wwcitizen: (Face-Serious)
There's something about a person's life and death that speaks to the connection one has to them. Interestingly enough, this passed Tuesday, my Aunt Lee came to mind and I wondered if she had died yet. Sounds morbid, I know, but that's not the thing. My Aunt Lee and I were tremendously disconnected. She was my mother's sister-in-law.

So, Aunt Lee died in March. We didn't find out about it until May, which is representative of the lack of connectivity to that side of my family (my mother's). It's strange for me because my dad's side of the family is so affable, interested in family, loving, and connected.

To me, it's not really all that sad that she died: Her death at the hands of lymphoma (or Alzheimer's?) was inevitable, truly. The last time I saw her was at my brother's wedding, and even then we didn't talk much. I suppose by that time, I was done trying to be the good nephew.

She and that entire side of my family have chosen to be estranged and disconnected. Whenever any of them came to NC, they never let my father or siblings know. Whenever they were in Europe or NYC or Philly, they never tried to get in touch with me.

Maybe their disconnect was the subconscious effort to unplug after Aunt Lee and my other aunt-in-law, Jo from California, decided before my grandmother's death (their mother-in-law) to remove, and take for their families without our input, my grandmother's finest linens, silver, and china. Granted, the things they left behind for my mother's children (us) were things that reminded us of our grandmother, but it was the principle; and in reality it was theft. My grandmother had not died and everything in her house was to be divvied up between the sons (their husbands) and us four kids - 1/3 apiece to my grandmother's children equally and my mother's 1/3 to be split between 4 of us.

As karma would have it, Aunt Jo's house in California got bombarded by 2-3 nasty earthquakes over the next 5 years, breaking everything that she had taken from my grandmother's house; Aunt Jo eventually died of brain cancer 4-5 years ago. My Aunt Lee began having bouts of cancer and other illnesses (if not dementia, then Alzheimer's) that lasted until she passed away two months ago.

When I graduated high school, Aunt Lee sent me the "Mrs. Manners Book of Etiquette". At the time, my knee-jerk reaction was first, "Oh wow! She thought of me." My instant second thought was, "Wow, what a bitch. She thinks I don't have etiquette?!"  And, for many reasons, that one phrase stuck with me: "What a bitch!"

Aunt Lee lived outside of DC in VA. One spring break in college, I went to DC with a girlfriend from NJ, Margaret. She and I were totally on the outs. In fact, we broke up after this particular spring break. Margaret and I spent a couple of nights "in DC" with her cousins in Maryland. One night we went to dinner with my uncle and his wife, Aunt Lee. It was great because she invited my cousins (her children) and their spouses (cousins-in-law) who I'd never met before; we weren't invited to their weddings.

During dinner (at Michael's in Vienna, which was supposedly a very fine restaurant there but no longer exists...), Aunt Lee looked around the table and said, "Isn't this interesting. We have at the same table my son and his wife, my daughter and her husband, and Stephen and his ffff---- girlfriend..." (feigning to mis-enunciate "fiance"). Margaret and I immediately stopped chewing, put down our silverware, and I said, "Yes. Girlfriend. Interesting and great to see you all."
So my Aunt Lee passed away. I don't typically approach the passing of a family member with such nonchalance, but, honestly, she (in my humble opinion) didn't foster more than nonchalance about her human connections, much less her familial associations.

So, here's to you, Aunt Lee. Didn't really know you much. Spent time with you at your convenience, behest, and leisure. You never really went totally out of your way to stay in touch or be family to us unless absolutely necessary. Still, oddly enough, every time I smell or see a lilac, I think of you (she had them in her back yard).

Emma Lee Neighbors
April 11, 1933 - March 8, 2014
Oakton, Virginia

This is a perfectly awful picture of her - bottom left.  Her daughter is in the red sweater on my grandmother's lap.

IMG_1616
wwcitizen: (SteamPunk Stephen)
It was ever-present. It wasn't obvious at first, but it crept into existence. It got bigger and bigger quietly over the years. Then all of a sudden, it was the one thing that everyone noticed when they hugged me: My Family Mole.

Why "Family Mole"? Because everyone in my family has a version of the mole. Mine was only the largest of the entire family's moles. Everyone in my family has a mole in the middle of their back - just out of reach, almost proportionately in the middle of each person's back in my family. However, mine was about the size of the end of my pinkie. 

Years ago, I was told I should remove it because removing it would cause "an imbalance in the organ that is [my] skin". This was coming from a general practioner at Pfizer back when I was working for them.  I thought at the time it was a pretty quirky little myth someone had created and he was promoting it without any dermatological basis. But, I held onto that myth thinking, "Maybe he's right! I need to ask a dermatologist."

Well, yesterday I did just that!  And today I have no mole. It's gone. It's no longer a part of me. It's now bio-waste getting ready to be cremated somewhere and then become dust in the wind.  My family mole has thankfully preceded me to the Pearly Gates.

Now, I can hug without thinking, "Are they gonna ask what that little thing is?  Are they gonna stop hugging me when they hit 'IT'? Are they gonna feel strange about patting me on the back knowing 'IT' is there?"

