Thursday, December 30, 2010

Ten things

Now that 2010, and the first decade of the millenium, is almost over, I thought it was time for you to learn a few things about me. So, here are ten things that most of you don’t know. Don't you just hate this kind of post? 

1.  When I was a senior in high school, our class took our Senior Trip to Washington, D.C. and to New York City! We spent three days in NYC. Now this was equivalent to taking 66 foreign students there and setting them loose on the streets of Manhattan without a map or an interpreter. Oh sure, we did the obligatory tours on buses to Chinatown, the Statue of Liberty (well, that was on the Staten Island Ferry, of course), the Bowery of all places, and many other tourist destinations, but we also had our free time. For most of us, including myself, this was the first time we had stepped more than a few hundred feet outside our rural county. We saw a Broadway musical, “Promises, Promises”, which is now enjoying a successful revival. We ate some of our meals in an automat that was just around the corner from our hotel. Automats are interesting places. Do you remember the episode of ‘That Girl’ with Marlo Thomas, when she goes to the automat and has very little money to buy lunch? She ends up getting a bowl of hot water and mixing ketchup into it to make tomato soup. I’m telling you, I knew the feeling. I was a poor girl in the big city. Some of us girls got hit on by a street person while we we were waiting in line. We also got to watch a guy peeing on the street while we were walking back from the movie theater. The movie that the group of us saw was ‘Five Easy Pieces’ with Jack Nicholson. A very interesting film for a bunch of seventeen-year-old hicks to see when they’re out on the town. There were some strange proximity matchups between the guys and the girls while we were on the trip. Some lasted, most didn’t. I still have the lacquered, mother-of-pearl inlaid chopsticks I bought as a souvenir in Chinatown.

2.  I didn’t go to college. Well, one semester, but that doesn’t really count, does it? It is my lifelong embarrassment and regret. I was valedictorian of my class, for goodness sake. I had a full-tuition/work-study scholarship to the local branch of Ohio University. So, here’s what went wrong. I coasted through high school. Our school wasn’t known for it’s tough academics. A couple of our teachers were as old as Methuselah and about as lively. In the late ‘60s, early 70’s, most girls in rural areas weren’t encouraged to see college in their futures, and if they were so inclined, it was usually to seek out a career in a “woman’s” field; i.e., teaching or nursing. Those are two very noble professions for which I probably was strongly suited. Unfortunately, I chose to take courses in high school more suited to office Christmas parties. Typing, shorthand, bookkeeping, business math (algebra was not a required subject in those days); all of which are handy-dandy tools for living (well, shorthand, maybe not), but not so dandy for college preparation. Combine this non-preparation with a personality flaw of perfectionism and this one did not do well under college professorial tutelage...mean, critical, superiority-complexed college professors. I melted into a heap of insecurity-ridden Susan parts. So what does one do when one decides she can no longer hack it under the scrutiny of said professors? Why, she gets married, of course. Planning a wedding is so much more satisfying and gratifying than sitting in a classroom listening to a stuffy professor droning on and on, blah, blah, blah. I created my own post-secondary education by being a wife and raising children. I can hear you all out there asking yourselves “Well, why didn’t she go back to school after the children got a little older?” Good question. It was just never convenient. We either lived too far away from a school, or there was some godawful stuff going on in our lives that kept me away. Or gave me an excuse...however you prefer to look at it. That peculiar “fear of failure” has never quite left me, you see.

3.  When I talk to myself (and don’t try to tell me you don’t do it), I practice my British accent. Okay, I know that’s weird, but have you tried it? It’s quite fun and entertaining and I’ve gotten pretty good at it. Watch out, Meryl Streep, I’m hot on your heels. Maybe there’s an Oscar in my future. I could play the Queen Mother someday. In her dowager years.

