Friday, July 18, 2014

Just Say No to Neon

Check out this glorious old photo from the 1937 All Star Game featuring seven American League players. From left to right, Lou Gehrig, Joe Cronin, Bill Dickey, Joe DiMaggio, Charlie Gehringer, Jimmie Foxx and Hank Greenberg. All seven would eventually be elected to the Hall of Fame.  Just the picture itself conjures up images of depression-era baseball where fans would still manage to scrape together the 75 cents needed for a ticket to the game. Those who couldn't afford the ticket price would huddle around small radios. They might even catch first inning action if they had remembered to warm up the radio in advance of the game's start time. Young boys would play pick-up games of baseball in any empty neighborhood lot, or in the street where a manhole cover might make the perfect makeshift home plate. A group of 10 boys might be able to come up with a couple of bats and a few gloves that both teams would share with no regard to actual ownership of said items. Baseball was an escape from the troubles and hardships of the depression. Yankee greats like Babe Ruth and Joe DiMaggio still brought an impressive number of fans to the ballpark, but player salaries were cut as a result of the reduction in attendance at most games.  Even so, life was good and it was good to be a baseball player with a job in the 1930s. If you doubt this, you need only refer to the words of the great Lou Gehrig who, despite being given the diagnosis of his terminal illness only weeks before, declared himself the "luckiest man on the face of the Earth" because he felt privileged just for the opportunity to be a part of it all.  This, the Golden Age of Baseball, cemented the notion of baseball as our National Pastime.
Baseball traditionalists get this. No. Actually, they FEEL this with every fiber of their being.  Those of us who love the game feel entrusted with this sacred history and gladly accept the role as guardian of its purity and significance.  This (admittedly, self-appointed) stewardship leads us to sometimes do crazy things (like contact a baseball club when they erect an ugly blue sign on a previously pristine and architecturally significant ballpark). We can't help ourselves. Any offense to the game and its history eats away at us with that gnawing "something just isn't right about this" feeling and we feel compelled to say something. 
I've had this same unsettled feeling ever since I watched the All Star Game the other night. As batter after batter approached the plate, I noticed a disturbing trend.  First, I noticed the neon yellow batting gloves, then the neon spikes and then finally a full neon compression sleeve extending from the uniform of A's third baseman, Josh Donaldson. Now maybe it's just me, but unless there was a post-game Wham concert that I was unaware of, there is no place in baseball for neon.  Baseball is all about tradition and history.  Baseball is timeless. Trendy fashion accessories have no place in the game. Let us fondly remember days past when the only thing about a baseball great that screamed, "Look at me!" was his batting average or his ERA. Photos taken from these games are passed down for generations and no one wants to look back on these moments captured in time with the type of what-was-I-thinking feeling we get when seeing our yearbook photos from a time when we thought scrunchies and parachute pants were a good look. So, Major League Baseball, I'm calling you out and asking you to stop the madness. Guard the dignity of the game in honor of all of the greats that came before us, and for the benefit of all of the young boys who should be playing pick-up games in the streets instead of lining up at the local sporting goods stores to buy neon baseball gear. Don't let this be our history:

