Lyrical Laughs

Saturday, March 29, 2014

Tread(mill)ing to my own Tunes

I was in the groove, cruising along at warp speed, which for me is 2.5 mph, on the gym treadmill. I was feeling empowered, energized, engaged in the rhythm of the moving floor pulling me along -

To the sound of Olaf's song In Summer from the Frozen soundtrack.

And that's how I roll.

For Christmas my very thoughtful and observant spouse, knowing I would love having some tunes in my head while I envy how easily everyone else in the gym seems to be able to get off the treadmill without a parachute, ordered an MP3 player for me to use when I (try to) walk.  It came with zero directions, and it didn't want to play nice with my iTunes on my laptop. So I held onto it until I could get together with someone who had specialized knowledge in electronics. My children. In this case, my future son-in-law, who is extremely patient when I hand him things like this and say "Make it work, please."

During the short time we were with the kids a couple of weeks ago at our niece's wedding, The Fiance had figured out that the MP3 player wanted the iTunes songs to be MP3s - and so he did that for me, making a separate file for me to keep MP3 versions in.

I want to say here and now that I thoroughly appreciate the fact that he acknowledges my inability to retain simple instructions.

Let's get back to me and my treadmill tempo. As I bopped to Love Is An Open Door and glanced around the room, I was thinking that I was probably the only person there who was listening to the soundtracks from Frozen and Wicked, a couple of numbers from the movie Music and Lyrics, Christmas tunes by a cappella group Pentatonix, and - yes, I admit it - a few pieces from Glee.

It's not that I can't exercise to the songs you may be used to hearing on the radio. I just don't have the same connection with "Daisy Dukes, bikinis on top"as I do with "Pop Goes My Heart" which is, ironically, a fake 80s hit. I wouldn't be fitting any body parts into Daisy Dukes - my style is more Delta Burke (that's not a slam - I love Delta Burke). And I haven't worn a bikini since I was 7.

The thing is, I never just sing. I get into it. If you see me drive by you will probably realize that I don't notice you. That's because I'm in the middle of performing at Madison Square Garden, perhaps harmonizing with Pink, trading verses with Michael Buble, or simply taking over when Idina Menzel needs a break. And the hand movements - there has to be a little action to go with the attitude. My girls know that being in the car with me and music means there will be choreography at stop lights (and possibly if we're moving really, really slowly).

So I have to wonder... did the guy to the left of me who was working up an actual sweat running on his treadmill happen to notice that I closed my eyes during "Let It Go" - which he obviously couldn't hear - and hope I wasn't about to lose my balance and catapult backwards into the wall? And the woman who was looking for a machine in the row in front of me - did she catch the combination of pain and passion in my eyes when "Don't Write Me Off" was playing in my head and hope I wasn't about to make a pass at her?

It doesn't matter what rocks me when I roll on one of these things. It only matters that I've dragged myself to the gym, spent a half hour pounding along, occasionally attempting to sip on my bottled water while trying to hold onto the railings the whole time. That's where I'm off to this morning, in order to walk off maybe one or two buffalo wings after going out to dinner last night at one of our favorite local spots (we're not going to talk about the beer or the garlic mashed potatoes... or the dessert).

So if you happen to spot me trudging along at the speed of snail on a treadmill, feel free to wave, even though chances are I'll be absorbed in the music (if not fascinated by Saturday morning television) and may not notice.

But if I do... please come and help me back to my feet after I wave, lose my balance and slam into the wall.

Saturday, March 22, 2014

Brenner, Bombeck, and why blue is not my color

In 1977 when I was 17, my sister and I got tickets to the Oakdale for a performance that to this day is one of the best shows I've ever seen.

The amazingly versatile and talented actor, singer and dancer Ben Vereen came on like gangbusters and captured his audience immediately. From the moment he appeared we were mesmerized by his voice, his moves, and his incredibly engaging presence. I wish I could have seen him as the Wizard in Wicked on Broadway in 2005 - even almost 30 years later I have no doubt he would have held my attention the same way he did back then. He has always been a class act.

