Monday, August 18, 2014

Things That Happen When You Dare God to Move

     So a few weeks ago, I announced my Personal Mid-Summer Festival and my commitment to live in joy, not escape to joy.  Almost instantly, things got weird.

     For starters, everyday during that first week, something (or several somethings) happened to throw me off of my usual routine.  One day, my usual drive to work had an unexpected detour.  One day, the facilities director had a ladder in my cubicle, replacing the light fixture up above my desk, keeping me from starting my work day according to schedule. Every day it was something just a little odd that knocked me out of my rutted patterns.

   In that same week, I heard from three different people who once upon a time meant a great deal to me, but who I let fade out of my life.  Out of the blue, one after another reached out to me, after years--YEARS--without any contact at all.  It is all a bit disconcerting, but really, really amazing, too.  Despite my reputation for extreme Pollyanna-ness, I am rooted pretty firmly in the Real World.  Reconnecting for us is not going to be like the plot line of a Hallmark Channel family movie. At this point, I'm looking at these contacts as opportunities to complete some unfinished business and perhaps recognize some things that pushed me from inhabiting joy.  It seems as if now is a good time to do that.

  The world around me got a little more troubling--genocide in Iraq, a tentative ceasefire after weeks of bombings in Gaza, a string of young, black men being shot and killed by the police sworn to serve and protect, Robin Williams' suicide...  It's more than a little overwhelming.  If I were Supreme Empress of the Universe, this certainly would not be how I'd go about this joyful living business.

    It has left me speechless--clearly, as I haven't posted in over three weeks--and feeling extraordinarily unsettled.

     In the midst of this shaking, I've certainly experienced moments of great joy.  I returned to my old summer camp for a staff reunion 30 years in the making.

Our FabFam hosted the second graduation celebration for my daughter.  My Personal Chef outdid himself with the feast, the weather was perfect, and we spent the day surrounded by folks who overwhelmed me with their love for my family.

The tiny community garden plot I tend has provided the families in the local homeless shelter with over 20 lbs. of tomatoes and basil so far.

The Evil Genius just worked his was through his first grueling week of band camp. I know this sounds so nerdy and ridiculous, but I am absolutely tickled to be a Band Mom again. That my youngest child is so excited to be a part of the marching band fills my heart to overflowing.

And yesterday, three generations of my family kicked off a week of upcoming joys together by cheering on the two Cool Cousins (and three of their amazing friends) as they ran the 7.1 mile Falmouth Road Race, raising over $2,500.00 for Compassionate Care for ALS.  I cannot describe for you what it was like to be sitting at the 5 mile mark watching the 12,000 runners pass by.  There were men, women, and children of all abilities--wheelchair racers, world-class elite runners, frat boys, high school track stars, marathon runners, middle aged mothers, girls dressed like lobsters, teams of friends and family supporting a variety of great causes.  It was awe-inspiring. Equally moving was the company of spectators I found myself amongst--dozens of folks involved with CCALS who all are somehow affected by the cruelty of ALS and still find joy in the race, the beautiful location, and each other's company.

     It is becoming clear to me that I'm being taught a lesson or two about living right now.  I'm struggling with it, but I'm, as always, relentlessly optimistic. After all, I'm about to head back to the beach with my FabFam.


Saturday, July 26, 2014

Mid-Summer Festival

     A dear friend thoughtfully mused this week that we have reached the mid-point of the summer.  We first met thirty years ago (Wait?!  WHAT?!!!!)  when we worked together at summer camp. Camp people understand the fleeting magic that is summer.  They gather from all over the place each year for about ten weeks to create an entire vibrant community that dissolves on Labor Day, almost as if it never existed, until the next summer returns.  At the camp we worked at, this midway point of the season was actually celebrated annually with the "Mid-Summer Festival."

