Friday, December 7, 2007

Gearhead Christmas

'Twas a few weeks before Christmas,
And all through my house,
Not one gift was purchased,
Not even for the spouse.
The stockings were still
In a box in the attic,
In hopes that we might
Soon get ecstatic.
The children saw bright lights
That danced in their heads.
They hoped for a tree
But sadly, instead,
Mama in her bleached sweats
Was flat on the couch.
She had just settled down
And was a bit of a grouch.

And out on the lawn
It was lonely and bare.
No lights and no blowups
Were seen out there.
The moon in the sky
Lit up the whole street.
You could see all the neighbors,
Their decorations complete.
When what to my wondering
Eyes should appear.
But a little white car
With four tires to steer.

With a most handsome driver,
So smart and so slick.
I knew at that moment
I was his special chick.
More rapid than usual
He got out of the car.
He whistled and shouted;
He called from afar.
“Hey, teenager! Hey, boy!
Hey, hot mama spouse!
Hey, troublesome kitties!
Come out of that house!
Look on the porch,
Up against the wall!
There’s a package for me!
Come quick now, y’all.”

As we’ve seen in the past
When one knows a car guy,
When they meet with an obstacle,
They search and then buy.
He bought stuff online,
A lot more than I knew:
A box full of car toys
And a tool or two, too.
And then, in a twinkling,
I heard by the door,
Him grabbing the box.
He couldn’t wait anymore.

In the house burst the husband,
A huge grin on his face.
He gave me the quickest
Spousal embrace.
He was dressed all in black
In denim and fleece.
His clothes were all tarnished
With ketchup and grease.
The box of car toys
He had flung open wide.
When he pulled out the metal
His heart filled with pride.
His eyes how they twinkled!
His dimples how merry!
He held out the car part
With arms that were hairy.
His mouth was now speaking
And moving so fast.
He mumbled “THE GARAGE!”
And then he ran past.

With a thump of the door
He went to the Camaro.
He laid under that car
In a spot that was narrow.
He had a red face
As he lay on his belly.
He soon got all sweaty
And became very smelly.
Then the hubby jumped up
and went to the garage shelf.
And I laughed when I saw him,
In spite of myself.
Some dirt in his eye
And some grease on his head,
Soon gave me to know
I’d have laundry ahead.
He spoke many words
And continued to work.
He filled all the fluids
And turned bolts with a jerk.

I could see he was happy
With what he had done.
He was already having
His Christmas fun.
He didn’t need lights
Or blow up reindeer.
Car parts gave him
Much holiday cheer.
And I heard him exclaim
As he washed up his hands
“I’m going online!
I’ve got so many plans!”

Check This Out!

We here at Slightly Exaggerated have been obsessed with the Filipino band, The Zoo Band. In particular, we have been drooling over the lead singer Arnel Pineda and his unparalled talent. Pineda is so talented that Neil Schon of Journey fame has picked Pineda to be the new lead singer of Journey. Check out The Zoo Band and Pineda on You Tube. Type in “The Zoo Journey” to get your viewing started. Don’t forget to also check out Pineda’s version of the Heart song, Alone.

Monday, November 26, 2007

Journey to the Dark Side

Her tan, even, smooth skin begged to be touched. Her deep, dark soulful eyes drew you in to their very depths. Her pouty lips were tinted in just the right shade of pink: dark enough to make a statement yet light enough to lend an air of innocence to her. Her silky, shiny dark hair cascaded in a seductive spray over her toned, golden shoulders. It was her breasts, however, that were most the impressive. As she leaned out the window, they attempted to spill out of her black strapless dress. I was mesmerized by her. She was stunning.

I was jolted back to my chubby, sagging, freckled reality by the sound of her seductive and beckoning voice. “What can I get for you today?”

With much shame and embarrassment, I expertly said to the woman, “Um….I’d like a grande mocha, sugar free syrup, non fat, no whip, please. Oh, and I’d like one of those sleeve thingies”

From the back seat of the car, I heard the teenager mutter with disgust. “Look where this coffee thing has taken you Mom! You’ve just driven your children to the wrong side of town where you and a bunch of dirty old men are staring at a practically naked woman…. all because of coffee!”

My downward spiral to the dark side began after my mother died, as do most downward journeys. I wasn’t sleeping well. I was planning my own mother’s funeral. I was driving very long distances on the crowded freeway. I was stressed, stuck in rush hour traffic and falling asleep at the wheel. It was then that peer pressure and advertising and desperation forced me to do the unthinkable. As I pulled off the freeway it took me about 3.2 seconds to find a supplier. I walked into the coffee shop intending to order a medium coffee. MY FIRST ONE EVER. I became a bit confused when nowhere on the menu did I see the word “medium”. For that matter, nowhere on the menu did I see the word, “coffee”. My fumbling, erroneous, question filled order caused much amusement among the baristas. They too, however, had many confusing questions of their own concerning things that were new to me like foam and whip and non versus 2%. I just wanted a cup of coffee to keep me awake. I had no idea I needed to bring a resume and instruction manual and an Italian translator.

Back in the car, I held the hot cup in my hand thinking that somebody should really make something to fit around the cup so it isn’t so hot in my hand. I tried to decipher the hieroglyphics written in Sharpie on the side of my cup as I approached the onramp to the freeway. It only took me about ½ a mile to come to the conclusion that it is really quite dangerous to attempt to drink and drive at the same time. After about 15 miles I came to realize that it is really quite dangerous to attempt to drink and drive when your hands and brain and eyeballs are so jittery you can barely control the steering wheel and the stereo and the almost empty coffee cup in your hand. It was then that I vowed, at that very moment, that this coffee thing must stop.

The very next morning I felt an overpowering urge to order my second cup of coffee, ever. This time I was a bit more confident placing my order and no one laughed at me. I even announced to the cute girl taking my order that “this was only my second cup!”

“Today?” she inattentively mumbled.

“No,” I replied. “EVER!!”

She dropped the cup in her hand to the floor. She gripped the counter top with both hands, took a deep breath and whispered quietly to herself, “The last coffee virgin on earth……and she’s mine!”

She then turned to face me with a huge, orgasmic grin on her face and a slightly evil look in her eye and said forcefully, “I HAVE SO MUCH TO TEACH YOU!!”

I told her about getting the jitters the day before. She recommended that a coffee virgin, like me, might want to ease into the exhilarating caffeine experience. She offered to customize my drink with fewer “pumps” and “shots”.

I was shocked when I unexpectedly shouted out a little too loudly, with much extreme feeling, “No! Don’t take away my pumps or my shots…..I…I…I kind of liked the jitters.” I suddenly knew that I might have a problem.

It was then that I vowed, at that very moment, that this coffee thing must stop. Well… soon as I finished that amazing mocha that the excited, cute girl made, the best I’d ever had actually, then, it would stop. I swear.

I snuck a third mocha 3 days later. The husband never knew. I felt weak. I was embarrassed. It was then that I vowed, at that very moment, that this coffee thing must stop.

2 weeks after that I ventured into new territory and ordered a gingerbread latte. I drank it in secret. No one knew but me. I was too ashamed. I didn’t like the fact that I was well on my way to becoming one of those inveterate mommies, waiting in the Starbucks line, after dropping their kids off at school. I was unhappy that I had given in to the societal caffeine driven peer pressure. It was then that I vowed, at that very moment, that this coffee thing must stop. And it did.

Until that foggy and chilly Saturday morning, a few weeks later, when I found myself on the wrong side of the valley with half an hour to spare. The teenager couldn’t believe I was considering getting some coffee. She saw it as a sign of weakness, as an addiction and representative of all that I had taught her to “JUST SAY NO” to. She had already convinced me not to get a coffee outside of the Home Depot. She helped me say “NO” to the espresso stand inside of the grocery store. She convinced me that, “it wasn’t worth it” at that stand beside that taco place we had lunch at. But driving to the soccer field, with plenty of extra time, I saw the espresso stand on the side of the road, calling out to me, and I just had to pull in. I had no idea, though, that I’d be getting so much more than just a cup of coffee.

As we left the provocative and very busy espresso stand that day and said goodbye to the beautiful, half naked woman who made me my mocha, the teenager in the back seat was seen huddled, pretending to be asleep and rolling her eyeballs in complete disgust. The impressionable, young boy, also in the back seat of the car, had an awkward smile plastered on his face and was, apparently, intrigued by the whole experience. He piped up, “Hey, can we come back on Thursday, Mom? It’s Naughty Schoolgirl Day! Or how about Wednesday? It’s Military Appreciation Bikini Day! I bet Dad would really like that!”

And after I finished that fabulous mocha, I vowed, at that very moment, that this coffee thing must stop. This coffee thing had produced nothing but jitters, extra weight and the exposure of my children to some darn near pornographic moments.

And it has stopped...I swear.

Check This Out!
If you have half a brain and your last book wasn’t a supermarket paperback romance, then this next book is for you. A Sense of the World: How a Blind Man Became the History's Greatest Traveler by Jason Roberts. Fascinating, full of lots of history and politics and interesting social observations all intertwined in this amazing man's life story. Buy it if you have to. It's in paperback and worth the price.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

They Might Be Different Than Me

They’re talking about letting people different than me move to my suburb.

Apparently, it’s not going to turn out well.

They’re talking about letting poor people move to my suburb and they might be different than me. Apparently, not all of them will be white. They will live in cramped apartments. Near my neighborhood. Their children will hang out in the apartment parking lot playing loud music and will be up to no good. They will be criminals who will steal my television set or my car. They will have tattoos and guns and get high on drugs. They will be on welfare and be supported by my tax dollars. They have nothing to offer the suburbs. The people are not happy about this.

They’re talking about letting rich people move to my suburb and they might be different than me. Apparently, most of them will be white. They will live in huge, wasteful houses. Near my neighborhood. Their children will hang out unsupervised at home playing Xbox and will be up to no good. They will be criminals who lie on their expense report and pay the housekeeper under the table. They will hide their tattoos and guns and get drunk on rum and Coke. They will be too busy to be on the school board and will complain about paying their tax dollars. They have so much to offer the suburbs. The people are so happy about this.

