Funny Girl

How cool as a kid
To make your dad sincerely,
Genuinely, laugh.

+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

I fancy myself funny at times. Not always, but many times I am able to get giggles from people.

Therefore, I take special pride in (and way too much credit for) the fact that my 9-year-old daughter, AP, is getting a good sense of humor.

Case in point. Tonight started our end-of-school-year search for the library books that never got returned. Each year about this time, we get a nasty-gram from the librarian about some book that everyone is sure was returned but for some reason wasn’t. AP complained that the book in question was lost because  “Dad threw it off the bed when he came to sleep with me the night I was scared”.

Frank, with some skepticism in his voice, said “When I threw it, did it enter another dimension?”

AP dead-panned: “Yes, yes it did.”

Later she went upstairs to make yet another pass at looking for the book. In my house when something is missing and the searcher does a pathetic job looking for the object and neither looks under or behind things, we call this ” ‘looking’ like a man”, a slam against most men who refuse to do more than peer helplessly about them in hopes the missing item will jump into their field of vision unaided.  I must admit that in my house, the women folk are worse about ” ‘looking’ like a man” than the men folk are, so keeping this in mind…   A few minutes later AP returned to the dinner table and declared she still couldn’t find the book.  Frank, again skeptically given her history of inept searches, said “You know what will happen when I go upstairs to look for the book, don’t you?” And AP, without missing a beat, said “Yes… it will magically appear from the other dimension.”

I couldn’t stop laughing.  That’s my girl.  Not only was her comedic timing perfect (which the retelling here really doesn’t do justice to), but it so beautifully explained all the other searchers where she came up short but Frank was successful. He has special access to another dimension giving him powers we women folk don’t have.

I must use this excuse myself…

Grandma’s Rock – Caption Contest

Mothers who are grand
spread special love, wet kisses
secrets and treasure.

===========================

We lived for 3 years in England, so often I pretend to have insider knowledge of the English. Clearly, I don’t. But I do love keeping up with the Royal Family, especially as Queen Elizabeth II celebrates 60 years on the throne. I once saw her in Windsor Castle — about 100 yards away behind a large, iron fence… she was wearing a lime green suit on her way to the races as Ascot. I felt special, knowing we made a connection. (Actually I jumped up and down and pointed like a typical American.) At another event, she walked by 10 feet from my husband, who snapped a great picture of her. It sits proudly on our mantle, again, demonstrating that we are dorks.

With that background, I present to you my new favorite picture, found on abcnews.com.

princeharry_wideweb__470x360,0

Queen Elizabeth II smiles at Prince Harry as she inspects soldiers during Sovereign’s Parade at Sandhurst Military Academy April 12, 2006 in Surrey, England. (Tim Graham/Getty Images)

I have two reactions to the picture, beyond the fact that it is a new favorite.

One is that no matter who you are and what you do, your grandma is your grandma, and you better smile at her. The pride in her face is universal…and the embarrassed whimsy in Harry’s is priceless.  To find it captured so perfectly is amazing – one second either side of the moment, and you wouldn’t get half the meaning, have the impact.  I guess that’s what makes it such a great picture.

My second reaction centers on what was being said: what did grandma say to Harry at this moment? And even more fun, what did his friends, lined up and decidedly not smiling, say to him afterwards. That is the subject of today’s CAPTION CONTEST.

A: What did Queen Elizabeth II say right before this picture was taken?

B: What did Harry’s mates say later back in the barracks?

I can only come up with one:

Grandma Q: Your fly is open.

I’ll leave the rest to you all. Please contribute. No prizes, just fun reading…

Get off the road

Alone, I travel,
Amongst the idiots, dazed,
my foot on the brake…

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There are some people who are just too stupid to drive. Yesterday, while merging onto the interstate, I encountered a convention of them: A charlie foxtrot of about 25 of the worse, most inane drivers in the history of motorized travel. Here is what I encountered in a mere 2 miles of highway driving.

1. Daydreamers. These are the people I’d like to believe are merciless, but who I really think are just so totally air-headed they don’t realized they are driving stupid. When I’m in the right lane and come upon an on ramp, what do I do? I look around, see if I can pull over to give the mergers room, or slow down/speed up so they have a good area to merge in. Daydreamers do none of this. And by some sadistic coincidence, they match my speed and location leaving me nary a place to merge either in front or behind them. I’m forced to slow way down, creating a dangerous merge, and then try to jump in behind them before I run out of road. Since today I was, as I said, in a CF of idiots, this was not easy. I’d like to believe they were limited to the slow lane, but alas, they were scattered across all three lanes of traffic. How each managed to fire enough synapses to actually drive a car is a mystery.