On a completely different note and with no singing, dancing, or acting ability that we knew of, a comedian by the name of David Brenner took to the stage. I can't tell you one thing he said that day but I can tell you that we laughed so hard our bodies ached. I was so sad to hear that he died this past week. Even though I had not seen him perform in a long time, I think he was one of the best in the business.

Like Ben Vereen, David Brenner was someone I admired as a performer for so many reasons, not the least of which was that he didn't have to be obscene in any way to keep you coming back for more. I remember seeing him on television a lot in the 70s (as Paul Reiser mentions, the funny man seemed to constantly be making an appearance somewhere, thankfully, since it preceded the VCR days) and my parents thought he was a riot. Considering that I was a teenager, it's hard to believe I had anything in common with my parents back then, but finding David Brenner hysterical was definitely something we agreed on.

Granted, when he was at the height of his career there was minimal if any swearing on television. In fact, even movies that had a lot of profanity were actually R movies, instead of being passed off as PG - you didn't have to fret about whether your kid was going to learn a new word at a PG movie then (before they slipped in PG13 to give cursing a little more leeway). What is accepted on television these days boggles the mind and makes many parents want to keep a lock not only on their kid's laptop, but on the remote control.

Here's the thing. I don't tend to use curse words as a way to make a point. I wasn't brought up to take swearing lightly, and neither were my kids. Do I drop a blue word now and then? Oh yes. Did my girls learn to never go anywhere near their father when he was working on the car? As if there was a black cloud above his head ready to burst into flames from the sheer force of his language.

But generally, it's not how I communicate. If you really want to make me sound prudish, consider this: I did not allow my daughters to use the word "crap" in general growing up. It was just a word that sounded distasteful (come on, think about it) and I tried to instill in them that they are intelligent enough come up with something better. On occasion I will use that word but I still find it just a disgusting reference... the phrase makes me think of dog poop. It's just a thing with me, as my college student would say.

Now, before someone reading this starts tapping away to tell me off because they think I'm saying you're an idiot or unintelligent if you swear - Hold The Phone (and keyboard). That's not it at all, and I'm really not going to hang my head for instilling in my children the idea that I wanted them to have some self respect when they speak, which gives others a chance to respect them. All I'm saying is that my heroes are people who express themselves in a way that I can relate to. I can't relate to profanity.

We have actually been given free tickets to comedy shows that my whole family was disappointed in - not because they weren't funny - because they used swearing as a crutch to be funny. You're probably thinking I found that stuff hysterical when I was younger. Well, no. George Carlin's seven bad words you can't say on television didn't make me laugh. I haven't changed with the times either, no matter how much more accepting swearing is. The opening acts to Gabriel Iglesias were.... eh. But I loved Gabriel Iglesias. Ironically, I watched a clip on him after seeing him perform at our daughter's college last year, and he talked about how another comic told him that to really make it in the business, he might want to consider being a little less 'blue'. Straight up great advice.

For the same reason, I have always hoped to emulate Erma Bombeck's writing when I have had the opportunity to share something I've penned. Again, knowing her era was not one that readily accepted swearing as a means to a laugh, I do understand that modern day writers don't see it as that much of an issue. Maybe it's not for some folks, and that's their prerogative. It doesn't necessarily stop me from reading good material and admiring a writer's style and wit. But it also doesn't make me want to travel down that same road. I will remain a little less edgy, a little more "boring" - a little more me.

I know now that my kids are away from the nest they probably have their salty moments. I am guilty of saying things I didn't used to say with a little less caution when I'm around just their dad, but if I slip up in front of our girls I can feel my cheeks turning red. As far as writing or speaking that way for a general audience, that's not ever going to happen. And I find it ironic that I almost feel like I should apologize for feeling that way.

