From the category archives:


Shoebox Chronicles: BBQ Bill

by Mary Anne on September 7, 2009

First of all….THANK YOU to all of you who were kind enough to comment last week on my plea for Shoebox Chronicles entries. I could never tell you how stuck I was and how much your support means to me. I’m going to get to several of them but today, let’s start with one from Pippa who asked:

“The best dinner party guests ever (alive or dead, but the dead ones would have to be alive because of a Time Travel Machine that you or someone you knew made, otherwise they would be really bad guests as they wouldn’t eat your food or talk and would smell and their head would fall off into some soup…)

Wait. What?

Okay, now I get it and I love me some Pippa for asking. I could tell you about bringing someone back from the dead and a great dinner we had where their head did not fall off in their soup but that would be too easy. So Pippa, I’m turning that question on it’s head and telling you about the worst dinner party in the history of….well, ever.

We had a friend over for a grill last year. A friend we don’t see often for reasons that are about to become clear to you because we don’t live very close to each other. Let’s all pretend we are in the witness protection program and call him BBQ Bill from now on…because I really don’t want him to ever find us again.

BBQ Bill shows up with his kids :45 minutes early while I’m still running around in a towel with curlers in my hair. Oddly enough, he has a HUGE cooler with him even though we told him not to bring anything. Normally, I’d assume our guest brought adult beverages but I was a bit confused as it was only the three of us (because in this house we have a strict one beer per child limit) (also, I’M KIDDING) and the cooler could easily hold two cases of beer and a few bottles of wine.

But it wasn’t beer and wine.

It was meat. At least 50 lbs of raw meat. Even though we told him we had the food covered. Beef, chicken, ribs, you name it. I’ve never seen so much raw meat outside of the grocery store. I’m not kidding you when I tell you what once was a small farm was now in that cooler.

So I looked at The Man and The Man looked at me and shrugged his shoulders (because we are both totally at the WTF??? portion of this story a mere :15 in, which is never a good sign) So we finally asked the million dollar question, “What’s with all the meat?”

At that point, BBQ Bill informed us he doesn’t have a grill at home so he’s going to grill this meat (50 lbs!) on our grill and store it for future dinners. Which, no big deal right? It wouldn’t be normally, no. But…the grill we bought is crap, and after about an hour or so of high heat, giant plumes of black smoke start to emerge and stain our house which is entirely white brick a lovely shade of grossness. Witness the setup:

grill 2
Needless to say, The Man and I tend to be careful to avoid this very situation. Not that day. BBQ Bill took over the grill….for four hours. This, in and of itself, was annoying. Aside from the whole house turning black you should know that in the summer in Texas, we tend to grill and run inside because hell has nothing on us heat wise. Four hours of it and you are basically dealing with three adults soaked in sweat and smelling of charred flesh…which is to say, not my style. It was all too much…how much meat can one man grill? (50 lbs in case you weren’t following)

The fact that his son was pulling out our in ground sprinkler system and beating my children repeatedly in the pool was really the icing on the cake. (Kids will be kids!) With every thwack and every sizzle I cringed. At some point I’m fairly sure I ended up in the fetal position under the table sucking my thumb though the post traumatic stress disorder prevents me from remembering it all.

The Man did not think I would be able to endure. I did not think The Man would endure. Every time we thought he was done, another burger patty would magically appear and one of our children would scream in the distance. We were at a stalemate as to which one of us was going to go completely freak show and send them running to the street. Sadly, we are both far too polite and it never happened. Though our house, once white, now fully smoke black, was begging us to.

Hours later (eight in total for what was supposed to be a three hour get together), we got them out of our house with their cooler of full of meat, sprinkler system in serious need of repair and children now afraid of anything pole shaped.

As we burned the flesh off of our hands scrubbing with bleach to restore our house to it’s original color (it’s still not quite there) we pinky swore with our ragged fingers to never have them over again.

