Friday, July 31, 2009

career counseling

Since Jimmy left on Tuesday, Mac and I have been watching entirely too much Discovery Channel. You know those shows I'm talking about, like Ice Loggers and Swamp Loggers and Deadliest Catch? We also added Whale Wars on Animal Planet to our line-up tonight. Definitely making up for lost television time from the last few years.

Watching these shows has got us talking about all sorts of careers that we just didn't know existed. Really, did you know before watching Whale Wars that there are people who work on a ship called the Sea Shepherd who fight big whaling ships in the Antarctic? We are talking hand-to-hand combat almost. I have to find out when the next episode comes on to see how this latest whale war ends. I now understand why people have DVRs.

So tonight Mac started a discussion about going to college and his future career. The conversation went something like this:

M: I wonder where I'll go to college. Maybe Texas or Los Angeles.
Me: If your father has anything to say about it, you'll go to Carolina.
M: I could go to Australia.
Me: You could, but that would be a long flight home to come see your mom.
M: Yeah, or maybe I'll go to Alaska.
(Mac is currently obsessed with Alaska).
Me: Yeah maybe, but I'm not sure what sort of schools they have there. I guess where you'll go will depend on what you want to be. Because you should go to a school that specializes in whatever you think you want to be.
M: I could be an army guy.
M: But army guys get shot at.
M: Or maybe I could be a police officer.
M: But bad guys carry pistols and they shoot at police officers.
M: I think I'll work at a hotel.
Me: Good idea. What do you think you'd like to do at a hotel?
M: I'd like to do room service.
Me: That's interesting. You mean you'd like to be the one who serves room service?
M: No, I think I'd like to own the hotel.
(Obviously and unbeknownst to me, "doing" room service is equivalent to owning the hotel where said room service takes place.)
Me: Even better. But that costs a lot of money.
M: I won't buy a hotel. I'll build a hotel.
(Clearly we need to switch the television from Discovery to HGTV so he can see how much building even a house costs.)

Me: Well that sounds good. What do you think you'd name it?
M: Big Mac's Hotel.

So there you have it. We have career counseled at Casa Story at the tender age of 6. We've ruled out anything that involves getting shot at, we've recognized an entrepreneurial spirit, and we want our business' name to reflect the entrepreneur behind it. My job is done.

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Jimmy has arrived in Kabul

After a bumpy flight from Charleston to Atlanta, a LLLOOONNNNGGG but comfortable in business class flight from Atlanta to Dubai, an overnight in a hotel in Dubai, and a hop from Dubai on a plane piloted by a Spaniard, Jimmy has arrived in Kabul. He just Skyped from his hooch and let me tell you, deluxe accommodations the hooch is not! It comes equipped with metal bunk beds (which he's sharing with another guy who also just flew in), a bathroom, a tv and dvd, and that's about it. He panned the laptop around so I could see it, but honestly, if he'd been sitting at a different angle, I probably could have seen the whole thing from his webcam. Our rental house is not large by any stretch of the imagination, and he said the entire hooch could fit in our master bedroom.

He's off to the cafeteria or mess hall or whatever they call it to eat dinner. Tomorrow night is "Surf and Turf Night" which apparently is a big draw, but he wasn't sure what tonight's feature was. It almost sounds like he's on vacation.

I can't report a lot of Jimmy's goings-on on the blog, but he did tell me I could tell you about the hooch. I will report as I can, but he's on Facebook and also has his Yahoo account so please keep in touch with him. He would love to hear what you're up to!

As for Mac and me, we continue to get settled in. Yesterday we met with the school nurse to discuss Mac's "allergy plan". Boy, was it all official. They really take allergies seriously. That spurred me on to make his appointment for the pecan open food challenge which will occur next Tuesday. He believes that the future of his beloved Nintendo DSi is in jeopardy if doesn't eat the pecans so hopefully there will be no outbursts at the allergist's office worthy of Best Dramatic Performance Oscar awards.

I thought my new job was supposed to start on Monday but the start date has been pushed back to August 17, which is great as that gives me more time with Mac before he starts school on the 20th. And it also gives me time to get our sea shipment unpacked. We got news yesterday that the shipment had arrived in Miami and had cleared customs. The warehouse lady called and asked for James. When I told her that James was out of the country already, she said she had to get his authorization to release the shipment to me. WHAT? Doesn't she know I have his power of attorney that allows me to do anything and everything I want to do???? And surely that includes receiving MY household effects?!??! Fortunately she reached Jimmy in Dubai and he emailed his authorization.

Yesterday afternoon, Mac and I went to see the movie "G Force" with my niece and nephew. When we came out of the theater, it was pouring down rain and we had to make a run for the car. I was carrying Jackson and told Mac and Hayley to hold hands together and to hold my hand as we ran. They decided we should be the G Force characters and that we'd never leave a man behind. Hayley got to be Juarez (the only girl guinea pig), Mac was Blaster (the cool, hip guinea pig), Jackson was Darwin (the smartest one) and I got to be Hurley, who was the fat pet store hamster with the big hair. Clearly they don't recognize my power anymore than the warehouse lady....

