Monthly Archives: November 2008

I Don’t Bake

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I went to the Burgh Moms cookie exchange on Saturday, and let me tell you, I spent at least 5 days beforehand bitching and moaning about baking cookies. I told anyone who would listen that I was going because I love the Burgh Moms (and there was even a Burgh Dad), and I just wanted to socialize. I didn’t care about cookies, because I! Hate! Baking!

I am a good cook. A really good cook. But I am a non-recipe cook. I like to throw things together and experiment with new dishes. The upside is that I have come up with some really great meals. One downside is that when people ask me for the recipe, I have none. Now, if you are also a non-recipe cook, I can probably give you an idea of how to make it and you can either duplicate it or improve on it. But if you need a recipe, I am not the girl for you. I can’t tell you how many times over the years I have had this conversation with someone who liked a dish I made:

Friend: How much *insert ingredient* do I need?

Me: I don’t know. Some.

Friend: Well, what about the *insert ingredient*?

Me: Whatever it takes.

Friend: How many pounds of *meat/fish/pasta* do you use?

Me: As much as you want.

Friend (getting frustrated): What temperature?

Me: Oh, 350. Or 375. Or 400, whatever.

Friend (totally disgusted): How long do you cook it?

Me: Until it’s done.

It’s not too hard to see that the other downfall of this sort of cooking philosophy is that Gina + Baking = smoke, nasty-ass cookies, throwing of spatulas, second degree burns, tears and oreos. But I sucked it up and made cookies for the cookie swap, hoping that they would only be mildly bad and that I would get home and out of everyone’s scorn distance before anyone discovered just how bad a baker I am. So imagine my surprise when some folks actually liked them and wanted the recipe. I still think they are either 1) having some sort of sugar-induced hysteria or 2) smoking crack, but whatever.

So here is where I fess up that these are the least fancy cookies ever. Seriously. All they are is a basic sugar cookie, plus Gina’s own special brand of I Can’t Control My Compulsion To Dick Around With This Perfectly Good Recipe And See How Badly I Can Screw It Up. Basically, you use your favorite sugar cookie recipe. I don’t have a favorite, so I just grabbed a random one online (I made sure to choose one without milk or cream, since I was afraid of adding lemon to dairy).

First, whip up the sugar cookie dough. Then add (any one or combination of) a few drops of lemon juice, some powdered lemon (true lemon) and some lemon zest. Then mix in some dried sweetened cranberries. Roll into little balls and bake at 350 degrees for about 11 minutes. Normally, with sugar cookies, you would want them a little pale, with just a teeny bit of golden brown on the edge, but taste tests (me, shoving them in my maw) showed that with the lemon flavor they tasted better when I let them brown a little more to get crispier.

OK, now be very careful to pay attention to these precise instructions:

How much lemon juice/zest/powdered lemon? Some. Whatever. To taste (if you’re afraid of raw cookie dough, then I can’t help you. I suck in many ways.) Also – don’t use artificial lemon extract. It’s wrong.

How many cranberries? Lots.

What size balls to roll? Ummm…a little bigger than a superball. Were you not listening when I said I don’t measure????

And that, my friends, is it. Lemon cranberry cookies. I personally like them, but then I am not a big chocolate, nutty, coconutty kind of girl. I tend to like fruity stuff, so these are perfect for me. I also love pie. And pie gives you a little more leeway, so I can actually practice my crazy kitchen witchcraft on pies.

Now, if I could just get the recipe for the concord grape ricotta tart I had at Casbah last week, I’d be a happy woman. Well, I’d be pleased. I’d be happy after I suckered one of you into baking it for me.


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Seven Things

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I was tagged by Amy last week for the seven random things meme, and I am just getting around to it now. I suck. But in my defense, it has been birthday party central around here. Between vacation, my work trip, both kids’ birthdays with parties for their friends, a get-together for my SIL’s birthday, and a big family party at my house for both kids, I am wiped out. Also, if you don’t already read Amy’s blog, you need to get over there right now and check out the photos of her son in his Charlie Brown costume, because that is some serious cute right there.

