How Do I Become A Girlfriend?

Growing up in a neighborhood of boys, I only played with Barbies in private, unless they were invited to a GI Joe game and they needed a nurse doll present.  I was an only child till I was eight and I was fascinated with so many things.  My parents never led me to understand what was meant for boys or girls because I think they wanted me to experience childhood the way they both had.

I didn’t really have girlfriends until I started grade school.  Still, I played ballerina or Paula Abdul (don’t ask) with the girls and then army or Pogs with the boys.  As I got older, I found girls like me.  My best friends in high school were not girlie.  They could play rough with the boys but dress pretty for prom too.  We were a perfect fit.  We still are, except out of the group of girls I cherish the most, we are scattered amongst four states in separate geographically regions of the United States.

I’ve been hopelessly awkward since I began college.  I left home and found myself having to start from scratch.  Southern California does not give an East Coast girl the same kind of welcome a surfer girl gets, particularly Continue reading

Weekly Photo Challenge: Hands

This is my hand holding my Great-Grandmom’s hand.

By the time I was born, she was already 71. She had already lived a full life and had been retired. She’d be a widow a year later and I only knew her to be one. She would take me to bingo and we would play board games. She’d teach me things about cooking and tried to teach me to crochet. She was one of my favorite people and her hands always fascinated me, even the way she twiddled her thumbs.

Her hands had what she called “liver spots”, though most of us know them as age spots. She had been an avid gardener all of her adult life, so it was likely sun inspired damage. After she ate, I remember how she’d sweep her fingers over the table to gather any crumbs. Her fingers were strong and crooked and her fingernail and tips were oval. I just remember always thinking how unique they were. They weren’t thin and ladylike, though her movements were not harsh; they were the result of lifelong hard work.

I took this picture one morning when I sat alone with her before she passed. She was unable to speak, but she knew I was there as she squeezed my hand in response to my words. I knew I’d never forget her hands, but still I was afraid that I might. I haven’t forgotten, though it’s only been two and half years, but I like to know that I have a picture of one to remind me.

She would’ve been 100 this week. Happy birthday Grandmom.

Mentally Struck By Lightning

I awoke on the couch during a thunderstorm the other night.  Lately I can’t seem to make it to bed before I close my eyes, so this has become an unfortunate habit of late; minus the thunderstorm.  This was the first thunderstorm we’ve had this spring and it reminded me of a new fear that my mind created only last summer.

One morning, on Preston and Steve on Philadelphia’s WMMR morning show, their topic was related to people being struck by lightning.  A conversation like this likely resulted from a news story about a survival or death from such an event.  Regardless, callers quickly filled the airwaves with personal accounts of being struck by lightning or what they’ve heard it’s like, etc.

I’m quite familiar with lightning; my Dad is a Weather Channel junkie.  Though most people, before smart phones and the internet, would turn on the twenty-four hour weather broadcast to get a quick update, Dad would watch for what felt like hours.  Either he was hoping something would change or he missed his calling as a forecaster.  It reminded me of when people would constantly open the refrigerator, hoping something of interest would appear out the air, even though the stock was thoroughly evaluated five minutes prior.  Anyway, the Weather Channel fascination was before they had weather related shows to fill time as well, so imagine boring and looped information.  Needless to say though, lightning was the grand-daddy of weather events for Dad.

Mom called Dad “Ben Franklin” because despite his knowledge about impending thunderstorms, whether the notification came from the Weather Channel or from the cracks of thunder out the window, Dad was also a compulsive pool skimmer.  There’s Dad again, walking the rim of the pool with the metal poled skimmer, making sure there aren’t pine needles congregating on the surface.  Though we eventually got him to stop doing this prior to it killing him, his favorite spot during a thunderstorm is on the patio, watching or snoozing on the lounge chair, in a nice accessible metal patio.

So the fear I had of thunderstorms, was only for my Dad.  I never feared that I would be struck; until last summer.  Preston and Steve brought up how victims of strikes would feel Continue reading

Atlantic City: The Original Vegas

Atlantic City Boardwalk

Saturday was so beautiful in the Northeast. It was the perfect kind of day to spend in the garden, or divert the car towards Atlantic City.

So that’s what we did.

Eighty degrees, cloudless sky and a nice sea breeze. Add that to the smell of funnel cake, sunscreen and slurp down the experience with fresh lemonade, while strolling the boardwalk and recognizing street names you normally see on your Monopoly board.

