How I spent my Summer Vacation

Bunghole is not a bad word.  But, like many of you, I have overused the saying, “Get the bunghole outta here!” in a clever attempt at crudeness.  However, as any 17th century seaman will tell you, a bung is a tube-like cork that is used to plug a hole in a barrel.  And that’s where the word ‘bunghole’ originated.  How it morphed into the present connotation of a dirty word is anyone’s guess.

Some famous sports guy i Boston

The boys with some famous sports guy in Boston

This is but one of the many fascinating facts that our family learned on our recent vacation to the east coast.  Because I have been deluged by requests (stop the madness, folks!) to share our pictures and every detail of our trip, I will humbly indulge – within reason.  Because of space and time restraints, I can only give you this blog – the good news is you can order a copy of the extended super huge scrap book and CD I will soon be selling on I’m also setting up a website.

So, buckle up gang as we revisit our family’s trail to the east coast and maybe, just maybe, learn a little something along the way,

Top ten things I did not know:

1. Niagara Falls sucks.  Not the actual Falls, they are incredibly beautiful and to see them first-hand is breath-taking, but past that, the city (on the Canadian-side) is what I call “a cluster-fart,” (or something siniliar).

Think Disney plus Great America plus Las Vegas, on steroids, times a million, with a bad caffeine buzz and a cocaine problem. I have never been on a street with three Ripley’s Believe It or Nots, four dinosaur rides, ten ice cream shops, eight Starbucks, a couple of vertical roller-coasters and a hookah bar.  Top that with a gazillion whiney kids, a loud motorcycle gang, cash-strapped parents and a ninety degree day and you have yourself a good old-fashioned cluster-fart.

2. That a ball of Silly Putty, when thrown from the back seat on a minivan at a high rate of speed and gets stuck in your hair, is nearly impossible to get out. 

3. It is possible though, while driving and trying to follow a GPS in a foreign country, to reach behind the seat and punish a disobedient child.

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Just another fun form of torture!

4. Not all of the witches in the Salem, Mass trials  were hanged.  One gentleman, who refused to enter a guilty plea of having a pact with the devil, was pressed to death by large stones, added intermittently as he lay on the ground.  Folklore has it that, as he struggled for breath and the local sheriff stood over him demanding that he admit to the crime, he would repeat, “I will not, sir.  Add another stone.”  He was eighty-one. 

5. The “Ivy League” of east coast universities is not named for the green ivy covering the dated buildings in this elite group of schools.  It actually began as the “IV League” of four colleges (Harvard, Princeton, Dartmouth and Yale) and the “IV” comes from the Latin number four.  Use this fact to stump your fancy Ivy League friends – it will make you feel smarter than them as I guarantee they will not know this fact.

6. There is no such thing as a hotel room with reasonable rates for a family of four.  Either you get two double beds or pay up for a deluxe suite which gets you a queen and a pull-out sofa.  Maybe some of you have children that can sleep next to each other without biting or kicking (liars!) but this is a very tight situation for most of us.  I don’t need a mini kitchen with a stove, or even a couch.  I need a king and two twin-sized beds!  Hello?  Hilton?

Max and Sam learning the ropes

Max and Sam learning the ropes

7. The expression “learning the ropes” comes from the sailors of the sixteenth century.  When ships took on ten- and twelve-year old boys as apprentices, the first thing the kids had to do was learn where the five-hundred or so ropes, associated with the different sails on the ship, went.  I wonder in four hundred years if there will be a new expression, “learning the iphone?”

8. Inmates in east coast prisons staged a revolt protesting the all-too-frequent meal of the “sea rat,”  a creature of great abundance at that time.  To this day, there stands a law in Maine that prisoners cannot be fed the sea rat, or as we know it, the lobster, more than twice a week.

9. Climbing the 300 steps in the Bunker Hill Monument after walking four miles to get there, was not as much fun as I thought it would be.  Maybe it was the completely vertical steps with no ventilation?  Or the tight, dark, dank staircase?  I don’t know, but the kids did enjoy it.  I passed them on step fifty – I was going up as they were already on their way down.

Max and the "Sea Rat"

Max and the "Sea Rat"

10. It’s like so, so great to spend all that time, in a minivan and small hotel rooms with your family.  I mean really really great.  The language, as well as the bodily function element, of pre-teen boys is not only charming but refreshing and pleasant while driving through the miles and miles and miles of desolate northern Pennsylvania. 

I’m not one to honey-coat everything, so I will admit, towards the end of the trip and as we headed to stay the last night at my in-laws in Cleveland, I got a tiny bit grumpy.  But I did what anyone would do in my situation: I locked myself in an upstairs bedroom with a bottle of wine and let the boys and Craig sleep in the basement.

