Friday, May 29, 2015

Tequila: It is the Devil's drink

We recently had a discussion in our house about Tequila. The word alone makes me shudder. Once you have big fight with a devil drink like Tequila, you shall never go back. One of my girlfriends asked, "Could your previous hangover from Tequila really be that bad?" It wasn't a hangover. That makes it sound manageable like a mere inconvenience you could counteract with an Advil and a bag of Cheetos. My experience with Tequila was far more bitter. How bitter? Here is a classic story worth sharing again.

Dear Mr. Patron: I realize we crossed paths again recently. You seemed kind of interested in getting to know me. I can not reciprocate your feelings. While you tried to seduce me in Mexico, I ignored you. You winked at me over the 4th of July holiday party scene, but you will see that I am quite resistant. Oh, your lovely words of encouragement on my birthday fell on empty ears.

These lips shall never touch you. Admittedly, you are sleek and fancy, and considered by all to be top shelf. But alas, we shan't get familiar, and here are the reasons why.

You have some wretched compadres. Yes, perhaps far less stellar than you, but since you all share the same lineage in some form or fashion, I shall lump you all together. There is such a long list, I won't name names. However,

The absolute worst is your ugly cousin, Jose Cuervo. I detest him most of all. He knows I don't like him and neither of us really needs a refresher on why I don't like him, do we? In fact, I haven't liked him for a long, long time. Let me explain.

I met Jose the summer before my junior year in high school. My friend LL and I went down to watch a rowing event at the University of Washington and somehow ended up on Greek Row. Some boys from Kappa Sigma invited us in for a little early-afternoon Jimmy Buffett party. How could we resist. Older, handsome college boys with Jimmy Buffett? In the door we go. (Foolish, foolish girls).

Your cousin Jose Cuervo mixed himself into some frozen margaritas. A cooler, more delicious elixir I had never before consumed. Since wine coolers and light beer was the extent of my alcohol repertoire, the frozen marga-treat-a was divine. Jose told me one more wouldn't hurt. So I had one more. And then one more. Jose told me he tasted even better straight from the bottle. Oh, and since we told our hosts we were freshman in college, they assumed we were already savvy in the ways of Jose's hedonistic world. Jose said it wouldn't matter. He said we seemed sophisticated and mature. Never mind I tripped over a rug in my attempt to sashay over to a cute boy, Jose said no one even noticed.

Jose said he would refresh me. He told me I was pretty. And the best dancer. Ever.

Jose said to drink and dance. I did. Jose said that it was hot in here and why wear my sweater when a tank top is fine. I listened, oh so closely. Jose had a firm grip. And then, Jose turned against me. He told me to take a catnap. In the middle of the floor. Then he said goodbye.

I asked him to help me get home. He laughed and said he was too busy with other party guests. Jose let two other people carry me to my car and deposit me on the floorboard. LL had to drive us home.

Jose told me to open the door at a traffic light. In the middle of 45th. With hundreds of cars around, since this was the University District of Seattle after all. Jose told me the only way to feel better would be to crawl out of the car. And throw up. On the pavement. In the middle of one of the busiest intersections we could find. Then Jose told me to get in the car. But he didn't tell me I had barf on my shirt. LL pulled off on a residential side street. Jose told me how calming the sidewalk would feel on my face. He told me to lay down. He told me to let that dog lick my mouth.

I barely got back in the car. Jose didn't warn me that we would pass my parents. Jose merely laughed and said "Arriba! Arriba!"

My parents did pass us. And LL pulled over. My mom came STORMING to the car inquiring on my whereabouts. Jose didn't tell me to keep quiet. Jose told me to speak up. Share my thoughts. He said I sounded clear, crisp, intelligent. My mom looked at me, looked at LL, and asked what was going on. LL told her I was drunk. Thanks friend.

I tried to tell my mom about Jose. I tried to point him out. But he had disappeared. Left me with a sordid tale, bad breath, and a shirt I would be soon throwing away. Oh, and punishment.

I never saw him again that year or the next. And then, as a freshman in college, I saw him resurface. He must have followed me to a party. Me, all sunny and bright. He, with all his liquidy amber glow. He came onto me. He said he was delicious. He assured me he had changed. He said it would be different this time.

Jose Cuervo is a liar...

