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Love & A Few Tears

Over the years of jabbering on about house stuff I occasionally get questions about my family. How many siblings I have, how I grew up, etc. I always say it was a somewhat un-traditional childhood… in the best possible way. I was raised by my mom and dad, who split up when I was very young (a few years after my younger brother Daniel was born) so we just had two houses and bounced happily between them.

I remember when a kid at school once teased me for having divorced parents and I put the “I have two houses and you only have one and I get double the holiday presents” spin on it. Looking back, it was a moment of pure genius. Haha. No more teasing.

I also grew up with my half brother Adam, who was born after my dad married my step mom Nina a while later (he was 11 years younger than me). You might remember him from his cameo in the most embarrassing moment ever caught on film when I was 17.

But I always say I’m the oldest of five – and the only girl. So where do the other two fit in? Well, my Aunt Kay Kay (as we lovingly call my mom’s sister) and her two sons named David and Darius actually moved in with us when my brother and I were very young (my brother was 3 and I was 6). My mom is one of seven children, and while many of my aunts and uncles lived closer, Aunt Kay Kay and her kids used to live in Maryland, so we didn’t get to see our cousins very often, who were 2 and 4 at the time when they moved in… which was just one of about a million reasons we were SO excited for them to move in with us.

My aunt had been diagnosed with a craptastic disease called Multiple Sclerosis, so raising all four of us under one roof with my mom was a way that my mom could lend a hand to my aunt and also a way that my aunt could help us. My mom’s an attorney, and back in those days she was working her buns off to make partner at her firm, so she often got home late. So it was great to come home to my aunt after school, and on most nights she cooked us dinner and helped us with our homework. It was kind of a crazy house with four kids so close in age (four kids born within five years), but growing up with them honestly made me who I am today. Here’s my Aunt Kay Kay with me and my cousin David in the pool when we were little. Isn’t she beautiful?

My aunt was always laughing. She was “the nice one” while I, being the oldest of all the boys, proudly wore my title as “the bossy one.” My brother was “the smart one,”  my cousin Darius was “the funny one,” my cousin David was “the crazy one,” and my mom was “the strict one.” So you can guess that when it came down to asking an adult if we could do something… well, we’d usually ask my aunt before my mom.

It was an odd little madhouse, but it was our madhouse and we loved it. So when people ask me how many siblings I have, I usually just say that I’m the oldest of five, and the only girl. But for those who have time for more details, I explain that my total includes one brother, one half brother, and two cousins who grew up under one roof with us like they were our brothers. We had all sorts of adventures over the years – from building forts in the woods to epic sock fights (don’t ask) and karate tournaments in New York City (that’s Darius on the left, me next to him, Daniel second from the right, and David on the right). We kicked some booty that day.

My aunt battled with her multiple sclerosis like a champ. Always smiling and making jokes. Always working hard to stay mobile. First she walked with a cane, then a walker, then a wheelchair, and for the last ten years or so she has been bedridden. Didn’t stop her from smiling (most notably when we stuck Burger or Clara in her bed – that always made her giggle). Strongest, bravest and sweetest woman I know.

Yesterday she passed away. It was a very very sad day. So although this might sound like a bummer of a post, I wrote it because I always wanted to remember how amazing and life-changing it was to grow up with such an awesome lady in my life. And I want Clara to be able to read about her Great Aunt Kay Kay someday. She could light up a room then, and thinking about her now brings a smile to my face. Just picturing us all gathered around the breakfast table fills me with nostalgia.

We’ll be back this afternoon with some regular DIY-related fare. In the meantime, feel free to tell/call/text/email/skype the ones you love. Family is such a blessing. And I’m so thankful for the one I got.

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Busted

Ok, so I naively thought this day would never come, but I have been busted. I mistakenly believed that I could get through my adult life without The Most Embarrassing Thing Ever being brought up 13 years later, but people are smart and the internet is wide. So after more than a few “Who me? I don’t know what you’re talking about, haha” comment denials, I’m coming clean. My name is Sherry $herdog, and I was on MTV when I was 17. And it was easily the most embarrassing compilation of moments that could ever be edited together.

I’m an over-sharer, so some folks might wonder why I’d try to hide from this video. And to you I’d say: it’s one thing to invite people into your home and share a video that accidentally features your bra laying out on a bedroom chair or an interview where you flail around jerkily and generally look crazy or admit that you walk around covered in dog fur and cream cheese smears, but it’s a whole different ballgame to say “Let’s take a time machine back to my most awkward moments as a seventeen year old girl being surprised while life-guarding and told she’ll get to interview Eminem for a show called FANatic on MTV – oh look, I have the whole thing on video for you, let’s all sit down and watch it together.” Now excuse me while I giggle uncontrollably for ten minutes. I do that when I’m nervous.