Photos courtesty of G'Wood Old School

     I haven't thought about the Mid-Summer Festival in years, but from the vantage point of mid-summer in my middle-age,  I'm thinking that maybe it is exactly what I need.  I need a week of old-fashioned summer fun that celebrates the glories of the season.  I need barbecue and horseshoes and watersports and campfires and music and night skies and the company of the folks that bring me joy. I need to take the time to be amazed by the wonders of the natural world, and appreciative of the abundant blessings that have been poured over my life.

    Now, don't get me wrong.  My summer has been absolutely lovely.  I've logged lots of miles on my bike.  The kayaks and canoe have hardly had the chance to dry off before I'm paddling off again.  I've eaten well, spent quality time with folks I love, and celebrated successes.  I have plans for more hijinks in the coming weeks. I've been  acting like a kid.

It's not my activity that has been lacking.  It is my attitude.

     Back in my summer camp days, I could inhabit the magic that is summer vacation even when doing the less than delightful tasks of  bringing the overfilled slop bucket of food waste out to the pig  farmer's bin, or comforting a vomiting 8-year-old, or helping a special needs adult get her false teeth set in her mouth.  Maybe it was the ignorance of my youth, but I could carry on with the work without losing sight of the joys that come from playing in the woods all summer.  In hindsight, I realize that it is the only way I could have done the job at all, let alone for summer after summer.  The work was hard, often gross, and paid very little. 

And I loved every minute of it.

     These days, I find myself caught up in the fine print of life.  I'm fussing over dog fur tumbleweeds that seem to be taking over the house.  The unfolded laundry on my arm chair is driving me to distraction.  The looming deadlines at work are making me anxious. There are all those back-to-school appointments to schedule. Not to mention, there are actual difficulties with the folks I love facing financial problems, health care issues, unexpected loss, ongoing grief... 

Instead of living in that place of joy, I find that I escape to that place as a reprieve from my life. 

     I need to find a way to get back to my summer camp mode.  I'm declaring this coming week as my own personal Mid-Summer Festival, where I will see if I can intentionally move back into that joyful place to live.  I know it is not going to be anything at all like the Mid-Summer Festival of my youth.  I don't want it to be. (I'm way too out-of-shape to do backflips off of the dock into the lake, for starters.)  I do want to become more mindful of how I am moving through my days, though.  


Sunday, July 20, 2014

Charting a Different Course

Thing 2 is on a roll.

     He's been at his job for a full month now.  He's learning the ropes.  He's earning the praises of his supervisors.  He's getting paid. It's all good stuff.  He's also overcome a paralyzing amount of fear to even walk through the doors as the New Guy those first few days.  He's figured out how to get himself home every day. He's reconfigured his social life to make sure he gets to bed early enough. (He starts work at 4 AM daily.)  He's adjusted his medication schedule. 

He's really doing it.

     I don't think my son believed he actually could. If I'm being honest, I'm not sure I believed he actually could.  I'm am so very delighted to be proven wrong.  

And that's not all.

     On his own, he went to the bank with his first paychecks and opened a checking account.  He went to HR to complete the paperwork to have his future paychecks directly deposited into that new checking account. He went to the Registry of Motor Vehicles and got his learner's permit.   Did I mention he did this on his own? 

     Maybe you aren't impressed.  He is nearly 22-years-old after all. None of these accomplishments are earth shattering.  All of his classmates are way beyond this. Hell, his own sister, Thing 1, managed all this as a teenager.  I get it.  I do. See, I had a gut-punched moment a few weeks ago, when a neighbor boy from my son's class in high school came by to show off his new sports car that he paid for with the money he earned from his prestigious internship.  He starts his senior year at business college on top of the world. I've known this boy since he was in middle school. He's a dope, the way that all young men are at that age. Yet, here he is succeeding all over the place.  And for a few days after that, I was wrecked, absolutely wrecked, because they weren't my boy's successes, too.

