Fractured Facade

"A fathers death...a daughter's life...a sociopath's vendetta...FRACTURED FACADE ...a novel written as memoir. Only $4.99 and available exclusively on Amazon. Kindle Unlimited members read for free! Click here for direct link.


THE VALENTINE'S DAY CURSE -- A Short Story, Free everywhere...except on Amazon (boo! hiss!) where it's $.99 to buy! Click here for direct link! Let them know it's free at these stores and they may price match it! Smashwords, Barnes & Noble, Apple Books...more to come.

Thursday, June 30, 2011

Museum of Modern Art

The next museum we visited was the Museum of Modern Art. Back in the day, I used to go with my dad to see films there. That, and the cafe, were the only parts of the museum my father would visit. Here's a shot of the lovely courtyard...

Although there were a couple of works of art I finally got to see "in person" including some favorites from Van Gogh, Monet and Warhol...

...for the most part my daughter and I were quite disappointed with MOMA. As we couldn't feel moved by a lot of the "art" I guess us rednecks aren't quite as "cultured" as many of the people parading through the rooms. A string hanging from the ceiling, a pile of bricks, torn sheets from a notebook with 1 + 1 = 2 written over and over again, a video of a woman pinching her face over and over again, photos of pimples on asses and then this "masterpiece" left us scratching our heads...

Really? That's art? I'd like to know how much they paid for that piece of crap. In fact, had they put little price tags next to each piece I would have found that fascinating. I wonder if they'd be interested in the pitted wooden plank the boys use for target practice. If you look really close at the holes I think you could see Warhol's face. And I've got piles of bricks in my yard that have more character than the ones we saw in the middle of a room.

Although I became quickly bored, my daughter actually began getting angry..."You don't know how pissed off I am. Most of this crap is not art. It looks like shit I drew when I was three. I could have given them torn pages from my calculus notebook. That would have been more interesting. And the people are so pretentious, torturing their little kids who would much rather be anywhere else...'Look at his masterpiece Francois.' You know Francois wants to pull that string off the ceiling."

More interesting than what was dangling or hanging inside were the views looking outside from MOMA.

My daughter said this was a statue of a woman trying to drown herself after spending all day at MOMA. I said it would have been me if we had to pay $20 a head. Yup, we got in free and we still feel like we got ripped off.

We couldn't wait to get the heck outta there and head downtown to visit Chelsea and Tribeca...

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Metropolitan Museum of Art

My daughter and I decided we would be New York tourists and stay in Manhattan rather than at the house in Brooklyn during our girl's getaway. After perusing Trip Advisor, looking at what hotels go for, and its close proximity to Penn Station, we chose to stay at the LaQuinta on 32nd Street, aka Korean Way, so named for the Korean restaurants that line that particular block. If you like Korean food you will be in heaven, if you don't, like us (bad experience at a local Roanoke Korean restaurant) you'll probably wind up at the Japanese joint like we did. Great move on our part.

Unless you can afford one of the luxury rooms in an exclusive hotel, this hotel is what you would expect for Manhattan...small, yet functional. This was the view outside our window.

If we strained our heads towards the right and looked up we could see the tippy top of the Empire State Building.

Seeing as we hardly spent any time in the room, the hotel suited us just fine. The girl and I loved the Temperpedic bed. We both have bone issues and we found the mattress quite soothing. I've got to look into how much they cost because we both want one. The best part of the hotel is that we felt safe. This was our first trip alone in the Big City and we couldn't have picked a better location. The street was always bustling, but not with riff-raff. There was even a film crew from some show called White Collar taping in front of the hotel a couple of days.

On our first evening in town we went out to dinner with a good friend of mine. Seeing as you can't just buy a bottle of wine at the local supermarket like we can in Roanoke, she brought a bottle to the room. After we polished that off we headed to Patsy's for a nice Italian meal. Another bottle down. We then headed over to Eataly, a huge marketplace with restaurants that has gotten rave reviews. Not from me. I thought it was over-priced and under-tasted. The desserts looked amazing but tasted like the ones found at Fresh Market. The gelato was subpar and the price of cheeses were twice what they should be. Most people shop while drinking wine, as we did, which I think they promote on purpose so as you'll be drunk and not realize you're getting ripped off.

