Archives for July 2012

Memories of a Long Lost Sister

In January, my brother and I sent a baby gift to our then unborn niece. Our unborn niece that we may never have the pleasure of meeting, let alone knowing. My estranged half sister, Deven, who disappeared from our lives more than 15 years ago, just had a baby.

Many of my friends don’t even know that I have an older sister. To them, I’ve always been the oldest in my household. But I still think about her. I still love her. The love of a sibling doesn’t just go away, even if she made us cry, even if she abandoned us.

I occasionally attempt to keep tabs on her life, and through the sheer force of the interwebs, I found out that she was having a baby. So I sent an olive branch. Though I didn’t expect for it to induce a response, I would have been thrilled to welcome my big sister back into my life.

For the first thirteen years of my life, she was a power player. My inspiration. My pal. She spent almost every weekend with us, and my room was her room. (Of course, I’d have to clear a pathway free of toys from the door to the bunk bed ladder so she could walk through). We went camping, went on vacation, and visited her at college; we did all the things younger siblings are supposed to do with their favorite big sis. We loved her.

I’ll never forget the time she called home from Purdue, and I was talking to her about coming to visit. She promised to take me to parties and sneak me some beer. I replied, completely seriously, by telling her that “I prefer cocktails.” Of course I was 8 and referring to Chrissy Cocktails (AKA Kiddie Cocktails with pineapple juice, squirt, and grenadine).

She used to always get me the best Barbie stuff. I still have the blue and pink ’57 Chevy that she bought me for Christmas one year. She and her visiting friends would play Barbie with me, while we watched Guns N Roses on MTV. She introduced Brian and I to the classic 80’s and 90’s movies, like Labyrinth, Goonies, The Princess Bride, and of course–Night of the Comet (AKA The Zombie Movie that we ALWAYS wanted to watch).

I have so many more memories of my sister. I often wish that she was still a part of our lives. I feel the saddest for my niece, who may never know the joy of having an Auntie Chrissy. (And Auntie Chrissy is pretty much the best Auntie in the world…not that I’m biased or anything).

So my brother and I sent her several gifts of love. A rubber ducky, some books (as all children receive books from Auntie Chrissy), and Johnson’s Baby Shampoo. The Johnson’s was to remind our sister of us, as naked babies in a bath tub singing:

“No more tears!
No more tears!
We’re going to stick with Johnson’s for years!”

I guess I’ll never know what happened to make her leave us. But I cherish the childhood memories that I have.

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Car Trouble

Car Trouble

My Pontiac Sunfire

My first car was a 1994 Ford Explorer called Melba Toast.  My second car was a 1998 Pontiac Sunfire.

Sometimes, I would forget that I drove a tiny two door Pontiac that was closer to the ground than my ankle. Sometimes I still thought that I drove a beast like Melba Toast, the explorer, or Lurch, the affectionately named GM catering van, that I frequently carted food around while on the clock during my stint as a catering manager… But then I would remember I drove Dawn, the incredible lean mean teal driving machine.

One Thirsty Thursday night in February of 2008, I forgot that my tiny little car probably couldn’t just plow through a little bitty pile of snow in the middle of Main Street. I barely took the time to think about what I was doing. I automatically assumed that I could handle the mini mountain of soft white puff. A minute after my decision was made, I had to call Jeff. Here’s how that went:

Ring Ring. Answer:

“Yes, we’re here! Get here already!”

“Oh I know…I’m almost there. You should come outside.”

“Just come in.”

“No really…Come outside and laugh at me.”

**Jeff walked outside**

Still on the phone with me, he asks incredulously, “Are you serious? I guess you need help.”

I confirm with a pleading, “Help!”

“Be right back, I’m going to need backup.”

I sat waiting patiently…It’s not like I could have gone anywhere. Jeff returned momentarily with my best pal Mark, and one of the bar’s regulars, Mikey. Who knew that I really could stop traffic? The passing cars all stopped and stared as Jeff, Mark, and Mikey tried pushing my car out of the snow. When this still did not work, a very nice plow guy came and helped until I was safely in the bar parking lot.

Of course, that was just one of many Winter: 1; Chrissy: 0 scenarios.

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Rude Awakening

Sitting at my kitchen table with my flavor of the week and my parents wasn’t exactly how I envisioned Thanksgiving 2006. But there it was. The four of us, sitting there, talking, if you can call it that.

