Dodge Ball

The other day my daughter came home from school and told me that they are going to be playing Dodgeball during a few classes the following week.  My response was something along the lines of “Oh my God why???” 

People usually have one of two responses to Dodgeball – either they fondly remember bashing the crap out of fellow classmates with the ball and winning or, like me, the word strikes terror in your heart.  That the darn ball stung like hell and it didn’t matter that the teacher said “no hitting in the face,” us nerdy, wimpy, short, pale kids always got hit first and always in the face!  I distinctly remembering cowering and begging my teacher not to make me play dodgeball.  Please let me do anything other than this, but no, everyone had to participate.  Never fail, less than 90 seconds into the game the ball would smack me upside my head, usually thrown by that stupid mean boy, Billy Johnson, and I’d be out with a red streak down my face.  If only my teacher had listened I would be sitting down already minus the damn red streak on my face!

It seems that my daughter’s school was participating in a fund-raiser for the American Heart Association by having a dodgeball competition and kids had to pay $5 to participate.  I was even more confused that my daughter actually was willing to pay money to play this horrific, tortuous game.  I would have given twice that much in my day to avoid dodgeball!

Over 14 years ago when I was pregnant and found out I was having a girl, I imagined what my daughter would be like.  She would be incredibly smart, petite and beautiful.  She would love to read and write like me and we would spend hours discussing books together.  We would have so much in common and life would be full of flowers and butterflies.

I often point out to my family and friends that God has a sense of humor.  My daughter IS beautiful and smart but that’s where the similarities between us end.  (like how I gave myself a couple of compliments there but it looked as though I was complimenting my daughter?)  She is also athletic and already taller than me, both of which I admire and envy.  She gets these traits from her father.

This was just the latest example of how different my daughter is from me.  If she didn’t look like a mini-me I would march her down to the hospital and demand a DNA test to prove that she wasn’t switched with my real child.  My daughter has been a gymnast, a cheerleader, wanted to go out for basketball and volleyball and now wants to participate in a non-mandatory game of Dodgeball???  Sometimes I’m convinced that my real child, a teeny pale nerd wearing coke-bottle-bottom glasses, is out there somewhere re-reading War and Peace for extra credit. 

So after Day One of this Dodgeball, my daughter tells me that her team not only won but that she was never hit by the ball and was the last girl standing on her team.  I admit, I was impressed.  On Day Two she tells me what I dreaded.  She was smacked in the face with the ball.  Oh here is something that I can relate to!  I can sympathize with my daughter because this has happened to me!  Don’t get me wrong, I’m not happy that she was hit in the face, but I’m thinking that this is a topic that I know something about.  I can’t help her when she expresses her concern over not getting her back tuck at gymnastics.  Hell, I still don’t even know what a back tuck is!

So I ask, “What did you do?  Did you cry?  I used to cry.”  She says, “No,” shaking her head and getting angry all over again.  (Now that is something she gets from me, her anger!)  “The boys who hit me were kicked off their team for hitting me in the face.  Then I picked up the ball and slammed it into one of their player’s chests and we won the Championship!  Oh, I was the only girl left again.”

I was so proud!  MY child, MY offspring, won the dodgeball championship!  I couldn’t believe it.  Ha!  The only thing better would have been if Billy Johnson’s son had been the boy my daughter hit for the win.  Now that would have been sweet!  Having a daughter who’s different from me is good.  It teaches me all kinds of things every day.  As it turns out, sometimes you are most proud when your children are very different from you and excel in things you never could.  AND . . .  She’s also a big help in the kitchen because she’s tall enough to reach everything in the cabinets!

Party Dress Humiliation

Jackson and Justin Timberlake at the Super Bow...

Most women who read this title immediately understood what this post would be about.  Men are probably thinking this might be an interesting read about a wardrobe malfunction equal to that Janet Jackson/Super Bowl incident several years ago.  Sorry to disappoint gentlemen (but trust me, a wardrobe malfunction would have been equally as disappointing) but this post is about the humiliating search for a holiday/party dress.