So thank you Pippa for the question….because just the other day I was thinking we hadn’t seen this guy in a while. Now I remember why.

Now y’all tell me…whats the worst dinner guest you’ve ever had and have you had them back since?

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So here we are at the end of the week and guess what? We are also at the end of my BlogHer posts. See? Everything ends eventually if you just have the perserverance to endure it. Your mental strength this week in getting through stories about poodles, cockatoos and Bad Naked deserve some type of award. I mean, I’m not getting you one but you might tell your friends about your bravery and see if they will. Just a thought.

All in all, I’d have to say BlogHer was a great experience. There was a whole lot of a good, and some very bad bad. I pretty much got out of it exactly what I wanted, to see some old friends and meet new ones. The highlight of the entire weekend was Saturday which was by far the most fun day of all.

We started with a group dinner, please don’t even get me started on how delicious the fried Gnocci Literal Dan’s wife ordered…see him back in the corner? BRAVE MAN to go out with all these crazy women.


Meet my fabulous roomies….Jen from Sprite’s Keeper and Mary from Unmitigated. I am totally in love with them both and plan to find other events where I stalk them. Not one moment of drama in our room and they both put up with the incredible mess I made changing outfits eleventy million times…Ladies, I adore you both.


After dinner, we headed over to BowlHer where Anna from abdpbt and I decided to start a bloggy war. Here Anna is doing her finest Tupac imitation and I’m doing my best Biggie Boobs. Anna was the first person I didn’t know to comment on my blog and meeting her was a thrill. Still, a bloggy war is a bloggy war and I’m totally going to kick her ass.


Next up was the best and most wonderful part of the entire BlogHer whirlwind, a party at Poppy Buxom’s apartment. Can I tell you how much I love me some Poppy? CAN I? Oh, sorry didn’t mean to yell. I just get all excited when the topic is Poppy…she brings that out in people. Poppy, THANK YOU for giving me an evening I won’t ever forget…brace yourself for a tackle hug at Blissdom ’10.


Speaking of women I love, here is Stephanie Elliot from Manic Mommy with two of my other roomies, Jill from Shopgirl’s Blog and Mandee from My Life In A Nutshell. And yes, I am in love with all three of them as well….see a pattern forming?


Of course Jen was there too (if you are asking Jen who?…the door is over there…don’t let it hit you in the ass on the way out…) so I had to throw myself on her. Honesty, she puts up with way too much from me and I have no idea why.


Also, you should know that on this trip, I took my stalking to an entirely new level and managed to harass Jen’s husband Fletch as well. In the first picture, I think he was really wondering how to get away from me but then someone yelled, “Give up, she never leaves…” and I think he came to terms with my hugging problem which honestly was his best and only option. Next up, I’m planning to find a way to have my picture taken with Maisy, their pit bull. She will no doubt have the same reaction.



After that, Alli and I decided the best thing would be to decorate Fletch with a pink feather boa because, well…I don’t really know why we did that to be honest.

Speaking of Alli, here she is with me and none other than Vodka Mom. People I’m in love. (I fell in love a lot on this trip…) Vodka Mom is every bit as warm, wonderful, charming and FUNNY as I thought she’d be. Also she is so tiny she is almost purse sized which really made me think about putting her in my carry on and taking her home with me.


…and last of all, meet my friend Amy from Outdoor Dogs. When we first saw each other we did one of those running hugs you see in commercials? Yeah, well I forgot how tall she is and I face planted directly into the middle of her chest. (Note to all readers: My husband will think that’s hot.) Look at that smile, you can see how happy and funny she is and why it’s so easy to adore her.


So there you have it….BlogHer in three lengthy, bloviated succinct posts.

God, I’m tired….someone get me a drink.

Update: Just got this video from I can’t honestly say I saw all of this but it is a pretty acurate representation of the tweets…and, it is VERY funny…check it out…sense of humor, people…sense of humor.

