Friday, August 22, 2014

An Open Letter to Harry Styles

Dear Harry,

I just want you to know that it's over between us. It's been a wonderful few years, darling, but our relationship can no longer continue. I can't deny the chemistry between us, but our relationship just isn't moving forward as I hoped it would.

First of all, you hardly know I exist. I mean, come on, honey. Couples are supposed to make time for each other. But as of yet, you haven't spent any time with me.

Second, you made so many promises that you haven't kept.

The first time I ever heard your voice, you told me that I was so beautiful that everyone else in the room could see it.

You told me I stole your heart and that every time we touched, you got this kinda rush.

You told me I was your kryptonite, your weakness.

You said you wanted me to be your last first kiss.

And you promised that you would always come back for me. You told me over and over again that we could make it if we tried.

But I think communication has been the biggest problem for us. I haven't gotten any of your phone calls or texts or emails or tweets. I never received the plane tickets you were going to send for our vacation in Spain or the ones for our rendezvous in Rio.

Do you know how much I've done for you? I've followed your career since the very beginning. I've watched every news clip and video about you, I've listened to every single song at least a hundred times, I've sent you countless Tweets reminding you that I was thinking of you.

You looked great when I saw you in Detroit last weekend, babe. I mean, I had hoped you would have invited me to your hotel or out to dinner. You could have at least waved to me in the crowd or dedicated a song to me. But you didn't even look my way.

I know I'm a bit older than you and I know I'm not as pretty and fit as some of the girls at your concerts, but I thought we had something special.

I guess I was wrong.

It's over, Harry. Don't try to convince me otherwise. Don't tell me anything you've told me before because I will no longer believe you when you say that I make you strong.

Remember when you told me that you were half a heart without me, half a man, half a blue sky? I believed you, Harry. I believed it when you said you were in L-O-V-E. And I might still believe you if you say I'm still the one.

I have to end this letter. It's killing me because I really want to say that it's over, but I'll give you one more chance, Harry. One more chance to get addicted to me. One more chance to make it right.

Is it too much to ask for something great?


Thursday, August 21, 2014

Confessions of a Middle-Aged One Direction Groupie

Attention: People of the male persuasion may find the descriptions in this post disturbing.

It wasn't long ago that I was an old fuddy duddy, grudgingly watching Cody Simpson performing at the Capitol building in Lansing during Silvers Bells in the City. He was a punk who looked like he just turned 12 and he wore these ridiculous purple pants that sagged down to his thighs. The young girls in the audience were yelling, “I want to marry you, Cody!” I was yelling, “Pull your pants up, kid!”

I'm not sure what has transpired in the few short years since then. Maybe it was my girls' evolution into teenagers that fueled my passion for the “younger” music scene, but somewhere along the way, I fell in love. Not with Cody Simpson, you pervs. I fell in love with a much older, sophisticated group of boys: One Direction.

Oh, my heavens, I have 1D fever so bad, it hurts.

My girls introduced me to 1D that same year. I heard my daughter talking about the boys in 1D and, attempting to get in on the conversation, I asked, “Oh, which classroom is that?”

My daughter's eyes rolled so far back in her head that I'm sure she caught glimpses of her pubescent brain. “They don't go to our school, Mom! It's One Direction!” Soon I became acquainted with their first hit, “What Makes You Beautiful” and I. Was. Hooked.

Extremely catchy song, adorable boys from England and Ireland.

No going back.

It was over.

Stick a fork in me, I was done!

Since then I've been following them right along with my girls, fueled by an insatiable appetite for their music, their latest videos, their newest albums, and their adorable accents. Maybe this has something to do with the fact that I married into a British family, I don't know.
My girls tentatively accepted me as a “Directioner,” and they still think I get a little carried away sometimes, but since I'm willing to take them on road trips to see 1D in concert, they have little room to complain. Except when, during the concerts, I shriek, “Will you marry me, Harry?”

