The Cabin

I think of it often. My heart never forgets its pull. In my dreams, it’s just as it always was when I was young. Its imprint on my memory, it’s image like a photograph, burned into my heart. When my eyes close, I see it. There sits a humble cabin on a quiet bay of a picturesque mountain lake. 

Every summer of my childhood was spent in heaven, paradise, our own personal Elysium. Every month, week, and day leading up to the summer was spent in heart-aching-anticipation of this special place. 

From my earliest memories, I recall the cabin on Coeur d’Alene Lake and it’s profound magic. 

The cabin is many things, but mostly it’s…

800 miles of sticky skin on sticky skin, drooling cousins, hot air whipping in through the windows, and knowing it all will not be in vain. 

A dark-haired, pig-tailed girl and a toe-headed boy eagerly sharing they are “going to Idaho” to anyone they meet along the way in Idaho who inquires. 

Friends. Foes. Ballers. Cousins.

The lazy susan that just maybe will reveal Lucky Charms on its next go-round instead of Raisin Bran.

Soft sunlight peppered through the curtains, the sound of familiar voices, the smell of coffee and toast, the feeling of an unburdened soul.

Bud’s Big Burgers and the time someone tagged, “Bud’s Big Boogers” on the side of the building. 

The smell of our family’s past in the musty throw pillows and dusty books. 

The taste of milk in vintage Harvest Yellow plastic tumblers and powdered Nesquik sprinkled on Darigold vanilla ice cream.

That particular bend in the road as you’re  coming from town where the temperature drops ten degrees and you know you’re truly at the lake.

Grandma’s tomato soup with elbow macaroni and the best dried garden herbs from The Herb Lady. 

The crystal clear waters that cleanse the soul and clear the mind.

The summer when Return of the Mack was popular and Mom thought Mark Morrison was singing, “We’re Tearing Up the Moon”. 

Check out this video on YouTube:

It totally sounds like that, Mom. (No, it doesn’t.) 

The sound of a car door on the landing, followed by Uncle Gary’s unmistakable voice, and the exciting knowledge that he’ll either have ingredients for an exotic dish, a new lake floaty, or, even better, a new crazy story. 

Captain Gary

Water-logged, pruney, sun-drenched skin and a satisfying tiredness that only comes after a day on the lake. 

Grandma’s favorite-Julio Iglesias, or Lee Greenwood’s Mornin’ Ride (that we only recently discovered is not about an early morning horse ride) blaring in the car, as we hug the curves around the lake, toward the cabin. 

Check out this video on YouTube:

I envisioned an innocent horse ride through a dewy meadow. My brother always thought of a virtuous truck ride in the early morn. When we discovered the true meaning, my mom was appalled and my Grandma never chose to believe it was about a ride in the hay, and by hay, I mean bed. 

The smell and presence of Grandpa in the old board games stacked in the closet, the ancient, but clean linens, and the worn gold-colored armchair. 

Pool Noodle Ballet in the deep and how that’s the only kind of ballet Mom and I will ever be good at. 

Fireworks, reflecting on the water, damp life jackets, and the sound of gentle waves lapping against the boat. 

Finally entering the Idaho farmland from the desolate desert drive and feeling the pull of the cabin and the lake in your bones.

The time Uncle Gary lost his teeth in the lake and offered up $20 to whoever found them. That was me. 

The tiny Jewel Box Gem Shop in Harrison and the treasures you could find there.

“The Hootie”*, its unpleasant smell, and the time my brother almost lit it on fire, used the Brita water pitcher to put it out, and then dropped the pitcher down the hole.

Isn’t she cute?

Butt to butt in the tiny kitchen, the smell of bleach water, and calling dibs on being the dish dryer. 

The annual Great Carlin Bay Swim: 42 people belonging to one family, 672 floaties, and a whole lotta racket, echoing off the water of the bay. 

The scary night when we almost became a bear’s midnight snack, my heroic grandma and how she scared the garbage-can-digging-by-the-window-creeping bear (It was a dog).

Night swims that sometimes turn into skinny dipping, and the time the neighbors came home and turned on all of their 8,000 lights. Mom and Aunt Dana are still pruney in places. 

The sound of a faraway boat, speeding down the channel. The creaking of Grandma’s hanging Rattan chair, and her melodious humming as she stares, her blue eyes a perfect reflection of the water. 


There are so many more things that make the cabin what it is and was to every member of my family. I don’t know why I was suddenly inspired to write a post about my summers spent on Coeur d’Alene Lake. Maybe it’s because I haven’t been in many years and I feel the pull of it in my bones and I crave a swim in its cleansing waters. That must be it. 
*”The Hootie” is our very fancy outhouse. It comes complete with its own deck, curtained-window, built-in magazine rack, and a very intricate ventilation system that Uncle Gary jerry-rigged together after a particularly hot and smelly summer.
 

We Were Stupid AF

“Um. Dude. You might want to leave work…” 

“Uh…why?”

“Well, we have to be out of the apartment by five tonight, or they’ll be calling the police to escort us out…”

At some point in everyone’s lives they’ve had a stupid-af-era. If you’ve never had one of those, you’re the exception, not the rule. Count yourself lucky, too, because you probably have minimal debt, own an appliance larger than a blender, and you know what an annuity is, and you likely have one. 

So, none of the above is me. I’ve had my stupid-af-era, and to be quite honest, I’m not sure I ever left said time in my life. 

Back when I moved out of my parents’ for the first time, I lived with two of my best friends. 

We were all almost 21, and so idiotic it was a wonder anyone was brave enough to give us our own apartment. 

We apartment hunted for a long time, wanting a cheap apartment in a not cheap neighborhood. Finally, we had to settle on a two bed, one bath. Best Friend #1 and I had to share a room, but it was worth not being woken up by my dad banging on my door, looking for the crusted-over bowls hiding under my bed. 

Living on our own was better than I had ever dreamed it would be. On the first night, I overflowed the toilet. The second night, our secondhand dryer broke. On the third night, we spilled Sour Apple Pucker on the carpet. Really, we should have stopped while we were ahead. Yet, every moment was magic, because independence was a beautiful thing. 

It was simply glorious being footloose and anal-retentive-parent-free. 

We stayed up till all hours, drinking Bartles & Jaymes Wine Coolers and watching Santa Clause 2. 