They’re talking about letting conservative people move to my suburb and they might be different than me. Apparently, most of them will have “Bush ’04” bumper stickers on the back of their Ford pickup trucks. They will accept the federal deficit, will protest abortion on the weekends and will vehemently support the NRA.

They’re talking about letting liberal people move to my suburb and they might be different than me. Apparently, most of them will have “Obama ’08” bumper stickers on the back of their Subarus. They will accept homosexuality, will protest the war on weekends and will vehemently support organic, sustainable agriculture.

“Green” people might move to my suburb. Apparently, most of them will make the rest of us feel inferior as they smugly drive their hybrids, ride their bicycles or take the bus to work every day.

Skeptical people might move to my suburb. Apparently, most of them still think Al Gore is an idiot, still have incandescent light bulbs in their home, and still own 2 stroke gas powered lawn equipment.

Vegetarians might move to my suburb. Apparently, most of them will offend the rest of us as they rudely refuse to eat the standard ribs or hamburgers at the neighborhood barbeque parties.

Christians might move to my suburb. Apparently most of them will be unavailable for Sunday morning yard work before the football game and will also cause horrible traffic congestion as their cars will suddenly be unmanned when the rapture comes.

Lazy people might move to my suburb. Apparently, most of them will cause my property value to go down when they don’t mow their lawn or paint their trim or clean their garage.

Type A people might move to my suburb. Apparently, most of them will cause my house and yard to look unkempt as they will spend every weekend making their own look spectacular.

Aging hippies might move to my suburb. Apparently, most of them will spend their time depleting the worldwide supply of Ben and Jerry’s Cherry Garcia ice cream while they smoke the pot they grew under the grow lights kept in the spare bedroom.

Children might move to my suburb. Apparently, most of them will be loud and unruly and will let their soccer balls and their feet and their bikes trample what little grass I have managed to grow.

Dogs might move to my suburb. Apparently, most of them will wake me up with their morning barking, stink up my shoes with their daily deposit on my lawn and torture my petunias when they attempt to dig them up.

Self absorbed people might move to my suburb. Apparently, most of them will never be seen or heard from because they have better things to do than make friends.

Kind and giving people might move to my suburb. Apparently, most of them will drive me crazy trying to get me to volunteer with them to clean the neighborhood park or collect food for the food bank or make a casserole for the lady who was in the car accident.

Computer geeks might move to my suburb. Apparently, most of them will frustrate me as they download super large files and steal my bandwidth from the cable internet connection.

Cell phone owners might move to my suburb. Apparently, most of them won’t look as they back out of their driveway while dialing, will ignore their children when they take them to the park and talk on their phone, and will interrupt our neighborly conversation to answer the Celine Dion ringtone.

Teenagers might move to my suburb. Apparently, most of them will waste away entire days viewing their My Space account, texting until their thumbs go numb and pulling their pants up to cover up their muffin top.

Ethnic people might move to my suburb. Apparently, most of them will look different than me, wear their hair different than me and have different kinds of smells coming from their kitchen.

Illegal aliens might move to my suburb. Apparently, none of them speak English. Well, that's just plain wrong. This is America!

They’re talking about letting people different than me move to my suburb.

The people are unsure about this.

They think they know.

They’re talking about letting short, married women with children move to my suburb and they might be just like me. Apparently, one of them will be a blogger who, if given enough time, just might find a way to offend every single person she knows.

Check This Out!

If you haven’t seen the Discovery channel’s series, Planet Earth, you are truly missing out. As one of the children said, “I like this WAY more than I than I thought I would mom. It’s pretty cool.” For a preview, go to Type in Planet Earth in the site search. Click on videos to get an amazing preview. I know that will convince you watch on TV or buy the DVD.

Tuesday, November 6, 2007

The Kitty Contract, Part 2--The Counter Offer

Note: The kitties have responded directly to a previous blog, The Kitty Contract, from Thursday, October 4, 2007. It might prove beneficial to reread that one before reading this current one.--M

Dear Owner:
We saw the blog you wrote
And we really don’t agree.
In fact we’re quite offended
At your errant public decree.
We’re the laughing stock of the kitty world
And it hasn’t been any fun.
Our friends all think that we are guilty
Of things you said we’ve done.
Let us say, right from the start
That you’re getting on our nerves.
The squirt bottle you use is more abuse
Than any cat deserves.
We’ve been loyal, cuddly, cute and good
And we have things to say!
Locking us up, like you do,
Is definitely not the right way.

You mentioned you thought that maybe you hadn’t
Explained the rules to us.
We are here to tell you that you sure are making
Much too big a fuss.
Why can’t we all just get along
And be friends and sleep in peace?
We think you should chill and all this tension
Should just completely cease.
You are mistaken about our motives
And the things you say we do wrong.
For all we want is for you to love us
And to feel like we belong.

We wake you up in the middle of the night
Because we miss you so.
We’re lonely without you and sometimes we run fast
When we really mean to go slow.
We crawl under the covers because we are scared
Of the dark and creaky house.
We are very sorry if we have caused problems
Between you and your hunky spouse.
As far as your concern for our kitty squabbles
That keep you up in the night,
We will try to keep quiet as we attempt
To set our kitty disputes to the right.

You should know that a cat is meant to be fat
And we would like a bit more food.
That is why we gulp and steal from each other
Even though we know it’s rude.
And if you would give us the food that we like
To make us good and happy and fat
Then we wouldn’t steal the food from your plate
And endure the insult, “BAD CAT!”
And as for the salmon and chicken you eat
That is just not playing fair.
If you eat those things we will come after you
And take them from you, WE SWEAR.

Just for the record, we are not dumb dogs;
And we are not your maid.
If you’d like us to clean, then leave some fish “crumbs”
For that we might give some aid.
Though, only a dog would lick the floor clean
And waste good slumber time.
In fact, most dogs are so very stupid
It really must be a crime.

We enjoy your appliances, for they are cozy
And curious and different and nice.
We shamelessly must admit however,
For the hot stove we have paid a high price.
Likewise, the blender, the toaster, the crock pot
Are mostly very scary.
We can assure you that in the very near future
We will, of course, be wary.
And just so you know and understand,
The mixing bowls are comfy and nice.
They hug our curves and surround our fur,
They are cozy and definitely suffice.
We admit we have gotten into the drawers
And have slept with a very sharp knife.
But we also must say it has been such a thrill
And has not caused any strife.

Now onto that awful thing you keep on calling
A kitty “scratching post”.
We have seen better and think you should spend more
For a tower, which is what we want most.
The stick you have covered in cheap beige rug
Should be outlawed and thrown away.
We’re three cats with claws with one useless post
Much to our shocked dismay.
And until the awful post is replaced,
We hope that you already know
That the couch and the screen door and maybe the curtains
Are where our claws will likely go.

You seem to have many, many complaints
About the things that we find fun.
You seem to imply that we often stop you
From quickly getting things done.
We impatiently implore you to look and see it
From our feline point of view.
When we play with all of your really cool things
It gives us something constructive to do.
And most of the time when we play with your things
You’re sitting right there with us.
"It’s quality time!" That’s what we say.
So stop making a ridiculous fuss.
The next time we chew on the computer antenna
Or chase the laces on your dirty old shoes.
Be grateful that we aren’t clawing the couch
Because in that game you will certainly lose.

Now we come to the toilet part of this contract
And your request most certainly stinks.
With no pun intended we really must say
It is the toilet that has the best drinks.
And when you flush it and it swirls around
Well, we think it’s the best thing ever.
So we will continue our toilet obsession
Abandon it? We will never!

We also are considering a kitty lawsuit
About the paint that did cover our feet.
We licked the paint and it did not taste good
It was not fitting for kitties to eat.
So in short, we don’t care if your dresser got dirty
Or if the nightstand was covered in paint.
We feel lucky to be here alive today
And make known our paint complaint.

We also have another big problem
With the litter boxes we use.
You are pathetically slow at cleaning them
No matter which one we choose.
They both are quite nasty and full of our pee
And with what you would call “number 2”.
Until they are clean then we will go where we like
And we hope you soon catch a clue.

We want you to know that we really do think
That someday you’ll learn what we need.
With a little training from us and a little more time
We are confident that you will succeed.
In fact, you already do a few things
That we really like quite a lot.
We really like watching the birds in the trees
And we like the fireplace when it gets hot.
We love all of your blankets and pillows and towels
And we love sleeping on them all day.
When the kids aren’t too careful and don’t shut the door
We love sneaking outside to play.

So we hope you have learned some things from reading
The demands we have written to you.
And we sure hope you fix them all right away.
Cuz you never know what we might do……

Much furry love, The Kitties

Check This Out!

In an effort to stick with our manipulative kitty theme today, go to You Tube and type in “Kitty Wake Up Call”. Click on the second or third one down—it’s the one that looks like a drawn cartoon.

Or, copy and paste this link.

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

A Crime Against Nature

On the shady side of the house the grass is always green. In this northern part of the yard, the harshness of the sun disappears a little earlier in the day and the ground stays a little wetter, a little more fertile. The heavily used bird feeders are surrounded by a few strong evergreens, a few variegated hosta plants, and a few colorful shade loving perennials. It is in this part of the yard where the weeping Japanese maple tree lives. For eight years, the tree with the gorgeous, fine cut, red leaves lived a happy and healthy life. In its place of honor near the front door, the beautiful, well behaved tree put a smile on the face of the family and friends and door to door salespeople who arrived at the home. It is on this shady side of the house that the shocking crime took place.

The yard had been well cared for in years past. The vegetables in the backyard, the petunias and tulips in the front yard and the small green lawn surrounding the house showed that the caretaker was a thoughtful and energetic and creative gardener. The yard had been cared for organically and as environmentally friendly as possible. It was a critter friendly yard. Ladybugs were released. The butterflies and birds were made to feel welcome. The worms helped create the compost. The spiders were allowed to keep their webs. The yard was full of love.