However, I am getting “older.” My constitution isn't what it once was. I'm not in great shape, not used to screaming at the top of my lungs, and my middle has expanded to make me look a bit like the Stay-Puft marshmallow man. These little quirks proved to be a hassle during our recent One Direction escapade.
For 1D's most recent concert in Detroit, the girls and I chose to stay overnight so that we wouldn't have to drive out of a grid-locked downtown Detroit after a late-night concert. I got a pretty good deal at the Renaissance Center Marriott, so we booked a room.
Here's one thing I learned: do NOT stay at the Renaissance Center unless you have trained for a triathlon and have a degree in physics. I'm sure the place is an engineering marvel, but I would personally like to strangle the architect with a pair of control-top, reinforced pantyhose. I'm pretty certain that we parked somewhere in Canada and dragged our luggage through all four towers until we finally found the elevators to our oddly-shaped room in the middle tower.
From now on, I think I'll opt to stay at a nice, rectangular-shaped building that has all its doors facing the parking lot, preferably one-story place; two stories, max. When you get to be my age, taking a swift-moving elevator to the 35th floor tends to throw off your equilibrium. I staggered to our room, certainly turning a lovely shade of chartreuse, and immediately took some motion sickness medicine, hoping it would kick in before I had to take the elevator back down to go to the concert.
The girls and I got ready for the concert – they looked adorable in their 1D gear. However, in my skirt and 1D t-shirt, I looked a bit more like a black, white and red bowl of jello with a smattering of 1D insignia here and there, especially over the parts of me that tend to jiggle the most. However I did get a very nice compliment from a middle-aged, gold-toothed gentleman as we walked past him on the way to the concert: “Cute Mama.” Um, at that moment, I was extremely thankful that there were literally thousands of people walking to Ford Field along with us.
Speaking of walking, it was only eight blocks from our hotel to Ford Field, but again, being of slightly more portly stature than most 1D concert-goers, I found that by the time I reached the concert, I had a terrible rash on my thighs. About half-way through the concert, I felt my slip...slipping, so I ran to the bathroom where I discovered that it had indeed lost all of its elastic. What were my choices? I certainly didn't want to wad the thing up and stuff it into my purse. It was useless anyway and I didn't want to be seen carrying a piece of lingerie to the trash can, so I neatly deposited it into the other receptacle conveniently located in all women's bathrooms.
The concert itself was fabulous, despite the fact that an Amazon-sized woman deposited herself in front of me, and that buying water and pizza required a small business loan, and that every time I put my hands up in the air, I hit the girl next to me in the butt, and that at the end of the concert, I had such severe chatter in my ears that I sincerely thought I had gone partially deaf.
After the concert, we were all herded out like cattle, along with the Tigers fans who had “conveniently” exited Comerica Park at exactly the same time. When we finally reached our room at the luxurious Ren Center, we discovered that we had gotten neither the rollaway bed we had requested nor the refrigerator. The yogurt we had brought for breakfast spoiled, and my two teenage girls and I shared the king-sized bed, hoping for a peaceful night's sleep in preparation for the next day's activities.
What were the next day's activities? You may ask. Why, nothing but stalking staking out the hotels where the band might be staying. Our first tip was that they might be at the MGM Grand. We took the People Mover, a fun yet terrifying little contraption, which dropped us near the MGM Grand. We joined a small group of girls who had parked themselves on a small triangle of land facing the back side of the hotel where there were five or six tour buses parked. And we just sat. And watched. And nothing happened, except that my girls caught sight of Drake, who was also staying at the MGM and performing in Detroit, along with Lil Wayne. I have no idea who those people are; my heart belongs fully to 1D and partially to 5 Seconds of Summer, the opening band for 1D for the second year in a row.

So we spent the better part of the afternoon on a wild goose chase, following their scent, pursuing each Twitter clue, tracking each tip and chasing every group of screeching girls when they suddenly dropped everything and sped to a new location.

We finally ended at the Westin Book Cadillac, dehydrated and high on diesel exhaust fumes. We discovered that some of the One Direction crew was actually staying there and we all got our panties in a bundle when we saw them come out with their 1D backpacks and start loading up the tour buses. But sadly, we never saw Niall, Harry, Louis, Liam or Zayn. The hotel manager eventually came out and told us, in no uncertain terms, the stars were not staying at that hotel. We ultimately gave up, as it was late in the day and the boys were likely already over at the arena, preparing for the evening's concert, and I had to pick up my other kids from their weekend locations and make the hour and a half drive back to Lansing.

