Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Do You Live Here?!

by Cathy

I had the luxury of having a girls night out recently. It's funny but although our kids are getting older and need us less, we have somehow become less available to our friends. So this night? This was rare and much needed and we were all enjoying each other's company until....

RING RING (K's cell phone goes off)

Below is her side of the convo as heard by us:
"Hi sweetie, you okay?...OK what is it....a what?...honey you know I'm not home, why are you calling me? Ask your father...he's the one who's there!...Goodbye!"

Exasperated, she hung up the phone. "WHY is she calling me about going to a sleepover when I'm not even home?"

We all nodded in agreement and proceeded to share our stories about when something similar had happened to us. We laughed, we commiserated, we vented. And then, this happened:

RING RING (K's cell phone goes off, again.)
"Hey babe, what's up?...What do you mean, what time?...Why don't you ask her?...Just talk to her and ask her what time...I don't know, you're there...I'm not...figure it out!" She clicked her husband off the line.

"Oh. My. GOD! He's calling me about what the plan is for Katie's playdate tonight. Why doesn't he just talk to his daughter and straighten out the plans for the night instead of calling me to ask me what the plans are?!"

Then it was as if the floodgates were ripped wide open because that convo morphed into these convos:

J: "Men are totally clueless. You want to know what happens at my house? I was in the middle of cooking four things at once and asked my husband to get me the cheese grater from the cabinet.
He: "Where's the cheese grater?"
J: "In the cabinet next to the colander."
He: "What the hell is a colander? And what cabinet is that in?"
J: "What?!"

Now granted, eight out of 10 guys would not know what a colander is. Hell, I didn't know myself up until a few years ago. I just called it a strainer. J picked up momentum and continued her rant.

"Then, one other time, we were getting ready to go out and he was looking for his dress shirt."
We all rolled our eyes because we knew what was coming.
He: "Hun, uh, where's my dress shirt?"
J: "In the closet where it always is."
He: "Is it ironed?"
J: "Why don't you check it?"
He: "What about the collar tabs?"
J: "What? In your sock drawer where they always are. DO YOU LIVE HERE?!"

As we screamed with laughter, K blurted out: "I once had twelve texts and four phone calls from my husband about picking up our son from after school care as he sat in carpool line! Um, hello! Do You Live Here?!"

Steven Wright knew what he was talkin' about

As we held our sides, now stitched with laughter, and wiped tears of hilarity from our eyes, we grappled with catching our breath and realized...that was it, in a nutshell. We all live with our significant others but do they truly live in the same house as us? Some are highly involved in house happenings, storage, organization and cleanliness and others are well, are just passing through each day, it seems. I think my husband's cousin, a 19-year old guy who came to stay with us for six months last year, knows our house better than my husband does.

We wondered....our husbands have run their own businesses, managed teams of people, wheeled and dealed client contracts, run national accounts, are well traveled, well-spoken and quite capable of holding down titles akin to chief operating officers. How can they not manage a school pick-up, a playdate, scheduling kids' appointments and most frustratingly, can't find their own things in their own house, specifically, collar tabs that go only into their shirts?

As it seems, on and on the gender gap wheel will spin, in the same universe that holds both Mars and Venus. We may be from two different planets but we're stuck in the same solar system, and most importantly, in the same house. Let's remember where we live.

Friday, November 14, 2014

Netflix Running Time: 90(0) minutes

by Cathy

Our kids have pretty much grown up.

(I will allow myself this statement only for the purpose of this post.)

One is officially a teenager at 13 and the other just turned eight this past summer. They are pretty self-sufficient, play/hang independently and goof around together for the most part and might even be able to whip up some food for themselves when necessary.

Grasping and leaning on this concept more each year, we've slowly, cautiously ventured to begin to watch television and movies when the rest of the kid-free world watches them (i.e. not in the wee hours while the kiddos sleep while struggling to keep one eye open and not in the matinee senior hours of scorching daylight, but rather in "prime time" on weekends and the occasional weeknight.) At this stage in our kids' lives, we should be in the clear for an uninterrupted two hours of movie watching, right? Riiiight?