However, all was not exactly as it seemed. Behind the perfectly arched gate and fence boards stained in “Sierra Oak”, the yard was hiding an embarrassing, dirty secret. It was unfinished. Although the yard was over eight years old, the caretaker had failed to bring the yard to its full potential. Oh, the front yard fooled most of the neighbors, but the unseen backyard didn’t even have all of its flowerbeds cut out of the lawn yet. No larger patio had been pored. No deck had been built. No arbor with scented, climbing vines had been installed. And shockingly, the backyard did not have one privacy tree planted. This inexcusable, unfinished yard business should have been the first clue that all was not well with the caretaker.

As the years went on, there were signs that the yard was becoming too much for the caretaker to handle. The caretaker began to get careless and even neglectful. The hostas weren’t divided when they should have been. The bulbs weren’t dug up on schedule. The edges on the lawn weren’t as crisp and trimmed as they had been in prior years. The strawberries stretched out and even began growing into the lawn. The raspberries weren’t tied up and began to fall over. Years went by without a single tree branch being pruned. And most appalling, a Halloween pumpkin decoration was left in a flowerbed for over a year.

Before long, the critters also began to mutiny out of control of the caretaker. The slugs and snails multiplied to an unreasonable number. The yellow jackets and wasps built nests willy nilly under the eaves. The dwindling ladybug population was no longer able to keep the aphids under control. A possum was seen making himself at home underneath the rhododendron. Neighborhood cats began using the flowerbeds as a litter box. The screaming and shaking caretaker was even seen chasing a renegade pair of raccoons from the bird feeder. It was the ants though, that pushed the caretaker over the edge. It was the thousands, perhaps even millions, of swarming ants that caused the caretaker to go over to the dark side. The caretaker began to kill. The plants and critters looked on in fear as she sprayed the non organic, ant killing poison all over the fleeing black specks. She yelled out loudly with a joyous and victorious feeling, “Ha! Take that! I win, you little buggers!” The yard then knew for sure that the caretaker had gone off the deep end. The yard was no longer full of love.

The caretaker began to waste water on the lawn. She fertilized the lawn with fertilizer that didn’t have an environmental seal of approval. Many of the critters were now seen as pests and disposed of as fast as the caretaker could find the poison to do it. She gave up on composting her yard and food waste. She no longer went to plant sales or garden centers. She failed to place an order from the bulb catalog. The hedge went untrimmed.

And so it was, one cloudy desolate Saturday morning, that the caretaker decided to clean the green moss and algae off that northern, wetter, shady side of the house. The caretaker hooked up her supposedly non toxic, outdoor bleach cleaner to her hose and began to saturate the side of the house. She let it set. Then she rinsed. The caretaker was most pleased. The shady side of the house was fresh and clean and new again. Little did she know the impact of her actions that day would bring such harm and shame to the yard.

A day later, the caretaker walked out of her front door and saw the effects of her careless actions. The loyal Japanese maple tree cried out in pain in front of her. The disappointed yard cast its eyes downward to avoid her gaze. The birds fled. The years of the caretaker’s neglect had culminated in this appalling crime against nature, a crime against the innocent tree. The caretaker had failed to rinse off the bleach solution as well as she should have. The caustic, assaulting water dripped down on half of the maple tree, bleaching the half of the tree closest to the house. The caretaker had given her innocent maple tree highlights. Half of the tree’s leaves were a beautiful deep purplish-red color. The leaves on the other half of the tree were a cheap hooker hair orangey-blond color.

The caretaker knew she had failed the tree and the yard. Neighbors would walk by and stop and gawk at the disfigured tree. Healthy plants in the neighborhood would taunt the new neighborhood outcast as they blew their healthy branches in the wind. When the Mormon missionaries came to the door they weren’t interested in saving the caretaker. They asked if there was anything they could do to help the poor tree. Even the neighborhood cats refused to hide under the crinkly, dried blond branches anymore.

As so, dear reader, we are left with a careless crime against a tree, a yard full of neglect, and an embarrassed caretaker vowing to change her neglectful and harmful ways. The caretaker has since recovered her bulb catalog out of the recycle bin, pulled a few weeds from the shady side of the yard and has tied up the raspberry vines. And she has vowed to never, ever again be stingy with her rinsing water. The yard is happy to report that since it is now October, the neighbor children aren’t laughing anymore at the Halloween pumpkin decoration sticking out of the flowerbed. As for the tree, it has actually grown quite fond of the highlights and is secretly hoping to go a shade lighter in the spring.

Check This Out!
I’ve been listening to two heartfelt and passionate female singers this week. Look up “eclectic Celtic” Canadian singer Loreena McKennitt at . Check out her song Dante’s Prayer. You can find “folk rock” Brandi Carlile at . You’ll like her song, The Story.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

The Silent Phone

I picked up the silver phone with my shaky hand, clicked through the numerous phonebook listings and found the number for my parents. A lot had been happening. I had seen a ton of people the day before. There was so much to tell. She would want to know. I pushed the button to dial. As it rang, a slow and deep and painful depression overcame me. My stomach turned. I had just tried to call my mother and inform her of her own death. I had intended on telling her the details of the past few days, including information concerning her personal and heartfelt funeral, the lovely reception that followed with a slideshow and her favorite cake, and most importantly, the juicy gossip that I had learned during the whole event. My heart pounded and I stopped breathing as I realized that she would never answer the phone again. In shock, I hung up the phone and stared at it. The silent phone was blaringly loud.

It was a Thursday, the day I buried my mother. Her 13 year old grandson and the rest of the pallbearers gripped the side of the beautiful dark red wood casket she laid in. She was placed in the ground wearing her favorite purple sweater and matching button up, no wrinkle, cotton/poly blend shirt. Her face had more color than we had seen in months. In her sweater pocket were tokens the grandchildren had bravely parted with, in honor of their “Granny”. In her hands, my father had placed a copy of her favorite family photo. The people looked on with tears brimming in their eyes. Eight times more people than she had expected lined her grave to say goodbye. This is funny, because she always bought more than presents than anyone possibly needed, cooked more food than anyone could possibly eat and worried more than was humanly possible. Yet when planning her own funeral, she woefully underestimated the turnout.

The next day was a fittingly foggy Friday when I awoke, unrested, feeling that the prior day had been very busy and somehow unfulfilling. As I looked at my calendar that morning I realized that I had a haircut appointment that day. How could it be possible that life so quickly and callously returned to the mundane and normal, the insignificant and unimportant? The prior weeks and months had been a whirlwind assortment of factual and guestimated medical analysis that never quite made enough sense, attempted emotional support that always fell short of what was necessary and an underlying subconscious denial of everyone’s worst fear. And now, the empty and silent day after had arrived. Exhausted and confused, there were now only two things that I was sure of. Today, I would get a haircut. And there would be no phone call from my mother. The phone would be silent.

Over the next days and weeks, as I paged through the grief pamphlets from the hospice people and the funeral home, I learned that I would probably feel the typical shock, confusion, anxiety, anger, guilt and sadness. I might even experience some physical symptoms. What symptom surprised me the most however, was the profound and pervasive sense of unmatched loneliness that I felt. While I did not see my mother daily, we did speak on the phone nearly every day. And lately, the painful silence of the phone screamed at me loudly.

The greeting cards arrived with their attempts at comfort and consolation. The cards promised to share my loss. I am remembered in prayer and God will give me comfort. They reminded me of my inner strength and encouraged me to talk and remember the good times. They wished me courage. They wished me hope. They wished this sad time would pass quickly. Not one of those cards, however, wished that the silent phone would stop taunting me each time I walked by.

Kind neighbors would stop by to drop off their casserole. They would politely ask how I was doing. 2 hours later I was still babbling as the poor souls sat trapped on my sofa. Good friends emailed me to offer their support. 20 emails later I had forced them into the depths of analyzing death, family, psychology, philosophy, religion and the general meaning of life. They were left trying to catch up with their work. Sympathetic relatives would call to check in. I would jabber away about whatever crossed my mind in an attempt to fill the empty space. And when the neighbors left, the e-mailers logged off and the relatives went back to their lives, the loneliness returned and the silent phone started shouting at me again.

In this silent loneliness that echoes through me, I am left with the overwhelming sense that death is an expert teacher. I am grateful to death for pointing out, so obviously, the petty and extraneous and hollow pieces of life. Death has gifted me the pinpoint focus and mental clarity to know innately, without any doubt, what is now essential to my being. Through death, my family has gratefully been surrounded by people, worthy of daily emulation, who arose to provide support during the preceding months of misery. Death provided the camera in which I was able to see my own father and brothers behave in a way that can only be described as selfless, heroic and grand. Without death, my own husband would have never said that their example of not just proclaiming love, but actually showing it and living it, has made an indelible impression on his life. Death has shown me that even in grief and loneliness, a quiet peace can exist. In death, there can emerge goodness.

As I move forward, I am sure that I will continue to progress my way through this lengthy journey of grief. I know there will come a day when I will wake up having slept through the night. There will come a day when the nightmares stop. There will come a day when I will realize my inner strength and be able to remember the good times. There will come a day when you can email me or visit me and I won’t make you talk about the meaning of life. And I know there will come a day, as the grief pamphlet stated, that I will have worked my way through the 6 Reconciliation Needs of Mourning.

I also know however, in my lonely soul, that there will never again come a day when that phone will ring and it will be my mother. And that silent phone is one gift from death that I’d like to return.

Check This Out!

My friend Ben made this casserole for my family to eat during the sad times. This casserole is great anytime though, not just at funeral time!

Chicken and Rice

1.5 cups instant rice
1 can condensed cream of mushroom
1 can condensed cream of chicken
1 can condensed cream of celery

Mix all that together and spread in greased/sprayed 9x13 pan.
Place some chicken breasts on top of that.
Mix 2 chicken bouillon cubes in 2 cups boiling water and pour on top.
Bake at 350 degrees for 2 hours.

Monday, October 15, 2007

The Uncomfortable Silence

The people never arrived empty handed. They always brought food. From behind the living room curtain I could see their heavily laden arms carrying bags and buckets and boxes full of food to the front door.

