The Time Tatum Entertained Us

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Edited to add:  A’s SIL is actually L.  Not “D”.  Because I can type.  And think.  Sigh.  Sorry L!  I heart you!

Gentle Reader,

This weekend, I went down to Austin to help celebrate my baby cousin H as she gets ready to get married next month to T.  Who is really a sensational guy.  Daddy LOVED him.  H is the baby of the family, so you’ll forgive me if I’m a bit wistful, but you see, I knew her when she was still a lump inside her mama.

And this weekend, I watched her be entertained by Tatum:


The Full-Service Entertainment Piñata.  (T–you are WAY cuter, you have nothing to worry about, I promise!)

I got up on Friday and drove down to Austin in time to pick H and some of her friends up from the airport around noon, and we went from there to the condo (which was on 4th St., which made the evening festivities SO MUCH NICER) and unpacked.  And by “unpacked”, I mean “drank a lot and then played drinking games”.

It didn’t hurt things at all that after Tatum suffered catastrophic structural failure (as most pinatas, even Full Service Entertainment ones, are wont to do), he turned out to be stuffed with those little tiny shot-sized bottles of booze.

I had made a brisket for Friday’s dinner, since we were in various states of arrival (and sobriety) all through that afternoon and evening.  It remains my most popular dish.

That evening, we went out to The Broken Spoke to go dancing.  Where we discovered that my car’s headlights have some kind of demon possessor.  (Thanks for not ticketing us, Austin PD!)  And I got my first reminder of why going out in a college town is SO MUCH FUN.  I got carded.  I’m pretty sure the guy at the door had to go see his therapist after I kissed him when he asked to see my ID.  Anyway, we went in, and I got my first reminder of why it is that I’m glad I no longer live in a college town.  It was HOT.  SO, SO, SO HOT.  And there was a COVER CHARGE.  (WHAT THE WHAT????)  And they wanted to charge actual money for WATER.

I love you beyond words, H, so I drank a beer, sweated gallons, watched you turn around on the dance floor several times, and then took a cab back to the condo where I sat in air-conditioned silence.  I’m so sorry I was a party pooper, but you looked like you were weathering the disappointment well, and one day you’ll be 36.  Then you’ll understand.

The next morning, my cousin Maya arrived, making me no longer the oldest one in attendance.  (Side note-I love you Maya, and thank you for getting there!!!!)  So, we got up, had breakfast, and went to the lake.

Austin LOVES her some outdoor activity.  And particularly some water-related outdoor activity.  It has been a LONG TIME since my backside has been in a swimsuit, let alone in a swimsuit in front of a lot of people who spend a lot of time doing outdoor activity.  But I love H, and so I went.  I appointed myself to be the one who sat with the towels and flip-flops and waters and waved at everybody while they did the water activities.  H’s sister, A, overruled me and (lovingly) strong-armed me into kayaking with her SIL, D.  Which was actually quite fun, because while D is in FANTASTIC shape, she was taking things easy on Saturday and so we took a leisurely pace at the kayaking.  Also, she had not kayaked before, so when we crashed into people we could legitimately say, “Sorry!  We’re new!”.  I loved getting to know D better, because we both do the same thing professionally (she’s better at it than me) and we think a lot alike.  Also, her brother O is a big favorite of mine.  So it’s not surprising that I think D is pretty fantastic.  Also, that actually may not be the last time I ever kayak.  It was kind of fun.  And since water was nearby, I didn’t have to sit around in my own sweat, which is my chief objection to most exercise-type activities.

Random aside:  My Gigantic Family is weird.  I never knew just how weird until I started doing what I do.  We all like each other.  We all talk to each other.  I’m the least open person in the group.  (And I have a blog where I have discussed my teeth.)  When people marry in to the group, they bring all of their people, too.  I count cousins on the other side of my cousins’ families as members of my own family.  So it never occurred to me that the fact that the wife of a cousin of H’s cousin was at her bachelorette weekend, or the SIL of her sister, was weird.  But I suppose it kind of is.  Whatever.  I’ll take it.

Anyway, we kayaked, the others did some kind of activity that involved STANDING UP ON A LONG BOARD–ON THE WATER!!!!!–AND PADDLING AROUND WITH WHAT SEEMED TO BE A LONG SKI POLE.  In two-piece swimsuits.  One day, darlings, gravity will find you.  Backaches will find you.  You will no longer be able to sleep on the floor for two hours and spring awake into a new, un-hungover, day.  And while I love you all right now, exactly as you are, at that point my love for you will deepen.  And you will watch as your twenty something cousin takes off her life vest and hops from a board to a kayak and lays down and does a backflip and lands softly on this board, and you will know the wistfulness with which I watched you Saturday.  And I will be there to hug you and remind you that life actually does begin at 30.