No one (Mom) ever yelled at me for hogging up the phone line so I could change my AIM away message twenty times in one day.

If all we wanted in the fridge was a jar of questionable pickles and eight varieties of Boones Farm, so be it. 

We were independent ladies, forging our way in the world. 

Along with the wild 8-and-up card game nights, we also had nights when we fought. 

My two best friends, while being my good friends, didn’t exactly love each other. 

One was too over-bearing and motherly. The other left her thongs, crotch up, in the bathroom. 

Some nights, we’d throw keyboards, curling irons, or said thongs at each other. 

Other nights, we’d drown each other out with loud mariachi music. 

During the six months that we lived in the apartment, we never once got a complaint from a neighbor. I’m not really sure how that was even possible. Maybe our downstairs neighbors were as loud and obnoxious as us? Or, they were stone-deaf. 

This gorgeous chaos soon came to a head after Best Friend #2 brought home a cat, which was against our lease agreement (it also didn’t help that the little fucker’s favorite thing to do was hide under the couch or behind the bedskirt and then attach itself to our flesh when we least expected it). 

Best Friend #1 and I were a lot of annoying, juvenile things, and one of those things was we were big rule followers (I guess that didn’t apply to underage drinking, though). As soon as we could, we returned the cat to the humane society.

Obviously, hijaking someone’s cat and taking it back to the cat store doesn’t sit well with some people (most people). 

This single act started an epic war between three extremely petty, passive-aggressive bimbos.

Because living at the apartment was becoming awkward as fuck, Best Friend #1 went back home and I sought refuge at the new boyfriend’s house.

When the portion of the power bill owed by Best Friend #2 wasn’t paid, we snuck into the apartment and removed every single lightbulb. Our not-quite-fully-developed brains figured this was the obvious solution to an issue that could have been handled by simple communication.

Best Friend (or Enemy, at this point) #2, went to management and told them all about our drama. 

Turns out, shady apartment managers don’t like dealing with dumb college girl drama. 

They didn’t even want to hear it and told us we all had to be moved out before 5 PM that same day. 

After quite a few years under my belt, and some serious renting experience, I realize now that what they did was likely illegal. 

Well, after the phone call from Best Friend #1, suggesting I maybe come home to completely vacate in less than 5 hours, I called my mom. 

(Shamefully, I’m pretty certain that every gray hair and wrinkle on my mother’s body is thanks to my brother and I.) 

Her response was: “Well, that’s just fabulous. You better call every Goddamn person you know to help you. You also better call your father, because I’m not. Good luck with that and goodbye.” 

At some point during the Great Pack Up, Best Friend #1’s mom was on her hands and knees, in the kitchen, frantically throwing kitchen items into a box while simultaneously yelling about how disgusting we were. 

My brother was vacuuming for the first time in his life, going over and over every square inch of carpet like his life depended on it.

My aunt was asking what she thought we should do about the moldy towels in our 6-months-broken dryer. 

My mom was yelling orders at all of our family and friends, and even some random people she caught walking down the street. 

My cousins were hauling loose items like lamps, throw pillows and towels to our cars, while cursing us under their breath. 

Best Friend # 1 and I were throwing belongings into boxes, not caring whose crap it was. I think there’s still some random storage shed somewhere with our priceless Anne Geddes art and plastic blow up lounge chairs. 

And, Best Friend #2? What was she doing? At precisely T-Minus two hours, she was still crying in her room. 

After attempts by my mom and Best Friend #1’s mom, my dad had to finally pound on her door and threaten her with his dad voice. Eventually, she appeared with 85 garbage bags, filled to the brim with her stuff, ready to be hauled out.

Somehow, we all (Mom, Dad, Brother, Best Friend #1’s mom, dad, and brother, Best Friend #2, a handful of friends, my cousins, and random passerby) managed to leave the place looking spotless (not even a random hanger or a half-used roll of TP was left) with only two minutes to spare. 

I learned a lot of lessons from my first time living on my own. Namely, don’t live with friends and don’t leave bitchy notes for your roommates that read, “I love waking up to your bowel movements everyday. Can you please run the fan and courtesy flush? Also, the phone bill is due. K thanks.” 

I’m still learning. 

I just learned the other day that disposals aren’t made to mash up large quantities of food. They are just for those odd bits. Who woulda thunk? 

Also, don’t prop up your feet that have been in your sweaty shoes all day on the coffee table within five feet of someone. Especially when they’re eating. 

So, even though I’m doing slightly better than I was when I first lived on my own, somedays, I think I’m still firmly planted in the stupid-af-era. And, some days, I change the batteries in the smoke detector all on my own. 

These days, Best Friend #1 is winning at life. She owns her own home and seems to always be jetting off on some trip. The bitch. 

Best Friend #2 is married with two beautiful children. I don’t think she owns a cat. 


For some reason, this is the only picture I could find of our first apartment. Notice the message board, where super friendly (bitchy) messages were written. I have no idea who the half-naked guy is, but a poster of a wet/greased up/sweaty guy in the kitchen is always a good idea. Also, WTF is happening with my “bangs”? 

WTF Wednesdays #9: I ❤️ Jeff Goldblum 

Guys, deep down, I kinda wanted Jeff Goldblum to see this. I mean, I was his biggest 13-year-old crush, and that’s not creepy at all. So, I’m sharing this wacko homage for Flashback Friday in hopes some kind soul with the key to all-things-viral will make magic happen. I really need this win right now #jeffgoldblumistotallyawin.

You mean, I’m the only girl, in all of history, to have ever had a crush on Jeff Goldblum at the tender age of 13?

Ya’ll missed out. Big time. 

In 1996, the original Independence Day movie came out. Like every other red-blooded American, I saw it in the theater approximately 80 times. Each new time I saw it, I grew more and more infatuated with Jeff Goldblum.

I don’t know what it was. Maybe it was those massive ears. Or, his ginormous nose? Maybe his awkward, bumbling speech. I think it was his brain, to be perfectly honest.

But,

What 13-year-old girl would be into that?

While my friends were losing their proverbial shit over Jonathan Taylor Thomas and Devon Sawa, I was privately panting over a man who was only two.years.younger.than.my.parents.

I was a really weird kid.