All those questions would always run through my mind. Even when I removed my shirt on the beach, in a pool, or on the dance floor, I wondered how many people noticed it, pointed at it, and thought, "Ew. What's that?!" 

Thank goodness it never grew an eyeball or a little tooth and tongue. Who knows? It could have been the manifestation of my twin - finally finding a window to the outside world, trying to break free!

Alas, it was just a mole. A family mole. One mole that is no longer hanging from a snippable little isthmus, dangling there begging to come off. It took literally 30 seconds for it to be gone.

Why had I not had it removed earlier? All these years that I either had "off from work" or working from home, why didn't I set up that appointment to have it looked at and promptly removed?  Maybe because, simply put, it was a part of me.

Now, it's not. I did feel a slight, small, little twinge of sadness that it's gone. I do not know why. But, now, I'll no longer have those lingering questions or anticipations from society, friends, and family who constantly asked or acknowledged, "Oh, there it is!"  The mole is free. I am free. And, after that little spot heals, I'll be whole again.

A Snippable Little Isthmus
I had a family mole
That would only cajole
Inquisition, queries, and thought:
"What is it? He simply ought
Remove that big tumor
Like any good groomer.
It's gross, yet it's natural...
I could recommend several
Doctors, who'd wanna snip!
It'd be GONE!" They'd quip.

No, on my own time
And in my own way...
The mole in its prime
Would simply one day
Come to its demise.
It was totally wise!

My mole, my protrusion
That incited much confusion
Is no longer part of me…
It’s weird, but I can see
My back is now flat
So, I guess, that’s that!

A big apparent flaw
That seemed so bourgeois…
Misconceptions abounded
Apprehensions – unfounded!
No need for tears
Cuz I faced my fears
Of something worse that might happen.
But my mole’s grand assassin
Was my doctor, Dr. Lee.
He was happy to hear, very happy to see
That I was willing for him
With sterile scissors - not grim
To snip off my isthmus
After all, that’s his business.

My mole now fully gone
Before I said, “CYA, anon!”
I should’ve really named it,
Cuz it left a small pit
That Neosporin will soon heal.
I’ll strip my shirt with more zeal!

I’ll not worry nor fret!
But I’m also willing to bet
That someone somewhere
Is bound to say,
“When, see? I compare
This photo that day,
You had a big mole!
Where’d it go? Hey!”

I’ll say with a smile
It took me a while,
But my big family mole.
I gave it a new goal:
It had to go and be gone from my back
My doctor simply, steady went THWACK!!
All at once it was history.
It’s simply not a big mystery.
It was what it was
My back’s no longer abuzz
With strange looks and lost hugs
In 10 seconds, and NO drugs!
Now, there’s a small hole,
Where there once was a mole.

©Stephen Lambeth 2013
wwcitizen: (Uuuuuuh)

Matthew did a fantastic job again this year with the Christmas Eve Feast of the Seven Fishes.  It's an Italian, Catholic, Christmas Eve tradition. I'm not Catholic. I'm not Italian. But I LOVE this tradition!!  Matthew is holding to most of his mother's recipes and has added a couple of things (or tried out a couple of new things) for a bit of a flare to keep the interest in the affair going. There's nothing difficult about picking out fish - truly. We all love seafood.  But, to prepare them in such a way that there are different dishes with at least 7 different fishes, that's the ultimate challenge.

For example, we made an octopus salad with roasted potatoes and onions. Matthew slow-cooked the octopus overnight in red wine vinegar and white wine with spices, pulled off the suckers, and marinated the octopus meat for 2-3 days. Then I roasted the potatoes and pearl onions and mixed in the octopus, which warmed up the octopus and olive oil marinade. YUM!!

Then we made the standard (and VERY scrumptious) seafood salad with squid (calamari), shrimp, cuttlefish, scallops, and baby octopus. Matthew made a lemon/olive oil marinade for the mixture and they sat in the fridge for about 2 days. I chopped up red, yellow, and orange peppers, celery, two garlic cloves, and parsley and mixed it all together on Christmas Eve. DELICIOUS!! And so fresh.

Matthew worked extra hard on battering and sauteeing soft shell crabs. I never liked soft shell crabs that much until I met Matthew. Also, his prep is by far the tastiest I've ever had. I could not stop eating these this year - and we were able to glean about 10 for leftovers.  He also made stuffed calamari, which might fall off the list next year.  Also, he did the shrimp with lemon and basil and I learned how to chiffonade basil for the preparation!

That's 6 fishes so far (yes, arthropods (crustacea), mollusks, and cephalopods are included as fish since squid, octopus, mussels, and shrimp are all from the sea). Then, we got lobsters steamed and removed the meat from the shell for a "raw bar", which included mussels, lump crab meat, and snow crab claws. He also added a beurre blanc sauce and a minuet, of course, for dipping.  On Christmas day, Matthew's brother-in-law steamed clams (littlenecks). YUM!! 

