You Can Totally Do This

Tomorrow, America’s Next Top Model returns to the CW for it’s 23rd season “cycle.” (That number is approximate.) Tyra Banks, God bless her, is an entertainer. Perhaps not in the manner in which she envisions, but an entertainer nonetheless. While some may beweep ANTM’s outcast state, for me every worsening edition is the lark at break of day arising, singing hymns at heaven’s gate. For when something goes from good to bad, to really bad, to unbelievably bad, we somehow cycle (ha!) back around to an art form that is nothing more or less than pure poetry. Hence the Shakespeare.

Jay Manuel

Jay Manuel, my spirit guide.

Back when I believed myself better than the pure poetry that is Tyra Banks, I became sick. A nasty head cold, mild fever, the kind of sick where you can’t sleep but you can’t do anything productive, either. You’re caught in limbo. Until you find an ANTM marathon on VH1 and suddenly you find out what heaven is like. “Who is the man with silver hair?” you ask, your voice ethereal as it drifts through heaven’s misty clouds. “He is our spirit guide,” the angels whisper back. “And creative director, Jay Manuel.”

A few months after my discovery of ANTM I found myself on a night much like tonight, knowing that in a couple of days, the insanity would begin again. I slipped off to sleep, and there a dream overtook me.

I dreamed that I was me, and yet I was also a contestant on America’s Next Top Model. The other girls were as stupid and tall and skinny and mean as they always are, but I was confident. Jay Manuel, our “creative director,” gathered us for a challenge. Oddly, the challenge had nothing to do with modeling. Rather, it was our job to draw a picture. “Sweet!” I thought. “This challenge is really playing to my strengths.”

I drew a picture of a steam locomotive climbing a hill. It was a picture full of verve and ferocity. Jay was most pleased, especially as the other contestants had failed miserably. Right then and there, before all the rest of the girls, Jay turned to me and said, “you’re short, you’re fat, and you’re old, but you can TOTALLY do this.” I looked over at the others, haughty superiority in my eyes. “That’s right, chicas,” I silently communicated to them. “I can TOTALLY do this.”

Tales from a Fourth Grade Something


Doesn't this just make you crave cranberries and stuffing?

Today, we have a special guest blogger. The 4th grade version of my husband. You see, when we bought our little house, we inherited about 55 file boxes full of Evan’s various works. I sat down and went through them all. There was a theme. That theme was violence. Tanks, missiles, guns, jets and battle scenes. Oh, the battle scenes. Thousands of battle scenes.

At one point I came upon a beautifully drawn and colored Thanksgiving turkey. “Oh!” I thought, “how sweet! He WAS capable of depicting something non-violent!” The turkey’s little wing was folded under itself. I straightened it out. The turkey was holding an ICBM. Ah, yes, nothing says Thanksgiving like an intercontinental ballistic missile.

The first bit of writing I came across was a letter Evan, then a kindergartner, wrote to President Ronald Reagan, who he clearly saw as a like-minded man. The letter was simple and to the point.

Dear Mr. President,

I would like to raise an army of children.


Eventually, I came upon a journal Evan had been directed to keep by his 4th grade teacher. I gather the students were told to write whatever they wished for certain amount of time. This was Evan’s first entry:

You may find my stories interesting. My illustrations are extraordinary as well. If you think Michael’s stories are good you ain’t seen nothing yet. I intend to write a book soon. Your favorite author, Evan.

Evan grew up with a lot of love and support.

One of the fascinating aspects of living in Clemson, and of being married to Evan, is that all of the characters in these stories are still a part of our daily lives. I went jogging with Michael just the other day. Not only that, but we still make the same jokes. Why, it’s been no more than a week since we last mocked Darren’s sizable skull. Here is a later entry, the first in a series entitled, Darren’s Date.

One day I walked bye [sic] Dian’s house. Then I saw Darren inside. I went to a knot hole and I looked in. Just in time. Darren was getting mushy with Dian. WOW it was getting heavy.

Just then Wyatt smashed down the door and tackled Dian and started kissing Dian. Darren got up cussing then Wyatt and Darren got in a fight. I walked in and through [sic] Wyatt out the window.