He asked me to dance and after ignoring him for hours, I gave in. He told me we would take it slow. LIAR LIAR LIAR. Jose told me drinking was fun but shots were better. He told me dancing was fun but dancing on tables was better. He said to play Thumper. He said to play Quarters. He said smoke cigarettes. He said I looked hot. He said I was the funniest girl in the world. He said play air guitar. He said pee in the front yard. He told me those photos of me drinking shots wouldn't matter, they would only make me laugh. Oh, Jose, he is one smooth talker.

I had a headache that lasted one month. I cursed him and the day I laid eyes on him. I saw him influence others to run naked and jump off roofs but not me. He tried to corner me on other occasions. I screamed in his face. He tried to up the ante by introducing me to his friends Don Julio and Dona Carlota. I spit on him. Jose Cuervo is a sadist. I will warn others.

And while I do make a fantastic margarita (just ask JohnnyMac), and while we stock Cabo Wabo in our house, I know better than to dip in myself. So Mr. Patron, your interest in me is a dead end. I am wise now. And tell your horrid cousin, Jose, I don't even want his aroma within 20 feet of me.

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

When I am old, I hope I am cool as hell....

When I'm old, I hope I am cool as hell. 5 ways to be sure.

Waiting to board a flight last week, I stood next to an older couple. The gentleman complimented my handbag. It is Hermes and candidly, I am rather fond of it too. I smiled and said, "I like your taste." His wife laughed and said, "Oh, he knows what's what."

I looked at  both of them and laughed. They were beautiful and it seemed to stem from their perceived happiness. They were also elegant, stylish. She told me they were in their 80s. Our dialogue extended another 20 minutes or so which I thoroughly enjoyed.

Later, I recalled her comment and again it made me laugh. Oh, he knows what's what. Also known as "he is cool as hell." I hope when I am in my 80's, I also know what's what which I really want to mean I hope I am old and cool as hell. What will I have to do?

1. I will think carefully about what I discuss. I will remember there are certain topics I shall not rattle on about on the daily. Top of the list: Ailments. When I want to talk about ailments such as an achy back, plantar fasciitis, or my ankle surgeries, I will pause and refrain. Unless I have some serious situation trying to take me down, I am not talking about corneas and cataracts.  The pills, the ointments all to be kept on the low down. Strike me with lightening, if I mention "irritable" or "bowel" or "syndrome' in the same sentence.

Instead, I am going to talk about wine tastings in Napa, good books and how to make croquembouche. I will talk about awesome things I have done. This will not include walking barefoot in the snow. I never did that. My parents drove me to school or I rode a giant tank like yellow bus. If others try to talk to me about ouchy parts and icky stuff, well, I am going to politely listen for a minute. After that I might say, "For the LOVE of BABY JESUS Diane, there is a reason the Doctor closes the door during appointments! No one outside of that room is deeply curious about your GI issues."

1a. I will remember not to prattle on about kids and grand kids. I will give highlights. I will not talk about how many cheerios my grandchild ate that day. I will not talk about what my grandchildren do from the minute they wake up until they go to sleep. I will love my family. I will be excited about their lives and successes. I will not trap people at the Starbucks with a long highly detailed story of my son's first homerun in the Majors (his dream) or my 6 year old grand baby's first trip to Disney. God forbid I talk about potty training. Ever. I will remember NO lengthy discourses on that topic happened when I was living it. Double jeopardy for me if I update my Facebook status with any such topics. Extra cool points if I am old and still on Social Media. Help me if I am still linked to people who use Facebook as a diary instead of its intent: public bulletin board.

2. When I drive, I am going to maintain all my skills. If I shrink and can't see over the wheel, I will buy a booster seat just like little kids use. I will go for a compact car versus a boat. I will pledge not to make a right hand turn from the left hand lane. If someone cuts me off, I shall not respond with inappropriate hand gestures.  If someone else is driving me, I will not 'give them suggestions' the entire time. I will not reach over and honk the horn for them. If I am unable to drive, I will say "Hallelujah Uber!"
3. If I need to move into a retirement community, it is going to be one like the bad ass Melrose Place of Retirement communities in Florida called The Villages. When I live there, I am going to seek out fun things to do and fun people to do them with as well. I'm going to avoid Betty who talks about her bunions. I am going to avoid Lydia who talks about her daughter my exclaiming "Now, my Leslie....." because Lydia didn't read 1a above. If I am doubling-down at the Blackjack table and Lydia saunters over to tell me a "My Leslie" story I will suggest she saunter off and call "My Leslie" instead of saying "Your Leslie sounds like someone with a lot of cats." If I am unable find fun things to do, if I have not developed interest in activities that involving making things with yarn,  I will create fun things to do. First order of business: Dance Party. I won't play Jazz or even Sinatra. Lets' turn that Mother out and bring back the old school. Never too old to appreciate some Salt & Pepa. And I will be asking that nice handy man to bring in some fans for that show too.