As for actual fish, Matthew prepped smelts, which I always love. Smelts are similar to sardines. Matthew rolls them in a flour/salt & pepper covering mixture, I sprayed them with olive oil, and then we baked them.  Once they're out, they get tossed in a lemon/olive oil sauce to bring out the flavor of the fish. On Christmas Eve, Matthew grilled Chilean sea bass steaks, which he had carefully tied into round filet "mignons" of fish. Typically, there's a Baccala salad (salt cod), which is a smelly, disgusting, but ultimately tasty (albeit kinda dry) dish, but this year, the Baccala didn't happen - no one likes it that much and the prep is such a PITA, that it's just not worth making.

Matthew really wanted to make quenelles escoffier (Jacques Pépin) - a French fish preparation of one or two fishes blended into a mouse, poached, and baked with a white cream sauce. We made a haddock-based "test run" for ourselves about 6 days early, which turned out wonderful. THAT dish would have been an amazing addition to the array of fishes dishes, but the blend we made with turbot and cod for the Christmas Eve feast bombed for some reason - maybe because the fishes weren't as fresh as the haddock we had used earlier.  :-( 

Of course, he made broccoli rabe and green beans for veg, and with leftover stuffing from the stuffed calamari, he stuffed some PEI green shell mussels.  For dessert, everyone whipped out chocolates, store-bought cream puffs and sfogliatelles, but the biggest hit were Matthew's cookies, which he finished baking about 2 weeks before Christmas.  He made two kinds of biscottis, rainbow cookies, and pignoli nut cookies. Those are the basic standards and about all he could muster with all the other stuff going on throughout the holiday season.

Everyone truly enjoyed all the preparations and were fully amazed - again - at Matthew's cooking and gourmet cheffing of the Feast.  Enjoy the pictures!!

wwcitizen: (Disney - S&M - Castle)
Matt reminded me of his most favoritest and most magicalest day ever at Disney this past May.

Matt, his sister's family, his aunt, and I had a character breakfast one morning at the Crystal Palace. Winnie the Pooh, Piglet, Eeyore, and Tigger come out to visit everyone during breakfast, take pictures, and sign autographs for the kids. It's a lot of fun for everyone, though.

At the end of breakfast, Matt's sister started getting the kids ready to go run around the park. Matt and I got ready to leave and he had to go to the bathroom.  I waited for him outside in the vestibule of the dining hall.

Matt's prim-and-proper, 82-yr-old aunt, who looks like she could be Betty White's mother, made her way to the bathroom about 3 minutes later.  About 5 minutes later, Matt comes out of the bathroom motioning for me to get up and go.  I said, "Don't we need to wait for your aunt?"

He said, "Nope! She's fine! And I'll tell you why she's fine. Just go outside."

He told me that he was sitting in one of the stalls when he heard his aunt's voice saying, "Oh. There's a man in here. Oh, there's urinals. Oh, where's the nice couch?  Where am I?"

Matt sat there on the toilet silently with his hands covering his face.  The other man at the urinal finished his business and told his aunt patiently that she was in the men's room.  "The ladies' room is the next door over," he explained as he began washing his hands.

"Let me see what it says on this door here," she said, as Matt heard her open the door thinking to himself, "Does it really matter what it says on the door? There's a row of standing urinals against the wall."

He heard his aunt then shuffle out the door muttering to herself and the hallway, "They need better signs around here," in her best NJ Italian accent.

Bless her heart.

When he heard her muttering voice fade into the distance, he quickly lifted his face from his hands, pulled up his pants, and rushed out to tell me about the scene.  Of course, I quickly texted his sister about the scene, who said, "Nice!"
wwcitizen: (US - Gay Politics)
As if Amendment One wasn't enough, the NC GOP had to take their hatred a step further and deem it appropriate to discriminate against us.

North Carolina GOP Platform Says Government Should Be Able To Discriminate Against Gays

While I understand [livejournal.com profile] dan4behr's concerns about a NC boycott (granted, the Target boycott didn't put any real dent in its bottom line) and the people who live there and are trying to build lives there, it still seems like an every-growing hostile place to live.  Why would we want to subsidize that kind of behavior and discrimination?

And I cannot believe that my family WANTS me to step foot in NC now.  They are hurt that I'm not willing to come to NC??  Are they not seeing what's going on?  Don't they comprehend that NC for Matthew and me is becoming a more and more hostile place for us?  They don't think they can do anything about it, but in my opinion, that's just being complacent.  No apologies.

It would be nice to know that my family is doing something against all this, but we no longer talk politics because they were offended at my campaign against NC Amendment One.  Offended!  They were offended that I was concerned about possibly not returning to NC because of blatant, legal discrimination against me, my partner/family, and us. Concerned enough to plea with them to do more than just vote against Amendment One - encourage their friends and churches and communities to vote against it, too.  I sent the same message to many friends, who understood where I was coming from. Yet, they felt bullied by a campaign letters addressed to them over the course of two days.  As this is my cross to bear, here's a picture:
  • 1st nail in the cross: Amendment One.
  • 2nd nail in the cross: At least two NC ministers - supported by their communities and congregations blindly speaking of killing gays in concentration camps.
  • 3rd nail in the cross: The GOP proclamation-EXPLICITLY STATING-that they SHOULD BE ABLE TO DISCRIMINATE AGAINST GAYS
Who'd want to go to a place like that? Who'd want to purchase stuff from there?  The landscape is beautiful and I'll miss visiting.  I'm becoming less and less of a Tarheel at every turn of the newspaper's pages.
wwcitizen: (US - Gay Politics)
Since the passing of NC's Amendment One, I've been doing a LOT of research into states that allow certain rights to same-sex couples.  The HRC and Lamda Legal provide a TON of information that's, while helpful, remains outdated in light of recent attacks on gay rights across the nation. 

