Bonafide Bonehead

In the course of telling you about my recent cellphone catastrophe, I mentioned the boneheaded moment I decided to rinse my cellphone off in the sink before trying to… rescue it from the effects of excessive moisture.

I wish I could tell you it was an isolated incident.

It is not.

My nonsensical idiocy runs the gamut from obvious (to everyone else) poor fashion decisions to actual life and death matters.

In eighth grade, I wanted to look like, I don’t know, Molly Ringwald or something. I wanted to look like a hip young girl in tune with 80s chic, and I thought I had exactly what I needed to pull it off. Unfortunately, no matter how bright and preppy your shirt looks, if you combine an ultra-short black leather mini skirt with hot pink tights and little heeled silver boots, you look like you belong in the red light district, not on the red carpet. It wasn’t until I noticed all the whispers taking place that I realized there was more to style than just color coordination.

Childhood can perhaps be excused, but adults are supposed to know better. Before we had kids, I got in a huge fight with my husband about whether or not we should wear face masks while playing pick-up roller hockey. He insisted we should. I insisted that no one else even wore helmets and we’d look like over-concerned fools if we added face masks. That night – I’m not kidding you – that very night, I found myself in the urgent care center at the hospital getting 11 stitches in my eyebrow after colliding with someone on the rink.

I obviously didn’t learn my lesson because sometime after that, we arrived at an indoor skating rink for pick-up hockey with a rougher crowd. I dug and dug through my large hockey bag but couldn’t find my rubber mouth guard. Oh, well,  I thought. It’ll probably be OK to play without. Not too far into the evening, a show-off forward approached me with the puck. I stood my ground (perhaps a boneheaded decision itself) and he smashed right into me. As I picked me and my freshly broken stick up off the rink, I noticed that there was a bit of something on my tongue. Part of my tooth. I found the mouth guard as I put my stuff back in my bag.

Then there was the moment about a month after my first child was born when I loaded her and the dog up in the car and went to pick up a car part from a dealership for my husband. By the time I got there, I had… well… basically forgotten I had a child. I was standing in line at the parts counter when all the blood drained from my face as I realized I had left her in the car. Did I run back out and get her as any normal person would do? No! I stayed in line because I didn’t want all those other people to think I was a bad mom when I re-entered with a tiny baby. So… I became a worse mom… by leaving her there. {For the truly aghast among you, it was neither too hot nor too cold outside. She wasn’t in danger just by virtue of being in the car.}

While deep in a secluded section of Grand Canyon, requiring a steep uphill climb and several miles of walking to get anywhere close to a ranger, I once tried to take a close-up picture of a cute little baby snake… rattling its cute little tail at me… Until my panicked husband yelled as he approached and I backed off. In my defense, none of the people standing around watching had said anything at all. My husband made sure to give me all the grim details of what would have happened had I been bitten. And he was quite amused that I had gotten so close to the snake that the pictures I had taken were all blurry.

But perhaps the most boneheaded decision I made was when I was a Junior in High School. My boyfriend at the time asked me to marry him. Well, I didn’t know if that was a good move – I was fairly certain it wasn’t. I didn’t know if I wanted to marry him or not. And I certainly didn’t know what would happen if I said no. What I did know was that I didn’t want us to break up. And I knew that wouldn’t happen if I said yes, so I said yes. And he was oh, so happy.

Fortunately for me, many of my boneheaded moves did not have disastrous consequences – this one in particular. That boyfriend was the last one I ever had and we’ve beaten all odds on many fronts to have made this marriage work. And I truly couldn’t ask for a better person to be there laughing like a hyena whenever I do something really, really dumb.

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THAT Old?!

We were visiting with some friends when my husband used a phrase I had never heard of.

“Where do you come up with these things?” I asked.

My friend looked up from the game board and said, “That phrase has been around forever.”

“Ok,” I replied, “but I’ve never heard him use it. Sheesh! I’ve been with him for over half my life. You’d think I’d have heard all the phrases he knows by now.”

