Thursday, August 30, 2012

The Ridiculous Olympics

Olympics alert: Boys to men doing strange stuff. Why high diving? Why synchronized high diving—was that a double-dog-dare-you stunt in the beginning? Why the steeplechase without a horse? To show you can clear a mud puddle? Or a triple sand jump? Why not the monkey bars?

Are these Olympic-sanctioned sports any different than the more realistic boy-man adventures from daily life? Why, I ask, are the prettied-up boys in mankinis forced to perfection of a 10.0 when boys prefer destruction and slouchy shorts? Why not a category for who can make the loudest underwater fart or the biggest belly flop or survive the worst head butt off the diving board? I cheer for the divers who make the biggest splash. It’s so much more akin to my reality. 

I have not watched so much water polo in my life as I have during this summer’s Olympics. Those shaved hairless, muscular men in bonnets with sashes tied in bows beneath the chin--they’re strangely appealing yet appalling. And the girl-women elbowing each other to the point of drowning—now that makes sense.

But honestly, I prefer the “Ridiculousness” episode on MTV about whiskey throttle—when on a dirt bike you give it more gas instead of brake—because I’ve done it myself. Who can get nearest the point of destruction without getting hurt is the goal on such reality shows, and much closer to our real lives than the pursuit of Olympic-sized perfection. I know why the Olympics are played only every four years. These Olympians are out there doing normal stunts like the rest of us for 3.75 years, then cramming in a few months of perfect stuff to get on TV. I wish they’d show the bloopers or the cuts or the behind the scenes stuff. They better have a lot of flops to counter their pursuit of perfection. The agony of defeat is just what the average guy does everyday. And doesn’t expect a medal for it, but does hope to make an appearance on YouTube.

I sure wish they’d invite Extreme sports into the Olympiad arena—wouldn’t you like to see the grunge skaters and motocrossers whooping it up with the perfectionists in thongs? I’d love to see what happened. A whiskey throttle triple-point balance beam belly flop? We’d have to invent new difficulty levels. But for sure the winners would look a lot more like us, hairy chests and all, dirt caked on the face and Monster drink in hand.

I dream of a new kind of Olympic glory.

Sunday, August 26, 2012

Great-running Volvo for sale (if only she would start)

By Sheilah

Don’t buy a used Audi Quattro AWD Turbo wagon with only 100,000 miles, even if it does look like a James Bond car with its red cockpit lights. It will cost you at least $4,000 in repairs in a year’s time. Listen to me. You can’t make a new car out of an old one, no matter how much money you gadget and gear into it. Struts, 02 censors, water hoses…nothing is cheap or easy here. You can’t get to the engine. So I'm telling you, don’t buy one--unless of course it’s mine, and then you’re probably set for a few years. A $6500 car turned into a $10,500 one in the snap of a wallet. Don’t try this at home.

But I’ll make you a deal—what you really, really want is a previously enjoyed Volvo XC V70 cross-country AWD turbo Volvo wagon, much better on gas mileage and it gets sick less. A 2002 with 125,000 miles when I bought it, all that crapped out so far was the ignition coil, a mere $600 job (or $2,000 if you’re keeping tabs at home). She’s a sweet, smooth ride much like that of the Lexus. Yes, she’s foreign, has the cutest darn accent, but is paranoid-esque in safety. She is comforting with all her airbags ready to pounce. You’ll feel like a boxer in a ring, able to stick your nose out without fear of landing a damaging blow. She’ll even ride on cheap gas without a cough or complaint. Her leather will stay squeaky. She’ll keep her secrets close to the chest, like the battery tucked in her backpack. She’ll message you way too often though, like a jealous girlfriend: “Time for regular service” she exclaims when she wants attention, but it’s only a bulb out (good luck getting to that).  If you don’t heed her, she gets pushy. Unfortunately, she’s a bit too deep, and she’ll make you work for it. But she’s ever so polite and will stop messaging once you give her a pat. Yes, she’s for sale too, because she has a chance of selling. She’s a steal. Just hope she starts when you come take her for a spin, unlike the other day.

