Thursday, July 31, 2014

Three-Legged Race

Last night, after an incident with my hubby left me disappointed, angry, and anxious, I actually had the thought, "If he was just my boyfriend, I would so break up with him." Terrible, isn't it? What a mean girl reaction to things not going my way. And then I thought: well, of course you would break up with him if you were only dating. That's the major difference between dating someone and marrying them.

Dating means that as long as things are still fun, all laughs and smiles, and no major mishaps, you're still with that person. There are concerts, restaurants, flowers, and infatuation. But marriage is a different animal. Being married means that you are in this thing together, even when things get frustrating or overwhelming. There are less concerts, cheaper restaurants, and flowers are usually for Valentine's Day or a big apology. You see, what they snuck in there in addition to that big wedding and reception, the white dress and the flowers, the cake and the champagne, was a legal document you signed saying that you two are stuck with each other. And if you used traditional vows, you even threw in "until death do you part." That's a somber realization when you feel like you have had enough: someone has to die for us to get out of this relationship. This is a permanent situation we've gotten ourselves into here.

That's when I realized that marriage is actually a life-long three-legged race. You tie yourselves together, begin a little awkwardly, and hopefully pick up speed and make a smoother run of it as you go. It starts off fun, this little game, and you look at each other and giggle. You're in no hurry to really get anywhere other than where you are at that moment, and it seems like the only thing that matters is enjoying each other's company. Then, before you know it, it's been a while and you're losing your patience with this person who is seemingly attached to you. They are slowing you down! Why aren't they walking the way you are, in the same direction? Can't they see that if they would just do it your way, things would be much simpler? This is not the way you thought this race would go--one of you pulling off to the right, the other veering left. That's matrimony, folks. The good news is that your partner is thinking the same thing, and yet here you are, still bound together. If one of you falls, the other is going to stop and help you up. They may even use their momentum to pull you forward a bit. When you're tired, you can lean on each other. And if you lose, you have someone right there with you who has been through the race, every step of the way. If you win, you know exactly who to high-five first.

It looks like fun, it can be a real challenge, and it takes some work to get it right. I think part of the beauty of the whole arrangement is that it's not easy. Most things worth having aren't easy, or we wouldn't want them to begin with. It's human nature to love a challenge; we do this to ourselves.

Sure, if you were still dating and things got tough, you could just return each other's things and go your separate ways. He wouldn't know you still sleep in a retainer even though you are a grown adult, you would be blissfully unaware of his bathroom habits, and neither of you would know the experience that is having a mother-in-law. But here you are, on this obstacle course of living, hobbling along together. There is a reason we call them a "significant other." It's because what that person does and pretty much all of their actions inevitably have a significant effect on your day, your feelings, your moods, your self-esteem, and vice versa. It can be a total pain in the rear, but at the same time, it also means that, by definition, you are significant to your spouse as well. And who wants to go through life with someone who is their insignificant other? The rest of the world can (and will) make you feel insignificant enough.

So, take a deep breath. Try to match each other's strides. When one of you is slowing the other person down, just assume that it is part of your race. Be grateful when your partner picks you up and helps you move forward in the right direction. Because running this three-legged race together beats walking the course alone. At least most of the time. Just keep stumbling forward; if you're doing it together, that's all that really counts.

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Bahama Mama

My family has always loved the Atlantis resort on Paradise Island in the Bahamas. Our first visit there was back in 1995, and we've been back practically every chance we've gotten since then. It's one of those places that has everything you could possibly want to do, all in one location, so everyone is happy. It's big enough that we can go our separate ways, but still one hotel, so technically we've been together the whole vacation. Plus, it is about as commercial and touristy as a place can get; this satisfies our family in that we are not especially a group that seeks out settings which can be described as relaxing, tranquil, or serene. If we want to commune with nature, Atlantis has an aquarium.

