Tuesday, November 28, 2006

They call me Misopedia (but only on a really bad day)

I’ve just validated the effectiveness of one of my oldest coping skills. When dreading an event, I’ll come up with a handful of terrible things that could happen. When nothing even comes close to the horrors of my overactive imagination, I can say, “That wasn’t so bad.”

I survived Thanksgiving. It was kind of fun, actually.

The boys slept late. SO and I popped out of bed and started making the sweet potato casserole, Hershey’s chocolate cake, and dinner rolls. I turned on the parade. When the boys came dragging into the living room, they were immediately bored by the floats, marching bands, and lip-synching pop stars. They donned their soccer gear and went outside.

At 10:30, I pulled a wine cooler out of the fridge and took a drink. It didn’t get me tipsy, but psychologically, I felt prepared. By 11:30 we were loading up the van for the short drive to my parent’s house.

“How’s Dad?” I asked my brother while we were unloading the food.

“I’d say he’s a 5 on the Gripe-O-Meter,” he replied. “Started out at 2, but Baby Sis called to say she would be late, and he shot up to a 7. He’s had a while to calm down, so I think he’s evened out at the half-way mark.”

Thank God! Dad had already fixed his baleful eye on another member of the family. Baby Sis was going to be the focus of his ire. I was home free! I’d left another wine cooler in the van as a back-up plan, but it seemed I wouldn’t be needing it. Sure enough, when my sister showed up nearly 30 minutes late, she’d also forgotten the pumpkin pie. Let the griping begin!

Even better, both my kids ate their dinner without complaint. Baby Sis’s oldest child is the world’s pickiest eater. The only way he maintains his stocky build is by gorging on sweets and French fries. He whined through most of the meal, taking the white hot light of Dad’s critical eye off my boys. Anyone who refuses to eat a home-cooked meal earns my father’s ridicule and disdain.

Anyone, apparently, but this 3rd and favorite grandchild. My dad chuckled with amusement when Baby Sis threatened the kid. “You won’t get any chocolate cake!”

“Neither will you, if you don’t clean your plate,” Dad threw back at her.

We successfully avoided any kind of political or religious discussions by playing one of my dad’s favorite games, Balderdash. He doesn't play to win; he plays to amuse. He likes making up definitions for obscure words, but he absolutely loves reading the definitions the rest of us come up with. He actually laughed so hard, he had tears running down his face.

Some samples:


  • mineral found only in the Dead Sea
  • a chemical used to make ale
  • excessive bullying from below the Mason-Dixon line


  • a wooden spike
  • fancy pen
  • famed playwright of the Algonquin Roundtable


  • early American hat
  • ancient form of flying creature from the Cretaceous Period
  • round pebbles found in brooks or streams


  • embalming fluid used in Ancient Egypt
  • Japanese fish chowder
  • a silver killfish found along the US Atlantic ocean


  • parlor game
  • lapdog-like creature from Star Wars lore
  • one who is constipated


  • mutant animal created in a secret lab, a mix of crab and rabbits
  • religious fanatics
  • clogging dance group sensation based out of Pottawatamie County, OK, who rose to the height of popularity during the 1960s before dying in a tragic tainted crawfish-eating contest


  • Dictionary of bugs
  • Compendium of stories
  • hating children, especially your own

My dad was in such a good mood after the game ended, he even challenged me to a game of Scrabble. (I refused, remembering the last time we played in which I was reduced to tears by his accusations that I was cheating. How do you cheat at Scrabble, short of raiding the bag when nobody else is looking?) I think I'm going to incorporate Balderdash in every family gathering from now on. Once the tension starts to mount and the fur to fly, I'll pull it out.

"I've been bolied by you crawthumpters once too often. Now grab a tib and let's have us a gleb!"

Sunday, November 19, 2006

Bottoms up!

Robert Benchley was an avid teetotaler until Prohibition made the speakeasy the hangout of the privileged in-crowd. One night in the fall of 1920, as Dorothy Parker and another friend ordered a round of drinks, he asked them to get him something other than his usual glass of orange juice. At the tender age of 31, Benchley took his first social drink, putting him on the road to alcoholism and eventual death due to cirrhosis of the liver.

I'm not sure I'm ready for social drinking yet, but starting on Thursday, I'm gonna have to get used to knocking back a few in the privacy of my own home. I figure a couple or three bottles of Mike's Hard Lemonade will be all it takes to put a rosy hue on the festivities. The best laid plans of Saint and Queen have fallen apart, and I'm spending Thanksgiving with my family.