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Better Mc-Late than Never

Is it just me, or has anyone else noticed that the menus at most fast food joints are pretty much consistent? Burger King has the Whopper, McDonalds the Big Mac, Wendy’s has the Single, The Double and The Triple, or as I like to call it, “Get-the-defibrillator-paddles-out!” They all have fries, sweets, milkshakes and sodas. So how the heck do I always seem to get behind the individual who just doesn’t know what they want or what is on the menu? You Mc-becha’ that if I get in the drive-thru lane, I’ll be right behind Mc-I-Just-Can’t-Mc-Make-A-Decision.

Heaven help my cholesterol level! All I really want is a large diet Coke with lite ice, but the man in front of me has a glazed look in his eyes and I know I’m in trouble. Seriously, one time I was standing in line waiting for my diet Coke and a poor guy in front of me just froze. They just had to ask if he wanted a McFlurry or a McSmoothie and it threw him completely off balance. He paused and asked what flavor was the McSmoothie, then said no, then asked what other flavors they had, only to order a chicken nugget kids meal and a milk shake AND a McFlurry. It’s planned sabotage by the fast food companies.

They see the weak coming. They lie in wait for those without their lists, adults surrounded by several children, or those caught up in their own conversations. Like highly trained Special Forces they spring the question of the moment. Would you like to try our new frozen strawberry-lemonade? Huh? Would I what? And there they have you. I know I’m in deep, deep kimchee when I get behind the mega huge SUV with four-plus children. I’d drive around and go inside, but then it’s up close and personal. You can almost see the beads of sweat breaking out on faces when asked if they’d like to try a so-and-so. I could hear the cash register cha-ching from a mile away, and that’s just what the fast food industry wants. That unexpected purchase sends them up the profit hill and the mission is accomplished

It’s very similar to the candy and knick-knacks at the check-out aisle in stores. That impulse purchase gets you every time. When I see someone looking at the menu and going “um, ah, um,” I should just drive around and leave, but suddenly it’s my turn to order. Prepared as I am to get my solitary soda, they hit me with the chocolate chip cookies, and I’m Mc-done.

Sunday, August 19, 2012

The Eyes of the Beholder

One recent muggy summer evening I came home from a scrape-your-back- side-hard day at work to see an inbox message on Facebook: “I’m talking junk about you online here. Check out Safety Cab University.”

I froze for a Nano-second. What could my friend Chuck, be writing about me? I’m a beyond-middle-age woman (unless I live to be 104 years-old), with two children, a hubby, a spastic dog and a mortgage. What’s to write about? But you know me, curiosity won out and I keyed the words Safety Cab University into the search box on Facebook. By the time I finished reading, I was in tears, happy, memory-embraced tears. I saw my past self in a way that I would have never envisioned. This is the “junk” he wrote about me.

“She was beautiful, and crying in my back seat. I don't remember what had her so upset, but I asked her if she wanted to talk about it. She did.

Therapy at $1.20 per mile. That's what cab drivers do. Part of the job.

She talked of matters dear to her heart, and even though she was crying, she was SO beautiful. When we got to her destination, we sat a few minutes more talking about it, although for the life of me I don't remember now what it was.

She was so beautiful, and I was a young single guy with a few bucks, a cool apartment, and an elderly Pontiac convertible. I wasn't ugly; I looked pretty good actually, and my mother taught me to dress well. I asked her if she wanted to go out some time and talk some more.

She did.

We dated for a year or two, and I love her to this day. She is among my favorite Facebook friends. I should point out though; the guy she did marry a few years later is much bigger than me. He is a Facebook friend too, but I don't think I am saying anything here he hasn't known for years.

She was in my back seat, and crying, and she was SO beautiful.”

I was undone. I stepped away from the computer and muttered to myself, “Silly jerk. I never knew.”  I didn’t know, and it was a kindness beyond description that he had written those words.

He doesn’t know that while he was not the love of my life, I loved him. I hope you blush Chuck, because no words will ever convey what a buck-twenty a mile therapy did for me. I was a bit lost. My father had died a few years before and my beautiful Mama and I were at an impasse. We didn’t get along. I was young and headstrong and unable to understand what my mother had lost. I didn’t know what I wanted to do, or what I wanted to be. I felt, overly dramatic I’m sure, that I was useless. On top of that, the man-child I had pinned my hopes on had become less than. He would offer advice the likes of; I needed to lose weight, I should wear a better bra (I swear to the heavens this is true.). He stated, “Why should we hold hands all the time, we’ve been dating forever,” and the real kicker was when he said I should get over the loss of my father. So I became a real witch. Not his fault, just my choice of reaction, which wasn’t pretty.

