Subourbon Mom


I am NOT a Survivor – Sorry, Jeff

I don’t know what it is about Americans in particular, but we seem to like watching TV shows that make sporting events out of activities other people do in their daily life.  Off the top of my head, Survivor and American Ninja Warrior come to mind. American Ninja Warrior takes the obstacle courses military organizations used to use for training and makes it into a giant, high-tech jungle gym for middle-class gym rats.  Americans play Survivor on islands where people actually scratch out a living every day – not just for 40 days and then are flown back to their AC and Netflix.survivor

And I love both of those shows.

We still watch Survivor. I hate the people, and it makes me mad, but it’s a train wreck each season, and there’s been 38 seasons.  It seems I’m compelled to watch adults relive 8th grade by lying, backstabbing, deciding as a group who’s undesirable, and seeking revenge later on as an outsider.

I like Survivor because it has contestants that can do all the things I can’t in prolonged, difficult social situations. Here are 9 reasons why I would never win survivor:  

  1. Starting Fires: If I don’t have Fatwood from Plow and Hearth or a stack of old newspapers, I’m pretty useless.  (Voted Off – Day 2)
  2. Food-shut downs, or “The Hangry’s:” Based on people’s reactions to my food shut-downs, I’m pretty sure I would be voted off in the first three days. Apparently, I become unreasonable and just a bit bitchy. They would probably require my one item I could bring to be a Snickers. There is no way I would voluntarily eat sugar-free food (i.e. rice) for 40 days straight without being one of those contestants that gets all listless and weepy (Voted Off – Day 3).funfetti
  3. Hot flashes in the Jungle: I always feel superior as I watch these skeletal twenty-somethings running around wearing teeny-weeny bikinis in the heat and humidity of whatever island they’re dropped on. I dare them to try that with a muffin top while having hot flashes. (Voted Off – Day 4)
  4. Compete without injury: I’ve got bad shoulders, bad hips and I throw like a chimp. Not exactly your desired anchor man in most competitions. That said, you need some swimming done?  I’m your girl. (Voted Off – Day 6)
  5. Solve puzzles: Can’t. Never could. See this? slide puzzle I’ve never been able to do it.  Or this? Rubiks cubeI took those apart or smashed them, depending on my mood. I could proibably hide that deficit for a few days, but not the whole time. (Voted Off – Week 2)
  6. Sunburn: I have an appointment this month to get more pieces of my face taken off (again). I’m pretty sure living on an island for month without sunscreen would hammer that last nail in my peaches-and-cream coffin. (Voted Off – Week 2)
  7. Think logically when tired: Let me put it this way – people at work know not toracerback give me anything after 3:00pm because my brain is tired. I’m pretty sure logical, chess-like thinking is not going to be my strong-suit after being sleep and sugar deprived.  Also, I still can’t figure out how to put on one of those bra things that makes your straps into a racerback. (Voted Off – Week 3)
  8. Maintaining the Lies: One time in the airport I was looking disapprovingly at a girl with a tramp stamp and a thong hanging way above her pants as she tied her shoe; two men were staring at me and laughing at my expression, not even paying attention to the thong. Apparently, my face does not hide my feelings as well as I thought. (Voted Off – Pick Any Day I Look At People)
  9. Razors:  Seriously, people and after 40 days, people would run away from the Sasquatch that I have become.  And the guys who wax their chests on the show?  One of my favorite things ever is to watch it slowly grow back in on each episode. (Voted Off – Day 39)island hair

So sorry, Jeff Probst.  I’m only fodder for the first episode, where they winnow out the sick and old, like lions culling the weak water buffalo from the herd.  But American Ninja Warrior – that’s another story.  I’m going to get Hubby to build a Warp Wall so we can start practicing.



Loud Talkers in Bermuda

Nature has balances: night and day, sunshine and rain, Quiet Talkers…and me.

For whatever reason, I am “blessed” with a loud, scratchy voice, and a Woody Woodpecker laugh that reverberates around a room somewhere near the decibel level of a Who concert. Oh don’t get me wrong, it’s come in handy a few times, like when I was coaching and lifeguarding. Now, however, it’s a little bit of an issue.

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We were recently in Bermuda for a work event, and I realized I’d forgotten how quiet Bermudians can be. I understand why Bermudians talk the way they do—softly, leaning in slightly, as if someone might overhear the conversation and report it to the Royal Gazette. Actually, that is exactly what can happen when you have 60,000 alcoholics, er, residents, clinging to a rock in the middle of the Atlantic. That’s a lot of folks on a 20-square-mile island with something to say, which they do with a wit that is funny and brutal at the same time.

