own doctors ever did. For example, if your RBC  (red blood count) is low, you may need to add more iron to your diet, but it's important to discuss it with your doctor first. Of course this conversation kept me in my pajamas through lunchtime, but knowledge is fuel for the brain.

Although my brother has battled devastating health issues since childhood, it is with his research on diet and exercise that he has become his own medical miracle. Through it all, my brother never complained and always approached every obstacle with strength and humor. He inspired my boys to start working out at an early age, and they continue to spend quality time together at the gym with my husband.

This brings me to a letter I came across in Ask Amy, an advice column featured in the Chicago Tribune. A woman wrote in about her half-sister who lost contact with her family after an incident with one of her grown children. The icing on the cake was that she "...refused to celebrate birthdays and holidays with us anymore. No gift, no card."  Lost in Lauderdale decided to take matters into her own hands when she contacted her half-sister's bosses to let them know, "She has on more than one occasion helped herself to pens and Post-it notes from her workplace."

This was not enough to ease her pain, "I also let the IRS know that she may not have reported all the waitress tips she earned while she worked at a restaurant." Afterward, Lost in Lauderdale was astonished that her family wanted nothing to do with her when her half-sister was clearly the one at fault.

After reading this, I felt quite relieved that I don't have a sister or even daughters. Though I doubt that my daughters would be vicious toward each other. They would probably just repress any ill feelings they had, and take them out on me in my old age. At least, I don't have to worry about my boys behaving that way; that's what their future wives are for.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

SLH Thanksgiving Contest: Pilgrimage To Grandma's

Susanna Leonard Hill is hosting a Thanksgiving Contest to write a 250 word or fewer kids' story or poem beginning with, "They were supposed to go to Grandma's for Thanksgiving, but the blizzard came in fast..." Thanks to Susanna for organizing this event, and be sure to visit the other creative entries. The contest is running through the end of Thanksgiving Day, so join in the fun.

                                              Pilgrimage To Grandma's

They were supposed to go to Grandma's for Thanksgiving,
But the blizzard came in fast.
They tried starting up their snow plow,
It was no use without gas.

Mama quickly gathered supplies,
To fashion homemade skis.
She brought back greasy chopsticks,
So they could zig-zag through the trees.

The children created their own goggles,
With paper clips and transparent tape.
This would surely help them navigate,
Through their blustery escape.

Papa loaded up an empty carton,
Filled with lots of delicious treats.
Including some of Grandma's favorites,
To be gobbled at the feast.

They tied it up with shoelace,
And pulled it with a string.
As they skied down the hillside,
With the grace of soaring wings.

She dropped the pencil with a start,
As her mom barged into her room,
"Time to get ready sweetheart;
Grandma will be here soon."

After her jiggly necked grandma strutted over,
The family all gathered around the stable.
Thankful that they survived another year,
From not being served up on the table.

-Julie Kemp Pick


Thursday, November 17, 2011

Middle Aged Bragging Rights

                                                                                                Julie Kemp Pick

Do you ever notice how some people can't go one minute without bragging? They start at a young age, and every conversation turns into a competition. They go to the best schools, graduate with the best jobs, marry the best spouses, and move into the best homes according to them.

After their gorgeous and gifted children move away, they come to the realization that they have very little to talk about. They're at that awkward age where their bodies are creaking, and their weight is shifting in the wrong places. Trapped in middle aged limbo; too young for retirement, yet too old to sit in a chair without dozing off. If only they had grandchildren to bounce on their knees, before their arthritis kicks in.  Suddenly, a group of friends are gathered around their picnic table bundled up in blankets; beside a roaring fire on a balmy summer evening  playing the latest board game.