All of a sudden John came in and though [sic] Darren in the toilet and tried to flush it. Boy was Darren mad. Darren cussed John out. John kicked Darren through the roof. Crash slam! Darren came down in the sewer.

Me and John were hanging out at the Clemson pub that night. Then Darren came in. Boy did he stink. He tried to tackle me but he crashed into the wine and beer bottles. He got kicked out and totalled 22 cars with his thick head.

Wyatt, the one with the window bill, was in bed. Darren walked in and wap! smash! Wyatt kicked him out the window of the 50th floor of the hotel. Darren landed on his head so it didn’t hurt anything. Then Darren took a loan for $200,000 to pay for the cars. After that the pub manager sued him for the liquor bill. Which was another $1,500.

Wyatt was over at Dian’s house, me and John stuck a bunch of firecrackers under their sofa. Boy were they scared. Darren came out on his motorcycle. We got in our truck. We led Darren to this ramp we set up for him. Wam! He must have been 50 ft. in the air. He landed in the sewer again. He stunk for months.

Darren was so scared that we’d flush him down the toilet again, he had to live in the sewer.

By Evan.

I am struck by a number of things in this narrative. Firstly, I enjoy the reference to the pub life of ten year olds. Secondly, I enjoy the surprisingly accurate monetary damage assessments. Thirdly, they drive. Also, violence. It’s a theme.

Le Roi est mort

There are times when you regret naming your cat after a 14th Century Polish monarch. Like when she is dying of cancer and the receptionist won’t stop trying to say her name. “Jad Why Gee?” she asks. I correct her. By accident of immigration, she has grown up here, in the Deep South, surrounded by Scotch-Irish and English surnames. “Ged Vee Gee?” she tries again. I correct once more. She doesn’t know me, we have been referred here for tests. She doesn’t know how to see a J as a Y. She doesn’t know the cat is dying. But I do.

The name is Jadwiga. YAHD-VEE-GUH. Jadwiga’s namesake was crowned Rex of Poland in 1384. She was neither a king (being female), nor Polish (being Hungarian-Bosnian). But Jadwiga, the Girl King of Poland, grew into a most noble monarch; a saint, in fact. She was short-lived, but she did much in what time she had. Jadwiga the cat did not. But she was similar to her namesake in her temperance, in her patience and in her sweet acceptance of the world around her. If Jadwiga had been a poem she would have been a haiku. Spare, but all the more beautiful for it.

We watched her come into the world, the runt of her litter. She was born March 10, 1999. Mama Cat, the feral cat we had taken in off the streets, lured in by cans of tuna fish and eventually trapped and tamed, had six kittens. Evan chose Jadwiga and she became his first cat. As a little one she was loving and independent, the only kitten who preferred to leave the others in order to sleep next to you. When Mama Cat fell ill two weeks after having her kittens, Evan and I became surrogate mothers to the litter. They all survived. They all grew up to be extremely loving cats. As Evan said, “we domesticated the hell out of them.”

The litter came of age in time for graduation. We were adults now. We found the kitties homes, but Mama Cat, Jadwiga, and Little Bastard stayed with us. We moved innumerable times that first year. Westwood, Hollywood, Santa Monica, Big Bear, back to Santa Monica, Hollywood again. No matter where we went Jadwiga took it in stride. Another day, another home. As long as she had her Evan she was content. As a young, slender cat she liked to drape herself across his shoulders like a living mink stole. Life was good. We were a full house – a pair and three of a kind.

Over time we moved yet again, to South Carolina. We took in other cats and dogs. They came and went, but the original quintet never changed. Some cats, like Napoleon, Jadwiga hated. Other cats, like Max, she got on with splendidly. Being only human, it took me a long time to recognize the pattern. If Evan had a special affection for the cat, Jadwiga hated him or her. He had chosen her first. She was his, and he was hers.

With time and contentment came weight, and little Jadwiga, runt of the litter, became Big Wiggy. She enjoyed being brushed and rolling around on her back in the sun. She loved her shearling cat beds and her window seat. But most of all she loved her Evan. Her favorite time was when Evan would read in bed and she’d curl into his lap. Her devotion was constant.