After drooling in my Milk Duds over him on the big screen one too many times, I set about finding other movies he did, so I could pant in private.

It is totally beyond me how I could have researched him without the internet and IMDb. I’m seriously at a loss-how did people research pop culture in the 90s? Someone, help!

Pretty quickly, I realized he was in Jurassic Park. I watched that VHS so many times, I burned up the tape.

I also somehow found out he was in a really weird movie that came out when I was three, called The Fly. The fact he was a human-sized fly didn’t matter, because he was naked in that one. I “lost” The Fly when it was time to return it to Blockbuster. I had to pay the fee, but it was so worth it. 

Because I was not exactly nonchalant about my weird girl-crush-obsession with Jeff Freaking Goldblum, my mom caught on pretty quickly.

She always aimed to raise dorks, because, “Dorks go to school, hang out with their dork friends, don’t do drugs or drink, and never get in trouble.”

My mom couldn’t have been more elated that my first crush was on an intelligent and nerdy-looking man I’d never meet. She was thrilled. (Never mind the fact that he could have been my father. Nope. Not weird at all.)

For Christmas that year, my mom seemed to have a certain gleam in her eye. It was almost devious. I just figured she was pretty stoked about getting me that Discman I wanted.

When it was finally Christmas Day, my mom was practically doing the Fat Clap. Instead of making my brother, because he was small and low to the ground, pass out the presents, my mom was on the carpet, fervently throwing presents to everyone.

She handed me a lumpy, odd shaped one that was definitely not my Discman, to open first.

As I started peeling back paper, she was sitting upright, alert, face aglow.

She seemed extra excited. Was I getting my own phone? A car three years early?? OMG! What could it be?! Her excitement made my mind wander to all sorts of amazing, unrealistic gifts.

When I finally unveiled the Most Exciting Present in the World, I was utterly confused. It was an action figure.

“Mom, I think this is for Jarrett. This is an action figure-thing.”

I flung it over to my brother, who had opened all of his presents in under a minute, so the prospect of an extra gift was everything.

My mom was not discouraged at all by my utter lack of interest in a boys’ toy.

Now, wait a minute. Jarrett, that’s your sister’s. Hand it back.”

Christmas was officially over for my brother.

When I had it back in hand, utterly confused, and quite embarrassed that my mom felt an action figure a proper gift for her 13-year-old daughter, my mom said,

“But…lookie who it is. Who is it?”

It was then that I really looked, for the first time, at the toy.

She bought me a freaking Jeff Goldblum Independence Day action figure.

“Mom!”

“But, isn’t he so cute? You can put him on your nightstand!”

And then she winked at me.

Hubba, hubba!
Source

The Mattole River Resort

You might remember that before we started this crazy little road trip down memory lane I suggested you bring along a spare tire, a life vest and rat poison. 

Have you been wondering where rat poison* was going to come in? No? You didn’t read that part? You just skimmed. OK. Well, we’re going to need it today. I guess you will just be eaten alive by monster rats. Sorry not sorry. 

(Actually, I am sorry, because I love you all, and I wouldn’t want to lose anyone of you in such a terrifying way.)

So, as we have all learned, my mom was an ace at finding great motel deals. 

These budget hovels saved money so that we were able to afford the expensive treatment for scabies that we’d need when we got home.

One of the absolute best, or rather, most memorable trips we took was to the Mattole River Resort.

Straight out of the California Chainsaw Massacre, this “resort” is situated along the Mattole River in Nothern California.

For those of you not familiar with Northern California, it’s good to be aware that it’s absolutely filled to the brim with hippie hill people. 

I don’t want to offend any potential hippie readers I might have. I’m a huge supporter of the notion, “You do you, boo”. So, I’m not hating on hippies, per se.

I’m just accurately painting the scene, people. I’m just setting the stage.

So, after a long day of winding roads, weird little backroad towns, and uncomfortable back seat living, we finally made it to our “resort”.

(I have to mention that before we made it to the resort, we stopped at a convenience store. The whole drive there it got foggier and foggier every mile we drove. If that wasn’t creepy enough, my mom said there were two men sitting out in the front of the store who were straight out of Deliverance. She said we don’t remember this part of the trip, because they wouldn’t let us get out of the car!)

Mind you, when one hears “resort”, especially one who watched their Dirty Dancing VHS on repeat, they think rustic, but posh, nicely furnished and expertly appointed “glamping” cabins. 

We all should have known better, for it was my mom (and aunt-I can’t leave her contribution out of this) who booked the place using her discount travel bible.

Again, Grandma is not having any of our shit.

The Mattole River Resort was far from being a resort. 

I remember little snippets from our stay at the Mattole Cult Compound. I think that I blanked out some of the memories to save myself from developing multiple personalities. 

I recall that, as we were bringing our belongings in from the car, doubt set in. The cabins were filthy. Positively disgusting. 

The woman running the place had promised enough beds, because there was a hide-a-bed in the couch. 

When we pulled it out, one of the necessary legs was missing, and instead of a mint on the pillow, there were mouse turds. 

Mouse turds, ya’ll.

In the bed.

When my mom and grandma were looking for another set of sheets, a blanket, hell, even a tarp at this point, they opened a closet to find an unexpected surprise. 

They had no clue what it was, but it was behemoth and a nest of some sort. My mom said they just shut the door and didn’t open it again the rest of the stay. 

I don’t even remember sleeping at this place. As in, I don’t recall being in a bed, covered with a blanket, nothing. I probably slept standing up or in the car. I don’t know how I didn’t just straight run away from my family at this point. 

Apparently, we stayed two or three nights. The first night we arrived it was late, so it’s understandable why we stayed. I’m not quite sure why my mom and aunt subjected us to this horror-story-waiting-to-happen for more nights than were necessary. 

My mom said it was because there was nowhere else to stay for a bajillion miles in all directions. We’d booked our stay, driven hundreds of miles, and it was going to be fun, damnit. 

My mom said, as beautiful as the surrounding landscape was, the Mattole River Resort was, “…horrible in every way.”

Three people who didn’t quite mind the Mattole River Resort were my two cousins and brother.

The daughter of the owner (who, my mom swears, couldn’t have been more than ten years old) took them down to the river and introduced them to pot for the first time.

My brother and two cousins recall that trip being pretty groovy, man.