1. In the morning when I am getting ready for work, I must have the news on. And only the news. If I am in the bathroom fixing my hair and mr b turns something else on, it makes me crazy. I don’t know why, but the sound of anything but the news makes me insane. Especially if it’s a movie. If I hear movie dialogue at 5:45 am, I want to stab someone.

2. I hate getting my teeth cleaned. I mean, I like having clean teeth, but the feeling of that nasty little rubber brush thing on my teeth makes me crazy. It’s like nails on a chalkboard to me (except for the fact that nails on a chalkboard don’t bother me in the least, but you know what I mean). The mere thought of it makes my mouth water (not like mmm…chocolate mouth-watering, but like before you puke mouth-watering) and my hair stand on end. Also in this category is the sliding of a tie or scarf across my collar. **shiver**

3. If I am at your house and have to use the bathroom, there is a good chance I will peek behind your shower curtain. Not because I am nebby (the ‘burghers know what that means), and not because I give a shit if you cleaned it. No – I will look because He may be hiding there. You know – Him. He who hides in showers and kills women on the toilet. What? You’ve never heard of him? Well, he’s there, and now I may have just saved your life. You’re welcome. Oh. And he’s also in the woods, so only go camping in large groups. It helps your odds.

4. I have a knit Steelers hat from the 70’s that I still pull out and wear sometimes. It’s a big black and gold rooster, for some reason. I have no idea what a rooster has to do with football, other than the fact that it has Steelers written on it. But it was the 70’s and everybody was high. I call it Cockhead.

5. I am mourning the loss of my personality. I used to be funny and interesting. Or maybe I never was, but I thought I was. Either way, I don’t feel funny or interesting or fun or spontaneous at all anymore. Instead, I feel tired and boring and unattractive and uninteresting and uninterested. Maybe I need medication, because it’s a fucking depressing feeling, to not feel like you are the same person you were when you liked yourself.

6. I have certain “types” when it comes to men and most don’t fall into the traditionally handsome mold. I mean, I love me some Clooney, but I also really go for somewhat big noses, pornstaches (think Tom Selleck, Sam Elliot, Kix Brooks), and hippie guys. In the traditionally handsome group, I go for dark skinned men. Note that mr b is fair, blond, normal-nosed, and not a hippie. Weird. Oh – and personality-wise, I have always had a tendency to be attracted to smartasses and douchebags. That always worked out really well for me (again, mr b not included, though he can be a pain in the ass sometimes).

7. Last year, I joined NaNoWriMo and failed miserably. I only got about 6000 words written. I started off on such a roll, with what I thought was a good idea for a novel. I still do, but once I lost the drive, that was it. I occasionally get it out and peck at it for a while, but I can’t seem to make any progress. I do believe that someday I will finish it, but I don’t know when.

Well, now I am supposed to tag seven more people, but it seems that everyoine I read has already done this, so if you haven’t., consider yourself tagged. And also, Jackie (aka Maria), I am officially tagging you because you haven’t written in forever and I miss you. Get on it!

W

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I got this from Uncle Crappy. Basically, you get a letter and then list 10 things that start with that letter that you love. I had a hard time with it, so I modified it from things I love to things that are significant to me somehow. Happily, he didn’t assign me an X or Q, so here goes: W

1. Westminster College: This was my first college. I spent so much time looking at brochures and visiting campuses before deciding where to go. I knew I wanted to go somewhere with a campus – not in the middle of a city. I wanted a school with a good science program. I wanted someplace scenic. I wanted someplace that wasn’t all the way across the country, but not so close that my parent would be likely to drop in unexpectedly. I had it narrowed down to a couple of schools, but WC offered me an academic scholarship and my mind was made up. I loved it there.

It was everything I wanted – scenic, lots of things to do outdoors, a great biology & science program, with state of the art labs and equipment. It had a different type of semester system, with a J-term, which ran all of January, where you took one class that was either a trip, or an all-day hands on type thing. One year I took the physics of flight and learned to fly a plane. Awesome.