When we picked up my 2nd daughter who stayed with a friend in Ypsilanti, she got into the van and told me, “Mom, you have lipstick on your teeth.”

My oldest daughter, who had been chasing and fangirling and shrieking and running with me all weekend, spoke up. “Oh, yeah Mom, that's been there all day.”

I'm so glad we didn't meet One Direction.

However, let me leave you with these photos. If there was no other reason for me to be a One Direction fan, these pics would still convince me:


Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Where Have I Been???

So, it seems I've all but abandoned this blog, but have no fear! I do intend to come back and continue writing about my foibles and failures as a domestic diva.

But here's what I've been up to. I travelled down a different road for a while and wrote THIS BOOK:


In a whirlwind romance, Kate falls in love with Chase, who has been partial paraplegic since a horrific car accident at age 17. Kate and Chase quickly make plans to spend their lives together. But when Chase decides to pursue a risky, yet promising, procedure that could potentially heal his paralysis, Kate has to wrestle with her faith in a God that she holds at arm's length, and confront her fear to find out where her strength ultimately lies. Set in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan.

Most of you know that my husband was disabled over three years ago by a stroke. I've dabbled a little bit in fiction writing, but I feel like this story was inspired. I have another book already in progress, and I have plans for writing more about people with disabilities.

It would mean so much to me if you could check out my book on Amazon, and if you're interested, please purchase a copy, although I know it may not suit everyone's interests, so there's no pressure. It's only available for Amazon Kindle for now, but if you don't own a Kindle, you can download the free Kindle app for your computer, tablet or phone.

Thanks so much for checking it out!

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

April Fools

I've never been crazy about April Fool's Day.  Mostly because people expect to be pranked on April Fool's Day.  Why not just declare some random day each year to be "Fool's Day," like "August 28 Fool's Day," and the next year it would be "February 3 Fool's Day"?  That would throw everyone off, so it would be much easier to fool people.  Seriously, the April Fool's Day council should appoint me their official April Fool's gamemaker, don't you agree?

Anyway, on to more serious things.  I personally love the passages in the New Testament about foolishness and becoming fools for Christ.

1 Cor. 1:23-25: "but we preach Christ crucified: a stumbling block to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles, but to those whom God has called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God.  For the foolishness of God is wiser than human wisdom, and the weakness of God is stronger than human strength.  (Whenever I finish that sentence, I just want to pump my fist and say, "Yes!")

Christ.  Jesus Christ crucified on a Cross by His enemies.  It certainly looks like foolishness to those who don't believe or understand.  He preached and healed and claimed to be the Son of God, but He ended up dying a horrifying death at the hand of his enemies.  I can see how the world might think, "Well, that was certainly a foolish way to waste His life."  But for us who believe, Christ IS the power of God.  All of His willingness to look like a fool, to appear insane to the Jewish leaders of the time, to say some really absurd things  - all of that was for me.  For you.  For our salvation.  It is the power of God for those who believe.

1 Cor 3:18-19:  Do not deceive yourselves. If any of you think you are wise by the standards of this age, you should become "fools" so that you may become wise.  For the wisdom of this world is foolishness in God's sight.

I have to admit that it's hard for me not to feel a little smug about this verse.  Compared to all of the knowledge and wisdom that has been carefully crafted and cultivated over thousands of years, God's wisdom is still far superior.  Because I know Christ and have access to all His power and wisdom, I have something far more valuable than all the annals of science and journals of medicine and books of philosophy.  I have Jesus Christ and His everlasting words to me in Scripture.

Happy April Fool's Day!  May you become a fool for Christ!

Friday, March 14, 2014

Gotta Have pi

I work part-time at a school. Therefore I am surrounded by nerdy math teachers and science geeks, all of whom spent the week reminding the rest of the staff that today is pi day. You know – March 14, or the number 3.14, which is the ratio of a circle's circumference to its diameter. (Why is this important? I don't know.) My children also reminded me, more than once, that today is pi day. That's because they are nerds, too.