When I was 23 I remember my sister-in-law calling me to tell me she had seen the most amazing party dress that only 1 person in the world could wear and that person was me.  It was on sale and she insisted that I go right that moment and purchase it.  I did indeed go straight to the mall, found the dress and tried it on.  It was Kelly Green and made of stretchy ruched satin and very, very short.  It did indeed look good on me.  I was 23, everything was where it was supposed to be (and firm) and I weighed 101 pounds.  As my mother used to say, “A flour sack would look good on you.”  That was me – way back then.

I really, really miss those days.  Every year the company that employs me hosts a holiday party for the employees.  Cocktail party attire is the dress code.  For many who attend, it is the only chance all year to dress up.  For equally as many, it is a lesson in humiliation.  We women must find a new dress to wear to this event and the hunt itself is devastating to our self-esteem. 

So off I went to the department store and ventured into the holiday dress section.  Oh the horror!  Now that I am no longer 23, no longer have all the parts in their ideal location, (nothing feels firm) and I sure as hell am not 101 pounds, none of these dresses are made for me.  But neither am I ready to shop in the “Grandma” section.  So I swim through the ocean of holiday dresses grabbing a few to take to the dressing room.  There will be no Kelly Green nor Christmas Red at this stage in my life.  Every choice is black because black is a color that hides middle age issues. 

Each dress I try on is more horrendous than the last.  They look beautiful hanging in the store and on those perfectly proportioned mannequins, but on me they reveal all my worst features.  “When did that roll of fat appear?  Why is my rear-end so lumpy?  Oh Lord, it’s time to clear all the clothes off the treadmill again!”  These are just some of the thoughts rolling through my mind.  Finally I choose a dress that a nun could wear and wander off dejectedly.  Then I remember something.  Spanx!

Crisco

For those of you who do not know what Spanx is, think of the girdles women wore in the 50’s and 60’s only Spanx come in nude and black and with a slightly naughty name.  So I go to the Intimates section.  Hmm, well Spanx may be “intimate” but it sure as hell isn’t sexy.  These garments range from giant panty-styles to things that look like mini prison jumpsuits.  The sales lady helps me pick out a size and style.  I ask, “Do you have to use a can of Crisco to get into this?”  She laughs, luckily she is the age – and possibly size – that would also know what a can of Crisco is.  “It stretches,” she says, “go try it on and then put your dress on over it.  You’ll see.”  So off I go to the dressing room. 

It takes me 10 minutes to squirm into this garment which goes from my mid-thigh all the way up to my ribs.  When it was finally on, I think I heard my kidneys scream.  It was either the kidneys or my liver and gallbladder – I’m not sure.  I was wondering how the heck I would get out of this to use the bathroom when I discovered it has an “escape hatch”.  I’ll leave the description at that.  Then I tried the dress on.  HOLY COW!  I looked amazing.  There were no rolls of fat and my rear-end looked like it did when I was 23!  (Ok, would you believe it looked like a 33-year-old ass at least?)  I looked . . . what was the word . . .  GOOD!

25 minutes later, after I’d wriggled out of that contraption, I was back in the dressing room again with different dress.  One that a nun would not wear!  It showed a little bosom and clung tightly to my body.  I put the Spanx on again – another 10 minute ordeal – and then the new dress.  By now I’m sweating like I’ve just completed Biggest Loser Cardio Workout and having a little trouble breathing but again I look good.  Almost . . . dare I say it . . . hot?  Well, definitely warm. 

If I’m not mistaken the Spanx cost almost as much as the dress but it was so worth it for the self-confidence it inspired.  I won’t lie and say I feel like my 23-year old self again, but I sure don’t feel like I’m just a short step from the Grandma dress section anymore.  If this were a different type of blog, this would be the point at which I would decide that I’m comfortable with my middle age lumps and bumps and to hell with the Spanx and on with the sexy dress.  As I’ve said before, this ain’t that blog.  Thanks to some lycra and spandex, and maybe a miracle bra, I can go confidently to this year’s holiday party.  Of course I won’t be able to eat or drink anything but I will look fantastic in the pictures!  I still think I’m going to have a can of Crisco on hand just incase.