4. Since dance party is one of my favorite things of all time, I will not miss opportunities to enjoy one. If I am at a wedding and all the old timers are having a respectful seat while the young whipper snappers take on the dance floor, I will hop to it. If its loud, I will adjust my hearing aide. If I have to listen to Nicki Minaj, so be it. If they are bucking their hips like dogs in heat, I will snicker inside and remember I grew up with "Dirty Dancing" and the "Lambada"!  Perhaps I will make friends with the DJ and request Vanilla Ice for old times sake. If he laughs and scoffs, I will politely ask him to step the _____ back and I will bring out the Running Man. Have you ever seen an old dame do the Running Man? You will.

5. I heard a teenage girl being monstrously rude to her Mom at Nordstrom last week. I was a touch surprised the Mom took it like she did because it was eye-popping awful. I was a smarty arse hair-flipping oh maaa gaawwwwd hissing teenage girl at one point too and even I was not bold enough to pull off the snark on this child. When I am old and hopefully cool as hell, if I hear young people being sassy and disrespectful, I will shake my head and silently think to myself, "Young people today!" But because I am old, I can do whatever I like and I will be able to say, "Listen Missy, why don't you spend the summer in prison camp and then come back and tell me all your woes. Seriously. I will sit right here with my smoothie and my iPhone waiting for your full report on how prison camp changed your shitty attitude."

Sunday, May 25, 2014

Tomorrow is not National Barbeque Day

Happy Memorial Day. Originally called "Decoration Day" this holiday is a day to remember those who have fallen while serving the US Armed Forces. It is not National Barbeque Day.

I don't have the nerve to do what soldiers do. I have heard so many stories but a photo like this brings so many emotions to bear. 

For all those who suit up, swallow fear when necessary, travel to locations as far away as physically and emotionally possible, who sleep in dirt bunkers, walk into the unknown, kiss their families and their babies goodbye for maybe a year at a time, who don't have the luxury of complaining about how long the line is for the morning latte, or the traffic, or the fact an emergency news brief interrupted the season finale of Scandal, we salute you.

I don't want miss my son's baseball games, or friends birthdays, my morning workouts or trips to Anguilla.  I want the freedom and the critical steps that need to be executed to protect it but I am not brave enough to do it. I would be if I had to be but that is one additional amazing component of our country: I don't have to go to war if I don't want to sign up for it. My freedom is protected by hundreds of thousands of other people. The blanket of freedom that not only allows but encourages women to become educated, make choices, vote, buy a home, live where you choose.

This is the same freedom which allows people to openly criticize our government and our leaders. Criticism that in other countries would earn you beatings or life in an underground prison or death. Those people should thank the next person they see in uniform for protecting your right to free speech. PS: Do you know who really cares if you like or don't like Barack? Or George W. ? Or Mitt?  Or Hillary?  I don't know the exact metrics but my guess is: NOT Barack, George W., Mitt, Hillary and 95% of people you are friends with on Facebook.

While we are all enjoying our Memorial weekend, it is a weekend of gratitude. Gratitude for freedoms. These are freedoms paid for by other people. Love my country? Yes. Willing to suit up and die for it? Wait a minute. I think we all want to think we would do it. It is an easy supposition to make from the comfort of my living room. Bravo to the hundreds of thousands of men and women have committed to serving; many of them so young they have likely never left home, lived on their own, had sex, or had a legal cocktail before. But the majority of them willing to go even knowing  what kind of environment they could be deployed to in the very near-term. 

Thank you to not only everyone who signed the dotted line but to their families as well who surely endured trials during the absence. God Bless the USA.

Friday, April 4, 2014 a squealy, breathy, giggly rush.

I am thinking about my hometown quite a bit today. While my Mom knows this story full well, she is waiting on news about a friend and probably really needs a laugh right now. I am happy to share this again. And what better way to spend time on a Friday than laughing at my plight.

When I was a youngster, I was a bit of a late bloomer. And by "bit" I certainly mean I was the last one in the door to puberty. In 7th grade, I finally became a woman, or in reality, an already hormonal girl suddenly with a reason to buy feminine products.