At least Illinois recognizes the importance to reflecting the evolving American social mores: Same-sex marriage supporters take their fight to Illinois courts

I wish more states and people would accept facts, educate themselves, learn from the past, and exert more compassion in their every day. It's disheartening for me daily to have to search, read, research, and get a picture of how unequal in our relationship's current status Matthew and I are throughout this country. It's ultra sad to know that prior to any vacations or trips to other states, we now more than ever have to find out which hospitals would allow visitation rights to each other at the very least.  This sort of information isn't listed on their websites, either - you have to call to see whether you'd be treated with respect and compassion or if even your legal documentation would be recognized at the hospital to make medical and/or financial decisions for each other.  Some people find this kind of info finding stuff to be demoralizing. 

I'm starting to find this type of "confrontation" on one level empowering. Empowering because it helps me make informed decisions about where we're going to spend our money and take our vacations. If a place doesn't recognize us or allow visitation in a hospital, then we won't recognize the place; we don't have to visit it.

On another level, it's just sad to have to hunt and peck around to find places that legally affirm us and our relationship.  "Oh, can we go there? No. How about here? Maybe... just don't get into legal trouble.  How about there? Nope - no visitation rights at the hospital without a PLETHORA of legal docs, which might still not be recognized or allowed as proof of our legal bond. Oh, we can go here!! They do recognize same-sex partnerships and allow hospital visitations, but the state doesn't currently have any laws against hate crimes; that means no PDA, including holding hands.  :-("

Family has little or nothing to do with our qualms or our burgeoning apprehensions to traveling to particular locations in the US (like NC, VA, or SC where my family might want to go on vacation).  One of my sisters, in fact, asked about our trip to Disney; Orlando, FL, as a city has specific provisions for same-sex partners, but the state doesn't recognize same-sex partnerships. An issue with a lesbian couple in Miami was the impetus for federal mandates of hospitals to allow same-sex partners to visit each other in the hospital.  In any of these places where my family would want to vacation, Matt couldn't go with me; I wouldn't be able to make any health-related decisions for him and that would break my heart. In NJ, we're afforded the "luxury" of greater civil rights.

I hate feeling that we are being forced into a NJ civil union when our ultimate desire is to be legally married.  It's unfair that we have to be put in that position. Elsewhere throughout the nation (not in NC now, since Amendment One, btw), if an opposite-sex couple had cohabitated as long as we have (8.5 years thus far!!), we'd enjoy a common law marriage.

Even still, throughout the US Southeast, Midwest, and parts of the Northwest, when we get our NJ civil union, it most likely will not be recognized in most of those states, including NC, SC, and VA. It doesn't have to be like this, but it's what we as a couple have to deal with. Same-sex couples don't have to go throughout this level of crap and take soooo many things for granted.
wwcitizen: (Kiss)
My husband is the sweetest man. Last night, because I've been taking care of him while he's got a nasty cold, he made the sign over his heart like this and said, "My love, I heart you!"
I said, "Awww!!  Me, too"  Then, I reached over to my heart's area and, with a horrified look on my face, made like I was prying my heart out - alive and pumping - giving it to him saying, "KALI MA SHAKTI DE!!" - like that creepy priest in Indiana Jones & The Temple of Doom.

Matt and I got into a laughing fit, which in turn just made him cough a bit more and blow his nose. See? I'm taking care of him to make sure it all comes out - love, phlegm, snot, AND laughter!
wwcitizen: (Disney Steve - Pooh)
This 5-day trip to Disney was a lot of fun! We did Epcot for 3 days till we were so full of the park that we didn't have anything left to do. We did all the movies we'd never done (Canada, France, etc.) and discovered parts of the pavilions we didn't know existed like in Morocco, Norway, and Japan.  We didn't do everything in Japan or China, so we did leave some things for later visits. Plus, Epcot is always changing up stuff in Futureworld (at the front of the park).  They had a really cool educational Piggy Bank game to play.