Attitude adjustment successful.


High School Reunion, here I come!

It’s funny.  When I was growing up in Michigan, I couldn’t wait to get out of the state and what I considered the blue-collared city of Battle Creek.  The cereal factories, the non-descript row homes, the downtown that could hardly be considered a hub of culture and it all embodied a background that I didn’t want to be associated with.

Battle Creek - Cereal Capital of the world!

Battle Creek - Cereal Capital of the world!

I certainly saw myself as more of a sophisticated kind of gal – one who enjoyed the enhanced opportunities that a metropolitan city would provide.  Like Dim sum on Sunday mornings in Chinatown, a downtown that boasted a skyline comparable to none, renowned universities and museums a cab ride away – the cultural diversity that Chicago could offer.

It wasn’t that I was used to these things.  There were no European trips or sports cars wrapped in a red ribbon sitting in my driveway on my sixteenth birthday.  My parents weren’t successful entrepreneurs or trust-fund babies, they were teachers and we lived a middle-class existence where, when you could start working, you did.  We drove American made cars, ate at Red-Lobster on special occasions and vacationed in northern Michigan during the summers

The Chicago skyline - it is pretty cool!
The Chicago skyline – it is pretty cool!

When I left for Illinois, I hardly looked back.  When people asked me where I was from, I laughingly said Michigan as though it were common knowledge that anyone who could get out, would.  I loved my new life, even though I was living in a two-bedroom apartment in Schaumburg and driving my Saturn into the city to work.  I wasn’t necessarily living the good-life, but I was awful close to people who were and that sort of thing rubs off.  We all shared the unspoken knowledge that, yes, we had arrived.  To where, I couldn’t tell you, but it was somewhere other than Battle Creek.

My life went through another change when I met Craig and the apartment turned into a house and the Saturn to a mini-van.  It was an effortless transition into a new life, one that I had not actively sought out, but rather expected would happen and I settled in, totally comfortable in my newest role.

You can run, but you can’t hide

But, as anyone wise will say, you can take the girl out of Michigan but you can’t take Michigan out of the girl.  It took a couple years, but I did begin to miss trees, and crickets and the stars that light pollution didn’t hide. I missed leisurely drives in the country where you lick your vanilla cone and watch the horses or the late evening farmer finish his plowing.   Ice cream in the suburbs means traffic and lines and a three dollar baby cone.

Craig and the boys at Fort Mackinaw

Craig and the boys at Fort Mackinaw

I looked forward to family visits where we took long walks through the woods or on the beach or just sat on the porch with lemonade, gossiping about the latest small-town scandal. It wasn’t hard to convince Craig to vacation on Mackinac Island where walking through horse manure seems charming and fudge is the official hors d’oeuvre, served before every meal.
Even Battle Creek was different than what I remembered.  It wasn’t smoke you smelled from the factories, but the sweet aroma of Frosted Flakes and Rice Crispies drifting through the city.  The row houses reminded me of the days when my best friend, Tala, and I would sneak into her older sister Sherree’s bedroom to look at her Led Zeppelin album covers when she wasn’t there.  I recalled riding the bus downtown to shop at Robinson’s department store and eating hand-pressed burgers and shakes at Speed’s Coffee Shop.  Was my childhood far enough behind me that all things once evil had magically become nostalgic?

Returning to the scene of the crime

This weekend I’ll return again for my class reunion.  It’s a bit easier as FaceBook has allowed me the opportunity to pre-connect before meeting up with the classmates from Lakeview High School Class of 1979.  At one time I may have turned up my nose at the chance to see faces that may or may not have been friends, but I view things differently these days.  I’ve grown up now and it doesn’t matter to me how much money you make or how big your house is.  I want to hear how your brother is doing or what happened to your sister, the swimmer.  I want to tell you how sad I was to hear your mother passed away and how glad I am that your dad made it through his by-pass surgery with little complication.  I want to see pictures of your kids, hell, your grandkids, and hear about your life and what you’ve been doing for the past thirty years.

Sure, I’d have liked to have lost the twenty pounds that have found their way home and you betcha I have a hair appointment scheduled this week for a “touch-up” but frankly, I feel pretty comfortable with what and who I am these days.  This is not a claim I make lightly or have even made much in the past, but I have lost much of the baggage that I had dragged around and I don’t feel the need to be anything other than what I am.  Trust me, I still have my issues, but they’re not as life-threatening as I once thought they were.

So, this weekend should be fun.  Kelly comes in on Wednesday and the kids are at camp, so we’ll have plenty of time to reminisce of days gone by and old war stories.  I’m looking forward to seeing the faces of the “kids” I went to school with and remembering the few that didn’t make it to see this reunion.  All in all, I’d say it ain’t so bad.