It's Toots and Bladders, Battered Hip, and Crazy Mates all rolled into one. The game where it pays to decay. A player draws the first card which asks, "Have you ever had a cyst lanced from your perineum?"  Raymond answers "yes," collects $200, and advances his miniature oxygen tank down the board.  Pearl throws the dice, and lands on Constipation Blvd. Everyone presses their buzzers at once. To break the 4-way tie Lexi shouts out, "How long has it been?"  Pearl answers "5 days," Raymond 3, Lexi 2, and Leonard adds, "since lunchtime."

When Leonard proudly admits to having hair plugs he is forced to move his miniature enema kit into the Unnecessary Cosmetic Procedure Pavilion forfeiting his next turn. Now the competition has shifted from earlier conversations about material possessions to who has the largest surgical scars.  The couples are thrilled to have something to talk about, even if it means battling it out to see who has suffered the most.

Lexi draws the final card which reads, "Congratulations on your 5th anniversary of being cancer-free..." Lexi couldn't believe that her husband and closest friends remembered that it had been almost 5 years to the day since she underwent her last radiation treatment for breast cancer. She was so excited that they went to all the trouble of ordering a customized version of the game just for her. Then she reads the rest of the card, "...and your mother-in-law will be joining in the celebration tomorrow, when she moves in with you after her hip replacement surgery." With that, everyone turns their winnings over to Lexi, after they pry her hands off of Leonard's hair plugs.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

For The Sake Of Arguing

                                                                                               Julie Kemp Pick

The phone rang just as I was about to leave the house.
Mom: It's raining hard now, so you don't have to take me to physical therapy.
Me: But it was raining earlier.
Mom: Yes, but I'll just cancel my appointment. That way you won't get wet.
Me: You weren't worried about that before. I told you I don't mind. Besides, I made you lunch, and didn't you want to go shopping first?
Mom: Yes, but it's too much trouble going back and forth in the rain.
Me: It's not coming down as hard now, and don't you think you need the therapy to get stronger?
Mom: Well if it's not too much trouble.

Later that afternoon my mom told me that I really should be more patient.

This made me think about other ridiculous arguments I've had throughout the years. Shortly after I started driver's ed, my dad suggested that I drive to work. As I was pulling out of the driveway, my mom came home. She hopped in the back seat, while my dad sat by my side. All was calm, until I had to make a left turn without an arrow. My dad was telling me to be assertive and speed up before the light changed, while my mom was telling me to slow down. Instead, I got so nervous that I backed out of the intersection and waited for the next light. Needless to say, neither of my parents volunteered to take me driving again.

The summer my younger son turned thirteen was during travel baseball season, so we decided to have a little celebration after the game. We ordered pizzas, and brought a cooler filled with soft drinks for the team. Earlier that evening I asked my husband to pick up a few bags of ice for the cooler at McDonald's. He asked me how much it would cost. I told him 99 cents a bag. Then he wanted to know how much other places in the area were charging, and was I sure that was the best price. I assured him that 99 cents was the best rate in the Chicagoland area, and that if he wanted to miss his son's birthday to scout for 97 cent bags of ice in Wisconsin, I'm sure that he would understand. Of course, he still had to make some calls just in case there was a fire sale on ice at the end of July.  It took me a long time to thaw out from that whole experience.

After all these years, my mother still puts her foot on the imaginary passenger side brake whenever I make a left turn. As for my purchasing power, I'm in charge of finding the best deals on cars and the occasional travel destination, but I never go further than my freezer for ice.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Insecure Writer's Support Group: Can't Stanza Pressure


Thanks to Alex J. Cavanaugh for leading another monthly meeting of The Insecure Writer's Support Group. Feel free to stop in, pull up a chair, and join in on these worthwhile discussions from around the world.

Can't Stanza Pressure

Cross the t's,
Dot the i's.
Proof the pages,
Prioritize, scrutinize, strategize.

Let the caffeine drip,
Careful not to burn.
You've waited long enough,
Now it's finally your turn.

The house is quiet,
But who to call?
Then you see the proverbial,
Writing on the wall.