Needless to say I totally over-indulged our first night in town. Not too smart. It was tough getting up early and brutal walking around town the rest of the day. My cousin was our Docent for the weekend...

His precious Museum membership card got us into the Metropolitan Museum of Art for free.

Here's a fraction of what we saw...

We loved it, and even spending four hours there wasn't enough to see it all. Outside the museum were typical New Yorkers spreading their talents...

One of my favorite works of art...the New York City hot dog cart...

Next up...MOMA.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Amtrak Tips - Roanoke/Lynchburg to NYC

Having just returned from New York City after a maiden voyage on Amtrak via Lynchburg I thought I'd give a primer on what to expect if you plan to travel by train.

Since we live in Roanoke, a "rail town" that does not have a rail passenger station we had to make our way to Lynchburg to catch Amtrak. Although the Roanoke Times has reported today that there will be bus service starting July 19th from Roanoke to Lynchburg for now you would have to drive to get there.

Luckily the train departs at a good time...7:38am and arrives in NYC at a good time, 3:18pm, perfect for hotel check-ins. We left at 5:45am giving us enough time to get our tickets. We arrived with 15:00 to spare. Lynchburg is the first stop so securing a seat is not a problem.

Although you may be tempted to sit near a bathroom, do not!!! Every time someone opens the door a foul smell wafts out. As the train rolls on it gets worse and worse. I suggest you take a seat in the car right before or after the snack car. You will get bored at one point and want to stretch your legs and perhaps get a bite or drink to eat. Walking through a moving train is challenging. Going to the bathroom on a moving train is even more challenging, so be warned.

Amtrak has upgraded their food choices. I didn't try anything other than a Perrier water. Do not ask for ice. Amtrak's ice is funky and will ruin the taste of whatever you are drinking. Do yourself a favor and pack a sandwich and snacks and just get a drink on board. On our return trip I stopped at a deli in NY and brought back a most delicious turkey, brie, avocado on a multi-grain roll sandwich. My daughter opted for a pretzel and huge chocolate chip cookie. Yummmmmm....

If you're lucky you'll be sitting across from someone who is personable and not too obnoxious, so the trip will move faster. Going up to NYC we met someone from Roanoke who was fun so we scored. By Washington the train will get real crowded. People will walk up and down the aisles asking, "Is this seat taken?" so don't get out of your seat when the train pulls into the station. Wait a couple of minutes and then you can stretch your legs outside since the train waits about 20:00 before leaving DC.

When you arrive at Penn Station be's chaotic. A must when travelling is luggage on wheels. I can't imagine what we would have done without them. Don't check your bags, carry them on so you can get out and on your way immediately. You'd be surprised what you can fit in a 22" roll-on. They allow you two carry-on pieces and a pocketbook or laptop.

The return trip was not as pleasant as the arriving one. The train leaves Penn Station at 12:35pm -- again a perfect time as most hotel check-outs are either 11:00am or 12:00pm.

Our train was a half-hour late and it seemed everyone in Penn Station was boarding it. They do not report what track the train will be on until the very last minute. Then there's a crazy rush to get to the escalator. My daughter was panicked that we wouldn't get on. I wonder if they oversell the train. You walk through the train dragging your luggage through the narrow aisles looking for a seat. Everyone seems to take single seats by the window so it's challenging finding two together. Once you do you have to lift your luggage above you -- not an easy task for two girls. Luckily we found the last two seats together in a "quiet car."

I call the "quiet car" the "mean people car." As we were lifting our luggage a woman turns to my daughter and says nastily, "You know this is the quiet car, don't you?" And??? Did she think because she's a teenage she was going to be running up and down the aisles, playing music and yelling on her cell-phone? I turned to her and said, "What's your point?" She gave me a dirty look and turned away.

The "quiet car" means you're not supposed to have loud conversations or talk on your cell phone. A woman in front of the nasty woman called over the train attendant and told her to ask a woman with twins to go into a different car because one of the children was making too much noise. That woman had her hands full with twins, and where the hell was she supposed to go anyway when there's no freaking seats? Geeze! That's why I call it "the mean people car." By the way, once nasty woman # 1 got off at DC another woman sat down and spoke the entire time to Lynchburg on her cellphone. It didn't bother us at all.