Over the years I have given my daughters ample opportunity to snicker at my way of thinking, particularly when I get attached to a song on the radio and they explain that this is the "radio" version... which means I wouldn't be singing along to the CD - and yes, that irritates me to no end. You're a multi-million dollar recording artist - you can't think of any other word to use in a refrain that repeats itself over and over?

When our youngest was around 10 she was in love with a song by a young female artist who was making it big on the charts. For her birthday she was given the CD. I never thought to check the lyrics because I "knew" that song from the radio. Guess what? There's a little more to it on the unedited CD. Without my even realizing that was the case, my child gave the CD back. I never said she would be in trouble for listening to it. She just lost interest when she realized she wouldn't be belting out that particular tune (the one she liked) along with the original any time soon.

In another instance of "WWMS" (what would mom say) her very protective older sister was ready to tell a bunch of guys off who were using some pretty vulgar language within earshot of the two of them. I am thankful she didn't follow through with that because I'm not sure that would've ended well. But the fact that she felt it wasn't acceptable said a lot - mainly that they both got it.

Bottom line: I admire people like David Brenner and Erma Bombeck for their talent and their choices, and I hope in a very, very small way to emulate how they brought their audience in and had them waiting for more - just by being who they naturally were.

And that's what I'm aiming for - not blue, and not lily white. Just me, darnit.

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

One Direction (according to my car)

My Monday had a schedule. My car had something else in mind.

At 1:30 yesterday I left work to pick up my carpool buddy (aka Spouse) so he could drive me to have an MRI (routine test for an annoying condition - nothing to report here, folks). The thing is, I am terribly claustrophobic. So I had my doctor prescribe a little help that would take the edge off in the form of 5 mg of Diazepam.

I popped that sucker about a mile from the back entrance of the hospital where hubby works and was heading up the hill that leads to a circular parking lot to pick him up.


I thought at first that I had run over a chunk of snow or something, but there wasn't anything in my rear view mirror. However, I suddenly noticed the snow bank in front of me was approaching rather rapidly and I couldn't turn the steering wheel.

Do you know what we are? We are a generation that has become weak and spoiled by power steering. I forgot how many muscles it takes to steer a car without that pesky belt that operates - well - everything. My helpful husband later explained how there used to be a few different belts as part of a car's inner workings such as power steering, alternator, water and air pumps. At some point the powers that build decided to simplify the process and make one belt for several processes. Do you know what happens when that belt decides to part ways with its position?


It sucks up your battery until it kills your car if you're not smart enough to shut it off - which I wasn't - but my more mechanically savvy half was, and he shut 'er down as soon as he realized what had happened. By the way, he shared that bit of auto history after he ripped a couple of layers of skin off his hand when it got stuck against a hot surface while trying to fit the dang belt back in position. I called AAA while he bandaged his hand.

Normally this would have really upset me. But as you may recall, this was right about the time the Diazepam kicked in. I didn't really care about much at that point.

We had an interesting ride with the AAA driver (once I managed to hike up the side of that mountainous flatbed truck and throw myself into the seat). He was a friendly, chatty guy who had just moved into the area recently and had plenty of stories to tell. And then we were at our mechanic's place with no way to get home.

Within just a few minutes of leaving an open Facebook message and dialing a couple of numbers, our friend Sandi was on her way, our friend Monique was waiting in the wings offering to come if needed, and our friend Anne was asking if we needed anything.

I didn't care about the car or having to reschedule my MRI or what the cost of the repair will be - maybe because of that little pill that kept me calm, or maybe because it just wasn't what mattered.

What mattered was that even if our car only wants to go in one direction, we have much to be thankful for. Because friends come from all directions.

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

That guy

He was born on the anniversary of the founding of Girl Scouts. His forefathers include John Paul Jones (ask him the story of the Jones part - he will tell you). He likes spicy food and he is a beer snob.

That's my husband, and today is his 54th birthday.

We are at that point in our lives where we don't need a fuss made. I gave him a card this morning that said I would let him be right for the whole day... which I believe lasted for maybe half the ride to work. We splurged on Chinese takeout (which we will both pay for later). We still have dessert to go <wink wink> - stop it, I meant pudding.