Allow me to spill a few secrets: shows like this are a smidge set up. It’s not to say that I wasn’t completely Marshall Mathers obsessed (I was) but there are certain things you’re highly encouraged to mention so that you come across as the most deserving fan. Things like “I aspire to be a rapper someday.” I’ll pause while you snort whatever you’re drinking out of your nose. It’s true that I did what I like to call “ironic rapping” with my best friend Mariam at high school talent shows (we once donned orange puffy vests and belly shirts and parodied the Eminem/Dre duet Forgot About Dre) but it’s a Jersey thing. You had to be there to understand that it was not meant to be taken seriously. It was our version of Weird Al-ing someone. So no, I didn’t actually hope I’d be touring the country as a famous female rapper when I grew up.

Of course the show sets up situations too, like us going to the old burger joint where Eminem used to work before the interview…

… but it was pretty cool as a teenager to see some random restaurant and think “he really worked here just a few years ago flipping burgers?” Fun fact: the people I’m serving at that table in the restaurant are the limo driver and one of the production people who carted us around.

A few other things about the show were “orchestrated.” For example, I hardly knew the girl who surprised me at the pool and came with me on the entire adventure. See, MTV required that the “friend” of the person being featured was 18 or a parent would have to accompany the fan and the friend (which I’m guessing cramped the crew’s style). So when I was going through the whole “you might be a finalist” phase of the process, they asked me about my friends and I gave a list of all my best 17 year old buddies and they sort of heavily suggested that I list someone over the age of 18. So the girl who worked at the front desk at the Marriott (where I was a lifeguard for years, represent) got listed – and she was the friend they picked to surprise me. And yes, it’s still really cool to be in a limo when you’re 17. Especially if you flash the peace sign with your sleeves rolled up.

Here’s where it gets extra embarrassing. At some point in the interview the word “phat” inexplicably slips out of my mouth. I never said that word before and have never said it since. I can only blame temporary insanity at the thought of sitting next to a hip-hop star and somehow thinking $herdog could pull off a term like that. And I couldn’t. It rung in my ears for the rest of the interview while I continued to grin like a crazy person and giggle nervously. Although a lot of this experience is what I like to call “retroactively embarrassing” (since at the time it was really cool and I felt really lucky to be chosen), the moment I realized I said “phat” on national television was the moment that I wanted to punch myself in the face.

Then they asked me to rap. Repeatedly. It’s bad. Very very bad. Oh and about the pigtails, I wanted to wear a ponytail and an arm band (yes, an arm band) but the crew gently suggested the pigtails and no arm band. I’m thankful they nixed the arm band but still a little weirded out by the pigtails. So without further ado…

As for how I even got on the show, my friends dared me to send in a tape since I really was a hardcore fan and they thought I had a shot at being chosen. Meanwhile I believed I had zero chance, hence me doing all sorts of ridiculous things that I thought would never be on TV/YouTube (like sitting in a tub full of M&M’s) because I truly believed with every fiber of my being that I would never make the cut.

MTV does a really cruel thing to make you think you weren’t chosen (at least it felt cruel at the time) in order to get that completely surprised ‘surprise shot’ when they sneak up on you. They’re in pretty constant contact with you for a while to collect things like “what you would ask if you were chosen” and “who you would bring as a friend if you were chosen” and then they say you’re a semi-finalist but it’s not a done deal, and then they cut off communication for a few weeks. Total radio silence. So you go from being hopeful that you might get picked to completely and utterly bummed out that you didn’t make the cut after thinking “dude, I might actually get flown to Detroit to meet Eminem.” Which is a pretty cool concept as a 17 year old.

This is of course when you forget about the footage of yourself in a tub of M&Ms and it sounds like it could be The Coolest Thing You’ve Ever Done and not The Most Embarrassing Thing Ever a decade or so later. But I have to admit that as a teenager it was a pretty fun time. I got to fly somewhere with a camera crew and without my parents, they put us up in a cool hotel, and Marshall was actually a really nice genuine guy (now I’m going to get weird and tell you that he had the best looking hands I’ve ever seen in my life). And he did kiss my neck, which at the time made me believe we would soon be married and we’d go on to have three bouncing babies named Slim, Shady, and Stan (kidding). Dude, I took a picture of my neck after it happened. I’m that girl (can you believe I managed to bag a guy like John? I still can’t).

So I’m not ungrateful for the experience. In fact, it was kind of amazing (it made “the morning announcements” at my high school – haha). But the fact that the footage from a defunct show from over 13 years ago is now somehow on YouTube is something I never imagined. Haha. Oh well. The cat phat is out of the bag.

Now you tell me your most embarrassing secrets so we’re even. Go.

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