Saturday, July 25, 2009

a grown-up night away

On Thursday, Jimmy's mom picked up Mac, and Jimmy and I escaped for a night away in Charleston. We ate sushi for lunch on King Sreet, wandered in and out of the shops on King Street and down some of the smaller streets of Charleston, had afternoon drinks on the rooftop terrace at the Market Pavilion Hotel, and checked into our lovely room at the HarbourView Inn before enjoying their late afternoon wine and cheese selection.

Jimmy was supposed to be in charge of choosing the dinner restaurant, but I really wanted to eat at Oak Steakhouse because I had a hankering for a good piece of red meat and there's so much buzz about this place that I thought we should try it. We ditched "Brazilian time" and arrived promptly at 7:40 for our 7:45 reservation, to be told by the restaurant manager that we were running ahead of them and would we have a drink at the bar while we waited. The bar was packed and Jimmy had to wait a long time for service. After he'd gotten the drinks and we'd been waiting for about 30 minutes, I noticed them clearing a semi-circular table right in the bar area, and I told Jimmy that they were going to try to seat us there. Sure enough, this lovely young hostess came over and asked if we were ready to be seated. Jimmy replied "yes, but not at that table." Oak is in a lovely restored 3-story bank building on Broad Street and there was no need to be seated on the 1st floor with the noisy bar patrons when there were more civilized stories above.

Jimmy asked when we could expect to be seated upstairs and the hostess replied that there were several tables getting ready to leave and as soon as they'd left, they clean the table and seat us. We kept watching for twosomes to descend the stairs, but nobody (twosomes, foursomes, nobody) exited. So imagine our surprise when the manager came back and told us that they were preparing a table for us that he thought we'd love: it was right in the middle of things and we'd be able to see who was coming and going. I told Jimmy this didn't sound good to me and sure enough, we turned the corner to ascend the stairs and Jimmy spotted the table at the top of the staircase on the 3rd floor, all by itself like it wasn't supposed to be there.

Once we got to the top of the stairs and could see the beverage station right by our table, complete with a tray of dirty glasses, I realized this was not going to do. The manager attempted to seat us but I told him we weren't sitting there. I said that my husband was going to Afghanistan on Tuesday, that we'd left our child at home for a special night away and we'd chosen this restaurant especially and I was not going to sit in a water refilling station. (The aforementioned husband, by the way, had shrunk back and was trying to blend into the wall during my firm but controlled address.)

The manager then introduced himself as Michael and told us that he completely understood and that if we would wait a few more minutes, he would get a great table, that they appreciated people who served our country and that he would "make this right". Michael had a wonderful sense of humor and as we sat on two chairs at the top of the stairs to wait, he told me to keep my eyes open for anything I noticed wrong in the restaurant.

Michael periodically checked in and on one of his passings-by told us again that he would make this right, he was very sorry for our wait, etc. Finally an older couple left and we were seated in what Michael said was the most sought-after table for two in the restaurant. It was tucked into its own little space so we could hear and see the happenings around us, but we felt like we were in our own little world.

One waiter came over to bring menus and water, and then another waiter named Bradley came over and told us he would be taking care of us and that he was so sorry for our wait (it was 45 minutes after the reservation time by now). He asked us if we'd accept a glass of champagne as a courtesy, and we figured that was Michael "making it right" so we accepted.

We had the most wonderful meal - Jimmy started with she crab soup and then we moved on to our main courses of filet mignon for me and a cajun New York strip for Jimmy with shared Johns Island butter beans and gorgonzola cottage fries for both of us. I have eaten a lot of good meat in my life, but that filet mignon was probably the best I've ever had.

We were both too full for dessert so we asked Bradley for the bill. When he came back over, he said they were really appreciative of people who served our country and that Michael had taken care of everything on the bill. Wow. We thanked him profusely and gave him a huge tip and then before we left, the chef and owner, Brett McKee, came over to thank Jimmy for serving the country and to make sure that we'd enjoyed everything. Wow again.

If you're looking for a great meal in Charleston, I highly, highly recommend Oak Steakhouse at 17 Broad Street. If you order the filet mignon, you will not be disappointed. Check them out at

We returned to the HarbourView Inn too late to enjoy their warm cookies and milk, but we had a great breakfast in our room yesterday before heading out to window-shop more and lunch at Magnolia's, which used to be one of my favorite restaurants in Charleston. The food was not as good as I remembered, and the waitstaff and young hostess left a lot to be desired in terms of ability and pleasantness. I don't know if Magnolia's is resting on its laurels now since it's been so highly acclaimed for so long, but it wasn't our best experience and there are too many truly great restaurants in Charleston to rest on your laurels.

Now we're back in our nice little house in Summerville and I'm preparing to make myself scarce. Jimmy and Mac will spend the late afternoon with two of Jimmy's Carolina friends and their children at our community pool before grilling out. Since no other wives are going to in attendance, I feel it would be better for me to excuse myself and do something like take myself to a movie that I've been wanting to see or continue my quest for the perfect living room rug or look for the nesting tables I want for the living room or drink coffee at Starbucks or something like that.

