Tuesday, June 21, 2011

It Comes Back to Bite Ya

Sometimes I wish my mom hadn't taught me that it's wrong to say "Bite Me!"

It's completely true. When I was young and naive and thought I knew the "right" way to live, I would never have dreamed of saying, "Bite Me!" In fact, I would have been offended at the very idea of anyone using that as a comeback at all. Even in a PG-13 movie (which are usually way more crass than R, but that's another blog). But as I've grown older and perhaps wiser, the Bite Me comeback has gained in appeal. It's become a tasty little morsel that I'd like to have just one opportunity to taste.

In fact, I'd like more than just a morsel. I'd like a whole menu full of Bite Me! I actually have a Bite Me list. You know how most people have a list of things they would do with their millions if they ever won the lottery? I have one of those. But I also have a long list of people I'd walk up to in the middle of their normal, mundane, boring, judgmental lives and say, "Bite me!"

Horrible, I know. But true, just the same. Don't worry, though. Because it will never happen. I actually have more chance of winning the lottery than I ever have of completing my Bite Me List.

Here's the problem--without fail, every time I've turned from my nicey-nicey, Polyanna reaction, it's come back to bite ME.


I'd lived in the same house for over a decade with no curtains. Oh, there were a few cheap blinds and dingy shirrs that were hung when the house was built, years before I lived there, but there were no actual draperies. So when I became sole owner of the house, I wanted curtains. I wanted them like a Devil's food cake wants fudgy frosting.

I called three different drapery stores and made the appointments. You know the kind I mean. The "We'll be there sometime between noon and five appointments." On the given day, I waited. Patiently. Noon came and went. Five came and went. The curtain lady...never came or went. I called the store. They were very sorry. She had been delayed. Could we reschedule? Sure. Why not.

The second given day was a repeat of the first. And I was steamed. I called the store. They were very sorry. There had been an emergency with another customer. A curtain emergency. I see. Could they reschedule? Of course. These things happen. Curtain emergencies happen everyday. Why not.

The day for the third appointment came. I was ready. If this guy didn't show up, someone was gonna hear about it. I almost hoped he didn't show up. Until he didn't.

I called his phone and his voicemail answered and I left my message. "I'm calling you because we had an appointment this afternoon and not only did you not show up, but you didn't even bother to call. At this point, if this is the way your company treats its customers, don't bother calling to reschedule. I'm not interested!"

I hung up and felt good! It was the first time I could remember standing up for myself since I was probably about 18 years old. I strutted. I swaggered. I replayed in my head the message I had just left that inconsiderate, unprofessional, lazy, poor excuse of a salesman.

The next day when the Curtain Company called, I was more than ready for them. Or so I thought.

"We just wanted to apologize for missing your appointment yesterday. The consultant scheduled to meet with you had a family emergency. His sister died yesterday."

I'm completely serious. This is no joke. The first time in years that I had decided to NOT turn the other cheek, and this was the result. Although it was quite embarrassing, it wasn't a surprise. I've gotten used to it really, the ironic little life lesson God teaches me.

As for the Bite Me List, you can see why that won't ever happen. It has nothing to do with the lottery and everything to do with the fact that if I say "Bite Me" too many times (and especially if I'm enjoying it) it might just be seen as an invitation for all that bad will to come back and bite me in the you-know-where.

So I guess I'll just keep turning the other cheek like my Mama taught me. Between Mom and God, there's one thing at least I've learned...Karma has sharp teeth.

Sunday, May 8, 2011

How to Relax on Mother's Day

It's the first Mother's Day in probably 10 years that I am NOT sweating profusely, slathering sunscreen, getting rain-drenched, or risking being blown away. The majority of my Mother's Day have been spent at the soccer fiields. Last year I dreamed of pampering myself with the Mother of All Lawn Chairs. (See the May 2010 Blog, Happy Soccer Mom's Day.) This year there is no need for a Mother of All Lawn Chairs. And I don't know quite what to do with myself.

How does one celebrate Mother's Day without soccer? My wonderful, glorious children seem to have figured it out. They are giving me the most wonderful gift ever, even as I sit, trapped in my bedroom while they not so secretly plan their surprise. You see, our dishwasher has been out of comission for months. We all LOVE to eat but hate to clean, so you can imagine the constant state of  disaster in the kithen. But today I can hear the running water in the kitchen sink, the clanking of dishes  and the inevitable bickering that always accompanies thier kitchen cleaning duties. Normally I would have qaushed that bickering by forcing the blaring of Clay Aiken or something just as unpleasant for modern day middle schoolers. But, alas, I am held captive in my room. I can't do a thing about the bickering. And actually, it's kind of nice.