With the price of gas these days I thought $264 round trip for both of us was a good deal. I also felt very safe. My daughter thought the train was cold, I thought it was hot. Since I'm always hot you might want to bring a little jacket. I enjoyed not having to worry about hitting traffic and being "on guard" constantly as I am when my husband drives us to New York. You see many sights, some good...

...some not so good. I kept hearing Iggy Pop singing, "I am a passenger and I ride and I ride. I see the cities' ripped backsides..." And you will.

I'm glad our trip was successful as this opens up many possibilities to us. In fact before the summer is out my daughter and I plan to spend a long weekend in DC. Girl's weekends can be very liberating and fun.

I have 239 pics to go through from New York City...stay tuned!

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Daddy Knows...

Dear Daddy,

It's been quite a while since we've spoken. It's not your fault, nor is it mine. It is what it is. I thought I would catch you up on what's been going on down here.

Your grandson will be entering his second year of college aiming for a Computer Science degree. His grades are okay, and would be much better if he gave even a smidgen of effort. Remember how we thought he was the smartest kid ever when he was two? I remember how you sat with him and taught him every state's shape. He could rattle them off and then put them in a puzzle all the while with the pacifier still in his mouth. You wanted me to get him on Conan, not Letterman "he's too mean" but I pooh-poohed you thinking all two year olds could do that. Apparently they can't.

He also has been working over a year at an auto parts store. He has our work ethic -- he's never been late, never called in sick, and everyone wants to work with him. He's "this close" to a promotion. It all depends on a vacancy being left by the assistant manager if he gets his transfer. It's a two-edged sword in my eyes. He likes money. He likes saving money. He likes spending money. He likes working so much at times he wonders why he has to bother with college at all. I'm trying my best to at least make him get an Associates Degree.

Now your granddaughter is another story. She is a mini-me, which as you know is not always a good thing. She puts too much pressure on herself to be the best that she can. It hasn't been easy for her, what with her medical conditions and all, but it's not stopping her. She's still attending two high schools and majoring in Mass Communications. Yes, like both of us she loves all things media related. We go to the movies weekly and luckily have the same taste. I'm sure you would agree with our reviews too. By the way, she's a fantastic editor and producer. Her little lisp, and Raggedy Ann scars will probably prevent her from being in front of the camera, but her instructor says she's one of the best students he's ever had. She begins interning at a local television station in a couple of weeks and she's very excited.

Remember how you used to read to her and was astonished when she took the book out of your hand and read to you when she was only two? Well she still always has a book in her hand and now she's waiting on her SAT scores. She retook the test recently as the first time she took it she didn't score high enough for her liking. I imagine it would be hard to score well when one has a constant pounding headache. Just so you know, I've taken her to quite a few doctors and I'm hopeful we finally found one who will take care of that problem. Also, this will be the first summer in years that she hasn't undergone surgery, so we are making progress. Anyway her goal is to attend JMU. It's pretty tough to get into it but she's determined. It's also pretty expensive but I'm determined to make it happen for her. You do realize if she is accepted and attends she will be the first girl in the family to ever go to college. I don't think you'll have to worry about her partying up a storm or anything like that. She's on a mission and nothing will deter her.

Now as for me. Well, it's been tough not talking with you. I still remember your phone number and dial it from time to time. You never answer. I wouldn't want to burden you with my problems but it would still be nice to just talk about it once in a while. My bones ache and it takes me a little longer to get out of bed in the mornings now, but I won't allow it to stop me. You always said walking was the best exercise and I agree so every day I walk a couple of miles along the river although I long to walk a couple of miles through the streets of Manhattan like you used to.

The pain in my bones paled compared to the pain in my heart as I wrote my book. Yes, Daddy, I actually finished it. It's called "Oblivious." Reliving the experiences, it tore apart my soul at times. I could barely see some of the letters on my keyboard now. Don't know if that was from tears, or from so many revisions. I said I would write the story that needed to be written, and I did. I know I always said I would dedicate my first book to you, and I will. I never imagined that the first book I wrote would be about you.

Well, that's about it for now. I hope you continue to visit me in my dreams and around the house. You don't scare us, well, you don't scare me, your grandchildren sometimes get a little freaked out. It's not the same as being with us in person, but if that's all we can get, we'll take it. Just know your grandchildren and I love and miss you dearly. I think you would be very proud of them and hopefully me too. Remember how I thought I could never be a good mother and you told me I would be, and then was, the best? Thank you. Happy Father's Day. And oh, one more thing, you were right, about so many things. I'm sorry I didn't realize it and tell you when you were alive.