Next time, I think we want to spend more time in Hollywood Studios. We did one 3/4 day there, as usual, and that's never enough; we've never done the outdoor shows or The American Idol Experience. Hollywood Studios is more geared for older kids and adults than the Magic Kingdom.  We spent one full, full, full day in the Magic Kingdom - till like 1AM.  When you stay on Disney property, the parks provide extended hours so you can be in the parks - either before/after the parks are officially open; they're called "Magic Hours".  During the Magic Hours, the ride lines go down and you can get on EVERYTHING till your heart's content (you have to flash your hotel/resort key). We went on It's a Small World 3 times, I think, and Space Mountain 2 times (well, Matt did - my back was out). In Tomorrowland, we were all able to go through Buzz Lightyear's Space Ranger Spin (a definite precursor to Toy Story's Midway Mania) about 5 times.
It's always fun to do the parks with the kids, too. They know the parks really well, too. Michael (11) and Samantha (13) have been probably 25 times and Gianna (5) has been probably 7 already; Gianna got her first haircut there - at about 8 months old!! We always do at least 3 character meals (breakfast, lunch, or dinner) where characters come to your table for pictures and autographs. Yes, the characters sign these little autograph books - great marketing for Disney!! 
Disney is always starting up new collecting schemes. The one that Michael and Samantha slowly got me into was the pins and lanyards. All over the parks and in all the Disney stores, there are these great quality pins of all the characters (hard to find Winnie the Pooh, though), signs, vintage signs and park names, elements of the parks - like Cinderella's castle, the monorail, a turkey leg (it's a thing at the parks), the rides, the areas of the parks (Adventureland or Tomorrowland, etc.).  Some of them are so cool, but stepping outside the Disney frenzy and fervor, you realize they're absolutely wasteful.  Still, I've bought like 12 of them over time. The kids have EASILY 100s of them. 100s.  OH!  And AT the parks, the characters (any employee working around the park) will have their own lanyard with pins that only characters can purchase. The characters have them to trade with the kids running around the parks. Then the kids get the coveted "character pins".  It's a great marketing scheme.  The pins that the characters get from the kids, then go back on the shelf for sale!  They're making money hand-over-fist at the parks.
One thing that's always fun to do - for us - is to wear our Pride Mickey. When we wear those, everyone comes out of the woodwork. We strike up conversations we'd never have otherwise. Sometimes, we also get a little special-er treatment, such as getting a roll of  stickers to win the kids' sticker contest or get seated in a restaurant without reservations (happens more often than we realize, actually). We also found "family" throughout the parks on rides with their families or at the tequila bar in Mexico - that was a fun evening for sure!  We were told every time we came across a "family" member that we were there a week early.  LOL  Gay Days are June 2-4 this year.I catch myself feeling the pull of the Disney fervor more and more. And by the end of each trip, I'm sick of Disney stuff but still wanna look at it and shop around.  It's a love-hate relationship.  The Disney stores spread around the country's malls and outlet centers provide very different stuff than you find at the parks. That stuff is not nearly as good as what you get in the parks, either - from quality, quantity, and selection. They want you to be at the parks because they make SOOOO much money off every person or kid that goes there.

They even make money off the seniors that go. Matt's Aunt Jenny (who loves Donald Duck - below at Chef Mickey's) went with us this time without her daughter - she's probably 83 now. Matt's sister rented her a little scooter that she could use every day and get recharged overnight for the next day. She drove that thing around the parks all day. Granted, you have to have a little finesse to drive them and park them, but at least she wasn't thoroughly exhausted every day and could keep up with the clan more easily. At the parks those scooters rent for $75 a day - on top of all the other fees - hotel, food, park entry.  This scooter Tricia rented was about $25 a day and was really sturdy. Thing is, if your scooter's not Disney property and your battery dies in a park, you're really screwed. But, thankfully, that never happened!Notice the sidewalk pic (above)? That picture was taking moments before Jenny almost whacked off her head on a chain!  Yeah, that's the picture of Jenny entering what we now call, the "Death Trap For Scooters". She rounded one of the inner corners and got spooked when the scooter jolted a bit. Instead of releasing the accelerator, she clamped down, speeding the scooter INTO a section of chain! It took FOUR BIG BURLY MEN - including Matt and me - to move her on her scooter and the scooter away from the chain to a safe place. Jenny had grabbed her neck, releasing the accelerator (thankfully) and one of the men quickly threw off the scooter key (so it wouldn't move anymore). From where I was standing with the kids, it looked like Jenny was having a seizure and we all jumped into action. She's OK, but beyond her purchases for the weekend, she's got some pretty bruises on her arm, shoulder, and neck to prove she had a fight with a chain and won!  That was surely a scary Disney moment!

Getting there and being in the hotel alone is pretty pricey. You can get a meal plan which is - in the grand scheme - economical (I think you can get this even if you're not staying on Disney property - somehow tied to your park passes). If you're paying to be on Disney property, you can take advantage of lots of "free" things - like Disney's Magical Express (AWESOME!), which takes your bags when you arrive in Orlando and transports them to your hotel room within 3 hours of your arrival, and when you arrive at the airport, they transport you to your resort. Same when you leave, but you can check in for your flight at your resort and you don't see your bag till you're at your home airport. Matt and I did that and took off to Epcot for almost the full day before we boarded the plane to come home!  We squeezed in a couple more things - like lunch in Morocco (EXCELLENT!) and a couple of beers in England.  We found out this time around that the restaurant in the Japan pavilion is AWFUL! AWFUL! AWFUL!
Very memorable trip indeed. I took many fewer pictures this time around, too, than in times past, because I've now got them all - except the new goofy pictures of us in the parks, with each other, with the kids, around the characters, etc.  Oh, but at Epcot, this weekend we were there was the last weekend of the Epcot Flower Festival! Many, many Disney characters were highlighted around the park and World Showcase as topiaries.  They were (most times) really well done. The peacock under the Epcot ball was hard to photograph, but was really breathtaking.  I was pretty disappointed with the Bambi topiaries in a butterfly net house, though, because they weren't made of any flowers or plants at all!  But all the major ones were pretty good. There's also a Mickey topiary at Hollywood Studios that I captured and show at the end below.