Steel Pier, Atlantic City

Atlantic City is a diverse mix of people, but it has most everything that Vegas touts, except there’s an ocean and expansive boardwalk. No, Celine Dion isn’t playing Atlantic City every night and I’m ok with that, but there are shows to be seen. There are glitzy and glamorous nightclubs, casinos and hotels. The amusement rides may not be as sparkly and the exterior decor may be a little more worn, but there’s something to be said for the city by the sea.

I grew up being fascinated by films of ladies jumping their horses off diving boards next to Steel Pier and photos of the old timers who wore their Sunday best as they wandered the boards in the early 20th century. I’ve also watched a lot of Boardwalk Empire on HBO, and though I know its primarily fictional stories written for entertainment, I have no doubt that Prohibition brought waves of crime and corruption that still linger today. Feeling that way does take away from the nostalgia of flapper girls and their shiny cigarette cases and replaces it with heroin chic society types that rival fashion models of the 90’s.

Atlantic City is an accessible city. It is a little less sparkly but nice equivalent to a five hour plane right to Nevada from the East Coast. But just like Vegas, don’t wander too far off the “strip” in Atlantic City; unless you’re looking for some non-fiction CSI type experiences. Also, get some saltwater taffy; it’s so good and the remnants of it can be tasted for days since it’ll be stuck in your molars. That might be an exaggeration, but in all honesty, stop at James’.  If taffy isn’t your thing, drop by the Whiskey Tavern in the new Revel casino, order an Old Fashioned and slip into shiny 1925 subway tile heaven.

James’ Salt Water Taffy

Chili Peppers Lacked Spice? Or Was It Just Me?

I took the weekend off from writing because, quite frankly, I wanted to.  I haven’t had a great following of late anyway so I don’t think it was missed.  So instead of sitting in front of the computer, I lived amongst the physical people; except when I read the posts that were emailed to me.Friday night was the much anticipated Red Hot Chili Pepper show in Philadelphia.  Since we got our tickets in January, it felt like it would never get here, but luckily time chugs along and we found ourselves with thousands of people who had made the trek to South Philly for the sold out show.

RHCP with Klinghoffer

It was a good show.  I’ve seen them over thirty times for sure, but I stopped counting then.  Not too sure why.  Counting would have been easier than explaining that at one time I knew there were thirty but now there are more.  Regardless, this was the first live show I’ve seen with newest guitarist Josh Klinghoffer.  He is a lot like John Frusciante, except he doesn’t seem to despise fame and fans.  Josh dresses the same, seems physically affected by the music and goes a little off the deep end with making noise with pedals like John.  It’s no wonder that they toured and recorded together prior to swapping the lead guitar job with the Chilis.

RHCP with Frusciante

I love John Frusciante because he is a guitar prodigy for one; he’s creative and innovative.  He’s been the backbone to music that has been the soundtrack to my life thus far.  I also feel offended that he threw that away; twice.  He did this to us before in 1992.  As a dedicated fan, I also find myself insulted that he didn’t bother to show at the Rock n’ Roll Hall of Fame ceremony when the band was inducted last month.  Continue reading

Grandmom’s Spoons Are Better Than Yours

When you were little, did you ever stand by your Mom or your Grandmother at the kitchen counter, fascinated that they could effortlessly create something edible out of powders, liquids, chunks of produce or meat?  If you’re lucky, you did.  Even if they kept busy and didn’t explain what they were doing, it was fascinating to watch a grown-up with a flair for culinary creations.  I look back at these moments and find myself wishing I had asked more questions.  More importantly, I wish I had written down the answers I did get.  I will have to do that with my Mom next time I see her.

I am lucky that I come from a line of avid cooks and bakers, male and female on both sides of my family.  I will admit that the cooking bug may have skipped a couple people here or there, and the prominently Irish population opted for very plain dishes with minimal seasoning, but it was all good food.  I don’t remember a meal that I wouldn’t eat or that I disliked.  I trusted their ways, even when I was picky.  I remember wondering why hamburger meat was shoved into a green pepper or a plum into potato dough, but the final result was wonderful.  Now I can really go for some plum dumplings; those would be from the German/Hungarian side.

To coincide with my memories of the women in my life and my old soul, I wander through antique stores whenever I have any free time.  My favorite section is where you’ll find cooking tools because there are so many gadgets that don’t only look fascinating but are also so functional.  I try to decorate my kitchen with cooking tools, but only the ones that I can use and that do not appear to have lead paint chipping off the wooden handles.  True, they can’t be put in the dishwasher, but their style and efficiency are worth it.

