Thursday, March 26, 2015

Luck Be A Lady

I spent part of my twenties living near a college town, and I could be found on any weekend night in a bar.  There were several in a row down the main street, and my friend and I would pick one to go to after work, drink beer and talk, and meet people there.  We’d sit at the bar and listen to the jukebox. 

One of the songs that played often was “Luck Be A Lady,” the Frank Sinatra version.  It was a strange song to play in a college bar, but it was the mid-90s and we were in the middle of a Rat Pack resurrection. Swing and jazz were enjoying a resurgence – I had my own collection of cocktail lounge music CDs stuffed in every pocket of my car.  And in the bar, between Pearl Jam and Soundgarden and the ubiquitous Devil Went Down to Georgia, once in a while we’d all sing along to this old hit.

They call you Lady Luck
But there is room for doubt
At times you have a very un-lady-like way
Of running out

I never had much luck at winning chances.  When I was small I won one thing at an elementary school fair – a huge ragdoll someone’s mom made.  I kept that doll for years, until I grew out of it and gave it away.  I never really played with it – the doll sat in the corner of my room on a chair.  Hindsight tells me I should have kept her; she was the only proof I’ve had that one time, I was lucky.

You’re on this date with me
The pickin's have been lush
And yet before the evening is over
You might give me the brush

When I was in college I took an animal racing class as an elective.  We learned how greyhound dogs were bred and kept, learned about the different types of horse racing, and – most importantly – we learned how to place bets at the track.  Our class took a field trip to the local horse track to practice our betting skills.  I didn’t go; I was a poor college student.  I couldn’t afford to lose any money, which was a sure thing for me.

You might forget your manners
You might refuse to stay
And so the best that I can do is pray
Luck be a Lady tonight

Lottery tickets, 50/50 raffles, March Madness brackets, the occasional night out at a casino – my money was wasted.  I’d buy scratch-off lottery tickets at the convenience store and pray that my luck would turn.  I learned that the occasional free ticket wasn’t even enough to get excited about.  I heard of people who keep records of the money they win over the years – their winnings totaled in the thousands.  I never won. 

Luck be a Lady tonight
Luck if you've ever been a lady to begin with
Luck be a Lady tonight
Luck let a gentleman see
Just how nice a dame you can be
I know the way you've treated other guys you've been with
Luck be a Lady with me

My barfly status changed when I got married, and I found that even my husband has better luck than I do.  He’s won much more than I ever have – electronics, cash, clothing.  I tell myself that I’m lucky that he shares his winnings with me.  Still, someone sharing their winnings isn’t the same as winning it yourself.  It’s still discouraging.

A lady never leaves her escort
It isn't fair, it isn't nice
A lady doesn't wander all over the room
And blow on some other guys dice

When the kids were little I’d be hopeful that my unlucky genes stopped with me and I’d give them each a dollar to stick into a scratch-off machine at the grocery store.  They never won.  I convinced myself that I was the bad juju that was keeping them from being instant zillionaires and I taught them to throw their heads back in a dramatic fashion and exclaim disappointment every time, as if they thought that every scratch-off would make them rich. 

Let’s keep this party polite
Never get out of my sight
Stick with me baby, I'm the guy that you came in with
Luck be a lady tonight

I consider myself as lucky in love and health and life, and everybody knows those things are more valuable than winning lottery tickets any day.  But still.  It would be nice to win from one of those scratch-offs, at least once.



Sing it, Frank.

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This post inspired by:

Mama’s Losin’ It

Prompt #3: Talk about a time you got lucky.

Monday, March 23, 2015

Old School Blogging – Random Questioning

Old School Blogging is back with a new bunch of questions for me to answer about myself!  I linked up with Elaine from The Miss Elaine-ous Life this month for Old School Blogging, as always. Because Elaine is amazing.  In fact, I call her Amazing Elaine. Ha ha, no I don't.  But I could.  And so can you.  Because she is.  