Holiday Memories, Old and New

When I was a child, the biggest fight of the year between my parents was during the lighting of the Christmas tree.  Usually it was an artificial tree, but in those days it didn’t really matter.  Before any decorating could commence, the lights must be untangled and tested and strung on the tree.  Those were also the days when if one light went out the whole string went out so it was quite a frustrating process that culminated with neither parent speaking to each other and barely to me.  So there I would be, all alone, humming Jingle Bells to myself decorating the tree.  Ahh, holiday memories . . .

Flash forward to the year 2011, the day after Thanksgiving.  My husband decides he needs to tackle the leaves in our yard.  You actually couldn’t see any yard, only leaves.  While hubby was outside clearing leaves, my daughter and I decided to decorate.  Together we carefully opened the attic.  The scariest part for me is straightening out the stairs.  I’m just a little too short for the job so there is always a precarious moment as everything falls into place.  Then I was certain the boxes of decorations would be too heavy, but together, my daughter and I successfully brought everything down, including the tree, although we both laughed about the fact that we’d love to see a video of our efforts because they were quite creative. 

christmas decorations at virtusa

My daughter was in charge of the decorating and I of the cleaning.  I would dust, vacuum or clean the area and she would then decorate it.  She saved the tree for last but by then we were both getting a little tired.  I really wanted the job to be complete, return the empty boxes to the attic and collapse on the couch.  Tink (my daughter’s nickname short for Tinkerbell) began to do what I call “lolly-gag” around, ultimately accomplishing more television watching than tree decorating.  As I was putting up cleaning supplies after scrubbing toilets (note: I wasn’t cleaning them to be decorated, this was just part of a weekly routine) I noticed that she was holding the exact same decorations that she had in her hands several moments ago.  My exhaustion began to get to me and I called out, “Finish up already, that shouldn’t take all day!”  I must have been channeling my mother.

Speaking of my mother, a few months ago I was lamenting to her about Tink’s increasingly smart-alec mouth.  She’s 13 – if you’ve ever been the parent of teenagers you already understand.  My mother said, “Wait until she smarts off and you realize she’s right.  Then you have to figure out how to respond.”  I admit that my first thought was, “You mean there were times when I was a teenager that I was actually right and you knew it?” but even at my age I know better than to say that to my mother.  She might still ground me.

christmas decorations

Back to my story, I scolded Tink about her “lolly-gagging” and she replied, “I am, I am!” short pause, “If you want to help me you can.”  It wasn’t the words she spoke, it was the tone.  An unmistakable challenge to my authority as a mother oozing through them.  Although I realized the truth of what she said, I spouted back, “That’s just the kind of Smart-Alec attitude I won’t tolerate in my house!  No ma’am!”  I hurried into the next room thinking that even if she was right she should know better than to taunt me that way!  I almost starting to tear up.  This really was exactly like my childhood Christmases.

Our mutual moment of irritation soon passed, I finished cleaning the house and she finalized the decorating.  Tink did a beautiful job and I told her as much, complimenting her on some of the details.  Finally we were ready to return the boxes to the attic.

Now we were both feeling a little cocky at this point.  We’d already accomplished the hard part – getting the heavy boxes down from the attic.  At this point we were only returning empty boxes to the attic.  I opened the attic door and then reached up to pull down the stairs.  What happened next is a little fuzzy.  I arrived at that precarious moment and it quickly went from precarious to horrifying.  All I remember is a lot of wooden steps coming at me and Tink hollering repeatedly “Are you ok?  Are you ok??”  I would have thought that the sound of me yelling “Aaaahhhhhh!!!!” would have been the indication that I was not ok.  When the chaotic moment passed I was still standing, I knew I was probably hurt but not entirely sure where.  Tink’s eyes were as wide as saucers and again she asked, “ARE YOU OK?”  This time I shakily replied, “Give me just a moment.”  She hugged me tightly and then . . . we both burst out laughing.  She laughed so hard she collapsed to the floor.