Apparently, we had no idea what can go wrong in the two specific hours we nestle in to watch our program or much anticipated new release. Without fail, first and foremost, no matter if all hell is breaking loose in the house with televisions and radios blaring, YouTube videos screaming from the computer, the microwave going off and what else have you, they will know the second the DVR clicks on or the DVD Play button is pressed. They will hear our bare feet prop up on the living room coffee table. They will hear us wrap ourselves up with a blanket and plop onto our bed. They can sense it. They can hear it. They can smell it. I don't know how, but they know. I can time my watch to it; they will burst in no more than three minutes into what we are watching with a slew of happenings or questions such as but not limited to:

- Whatcha watchin'?
- Have you seen my [enter a random possession of theirs here]
- How do you turn on the stove?
- Do we have any more Nutella To Go snacks?
- Oooooh a movie! Can I watch?
- We're out of chocolate milk?!?!
- Can I hang out at Katherine's house tonight?
- Can Katherine come over to hang out here?
- Why isn't this letting me watch this video on YouTube?
- Um, hi. You should be eating some popcorn. Do we have any? Want me to make you some?
- Where are all the phone chargers?
- Do you have the iPad? I can't find it.
- I need new socks and none of my underwear is in my drawer!
- Can you remember to wash Pillow and Cuddles tonight?
- [screaming from the shower] We're out of conditioner!
- [screaming from the bathroom] Can someone bring me a roll of toilet paper?
- [screaming in general] There's a bug!!! [harmonized screaming, now]
- Bella called me a brat!
- Can we rent a movie On Demand?
- We're out of waffles!!!
- Can I sit in here and draw with you? Bella won't play with me.
- I need to you reach a blanket on the top shelf of my closet.
- How long IS this movie??

Yes, that last one is a very good question. Just how long IS this movie, exactly? Turns out that what the rest of the world can watch in 90 minutes, takes us 900 minutes. More than once, we've resorted to giving up either due to relentless, unnecessary, unimportant kid chaos or just sheer frustration.

On Demand? Netflix? Fuggedaboutit

I guess that our kids aren't as grown up or independent as we'd hoped they'd be by now. And aside from the purpose of this post, in some sick, twisted parental way, we don't want it any other way just yet. After all, we'll have all the time in the world to watch movies once they truly grow up.

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

You're No Fun Anymore

by Cathy

Maybe you don't remember the breakdown that talk show host Wendy Williams had on national television early this year.  But I do.

She looked into the camera as if she was talking to her longtime girlfriend on her living room couch, and poured her heart out about the struggle she is having regarding her 13-year old son. All of this coming about while discussing how Rocco, Madonna's son, fully supports his mother. In case you missed it, here are some highlights of what she confessed:

"First of all, I want you to know, Rocco is 13 years old and Rocco is a real fan of his mother. What I discovered this weekend is that my son doesn't like me anymore."

"I discovered this a while ago, but the ball just got smacked home this weekend."

"He's all into his father — you know how 13-year-olds are. I was the same way when I was 13, but it is breaking my heart. He says things to me like, ''Why are you so pissed?!' Like I'm pissed all the time. Like I'm the one with the problem."

"He's the one that's 13, and I get it, and I know that this phase only lasts four years or something like that, but it is breaking my heart. He doesn't care about Wendy on TV — he doesn't care about any of that. She's lucky that he likes her," she said, referencing Madonna's relationship with Rocco again.

"I can't understand men who disappear from their kids' lives. Thank God he has his buddy and father, you know? He's a father, he's a buddy, they talk sneakers, they go for haircuts, they speed off in the cars," she said of husband Kevin Hunter. I'm just left there feeling like, 'Why are you so pissed?' I'm not pissed! I'm a mom!" the emotional host concluded.

And here's what it looked like:
Wendy Williams' breakdown: a mother's ugly cry never more justified

I mention this because I've had several Wendy Williams moments of my own. My 13-year old teenager, my emotional hormonally chaotic daughter, actually turned to me once and said:
"You're no fun anymore.
You're always yelling about something."


I barely heard that second sentence as "you're no fun anymore" ricocheted off the walls of my brain, having difficulty settling down and sinking in. Oh, she's said worse before, like "I hate you!" which also really hurt, but for some reason, this hurt more. I hate you seems like a generic response, but You're no fun anymore seems more felt and thought out.

I remember telling my own mother flat out, "I hate you!," and believe me, that was the first and last time I said that out loud. I mumbled it under my breath, I sobbed it out in my room or wrote it in my diary. Luckily, "my mom is a bitch" never made it onto those pages, but it could very well probably could have.

What I don't remember as well is probably how awful I was to my mother with my moody, rebellious, privacy-bent ways. Being "smacked" or pissed or angry is always a two-way street. There has to be a cause for the effect. What teens don't get is that their actions determine our reactions, and both sides end up the bad people in each others' eyes.