“You are that old?!” Daryl asked.

“What?”

“You are old enough to have been married to Daddy for half your life?”

“Well, I said ‘been with him’ but we’ve actually been married for over half our lives too.”

“But what about your childhood?!”

“My childhood was a lot shorter than adulthood has been at this point.”

“Besides,” my husband said, “We were 18 when we got married. We were kids.”

Daryl had another hysterically funny-yet-insulting-to-his-mother line after that, but by the time we got home, I had forgotten it. Guess I am getting old.

Don’t Worry About It?

At the symphony the other night, an old and not-very-mobile man was sitting a few rows in front of us. At some point, he decided he needed to leave. As he struggled back up the aisle, he suddenly exclaimed “Dammit!”

I glanced his way and my suspicion that his pants had just fallen was confirmed a couple of seconds later when he stage whispered to his wife, “I should have worn my belt.”

None of this was amusing or shocking to me. Not the pants falling, not the loud swearing, not the too loud remark to his wife. No, what got to me was his wife’s immediate response to the Dammit! and sudden grabbing of his pants.

As he struggled to maintain dignity and before he remarked about the belt, she muttered (also loudly enough to be heard), “Oh! Don’t worry about it!”

Don’t worry about it? Really? He’s a grown man in a public place and you don’t think he should worry about dropping his pants? Even placing aside issues of dignity, there are some practical considerations. He couldn’t get out of the chair without your help. He can’t walk up the aisle without you holding one arm while he leans against the wall with the other. He’s basically shuffling along the floor, unable to lift his feet high enough to step. And you don’t think he should worry about his pants suddenly puddling around his ankles? As if that won’t further hinder his progress?

Let’s try switching roles and see whether you can resist worrying about your pants falling down.

How to Botch a Birthday

My husband turned 40 recently.  Forty is one of those milestone birthdays that shouldn’t pass by unremarked.  I started planning back in June.  I commissioned a very talented wood worker to make a custom box to hold my husband’s playing card collection.  I asked for 10 drawers that could each hold 10 decks each.  It turned out beautiful!  And also much bigger than I expected.  So the Saturday before his birthday, I took him to the gentleman’s shop to pick it up.  To my relief (the price tag was not trivial and thanks to Dave Ramsey, I couldn’t hide the price tag), he loved it.  Success!

But getting an awesome gift a few days before your birthday does not mean that you are ok with your birthday just passing by like any other day.  Unfortunately, I was sick all week.  Already prone to be self-centered, when I get sick, I become completely engrossed in me and only me.  Pitiful me.  Sick me.  ‘Please pamper me’ me.

So even though we had discussed birthday dinner plans the day before, when I woke up the day of, it was just another miserable, I-wish-I-didn’t-have-to-get-out-of-bed drag toward the end of the week.  We did our usual routines.  He took the kids to school.  Since I was still dragging, I was home when he got home.  I hugged him before I left.  He seemed unhappy about something.  I didn’t know what.

I was at the end of our street when I remembered our evening plans, which reminded me that I had just left my husband without wishing him a happy birthday.  And, worse, I had failed to remind our children so they could give him a hearty Happy Birthday before they went to school.  I was late to work but I U-turned at the intersection.

Back home, I hung my head and said I was so sorry.  Since he was on the couch, I knelt down in front of him to give him a hug and wish him a Happy Birthday.  He smiled and said, “Well, I almost made it to 8:00 without anyone wishing me a Happy Birthday!”

He proceeded to have a rotten, too-busy, non-satisfying kind of day.  When he called me late in the afternoon, it was obvious he was overwhelmed.  I thought about how he made a cake for my birthday.  I had no plans for him.  No cake.  No card.  He had told me that morning that we weren’t going to go out to eat after all because we really needed to fix the pork chops that had been marinating for several days.  No favorite restaurant.