Brad wasn’t exactly everything my parents ever wanted for me. He was a republican. He was very much not Catholic. And he was a Nascar fan who cheered for the Cubs. Politics. Religion. Sports. The three most controversial subjects known to man. Or at least to my mom. She loves to argue her point(the only point). So of course, she loved him. Not because he agreed with any of her points. No, he argued with her and didn’t back down. Not once.

My dad hated him. That made Brad feel really bad. He knew that he was blitzed (I had picked him up from his parents’ house to save him from whatever was pissing him off at the time). He knew that he had fucked up, but really, I didn’t care. I knew he wasn’t going to be around in my world for too long.

So there we were in my parent’s kitchen and he was rambling the drunken ramble. And mentioned his dog tags. Dog tags. Mom got up from the table. “Did Dad tell you we got dog tags in the mail?”

“What?” I looked at her. Knowing. But not knowing. Wondering. And thinking. And feeling the inner turmoil spew its way up from the depths of my heart. She dropped a set of dog tags in front of me on the table, along with some pins and a chevron. I stared at them. Brad  kept talking, but I didn’t hear a word he said. It was as if I was overcome with this feeling. By far, the strangest out of body experience I’ve ever felt. I was in another place. Tears welled up in my eyes. “Did she send a letter?” The boy kept talking. I had no clue what was going on outside of the inner sanctum of my mind.

Back in the 80’s, it was apparently very popular to wear camo, army gear, dog tags, just about anything relating to the army. My teenage sister(yes, older sister) took Daddy’s army stuff and wore it. For the 10+ years since we had last heard from her, she had kept these things. You see, Deven disappeared from our lives when I was 12. She was 10 years my senior, and I adored her. As a kid, I literally worshipped the ground she walked on. But after she graduated from college, she left and never came back.

So that Thanksgiving evening in my kitchen, Mom pulled out an envelope and showed it to me. I stared at the handwriting, not unlike my own. The tears almost fell. I stared. And just as abruptly as she had mentioned it, she pulled the envelope back. And somehow Brad reappeared, as if I had forgotten for those minute seconds that he was there. In my kitchen. With my parents. And Brad. And I was finishing a bottle of vodka. Except, the vodka bottle was empty. And the things my mother had just shown me were gone. And everyone was still drunk. It was almost as if a dream had pulled me out of existence only briefly, to be shoved back into reality with a force that could not be reckoned with.

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Security Blankie

Everyone has that one object from their childhood that was with them through it all. Whether it was a blankie, a stuffed animal, a toy, or something else entirely, you are probably thinking of yours right now.

When I was a baby, I received a simple baby blanket that became my bankie. Throughout my infancy and childhood, this blanket was more than just my favorite thing in the whole world, it was a part of me.

I was a thumb sucker, and required my bankie to suck my thumb. There were several very important things that I needed from bankie in order to suck my thumb, though:

Most importantly, it needed to be cold. So after a while of sucking my thumb and my blankie warming up, I would put it in the freezer to cool it off. In the winter, I would even voluntarily let the dog out into and back in from the yard so that I could hang blankie in the wind for that icy chill.

Of course, it also had a certain blanket smell that could only be kept intact so long as bankie stayed not clean. When my mother would wash it, I would freak out. A lot. To find the blankie in the dryer after a good washing was the most horrific thing in the world to me. But in all honesty, it was probably pretty gross, so it makes sense now.

So I would hold bankie in my left hand with my left thumb in my mouth, while I pushed the blankie up to my nose in order to smell the blankie smell and feel the cool blankie feel. It was like Heaven to me.

I remember having a puffy spot on my thumb that I thought would never go away. One day while I was on the bus heading home from school, my next door neighbor Greg, who was a year older than me, was teasing me about the puff. I was in third grade and far too embarrassed to admit it’s origin. Thankfully, the puffy spot disappeared within months of my final thumb suck.

Often, the blanket would lose pieces of the edge, slowly shrinking a once large baby blanket. At one point in the life of bankie, it ripped into two pieces. One of which I tied into a knot. Both pieces traveled everywhere with me. One in the freezer; one in my hand. Switch. Repeat.

Regardless of my disdain for a clean bankie, there were definitely times that my blankie needed to be washed…or partially disposed of. One hot summer night when I was in second or third grade, I was spending the night at my aunt’s house. I had snuggled up on the living room floor in a pile of blankets, with my head laying off onto the carpet. In the middle of the night, I became violently ill, and the un-knotted piece of bankie was the unfortunate recipient of my stomach’s wrath (as was the carpet and one of the blankets.) I spent an hour trying to clean up my mess, embarrassed and unnecessarily afraid to tell anyone.