He's a good guy that I take for granted every chance I get. We've known each other since we were both 20, and there are things I'm still discovering about him. Like how he doesn't like chicken fingers.

There are moments in a 30+ year relationship where you're going to wonder what the #$(*&#) you were thinking when you married this person. I've learned over the years that those moments are when it helps to look at what someone else sees.

His coworker points out how he has a terrible habit of dumping things on any empty counter or table in the vicinity, no matter how many times he is threatened to Keep It Clean. He is also aware that they share a strong work ethic that helps to get the job done, and then some.

His mom, who passed away this past September, loved to share memories of having to keep an extra pair of shoes around any time he was near water, whether the ocean, a pond, or a puddle.

His future son-in-law is comfortable enough with him to ask if he can play with the snowblower or tiller when he visits, or just sit around and have a beer together. We can even leave them alone together and trust that the time won't be bogged down by awkward silences.

His daughters know he voice would rise quickly when ticked, and they also know "I love you, Daddy" turned him to instant mush. He would do anything he could for them.

Friends know he is always willing to help fix stuff, move stuff, or find stuff (he once used his SCUBA equipment to help someone find keys under a boat dock) - but he draws the line at painting stuff - unless bribed.

If I get crazed because there is not a room in my house that doesn't need something fixed, moved, found, or painted... when he falls asleep on the sofa just when I need his help with something... when he wants rock and I want country on the car radio - it's good to see the man through different eyes.

But my eyes - and my heart - are thankful for what they also see.

He loves animals, all kinds.
He is happy when he can volunteer for a good cause.
He is a great dad.
He is a great kisser (I don't need to verify that through anyone else).

So this is a wish for my best friend, my lover, my S.B. (he knows). Happy Birthday with all my love.

Now how about dessert?

Saturday, March 8, 2014

The Season of "Let"

I know Lent started a few days ago, in case you think I'm confused - it takes time (and by that, I mean seriously trying to find time) to put some things into words, especially when I can feel they are taking a detour from the tone of my usual post.

When I was a kid Lent was the time of year I was supposed to give something up, usually something I really like. Chocolate, for instance. I doubt I stuck to that promise every time because, let's face it, the easiest way to make someone crave something is to forbid it. But I know I tried. As an adult, personally I think it's a private joke between God and the Girl Scouts that cookies are delivered this time of year.

These days the message is that maybe this whole giving-up-something-for-Lent thing should not be taken quite so literally. For me, it's not about what I can give up materially. It's giving up and letting go of the habits that keep me from being the best person I can be. It's about letting myself grow in God's eyes. So here are a few things I am striving for in these six weeks, having faith that it will stick.

#1 Let my gratitude and thanks show.
It's not that I don't appreciate what I am blessed with every day. It's that I forget to say it, not just to my Maker but to my family, friends, coworkers - anyone I come across. The other day we received a thank you card in the mail from someone we helped out in a very minor, pretty much unnoticeable way. At first I reacted with a little laugh that this person would even think a note was necessary. Then it struck me - he knew it wasn't. He did it because he was simply grateful for our efforts, and thankful for our relationship. Imagine if we all did that, just because.

#2 Let go of the voices in my head.
There's a bumper sticker that I've seen a few times in my travels - Don't believe everything you think. That is beyond appropriate for me because I have had full conversations in my mind, usually arguments or biting words from someone (and my absolutely brilliant response) that never happened, and most of the time never will. It's a sort of self-defense mechanism that crops up when I allow myself to feel small (not like a size 10 small, which I would welcome, but a foolish, I'm-an-idiot type of small). And even if a remotely similar conversation does happen, it is always so much worse in my head. Reason enough to reroute those thoughts to NeverHappenedLand instead of allowing that negativity to invade my psyche ahead of time.

