Wednesday, January 29, 2014

A Super Bowl Party

When the idea of Super Bowl parties were in their infancy, Mark was in graduate school.  One of the guys in his lab invited us to the home of he and his wife to watch the big game.

Mark was going to decline the invitation because of the general weirdness of the guy but I prevailed.  "No, we have to go.  These things are supposed to be fun and so what if he's a little strange?  He's probably going to invite the whole lab and the rest of those guys are always fun."

Against my husband's better judgement we drove to our first Super Bowl party hours before the game was set to start, and there in the driveway was our host anxiously awaiting our arrival.

"Well, this doesn't look good," The Big Daddy said after noting the absence of any other cars.

We went in with our beer offerings and dove headfirst into a long stretch of awkward small talk.  "So," The Big Daddy asked, "who else are you expecting?"

"Nobody.  Just the four of us."

The Big Daddy looked my way but I didn't meet his stinkeye.  It was a party, nonetheless.  One doesn't need a houseful to make fun.  Four can be fun. 

We mingled in the kitchen for awhile as they finished making the food and eventually went into the dining room to eat.  The hostess came out and said to her husband, "Bear, can you help me a second?"

"Sure, Penguin."

Bear?  Penguin?

They both came out with more food and she put hers down and said, "I love my Big Bear."  He growled and said, "I love my little Penguin," and then she said ARARARARAR and shook her butt back and forth.  He said, "That's what the penguin does,' and they smooched.

And me and The Big Daddy said to ourselves, "What the f***."

Every time she needed him for some help she'd stand in front of him shaking her rear and saying "ARARARARAR" and he'd get up and kiss her and they acted like this was the most normal thing ever.

Back and forth, in and out of the kitchen they would go and The Big Daddy and I didn't know what the hell to make of this party.  Once when they were both in the kitchen Mark pointed to the salsa and said "ARARARARARAR" and shimmied in his chair.

And I nearly peed myself laughing.

By the time the game actually came on we had a few too many beers in us.  Whenever they would leave the room The Big Daddy would say "ARARARARAR" and cop a feel next to me on the couch.  I would growl at him and we would laugh and snort. 

"Well, you two sure seem to be having a good time," the Real Bear said to us.  "We were going to invite some other people, but then we thought it wouldn't be as much fun.  Isn't that right, Penguin?"

"ARARARARAR," Penguin said.

Since we were new to the whole Super Bowl thing, we didn't know that it lasted for hours and that's a long time to be drunk and all alone with a Bear and a Penguin.

When it finally ended we said our thank yous and goodbyes and got in the car.  "What just happened in there," The Big Daddy asked staring out the windshield and into the window of hosts.

"I have no idea," I answered back.

It's been years since we've even been to a party for the Super Bowl.  "It's too much socializing with my football," The Big Daddy growls.

I twerk back.

ARARARARAR.

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Randoms

I painted all day Friday and Saturday.  I was going to finish Sunday but I crawled out of bed and everything ached.  Every. Single. Thing.  Since the only thing left to finish is the hallway with its five doorways I decided to take the day off.

Five doorways?  That is radonculous.

So is painting.

I thought that during my painting marathon I would come up with a couple of great writing ideas for the week, but instead I mainly thought about what it must be like to hire a professional painter.   Who even does that?

The random thoughts and observations that kept me from getting bored while I rolled.....

*Why do stores lock the dressing rooms so you have to track somebody down to try on clothes?  It drives me batty and if I hadn't already determined that said frock was ABOUT TO CHANGE MY LIFE, I'd leave in a huff.

*I think Jennifer Lawrence is peaking too early which is never a good thing.  Look at Justin Bieber of late for proof on that one, although she seems infinitely smarter than him.

*Since Friday I have heard "Say Something" by Christina Aguillera multiple times on the radio.  New favorite song.

*I usually don't watch the Grammys but Sara Bareilles is up for album of the year.  The Blessed Unrest.  I have worn it out.

*I never miss an episode of "The Good Wife."

*Except for Will, we all had MLK day off.  Maggie, Nate and I met at Savers for some thrift store shopping @ 50% off.  I found an Ann Taylor jacket for $6.50.  It is going TO CHANGE MY LIFE and the dressing room wasn't locked.

*I have friends who wouldn't set foot in a thrift store.   They so don't get it.

*I get up early in the morning so I can read the paper.  No matter how bad I've slept I still would rather get up early enough to read the paper than sleep in.

*My hairdresser got me to stop using shampoo.  I've washed my hair with conditioner only for nearly three years.