Sunday, September 29, 2013

Tell Me Something I Don't Know

I was reading information from a website for one of the colleges where Macy is applying.  The Director of the Musical Theatre department had posted some good advice for auditioning that I thought might be helpful for Macy to know.  I started to read it out loud, "Macy, it says here that you really should choose one of the earlier audition dates, if possible."  Macy responded, "I know."  I read quietly for a few more minutes and then I added, "It says you should not move forward towards the auditors during the audition."  "Yes, I know." she said. Foolishly, I kept going, "It says not to use the auditors as active scene partners." "Yes, Mom, I know!"  Macy said (and I felt I was beginning to detect a "tone").  Undaunted, I pressed on because this was important stuff.  I said, "It says to stay on your mark on the stage during the audition and not to travel too far from that mark."  "Mom, I know!" (definitely a "tone" now!) And then, here it comes.... "Mom, no offense (which usually precedes something offensive), but everything you are reading to me right now is stuff that I have already read about 10 times! I know ALL of this stuff already!" Ever the calm and mature one, I'm pretty sure I responded with this gem, "Well, excuse me, Miss I-Have-Studied-The-Entire-Internet-And-There-Isn't-Anything- I-Don't-Know.....I was just trying to help!" 
This is the way many conversations with Macy have ended. I learned early-on that there is no arguing with her. There is no trying to inform her of anything because she knows everything already. Yet this particular time, there was something so maddening, so frustrating, so irritating and yet so.......FAMILIAR about this!  And then it hit me that right there, staring me in the face, was my own reflection. I was the tree from which this apple closely fell! I was reminded of the popular saying, "Those who think they know everything are very annoying to those of us who actually do."
I have always hated being told something that I already know. I notice this the most when I travel.  I enjoy showing up at the security checkpoint and as I begin my well-practiced routine of placing my laptop in a bin (by itself) and removing my shoes, packaging my liquids in the quart-sized ziplock bag, don't you dare come and tell me what to do.  I KNOW what to do and how to do it and if you come over here and tell me in front of all of these rookie travelers, then THEY will think that I am one of THEM! I would much prefer to breeze through security and have everyone take notice of how well-prepared and skilled I am at traversing any airport in the United States.  The same holds true after we get on the plane.  Don't tell me how to store my carry-ons or that the baby's car seat has to be in the window seat or that when my baby cries as the plane descends that it might be his ears.  I know all of this and I am not about to give you credit for the knowledge I have gained through years of experience (Just to be clear....I don't have a baby anymore but I'm still holding on to some deep resentments from 18 years ago!)
Well, as it goes with most issues of pride and arrogance, it is pretty much Biblically guaranteed that it will be followed by a most embarrassing and humbling failure. (I'm alluding to the Proverb which states that "Pride goeth before a fall" - in case you didn't know that.  And if you did know that, you see how it feels to not be given any credit whatsoever for your knowledge? Doesn't feel so great, does it?) Anyway, I'm reminded of the time my arrogance reached a level that could have only been described as obnoxious. I was traveling to Mexico with a traveling companion who hadn't traveled nearly as much as I had.  I proudly showed off demonstrated my travel skills from the time we checked our bags curb-side to the short and efficient amount of time we spent navigating through security. Any little bit of turbulence we encountered was followed by my reassuring words that this ALWAYS happens and he shouldn't be concerned.  So, of course, when it was time to fill out the customs declarations forms, I proudly offered to fill them out for both of us, since I had prepared those forms MILLIONS of times before on ALL of my International flights. I grabbed the form and completed that sucker as if it were a timed test and I wanted to be the kid who turned it in first.  Nevermind that I didn't have my glasses on.  I could do those forms in my sleep. As we got off the plane, I guided my inexperienced travel partner to the customs desk and we were quickly ushered to the uniformed customs officer who would process our forms.  I stood before him beaming with pride, almost positive that he had most likely never before seen the forms filled out so neatly and accurately in his entire life.  As he began to look over our forms, he got a funny look on his face and he looked up at me and asked, "You are bringing ALL of these things into Mexico?" He showed me the form I had filled out and sure enough, I had answered YES to EVERY question on the form.  "Fruit? Vegetables? Plants? Seeds? Insects?" Yep - I've got 'em. "Meat, Animal and Wildlife Products?"  Yep - I've got those too. "Disease Agents? Cell Cultures? Snails?" Yep - right here in my bag! "Soil from a farm pasture?" Absolutely, doesn't everyone? "Have you recently handled livestock?" Of course I have (that's why I was in the pasture, Duh!)! "Are you carrying over $10,000 in cash?" Shhhh......don't tell anyone, but YES! "Do you have any commercial merchandise you plan to sell?"  Well..just the snails? I felt the color rushing to my cheeks and I stumbled around for an explanation that may or may not have involved blaming the Europeans for designing a form that had the "No"  column on the wrong side of the page! To make it even worse, my traveling partner who should have been having a good laugh at my expense by now, was smiling and supportive and annoyingly demonstrating that he is a much better person than I am. We managed to talk our way into that lovely country and have a wonderful trip, but I remain forever humbled by the entire experience.
This brings me back to dealing with Macy.  I get her.  I understand her constant need to reply with, "I know". You see, any knowledge that we gain through our own years of experience or from the endless hours of research we have done is hard-earned and sacred.  My experience in traveling with four young children was something it took years to establish. Macy's research on proper audition techniques is something she had spent hours and hours compiling. So, naturally, when someone comes around and starts freely handing out that same knowledge to anyone in the room, it IS frustrating.  We feel it negates our efforts and somehow we end up not getting credit for the things we do know.
I suppose the lesson here is in learning to master the art of accepting instruction and advice graciously. We need to step back and be aware of what the giver of the information needs.  The giving of knowledge or advice is an empowering act.  It makes the giver feel important and draws them into our experiences. If we immediately cut the giver off with an, "I know", it's like robbing them of something they need. For me, I needed to feel like I was helping Macy with her college application process even though it was obvious that she really didn't need my help at all. I guess what I would like to say to my kids is to throw Mom a bone every now and then.  Let me have my little victories and let me feel like I'm a part of your experiences and successes. Carry this on into other facets of your life. Remain open to learning new things and don't hide your vulnerabilities under a know-it-all facade.  I vow to be better about this myself so that I can continue to learn and possibly avoid future embarrassing situations. But, just in case this is a hard thing for me to do, let's go with the whole "do as I say and not as I do" thing for now.   Hopefully you will learn from my mistakes and heed my advice and maybe someday this will even help to keep you out of Mexican airport jail! 