     Here's the thing, though.  I cannot compare my son to the other boys from his class. There is no getting around the fact that my son has significant mental health issues that make a traditional trajectory into adulthood impossible. That's just how it is.  I am blessed to have friends who also have kids who need to take different routes through their lives who remind me that I'm not alone. When one makes a tuna sandwich for his mother, when another plays baseball in between visits to his cardiologist, when one makes eye contact and initiates conversation with someone, it's the equivalent of that paid internship. We have shared plenty of rough days when there were medical crises and academic set backs. So it is only right that together we rejoice in our children's victories. They may not be a big deal to other parents, but given what we know our kids have overcome to earn them, they are a huge deal to us.

     And I am relentlessly optimistic.  My boy is on his way. He is working really hard to manage his anxiety so that he can move out on his own. He, himself, has discussed an ambitious "at the beginning of the school year" date for having his own apartment.  College is not off of his--or my--list. There is typical young man talk about getting into a band. (Oh how I would love to see him playing music again, truth be told.)  There are so many opportunities available for my son. 

The road doesn't dead end for him.  We just don't have the whole map unfolded yet.

Sunday, July 13, 2014

More Experiments in Time Travel

I think this summer is making me younger. 

     I'm serious. When the spring rains finally ended and my yard bloomed, something happened to me.  It was subtle at first--the volume on the car radio slowly got louder. I came home from work and announced that we were going to the ice cream place for dinner. Before you know it, here I am leaving work to drive straight to the lake house, go from there to a party, from there to a campground in Maine and stay on the beach until  all hours carrying on like I'm not a middle-aged mother of three, and THEN get up at 3:00 AM to drive to work. 

     It is all reminiscent of my Summer Tour years, when I'd work a few days then travel from city to city to see a series of concerts, getting home in time to get cleaned up before returning to my classroom full of three-year-olds.  I'd teach all week, waitress a few nights, maybe, then hit the road again.  Niagara Falls, Washington, DC, Philly...Life was a grand adventure  and I had the boundless energy of youth to take it on.

    Time passed and I grew up.  I married My Persoal Chef (bless him, he followed me around the northeast for one summer when he was first chasing me), we had these incredible kids, we bought a beautiful, hundred-year-old Queen Anne Victorian. I started going to bed at a reasonable hour and making sure that everyone had well-balanced meals and clean, folded laundry.  Concert trips became weekly trips to Home Depot and the grocery store. It's the natural order of life and it has been very satisfying.

Until the temperatures rose and the fireflies returned a few weeks ago.

     Suddenly, I'm searching YouTube for videos from Grateful Dead shows from the 80s.  A friend comes to visit and instead of putting on the kettle for tea, I find myself mixing a pitcher of Concoction (a fizzy melon, mint, lime and gin drink that tastes like summer vacation).  I laugh right out loud when my Other Favorite Nieces say something inappropriate instead of scolding them. In fact, I respond with an even more scandalous anecdote.  

I'm acting like a kid.

     No.  It's not a mid-life crisis.  I'm not going to buy a convertible, get a boob job, or run off with my secretary. There's just something about the summer that has loosened my tightly wound bits.

     During the rest of the year, you will never catch me playing air guitar in my Cubicle-of-Doom.  Or sharing a scorpion bowl with a twenty-something colleague at the end of a work day. Or going along with the young--really young--Cool Cousins who think it is an excellent idea to introduce their mothers to Cards Against Humanity.  Any other season and there is no way I'd be explaining to a retired librarian what causes blue balls.  Any other season, I'd be acting my age. Come to think of it, so would the Awesome Aunts. So maybe there's a genetic link to the time-space continuum I should explore. . .


Monday, July 7, 2014

Wibbley Wobbley Timey Whimey Stuff

     Once upon a time, when my mother turned 50, she looked up from her birthday dinner and exclaimed, "I just cannot believe that I have grandchildren in school."  Her mother, my Nana Joyce, shot back, "I look in the mirror and I see a two-seater, red convertible.  I look out the window and I'm waiting for the senior van.  I have GREAT-grandchildren in school."