Still, it feels very strange to sit here with absolutely NOTHING to do. I'm not allowed to fold clothes, cook meals, scrub pot and pans. There's no missing shin gaurd to find, no coolers to pack, no game to hurry to. It's just me in the quiet of my room with the instruction to "go relax".

Yay! Relax!

Ahh! Relax!


I don't think I remember how to do that. My oldest is almost 20. It's been two decades since I've relaxed.
Should relaxing be this difficult? And boring?

I look around  Mother's day jail cell. Hanging from the mirror of my dresser, I see a faded paper "basket" with scrawling childhood hand writing wishing my Happy May Day. Tucked inside is a couple of old Valentine's Cards from Carmen and Sophie along with a handmade foam snowman with Frank's 3rd grade school photo glued on the front. On the dresser is a small ceramic figurine of a kitten resting in a ballet slipper--a gift from Kate given to me years ago. Beside it is a small wooden box painted by a child's hand. It holds my rosaries. There's a small bottle of sand art and a couple of Webkins bears from past Christmases, given to me so that I could play on the Webkins Website, too!

Then there's a small, yellow mesh bag with a flower on the outside and strips of purple paper inside. They read:

I love my mom because she gave birth to me.
I love my mom because she takes care of me.
I love my mom because she lets me have a good education.
I love my mom because she helps me with my homework.
I love my mom for taking me places.
I love my mom because she buys me toys.
I love my mom because she is really funny.
I love my mom because she is cool.
From Your Son Frank, Second Grade.

I pause and reflect on all the million reasons I love my kids. I wonder how big the bag would have to be to hold all those strips of paper.

Some very savory scents are floating in from the kitchen. The bickering has subsided. And I am very grateful for a few moments with nothing to do, for a few moments to "go relax".

I'm blessed. Very, very blessed.

The door opens and I'm finally free. The table is a gorgeous array of delicious foods. What a marvelous banquet!

Then someone yells, obviously annoyed, "Sophie, get up here! We're ready to eat. What's taking you so long!" And she yells back, equally annoyed, "I'm coming. Hold On!"

Ahhhhh...that's more like it. What a Happy Mother's Day!

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Are We There Yet?

A friend told me the other day that I should not worry so much about my destination, but rather enjoy the journey.

Good advice. But I was perplexed. I thought I was a journey kind of person. Didn't I come across as a journey kind of person? And even if I was a destination kind of person, I'm directionally challenged. I rarely get to where I planned to go in the manner that I planned to get there. I actually got lost in my own neighborhood once. And I was walking! So I don't have a choice. I have to enjoy the journey because if I didn't laugh at the constant road blocks, obstacles, detours, and wrong turns that make up my journey, I'd be perpetually stalled at some sketchy roadside rest stop, sobbing my eyes out.

But the comment got me thinking. People really do fall into those two camps, for the most part. Journey people and destination people. Then I wondered if that is one of the causes of miscommunication between kids and parents. There are 10 gazillion books on how to talk to your kids.There are books that preach Love Languages, Love and Logic, Parenting IQ's and Parenting Smart Zones. If I checked, I could probably find one on how to spk txt 2 ur kids. But I don't think there is one on Journeys and Destinations. (And you type C personalities out there, if you find one, I don't want to know about it!)

But think about it, if we are constantly using Journey Speak to a Destination Person, we might as well be speaking Swahili! And as you all know, I speak fluent Swahili.

So which category do my children belong to? Kate is definitely a Destination Person, to a fault. ANYTHING at all that happens along the way that doesn't directly deliver her to her desired destination is a complete waste of time and frankly a bunch of bleeping bull-bleep! Maybe that's why every time I tried to get her to just relax and enjoy life, she claimed that I had no idea what I was talking about. The Journey Speak simply didn't resonate.

Sophie is a Journey Girl. She MUST smell every flower, feel every speed bump, splash in every mud puddle...You get the picture.  I get this way of living. Even so, I have to remind her every so often to focus on where she's wanting to be and think about if these appealing detours are going to get her there. But she usually doesn't hear me because she's half-way out the door to the next tourist spot.

Frank is also a Destination Person. He agrees with the bleeping bull-bleep idea, but expresses his discontent more mildly. He's nice enough to be willing to enjoy the ride if he's with a Journey Person, but jumps for joy when he's in the company of the Destination People. He patiently listens to the Journey Speak, but I don't think he buys a word of it.

Then there's the Quiet yet Calculating One. She takes the Destination Idea to a new place entirely. Her destination is not Hollywood or the Olympics or the Moon, as some kids dream. Oh no. Her destination is winning. Life is not a journey. No map or GPS system required. Life, my friends, is a game and the challenge is to win.