“We’re so sorry for your loss,” they would say as I opened the door. “We’ve brought chicken.”

There was an uncomfortable silence. The one most bothered by the silence piped up. “Let’s eat chicken!”

And so, we ate chicken. And still, there was an uncomfortable silence.

The people gathered in the kitchen. They had to say "excuse me" to move around each other. They insisted on doing the dishes to ease their own inner tension. They spilled out onto the concrete floor of the garage and mingled among the overflowing recycle bin, the litter box that needed cleaning, and the tool bench stacked with golf balls. The living room was full. The people sat on the cold stone hearth. The blue folding chairs were brought in. She would have washed them first.

He sat in the corner trying not to cry, trying to make polite conversation. The children, some oblivious to the circumstances, played football in the front yard. There were a few mourners, overwhelmed by the numbers of people, who holed themselves up in the bedroom near the computer. The headline on Yahoo was, “Cancer Deaths Declining in the US”. They turned the computer off. It made them feel cheated. The newspaper was spread across the bed; the headline of the day searing through them, “I Survived Cancer-Now What ?” They turned the paper over. It made them angry.

The people tried so hard. They were so kind. Their words of comfort spilled forth. “She’s with our Lord.” “She’s no longer suffering.” “She’s in another dimension.” “You did so much for her, now you should focus on you.” “She’s looking down upon us now with a smile.” “She’s finished with her work here on earth.” “Her spirit is with us right now.” “Do you think granny will become a ghost?” “You do know that God had already prepared a place for her?”

Then there was an uncomfortable silence. The one most bothered by the silence piped up, “We have soup! Who wants soup?”

And so, we ate soup. And still, there was an uncomfortable silence.

The people whispered in the background. “Have you seen her cry yet? I haven’t seen her cry yet. She’s not dealing with this well, is she? She needs to cry.”

“No I haven’t seen her cry yet,” another whisperer answered. “But he sure is taking it hard. He hasn’t stopped crying. He’s not dealing with this well is he? He needs to get it under control a bit.”

And then, there was an uncomfortable silence. The one most bothered by the silence piped up, “Who wants pie? We have pumpkin pie!”

And so, we ate pumpkin pie. And still, there was an uncomfortable silence.

“Do you remember how she always had a kitchen towel slung over her shoulder?” “Do you remember how she always put others before herself?” “Do you remember how she always wanted everything to be fair?” “Wasn’t it wonderful how giving and kind and selfless she was?” “She would have been worried about the kids’ football going into the street.” “She would have washed those chairs.” “It was too soon, wasn’t it?” “At least she got to have grandkids.”

And then, there was an uncomfortable silence. The one most bothered by the silence piped up, “Who wants lasagna? We have lasagna!”

And so, we ate lasagna. And still, there was an uncomfortable silence.

“Do you want to be there when she is lowered into the ground?” “Do you want to place items in her casket?” “Do you want an open casket and a viewing period?” “Would you rather have a dove or a flower scene on the funeral programs?” “Do you want those flowers surrounding a gate or trailing over a trellis?” “We have a wonderful package that includes programs, the guest book, and the thank you notes for a very nice price.” “Do you want an $8,000 casket or our minimal $1,700 casket?” “And of course, you don’t want to skimp on the vault.” “I’m afraid the small graveside service for 20 has turned into a full chapel service for 160.” “Oh yes, we do understand your concerns. “

We left the funeral home in silence. The one most bothered by the silence piped up, “There’s sub sandwiches at home. We could eat those.”

And so, we ate sub sandwiches. And still, there was an uncomfortable silence.

We met with the pastor. “Tell me your memories,” she said. We couldn’t stop talking. The pastor couldn’t take down notes fast enough. We laughed. We cried. We bonded. We remembered. We expected her to walk in at any moment and correct us. But she never did. We were left on our own.

Instead, there was an uncomfortable silence. The one most uncomfortable with the silence piped up. “Someone dropped off stroganoff back at the house. We could eat that.”

And so, we ate stroganoff. And still, there was an uncomfortable silence.

“Do you remember the story when she was a kid and she bought that candy from the store that rivaled her dad’s store and she got in so much trouble?” “Do you remember when she threw those pancakes?” “What is this picture with her with the blond hair? “When did she have blond hair?” “Oh, look at her in that video…that’s just like her sitting in the back so the kids could have the good seats.” “Look how happy she was when he was born.” “What do you mean she did "the wave" at the bowling alley when she was younger?” “Why didn’t I appreciate these things more when she was alive? Why didn’t I know about some of these things?” “More people should be like her.” “Oh, she wouldn’t like that picture. We shouldn’t use it for the slide show or the photo board.” “I’m going to write something for the pastor to read.” “Are you going to speak at your mother’s funeral?”

And then, there was an uncomfortable silence. The one most uncomfortable with the silence piped up. “I think there are mashed potatoes and gravy in the fridge.”

And so, we ate mashed potatoes and gravy. And still, there was an uncomfortable silence.

Over the next few days we ate those mashed potatoes and gravy. And the fried chicken. And the ham. In fact, we ate all of the lasagna, the stroganoff, the coleslaw, the pumpkin pie, the chocolate cake, the doughnuts, the biscuits, the candy, the sub sandwiches, the croissant sandwiches, the fruit bowls, the stroganoff, the many, many salads, the butter tarts, the homemade cinnamon rolls and drank more soda and coffee than a person should have in a lifetime.

And still, there was an uncomfortable silence. Finally, the one most uncomfortable with the silence piped up. “I guess we should leave for the funeral now, shouldn’t we?”

In loving memory of MAMA.

Thursday, October 4, 2007

The Kitty Contract

Dear Kitty Cats,

This is your mother speaking. Your human mother. You may have noticed lately that I’ve been speaking in loud, angry tones whenever you enter a room. You may have seen me making violent gestures toward you with a squirt bottle full of water. You may have even noticed that you’ve been spending more and more time locked in the bedroom in a kitty time-out than you’d probably like to. This is not the kind of relationship I had hoped that we would have. The relationship I had envisioned involved a whole lot more submission and cuddly cuteness on your part and a whole lot less frustration and cleaning up kitty messes on my part.

I am willing to admit, however, that perhaps I wasn’t clear enough explaining the house rules to you when I so lovingly and selflessly rescued you from certain death at the shelter. So, in the interest of fairness, I will again, tell you the conditions to which you must adhere to if you are to continue to remain a cherished and loved member of our family.

You may not become obnoxious and loud in the morning before the family wakes up. You may not howl your death meow, scratch the door, repeatedly run over the top of the bed as fast as you can or tickle my face with your whiskers while you purr loudly and stare at my face before my alarm goes off. You may quietly sleep on the end of the bed in such a manner that will not hinder any movement of my legs during the night. And this coming under the covers halfway through the night, lodging yourself between the husband and me and then stretching out as far as you can must stop immediately. At night, when the family goes to bed, you must also be silent. You may not, under any circumstances, use this time to work out your little kitty squabbles. Now is not the time to screech or growl at each other, nor is it time to pull out each other’s fur and leave it all over the floor for me to pick up in the morning.

You may only eat your own food. You may not wolf down your food and then attempt to steal another cat’s food. Likewise you may not eat my food. You may not steal my food from the pan in which it is cooking, the counter that I have temporarily left it on or the plate that I put it on. And most importantly, you may not eat my food from my fork as I attempt to put it in my mouth. And as a side note, you may not lick my mouth after I have eaten my food. Yes, even if I have just eaten salmon or chicken or popcorn. You may help yourself to any food or crumbs dropped on the floor. In fact, if you could make a twice daily clean up trip around the kitchen baseboards and underneath the boy’s chair that would be most helpful.

You may not climb inside of any appliances. The dryer, washer, microwave, oven, and dishwasher are all off limits to kitties. You might also want to stay off of the top of the stove too. As you well know, it takes a long time for burn blisters to heal. Also, you may not stick your paws inside the toaster. Chasing the toast as it pops out of the toaster is also forbidden. You may not remove the crock pot lid when I’m not in the room and you should not put your paw in the hole in the lid of the running blender. You should only climb in the kitchen cabinets if you are sure you can open the door again to get out. If you find yourself stuck for some length of time in a cabinet, do not think you can take a nap inside the mixing bowls. And I would stay out of the drawers altogether. Having to flatten yourself up against those knives last time looked a bit uncomfortable.

The only place you may claw and scratch is on your scratching post. The carpet, furniture, screen doors and fireplace screen are not approved for scratching. You must also retract your claws when sliding down the stairway banister, chasing the cursor on the computer monitor or climbing out of the bathtub after you’ve fallen in. Please remember that if you attempt to help me tie my shoes your paw will sometimes get tied up as well. I would also appreciate it if you would stop moving the wireless antenna on the back of the computer, stop lying on my magazine when I am trying to read it, and stop sticking your head between my legs when I am on the toilet. Also, your help is no longer needed painting the bedroom. I’m sure have enough to do cleaning the paint off your paws, your tail and your newly highlighted whiskers. I’ll be busy scraping a painted kitty paw print trail off of the dresser, nightstand and headboard.

Finally, I wanted to remind you that your kitty litter should, at all times, remain inside the litter box. All deposits you make should be covered up immediately. And never, ever think that you may make any deposits outside of your litter box. I don’t know what your fascination is with peeing in the sink and pooping in the bathtub but you are ordered to stop those behaviors immediately.

I would like to end our conversation by thanking you for some of the good things you have done. Every time you knock a picture frame over it shakes off a little dust, making it just a little longer before I need to dust them again. I want to thank you for howling to me every time that neighbor cat invades our yard and tries to poop in my flowers. I almost chased her off last time. Thank you for hunting, killing and eating all of the bugs that somehow make it in the house. It's so much handier and more pleasant than doing it myself. And of course, I want to thank you for climbing on my chest last night and licking the tears off my face. It was a sad time and you, somehow, made everything just a little bit better.

Love, Mom

Check This Out!

