Posts Tagged ‘Family’

redman photo 82 side k pref head vert typaI had a very strict mother. Not about everything, you understand. She was actually quite a free-thinker, an intellectual and a good deal ahead of her time, feministically speaking. 🙂 But she believed in a certain kind of public behavior. Manners. Refinement.

Lucy at typewriterWhatever you call it, she must have made a bigger impression on me than I realized. I like to think of myself as terrifically open-minded, a little avante garde in a very ladylike way, not at all repressed or repressive.

Imagine my shock, then, when my daughter told me that, way back when she was in elementary school and someone did something crazy, her friends would pose the sardonic question, “Irene, would your mother call this vulgar? Or tacky?”

OMG. That is how they saw me? Cool, intellectual, free-thinking me? Apparently.

puzzle monsterSo, just for the record, girls, here’s how you know what’s vulgar, and what’s tacky.

TACKY is just a bit cheap, poorly made, or the etiquette equivalent of poorly made. It hints that you might not have champagne tastes or the Queen’s manners. Nobody gets hurt with tacky. It includes innocent sins, like showing too much cleavage at a funeral, or letting your dog lick your plate when you’re finished.

VULGAR is much, much worse. Vulgar is when you send naked pictures of yourself in a Santa hat as Christmas cards–and you actually believe it’s sexy, not gross. Vulgar is when you make body-function jokes in front of your maiden aunt, or tell strangers too many details about things that should be private.

Tacky makes you look bad. Vulgar makes other people uncomfortable.

Or so my mother taught me.

However, there are quite a few things that the world probably considers tacky (and I *KNOW* my mother did!) that I absolutely adore. Don’t we all have some? Here’s my list of my top five Tacky Treats.

St. Francis corner1) Yard knick-knacks. I know…I really do know…that a dozen cheap little ornaments scattered around your yard don’t look very swanky. But I don’t care. I’m addicted. I do keep my shame in the *back* yard, though, to avoid embarrassing the rest of the family.

beach store mannequin2) Kitschy beach stores. I love the smell of plastic beach toys shaped like alligators, and what we used to call “suntan oil,” but now would undoubtedly call “sunscreen.” I like towels embroidered with the name of my favorite beach: Indian Rocks. I like flip flops and straw hats and yellow plastic buckets with crenelated bottoms for making sand castles. I even like…get ready…little people and creatures made entirely of shells, like these poker players.

puppy in christmas lights

3) Christmas lights hanging crooked, or mismatched. I love the idea that real people who want to twinkle a Merry Christmas to their neighbors actually get on ladders and string these babies up…maybe getting a little cranky, even, while they do it. I like yards that have gone a little too far (not Griswold far), or who clearly let the six-year-old pick out the color scheme. I don’t really like those net strands of lights, because they look too neat, too linear, as if someone professional put them on.swing at christmas I also love lights that stay on all year. I have an outdoor swing that I decorate with fairy lights. I have some in all different colors–pink for Valentine’s Day, red-white-blue for Fourth of July, purple and orange for Halloween. I’m hopeless.


4) Glitter. This is obviously a hangover from childhood. We had a babysitter once who knew how to draw a ballerina using only a very few lines to make a fluffy tutu skirt. And then she’d let us paste glitter along each ruffle of the skirt. Oh, it was magical, and I never got over it. Also, we used to drive to Indian Rocks Beach on Florida’s Gulf Coast every summer, and somewhere along the way we passed a billboard that had a strip of something metallic that glittered in the noonday sun. I can’t remember what it advertised…if anyone else remembers, please let me know! I see that glittering sign in my dreams!

Tiara5) Wacky costume jewelry. I don’t wear this, you understand. Not because I’m afraid of offending the memory of my mother. She thought costume jewelry could approach true art. I don’t wear it because I wear four piece of jewelry, the same ones all the time. A necklace, a watch, my wedding rings, and a pair of earrings. I got them all from His Highness on special occasions, and, except for the earrings, I never take change them. The necklace hasn’t come off in twenty-six years…although don’t worry–it does take showers. But in a purely “museum” way, I love a fabulously tacky piece of costume jewelry. The more color and kitch the better! I particularly can’t resist tiaras. 🙂 Pinterest was invented to allow people like me to indulge interests like that. 🙂

Big blue monsterI also love wonderful, horrible tearjerker ballads, like “Shake Me I Rattle, Squeeze Me, I Cry.” But those songs can’t be on this list, because they’re corny, not tacky. Don’t believe me? Ask your mom. 🙂

How about you? What do you insist on loving, in spite of snob pressure to renounce it?