*I've never had a facial, pedicure or manicure but I have had an upper GI, CAT scan and three surgeries.

*Did you know that "How I Met Your Mother" is on 24/7?  Me either and then Mal had a long winter break.

*If I could rent a monkey to sit and pick the paint out of my hair I would.  Time for shampoo?

And lastly.......

I need a good book to get me through this cold, gloomy month.  Any suggestions?


Thursday, January 16, 2014

The Obits

My mom reads three different newspapers every day.  Most of them repeat the same news stories, but each of them caters to their local readers in different ways.  For my mom, a longtime obituary reader and at the mean age for that page, it is how she starts her day.

When I was a young girl, I remember her hunched over the kitchen table and spread out newspaper shaking her head over news of the death of a stranger.  Aloud to no one she would say, "Thirty five and three kids.  Good Lord."

I have followed in her footsteps  Often I give the obit page a quick skim, but when time permits I linger over the Cliff note, published version of a lifetime story.

There have been a couple over the years that I have torn out and saved.  The one where a poem of the deceased was featured.

"But I am moving west along this superhighway, not to return.  I am following my fathers.  I have left nothing behind - no people, no possessions, no regrets.  In the old stories, the souls of the dying it was thought, vanished into the west.  I've always liked the sound of that."

Or the English teacher.......

"She admired a well-constructed sentence, a strong character arc and a clever mystery twist: she would put her book down when it was time for Jeopardy or The Colbert Report."

Sometimes obituaries go viral like this one.

"Those who've taken her lessons to heart will continue to ensure that a cold drink will be left for the overheated garbage collector and mail carrier, every baby will be kissed, every nursing home resident will be visited, the hungry will have a sandwich, the guest will have a warm bed and soft nightlight, and the encroaching possum will know the soothing sensation of a barbecue brush upon its back."

Or this............

"I believe we are each of us connected to every person and everything on this Earth, that we are in fact one divine organism having an infinite spiritual existence. Of course, we may not always comprehend that. And really, that's a discussion for another time. So let's cut to the chase: 

I was given the gift of life, and now I have to give it back. This is hard. But I was a lucky woman, who led a lucky existence, and for this I am grateful."
 
After our friend, Vicki, died, some of us were discussing her funeral a few weeks later.  How it was so utterly perfect Vicki.  "I came home and started a death file," one of my friends said.  "I want written directions that my family will have so they know everything I want."  We all nodded and maybe we weren't ready to start our own file, but we were certainly thinking about it.

The Catholics have put hard and firm brakes on eulogies during the mass.  They have found them disruptive to the service, but seeing as how death is the ultimate disruptive event I'm not buying that argument.  For who better than family and dear friends to tell a church full of mourners that one story that makes everyone smile through their tears and grateful to be among the heartbroken living?

There are some of us who will always start our day reading about the end of strangers' lives.  In the course of that habit one is bound to come across that brief funny/sweet/poignant/loving story in black and white of a life gone too soon.

Moving west ahead of the pack until our own name appears on that page.

Sunday, January 12, 2014

Vintage Vic

Mark is taking back-to-back business trips and so while he is gone I've decided to paint the living room and dining room.

This is a ridiculous idea, but since I cannot bear to turn this job over to a professional because they don't love this house like I do (and since I am capable of painting).....it is mine to execute.

So far my execution would make a professional cringe and I am having my usual freakout about color.

White.  It is going to be white because all the rooms I love in magazines and Pinterest are white, but it is making me jittery.  Who freaks out over white walls?  Unless there's so much in-your-face-whiteness at the moment that it looks like the psych unit of the county hospital.

I needed a dose of Vic so I headed to my favorite paint guy at Ace Hardware.

My first trip was for supplies but I had an ulterior motive.  When I was home my mom showed me a tool chest that recently was given to her by my uncle.  Inside were carpenter tools that belonged to my grandfather and great-grandfather.

It was a collection of the working life of two men, and since there was precious little to hand down from one generation to another it holds special meaning.

Inside was this........





.....and I told Mom that I had to show it to Vic because he would appreciate it more than anyone I know.

He did, too.  Loved it.  Called over the other helpful, hardware men to show them this little piece of paint history.

I put it back in my purse and Vic said, "That's a nice Coach purse you've got there."

"Thank you.  This was an inheritance, too, from my cousin's wife.  I love it.  But, jeez, Vic, you're a guy.  How did you know this was a Coach purse?"

"Because I know a lot about a lot and that purse needs a good cleaning.  Saddle soap.  Aisle two."