4.  I’m a control freak. My husband says so, just ask him. It’s why I’m always so exhausted during Christmas, Thanksgiving, birthdays, etc. Apparently, I think I’m the only one who can “do it right”. It’s my way or the highway. I have to do it all. I’m not quite as bad as I used to be. I do let the grandchildren help me bake sometimes. I let David mash the potatoes for big dinners, and he does a pretty good job of it. Well, I think this year’s holidays finally cured me of this syndrome. I nearly didn’t survive the cooking, the cleaning, the baking, the decorating, the shopping and gift wrapping, and so on and so forth. Next year I’m having a rebirth and assigning everyone a dish to bring, a chore to do, a decoration to put up. I. Just. Can’t. Do. It. All.

5.  I didn’t learn to drive until I was eighteen. The year I turned sixteen Ohio changed it’s teen driving laws to require completion of a driver education course before inflicting terror in the hearts and minds of our neighbors and their properties. There was only one driver education course available to us and that was in our high school. There was one class a semester and guess who got to take it first...seniors, of course. That meant my classmates and I had to wait it out until our senior year. Oh, how we moaned and groaned and complained that it just wasn’t FAIR! I think the State of Ohio knew what it was doing when it made that law. I was green as a gourd the first time I slipped behind the wheel. Why, I had never even driven a lawn mower! Going 25 miles per hour was like driving the Indianapolis Speedway! It didn’t help that we had a driver instructor/basketball coach/English teacher sitting in the middle of the bench seat of the big boat in which we learned. He was quite a “ladies” man and would sing romantic songs in our ears as we navigated the country byways hither and yon. And, of course, the shorter the skirt, the better the grade. Nowadays he would lose his teaching license for those kinds of antics, but at that time it was accepted behavior. Or, we were too stupid and naive to know we should report him. I got an A in English, too.

6.  I’ve written stories and poetry since I was in high school. But I always tore them up, because they were never "good enough". It wasn’t until I started this blog that I was able to show my writing to anyone, and it helped that, at the time, you were complete strangers. I still have shivers of apprehension each time I sit in front of the computer and hit the publish button. Will they like it? Will they think it’s stupid? At least I don’t have to see your faces when you’re reading my words. There’s comfort in that.

7.  I was the second woman to use natural childbirth and have daddy in the delivery room in our small town hospital. It just wasn’t done, y’know. I had gone to a neighboring city with three times the population, thinking that doctors there would be open-minded about Lamaze and a father wanting to participate in his child’s birth, but I was flatly told “No way”. It was 1975 and our edge-of-Appalachia communities were about five years behind the times. Finally, through one of David’s co-workers whose wife had been numero uno, I found Dr. Teddy Bear, who was not reluctant in the least and had told the hospital board that they could go hang when they put down their collective foot.

8.  Following the successful birth of our first child, I was determined to breast-feed. I had read the few books available at that time cover to cover until I had nearly every word memorized. I had toughened my nipples (ouch!) and prepared in every way to nourish my baby as God intended. Well, unfortunately, God put a little stumbling block in my path to sainthood, bearing the name of Jamie, my errant niece who had been kicked out of her home. We reluctantly took her in a few months before the impending birth. We soon found out there was good reason for her banishment. She made our lives a living hell, and when it came time for the magical mother’s milk to appear, it didn’t. There was no lactation consultant available, and I was as stubborn as the day is long. At first I was loathe to surrender to my mother’s and sister’s wisdom when they told me Jaye was hungry. No, no, I insisted, he’s just colicky. I was proven wrong when, at his first checkup, the poor child had not gained a single ounce after leaving the hospital. I disintegrated in the examining room at the pediatrician’s office, blaming myself for not listening and endangering my precious baby’s life. Dr. Sweetums awkwardly patted my back and told me not to worry, but that it was probably best to put him on formula. I couldn’t get to the baby aisle at the local grocery fast enough. The first week he gained 22 ounces. The crying stopped and he was happy and healthy. Afterward, I couldn’t stop blaming myself, hoping I didn’t inflict any permanent damage to his little brain. I didn’t. He turned out just fine and is much more intelligent than I ever thought of being. He teases me sometimes when the subject comes up, that he might have been another Einstein if I hadn’t tried to starve him. “Yeah, I guess so,” I usually say, “but then you would have been a lot shorter than the rest of us.”  He's six-foot-four. 