The TV Guide highlights,
A movie of the week.
With a plot that's so familiar,
You let out quite a shriek!

A deep breath is taken,
You begin to unwind.
As you never got further,
Than the initial outline.

You'll get a fresh start tomorrow,
With a clear head.
Set a goal of 5000 words,
While watching sports in bed.

It's an ongoing saga,
That always ends the same.
Yet you can't stop playing,
The procrastination game.

-Julie Kemp Pick

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Ghoulish Choices

                                                                                               Julie Kemp Pick

She thought it a strange meeting place,
To show up at a Halloween dance.
Dressed in costumes before they met face to face,
Though the mystery had an air of romance.

She piled her hair in an updo,
And sprinkled on powders and potions.
She put on a long dress with matching shoes,
In the hope she wasn't just going through the motions.

She was tall, shy and unobtrusive,
Yet somehow she seemed to scare men away.
She hoped her blind date wasn't verbally abusive,
Like the last guy's mother who made her temples gray.

It wasn't hard to spot his red carnation,
For once she didn't feel self conscious in her heels.
As she gazed up at him with nervous trepidation,
While his zipper neck only added to his appeal.

He knew all the latest dances,
As he gracefully swept her off her feet.
With a poke from his bolt, she still took her chances,
She had her good eye on the prize and victory was sweet.

They didn't want the night to end,
But when the DJ announced, "Time to remove your masks."
They watched the others become themselves again.
As she tugged on his peridot complexion, the crowd began to gasp!

After the crowd quickly fled;
Frank whisked his future bride,
Off to their lightning charged wedding bed.
Where they stormed the village side by side.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

When Lending A Hand Leads To A Slap On The Wrist

                                                                                                Julie Kemp Pick


Today was a cold, rainy, and blustery October day in our Windy City. As I was about to walk over to the high rise office building en route to my eye doctor's office, I saw an elderly man with a cane approaching.  You could hear the wind hollowing as the rain started misting, so I offered to help him up the curb.  He thanked me, but said that he was doing fine on his own. Then I told him that I was having trouble walking through this dangerous wind tunnel, and suggested that we walk together. Once again, the proud man politely turned me down.
Within seconds, he started to lose his balance, and I grabbed his left arm, while another man appeared on his right side. We both helped him until we reached the stairs. Then he thanked us, and grabbed on to the railing. The other man left, and I kept him company until he safely entered the building.

I told my eye doctor the story, and he told me about an incident that happened many years ago when he was working at a hospital in the city. He said that the wind gusts were so strong, that they blew a 30 year old doctor right into the building, and he died of a broken neck. 

After that horrific story, he gave me the good news that the pressure in my eyes was fine.  I can't stress enough how important it is to see an ophthalmologist regularly. If glaucoma is caught early it is usually very treatable with eye drops. Because symptoms don't occur at the onset,  if left undetected it could potentially lead to blindness. I just thought I'd throw in that quick PSA, as I normally ramble on about the absurd and amusing.

Next,  I paid my bill and asked for the key to the ladies room. As I was getting ready to leave, I noticed that I looked like I had just stepped out of a horror movie. The drops left yellow dye under my two black eyes. While I was frantically trying to wash my allegedly waterproof mascara off,  I heard someone banging on the door in the hallway. Since you had to unlock one door before you passed through the swinging door which led to the three stall doors, I was so safely tucked away from civilization that I thought someone was locked out of the men's room. When the pounding didn't stop, I went over to open the door. Then an agitated elderly woman greeted me with, "What took you so long? I've been waiting here forever and you have the only key!"  I was grateful that she didn't  push me out into the wind tunnel.

Speaking of lending a helping hand, I'd like to thank the people who have been especially helpful to me in passing along some fabulous awards:

Rosalind at Rosalind Adam Is Writing In The Rain was kind enough to bestow me with this special "no strings attached" award. Be sure to check out her entertaining blog that has tips on everything from dancing to favorite recipes. She even threw an amazing virtual coffee party to celebrate her mother's life and raise funds for a worthwhile cause.