Friday, January 10, 2014

A Gift Card @ The Barn

When my mom asked me what I wanted for Christmas I told her a gift card from Pottery Barn.  There were three reasons for this. 

#1.  It's The Barn.  Who doesn't get their hearts a-flutter when the Pottery Barn catalog arrives?  The new one is all about indigo so I'm mulling over changing the entire house to an inky blue oasis.  With that going on it won't feel like we're in a Prairie Flyover State here, but more like corporatized eclectic charm.  The Big Daddy loves corporate.  Ask him sometime.  When you have a week. 

#2.  Mom is 85 years old, and though she is very active I don't want her traipsing everywhere for a gift for me so I try to make it easy.  For my sisters who are often called upon to do her traipsing.

#3.  The Pottery Barn in Kansas City is closing, therefore allowing for anticipated deep discounts.  Along with my gift card this equals Consumer Strategerie to get the most bang for the buck.

I went after work to be greeted by 20% off signs for bath towels when I walked in the door.

20%?  For bath towels?  Who even cares about bath towels and why would you buy them from Pottery Barn?  I walked right by that bargain even though we could use a dozen new ones since The Big Daddy ripped one right down the middle the other day and I yelled, "Stop with the vigorous drying!!!   Bath towels don't grow on trees, Mister!"

I was on the hunt for a WOW purchase so that when somebody comes in my house and says, "That is really cool," I could say it was from Pottery Barn instead of from the curb barn.

I wandered around and found Christmas decorations for 50%.  Okaaaaay, but weren't we over that before it even started?

At one point, a salesperson greeted me and she had the demeanor of a metro chic New York socialite who was forced to work because Grandpa cut off her trust fund.  Added to that she talked in low tones.  As I lingered over a footstool clad in leather she said, "Just so you're aware, our furniture is an extra 20% off."

And I said, "WHAT?"

"Our furniture is an extra 20% off."

"Oh, okay, but I can't find a price on this."

"Well, you must have overlooked it because it's on here."

"No, it's not on either one."

She looked it over and there was no price and I resisted the urge to say, "Told you so," because she kind of scared me with her cool, detached boredom.

"I'll go find out and let you know."

And I said, "WHAT?"

She left and I dug through the linens in the back of the store that had some serious markdowns.  The kind of markdowns that a Christmas gift card would cover.  When she came back she said, "It's $299.00 minus the 20%."

And I said, "WHAT!!!!" not because I couldn't hear her but because that was a ridiculous price for a footstool.

"It's $299.00" she repeated, likely resisting the urge to say, "YOU CHEAPSKATE."

I came home with a diffuser, a pillow cover that won't work and has to be returned and a candle holder.  There was no WOW purchase, only the realization that Pottery Barn is best done on the knock-off PB couch with a cup of tea where you can turn back the corners of the pages of all those things that make you dreamy-eyed.  After a few days of lingering in decorating utopia with the Sundance, Garnet Hill and Ballard Design catalogs, it will get thrown in a basket where it will eventually get tossed into recycling without another glance.........

........and the dream will be forgotten, but when you put a feather in anything you take it to a whole new level.  

Pottery Barn taught me that. 







Sunday, January 5, 2014

The Q & A

I had BIG writing plans before Christmas.  I was going to crank out a couple of blogs and enlighten/inspire/wow you but life......oh blessed life got in the way.  Before I get to the business at hand, let me say that we had the loveliest Christmas.  Because we don't travel back to Chicago until after Christmas, we have the kindest friends who invite us over and treat us like family.  My two dearest - Gayla who has an open house on Christmas Eve for oh, about forty people (who has the energy for that???) and Kathy who has invited us to Christmas dinner with her family for forever it seems.  Every year when our entourage arrives at their festive homes with our covered dishes I could weep that they want us there to spend the holiday with them.  On Christmas day, Kathy's husband, Brian, made a toast and read this quote by Eric Sevareid, “Christmas is a necessity. There has to be at least one day of the year to remind us that we're here for something else besides ourselves.”   It seemed especially true this year, or maybe age makes me look at a table of friends and family and think, "Oh, look at us.  Here we are and aren't we just the luckiest people ever?"

*****

So where were we back in December when Frozen was merely a movie and not a way of life?  Oh yes, I had just won a BIG award, bestowed upon me by my OSMA.

You really must read her blog.  This is her latest and I LOVED IT.  And her......I. Love. Her.

As a condition of the prize one must answer eleven questions.  These are the ones she posed to me and the other prize winners. 

1.)  What's your favorite thing about yourself and why?

