Wednesday, August 21, 2013

It's Not Easy Being Mean

Although I am known throughout the land as happy, level-headed, and sweet enough to cause cavities (or so I imagine), there are times...and situations...that bring out my very most unseemly side. Come on, how long has it been since you wanted to flat some tires or make a citizen's arrest because someone was on your LAST NERVE...?

Well, I had a night like that. The details don't matter but I was boiling over mad, dredging up ancient wrongs (real and imagined), head swirling with epithets, revenge fantasies, and the kind of language usually associated with sailors. Grrrrrr

And for many well-balanced people, access to those emotions is immediate, the volcano blows, well-chosen words are flung in haughty ire, and a dramatic exit leaves the object of one's anger appropriately chastised.

That's how I would imagine it, anyway. Having been brought up as I was, my voice is rarely raised and most of my very best fights occur only in my mind.

But I was boiling mad! Wronged! Undeservedly so, of course! This must be addressed!

First, I'm not usually sure I'm mad until it sits for a while, allowing the perpetrator to 1) think they had the last word and 2) escape. Eventually, I shift from "what?" to "WTF!!!", and off I sail to right the wrong.

Unfortunately, a sore heel and bad knees played havoc with my entrance. I was less sweeping into view as limping forcefully, red-faced and sputtering. And that's where the whole experience went off the rails.

Chemo messed with my vocabulary and words often elude me, leaving me to stare helplessly into the confused face of my co-conversationalist as I just sort of stop talking when I go blank. It's pretty unsettling. And VERY unhelpful when my intention is to GIVE SOMEONE A PIECE OF MY MIND, and that particular piece takes that moment to play hide and seek.

All I was left with were fragments of what might have been indisputable truths, delivered in frustration with increasing volume and gestures in a poor attempt to make up for what I was lacking in content and reason. I then became 5 years old, and not a nice 5 either, and said as many mean things (with no segue) as I could string together from my uncooperative mind. I think I might have actually stomped my foot and then...again, can't make that dramatic exit...had to make my slow and painful getaway. But I did eventually slam a door.

Well, that was useful, wasn't it?!! All that hot air released, I was immediately remorseful and sent a quick little apology via email. And at that moment I realized that I have never said mean things to anyone, as far as I can recall.  The scene wasn't unfamiliar because I frequently fight both sides in my head, but to actually say mean and hurtful things to someone was horrible. It didn't make me feel better at all. And, due to my attenuated speech patterns, it was not only mean and hurtful but probably nonsensical and confusing.

Yes, I'm still mad. The initial thing that set me off isn't any less hurtful to me. I will handle it as I usually do, shake it off and move on. But I learned something HUGE

It's not easy being mean. I once burst into tears when someone close to me called me an unflattering name, and he was shocked..."don't tell me nobody's ever called you a name before" and I truthfully said "No. Nobody ever has". Tonight I realized that, even though I have been provoked for 2 years into tonight's dramatics, it's the first time I went face to face matching hurt for hurt.

Until it was over. The other person will go off and live his life, and I'll let the ripples cover the pond and subside, and nothing that was said made any difference. But I knew him well enough to know there were places I just couldn't go, and I got very close to that never-never land. There's a social contract we have with people who populate our lives...some things are just off-limits. I got close enough to that edge to feel the frosty air. And no matter how it made him feel, it didn't make me feel better.

But Mean Girls (and boys) dwell at that edge and poke poke poke at the soft unprotected place where we keep our most loathsome fears. And I learned, that's not me. I want to win but I don't need bleeding bodies littering the battlefield.

If as you read this you think of a time I wronged you in any way, please forgive me. I am not naive enough to think I've left only harmony and peace in my wake. But I know now I'm not a Mean Girl. It's too hard.