But the blankie was a mess. After mom tried to wash it, the stains would not come out and I was forced to part with another piece of my beloved blanket.

So, yes…I sucked my thumb. Until the 4th grade. When my mother took bankie away. She told me that she had no idea where it went. She promised to look for it. My gram bought me a replacement, but it was worthless to me. The bright seafoam green blanket was scratchy and unfamiliar. It was hardly worthy of my doll’s comfort. I found that no matter how hard I tried, I could not suck my thumb without my blankie. This proved to be the perfect solution to my mother’s fear that I would never stop sucking my thumb. But it was a sad time for me.

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My Mantra

I developed the majority of this mantra many years ago. I still stand true to it. If anything has changed, it has merely been added to.

I believe in happily ever after. I believe in love. I believe in friendship. I believe in trust. I believe that everything happens for a reason.

I believe that we have a collection of soul mates, who are not necessarily romantic partners, but they are souls that are joined together in past lives, future lives, or  the after life. I believe that we are all a part of something bigger, but I’m not always sure what that something bigger is. I believe that it’s okay to question my faith.

I believe that everything I do will make me the person I’m supposed to become. I believe that all I have done has made me who I am. I believe in regretting nothing.

I believe that friends are the family you choose.

I believe in kissing. I believe that a smile can make someone immeasurably happier.I believe in saying I love you. Daily.

I believe that it’s okay to be sad. It’s OK to cry. I believe that it’s okay to want something more than you’ve ever wanted anything before. I believe that money is not everything.

I believe it’s better to have a job I love 60% of the time than to have a job I think is OK all of the time. I believe that people change, and that doesn’t mean we all have to. I believe that you can stay married to the same person for 50 years.

I believe that children are a gift. I believe that puppies have healing powers. I believe you should have that second scoop of ice cream. I believe that a pedicure will make your day that much better.

I believe in people. I believe in you.

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Happy 4th of July

It’s the 4th of July.  I can’t help but think about past Independence Days. I’ve had to work many a national holidays, including several July 4ths. When I was a catering manager, we had an incredibly busy conference during the first week of July every year. Every person on staff was working full-time, some even over time. Myself included.

In 2008, I was scheduled to work 13-15 hour days throughout the course of the week. I was not happy about having to work through another family holiday, but I was willing to suck it up for the OT. On the first day of the conference, I was scheduled to start at 5 AM. I rolled out of bed, showered, and raced my butt into work. For almost the first 3 hours, I ran my ass off, working as hard as I could to get everything handled. At about 8:30, the staff was able to take a breakfast break.

We all sat down to eat some eggs and bacon, and one of my bosses, Marissa, looked me in the eye and said in the most serious tone, “It looks like somebody forgot to put makeup on this morning.”

I started to mumble that I was planning on putting it on during the break, when my lead server–who was one of the quietest and sweetest girls that I knew–looked at Marissa and asked, “What’s the big deal with that? Why does that matter?”

Marissa glared at her and said, “Well, that’s part of her uniform. Makeup makes her look more presentable. Presentation is important.”

Well, I was young and sassy, and I would be damned before I let someone tell me how to present myself. So I stopped wearing makeup, most of the time. Especially to work. I wasn’t going to let anyone determine whether my appearance is acceptable based on the makeup that I was wearing.

Maybe it was because of this sassy ‘tude. Maybe it was because of my klutzy self. Maybe it was just something that happened. By the end of that day, I couldn’t walk. I had somehow sprained my ankle through the dinner rush (this is something that happens more often than it should. I am the world’s biggest klutz). My plan was to head out to see an 80’s hair metal band at the Taste of Lombard, our local festival, after my shift ended sometime after 8–I was super excited about it. But I couldn’t walk. I was pissed at the universe.

I was crying in a stairwell because I didn’t know what to do. One of the sous chefs, my pal and confidante Jack, came in and calmed me down. He backed me up and helped me get myself together. He reinforced that we worked at a place where jerks reigned supreme and we could survive by being better than anyone else there. (He was great for my ego.)

I left there, limping, but Marissa never noticed.

The next morning, at 5 AM, my ankle was so swollen, I couldn’t fit it into my safety shoes. I went into work wearing gym shoes, hobbling as best as I could, and after an hour, Marissa took note of my shoes.