Every picture from this trip is blurry. Our minds were probably negatively affected by all of the mouse poop. Also, in looking at how young my brother was, I’m wondering if only my cousin was involved in the Mary Jane incident?

As for me, I’m fairly certain my weird neurosis about germs, vermin, and motels with anything less than a four star rating is directly related to our typical Smith** Family stay at the Mattole River Resort. 

I hope my Family Vacations From Hell series has been enjoyable and at least mildly amusing. I hope my stories bring back funny and warm memories from your own past. 

Because I’m a satire writer, everything I write has some sass and asshole to it. These posts were no different. 

It’s important for me to point out, however, that as much as these true accounts sound horrifyingly hilarious, they are some of my most beloved memories.

Had my parents been like every other Dick and June, my memories wouldn’t be nearly as wonderfully ridiculous. 

This series is dedicated to my parents, because thanks to their annoyingly thrifty ways, my brother and I were afforded a childhood filled with amazing trips and experiences. Not only did we go somewhere exciting (or slightly terrifying) every spring break, we spent every summer at our family’s lake cabin, AKA Heaven on Earth. On top of that, they sent us both to Washington, D.C. on a school trip our 8th grade year, and it was my parents who funded the most rewarding experience to date-my trip to the U.K. and Ireland. 

Mom and Dad, you do you, boo. You’re perfectly imperfect just the way you are, sleazebag motels and all. Love you both. 

*Apparently, the cabin was only infested with mice and not rats. That makes it so much better.

**Not our real family name.

My Brother’s “13th Birthday” 

When we turn 13 in our family, tradition dictates that you get to have a big birthday celebration- one you won’t ever forget. This momentous occasion may or may not include naked hippies.
The year my brother turned 13, my mom planned a trip to the bay. San Francisco is only 3.5 hours away from us, and we grew up visiting the eclectic Crazy Street People City quite a lot.

You must know that my mom is quite thrifty. Before Expedia or Trivago were even a wild idea, my mom obsessively scoured the discount travel brochures and books. Part of what made all of our travel adventures so memorable is due largely in part to my mom’s awesome motel finds in her travel books (I’m saving her best find for the last post in this series).

My mom rocked the early 90s so hard.

My mom swore she found the hidden gem of all hidden gems in the heart of the city.

So, Mom, Dad, Brother, Grandma, and I packed into the car and schlepped over the hill.

The motel was a gem, alright. It was not only located in the center of the city, but it was smack dab in the middle of the worst neighborhood, on the worst street and it was the worst motel on said street. 

Because we are budget travelers through and through, we all slept in the same room-Grams and me in one bed, Dad and Brother in the other. My mom ordered a cot from the front desk, and slept with it right up against the door, because she was concerned the homeless man peeing right outside our room might try to come in to use an actual toilet.  

Throughout the night, we were serenaded with the sounds of men moaning, shrill female laughter, and the sound of a cat dying… or mating. And, it all sounded like it was right outside our window. 

It was sketchy with a capital how-did-we-not-get-bed-bugs. 

In the morning, on our way to see Alcatraz, there was a woman going absolutely bat-shit-crazy on top of a guy’s car. Like, she was on all fours on the hood, screaming and pounding her fists into his windowshield. The poor guy looked like he had no idea what to do as he was just sitting in the driver’s seat with his mouth agape. 

I would have just turned on my windshield wipers to try to wipe her off. 

Ain’t nobody got time for that. 

My Grandma was thinking, “Who are these crazy fuckers, and why did they bring me along for the Worst Side of San Francisco Tour?”

That same trip, we almost met our demise at the rest stop on top of the summit. 

The entire weekend was stormy and rainy. As we headed back home, the rain was immense. We felt like Noah’s ark as we parted the waters on the highway home. 

As we crested the summit over Donner Pass, it began to snow. Tradition dictates that we always stop at the rest stop on the top of the mountain. 

Forget that it was dark, snowing, and the rest stop was seemingly empty, no, we had to stop-it was TRADITION (someone probably really had to go: MOM). 

The vibe at the rest stop was bad. In hindsight, we should have just driven the hour more until home. 

My mom walked my brother and me into the main area, out of the snow. From there, we went our separate ways to the restrooms.

As my mom was waiting, she noticed two shady-looking men in the shadows. What normal, pure of heart and mind kind of person just lurks around an empty, freezing rest stop in the middle of nowhere, late at night? 

She said later that a ferocious chill went down her spine. Something just wasn’t right.

At this point, another vehicle pulls up, and my dad gets out of the car to retrieve something from the trunk.

As the lights from the car pulling up shine into the rest stop doorway, my mom glances over at the two men. From across the room, they give each other a “Not-this-one” look and they subtly shake their heads. 

They then disappear. 

She’s still convinced to this day that those two men were waiting around to do something bad. She thinks that they noticed that there were two other people in our car and then, when the other car pulled up, they figured whatever they had planned would not work on us. 
We all majorly had the creepies the whole way home. The entire car was silent as we counted our blessings/reevaluated our direction in life/cursed whoever’s idea it was to stop at the rest stop (MOM’s).

That, kids, is why you don’t go into rest stops-especially at night! Shady people try to do shady things at rest stops. Always find yourself a Starbucks restroom. Or a tree. Anything is better than an “empty” rest stop in the dark of night.

When we finally arrived home, exhausted, but grateful to all be in one piece, my brother says, “Next year, on my 13th birthday, can we just stay at home and do our usual thing?”

MY MOM FORGOT HOW OLD HER ONLY SON WAS. 

My mom felt pretty ridiculous having to admit that she miscalculated and thought he was turning 13, and thus, why he got such a big, super special Birthday. 

I think the next year for his birthday we did just what he wanted, and we were all pretty grateful. 

Family Vacations: Road Trips

Sing it in an awfully-out-of-tune-voice with me now:

I’ve come back long ago

Long way down the Holiday Road

Holiday Road

Holiday Road

Holiday Road

Holiday Road…

I’ve been humming this song for days now, as I’ve been mentally preparing for this hum dinger of a post.

The National Lampoon Vacation movies have always been a staple in our family home, because somehow Chevy Chase and the gang got ahold of our vacation stories and made a movie about them.

Not really, and for legal purposes, I have to add that I’m joking.