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Read Between The Lines

For about an hour today...I didn't know where Macy was and I completely freaked out was somewhat concerned.  I immediately realized that she had most likely been kidnapped and I would never see her again  that there must be a logical explanation as to why she didn't come home after school.  Her brother was supposed to bring her home from school but he left her there when she didn't come out to the car fast enough he patiently waited for her in the parking lot and she never came out so he left.  I texted everyone she knows Patrick, Zoe and Amber.  Zoe and Amber were freaking out more than I was were such a calming influence.  Everyone I talked to told me completely different theories the same story.  Last time they  had talked to Macy she said she did not have rehearsal after school and she told Max not to leave school without her which he somehow thought meant to go ahead and leave and she would find a ride home.  So naturally, I pictured her walking out alone to the parking lot after Max left because in my mind it's dark and deserted in the Lamar parking by 3:15 and accepting a ride home from that guy in my nightmares who wears a trench coat and writes dark poetry and drives a converted Good Times party van someone she didn't know.  I was SO angry relieved when we finally heard from her and found out that she actually did have to stay for rehearsal  I couldn't wait to yell at her and make her understand how worried we all were hug her.  Max was so happy too and I could tell by the way he immediately said, "This is SO not my fault" "I love you, Macy and I am happy you are OK."  And, I could tell Macy felt horrible too by the way she Tweeted, "Jeez - all of Arlington was looking for me...#totespopular" "I'm so sorry to have alarmed everyone but thank you for your concern!"

Sunday, October 30, 2011

That's How Baseball Go

As I watched the throngs of Cardinal fans streaming out of Busch Stadium after their improbable comeback and eventual World Series victory, I couldn't help but think of the last time I visited that ballpark. It wasn't that ballpark exactly, but it was the old Busch Stadium which was right next door.  When Max was 11 years old, he was a Cardinal fan.  He wasn't as much a Cardinal fan as he was an Albert Pujols fan.  He wasn't as much an Albert Pujols fan as he was a fan of any larger-than-life sports hero who dominated the ESPN coverage that year.  In addition to owning a Number 5 Pujols t-shirt, he also owned a Lebron James jersey, and his Christmas wish list included anything from the Kansas City Chiefs that might be emblazoned with the names Tony Gonzalez or Priest Holmes.

Being a long-time fan of the game, I encouraged Max's interest in his Cardinals.  If the Cards came to Houston to play, we drove down to see them. If a Cards game was televised, we tuned in.  As the end approached for the old Busch Stadium, I decided it was time to make a trip to St. Louis. For Max's 11th birthday in September, 2005, I surprised him with a trip to Busch Stadium to see his beloved Cards.  As it turned out, we were in attendance at the very last regular season home stand that was held in the old stadium.  It was a beautiful day on September 30, 2005, and we arrived at the ballpark early and watched the pre-game festivities which included a ceremony recognizing all of the greats who ever played for the Cards in the five-decade history of that stadium.  We saw the amazing "Wizard" of a shortstop, Ozzie Smith,  the already-under-steroid-suspicion- but-still-loved, Mark McGwire, pitcher Bob Gibson, the amazing base runner, Lou Brock and the ultimate Cardinal, Stan "The Man" Musial.  It was a perfect baseball kind of day!  The only damper on the day came in the late innings when Max made an untimely visit to the pro shop to buy a hat and completely missed an Albert Pujols Grand Slam!!  He was inconsolable about that for hours after the game!  (Actually, he still doesn't really like to talk about it to this day!)