I can still hear your voice saying..."Daddy knows..."

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Under Pressure

Some of you already know, but for the stray reader who happens upon this blog and doesn't, my teen aged daughter has been suffering from headaches for months. Actually, it's not "headaches" but one continuous headache that varies in intensity. I've said from the beginning that I thought it was because she was under pressure. She disagreed saying through clenched teeth, "I'm not stressed!" I reminded her of when it all began...soon after securing a role in her high school's production of Peter Pan.

It was her first speaking/singing/acting role and she loved every minute of it. Every minute included working til midnight in rehearsals most nights for about two months. Her days began at 5:45am. She attended two high schools. The first one is a Mass Communication center whose classes began at 7:15. After three classes she'd drive to the second school and closed off her day at around 3:30pm when she wasn't in the play. All her classes are Advanced Placement ones which means AP tests as well as SAT's. I noticed as her Spanish 4 grade began to plummet her headaches increased. Let it be known, I was not on her case about her grades. She was the one who insisted she needed a 4.0 and a high SAT score...both impossible to achieve with a constant mind-numbing headache.

To be on the safe side we made the round of doctors. First she saw an emergency doctor at her primary's office. She suggested her eyes needed to be checked. We did that. Nothing was wrong so we went back to her regular doctor. She suggested she get an MRI. Thankfully nothing major was wrong so we went back to her regular doctor. She suggested she see an ENT specialist. Nothing major was wrong so we went back to her regular doctor. She suggested we see a neurologist. The next available appointment was at the end of August. I hoped once school ended the pressure would be off and the headache would go away.

School ended, the pressure is off but the headache remained. So it was with great joy that I received a call from the neurologist's office yesterdy saying they had a cancellation today, asking if we wanted the appointment. Yes! After repeating her medical history for the umpteenth time, signing away my life, giving her what looked like a sobriety test as well as other balance tests he put his hands on the side of her face up by her jaw and pressed. "Does this hurt?" "Ouch!" And just like that he came up with the diagnosis...tension headaches.

Apparently she unconsciously is tensing her jaw and grinding her teeth while she sleeps. This action has caused the muscles to become sore radiating pain in her ears and through her head. She has to stay away from caffeine (she does love Mt. Dew) and gum, has to massage her jaw and slack it when she feels it tightening. He recommends a mouth guard for night and one pill a day for a month to relax her. He's so sure this is going to work that he doesn't even want a follow-up.

I feel positive this is going to work too. I know so many other teenagers that are going through the same thing as my daughter and it's from the pressure. It's tough being a teenager. The doctor said you wouldn't find this diagnosis or treatment many places (true, I've Googled her symptoms a million times) but it comes from his over 30 years experience. I told him I agreed with him that it was due to tension but would never have thought it was coming from her jaw muscles. He said, "Well, you haven't been practicing medicine as long as I have." I replied, "No, but I did stay in a Holiday Inn Express last night."

Fingers are crossed...

Monday, June 13, 2011

Here Come Da Judge

When I was growing up and heard the word "Judge" I felt no fear, actually I probably laughed as this is what came to my mind...

When the kids of today, especially in Roanoke County hear the word "Judge" followed by Trumpeter, this is how most of them react...

After my daughter and I spent two hours in his courtroom last Friday I really don't know why. Neither does she. No, she wasn't in any sort of trouble. It was actually a celebration of sorts as she, along with 60 other teenagers, received their permanent driver's license.

Virginia is the only state where it's mandatory for a new driver to go before a judge to receive their license. And it's not just mandatory for teens either -- their parent or guardian must attend the two hour "ceremony" as well. Before the parents are handed the license, yes the parents are the holder of the license and can only hand it over to their teen if they think their teen deserves it, the Judge talks to the crowded courtroom covering many areas that their driver's educational classes probably hadn't gone deep into.

Sure there was the usual what to do if you're stopped by a cop, but there was also so much more, including Virginia's three-strike and you lose your license rule, the prohibitive costs of speeding -- money-wise, point-wise, and losing license-wise, the illegality of texting or talking on the cell phone, and the deadly danger of driving after drinking.