2. Mario Andretti wanna-be’s. These are the people who lease cars they can’t afford so they can drive something badass… and then drive like an ass, badly. High speed lane, middle lane, wait, you can’t pass me, high-speed lane, fasterfasterfaster, wait, middle lane, hey! what’s that mini van doing, coming over, screw the blinker, oh crap, there’s my exit, screech, I made it… how cool am I. You aren’t cool. You are a prick. And there were 4 of you in front of me today. Thanks for the blood pressure spikes.

3. Mr. I”m Going the Speed Limit, So There. This is THE most immature driver on the planet. Their speed limit induced self-righteousness makes me want to slam into their trunks at 55 mph.  They say things like “I’m going the speed limit, who cares if I’m in the high-speed lane” all the while people pile up behind them who want to (shockingly) go faster than the speed limit. I’m not advocating speeding (although I do it regularly). I’m simply saying that if you are in the high-speed lane you should be going, gee, I don’t know, high speed?  Can you count? If there are more than 2 cars visible in your rear view mirror and they seem exceptionally close, GET OUT OF THE WAY! Thanks to the ding-a-lings of this breed yesterday, the Mario Andretti’s were gamed into being even more ridiculous than usual. I’m not sure who is worse.

I was ever so grateful that my journey only required a few miles on the interstate. That was long enough to wonder if I had entered some parallel dimension, where some new force, stronger than gravity, had somehow brought all these cars together in a single grouping.  A single grouping of idiots hell-bent on making me scream obscenities and gesture mutely inside my car.

My request: if you recognize yourself above, please take some remedial classes or something. You are a danger to yourself and others. If you choose not to repent, then promise to let someone else teach your children how to drive — or better yet, no breeding at all; let’s nip that gene pool right now.  Thank you.

Dear Diary… Can’t wait to tell you of my latest crush

My secrets revealed,
As the pen scratches across
The lined, smooth paper

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Dear Diary,

I know it’s been a while since I wrote anything. Typical. But I had to tell you about this new man in my life. After Bathrobe Man, I wasn’t sure I was ever going to have a commute crush again (the word crush is so appropriate, right?!). But there is a new guy. I call him Running Boy.

Truth be told, I’ve known him a while. I guess about 9 months ago I spotted him — he was running, obviously… But he was so different from the others I had seen dolefully completing their morning routines.

Let me explain. He doesn’t look like a runner. The shorts to the knees seem amazingly confining, but he never seems to mind. The baseball cap — always red — is ever present. But there are three things about him that really caught my eye then and continue now.

His mustache — dark brown, thick, fully covering the lip-nose gap. I haven’t seen one that bountiful since Magnum PI. And no little go-tee attached to it – he is all about the stache and lets it stand on its own. I admire that about him. I wish he would remove the ball cap, because I’m convinced it is holding back a full head of thick, curly hair that even now I can imagine running my hands through.

Not to be outdone by his facial hair is his leg hair. He is a little on the pale side, so even at 40 mph, I can see the thick hair covering his legs. I miss hairy men. I’m not looking for Big Foot, but those Ambercrombie and Fitch teenagers models, with their smooth chests, do absolutely nothing for me. A real man needs hair on his chest, a little on his back… and some on the shoulders to add to the overall manliness of the landscape.  It takes a real woman to tame a man with ample body hair. Running boy… you can tell he is a real man.

Lastly, it’s his run. He runs like an 8 year old boy. High on his toes, he flies down the sidewalk, his heels never touching ground. No mamby-pamby jogging, he is running, full tilt, balls of his feet bearing the brunt. Honestly, the first time I saw him I was convinced he was running away from someone. I imagined he had stayed the night with his girlfriend — a married woman in her mid 40’s let’s just say — and had quickly darted out the backdoor for some unexplained reason and needed to return home quickly. That was the only way I could explain the overly long shorts and ball cap — and that unpracticed gait — the first time I set eyes on him. But when I saw him a few days later, and then kept seeing him time and time again… well I decided he was just a rebel, a man who wanted health no matter what the ridicule.

So, Diary, here I am — still pining some for Bathrobe Man — who by the way hasn’t had the guts to show his face again — but finding that the fog is lifting the more time I spend with Running Boy.  I’m not going to do anything about it just yet… perhaps start driving just a wee bit slower in case he might notice me. Or maybe I’ll find a reason to stop at the Pony Keg first thing in the morning before his journey takes him by there… just to see if I can catch his eye with a smile.  It’s worth a try…

Yours,

Maureen

Do your new reading glasses make my ass look fat? The evolution of a marriage…

Small, square, the ad read:
“…A cuddly renaissance dude…”
With that, I was hooked.
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Today I celebrate 19 years of wonderful marriage to Frank. Wow. Nine-teen. That’s a lot. We’ve known each other 20 years – yikes!  that’s like two decades! It has both felt like a very short period of time and like forever, because it seems I can’t recall much before we met.