What my parents didn’t expect of this sleepy little Amish-town school was that it was party central. My first day of orientation, on my way to amoeba tag or giant twister or some other such nonsense, I met a long haired boy who said, “This is stupid, wanna get high instead?” And that, my friends was the beginning of the end. I lasted two years, had the very best and very worst times of my life, and eventually had to go. I don’t regret a minute of my time there and regret every minute of my time there. I have a whole, weird, unfinished feeling about the place that fills me with nostalgia.

2. Walt Disney World: Everyone who knows me knows I am a total freak for Disney. Not really Disney in general, but Walt Disney World. I’ve been lucky enough to visit a lot of different places in my life, and there are a lot more I’d still like to visit. But when it comes down to it – WDW is my favorite. Don’t get me wrong – comparing WDW to exotic locations like comparing apples to oranges and I can’t really say I’d rather go to WDW than say, Costa Rica or Tuscany or Hawaii, but overall – WDW is my favorite. As soon as I drive onto the property, I am happy. I love being completely immersed and away from the outside world. I want to go back right now.

3. Waterbury CT: This is the first Dead show I owned. 09/23/72. My friend Dave had about eleventy million taped shows and I wanted all of them. I bought a bunch of cassettes and told him to get taping. He had an extra copy of this one, so I got it right away and listened to it approximately twenty-thousand times before my roommate begged me to stop. It has quite a few of my favorite songs, which probably shows that I’m a Jerry girl. Though I had the hots for Bobby for years.

4. Water: I love to be in water. Pools, hot tubs, bathtubs, lakes, oceans – whatever. I am a much happier person in water. It soothes away my stress and worry and aches and pains. I can remember learning to swim at my aunt;s country club in Florida – in thse days, the prevailing method was to throw you in and basically wait for you to sink or swim. I can still see the 6ft sign going up and down in fro nof my face as I nearly drowned. But in the ended, I swam. And never stopped since. I was a diver with the swim team all through high school and part of college and I never minded showing up at 5:30 am for practice, because it meant I got to be in the water.

We had a pool for a couple of years and I was in it constantly. When we had to get rid of it to make room for the addition, I cried. I still maintain that someday we will get another. In fact, as soon as I win the powerball, I will be getting a convertible indoor/outdoor pool, so I can be in it all year long (I don’t know if there is such a thing, but with my hundreds of millions, I will make it happen). And it will have an attached Jacuzzi, so I can easily move from one to the other. And I may need to spring for scuba gear so I can escape underwater for long periods of time.

5. Wilderness: I’m a Civil War buff and this was the first battlefield I visited. We were on our way to The Battle of the Wilderness in Spotsylvania, Virginia was fought near the end of the Civil War – in May of 1864. It was the first battle in the Overland Campaign – the bloodiest campaign in American history and the beginning of the end of the Civil War. Lt General James Longstreet was wounded by his own men here. Almost 30,000 men, both Union and Confederate, were killed in this battle. Afterwards, a two week long battle picked up near the Spotsylvania courthouse. On the morning of May 12th, at a bend in the trenches, the close contact fighting got so bloody that the dead were stacked 5 deep and had to be moved to make room for the living. It was the longest sustained hand-to-hand fight of the entire war. At one point, the fighting was so intense that a 22-inch oak tree was shot clean through by musket fire. The stump is on display at the Smithsonian

6. White Nights: Most of you are younger than me and probably don’t remember Jim Jones and the tragedy in Jonestown, Guyana. I was 10 years old at the time and this was by far the scariest thing I had ever seen or heard. I simply did not understand the concept of suicide and it scared me shitless. Jim Jones was a crazy cult leader. He founded the People’s Temple in 1955. He started out as a champion for desegregation, but by the mid 1960s began to get a little crazy, believing that nuclear war was coming soon. In the early to mid 1970s he had gone pretty much batshit, and built a sanctuary – his socialist paradise – in Guyana, naming it after himself.