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I haven’t come even close to reading what was on my TBR pile this week. (I didn’t need those last two words. This is the case EVERY week! 🙂 )

In fact, all I ever do, it seems, is ADD TO the pile. Here’s how it happened…tell me if any of this sounds familiar! 🙂

His Highness and I rearranged some furniture in various rooms, which meant moving some books, which meant I actually browsed one of the bookcases I don’t usually get to. Oh, dear. LOOK at all these wonderful books! I pulled out Truman Capote’s “Breakfast at Tiffany’s,” Northrop Frye’s “Anatomy of Criticism,” and Mary Stewart’s “This Rough Magic.” I felt quite proud of my restraint. It could have been 30 instead of three!

Then, my daughter and I walked to Barnes and Noble, to be virtuous and get some exercise. B&N was the reward for the virtue. But would it have been much of a reward if we hadn’t bought anything? So I got one of the Kate Atkinson books I’d missed. I loved her “Case Histories,” and I was thrilled to see these newer ones. Again, I was proud of myself. It could have been a hundred.

DSC02741 Another thing…the RITA award finalists were announced, this past Tuesday. Some of the books looked soooo good, but I hadn’t ever read them! Well, I’m a writer. I’m supposed to be studying the best in my craft, always growing, always improving. So I had to buy a few and download them to my Kindle. So proud of myself…didn’t buy ALL the ones I wanted. Just about four.

Later that night, in another fit of virtue, I realized that I’m not using my Audible account as much as I should. I got it so that I’d have plenty of books on tape to amuse me while I take my daily walks. But I’ve found that my favorite diversion is corny oldies, which sweep me along to their beats, and remind me of how much fun it was to be young and fit. So…needed to put the Audible account on hold, be virtuous, save a few pennies, right? Except that I had some credits there that I must use before I initiated the hold. So I picked up “The Queen of Bedlam” by Robert McCammon and Phillip Pullman’s “Grimm Tales for Young and Old.” Just the two. Just to save a few pennies.

Then, while I was researching a lecture for one of my Brit Lit classes, I got an itch to read a new biography of Zelda Fitzgerald, “Z” by Terese Anne Fowler. (I know…not Brit lit, but still…one thing leads to another…)

Photo by Chris Chan

Photo by Chris Chan

My book budget being totally blown, I decided to try the library. Oops! Remember those books I checked out in a dazed semi-orgy a few weeks ago…but haven’t read? OVERDUE. When I signed in online, I discovered that once again I’m featured on a big, shameful WANTED poster in the library lobby.

WANTED: Bookaholic With Absolutely No Restraint. Ten books overdue. Fines in double digits. Approach With Caution! Considered impractical, absent-minded, dreamy and very dangerous.

So…yeah. Ten added to the pile, ten overdue and costing me big bucks, all while honestly trying to be so, so good.

See what I mean? There are just too many books.

Sound familiar?

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I don’t like science fiction very much. If you mention robots or spaceships or machines that…..zzzzzz. See? I’m already asleep.

So imagine my surprise when, at my age, I finally fell in love with Doctor Who.

BBC and I have always been good friends. The Pallisers, The First Churchills, Upstairs, Downstairs, Brideshead Revisited, Lord Peter Wimsey, Inspector Lynley—love, love love. I’ve had a date with BBC every Sunday night for decades.

But when Doctor Who ruled the counterculture airwaves back in the 60s, 70s and 80s, I was almost entirely unaware of its existence. Frankly, I wasn’t cool enough. I’m definitely a geek. A book geek, a word geek, a grammar geek. Good girl geek I have down pat. But geek chic? Never even came close.

Then, a couple of years ago, my daughter got hooked on The Doctor. Slowly, casually, at first. Not enough to make a dent in my anti-sci-fi resistance. Gradually, though, it grew into a passion, and I noticed.

She and I share a lot of interests. We tend to like many of the same movies, TV shows, actors, and books. So when she’s hooked, I can’t help wondering… Plus, she’s a bit of a zealot, and tends to try to convert everyone around her.

A few months ago, I succumbed. We started with the Christopher Eccleston season. For the first few episodes, I was lukewarm. Okay, I thought. It’s fun, kind of silly, kind of sweet…but not completely enthralling. I don’t have much free time, so it took forever to get very far.

But somewhere along the way, I fell in love. It snuck up on me, the way love sometimes does. And when that season came to an end, and Christopher Eccleston made way for David Tennant, I cried like a fool.

