March 5, 2014
I don’t consider myself to be unlucky, but I also don’t think of myself as someone who wins a lot. In fact the only thing that I can remember winning was in grade school: an Easter bunny cake that the nuns raffled off to benefit poor people in China. I was thrilled when my name was chosen, but less thrilled when I realized what a month on display in the sunshine atop the radiator does to a bunny cake. The coconut fur was the consistency of steel wool, and you needed a circular saw to carve yourself a piece.
In time I became familiar with defeat, and always attempted to be gracious and magnanimous, so I feel especially comfortable in Seattle, the bridesmaid but never the bride, close but no cigar, loud but no Lombardi. The Sonics left, the Mariners disappoint and the Seahawks … well, the Seahawks …
February 6, 2014
When we moved to Olympus almost 24 years ago, our Good Neighbors to the South (the GNS) were already ensconced in their brand new home. Randomly Loud Son was a toddler, and Lovely Daughter was yet to be born. And sometime in the early 2000s, there was another addition: a puppy, a black Corgi mixed with Some Other Brand. His name was Lenny.
Lenny was the only dog in a string of three homes that included the GNS, ourselves and the GNN (Good Neighbors to the North.) He was generally a benign addition. I can’t remember ever chasing him from the yard, or replacing an upended plant or shoveling up his leavings.
January 2, 2014
During the holidays, I make pies. When my mother — an excellent baker — passed away, I inherited Christmas Eve and pies. I don’t how that happened, but my sisters are nearly as useless as I am when it comes to food and domesticity, so it may be that as the eldest I felt a misplaced sense of responsibility.
Knowing that we all sucked at it, 20 years ago we videotaped Mother in the kitchen making pies. I transcribed the session after the fact so that we would have 3×5 recipe cards for reference. In doing so, I literally wrote out exactly what Mom said as she did her demo, thinking it funny and assuming that we would remember what it meant. “After adding the water,” she said (and I carefully hand-printed on the cards) “Go like this.” The videotape has long been lost, and so whatever “this” is has been lost as well.
December 4, 2013
Plays loom large in our family background. We’ve produced skits on Thanksgiving Day for years, terrifying orphan invitees and leading a grandson to sing in loud and crowded karaoke bars today.
I was introduced to the joys of acting in the second grade, when we were barely able to string together decent sentences or walk without tripping. In spite of this, our teacher — who had clearly chosen the wrong profession — had us onstage in powdered wigs and long dresses, reciting lines of dialogue and doing the minuet.
Although the acting part was fun for me, I was most taken with the process of creation. Because of my naturally overbearing and bossy nature, I started directing my sisters in plays that we put on for our parents and anyone in the neighborhood that we could entice with free ice cream and cake.
November 12, 2013
Long ago, our fraternal grandmother told us that our great-great-great-grandfather was the famous Cherokee Yellow Bird. Of course she also told us that my grandfather discovered radar but that his secrets were stolen, which explained why there were no statues of him in the town square.
That should have put me on my guard, but I craved a more exciting background than the one provided by our known German/English heritage, which was filled with brewery workers and pattern-makers and was as boring as sturdy shoes and white bread.
October 4, 2013
I hate shopping. I have never understood the joys of just looking for the sake of looking. The Sainted One and I only go to stores when we’re ready to buy, and in those cases, the process is a snap for the seller because we already know what we want and come prepared to spend. If there was a way to physically mark us as easy buyers — like back in the Depression when hobos would mark the homes of friendly people who would give them food — salespeople would kill themselves and each other to get to us first when we walk through the door. But shopping for clothing, shoes, accessories, tchotchkes, I’m just not into it as a sport.
Ignoring my better judgment, I recently weakened and accepted an invitation to a personal shopping event in Newcastle. For the uninitiated, a home owner throws a party with drinks and food, a clothing representative brings a wardrobe so you can view and try on the pieces, and then you can order items that are shipped to you later. It was a beautiful night in a beautiful home with an expansive view, both of my sisters were there (a situation that often leads to all manner of excess) and did I mention that there was alcohol? I went too far. I admit it.
I got a BUI. Buying Under the Influence. Read more
August 30, 2013
Recently I had my nails done for the first time ever, but because of a Midwestern grade school background that included lots of nuns, it was most likely a one-time event.
I’ve long been a devotee of what I call “Nun Nails”: short, clean and unadorned, like those of my Catholic grade school teachers. My schoolmates and I had innocent crushes on the young parish priests, but the nuns were regarded with an anxious mixture of fear, respect, fascination, fear and fear.
My holier-than-thou friends and I spent lots of time hanging around the church campus. Every Saturday we’d ride our bikes to the rectory where we would spend all morning folding the Sunday bulletins, and after school on Monday we would be there again, tasked with opening the Sunday collection envelopes and marking the weekly tithe in a massive leather-bound book that weighed almost as much as my Catholic guilt.
August 1, 2013
We’ll be heading back to the Midwest around Labor Day so that we can attend my 45th high school reunion. As a precaution, we’re reacquainting ourselves with correctly answering the raft of pre-flight questions they throw you when you check in.
We thought it was time for a review due to the fact that my sister Susie recently became a security threat. At work and doing at least a dozen other things at the same time, she decided to check in for her flight online. She breezed through the questions without much thought, and when the page came up asking if she’d packed any guns, explosives or sharp objects, she checked “Yes.” As if anyone who’s packing that kind of stuff would reveal it!
But let me warn you: Once you’ve checked “Yes” to a question like that, hitting the “Back” button will do you about as much good as lying about your weight and age when you program an elliptical machine at the Y. Luckily my sister is a frequent flier, but it still took special time and effort before she was allowed to board with her heavy, weapon-laden suitcase.
July 5, 2013
I love to dance, but I’m only proficient on my own. I was the eldest of three sisters and took the male lead when we taught ourselves how to Jitterbug or Waltz as kids, thus ruining it for The Sainted One and anyone else who has tried to move me about the floor without resistance. When I was in high school, stand-alones were the rage — the Twist, the Frug, the Jerk — and when a slow song came on, it was sufficient to drape your arms around your date’s neck and shuffle side-to-side. So my enthusiasm for dance is a solo thing. I find solace in The Electric Slide.
To feed my love of movement, I take Zumba at the Y twice a week. I take the daytime “Gold” version, tamer than the nighttime sessions but still a challenge: Sixty minutes of nonstop movement, steps, pivots, arm waving, dipping and twirling. One thing I’ve noticed after years of attending is that young children are mesmerized by our sessions. It’s difficult for parents to pull their charges down the hallway once they’ve heard the music and spotted us through the wide gym doors. Their little bodies begin to sway and their feet and arms move as they attempt to mimic our choreography.
June 6, 2013
I am a sucker for a lemonade stand. If I spot one, I’ll buy a glass. Rarely do I drink it all. I’m generally not a fan of lemonade unless there’s alcohol involved, but I stop anyway because I know that in doing so I’m aiding a budding sales representative or a nascent entrepreneur, and I also know that someone in the house behind the stand was brave enough to suggest it and to allow a sticky mess in the kitchen, much like my mother did when we were young.
Had my mother been born in a different time, she might have been the CEO of a corporation. She was a natural, and she taught us much of what we know today about sales and marketing. She continued those lessons with my nephew Zack, now in his early 20s. He had his first lemonade stand at her house when he was 4 years old, and she put him through her patented Lemonade Stand Boot Camp.
She gave Zack the same instructions that we had been given in our youth: Be polite. Smile. Look people in the eye. Speak distinctly. Take care with sanitation.