By the late 70s, accusations of physical, emotional ands sexual abuse began to emerge from former Temple members and U.S. Congressman Leo Ryan led a fact-finding mission to Guyana, along with a cameraman, reporters and relatives of temple members. After Ryan was attacked by a temple member with a knife, the group left, along with some defectors. But as they were boarding their plane at a nearby airstrip, Jones’ “guard” pulled up and started shooting. At the same time, one of the defectors pulled a gun and shot those who had already boarded the plane. Five people were killed and more were wounded.

Later that day, Jones led his followers in a mass suicide, serving them Kool-Aid laced with cyanide. 909 people died. 276 of them were children. Jones himself died of a gunshot wound to the head – it is unsure whether it was self-inflicted or if he instructed someone else to carry it out. There was an audio recording of the mass suicide which was played on the news and to this day, I can still hear his voice saying “mother, mother, mother please.” Just thinking about it gives me chills and brings tears to my eyes.

After the tragedy former Temple members said that mass suicide was often discussed, and even simulated, on a regular basis. On one such episode, members drank liquid that Jones told them was poison, apparently to test them. They called these trial runs “White Nights.”

7. Walt Whitman:

Beat! beat! drums! – blow! bugles! blow!
Through the windows – through doors – burst like a ruthless force,
Into the solemn church, and scatter the congregation,
Into the school where the scholar is studying;
Leave not the bridegroom quiet – no happiness must he have now with his bride,
Nor the peaceful farmer any peace, ploughing his field or gathering his grain,
So fierce you whirr and pound you drums – so shrill you bugles blow.

Beat! beat! drums! – blow! bugles! blow!
Over the traffic of cities – over the rumble of wheels in the streets;
Are beds prepared for sleepers at night in the houses? No sleepers must sleep in those beds,
No bargainers’ bargains by day – no brokers or speculators – would they continue?
Would the talkers be talking? would the singer attempt to sing?
Would the lawyer rise in the court to state his case before the judge?
Then rattle quicker, heavier drums – you bugles wilder blow.

Beat! beat! drums! – blow! bugles! blow!
Make no parley – stop for no expostulation,
Mind not the timid – mind not the weeper or prayer,
Mind not the old man beseeching the young man,
Let not the child’s voice be heard, nor the mother’s entreaties,
Make even the trestles to shake the dead where they lie awaiting the hearses,
So strong you thump O terrible drums – so loud you bugles blow.

8. Tammy Wynette/Doc Watson: The first album and last (so far) albums I have bought.

In the 70s, I saw a TV ad for a Tammy Wynette album and I really wanted it. I think I liked it because I could spell d-i-v-o-r-c-e. I’m not sure I really even know what divorce was exactly, but I liked that I could spell it. I told me dad I wanted to spend my birthday money on it. He ordered it and I waited impatiently until it arrived in the mail. I still have it.

About a week ago, I bought Doc & Merle Watson’s Black Mountain Rag. One of these years, I’m gonna make it to Merlefest.

9. W: Here I am, eight years later, still wondering how this blathering idiot got to be president. Well, at least he made us all feel smart while he was fucking up the economy, the environment, education, and dicking around with innocent lives all over the world. Thanks for that, Dumbya.

10. Whine/Wine: What my kids do/How I deal with it.

you want to play? Let me know and I’ll hook you up with a letter (not X or Q, I promise)

Friday Five

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Friday Five: Middles

1. What usually marks the middle of your day?

Lunch. I eat a late lunch on workdays, so the afternoon seems shorter and quitting time comes more quickly.

2. From whom (or to whom) was your most recent middle-of-the-night phone call?

That would be a call (or calls) to my husband made by me and my sisters-in-law from a party. Also known as drunk dialing. He is still pissed.

3. On what social, political, economic, or moral issue are you in the middle of the road?

Gun control. I grew up in a hunting family (though I could never hunt myself). I enjoy shooting sports (like target, skeet & trap shooting). But I can’t understand why there are people out there who actually believe that a waiting period is a bad thing, that unregulated gun shows are a good thing, and why anyone needs an automatic weapon.

4. How likely are you to give someone your middle finger?

HAHAHAHAHAHAHA! Have you met me? And speaking of – I’m with this guy: Fuck you Proposition 8!!