I’m not sure I’m going to add anything new to the “anatomy of a marriage” genre, but I thought a trip down memory lane would be fun to write. So I present to you my marriage, in 6 stages:

Dating, 14 months: We spent a lot of time at my apartment. I lived alone and it was snuggly.  During this time Frank killed a rat in my apartment (the rat had the strength of 10 men and the daring of a playboy centerfold; I was terrified). He took me sledding for the first time in my life (winter snow is a little thin on the ground in middle Georgia).  It was a lovely place and a lovely time. I enjoyed our courtship a great deal. (I know, I know, who the hell calls it a courtship…)

Marriage years zero to 4: Our first apartment together. I moved in first, a few weeks before the wedding. I knew when the washer and dryer arrived the day after I moved in — my first major appliance purchase ever, let alone with another person — that this was serious. Why the 100 wedding invitations and the white dress hanging in the closet didn’t also convey this, I don’t know. But the washer and dryer… that was it. It was a great apartment. All new building, third floor on the back. We could watch the fireworks at Kings Island every night from the deck (ok, so you had to stand at one end and lean over the railing a little). We lit fires in the fireplace (also a novelty to this childhood victim of gas heat).  We sat on the floor and ate on the glass-topped coffee table in front of the TV so often I made a little table-cloth. (It currently lays folded on a shelf 4 feet from me now; we’ve never been able to part with it.) When we started rehabbing my husband’s childhood home, spending all but sleeping hours elsewhere, the place felt less lived in. Imagine my surprise then when we moved out in 1997: I sobbed uncontrollably at the loss of our first marital home. Even Frank shed a tear.

Homeowners, Part 1: We were virtually immobile for the first 2 years of our life in this home. The previous 18 months of near constant rehabbing had stripped us of our youthful vigor (being newly married and mostly broke, we did almost all the work ourselves. We started by removing the entire roof, trusses and all, and setting new trusses with a crane, if that gives you an indication of how much work we did…). The walls remained boring beige. The last few bits of rehab went untouched for years. But we enjoyed being homeowners. Frank bought me a go-kart disguised as a lawn mower which I joyfully drove like a maniac every summer weekend. I planted a few vegetables. I took a landscape class and redid the front yard. Frank put in a concrete driveway that could withstand the landing pressure of the space shuttle.  Five years after moving in, and nearly 10 years into our marriage, we decided to start a family and quickly (and thankfully) after that, our daughter was born. (I loved painting her nursery (thanks Teneal!) and would silently weep when years later it was undone by another family.) We had cats and house plants and relatives next door and across the street. It was a good party house and the vaulted ceiling hosted a 12 foot tall Christmas tree each year. When we sold the house in 2005 to the first people who looked at it, we were pleased someone who appreciated our hard work, craftmanship and obvious love of the place had purchased it.

The Expat Years: In 2005 we moved to England for my job; Frank became a stay at home dad. We learned to drive on the other side of the road and call it rubbish and motorway and car park and mum. I loved it… and it was hard. Redefining your roles in a marriage and as parents isn’t easy, and often I struggled balancing work (and my perceived higher expectations being an expat) with being a second-in-command parent with being a mom with being a wife with wanting some alone time. But we learned to go with the flow.  Two years into it our son was born and I watched with amazement as my husband grew into an expanded role as caregiver and home-keeper and I chilled out about being the primary breadwinner and an expat. Although we were happy to come back to the US in 2008, I will always love England. I never did fully say goodbye to our rental home there… not sure why.