However the idea got planted, I couldn't get it out of my brain that I needed to eat some pie. It doesn't take much to convince me to eat pie. Pie is my favorite dessert in the entire universe. The crust is the best part. If you put me on a deserted island and gave me lifetime supply of pie crust and water coffee, I would definitely survive.

My other mission today was to acquire some much needed groceries for the family. They can be so demanding, this brood of mine. They insist on having some “new” food in the house every week or so. “Good food,” they say.  By this they mean food that has the maximum amount of high fructose corn syrup and hydrogenated fat, and the minimal amount of fiber or nutrients. They also regularly request food that food that hasn't expired. (I'm a bargain shopper, what can I say?) There is just no pleasing them.

That being said, I knew I could easily combine the day's two missions into one: get food and get pie. Well, pie is food, but you know what I mean. I'm happy to give in to my children's sweet tooth once in a while, especially if it involves pie.

First, I went to Horrocks. I love Horrocks, and I normally wouldn't pick on one of my favorite stores, but today they had a total of three pies. Apparently they didn't get the memo that today is pi day. None of the available flavors promised to satisfy my family.

Next, I went to Aldi, which has a little bit of everything. Except pie.

On the way home, I stopped at Quality Dairy, home of donuts, muffins, scones, coffee cake, and a wide variety of other addictive, yet legal, sugary baked goods (and, oh yeah, dairy products; hence the name Quality Dairy). But guess what? No pie.

The helpful QD staff suggested that I try Roma Bakery just down the street. Nope, no pie.

I came home and unloaded the groceries. I was tired. I took a nap. But I still wanted some damn pie!

I had to take my daughter to a babysitting gig at 2:00, so I decided I would continue my quest for pie. And then it hit me, “Why not go to the Grand Traverse Pie Company?” Really? It took at least eight hours for my brain to dig deep into its fatigued memory stores and come up with that? It has the word pie in its name, for heaven's sake!

After dropping my daughter off, I drove downtown. If you haven't been here, Lansing has a nice little downtown area:  neat shops and restaurants, brick streets, and....parking meters. Shoot. I forgot about the meters. Did I have one stinking quarter on my person or anywhere in my van? No. But instead of doing the sane thing and going inside to ask for change, I decided that I would drive a few blocks south and hit my favorite thrift store. I needed to look for some household items anyway.

I bought three pairs of shoes. And of course, I got a few quarters for the meters.

I headed back north on Washington Avenue and, just as I came up to Kalamazoo Street, I realized, “Oh, yeah, the library is just a block away.” I had been meaning to go to the downtown library to do a bit of research on a book I want to write. I parked, sloshed through the melting snow in order to feed the meter, and entered the library.

I wandered around aimlessly, looking for inspiration. I finally decided to check out Lost in Yonkers, which has absolutely nothing to do with the book I want to write.

The library is now so high-tech that I just had to scan my library key tag, then scan the book and I was on my way. However, when I passed through the security sensors, the alarm went off and I returned to the customer service desk, feeling sheepish that I had ignored the reminder on the screen that I owed $.80 in library fines. “I'm sorry, I'm sorry,” I gushed. “I can pay the fine.”

The library ladies had a hearty laugh and assured me that the alarm hadn't gone off because of my unpaid fines. The scan just hadn't registered yet. I got my book, and they had a good chuckle at my expense.

Finally, finally, FINALLY, I arrived at GT Pie. Another meter, another quarter, and another pile of slush to wade through. All in the name of freaking pie! (Oh, my gosh, did I just say that out loud? I'm sorry, pie, I'm so sorry. I love you. I would do anything for you.)

In the end, I bought one chocolate cream pie. The bonus was that GT Pie was not only aware of pi day, but they were also promoting it shamelessly by offering a free slice of pie with every purchase. I promptly ate my free slice of strawberry rhubarb with crumbly topping, so that I wouldn't have to share it with the rest of the family. 

I told you I love pie. Don't judge me.

And so, here I sit, enjoying my slice of chocolate cream, relaxing after my lengthy pursuit of pie and other things. The only thing left in my mind is: why is pi so important?

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

My Neck Injury

When I was in college, I overextended a muscle in my neck. I was doing something so foolish, so extreme, that I deserved the vicious pain that followed.