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Oh, hi…you’re back! I’m really glad because I was afraid that whole “bad naked” warning in my last post might have actually KILLED my blog. Because you have been so kind as to return, I’m going to pass out some glasses to help you get through this one. They have magical powers that will help you get through this post without going blind. Line forms to the left…

Okay, good, all suited up? Let’s go!

Friday night was the big night, I had about five parties to hit. First off was the Hanes party, which was so fun. I could tell you that the swag bag they gave me contained a bra that actually made my boobs sing out of happiness because it was SO COMFORTABLE but that would be TMI. (Oh wait, I already went there…) They were serving Comfortinis, which btw…YUM…and I got to hang out with some Blissdom friends. Sarah and Cassie, who will never get rid of me now…sorry girls!


Later that night was the Nikon Look Good In Pictures party with none other than Carson Kressley. Which yes, I did meet him…and also managed to kiss him. I don’t have a ton of pics yet (because you know what would have been a smart thing to bring? A CAMERA.) I do have this one…me with Alli Worthington, who so kindly took me to this event, and if the Crazy Woman in the previous post ever wondered why I blog? Being able to count this wonderful woman among my close friends is a good enough reason to make me blog for the rest of my life.


But then, there was the next day….stay with me…I’m getting to the “bad naked”.

So, I wandered, and I wandered, and I wandered some more. And then I thought, “Hey! Let’s go check out the expo for more swag I don’t need!!!” so off to the expo I went. You can imagine my surprise when I saw a familiar shock of white hair at the Walmart booth and realized it was none other than Paula Deen…so I did what any true southerner and cook would do, freaked out, threw a few elbows and managed to score the third to the last position in line….directly behind Mrs. Potato Head. (Trust me, there is a reason you need to know this.)

The line moved fairly quickly but Paula (because I can call her by her first name now) had a serious hard stop to catch her plane. Finally, I got to the front of the line and waited patiently behind Mrs. Potato Head while they delicately navigated her between the table and the VERY EXPENSIVE LOOKING flat screen TVs that Walmart had put up around the display. To her credit, Paula (because like I said, we are totally on a first name basis) didn’t even looked alarmed to be talking to a giant potato. The only thing that seemed to concern her was making sure that the last three of us in line got our turn. (Bless her heart…and I mean that in a sincere and non snarky manner) She finally convinced Mrs. Potato Head that her turn was over and thats when the trouble started.

They couldn’t get her back out.


So they scootched her this way, and maneuvered her that way and she almost knocked over the VERY EXPENSIVE LOOKING TV and the entire time Paula (I’m not even gonna say it again…) just kept looking at the last of us in line like she would burst into tears if she didn’t clear every last one of us out. I get the feeling she is every bit as nice as she appears on TV and if I ever hear differently, I think I may die of shock. Finally got to the front of the line and met the Queen of Southern Cooking herself…


To say I was on cloud nine would be the understatement of the century. But then….

..the bad naked happened.

Still with me? Stay, you want to hear this.

So I go up the escalator, and check my tweets only to find two bloggers I talk to on twitter a bunch have shown up, Church Punk Mom and her husband, Only Aman. I’m sitting there visiting with them and all of a sudden, Aman says, “Wow, is that lady taking her shirt off?” Now, normally, these words would not get a reaction out of me…or at least not a screeching one. However. The first night of blogher I heard there was a streaker at one of the parties. Apparently, this woman took her clothes off, calmy walked through the room and then went all the way up to the escalator while waving. From all accounts, it was not a good naked, it was a VERY BAD NAKED and boy was I pissed that I missed something that crazy. But here I was, right in the middle of it, so I started yelling, “IT’S HAPPENING!!! IT’S HAPPENING!!!” while running in circles which I think may have alarmed Church Punk and Aman but, you know, it’s part of my hazing ritual. Grabbed the iPhone and snapped this picture for you:



Now, if you haven’t taken me off your Google reader for this, Friday I will post just a ton of pictures of friends and good times…I may even say a few nice things along the way…just don’t tell anyone, okay?