C & W's The Ultimate Southwest Blend vegetables make a fabulous snack or lunch. Mix it with a little salsa and a dollup of sour cream. Grate a little cheddar or pepper jack on top. Throw it on some lettuce for a salad, on top of some scrambled eggs or in a tortilla. Look for this fine food product in your friendly grocer’s freezer case.

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

The Happy Fall Day-Part 2

I woke up to a September Saturday morning and just knew it would be a good day. I felt the crisp air and saw leaves had fallen from my maple tree. I was in heaven. It felt like fall. I had thought the prior crisp air Saturday was going to be a good day too until the almost a teenager received a kick in the ribs, the boy fell on his head and got concussion and I had to spend a very long day in the ER. Today, however, I knew would be different. The boy was not playing soccer for a few weeks and the almost a teenager was feeling much better. Today, we would enjoy her game and I would finally get my happy fall day.

I arrived at the almost a teenager’s soccer game with the injured boy in tow. As we sat to watch the game I noticed that the other team was quite aggressive and much, much meaner, I was sure, than my sweet, petite almost a teenager. My daughter’s team managed to hold its own however, but not before an aggressive mean girl kicked her in the back. Insisting that she was fine, the almost a teenager continued playing, only to then mess up her pinkie finger as well. At the end of the game she collapsed on the side of the field and rolled over to reveal a size 8 cleat print on the back of her uniform shirt. She looked at me and said, “Mom, I really don’t feel good. My back and pinkie hurt a lot.” Oh, dear. That sounds serious. Bad things aren’t supposed to happen on my happy fall day. It was supposed to be good day.

In the car, the almost a teenager yelped in pain anytime the car went over a bump or turned a corner. The pain continued to worsen during our hours of waiting at the local Urgent Care and our subsequent wait at the hospital ER. 8 hours later we arrived home with her pinkie in a splint, blood in her urine and our family’s very first “kidney trauma”. I’m not usually a nervous mother but after spending two consecutive weekends in the ER I do believe I have no choice but to become one. I’ve also become a smarter mother. In my two weekends spent dealing with soccer injuries and waiting rooms and medical tests I’ve learned quite a few things.

The Top 10 Things I’ve Learned During My Injury Filled Weekends

1. DYE=HEAD There are two different ways of getting a CT scan--with or without an IV that allows for contrasting dye to be injected into your body. Getting the IV and dye is always more impressive and provides more bragging power with your siblings. Apparently, however, a CT scan of your head, even if it is without dye, is also quite impressive and appears to be equal in CT scan bragging power.

2. FREAK OUT It is possible to freak out an almost a teenager. Give her CT scan with injectable dye. Tell her that it will make her feel like she is going to pee. Don’t tell her that it will make her feel like she has ALREADY peed. Then sit back and watch her eyes get big, her head repeatedly rise to look down at her hospital gown and her hand repeatedly feel “down there” because she is absolutely convinced she has peed the hospital gurney.

3. RED=TWO The boy received his own hospital bracelet and due to his young age (<12) also received two free parent bracelets for the husband and I to wear. The almost a teenager received only her own hospital bracelet (12+). However she was also the lucky winner of a “state trauma patient” bracelet with a bright red stripe on it. On the black market of sibling hospital bracelet trading, the red trauma bracelet is just about equal to two parent bracelets.

4. CHEW TOY It doesn’t matter what color your hospital bracelet is, it is just as easily played with, chewed up and hidden by a kitten who has no knowledge or respect as to what valuable scrapbook material those bracelets are.

5. TWO FOR ONE It doesn’t make you a bad mother if you sit and wonder how much a CT scan will cost you while your child is in pain, in the next room, with strangers, having a space age machine buzzing over his head. Likewise, it doesn’t make you a bad mother if you sit and wonder, the very next weekend, if the hospital offers a two for one discount on CT scans while your second child is in pain in the next room, with strangers, having a space age machine buzzing over her body and her worried she’s peed the bed.

6. THE LAW OF SPEEDING When transporting children to the ER by passenger car, the rate of travel is in direct proportion to how loud the child is moaning in the back seat and if she mutters the word “crap” every time you go over a parking lot speed bump. If the child also refuses a parental bribe of a bacon cheeseburger and fails to remember anything that has happened in the last two hours, the rate of travel will naturally increase as well.

7. WATCH YOUR MOUTH It isn’t always the best idea to tell the registration nurse, the triage nurse, the admitting secretary, the really hot 24 year old orderly, the familiar CT scan lady, the cranky bedside nurse, the doctor, the lab technician, the x-ray technician, the security guard, the housekeeping lady, the naked elderly man one curtain over and everyone in the waiting room that this is your second weekend in a row your children have shown up at the ER with injuries from their “soccer games”. Sooner or later someone is bound to suspect that you are a child abuser. It’s much smarter, of course, to just announce it to thousands of people in your blog.

8. THE WAITING GAME An almost a teenager has the capacity to rush to her fallen brother on the field, comfort him and help him off the field. She will skip her friend’s birthday party and sleepover to stay with him. She will keep him from falling asleep on the way to the hospital. She will wait patiently by his bedside, telling him funny stories the whole time. She will comfort the mother while the boy is having tests. She will hold the boy’s hand as they leave the hospital assuring him that he was so very brave. And when they arrive home, she will tattle on him when he immediately wants to climb the tree. An 8 year old boy has a bit less capacity to be sympathetic to his almost a teenager sister. He was playing with the other little brothers, not watching the game, when she was injured. He impatiently announced with a huff, that he was definitely going to need a parental bacon cheeseburger bribe before the sister went to Urgent Care. After 10 minutes in the waiting room he whined, “How much longer is this going to take?” When the husband arrived, the boy with the concussion begged and pleaded with him to, “Take me home so I can belly skateboard with my friend Bubba down his driveway.”

9. LUCKY No matter how bad off you think your situation is, there is always someone worse. My heart goes out to the boy with the burned face. I think about the cancer patient, the woman who couldn’t breathe, and the man with the broken leg. I pray for the lady who couldn’t feel her feet, the man who didn’t know his name and the baby that just wouldn’t stop screaming. And my nose was so, so, so grateful that the woman who had used her pants as a toilet for the last week, finally got a change of clothes.

10. CHECKMATE! In my effort to find safer activities for the children I have discovered that the World Chess Federation (Federation Internationale des Echecs) can be reached at Not only is all physical contact forbidden in chess matches but, according to section 5 of the official chess handbook found at the above website, “The Chess Organization shall guarantee medical treatment and medicines for all participants…and shall insure them against accidents and the need for medical services…” You can’t beat that. I’m sure the children will be thrilled.

Check This Out!

Described as opinionated, forthright in his views, and a dazzling hero of political incorrectness, Jeremy Clarkson, the host of the UK auto show Top Gear has the husband laughing ‘til he cries. Look for his video segments on You Tube and see if you, like the husband, can find cars and British people that darned funny.

Thursday, September 20, 2007

The Happy Fall Day

I’m not a big fan of summer. The heat makes me hot. The sun gives me cancer. The humidity makes me sticky. I realize I’m in the minority here, but summer is my least favorite season. So, when I woke up to a September Saturday morning and felt the crisp air and saw leaves had fallen from my maple tree, I was in heaven. It felt like fall. I just knew it would be a good day.

I arrived at the almost a teenager’s soccer game with the whiny boy in tow. I had pulled him from the nearby playground to sit still for the next hour and an half. He was not pleased. As we sat to watch the game I noticed that the other team was taller and heavier and much, much meaner, I was sure, than my sweet, petite almost a teenager. My daughter’s team did manage a 3-1 win but not before a big, mean girl kicked her in the stomach. What my daughter was doing on the ground, I’m not quite sure, but nevertheless, she came off the field with a size 8 cleat print on her uniform shirt. The almost a teenager said she almost threw up at the time of impact with the mean girl’s foot and she did run a bit lopsided for the rest of the game, but was otherwise fine. As we left the game, the coach yelled, “You might want to watch her for internal bleeding!” Oh, dear. That sounds serious. Bad things aren’t supposed to happen on my happy fall day. It was supposed to be good day.

We raced away from that first soccer game and made it just in time to the start of the boy’s soccer game. After sitting for so long, away from the playground, the boy was wound up and ready to run. He started the game and zipped around the field as he usually does. And then he fell. He landed head first. And he was out. How the boy managed to fall head first, I’m not quite sure, but nevertheless, he came off the field with a huge headache and no memory of the incident. As we left the game, another parent yelled, “You might want to watch him to see if his eyes are dilated!” Oh dear. That sounds serious. His minor concussion and our visit to the ER are the kinds of bad things that aren’t supposed to happen on my happy fall day. It was supposed to be a good day.

The next morning the almost a teenager woke up and was in quite a bit of pain. Her ribs hurt when she moved, coughed, sneezed or laughed. Yet still, she wanted to go kick the ball around at the school. The boy woke up with a headache and still hadn’t regained his memory. Yet still, he wanted to go climb the tree in the front yard. I’m not usually a nervous mother but the prior day’s injuries had me frightened, worried and a bit on edge. It was obvious these children had no sense. What if they hurt themselves again? I found myself hovering and being overly concerned with minute details of their behavior. I was having irrational thoughts of controlling them in ways I knew they would find stifling, overprotective and unjustified. In fact, to be completely truthful, I was determined that those children were never leaving the house again without the proper protection.

I wasn’t entirely sure how I would protect them, but I had visions of starting with a massive delivery of bubble wrap. I’d buy huge bulk rolls of it and store it in the garage. Before they left the house each morning, I’d hand each child a snorkel to breathe with, wrap them completely up in bubble wrap and comfortably send them on their way. Of course, I’d also have to put a few mattresses under the climbing tree in the front yard. I’m sure the homeowner’s association would grant me a waiver for that. After all, it was for the safety of the children. Who’d be against that? I’d probably have to carry a few extra mattresses with me in the trunk of the car as well. Then I would be prepared if we went to a playground or had to climb stairs or encountered an uneven sidewalk.