     Until that moment, I had never seen Nana as anything but a grandmother.  To my eye, she was always, well, OLD.  It tickled me to think that she could imagine any other version of herself.  And then this happened:

     This past weekend, three generations of my extended family gathered to celebrate the college graduations of Thing 1 (her BS), my Mama's god daughter (her MSW), and my uncle (his AA--the associates degree, not the 12-step group).  It was everything you could ask for in such a gathering--plenty of incredible food, coolers full of cold drinks, games to play, perfect weather for being on the boat and splashing about in the lake, and so many things to laugh about.

     Late Saturday afternoon, I'm sitting on the front porch next to one of my dearest friends (she was matron of honor in my wedding to my Personal Chef twenty-four years ago).  We are chattering away and just enjoying the day.  I looked up to see our daughters chattering away and just enjoying the day.  And for a second there, I couldn't tell us apart.  I mean aren't we still the 22-year-olds having a blast at the lake? How can we be, if those two beautiful, smart young women are our daughters?

     In that instant, I understood what Nana meant.

Sunday, June 22, 2014

Things That Fill My Heart

For the third weekend in a row, things didn't go according to plan, but still ended up wonderful.

  • I didn't get to have lunch in Newport on the Most Perfect Day to Be on an Island Ever Created, but I still got to spend my work day on an island with a harbor full of sailboats.  Beats spending a day in the warehouse, hands down.

  • My Personal Chef and I  found that we are the last people in town to have discovered the charm that is Alicante, the local Mediterranean restaurant. Recognizing at least six couples, making friends at the bar, and getting the ahi tuna I missed out on at Friday's lunch was delightful.

Photo: Alicante Restaurant

  • Through hard work, I remembered that when the weeds are relocated from the perennial beds, our front yard is beautiful.

  • There's just something about a new salad spinner that makes the boys in my life (including the 52-year-old) giddy.
  • There's just something about fresh greens from the garden to put in the new salad spinner that makes me giddy.

  • I just love hanging clothes on the line to dry. 

  • There is nothing like spending a few quiet hours in my kayak on the river. 
  • There is nothing like spending a few loud hours with my first born at a concert.
  • I love being married to a guy that is so terrific that my first born had to find herself a guy just like him.  And has. And twinkles when she talks about him.

  • After days of hot weather, it was cool enough to bake banana bread today.  I bet anything that my house smells better than yours does right now.
  • While the banana bread was baking, I got to lounge around in the screen porch and finish reading a book that the Evil Genius recommended to me. I love to read.  I love having children who want me to read what they're reading.  I love that they have such good taste in books.  (This time, it was "Bloody Times" a nonfiction book recounting the final days of the presidencies--and lives--of Abraham Lincoln and Jefferson Davis. Fascinating stuff.)

I hope you found plenty to fill your heart this weekend!

Sunday, June 15, 2014

Boys Are Dumb, Don't Date A Plumber, and Other Things I Learned from My Father

     My father wasn't prone to giving advice.  

 He did once point out to me that if I didn't leave all of my crap on the floor in front of the door when I get home from school, then my Mama wouldn't come home from work a few minutes later and yell at me for leaving a mess. (Why I couldn't figure this out myself, because it happened EVERY. SINGLE. DAY. says something about me that I'm not particularly proud of.)

Other gems of fatherly wisdom:

"If you didn't do the job right [his way], then the job isn't done."

I have found those very words coming out of my mouth as I'm standing in a room that one of my children insists they just cleaned  that is still full of wet towels, wrinkled school papers, and dog-hair tumbleweeds.

"Go to college so you don't have to work outside in bad weather doing manual labor like your Old Man."

I remembered these words fondly as I was standing in a church parking lot during a monsoon moving 50 lb. bags of potatoes and crates of produce around in preparation for a farmers' market for food pantry clients. I didn't learn about this in college, I tell you what.

"There is nothing wrong with working in the service sector, but if you are going to be a waitress, work at the 5-star hotel on Nantucket, not at the diner in South Podunk."

This served me well, as I waitressed my way through college and the early years of my professional career when my entry level salary needed some reinforcing.  Working banquets at a PGA golf club was WAY better than my gig at the pizza place.