There was a point in the old stadium where you could walk up and look out over the construction of the new ballpark.  You see, the construction had gone just as far as it could and the machinery and the workers were silenced  until the end of the season when the old stadium would have to be demolished in order to make room for the new ballpark.  This is what it looked like as we peered down into the halfway-finished ballpark that day.  The new ballpark is seen in the upper right of the picture - with only the infield seating completed at that point.

We admired the beauty of the new ballpark and vowed to come back one day.  We even decided to leave a little memento of our trip to St. Louis and we purchased a brick paver with Max's name on it which is now lining the sidewalk just outside of the new Busch Stadium..  Although we have never been back to see it, we did get a replica brick in the mail so we know it looks like this. 

Never at any point during that visit did we imagine that this new ballpark, this stately shrine constructed of steel and brick with its beautiful arched entrances and spectacular downtown skyline views, would be the site of our most catastrophic sports disappointment of all time.  Never did we imagine that the brick paver we purchased would be trampled and celebrated upon the night our baseball hearts were broken into little pieces.  The possibility of our local hometown team being impacted in any way by this National League ballpark rising in the shadows of the skyscrapers in downtown St. Louis was something so far from our realm of comprehension.  It never crossed our minds.

From that year on, Max and I began to visit ballparks all across the country. We saw the undying loyalty of Cubs fans at Wrigley Field.  We experienced the tradition and culture of Dodger Stadium. Max visited Fenway Park and Yankee Stadium,  both steeped in history and tradition, and both filled to capacity every game with die-hard lifetime fans. With every trip we took, we appreciated our team even more.  I watched as my son matured and no longer had to follow the athlete of the moment.  He grew out of his Pujols jersey and it was never replaced.  He began to understand what it meant to be a part of a community; a community who lives and dies with the success of our local team;  a community who supports the local team no matter what. Slowly, MY team became OUR team.

As I watched Game 6 of the World Series with him last Thursday night, I looked for any glimmer of the little boy who once loved the Cardinals and Albert Pujols.  I watched him as he watched the game and I wondered if he even remembered that trip and the baseball-related adventures that trip inspired. We watched Game 6 together, arguably the best World Series game ever played, while his sisters slept all around us.  When Josh Hamilton hit a home run in extra innings and it looked like our first world championship was imminent,  I looked through my own tears and I saw tears in his eyes too.  When we lost that game I saw the sheer devastation on my son's face and it made me wonder for a split second if I had done the right thing by encouraging and cultivating the devotion to our team that he now shared.  You see, being a Ranger fan certainly has its share of heartbreak and maybe, just maybe, I could have spared him this particular disappointment.  As I watched him dejectedly climb the stairs to go to bed that night, my only comfort came in the realization that the bitter, bitter disappointments of that night will only make the victory taste that much sweeter on that inevitable and unforgettable night when we WILL clinch it all!  

For now, when Opening Day rolls around in 2012, we will do what we have always done.  I will check Max out of school and we will head out to the ballpark and take our seats in Section 37 - Row 23.  Disappointments of the prior seasons will be far from our memory and our hearts will soar with the promise and excitement of a brand new season.  And we will face whatever comes together.... just a couple of die-hard Texas Ranger fans waiting....and waiting.....for our big day!

Thursday, September 1, 2011

On Princes and Fairy Tales........

Taylor Swift
"When I was a little girl I used to read fairy tales. In fairy tales you meet Prince Charming and he's everything you ever wanted. In fairy tales the bad guy is very easy to spot. The bad guy is always wearing a black cape so you always know who he is. Then you grow up and you realize that Prince Charming is not as easy to find as you thought. You realize the bad guy is not wearing a black cape and he's not easy to spot; he's really funny, and he makes you laugh, and he has perfect hair."
Taylor Swift