When I'm at Disney, my inner kid comes out - fully.  Even the kids told me that I'm a bigger kid in Disney than they are!! LOL  I think that's fun.  When I get on the plane to go to Disney, I completely shut off from work and any stress around town that I've been feeling leading up to the trip - it's all gone.  It's truly always a de-stressing trip!!

We probably won't return to Disney World until 2014, when they finish the NEW FANTASYLAND!  They removed Toontown, which is probably good - it was very much a little kid's place. The new Fantasyland looks like it's going to be really cool!  They're also expanding a section of the Grand Floridian Resort, where we've not stayed yet. The picture below shows the expansion. There's also a video of our time in Spaceship Earth at Epcot and here's a link to our game you can play that we posed for (if our game doesn't show up, enter the code KQCQ2FMXMMRH8Q for our game). Enjoy!
wwcitizen: (Uuuuuuh)

Every time we come to Disney, we have a sticker contest with the kids. I'm all into it because I like stickers too! It's usually Michael (11) and me against everybody else!  The last 2 times, we were essentially tied.  This time was different.

See, we got a guy on the inside, see. And he really hooked us up!  dude sauntered back to his drawer... and whipped out this roll for us.

Duh! Winning!

I'm ripping off some of the stickers for me and giving the rest of the roll to Michael.  Yay for Uncle Steve!

EDIT: Corrected "role" to "roll". Remember: Auto-correct on a "smart" phone is NOT your friend. Especially if you have fat finger syndrome.  :-D
wwcitizen: (Popeye - With Ciggie)

Welcomed to our first day by birds in the courtyard behind a white crepe myrtle tree. There's a pretty white bench along a path out there that's so inviting!

I called the front desk to find out our breakfast options in the hotel. Took four tries on the phone to speak to someone; the system got to a point in the automation and hung up on me. When I did finally get someone, they said, "There's nothing in the hotel for breakfast. Have a magical day!" rushing me off the phone.

I walked out of my room and around the corner to find a coffee/breakfast kiosk with fruit, bagels, cereal, and assorted pastries.  How's that for "nothing in the hotel"??

Have a magical day!
wwcitizen: (NC - Lighthouse)
Because NC Amendment 1 passed with the language that would restrict protections for all unmarried couples (straight or gay), the courts are free to interpret the amendment to deny any protections to unmarried couples (straight or gay). The following points are true and have NOTHING to do with how my friends and family in NC feel or voted about the issue. 

NC courts can legally deny Matthew and me the right to:
  • determine the disposition of either of our deceased partner’s remains (God forbid),
  • visit each other in the hospital in the event of a medical emergency,
  • make emergency medical decisions for either of us if either of us is incapacitated, and
  • make financial decisions for either of us if either of us is incapacitated.
NC's attorney general said Amendment 1's lack of clarity will result in a significant amount of litigation on many issues, which will be decided by courts for years to come.  NC courts can now interpret Amendment 1 to invalidate trusts, powers-of-attorney, wills, and end-of-life directives by one partner in favor of the other. 

These are reasons why Matthew and I cannot step foot in NC for vacations and holidays. We will not spend money there. We will not order goods and/or services from NC (that we expressly know come from NC).

This is about our civil liberties, our civil rights, our safety, and us as a couple of US citizens making a life together, "created equal, ... endowed by [our] Creator with ... [inalienable] Rights, ... among [which] are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness."

This has absolutely NOTHING to do with how any of my friends and family in NC have voted (even if ALL of them voted against the amendment, which I hope they didn't, but have no way of knowing).

This link opens a really useful article with an info graphic explaining state-by-state what rights are afforded the LGBT community.  Check it out, read up on it, be informed, and let's put our money where we're supported!  Let's go places we are supported and are safe!! 

I'm REALLY thankful that Matthew and I live in the US NE:
wwcitizen: (TARHEEL)
My home state has decided: They legislatively discriminate against gays. It's blatant, it's harsh, it's painful, and it's truly, truly sad. They were willing to sacrifice their families, seniors, children, single/unmarried women, and heterosexual domestic partners in order to serve up a double blow against the gay community. Same-sex marriage was already illegal in NC; domestic partnerships were not - now they are. The cascade effect of the broad-stroke wording of this amendment is the problem. There is no limit to the ramifications of this amendment socially, politically, and economically.

For as many LGBT folks that live in NC (it's fair to assume that there potentially almost 900K LGBT living in NC), this amendment was a referendum against them and our community - full stop.

Now's the time to work against that system. Now is a further uphill battle to tear down the amendment and overturn it.  Now is the time to boycott my home state. 

I encourage my community and all of those opposed to Amendment One living outside NC: Do not go to NC. Do not purchase goods from NC (as best you can). Do not promote NC. Do nothing that supports NC's economy.  Bank of America has already stated that they may have to move their headquarters out of NC.