Julie at What Else Is Possible? generously shared the Liebster Blog Award with me. I have already passed this award on, but I will gladly share it with anyone else who is interested. Julie also recently added another blog entitled  The Pet Parent Diaries.  She has worked tirelessly in helping animals, and is extremely supportive to fellow bloggers.


Christy at  Christy LaShea  is quite The Versatile Blogger  herself. She started writing a book in the 7th grade and continues to write her own insightful material, as well as engaging book reviews.
Susan at I Think; Therefore, I Yam ingratiated me with this award whose mission is to post links to 7 of your favorite previous blogs, in addition to forwarding it to 7 people. Am I thinking about digging up past stories when I can barely get enough people interested in my present ones? I will answer in 7 letters : I YAM  NOT. In addition to being a gifted writer, Susan has an incredible sense of humor that always shines through in her blog. 

Eve at Clueless Eve passed this award on to me. This is one of my favorite awards because it's simple but elegant. I only recently became acquainted with her work, but I've enjoyed her honest and refreshing approach to writing. I hope you will join me in getting to know all of these imaginative writers. Although I almost got physically blown away today, these bloggers will blow your minds.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Grooming Gone Too Far

                                                                                                Julie Kemp Pick

Megan Barnes  (WFOR/Monroe County Sheriff's Office )
Did you hear the one about the woman who caused a car accident, because she was shaving her privates while she was driving? This really happened in Florida last year when Megan Barnes was getting ready for a date with another man. Author Celia Rivenbark wrote, " There are so many "You might be a redneck if'" elements to the story, but my favorite is that, while performing this extremely personal grooming ritual, she asked her EX HUSBAND to steer the car so she could concentrate."
Her ex also moved into the driver's seat when the police arrived to try to take the blame, but he had burn marks from the impact of the passenger side airbag. The Highway Patrol noted that just one day earlier Ms. Barnes had been convicted of DUI and driving with a suspended license. Ms. Rivenbark added, "Oh, and her car had been seized and had no insurance or registration. Oh, and she was on probation. Oh, and SHE'S A FLIPPIN' LUNATIC! Albeit an impeccably groomed one."

Since this article was originally written in March of 2010, I tried to find out what happened to Megan Barnes, and her loyal to a fault ex husband. I wondered if  she ever made it to her very important date, and what became of the pickup truck that she plowed into from behind.

Unfortunately, the only lead I found was on a Facebook page entitled, "Megan Mariah Barnes should not have to spend a single day in jail and." The only message posted had absolutely nothing to do with the subject, and left me dangling along with the word "and."

None of the 2010 reports that I read mentioned that she was shaving under the influence, so I do feel that she had one leg up on the dashboard, I mean case. It never mentioned where her parents were during the incident, and if they ever advised the 37 year old  to remember skirt down, buckle up when operating a vehicle.

This is an important lesson for all of us. As parents it is our job to leave no stone unturned. With  electronic media virtually raising our children, each day there are more incidents illustrating how common sense is becomming obsolete. With everyone rushing to make a good impression, more accidents are bound to occur. Cars may soon have built-in metal detectors, so that ignitions will not start if a razor, scissors, or tweezers enter the vehicle. As manscaping is on the rise, sons are not immune to this impulse.

The next time you tuck your children in at night, hold them close and whisper quietly in their ear. That way they'll think they learned the hazards of shaving while driving in a dream, and you'll be able to make eye contact again.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Insecure Writer's Support Group: Wise Revisions


Thanks to  Alex J. Cavanaugh for hosting the second meeting of the minds. Alex began The Insecure Writer's Support Group as a forum for bloggers and authors to voice their concerns; while offering solutions, as well as lending support. Be sure to visit the vast array of talented members.