#3 Let myself feel accomplished.
Yes, I know this is not the Season of Me, but hear me out.  When I downplay my God-given abilities or talents, I believe it is a negative stance against the direction I know my Creator has in store for me. As the saying goes, God don't make no junk. But when I don't acknowledge my own attempts or accomplishments it prevents me from using and sharing them in the positive way they were intended to be. And God's not buying my excuses because, after all, He gave me these gifts and He still holds the warranty - which can be revoked at any time. So the goal this Lenten season is to take more chances, write more pieces, enter more contests, and surround myself with other writers who think like me (so I won't have to hide my crazy).

Here's hoping this season, whether it's Lent or the coming of Spring, gives you something to look forward to.... besides Thin Mints, I mean.

Saturday, March 1, 2014

Catching up on my reading. From 2010.

Vince Gill and Amy Grant smile up at me from the magazine cover of a popular women's magazine that's been sitting off to the side of my bedroom bureau waiting to be chosen for my reading pleasure. Valuable articles like Hidden Heart Risks and 75 Look-Great Fixes for Bad Hair Days gleam in white against a dark pink background. I've been waiting for the right time to sit back and relax and read at least a few of these pieces for a while now. Quite a while. This issue is from February 2010.

I don't want to give you the idea that I'm some kind of magazine hoarder. Anymore, that is. Not all that long ago I tossed several issues that had been given to me by relatives and friends (and which I had taken very willingly) once they were done with them, without even tearing out any of the ageless household tips or three-ingredient recipes. This was necessary when I noticed a thickening layer of dust that covered the pile of semi-forgotten issues applying for its own zip code under my bed.

I have been in homes with a perfectly splayed gathering of magazines positioned in a Martha Stewart sanctioned basket in their guest bathroom (you know who you are, and I am admittedly jealous of your subscription status with various publications). Even those magazines are constantly refreshed so that new faces stare at you each time you are seated - as if anyone is going to admit to flipping through them while... never mind. Seriously though, I have yet to be in the company of visitors in these households where someone comes out of there and says, "Hey, did you read that article in Good Housekeeping about Michelle Pfeiffer? I folded the first page over for you." Wait -- at what point exactly in your... your reading did you fold it?

I'm only teasing - I have flipped through these magazines on occasion. I'll just never admit which ones.

Getting back to the issue at hand (I wasn't even going for the double meaning, but there you have it), the last survivor of my periodical expulsion, let's review what was happening then.

Peter Facinelli (the vampire dad in the Twilight movies, which, in my wait-until-it-comes-out-in-DVD opinion were pushed to the cobwebs of everyone's mind by the Hunger Games movies that followed) was still married to Jennie Garth.

Valerie Bertinelli was the spokesperson for Jenny Craig (and supposedly, much to Kirstie Alley's delight, she has put weight back on - there must be a celebrity blog out there where you can find all the scandalous details).

Have you noticed a pattern above? The "inelli" thing and the Jennie/Jenny thing? That wasn't even on purpose but I find it necessary to point its weirdness out.

Matthew McConaughey was still tossing out quotable comments about how women shouldn't try to change the little boy in a man. He wasn't married to his Brazilian model wife for another two years but they started popping out their three kids before that. Maybe he makes her tell people she has four.

The best new products of 2010 were promoted. Now I really want one of those flexible grilling skewers.

I found a healthy makeover recipe for buffalo wings (my spouse won't appreciate this) and some "almost vegetarian" recipes (which is right up my alley, considering I bought a Martha Stewart vegetarian cookbook and turned one recipe into a poultry dish because it lacked flavor, pretty much defeating the purpose). Naturally, I tore out these pages so I could stuff them into one of the folders stuck high in the kitchen shelves that hold a few hundred other appetizing instructions for meals I have never made. 

It's been fun to reminisce and glean valuable information at the same time. But the main reason I kept this magazine in the first place was to read the article about Vince and Amy, which I can't do right now because I've taken up too much time writing this blog and now I want breakfast. I'll just set it right where I had it on the side of my bureau. I'm sure I'll get back to it soon.

Then again... maybe I should put it in the bathroom.