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!

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!

Why you be so mad?

My friend Katie is a Property Manager of an apartment complex in Texas.  She has a tenant, a young 20-something man we’ll call Kenny, who often has trouble paying his rent.  He’s also an aspiring rapper.  A couple of months ago he dropped off a copy of his latest CD to the office which had 6 songs – all 6 entitled “Why you be so mad?”

Now the last time I paid much attention to a rapper or even knew the words to a rap song it was “The Wild Thing” by Tone Loc in the 80’s.  So I’m not certain, but I think it’s odd that Kenny would record the same song 6 different ways.  I don’t remember 6 different versions of “The Wild Thing.”  According to Katie there was the original song, hip-hop mix, slow-mix, dance mix, romantic mix and then after that I wasn’t really listening anymore.  Romantic mix?  ‘Cause nothing says romance like “Why you be so mad?”!

But I just can’t get over the title and now it’s my new catch phrase.  As often as I can, I say to Katie, “Why you be so mad?”  I’m a middle-aged white woman and I don’t get a chance to speak gangsta often and I take advantage when I can.  Now she’s over it and says, “Angry,” (cause all my close friends call me by my first name) “Angry, it’s not that funny!”  Yes Katie – yes it is!

But that made me start thinking about something, why are young people so angry in general?  You may have read my previous post about the Occupy Movement and my confusion over it, but it’s not just young people today who are angry for no particular reason.  In my days I remember singing “We’re Not Gonna Take It Anymore” by Twisted Sister to the top of my lungs.  It was 1986 and I was 15 years old.  What the hell did I have to be so angry about?  What exactly was I not going to take anymore?  My parents unconditional love and support?  Them feeding me and clothing me and putting a roof over my head?  I know I firmly believed at the time that I was putting up with way too much, but looking back for the life of me I can’t figure out what I was so pissed about.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WT1LXhgXPWs

In 1964, Jack Weinberg said “You can’t trust anyone over 30!”  At that time, he was a 24-year-old graduate student at the Berkeley campus of the University of California.  Now I can’t find proof, but in 1988 my High School Economics Professor said that when Mr. Weinberg turned 31, the same reporter contacted him to ask if he could trust people over 30 now that he was passed that age.  Supposedly, Mr. Weinberg replied “You couldn’t trust those people over 30, and you still can’t trust those people!” 

Jack Weinberg and his friends were fighting for the Free Speech Movement at the Berkeley campus.  Since that day, 20-something year olds everywhere have been raising cain about something.  As I read more and more about Mr. Weinberg’s story, the first thing that stood out to me was that he spent 32 hours in a police car that didn’t move.  How did he go to the bathroom?  I have the same question about these people sleeping in tents for the Occupy Movement.

Another thing that stood out to me was that the anger in the 1960’s was about basic freedoms being denied to a significant portion of our population.  Mr. Weinberg was fighting for the right to Free Speech but the fight was about more than that.  This past August Mr. Weinberg visited the Berkeley campus and said, “The FSM [Free Speech Movement] was successful because it went beyond self-interest. We were concerned with broader issues of right and wrong.”  According to the August 31, 2011 edition of The Berkeley Daily Planet, “Because the issue of civil rights transcended the politics of the local struggle, the FSM won support far beyond the UC campus — with labor, with minorities, with civil libertarians.”

People of Mr. Weinberg’s generation were fighting for the right to speak out about their disagreement with the Vietnam War, segregation of schools, segregation of society in general and enforcement of the right to vote by all United States Citizens not just the white males.  This is some pretty nasty stuff and real reasons that lots of people were angry.

There were some legitimate reasons to be angry in the 60’s, and there’s some legitimate reasons to be angry today, but  I don’t think that recent demonstrations have the same sense of community and direction as the ones in the 60’s.  Today’s youth aren’t doing a very good job of adequately articulating what they are mad about or exactly what they’d like to see change.  A lot of what’s happening now is no more well thought out than me belting out the lyrics of that Twisted Sister song in my bedroom so long ago.  It all just makes me want to ask, “Why you be so mad?”.

Heart Attack in an Envelope

There are times that you want to react like a character in a movie or at least a sitcom instead of the calm, collected, mature adult that you are . . . or the one you’re trying to convince everyone that you are.  Inside your head you may be screaming and yelling but outside you nod and smile, or maybe grimace if the situation warrants, and hold all that emotion inside.