When we arrived last Thursday, my dad told the front desk he is a frequent guest and he wanted an upgrade. Imagine my shock and awe when they did just that--to what they call the Imperial Club level, to a junior suite with views of the ocean and the harbor, right beside the huge bridge suite where all the celebrities stay. We didn't have to use the regular people elevators (commoners!), and they cleaned our room so often I found myself trying to make a mess but having no luck (and for an OCD-stricken person, that is quite a feat). This whole situation was particularly impressive because two years ago, I asked for an upgrade, and Atlantis gave me a free rum cake. And at the time, I was ecstatic. Now, after the Imperial Club situation, I am realizing how cheaply I was bought. Allow me to illustrate:

See how happy my hubby is with that little cake? Bless our hearts. Anyway, once we settled into our fantastically upgraded accommodations, we proceeded to take the Bahamas by storm. Our first day, we got all adventurous and signed up for a Segway tour of the waterfront and the fish fry area in Nassau. Now, Clint and I rode Segways last year here in Charlotte, and the most daunting thing we had to navigate was steering around fire hydrants and bankers on their lunch breaks. Imagine our surprise when we started our orientation in knee and elbow pads, and there were orange cones, ramps, and speed bumps to negotiate.

Any worries I had about my parents enjoying the Segways went away immediately; they took to it like a fish to water. As it turns out, it was Clint who got a little overzealous and wound up falling off his Segway, the image of which still makes me laugh out loud. All that got hurt was his pride, so once he was upright again, we zoomed on. We ended our tour at the slalom obstacle course where we raced head-to-head with other members of our group to see who had mastered the Segway best. The other family on our tour was Canadian, and I do not think it an exaggeration to say that the USA dominated that obstacle course. Way to go, 'merica. 
We did a little shopping at the straw market, enjoyed eating at some of our favorite places (okay, based on the six pounds I gained in five days, really enjoyed eating), and spent some quality time by the pool and on the water slides. Since we cannot pass up any type of gimmick or tourist trap, naturally we were drawn to a gentleman on the beach calling himself Dr. Feelgood, selling drinks in real coconut shells. So what if it turned out to be spiced rum and Gatorade? It came in a coconut shell, people. You can't get that here in Charlotte--because if you could, I would force Clint to go with me to wherever such a place exists at least once a week month. Besides, everything's better in the Bahamas. Even the Gatorade.

It wasn't all rest and relaxation down by the pool, however. Some good sun-loving soul had managed to lose their hair piece right on the sidewalk by the Mayan Temple pool. And while it's all fun and games until someone loses their 'do, I have to say that watching people's reactions to this busted up weave provided us with an entire afternoon of entertainment. I think it could be described best as a mix of disbelief and disgust, with a healthy dose of hilarity thrown in the mix. A few other people took souvenir photos of it as well, so I know we were not alone in our appreciation of such lovely locks. I am offering a cash reward for the back story on how this follicular folly came to be, so if anyone can find out exactly how it happened, do tell. I picture some chick arriving at her lounge chair with Rapunzel-like finesse, only to find that after a day of what Atlantis calls "Aquaventure," she returned to her room with a bedraggled bob instead. Talk about your hair raising experiences. Whatever the case, thank you, thank you for sharing.

I told you we ate plenty of good food (six pounds worth, but who's counting?), but now I want to tell you about The Best Food. This food can make the blind see and the lame walk. It will change your life. Okay, maybe not, but it will make you forget about all of that while you're eating, so bon appetite. Our last dinner of vacation was at chef Bobby Flay's Mesa Grill. I won't make your stomach growl with all of the delicious details, but let me tell you that it did involve goat cheese queso fundido, shrimp the size of lobster tails, and a sticky toffee pudding that I'm pretty sure they serve in heaven on the days you've been exceptionally good. We have been lucky enough to eat at Mesa a few times, and it never disappoints. It's worth the feeling that your Spanx are giving you a collapsed lung, because you will waddle happily away from the table feeling full and fine. 

The guys had run out of luck (and spending money) at the casino, my mom was head-to-toe renewed from a day at the spa, and yours truly had already filled in my tropical drink bingo card more than once, so it was time to say good-bye. Storms along the east coast were causing flight delays all over the place, but we got lucky and Clint finagled us on an earlier flight instead of waiting around hours for our originally scheduled programming to finally get off the ground. We made it back to Charlotte earlier than we had planned, and ended our trip safe, sound, and sane. And with a family vacation, what more can you ask?

