Tuesday, August 30, 2011

ah, family...

Every Labor Day weekend since we've been married, my husband's family has gathered for our family reunion. Family reunions are such a funny invention -- totally great, of course, but they often bring out the awkward in someone... usually me.

A few years ago, one such instance happened during mealtime on day two of the reunion. I had brought my usual homemade treat to share with the fam, which, I should mention, I had brought for at least the past 4 years, at the request of several in-laws. They are Grandma Porter's Cinnamon Twists and they are absolutely divine. Really, they are seriously delicious, and while I know each of my sisters and my mom honestly believe that they know how to make them best, I would win in a taste/presentation test, hands down. Sorry girls, it is what it is. Bring it.

Anyhoo, as we were all enjoying my Twists, one member of the family (who shall remain nameless to protect the guilty) came up to me and proudly announced, "Well, Marianne, I believe you are the most improved cook in the family!"


...What's he/she saying? I've been the painfully unaware, but widely undisputed worst cook in the family? What, do I have a reputation as the one most in need of improvement? "Blah, don't let Marianne make anything, have her bring the cups." Is that why they always assign me to bring chips at all the family gatherings? Because they think I can't cook? Well this is a tiny bit awkward. ...Except that it's kinda funny.

Don't worry, while I really wanted to burst out laughing and halfway wanted to get offended and say something snarky, I DO actually adore this person, and the rest of the clan come to think of it, even if they think I can't cook; so the sliver of grace in me rose to the surface. I winked, raised my Twist at the intended complimenter, and said, "Why thank you!" And I've made sure to volunteer to bring the chips at every function ever since. I'll kill them with kindness. Or chips.

Then there was the year of the peaches. A few years back, someone began the tradition of bringing a large box of freshly picked peaches. Mmmm. LOVE peaches. But I believe this was the first year they had been brought, and it seemed like every time I turned around, someone was talking about the peaches. I couldn't get through a meal without four people asking me if I didn't love the peaches. "Oooh, Marianne, don't you LOVE these peaches?" "You better go get some more peaches, Marianne, these are the best peaches EVER!" "Hey, everyone, aren't these the greatest peaches ever harvested in all of creation?!"

Okay, they were good peaches, but come on, can't we talk about something else? Like the weather? Or how to change a tire? Or politics? Yeah, I'd even take politics over peaches. I mean, how many ways can you agree with someone about a tasty peach, for heaven's sake? "Yessirree!" "You bet!" "Mmmm, MMMM, these ARE good!" "I know, I could talk about them all day, too!"

Okay, so I'm sure I was being weird about it. But on the last day, we always gather for a "what we liked and want to repeat next year" meeting. And of course, someone said, "Oooh! I loved the peaches, make sure you bring some next year!" And of course, that brought several more, "Oh, I DID love those peaches!" "Yes, those were the best!" "I'm thinking of trying to marry those blessed peaches, they were so delicious!!" etc. etc. etc.

Well that about did me in. So I leaned over to Dave and whispered something like, "Oh. My. Lands. Are we STILL talking about the peaches? I mean, I know they're good, but my heavens, how long can a person rave about peaches?! Every time there's a lag in the conversation, someone's bringing up the peaches!"

Only it turns out I wasn't really whispering. I was doing that loudish whisper, the kind they teach you to do in theater, so the guy in the back row can hear you, even though you're whispering. So as I turned from his ear, I realized everyone was watching me, and, of course listening to my non-whispering.

So, gracefully, I'm sure, because I'm always graceful if nothing else, I said something along the lines of, "Well, COME ON! They're just PEACHES! How much to we have to talk about it?? They're PEACHES!"

Yep. Awkward. I'm sure everyone was thinking, "Sheesh, Marianne must not like peaches. Write that down: 'Bring peaches, but not enough so that Marianne feels like she needs to eat some.'"

I'm kidding. They all handled my awkwardness well -- which was sporting of them. I think some of them have a little bit more grace than I do.

I have about forty more of those stories, but lest I finish on a note that really seals the deal on my awkwardness, I'll finish with one about my kids instead. This one's from my family reunion. Every year, we go camping at the same spot up Big Cottonwood Canyon. It's a great little campground, with tons of trees and shade, and paved roads, so the kids can bring their bikes and ride around the trails all day. Unfortunately for my kids that year, we hadn't brought our bikes.