Wise Revisions 

Writing helps connect the dots,
That open worlds of wonder.
Reading in between the lines,
Turn clear skies into thunder.

Waiting for the inspiration,
Sequestered in a silent rage.
Staring at an empty screen,
Wishing words upon the page.

Suddenly the switch turns on,
While ideas churn like butter.
At last the curse is lifted,
As butterflies converge to flutter.

Plagued by second thoughts,
Weary of a cool reception.
Any hopes of turning heads,
Are fueled by misconceptions.

Regrets I have many,
Nervous twitches I have but few.
If only I had begun at twenty,
Should haves adhere to me like glue.

The phone rings, changing tones,
There's talk of staging a tour.
My hair, my shoes, what will I say?
Thank goodness, I'm not insecure. 

-Julie Kemp Pick

Monday, October 3, 2011

From The Western Mediterranean To My Mother-In-Law's

                                                                                                Julie Kemp Pick

Before our younger son was born, my in-laws moved to Israel to be close to my mother-in-law's family. My delightful father-in-law who always had a smile on his face despite having his whole world torn out from under him during the Holocaust, died less than a year later.  This was more than twenty years ago, and though my husband has taken my boys, I had never gone with them.

My first visit was a year after I graduated from college, as part of a tour group. I was the youngest person in the group, and my mother was the second youngest. One of the highlights was climbing Masada arm in arm with a rambunctious 80 year old fellow traveler.

After we drove our son to college, my husband asked me if I would go with him to see his mother. I told him that I would like to stop off somewhere along the way to break up the 14 hour flight from Chicago. He said to do some research, and added that he wanted to leave as soon as possible. When I told a friend that I was having trouble choosing between Italy, France, and Spain, she suggested that I book a cruise. Because the trip was only a few weeks away, I was able to find an exceptional deal on a cruise to Rome, Genoa, Cannes, Corsica and Barcelona. The ship returned to Rome and from there we were scheduled to fly to Tel Aviv. I was thrilled, my husband was thrilled, and my mother-in-law didn't complain, so all was well.

The ship departed from Rome, so we went off on a tour straight from the airport. We saw the Colosseum, The Spanish Steps, and St. Peter's in Vatican City. We dined on world famous gelato and threw coins into the Trevi Fountain where Audrey Hepburn and Gregory Peck once stood. We covered a lot of the Eternal City in a few hours, and then we were off to the ship.

The next day, we accidentally walked up to the house where  Columbus was born in Genoa on our own leisurely tour. The rooms were very tiny, and a model of the Santa Maria was encased on one of the shelves. Another highlight was seeing Napoleon's home in Corsica. The Corsicans that we encountered were not very receptive to our restroom requests, so I found myself sneaking into a restaurant. The hostess followed me in and shouted in a thick French accent, "You didn't ask permission!" Then I retorted with, "Emergency, emergency!" She got the message, and walked out. I always had a gift with languages.

We loved being able to relax in the comfort of the ship where the food was tasty and plentiful, everyone spoke English, and the entertainment even included an ice show. The last stop was in Barcelona. We went on a whirlwind tour of several churches, and The Picasso Museum. We even saw  Gaudi's unfinished church, La Sagrada Familia that has been overseen by several architects beginning in 1882 and nears completion in 2026. We concluded with our own walking tour that lasted until nightfall. Like Italy, I wish we had had more time in Spain, but I was grateful for the time spent, and now we had to get ready for Israel.

My husband's cousins were kind enough to meet us at the Tel Aviv Airport, and loan us their car complete with a navigation system so we wouldn't get lost driving to Jerusalem. The only problem was that it was set up in Hebrew. After we eventually found our hotel, we climbed up the 100 steps leading to his mother's apartment.