After we got done with our water-related activity, we found another park (Austin’s parks are amazing, BTW) and had a picnic.  Here’s where I have to tell Mama, “You’re welcome.”  There were chocolate Lab puppies.  For sale.  They were cute, had little fat tummies, waggly, uncoordinated tails, big feet, soft ears, puppy breath, pink tongues, and I did not scoop one up and bring him home with me.  So, you owe me one.

Anyway, the picnic was lovely-all of H’s favorite foods, and we toasted her, and then we went back to the place to nap and to get ready to go out for the evening.  There were 12 girls in a condo that had 2 bathrooms…HAHAHAAHAH!  So anyway, we got ready and went to a wine bar for dinner, where we had old world wines (I know nothing about old world wines…) and I had some pretty delicious sliders, and what seemed to be an endless supply of frites and aioli.  Health food.

After dinner, we went back to the condo to regroup and head out.  H donned her tiara, we donned flashing gummy-rings that threatened to blind Maya and me, and out we went into the night.  On 6th Street, we found a lovely assortment of live music, a rooftop bar that had music that seemed enormously popular sung by people I have never heard of, and a person heroically garbed in a plushy zebra costume.  (Woof.  Can you imagine the insane heat that must have generated???  I would have actually gone up and gotten a picture but was afraid of the heat and stink that must surely have been emanating from that…)  After the rooftop bar experience, the bachelorette decided that it was time to ride the mechanical bull.

I love H fiercely, and thus did not commemorate the ensuing face plant in film.  I will say that she did it with far more grace and elegance than the bachelorette prior to her did.  For one thing, H was wearing all of her clothes.  Including pants.  I know more about the prior bachelorette than I should, including some things that really only one’s doctor should know.  Rompers are NEVER A GOOD IDEA.  EVER.  ON ANYBODY OVER THE AGE OF THREE.

After watching the bull riding, I decided it was time for the old lady to bow out again so that the youngsters could go really crazy.  So I walked home.  And was joined half an hour later by Maya.  (I give her credit.  She has three kids, and didn’t want to pass up the evening out.)  We talked and drank nonalcoholic drinks and then went to bed so as to be as sound asleep as possible before the girls came back.  I didn’t hear anybody when they came home, so I guess our plan worked.

Anyway, Sunday morning dawned and we all had to say our goodbyes.  That’s always the sad part, but I’ll see everybody in August, and we’ll get to add even more people to our excellent family, which is the fun part!  I drove home, stopping at Whataburger (mmmm…extra pickles and extra mustard go a long way toward replenishing the body’s lost stores…), and then took a LONG nap.  Emily-did you ever get your Whataburger???

And that was the weekend!  This week, my cousin S comes to visit us for a whole week!  I’m pretty excited!



On Boundaries

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Gentle Reader,

So I know you are dying to see the new-and-improved (wait…that’s not technically possible, right? Just improved, then.) wine room with more racks, better organization and apparently, for some reason, TWO CASES of port.  Admittedly “good” port, but that’s a little bit like saying a “good IRS agent”, right?  You can buy pretty much the same stuff on aisle 12 of your local Walmarts under the label “Robitussin”.  Who buys this much port?

Apparently, Daddy.

Can I put port in a roast or a braise?  Because I got nothin’.

Anyway, I’m almost done, pics of that and a tutorial next week.

But today, I’m noodling around on the subject of boundaries.  My friend Candace and I were discussing this in relation to my life and my writing the other day.  I’ve not really stopped thinking about it since.

Basically, I come from a people who VALUE privacy.  Boundaries.  Before I moved back home, (not out of failure to launch syndrome, but rather a “what now?” sort of situation…) my parents would call me before they came over, and I would call them before I went to their house.  Always.  Sure, we have keys to both, we’re welcome any time, but we ask.  We knock before we open doors.  (But we do not slam doors, ever.)  We do not (intentionally, at least) ask questions that are none of our business, we do not pry, because we do not want to cause unnecessary pain or embarrassment to someone.  We are, however, always available and willing to listen and help if we are needed.  Think British, only more reserved.

Except BIG progress…I now sleep with my bedroom door open.

How I became the extrovert sharer-of-all-things here on the blog, I’ll never know.  (Talking.  It’s that I have so many words in me.)  But you’ll note that I do not share names unless explicitly and freely given permission to do so.  Because that’s not my story to tell, or my privacy to give away.  Candace, however, gave permission.

Anyway, partly because I had a pretty big privacy breach directed toward me the other day (it’s interesting to nobody, really…) and partly because of Candace’s EXCELLENT guest post here, I’ve been thinking.  There are things that we all need to talk about.  There are things (and people) that we need to protect.  Sometimes, the need to talk trumps the protection angle.  And vice versa.