I was getting out of bed.

More specifically, my loft. Getting out of a loft bed is much more strenuous than getting out of a normal bed, just so you know. It involves turning over with exact precision so as not to fall on the floor from six feet up, finding a ladder with only your feet because it's too dark and you can't turn on the light to wake up your roommates, and then positioning your body accurately over the ladder, again so as not to fall from your six-foot-tall bed.

I know, I know. You can't believe I endured such a wretched situation. But I lived to tell about it.

That one particular day, I turned over and got ready to hoist myself out of bed and toward the ladder when I felt a snap in my neck. The next thing I knew, I couldn't move my neck or head without excruciating pain. So I made my way, very carefully, down the ladder and called the campus health clinic. I canceled my morning classes and made my way to the clinic.

My car was parked in the dreaded F-lot. If you lived in any of the south campus dorms, you know that F-lot was where all cars went to die, or at least hibernate for all of the semester, because it was much easier to walk anywhere, including Detroit, than to retrieve your car from F-lot. Even if I had been able to retrieve my car, I would have had no place to park, since MSU has about 27 total parking spaces for a campus that serves 50,000 students.

In short, I walked many, many miles that day, with my head held high, and not because I felt proud. I just couldn't move. I arrived only to have the doctor tell me that I had pulled a muscle. He gave me a soft cervical collar, and probably some heavy-duty pain meds and sent me on my way.

The most embarrassing part of all this was that, during dinner in my dorm's dining hall, I was swarmed by concerned friends all asking, “What happened? Did you get in a car accident?” Imagine my embarrassment if I had told them I had sustained the injury by getting out of bed. So my response was, “Yes, it was horrible. Ambulances and fire trucks everywhere. My car was totaled.” At least I didn't have to worry about them discovering that my car was, in fact, still intact.

It was still parked in F-lot.

Sunday, March 9, 2014

Beauty Wars

A long time ago, in a hospital not too far away....

Three young maidens were born within three years of one another, maidens of unsurpassed beauty:  two with golden curls and blueberry eyes, one with chestnut locks and orbs the color of cocoa.

During their young lives, they drew the admiration of nearly everyone who knew them. They wore frilly frocks of pink, yellow, and purple, with ribbons in their hair and sparkly shoes adorning their feet.

However, as with all fair young maidens, they had been relentlessly pursued by a force so evil, so insidious, that none had ever escaped its power.

The enchanting young maidens slowly and painfully succumbed to the power of....adolescence.

The sweet innocence of childhood has been replaced by moodiness and rebellion. Flaxen hair once content with a mere brushing is now subject to the heat of curling and straightening and the suffocation of a multitude of hair care products.

Cherubs who once carried the sweet scent of babyhood now battle the funk of body odor.

The home of the young maidens is now drenched in estrogen.

Where once lay fair skin, now there is acne.

The young maidens have waged war against their mother, the one who once had sole access to the beauty products in the home. The girls regularly plunder their mother's wealth of cosmetics, leaving the poor woman to her own devices. It is now a common occurrence for their mother to resort to using men's deodorant in the absence of her own feminine antiperspirant. Not only that, but she must use dried out lipstick, her husband's boar bristle hair brush, and a skin-colored crayon to finish out her look for the day.

Adolescence is a frightening time for all. Pursued by her daughter's insatiable hunger for beauty, the mother races against time to find a way to protect her own beloved skin from the ravages of age. Will she emerge victorious?

Please stay tuned for the next episode of “Beauty Wars.”

(I'm just kidding. There is no next episode. I'm going to bed. I hope I can find the toothpaste.)

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Exercise Can Kill You

It's been several years since I've had the motivation, energy or mental wherewithal to attempt to get in shape.  If you've ever been through a trauma or a sustained period of grief, you get exactly where I'm coming from.  It takes all your energy just to survive.

Now, after three years of trial and grief and struggle, I feel like I may possibly be able to thrive.  Maybe even grow!

Unfortunately, the years of stress have taken their toll on my 44-year-old body.  I am in serious denial about this.  I still think my body should behave like it did twenty years ago.  I should be able to go out and walk a few miles without breaking a sweat.  If I don my running shoes, I should be able to jog by the end of the week and run a 5K by the end of April.