5. When were you last caught in the middle of a disagreement that really had nothing to do with you?

Hmmm…I don’t know. I’m not sure whether to be happy that I avoided that drama or concerned that the drama has all involved me.

I Will Be Saying Fuck a Lot Today

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I want to talk about how happy I am this morning, about how proud I am of the decision we as a country made. I want to talk about the screams of delight and tears of joy. I really do. But it will have to wait because I am so pissed off right now that I am physically ill. I came home to a letter last night that sucked any joy I would have had right the hell out of me. Even after sleeping on it, I am still so angry I can’t even concentrate.

You see, it seems that my son’s “truancy” has warranted our being referred to a social services agency. Notice “truancy” is in quotes. We took him out of school for one week to go on vacation. A family trip, in our school district, is considered an excused absence. He went to school his first day back with his huge stack of completed homework. He made up all the tests. He has all As and Bs. This is bullshit!

I need to post the letter so you can truly understand my fury. First – the agency is an outside group called Try Again Homes, Inc. OK – “Try Again Homes”???? That sounds a little too much like CYS to me. They have two mottoes on their letterhead: “Giving Families New Direction” and Serving Children, Strengthening Families, and Building Lives.” WTF???

I checked out their website and they are all about “families at risk” and “families in need” and “families poised to have a child removed from their care” and adoption and foster children. This is motherfucking CYS/Social Services with a prettier name. Again, WTF?? WHAT!!! THE!!! FUCK?!?!?

The letter states:

Dear Mr. & Mrs. B:

I am an Educational Advocate from Try-Again Homes Inc. Our agency is collaborating with the Asshole School District in a Truancy Intervention Prevention Program. Frequent Truancy often leads to poor grades, grade level failure, and ultimately dropping out of school. The goal of our TIPP Program is to help prevent truancy and provide assistance to families and students, if needed, to identify and overcome the obstacles that may be interfering with the student’s ability to complete their basic education. The collaboration with the schools may also extend to other community agencies and resources when it is determined that the student and family could benefit from their special services.

The Boy has been referred to our agency because he has been absent for 6 days during this school year, of which 2 are illegal. It is important we meet with you to discuss this matter. A parent conference is set for Thursday, November 13th at 12:00 pm (noon)

If you have any questions or concerns, please call me at 724-eat-shit. Also, please call and confirm the appointment date and time.

Do I have any concerns? You think??

Here are my MOTHERFUCKING CONCERNS

1. The fact that he missed 5 days and not 6!
2. The fact that they were excused, according to both the school policy on absences and the student handbook!
3. The fact that it makes no sense that they would claim that some of them are excused and some are not – they were all for the same thing!
4. The fact that they should be aware that they are excused, given that I sent letter to the principal and every teacher weeks in advance!
5. The fact that the school had him carry a form, around to every teacher to be signed off on!
6. The fact that every single year he has had near perfect attendance and two years, he had PERFECT ATTENDANCE!
7. The fact that he is so OBVIOUSLY not a child at risk – he went back to school after vacation with his huge stack of homework done, he gets good grades, he’s well liked by his teachers, he participates in extracurricular activates – the boy plays multiple instruments in the band, for fucks sake – does this sound like a child at risk to you??!!!!!
8. The fact that it’s hilarious to me that we are suddenly a family at risk, because we took our FAMILY on a FAMILY VACATION!!!!!!!
9. The fact that if this school DOES NOT HAVE ITS SHIT TOGETHER and has the incorrect number of days absent, and has incorrectly designated them as illegal!!
10. The fact that two days – although incorrect – is worthy of bringing in an outside agency!!
11. The fact that this agency would fucking presume to MAKE ME AN APPOINTMENT, AS IF I HAVE ALL THE FUCKING TIME IN THE WORLD TO MEET WITH THEM IN BETWEEN NOT WORKING, EATING BON-BONS, AND SMOKING CRACK!!!
12. The fact that if the school would spend even a fraction of them time they spend on those goddamned PSSAs on a little fucking QUALITY CONTROL, this would not be a problem!! If they had taken even one FUCKING MINUTE to check their FUCKING FACTS before they referred us to A FUCKING AGENCY, this would be all for naught!!!!
13. The fact that there are NOT ENOUGH CAPS OR EXCLAMATION POINTS IN THE WORLD TO EXPRESS HOW FUCKING ANGRY I AM!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Yeah – I’ve got a few concerns.