Help! I begged a friend via email.  I need to do something special for his birthday but I can’t think of anything that’s not food!  He’s not eating chocolate and he’s on a health kick, so I don’t want to necessarily do any dessert but what can I do?!

She suggested a fruit parfait, which sounded great.  I stopped at the dollar store to purchase some cheap glasses to hold the individual servings.  I went to the grocery store for the fruit and yogurt.  While there, I picked out two Mylar balloons and a bouquet of brightly colored flowers with glitter sprinkled over them.  One of the balloons had a phrase making it clear the recipient was getting on in the years.  The other had Phineus and Ferb on it.  I smiled at the thought of the confusing signals I was sending anyone trying to decipher my purchases.

When I got to the car, I thought to myself, I need to tie down these balloons somehow so they don’t blow away when I open the hatch at home.  Spying the car seat L.A.T.C.H. system on the back of the seat, I threaded the ribbons through it and then wrapped it around the plastic cover a few times.  Perfect, I thought.

I left the kids at another friend’s house and hurried home to assemble the parfait.  When I opened the hatch on the back of the car, I noticed that the bag with the food and flowers had fallen over.  I wondered whether I should pick that up first or grab the balloons.  Better safe than sorry, I thought and reached for the balloon ribbons.  As I began to pull them loose, I thought to myself, Wow.  They are really securely wrapped around there.  I think I can go ahead and grab the bag first instead.

At that point, I let go of the now-loosened ribbons to gather up the bag.  I had the dollar store bag in my right hand and almost had the grocery store bag secure in my left when I noticed that the ribbons were very quickly snaking out of their hold.

“No!  No!  No!” I called out as I grabbed for the ribbons with the already occupied right hand.  I succeeded in catching one ribbon, but the other continued to slither away.  I reached high with my left hand, grocery tote bag hampering the movement.  I just barely missed it.  Fearful of breaking the glasses or accidentally losing the secured balloon if I attempted to drop the bags, I ran around the side of the car toward the floating balloon, clutching the two bags and one balloon.

I jumped and jumped, reaching with my left hand, but barely missed the tail of the ribbon as the balloon gained altitude and floated over the house.  I stood still for a moment and watched its progress, hoping that maybe, just maybe, it’d get snagged in the tree behind the house.  No luck.

With a sigh and a shrug and some paranoia about possibly losing the other balloon while digging for my house keys, I entered the house.  At least I still had the Phineus and Ferb balloon.

The parfait assembly was uneventful, and then I remembered that I wanted to put candles in his.  Digging through my box of birthday “stuff”, I found a 4, a couple of 1’s, a 6, and a broken 9.  No zero.  Well, I thought, the broken 9 looks like a 0 now, so… ok.  Done.  I’ll use the 4 and broken 9 for 40.

After secretly assembling everything, I left the house just as he pulled into the driveway.  I hustled him into the car and took him and the kids out to eat at his favorite restaurant.  Pork chops, be damned.  This was the third time to eat out that week though, which means we’ll have to not eat out anymore this month to keep our budget, but hey, he’d had a bad day.

Of course, he had somewhere to be shortly after dinner, so we ran home with just enough time for him to see the balloon, hear the story, blow the candles out of his parfait, listen to Hal throw a fit about not blowing out candles, relight the candles, watch Hal blow them out, and then head out again.  The kids ate their parfait while finishing up homework.  Hal spirited the balloon away to his bedroom.  I waited for my husband to return so we could eat our parfaits together.  But neither were hungry enough to finish it.

Before long, we adjourned to the bedroom where we played some Words With Friends before turning out the lights.  I guess I didn’t totally botch the birthday, but I certainly made a valiant effort.

TBT: An Ugly Car and Cloud Gazing

I’ve told a couple of stories from my past recently, one verbally to some friends and one in a blog comment.  Both times, I received such a positive response that I thought I should write them up as blog posts.  And that made me think that surely I have more stories from my past that would be entertaining to at least a few souls.