Well that’s how I felt when I was opening the mail the other day.  Recently, my husband had undergone a minor surgery at the local hospital.  As my family was watching football, I wandered over to the kitchen counter where 3 envelopes that had arrived in that day’s mail were sitting.  One was a credit card application which I immediately tore in half and threw away.  One was a letter from my bank which kind of scared me but turns out they were just increasing the credit line on my credit card.  As if I needed more room to hang myself.  The third was an envelope from the hospital.  I opened it casually while glancing up at the score of the game then looked down to what was in my hands.  It was at that moment that if I’d been in a sitcom, or the latest Sandra Bullock comedy, I would have passed out and the next scene would have been someone carefully cradling my head as they waved smelling salts under my nose.  Someone would say, “Are you ok?” and I would appear dazed but beautiful.

image by graphicsfactory.com

But my life ain’t the movies so I stifled a gasp and tried to refocus my eyes on what was in front of me.  “Total cost of services rendered: !!!!!”  I won’t tell you the exact amount but it was 5 digits.  “Breathe” I thought to myself “Do NOT panic” also went through my mind.  Then there were words in big bold writing that said “THIS IS NOT A BILL”.  Not a bill?  Then why the hell would you send me something with this God awful amount of money on it that’s obviously what you think someone owes you???  Then I see the verbiage “This is a summary of charges and shows the insurances that will be billed on your behalf”.  Ok well, that’s good.  Whew!  Ok I feel better until I start calculating in my head what 10% of this 5-digit number is.  That’s how much is typically the patient’s responsibility.  Oh crap.

My husband and daughter meanwhile are completely unaware that this dramedy is playing out just a few feet behind them.  They are blissfully engrossed in the latest play of the game.  I casually fold the bill or notification or whatever the heck it is up and put it back in the envelope it came in, then I place it in my bill basket in my office as if it is no more important than the monthly water or cable bill.  Because I’m the Mom – the head of the family – and I can’t afford the luxury of freaking out.  If you are thinking that the Dad is usually the head of the family then 2 things:  1) You must be a man and 2) BWAAHAAHAAHAA – you are so wrong.  Anyway, I remain calm. 

I’m in charge of our family’s money management and have been since a week after my husband and I opened up our first joint checking account together nearly 20 years ago.  Before the first box of checks had arrived in our mailbox, my husband had our account overdrawn.  I remember going to him, asking for his checkbook and then beating him with it.  For years he was only allowed to carry cash and 1 credit card.  There was no such thing as debit cards in those days.  He never has really known the value of a dollar.  When we were first married he spent money as if it grew on trees, but these days he’s gone to the opposite extreme.  He thinks paying more than a $10 for a shirt is too much.  I should clarify that he only has this strict guideline when it come to his own clothes not mine thank heavens.  So not only am I in charge of the money, but I’m also in charge of shopping for additions to his wardrobe.  I just rip off the tags before he sees it and then claim that it was on clearance.  So knowing that he thinks $10 is too much for a shirt, I’m pretty sure he’ll need the smelling salts if he sees the cost of this surgery.  Insurance Pending or not.

I start to wonder what the devil’s name the hospital is thinking by sending something like this out.  What about someone who just had heart surgery?  If they opened a letter like this it could cause a heart attack!  I can only imagine what the total of something like that would be if a minor surgical procedure totaled more than 5 figures!  Maybe it’s the hospital’s way of drumming up repeat business.

image from graphicsfactory.com

Anyway, after dropping that letter like a hot potato on my desk I sit back on the couch and resume watching the football game.  Both husband and daughter are still completely oblivious to the fact that I just had a near-death experience.  I think about telling my husband, but he’ll just worry himself sick or privately decide he’s never going to the doctor again.  We have insurance, thank God, and this is the time it comes in handy.  Kind of making up for those 3 years that none of us even had to go to the doctor for a cold.  If this were a movie or a sitcom then there would be some kind of crisis where the insurance company dropped coverage the day before the surgery and then there’d be a big battle probably with a lawyer that wore a cowboy hat and in the end all would be well and everyone would live happily ever after.  But it’s not a movie, just an average middle class family who will probably have to argue a few points with the insurance company and end up paying a little more than we’d like out-of-pocket but otherwise no worse for wear.  Well, except that I might be buying a few more $10 shirts than I have been lately.

Shirts

Image by sporkist via Flickr