"Don't date a plumber.  They'll put their hands in anything and I don't want them touching you later."

This just makes me laugh. Especially when you realize that he advised my brother to consider BECOMING a plumber, because it is a recession-proof trade. "People are always going to need a good plumber, Mike."

The piece of advice I have re-shared most often, though, besides the "don't date a plumber" piece was this response he gave me when I asked him what to do about a bit of boyfriend trouble:

"All men are assholes.  Even the good ones.  Once you come to accept that, you can lower your expectations and things will go more smoothly for you."

Over the years, I have edited that to "Boys are dumb," because there are some situations where referring to someone as an asshole (like at a women's Bible study) isn't kosher.  It's actually a corollary to my training in developmentally appropriate practice, where early childhood professionals are cautioned to not expect a child to behave in a way they are not yet developed enough to manage.  Don't expect a child (man) to know something he hasn't yet been taught.   Don't expect a child (man) to be someone he isn't.  Don't expect a boy (man) to behave like a girl (woman.)

My father died almost four years ago, but the lessons he left behind stay with me. Thanks, Dad, Sir.

Saturday, June 7, 2014

Things That Have Kept Me From Writing a More Serious Post

  • Learning how to tie bow ties.
  • The Evil Genius' induction into the National Junior Honor Society

  • Discovering great Portuguese food at lunch with Thing 1 and my cousin
  • Trying out the boyos' new bicycles 

  • Celebrating Smarty Pants Sons at dinner with old friends  
  • Making new ones while we were at it
  • Unexpected company making a surprise morning visit
  • Kayaking on the Blackstone River

  • Sitting in the hot tub
  • Grilling for dinner
  • Fielding questions about smoking meat from across the country
It's a good list.  It's been a good few days.  Tomorrow there's brunch with my sisterfriends, and coffee & jazz with my teacherfriend, and other such niftiness on the docket.  I wouldn't trade a minute of it for a Pulitzer-worthy article. 

How have you joyed today?

Sunday, June 1, 2014

The Return of the Summer of Awesomeness To Do List

     After starting a mama movement yesterday, I took the Evil Genius for a long walk at a local state park.  When he finally stopped complaining about being pulled away from video games (it only took a mile and a half), we could get down to business.  Today is June 1st.  Summer is practically upon us.  So together, we began drafting this year's Summer of Awesomeness To Do List.

     For those of you who missed it, the original Summer of Awesomeness To Do List came about during the week following the Boston Marathon Bombings last year, when I was in Rwanda and the Evil Genius found himself basically stuck in the house during his school vacation week.  You can read about it hereand here,  oh, and here.  Here, too! This one is a bit silly.  I am deadly serious about this one.  There's pressure to top this.  And finally, there is this.

So far we are going to shoot for:

  • Getting the kayaks out on the ocean, because somehow, we never did last summer.
  • Going strawberry picking.
  • Making jelly after we get back from strawberry picking.
  • The Evil Genius wants to get a job, because boats are really just holes in the water a boy pours money into, and the Evil Genius is sorely addicted to having a boat.
  • The Evil Genius will be returning to Popham Beach with his best friends.
  • The FabFam will reunite on the Cape again in August with all the awesomeness that goes with it.
  • My Personal Chef and I hope to experiment with espaliering apple trees along our garden fence.
  • Thing 1 will be feted at TWO graduation parties--one at the lakehouse in NH.  One here at home.
  • Thing 2 hopes to move out into his first apartment.
  • I want to take the GRE so I can return to graduate school.  Again.
  • Trekking to Tanglewood.  It's one of the FabFam's happy places.
  • Pulling together the Second Annual Family Photoshoot Fandango.
  • Getting to at least 3 museums.
  • Hiking 5 new trails.
  • Trying out at least 3 new restaurants in Boston, Worcester, and Providence.
There is sure to be more added as we go along. Drafting the list is part of the fun.  What's on your list?