She lives in a religious neighborhood where we looked as out of place had we been in Amish Country. The men wore black hats and long black coats, and the women wore head coverings or wigs, and long skirts. Occasionally, we would catch a glimpse of a wrist or an ankle. On Shabbat, children played in the street, and adults walked freely with no cars in sight. I thought about all the kids in our neighborhood who would stay inside playing video games on beautiful days, while these children were finding creative ways to pass the hours until sundown.

At 87,  Mrs. Pick speaks Hebrew, Russian, Yiddish, and English. She has a wonderful caregiver who was also born in Russia, and doesn't speak English; yet after a few days we were able to communicate. His aunt lives down the hall, and has two children, and fifteen great grandchildren. We spent a lot of time eating between the two apartments, and went on short walks around the neighborhood, where his mother led the way.

Aside from a visit to the Western Wall, where I struggled to get us through the crowd, while her 70 year old caregiver plowed right in, we didn't spend much time sightseeing, as his mother got car sick. Instead, we had a few excursions to the walker store before taking it for a test drive.

On our last day, his cousins invited us to dinner in Tel Aviv. There we were reunited with family we hadn't seen in years, and introduced to some of their children for the first time. Everyone was warm and inviting. All of his aunt's 15 great grandchildren were there, and I couldn't believe how well behaved they were. Though many of the children don't speak English, our boys managed to communicate with them years ago, through sports and other games. I thought about the four of us  returning before they think they're too old to travel with us. Then I commented on how nice it is to have so many close relatives, and our cousin replied, "They're your family too."

There is so much history along with so many wondrous sights to see in Israel, but this trip was about family. We were both happy that his mother is doing so well thanks to her devoted caregiver and loving family. She was very appreciative that we came to visit, and any ill feelings that we had toward each other were wiped away. I don't know if my mother-in-law will ever think that I'm truly good enough for her son, or good enough for now.

1) Colosseum in Rome
2) Columbus Home in Genoa
3) Picasso Museum in Barcelona
4) Western Wall in Jerusalem (Mrs. Pick is in the middle)
5) With our cousins in Tel Aviv                                 

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

The Guiding Light Before The Flight

                                                                                                 Julie Kemp Pick

Sometimes the events leading up to a vacation prove to be almost as eventful as the vacation itself. This happened a few times late in August when we were planning a Western Mediterranean Cruise on the way to visiting my mother-in-law in Israel.

Twelve days before we were scheduled to leave, my husband injured his knee when he fell off of his bicycle. He managed to ride home from the scene of the accident, but grew progressively worse by evening. The following Sunday morning, his knee was so swollen that he couldn't walk, so I gave him my son's crutches and we headed off to the emergency room.

I thought we would have to cancel our trip, but he was determined to go. After wearing an immobilizer, having his knee drained, an MRI  and two physical therapy sessions, the orthopedist agreed. Miraculously, my husband lost his limp, while I was losing my mind. What if he had a relapse in a foreign country, and I had to try to find a hospital while I was carrying him on my back, and fighting off pickpockets?  Everyone told us to be aware of them, but they must have been staying inside from the heat. My man of steel assured me that he would be fine, as I was racing to get everything we needed in less than a week.

The day before our flight to Rome, I had an appointment for a manicure and pedicure.  On August 31, the sun was shining and the temperature was in the 80's.  So it didn't make sense that the entire block of stores and restaurants were experiencing a power failure. What really presented a problem was that my beaded flip flops were at the shoe repair  a few doors down from the nail salon, and it was located in a dungeon like basement. These are the only flip flops that my delicate circus feet could tolerate, and I needed them both for my pedicure and my trip.

On the main level of the shoe repair is a Mexican restaurant. I asked them if I could borrow a flashlight to take to the basement in the hope that the shoemaker was still there. One of the men grabbed a flashlight and said that he would go along with me. It was pitch black in the basement, but my trusted guide led the way.  I called out to Mr. K to make sure that  he was down the hall, but no one answered. My guide helped me down the stairs and we proceeded on. At one point I thought about how easily it would have been to beat me bloody with the flashlight, and abscond with $35 and a box of Mentos, but I had to risk it all to get my flip flops from Marshalls back.