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Back from BlogHer and OMG do I have stuff to share with you. So much that I don’t even know where to start. I can do one really long post or break this into four smaller ones. Let’s be democratic about this, all if in favor of four smaller posts raise your hand. ::counting:: Okay, good, that’s what I was thinking too…this is why we all get along so well.

Let’s call this: The One Where I Overpack And The Airline Tries To Turn Me Into A Professional Assasin By Losing My Luggage And Also Wherein I Meet The Craziest Woman At All Of BlogHer. (Long title with serious run on tendencies, but I like it so it stays.)

I’m not going to go into a whole lot of detail about the luggage other than to tell you many profanities were uttered at O’Hare airport in the two hours it took them to find my bag, but take a look at this picture and you will understand just how deep the emotial distress was:


Thankfully my roommates, Jen from Sprite’s Keeper and Mary from Unmitigated knew what they were getting into with me and no one was too shocked when I opened up my suitcase and a thousand shiny stilettos came flying out all over the room. Also, upon arriving, Sprite’s Keeper and I were greeted with this lovely gift from Michele at It’s a Dogs Life and I can promise you I have never needed a glass of wine as much as I needed it then…


Now I know you want to know the dirt. And I’m going to give it to you over the next couple of days but it’s going to take a while to process it all. So I’ll share this one story with you for now where I met the craziest woman at BlogHer (and trust me when I tell you that was a very high honor to achieve with some stiff competition).

The first day I was sitting at a table with Mary from Unmitigated, Amy from OutdoorDogs, Jen Lancaster (and if I have to tell you from where, you really should not be here), Cassie Boorn and Mrs. Fussypants herself, Alli Worthingon. We are all sitting there having a great conversation when this woman who clearly had a high dose of the crazy going on walks up and sort of stares at us until we stop talking. To give you a visual, on her head appeared to be something that was a cross between a poodle and a really pissed off cockatoo. We all sort of blinky stared at her for a few moments until she spoke.

Crazy: Are you guys mommy bloggers?
All of Us: Yes. (Well, except Jen who obviously is not and I think was still trying to process her hair…)
Crazy: Do you guys make money?
All of Us: No. (Well, except Jen and once again if I have explain why she is the exception to the rule…you need to leave now.)
Crazy: Then why do you do it?
TSM: Um, because we enjoy it and we all got to be friends through it.
Crazy: Pausing for some thought here as she looks at her food…then: Well, I guess I’ll still sit with y’all.
All of Us: *blink blink*

So we go back to talking and trying to pretend like craziness is not sitting right there with us. (Hello, Uncomfortable…so glad you could join us.) A few minutes later, she fires up again.

Crazy: So you guys really don’t make any money?
All of Us: NO!!!
Crazy: Then why do you do it?
All of Us: *begin collective banging of heads on tables*
Crazy: Y’all must not be doing it right then.
Alli: Excuse me?
Crazy: I said..If you aren’t making any money you must not be doing it right.
Alli: Do you realize you are sitting at the table with Jen Lancaster who is a NYT Best Selling Author of four books?
Crazy: Yeah? Well she didn’t make any money off her blog though….

At which point, Jen quietly got up and excused herself while the rest of us sat there with our mouths hanging open. I cannot make this stuff up people. Bitch be crazy.

Come back soon and I’ll tell about how in 24 hours I managed to have encounters with Carson Kressley, Paula Deen, Mrs. Potato Head and a streaker which truly taught me the meaning of “bad naked”.

…and I have the pictures to prove it, you have been warned.

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Insurance Horror Story…Read It And Tweet!

by Mary Anne on July 17, 2009

I don’t do this often, but I’m asking for help from you guys. I want you to read this post and tweet it and re-tweet it because it’s a story that needs to be told.