Encouraging her sedentary nature was the arthritis in her shoulder. She began going into the vet about once a quarter for a shot to alleviate her condition. It helped a great deal. Always on a diet, Jadwiga came in for a shot and was found to have lost weight. I was happy. Finally, I was getting somewhere. I’d also noticed new behaviors – she wanted to lay on the heating vents or on my computer. At night she slept between us, under the covers, her little head alongside ours. This made sense, considering what a cold winter we’ve had.


A kind, quiet cat/There is a certain, simple/Elegance in that.

Two days after the routine vet visit I took a hard look at Jadwiga. I was becoming suspicious. A handful of days later and we were back at the vet. By then I already knew. Even so, I was shocked to learn she’d lost a pound. There were tests and x-rays and ultrasounds and all of it confirmed what experience had led me to think – she was dying. There were two rounds of fluids and B12 shots and steroids that bought her two weeks of happy hours laying in the sun, rolling around on her back. But she was fading fast, losing a pound a week, and neurological problems set in. She was losing coordination. She was holding her head at an angle. Her right eye began to weep.

Happy hours dissolved into discomfort. It was time. Our vet came to our house, as he always does, and Jadwiga, Girl King of Poland, was eased out of her suffering, and the quintet was no more.

The Battle of France

The Great Flu of 1918 2010 struck Sunday morning, not long after I’d eaten a bowl of Fiber One. I fear I will never enjoy you again, Fiber One. No, you were not the primary culprit in my suffering, but you were an accessory to the crime. The surprise attack came, as most surprise attacks do, without warning. After the initial volley I was able to fire off a few emergency e-mails. “TO KOURTNEY. STOP. WE ARE UNDER ATTACK. STOP. WILL NOT BE ABLE TO TAKE KIDS TO SCHOOL. STOP.” I wrote a blog post about Lindsey Vonn under a bizarre nausea haze, but before I could proofread and hit publish, I was under siege. I knew that this was no measely 24 hour bug thanks to the person who had given me this gift. (Looking at you, DEB.) She had already given me the lowdown on the progression of hostilities. I knew I was to be France, and Germany (ha! Get it? GERMany?) was about to have its way with me.

The liberation of Paris

The Liberation of Paris

After the blitzkrieg was launched in earnest Evan found me on the bathroom floor, unseeing eyes staring at the ceiling, gurgling. If I had been 27 and a revolutionary rock god that surely would have been the end of me, but luckily I am a small town 33 year old, so I was safe from death by choking on my own vomit. For my part, I came to like so: “Why is my bed so hard? My back already hurts. The bed shouldn’t be so hard. Why is the ceiling different?” And then Evan saying, “are you seeing me now?” I was, and I remembered I was at war.

I passed out again, and again, and made another suicide attempt via taking a nosedive into the pedestal sink. (I still have a nice goose egg on my skull on account of that little manuever.) I had no defenses worth mentioning. Sure, I had looked healthy, but that apparent health was nothing but a Maginot Line, something the enemy forces simply went around, with their Panzer tanks of destruction and doom. Soon enough they were in Paris, and I was left an incoherent muttering mess, unable to say words, let alone complete sentences.

The occupation was long and sad and dreary. And actually, it’s not even really over. But I know the Allies are coming. Rumors have been spreading. I can hear them even now. They will bring with them the ability to eat hamburgers and chocolate and all will be good again. Godspeed, boys, Godspeed.

Lindsey Vonn and a Difference of Opinion

Recently, Good Me and Evil Me sat down for a discussion about the Olympics and America’s Golden Girl (TM) Lindsey Vonn. Here is a transcript of that discussion.

Lindsey Vonn

Lindsey Vonn, a fireplace, and Lindsey Vonn's ego.

GOOD ME: So, the Olympics! A lovely thing, the Olympics! I’ll never forget Shaun White making the birds jealous with his flights over Vancouver snow, or the Canadian figure skater who captured both the bronze medal and our hearts after the tragic death of her mother.