There’s nothing like a near-death experience for producing riotous laughter.  It’s been the sustenance of America’s Funniest Videos for years.  As a matter of fact if we had that “attic attack” on video I’m sure we’d have a chance at the $10,000 prize.  After resting for a few minutes and inspecting my arms and legs for signs of broken bones I came to the conclusion that I was fine.  Together Tink and I loaded the empty boxes into the attic passing back and forth a lot of “be carefuls” and “you got its?”  But the dangerous part was over.  

My arms are black and blue and my right wrist is still swollen, but not a scratch on my face or any nasty bumps on my head.  Nothing that a little time won’t cure.  And together my daughter and I created some new memories.  Years from now as she’s decorating her own tree in her own home with her own children she’ll probably double over with laughter remembering the time I nearly died in a tragic attack of the attic stairs incident.  Ahh, Holiday Memories . . .

One Angry Mother

By now you’ve probably seen or heard about the You Tube video below:  Family Home Destroyed by Avalanche – Children to Blame.  If not check it out now:

There’s no way this really happened.  I cannot believe this mom is that calm.  It seems much more likely that this is some type of ploy like Balloon Boy.  If this is real then I need to know what meds this mom is on and I need a prescription for the same. 

If this happened at my house, my first thought would NOT have been to grab a camera and post it on You Tube for others to enjoy.  I would have locked my children in their room and called 911.  The call would have gone something like this: “Hello, please send a police car, an ambulance and DSS (Department of Social Services) to my house immediately.  2 children’s lives and their mama’s sanity are at stake.  Hurry, I don’t know how strong these bedroom locks are.” 

White Eggs in Carton

Ok, just to put this in perspective let’s assess what happened in my own home last weekend.  My husband went to the grocery store – God bless him – so I wouldn’t have to.  Now when my husband brings in the groceries, he believes that it should be done in one trip whether he bought $10 worth or $110.  So in he comes with 12 bags hanging from his arms and fingertips.  All of a sudden one bag goes SPLAT!  He immediatlely loudly utters an expletive beginning with SHH and ending in IT.  It was of course the bag with the dozen eggs.

Let’s analyse the situation.  It was only 1 dozen eggs and although you heard the cracking they were not loose all over the floor.  All 12 were contained within their foam carton and inside a grocery bag.  Upon further inspection, only 8 of the dozen eggs were cracked.  While I was wailing and gnashing my teeth and expounding on the fact that my husband should completely revise his grocery carrying strategies, he found a container and placed the 8 eggs into it.  (I need to add that he did all this without breaking any yolks.  That’s kind of impressive when you think about it.)  There was no mess for me to clean up, all 12 are still edible and the damn eggs only cost $0.89 to begin with but I was still furious! 

Perhaps I overreacted just a bit to my personal situation, (hell my name is Angry Middle Age Woman after all) but if those eggs were strewn all over my living room and my house destroyed I could not, would not be calm like this mother.  And where the heck did this woman keep her flour anyway?  I know toddlers can get into all kinds of situations in the blnk of an eye, but really?  I mean really??

Maybe I’m just too old.  It would never occur to me that a busted dozen eggs or empty bag of flour could win me a spot on reality TV.  I would just be one angry mother.

Ya’ll put up your flour and carry your eggs carefully this weekend.  See you again on Monday.

It’s All Relatives

Dr. Öz at ServiceNation 2008

In a recent Facebook post, Dr. Oz cautioned readers to beware of the sodium in your holiday foods because they could raise your blood pressure and “negatively affect your health.”  Well, Dr. Oz, it ain’t just Aunt Edna’s Mac n Cheese that’s raising blood pressures at all these family gatherings.  Often times it’s Aunt Edna!  Or Uncle John or Mother-in-law or Sister-in-law . . . come to think of it most of the time it is “Someone-in-law”.

Have you ever heard that verse, “It’s the most, wonderful time of the year” and thought “yeah buddy, you don’t have to spend it with my family!”  If you haven’t then yea for you.  Probably time for you to leave this blog and go find one about how to turn the simple act of wrapping a present into a 4 hour ordeal which includes weaving your own ribbon.  This ain’t that blog.