It's not out of hate or anger that I'm calling for this boycott, even though NC has legislated hate and discrimination. This boycott is purely economically driven to show NC where their funding is coming from.  NC has chosen not to support our community and has legislated against us. Why should we support NC if we don't have to?  We've been boycotting Target for MUCH less!

Personally, Matthew and I cannot return to my home state because legally, Matthew and I are now legal strangers in NC.  We cannot return to NC until either the counties or cities we'd travel to (as across FL) nullify the amendment's effect or the amendment is overturned at its root.

We cannot feel safe in NC. We cannot rest in the knowledge that either one will be able to take care of our best interests if the other needs us for whatever reason while in NC.  We will not feel safe traveling to and vacationing in NC - as domestic partners and US citizens. 

If something were to happen to Matthew and he ended up in the ICU, the hospital could legally not allow me to visit him and he would be alone in a hospital in NC without his family; I would not be his legal family.  To NC Matthew and I are strangers, though we've been building a life together for over 8 years.  If he were to die in NC, I would not be able to be involved in any end-of-life decisions.  But that is a horrible thought.  Simply put, even if I used his ATM card, in the state's eyes, I would be committing theft.

It's a shame and it's painful, but it has to be done: BOYCOTT NORTH CAROLINA

Read this info about the legal implications of the amendment.

Wikipedia article about same-sex marriage - great information here that includes international scope.

Cruisin'!

Apr. 24th, 2012 11:38 pm
wwcitizen: (Cruise Ship)
Here are pictures from time we spent on board the Brilliance of the Seas, a Royal Caribbean cruise ship (no destinations are covered here - this is simply a brochure for the trip, if you will).  The ship is pretty old, but it still has a lot of charm.  Enjoy!   
wwcitizen: (Default)
I've made a mission to get through constructing the updates to and posting the 1st Greece trip to Athens and Sounio (I know - the Map calls it Sounion, but all the signs say, "Sounio"...).  Anyway, it was an amazing day in Athens and would definitely want to return to Greece - in particular the Greek Isles, but that's another post for another day.
ENJOY
wwcitizen: (NC - Lighthouse)
My dad forwards around a LOT of emails that contain cartoons, political rants, or picture collections, sometimes videos, and even sometimes things that I'd want to re-post.  Here's a "gem-dandy", as he'd call it, that is useful. I'm sure I'll find this line-up in my bathroom book "Extra-ordinary Uses for Ordinary Things", once I make my way through the whole thing.

You can buy 1,000 at discount stores (in the US, we have Dollar Trees where individual items cost $1), even the large filters.
1. Cover bowls or dishes when cooking in the microwave. Coffee filters make excellent covers.
2. Clean windows, mirrors, and chrome... Coffee filters are lint-free so they'll leave windows sparkling.
3. Protect China by separating your good dishes with a coffee filter between each dish.
*4. Filter broken cork from wine. If you break the cork when opening a wine bottle, filter the wine through a coffee filter.
5. Protect a cast-iron skillet. Place a coffee filter in the skillet to absorb moisture and prevent rust.
6. Apply shoe polish. Ball up a lint-free coffee filter.
*7. Recycle frying oil. After frying, strain oil through a sieve lined with a coffee filter.
8. Weigh chopped foods. Place chopped ingredients in a coffee filter on a kitchen scale.
**9. Hold tacos. Coffee filters make convenient wrappers for messy foods.
10. Stop the soil from leaking out of a plant pot. Line a plant pot with a coffee filter to prevent the soil from going through the drainage holes.
**11. Prevent a Popsicle from dripping. Poke one or two holes as needed in a coffee filter.
**12. Do you think we used expensive strips to wax eyebrows? Use strips of coffee filters..
13. Put a few in a plate and put your fried bacon, French fries, chicken fingers, etc on them.. It soaks out all the grease.
**14. Keep in the bathroom. They make great "razor nick fixers..." 
15. As a sewing backing. Use a filter as an easy-to-tear backing for embroidering or appliqueing soft fabrics.
16. Put baking soda into a coffee filter and insert into shoes or a closet to absorb or prevent odors.
**17. Use them to strain soup stock and to tie fresh herbs in to put in soups and stews.
18 Use a coffee filter to prevent spilling when you add fluids to your car..
**19. Use them as a spoon rest while cooking and clean up small counter spills.
20. Can use to hold dry ingredients when baking or when cutting a piece of fruit or veggies. Saves on having extra bowls to wash.
21. Use them to wrap Christmas ornaments for storage.
**22. Use them to remove fingernail polish when out of cotton balls.
23. Use them to sprout seeds. Simply dampen the coffee filter, place seeds inside, fold it and place it into a zip-lock plastic bag until they sprout.
24. Use coffee filters as blotting paper for pressed flowers. Place the flowers between two coffee filters and put the coffee filters in phone book. (HEY!  A new use for those old phone books!! Flag for another topic.)
**25. Use as a disposable "snack bowl" for popcorn, chips, etc.
26. Great in the tool room when separating nails and screws then use in to bottom of containers to remove moisture and prevent rust.
Oh, and one more use: as regular coffee filters!  Almost forgot that one!