And of course, when they weren’t wearing their bubble wrap suits, helmets, knee pads, elbow pads and a bullet proof vest would be required attire. I even found a helmet made by Riddell that has a sensor inside. This helmet notifies parents and coaches if the child has received too large of an impact to the head- either in a single blow or collectively. Parents can keep track of the results online. Now, this helmet is made for football players, but my children, of course, would be required to wear them all the time. Even at night. You just never know when they would fall out of bed and somehow miss the mattresses I had placed beside them on the floor.

On the rare occasions the children would be allowed to ride in a car, ride their bike or God forbid, ride a scooter, they would be required to be ensconced in a full metal roll cage. Naturally, they would also always be surrounded by the safest and most technologically advanced air bags available. And it goes without saying that trampolines, blow up jumping toys and all carnival and theme park rides would be strictly prohibited under all circumstances.

My greatest safety feature would resemble the leashes or tethers you see on runaway two year olds at the mall. Mine would be marketed for older children as the Youngster Yankster and would come in the coolest designs and colors. You would have one option of tethering your child physically and yanking them out of any situation that you found potentially dangerous. This option comes with or without a harmless zap feature. For a second, slightly more expensive option, you could purchase the computer and cell phone version that allows you to monitor your child from anywhere in the world. When you became uncomfortable with the situation your child was in, you would simply punch in your password and your child would be yanked from the situation immediately, covered in bubble wrap and placed in a mattress covered room. It would be the fun, safe way of keeping your children out of harm’s way. Don’t tell me that it’s unrealistic either. I saw it on an episode of The Jetsons many years ago, so I know it’s possible.

I am happy to report that the children did recover from their injuries. My children are happy to report that I eventually came to my senses. I am no longer a paranoid, hovering lunatic. I am again fully willing to send them out into this cruel world to be injured at any moment. Life is back to normal. Almost. It was hot and sunny and miserable a few days ago. I decided to stay inside out of the sun and do a little internet research. I was very happy to find that I can get a 250 ft roll of bubble wrap for less than $50.00. And I can even get it in fabulous colors. We don’t want the other kids making fun of the children for not being fashionable now, do we?

Check This Out!
Look for the DVD, Standing In the Shadows of Motown. This highly entertaining documentary/concert follows the careers of the musicians known as the Funk Brothers. Considered the greatest hit machine in the history of popular music, the Funk Brothers have played on more #1 records than the Beatles, the Beach Boys, the Rolling Stones and Elvis Presley COMBINED! It’s a fun movie, full of history, packed full of fabulous stories that will definitely have you singing along.

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

The Wedding Day

It was a picture perfect day for an outdoor wedding. The sun was shining, the birds were singing, a light breeze blew and there wasn’t a cloud in the sky. I sat in the beautiful rose garden in the 5th row back, the husband on my left. We were surrounded by his co-workers and their wives. The large, stone mansion behind us was full of history and stories and anchored the site, lending a sense of grandness to the whole event. The glowing wedding couple stood underneath the arbor on the stone and brick terrace perched on the edge of the cliff. As we looked past the couple, the bright blue sky melted into the vast, equally blue water far below.

I’m not usually one who particularly enjoys sappy, emotional, romantic expression. Yet, when the bride and groom began to recite their wedding vows, and in such a beautiful, romantic setting, I found myself leaning my head to the left slightly and whispering quietly to the husband, “Awww…..isn’t that soooo sweet!” The promises they made, the hope they had, the belief and confidence they had in their future made me a bit jealous. It was all so innocent and rosy and happy. When they said their vows, you knew that they truly meant them. You got the feeling that they really would be married forever. It was all too much for me. I began to tear up a bit. I gazed over at the husband and it appeared as if he might be about ready to tear up as well. He looked down at me and grinned and nodded his head toward the couple standing on the edge of the cliff. I smiled back and nodded as well. My heart swelled. I reached out my hand and grabbed the husband’s hand. And it was wonderful. It was romantic. It was a special moment for us. We sat in that wonderful setting, listened to the touching words, and held hands. I found it extraordinary and so comforting that after 19 years of marriage we could still silently share the same thoughts. We were on the same page. We were connected.

After the ceremony we walked over to the large terrace at the back of the stone mansion where the reception was to be held. We sat and talked and ate some fabulous food with some of the husband’s co-workers and their wives. Soon, the conversation turned to the ceremony. One of the wives commented on what a beautiful ceremony it was. All of the wives nodded and echoed the sentiment. I mentioned that I was so touched I even began to tear up. The wives all agreed and continued to dissect every detail of the ceremony and the bride’s dress and the food. It was then that the bravest and most ignorant of the men rolled his eyeballs and piped up, “Hey, did any of you guys hear that twin big block Chevy engine offshore V-hull at full throttle that went by in the middle of their vows? Wasn’t that cool?”

The wives, in a rare and sudden moment of silence, glared at the ignorant husband in shock. Relieved to have the conversation topic changed from the unbelievable price of imported silk to the unbelievable sound of horsepower, my husband was the first to answer the ignorant man. “Oh, wasn’t that great!” he exclaimed, “I couldn’t believe I was hearing that out on the water. I’m thinking it was probably 502 Merc’s. It almost brought me to tears! “

“WHAT?” I managed to say to the husband a little too loudly. “You were almost brought to tears by a stinkin’ boat engine? Are you serious?”

“Well…um…yeah…” he reluctantly replied. “I thought you heard it too. You called it 'sweet'. I nodded to nodded back. Remember?”

“I thought you nodded because of the vows and the roses and the old mansion…..and… and… the special moment that we had!” By this time all eyes at the table were upon us. There was a brief moment of uncomfortable stillness among our tablemates. And then the first giggle started. And soon they were all laughing. All of the other couples had been married longer than the husband and I and they found my naiveté and unrealistic expectations concerning manly wedding behavior most amusing.

I was most certainly disappointed and frustrated that the husband and I did not, apparently, share the same wedding thoughts and that our special moment was, apparently, completely fictional. Never one to hold a grudge for long though, my disappointment had faded by the time we were driving home in the car. I was back to my normal, positive thinking self. The husband and I had 45 minutes all to ourselves to talk and bond and grow closer without any children interrupting us. I had so many things that I wanted to tell the husband. I began to talk about our future and the fabric for the new furniture and how fat I was and the almost a teenager’s hormones. I went into detail about the kitten’s bowel movements and the new cleaner for the bathtub and the neighbor’s shoes that I liked. I finished up with telling him that Halle Berry was pregnant and that I needed to pay the cable bill and how I had stepped on a staple the day before. I was grateful to have this quality, one on one time with the husband where we could talk about our lives and get on the same page and really connect. I gazed over at the husband and smiled at him. He smiled back. I reached out my hand and grabbed the husband’s free hand. And it was wonderful. I found it extraordinary and so comforting that after 19 years of marriage we still cared about the same things.

Curious about the husband’s thoughts on everything “we” had just talked about and wanting to further our drive home bonding session, I asked him, “Honey, what are you thinking about right now?” He looked down at me and grinned and nodded his head toward a sign on the freeway.

“The truck scale is up ahead. Do you wanna go weigh the car? Motor Trend and the owner’s manual have different numbers for the weight of this car. I’ve always wondered blah, blah, blah, blah……..”

By the time we were home I was back to my normal, positive thinking self. And the good news is that I weighed 5 pounds less on the truck scale than my scale at home.

Check This Out!
Look for the documentary The Heart of the Game. Follow the true story of Seattle’s Roosevelt High School girl’s basketball team. This movie takes you through the tumultuous and gripping story of the young women playing the game, their unorthodox coach and a six year journey that ends up being about so much more than just basketball. It’s an inspirational sports movie that stands up to the best of them.

Friday, September 7, 2007

Middle School President

I came down the stairs to the intrusive and bothersome blaring of the TV. I had just finished lecturing the almost a teenager and found myself a bit on edge. I began with sincere and naïve intentions that my lecture would be full of unconditional love and bonding. It would include idealized examples and life lessons that I thought important for my daughter to know. I would calmly possess a non-judgmental understanding and positive attitude toward her ideas that would be unwavering. After about two minutes, my motherly lecture had deteriorated into a futile and most frustrating exercise in bashing my head against the wall. Or at least that’s what it felt like. As I left the almost a teenager’s room I had serious doubts as to whether either of us would make it through middle school unscathed.

Needless to say, I was in no mood to hear from the newscaster that 5 more soldiers had been killed in Iraq, that the trapped miners were still trapped or that my children had been sucking on lead riddled toys for the last decade. And perhaps most of all, I was in no mood to hear about a presidential election that wasn’t going to happen until well over a year from now. I’ve always been a classic example of a politically apathetic member of Generation X. While I do manage do vote in every election, I do so with an extremely cynical and disaffected view of politicians and politics in general. So when the newscast began to speak of the eventual presidential election I started to leave the room. I stopped and turned around however, when the reporter said, “So, now it is up to the American people to seriously ask themselves, ‘What qualities, characteristics and attributes DO you want in your next president?’”

“For goodness sake!” I cried to the half asleep husband on the couch. “Is it really that hard? Heck, the characteristics I would appreciate in a president are the same exact qualities and attributes I’d appreciate in any person I meet!” In fact, the lecture I had just attempted to give my daughter could just as easily apply to my ideal presidential candidate. In fact, my expectations for middle school behavior and presidential behavior aren’t that far apart.

To my almost a teenager daughter I say: I want you to be secure and confident in who you are. Figure out who your true self is and then have the strength and determination to live your life as that complete person, whether you are musical or athletic or are a closet Sanjaya fan or secretly really don’t believe in paying $40 for a t-shirt. Never let peer pressure or low self esteem dictate the path your life will take. Do what you think is right, even if it's not popular. And never mistake arrogance or bullying for confidence. I want you to have a strong personal character. Don’t lie or cheat or steal. It’s just plain wrong, you’ll probably get in trouble and it just shouldn’t be a valid option. Don’t swear or gossip or spend more money than you have. It tarnishes who you are, you’ll probably get in trouble and there is always a better option. Find someone you admire who lives their life with strong moral and ethical guidelines and then emulate them. I hope you always employ an empathetic view toward the world. Realize that your school is full of kids with different histories, cultural identities and innate ways of thinking that you may never understand. Realize that being different doesn’t make them wrong or in need of change by you. Always treat people, animals and the earth kindly and with the utmost respect. Humbly help those in need whenever you can, not just when it makes you look good. Find a way to ensure that your life is full of joy and promise and security that isn’t dependent on how much money you have, how much stuff you own or how much you weigh.