I immediately called the agency and left a voicemail. I realize that my beef is with the school, who did the referring, but I am a little ticked about the agency making me an appointment and assuming I’d be available, so I left a VM letting them know that I would most certainly NOT be meeting with them. I called the school this morning, but the principal was unavailable (surprise). I will be giving her one more call and then I am going to the superintendent. Or maybe I’ll just go to him anyway. If they don’t fix this shit immediately, it will be a huge mistake. Our school has had some negative publicity in the past and I imagine that they don’t want any more.

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UPDATED:

I spoke with the woman from the agency and she was very nice. She said that as soon as she got my message she looked at his records and could immediately see that it was his vacation and she couldn’t understand why he was referred. She said that she gets frustrated because this happens a lot and she ends up with (rightfully) irate parents calling her. She is upset that the school isn’t doing a better job. She made me feel a million times better when she said that we don’t have to meet and she doesn’t have to look into his attendance any further. She did say that she will be going to the school this week to discuss this with them. Yay. Because seriously – if she was able to spend 5 minutes looking at his records and figuring it the fuck out, why can’t the school? Oh -and that extra day? It was an excused absence for a scouting trip. The thing is? He didn’t go on that trip! He was in school!! SO he could have ditched school (or god forbid, been abducted) and no one would have known) Fuckers.

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UPDATED AGAIN:

OMG, I hate the school principal!!

I called earlier this morning ans she wasn’t available,. this didn’t surprise me because at the beginning of the year, I had to call her a couple of times because his schedule was screwed up and each time, she was not available and instead passed messages through the secretary.

So I didn’t want to leave a message this morning, but said I would call back. the secretary asked why I was calling and I told her briefly of the situation. I called back a couple of hours later (after I had spoken to the agency) and when the secretary answered, i identified myself and asked if the principal was available. She said sure and put me on hold. And then she came back a couple of minutes later and said that Mrs. Bitchbagcuntface wanted her to tell me that it was not her job and that I needed to talk to the assistant principal because it was his job, bt he is out until Monday.

In case you missed that – she said it was NOT HER JOB!!!

Well, my tax dollars say it IS her job! I understand that attendance issues may fall under the assistant principal’s job duties, but since he is the assistant and she is the principal, that makes it her fucking job!!! Especially given that I have an actual problem that needs to be addressed (she had no idea whether I spoke to the agency yet or not), and because the asst principal was out for the rest of the fucking week.

Fucking Bitch!!

I am planning on getting in touch with the superintendent now, because this is unacceptable – both the complete failure of the attendance system and – especially – the behavior of this principal. I think I may have to email, though, because I know my weaknesses and my big one is my temper and potty mouth (what the fuck of it?). So I am afraid to call for fear of going all crazy and undoing any good I might accomplish otherwise. So I need to calm down, gather my thoughts and draft an email. The problem is that I am so frustrated I can’t calm down and think straight. So all you smart, eloquent folks out there, feel free to give me some advice on what to write. If I’m left to my own devices, there may be a few too many fucks, dickheads, motherfuckers, assholes and even a cunt or two.

The Good Uncle

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My mom called me a little while ago to tell me that my uncle is dying. He’s not really my uncle – not anymore. He married my Aunt Twin when I was just a baby, but they haven’t been married for many, many years. But he was there throughout my childhood, so regardless of blood relations and divorces, he has always been Uncle Paul, and I have always loved him.

He was an awesome uncle. The kind that is silly and fun. Always joking, rarely serious. Quick to stick up for you when you’re fighting mom for a later bedtime, or one more cookie. Generous with his money and his love. And he had lots of famous friends, which was pretty cool. Although, looking back, some of the closest of these friends – in retrospect – said something about him, I guess. I won’t mention their names, but I can say that they might possibly rhyme with Feet Blows and Weevil Believel. Back then, though, this stuff was all the makings of a Good Uncle. Good Uncles don’t always make good husbands, though. Mr. Good Time isn’t generally Mr. Responsible.