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Chicken Sweaters

Now, I'll be the first to admit that my dog, Katie the Amazing Shih Tzu, has a wardrobe to rival Carrie Bradshaw's, and her own Jelly Bean Pink dresser. She has several changes for each of her Halloween photo shoots, and I am very proud that her Bumble Bee won Best Overall in 2012, netting us much-appreciated hockey tickets. Oh, and she did attend a game later that season, dressed in her custom KWings sweater, knit by a friend of our favorite player #8. That made the local online news and the big scoreboard.

But I NEVER dress her for anything other than photo sessions...and personal appearances...and she does share her 3 tiaras and many, many boas if I need them myself.

So you can imagine my amusement when I somehow stumbled upon hand-knit sweaters for chickens.

In general, I am a big fan of Etsy and have friends with successful shops, selling beautiful, handmade, useful articles. I have bought handbags and earrings in multiples, and love that I can receive a bracelet from Israel and a scarf from the Ukraine in the same mail.

Having found these treasures, you can surely understand how one would be led to dig deeper, following the rabbit trail from "red transfer ware" to "lever-back earrings" to..."CHICKEN SWEATERS"!!?

I have no idea how I stumbled on that listing. Yes, the photo was of a real chicken, wearing a homemade sweater (not nearly as fashionable as Katie's). I had no idea that warming a live chicken was a problem. And then to compound my dumbfoundedness, in a separate cruise around Etsy, I found hand made egg warmers, at $40 each. Are those for breakfast eggs? Or is an egg warmer just the first step in creating a spoiled chicken who can't venture out without a sweater? And unless I'm dining alone, can I really afford $480 to keep my dozen cozy.?

There is a "convo" option to let me contact he seller/creator, but Etsy is all about positive interactions and asking "What the heck were you thinking?" Or "does anybody actually PAY you for that" seem likely to put me on some kind of list that I'd rather not occupy.

Feel free to comment with your favorite Etsy creations. I'm sure I've barely scratched the surface

Thursday, April 25, 2013


Vacatis - the condition of overwhelming confusion when planning vacation. Often followed by Vacapathy, when you just don't care any more

That's where I am now. Having spent at least 3 hours a day in the past 2 weeks or more online, on Pinterest, on my friends' last nerve, I now know how everyone else would spend their 14 day Orlando vacation. No idea, still, how I want to spend mine.

Groupon is usually more help, and hasn't entirely failed me this time. I have day fishing, night fishing, The Improv, painting pottery, and mini golf covered. A few meals planned using discounts. However, Groupon is stumbling a bit and they aren't offering the sparkling activities I've enjoyed in the past. In fact last year I used Groupons to receive 4 different massage or body wrap sessions, and this year none appeal to me. And no matter how deep the discount, I'm not sky-diving, learning to pole dance, or swimming with manatees.

But this is Orlando and the past 3 visits we managed to ignore the Big Mouse and other attractions that have sprung up in his shadow. Water park? Dinner show? Epcot? Sea World? Aaarrggggg! I don't know! What if I pick the wrong one and waste all that time and money being somewhere when I should have been somewhere else?

It should be noted that, being from SoCal, I've been to them all at least once.

But one thing my travel companion and I have, strangely, agreed on. AMC has a Dine-In Theater at Downtown Disney. You order your meal from a full menu and eat it at the table in front of your theater seat! Now, true, we don't usually go to movies at home. The experience sounds a lot like watching television in the BarcaLounger with dinner on a TV tray. But it still sounds unique enough (or maybe, familiar enough) to appeal to us both. And I think we can still see "42", the Jackie Robinson movie

So there you go. Back to Vacapathy. I'm past looking at one more website, brochure, or Pin. Pack me up and ship me to Florida. I hear sun and palm trees are the antidote to my condition

Saturday, April 13, 2013

The Sweetness of Caterwauling

The other night I was reminded that my heart child's orchestra recital was coming up.  I used to attend every performance, hanging on every flat note and missed cue and loving the experience for all it's imperfections

This was different. I have been working so much more than when I was Working (the difference between having my own business versus having a "job job") and most evenings collapse in a puddle of inertia. Please don't make me go anywhere...Please! And if you do, please pick me up and don't make me go look for this place in an unfamiliar neighborhood. But mostly don't make me go

So the day of, Willow (my TTF) texted to say she couldn't go - Food Poisoning! I took this to mean I was off the hook too and was starting to imagine myself solving the Final Jeopardy question from the comfort of my couch

Not so fast. I soon received Text Part The Second...Heart Child is SOOOO excited that I'm coming! Yeah, she brought out the big artillery...the little performer WANTS ME. So off we go.