The cousins usually want to all sleep together, all the girls in one tent, all the boys in another. This year was Slade's first time sleeping in the boys' tent. There were four or five of them squashed into a little tent probably made for 2 or 3, so they were having a hard time settling down. After two or three times of someone coming out to complain about something or other, I headed over with my brother to see what we could do to help out. As I approached, I could hear one of my nephews trying to explain his hogging of the space. As I squatted down to peer into the tent, my brother said to his son, "If you don't settle down, so help me, you will lose your bike privileges tomorrow."

It was suddenly deathly quiet in the tent. No one moved, no one spoke -- until Slade broke the silence with, "Is it a new bike?"

You could almost see the little wheels turning in his head, imagining himself riding around on his cousin's shiny bike. That's my boy.

It's a bit of a tragedy, really. This year we won't be able to go to more than a day or so of the reunion. I'm not sure that's enough time for my awkwards to show up.

Oh well. There's always Christmas.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

on cars and egos...

Today is not one of those days where I'm feeling very on top of things. I just got home and found myself locked out. I went around the house to let myself in and walked into approximately 11 pairs of shoes in the entry way (how many people live in this house?), 6 loads of laundry in the mudroom (hey, it's CLEAN. It's just, you know, waiting to be folded...), an empty refrigerator (well every time I put food in there, someone eats it!), a bolt of canvas and 16 sheets of poster board awaiting their new lives as 96 trek journals in the dining room, a year's worth of receipts and bills to file on the computer desk, several rooms that could use a little more than a "quick cleaning," two finals to study for, and a doofy looking hairdo to top it all off.

Which is why I'm blogging instead of doing any of those things.

I am so productive.

On the plus side, the trip to the car wash really boosted my ego. I didn't realize how cool I was until I was pulling out. I was feeling pretty good already, what with the vacuumed interior, the sparkling exterior, and that sweet smelling vanillaroma christmas tree air freshener hanging off the emergency brake. Sure, I had just come across 5 months worth of miscellaneous kid fodder (2 Happy Meal toys, 3 Readers Digests, 1 notebook, an olive colored Sharpie, 1 sock, 3 gloves, 2 hairbrushes, 1 comb, a roll of toilet paper, someone's t-shirt, 4 piggies, 5 bobby pins,a hanger, and the old cell phone that no longer has service but has the best version of Tetris on it), all a sad reminder of the things a family can collect if you neglect the car wash too long; and of course, there was the inch of water in one of the cup holders that had leaked from the window in the "Super Spray" portion of the wash (is that not normal?); but hey, I was looking GOOD in that clean thing of mine.

Then I looked around at the other cars on the way out of the vacuum area. There were two really big trucks: a Ram 25,000,000 and a GMC Delani 5 Billion or something. There was a red little Smart Car next to the brand new red Mitsubishi Eclipse Spyder (which you KNOW must be cool if they spell a normal word weirdly), and a black 2010 Toyota Sequoia, Shiny Edition.

Then there was me -- me and my 2003 Scooby Van (aka Chevrolet Astro. That's right, people, the AstroVan! It even sounds cool!). Sure, it may have been the oldest vehicle in the lot; sure, everyone probably wondered why I bothered spending money to get it washed (actually, as I was soaking up that inch of water with that handier-than-I-realized roll of toilet paper, I was kinda wondering the same thing); sure, mine was certainly the only car that someone paid under $2500 for; but here was my little Scooby Van, rubbing shoulders with the big guys. We had made it to the big leagues. It was a privilege to be in the same car wash with these vehicles.

Yeah, I may have more laundry to fold than I could ever wear (mostly because it's not mine), shoes that never seem to make it to the shoe bin (also not mine), and doofy-looking hair (mine, but I'm embracing it), but at least I've got the Scooby Van. I don't think it gets much better than this.

Anyone want to go for a drive? I'm thinking of hanging at the car wash, giving the 'ol girl a chance to mingle...

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

not-so-super-mom... again.

So it's summer. Really. I think it really is today. I think we might actually stay above 50 degrees until October. Here's crossing my fingers and knocking on OtterPops anyway.

The past two weeks have been filled with several awards ceremonies and other miscellaneous end-of-the-school-year whatzits. Because Dave and I have such goofy schedules, we've been taking turns hitting the different functions in order to ensure the presence of at least one parent for each child's big deal. Sixth grade graduation was the day before the last day of school. Since the twins had a book report they requested their father's attendance at later in the day, I took the graduation.