I admit, it would be more interesting to read about me if I were, say, Kim Kardashian, or Oprah, or even Beyoncé, three people I know almost nothing about.  I mean, nothing more than the average person who doesn’t particularly care for any of them but who is fascinated by their popularity among average people.

But I’m not any of those people.  I’m just me.

So I’m going to try and make myself seem interesting, mmkay?

Here we go!



If you could be on a reality show which one would you choose?  Simple: Survivor.  I would probably go very far in the show since I have no strategy skills whatsoever, and those people seem to go pretty far because no one pays attention to them.  I don’t really know how to play games.  I don’t care about winning.  I mean, maybe I would care about winning Survivor – one million clams and all.  But realistically, I’d be that person who sort of flies through under the radar and then at the end there are four people left on the island and the other three warriors are all, “Wait.  What is she doing here?  Let’s take her out.”  Meanwhile I just got a three-week vacation on a tropical island, bad food and bugs notwithstanding. Plus, everyone is RIPPED at the end of that show. 

Name one thing you have saved from your childhood? I actually have quite a few things.  I like to throw stuff away, but I have a bin full of stuff from childhood along with some other items that moved with me through the years.  I have a kindergarten math book and some drawings I made when I was three, hair clippings from my first haircut, and some jewelry I wore when I was a kid.  We recently threw out my old Barbies because my daughter decided that 80s Barbies with trimmed hair are not where it’s at.

If your life had a theme song what would it be?  Is That All There Is?



This song is depressing and sort of creepy, I realize.  But throughout life, in every situation, I’ve always wondered what else was behind what was currently happening.  Any version is okay with me, but this is my favorite.  Sing it, Peggy.

Where is your happy place? At home.  In any room, really.  Except for the basement.  We have the most uncomfortable furniture down there.  It’s also cold, dark, and smells like stale popcorn.

What is one thing about your home that you and your spouse disagree on?  How often one should clean out a popcorn maker.  That furniture needs to be replaced periodically.  The length of the grass in the yard.  How many small engines are needed to take care of the exterior of a home.  The worth of dandelions.

Dandelions!
Photo credit: Vince Alongi / Foter / CC BY

What is your favorite fruit?  Eh, fruit.  Bananas, maybe?  Apples?  Watermelon?  Strawberries?  I don’t really care about fruit.

Bowtie or regular tie?  I seriously thought pasta when I read this.  What is regular tie pasta, I thought.  Bowties are okay, I guess, but I prefer corkscrews.  Also, I love a bowtie on a man, but guys, you have to be careful not to look like a douchebag when wearing one.  Just a helpful hint.

Mexican or Italian (food, not men)?  Italian food, Mexican men.  Did I read the question right?

Where do you want to go on Summer vacation?  Paris.  Always Paris.  I probably won’t go this year.  Maybe next?

What are your go-to shoes in your closet?  I own a bunch of comfy sneakers.  My favorites are Nike Eclipses, which are like slippers.  I also have a couple pairs of Chuck Taylor low tops, which aren’t super comfy but they look cute, and I got a pair of Adidas Busenitz for Christmas that I wear a lot.





* * *

Wow, that went fast!  So there you have it – Old School Blogging, random style.   If you’re a blogger and want to link up, visit my friend Elaine from The Miss Elaine-ous Life who got me into this mess, or her friend Julia from Wine in Mom, and check out their posts and some others who also linked up, grab the questions and GO!  And then let me know that you did and I will totally go and read your post.

You can tweet about your list, too – just use #OSBlog.  Find Elaine (@elainea), Julia (@wineinmom) and even me (@about100percent) on Twitter.  Fantastic!


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Thursday, March 19, 2015

Tricksters

In honor of St. Patrick’s Day every year, parents all over America take a tip from the preschool directors’ big book of Hey! Let’s Make More Work At Home! to play Leprechaun for their small cherubs.