I used to live in Bermuda, so I know how loud we Americans can sound to the untrained ear. Eventually, after three years or so of being there, I got pretty good at lowering my voice, but that skill has clearly been neglected since we moved.

When it comes to social events, my friend Bruce has a favorite saying: “If you’re at a party and you can’t find the asshole, it’s probably you.”

Um, I’m pretty sure the people at the event last week in Bermuda thought it was me. There were about 40 Bermudians in the room, and I’m fairly certain everyone turned at one point or another in the evening and tried to figure out one of three things:

1) how they could rescue the poor Quiet Talker stuck with me;

2) who that woman was with the man-voice was and why wasn’t she wearing her hearing aide? OR

3) who let the Southern version of Fran Drescher into the party?

images-12At first I was annoyed, and toyed with the idea of talking in my fake Long Island accent that makes my Southern skin crawl. (“Oh my Gaawud, Vinny…would you look at this gaawbage? I could get this at home for ‘tree daawllahs.”) But I was at work and had a professional image to maintain, so I decided to study the Bermudian Quiet Talker technique instead.

I have to say you Quiet Talkers have a way of drawing people in to listen to you that I envy. I never did figure out just what it was, except possibly my natural American inferiority complex, or maybe my American penchant for British accents, but either way I remained captivated.

Unfortunately, your verbal sparring is wasted on Loud Talkers. When you zing that witty insult at us, we often aren’t sure if we heard you correctly…so most of the time, we’ll just keep on plowing ahead, oblivious to your skills.

Yes, we are clearly two very different social species, but if nature didn’t provide some balance, and there were only Loud Talkers like me, the world would sound like a forest full of crows (or a tree full of Kiskadees, for you Bermudians), cawing and squawking at each other all day long. If there were only Quiet Talkers, the world would be filled with misunderstandings, because someone misheard someone else, rednecks would have to find some other way to communicate after a beer or six, and sports stadiums would sound like churches.

So in the interest of peace, diversity, and keeping sports teams employed, let’s keep the conversation going–we Loud Talkers will keep leaning in to hear what you have to say, and you Quiet Talkers keep leaning back and listening.

If the conversation stops, the silence will be deafening.

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Zip Lines & Zebra Suits…The Loterie Farm, St. Maarten

Day Three of Spring Break, St. Maarten:

Today was one of those perfect days you fantasize about when you’re scraping the windshield and cursing the fact that you didn’t get that finicky backseat window in your car fixed before winter hit.

Our intrepid leader Mark and his up-for-anything assistant Stazzi took us to a place called The Loterie Farm (pronounced “Lottery Farm,”), an oasis in the middle of St. Maarten that offers an idyllic infinity pool with cabanas you can rent, straight out of “Who The Hell Lives Like That?” magazine. (This is the genre of magazine that features houses with all-white furniture and carpets, and ads for curtains that cost more than my snow-covered car.) For the more adventurous, there is a network of zip-lines and hiking trails throughout the jungle.

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Before we left, there was the usual 45 minutes of trying to round up seven people and all of their gear for the day:

Me:  “Does anyone have the bug spray? Did you put sunscreen on? No you didn’t—you’re not shiny enough. Put it on—not here, outside! Did you bring sneakers? You can’t zip-line in flip flops…”

Everyone else: “Mommmm…”

Eventually, Mark and Stazzi managed to corral all of us into the rental van. When we arrived at The Loterie Farm, we entered the pool area and plunked our gear down. What a surprise! We were a loud, laughing group of Americans invading a quiet and serene European setting–no wonder they hate us.  A frowning French waiter brought a complementary bucket of champagne, which made me salivate like a dog looking at a steak, but that would have to wait—there was zip-lining to do first.  After all, I do have a little bit of a work ethic.

The zip-lining was as fun as it was exhausting – I definitely recommend it to anyone with a sense of adventure.  After and hour of straining muscles over a ropes course and clipping and un-clipping ourselves to various cables and trees, the tired Fam plodded down the last wooden ramp to the fix-it-yourself rum punch bar—seriously, they had that.  I love Island People. The more athletic and wise among us (Daughters 1&2) made do with water.  Dripping with jungle sweat from squatting and zipping and maneuvering my not-as-limber-as-I-thought body around, I went back for champagne and my bathing suit.

Guess who didn’t bring hers?