This was our third 6th grader to graduate, but the first 6th grade graduation I hadn't helped plan and pull off. I felt like this was going to be a vacation since the last two had been a full day of ceremonies, food, and activities for 90 tweens. There had been no time for sweet reflections (sigh, my little girl's growing up...), not a moment for the outfit-check (everything tucked in? Anything hanging out?), not even a second for the camera check (well it's not like they're in caps and gowns, I can get a picture of her with her graduation certificate later...).

Because I have no pictures of my older girls graduating from 6th grade, I felt it was safer to leave the camera at home again this time, thus avoiding awkward questions later ("Mom, why did you take all those pictures of her graduating, and none of me?!"). I didn't realize my blunder until after the graduation speakers had wrapped up their "this isn't the end, it's only the beginning/we are the future/as we go forward, standing on the threshold of tomorrow/oh the places you'll go/follow your dreams!" and other such inspiring thoughts.

Solemnly, the principal walked to the podium to instruct the students on how to properly receive their diplomas. "Students, you'll stand up, walk allllll the way around the back of the auditorium, and wait here until we call your name," she said. "Then you'll come forward, shake all of our hands, get your diploma, and exit the stage right across here."

Right. Got it. Around the back of the auditorium, wait there, names get called (I cheer extra loudly on Ry), they shake hands, they exit the stage.

"But before you leave the stage, you'll stop right here," the principal continued. "Right here, where this 'x' is on the floor, in this spot with all the balloons and the spotlight and the little nook that looks like it'll be just perfect for your graduation photo. Right here you'll stop and hold up your diploma so your moms can get a picture of you, and you'll never forget this special day and how it felt to graduate from the best elementary school on the planet!"

Photo? You mean, like, with a camera? Like the one I left at home sitting on the table with dead batteries? Taken by the mom? I mean, like, me??

Flashback to those 45 seconds at home when I said to myself, "I'd hate for anyone to think I was playing favorites by bringing my camera to only one child's graduation..." Good call, mom. Flashforward to picturing Ry walking up the stage, shaking hands, receiving her diploma, and then stopping to pause for her glorious graduation photo on the little 'x' in the spotlight and no one steps forward to flash a picture of this most precious moment in all of 6th gradedom.

I could be wrong, but this could be a bad mommy moment. Nothing says "Your mommy doesn't really love you" more than being the only kid not getting her picture taken while the entire 6th grade and their parents, grandparents, siblings, cousins, and pets look on. Hey, everybody, look at that kid who isn't getting her picture taken! Doesn't anyone love her??

They called up the first class and I watched, carefully, to see if anyone, anyone else in this blessed room neglected to bring a camera. There! That girl there! Oh, no. No, her mom, dad, grandmother, aunt, and call me crazy, but that looks like a complete stranger, just stepped out from behind the mass of moms waiting with their cameras. Snap, flash, snap, snap. Every single kid had someone taking their picture.

Just as they called Ry's class up, I remembered that every cell phone on the planet is equipped with a camera, and I. Have. A. Cellphone! I'm saved! And then I remembered that I've been trying to milk out my 4-year-old phone and the camera isn't working any more. Flashforward to imagining myself pretending to take her picture with my broken camera, and having some well-meaning woman behind me point out the fact that my phone didn't actually take that picture, I'd better try again.

Curse you, stupid camera phone and overly helpful woman! As Ry's class filed by my row, I frantically tried getting her attention. I stood up and waved my arms like a crazy woman. Luckily, that stealthy move caught her eye, and she beamed and waved at me. Instead of smiling back with the "thumbs up" she was expecting, I made the "cut" motion over and over across my neck and mouthed obviously enough for everyone in the near vicinity to catch what I was saying: "I DON'T HAVE MY CAMERA!!"

Bless that child. She grinned and mouthed, "That's okay," as she shook her head and moved forward in the line. Then, with far more composure than I had exhibited, she waited until they called her name (WOO-HOO RY!), confidently walked up the steps, shook hands, shook hands, shook hands, received her diploma, waited for the kid in front of her to clear the 'x', then gracefully stepped over it on the way to her seat.

She handled it like a pro. Almost as well as I did, I think.

Note to self: Camera at graduation. The end.

Monday, May 9, 2011

btw, idk abt tlwbd...