Saturday, May 31, 2014

On Getting Mamas Talking

     There are several topics I have in the queue to write about that I haven't because I've been worried that they would make people--particularly some people I care deeply about--feel more than a little uncomfortable. I don't want people I care about to feel badly, and truth be told, I'm pretty conflict averse.  So I have not written or posted any of those stories.  And then something happened.    

Thing 2 got a job.

     It's been a long time coming.  He's been out of school and work for over three years. So it's a pretty big deal for us here in the FabFam.  Two weeks ago, I made a terrific fuss about Thing 1 graduating from college.  I want to make an equitable amount of hoopla for Thing 2.  Only, to celebrate this milestone requires me to publicly talk about how messy and complicated life for Thing 2 and the People Who Love Him can be.  

     I am aware that I already disclose way more about the challenges of having a child with co-occurring bipolar and anxiety disorders than most people do. In this day and age, issues surrounding mental health are still not considered appropriate topics for discussion in Polite Society.  Because the silence was literally putting my precious son in a life-threatening position, I finally started talking, but only in whispers, and only after it was too late to help him avoid a string of troubles. 

    It is completely acceptable to have a conversation at the office with a colleague you barely know about his recent colonoscopy.  Soccer moms can talk about their post-partum hemorrhoids while sitting in beach chairs alongside the pitch while their kids chase the ball like a bunch of honeybees.  Our parents can share all the details of their latest "procedures" at a holiday dinner, while the aunts chime in with their two cents from when they went through it, too.  We can gossip and cluck sympathetically when we hear that a neighbor's child has diabetes or asthma or a life threatening food allergy.  But I'm not supposed to talk about my son's (or my own or my husband's or my mother-in-law's or  my grandmother's or my friends' or your) mental health.  I call bullshit. If I have to listen to the details of your husband's prostate cancer treatment, you can put up with my tales of convincing my anxious son that picking up the phone to call the pharmacy to get a prescription refilled will not trigger the apocalypse.

     I get it.  My son's suffering doesn't look like someone who is suffering from a health care condition.  When he's manic and carrying on like Robin Williams (pre-heart attack, extra hyper), you think he's the class clown who needs to calm down and get to work. When depression keeps him in bed for days or when his anxieties paralyze him you don't see a sick kid.  You see a lazy bum.  I know this, because you think nothing of telling this to him, to his girlfriend, to me and my husband.  Thanks for that.  We really appreciate your world-class support.  It oh so very helpful.  Not.
This mama has had enough of that.  

    This is a thought that has been eddying in my mind for a while now.  See, I keep finding myself in conversations with all kinds of people that have at their base two ideas:  that we measure someone's worth by the category we put them in and that we allow others to be harmed when we keep silent about the treatment we receive because of our given category.  Stick with me here.  It should become clear in a second.

  There is always someone we see as Other  and by Other we usually mean Less Than.  We put those Other people into categories--gay, black, mentally ill, female,etc.--and for a whole host of reasons, we treat those Other people differently than we treat the People Like Us.  And by differently, I mean badly.  You know exactly what I am talking about.  You have been mistreated by someone who sees you as Other.  In all likelihood, you have treated some Other people badly, too.  

     Keeping silent about the mistreatment of women, the mistreatment of gays, the mistreatment of the disabled, the mistreatment of anyone deemed Other by someone else needs to stop.  And I think the only category of people strong enough to unite all the Others are the Mamas. 

I'm done keeping silent. 

     I know that I'm not the only mama out there who has been heartbroken by the treatment of one of her babies because of the color of that baby's skin, or because of that baby's gender, or because of that baby's sexual preference, or because of that baby's disability.  Every mama I know has taught their children how to cope with those attacks.  I have taught my beautiful daughter to not go out alone at night and to always have her phone with her.  I have taught my son to stick to his routine and keep with familiar people who understand his disorders. And I'm right to teach my children how to cope in a challenging world, but I should also have been changing the world, so that it was a little less challenging for them.  What I should have been doing all along is telling everyone who will listen that they will not get away with taunting, touching, or attacking my daughter; that my son is not dumb, lazy, or dangerous.