So the other day, after a heated discussion with my teen,  I unintentionally and wholeheartedly blurted out: "You're not fun to be around anymore."  I couldn't believe I actually said it to her.  Equally shocked, she gave no quick-witted response; just silence. (Which kinda scared me, truthfully.) And I just left the room. (Or slinked out, truthfully.) When it was brought up later by me, she commented on how awful that made her feel, which opened the door to another equally needed conversation.

Growing up isn't easy on any parent or child. We each do our jobs to raise the best person possible to send out into this unfair, cruel, difficult, joyous, wide world and love them throughout everything with no conditions. I can only take assurance that one day, my words will resonate with them the way my mother's words do with me now.

Until then, I must implore you to tread carefully. Shiny, happy people, we are not.

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Now, I'm a Boobleiver

by Cathy

Oprah told me to do it. Katie told me to do it. Countless magazine articles told me to do it. But did I listen? I wanted to. Really. I just never made it a priority - until I had to.

One of the perks of my job is to check out new places, products and things before others do, so that I can write about them in the hopes that those others either buy them or at least, check them out. So when the opportunity came along to get a professional bra fitting (with a complimentary bra in my properly fitted size, valued at $65) my "girls" bounced at the chance. They've been left hangin' there far too long.

Wacoal wowza! This bra is my new breast friend!

The results? Like 80% of women out there, I was definitely wearing the wrong bra size. In fact, like 80% of women out there, my current size wasn't even close to what I should be wearing. No wonder  the bra's backside was riding high and my boobage was riding low and why I tugged and pulled and lifted and adjusted all day. And overall? I just looked and felt hunched and schlumpy.

For the sake of science, womanhood and perky silhouettes everywhere, I will reveal my "numbers" to the world:

Current size: 36 B/36 C
Actual size: 34 DDD

Triple, freaking, D.

"Why are you so surprised?" exclaimed my husband along with a few of my friends. "Your boobs are huge!"

Okay my boobs aren't small but they aren't as ample as some cleavages sported by other au natural and faux boobers combined. But never in a million years did I think I was a TRIPLE D.
D. D. D.

After countless "Are you sure(s)???" from me to the fitter, she patiently explained it all to me -  the full, yet sexy coverage, the lack of side-boob spillage, the point at the exact spot on my back where the bra line is meant to hit, the fact that even though the bra felt tight, I still had plenty of give on the band and had me take a step back to examine my overall lifted, youthful silhouette. "See?" she marveled, pointing at my breasts. "This is where things should be," she said, eyes crinkling with delight.

She also matter-of-factly told me that I was putting on my bra incorrectly (we must bend over and spill into the cups naturally) and washing incorrectly (we must hand wash and air dry, but ain't nobody really got time for dat). And those hooks, by the way? They are meant to expand with your bra. You are to start with the outermost set of hooks first and once you get to the third and last set of hooks and you're ridin' and saggin', it's time to say ta-tas to that bra!

As if all of this information wasn't shocking enough, the reaction I got from my unassuming (or so I thought) family, really surprised me. I told no one about my new secret weapon - my dirty little secret. One day, I just put it on and went with it.

Scene 1:
That same day, I was meeting my husband for a quick afternoon coffee before picking up the kids from school. I parked in the Starbucks lot and walked in to find my husband sitting by the window, working.
"Hey!" I said as I hung my purse on the chair.
"Oh my God I didn't even recognize you," he said.
"Really? Why?"
"There's something, I don't know...you look different."


"I'm wearing a new bra," I said flatly.
"Wow, you can really see the difference! Even your posture has improved!"

Scene 2:
I had my new bra on, engaged in closet eyelock when my oldest, Isabella, came barging into my room. (Knocking? What's that?)
"Hey mom, where's....OH! Hey! That's a nice bra!"
"It doesn't really look all that different from the other ones I have," I replied dryly.
"Yes it does! This one is cute. And chic! I didn't know you had bras like that!"

Scene 3:
We were, of course, elbow deep into our entrees at a Mexican restaurant with the family when my youngest decides she has to go kaka. Of course, I took her. She tends to get super chatty when she's going kaka and starts blabbing about random this, that and the others. As I was standing there, waiting patiently and salivating over finishing my enchiladas mole, she looks at me quizzically,  cocking her head to the side as she sized me up - literally.
"Mom, you look taller," she finally said.

Oh, for the love of the Lord - not her too. If a seven-year old notices...