My older brother had a friend for whom I had a mad, mad crush. I would always ask my brother about him. And this friend was at our house frequently so I made myself very present during these visits as only annoying younger sisters can do. He wore the levi jacket with the big puffy faux sheep's wool lining that I thought was super cool. He also had the pencil thin mustache circa 1983. WOW, I set my bar VERY high, didn't I?

One afternoon that summer found me, my brother, and a mixed bag of our friends all lounging about the pool. The cacophony of 12 and 13 year old girls talking about C.Thomas Howell and Adam Ant songs only worsened by the rude commentary and fart jokes of teenage boys.

But my big crush was there. And at one point, he said to me, "I like your swimsuit."

This old thing? I can't believe he noticed me, after all, parading in front of him on the upside of 200 times. I showed my grace and poise by opting NOT to smile and politely say thank you in a cool and demure way but rather jumping up and down and exclaiming OHMYGOD-YOUDO?!?!?! in a squealy, breathy, giggly rush.

I sat down in a chair near him and started chatting with him about my brother's Van Halen album of which I had committed all lyrics to memory and thought this trivia would be impressive in an cool, older boy kind of way. He was very kind to me and his bemused look I mistook for a fraction of interest.

Until he leaned over and in a low voice said, "You have something hanging out of your suit."

Me, ever quick on her feet, rather than excusing myself like a lady, I
asked the single most foolish question available at that exact moment: Really? What?

He, being so much older and mature, merely answered: I think it might be your tampon string.

Wait, did he just say tampon string? Did he actually use the word tampon in front of me? Does he not know we do NOT discuss feminine products? That is why they are called "feminine products" so it makes it sound like you are talking about perfume, or rainbows, or sparkles.

Oh nevermind my scrawny body, a size zero at the time, so the tampon string likely looked like one of my pale skinny legs. I know he was trying to be helpful hence my brother find this out and I be mocked into ruination. I rose immediately giving off a crimson hue of hideous embarrassment. And then I sprinted away like a scalded dog.

My tampon string. The mere discussion of it serving as a verbal version of him spraying teenage girl repellent all over himself. Had he known that one simple sentence would be the catalyst to me avoiding him like the plague for a minimum of one year, he might have used it sooner.

Saturday, February 8, 2014

How it feels to win

In honor of my home town and my home team, I am posting on a weekend. Even if you are not a sports fan, the story can still resonate with you.  In the Spring of 2012, Donald Wood wrote a piece for the Bleacher Report about Draft Day Fails. Here is an excerpt:

With the 2012 NFL draft over and done, it’s time to look back on the teams that failed on draft day and give them a grade.

Certain teams had amazing afternoons, but others teams (I’m looking at you Seattle) completely missed on the concept of trying to improve.

All of the following squads screwed up, but it’s very clear that certain teams have major internal issues. I’m sorry to the fans of all the following teams for the poor drafting.

No. 1: Seattle Seahawks
After one of the worst picks in the first round I can ever remember, the Seattle Seahawks didn't draft any positions of need or draft for the future.

Pete Carroll is proving why he didn’t make it in the NFL the first time. Not only was Bruce Irvin a reach at No. 15, the Seahawks proved they were oblivious to their madness by celebrating their selection.

As if the day wasn’t bad enough, Seattle selecting Russell Wilson, a QB that doesn’t fit their offense at all, was by far the worst move of the draft. With the two worst moves of the draft, Seattle is the only team that received an F on draft day.

Grade: F

F? What do you mean? I finally decoded the mystery and narrowed it down to simple options:
1. F is for F___ Off Donald Wood
2. F is for Did you kiss my SB48 ring? Does it not taste F____ delicious?
3. F is for How you F____ like me now? 

I am betting on Option 2. 

My Father coached Little League football teams my entire youth.  He was a hard ass because he had a precise combination of athleticism, technical understanding of football, intensity, intellect and passion for the game. He could have easily coached at greater heights but did not choose to do so. He was adamant that as a female, I didn't stand on any side line yelling "Yeah...HOMERUN!" so we watched Seahawks games together and I learned about I Formation and the empty backfield. This was old-school Seahawks year #1 of the franchise with Jim Zorn, Steve Largent, Sherman Smith. I have been a fan ever since.

You might not like football. You might not like sports. You might not even know Seattle has a football team. But what many of you can appreciate is anytime someone is told they can't achieve when in fact they can, and will and do. 