But, for real, growing up, our family vacations were always very Vacation-esque ridiculous.

This is going to be a three-part series, because I’m attempting to not write novels every time I post. So, for the next three days, you will be positively inundated with family vacation stories straight from own personal National Lampoon series. 

So, care to take a ride? Make sure you pack a spare tire, some rat poison, and a life preserver, because it’s going to be a wild ride.

Literally Every Road Trip 

It didn’t matter where we were going-whether it was a trip up the Oregon coast or a day trip to some backwoods swimming hole, it was guaranteed that we would have car/boat trouble. I can’t count how many sketchy BFE car repair shops I’ve miserably waited at, while one of our hoopties was getting patched together. I’ve probably been to more car repair shops than to actual landmarks. 

Maybe we had trouble on road trips, because this was how we traveled?

I remember once, after days of packing and prepping for our 800-mile, two days of car hell up to our family’s lake cabin, we didn’t even make it five miles out of town before our vintage Winnebago pulled a big nope-I’m-not-going-fuck-you and we had to drive back home, defeated. I want to say we didn’t get to leave for real for almost a week.

One of my mom’s favorite family vacation horror stories is when she and my dad took my two cousins, my brother, and me to the Berlin Ichthyosaur State Park in Austin, Nevada in our ever-trusty Winnebago. She said we were coasting along, everything was going grand, and then, out of nowhere, the engine cover blew off. 

This all-important cover is what protects the engine and the inhabitants of the motorhome from the engine movements and the dust and debris from the road. 

My mom said that the second the cover flew off, everyone in the motorhome was covered in a thick layer of dirt. All she could see were the whites of our freaked-out eyes. 

For the entire rest of the drive to the park, she had to sit on the cover to keep it on. “It was only 80,000 million degrees hot. No big deal.” She said of her hot seat. 

Another Winnebago adventure happened after my mom thought it would be a great idea to take the behemoth beast camping without my dad. She wanted to meet my aunt and uncle at some campground in the middle of nowhere. All I remember is that she buckled my brother and I together in the front seat, and she kept saying over and over how everything was going to go great. 

Except, it was us and we were in the fucking Winnebago, so it didn’t go great. 

Somehow, we got a giant rock stuck between the rear tandem wheels and she had to call my dad to come rescue us. This was back in the early 90s, so I don’t know how she called him. Maybe they devised a bat signal, only it was a ‘bago signal, and was a giant “W” in the sky. 

My dad had to deflate a tire to get the rock out-all in the pitch black, in the middle of nowhere, in a freak torrential downpour. 

I would think they’d have just given up while they were ahead at this point, but no.

Back when I was about eight or nine, we went on a week-long trip up the Oregon coast. While we were inching along an especially harrowing stretch of the road along the coast, my dad’s axle broke off the driver’s side tire. He was in our old truck, and it was carrying the weight of our 70s-era camper shell and 8 tons of Shasta soda. That was actually pretty scary to watch from the trailing vehicle (we could never just bring one vehicle or one immediate family. No, it was the entire extended family and every moving vehicle we owned. It was straight-up carnival caravanning). 

Only a small fraction of our family. You would feel us coming long before we arrived.

What I remember most about that particular event was that while we were waiting for the axle to be repaired, I ate an entire can of pizza-flavored Pringles, and for the rest of the trip, I was shunned by the entire family for being such an unmannerly pig.

We made it to the Sea Lion Caves-a real feat! My brother was pitching a fit in this picture. My mom is probably threatening him with his life.

One summer, I think it might have been the same year as the Pringles Incident, we got majorly stranded out in our bay on Coeur d’Alene Lake in upstate Idaho.

Not only were we known for our hooptie cars, our boats weren’t much better. Actually, my Grandma’s Party Barge was brand new 30 years ago, and we’re still riding it, hoping the pontoons don’t fall off.

I think this was pre-Party Barge. But, look at those beauties!

So, this particular summer we had a speedboat at the lake. I can’t remember now if it was my grandpa’s old boat or my uncle’s. Either way, it wasn’t working for some time and after some extensive repairs, my uncle thought he had it up and running. So, the entire family piled in, other than Grams, because she was the only smart one of the lot.

We got precisely halfway across the bay and the engine just died. No sputtering, just gone and died dead.

One second we were cheering, the wind was whipping through our hair as the boat jumped the wakes left behind by other boats, and the next, we are at a dead stop and the entirety of the boat’s passengers are silent. No one said it, but we all were thinking it: “Typical!”

We spend the next 10 minutes trying to flag down Grandma, who is just a blob of a figure, sitting on the deck of the cabin, we can barely make out. She does not notice us sitting in the middle of the bay, and if she does, she probably really enjoyed her afternoon of silence.

My grandma next to her pride and joy. I’m surprised any of us crazies even got to see the inside of this thing!

We end up finding an old splintery oar to row, row, row the boat painfully, slowly to the closest shore, which happened to be the one opposite of the cabin. We tie up at a forgotten dock, and trek it, on foot, back to the cabin. We had to go all the way around the bay, on the tiny road that barely had room for two cars, taking turns carrying my brother who, despite being told multiple times by our mother to put on shoes, did not put on his effing shoes. I’m pretty sure he came into contact with poison ivy that trip. Kinda serves him right, the dweeb.

We call it the “*Smith Curse”. It started many decades ago. If more than five family members assemble for a trip, the trip will go to shit. But, those are the only ones worth remembering. 

The other night, as my mom and I were laugh-crying about these crazy memories, we hear my dad’s voice, from the TV room say, “Don’t mention that damn Winnebago!”

*Not our real family name 

Pure Gold 

My mom is a great storyteller. Family stories have been passed down, retold countless times, and loved since I can remember. On Sunday, my mom told us a story I had never heard before, and how it’s even possible she never told us this doozy, I do not know. 

Because it’s pure gold. 

Back in the time of Mom Jeans, VHS, and Kenny Loggins cassette tapes, my mom and her brother had a battle of epic proportions. 

It was Christmastime, and my uncle was visiting, as he did every year. My cousin and I were young, and likely we were the reason the whole fam bam was at the park in the middle of December. 

For some insane reason, the topic of who was faster on foot between my mom and my uncle came up in conversation. My uncle swore he’d literally beat the pants off of my mom. 