Growth & Maturation: Remember 2008? Gas prices were sky high? House prices were rock bottom? We returned then, rented a home and stood ready to finally build a house on the 5 acres we had purchased in 2000 in a dream location in the country. But we had to wait. Had to get one kid in school and one in daycare. I had to get used to a new job with what seemed like a 24 hour clock. Frank had to restart his engineering business. And we had to decide on how to proceed with building the house.  Have Frank be the general contractor or use a builder? Will the bank loan us the money in this economy? The house we designed will cost HOW MUCH to build? Meet with the architect and redesign the house smaller with fewer bells and whistles. Revisit the budget, crunch some numbers. Argue with the homeowners association that we weren’t quite yet ready to build… These were the longest 18 months of our marriage I think. My son wasn’t getting along in day care; we were falling deeper in love with our daughters school 45 minutes in the opposite direction from our 5 acres. Did we really want the custom home? Was country living really the right thing for our little family? Was day care really the best option for AB at this time? Did we want a nice house but no money for vacation for the next 20 years, or some other path? When the universe presented to me, one January afternoon in 2010, a 4 bedroom house less than one mile from school on over an acre… an English Tudor no less… with one of those rock bottom prices nearly half of the dream home’s… well, the rest as they say is history. It was one of the most mature things we ever did – picking the collective future of our family over an old dream that didn’t really fit anymore. It was like finally parting with that really cool pair of designer pants that you bought on deep sale at Saks on a whim… they fit, but you never really had the right place to wear them, but you couldn’t bear throwing them out.  Selling the 5 acres felt like taking those pants to Goodwill. You know it’s the right thing, but you still wonder if you made the right decision – will you have just the right event to wear them to come up in a few days…

Homeowners, Part 2, No regrets: 2010 – to present.   I love my marriage. I love my kids and husband and the family we make. I love my house. I (mostly) love my job. We have a good dog and a short commute.  We sold 5 acres of specialty property in a down economy. We can take a vacation each year. The cars are healthy. I have to honestly say I am more content now than I have ever been. Don’t get me wrong — the first 19 years have been wonderful and I’m happy for the journey (and often dumbfounded at my good luck that started with reading that personal ad one NyQuil-drunk March evening…). And yet right now, everything seems to have come together at the same time. I have always mocked those 40-ish actresses who report that their 40s are sooo much better than their 20’s and 30’s. That they know themselves better, feel more comfortable with themselves, etc etc. I don’t feel like I have that level of self awareness – I have no clue if I “know myself better” or not. However, when viewed through the lens of the last 20 years… of the evolution of my married life, well then I must agree. It is, right now, the best. Amongst all the really amazing and wonderful great times, now is the best.

All my love, Frank. So very glad you picked me.

Oh my god… I’m an adult

Personal insights
At war with reality…
Well, this should be fun.

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To my friend… surely you will know this is about you. But it isn’t about you. It is how ‘you’ led me to a great personal insight that lends itself to a blog post. I sincerely hope you (and your family) won’t be offended.

To my mom… no comment necessary. I can hear you laughing from here.
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I have always considered the day I gave birth to my first born as the day that I reached full maturity. Yes, I had been employed for 12 years by that time and married for nearly 10. Yes, I had a mortgage and 2 car payments; three cats and 7 houseplants looked to me for survival. But for some reason none of those ever made me feel mature the way having a child did. A switch seemed to literally flip on somewhere in my reptilian brain that could never, ever be switched off again.

So imagine my surprise when this weekend another event happened that seemed to take me yet another step toward maturity.

My family went to a celebration for a dear friend who is about 20 years younger than me and single. (I am changing all sorts of descriptors to protect the innocent and my friendship.) She was celebrating an important milestone and we wanted to be there, with her parents, aunt and cousins, to mark the occasion.  My family arrived at her apartment a little early – she was still out with her mom, aunt and cousins, but her dad was there so we made ourselves comfortable. Well, Frank and the kids did. I was antsy. I wasn’t sure why… I couldn’t bring myself to sit down; I was unusually restless given I was actually a little tired. I wandered room to room, looking… for what I couldn’t say.

And then it hit me. I wanted to straighten her apartment. I wanted to organize things and empty trash cans and go to the Container Store and buy matching bins. She had stuff e v e r y w h e r e, and I couldn’t find a uniting theme to things no matter how hard I tried … and believe me I tried.

There was a dining room, but it was home to such a variety of items that my natural tendency to look for patterns went all wonky.   Her dining table clearly was meant to host food for the party — there was food on it already — but there were also other things, many of which I couldn’t identify at all.  This from a woman who can tell if the little part is playmobil, polly pocket or littlest pet shop with ease… I was stumped.

Her living room was quaint, also doubling as office and pet sanctuary. I loved how everything was at an angle (I think to take advantage of the limited wall outlets and the somewhat unhelpful non-working fireplace). Yet I wanted to stack all the items on her desk. Wanted to rearrange the bookshelf to be more efficient. I kept examining the traffic flow of people and imagining how it might be more effective with a tweak to the furniture arrangement.