If you’re not familiar with the Leprechaun tradition, it’s when you make a mess of your house while the kids are at school or napping or during some other cherished part of your day when you have nothing to do but say, watch Ellen, stuff chocolate peacefully into your maw, mindlessly scroll through Facebook, or even knock back a few whiskey shots to escape the drudgery of life in general.

Yes, you heard that right.  The American parent’s St. Patrick’s Day tradition is one in which you purposely make a mess of your home in order to entertain your children.  In the name of childhood magic.  Not that children need help developing their imaginations.  I’ve personally seen more than one child play with a cardboard box or a wad of crinkled up paper for hours, and have even pretended at a child’s insistence to have a conversation with and shake the hand of a person who isn’t really there.

For years on St. Patrick’s Day, the “Leprechaun” upended our kitchen chairs, moved the garbage can to the counter, opened all the cupboard doors, threw coats and sofa pillows on the floor, moved knickknacks all over the house, sprinkled confetti (CONFETTI!!) on the table and floor, and wrote poems (POEMS!!) in a complex script that described his trickery and ability to wreck the house in the time it takes to recite a dirty limerick.  He also left candy and cookies and green-colored treats like mints, gum and REAL MONEY.  (REAL MONEY!!)

The kids’ eyes would widen at the mess and the goodies.  I would beam.  I was such a good mom.

Then it would be clean-up time.  And *I* would clean up the mess.  Because my kids were, like, four years old.

Stupid does not even begin to express how I felt about this performance around year four (five) of the Leprechaun tradition.


Pretty sure this is an early example of the Leprechaun period in our home.

“I can’t wait until the Leprechaun comes tomorrow,” they simpered late one March sixteenth, clearly knowing the truth but daring me to break the façade.  “Wonder what he’ll leave us this year?  Remember the year he left little mint candies all over the table, and put all of our shoes in the coat closet, and the coats on the shoe rack?  That was hilarious!  How does he do it?  He’s so tricky!”

I cleared my throat, and wore my best “are you kidding me?” face.  “The Leprechaun is not coming this year,” I said.  “I didn’t get to the store to buy green treats, and the only way I’m going to make a mess is if you guys agree to clean it up.  We all know what’s going on here.  This tradition has run its course.”

They stared at me, smarting from the hammer of truth that dropped upon their young, freewheeling minds.  My daughter’s jaw melodramatically flapped open in a semblance of shock.  “Nice, mom,” they scolded.  “We can’t believe you just said that!  You’re destroying our childlike spirit! We want to believe! First the Easter bunny, then the tooth fairy, then Santa, and now THE LEPRECHAUN?”

It’s true. I had swiftly killed off every benevolent conservator of childhood one by one in the name of sanity and a smidge of laziness.  I am a mere human.  I cannot keep straight the web of lies I found myself tangled in every single holiday.   Every year the questions I fielded from my children became more pointed and difficult to answer.  How does Santa visit all the houses in one night?  Where does the tooth fairy get her money?  Why does the leprechaun make such a mess?  Is the Easter bunny just a huge bunny?

I was over it, and the Leprechaun was the last to go.  I had seen the light: our culture, under the guise of giving children sweet memories of magic and wonder, essentially dupes parents into jumping through ever-tightening hoops and feeling like fools.  The worst is that we have to tell the truth at the end, leaving nothing for our children but deflated spirits, not to mention wariness of our own intelligence and trustworthiness.

“Yes.  The Leprechaun is me.  I mess up the house, give you a pack of green gum, you chew it all in one sitting, and I spend the next hour cleaning up my mess.  It was fun for a while, but you guys.  Give me a break, please.”

We continued to stare each other down; one side in disbelief, the other in steely reserve.  Finally, my son broke the spell:

“Can we at least make milkshakes?”

Now there’s a tradition I can really get behind.

*******

This post inspired by:


Mama’s Losin’ It

Prompt #1: A time you were tricked.