To my almost a president I say: I want you to be secure and confident in who you are. Figure out who your true self is and then have the strength and determination to live your life as that complete person, whether you’re gay or straight or are a closet Democrat or secretly really don’t believe in abortion. Never let congressional pressure or low approval ratings dictate the path your presidency will take. Do what you think is right, even if it's not popular with the political action committees or your largest campaign contributer. And never mistake televised threats or war for confidence. I want you to have a strong personal character. Don’t lie or cheat or steal. It’s just plain wrong, you’ll probably get in trouble and someone will have video taped it and the video will be linked to the internet and then you will be the lead story on or the most downloaded video on You Tube and before long there will be congressional inquiries and Dateline investigations and you could eventually end up impeached or even resigning in shame from your presidency and people will always mention you and Richard Nixon in the same sentence and besides, it just shouldn’t be a valid option. Don’t swear or gossip or spend more money than you have. It tarnishes who you are, you’ll probably get in trouble and someone will have video taped it and the video will be linked to the internet and then you will be the lead story on or the most downloaded video on You Tube and before long there will be congressional inquiries and Dateline investigations and you could eventually end up impeached or even resigning in shame from your presidency and people will always mention you and Richard Nixon in the same sentence and besides, the taxpayers get really mad when you spend too much of their money. Develop some moral and ethical guidelines that you live your life by and then set a good example for everyone who is watching you. I hope you always employ an empathetic view toward the world. Realize that the world is full of countries with different histories, cultural identities and innate ways of thinking that you may never understand. Realize that being different doesn’t necessarily make them wrong or in need of change by bribes or sanctions or weapons or propaganda. Always support legislation that treats people, animals and the earth kindly and with the utmost respect. Humbly help those in need whenever you can, not just when it’s politically beneficial. Find a way to ensure that every American can live a life that is full of joy and promise and security that isn’t dependent on winning the lottery, working for Halliburton or getting plastic surgery.

At the end of the newscast my daughter came downstairs and was kind to her little brother, polite to her father and helpful to me. I began to consider then the possibility that there was hope for us. Could we really make it through middle school? Was it really possible she could turn out to be a confident, empathetic person with strong personal character? I’m certainly counting on it. As for the next president… and the rest of the apathetic, cynical and disaffected jury of Generation X members are still not so sure.

Check This Out!

If you’ve ever wondered why they keep throwing rocks and bulldozing houses over in Israel and Palestine then you need to read, The Lemon Tree: An Arab, a Jew and the Heart of the Middle East by Sandy Tolan. If you think you already know all about rock throwing and house crushing then read The Lemon Tree to hear about the true, personal story of an Arab family and the house they built, the Jewish family who came to live in that same house and the decades of personal dialogue that developed between the two. It’s required reading on many college campuses today. It’s full of history and sadness and hope. I couldn’t put it down.

Thursday, August 16, 2007

I Can Fix That!

The smell of burning rubber permeated the house. The high pitched squealing accelerated higher and higher by the second. The low, rumbling motor struggled to maintain its wheezing efforts at efficiency. The cats, wide-eyed and puffy, attempted a desperate, furtive escape from the living room. The children came spurting down the stairs, holding their noses and loudly voiced extreme disapproval of my continued actions. I, on the other hand, had never been happier. I knew that finally, and with absolutely no regret whatsoever, I had killed my vacuum cleaner.

My vacuum was purchased for $99.99 from the Navy Exchange department store in Orlando, Florida in 1988. This vacuum did not have a HEPA filter or an air flow rating. It could not lift a bowling ball. It did not come with a crevice tool, a telescopic wand or a dusting attachment. It never had an upholstery nozzle, suction control grips or height adjustment. My vacuum did not resemble a wind tunnel nor was it self propelled. And my vacuum was most definitely not a self programming, rechargeable disc that could wander my house, at any time of my choosing, searching for stray pieces of lint to suck up. In fact, my simple, cheap vacuum was so old that it was becoming almost impossible to find the internal bags for the outdated beast. And at last, thankfully, it was dead.

As I opened the windows to get some of the burning rubber smell out of the house I became giddy. I rushed upstairs and started researching new vacuums on the internet. I had just picked out the Cadillac of vacuums, full of spectacular and absolutely necessary features when he walked in the door. The husband was home.

I ran downstairs to tell him the fabulous news. He hung up his coat, went to the bathroom and then walked into the living room to take a look at the vacuum. I assured him that it was most certainly, quite broken. I then proceeded to provide irrefutable evidence by demonstrating the smelling and squealing and rumbling and wheezing qualities our vacuum now possessed. As I started to recount the spectacular and absolutely necessary features of the new Cadillac vacuum I had decided upon as a replacement, the husband got down on the ground and turned the old vacuum over. As I tried to shove a picture of my new beautiful appliance in his face, the husband went to the garage to get a screwdriver…or something. When he returned, he started taking the old vacuum apart. After about 23 seconds he turned to me and said, “Oh! I see what the problem is. I can fix that!”

I had to sit down. I was devastated. The husband then tried to explain to me what was wrong with our vacuum cleaner. “You can see here that the blah, blah, blah has become wrapped around the blah, blah, blah. And it’s obvious that the blah, blah, blah has also come lose and has jammed the blah, blah, blah. So all I have to do is move the blah, blah, blah over here, unwrap the blah, blah, blah from the blah, blah, blah and it should be as good as new.”

I shouldn’t have been surprised. I should have anticipated this outcome. I was feeling fairly foolish for thinking the broken vacuum would be beyond repair. You see, in my house the husband has a history of fixing things up. It started when he was young and found an old, broken TV in his parents’ garage. Before the afternoon was over he had become the only boy on his block with a working TV in his tree house. When he was in college he took a road trip to California. When the throttle pedal unexpectedly dropped to the floor, causing his old ’69 Plymouth Valiant to accelerate uncontrollably, the husband rationally shut off the car and came to a stop. He lifted the hood, retrieved the broken carb return spring, miraculously produced a pair of pliers…or something, bent a new hook in the spring and was back on the road in less than 3 minutes.

The husband’s MacGyver like qualities continued after we were married. It is a rare day when something in our house breaks and needs to be replaced. Over the years I have looked forward to getting many new items only to have the husband fix the broken one so that we no longer could justify replacing it. I’ve been denied the joy of shopping for a new weed eater, a CD jogger, a book lamp, an MP3 player, a backyard fence, a refrigerator icemaker, a dishwasher door, a lawnmower, a lawn sprinkler and a bedroom window. He’s fixed a car CD player, a box fan, a cell phone, a necklace, a garbage disposal and many computer components. And, of course, he has kept cars running for thousands of miles past when they should have died. He’s even denied the children new things by fixing broken Fisher Price toys, slot cars, electric trains, BRIO trains, and has most recently repaired the rivets on the almost a teenager’s jeans. All of these items were absolutely believed to be broken beyond repair-except by the husband who saw them as a challenge.

My vacuum is now fixed and is “as good as new”. I’ve accepted the fact that I may never get to own the Cadillac of vacuums. I’ve learned that with a little searching, I can even find my vacuum bags on the internet. I have also learned, however, that the husband’s ability to fix anything just might work in my favor as well. A few weeks ago, I walked in the door and was greeting by a giddy husband telling me that the old, ugly, boxy TV had finally blown up. He had run downstairs to tell me the fabulous news. I hung up my coat, went to the bathroom and then walked into the living room to take a look at the TV. He assured me that it was most certainly, quite broken. He then proceeded to provide irrefutable evidence by turning the now unresponsive TV on and off. As he started to recount the spectacular and absolutely necessary features of the new, big, flat screen TV he had decided upon as a replacement, I went behind the TV and took a look at the back of it. As he tried to shove a picture of his new, beautiful flat screen in my face, I went into the kitchen to get a snack. When I returned, I put my feet up on the coffee table and started eating. After about 23 seconds I turned to the husband and said, “Oh honey, I understand what the problem is with the TV. But, I have absolutely no doubt that you can fix that!”

Check This Out!

Someday when you aren’t on a diet try Fried Polenta.

Gradually whisk 1 ¾ cups yellow cornmeal into 6 cups boiling, salted water. Reduce heat to low and cook 15 minutes, stirring often. Remove from heat and stir in 3 tablespoons butter. Spread three cups of the polenta in an 11x17 inch baking dish, sprayed with PAM, to about ¾ inch thick. Refrigerate for two hours. Preheat oven to 250 degrees. Cut refrigerated polenta into 1x2 inch pieces and fry in oil, about 3 minutes on each side, until golden brown. Drain on paper towels and keep warm in the oven on a baking dish until all batches are done. Sprinkle warm polenta pieces with parmesan and serve with marinara sauce for dipping.

A Pain in the Back

I was sitting at the computer the day my comfortable and predictable life changed. I was checking my blog, desperately hoping to find that someone had commented, when my marriage vows from 18 ½ years ago returned to smack me up side the head. I had my back to my husband the day our marriage went from “for better” to “for worse”.

Never one to pour forth his feelings, it was no surprise to me that my husband handled his part of the incident silently. He simply bent down to pick something up from my son’s bedroom floor and collapsed in extreme, agonizing back pain. He couldn’t move. Apparently, he couldn’t speak either. He had been there a decent amount of time before I found him pale and in the fetal position. In concerned shock, my first words were, “Why didn’t you call for me?”

While on the floor writhing in pain, he had decided he didn’t want to worry me and that he didn’t need any wifely assistance. So, he didn’t get any. I left him there. In the rare moment that he found himself in great need of help from me, he couldn’t bring himself to ask me for it. I was hurt. I was ticked off. I took it quite personally. I stormed out of the room. “What kind of team were we?” I silently questioned. “What kind of marriage was this?” I stewed from downstairs as he lay helplessly on the floor above me.