Young QB Russell Wilson's mantra of Dream Big, Work Hard, Stay Humble is a simplistic but on-point concept. Derrick Coleman, the first deaf Offensive player in the NFL, was also written off as someone who could never take his athleticism and skill to the professional level because he was deaf. Guess again?  My favorite by-product of his Super Bowl presence is the letter he received from 9- year old deaf twin girls who wrote, among other sentiments, "because of you, we believe that anything can be done even if you have a disability." That is real power. The trajectory of Derrick Coleman and his impact on these girls moved their needle from "Not me" to "Why NOT me." Maybe I am Smarmy Spice but I hope to never lose the ability to be moved by anecdotes like this one.

Let's include Malcolm Smith. He made an elite trifecta by winning the Super Bowl MVP award as only 1 of 3 NFL linebackers to ever do so.  After not a single interception in 43 previous games, he took his first interception during the Super Bowl and returned it 69 yards for a TD. Oh, and Minnesota laughed at Percy Harven? Some Vikings fans mocked: He wanted to get traded and now he has a boo boo! Is it funny now? And The Chancellor? Or what I like to think of as: Part Man, Part Machine. Do you know what the black face mask visor means? It means Grade F like Donald Wood wrote. But F as in "Do Not F with Me."

These levels of commitment and tenacity are inspirational. And we got to participate in sports history.

I am not biased because this is my home team. I am biased because I like champions. I applaud the fact Pete Carroll had a vision he then realized.  How many people actually do this? It is incredible whether you are 12, 32 or 62 (Coach Carroll's age.)

Oh, the backlash after the conference championship game regarding Richard Sherman? He is a thug? That word has now has a variety of connotation and is used on such a sliding scale, I am uncertain it means what people hope it means when they use it. Does it mean he's an arsehole? A dbag? A criminal? Or is he just someone who says, acts and thinks in a way people don't like? If so, he can get in the back of the line behind thugs like Rob Ford, Justin Beiber, Kanye West, Michael Grimm, Donald Trump and half of Congress.  Richard Sherman went to Stanford which I am confident Biebs and Kanye couldn't string those letters together to successfully win their way out of a 3rd grade spelling bee.

You know who doesn't care if people don't like Richard Sherman? Richard Sherman.

In regards to the team, it is stacked with hard-workers and a 'no-name' defensive players. One of my favorite quotes came from Nancy Gay,

Anyone who figured the No. 1 scoring offense powered by Manning, a five-time MVP, might get the upper hand on the NFL’s No. 1 scoring defense was drastically underestimating the ferocity of Seattle’s Legion of Boom.

Legion of Boom? How awesome is that?!? You know what I say? I am in Tennis League or I am into running or I am in PTA. These men, with the ferocity and speed of panthers get to say, "I am in the LEGION of BOOM."

I loved watching them rise. I loved watching them win. I loved watching them do the thing Donald Wood and MANY others said was not unlikely but impossible. Because of social media, it was also spectacular to be completely connected to the action as well as the emotion and reverie of all my friends and family at home and around the US who were experiencing the same elation I was. I want to experience greatness as every one does but I am also thrilled to witness greatness and cheer it on, in whatever form and discipline it comes in. In this case, pigskin style delivered via Seattle. How does it feel to win? Proud of the team who found out during the Super Bowl and all the 12th Man friends along the way.


Tuesday, December 31, 2013

This little light of mine

I read a question recently I found quite compelling:

If you woke up tomorrow with only what you were thankful for today, what would your life look like? 

As we wrap up the year, I am thankful for many things. Perhaps one of the greatest aspects of this year happened during this month of December with our son. He is lucky. He is surrounded by love, opportunity, options. We also strive to surround him with leadership, discipline, choices, creativity and the ability to use his voice and weigh in on some decisions. 

Every year since he was two, we do some kind of service project. They grow every year and because he is 6 now, this year could introduce a broader level of interactive service projects. We want him to understand how fortunate he is and the importance of giving back, doing something, having empathy and being involved. He embraced it quite well this year. Believe me, at age 2 it was a little more of a struggle. 

Me: Hey, lets buy a bunch of toys and give them away to kids in need.
Him: Lets buy toys and keep them. 