She has been playing Clarinet for about 6 months. Rumor is, she hates it. But when we walked into the auditorium (having paid $3 each - who charges for kids' recitals?) there she was, barely containing herself, watching for us and leading us to our seats with her, her Daddy, and little sis. Notice anyone missing? Yup, Mom got to stay home. I wonder what the Final Jeopardy question was...

Several classes were performing. First, Beginning Orchestra grinded their way through Bach and an ancient hymn or two. Major stage shuffle and there she was, my little clarinetist, joining Beginning Band in their three pieces. iPhone raised and steadied, I captured every note and squeak for posterity.

Again, major stage shuffling. There must have been a smoother way to segue from group to group, but suffice it to say moving chairs and music stands is apparently best accomplished by young men in suits who would rather be anywhere else. Next...Intermediate Orchestra

They were pretty good! I could see the light at the end of the tunnel! But wait! Why are they moving chairs again?

It turned out we were less than halfway through the evening's entertainment. And there was no sneaking out early, as Heart Child had told me she would appear twice more, including in the finale. Wow! I leaned over to her Dad and let him in on the fact that we had much, much more to enjoy. He frowned and sent a tense text back to Willow...probably something like "having a great time! Hope you are resting,"...

Then magic happened. The next call up was for Chorus, and Heart Child was right there, far end of the third tier. This teacher seemed to sparkle, explaining what "scatting" is and that the next song would be done in that style. Da dum, da dum! Da dum da dum da dum da da da da dum....did you recognize the theme from Pink Panther? The performance was contained (hands at sides, eyes front) except for the little girl on the end of the third tier. As the teachers arms flew, coaxing blended voiced from the choir, Heart Child's hands acted out the music that was all bottled up in her and SCRAMBLING TO GET OUT! She absolutely rocked it and her love for the fun of this song was palpable even 50 rows back. Besides the scatting, there was finger snapping and jazz hands...this was a song to be sung with the whole body, and that's just how Heart Child did it.

Rejoining us after their third number, she was still glowing and when I asked if she loves singing, she said "Oh, Yes!" After her clarinet piece, she said "at least THAT'S over" but in song, she had found herself

There was another 90 minutes of music and I found myself enjoying it more ( and resenting it less). When we first got there Heart Child sincerely told me she was so glad we came, and thanked us each for being there. I presented her with red tulips. She thanked us again as we left. And I learned, or re-learned, a big lesson. These moments go so fast. A busy life is plain vanilla without spicing it up with the things that have import to those we love.  And being an invited guest of a twelve year old is mean so much when they become a shared memory

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Becoming a Traditionalist

I had always thought of a 'tradition' as something that just always existed, among your family, in your town, at school. Picking a Christmas tree...usually a family tradition. Lighting a tree in the center of a tradition. Hoping you got at least as many Christmas gifts or remembrances as your sworn tradition.

But 2 years ago I learned that you can CREATE tradition.  On purpose. And call it tradition, right away, even if you've only done it once. Apparently when you're only 5, something happening once has the patina of events that are often repeated. And when you're 10, if the new tradition holds benefits that you can see multiply in years to come...well, you'd just have to embrace that, wouldn't you?