Monday, March 16, 2015

Qualified

A few years ago, if someone asked me what my profession was, I’d blink, draw in a breath, smile a little, and then mutter something about being a mom and staying home full-time.  I’d brace myself for a chirpy “Good for you!  Most important job in the world!” and then I’d launch into a list of all the other things I do. I help out in the kids’ school twice a week.  I run our church nursery.  I go to the gym.  I do this that and the other. 

Current projects exhausted, the next question was Did you work before?  There’s no good way to ask this question, yet people want to know.  What did you do before you decided to do nothing?  Like it or not, principles offended or not, I’d start in on my previous qualifications.  I went to college and grad school.  I worked in market research. 

I always felt obliged to drive home the point that I wasn’t a two-dimensional June Cleaver, that I had other interests and skills.  I used to work.  In the business world.  We had clients.  Big ones.

When I started blogging I’d add that to my list of qualifications, as if an additional occupation earned me more space in the world.  “I’m a writer,” I’d say.  “I blog.”  After twenty or thirty blank stares, I quit talking about blogging.  Blogging doesn’t pay.  It’s another questionable career choice.  Non-bloggers don’t understand.  The worst?  I am incapable of explaining it tidily, which makes conversations complicated. 

I write for my own website, and on occasion I write for other websites or review books or products, and I was published in a book once, and there are writing and blogging conferences, and… oh, no, I don’t mind if you take that call.

After enough years of practice reciting my worth, I got tired of it.  Nobody really cares; it’s just small talk, after all.  These days I settle for “I’m a mom” or “I stay home” as the response to the job question. I took notes from a fellow mom and sometimes I say “I never really wanted my own career – I spend my time taking care of my family.”  I simply don’t care about the implications anymore; it’s freeing to know that you don’t have to explain yourself.  Everyone knows what a mom is.  Everyone wants to stay home, even if they say “Oh, I could never stay home!”  Even if they think that I’m wasting my life.

I feel a little foolish that it took so long for me to accept this.  It’s no big deal, after all.   No bigger than someone saying they’re a teacher or a vice president or an interior designer.  Dyed-in-the-wool moms, those who knew at age five that they wanted nothing else but to raise children – they don’t have these feelings.  I’m jealous of their self-assuredness.  They were always sure of their qualifications, of their positions.  They made a choice and never looked back.  I wasn’t blessed with that kind of confidence.

All those years – I was making a big deal out of nothing.  I’m a mom: the greatest job in the world, says everybody as they look around the room for someone else to talk to.  I almost let them convince me that my life would have been better spent had I done something else.

Almost.




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Thursday, March 12, 2015

This Embarrassing Life



My first memorable embarrassing moment happened when I was a cheerleader in elementary school.

I ran out onto the gym floor for a cheer routine during halftime of a basketball game.  I might have been ten or eleven years old.  I was head of the line, and flounced out to mid-court to take my place in the middle of the formation, saddle shoes kicking the edge of my skirt, compatriots in a line right behind me.  I jumped to face the crowd, hands behind my back, all set for our first move.  Ready?  O.K.!

I was alone.  The two teams were only having a time out.  It wasn’t the right time for our cheer.  The rest of the girls had stayed behind, no doubt held back by a coach or fast-acting parent.  Not fast enough to catch me, though.  I was mortified, tragically.  I swallowed my tears, skipped back to the sidelines, and wished for a hole to jump into.

During my school years, I remember falling down stairs while wearing a skirt, tripping up stairs and dropping my books, saying the wrong answer out loud in class, telling a story that made people laugh when it wasn’t my intention to be funny, and bursting into tears in public.  I remember going to the homecoming dance with a plaster cast on my hand while my broken hand healed, and marching around a football field in my colorguard uniform wearing that cast, standing stock still as a placeholder while my fellow flag-wavers twirled and threw their flagpoles up in the air to the marching band's music. 

I remember several bathroom emergencies when people tilted their heads with a mix of compassion and disgust and all I wanted to do was disappear.