So into a cab I went one evening, never expecting the kindness of a stranger. It happened like he said. He asked me out, and I said sure. Our first date was wonderful. He came to pick me up at the appointed time, but our home was built like a fortress, back when walls were a foot and a half deep, and I never heard him knock. He went down the street to a pay phone and called me, telling me to answer the door. I rushed out the front door of the house and met him halfway on the sidewalk where he picked me up and twirled me around. We walked back to his Pontiac convertible, top down, and went to The Jade Garden on Hillsborough Street in Raleigh. During the course of dinner, the wine bottle fell over and half a bottle’s contents wound up soaking his pant-leg. He commented that the rest of him was fine but, “Now my leg is drunk!”  He made me laugh. He made me comfortable in my own skin.

After dinner we went to Pullen Park for a walk around the lake. We talked and laughed, and talked some more. At one point we climbed the stairs that led to a platform overlooking the park. He stood there, addressing a phantom crowd. “I’m overwhelmed you have all come to see me.” He continued on, and that’s when I stood beside him and started to pantomime doing sign language, as if to translate for the ghostly crowd below. He laughed so hard. It was a belly laugh worthy of award. He took me home, top down, wind weaving its fingers through our hair. A peck goodnight and he was gone. We dated a while, and I’d be a liar if I didn’t admit that it was a worthy adventure.

It’s a kind of blessing after all these many years, to be able to look back and tell my younger self that life was good. You come through sadness and challenge and along the way meet those who make your life richer for their having been there. Sometimes it takes ages to understand, and to see oneself in the eyes of others. Thank you my dear friend for showing me what you saw. I love you back, and you know it. By the way, the husband approved.

(Chuck Morton is a talented musician and writer. He has witty narratives of his adventures in a cab on Facebook. Check out Safety Cab University and click like, because I think you will.)

Friday, August 17, 2012

Life and Momma's Advice

To quote my dear and wonderful pastor, OMG. He's a wonderful pastor, concerned and in touch with the world, and I sent him an email this week, and got a text in reply. And yeah, OMG was appropriate. It's been one of those kick ya in the gut kinda weeks. I can't give details (don't ya love when people post in a public forum and then say they can't give you details - oh, well).
Sometimes you just get spun around backwards and it ain't the disco or the liquor. And just when I thought it couldn't be more overwhelming, I found out that I should never underestimate the universe. But here's the deal - I also can't underestimate God, and family, and friends and the ability to have perspective. Because as hard as the last couple of days have been, I have faith, I have prayer, I have my Beloved and he and I have always been strong together. And together we have our children. I am so blessed to be able to call my Momma, and listen to her voice and advice, some of which involved Jack Daniels. I'm not sure how everyone else handles major stress, but here's what I have to say:
I love you, Hubby!
I love you, my darling boys.
I love you, Momma and Daddy.
I love my dear brothers.
And I love my friends, who received my calls and texts and immediately gave back the love and soothing that I hope they know I will always try to give them.

Oh, and Jack is helping too - I always listen to my Momma.

Monday, August 13, 2012

B S M F - It Ain't What You're Thinkin'