Monday, July 14, 2014

Zip It

It's summertime in the South and even though we complained about how ridiculously cold it was all winter, now everywhere I go someone wants to talk about how ridiculously hot it is outside. Granted, if you factor in the humidity, it generally feels like it is 113 degrees outside at any given moment in the shade. However, no matter how hot it gets here in Charlotte, I take chilly solace by remembering one of the most sweltering experiences I have ever had, which just happened to take place in very warm, very sunny Cabo San Lucas. And by warm I mean as hot as the blazing fires of hell after Satan has tossed a fresh log on to roast. Ah, Mexico memories.....

About four years ago, Clint and I decided to head to Mexico for a much-needed vacation. It was the first real vacation (instead of just a long weekend in Hilton Head or Charleston) for the two of us since we our honeymoon, way back in December 2001. Hey, every day with me feels like a honeymoon, plus our budget was tight, so it had been awhile. We giddily booked our getaway, packed our bags, and were off to Cabo.

Our idea of an ideal vacation involves sand, sun, cocktails, good food, and a gossip magazine or ten. The most exercise that typically occurs is arranging our lounge chairs to an optimum location for working on our tans. So I'm not really sure why we decided that we wanted to zip line. When one looks at me with my big hair, lip gloss, over-sized earrings, and almost always bedazzled clothes, I would guess that zip lining is not their first suggestion of pastimes. And yet, the activities guy at our hotel had no problem taking our credit card and booking our little excursion for us. I'm fun, I'm spontaneous, I'm adventurous. Okay, only one of those is actually true, and even the fun goes out the window when I am faced with the great outdoors in any really involved kind of way.

I get the distinct feeling that their experience was different from mine.
But the Real Housewives of practically everywhere zip line. I have seen them do in many times, in various cutesy outfits and sporty hairstyles. In the Housewives version, they very effortlessly climb to the top of a platform and proceed to zip line their way through a beautiful canopy of lush, tropical scenery while having what looks to be a fabulous time. I'm surprised they aren't drinking wine as they go along, for all the exertion required on their part. Sadly--and shockingly, in my case--that is not the way it really happens, at least in Los Cabos, anyway.

A grimy white van that looked like it might offer children free candy and puppies came to our hotel early the morning of to pick us up. This should have been my first warning, but it was early and already sweltering, so I suppose I wasn't thinking clearly. I had specially purchased a fuchsia V-neck t-shirt that matched my running shoes, so I was sensibly dressed for what was probably the second time in my life. We loaded into our sweet ride and bumped off down the road for about forty-five minutes to the dust, zip line headquarters. Basically, we were dropped off in a mini Mexican Grand Canyon and told to go get helmeted and harnessed up. I grew up in Georgia and am quite familiar with red clay and rocks, so this was not exactly the spectacular views I had anticipated. Let the good times roll, right? Deep breath.

We signed a stack of waivers roughly the size of Tolstoy novel, all of which saying we thought that voluntarily putting our lives in the hands of equipment that looked like it came from the Anderson, South Carolina jockey lot was a keen idea (in case you are not familiar with the jockey lot, let me just say that if you get there early enough on a Saturday, you can get yourself some designer impostor goods, a puppy, a case of broken crackers, and some bootleg DVDs, all for pocket change). Against my better judgment, I squished my bouncy ponytail up under that utilitarian helmet and even forced a fake laugh when I stepped into my harness. For someone who spends a large amount of time avoiding visible panty lines, this felt completely and totally wrong. In the spirit of adventure, we waddled our way over to our group and sat on wooden benches while our guide gave us some instructions in what could optimistically be described as broken English. You can't help but feel good about a tutorial that involves such detailed information as, "Ju see? Jesss?" and "Do like theeees." I'm glad we got that covered, senor.