Embarrassments in my twenties included roommates throwing back the shower curtain to take surprise! you’re naked! photos, flirting with abandon only to find out that my objet d’amour preferred someone else, over-estimating my alcohol tolerance and displaying one of many unrefined behaviors.  Once I rocketed a tampon out of my pocket during a speech I gave to a college class of about two hundred students. 

I stuttered significantly during my wedding vows in front of two hundred wedding guests.  It was recorded, naturally.  I’ve since become dubious of the importance of wedding videos.

It’s safe to say that only I, and maybe a few others, remember these most embarrassing moments of my life.

As I age the embarrassments get fewer.  I’ve lived through birthing two babies, exposing my most intimate parts to virtual strangers.  I took said babies out in public hundreds of times, resulting in losing my pride along with my mind over and over again.  Through this life I’ve practiced the art of being red-faced, and these days, I take it as it comes. I’ve given myself allowances to say the wrong things, make mistakes, and trip over my feet now and again.  And again and again and again.

I trust that nobody really dwells on my mishaps like I do.  As my mother wisely lectured when I was an angsty teen, nobody thinks about me as much as I think about me.  In short, nobody cares, and if they do, then maybe I’ve made someone’s day a little brighter. 

After all, if they’re laughing at my embarrassing moment, they’re still laughing.  Sometimes, a little humor is more than anyone expects from any of us.

And that’s just fine with me.





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This post inspired by:

Mama’s Losin’ It

Prompt #1: Write a blog post inspired by the word: Embarrassed.

Monday, March 9, 2015

The Witching Hour

We sat together in the family room, each occupying a leg of the broad sectional.  I was reading a book and checking Facebook; he was watching Youtube videos on his phone.

It was during the time of day that parents describe as the witching hour – that hour or so in late afternoon during dinner preparation when young children fall apart from the stresses of the day, whether their day consisted of napping and playing or riding along in the car all day on errands.  Tantrums and full-system meltdowns are common.  The witching hour more often than not tests a parent’s mettle.  I had failed this test many times before.

The witching hour these days occurs a couple of hours after school lets out, and finds them busy with schoolwork or practice and me waiting to drive them somewhere.  Dinner is still prepared during this time, only to be consumed swiftly and in staggered order of hunger level and/or departure or arrival time.

It has become the non-eventful part of the day.

As I sat there immersed in two separate things, I looked over at him, all arms and legs and hair –time for another haircut soon – and I marveled at the rapid growth he’s had recently, the rapid growth yet to come.

He’ll be here four more years – that’s all.  The witching hour days are long past.  And here I am, reading and checking.

Show me how to do this, I said, reaching for the wooden T-shaped toy – the kendama – he had recently started to play with again to occupy his hands and his mind during downtime.  A large wooden ball with a hole drilled into it hung from the crosspiece by a string.  The idea is to fling the ball up in the air using the handle and catch it on any of the three cupped ends, or on the spike that stuck out on top.  I flicked the ball up and promptly cracked it against my knuckle.

He looked up and smiled at my feeble effort.  No, you have to pull it up smoothly.  The trick is to bend your knees to cushion the landing.

Like this?  I tried again.  I barely got the ball in the air.

Well, not exactly… He took the toy from me and did a quick series of tricks, handed it back to me to practice, then disappeared.  In seconds he returned with another kendama, the one he bought on vacation a couple of years ago.

You have to get the feel of it.  Sort of like this… he showed me again.  He’s graceful, this kid.

I studied his technique and tried to imitate it.  To my surprise and totally by chance, the ball landed firmly onto the spike.

He grinned, eyebrows slightly raised.  Good job.  Yep, just like that.

We stood there, each with our own kendama, practicing and attempting to do more advanced tricks.  He showed me a difficult trick that he had been working on, and one that he made up.  I tried to copy him and told him how impressed I am that he picked it up so quickly.

Half an hour passed, and it was time for me to leave to pick up his sister.  Thanks for the lesson, I said. 