The tools range from aluminum to copper, and the detail and quality can’t be matched by the goofy plastic options you’ll find at Target.  They were devised for a cook, for an avid homemaker who spent a lot of time in the kitchen.  The well used kind are just as promising as the mint looking ones, but they prove how well they can last.  The spoons have just the right shape for scooping, holes for slotting, edges for scraping and angles to maneuver into difficult corners to mix.  The mashers are sturdy, the grater’s lip lies across my bowl and my handled strainer lays on the edge of the pot so I don’t have to dirty a big awkward bowl style strainer.  My ball jars hold excess rice and beans and are gorgeous on a sunny day because they are an aqua blue.  And my favorite metal spatula is the only thing I can use to not break the yokes when I flip my eggs.

These may have been massed produced at one time, but clearly they’ve lasted for generations, at least a couple lifetimes anyway.  The worn handles make me daydream about how many cake batters were mixed and if the owner is gone or has just “upgraded” to new stuff.  I see “Made in the USA” stamped into the metal or funny patent names on my tools and more than in just the kitchen, I’m reminded of what the US used to be.  We used to make stuff.  These things are so simple, but make life so easy.  I like not using plastic or imported cheap materials, containing chemicals we will find are recalled in a couple years.

I wonder how many nifty things from my family had gone by the wayside and ended up in an antique store corner or in the trash.  (I also wonder why I just wrote nifty.)  I’m not a hoarder but I am sentimental.  I have such an appreciation for what used to be, but without letting that hinder my acceptance of what is current; well, maybe just spoons.  So what if I use a seventy year old spoon and listen to big band?  I did get this recipe off our iPad, so we’ll call the war of generations a tie…this time.

Photo Books = Frustration + Mom’s Tears

I know I love my Mom because I spent over five hours creating a photo book for her tonight.

These hours, I might add, are after I uploaded pictures a year ago and created the formatting a year before that. Four hours to place pictures and over analyze who she might want to see in the book and who might provoke her to make an “ew” face.

It is done. If only my email confirmation will come, so I can review the totally overpriced gift that she totally deserves. I’m a good person; even if I promised her a photo book of our wedding four years ago; even if she asks where it is about every two to three months. I just stopped answering her about it because I dreaded the tedious task. I know, it sounds terribly selfish, but I’ve done very heartfelt things in the meantime to make her feel loved and I’ve brought tears of joy several times. I would buy almost anything to not have to create this book.  It’s not even a difficult thing to do, it’s just time consuming to get it right.  Maybe I try to hard to make things perfect, once I finally get around to working on them.

In the middle of my upload tonight, the program froze. I walked into the bedroom and woke my husband, (yes, another selfish move) and asked that he keep me calm and tell me I’m a good person before I went ballistic and threw the computer across the room. I tend not to be violent in nature but I despise when things don’t work like they are supposed to. So clearly I’m prepared for being patient in life. It’s just gadgets; I don’t have patience for flawed technology that costs me a fortune.

Needless to say, I’m 98% uploaded, even though the company already took my money.

I’m expecting tears of joy when this arrives to her door. I’m praying for tears of joy but I’ll likely get a “well, it’s about time” speech. I’m hoping for happiness and I hope she knows she was worth each agonizing second because I know she’s put herself in excruciating situations hundreds of times for her kids.

And with that; thank God that is done. My job as a daughter is done here; till her birthday next month.

If only I were the kind of person who gave giftcards.  My gifts may be late, but I have really good intentions and put a lot of sincerity into them.  They are just very very late.

Photo courtesy of Paul Avery Design.

Weekly Photo Challenge: Unfocused

After a redeye to Dublin, we rented a car and drove to New Grange. Everything seemed a little blurry that day, including our pictures.

This picture was purposely blurry and I love it that way because it is the only way to understand how it was taken. I took the picture through a stationary telescope at a visitor center, before we took a bit of a walk to meet a bus, which would drive us to the historic site. Included are also blurry/unfocused sheep as we took this walk, a picture of the telescope with New Grange in the distance and a better shot of the site, so you can get a good view of the megalithic site that is so fascinating to us.

©2012 Shannon Hadley

Why Motorcyclists Are Awesome

Do you know anyone who rides a motorcycle?  I mean, a real motorcycle, not a crotch-rocket or moped, no offense.  I’m talking about an American, loud piped, chromed beauty on two wheels.  I grew up riding on the back of my Dad’s bike, starting a lot younger than I should have and I still get a smile when I hear the pipes roar down the road.