It started with teaching the girls to blow eggs. Tiny hole in one end, slightly larger hole in the other, hold it over a cup and BLOW. I think I learned it in Brownies, where I also learned not to suggest breaking up the yolk with a toothpick until someone makes really funny faces trying to get all that egg out of that little hole.  But these girls, going me one better, said "it's hard. You do it" and left me to go lightheaded creating 12 empty egg shells

In theory you now have eggs for an omelet. In reality there's an awful lot of spit in them. I toss the eggs

Next...color them ***another step will be inserted here. You'll see why. Dye and decorate just like any egg, just being careful not to squeeze or crack them. With my crew, we lost a couple. Year Two I brought 18, increasing our output by 50% and insuring against misfortune during the handling process

We did these Easter Eve.  I then took the colorful empty eggs home and, carefully rolling up dollar bills, inserted a bill in each egg. Nestled the eggs in beautifully made baskets. Delivered them on Easter.

I was met with hugs, kisses and confusion. Weren't those the eggs we just dyed yesterday? The EMPTY eggs? The ones we can't hide, or even eat? Well yes, I said...but you can SMASH them!

Being refined ladies, the first 2 were softly cracked and still not much fun, so I said "SMASH that EGG!" Two small hands came down upon fragile shell! Cool! Believe me when I say the rest didn't stand a chance. They gathered up the dollars  about 5 each, I think - I'm not into spoiling - and my heart child said "we should do this EVERY YEAR!"

So we do. But there are a few things I have learned...
1. Buy the biggest eggs you can find. Dollars are hard to roll into toothpick-sized bits
2. After blowing the eggs, RINSE THEM OUT. We didn't, and I stuffed them that same night. We had to wash the funky egg stuff off the dollars with antibiotic soap before the kids could have them
3. Blow and dye several days before Easter and wait to stuff them until the shell in dry, inside and out.
4. Fold the dollars in half longways then roll as tight as you can. Be patient. The eggs will resist and you'll risk cracking your precious artwork. It's not a task for the weak willed

This will be year 3 and there's  a 2 year old brother joining the now 7 and 12 year old girls. And I already look into the future and see  them laugh and smash their beautifully decorated eggs well into their 20s (and my 70s) The joys of being the fun friend

Happy Easter!

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

The Bucket List

Well, to start with, I don't have one. Not really. That's not to say there aren't things I occasionally revisit, measuring their attainability against my current reality. I have wanted to spend a long weekend in Iceland for years, and a few years ago might have made it happen, but Joe HATES cold weather, and part of the draw to me would be seeing the Northern Lights, which seem to turn up in winter. In winter, we seem to turn up in Florida. I haven't given up on this, but it goes on the back burner to steep a bit more. But last week I had an experience that can only be described as a Bucket List item by just about anyone's standard.

I got to ride a Zamboni.

 Now, first I'm compelled to correct myself. I actually rode an Ice Resurfacing Machine, and the brand wasn't Zamboni, it was an Olympic. Zamboni is neither a verb nor a noun, but a brand name, like Kleenex and BandAid, that has become synonymous with the machine itself. They were developed in Paramount, CA and replaced a manual process that took over an hour to resurface ice between races, or periods in hockey. Now, thanks to this lumbering behemoth, the surface can be smoothed and sparkling in less than 10 minutes. I won't bore you with the details, but the new surface is created by scraping the old one up and laying down a coat of clear hot water, which seems to freeze faster. I love things that simply do what couldn't be simply done before. Thus my love of the Zam.