I crack myself up.  I continually have a party of one all day long.

2.)  Do you believe in afterlife?  If not, why not how come what for?  Also, do you feel life has a purpose or is it just randomized units of energy bumping into each other?

I do believe in the afterlife.  The best thing I ever heard was that there is a thin veil that separates us from those who have moved on.   I have found that thought to be very comforting.  I do believe that life has a purpose but I also love the idea of being bumped by energy.

3.)  If you found a stray animal that was hurt, what would you do?

Well, this just happened recently and I did nothing which is rather haunting to me.  You might remember that early in December I wrote about a hawk that was sitting high above on a streetlight observing the landscape.  A week later, I was in the very same vicinity and saw what looked to be the same hawk dead on the street.  A couple of people had stopped and maybe it dove for something and collided with a car.  I'll never know as I came after the fact.  I have never seen such a big bird that close and I was rattled by it.  Other than getting him off the street it was too late to do anything else but I wish I had stopped.   That animal, even in death, was beautiful and in stopping it might have felt like I had duly paid my respects to the hawk that I wrote about.

4.)  Do your days bore you, enlighten you, weigh you down, or other?

Mostly, in regards to work they challenge me.  I am in an environment that is fast-paced and quickly changing so my brain always has to be in overdrive.  There are times I miss the boredom of my past retail jobs when I could daydream and write in my head all day long. 

5.)  If you could do anything at all without any concern about money, what would it be and why?

I would write and write and write.  A couple of my nieces and nephews are fabulously talented artists and so my dream is to write a children's book and to have all of them contribute to the illustration of it.  I'd also open an Etsy shop to fill my creative, crafty side.  A few months ago, I bought a mustard cardigan at the thrift store.  I never tried it on and when I got it home discovered it was too tight in the arms and so I put it in a pile to donate.  Three times I've put it in the pile and pulled it out.  Something is begging to be repurposed from that gorgeous color.  I can't figure out yet what it is but since it keeps telling me to not get rid of it I am going to pay attention.

6.)  What is your favorite memory as a child?  Teenager?  Adult?

My favorite memory of all those years is Christmas Eve.  The whole family would cram into the living room and we would slowly make our way around opening presents.  It was very civilized and felt special.  I always knew I was loved.  On that night it filled me up.

7.)  What is your internal dialogue saying?  Do you speak kindness to yourself throughout the day?  How does doing this or not doing this impact your actions?

I am working on that.  As I've gotten older I give myself a break much of the time.  Much of what keeps me up and fibrillating at night doesn't ever come to pass and so I would like to spend my energy moving in a more positive direction.  In order to do that I need to turn the inner chatter off and listen more to the hum of life.   The hum is where the energy is.

8.) Where would you rather be right now and why?

I think in the natural order of the Zodiac, I am born to be by water.  What Kansas has in affordable living, great bbq and jazz, it lacks in water.  I am always most content gazing at water.

9.) Describe your perfect afternoon.

Cleaning the house, rearranging some furniture, getting the laundry done, lighting some candles and making a great dinner.  I am such a homebody.

10.) Are you doing what your 15 yo self wanted you to do?  If not, what is stopping you?

My 15 year old self was like a deer in the headlights of life.  My 56 year old self is much the same but because of wonder and not because of fear.

11.) What kind of people make you happy/inspire you/intrigue you?

Well, those dearies I mentioned at the start make me happy.  Anyone who makes me laugh immediately skyrockets to the top of my love meter.  The people who intrigue me are the ones I see every day.  The UPS driver, the checker at the grocery store, the guy at the bus stop.  I always wonder what kind of story they have to tell.  The people who inspire me would be Mark and the kids.  Each of them are in hot pursuit of what makes their hearts beat a little faster.  They are passionate people and one can feel that in their presence.

*****

And now for eleven questions of my own...............

1. Are you a believer in New Year's resolutions?  If so, have you made any?

2. What five people would you invite to a dinner party?

3. What would you serve at that dinner party?

3. What one book have you recommended most to friends?

4. What would the title of your biography be called?

5. If you won the Publisher's Clearing House prize what would you do with the money?

6. What is the first thing you notice when you meet someone new?

7. If you could live anywhere in the world where would it be?

8. What are you afraid of?

9. When was the last time you cried?

10. Do politics interest or bore you?

11.  What word do you hate?  What word do you love?  ( A ripoff from James Lipton and the Actor's Studio but I love that question.)

*****

Writing feels like home to me and so it is good to be back.  Because you always show up, surely you know that these questions are for you