There was something calming about the vibration of the motor and the wind against my face.  I used to fall asleep as a child on the back of the bike, which looking back seems pretty dangerous.  On more than one occasion, Dad felt dead weight on the back and had to pull over to secure me to the seat.  Actually, that is really dangerous, isn’t it?  No wonder my Grandmoms hated seeing me pull up on the back of the bike with that big goofy helmet and my little jean Harley jacket.

Bikers are more than meets the eye.  The do more than rock a leather vest and chaps, which no one else can do.  Maybe a cowboy can do chaps, but I’m tempted to believe they come from the same breed of people; gruff and strong.  From my experience, they come from blue collar background and are down and dirty guys.  Whether the biker you know lives the biker lifestyle or a corporate CEO turned biker on the weekends, they all seem to get along in a roadside bar because they have the bond of the open road.  It’s evident in the way they wave to each other as they pass.  I know I don’t wave to other Ford drivers.

Some of the scariest looking guys I’ve ever met were bikers, and they were also the kindest.  We rode with firemen, military, police officers and men who worked with their hands.  They had long beards, beer bellies and were long overdue on their haircuts.  They remember your name and your story no matter how much time passed.  They’re the guys you meet up with on Sunday morning at a diner and ride through the afternoon with.  They are lifelong friends who will help stop your oil leak and tow you to get your tire fixed.  Some have tattoos, some don’t.  A real rider never wears sneakers and shorts, but long pants and boots, no matter what the weather.  They know how to pack light and be prepared for anything that lies ahead.

They maneuver around people who don’t know how to share the road and with people who don’t see them, while stabilizing hundreds of pounds of metal on two wheels.  They are the first to stop and help you.  They support their friends and all of their causes, and will remember fallen friends in the form of embroidered patches and charity rides or events to support your family.  They talk like sailors amongst friends, but treat a lady like a lady, with respect.  They are sons, brothers, fathers and husbands.  They relish old stories and they aren’t afraid to cry when it comes to reflecting on something important to them either.

I certainly don’t mean to leave the women who ride out.  I’m actually related to some fine female bikers and proud of the way they handle themselves and the road without intimidation, in a predominately male atmosphere.  At this point, I just don’t trust my balance to join them and I’ll stick to the back for now.  Maybe one day…

My opinions here are based on my twenty-plus years of experience with motorcyclists I’ve known amongst my Dad’s various groups, as well as my father-in-law’s. There are always exceptions to everything, in addition to a slutty half naked biker rally girl for each kind of rider I’ve described to you today.   Just never judge a book by its cover, like I almost did with the random Hells Angel who saved me from getting crushed at a concert.  The guy picked me up like I was a feather.  Never imagined a man that frightening looking could’ve been so graceful, and in a mosh pit.

Vroom vroom…the open road is calling.

Photo courtesy of the Rapid City Journal.

“Oh, you have plenty of time” And Other Lies

I thought I’d be something more successful by now.  I’ve mentioned this before but bear with me, I’ve got a different point today.  I’m not unsuccessful; I’m just not what I want to be, professionally and maybe a little personally.  I’ll be twenty-nine soon, and not that it’s the end of the world and not that I’ll have a little “almost thirty” or “twenty-nine forever” crisis but damn it, I can if I want to.

When I was in high school all my teachers from math to gym said I would be the next Katie Couric.  That’s when Katie was unstoppable and on the Today Show.  That is also when I respected the Today Show and before Kathie Lee had anything to do with it, and before I started to see through major media outlets.  I never felt like my supporters were blowing smoke up my rear and I felt like I had such a bright future.  I had talent and I had zero fear to stop me from getting where I wanted to be.  I also had a psychic who told me I’d work for the BBC.  Well, reality took over and I was too levelheaded to take a career with so much risk.  Fine, I’m ok with that because it’s not like I tried and didn’t succeed.  I just didn’t try.  Eck, not much better.

I also thought I’d be a mom by now, and more than to just my pug.  It’s pretty common for my generation that I’m not one at this age, and most of my friends aren’t moms yet but by the end of the year I’ll have been married five years, so the clock seems a little different to me.  I’m not waiting to meet Mr. Right.  I already found him.  “Oh, you have plenty of time” they say.  “Why are you rushing things?  There’s so much life ahead of you.”  Really?  Do these particular people, who are almost everyone, by the way, really believe that there is always plenty of time?  Did they not just tell me how fast time goes and how they can’t believe this, that or the other never happened or happened too fast?  Don’t lie to me, Continue reading