Ha ha ha ha ha. I'm so stupid.

My body mocks me.

Last week, we had one gorgeous afternoon when the sun was shining and the temperature was, remarkably, above freezing.  I knew I had to get out and take advantage of it.  I donned my running shoes (which have never experienced actual running, by the way), put on a long-sleeved shirt, and gloves and I was off.

It was quite the glorious walk/jog, I'll have you know.  Even with the thaw, there were still gigantic snow piles that I had to leap, slushy puddles for me to navigate, and icy patches to negotiate.  I even had to duck under some branches that had been broken by the ice storm we had in December.  It was like a delightfully sunny, snowy, slushy obstacle course.  And to top it off, I jogged up and down the skywalk at the end of the street.

Not too shabby for an old lady, hey?

Somewhere in the back of my mind, I kept hearing this little voice telling me:  Take it easy.  Don't overdo it your first day.  Don't push yourself too hard.

I brushed it off, thinking it was my cynical, tired old body trying to tell me it would be sore the next day.  So what?  I could handle soreness.  I was going to beat my body into submission.

Plus, it felt too good to stop, so I pushed myself.

In addition to the inevitable soreness and fatigue that followed, I also developed a cough.  This is normal for me for a day or so after a workout like that.  But when the cough lingered into the weekend, my chest and my back started to hurt.  And I could hear funny rattling noises bubbling up from my lungs when I breathed.

I finally went to see my doctor today.

He actually laughed as he listened to my lungs and reported, "Jen, you have pneumonia!"

Now, you have to know a bit about my relationship with my doctor to understand why he laughed.  We've been friends for years, since my husband and I met him at MSU.  Dr. P and I did random evangelism on MSU's campus.  Dr. P and I once went into the woods and built a lean-to from scratch, just for fun.  Dr. P knows that I did missionary work in the Philippines where I subsisted on fish heads.

He laughed because he knows I'm a little too hearty to subscribe to the idea that I would catch pneumonia from playing outside.

But indeed, I caught pneumonia from playing outside. 

It probably won't kill me, but I will be much more wary of exercise in the future.

Monday, February 17, 2014

Soccer Mom

Here is another post in my "rerun" series.  It was originally posted in 2009.

Today my girls had soccer practice. They're involved in a Parks and Rec team, a very low-key activity with the main goal being for the children to have fun. And really, that's about all I've seen so far.  I'm not seeing any learning of useful soccer skills, such as how to actually make your foot come into contact with the ball. But at least they're having fun, right?

Tonight, the soccer coach decided that at the end of practice, the children should play a scrimmage against their parents. In her words, she thought it would be "fun". Well I don't necessarily agree with her definition of fun, because in my estimation, it would be more in the category of torture. I hate playing sports. I guess it would be more accurate to say that I am deeply tormented by memories of any attempt at playing sports throughout my life. I had extremely bad experiences of gym class from the earliest elementary years all the way through 8th grade. You have no idea how heartily I rejoiced once I finished Junior High and I was no longer required to participate in Physical Education.

The year 1976 was an Olympic year, so our gym teacher thought it would be "educational" to set up gymnastics equipment. I really have no memory of any of the other equipment besides the rings. For some idiot reason, the rings were suspended about 20 feet off the ground. OK, so it was probably not quite that high, but I was in Kindergarten so I was only about 3 feet tall and everything looked really high to me. We had to climb up on a small platform to reach the rings. The platform was high enough to scare me, but then my teacher had to hoist me up on the rings and make me do a somersault. And I'm sure I was visibly terrified because I knew at any moment I was going to plummet back to earth with an ungraceful splat. However, the teacher made me do it anyway. You know I could probably go back and sue that gym teacher for all the emotional distress that he or she caused me, if I could remember his or her name.

In about 2nd grade, Ms. PE teacher had the brilliant idea to teach us basketball, and by teaching I mean she simply said "Play." So, I had no stinkin' clue how to actually dribble a ball or what responsibilities that players in different positions had. We just had to play, and it appeared to me that everyone else knew what they were doing except me. So, when we had basketball days in gym class, I would conveniently excuse myself to go to the bathroom until gym was over. I think my teacher eventually caught on, but it still never occurred to her to actually teach us some darn basketball skills.