It helps to remember what my pastor said this morning. "Every family is dysfunctional in its own way." During our family gatherings, if I'm not criticized for my choice of churches, political affiliation, or for being an all-around smarty pants, then I'm often accused of cheating at Scrabble or am taken to task for my unusually large vocabulary which puts me, according to the clan, at an unfair advantage when playing Balderdash.

Other past Harvest highlights:

  • The year my brother put my (now ex-) brother-in-law in a sleeper hold, nearly causing unconsciousness
  • The infamous dishwasher loading debacle of 2001
  • The gun control debate
  • The "What I Am Thankful For" 45-minute prayer
  • The "Racist Joke" moratorium of 1998
  • The ceremonial retelling of the "Give Them Kids the White Bread" incident
  • The paper-plate fiasco of 2003
For whatever reason, our gatherings are usually tense -- at least for me. And now that I know there's no escaping it, I'm determined to make the best of it. This time, I'm not going to get my feelings hurt. This time, I'm going to have fun. This time, I'm going to compete and win at whatever game we decide to play -- no quarter asked, no quarter given! And if it takes a dash of spirits to get me through it, then so be it.

Cheers, everybody-- hope you have a great holiday! (Hiccup.)

Thursday, November 16, 2006

How can you have any pudding if you don't eat your meat?

It's time to form a committee to plan our annual Christmas Luncheon, the one thing that passes for a social event at my workplace in which we are all invited to whip up a dish of our favorite holiday recipes -- concoctions that call for at least one can of Campbell's soup, a cup of chopped onion, and a "mystery" ingredient passed down from generation to generation.

I was committee chair last year. It's an honor that is supposed to rotate from one department to another, yet this week I was asked to be chair once again. I was flattered and horrified at the same time. Eager to push the responsibility onto someone else, I stammered, "W..w..what about the chair rotation precedent?" The white hot spotlight of responsibility moved from me and focused on another.

Don't get me wrong; I like parties. My favorite time of year is October when I get to plan and execute our annual pumpkin carving party that once got to be so popular among my friends and family, I had to start limiting invitations. I've served on the Christmas Luncheon Committee (CLC) a number of times in various capacities: decorating, clean-up, music, set-up, meat delivery. There seem to be more rules and regulations involved in the planning than there is in a peace treaty negotiated by the United Nations between North Korea and their terrified neighbors to the south. It's a heck of a lot of work, but the food is always good. Sometimes there are complaints, but most people appreciate the endeavor.

Serving as chair, however, is another matter. As Ben Parker famously said, "With great power comes great responsibility." The truth is, I failed in my duties as committee chair. I lost the meat.

There, I said it. Even now it hurts to think about the eager faces, plates in hand, opening the refrigerator the day after last year's Christmas Luncheon to find a foil-topped tray absolutely bereft of smoked briskit and oven-roasted turkey. The day before, I'd watched as committee members consolidated the two trays of meat into one giant vat of cooked flesh easily weighing 10 pounds, licking their lips at the thought of the leftover feast awaiting us all. Alas, it was not to be. By noon the next day, the meat was gone, leaving behind only the faint aroma of barbeque sauce and gravy.

There were plenty of suspects, but few clues. Co-workers were considered and then ruled out, until only a tiny handful of possible culprits remained. There was no proof, so only suspicions remain. The Great Meat Mystery of 2005 remains unsolved to this day.

But I won't give up. As O.J. Simpson famously promised to find "the real killer or killers" of his ex-wife and her friend, so have I vowed to find out who took the meat (that is, unless I can get a publishing deal for a book I'd call If I Took It, a purely hypothetical exercise in which I describe how I would have pulled off the meat heist).

Not that I'm admitting anything, mind you.

Sunday, November 12, 2006

You're yearning, burning for somebody to tell you that life ain't passing you by

It's been awhile since the Class of 1986 held onto the ivy ring, threw our caps into the air and said our goodbyes. When I walked off campus that spring day, I didn't think I'd be back in five years, much less 20.

Forgot about the fact that I'd been elected Senior Class VP. Apparently, it's a lifetime appointment. I might have had second thoughts about running if I'd realized I'd be on the reunion planning committee for the rest of my life. To be honest, I was only trying to get my picture in the yearbook.

We had a pretty good group show up this year, some of my very best buddies. Three of the five original "Manhunters" from Sophomore Follies were there. We reminisced about the faculty and staff directors who, during rehearsal, told us we couldn't shake our hips to the song, forcing us to re-choreograph part of the routine.

Most of the perps from the Great Police Helicopter Chase showed up as well: the driver and four of the passengers. Huffaker retold the story and we all mocked Mercer once again. She was the only one of us who asked to be dropped off at the dorm on our way to the police station, since she'd never been in trouble before.