Well, that pretty much sealed the deal. 

My mom and uncle readied themselves for a foot race that would easily rival that of Usain Bolt…if he were middle aged, out of shape, and if he considered tight Lee jeans appropriate running attire. 

Quite handy for the two marathon runners was that the particular park where we were had parallel bridges, not too far away from each other. My grandmother, humoring her two always-picked-last-for-sports-children said she’d call “ready or not”. 

I guess now is a good time to paint the scene.

My good ol’ Uncle Gary, or, My Own Personal John Candy was one of the best parts of my childhood. If my mom was a good storyteller, it’s only because she learned the craft from the king of all storytellers-her older brother. 


He was round, and, just like Santa, when he laughed, his belly shook like a bowl full of jelly. (And he laughed a lot, because he always had a new, mildly inappropriate joke up his sleeve.)


In essence, he was pleasantly, perfectly plump (he wouldn’t have been Uncle Gary had he been any different). 

As for my mom, it was she who I inherited my overly curvaceous bod, cellulite, and body hair from, so…

I think the picture is fairly clear. 

They were 100% the kids who cheated on running the mile in PE class (or walked the entirety, coming in with a record time of 12 minutes). 

Basically, we had a pair of real marathon winners.

I don’t think my mom even took the race seriously. She probably figured she’d have to embarrass him by beating the pants off him in front of God and everybody, or that he had a cheat or a trick ready and waiting. 

This was why she was far more concerned with what he was doing at the starting line, instead of readying herself for moving more quickly than she had in years. 

She was staring him down, incredulity and an ounce of fear growing, as his Rocky-esque stance proved he was ready and actually serious. 

Suddenly, Grandma called, “Go!” and it was all just a blur of color block windbreaker and handlebar mustache. 

My mom was glued to her spot. Stunned. 

Pretty quickly, she couldn’t contain her laughter and broke down in hysterics. 

She said, “At the starting gate, I collapsed in laughter. I saw him there, this 300 pound man, with his 32 year-old shoes flapping, going like the wind.”

As my mom was dissolving into a puddle of tear-soaked Jordache, Grandma was yelling, “Go, Judy! Just go a little bit, Judy!” 

After listening to this story, it was only natural that I dared my brother to our own relay race. 

I was fairly certain I’d beat the crap out of him. I’d only been an aerial yogaist for five weeks straight, and all of my walks to 7-11 had to make me more capable of movement than him. 

The last time I was witness to him doing anything that resembled physical exertion was when we went on a family picnic five years ago, and I dragged him on a “hike” up to a lookout, barely half a mile away. It was not his favorite. 
I figured I’d finish and have time to bake a cake before he came across the finish line. 

As he confidently, unwaveringly got into his runner’s stance, I began to doubt myself as a shoe-in for first place. 

Maybe he runs during his time off? Had I somehow completely missed that aspect of his life? 

I said to my mom, “I think I’m kinda scared!” 

She replied, “Maybe you should be. Sometimes fat people surprise you and they run like the wind!”

Spoiler Alert: I lost miserably.

Not only did I lose, I came incredibly close to eating asphalt. 

You know when you are trying to go faster than your body can catch up and your head has literally a head start? Well, that was me the entire 20 or so feet we ran. 

Not only did he beat me by running a hell of a lot faster than me, he did so with bare feet. 

When my dad yelled, “Go!” (BTW, my dad was excited enough to watch this spectacle, that he actually paused the golf he was watching, and said, “Now, I gotta see this.” as he practically ran outside), I thought my body would be moving quicker than it did. It was like I was in slo-mo, shlepping through molasses. Before I could even start actually moving, he had propelled his body through the finish line with his Fred Flinstone feet. 

It wasn’t even a competition. 

The two expert sprinters

Moral of the story: Don’t underestimate people carrying around some extra weight, because they can move. With the exception of this fat chick. I can’t move quickly for anything. 
Also, family stories are better when you don’t try to reenact them. Don’t let history repeat itself, people!  

WTF Wednesdays: Travel Tag Edition

The lovely An Historian About Town nominated me for the travel tag. I was so excited to be nominated, because I love to travel and I love An Historian. Not only are her posts well-written, interesting, and positively filled with gorgeous photos of beautiful places and things, the girl behind it all is just fabulous. Go check out her blog-you’ll love it!

Now, without further ado, my responses to some fun travel-themed questions:

What is your favorite place that you have visited?

Hands down, the U.K. and Ireland. My trip was seven freaking years ago, but I still think about it everyday, and I have tried to get back to the U.K. on several different occasions.

Is it possible to look any more touristy?
My ancestor-Lady Godiva’s statue was dwarfed by a Primark. I felt equal parts let down and excited. I really wanted to buy a pair of £8 jean shorts.
 

I also loved NYC and have always dreamed of living it up a la every.single.chick.flick in all creation, as a Big Apple girl.

(All of my NYC pics are stored away on my external hard drive. Sad face.)

Large cities, with tons of energy and culture, are definitely my favorite places to visit, but I loved being in the middle of nowhere, amidst rolling green hills in England. I also adored driving through the otherworldly terrain of the Scottish Highlands, and even though the road to Dingle, Ireland is crap-your-pants scary, the beauty of the Dingle Peninsula is unmatched.

I feel like there should be an “I Survived the Road to Dingle” badge.
Somewhere between Inverness and Edinburgh

If you could visit anywhere tomorrow where would you go?

100% the U.K.! But, I mean, if someone wanted to take me to Japan or Italy or Brazil, I’d not argue one bit. *spastic winking*

Would you rather go on a city holiday or a beach holiday?

I’m such a city girl-the energy, the eclectic culture, the myriad languages, the food, the history… Also, I’m not a huge fan of sunburnt fat that turns into one big, ugly rash, because too much of my skin was exposed and rubbing together. Give me chilly weather, layered clothing, a coffee, and a walking trip around an historic city ANY DAY.

Buuuut, I won’t say ‘no’ to a beach holiday!

Just embrace the sand in your crotch and the sunburned everything!
Alcohol helps!