We’ve all had our battles with insurance companies, right? I had a pretty massive one with mine when I had Miss G and accidentally underpaid my monthly bill by $7.00 and they expected me to foot the entire bill. I kicked and I screamed and I got my way. They paid. I have a friend, however, who is not having the same luck. And the situation she faced was far more serious than the simple birth of a child.

Her name is Jennifer West Jablon and she only wanted one thing.

She wanted a chance to live.

Jennifer recently underwent a double mastectomy voluntarily because she had the BRCA1 gene. She’s young and she’s a single mom. She also has a family history of breast cancer. Her mother is one of five daughters, three of whom were diagnosed with breast cancer and one of the sisters died from it. Being a responsible mom, Jennifer went and had the test to find out if she was at risk. The news was not good. Her doctors told her she had an 85% chance of developing breast cancer by the time she was 40 and a 99% chance of developing it later in life. Her doctors advised her that the best possible route was to undergo a voluntary double mastectomy and that is exactly what she did. Because she is a single mother.

And she wants to live to raise her son.

Jennifer is also responsible financially. She took out two disability policies to pay for her five week recovery. (Editorial note: When I first posted this, I neglected to mention she took out the policy when she started her job over one year ago, not right before the surgery. At that time, she did not have her surgery planned. For anyone who was wondering about this, please see her note in the comment section.) The first company, Mutual of Omaha, was to pay 60% of her salary. The second, Colonial Life, was to pay a per diem to make up the difference. She paid her premiums. She went into this surgery knowing she was doing the best thing for her and her son and willingly put herself through a tremendous amount of pain and a ton of reconstructive surgery for one thing.

She wants to live.

However, after paying her premiums and doing all the right things and getting the recommendations from the doctors the insurance companies now do not want to pay what they rightfully owe her. Jennifer has tried to reason with them, even sending letters to them explaining the situation and how she certainly would have cost them much more money down the road with radiation, chemotherapy and everything else that goes with a cancer diagnosis.

It’s also important to note that her primary health insurance carrier deemed this medically necessary.

Her emails to the companies that denied her were Scientific:

“I made this decision to have a Prophylactic Mastectomy based on a recommendation by my Surgical Breast Oncologist, Dr. David Euhus, MD, at UT Southwestern Medical Center who has received the following accolades for his work with breast cancer: Marilyn R. Corrigan Distinguished Chair in Breast Cancer Surgery (2003) and The George & Carol Poston Professorship in Breast Cancer Research (1999). I also attended several seminars on genetic breast cancer screening and treatment organized by FORCE (Facing our Risk Cancer Empowerment).”

…and Emotional:

“I am a single mom of a 7 year old boy so it is my responsibility to raise him as well as provide for his needs. In having the surgery, I feel like I am prolonging my lifespan, and to provide for his needs I took out two disability policies so that I could pay my bills.
I proactively took a step that could ultimately save my life and keep me from having to go through chemotherapy and/or radiation. It was neither an easy decision to make nor an easy procedure to endure. I was in surgery 12.5 hours of surgery followed by 12 hours in ICU and 4 more days in the hospital a total of 5 days inpatient care.”

…and finally POWERFUL:

“The costs to all parties involved would be more significant had I waited to develop cancer and then seek treatment. The cost for me and my son could have been my life.”

Jennifer did the right thing. She saved her life so she can be present for her son and help him to grow in to a strong and capable young man. And now, the insurance companies want to bicker with her over what is a small amount of money to them given the premiums they collect on a daily basis from trusting customers who expect them to honor their commitments when they most need it.

The only hope Jennifer has of recovering her money is to make as much noise as possible which is where you come in. If you would tweet or stumble this, you will be my personal hero. Until we all stand up for each other, the big insurance companies like Mutual of Omaha and Colonial Life will still keep taking advantage of the weakest among us when we really need it. The only hope she has right now to get the money they rightfully owe her is to make a bunch of noise.

Her name is Jennifer West Jablon. She deserves to have the right to fight for her life.


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