Okay, so it's been 45 years since my last post. What can I say? I keep wondering if I should just close this puppy down, but then I fear I'll never write anything at all - well, except maybe papers for school and essays for scholarship applications. Maybe I'll start posting those; at least there'd be something new to read. I'm sure everyone's dying to know why "I Did/Didn't Vote in the Last Election Because..." or "I Am a Conservative/Liberal Because..." Fascinating. Actually, the research paper on the Greene Brothers turned out nice. It even had pictures. I was never allowed to take up space with pictures in high school. But then I didn't really have the internet in high school either, so, you know...

Okay, so I won't post my papers; and I might even start posting something more often than every 9 months. Besides, I DO have four followers. I can't let my loyal fans down. Haha. I'm seriously laughing out loud to myself right now - or should I have said LOL? Blech. ...Which brings me to my reason for posting today.

This morning I was texting one of my friends about the carpool. I have to admit, she is one of the top 5 fun people to text because she always texts funny things. Not necessarily like "I can't stop laughing right now for hilarity in text," although she's had her moments there; but always stuff that at least makes me smile.

I think people roll their eyes when they see they're getting a text from me. That's probably because I'm not the most concise texter (or speaker, or blogger, for that matter). I've had more than one person tell me they always know they're getting a text from me when a text rings in and is immediately followed by another (and often another, and sometimes another more). Okay, so I have a lot to say; or I have a way of saying a little in a lot of words, I don't know which. But on top of my superfluous use of words, I have to say that I'm not really a fan of textese, or textspeak or SMS language or whatever they're calling it, which is certainly going to make my texts longer.

Sure, when I first started texting, I'd say 2 instead of to or too or two. And u instead of you, and r instead of our or are. And I admit it, I used the :) and ;) quite often. But over the past several months I've found myself shifting out of textspeak. And I'm even finding it difficult to use the :). I'll type "(insert smiley here)" instead. THAT could be the reason people get 5-page texts from me. I'm using up like 20 characters, where I could be using two.

I think it was LOL that tipped me overboard. One of our friends told us that his mom always thought that LOL meant Lots of Love. When the family's grandmother passed away, she sent out a text to the everyone that read, "Your grandmother has died. LOL."

I suspect that may have actually been a Readers Digest joke or something. But apparently, according to Wikipedia, LOL can mean Lots of Love too. See? Too confusing.

So I don't use it. I have lots of friends who do, which is fine, but I just can't bring myself to do it. My daughters know this, so they love to send me texts that say, "LOL, I'm going to Ellen's," or to read me people's facebook statuses that have things like, "Just walked into a wall. LOL!" Just not a fan.

But I think the thing that really sealed the deal for me was when I received a totally baffling initialism from my mom. We had been texting back and forth about some challenging thing my family was dealing with at the time, and at the end, my mom said some encouraging words of some sort and then, "And remember, TLWBD."

Um... What??? I admit, I'm not really up on the current terms, except for maybe BTW, JK, GTG and of course, LOL. But TLWBD? What in the world is that one? After trying a few fill-ins myself (To Labor With Bodily Discomfort? That Liars Will Be Damned? Tomorrow's Life Won't Be Death?) I texted her back and said, "Okay, so I know I'm out of it, but I have no idea what TLWBD means."

She texted back and said, "Oh, that's just textspeak for The Lords Will Be Done."

Of course. Silly me. I'm just saying, that wasn't listed in Wikipedia's list of Common Initialisms.

Friday, August 13, 2010

the legend of the legend...

I don't think I told you that we finally gave up on the Rec Center and moved to the real gym. It will come as no surprise that I was a bit torn about the whole thing, given the fact that we had worked so hard on those non-relationships with all those people we had nicknamed. I find it quite a tragedy that I'll never know what happens to all my Rec-Center-Sorta-Friends... Will Sweaty-John-Jones ever know the impact he had upon my daily punishment at the Rec? (As in, Note to self, and all within a 10-foot radius of the man and his elliptical: Stay back. He lives up to his nickname -- drippingly so.) Will Evan, the 60-year-old twin of Dave's 5-year-old nephew, ever know how I puzzled over his utilitarian choice of working out in his swim trunks? And the Jazz Man: Is he still wearing those shiny, purple shorts?

But I wonder most about The Legend. Have I told you about The Legend? The Legend was a tall, thickset guy who usually arrived at the gym just after Dave and I showed up; but he never went "in" the "Out" to get a treadmill. No, The Legend lived only for the weight room. Every day he showed up in sweats that fit a bit too snugly, accompanied by a weight-lifting novice. The Legend and his protege would commandeer the pads in the corner and occupy that spot for at least 45 minutes, doing what?