So who watched the opening and closing ceremonies of the London Olympics? Impressive, huh? Can you imagine organizing that? I'm sure the organizers were overwhelmingly busy. But who I feel sorry for are all the people who volunteered to help. 
I am a semi-professional volunteer. Now that our sons are old enough to tell 'em to go take a shower and fix their own sandwich, I fill in my time with some volunteer work. Some of my volunteer work still revolves around them and their activities, and some is my own stuff. But I'm a helpin'...yeppers. I chaperone, I organize, I attend...all that stuff except dance and sing. I can't sing (though by my reckoning, neither could Russell Brand - see the Olympics Closing Ceremony), and my dancing would further humiliate the teen sons (which I try to keep at home...or on Facebook).
When I was young, and very poor putting myself through college, I had a saying - free, cheap or somebody else's. It helped remind me that I couldn't afford stuff those sorority girls were doing. And now I have a new rule - BSMF. Now, now, it isn't what you're thinking. Read on (or skip ahead).
See what I've discovered as my volunteering universe has hit the big bang theory is that when you volunteer, it's like an explosion of the cosmos. Everyone thinks you have time to help them and their organization, toooooooo. Moreover they also seem to think that their organization is the only one you're helping, or it's the only one that is worthy or it's the only one that has an emergency. 'Taint so, people.
Those of us who volunteer tend to be doing it for more than one organization. Many of us also hold jobs with an actual paycheck, and have that pesky other organization called a family. We can't jump through your hoop, don't matter how you hold it.
So I have a new rule, and I love it. Though I expect some people are gonna hate me and tell me how wrong I am. But here it is, the BSMF rule for volunteering:
B - Blood, S - Stroke, M - Marriage, F - Friends
Are you related to me by blood? Are you stroking me an actual paycheck vital to our survival? Are you related to me by marriage (not less important than blood, just the initials are awfully easy to remember in this order)? Are you a friend of such magnitude that you really could fall in the related to me category, except you're not?
If you do not fit the BSMF qualification than when you call and expect me to drop everything to show up at a meeting two days from now so you can give me unpaid work, I consider my list - BSMF. I find my volunteering feels so much less like an obligation now that I have freed myself to say no if I need to. It's the freedom of the acronym, baby! Gotta go now. I've got a volunteer project to finish. One I'm enjoying, thanks to the acronym - BSMF freedom.

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Alert, Alert

The school supply lists are out! Guard your loins, sanity, and purses as the mayhem is about to begin. I dread this time of year; the impending doom hangs over me like a dark cloud. Ironically, it starts just at the time when I am sick and tired of spending money to keep my kids occupied in the overextended 12 weeks' vacation they have. It is like getting to the end of the tunnel but making you jump through hoops to get there.

The nit-picking specific lists are a bottomless pit, a huge big black hole to plunge into and add to that the expectations of the kids to get the right color notebook or pencils that will make them the queen or king of the supply chain just makes it an insurmountable feat.

My favorite task is the one of markers. Small, large, thin, thick, base colors, neon colors, water-soluble, dry erase, and permanent. Do they really need all of the above? What do they do, eat them? For heaven's sake, when I was a kid you went to school with a simple pencil case. You made sure you had a pen and pencil to write with, a few colored pencils for making your diagrams a bit more interesting, and a rubber (yes I am English so I say rubber) to erase any mistakes quickly before you got detention for not listening.

Now let's not forget paper. Essential, granted, but have you ever seen how angry people get when all that is left is the wide-ruled selection. Oh, the shame of it – sending your kid to school with paper that has fewer lines on it. Seriously, I know it is a sign of getting older, progression to the big kids club, but honestly, does it matter? Does it make their writing any more legible or intelligent? It never ceases to amaze me why stores stock up, religiously it seems, on more of the 'baby paper' than the teen paper. Don't they know younger kids only write a few lines? A conspiracy I think. I am convinced they have got hidden cameras in the aisles recording ordinarily nice women playing tug of war with the last pack of college ruled whilst the kids all stand around chanting fight, fight, fight. Who knows we may all have been on Candid Camera at some point.

As for the class communal items - well why don't we all just start a group couponing club. Tissues, Clorox wipes (oh no wait, we can't have those anymore, they are too dangerous), more paper, more pencils, glue sticks (better ensure they are the right color!), baby wipes, hand sanitizer, paper towels. Geez, the only thing they don't ask for is toilet paper and thank goodness they don't. Can you imagine if one child bought Charmin with Aloe Vera, whilst another had to stand in the corner with their Wal-Mart 2 ply special? Oh, it brings tears to my eyes to even think about it.

Maybe it is an initiation test. Maybe it is the schools way of getting pay back, you know, for the year ahead they are going to endure with our little darlings. Whatever it is, I can tell you that as a parent, it is a blooming nightmare and unfortunately, I can't avoid it. If I don't partake I will be getting the worst parent award at the end of year award ceremony. So, here I go, into the abyss, pray for me, and if you are that mother who steals the last paper pack from under my nose, beware!