The Judge related facts, figures and explanations of how even one beer affects judgment and the reason why. I was surprised to learn that the average age when boys have their first drink is 12 and girls is 13. The real shocker was that the parents are usually the ones who gave their kids their first drink. And worse, it's the parents that host the parties that allow the teens to drink.

What really got me tearing though was the personal story Judge Trumpeter relayed about the straight A, multi-talented high school sports star who by the age of 16 was secretly drinking and by the age of 18 was dead -- taking two innocent folks walking along the side of the road one Christmas Eve, with him.

At the end of the ceremony the bow-tied Judge called my daughter's name, handed me the license and thanked her for dressing up for court. He said he had an open door policy and his phone number was in the book if we ever needed to talk to him. I thanked him for showing he cared for the kids and told him, "I hope I never have to see you again."

After we left my daughter said, "I don't know why everyone freaks out when they hear Judge Trumpeter's name. I think he was quite an interesting character with his bow tie and Harry Potter glasses. I actually liked him. I guess I might feel different if I had to be in front of him because I was in trouble, and I don't have plans of that happening!"

I hope not. And to drive the issue home we spoke some more in depth about the privilege and dangers of driving. I remarked to the girl that I never want to be the answer to the question, "Who gave you your first drink?" She said I wouldn't be as she already had the answer. "Who?!" "A priest at church when he gave me a sip of wine at communion at grandpa's funeral. It was disgusting." Yes, it was.

And then when I got home I sat my son down and drilled into his head the same messages I had just heard. In between rolling of the eyes he said, "Mom, I know. I'm not a moron. It's not like I haven't already been faced with my friends drinking. I know how to say no, and I know how to take their keys away from them, and I have."

I told both of them, mistakes happen and if they ever found themselves in a "compromised position" whether it be them or their friends, they shouldn't hesitate to call me. I will come and get them immediately, no questions asked. There'd be plenty of time for repercussions later, and there would be. Personal responsibility is the only way to teach a teen that there are consequences to their actions, but first and foremost is the safety of them and others around them. If more parents would drive that message home to their children I think their children might give a little more thought to their actions.

The driver's license court ceremony is really a wonderful opportunity to begin a dialogue between parent and teen, and much more important for the parents who need to listen too, than the kids. Good luck to all the new drivers. Good luck to their parents too...

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

The Tiniest Bunny

Is this bunny not adorable? Look how tiny he is. I've never seen a bunny so tiny. He could fit in my palm. And he's not afraid of me either. He's too young to fear anything. What a wonderful feeling that must be...

Friday, June 3, 2011

Drop That Turtle!

As I was strolling along the trail in Garst Mill Park I came upon this little fellow...

I took the pic with my phone so it's not a good shot and you probably can't tell how big the turtle is, but he was a tiny little thing no larger than two or three inches. I had never seen a turtle in the creek at Garst Mill so was happy that there was a good possibility I would begin seeing a turtle family during my future strolls.

I continued walking to the end of the trail, looking forward to seeing the little guy again on my way back. When I did my turn-around to head back I saw a woman far ahead of me. She spotted the turtle too, but she did not leave him where he was. She stooped down and picked him up. Now, I know a little about having wild turtles as pets from years ago when my kids found two in our yard and decided to built an outdoor habitat for them. After researching it we realized it was not fair to Thunder and Lightning and the best thing we could do was put them exactly where we found them, facing the way they were headed. We never got the chance because they escaped and went on their merry way alone. We realized wild turtles do not make good pets so anytime we'd see one crossing the road, we would help them get across to safety, always facing the way they were heading.

Anyway, I stepped up my walk to a sprint to catch up with the woman who had picked up the little guy. Out of breath I caught her as she was talking on her cell phone in Chinese or Korean. I hoped she would understand when I said, "Miss, excuse me, but you really should put that turtle back where you found him. He's so tiny he needs his mother and if you don't he'll most likely die."

She gave me a dirty look and said, ok, ok. I continued my walk and then after a couple of seconds turned around to see if she had put the baby back. At first I couldn't see her but then noticed someone walking through the grass towards the parking area. It was her. She had something in her hand and I couldn't tell if it was a cell phone or the turtle. She got into her car and left.

I looked at the ground where the baby turtle was originally and didn't see him. I scoured the grassy path from where I had first seen him to where I had confronted the woman. Nothing. I can only hope she did put him down, somewhere in the grass and not in her pocket.