Saturday, February 23, 2013

Forever young

By the time you read this, I’ll be another year older and a great deal luckier, at least according to my friend Sarah’s dad.

“He always said __ was a lucky age,” Sarah told me after I confided that I was anxious for my birthday to get here before anything else happened.

I’m not sure why he said that, and I didn’t even ask. I was just grateful he did. Father knows best, after all, plus he was a doctor, so that makes him doubly right in my book. And, frankly, I needed that hope to hang on to.

Now, don’t get me wrong, I had some incredibly wonderful events take place during this year of my life, first and foremost, the marriage of my daughter. I was also blessed to become editor of a corporate newsletter, a job I’d worked hard for. But with the good comes the bad, and I had to have surgery this past fall, a surgery that made me realize that not only am I not that young anymore, I’m not mortal either.

It’s all very shocking.

My younger daughter will soon be behind the wheel of an automobile, and my son, well, he’s not that far behind her. What started as a marathon has now ended in a sprint. I’m not sure where the miles went in between.

This year, I learned that sleepless nights spent rocking your babies quickly turn into nights of waiting on them to come home from the prom, and before you blink, you’re sending them off to college, and the next thing you know, they are grown.

Kids do, indeed, provide the great reality check. I can remember riding in the backseat of the car as a girl with my dad driving. He was a world champion Olympic weightlifter. He was probably my age at the time when I asked him, “Daddy, what is that roadmap on the back of your neck?”

They were his wrinkles, in case you aren’t sure.

I also remember asking my mom how old she was, and she replied either 30 or, God forbid, 31. I still recall how old and far away that sounded. Yet, here I sit, 30 years old myself (just seeing if you are still paying attention) and reminiscing about days gone by – something I swore, loudly and vehemently, I’d never do.

Just like my girlfriend and I swore in middle school that we’d never wear pants that weren’t tight around our ankles because bell bottom britches meant we were old, and we would never, ever be old. Fortunately, we loosened our standards in blue jeans as well as life.

I’m not sure what this age will bring. I’m not sure what the word “lucky” really means. I’m also not 100 percent sure Sarah’s dad really said that. A part of me thinks she fabricated that story just to cheer me up, in which case I know what lucky means.

Lucky means having a friend who would do such a thing. It also means having wonderful people in your life who care about you and make you feel, no matter your age, forever young.

Only sometimes it takes a few birthdays to realize it. In my case, 42 to be exact.

Thursday, February 21, 2013

It's the little things

You don’t have to work in the White House to encounter politics firsthand. In fact, no matter where you work, there’s sure to be some – just on a different scale.

Some of the worst office politics can erupt, not on big matters, such as promotions or who’s taking the lead on projects, but on the little things, for example, like who broke the popcorn machine or who took your last cranberry LaCroix from the fridge. Yes, on a large scale those are small things, but if you work in an office every day, it’s the little things that can make or break a day.

As Robert Earl Keen sings:

It’s the little things, the little bitty things

Like the way that you remind me I’ve been growin’ soft.

It’s the little things, the itty bitty things

It’s the little things that BLEEP me off.

Perhaps you are starting a new job and need tips on how to get along, or perhaps you’ve been in your job a while and just can’t figure out why you don’t get asked to lunch on Fridays, we’ll look no further. I’ve compiled a list of things that just might help you become the most popular person on your aisle, heck, your floor even.

Here they are:

Never heat up leftover fish in the microwave. I love seafood, but not the smell of it for eight hours because that’s how long it takes to wear off, plus, face it, fish is never any good the next day. Just to clarify, cold tuna is fine but make sure you keep breath mints nearby.

Don’t make excessive small talk in the elevator. Saying hello and have a good day is gracious plenty. Asking “Is it cold enough for you? Is it hot enough for you? Is it windy enough for you?” is too much. Also, comments about what day of the week it is, for example, “I’m good for a Monday” or “It’s Tuesday, one day closer to the weekend” or “Happy hump day” or “ Two more days,” etc., falls under the “too much” category. On Fridays, however, this rule does not apply, and you may say anything you want about this day of the week.

Do not come to work sick. If you do, perhaps you should just keep it to yourself and not tell anyone about your stomach cramps and how many trips you’ve made to the bathroom.

Along those lines, do not over share the details of your recent stomach flu or your children’s recent stomach flu. In fact, don’t share medical details at all. If someone asks how you are feeling, say, “Great, thanks,” even if you spent the weekend in the ER with a gallbladder issue. Actually, make that especially if you spent the weekend in the ER with a gallbladder issue.

Do not blare music with explicit lyrics unless it’s the aforementioned song. That would be OK. Funny even.

Do not ask your co-workers how old they are, why their first marriage fell apart, or if they are going to have another baby, especially if you are using this as elevator chit-chat.

Do not wear flip-flops and yoga pants on casual Friday – or ever around co-workers.
Do not send joke emails to your co-workers and then come back to ask them if they got it and then try to force them to admit that, yes, it was a cute kitten, and, no, I can’t believe it was smoking a cigarette.

Do not give up on reaching out to your co-workers. Continue to invite them to lunch, even if they say they are eating at their desks, and you see them in the cafeteria with a group. In fact, continue to be friendly even when they aren’t.
No matter what they do, continue to act with tolerance and patience while you keep a big smile on your face. It’s a little thing, and if it doesn’t work, at least it will bleep them off.

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Or else

“Feed your dog,” I heard my daughter say to my son early one morning before school.