"You think so?" I played along. "Why do you think that?"
"I don't know you just look taller, like you're standing up straighter or something. You look nice."

Apparently, a properly fitted bra can improve my posture, make me look taller, perkier, younger and more stylish! My big boobs have said ta-ta to my saggy bras and now I'm ridin' perky.

I am officially a bra-fittin' boobliever!

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Running Scared

by Cathy

Last week, I had lined up a workday downtown with various store visits and meetings. Before entering one of these meetings, I had about 25 minutes of reprieve, which allowed me to sneak in a quick lunch in the form of a McDonald's Premium McWrap. I entered the waiting room/lobby of my next meeting early and as I was helping myself to a cup of water, with my lunch sprawled out across the counter and bags half-falling off my shoulder, I noticed a woman behind me waiting patiently for me and my exploded belongings to make way.

"Oh, I'm sorry," I replied, hurriedly scooping up my unraveling McWrap, careful not to spill my teetering cup of water. "I'll be out of your way in a second."

"Don't worry about it," she said with a flick of her wrist. "I know how it is. Always going, going,
going,"she laughed knowingly. "I'll tell you, you know, we're always running, things to do, places to go,
but to be honest?" She stopped what she was doing and looked me square in the eyes.

"I'm scared of slowing down."

That made me stop in my tracks. I chuckled at her and blurted out a commiserating "I hear you!" before turning away to find a seat.

Her words played over and over in my head. "I'm scared of slowing down." She verbalized what a lot of us do on a subconscious level. Enough to make me slow down and take it in.

We all bitch about how tired we are, how much we have to do, how little time we have for this or that. But really...really...if someone were to take these responsibilities, jobs and obligations away from you tomorrow, what would you be left with? What would you do??

For some, slowing down is the beginning of that end. What would it mean if we slowed down? Would it mean we might just stop altogether? Give up on life, goals, dreams and plans? Would we no longer be deemed worthy to our loved ones or to ourselves? Or would it mean that we were forced to face the stillness of life, that moment when we hear nothing but our own voice, see nothing but our own true self (which was lost long ago amidst life's plans and paths), and realize that we haven't done what we wanted to do for ourselves? Fittingly, I saw the following posted on Arianna Huffington's Facebook page today as I sat down to write this post:

Silence is not just about not talking. It's a void...a place where all things come from...all voices, all creation...when you're standing on the edge of silence, you hear things you've never heard before...and in ways you've never heard them before.  -- John Francis

For many, this type of self-reflection can be very traumatizing - especially when we don't like what we see staring back at us; when we don't want to hear the voices that come from that silence. And so we run from it. We create static to break the deafening silence that threatens to disrupt life as we know it. We keep running...scared.

Thursday, October 31, 2013

Hives and Lows

by Cathy

NOTE: This post was dangerously close to being called The Farts and the Pimps. You have S, Patti's daughter, to thank for the much more refined title above. :-) 
I also thought this to be scary enough to merit a Halloween day post. 

Happy Halloween!!

One of the many Sour Grapes listed on our homepage is "The Collapse of the Universe When a Man Gets Sick". I'd like to clarify: this refers to the collapse of the universe inside said man's head. The actual, entire universe literally collapsing? That is what happens when a woman (the wife, mom, homemaker and CEO of any household) gets sick.

But what happens when both parents get sick? At the same time? That my dear readers, is fodder worthy of a blog post.

A scary situation (and sight)

Several weeks ago, I contracted what was some form of the stomach flu by way of having my seven-year old vomit all over everything in our king-size bed. (This in itself? A post for another time.) I say "some form" because this virus was unlike any other stomach flu virus I've had, which usually lasts 24 hours and done. My kid had a fever after her initial vomit attack and was out for a day or two with occasional diarrhea.

Me? No vomiting, and aggressive nausea and pains in my stomach that led to nowhere except one horrific episode of diarrhea whereby my extremities stiffened and froze up rigor-mortis style, my guess, due to dehydration. As frightening as that was, what came next was even worse and completely unexpected: a rash of tiny red bumps that exploded all over my arms and legs with a spattering on my torso and back, that itched like a mother and lasted four days.

After several frantic Google searches and calls to family, I discovered that apparently it's completely normal for a virus to expel itself from your system via a rash. Since I had no vomiting and very little diarrhea, the rash is what my body went to. And me? I went crazy.