Can I throw my husband under the bus?

I really don’t hate my husband.   As a matter of fact, he’s my favorite spouse so far.  But, and this is a big but, he’s a sports freak, and a football maniac.  He’s what we in the business call a whack-job. 

Craig and his next wife.

Craig and his next wife. (Apparently, she's a "big" sports fan)

If I would have known this on our first date I may not have gotten so drunk with him.  I might possibly, still, be happily employed in some hell-hole job, miserably trying to balance a corporate checkbook, driving a Saturn and sharing some dumpy apartment with a great guy who I would later find out was gay (not that there’s anything wrong with that). 

But, he worked his black magic and instead, I was hoodwinked, tricked, and  bamboozled.  When he noticed that I sported a nineteen incher that didn’t even have basic cable, he offered up that he too, didn’t watch much TV.  Sure, he held a mild interest in his hometown Cleveland Browns, but the real joys in his life were long walks on the beach - pina colada in hand, and marathon late-night chats of damaged old-flames.

Admitting it is the first step

I admit I’m not the sharpest knife in the deck and in time I figured out this was his ploy to get into me into something more comfortable.  But what’s a girl to do when a fella offers to lunch for hours and shop for days at a time?  You can understand my dilemma when I found out that, not only was he a football fan, but he was a fan of any ball or racquet  or club or stick.  He was drawn to ESPN like Michael Phelps was to a bong and I soon discovered just how serious his obsession was.

Sunday morning, during football season, the TV would go on at 9:00 am and four meal deliveries and fifteen hours later, he would finally get up to relieve himself.  I once caught him watching “classic” ESPN (which I totally don’t get – you already know who won) and not only had he seen the game a number of times, he was there…at the game…when it was played in 1976!  He has a pornographic memory for useless trivia and he can recite any sport statistic you’d care to challenge him on from golf to poker to women’s badminton.

Agreeing to disagree

Over the years we have come to an understanding concerning his proclivities.  I enjoy solitary beach walks with my pina coladas and he has agreed to only watch the championship of any sport.  But as many of you are aware, there are championships just about every hour on the hour for any sport you can imagine.  It has since come to my attention that I negotiated a bad deal but I am not the lawyer in the family.  The good news is that, since I have found my higher calling, it doesn’t bother me so much and only when it puts my children’s lives in danger do I even say anything.

Case in point.  Because of some minor issues I have, we enjoy driving the twenty hours from Chicago to Florida for family vacations.  We have never encountered any substantial obstructions before, but this year was different.  Hurricane force winds escorted us out of Florida, torrential rains in Georgia kept us company for most of the eight hour drive through the state, and numerous hail, thunder and snow storms followed us for the rest of the way.  We were fortunate enough to be traveling during the college playoffs for basketball so I thought we could take a break from the excitement of listening to comments about sweaty teenage boys (see previous “Tale of Two Loser’s” blog!) but that was not the case.

Now, before I rip my husband a new alligator hole, I will confess I sometimes drive with one hand and occasionally take my eyes off the road.  Not at the same time, of course, (the only exception was when I did and hit a bale of straw that rolled off the road and started a small brush fire – that’s a blog for another time).  But during that perilous drive through the horrible weather, Craig was continually and frantically searching for any AM radio station that carried the games.  He had leaned over to the center of the mini-van, practically in my lap, and must have been steering by some form of sixth sense because I swear, his eyes were glued to the radio pursuing the holy grail of sports stations.

Who’s the idiot now?

There are a few metropolitan areas between Chicago and Naples that broadcast the games but most of the time all the blurted out from the radio was obnoxious white noise with an occasional whisper of an announcer.  I couldn’t make out one word but Craig swore he heard scores through the blaring garbage spewing from the dashboard and I was too paralyzed with fear at that point to even argue.  As we careened through the mountains during a storm that only Noah could appreciate, my husband was more focused on “his” team making the final four than on making sure I would live to see my tropical drink.

Only once, did I see him revert to the ten-two position on the steering wheel and that was when we were hydro-planing across a small lake that had collected on the highway in Tennessee.  As we fish-tailed about the road, barely missing the cement barriers of the construction zone, he reluctantly pulled his hand off the radio and guided us back to safety.  If I hadn’t been frozen in terror, the scream still caught in my throat, I surely would have burst into tears or at least stuck him with the plastic knife I had hidden in the folds of my jacket.

So ladies, when your special friend leans over and whispers in your ear, not sweet nothings, but the desire to see “his ” team go to the Super Bowl, or he spends hours hitting redial on his cell, hoping for the opportunity to talk to “Mike and Mike” on sports radio, or even just gazes longingly at girl’s beach volleyball, beware!  Red flag alert!  Think twice before you take your hand off your pina colada.