As he has gotten older, I have added one or two additional projects. This year he helped me make the list and we are two away from full completion (which we will do today.) In all of the activities, he took a big role in communicating the message of sharing with others. My absolute favorite part is the day he took his acoustic guitar in to a Senior Center/ Assisted Living Facility. He played rock and roll acoustic versions of Christmas songs to a crowd of seniors. He was happy, they were happy and we were tremendously happy.

Who can predict what our son will remember from his childhood when he is an adult. Maybe it will be his teams, his trips or birthday parties with friends. I do hope it will include my awesome ability to make pancakes into numerous different shapes and faces. More importantly, hopefully he remembers all of these actions and activities he did every year to reiterate the importance of giving. We look forward to a new list next year and hopefully it becomes instilled in his own pace and plan on how to build his life. For that, I will be truly thankful too. 

Happiest of New Years to you all. 


A few pics from our Kindness Projects:


Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Time to cry....

My favorite dog, Nixon, got a bee stung once. After the bee stung her, it continued to zoom around her poor ever-increasing in size face as I pulled out my kung fu moves and yelled at that SOB like I was a prison guard. Nixon's face was so distorted, she looked like a float in the Macy's parade. The road to recovery was well paved with baby benadryl for her and a long sip of Cabernet for me. This slight injury had me sick to the gills because my job was to keep her out of harms way. (The time she ate her own ____, well, that's all on her and another story for another day.) I loved her beyond what I ever thought capable for a human to love something covered in fur.

Dog-stories of all kinds impact me but this perhaps holds the gold star. A few minutes that will make you laugh and cry. Well, mostly cry but crying releases toxins so don't be afraid.

Why does it matter? Annually, over 100,000 animals in the US are abused. Approximately every 11 seconds, an animal is put down in a US Animal Shelter. A puppy is not a Christmas present to be loved in December and ignored in July. It takes a special kind of person to advocate for the furry population and it takes a heart of gold AND steel to participate in animal rescue. Could anyone? Yes but I would cry so much and so often, my actual 'help' would be watered down and fall onto the shoulders of others. This holiday season if you are looking for ways to help, you can donate to Hope for Paws, the group behind this rescue and rehab. If you want an additional location to donate, a friend from college works with this organization in Wisconsin: Northstar WI Dog Rescue and Advocacy. 

You can also save a dog from a puppy mill at Milldog Rescue.

MiniMac and I are going tomorrow night to take dog toys to a local shelter in Atlanta. You can call a shelter nearby and ask for specifics and if you can also donate food, treats, etc.

Santa's sleigh might be pulled by eight reindeer but Nixon looked like a deer, had the energy of eight toddlers and could pull that sleigh alone. On behalf of my favorite dog in the world (and I had other boxers but yes, she was my favorite) do something to help another dog in the world. Santa will like you more. Here is a photo from when she was a puppy. If you Dr. Doolittle, The Dog Whisperer or otherwise versed in 'what is that dog trying to tell me', let me help. See this picture? Her expression isn't really saying "How much longer 'til Santa?" it is actually asking, "What in the F---- is the matter with you, Mom? Seriously. Fake pose picture? Deer toy with bells on it I am scolded for trying to eat? REALLY? Someone, help me."

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

The Price of Doing Goodness

Last year, we spent one full day in December with MiniMac doing acts of service and kindness. We filled the backseat of my car with toys for a shelter (all of which were toys he picked out.) We bought gift cards at Starbucks and passed them out to people in line. We took dozens of cookies to fire stations, banks, and a Christmas tree farm. We even stopped by to visit some workers at a hand carwash to have one of them talk to my son about crunk. (We might skip that stop this year.) I have a long list of wishes for our son. One of them is that when he is an adult he will remember the constant iteration that being philanthropic and charitable is not only easy, it is a necessity.

We started December 1 with a reminder  that acts of service and kindness are easy. My Mom is in town for the Thanksgiving holiday and we went to Starbucks on Saturday. After our purchase, I give my credit card to MiniMac and tell him to pay for the beverage of the person at the front of the order line as a way of saying Happy Holidays. He went to her, told her he would like to pay for her coffee and she gave him the biggest smile. He then handed her my credit card and turned and walked back to me and Grammy. Whoops. We need to clarify the logistics but the positive take away was: him smiling, her smiling and the guy behind the counter smiling. The price of doing goodness? $3.19.

When we exited, I asked Mini if he remembered why we do nice things for strangers. Answer I was hoping for: So they in turn will do something nice for someone else. His answer: So they will do something nice right back to me. Well, good option but we can expand on that a bit.  We are currently working on our list for acts of service for the remainder of the month.