When you Google “Families and Holidays” the first several results are along the lines of tips to reduce family “burdens” and “stress” around the holidays.  Doesn’t something about that seem off?  Aren’t these supposed to be the people you hold most dear?  Then why do they irritate the living fool out of us?  I remember reading an interesting article 20-25 years ago either in Seventeen or Cosmopolitan magazine.  It was geared more towards romantic relationships but the part that stuck with me the most was that the reason someone could exasperate you to the point of insanity was simply because they mattered so much to you.  You don’t spend as much time annoyed at someone you don’t care about.   This person is so important to you and you love them so very much that every little annoying thing they do can infuriate you.  That explains a lot, but doesn’t exactly warm the heart.

Back when “Home Improvement” with Tim Allen was on, I didn’t watch it regularly but I did see a Christmas episode when one of the kids wanted to go on a ski trip instead of spending the holiday with his family.  Tim Taylor, the Dad, comes home to find him sneaking out while the rest of the family was at church.  Tim says, “Christmas is not about being with people you like, it’s about being with your family!”  (So is Thanksgiving)

I love that line!  Because the truth is we don’t often like all the members of our family (or our spouse’s family), but they are important to us.  And truthfully, more important than a lot of people we call friends.  It’s hard because most of us spend much more of our time at work with co-workers and bosses and people who “need” us than we do our families these days.  But if I die tomorrow, while I’m sure several people at work will miss me, within a few weeks they will hire someone else to take my place.  My family isn’t going to hire another Mom, or daughter or niece or Aunt. 

So, whether you are headed home for Thanksgiving or Christmas, Google all those helpful hints about dealing with family stress and take deep breaths when Aunt Edna comments that your turkey is extra dry this year, or when Uncle John has a little too much holiday wine and starts snoring in front of the TV, or when your mother-in-law corrects your children’s table manners then makes a comment not completely under her breath about “blame it on their mother”.  Put on your rose-colored glasses and maybe invest in a good pair of ear-plugs.  Relax and enjoy the family drama – heck maybe even blog about it.  There are people throughout our country who are all alone this Thanksgiving and they would give anything to be where you are.  There are soldiers in Afghanistan and Iraq who would love to experience the holiday with their irritating, overbearing family.  We have the distinct honor and privilege of being with ours.  And it’s not all bad, there’s Aunt Edna’s Mac n Cheese after all.

Recipe for Mac N Cheese

I’ll be away on Thanksgiving Day with family.  I’m sure I’ll have plenty to rant and rave about by Friday.  Take care and Happy Thanksgiving.

My Favorite Pet Peeves

Everyone has a few things that bother them.  While most folks are taking time to be thankful and forgiving, I thought I’d go straight in the opposite direction.  Following is a list of things that irritate me like fingernails on a blackboard:

  • Fingernails on a blackboard
  • People in the passing lane that drive slower than people in the right lane
  • Traffic in general
  • The McRib

    Not so much the McRib though . . .

  • Rude Customer Service Representatives – I mean really – isn’t that an oxymoron?
  • Parking meters
  • Driving in downtown, anywhere downtown, traffic.  What’s with all the one-way streets??
  • People with the “My Kid’s on the Honor Roll” bumper stickers.  Really?  Well my kid got a C in Algebra by 1 point so lay off already will ya?  (Except for that year my kid WAS on the Honor Roll then of course I proudly displayed my bumper sticker and curiously those people didn’t irritate me nearly so much)
  • Having the sniffles
  • Weathermen who predict snow and then talk about it for a week and it never happens.
  • Miranda Lambert

Give me fingernails on a blackboard instead . . . please!