When we reached the end of the hallway, Mr. K jumped out from behind the counter, and shone his flashlight on us. I pulled my ticket out and he handed me my shoes. No words were exchanged and he went back to working in complete darkness. Sadly, he must have been used to hiding during wartime.
After my companion guided me to safety, I thanked him and went off to my appointment.

When the power returned, I went back to see my new friend at the restaurant. I still had errands to run so I asked him if he could make me a virgin strawberry daiquiri to go. I thought about getting him a present, but decided to give him a little extra for his tip instead. I thanked him again, and he politely smiled. Suddenly, I was transformed into Blanche DuBois, and I understood when she said, "I have always depended on the kindness of strangers." Oh well, it was time to go home to my Stanley Kowalski and finish packing.

Monday, September 19, 2011

Sneak Peek Packs Heat

When  Alex J. Cavanaugh  first came up with this idea, I thought that I would have no trouble creating a list. That was over a month ago, and now I feel like a student cramming for final exams. Though I love movies, I can't seem to remember very much about the ones that I disliked the most. The truth is, I could sit through pretty much anything if the popcorn is good.

My first job was at a concession stand at a movie theater when I was 15. My best friend was working as a cashier, and called me to come in for an interview. I said that I was 16, and after the manager asked me a few quick math problems, I was hired on the spot. The theater was packed as the Jeff Bridges and Jessica Lange version of King Kong had just come out for Christmas.

These were the days before calculators when you had to add up all the prices in your head, but I still managed to shovel in plenty of popcorn in between customers. Once after working a double shift complete with enough popcorn for lunch and dinner, my favorite usher took me aside to tell me that he could see his reflection in my nose.

After King Kong left the building, we were inundated with one bad movie after another. I can't remember all of the titles, but they were loosely based on classic children's stories with a twist. The first movie that comes to mind is Pinocchio,  but this version was rated X. Yes, the respectable family movie theater decided to try out some X-rated films. Of course my parents didn't mind that I was working there. A paycheck was a paycheck.

Some of the other pornographic fairy tales included Alice In Wonderland where Alice plays an innocent librarian  who meets up with a rabbit, and Goldilocks and The Three Bares.

Unfortunately, I had to remove the Alice and Goldilocks posters.  I wish that I could provide more information about these movies. I just remember the ushers making a special effort to sweep up the theater several times throughout these showings.

 I never actually sat through any of these films, as I was too busy minding the Junior Mints. But I did catch a glimpse of Pinocchio telling a lie, and quickly walked out when I realized his nose wasn't growing.

-Julie Kemp Pick

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

If I Could Be Anyone I'd Be...


In honor of Talli Roland's book launch, we are to select the celebrity whom we would most like to be. Growing up I wanted to be Barbra Streisand, because she could belt out a song better than anyone else, and still walk away with her handsome leading men.


As time went on I noticed I shared a striking resemblance to another celebrity. She was not an Oscar winning singer, songwriter and actress. Instead she was famous for being an infamous home wrecker. Yes Camilla Parker Bowles and I share the same hip hairstyle, are both long in the tooth, and lack pigment. But I draw the line at wearing hats, and I won't give up my comfortable shoes.
Which brings me to the only celebrity whose shoes I could possibly fill if I bound my feet, Clara Peller. The retired manicurist from Chicago became a star, when she was hired to play the baritone lead in a Wendy's hamburger commercial.

The octogenarian stole the show by uttering three words, "Where's the beef?" She was a huge success from 1984-1985 until she got fired for bellowing, "I found it!" in a Prego spaghetti sauce commercial. Apparently, the big brass at Wendy's only wanted her to go trolling for beef between their buns. Sadly, Clara died a few years later at 85.