When my girls were younger, they LOVED my bathtub.  There was something about the big Jacuzzi tub and the fact that they could get in there together with a small arsenal of toys that made them want to stay in there forever.  On one particular day, I peacefully folded some clothes in my room while they played, but soon I was summoned in to help them retrieve a toy that had fallen just out of their reach.  “MOMMY – we NEED you,” was the familiar cry when this happened. As I walked in, I noticed that the girls had lined up their Disney Princess figurines all around the edge of the tub.  All of the usual Princesses were represented, some were even duplicated in various outfits or poses, there seemed to be about 15 Princesses at this particular event.  The cause for concern appeared to be that the lone Prince in attendance had fallen (or possibly jumped?) over the edge of the bathtub just out of reach of the slippery wet hands that were trying to retrieve him.  I noticed how concerned my girls seem to be about his untimely departure and that troubled me to some extent.  Now, I am never one to shy away from an opportunity to teach a life lesson, so instead of instinctively reaching for the Prince, who may or may not have actually left the party of his own accord, I seized the moment and posed this question to my girls.  “Why do you need the Prince?” I asked them.  Look at how much fun the girls seem to be having without him.   I tell them that these Princesses are beautiful, strong women in party dresses and they are out to have a good time and their happiness does not depend on whether, or not, this Prince chose to grace them with his presence.  I point out how everyone is still smiling, still dancing, …no one seems to be bothered by the Prince taking his early leave of the festivities.
I had to wonder what I had taught my girls in my years as a single mom.  Hadn’t I taught them that life goes on long after our Prince Charming has left the building?  They had seen me carry on without their father, or without a significant man in my life for a long time.  We have had plenty of fun times and an abundance of adventure in our lives.  I have taught them the value of great friendships and time spent with family.  Why was it that they were still buying into this whole fairy tale idea where the Princess could never be happy without a Prince?

I started to worry that I had gone too far in my efforts to prove this point.   This became clear the night of my older daughter’s cotillion.  After the dance, another mom  apologized to me because her son had to leave abruptly during the dance to attend a sporting event, and he had been dancing with my daughter at the time. I assured her not to worry –and proceeded to deliver my speech that no daughter of mine would ever fall apart when a man walked out on her.  I imagined my beautiful daughter instead, confidently going “free-style” on the dance floor, celebrating her independence and her confidence in her ability to shine on her own, never skipping a beat and never needing a young man to lead her around the floor.  The look on this lady’s face indicated that I really did need to let this go. 

Recently, I was watching Snow White with my girls.  I enviously marveled at how peacefully Snow White slept in the forest after eating the poison apple.  As I watched the Prince approach her, it took every bit of restraint I could muster to keep from yelling,  "LEAVE HER ALONE!"  Can't you see she is sleeping?  Can't you see she is in a better place?" (and by "better place", I mean in full-fledged REM sleep mode). How often do we EVER get there?  And then it hit me.  Snow White didn't need rescuing at all.  She was in the middle of a blissful nap in a beautiful setting.  Waking her up meant she would not only have this fairly-handsome Prince to take care of, but she would also have to go back to caring for all 7 of his vertically-challenged companions.  There would be the endless piles of tissues to pick up where Sneezy dropped them, the incessant polite laughter she would have to fake when Happy found something amusing, the constant self-esteem building of the bashful one and the tedious office work that had no doubt been piling up at Doc's medical practice in her absence, and don't EVEN get me started on the frustrations in dealing with the Dopey one!    The more I  thought about it and thought about the other Disney Princesses, the facts became even more obvious.  Cinderella had a fairy godmother who could turn a pumpkin into a beautiful coach and she had forest animals who could cook AND clean. She didn't need to be rescued by a Prince. She had it made.  Mulan saved CHINA - HELLO?  And so it was in Shang's best interest to lock that deal up and get her on his team.  In story after story, it was indeed the Princess who was the hero, and in every story the Prince was lucky to have her.  Sleeping Beauty, (again....key word, "SLEEPING"), was not awakened so that SHE could be rescued.  She was awakened because someone needed something from HER (story of my life).  And Ariel? She had to drag Eric's sorry butt out of the surf all by herself at the very beginning of Little Mermaid.  I rest my case!
So, maybe the lesson to be learned from the classic Disney fairy tale is a little more deeply buried than I first thought.  To the casual observer, one sees tales of  Princesses in distress and the brave Princes who come along to save her.  In reality, the true lesson to be learned is in the receiving of the act of the rescue.  The true art, one mastered by every Disney Princess I can think of, is to graciously receive a rescue that you never really needed.  Once I  had this epiphany, I had to re-watch every Disney fairy tale to see if the Princess gives it away at all. Does she ever let on that she knows the real deal?  She never does. 
Maybe the life lesson here is actually for ME.  Lord knows, I am fiercely independent and stubborn about doing things myself and I'm not good at all about accepting any help.  Instead of teaching my daughters to be the same way, maybe I need to channel my inner Princess and get to the place where I can accept a little rescuing here and there, without feeling like it is a poor reflection of my strength and abilities.  I think I can do that. But, you have to admit how cool it would be if Cinderella gave the camera a little wink as she rides off into the sunset with her Prince.  Then, we could all grin to ourselves and say, "We know, girl...we know!"