I would like to say that my failure to rise to the occasion, to be the bigger person, and help out my husband in his obviously distressing time of need was a singular event. It wasn’t. And in the upcoming days I proved even more unsuccessful at supporting him the way I should have. Simply put, my husband hurt his back and it was a big pain for me. It was inconvenient, annoying and so unattractive.

Over the course of the next few days, (or was it weeks?) I did wait on my husband. I got off the couch to bring him his medicine and a glass of water even though I had finally sat down for the first time that evening. I shopped for a back support wrap instead of going for a run. I served him numerous bowls of ice cream to make him feel better. I filled a hot water bottle for him right when my book was getting to the good part. I picked up his book about the arctic explorer from the library when I wasn’t going to be anywhere near the library. I bought him a car magazine that had an almost naked hot chick on the cover even though the hot chick made me feel fat and inadequate. Sadly, however, I complained about all of these things frequently. It wasn’t always out loud. But it wasn’t a well kept secret. It was obvious that I was resentful of my husband and his injury and certainly held him responsible for my current, somewhat exacting and nettlesome lot in life.

Not only was I unhappy helping my husband with the physical demands of his injury, I secretly harbored a few psychological grudges as well. I married a strong, capable and competent man. I was not at all attracted to this vulnerable, needy and silent man. I felt a bit cheated and resentful that he was no longer an unwavering, steadfast constant in my life. He was suddenly somewhat unavailable and helpless. Now, there is no doubt that I am often in charge of many aspects of our daily routine and family life. It was quite a different story however, when confronted with the situation of being forced to be in charge, not by choice, by instead, by absolute necessity. Suddenly, being in charge was not satisfying, predictable and convenient. It was uncomfortable, frightening and nerve racking.

When I muttered the words, “for better or for worse” almost two decades ago, my husband and I were both young and healthy and naïve. When actually confronted with a “for worse” situation, however, I quickly became whiny, selfish and mostly unsupportive. My main concern with my husband’s back problem was how it affected me and my life. Of course, my behavior was shocking and disappointing. I was not proud of how I had acted. Even so, I became concerned for the future. Is this what I had to look forward to for the next 40 years? Would we take turns nursing each other, becoming more resentful each time, until one of us finally keeled over? I looked to the example of my older friends and family and found that is exactly what they did. They did help their spouses and other relatives through their “for worse” situations. And sometimes they did get frustrated. It was often exhausting, unrewarding work. But there was a huge difference between them and me. They did it selflessly. They did it with love. They did it remembering that their “for worse” situation paled in meaning and intensity and enormity to the collective “for better” situations they’ve experienced together throughout the years. They seemed so much wiser than me.

“What kind of team were we?” I silently questioned. “What kind of marriage was this?” I felt horrible. I knew then that if I placed any more focus on myself it would be to learn how to be truly selfless. The next time my husband needed nursing I would do it remembering all the good that we’ve had. I would nurse him remembering that the “for better” has always outweighed the “for worse”. I would get him his medicine remembering how grateful I am that he is still with me, no matter how vulnerable he is at that particular moment. Of course, there are still times when I insist on being in charge. I often nag him to do his special back exercises. I nag at him to eat right. I nag at him to drive carefully and put on his sunscreen. Because, while I am determined to be a little kinder and more sympathetic the next time my husband is in need, I’m also secretly hoping that many years that go by before we have to find out if I’m actually capable of that.

Check This Out!
Come Back to Afghanistan: A California Teenager’s Story by Said Hyder Akbar and Susan Burton is a great account of modern Afghanistan through the eyes of an American teenager whose father is instrumental in the rebuilding efforts in post Taliban Afghanistan. It’s a great contrast in life experiences that most Americans will never understand...and probably should.

Wednesday, August 1, 2007

Reunion Lessons

I arrived at the reunion with my jumping and lurching stomach attempting a violent and twisted escape from my body. My shaking and sweaty hands reluctantly opened the car door. The husband had to drag me in. “This totally sucks,” I muttered under my breath. “What was I thinking? I never should have come.”

Then Barbie said hello to me. Such a simple thing. Saying hello. But it made all the difference in the world. I was still nervous. There definitely were people I didn’t recognize. There were people who didn’t recognize me. But, somehow, it became fun. Everyone was in the same boat. As the weekend went on and I gained more and more courage to speak to my classmates, I became aware that certain reunion moments and circumstances stood out more than others. It was during this microcosm of life that is the class reunion, that I ended up learning a few valuable reunion lessons, and really, perhaps, even life lessons, that form the basis of my fabulous reunion memories.

The Top 15 Ways to Make an Impression at Your Class Reunion
1. Having 6 kids, 2 step kids and 87 animals will most certainly make an impression at a reunion. Your classmates will wonder in awe how in the heck you had the time and the energy to even show up at the reunion after raising all those kids and animals. Some of us still struggle to just get ourselves out of bed in the morning. Wow.

2. Thongs and cleavage and piercings, oh my! Flash your thong underwear to your classmates, show up in a cleavage baring dress that your husband picked out or arrive at the reunion with a nose ring that you didn’t have in high school and your classmates will most definitely be whispering behind your back. And if you surreptitously adjust your adjustable push up bra to the highest level while speaking to your second grade crush, you are guaranteed to start a furor. It won't all be negative gossip, however. Some of us are a bit jealous we don't look like that in a thong or have the guts to pierce something other than our ears.

3. Dance on the table at the banquet and not only will you make an impression on your former classmates but you will earn a mention in this blog as well.

4. If your head looks different than it did in high school people may not recognize you immediately. Your classmates will stand across the room for a long time, casually glancing in your direction, wondering who that is with the shocking red hair. They will make desperate stabbing guesses at who is hiding underneath that bushy facial hair. There will be hushed, critical conjecture as to who in the class had a nose that was that perfectly sculpted and a forehead that didn’t move. Someone will eventually get up enough nerve to ask you your name. Be prepared for looks of shock and disbelief followed by cries of, “No way!”

5. Hold a thoughtful conversation with someone outside of your permitted and expected social circle from high school. At least one of you will walk away shocked, mumbling the words, “She never spoke to me once in high school. Hmmmm……”

6. Exchange furtive glances, subtle touches and personal phone numbers with another classmate and the entire class will know about it within 10 minutes. Gossip travels quickly.

7. Announce to a conservative, religious, Republican classmate that you thoroughly enjoy your new stem cell research job more than your last job at the abortion clinic. Or ask the liberal, environmentalist in the class to help you release all of the latex party balloons into the sky as you tell him all about how you would vote for Bush a third time if you could.

8. Be a jerk to a classmate when you are 8 or 13 or 16 years old. Some people don’t forget. Some people never move on. Some grudges are held for a lifetime. If you find someone giving you the cold shoulder at the reunion, ask yourself if you were unkind to them in 5th grade.

9. Make sure your kid knocks down a few other kids at the class picnic soccer game. If your kid appears to be an insensitive, aggressive bully it will most certainly make an impression on your classmates.

10. Be confident. Confidence is attractive and will be noticed. Whether it be the local radio celebrity or the wheelchair ridden, handicapped advocate, classmates with confidence in who they are stand out.

11. Become responsible. Men, who in high school, couldn’t dress themselves, find their homework, or speak in complete sentences have somehow turned into fabulous husbands and fathers who have no problem holding down a job, changing a diaper or cooking dinner for their wife. This shocks and amazes us all.

12. Live far away. If you travel a great distance to come to the reunion, you will be treated like an exotic celebrity who has an unusual but admirable dedication to your classmates. It helps to have acquired the local accent as well.

13. Overcome a health crisis. This scares us all. We don’t know if we’ll be next. We don’t know if we could do what you have done. You have the respect of everyone.

14. Be on the reunion committee. It is the ultimate thankless job. No one knows how much work it takes to pull off a successful reunion. Almost no one will recognize you for all of your hard work. But people will have a great time. People will enjoy themselves. My reunion was a huge success because of the reunion committee. Thank you.

15. Don’t come. The easiest way to make an impression at your class reunion is to not come at all. It will guarantee days or even weeks of speculation as to why you weren’t there. Your name will be Googled. Websites will be searched. Rumors will start. Before long, your real reason for not coming will pale greatly in comparison to the one created by your nosy, imaginative and curious classmates.

Almost every single person who showed up at my reunion had some issue that made them question whether or not they should go. Somehow though, we all found a way to walk in the door, even if we had to be drug in by the husband. As a result, our reunion was full of people with low self esteem, grey hair, and a few extra pounds. There were people who still looked exactly the same as they did in high school. We saw others with sun damage and wrinkles and age spots. We visited with people who are wealthier than most of us can imagine. There were even a few people that were absolutely, totally hot. We spoke with single mothers, recovering alcoholics and the passionately religious. We compared our adoptions and miscarriages and anti-depressant medications. We were introduced to our classmates’ partners. We saw children with mohawks. We found out someone was a grandparent. We saw classmates who live all over the country and classmates who live 2 blocks from the high school. Our reunion was full of people who brought their old photo albums, shared their story of diving at the Great Barrier Reef, and were able to laugh at their obnoxious ex-husband. What made our reunion great was the people who took a risk, ignored their nerves and walked through the door anyway. They shared their stories with old friends and acquaintances, found things in common with people they had never spoken to before in their lives and maybe even made a new connection or two.

I cannot even begin to guess where the next five or ten years will take us. I can only hope that when the next reunion comes around even more classmates will ignore their nerves and walk through that door--you won’t regret it. So to all my fellow reunion-ites--consider this the first notice for the next reunion. It should give you plenty of time to lose those last couple of pounds, get that MBA and find some inner peace. Then there will be no excuse as to why you can’t come. See you there!

Check This Out!
Definitely rent the movie Goal! The Dream Begins starring Kuno Becker. It's a wonderful rags to riches soccer story. It has great footage and is quite inspirational. Rent it now though, because Goal II: Living the Dream hits theaters in September.