You’re welcome, he replied.

* * *

We tell ourselves to put down our devices; we read (and write) articles about spending quality offline time with our kids and spouses to really connect.  We tell ourselves that we do this, that we take enough time away from our phones and tablets and laptops to love on our families.  But we don’t, not really.  Not enough.  We have trouble taking our own advice.

When we hide behind screens, we teach our kids to do the same.  I’m guilty of this.  Years experiencing the witching hour have made me selfish with my time, and I have become accustomed to ignoring the people sitting next to me on the couch.  They ignore me, too.

At some point I break from the lure of the glowing screens and look at these people.  I love them today as much as I ever have.  Do I tell them this?  Do I show them this?

It’s a basic human need, to want attachment.  We find a partner to share life with and couple up; we have children to spread the love and build a legacy.  We fulfill our desires by creating a family.  And sometimes we forget that we want to be connected to others.

That day I remembered.  That day I broke the spell and met my son on his level, and had fun doing it.  It wasn’t earth-shattering.  It wasn’t much time.  It doesn’t have to be.  A moment or two, a squeeze, a smile, a silly joke – it’s all we need to do to connect.  Do it often enough, and our connection becomes stronger.

Even during the witching hour.


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Thursday, March 5, 2015

11/2/97

The restaurant was one of my favorites from high school; I wondered if the breadsticks were still as delicious as I remembered.  I wasn’t sure what time they opened for business on a Sunday, but eleven seemed like a safe time.

We were among the few customers that morning.  The after-church lunch rush was an hour away.

I ordered wedding soup to be clever, but also out of necessity.  My stomach couldn’t handle a heavy meal.  I had butterflies about the date, as well as some general queasiness due to the activities of the night before.  He ordered soup, too.

Have you ever noticed that sleep deprivation feels similar to a hangover?  The nausea, the wooziness, the trouble focusing.  Everything is dark around the edges, muddled, a little uneasy.

Glasses of water came and we gratefully drank.  We spent our words already, it seemed.  We had left each other’s company only a few hours ago, just enough for a little sleep and a shower.

I felt twinges of regret and compassion – he had a nine-hour drive ahead of him to be home in time for work the next day.  I was headed back to school, only five hours away.  I could catch up on sleep at my parent’s house in town; he didn’t have that luxury.

My best friend – the bride – thought that her wedding was a perfect time for us to meet.  She and her groom invited him as a friend, but also as a possibility.  Their matchmaking efforts were thoughtful.  When we met I felt like I had known him for a long time already. 

Our meeting was ushered in with declarations of “he’s really cute” and “she’s a lot of fun.”  We were in our early twenties – it doesn’t take much for people that age to be interested.  We trusted their faith in us, and that helped smooth over the awkwardness in the beginning.  We knew there was something there, even before we met.

At lunch, we laughed about taxiing one wedding guest home the previous night, and how I really got my use out of the bridesmaid’s dress I wore until five that morning. Sitting at a table in a floor-length gown at Denny’s with a bunch of rowdy men in tuxedos was an extraordinary Saturday night.

Our soup came, and we ate, gingerly.  Neither of us was up to the task.  I mentally went over our conversations from the wee hours, and it struck me that not many 24-year-old guys I knew spoke of their family with such bare pride and adoration.

It was a wonder my little car hadn’t run out of gas as we sat at the door of his hotel and talked for hours.  We got to know each other at the door of that hotel.

In the subsequent years of our courtship and engagement and even early marriage our family and friends joked, eyebrows waggling, about our use of “talking” as a better, more proper way to describe what really happened between us in the car that night. “Is that what we’re calling it now,” they’d kid.

We sat in that restaurant on our first date, pretending to eat, exchanging glances and smiles, and made plans to see each other again.  We lived in different cities, but they were close enough for weekend visits.  We wanted to make it work despite the distance.

So we did.




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This post inspired by:


Mama’s Losin’ It

Prompt #1: A memorable date.