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Morning Glory

I'm sharing this story in my blog today at the risk of destroying the peachy image of my family that I have tried so hard to perpetuate in my blog and on Facebook.  It's not that I have tried to portray my family in a way that makes one think we don't have our challenges, it's more a factor of my not wanting to dwell on the negative that has led you all to believe that my children are perfect and our life is a series of non-stop fun and adventure.

Do you remember the morning I posted something like, "No children were harmed in the posting of this status...but I'm not gonna was REAL close!" ?  Well, this is the story behind that morning....

My week was hectic enough before all of this happened.  I was in charge of the talent show at our elementary school and was juggling the demands of scheduling 150 kids in 50 acts and trying to learn the ins and outs of our new sound system (don't EVEN get me started on that one).  When I had just about figured out exactly how I would schedule the acts to keep our talent show from being dubbed, "The Taylor Swift Showcase", Macy called and the conversation went something like this:

Macy: "Mom, have you ever read Watership Down?"

Me: "Ummm...yes, I think I read a few passages when Max had the book last year."

Macy: "Well, um, do you think we could like talk about it a little because I have like a quiz over 10 chapters tomorrow and last time I like read the book AND read the Spark Notes and I still did like poorly on the quiz."(Seriously, she says "like" like a lot!)

Me: "OK, Mace.  I will look over those 10 chapters and we can talk about it and maybe that will help."

So, I suddenly got excited  about the thought of a whole little Oprah Book Club night with Macy (I would be Oprah, of course!}  I wanted to be prepared so I could properly impress her with my ability to spot all of the major literary devices because I know my  hyperboles and my foreshadowing like nobody's business.  I set aside my work on the talent show and spent the entire afternoon reading 10 chapters of Watership Down and I was completely confident that I would knock Macy's socks off with the depth of my knowledge and I would no doubt be able to help her ace the upcoming quiz. I envisioned all of her friends asking her how she alone managed to pass this test and she would tell them about her secret weapon, and the kids would be lining up to join my  Book Club,  I was already deciding how I would have to weed out the masses to get to the select few that I would allow into this sacred club.  I couldn't wait for her to get home from school so we could curl up and begin the first of many book club nights we were sure to have.

As the night progressed, I realized that Macy had much more to do that night and discussing Watership Down was WAY down on the list.  I had almost given up when she came to me around 11 PM and said, "Ok - I'm ready."  I put a pot of coffee for us, (Ok, not really.  Neither one of us drinks coffee, but if we did this would SO be where I would make a pot just to make my house smell like Barnes and Noble or Starbucks or anywhere else the more legitimate book clubs might meet.)  We settled in on the couch, me at one end and her at the other.  We were facing each other and our legs were up under the same blanket.  Our book club meeting was briefly delayed when Max appeared with a dress shirt that was so wrinkled that even my heavy-duty starch would not be sufficient to make it look good and he asked me to iron it so that he could wear it school the next day (since they had their last basketball game and the entire team had decided to dress up.)  I told him I thought the only hope for the shirt was to rewash it and THEN iron it, and since I was settling in for book club I would be up a while and would go ahead and throw it in the wash.  As the washer slowly filled up, I settled back in with Mace and began to share my thoughts on the adventures the Watership Down rabbits enjoyed in Chapters 17-26.

After just a few minutes, I  looked up from a passage I was reading and Macy's eyes were closed.  I gently kicked her to startle her and began to read again. I was about to burst with all of the knowledge I had gleaned that afternoon,  but Macy was struggling to stay awake and my gentle kicks became a little more angry and determined.  Soon, it was obvious she was way too tired to discuss anything and she said, "Thanks for trying, Mom.  But, I am going to bed and I am sure I will be fine on the test since I read the book."  And, off to bed she went.  So, while I was kicking myself for giving up an entire afternoon and for totally letting my Oprahwannabee-ness go to my head, I heard the faint sound of the washer and suddenly realize that it would be while before I could go to bed since I now had to wait on Max's dress shirt to finish in the wash AND dry cycle if he had any hopes of wearing it to school the next day.  Even in the midst of the disappointment, shame and frustration I was feeling, I still managed to not lose my cool.