My husband had to step-up and basically take over all of my household tasks. He washed dishes (he wasn't sure how to load the dishwasher), he packed lunches (and included a hand-written note in each bag, and "Moooom...how come you never do that??"), he packed snacks (he plopped an entire peanut-encrusted taffy apple, still in the packaging, into my second grader's snack bag to be brought into a classroom with nut allergies galore), he cooked frozen foods for the kids and did the best he could....considering...that the flu virus was creeping its way into his system.

"I'm fading," he moaned as he came into the bedroom where I was breathing heavy with stomach pains. I was half munching on Saltines and looked like death warmed over. He fell onto the bed in shivers and began trying to psyche himself out. "It's all in your head," he murmured between gasps. "You're fine." But he wasn't, God bless his delusional soul. He was being hit by yet another version of this chameleon-like virus/monster that entered our home. And we both knew it was taking over.
For two days, we shuffled around the house burping, expelling gas, sipping Coke or some other carbonated drink. We looked (and felt) like zombies: me, pimply-rashed and hunched over in nausea, shivering from the urge to resist scratching my skin off, and he, holding himself through fits of chills and fever. We bumped mindlessly into one another, taking turns quasi-tackling the necessary everyday tasks, tossing coins for who was going to chauffeur the kids to and fro school or pack lunches (I'm really not sure what the kids ate those couple of days), overextending our very necessary bathroom visits as a form of exhausted escapism and crawling under the bed covers in hopes the other wouldn't notice. It was a nightmare to say the least and brought to mind the dreadful conundrum of parenthood: How do you take care of your kids when you cannot take care of yourself?

Somehow, as all parents do, we literally muddled through it and came out on the other side. No physical scars remain yet the emotional scars we all endured as a family will be with us always - and that is more frightening than All Hallows Eve.

Mwuah ha ha ha ha!!!

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Clown Car Condo

by Cathy

We are a family of four, living it up city style. That means, we have a two-bedroom condo in a six-unit building in a bustling, trendy neighborhood in Chicago. Although we looooove our neighborhood and our place is more spacious than your average two-bedroom condo, we're kinda bustin' out at the seams.

First off, we have two girls. Girls have a lot of stuff. And since one is still a young seven year-old and the other is on the brink of teenageapalooza, the stuff varies from dollhouses, zillions of stuffed animals, coloring books, legos and Barbie/American Girl accessory overload, to an unGodly number of scarves, purses, shoes, makeup, hair products, hair accessories, techy gadgets and...clothes. My God, the clothes. They are simply. Everywhere.

Our condo goes through a sort of rebirth every few years or so, which is imperative if humans are to live there. I've purged, reorganized, rearranged, redesigned, remodeled, rethought, recycled, reused, stored and purged again all of the stuff we've accumulated over the course of the 16 years we've lived there.

About a month ago, a teenage cousin of Joe's flew in from Mexico and will be our houseguest for six months, which spacewise, translates into half a century. A whole different type of flurry ensued in the two weeks I had to prepare for this. I desperately stacked stuff into Leaning Towers of Pisa on the shelves of my closets, based on the urging of my husband to "Use the space going up!!" So dangerously high are these stacks of blankets, sheets, sleeping bags, comforters, pillows, duvets and bedspreads, that one strong breath or slight nudging of a hanger below them, will send the entire cotton/polyester blend of a mass tumbling down upon us, whereby we will literally be suffocated by stuff.

Since our guest is sleeping on a pull-out sofa in the living room, the front hallway closet, where we normally keep all of our outerwear, has now been assigned as his closet. This means, there is no rhyme or reason to where any of the former contents are stored; each one-fourth of our coats, sweaters and jackets are respectively downstairs in storage, in my bedroom closet, on the kitchen/mudroom coat hooks and a portion still stuffed into the corners of the original closet he is now using.

That closet was also being used to store my handbags. Behold, now, their temporary storage space:

Why, yes. That is the toy chest in my girls' bedroom you're lookin' at there. I have become that mom who tells their kids that handbags are more important than wads of stuffed animals. But have no fear, they aren't going without; we still have clusters of cuddly thingamabobs dangling from the rafters in their room, piled high on their beds and crammed into their closet, so as priority would have it, the plush critters from the toy chest are tucked in our basement storage space for now....or...for EVER.

No, it's not fun finding the space within an already confined space but it really is fun having a houseguest through which we get to experience the great city of Chicago as tourists all over again and whom the girls can hang out, chat and play with as the older brother they never had. And bonus! Joe and I get a built-in babysitter for some much needed time out of the house.

Now, if we could only find our jackets...