“He’s your dog, too,” he said, triggering a back-and- forth exchange about who fed him last, their voices growing louder to compete with the increasingly louder barking, whining and all-around begging of our family pet.

It was at this point, I had to resist the urge to throw down my hair dryer, run into the living room in my towel and scream, “Stop arguing, or I’m going to send him back where we got him!”

If I thought Santa would take him back, I would have, but I’m pretty sure he has a no return policy on pets, especially since the cute chocolate lab puppy he delivered five years ago is now as big as one of his reindeer.

I’ve also learned as a parent that I have to be very careful what threats I make because sometimes the follow-through hurts.

For example, ever get frustrated, unplug the television and yell, “That’s it! No more TV”?
It can make for some long rainy days, let me tell you. During one such week, I looked at my husband and asked, “Why are we punishing ourselves?”

Speaking of television, I watched a great episode of the show “The Middle” that addressed this topic. In it, the couple’s youngest child kept losing his coat. Frustrated, the father yelled, “That’s it! No more coats!”

I’ve been tempted to let mine go coatless until the first chilly day. And then I’m calling lost and found and driving all over town retracing our steps. Following through is hard to do – for most of us, that is.

I have a friend I’ll call Betty. Betty is by far the bravest person I know. When she makes a threat, she means it.

“Either take care of your rabbit, or I’m getting rid of it,” she said once, not twice, not three times, but once, to her children. One empty water bottle later, and the bunny was gone, much to her kids’ dismay when they got off the school bus.

“I told you to take care of him,” she said, unapologetically.

I got so inspired by her courage that I decided I would try the same trick with our guinea pig. It would have worked, too, except I learned that no one wants a guinea pig, not even the school’s science teacher, who has everything from mice, to rabbits, to bearded dragons, to pythons.

“No, thank you. I don’t take guinea pigs,” he said. “And, please stop begging.”

Betty not only followed through on threats to her kids, she followed through on threats to her husband as well.

One day, she decided that the honey-do project he was working on was taking too long to complete. He got a warning, and when he didn’t meet his deadline, she loaded the kids up and drove her minivan to the trailer park in town where many unemployed men wait for opportunities to work. Betty pointed at three of the strongest-looking, opened the side door of her van and motioned for them to get in.

Imagine her husband’s surprise when he came home from work eight hours later to see the men sweating in his front yard, completing his landscaping project.

“I told you to finish it,” Betty said, as he scratched his head in a cross between bewilderment, anger and, perhaps, respect.

Heaven knows, she has mine.

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Quest for coolness

“I feel like I can’t talk to any women because I have not seen ‘Downtown Abbey,’” I complained.

“You haven’t seen what?” my friend said.

“‘Downtown Abbey.’ You know, the show everyone is watching.”

“You mean ‘Downton Abbey,’” he said.

I shook my head disgustedly, thinking it must be the English pronunciation that everyone knows but me. Later, when I looked it up, I learned, no, it’s spelled D-o-w-n-t-o-n Abbey. I had been reading it wrong for several months.

Sigh. Being behind the curve of what’s popular is nothing new to me. I’m reading “The Hunger Games,” if that tells you anything. And beneath my bed, I have a sizzling copy of “Fifty Shades of Grey” that I’ll get to whenever I’m grey at this rate.

I remember when the television show “Seinfield” was a huge hit. As always, I was one of the last to get on the bandwagon. I may have missed it altogether except my husband and I were invited to a Seinfield party.

“What a dumb idea! That show is about nothing. Are we going to sit around and watch a sitcom all evening?” I asked – loudly.

Usually the words I have to eat are the ones I say most often and the loudest, and this was no exception. After watching a few episodes, I was totally hooked and remain so today. Thank God for reruns.

My ignorance applies to movies as well. I have a friend who is on a quest to see all the films nominated for an Academy Award – a feat I really admire and should imitate, so I’ll be able to chime in around the water cooler.

On a recent day, my co-workers were discussing “Argo” and “Zero Dark Thirty” and a few other recently nominated movies.

“My son and I watched ‘Escape from Alcatraz’ over the weekend. It was great!” I said, in a desperate attempt not to be left out.

Suddenly, I was very cool and had everyone’s attention.

“Is there a new ‘Escape from Alcatraz’ out?” they asked.

“Oh, no, the one from the 1970s with Clint Eastwood,” I said.

They were kind enough or either the movie was good enough that they didn’t dismiss me, but I wasn’t so cool anymore.

I got on Twitter a few months ago in an attempt to stay up on current events. That has helped, except it seems that I still miss out on the actual event itself. For example, the Lance Armstrong interview. Instead of watching it, I just read everyone’s reaction to it and got the gist. I went to bed satisfied that I had gotten a pretty good picture of what an arrogant narcissist he was.

Over the weekend, a friend, in an attempt to make conversation, asked, “Did you watch the Lance Armstrong interview?”

“Well, no, but I read everyone’s reaction to it on Twitter,” I said, proudly.

I could tell by his face that I had reached an even lower level of un-coolness.

What’s a girl to do? I suppose I could cram and spend the weekend watching season one and two of “Downton Abby” on Netflix or I could get up early and read about the red room in “Fifty Shades of Grey” (see, I have a vague notion of what that is, so I’m not that unhip) or I could spend my nights in the theater catching up on all the movies I’ve missed the past year.

But, what I think I’ll do instead is the next time someone asks if I’ve seen something, I’ll simply say, “No, please tell me about it,” and actually listen to their answer. I have a feeling that will take me further in life than knowing the difference between “Downtown” and “Downton” – unless I’m asking for directions, that is.