I finally got in bed at around 1 AM and dutifully set the alarm for 5:30 because, although I had hung the dress shirt up immediately after it came out of the dryer, I would need to iron it and I still had lunches to pack and I needed a little extra time.  After I ironed the shirt, I triumphantly hung it in the bathroom where Max would shower and I woke Max and Macy up so that they could get ready.  The morning was running smoothly until Max came out dressed in a t-shirt and shorts and announced, "I think it's going to be too hot today to dress up so I am just going to wear this."  Seriously?  Although feeling foolish and frustrated yet again, I still hadn't lost my cool.

Then, when I was upstairs in the little girls' closet grabbing their clothes for the day (and hoping against hope that nothing else would need ironing), I heard Macy yelling for Max to hurry up. After she yelled at him about how they were going to be late, she stormed out the back and slammed the door.  She got in his car and turned up the music so loudly that she couldn't hear that she had set the house alarm off and it was blaring downstairs, Now, for some reason that I still can't fathom,  Chloe is the only one of my  children who has figured out how to the work the alarm, so it blared for a good two minutes before Chloe could get to it to turn it off.  I rushed down from upstairs because I knew the alarm company was going to call and if I didn't answer promptly, they would send the cops out to investigate.  I ran into the kitchen to grab the phone when it started ringing, only to find out that the receiver had been taped to the wall phone with packing tape.  You see, the little girls used the wall phone for something earlier that week and couldn't get it to hang up properly, so they decided if they used about 20 yards of packing tape, they could make that phone stay hung up on the wall.  So, I was frantically looking through the junk drawer for scissors or a knife to free the phone from its Scotch-induced bondage, the phone was ringing and I can't answer it and I could see Macy sitting out in Max's car, totally oblivious to the chaos she created and she looked at me and holds her hands up in disgust with that "What is taking Max so long?" look..........
and THAT is when I lost it.  I mean, seriously....can you blame me?

Sunday, January 9, 2011

My VP of Sunshine

If you have ever served on a PTA Board, you know the most coveted position on the Board is called, "Sunshine."  Seriously! There is actually a Board position where your sole purpose in life is to spread Sunshine!  What a happy-sounding job, right?  You might as well be called the Vice President of Rainbows and Warm Fuzzies and Candy-Coated Unicorns! As Sammy Davis Jr. once pondered, 
♫ "Who can take a sunrise, sprinkle it with dew, cover it in choc'late and a miracle or two?"♫  Well, lemme tell you, the Chairman of Sunshine can!  I'm not sure if it's a coincidence or an unspoken pre-requisite, but on every PTA board on which I have served, the holder of  the Sunshine position is also very petite, well-coiffed, fashionable, perky and pleasant (and darn it....we like her anyway!).  As I'm typing this, it dawns on me that the reason I have never been chosen to be in charge of Sunshine might be because lazy and snarky (my new favorite word) are not the typical traits found in this candidate. we try to solicit new members for our PTA Board each year, the question that would have to be #1 on our FAQ list (if we were that organized) would be "Is Sunshine taken?"  It's the dream job.  All of the glory......minimal work (which pretty much makes it the most desirable position on the Board).

If you are lucky enough to be selected for the Sunshine position, you will spread cheer throughout the year by sending cards to all PTA or faculty members who experience major life events (have a baby, lose a loved one, etc....).  One of the most important things you will do is to open each of our monthly Board meetings with a Thought For the Day. (Well, actually, according to Robert's Rules of Order, which your local PTA follows as if God himself handed them down on a tablet beside a burning bush, our President must first declare the meeting open and THEN it's all about the Sunshine and her highly anticipated Thought for the Day!)   I picture our sweet Miss Sunshine the night before the meeting, sitting in front of her computer in her yoga pants with a Starbucks on the table, perusing the Internet and looking for just the right words to inspire her fellow Board members.  Tough job, right?