(*For more clown car fun that is our lives, check out Patti's "Clown Car Purse" post!)

Thursday, October 3, 2013

Dancing with the Devil

by Cathy

"Bullfighting is the only art in which the artist is in danger of death and in which the degree of brilliance in the performance is left to the fighter's honor."

“There are only three sports: bullfighting, motor racing, and mountaineering; all the rest are merely games.”

 "Bullfighting is not a sport; it is a tragedy."

-- Ernest Hemingway

The above three quotes are all attributed to Ernest Hemingway. He refers to bullfighting as an art, a sport and a tragedy, respectively. For the purposes of this post, I'll take the unbiased, middle ground and refer to it as a sport. For me, bullfighting has always been synonymous with Hemingway. He made his love of Spain and Cuba evident via his novels, but specifically first brought attention to bullfighting in his novel, The Sun Also Rises.

While on vacation this past summer in Mexico, our trip coincided with a bullfighting tour. For years my husband had tried to time our visit to Mexico for this, but it wasn't to be the case until now. He eagerly, happily, excitedly plunked down his pesos and got tickets for our entire family to attend. 

I hadn't given specific thought to bullfighting. I just knew it involved a matador (or torero, as they chanted in the arena), a bull and a fight between the two, which may or may not result in the death of a bull.
The fights we saw were held in an all-season arena, in the evening, so there was no sun/shade seating to be chosen. The Plaza D' Toros was not an overly intimidating arena but there was a foreboding light within its walls and the faint smell of metal and animals. Interesting Fact: Bullfighting arenas are always round so as not to give the bull an opportunity to corner the fighters.

The performance began with a welcoming parade; basically a two-horse buggy where the horses have elaborate headpieces and the buggy holds two young, beautiful girls waving to the audience as this chariot makes a few laps around the arena. Obviously, geared towards a male audience, although the audience boasted a healthy female attendance. The two women seated behind us were louder and more demanding than most of the male spectators.

The bullfighters enter the ring to the sound of a live marching type band and gracefully yet firmly walk over to the side of the arena with the President's balcony. They are colorfully and elaborately dressed in their heavily embroidered capes, black hats and flamboyant garb of a unitard and a bolero jacket. They raise their hats in a salute to the President and the crowd. The arena empties, the band stops playing and there is an eerie silence. All eyes are on the huge, wooden, bolted door that leads to the bullpen.

In the midst of the dead silence, the sound of running hooves is heard before the door swings open and we see a 1,000+ pound bull charge blindly and ferociously into the arena. It's oddly quick for its hefty size. The expert spectator sitting in front of us, upon learning that this was our first bullfight, was more than eager to explain to us the process, the meanings, the traditions and reassure the children to not be afraid. This was a welcomed comfort for us. "These bulls are bred to be vicious," he explained as he watched my girls' faces. "They are bred to be fast, strong and to kill."

The first fight was with a bullfighter on horseback. I will spare you the details of this, but all I can say is that he did such a terrible job, he broke down in tears afterwards due to the dishonor he brought forth to the sport, got booed by the audience and left us traumatized. I was this close to taking the kids and leaving. Our fellow spectator guide explained: "This is not the way this should be done. For bulls to be killed in the ring, it should be an honor. He dishonored this bull by killing it the way he did. It should be clean, effortless and honorable." Let's leave it at that.

The remaining fights were with the traditional matadors. Watching these, when done right, I understood what our guide was trying to explain. Much like witnessing the proverbial car accident, at times I found myself not wanting to look away.

I realized that during each fight, I would go through a whirlwind of emotions - at first rooting for the matador when the bull charged out with such might that he could easily gore anyone in its path; then twinges of nervousness and sadness when the bull was weakened by the banderilleros as they pierced darts into the bull's spine; then mesmerized by the "dance" between the matador and the bull - my favorite part - whereby the matador "dances" with the bull, standing within inches of it as it charges into the muleta, or cape. One matador bravely "hugged" the backside of the bull as it twisted and turned in circles around him. It was a beautiful, artful display of man versus beast, this dance with the flowing red cloths and the matadors standing steadfast, poised like a ballet dancer, yet leaning in towards the bull, feet firmly grounded like an athlete.

Lest we forget, bullfighting is an extremely dangerous sport. We almost witnessed the death of a young matador-in-training during our event when his nervousness caused him to trip and fall backward, causing the bull to charge directly into his torso. Were it not for protectively padded horses and the banderilleros coming to his aide, he could have died. That is the point when I realized that this is real. That this was more than a sport. That anything can happen. That we can be witness to someone's death.