EVIL ME: For me, the Olympics were a lot of meh. Also, I’m curious. You say you’ll never forget, and yet you do not name the Canadian figure skater.

(awkward pause)

EVIL ME: Do you know her name?

GOOD ME: Of course! It’s Le-umm-uh-*cough* Roachette?

EVIL ME: Yeah, that’s what I thought. At least I know the name of the athlete who stuck out in MY mind – Lindsey With-An-E Vonn.

GOOD ME: Are you still on that?

EVIL ME: After she cost Mancuso a medal? Damn skippy!

GOOD ME: By crashing! You’re well named, Evil Me.

EVIL ME: Don’t wear it out. But you know my issue isn’t so much her costing Mancuso the medal as it is that I hate her. Like, a lot.

GOOD ME: *sigh* Please don’t use the word “hate.” It is an ugly word and you do not actually hate Lindsey Vonn. You DISLIKE her because NBC promo’d the holy heck out of her, and I ask you, is Lindsey Vonn in charge of NBC programming? I’ll answer on your behalf – no, she is not. It is not Lindsey Vonn’s fault that NBC decided to make her America’s Golden Girl (TM) and shoved her down our collective throats.

EVIL ME: Let me ask you this, Good Me, did you get the sense Lindsey minded too terribly much?

GOOD ME: How would I know what’s in her head?

EVIL ME: Your evasiveness shows nothing so much as agreement. Besides, I think we all know where Lindsey Vonn’s head’s at ever since the prom thing.

GOOD ME: You and the prom thing.

EVIL ME: She said TWICE, WHILE CRYING, that she’d missed out on so much and the only specific thing she could name was her PROM. HER PROM, DUDE. I mean, c’mon. Could I give up my prom in exchange for becoming the champion of the universe downhill skier? BECAUSE THAT WOULD BE AWESOME.

GOOD ME: I can’t talk to you when you get all cappy and ragey like this.

EVIL ME: And even you, Good Me, must accede the point that the crying was ridiculous. Her own husband/trainer/guy had to say to her, STOP CRYING. In all caps, on national television, he had to say to her, STOP CRYING. I wish Simon Cowell had been there to call her performance, “indulgent.”

GOOD ME: She just won a gold medal! Emotion is to be expected!

EVIL ME: But let us not forget that the immortal Heidi Klum had the last word on crying: “Maybe at night, alone, into your pillow.” Just because the Germans made a good faith effort at genocide doesn’t mean we can’t acknowledge their rightness on the topics of beer, pastries, and crying.

GOOD ME: Oh come on! The poor girl gets injured, she has so much pressure on her as the huge favorite, OF COURSE she’s going to cry, from sheer relief if nothing else.

EVIL ME: Yeah, but she CRIED and CRIED and CRIED… it went on FOREVER. Also, a bruised shin? I’ve played through worse.

GOOD ME: We’re not even going there, Evil Me. On another note altogether, do you not concede that the woman is a phenomenal athlete?

EVIL ME: I won’t argue the point.

GOOD ME: And you love dominant, powerful female athletes!

EVIL ME: This is true.

GOOD ME: So what’s your deal? Lindsey Vonn is the most dominant US female downhill skier ever. You should love that.

EVIL ME: I think it’s just the fact everybody keeps insisting she’s so beautiful.

GOOD ME: Are you going to try to tell me she’s not attractive?

EVIL ME: Eh. She’s fit, she has beautiful hair, and a reasonably symmetrical face. Ergo, the world reads her as attractive. But give her five years on a couch eating chips and put her in Cameron Diaz’s wig from Being John Malkovich and then get back to me.


EVIL ME: I’m just saying, I think the locus of her beauty is her hair. If Julie Mancuso snuck into her Olympic dorm room in the middle of the night and shaved her head, it’d be Britney 2.0. And you know my theory about true beauty.

GOOD ME: (quoting) “A beautiful woman is beautiful even if she’s bald. See, Portman, Natalie.”

EVIL ME: Awww! You do listen to me sometimes!

GOOD ME: It’s impossible to avoid.