Three days until wheels-up. Time is ticking...

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

one of the benefits of living close to your neighbors!

As you may recall, our internet/cable/phone bundle isn't being installed until Monday because Time Warner Cable isn't so big on speedy delivery. After our McDonald's internet foray the other day, Jimmy climbed into bed with his laptop to watch a movie and - BIG SHOCKER - he had an internet connection. In Sao Paulo, we could barely get wireless to work from one room to another in our own apartment, so thank you, dear neighbors of White Gables! Courtesy of you, we have internet right now. Lest you think we're just moochers, you can steal from us starting next Monday!

Sunday, July 19, 2009

only 9 more days to go in the "month of fun"

Jimmy is with us for just 9 more days before he heads to the land of Pashto. Our so-called "month of fun" is nearly over and I just can't believe it.

We've packed a lot in - 8 days in Disney World with great friends, a week at Folly Beach with family, movies, bowling, eating (lots), a move into our new rental house...

Our next 9 days will include more friends, more family, moving trucks arriving, a grown-up night away in Charleston at a "fancy" hotel and dining at "fancy" restaurants that don't have children's menus, eye doctors, dentists, new eyeglasses made, a tour of Mac's new school, wills and power of attorneys to be executed, etc. Does the list end? I guess it will on July 28 whether it's all done or not.

When I let myself think about Jimmy going, I feel overwhelmed, so I just don't think about it too much. We're clearly a case of the sum of the parts being greater than the parts on their own. But a year doesn't last forever and that's what I have to remind myself of in those moments when I allow myself to go dark.

We don't have internet at home yet and won't have it installed until a week from tomorrow. Apparently Time Warner Cable is super-busy and can't fit us into their schedule. I say hire more people but they say be patient. Unless we come back to McDonald's to use their Wi-Fi (which feels a little weird and smells a little greasy), postings will resume after next Monday. Stay tuned....

Thursday, July 9, 2009

just in case you're wondering...

... or are obsessive-compulsive like me, I have been trying to change the header on The Story Tales off and on for the last month to read "Currently being brought to you from South Carolina" as we are obviously not in Sao Paulo anymore. But alas, my computer skills are impaired and what seems an easy task with a few keystrokes on the layout page has me stumped.

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

tales from the SC DMV

Jimmy and I accidentally let our Maryland driver's licenses expire. This little lightbulb didn't go off until Jimmy tried to rent a car on our vacation in Salvador in February, only to be told that he didn't have a valid driver's license and couldn't rent the car. His expired on his November 4 birthday and so we rented the car under my license which didn't expire until my April 1 birthday.

I knew I wasn't renewing a MD license and would need to get a SC license and was panicked about having to take the written test all over again. After my mom and Jimmy's mom checked with different DMV locations and I called the SC DMV hotline number, I was sure that we wouldn't have to take the test because our old licenses would be within the magical 9-month window of expiration.

My first stop after arriving in Charleston in late June was the DMV. (Okay, really it was the second stop after Chick-Fil-A, but that's getting technical). I got my license with really no problem and have the next decade to live with a photo of me after just getting off an overnight flight. Stunning.

Jimmy was waiting until he got to SC to get his license renewed so that was the first order of business for him on Monday morning after we returned from Disney World on Sunday night.

Before I go further, let me just say that I know there must be intelligent people who work at the SC DMV. This next part isn't about them.

If you hold out all 10 fingers and count off 9 months from November 4, that'll take you to August 4. I know. I've done it several times. The general dumbing-down theory applied to Jimmy upon entry in the DMV office because when four different people told him he missed the 9-month cut-off on July 4, he believed it (even though I'd told him he would still be good to get his license). So they made him take the written test and he took it. He asked what happened if he failed, and they said he could return the next business day. The SC DMV apparently doesn't believe in making you study longer and harder to make sure you're a safe driver. But why would they when they have the sort of questions they have on the test?

There were some of the expected ones like how far from making a turn should you turn on your blinker? No idea. How many feet do you leave between you and the car in front of you. Nary a guess. I have no idea why I was so stressed about having to take the written test over because those were the only two difficult ones. The other ones were things like a picture of a left turn arrow with a slash through it and you had to guess what that meant. Ummm. No left turn? Or my favorite: you approach a flashing caution light. What do you do? One of the wrong answers was drive to the middle of the intersection, stop and see if anything is coming. There's no wonder there are so many rocket scientists on the road in SC.

After Jimmy took and passed the written test, he called me at Chuck E. Cheese where we were celebrating my nephew's 3rd birthday to tell me that he was getting ready to take the driving test. When I asked why and he told me that he missed the July 4 deadline and was having to do all the testing, I asked him to open all 10 fingers and count off from November 4. Apparently once you're inside the DMV building, all bets on intelligence are off.

The good news is that we're both licensed again and I think brain regeneration is progressing nicely.