I still don’t really understand myself. So…if I have any Doctor-Loving readers out there, I’d love to know what you think. Why did the series finally capture this Good Girl Geek? It’s creative, with good acting and sharp writing, and a pinch of romantic tension that plays well. But couldn’t that be said for lots of science fiction shows?

But please remember….geeks are a little uptight about spoilers!

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Hi, everyone! I just got back from the frozen North…and while I’m thrilled to be home I’m missing the winter wonderland I left behind.

I am getting my MFA in writing from Seton Hill University, a gorgeous Hogwarts-like school in Greensburg, PA. Most of my work is done via the computer, but twice a year I attend a week-long residency up there. The winter residency is a dream come true for this Florida gal!

I felt as if I’d stepped into one of my own books. Now that I think about it, I’ve written three books that feature glorious winters–“Mistletoe Man,” “Winter Baby” and “We Need A Little Christmas.” It was amazing to learn that real winter is just as romantic and magical as I imagined.

I just blogged about my love affair with the snow, in fact, over at Tote Bags ‘n’ Blogs Stop by if you can, and see more of the beauty of Greensburg in January!

Now, before you decide I’m truly insane, remember I was born in Florida, and I have lived in Florida all my life. I once spent a few winter days in Innsbruck, Austria, where I saw plenty of picturesque snow, but I was working and didn’t have any real time for play.

Other than that, I’ve had to settle for a few flakes here and there, and a glimpse or two from a train window. But while I’m in Greensburg, I can frolic like a fool. And boy, did I! I caught snowflakes on my tongue. I made my first snow angel. I pummeled my friends with snowballs. In every way, I allowed myself to be swept into fantasy by the beauty of the hilly landscape.

So as I get back to real life, to work on my new book (a spin-off from “For the Love of Family”), carrying the frosty sparkles in my heart, I wanted to share a little of it with you. Here’s a very short video my daughter captured with her iIPhone. She knew I’d want to have a memento of this magical moment. I hope you enjoy it, too!

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The Oscars are a big deal at our house. Four years out of five we couldn’t care less who wins, but we still make a party of it. This year, the gals liked “An Education” and the guys liked “Inglourious Basterds,” but no one worked up a sweat. (Nothing like the year Ralph Fiennes was up for “The English Patient.” I’m never going to feel the same about Geoffrey Rush after he stole Ralph’s Oscar.) This year, we were happy that a woman won Best Director, but no one was passionate about “The Hurt Locker,” so it got a fairly tepid cheer.

But whatever our level of interest in the awards themselves, each year the six of us (His Highness, me, the “kids” and their SOs) pile into the family room, where the embarrassingly gigantic television lives, and watch the whole crazy show, from the red carpet right up to the closing credits. Someone–this year it was Mike, who draws a great Avatar!–puts a picture on the white board, celebrating the big night. The coffee table nearly cracks, there’s so much food on it.

We pass out ballots and make jokes about being so clueless in the technical categories. Someone always says, “What’s the difference between sound editing and sound mixing again?” We have all looked at online forecasts of the winners, but we’ve all forgotten what they said. Then we turn to our Bingo sheets, which we’ve made specially for our family. It includes squares like “Renie tweets about awards” (she’s always connected) and “Daddy thinks someone’s hair looks as if it was styled by a wood chipper.” We wait for Mike to get bored and pick up his guitar, for Necole to get sleepy, or for me to tear up over something sappy. Sometimes we poll the room–“I need a majority of the gals to agree a dress is horrible. I hate that one. Do you hate that one?” Then we jubilantly mark off our squares. On the mantel sit our “prizes,” usually gift certificates to Best Buy or iTunes.

Although everyone in our family believes that watching an actual movie requires total, sacred silence, the rules are different for the Oscars. It’s a little like Mystery Science Theater 3000. We laugh and catcall and yell at the people on the stage and at each other. We critique gowns and tuxedos and drool over Robert Downey Jr. Well, the guys don’t. It’s weird…they seem to think the gals would be mortally offended if they lusted openly after one of the hot actresses. We probably would. 😉

Then, when it’s finally over, comes the part I love the best. Though all night we’ve been hassling each other about being Oscar-stupid, or about being so far behind on reaching Bingo, everything changes. As we count up our correct guesses and double-check our squares, the Ballot and Bingo winners try to find a way to prove that they didn’t really win, so that they can give the prize to someone else, someone they dearly love.

I adore Oscar night…because it always reminds me how much I like our crazy family.

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