Once the passage is selected, Miss Sunshine will stand before the PTA Board to open the meeting and will say something like, "The true measure of a man is how he treats someone who can do him absolutely no good."  Then, she pauses dramatically for this to sink in for a moment and then takes her seat to a chorus of, "Wow, so true!"   "I love that!"  "Thanks for sharing!"  And then our Coordinator of Sunshine takes her seat among the other Board members.  Beside her is the new mom we suckered into running the carnival and the other mom we coerced into running the cookie dough fundraiser.  All they can do is dream of the day when they have paid their dues and are offered the prestigious Sunshine position.

My life is obviously not as well-run as our local PTA Board, and anything resembling "Rules of Order" went out the window a long time ago, but I am lucky enough to have my very own VP of Sunshine!  How cool is that?  My best friend, Lisa, has been in charge of spreading sunshine in my life for as long as I can remember.  We didn't initially choose each other as friends. Our 19-year-old sons picked each other when they were barely 2 years old and in preschool together, and our friendship developed as a result of theirs.  

Lisa has been so much a part of all of the big moments in my life for the past 16 years.  She is the absolute BEST at putting the "special" into special occasions.  I remember the time when Max went off to China for 3 weeks and we came home from picking him up at the airport and she had decorated our gate with signs and balloons to welcome him home (which WE all totally took credit for because WE should have thought to do that!)  I can't even remember how many trips I have taken where Lisa tricks me into telling her where I am staying (ostensibly, to be able to reach me in case of an emergency) when, what she really had planned, was to send a bottle of wine or some sort of sweet treat like milk and cookies to my hotel room.  There have been cards and gifts for no reasons, plenty of emails with the perfect "Thought For The Day" which have been timely and much-needed and there is absolutely no bad mood or heartbreak that can't be cured by one of her home-delivered, home-made cheesecakes!  Lisa has gone completely out of her way more times than I can count to pick up or drop off my kids at one of their functions, while allowing me to perpetuate the illusion that I am doing it all on my own!

But, just as it was for our sweet little PTA Sunshine Coordinator, this position she has eased into in my life did not come easily.  There have been times when she has had the tougher job of managing the carnival my life can be.  She has had to "speak the truth" to me more times than I would like to remember and she is not afraid to tell me all of the things that I sometimes don't want to hear.  There was the time I called her with news that I was considering reconciling with someone who was obviously so wrong for me. Within the hour, I peeked out my window to  the formidable sight of Lisa and Betsy marching up to my door with an air about them that I can only equate to A Tale of Two Cities', Madame Defarge and The Vengeance's march on the Bastille.  

The smartest thing I have done in the past few years is to move back into my old neighborhood, which puts me about 4 doors down from Lisa and her family.  It really makes it easier on them too (aren't I thoughtful?).  She only has to come halfway down the block now to deliver her cheesecakes and other baked goodies ( ♫ because Miss McNeely makes....everything she bakes...satisfying and delicious....♫)  And, when I call Kelly, her husband, about an emergency home repair, it's now much more convenient for him to get here quickly!  An example of how this relationship works so well for all of us is evident in this text message exchange I had with Lisa just yesterday - I am relaying word-for-word.
Me: Ask K if he got my message about outlet cover?  I fixed it so I don't need him to pick one up for me after all.
Lisa: Yes. He did. He says sorry he didn't text you back. He said his feelings are hurt because he isn't needed any longer.
Me:  Haha - If it makes him feel any better, my garbage disposal just quit working.
Lisa: He said, "Yes!", with a fist pump!

And so that's how it goes.  I am blessed by my VP of Sunshine every day and so thankful that she is in my life.  I love her two kids like they were my very own and I treasure the friendship with both Lisa and Kelly.   I am constantly in awe of my dear friend and all that she does. She is a wonderful mother and a devoted wife, she has gone back to school to finish her degree, she works, she serves on two PTA boards AND, she takes care of me (which is no small task, let me just tell you!)  I am going to stop just short of saying that she is the Wind Beneath My Wings because that would just be corny, but you get the picture.

I know she is reading this blog post, because she also just happens to be my biggest supporter.  She, more than anyone, has nagged encouraged me to write and she stays on top of me to keep plugging away at it.  So, Lisa, thank you.....for EVERYTHING!  And, if you will take it, I would like to give you an honorary Life Membership as my VP of Sunshine!  Love you!