     So, it's a beautiful spring Saturday.  My Personal Chef is at work directing a string of catered functions.  My chores are done (well, done enough). The day stretches out before me, and I have time on my hands.  

I think I'm going to start a movement.  

     Yep.  I'm starting a movement to rally mamas everywhere to start talking about all of those things which we have kept silent about for too long.  Let's change the world, Ladies! I'm accepting applications for memberships.  And suggestions for the movement's name, you know, for marketing purposes and such.  Someone might want to write a protest song for us or something, so it should be catchy.  

   Hey, this is a brand new movement, my mama movement.  I don't yet know how it will play out. I don't have any rules or anything set up.  Well, here's one rule:  you have to be a mama to join  OR you need a note from your mama saying she gives you permission to join with the other mamas. You can sign up in the comments section. 

     And this here is more a guideline than a rule: I'm going to recommend that when you are representing the movement and talking about something We Don't Talk About, try to remain calm, so that the issues you now bring up can become normalized.  However, I recognize that there will be times that barking, screeching, yelling, or otherwise cussing out someone may be justifiably warranted.  

I think that's a good enough start for now.  I have to go take Thing 2 shopping for work-appropriate attire.  He starts a new job next week.


Monday, May 26, 2014

Magic on Memorial Day

     My Personal Chef is an Air Force brat. So, our FabFam is especially mindful to remember the soldiers who selflessly sacrificed their own lives in the defense of our nation's freedoms on Memorial Day. This year, we had the honor of hanging the flag that belonged to a former Army Ranger, and our Evil Genius marched in two local parades.

    Memorial Day weekend is also the unofficial start of the summer season.  Here in New England, where the winters are long and the springs are rainy and cool, this long, holiday weekend is highly anticipated as the harbinger of beach weather and summer fun to come.

     Around the country, but definitely for my extended family, the "Memorial Day Barbecue" is a tradition. Some years, it's just a few relatives grilling burgers and hot dogs in the yard.  Other years, we throw down with a gourmet menu and red,white, and blue-themed decor.  Regardless, whether it is a simple gathering or an extravagant event, our Memorial Day Barbecue requires planning and preparation to be successful.

    We began discussing plans for a gathering of friends several weeks ago.  We suggested to our friends that they watch the Evil Genius in a parade then come to our place for a barbecue.  For one reason and another, it was decided that the get-together would be at another friend's home instead.

     So imagine my surprise when at 11:55 AM yesterday, while at the hardware store picking up garden fencing and petunias,  I received the following text:  "What can we bring?" Yep.  Apparently, we were to be hosting a Memorial Day Barbecue for approximately 20 people.  In an hour.  We were NOT prepared for a shindig.  Our living room was filled with unfolded laundry and papers.  My Personal Chef was in the yard up to his eyeballs in chicken wire.  The bathrooms were a mess.  And there was nothing in our house to eat.

     What happened next is the stuff that legends are made out of.  
Please note, we are highly trained catering professionals. It is not advisable to try this at home. 

     We had until the 1:00 PM parade step-off to pull a rabbit out of our hats.   Laughing all the way, my Personal Chef went to the grocery store.  I white tornadoed the old homestead.  In 50 minutes, two bathrooms were cleaned to Nana Franna White Glove Standards.  Two loads of laundry were folded and put away.  The coffee table was unburied from the piles of papers, mail, and magazines.  The dining room was set up as a red, white, & blue buffet. The screen porch was readied to receive guests.  Burgers, dogs, and a caesar salad were set to go.   Chicken and pork was getting all happy in the smoker.  Veggies were prepped for grilling.  A case of beer was iced down. And a pitcher of "Adult Limeade" was mixed up.  

     And so it was that we enjoyed a parade, were touched by a moving ceremony that honored our community's fallen soldiers and surviving veterans, and hosted a kick-ass barbecue feast with folks we love.