A contingency of representatives from the Dallas Friday Night Getaway also dropped by, as well as those who went on the Hereford Homecoming Weekend, took part in the infamous Barn Dance, the Toad Suck Daze retreat, Heart Pal Court Bowling Night, every class trip, and much more. I didn't realize how many wild, crazy, and downright stupid things we'd done. One mother gazed at the group of our children nearby and sighed. "If my kid did something like that, I'd kill 'em." A tremor of fear went through us. Once our kids get to college, they aren't going to tell us anything. And it's probably a good thing.

I spent a lot of time visiting with one girl who wasn't part of my crowd. I remember being jealous of her because she snagged a boyfriend during freshman year and continued to date him throughout the next four years. So devoted was he to her that for his photography class project, he created an entire slide show featuring pictures of her -- backlit, soft focus, set to music (I believe it was "Wind beneath my wings"). Meanwhile, the rest of us gals glowered in the classroom, nursing our broken hearts. The couple, still married, had a couple of teenage kids with them and they were all really cool.

Gouldie put together an amazing slide show. She also wowed us with a set of trivia questions: five from each year. A sampling:

  • How many chapels were we allowed to miss during a semester?
  • This fancy free movie became the theme for our sophomore class trip.
  • During our junior year, who gained international attention as the leader of the Polish solidarity movement?
  • What terrible event happened during our senior year, on Jan. 28, 1986?

As much as I complained about having to pull this thing together, I'm glad I made the effort. In their company, the years fell away again. I felt like I was 18 again and breaking curfew to hang out on the dock at the lake, listening to Thriller, or sneaking away to play hide-and-seek in a graveyard with a bunch of other goofballs.

As one reunion attendee put it, "It was 4 years of church camp!" Minus the adult supervision.

Saturday, November 11, 2006

Happy now?

Update: Okay you relentless, competitive folks, here's my updated version:



Are you happy now? You better be!

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Down the rabbit hole

When I woke up this morning, I thought I'd somehow been transported to a parallel universe. How else to explain:

  • Democrats taking the House
  • Democrats close to taking the Senate
  • Donald Rumsfeld resigning
  • Bush admitting Democrats care about national security as much as he does
  • Bush offering to help Nancy Pelosi decorate her office as she becomes the first woman Speaker of the House

Where's the Mad Hatter? Where's the White Rabbit?

I went into the midterm election with about a 90% certainty that, despite the apparent mood of the country and will of the people, dirty politicians would somehow fix the election to skew their way through voter intimidation, malfunctioning Diebold machines, and subterfuge. I had only a smidgen of hope that things would turn out the way I wanted: I want the 2-party system to work again!

Tomorrow, I'll start fretting, but today I'm letting myself feel happy and hopeful about the future. I heard some nameless commentator say that people who were worried about the direction of the country and the state of American democracy should be happy today. It still works! This guy says it better than I could: Is America a great country or what?

Cataloged a fun book this afternoon aimed at elementary kids: If you were an adjective. On the back, the author writes: If you were an adjective, you would make the world colorful. You could be spectacular, brilliant, dazzling, or daring. He offers a challenge: write your name from top to bottom and think of adjectives that describe you.

  • Audreyesque
  • Quirky


  • inQuisitive
  • fUn
  • Energetic
  • Empathetic
  • Nice

I cheated a little, but I think it works.

Okay, humor me. Saint, DoOL, Gypsy, Minx, Loonie, PastGrace, and other faithful readers, it's your turn!

Monday, November 06, 2006

Weekend miscellany

­­Gouldie’s son was baptized at church yesterday. As she and her Sweetie stood before us with a contingency of family and friends, The Boy entertained all of us with his refreshing honestly. “Will you promise me something?” asked the minister. “Will you always remember you are a child of God, and a child of this congregation, and we all love you?” The Boy shook his head no, to the laughter of all who were watching.

My in-laws came back from England bearing gifts: soccer jerseys for all the boys. LegoGuy was ecstatic to receive a Kelly green jersey from Ireland; Sport nearly came unglued when he was given an England team jersey with BECKHAM emblazoned on the back; SO looked all of 10 years old when they handed him a Liverpool jersey. “I’m going to wear this to bed tonight!” he joked. I got a bag of English candy and a David Beckham calendar. Mmmmm.

We had our Staff Appreciation dinner on Saturday night. One night a year, library staff dusts off some of our more formal clothes and mingle. I even put on a pair of heels. (I forget how painful high heels are – but they sure make my legs look darn good, even if I do say so myself.) My good buddy, The Saint, won a major award. That, in itself, was worth the effort of finding something to wear, fixing my hair, and caking on the make-up. Even better was what Sport had to say when I got home. Half asleep, he asked me what had happened.