Miss Peller is a shining example of an outstanding third act. As my voice continues to grow deeper and more gravelly there is hope that one day I too could be discovered. Who am I kidding? Maybe I should just wait for James Brolin and Prince Charles to duke it out. 

-Julie Kemp Pick                                                                                        

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Insecure Writer's Unite


Alex J. Cavanaugh decided to put together a wonderful support group for writers. Though I am not an experienced writer, I know a thing or two about being insecure. As a matter of fact, I have half a century of knowledge stored up on the subject. This hardly makes me an expert, as I'm still struggling to overcome it. However, it does make me more empathetic to what other people are going through.

I'm excited to hear from other talented writers who are awaiting acceptance of their manuscripts. Many have published a book or two, and still lack the confidence they deserve. Since my first article will soon be published in a local literary art magazine, I'm just getting my feet wet; while many of you are already swimming with sharks.

There is strength in numbers, and Alex has certainly gathered enough people to tell their stories. The blogging community in itself is a support group. Hence, the Insecure Writer's Support Group will form even tighter bonds. I look forward to learning from all of you. For many writers, experience doesn't alleviate anxiety; it just pushes it aside like a bad combover.

    -Julie Kemp Pick


Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Summer's Swan Song

                                                                                                  Julie Kemp Pick

The days are getting shorter,
The house has lost its zest.
Everything is now in order,
Though I'd rather have the mess.

No more waiting up all night,
Grateful for what the cat dragged in.
Check-out time is after midnight,
Wondering if I'll ever see my car again.

Lakeside walks, playful lollygagging,
The smell of delicious barbecue fills the air.
Wishing I hadn't wasted precious time nagging,
Hence everyone's memories would be held so dear.

Summer ales; ailing hearts plead for its return,
The boys are quickly growing into men.
The sun is fading, yet it stings the burn,
My husband is stuck alone with me again.

Friday, August 19, 2011

The New BFF's (Blogging Friends & Followers)

                                                                                                 Julie Kemp Pick

Recently I read an article about an agoraphobic writer who went on a journey to meet her Facebook friends. She made a New Year's resolution to spend a year traveling across three continents to connect with each of her 325 friends.

This made me think about how far I would go for a Facebook or blogging friend. Facebook helped me reconnect with people that I haven't seen or spoken to in years. Some friendships became more intensified, while others quickly fizzled. In many ways, Facebook is like a more polite version of high school.

The blogging community is an even more welcoming one. The cool kids mix with the older adults, and material possessions take on a different meaning. Though hunters and gatherers are found in both worlds, the camaraderie amongst bloggers surpasses any other social network.

I am grateful to the generous group of bloggers who frequently tune in, and support my efforts. Without them I would be transported to playing with my imaginary friends indoors, while listening to the laughter of other children outside my bedroom window.

This brings me to a wonderful award  that Rosalind Adam  and Tonja have graciously bestowed upon me.

Rosalind is fiercely loyal, and has an unquenchable thirst for knowledge. Tonja is juggling so many different things on her plate, and always has room for more. Both women soldier on with wit and grace. Tonja mentioned that Liebster means "dearest," while Rosalind expressed the origin of friendship. I am putting both of them together by passing this award on to my dearest friends in blogland.

These bloggers fall within the rules of the Liebster Blog as it is only given to those with less than 200 followers. I encourage you to visit all of these blogs that are guaranteed to make you laugh, cry or say, "Why didn't I think of that?"

Elaine at My Next 20 Years of Living  
lou at writeclub      
Rhonda at Laugh Quotes
Susan at I Think; Therefore I Yam   

Last but not least,  I want to thank  RJR Daydreamer  for passing this meaningful award on to me:

RJR is a very versatile writer who blogs about everything from the Royal Wedding to his adventures in carpentry. I'm thrilled that he created this special award and would like to share it with my faithful followers. Feel free to pick up this award with one condition; wear it like an undergarment knowing that without proper support, everything will come crashing down.
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