Stretching. That's right, stretching. In fact, I think that's all I ever saw him do. I remember him giving his apprentice weight lifting tips, but I'm almost certain that I never saw The Legend himself do more than stretch.

The Legend would regale his adoring audience (i.e. his loyal, beginning weight-lifter friend) with tales of the old football glory days, and how he never missed his ritual stretches before their practices. "I never had an injury," he'd say, "because I always made sure I was really stretched and loose before I played. Those other guys," he'd expound, "they just flew through stretching, but they were always benched with new injuries. No, never had one injury." I suspect that The Legend may have avoided injuries simply because he got too wrapped up in the stretching bit; thus he never actually engaged in the Football Game Proper. Just a guess, though.

The Legend was the ultimate expert on stretching. It was rumored (by himself, of course) that he could still do the splits, although he never showed us. ...Probably not enough room or something. Either that or he needed to stretch for another 2 hours before he was ready to pull off the splits, but none of us had that kind of time.

When he wasn't talking about stretching, he was talking about his promising plans to make millions. "Why, I could write myself a $200,000-a-year job," he said one day. Actually, I could too, I'm just not sure that anyone would actually give me that job...or The Legend, for that matter. "It's all about the business model," he'd often repeat, whatever that meant. He certainly seemed to have a lot of untapped potential. At least he talked like he did.

What was great about The Legend was that even if he didn't really know what he was talking about, he sure made it sound like he did. That's actually how he got his nickname.

We began to call him The Legend when one of the other weight room patrons asked him if he was a personal trainer -- an understandable mistake, what with all the weight-lifting advice he was giving his faithful follower. The fact that he didn't lift the weights himself added to the personal trainer impression, since you rarely see a personal trainer doing more than standing around shouting encouragement. And with his bulky build, he almost could have been a body builder gone soft. ...Extremely soft.

So when asked if he was a personal trainer, he smiled and said, "No," and he paused wistfully. "No," he repeated with a sigh, "I'm just a legend in my own mind, right Gary?" I couldn't believe my luck. A Legend. That day, The Legend bestowed upon himself his own nickname.

So having left the Rec Center, I can't help but wonder about The Legend. Has he made his millions? Did he get his $200,000 self-written job? How's his stretching coming along? And most importantly, can he really do the splits?

Some things we'll never know.

Tragic, isn't it?

Friday, July 16, 2010

a good beginning

I love a good beginning. It's almost as delicious as a good ending. Take books, for example. You can tell how fantastic a book's going to be by the first paragraph, sometimes even the first sentence. "It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a good fortune must be in want of a wife." Classic. "It was the best of times, it was the worst of times...." Okay, so I never read that one, but what a beginning. "In the beginning God created the Heaven and Earth..." Now that's promising.

Contrast those happy examples with a book that was recommended to me several years ago. "You've got to read this book, Marianne, you're going to LOVE it," I was told by my over-enthusiastic and painfully unimaginative friend. I took it hesitantly because it was in a genre I don't particularly care for anyway. But try it, I did.

I can't remember the name of the book, but I'm certain it had a cheesy-looking cover, with a strikingly lovely pioneery-looking woman, gazing out over a wind-swept field. Her bonnet was hanging loosely on her shoulders, leaving her hair, of course, flowing in the wind behind her. Cliche and cheesey. It was paperback, and obviously well-loved by its owner, who, truthfully, I didn't really know very well. This was particularly distressing because I couldn't open it confidently with consoling thoughts of "she's never let me down before..."


The first line: "It was a good night for dying."

And that's as far as I got. Without a doubt, it was cheesy, cliche, and over-dramatic. Please. I just couldn't bring myself to do it. Now that I think of it, I should have flipped to the last page to see if the ending topped the beginning.

Not knowing the ending, I've kindly come up with a few of my own:

"As she lay the posies upon the freshly turned soil, she allowed herself one last tear for the life lived, and the love lost... 'I will never forget. Never,' she vowed. And the wind blew softly across her brow... The End." I hate endings like that.

What about this one: "'And that, Mary Martha, is why I'll never let you outta my sight agin.' And he never did..." No, that's silly, surely this lovely wind-blown beauty would not be named Mary Martha.

In all likelihood, the ending matched the beginning: "Yes, it was a good night... for living" (sniff).

Blast. I'll never know.

Oh well. It's late, and I can't remember the point of this post. G'nite.

I owe you one.