“Why aren’t you wearing your safety shoes?” She demanded.

“I sprained my ankle and can’t walk very well. It’s so swollen that I can’t fit my foot into the safety shoe comfortably.”

“Well, you need to wear them. Go put them on now.” She looked at me, impatiently, as if I was her 7-year-old daughter.

“Marissa, they won’t fit.” I was almost crying. I was in a ton of pain, and trying to work through it, though I really had wanted to call in sick… “I can’t wear them.”

She stared me down, scrutinizing me,”Well, if it’s that bad, maybe you should just leave.”

I didn’t know how to respond. Secretly, my 4th of July dreams were coming true…sort of, “I…uh…”

“You know what, Chrissy? Just go. If you can’t walk, and it hurts that bad…just go home. We’ll see you tomorrow.” I didn’t trust the tone of her voice, but I decided that I would leave anyways.

So I left. It was the 4th of July; I managed to not be at work, but I couldn’t go out and enjoy the day. I set myself up in bed for the majority of the morning and afternoon, I watched the Mr. Darcy version of the good Pride and Prejudice (in which I fast forward to all of the Mr. Darcy parts), and waited until the fam showed up for a BBQ. I didn’t get to go see the fireworks with my pals at the Taste; I had to sit with the parents at their friends’ house because I couldn’t walk, but I got to eat potato salad and watch fireworks.

I found out later that Marissa was walking around all day telling the staff (MY staff. MY employees.) that I had probably sprained it in a drunken stupor when I went out the night before. I may have had my moments, but that certainly was not one of them. And really…who was she trying to kid? She was the biggest lush of us all.

 

 

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The Rules of Owning a Bar

My home away from home. The white Explorer was my first car, “Melba Toast.” The teal Sunfire was the first car I bought with my own money, “Dawn.”

Sometimes, I call my dad, “Boss.” For most of my life, my parents owned a bar called Flaherty’s. The day after my 21st birthday, I started tending bar. I had gone shopping to buy some nice low-cut bar tops to wear when I was workin’ for tips. Dad was none-too-thrilled. I remember him asking me to wear a different shirt for my first shift. I acquiesced his request, but just that once.

Calling him “Daddy” was out of the question since every time it came out of my mouth, one of the customers would mock me in the whiniest littler girl voice, “Daaaaaaddddyyy.” It was obnoxious and I was over it. So instead of taking on the grown-up, “Dad,” I went with Boss. It worked. Such was the day I became a bartender.

Now, as I was finally 21, I would occasionally indulge in a few cocktails at this fine establishment… but in the beginning, I had all sorts of rules. (Drink for free at 21? Hell yes. Get hammered surrounded by scrutiny? Hell no.)

Some of these rules are interchangeable with your “home bar.” Your Cheers. Where everybody knows your name. Some of these rules are more protection for the young adult daughter of a bar owner.

Rule number one: Don’t get drunk in front of the adults who’ve known you for your entire life. Basically, don’t make an ass of yourself.  A shot and a beer joint, Flats (as we sometimes called it) was home to many regulars who had relationships with my parents. There was absolutely no way that I wanted to let them see drunk Chrissy in whatever behavior suited her for the evening. Besides, they may tell my parents. In fact, almost anything that I did was immediately reported back to my father or my aunt (and by tele-Nudd proxy, my mother). No misbehavior from this girl.

Rule number two: Don’t pull the grass from your own front lawn. IE: Don’t. Date. The Customers. If you break their heart, they’ll never come back. If they break your heart, they’ll never come back. If they’ve seen you naked… do you really want your dad serving them drinks? So I made it my business not to become interested in any of the few Flaherty’s regulars under 30.

Rule number three: Don’t bring your own sand to the beach. Never bring boyfriends or guys that you are interested in to the bar unless you’re really serious. In the home bar scenario, that’s like bringing them home to meet the parents. In my case, it WAS bringing them home to meet the parents. At Flaherty’s, gossip traveled faster than a Sarah Palin joke at a democratic convention. I liked to keep my dating life private. Sort of.

Of course, rules were made to be broken, and by the time Flaherty’s closed shortly after my 25th birthday, I had broken all of them. Many. Many. MANY. Times. You’ll see.

What rules do you set for yourself in your home bar? What are your favorite rules to break?

Hey! Did you know you can buy my book on Amazon? 37 women wrote about the struggle for perfection, and I'm one of 'em. Go check it out!