It was about at this point that my awareness turned internal and I thought to myself, with horror — oh my god… I’m acting like a grown up. A real grown up. So I wandered into the kitchen — really cute and retro, given the age of the house.  But 20 seconds in I was once again imagining the perfect shelves and racks for a corner, which would allow her to…

“STOP!” I cried to myself.  “You have a problem! Her home is perfectly fine. If your own mother were here she would be rolling on the floor laughing at you and saying something sinister like ‘paybacks are hell, sweetie!’ She would be retelling (for the ump-teenth time) stories about how your room was knee deep in clothes growing up and how your first apartment was so messy that it required two days of cleaning before company came.’  I took a deep breath, steadied myself, reminded myself of her age and lifestyle (more like that of a student) and sat down.

I was up again in an instant, as if I hadn’t just had a personal insight. Well, I said to myself, if I can’t attack the entire apartment, I can at least get the table cleared for the rest of the food that was about to arrive. I grabbed a small, cute and empty container (why is it empty? she could put stuff in here!), put everything from the table that wasn’t food related into it, and sat it on a random shelf. I arranged things, put out more food, made some assumptions and generally felt better having made just one small something organized.

Once I had done this, once I had felt useful and satisfied my need for order, I was able to enjoy the party, which started in earnest shortly after this. It was only on the drive home that it hit me: so this is what it feels like to be an adult, all grown up. This compulsion to take care of and make organized (at least from my point of view!)… surely this was a sign of either illness or maturity.

When I arrived home, I humbled myself by looking at my desk and my table, both of which could use some of my own medicine. Those who know me know that I don’t keep a tidy house – there are toys everywhere and loads of knick-knacks which make the place feel a little cluttered. So I can’t yet reconcile my compulsion to straighten her house with my own failings in the keeping-a-straightened-house department.  It could just be further evidence of god’s wickedly good sense of humor, or something I should get treated for as soon as possible.

Resilience Blooming (or Why My Daughter Rocks!)

Give her the freedom
To roam, fall, pick herself up
And watch strength blossom.
………………………………..
Today I dropped my 9-year-old daughter, AP, off early for a day trip through school. They were taking a bus up to the Center of Science and Industry in Columbus. She was beside herself… kept going on and on about the fancy bus with the plush seats, TV and bathroom. I didn’t have the heart to tell her that the bathroom would have a smell unlike any other and really should be avoided or that she would discover that the nauseating bus fumes somehow clung inside your nose for days… She was just too excited at the prospects and the sheer adventure of it all — I didn’t want to spoil it.

Lately I’ve been sitting back watching AP blossom. I haven’t done many posts about my girl – somehow her 5-year-old brother with his public displays of boy part interest and dino obsessions make for more entertaining posts. But I am equally in awe of her.  There is something remarkable about witnessing her little moments of graceful resilience or the spurts of insightful humor that have taken me by surprise lately. I can hardly believe I’m managing to raise such a creature.

My favorite recent example centered on bike riding, an event I did not witness but heard about.  AP hasn’t taken to bike riding on two wheels. Although she accomplished this briefly 2+ years ago, she was almost immediately discouraged by an unexpected and somewhat scary fall (nothing major technically speaking, but emotionally shattering). Since then, she has made a few feeble attempts but her heart hasn’t been in it.

So a few weeks ago, when I got home, imagine my surprise when both kids rushed to meet me, overflowing with stories of 2-wheel triumph.  With dinner cooling on the table, they quickly helmet-ed up and demonstrated.  There were choruses of woo-hoos and fists pumps.  It was a glorious close of day for all.

And then I got the whole story.  Seems that earlier that afternoon, my boy insisted Frank take his training wheels off. A few wobbly pushes later and he had all but mastered two wheels, breezily peddling down our long driveway, dismounting, and waiting to be pushed off again. When AP realized her little brother had done it, succeeded where she had not yet, she was in fits of tears. “Really torn up,” according to her dad. But then she pulled it together, got on her bike, and made it work. Before I knew about her getting upset, I commented how impressed I was that she didn’t let his success bother her, which led her to confess that it did.  “I was really upset and cried a lot.  But then I got on the bike and just kept chanting to myself ‘if my stupid little brother can do this, so can I… if my stupid little brother can do this, so can I.’ And so I did. ” I laughed out loud. Grace under pressure. Resilience defined. I beamed at her.

I want her to be successful in all that she does – what parent doesn’t? But I’m realizing more and more how important the losses are.  That’s where she learns to shine. I’m as proud she learned how to channel her “pissed-off-ness” into some much-needed self-butt-kicking as I would be if she had easily mastered this years ago. Maybe a little more proud, because with age comes the self-awareness of defeat and the pinch of shame, both of which stop many of us cold more often than we care to admit. The sooner she learns how to work her way through that, relying on her own self, the more successful she will be.

So here’s to resilience. Here’s to using humor and stupid little brothers to motivate in times of need. And here’s to little girls blooming, teaching their moms by example, everyday.

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