My top three travel essentials are: 

  • Obviously, my phone/camera is my number one travel must have. The best souvenirs I’ve ever gotten on a trip are the insane amount of pictures of every noteworthy (and, not so noteworthy-I have been known to photograph a random bench or ugly pigeon, because it’s a foreign bench and a foreign pigeon) sight and experience.
  • Hand sanitizer, wet wipes, and a travel-size hand soap are essential. I’ve never traveled somewhere exotic enough to encounter squatty potties or lack of running water, but you just never know what kind of facilities or amenities a restroom will have. Also, the very first hostel I ever stayed at did not provide hand soap or even paper towels. You just never know what horrors you’ll encounter. You.never.know.
  • A versatile scarf and a pair of Wayfarers. I know these sound like lame “essentials”, but when I’m feeling ugly as hell on the 6th day of crap hair, because my flat iron refuses to work with the expensive adapter I bought, a scarf makes me feel a little more put together.


Can you even tell my hair is greasy and I’m wearing zero makeup? See what I mean? 

Are you an over packer or an under packer?
Literally, I used to bring three full suitcases for a weekend trip back home when I lived in Elko. The pressure that exists when you have to decide what you want to wear before the day(s) in question is just too much. I can’t even. Also, sometimes my favorite piece of clothing looks hideous on me for various reasons. You just never know.

Before the trip I took to the U.K., I obsessively researched light packing tips and practiced packing the one bag I took. It was a real trial, and it took a huge leap of faith to know I’d survive if I wore the same jeans two days in a row.


So, I lied. I took three bags…

What is your favorite thing about going on vacations?

When I’m on vacation, I feel whole. It’s an indescribable feeling of just being. When you’re on vacation, you get to live a life that would exist if daily stressors, like bills and other lame adult responsibilities didn’t exist.

Edinburgh
Edinburgh, my love!
I also love completely immersing myself in the culture and the history of wherever I am. There’s nothing more humbling than standing in a church built before your own country even existed.

Said church-St. Margaret’s Chapel

Would you rather go on vacation with family or friends?

Yeesh.

Either choice has its share of positives and negatives. Traveling with family means that there’s a pretty good chance your mom might pay for some of the travel expenses. There’s also a fairly good chance she might forget you’re a grown adult and remind you to thank “the nice travel guide”. Or, she might feel the need to chastise you about your frivolous waste of money on name brand deodorant.

Traveling with friends has its benefits in that your friends are usually more in tune with your level of fun. That might mean an adventurous competition to see how many museums at the Smithsonian you can visit in one day.


This was the day after our Smithsonian challenge. Someone had a museum hangover #8thgradeugly. 

Or, maybe, that means buying every kind of foreign candy in the convenience store and then going back to your hotel room to see who can get diabetes first.

Diabetes!
When you travel with your friends, there’s also the potential for a complete WWIII, nuclear fallout, because after being together 24/7 you can’t stand the way they chew their food or breathe.

Whether traveling with a friend or family member, just drink. Their mouth breathing won’t matter near as much. 

Either way, memories are made and that’s all that matters. Right?

What is the most adventurous dish you have ever tried from another country?
Abso-freaking-lutely that would be haggis with ‘neeps and ‘tatties that my friend and her Scottish husband made for us while we stayed with them in Edinburgh.

It was actually amazingly delicious. No shit, I crave that dish on the regular.

My amazing Scottish friends! 

I’d like to nominate the following bloggers (please don’t feel obligated to participate):

The Wandering Flamingo
This girl is an amazing photographer, writer and blogger friend. She also lives in my favorite country, so I always feel I get to live vicariously through her photos and posts. Also, she is an avid traveler, so I’d love to know more about her envy-worthy travels. Please go check out her blog and beautiful photography-you won’t be disappointed!

A Walk and a Lark
Here’s another blogger bud who lives in one of my favorite cities-London! She’s become an amazing blogging supporter and friend, and I simply adore reading her blog! She is well-traveled, so I’d love the inside scoop on some of her favorite places! Check out Josy’s blog! I promise you’ll love it and her!

All Thoughts Work
This chick cracks me up. Every time I get a comment from her, I know I’ll end up practically peeing myself from laughter. I’ve gleaned that she’s an avid outdoors-woman and talented writer, but that’s all I know. I need to know more! Head on over to the funny lady’s blog-you won’t regret it!

WTF Family Photos

In honor of my mother’s birthday yesterday, I thought I’d share my WTF Family Photos post for this week’s #fbf. Enjoy looking at some noob stranger’s family photos. But, really, you might find that they’re symbolic of your collection of weird family pictures before the advent of Instagram and other social media. You know, before everyone had hundreds of pictures of their lunch on their phone. Ah, the good ol’ days! 

In looking through some old family photo albums for pictures of my mom for my last post, Rein It In, I found some completely random, hilarious, and just plain WTF pictures. I took pictures of old pictures for hours, like a total noob, just so I could share them with all of you. 

I’m sure you are just thrilled to look at some random blogger’s family photos, but too bad. They were too good to just keep hidden in dusty books, never to be seen. 

I’d love it if some of you would share your most favorite WTF family photo. Let’s keep it weird. 

When showing this photo of my grandpa with a thong cake to my mom, she said, “We also made him a boob cake and my dog, Sadie, ate one of the tits. Just wow.

Every single person in this picture looks positively stunning, except for my uncle, who, apparently, thought it was a chance for a glamour shot #stunna

My uncle’s favorite part of Christmas was forgetting it was Christmas by taking a nap during most of it. 

My cousin played the part of “devil” far too well. If that’s not the face of up-to-no-good, I don’t know what is. Also, my mom said she made his costume out of an old bathrobe. My mom had skillz. 

Too cool for school. Crazy eyes really made my Spock hair pop. 

I love how, instead of rescuing their son/nephew/grandson from an evil goose chasing him, they instead took a photo for memory’s sake. 

This was my “whoa” face. You can read about it here. 

Another example of how ridiculous my family was. Apparently, capturing on film your darling child being attacked by the family dog was more important than saving her. Actually, our psycho dog was trying to eat the face off my doll. Regardless, my mom felt this a momentous enough event for this pic to have a place in a photo album. 

“Mom, are you watching me? I’m practically Mary Lou Retton!” as the dog is barfing in the background…

There were about 82 pictures of my dad’s sleep face. I’m not sure if that’s a VHS box or a box of chocolates. Either way, not one thing has changed today. 

Either my dad liked to wear his hats perched ever-so-slightly on the tippy top of his hair, or we now know where I got my immensely tall head. 