It's at this point in our debacle that I notice there are lines running all across this canyon. I hear our instructor (and I am using that term extremely loosely) say something about there being 15 zip lines. Come again? That's great. I'll take um, two? He explains that we will go down one zip line, then proceed to hike our way in and around this crater-turned-tourist-attraction to all the rest of them. It now appears that what we have actually signed up for is an obstacle course that also includes an occasional zip line. I inquire if it is possible to only enjoy a portion of this setup, rather than the entire smorgasbord of fun, and am informed that once you are out on the course, there is no way back but to forge ahead and finish it in its entirety.

I want to paint a complete picture for you. Did I mention that the temperature now feels like we have gone hot-tubbing in Hades? I look down at my brand new shirt, which is now splotched with perspiration. I didn't see anyone drenched in sweat in the pictures in the brochures, only smiley, happy gringos who did not appear to have hiked a gorge and zip lined more times than you can count on both hands. Oh, and then I feel it. My upper lip has now fully broken out in beads of sweat. That is my cue. I do not do the sweatstache. No es bueno.

I remove my very fetching helmet and begin to shimmy out of my harness, which manages to succeed in pulling my shorts halfway off and causing me to trip precariously over my own two feet. This is all the adventure that this girl needs for the day. My next exploit is going to be bumping in that abduction van all the way back to the resort and getting out to the pool in record time to try and make up for this waste of precious vaycay. I could have been drinking margaritas, for Pedro's sake. The zip line gurus seem utterly confused by my lack of enthusiasm, but my hubby knows that this little venture is dead on arrival. He shakes his head, takes off his gear, and boards the shuttle with me. He then spends the trip back to the hotel assuring me that this outing was exactly what he thought it would be, and that he was completely up for it until I reneged on the deal. Insert sweaty, bewildered eye roll from me here. This, coming from the man who, as a boy, used a broken TV antennae to "poke" the channel buttons on the television set in his room, because there was no remote control and he didn't want to walk two feet to change stations? Your mouth is writing adventure-seeking checks that your body can't cash, buddy.

Lesson learned. We are now very careful about what sort of exhilarating experiences we decide to sign up for, and are sticking to things more our speed, like all-you-can-eat buffets and manager's special happy hours. We are headed to the Bahamas this week with my parents, and my mother is already talking about filling our days with things like Segway tours and dolphin encounters. That sounds fine by me, but as soon as someone mentions anything that involves helmets or harnesses, obstacle courses or hiking craters, I am going to tell them what I wish someone had told me: zip it.

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Why I Hate Whole Foods

Hate is a strong word. One I usually reserve for things like beets, birds, and bad hair days. But after my latest shopping excursion at Whole Foods, I am enthusiastically adding it to my short list of Things I Hate. Move over mincemeat, you've got company.

When I first heard that a Whole Foods market was coming to our neighborhood, I was excited. I wanted to like them for a few reasons: first, every Top Chef episode ever filmed shows the contestants pulling up to a Whole Foods, then scrambling out of the car like it's Pamplona and they are running with the bulls, plus shopping carts. Secondly, I heard they had a special escalator that lets you take your shopping cart on it, which is a gimmick, and I am never one to pass up a good gimmick. And finally, I pinned a recipe on Pinterest for some amazing-sounding autumn apple spice cupcakes, and the recipe plainly stated that the little garnishy marzipan apples on the top were available at Whole Foods. Now, it's one of those recipes I pinned but will never actually make, because it has 48 steps, but just knowing that the garnish was, in fact, obtainable, gave me great pride. Watch out, Martha Stewart: there is one less degree of separation between us.

And then, the whole world (or at least the total population of south Charlotte) went berserk over the new grocery store on the block. I noticed during the first week the store opened that the entire right lane in front of the store had now become the Whole Foods turn lane. A year later, it is still that way. In an ironic twist, there is also a Burger King next door, so while I am crawling along in the stagnant lane, trying to bypass the WF traffic, I always laugh when they lose a car to the home of the Whopper. Take that, veggie burger lovers!