A while back when Captain Phil of The Deadliest Catch passed away at such a young age, I asked my daughter if she had the choice, would she choose a short life packed full of adventures like Captain Phil or if she would rather live a long, less chaotic life. Her answer: "It depends. Do I get to live to be the oldest person alive? Because if not, what's the point." Now, what version of Swahili do I use to answer that?

Are you a Destination Person or a Journey Person? What about your kids? It might be interesting to ask them if they think life is all about the place they are going or how they are going to get there. And if you can decipher, let me know what they say. You can catch me stopped by the side of the road searching for my map. Or perhaps walking in circles, taking in the beautiful scenery on my way to where I'm trying to go.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

My First Best Friend

My first best friend died last week. Our lives had drifted apart years ago. So, I was surprised at the inundating wave of emotions that overtook me on hearing the news. A hundred visions of two innocent girls, giggling and singing and dreaming flooded my heart. Memories of honest, young friendship before the interference of peer pressure and cliques and gossip and boys washed over me. I let the idea of the scarcity of it all, the inevitable fading of it sink in. And suddenly I didn't want it to fade. I wanted a way to hold onto that part of myself, that part of my friend.

I searched old photo albums for visual reminders of that beautiful time. There they were-- a handful of birthday party pictures, a First Communion photograph, a school portrait with her handwritten note on the back. I studied every detail of these treasures and began to understand the importance of a First Best Friend.

A First Best Friendship may be one of the most important places where our formation of spirit begins and grows. Without the pressure of societal expectations, we learn acceptance and sharing and forgiveness and compassion in a way that imprints our souls.

At her funeral, I saw dozens of images of the woman My First Best Friend had become. I stared at the collages of family events, sorority sisters, and high school activities. At the ceremony, I listened to the amazing life she'd lived after college. I learned how she had created an exciting career that lead her to fun places where she impacted the lives of who knows how many people.

And I began to feel cheated.

My First Best Friend, who had been by my side at every single birthday party until I turned 12 and my family moved away, who had pretended to be Charlie's Angels with me, who had worn matching First Communion gowns with me, who had shared an early girlhood dream of becoming famous singers with me had blessed my life for such a very short time. Most everyone else in attendance there had experienced her joy for a lifetime.

Sitting at the back of that same church the where the two of us had learned the Hail Mary and Our Father and tasted our first Eucharist, I looked at all the sad faces. I recognized a few other childhood friends whose families had stayed in our small hometown. These were the girls who shared with my First Best Friend the experiences that take us from girl to woman. They cheered for the same football team and maybe even dated the same quarterback. They shared a first Prom and possibly a first After-Prom Kegger. They experienced boy-craziness and basketball tournaments. They walked across the same graduation stage.

I saw the grief of her family who had shared a lifetime of Christmases and family vacations. I recognized her older sister whom My First Best Friend has admired even as a young girl. I saw her brother whom she'd held a ferocious protecting love for, even when we were kids.

And I began to feel selfish.

Who was I to grieve? I couldn't really say I missed having her in my life. I hadn't seen her for decades. These people shared a lifetime with her. I was intruding on their celebration of her life and mourning of her death. It was not my place to cry at her absence. It was not my place to comfort her parents. And yet my heart still ached. Later, at the cemetery, this most unexpected mix of emotions still tumbled around inside me while I approached her parents. Her father hugged me like a long lost daughter and her mother thanked me over and over again for coming.

And I began to feel blessed.

God places  a few exceptional people in this world. One of them was My First Best Friend. She imprinted her life on mine at a time and an age when our unadulterated souls are most open to the lessons of the love of friendship. I distinctly remember, even at so young an age, wanting to be a better person when I was in her presence. Now, knowing the woman she became and the friend she was to so many, I want to be a better person, still. When God places exceptional people like Sharla Kae in my life, no matter how short the time, how can I not feel blessed?

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Opera Lunch

The following should be read in a very high, vibrating, operatic voice:

"Please come and eat your lunch!
I've made a meal you'll love a bunch.
Hot Dogs and Mac and Cheese!
Wash your hands, first please!"

Ok, so I'm no Andrew Lloyd Weber. Heck, I'm not even a Dr. Seuss! But, apparently, I am the original (and possibly the one and only) Opera Lunch Mom.