“The Saint won!”

“What did he win?”

“Five hundred dollars!”

“Cold, hard cash?”

Sport was served a piece of humble pie after his previously undefeated soccer team lost, 6-3. Their star player didn’t show up, and they stumbled during the first half as the other team’s star player got a hat trick. Sport put on the goalie gloves after the half and successfully defended while the Wildcats evened up the score. But during the last quarter, the coach put in another goalie, and 3 more goals were scored, each by the same hotshot. It was a bitter pill to swallow. “There goes our record,” Sport moaned.

LegoGuy spent Saturday morning cooking an appreciation lunch for The 363, a group at our church that usually cooks and serves meals to the homeless every other weekend. He spent 3 hours dicing vegetables, serving hot plates of food, scooping ice cream and washing dishes. Through it all he was pleasant and upbeat. “At least I didn’t have to chop onions!”

As for me, I gave one of my favorite videos another viewing: Mrs. Parker and the Vicious Circle. I love Dorothy Parker. I love the 1920s: my favorite decade. I love the clothes. I'd give anything to go back in time and spy on the Algonquin Roundtable. But watching the film again made me think, if you're going to be famous, it's better to die young.

So it's probably a good thing I'm not famous.

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

Protocols of Halloween

Only 30 minutes from the onset of darkness, Sport discovered that a key element of his Halloween costume was missing, left at his grandmother's. I had a scant half hour to come up with something that would satisfy his urge to transform into a thing otherworldly. I searched through my craft drawer and found some make-up from last year's scream fest. After a hurried consultation, we came up with the possibility of a Dead Pirate.

I layered the kid's face in white make-up, gave him some deep-set eyes and a mouth dripping with blood. LegoGuy let him borrow a set of bubba teeth. I found an old blonde wig. Sport was sufficiently scary, but he also looked like his costume had been thrown together at the last minute. Which it had.

The wig hair kept getting in his eyes, so we tied a bandana around his head. He transformed into a Dead Hippie. That wasn't scary enough for him, however. He wanted to carry a bloody knife.

"Hippies don't carry knives. They're all about peace and love, man!"

Frustration mounted. This wasn't good enough for Halloween. It had to look better. We scrounged through the costume box. Finally, the child's love of sports saved the day. We pulled off the hippie duds and put on the OU football uniform. He became: the Dead Football Player.

LegoGuy, too old this year for trick-or-treating (his words, not ours) volunteered to man the candy station. SO and I layered up and went out into the wind, joining a handful of children trekking down our street.

At first, the DFP was sluggish. The siren call of candy wasn't as captivating this year. Maybe he missed his brother. Maybe he was too cold. Maybe his OU helmet was blocking his view. Whatever the explanation, he started to get into the groove and increased his door-to-door speed when we made it to the next block.

SO and I commented, as we do every year, on the sparse crowd of kids. Aaahh, how we longed for the good old days, when hundreds of kids ran through the neighborhood, screaming in terror as home-owners jumped from behind bushes, or dressed as scarecrows, standing motionless until hapless children came into sight, then scaring the bejeezus out of them. Those were some good times!

With so many different arenas vying for their participation -- the mall, churches, and schools -- those kids who do traditional trick-or-treating are relatively few in number. There's also a limited amount of home-owners who participate, and fewer houses with their porch lights on, beckoning kids to the door.

And don't get me started on those houses that break proper Halloween protocol.

If you've got your porch light on Halloween night, and you don't answer your door to desperate, sugar-craving kids, you have broken a sacred trust. Your house should be egged; the windows of your car ought to be soaped. Worse still are those houses that are decorated for Halloween, with porch lights on, but no one home. What is a child to think of that? And what of those homes with no porch lights on, but they're decorated for Halloween, and the lights are on in the living room. It's a mixed message, people! You are messing with kids' minds! They don't know what to do. We came across groups of small children, frozen with indecision, whimpering on darkened lawns. It's a terrible thing to do to the costumed.

We only came across one house who truly had the spirit of Halloween's past. Their porch light had been replaced by a black light. Something -- someone? -- lurked on the front porch: faceless, lumpy, looking much like a giant potato. As the DFP walked by, the Potato-Man made guttural noises, trying to lure our ghostly athlete to the stash of candy hidden nearby.

"Don't you want to go up?" we asked the DFP.

"No way!" He went to the next house. SO and I stood on the street and watched as the Potato-Man inched closer. Moaning, he held out his misshapen hand. DFP made a beeline for the next house. Potato-Man turned toward us, gesturing. We giggled nervously and followed our kid, moving from the past and into the present.

Here's the Dead Hippie, before he morphed into the Dead Football Player.