So I’m embarking on my first ever “feature” on this blog.  We’ll see how long it lasts.  Taking a page from Instagram and Facebook, each Thursday, I hope to post a story from an earlier time period in my life for “Throwback Thursday.”  As they are stories I remember well, I suppose they very definitely qualify as “bright spots” in my life if their memory is still shining bright after all these years.


My husband and I were High School Sweethearts.  We met somewhere around the start of our Junior year.  His best friend had a crush on me that summer and talked about me in such a way that my future husband was fascinated and interested in meeting me.  The start of the school year saw me dating his best friend and he dating mine.

One day, my best friend and I met up with him to go to a party.  He had spent the day polishing his not-yet-operational-again ’57 Chevy with a bottle of Windex to show it off.  We drove up.  He stood proudly by his car and asked what we thought.  I was doing my best snotty teenage girl imitation and told him I thought it was ugly.  He was crestfallen.

Within a couple of years, I’d be using a manual to rebuild the master cylinder of that “ugly” car in the band room after school.  I’d ride in it to prom.  I’d later retrieve him from it when it threw a rod through the oil pan on our wedding night.  I’d chastise him for driving it in a torrential rain storm that swept it off the road while we were in college.  I’d willingly have it towed to Texas when we moved.  It’s still sitting in the backyard now, waiting for our time, money, and interest to revive it.

Anyway, the car was not operational at the time and he was not 16.  My best friend was to drive us to the party.  I very snottily told him that I was riding in the front; he could sit in the back.  We stopped at an ATM and my friend and I went in to get some cash.

When I came out, he was sitting in the backseat with his head leaned all the way back so he could gaze out the back window.

“What are you doing?!” I asked.

“Looking at the clouds…” he said in a drawn-out, dreamy voice.  I remember very distinctly thinking that he wasn’t a very good match for my friend and that he would be a better match for me.

There was no motivation to steal him.  There was no emotion, no burning heart thumping in my chest, no desire.  Just an observation of fact.  I remember nothing of the party or anything else we did that day.  But I remember that young man gazing out the back of that window and making that comment like it was yesterday.

Within a couple of months, she had dumped him and his best friend had dumped me.  He had migrated through another girlfriend (who he confided to me he thought he could marry – I still don’t let him forget that remark).  While he was with that girl, I was growing to realize just how much I liked him.  Again, clear as day, I can remember my reaction to his writing that he wanted to marry her in the note we were passing back and forth at a Latin Club event.  This time, I felt the burning feeling in my chest and a profound sense of disappointment.  That feeling of loss was followed immediately by a firm decision that I wasn’t going to react.  That I really liked this guy and if I couldn’t be his girlfriend, I certainly wanted to be his friend.

She dumped him a week later.  And we began to date a month or two after that – after a drawn-out note-passing courtship that we were enjoying but was driving my friends batty.  And I became the first girl in his life to not dump him.  I never have and I never will.


Interestingly, this wasn’t the story I set out to tell.  I set out to tell the story that got my friends smiling last night.  I was just trying to set the stage when this story fell out instead.  Funny how that works.  Well, maybe the other one will come next week.

 

All Good Things Come To Those Who Wait

It was getting late in the day.  I was exhausted.  My back hurt.  My feet hurt.  I was weak and my stomach was growling so loudly that the neighbors called to ask if we had a new dog.  But I needed to push on.  Our to-do list was long and most of it simply had to be finished that day.

Most of my day had been filled with garage sale prep.  Some families from our Financial Peace University class are having a joint garage sale next weekend.  Since we will be out of town right on through the first day of the sale, we needed to have all of our stuff cleaned, sorted, priced, and delivered to some friends’ house by the end of the day.