Opera Lunch was invented when my youngest 2 were still in diapers. It was born out of a moment of sheer desperation. Here's what happened:

You know how they whine because they are hungry and you, being the Roaring Mom you are, won't allow them to have a snack because you actually have lunch planned that day and you are determined to stick to the schedule because some Super-Anal Mom made you feel guilty last week about the fact the her entire life is condensed neatly into a day timer, even down to when Little Susie sits on the pot? You know those times? Well, this was one of those times. So I bear the bickering and complaining, and I stick to the schedule. As planned, I fix the lunch that's on the menu exactly at the time that I am supposed to. I set the table and distribute the portions precisely. Then, I walk calmly to the play room and invite the precious, darlings to head to the bathroom to wash hands because lunch is served. But, once again, I must be speaking Swahili, because no one moves. No one even acknowledges my presence.

So, I try the deep breathing, the counting to ten, the Love and Logic questions. "Would you like to eat your lunch or would you like to go hungry?" Only I know that I could never let them go hungry, because...because...well, because that wasn't part of the plan. I was actually on time and organized and prepared today and, dang it, they are going to sit at the table I prepared and eat the lunch I cooked for them.

I feel the frustration waxing and my patience waning and I wonder if Little Susie's mom ever speaks Swahili and then I remember that's a big NO, because the entire family (even the newborn) takes French lessons Wednesdays at 10:00! I want to yell. I want to throw something. I want to take away every toy that is sucking their attention from the bountiful feast I so lovingly heated in the microwave!

Then, like an epiphany from on high, Opera Lunch is created. I sing, with all the volume and vibrato I can muster, that lunch awaits them in the kitchen. They giggle. I belt Verse 2! They belly laugh and follow me to the kitchen. Then, to my amazement, one of them belts out, "Can I have some ketchup pleeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeease?" And so goes the entire meal! And several more for the rest of the summer.

Opera Lunch mutated many times that summer. Sometimes it was the Getting Ready for Bed Opera. Sometimes it was the Wash the Dishes Opera. We even had a Get Your Hiney Out of Bed Opera.

Someone asked me the other day why 2 of my 4 kids enjoyed performing so much. I told them it was because they had such a dork for a mom. Then I explained Opera Lunch. The guy rolled his eyes and said, "That's weird." And it probably is. But it's also much better than a summer of memories of a frustrated, guilt-ridden  Yelling Mom trying desperately to succeed as Super-Anal Mom when she just isn't. She's Opera Lunch Mom. And, even though her kids are teens, she still speaks Swahili. And she didn't even have to go to class to learn it.

Take that, Super-Anal Mom!

Sunday, January 30, 2011

She Chose...Wisely

I've heard it said that what we are today is a result of our past choices. And what we will be tomorrow will be a result of the choices we make today. It's a simple idea. Kind of a no-brainer, in fact. But it's genius to someone like me who feels like a walking "no-brainer" most of the time.

So yesterday, at Target, the perfect profoundness of that statement hit me like a ton of...chocolate fudge! In fact, I was craving chocolate fudge at the time, contemplating which commercial grade chocolate confection could possibly tame the craving, wondering if this Target (not a Super Target) would have all the ingredients necessary to make my most delicious, mouth-watering home-made fudge since I had no ingredients at home since I had announced after the last batch that it would, indeed, be the last batch. My face grew hot. My vision blurred. My hands began to shake and my head got dizzy. Must...have...chocolate...

Then, suddenly, it was as if God or Tony Horton or a leg-warmer-wearing 1980's clad Jane Fonda intervened to save my soul. Or at least my waistline. There, at the corner of women's shoes and Valentine candy, was a bright, shining display of physical fitness: Buns of Steal, Power Yoga, Hip Hop Abs, Beach Body, Biggest Loser Body Make-Over, and yes, even an all-new Jane Fonda Fitness video!

I stood frozen to that spot as the display seemed to glow like a heavenly vision and a chorus of angels began their serenade. Only instead of the Hallelujah chorus, the Jello theme song sounded in my ears. "Watch it wiggle. See it jiggle..." And I realized they weren't referring to Jello brand gelatin, but instead they sang of the result of too many bowls consumed of that fruity dessert. Ah, hell, too many bowls of the whipped topping that was supposed to go on the fruity dessert but was sucked straight from the nozzle instead. And the pumpkin pie, and the peanut butter cookies. AND THE FUDGE!!!!

Quickly, before I could even acknowledge the sweet-talking devil on my shoulder, I grabbed one of the work-out videos that promised results in only 10 days and ran (jiggling all the way) to the check-out counter. I ignored the mocking siren calls of the Kit Kat Bar and the Reese's. I turned my back to the shiny temptation of the Hershey's Kiss and bolted out the automatic doors. I was free! I had made it through the entire Target store without a single break down.

So I made a choice yesterday for a better today. And today I choose an even better tomorrow. And in 10 days (because I really only have about 10 days worth of will power I'm sure) we'll see what that tomorrow looks like.