I can’t even right now with the glasses 😂😂😂

And my dad couldn’t even either. The joys of parenting, as can be read on his face. 

I wonder which asshole took this? Now ya’ll know being obnoxious with the camera is a learned trait. 

My mom: “I always felt I needed to have my hair as big as my body.”

Yup. 

Can you see the want in my eyes for alcohol? Where it all started. 

My mom said that I escaped to the kitchen and told everyone to leave me, “Boot”, and “Oonie” alone.  

“Dudes, who’s the beast using my head so she can stand? Who is allowing this?”

Here she is again. What the fuck?



I don’t even know. 

There were approximately twelve family members stuffed into this beauty. That’s how we rolled (barely). 

Look at how insanely thrilled my grandma was to get a toaster oven for Christmas. 

I shared this in my previous post, but what I didn’t divulge was that that hairy creature sitting on the bookshelf, looking all innocent, had a dick and balls. His girlfriend (not pictured) had you-know-whats. The most disturbing part about all of this was that my grandma and second cousin, Bonnie made them



Remember Doris and the tack-in-the-butt incident? This is Doris! You can see the murder in her eyes in this picture. 

I was always quite the fashionista. 

And, a family photo album is just not complete without a photo of the family dog taking the inaugural shit on the new grass. 

Sit Sleeping at the Movies and Other Ridiculous Things  

Nope. I just have to lay down for 5 minutes to read, and I’m out.

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I come from a long line of sit sleepers. What exactly are “sit sleepers”, you ask? Well, imma tell you. When you’re a sit sleeper, there’s a 98% chance that you will fall asleep within ten minutes of sitting down. The likelihood increases when you’re in a comfy armchair, it’s warm and cozy, and you’ve had any alcohol whatsoever. If you’re laying down, forget it-you’ve missed the entire episode of Orange is the New Black. 

I noticed I came from a family of sit sleepers early on with my grandmother. When I was kid, we got to spend the entire summer at the cabin on Coeur d’ Alene Lake in Northern Idaho. The best part of this wasn’t the long summer days filled with swimming, boating, and lounging in the sun. No, the best part was that I got to sleep in my grandma’s bed. It was the best sleep spot in the cabin. The other room was the “boys’ dorm”, filled with bunk beds and farts. It was gross. 

Without fail, the moment my grandma got settled in, covers just right, and with her current book, she was snoring. Except, it wasn’t just snoring. It was something entirely different. See, my beautiful grandmother took her teeth out at night. I still remember those weird, waxy looking chompers floating in a glass on her nightstand. Because her teeth weren’t in when she fell asleep, book opened on her face, it sounded like the subtle flapping of a flag in the wind. 

It was always really entertaining to bet on how many minutes, seconds it’d be until I’d hear the flapping. 

The entire time we had the light on to read, I’d slightly nudge her and she’d sputter awake and continue reading right where she left off. I remember really being concerned that she’d never get through her book. Somehow she did. The marvels of this world are endless. 

The best part of this whole nighttime ritual was that sometimes I’d tell her she was sleeping. Every time, she’d swear up and down that she hadn’t been sleeping. 

I’d say, “Grandma, your book was on your face!”

She’d say, “That’s how I read best.” 

Oh, how I miss the nights I’d nudge my grandmother to say, “Grandma! Your lips are flapping again!” 

Of course, my mother was gifted with sit sleeping. One of my fondest memories is of our nighttime reading. No matter how late, how tired, how stressed, my mom read to us from infacy. As we got older, my brother and I read to her. Each stage had a different level of narcolepsy-like sleeping spells.

Some nights, my mom would be in the middle of a sentence and suddenly, the book and her head would fall, and she would be quietly snoring. 

“Mom!” 

“I’m awake!”

Then, she’d pick up right where she left off. 

When we grew into voracious readers ourselves, we started to read to Mom. That was hilarious, because with no book to hold, and nothing to do other than lay and listen, she was usually snoring before we could even get through a page. 

If we ever have my mom watch Harry Potter, she’d likely say, “Why is this vaguely familiar to me?” 

We’d answer with, “Well, mom, we only read the entire series!” 

A fun little aside about my mom and falling asleep in inopportune situations:

Not only has my mom fallen asleep during reading and during every.single.movie. she’s ever watched, she’s also been known to fall asleep while eating. Yup. You read that right. I wasn’t going to mention that it was likely due to some medication she was taking for her back, but either way, she fell asleep while eating a burrito. Except that’s only what she thought she was eating. She said she was eating her lunch and the damn tortilla would just not cut. She said she hacked and hacked away with her plastic fork, but no luck. Eventually, she decided to just gnaw at it with her teeth. At this point, she woke up/came to and realized she was eating her paper plate. I ask her to tell this story at least a couple times a year, because it’s just too good. 

I always thought falling asleep the second one sits was an old person thing. Well, at 33 years old, I can tell you it’s not!

Guys, I have become a sit sleeper something fierce! 

I’ve seen two movies over break, and during both of them I’ve fallen asleep. 

Like, fell asleep and woke myself up snoring. 

Yesterday, we went to see Rogue One at the luxury theater. I am fully convinced that those damn reclining seats have led to my demise. 

I was all settled in-candy opened and ready to be demolished, napkins draped across my chest like an adult baby, and my contraband drink nestled safely between my ass and the seat. 

I felt I had enough food to keep me awake. If I’m eating, I can’t be sleeping. It’s usually a foolproof plan.

Except, it wasn’t. 

I finished my theater food too soon. 

All of a sudden, I hear the crinkling of wrappers. It sounds like it is coming from inside my head. 

It stops. 

I go back to drooling all over my napkins as I try to keep at least one eye on the screen. 

Suddenly, the sound again. 

What the actual eff? 

I suddenly realize it’s the girl next to me. She’s been crumpling her candy wrappers like inside my ear. 

I’m aghast. I’m shocked. 

How could someone be so rude? 

Then. I realize.

She was crumpling her wrappers next to my head, because I was snoring. 

My head was leaned to her side, my mouth was gaping, and I was snoring in her face.

Who is this person I’ve become?

At this rate, I’ll be ten times as bad as both my grandmother and mother combined. 

HELP!!

This is too good!! 😂😂

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