I have rarely driven by Whole Foods without the parking lot being at capacity. The store has its own parking deck, and I am sure that sucker is full to the max as well. Even when the store is closed, there is always a ridiculously high number of cars in the lot. It's like people can't bear to leave. My question, after eyeing the clientele in this oh-so-healthy-for-you-and-the-world-around-you market is: aren't most of these people opposed to cars? I thought our carbon footprints were trampling the environment, killing polar bears, and melting the ice caps or something? And yet there are SUVs the size of school buses littering the parking lot 24/7.

Not that all the vehicles are SUVs, mind you. Which leads me to the next irritation of this whole Whole Foods phenomenon: the half dozen electric car charging stations that are taking up precious parking spaces. These spots are designated only for those very sporty, high-performance adult go-carts like the Prius, the Spark, or the Leaf. It seems to me that if only electric cars are allowed to park in those spots, then all the other spaces should be reserved for those of us who drive real cars. Otherwise, isn't this some form of vehicular discrimination? Obviously I am being excluded from parking based solely on the fact that my car doesn't need an extension cord. I am sure that is a violation of at least one of my amendment rights, plus, no one should ever be considered inferior to a method of transportation called a Leaf.

All of this may have you wondering what in the world caused me to venture to Whole Foods in the first place, since most of you know I do my grocery shopping mainly in the luxurious confines of the Super Walmart. However, in the special cases of cocktails and gourmet snacks, I am willing to make exceptions to my routine. In preparation for a visit from an out-of-town friend, I was attempting to make a citrus basil sangria, in which the main ingredient was the apparently exotic tangerine. Having already exhausted three other stores, I just knew Whole Foods would have a bag of these elusive little fruits. I am sure that at some point, the Top Chef people have used tangerines, right?

Once I finally located a parking spot appropriate for (ahem) cars of my kind, I found my much-sought-after tangerines in the produce department, which was just slightly more busy than the mall on Black Friday. Whole Foods doesn't sell much else of anything that makes my grocery list--I am never at home in a place where Diet Coke is not welcome--and so I started trying to make my way through the huddled masses to the checkout.

And that is when I ran upon the kids club display. You know the one that, in every other grocery store you've ever been in, offers bored children something like a cookie or some candy to numb the pain of the food shopping experience? At Whole Foods, the kids club has fruit instead of cookies. Sorry, little Johnny, no chocolate chip anything for you today. Just your delicious choice of apple, orange, or banana. If my mother had drug my brother and I to the grocery store and then offered us a banana for our trouble, she would have had an angry, chubby kid mutiny on her hands. No, no, Whole Foods, this will not do.

Think about this kids club situation this way: do you want your children to think of junk food as their unicorn? As some delicious, mystical creature that they hear about, but never enjoy? Some kid at school will take them on a magic cafeteria carpet ride one day at lunch, and the next thing you know, your kid is stealing money from your wallet to score some Cool Ranch Doritos in a deserted corner of the playground when no one is watching. Give the kid a cookie and save him from a future of buying Chips Ahoy on the black market. I paid my dreadlock-covered cashier for my purchase, which he deemed "groovy," and trudged to my car.

And so, Whole Foods, I hate you. You seem to think that I am not smart enough to make sensible choices on my own--and a lot of the time I'm not--but even so, I don't need my grocery store doing it for me. Food freedom for us all! No more automobile segregation! United we stand, divided we get stuck eating naval oranges for dessert.

As consolation (because I know the Whole Foods corporation is devastated by this revelation), I would like to add that Whole Foods is terrible, yet still not as quite as bad or weird as Earth Fare, who sells things like crystals instead of deodorant and something called the Diva Cup for ladies (I'm not even going to elaborate on that one, I'm only mentioning it to you because I saw it once in Earth Fare and it scarred my psyche. Google it, and prepare to be grossed out). Oh, and you know that special escalator in Whole Foods, the one that you can take your shopping cart on? It turns out that disappointingly, it only goes to the parking garage. Which is where I'll be, in a dark corner selling dime bags of Doritos to disgruntled kids club members.