This is why the final act of the killing of the bull left me conflicted: it's kill or be killed. It's just a shame that it even needs to come down to this. But therein, my friends, lies the controversy of bullfighting in general. Interesting Fact: Banderilleros can only lance the bull head-on and a bullfighter can only kill the bull directly from the front. Depending on how honorable the kill is, the President decides the prize for the matador, usually in the form of one or two ears from the killed bull.

"I am not going to apologize for bullfighting. It is a survival of the days of the Roman Colosseum. But it does need some explanation. [Bullfighting] is a tragedy. A very great tragedy. The tragedy is the death of the bull. It is played in three definite acts. The entry...the planting of the banderillos...[and the mastering of the bull with the muleta which leads to the death of the bull.]"
- excerpted from the Toronto Star Weekly, columns by Ernest Hemingway, 1923

As I thought about what I had seen that night, I couldn't help but recall Jack Nicholson's famous line as Joker in the 1989 movie, Batman, asked by him of all his prey, right before killing them:

"Ever dance with the devil in the pale moonlight?"

Some prefer to call this a blood sport; others call it an art. There are many advocates and critics of this sport alike, for obvious, respective reasons.

It's the fight fought since the beginning of time itself: man versus beast. I will leave it up to you to determine who's the devil in this delicate dance.

Bullfighting is the only art in which the artist is in danger of death and in which the degree of brilliance in the performance is left to the fighter's honor.

Read more at http://www.brainyquote.com/quotes/quotes/e/ernesthemi400630.html#6kW9mt22MI5qhe71.99
Bullfighting is the only art in which the artist is in danger of death and in which the degree of brilliance in the performance is left to the fighter's honor.

Read more at http://www.brainyquote.com/quotes/quotes/e/ernesthemi400630.html#6kW9mt22MI5qhe71.99

Thursday, September 26, 2013

Rocky Mountain High

by Cathy

Colorado has long been on my bucket list; this summer, I got to cross it off!

We landed in Denver. I had envisioned the Mile High City to be just that - a city sprawled across rolling hills, mountains, peaks and valleys. But alas, it was disappointingly flat. With my hand placed firmly over my eyes like a visor, I squinted determinedly past the buildings into the horizon in an attempt to spot those famous landscapes. After a few minutes, I made out the vague outline of mountains against the setting sky. My heart leapt! We were on our way to Vail and my eyes couldn't wait to get their fill of mountains.

You may think that it doesn't make sense to take a trip to Vail in the summertime, but for us not-so-avid skiers, this was a perfect time to check out this famous spot without the overwhelming madness that ensues when snow, cold, and throngs of people lugging heavy ski equipment are descending on these mountains.

Our family settled in to our rental car and for the duration of our almost three hour trip, we marveled, pointed and clicked away at the Colorado mountains and the countless, endless sea of trees that covered them, the snow-capped Rocky mountains situated behind them in the distance, the uphills and downgrades of the road that forced even small trucks to snail along with blinkers on, the clouds rolling in and out of view, shading the mountains black. Before we knew it, the quaintness of Vail, nestled at the base of these famous mountains, came into view and into our hearts.

We spent two days at the Arabelle in Lionshead, one of two main towns in Vail, where we swam in rooftop pools with the ski lifts dotting the runs on the mountains behind us;

We biked, walked and explored the cobblestone streets which could essentially resemble any quaint European city (and which are heated in the winter, as are pretty much all pool decks),  lined with stores, restaurants and galleries.

We rode gondolas and ski lifts up to the tops of mountains for rides that lasted up to 10 minutes. That's a long time when you're traveling "just" to the top of a mountain. 'How could we possibly go any higher?' I thought to myself as my ears popped. I literally expected that we'd be entering the clouds and I would fully expect to touch the sky when we eventually got off.

Then we were off to The Osprey at Beaver Creek, just fifteen minutes west of Vail and apparently, a much more vigorous skiing experience than Vail. In fact, two world ski tournaments are expected to be held there in the coming year, where hopeful Olympic athletes (and medaled ones as well) will be participating. There we did some more mountain-viewing swimming.

Our condo (much more popular in these parts than hotel rooms due to the advantage of the room size with respect to ski gear) was literally within arm's reach of a ski lift - the only hotel in the world that boasts this access.