In 5th grade, I tried to sprain my ankle during dogdeball season. I would run really fast down our gravel road and purposely step in the potholes. I used to deliberately irritate my older brother so he would inflict some kind of brotherly agony upon me, and then I would shout, "go for the ankle!" I once had to get a plantar wart removed, and I asked the doctor to write a note excusing me from PE for the rest of the year. He didn't. I even tried climbing up on our gigantic console TV set and jumping off. But it was all for naught, as I was still forced to participate in the misery of team sports.

Even in college, a friendly game of volleyball with my dearest friends would throw me into a panic. I could usually hit a volleyball with some degree of consistency as long as I was not involved in an actual game. But if the ball ever came to me during a game, I was either completely immobile, or I was flailing around like an injured animal. And then of course, I would say some dumb thing like "the sun was in my eyes," or sometimes I would choose the simpler option which was to feign death.

Suffice it to say, I have never had any desire to participate in team sports, even for "fun". Because although it may be "fun" to some people, I'd rather have one of my limbs severed.

Friday, February 14, 2014

The Spelling Bee

I'm a gud good speller.  I always have been.  I think it's because I have a photographic memory.  For real.  If you show me how to spell something one time, I will remember it forever.  Even a moronic word like Kashyyyk.  One thousand points if you know what that is without having to look it up.  (Don't try too hard.  This is the blog where everything is made up and the points don't matter.)

My kids have inherited my good spelling gene.  I guess Al has one, too, which surprises me a bit because he is also a math genius.  I thought you had to be one or the other, but I guess he was blessed with both.  In fact, the psychiatrist who evaluated Al's post-stroke brain functioning told him, "The stroke knocked you down a few notches so now you have a normal brain like the rest of us."

Because of their exceptional ability to spell, my children have swept the school spelling bee every year.  I'm proud of them, but it's getting a little old.  And spelling bees are quite stressful.  I'm a total sideline screamer when it comes to watching the kids participate.  Except that I just have to scream in my head, otherwise, I would be ejected from the game.

If you've never been to a spelling bee, it can get quite tense.

The first task is usually the most daunting.  The judges tell every competitor to approach the microphone and spell their name.

Joey steps up to the mic.  "Joey.  J-O....Can you use that in a sentence please?"

The problem I've found with spelling bees is that no matter how intelligent a child is, if you put them in front of an intimidating crowd with a microphone and require them to spell something out, they will forget every word you ever taught them.  Why can't they just take a spelling test and have it graded in front of everyone?

You can totally see the strain on every parent's face when their student begins a turn.  They're mentally calling out, "Okay, Sally.   Take a deep breath.  Concentrate."

The word Sally is given:  love.

Sally begins.  "Love.  L............................U....................................V........................................E.  Love."

Sally's dad jumps out of his seat and "Come on, Sally!  You know that word!"  He throws his pocket dictionary across the floor and is escorted out of the gym by armed security guards.

Next comes Johnny.

Johnny's word is:  antidistestablishmentarianism.

What happens with these exceedingly long words is that the kid gets lost in the middle somewhere.

Johnny begins, struggling just to pronounce the word, let alone spell it.

"Antidistestablishmentarianism.  A-N-T-I-D-I-S-E-S-T-A-B-L-I....."  Because there are enough i's in this word to fill an entire dictionary, Johnny forgets which i he's on.  The rules say that he cannot go back and change the spelling.  So, for several extremely painful moments, he stands there, with everyone and their dog staring at him, while he tries to remember all the letters he just said.  He finally finishes up by sputtering out, "I-S-S-I-P-P-I.  Antidisestablishmentarianism."

The problem here is that the audience is not allowed to applaud or give any kind of feedback until the round is over, which is why Sally's dad will be banned from the school grounds for the next six months.  However, everyone knows immediately whether the word was spelled correctly or not, so the student only has to scan the faces of the people to know whether or not he was successful.  His parents have fake smiles plastered on their faces, nodding encouragingly.  His fellow students are snickering.  Grandma has buried her face in her hands and is writing Johnny out of her will as we speak.  