For the past several years, I have posted a blog at the beginning of every December called 31 Days of Goodness which are compilations of opportunities to give time, money or heart to worthwhile organizations. For a great overview you can find each list:

31 Days of Goodness December 2009
31 Days of Goodness December 2010
31 Days of Goodness December 2011
31 Days of Goodness December 2012

This year, I am going to highlight a few at a time.

For my Mom and all others that love horses: Save a Forgotten Equine (SAFE). This group vows to make a difference in the lives of at-risk equines. I didn't realize the number of equines at risk until the blizzard in South Dakota earlier this year. As a horse owner, this is a critical issue to my Mom and I am happy to pass it along.

As I have shared on Memorial Day and Veteran's Day, there are many willing to go and do what I am not willing to go and do to protect our country and all of our freedoms. For those who come home altered and broken, there is an organization called Wounded Warrior whose vision is to foster the most successful, well-adjusted generation of wounded service members in our nation's history.

In Disney a few weeks ago, Mini and I briefly spoke to a Make-A-Wish child. Nothing will snap your perspective back in to shape more quickly than seeing a family, filled with true wonder and amazement as their terminally ill child embraces all of the magical aspects of Disney. What I did not realize is there is an adult version of this program granting wishes to terminally ill adults called The Dream Foundation. 

One of the teachers at Sandy Hook Elementary, Kaitlin Roig-DeBellis, who saved her class from the tragic events last December started an organization teaching children compassion through the classroom. Classes4Classes engages teachers and students to pay it forward by supporting classes in need. When a class receives a gift, they find a classroom to donate to going forward.

December is only made better by sharing it with a 6 year old. It is a wonderful time of year to see things differently but also realize that with every impression we make on our son about charity, empathy, service and honor, we are shaping his life and his potential as a future leader. It is hard work but so incredibly worth it. 

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Lessons from high school: Please wash your hands immediately after

I came across the name of one of my high school teachers last week. Although my parents are still in Seattle, I have resided elsewhere since I moved away to college. I thought of this teacher years ago while writing a blog post about an incident I appreciated more in the retelling vs. actually living through at the time. Recently, I kept seeing his name popping up on FB and curiosity led to the discovery he has been diagnosed with cancer. My first thought was, Cancer? Really? Isn't he only 30 years old? Not that cancer checks ID or cares about age. Well, this is an example of practicing what I call 'Hometown Math'. Hometown Math is when you remember a person at the last age you saw them or when they were most prominent in your mind and you simply don't add any additional years to their life. So in the same way I was surprised when I saw an old friend this summer and her daughter was leaving for college, I thought, isn't your daughter only ten? I remember this teacher as he was back in the day: strong, larger than life and 30.

It also made me realize as children we give our teachers very limited dimension. Who is Mrs. Chambers? She is the reading teacher. Who is Mr. Black? He is the math teacher. Who is Mr. G? He likes US Government. We don't think Mrs. Chambers, Mr. Black and Mr. G have entire lives outside of school.  We don't see them this way so we don't realize the layers that create them. Maybe they go boating or fishing on the weekends. Maybe they listen to Creedence Clearwater or Steve Miller and drink Manhattans or red wine. Maybe they meet their college buddies once a year for a long weekend when they reminisce about college girlfriends and the time they were front row at the Supertramp concert.

As children, we often don't realize or fully comprehend the primary reason these people became teachers was to enhance the lives of kids. Their entire career choice was one of impact and dedication. Teachers were graded on our own internal scale of 'easy' to 'hard' to 'impossible mountains of homework.' They were narrowed down to a tiny scope of either "Cool" or "Sucks" and believe me, we, with our abilities to recite facts about WWII, spelling skills and a firm handhold on how to solve algebra problems with grouping symbols felt totally capable of deciding what qualified whether a teacher made it into the "Cool" or "Sucks" categories. With our limited views of the world, we weren't really capable of fairly making these distinctions but it didn't stop us.

We also fail to realize these teachers might also discuss us and as a result, hold strong opinions of who we are as people. Maybe those conversations sound like this: This one? Smart as a whip. This one? Gifted but lazy. This one? Misguided but responsive to leadership. This one? Punk. I think these teachers dedicated themselves to making a connection with every type of student from superstar to punk because if they could find that thread, the way to sync, they could reach inside a child's mind and influence it to greater heights. There is a post on his get well page from a former student: Mr. G, After college I joined Teach for America. I became a teacher because of you. WOW.