  • Showers in hotels that when you adjust a millimeter to the left get ice-cold and adjust a millimeter to the right get boiling hot.
  • Airport Security – I know it’s necessary and I don’t fight it but I don’t have to like it so I don’t!
  • When your favorite pair of socks get a hole in the heel and you have to throw them away because you’re the Mom and that’s what you tell everyone else in the house they have to do.
  • Running out of wine
  • Running out of vodka
  • Running out of rum . . . wait this is taking a wrong turn
  • Running out of milk

A glass of milk

  • When you’ve been waiting in line for 15 minutes and just as it’s your turn a new register opens.
  • Vegans – they make me feel so damn guilty!
  • Kelly Rippa
  • Writer’s Block
  • Twilight Haters – you don’t have to read the books and you don’t have to watch the movies, but let me enjoy my werewolves and vampires ok?
  • Chain Letters – which have now turned into Facebook posts about fighting cancer or hunger or being kind to animals and if you don’t copy and post to your status for 1 hour you are the root of all evil.
  • People who serve real cranberries for Thanksgiving.  I want the slippery, slimy sauce out of the can like Mom used to make.
  • Anything, or anyone, that happens before my first cup of coffee.
  • Finally, and most importantly:  Crabby critical people who like to make lists of things that bug them.  Hmm . . . wait a minute . . .

I’m gonna lose my religion . . .

Colonial Baptist Church

Image by Gerry Dincher via Flickr

When my Mom was exasperated beyond all measure, she used to say things like “I’m gonna lose my religion!” which meant that she was about to cuss.  Usually because I, my brother or my Dad had driven her to that point.  (Being a wife and mother now I totally understand)  She would also sometimes say, “That’s aggravating enough to make a preacher cuss!”

I was raised as a Southern Baptist which is damn near the same as being in a cult.  Not to be confused with Fundamentalist Southern Baptist.  As a child I used to pronounce it Funny Mentalist which is a far more accurate description.  Baptists had some crazy rules when I was a kid.  Women couldn’t wear pants to Sunday morning church, but it was ok to wear them to Sunday night church if you were a female child.  Wednesday night’s youth group it was ok to wear whatever you’d gotten by with at school that day – even shorts!  But heaven forbid we visit another Baptist church on a Sunday evening.  Mom would say, “I don’t know if they allow pants for women so we need to wear dresses.”  I was very confused.  I even asked, “Mom, why won’t God let me into heaven if I wear pants to church?  Doesn’t he see me naked in the shower?”  Never got an answer to that, but it could have been one of those times a preacher would’ve cussed.  

And speaking of a preacher cussing, I never witnessed that, but I knew plenty of Preachers involved in scandal.  Not all were Baptist.  Of course you may remember Oral Roberts or Reverend Jim Bakker, but I knew some preachers in my home town that ran off with the church secretary or were voted out in a secret, midnight Deacon’s meeting because he was doing a lot of “counseling” with the Widow McAlister late at night . . . at her home . . . unchaperoned.

Now let me assure you that there are good people in church.  Real good people.  My next door neighbors go to church every Sunday and there aren’t any better people in the world.  Mr. Jake donated one of his kidneys to his brother-in-law.  HIS KIDNEY!  I don’t even give away my good Rubbermaid containers!  But there are good people everywhere.  On a bus, in the airport, at the grocery store, even working in banks!  Just because you go to church doesn’t mean you are a good person.  Some of the most evil, degenerate, conniving people I’ve ever known were leaders in their church.  Even Jesus preferred to hang out with thieves and prostitutes.  They were more honest and trustworthy than the leaders of churches in those days too.

But there are some things so deeply embedded in me from church that I can’t get them out of my head no matter how hard I try.  I believe there is a Satan and I believe there is a Hell.  Another blogger, Cherie Roe Dirksen disagrees and makes some fine points in her recent post.  As much as I want to believe there’s not a hell and that no one is keeping track of my rights and wrongs, I just can’t.  There’s even a little solace in believing there’s a Hell.  When I see a news report of someone who’s tortured children, raped, murdered or injured people, it eases my mind that they will burn in a lake of brimstone and fire for all eternity.  It gives me a warm, fuzzy feeling inside. 

Now-a-days I don’t attend church so technically I don’t have a “religion” to “lose”.  Don’t get me wrong, I’m still spiritual, I’ve just been disappointed by too many people in churches to feel the need to go there to commune with God.  I don’t hold anything whatsoever against those who do.  I don’t assume you are a judgemental, overbearing zealot just because you get up every Sunday morning to go worship.  Let’s just agree that you won’t assume I’m a thief or a prostitute just because I don’t.  Oh Lord, that last line was probably enough to make a Preacher cuss!