Now, you're probably thinking that I'm some cranky old curmudgeon who thinks that spelling bees are a waste of time.  Well, you'd be right, but I am proud of my kiddos for their accomplishments.

Way to go, Evan & Joy.  Way to make mama look good!  ;)

Monday, February 10, 2014

The Coldest Winter

Okay, friends.  I know you've all been dying with anticipation to read my next spectacular blog post.  But guess what?  I'm writing a book instead!  (Pray for me and wish me luck!)

So, I've decided to re-publish some of my older posts.  Hopefully you won't mind reading them again.   I should be writing on my other blog soon, too, but I'm not making any promises.

I originally posted this in August 2012.  It seems a bit more fitting to post it now, in the middle of the longest, coldest winter ever.  (By the way, if you know me, you know that I. LOVE. SNOW.  And this winter has not turned me off yet, although I occasionally receive death threats when my status update on Facebook asks, "Don't you just love this weather???")

I grew up in Northern Michigan (i.e. the Upper Peninsula, the UP, da Yoop).  It's the closest you can get to Canada without actually being in Canada.  But the people still talk like Canadians, eh?  I find it humorous when I go home now to hear such a distinct accent from dem Yoopers when I only live 400 miles south.

I don't have to exaggerate much (but I might exaggerate a little) when I say that the winters were cold in the UP.  They were bitter cold, the kind of cold that causes a truck engine to make a low-pitched squeaaaal-rrr-rrr, and then swear and go back to sleep.  It was a dangerous kind of cold that would cause people in current times to stock their pantry with canned food, cancel every activity for the next 3 months, lock their doors, stuff something like this under every door to keep out the evil cold, and hope to God they had enough furniture to put in the fireplace in case they ran out of wood.

This cat-themed draft stopper can be found at, or if you happen to live in a place like the UP where almost everyone is a taxidermist, you can have one made with all the stray cats that wander up to your house.

Even on those coldest of days - the days that my father had to use an engine warmer to get my old Delta 88 started - I must have sneaked past my parents when I went to school on basketball game days, because I would wear my cheerleading skirt to school.  With bare legs.  Or sometimes I would wear flat shoes.  In the snow.  Without socks.  To this day, I'm absolutely certain I have permanent damage in my legs and feet, which never warm up unless they're being roasted over an open fire. 

One day, my best friend Cari came by with her parents.  She is also my cousin - you can't be choosy when you live in a village of 300 people.  She invited me to accompany her to wherever she was headed, but first we had to stop at yet another cousin's house.  (Yes, everyone is related in the UP, get over it.) When we arrived at said cousin's house, we told her parents we would wait in the van.  They assured us that they would only be a few minutes.  They didn't even keep the van running for heat.  Why would they?  It was only -30 F.  Being high school girls who don't care how close we got to each other, we huddled up on the front seat of her parents' van so we could stay warm.  We put our feet on the dashboard so they could stay toasty in the sunlight. (Ha!)

As we goofed around and acted like silly teenage girls, we simultaneously threw our heads back in laughter and kicked our feet.


A giant fissure appeared in the van's dashboard.

So we did what any two level-headed teenagers would do once we realized how brittle the dashboard material had become in the subzero weather:  we pushed just a little more.  Just to see what would happen.

A few more times and the entire dashboard disintegrated in a flash of 1970's goldenrod glory.


At that very moment, yet another relative came out of the house, observed our predicament, and proceeded to laugh so hard that he wet his pants.

What do you tell your parents when you destroy the entire dashboard of the family vehicle? We considered going into the house and playing it cool, like, "hey, Auntie Betty and Uncle Tom, we thought we'd just come inside and warm up a bit."  And then when we all went out to the van, they could be all shocked and say, "What happened to the dashboard?" and we would be all, "Wow, I can't imagine how something like that could happen."

In the end I think they figured out it was us.  And I think the punishment must have been inordinately lenient because I don't remember what it was, except maybe a little lecture and possibly some yelling on both of our parents' parts.

The moral of this story is:  there really isn't one.  Except that you should wear socks in the winter.

If you give lots of happy feel-good comments, I promise to start posting more!  :)