We took a pass on the year-round ice skating rink in the town's center but only because we were busy taking jeep tours into two neighboring mountains and dining on some of the most innovative cuisine in the state while deer pranced across outside our windows. Oh, and the Aspen trees...I simply couldn't get enough of the Apsen trees.

Despite the altitude - at our highest point, we were at almost 13,000-feet above sea level - we were lucky to experience no altitude sickness, except for the occasional shortness of breath when we walked briskly or uphill/downhill. We kept hydrated with tons of water and took things easy, taking in magnificent vistas and panoramic eagle-eye views. We purposefully took in more clean mountain air than our lungs could handle, as if storing up for the long Chicago winter ahead. And speaking of winter, who knows? We may be adventurous and make the trek out there for some skiing - bunny slope style, of course - on the mountains of Vail. Just for the thrilling high of it.

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Spider Woman

by Cathy

Just a few short days back from our trip to Mexico, I sat in the kitchen on a Sunday morning, sipping my coffee and relishing the calm before the storm: back to school, back to work, heck...kids waking up. I trolled through Facebook to help me relax and start off one of my last few days of rest in a mindless state.

A local news station had posted a story about a girl in a wheelchair in Oregon who had to call the fire department to swat a GIANT spider that had somehow entered her home. At first glance of the pic, the critter didn't look very intimidating. However, zoomed in, that sucker was huge. And apparently, it was a rare, venomous type that could kill with its bite. Ironically, one of the girls' aunts was recently hospitalized after a spider bite. Note to self: hold off on visiting Oregon.

Courtesy: ABC News Chicago

I went through the rest of my day doing laundry, changing sheets, reorganizing, cleaning, and basically the hectic hell you go through once back from vacation, which immediately cancels out your vacation.

I found the car charger for the DVD player in the kitchen and went on a hunt to find the DVD player case which we had taken on our trip. After much searching, I spotted it in the corner of our living room on the floor. I picked it up, opened the velcro flap and immediately flung the case back down to the floor and let out a sharp, brief yelp. My skin was crawling with goosebumps. As if by power of The Secret, along came a spider...this time in my home in Chicago.

"Oh my God, oh my God, hurry up, hurry up get me something!" I urgently yelled at my clueless tween, sitting at the dining room table nearby humming along to some iTunes song while finishing a school project. She didn't move. The spider had flung off the case in the impact and was crawling along the edge of our area rug. This was the biggest spider I had ever seen in our house - not as big as the one in Oregon, but it sure looked like it at the moment. It was bulky and brown and just ewwwwww!
"Give me something to whack it with!"
"Huh?" turned Bella towards me. "What's going on?"
Arianna rushed into the room. "What's going on? Mommy, what's going on? What's happening?"

I had to take matters into my own hands. With a burst of energy, I leaped like a superhero over our sectional in one fell swoop and dove for the September issue of Glamour sitting nearby, with several pages cut out and strewn about. Thank God for heavy, September issues.
"That's for my collage!" yelled Arianna.
Without saying another word, I whipped back around, shut my eyes and slammed that ugly thing with all my might, simultaneously killing the beautiful Louis Vuitton handbag ad on the back page.

The girls stood speechless to take it all in and then Bella lets out the loudest screech I've ever heard - and that's saying a lot. "AhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhaaaaaahhhhhhhhhhhhhOMGaaaaahhhhhhhhEwwEwwEwww that is the worst thing I've ever seen!"
"It's a spider Bella!"
"Ewwww, there's a big red splotch on the floor! Ewwww, ewww!" She was horrified.
"The spider was big but it was brown, not red. Get me some toilet paper!"
I waited over the spider to make sure it was completely dead and not half-assed dead. Still no toilet paper was brought since she was in a corner freaking out.
"Really?? I killed it! It's dead!"
I walked back over to pick up the splattered spider and finally saw it. There was a dried, red rose petal sitting right next to the mess. I began laughing out loud.
"Um, Bella...you saw a rose petal, not the spider."
"Huh?" she came in hopeful.
"That was a petal from the flowers papi got me for my birthday in Mexico. I had pressed them into the magazine and it flew out when I killed it."
She let out the biggest sigh ever. "Oh my God, oh my God, I thought it was the spider!"
No wonder she freaked. That would have been traumatizing if that had been the spider. She walked away relieved, yet still pale.

I wiped away the mess and was paranoid the entire rest of the day, waiting to spot giant, lurking spiders in any corner of any room, taking my phone with me everywhere I went, with my hand on the dial pad, ready to call the fire department at a moment's notice.

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