Hubby, already in his suit and ready to get into the pool and cool off with a glass of the bubbly, saw me getting ready to FTFO and took me to the Teeny, Tiny boutique that was there just for forgetful people like me, to buy a suit. Everything in that boutique was Teeny Tiny, including The Loterie Farm Dog, a Chihuahua named Felly who periodically got the “zoomies” and ran in circles before collapsing in the grass ( I think I lost 20 minutes just watching him).  The only things not Teeny Tiny were the price tags.  Of course, the Teeny Tiniest things in the boutique were the bathing suits. And Ladies, in case you were wondering, Land’s End tank-inis don’t exist in Europe or The Islands, except on suburban-American moms. We may think we are camouflaging the muffin-tops in them, but the rest of the world can spot us a mile away, and they shrink back in horror.

What I ended up purchasing was a band-aide-sized, black and white bikini that, next to my sunburned skin, made me look like a zebra with a bad case of mange. You could clearly see the tan lines left by my forgotten suit.

Mortified, I wrapped a towel around my waist, trying desperately to ignore the fact that there was air coming down the back of the bottoms because—yes, it’s gross, but true—I’m pretty sure I actually had crack showing. Classy.

But, after a delicious tapas meal and a couple (make that several) boat drinks over which we solved the problems of the world, I was no longer mortified.  In fact, I felt kind of French—I had a too-small bathing suit, lack of inhibitions, and an attitude of undeserved privilege—or is that more like a recent college grad? It’s hard to tell the difference, except for the accent.

Either way, I decided it was a pretty nice way to spend time on vacation; and since Daughters 1 & 2 are closer to graduating than I will ever be again, I’ll just have to become French.  Oui?  

“Mommmmm…”

“I know, I know. Put some more sunscreen on. You’re not shiny enough.”



Things Are Looking Up

Spring break this week couldn’t have come soon enough, after yet another week of missed work, missed school and sleet that no longer sounded like popcorn on the windows, but more like an irritating toddler tapping on the bedroom door while Mommy was in “time-out.” Courtesy of my very generous in-laws, we were invited to spend a few days in St. Maarten.  For weeks I’d been envisioning white sand beaches, tropical drinks and hangovers that mysteriously disappeared with an hour or two of being in the sun.

I also had visions of how I would be looking in my bikini.

Huh.

I didn’t remember I’d have two teenage daughters with me, and that I would be surrounded by other youngsters in their 20’s, with no wrinkles or worn-out-looking skin draping their bodies like Scarlett O’Hara’s curtains before she made them into a dress.

But I wore it anyway. Hell, I didn’t know anybody there.

I also tried to justify it to myself by going for a walk from where we were staying up to a radio tower on top of the “mountain.” Okay, it wasn’t really a mountain, but it looked like one when I was eyeballing it from the breakfast table, with a stomach full of healthy granola trying to counteract the bellyful of pizza and Heinekens from the night before.

My eyes have always been bigger than my stomach, and that day, they were clearly bigger than my exercise capabilities.

So off The Fam went, a water bottle in each hand, our pale, prison-term skin glistening in the mid-morning light and blinding the locals.  As we plodded along the congested street to get to the “mountain”, my only thought was, “My goal today is to sweat out the many, many toxins I ingested last night.”  By the time we’d gone about 500 yards, I’d achieved that goal. We hadn’t even started uphill yet.

Our friend and guide to all fun things local, Mark, led us landlubbers through the maze of tiny lanes winding up the hill. Each indentation in the road hid a charming villa overlooking the ocean in a panorama of turquois and cerulean blues that made your heart actually ache, wanting to see that view every day.  In his characteristic speed-walk (large steps, head swiveling from side to side like an ostrich as he scanned for potential hazards), we hiked up the mountain that I had quickly decided was not eroding with time like a normal mountain, but was in fact growing, probably due to some strange up-thrust of island infrastructure-related sewage activity. (For some reason, there was a stench of raw sewage that would come at us in wafts all over the island—random waves of shit-smell that would actually burn the back of your throat until you cleared the area).

St. Maarten hikeTwo-thirds of the way up, I had to take a break. Mama Bear was falling behind, and not in a, “I’ll block the cars from the rear,” protective kind of way. My lungs were on fire, and the hip I busted white water rafting was seizing up in a way no WD40 or bottles of Aleve were going to fix.  Ahead, Mark and Daughters 1&2 were plowing on with heads down and shoulders hunched against the humidity and the the incline. 

Hubby was patiently waiting for me to catch up, the last prisoner on this Bataan Death March.

Eventually, we made it to the top, and the view?  It was worth it—a panoramic view of our part of the island.

The best parts of the whole adventure?

  1. No texting
  2. Daughters 1&2 were impressed with something that, while not exactly life-sized, was not on SnapChat until THEY put it there.
  3. I didn’t have to use my inhaler, and the hours on the elliptical weren’t wasted.
  4. I was toxin-free…
  5. …until I had the three frozen lemonade drinks at the beach bar later on that were GUILT-FREE.



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