I was almost done.  Then I noticed a bag sitting on a chair instead of in a box.  Oh, yeah, I thought.  I have some more bags and purses I was going to put with that.  I almost blew it off.  But, no, might as well get it all.  So I trudged into the laundry room and glanced at the shelf that held the tub full of old purses and bags.  It was underneath the tub stuffed full of gift bags and tissue paper. Oh, man, I thought.  I don’t want to move that heavy tub…  Oh, come on, just finish up.  And with that, I moved the top tub, opened the bottom tub, and extracted a half dozen purses and bags.

Back in the dining room, I opened one purse and dug out all the old receipts and what-not that I had been too lazy to remove when I stopped using it.  I stuck a price sticker on it and set it aside.  I picked up the next one.  One dollar, I thought to myself, noting how small it was.  It was remarkably clean inside.  No papers or other debris.  Check the inner zipper pocket, I told myself.  It looked empty but I stuck my hand in anyway, feeling for anything left behind.  On my last sweep, my fingers hit metal.

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It felt like a ring.  I smiled, wondering what bubble gum machine find I was about to extract.  What memories of brief childhood obsession might flood my mind when I took it out.  And then I looked at what I held in my hand.  I dropped the purse and clutched the ring tightly in both hands.  I looked quickly around the room and felt dazed.  My knees were weak.

I rushed to the front door, bumping boxes on my way out.  I fumbled to open the door because my hands were shaking.  I stumbled out and croaked my husband’s name.  He looked up, not quite alarmed, but concerned.  He told me later that he knew something significant had happened but he couldn’t guess what.

I ran to him.  Failing to slow down, I raised my hands so the one not occupied hit flat on his chest as I crashed into him.  He grasped me in a giant bear hug and asked me what was going on.  I cradled my clinched fist against his chest and pressed my face into his shoulder.

This was the moment.  I was only going to get to tell him once and then the moment would be past.  I wanted to savor it.  I wanted to shout from the mountaintops yet whisper it in his ear yet delay so the moment wouldn’t be over.

Finally, I pulled away and pried open my fingers.  He looked down into my hand.  Looked down at my long lost wedding ring.  And laughed.  He laughed and laughed and hugged me tight with such joy before asking, “Does it still fit?”

I swear my hands shook more than any bride on her wedding day as I gave it a try.  I had to stick my knuckle in my mouth in order to slide the ring past it, but I got it on.  And on it shall stay.

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“I guess I can’t give you a hard time about that anymore,” he said with a smile.

See, that ring was “the story.”  You know, every couple has at least one.  The one that gets trotted out to such great effect.  It usually happened something like this:

Someone would notice our tattoos on our left ring fingers and ask if we got those when we got married.  We would explain that we had gotten them for our 13th wedding anniversary.  And then we’d explain why: because we were always taking our rings off when backpacking, rock climbing, kayaking, etc.  My husband wanted it known that he was married all the time, so why not get tattoos?

Then the someone asking the question would ask another one.  “Well, do you still have your wedding rings?”

I do,” he’d say significantly.  All eyes would then turn to me as I finished the tale.

I’d shift a bit in mock discomfort.  “Well,” I’d say, slightly defensively, “we were going on an outdoor trip.  Three high points and then rock climbing.  I was afraid I’d lose it if I kept taking it on and off.  Or someone might steal the car while it was in there or something.  So I decided to just leave it at home.  But I didn’t want someone to steal it if they broke into the house.  So I hid it.  Really well.  Really well.  We still haven’t found it.”

That was something like seven years ago.  I thought for sure I had tucked it back in a drawer or on one of the shelves in the closet.  But we remodeled the closet and it wasn’t there.  And we sold the dresser and I thoroughly checked it before we let it leave.  We also gutted the bedroom – all the way down to the studs (not looking for the ring – just remodeling).  No ring.

I have insisted all these years that the ring would turn up.  Just like the five year anniversary ring did.  I took that one off while rock climbing indoors and then couldn’t find it.  It was missing for at least a year when we decided to get the tattoos, which were patterned off the anniversary ring.