This year, we’ve both experienced very painful, very common things, and felt lonely and unprepared for them.  Like we were alone when, in fact, we were not.  If we were better at balancing the need to talk and the desire to protect, maybe we wouldn’t feel so alone, so unprepared when things like these happen.  (But Candace said it better-go click on the link, I’ll wait.)

As Candace sagely observed, sometimes here on the blog you get “Dinner Party Wordie”.  Which?  I’m awesome at those.  But the boundaries are way up at dinner parties.  And sometimes, I struggle to write because I feel like if y’all read ONE MORE POST about Wordie’s Feelings, you’ll have to stab at your eyes with a sharp implement.  Isn’t bacon a more interesting read than what I feel about…the first wine I tasted where I actively grieved that Daddy never got to taste it?  (Adastra Proximus Pinot.  You need some.  Really.)  (Only now I’m wondering if they do a Proximus Pinot, because I don’t see it on their site…but I could have sworn I ordered some…)  How sometimes I really think I am a puppet being controlled by grief–that when I’m walking down the street in Yountville and appreciating the fact that I am in one of the prettiest places on the planet, a place we all love, all of a sudden, I’m pounded by the thought that the man who introduced me to wine, to this place, is never going to see this again.  And then after that, I wonder if I’m doing this process right.  How I keep going back to anger, at really silly things and at him, and then wondering why something that is completely in the natural order of things (parents die before their kids, it’s how it usually works, we will all most likely lose a parent and feel that pain) is taking so long to make sense or be peaceful for me.  Everybody loses their parents.  Is it like this for other people?  Or am I doing this wrong?

So in an effort to improve my writing, I’ll work on the whole boundaries thing.  But I promise to keep the television and Labrador commentary, too.  And protect the privacy of the folks about whom I am lucky to write.

And now I have to go cook some stuff for a bachelorette party!



We Came, We Drank A Barrel, We Bought More

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Gentle Reader,

We’re back, and by “back”, I mean “arrived home at 4:00 this AM after a day where Mama had to tell her 36 year-old ‘thank you for not having a temper tantrum’ SEVERAL TIMES”.  So we’re exhausted.

I’ll update you soon, but we found some sincerely awesome wines, some truly exceptional people dedicated to their craft, saw some extremely special grapes, and vines, and clones, reunited with dear, DEAR friends, and ate some delicious food.  Including a braised pork shoulder that I’ll be dreaming about for years.

In the meantime, in preparation for the [number redacted by the NSA] cases of wine that are making their way to us and the fall shipments we expect in November/December, I’m embarking on the cellar organization project.

(Brief Aside:  May I just take the moment to thank the beautiful person at UPS who FINALLY got the idea for Cold-Chain shipping???  I had gotten actually, truly, worried that we would not have enough Pinot to last through Thanksgiving since most wineries won’t ship to us here in The Great Republic from about April through November.  On behalf of a grateful nation, thank you good Sir or Madam.  And I hope you don’t think it too forward of me, but I love you and if you ever need a kidney?  Please do call.  I think we both know you need to go elsewhere if you ever need a liver.)

Anyway-where was I?  I got the Bordeaux reds about halfway unloaded today.  It’s not unlike pruning actual vineyards, organizing and inventorying a cellar that has gotten a bit overgrown.  I found a Riesling or two mixed in with some Super-Tuscans today, so it’s going to be a project…

In the meantime, I need to make dinner.  And then settle down with “True Detective”.

I’ll leave you with one of my favorite parts of visiting the Napa Valley–


The Winery Dog.  (In this case, Bristol, from Frank Family.)




A Boy And His Skittles

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Gentle Reader,

Mama worked from home for YEARS before she retired (last week!  Yay Mama!), so she and the animals had a routine.  She’d get up, and The Boys would follow her into the office, and get her day started, and then she’d open the shutters in her office and The Boys knew it was time for breakfast at that point (our animals have a rough existence, I know…).  She’d put a bit of kibble down for them, and then she’d scramble some eggs for herself, and they’d get the leftovers.  Also, The Boys learned that they liked Skittles quite a bit (Santa may have brought them a bag one year in their stockings…) so Mama kept The Skittle Bowl in one of her drawers in her office.  Cooper was always the food-motivated one, so I have no idea why it was that Cody was the one who was obsessed with the Skittle Drawer, as it came to be known.  He’d go and stand and bark at the drawer whenever he wanted a snack.  Of course whenever he got some Skittles, Cooper did, too, so maybe that’s why Cooper never got too wound-up about it.  And so it went, The Boys (and eventually Scout, too) kept Mama company in the office all day, and had a continual supply of snacks.  So with Mama now retired, and me still working on various projects around here regarding Daddy’s affairs, before I figure out what’s next, I’m the only one in an office regularly during the day.  Cody has been restless.  Scout, too, but Cody really has been shuffling around trying to figure out what to do.  Yesterday, Mama finished clearing out the work stuff from her office, and brought me The Skittle Bowl, and wondered if I had room for it in Daddy’s/my desk.