Mr. G was tough in school. He had high expectations and a forceful demeanor. He was a competitive athlete (hence the story to come) but those high expectations and that fundamental tenacity is what he demonstrated to his students. Those that paid attention benefited greatly. As an adult now 20 years out of high school, I don't know anything about him present day. He was honored earlier this year for his leadership and civic focus but that I gleaned from an alumni article. Maybe he likes lacrosse. Or listens to Steve Miller. Maybe he has a spouse or kids taking the news quite heavily.

I do know there are many, many other people from our hometown who when given the occasion to think of him would recall He was a great teacher and then realize it is a sentiment we have never shared. It is an appreciation holding even deeper meaning to me now that I have a tiny child in school and what constitutes a good teacher has more relevance and complexity than ever.   Mr. G., I am sending heartfelt sentiment and prayers to you for fast healing and a healthy road ahead. And I should have told you long ago you were a really great teacher.

PS: This story is likely one you don't remember but trust me, I will never forget it.


Back in the day, one of my junior high classes was tasked with the well known “informative speech.”  I wanted to do something more interesting than How to grow a Chia Pet or How to do the moonwalk.  I loved athletics  so I looked to that genre. Casting aside our daily sports of tennis, football, volleyball I opted for something more exotic: lacrosse. Lacrosse was not as common in the PNW (Pacific Northwest) so I set out to learn as much as I could. Do you know Lacrosse? I think the Iroquois (from which the sport derived) translation means: have fun getting your ass kicked. Between lacrosse, hockey, and rugby, I am not certain  which crew is tougher. Or crazier.

One of our teachers at school, Mr. G,  played in a league. It occurs to me now that after a day with hundreds of  8th graders, many an adult might need to run with a stick and smash people but I digress.

Mr. G was happy a student had an interest in the sport and offered to loan me all of his equipment for my speech.

I was first to present so after fetching the equipment from Mr. G’s car, I displayed it on a table next to the podium. I proceeded to deliver in a humorous fashion all the little lacrosse tidbits I had prepared. The history, the field, the players, the lingo. Then I proceeded to show the helmet, the stick , the gloves and pads. Inside the helmet, Mr. G had stored the lacrosse ball in its container. This was placed on the table as well so I lifted it up and showed the ball (or cookie as it is called) in its triangular case and explained this was the ball, and the ball holder.

The girls in the glass have no reaction. They don’t know lacrosse well either, and because they, like me, are innocent doves. Most of the boys in the class giggled quietly because I merely said the words “ball holder.” A few boys in the class, laughed out loud but I had no idea why. Later, two of my male friends in class came to give me the business.

Smirky McJerky: That was a riot about the ball holder. AND you held it up.
Me: I was showing the equipment.
 Smirky McJerky: You showed the BALL HOLDER.
Me: Juveniles ( or more likely: I am SO sure. SHUT UP.)
Smirky McJerky: Wait, you really don’t know what that was?
Me: The plastic ball holder? DUH!
Smirkey McJerky: HHHHHAAAAAAAA. Falls down laughing with our other friend. It is for balls all right. But not the lacrosse ball.

Me: Blank stare and fuming face about to go full tilt. I sense something very embarrassing to me is about to occur. 

Smirky McJerky: HHAHAHAHAHAHA. It’s Mr.G’s CUP. For his balls.
Me: I hate you.  And whaaaaaaaaaaaat? 

So he explains to me what a "cup" is and how it is used. 
I followed this with some OHMYG___ and yikes!!! and SICK!!!!! ! and OHMYG___.
Did I really just stand in front of my entire class and our male teacher and show the plastic protective device Mr. G placed on his manly bits? Did I really just display it so proudly and with more flourish than Vanna White? Did I touch it with my bare hands? Was I one degree of separation from Mr. G’s nether region?  

My older brother played sports but I had never seen such a device. I saw a jockstrap once prior to this moment and thought it was an old school sling shot.

I attempted to avoid hyperventilating as I scurred away to wash my hands a dozens times and scrub them with steel wool. And a warning to anyone else interested in giving informative speeches on lacrosse: If you are handling the sweaty equipment worn the night before by a male you are not married to or raising, the triangular plastic device is NOT what you think it is.  You probably don't want to touch it let alone snuggle up to it like the Hope Diamond. And if you DO hold it a little too closely, please wash your hands immediately after.