* We've done this!
**This suggestion is a little "White Trash" IMHO.
   
wwcitizen: (CologneForChristmas)
Friday night on the way to our niece's 5th birthday party, we raced into Toys R Us to purchase a couple of Barbie dolls for her birthday gifts. Matt dashes into the store and screams, "Barbies!  STAT!" at the Customer Service Rep.

The surprised girl pointed back to the "Babies/Dolls" sign in the middle aisle of the store, watching two big, burly guys rushing to review the store's doll situation. As fate would have it, we two were looking for Fairy Barbies.

We found about 4 different kinds and bought her three of them. The strangest one seemed as though it should require batteries to make the wings flap. Upon further inspection, it looked as though there were no battery requirements, but the instructions showed a little girl doing something with the legs of the Fairy Barbie.
Say what you will, but it looks as though the little girl is squeezing the legs together and the wings are flapping. Truth is, you're supposed to just shake the doll back and forth, frontwards and backwards to make the wings flap. LAME!

We ran to get gift bags, tissue paper, a card, and some squiggly ribbons, then quickly got to the check out. In the car, Matthew drove and I feverishly packed the bags with Barbies and wrote out the card. In my mind I was picturing tissue paper and ribbons comically flying behind the car as we flew up the highway to the hibachi restaurant for dinner. We were already about 30 minutes late for dinner.

I told Matt in the frenzy, "Let's remember to name the Fairy Barbie with the flappable wings... Fangoria!  Her name'll be Fangoria, so that Slagothor has a friend.  Since Fangoria has pink wings, she'll be the leader of the Mean Girls."

In the cacophony and stress of the hibachi restaurant, we forgot to mention the doll's name. Rest assured, it'll happen: Fangoria will find her place in Gianna's doll entourage.
wwcitizen: (Cruise Ship)
Sitting here, I'm truly grateful for Matt's family. We are faced with an extra 4 days of vacation though we are really ready to be home. We've been traveling for 3 solid weeks and have been to 6 countries and easily 12 cities. While we've been gone, NY had an earthquake and is now prepping for hurricane Irene. We'll sit in southern Italy with little A/C, sketchy Internetz, and no work drinking wine and eating pasta. Buono appetito!!
wwcitizen: (HAPPY (precious) EASTER)
This is our Easter 2011 album. There are pictures of the decor prep, the household set up, the feast, laughs, and festivities.

Matt cooked an AWESOME meal. And I was pretty proud of the way the place looked - totally spring and Easter. The kids came in and kept saying, "Oooohh, wow..." and "Awwww... cute!" So did Matt's aunt, sister, and cousin. Score! Check them out!

I wish Picasa would catch up with embedding their web albums into blogs and onto Facebook. It's almost as if Google doesn't really want to interface with Facebook at all. On the one hand, I understand, and on the other, isn't it a business opportunity? Or maybe it's the other way around... Either way, it would seem that having more interplay would be better for both in the long run. Another topic for another post.

ENJOY!!
wwcitizen: (Bunny Fucking Hen)

Here comes Peter Cottontail, Hoppin' down the bunny trail,
Hippity hoppity, Easter's on its way
Bringin' ev'ry girl and boy, a basketful of Easter joy
Things to make your Easter, bright and gay...


Today, we've got Matt's family coming over at 1:00PM and BOY do we have a feast, decor, and celebration of Easter for everyone. Matt and I had so much fun putting this day together.

From the kids' Easter baskets and the Easter chandelier to the Cornish hens, braised fennel, and bunny cake as well as Glamor Pudding (resurrecting a Julia Child dessert), I think everyone's going to enjoy it.

Thing is, even though we planned everything out and got lots of things done in preparation - including trying recipes - for some reason, pulling it all together Friday and yesterday, we've only gotten about 4.5 hours of sleep! UGH!

We both threw out our backs. Praying that we get through the day, and by about 6:00 PM, we can take a really nice nap for about an hour.

Busy day! Enjoy everyone! Big-eared bunny hugs.


wwcitizen: (Easter UFO Sighting)
Last weekend, in a spurt of getting out of doing my taxes - again - Matt and I took off on Sunday to Michael's Arts & Crafts. I LOVE that store. It's better and less expensive than AC Moore, IMHO, and they're better at customer service. The one we went to was much bigger (so it seemed) than the one I typically go to. Plus, they had a more expansive scrapbooking section than my normal one.

I got it in me to redo our Easter chandelier a bit from a few weeks ago. Here's the now finished project and we're happy with it. It has to look fabulous; Matt's aunt, cousins, and sister are coming over with their families and significant others - and three kids! We're putting a lot into this and it'll be fun. Really fun.

Here are pictures of the chandelier:






It had to be different and springier than the ornate and heavy-looking Christmas one. Matt looked at the chandelier after we finished this round and said, "My goodness; I used to hate this chandelier. Who knew I'd start loving its versatility and charm?" Its simplicity makes for good decorations at holidays!

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Stephen Lambeth

May 2017

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