I woke up the morning after the tattoo and broke out in a cold sweat when I saw my finger.  “Oh, my God!  Oh, my God!  What have I done?  What have I done?  I can’t cover this up!  It’s always visible!  A tattoo on my hand?!  What was I thinking?”

Eventually, I rolled out of bed and, for some reason, went looking for something in the closet.  What I found, in the inner zipper pocket of yet another old purse, was my anniversary ring.  I took it as a sign that the tattoo was not the end of the world after all.

So when I lost the wedding ring shortly thereafter, I told my husband it would turn up.  Just like the anniversary ring.  At first, I wasn’t worried.  I always knew I would find it.  Or maybe I should say that it would find me.  I knew that some day when I least expected it, there it’d be.  Unless I was being pessimistic.  On those days, I would resign myself to the fact that the ring must be gone.  After all, where could it possibly be?

Which brings us to today.  When I came *this close* to selling my ring for a dollar and never, ever, ever knowing what had happened to it… unless the lucky recipient was generous enough to bring it back.

Circumstances then lined up just right that we found ourselves childless at dinner time.  We decided that celebrating the ring was in order.  We chose Chinese food and sat across the table from each other, both staring at the ring.  And I ordered a Strawberry Daiquiri, my drink of choice from our younger days.  And we smiled.  A lot.

Now we just need his Senior class ring to show back up.  Yes, I lost that too.  It probably still has the maroon ribbon on it.  Wherever it is.20140712_202306

Empty Nesters in Training

As I mentioned yesterday, the kids were gone last week.

The week was entirely too short and went by way too fast.

On Monday, we met up at the skating rink and played pick-up roller hockey for a couple of hours.  It was a blast from our past and simply exhilarating.  We stood around and visited with folks – because we could, and thus it was well after 8:30 before we started thinking about what we might do for dinner.

If the kids had been in the equation, we would have had little choice but to stop at McDonald’s to grab something for them to eat in the car on the way home because we were rushing past bedtime.  But the kids were not in the equation and we opted to do the responsible thing and go home and fix dinner, rather than pick something up.

There was nothing special about the evening.  We fixed soft tacos (cooking the tortillas) and unloaded the dishwasher and cleaned the kitchen and fed the dog and took her out.  We simply existed in each other’s space and got things done.  No one had to tell anyone to take care of something.  No one came in asking inane questions.  No one picked a fight.  No one tried to get someone else in trouble.  No one rolled her eyes at me.  No one peppered me with details from his video game.  No one demanded my attention.

It was quiet.

It was peaceful.

It was heaven.

The next day, a co-worker and I were talking and I mentioned that my kids were away from home.  “Oh, I bet you are already ready for them to come home, aren’t you?!” she gushed.  “My sister cries when she drops her daughter off.”

“Not really,” I responded, ignoring her shocked expression.  “I’m going to guess my kids are a bit older than your sister’s, but no, I’m not ready for them to come home.  I’m too busy enjoying myself.”

I don’t know if I’m an oddball or if too many parents feel compelled to act the part of a loving, devoted parent.  As if admitting you enjoy your time away from the kids somehow paints you a monster.  As if you can’t both love and cherish them and want time away from them.

There have been studies that have shown that people without kids report being happier than people with kids.  I think there are reasons for this that are more complicated than the media summary that kids make you unhappy, but still – there it is.  Let’s face it.  Parenting is hard work.  The hardest job you’ll ever attempt.  And sometimes?  Those little demons you are trying to raise into productive citizens?  They are just plain mean.  And irrational.  And demanding.  And baffling.

It’s true.  And trying to pretend you love every moment of parenthood doesn’t change that.

So maybe I’m an oddball.  Or maybe my husband and I have managed to keep a sense of “us” that isn’t defined by our children.  We still know each other and like each other and are interested in each other when the kids aren’t there.  It doesn’t mean we don’t love them and don’t look forward to seeing them again.  It just means we don’t depend on them to feel whole.  To define who we are.  And it means that in thirteen years when the last one moves out… we’ll be doing just fine.