In it went.

It took Cody all of ten seconds to figure the new routine out, and this evening, he’s been keeping me company while I write and take care of some things.  All it took was the Skittle Drawer, and all was right again in Cody’s world.


Except this drawer is better, because it’s right at tongue height for the boy.

Now if only he could figure out how to open the drawer himself…


(And don’t worry…the Skittles in the bowl are his alone…we don’t serve our guests pre-owned Skittles.)



One You Might Not Have Heard…

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Gentle Reader,

For two of my most dear, who need a smile desperately right now.  XO, Lambs.

So I’ll start right out and tell you that Mama and our friend S explicitly forbade B and me from telling this one at Daddy’s memorial service…naturally, it’s the one that everybody loves the most.

So Daddy and Mama met while Daddy was stationed with the Air Force in Valdosta, GA.  Which is near Hahira, GA, if you don’t know the town.  Daddy liked to say that Mama was dazzled by the stunning specimen of pilot she saw, and the really fast jets he flew.  It’s as good a guess as any, I suppose.

So one of the important duties of a fighter pilot in that day was to fly around the country in the really fast jets to make sure they had enough flight hours to stay on top of their skills in case the Floridians ever came over the wall and started taking over South Georgia.  (Too late.)  

(An important job when Daddy was stationed in Idaho was to make practice bombing runs in the desert of The Ugly Part of Idaho.  In related news, there are no prairie dogs in that area who have any hearing left, at all.  But it kept the Canadians at bay for a few years, at least.)

Where was I?  So one afternoon, a formation of F-111As took off from Valdosta on a flight to somewhere, doing the important government work of collecting flight hours.  (I mean that with utter respect for the Armed Forces and the work they do, you know that, yes?)  Daddy was in one of the planes, in the front seat.  Student in the back.  Several friends and buddies in the other planes.  The F-111, as with nearly all other fighter jets, was not known for pilot comfort and space.  It was cold, cramped, and the IFE system sucked.  Though this was still several years before “Breaking Bad” so I don’t really see what use they would have had for an IFE, anyway…And the pilots had to wear like four layers of suiting and whatnot.  Some kind of anti-gravity suit to keep them from passing out from flying so quickly?  And some other layers-I don’t know…to keep them warm?

Anyway-at some point, Daddy hands things over to his back seat, the student.  (Do we know who this student was?  Because I feel like we owe him a note and some kind of “I hope the trauma has eased over the years” gift card…)  And then there is much gyration happening from Daddy’s seat.  For awhile.  And as it turns out, the man is contorting himself out of every single layer of his clothing.   He then stands up (in the spacious cockpit), turns to one side, and applies his backside to the (lid?  hatch?  plexiglass helmet?) of the airplane and moons his fellow airplanes.

And one of Daddy’s longest and closest friends (who happened to be in one of the recipient planes) coined it…”Pressed Ham At 40,000 Feet”.

What on EARTH did the guy who had to clean the windows of that airplane think???



He Was Seventeen

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Gentle Reader,

So tonight, my heart is with the Mamas.  Not knowing where their sons were, not knowing when or if they would return, many of them (my Papa Jack included) too young to officially be “over there”, but yet knowing Something Big was going to happen, and soon.  Wondering about the weather (wet, foggy, ugly), wondering if he was warm enough and well-fed.

Tonight, my heart is with the Boys.  (And here I also recognize the many, MANY women who also made it happen, but my blog and all…)  They knew what was supposed to happen tomorrow.  They knew what their leaders had told them, they knew the stuff that only bravado and youthful testosterone can know.  Because to know the carnage they would actually face would have been unbearable.

Tonight, my heart is with the Leaders.  They knew what tomorrow would bring.  Even if it had gone according to plan.  To hold those lives in their hands, to know they were committing some to certain death.  To not faint in the face of awful.

Tonight, my heart is with the Granddaughters.  The Granddaughters who got to know the peace and utter safety that only a Papa Jack can provide.  Who got to go fishing.  Who learned to drive in the parking lot of the First United Methodist Church in Ocilla, GA.  Who know how to go blackberry picking and make preserves from memory.  And with those Granddaughters who did not.  Especially with those who did not.

Tonight, my heart is with the people playing on this beach today:


The sum of all of the above sacrifice.  And I wouldn’t have it any other way.

Hug your Beloveds tight, y’all.  And read this.  In fact, screw the rest of these words.  Just read that.  Still relevant today.