9.  I asked David if there was something about me that other people would be surprised to find out. He thought for a minute and said “You’re much more private than people think you are.” “True,” I said, “but that’s really boring.” He might have a point. I probably should have been a Gemini, because I have two faces. There’s my quiet, private self who relishes spending time all alone, sometimes for days at a time, loving every minute that I don’t have to spend attending to somebody’s needs other than my own. I’m not really a phone conversationalist, although I’ve been known to have hours-long talks with the right people, about the right subjects. I could easily live in the wilderness if I had a ready supply of necessities. But then, there’s the other me. The one who wants/needs to win all the games at baby showers. The one who is an untapped stand-up comedian. The one who would have loved to be a cabaret singer, crooning all the old standards just like Rosemary Clooney sang them. Let me entertain youuuu! Notice meeeee!

Imagine that, I found myself on Fotosearch!
10.  And because I could see myself sitting before a grand piano, singing those songs to some fuzzy audience, I took piano lessons when I was in my mid-thirties. I had always wanted to play an instrument...piano, guitar, it didn’t matter to me. I just wanted to be able to entertain myself, and if I were actually found to have any talent, possibly the entertainment of others as well. I envisioned myself singing duets with Kenny Rogers and John Denver while stroking the ivories. It didn’t happen. My piano teacher, who also happened to be a good friend, tried in vain to teach me the skills needed to NOT sound like a plodding non-prodigy. No matter how I tried, I could not match the speed of my fingers with the tempo of the music. I loved those nice, slow adagio pieces which gave my reluctant brain the time to find the right keys and chords. Just the faintest glimpse of the instruction allegro, and my heart started beating double time in horror. There was also the eensy problem of my bossing the teacher. “Susan,” she would say, “ you simply must practice this song and get it perfect before we can move on.” “Rhonda,” I would reply, “I don’t like this song and it’s too hard, so I’m not playing it.” It’s no mystery to me why I never progressed further than John Thompson’s Third Course. How could my sister Jane, who had only nine months of lessons, play every song in the church hymnal in a lively manner when appropriate, and I not be able to play at all? Life just isn’t fair.

Well, as you can see, this is the “entertaining” me. Tonight there will be no parties for me, unless you consider three, maybe five, grandkids for a sleepover a party. So, I will toast the New Year in my usual way, with some nice hot chocolate and climb between my toasty warm flannel sheets to welcome 2011 in the very best way......ZZZZZZZZZZ.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

My Christmas Wishes

I wish I could say that I am the author of the lovely sentiments in my Christmas wish for you; they are from a card in a box of Christmas cards that I bought several years ago. Though I'm not the author, I try my best to walk in the path of those teachings. My wish for all of you, my dear friends, is that you will always live with hope, peace, love, and understanding in your hearts, and that you will spread those most valuable gifts wherever you may roam.

Merry Christmas!

Sunday, December 19, 2010

T'was the week before Christmas

When Christmas comes around my door,
The decorations don’t put themselves in place.
They hang around my tables and floor
In boxes and bins, staring me in the face.
There are ornaments with meaning sentimental,
And angels too still to fly.
It’s a good thing they aren’t rental,
I’ll get around to them by-and-by.
Oh, if only some Santa Claus elves,
Would visit me during the night.
They would take the tinsel off the shelves,
And dust my home with fairy light.
What’s that I see when I rub the sleep from my eyes?
Did some magic in the night occur?
If the elves came from my wishes and sighs,
They must have performed in a scurrying blur!
Oh, yes, now I remember my stake!
I’m the one who placed them there.
I must have been Bearly Awake,
When at last I positioned the ornaments with care.
If only it all would happen with such ease, 
I would already be feeling rested,
But we know fairy tales don’t really appease, 
And by this time next week, I’ll be bested. 
~Susan D.~