But Mr. Good Time he was. They had a beautiful house in Florida – it was big and exquisitely decorated – for the 70’s that is. I was in love with that house. Every room had a different color scheme or theme. Each had it’s own bathroom, which was unheard of (to me at least) in those days. The bathrooms were two rooms and Aunt Twin always had these soap sculptures on display in the outer room. I adored those things – they were beautiful and they smelled so good. We spent much of the summer there every year and I probably spent 10% of that time just taking in all the beautiful things she had there. The formal living room with the fur couch. The Florida room with the black patent leather couches and red hanging lamps. The bullfight statue that I used to imitate with my best friend Tracy and almost broke my nose. I still have the scar and the chipped bone.

I remember the kitchen with it’s mushroom theme and the state of the art appliances. My room was my favorite, because it was mine of course. It was crazy psychedelic blue and green, with twin beds (a novelty to me, since I had a big bed at home). There was white modern furniture including corner table that one bed slid halfway under when not in use. And there was a stereo built into it. God, I loved that room. My second favorite room was my Aunt Cee’s. She was a teen during those times and she got the super psychedelic room, with the black and silver wallpaper and the black furry bedspread and the groovy wire-sculpture hanging lamp and the white tree with hidden colored lights. I know it all sounds crazy and tacky now, but this was the 70’s – trust me – it was AWESOME.

He had a great mind – he was a businessman. He invented and marketed an exercise device that was very successful. His brother was a very famous NFL player and he himself was in the NFL for a while, so he had lots of connections to athletes that he used in his ads. He was clever, too, and had some funny, smart, and sometimes risqué advertising campaigns, which contributed to his success. But he liked to spend and party and gamble and live the high life. He made tons, but spent more. He had a wandering eye,. Hard for a wife to take when she is already 15 years his junior, I imagine. When I was about 11 or 12, Aunt Twin and Uncle Paul moved back to PA. I didn’t know why at the time, but I guess they were struggling both financially and emotionally. I didn’t know any of this until years later, so when they split up, I was devastated.

I cried and cried at the thought of losing my favorite uncle. The one that took me to get ice cream even though I didn’t finish my dinner. The one who would pose for photos wearing big, silly hats and glasses. The one that bought me presents just from him. the one that could always make me laugh, no matter what. I knew that no matter what happened between them, he would always be my uncle.

I was wrong.

I didn’t see him for years after they split. By the time I was an older teen, there were a few brief sightings and (I think) a graduation card. I sent him Christmas cards over the years, but never heard anything in return. I invited him to my wedding and never even got a response. If it were anyone else, I would have said, fuck him; he’s an asshole. But not with Uncle Paul. Even after years of no contact and rejection, I still loved him and missed him. After the boy was born, I sent him a card and letter, telling him about his new “great-nephew” and telling him how I felt – that I still loved him, that he was still my favorite uncle. He didn’t respond.

I never tried again, but I caught news of him occasionally through Aunt Twin, who got her news through the grapevine. Occasionally – as and recently as this summer – I would google him to see if there was something – anything – out there. Sometimes there was, and recently I even saw a photo. I was struck by how old he looked, since in my mind he is still big strong Uncle Paul.

Apparently, Aunt Twin talked to his brother recently – what prompted it, I don’t know – and found out that he is dying of cancer. I guess the brother passed on her love and this morning he called her. He was very kind, telling her how sorry he was. He said that his good time friends always told him what a mistake he made with her, and that he knows it. Even though he’s happy now, he still has regrets.

And then he asked how his favorite niece was.

He said how he missed me and how he wished he had stayed in touch. He said he was so moved when he got my letter, and that he regrets never replying. That he loves me. I shouldn’t care, but I do. I shouldn’t grieve him, but I will. I shouldn’t be crying, but I am. I’ve missed him for years, and now I am going to miss him more.

I love you, Uncle Paul.