Being a red hot fan of our local Kalamazoo Wings Hockey Club, I noticed a request for donations for an upcoming auction benefitting Susan G Koman Foundation, and asking for survivors to be part of the ceremonies at the February 15 Pink Ice game. I may have been the first to respond, pledging a gift certificate and offering to help in any way I could. I flippantly mentioned "I'll be happy to ride the Zamboni" and later said..."just kidding". Typical Zam passengers are about 4 or 5 years old and ride around backwards, peering out from under the mandatory helmet, trying out a little wave when they passed the 3 people in the stands who know them. Haha! How funny to say I'd do that! Have you met my friends? Anyone I mentioned it to said "Oh, You Have To, and wear your tiaras and boas and...". I think these people live vicariously through me. So, by game day, I've gotten tickets for my besties, draped myself in fluffy pink feathers and a pink flower headband, and found myself strapped (unhelmeted) to the rumble seat of my new ride.'s bumpy, and it moves faster than it looks. I was lapbelted in, but my feet dangled precariously over the newly resurfaced pink ice, and I was waving with one hand and taking pictures with the other. I thought it would be silly and campy but it was a royal HOOT! Many fans had their pink tshirts on and those sections roared and waved when I went by...and went by...and went by again (you kind of circle th rink several times). 2 Tweens in the stands realized I was singing along to "Baby, Baby, Baby Oh" so they sang it back at me on each go-around. But the most fun was my own fan section of 5 who crowded down to the glass to wave like mad and yell my name. Joe was up there too, having moved up to our seats after getting to watch practice from ice level with me (cool!). It was over too soon, but as I debarked, I knew...this was a Bucket List Item. Even if there is no list, this was a chance to do something unique and do it for a good reason (they announced each survivors story in our separate parts of the program) and I gotta say...if loosing a boob isn't at least worth a Zamboni ride, something is not quite right in the world And yes, I know I didn't ride a "Zamboni". I rode an Olympia Ice Resurfacing Machine. But my feathers flew, glitter sparkled, and I had the time of my life. Wishing all my readers the wisdom to seize the next opportunity that presents itself, even if it's a bit off the beaten path. You might just discover YOU have an undiscovered Bucket List, too

Saturday, September 15, 2012

Living Shy in a Sociable World

Yes, it's true. I have battled shyness all my life. Did I have you fooled? Well, I have many years of practice. I remember that a few years ago my sister mentioned my mom's crippling shyness, and I was so surprised to hear that...mainly because she was home with me, nurturing my socialization, and rarely had to step out of her comfort zone and into the bigger world. When she did, she was dressed to the nines in clothes she designed and made, hair and makeup perfect. That gene seems to have skipped a generation, so when I'm out in the world, I don't have that armor.

So what reminded me of that? Just a party. A neighborhood block party, next door, with dear sweet, welcoming people, name tags (I can NEVER remember a name...and even froze on my business name when asked tonight...duh!), my BF and even my dog...and I could not get out of there fast enough. was fun. I met the couple who have been my backyard neighbors for almost 11 years.  Yes, just now met and visited with them. Ditto a couple from across the street. I truly enjoy the one on one conversations. I do intend to keep those aqaintanships going and feel good about that. But once our little clique dissolved as those dinner time conversations do, it was all I could do to not bolt for home. And I learned this is not how everyone feels (remember, my role model was even more shy than me, so I had no idea people actually LIKE parties. Who knew?)

My new role model? Katie. Yes, the Shih Tzu was the life of the party. She was completely charming, fluffing her tail plume, doling out doggie smiles and measured licks, minding when I called for her but working the crowd as if the party was her debut. When I lost track of her and looked around, there would be a table with 7 people and Katie (she jumped up on the vacant chair so as to be included in the goings-on), grinning her most toothfull grin, wagging her pleasure at being out and about. The resident Lab was shooed away for barking, and a little terrier had a few snarling fits, but Katie made her rounds, trailing "oh, she's so cute" and "how well-behaved!" in her wake.

I won't even go into my boyfriend's socializing. He loves being around people, doesn't share my awkwardness in large gatherings, and was also "well-behaved" (and picked up after Katie when she oopsed in the middle of a bocce game). He's human. He's supposed to know how to be around people.

But I learned something from Katie. Being social can't rely on being glued to the first seat I encounter and hoping 1) nobody notices or 2) someone gentle comes to visit. Next time the situation presents itself, I will do my best to channel my inner Shih Tzu and table-hop, smile, and have fun.

Let's see. That will probably be next month in Jamaica, where I understand a lively entertainment staff will arrange frequent schmoozing opportunities. I don't drink alcohol so I can't rely on liquid courage. But maybe I'll keep one of Katie's photos with me...a big smiley one...reminding me it's all about fun

And what the heck. I'll never see those people again...