Lyrical Laughs

Saturday, April 25, 2015

Same house, different time zones

My loving husband came into the living room as we were getting ready for church Sunday morning. He had a shirt draped over his arm, which he held up for me to inspect.

“Does this shirt go with these pants?” That was the question he asked out loud. What he was really asking in his I-know-you-hate-when-I-do-this way was, “Can you iron this for me – please?”

I have to give the guy credit. This was unusually early for him to approach me with a task to be done. We had more than ten minutes before we were supposed to leave. I was impressed. He has finally learned to live less dangerously.

The Spouse and I don’t approach timely obligations in the same way. My motto is that if you arrive on time you are late, and if you arrive early you are on time. His theory is more along the lines of - I have to be there for 10 a.m., therefore I will step out of the shower at 9:50 a.m. I swear sometimes it’s like we live in different time zones.

This is not something he a) learned from me or b) started after we got married. When we were dating, a friend of his wanted him to come over and help with a project. He asked Spouse (then Boyfriend – mine, not his) to be at his house at 9:30 Saturday morning. When my mate sauntered in at 10 on the dot, his friend’s father said, “Right on time. And you thought he would be late.”

Uh huh.

When I was pregnant with Second Born we were scheduled to attend a Lamaze refresher course. I made him swear he would be on time to pick me up and get there before the doors closed and it would be obvious we were the last ones to arrive. About 20 minutes before the class was to start, he called… from 30 minutes away. I’m sure you already know this did not end well.

I got in my car and drove myself to the class. Spouse slipped in red-faced, about 10 minutes late. I did not deny he was with me, which would have been difficult anyway since I was the only excessively pregnant woman alone in the room. No further discussion was necessary when we left at the end of class. I believe, however, that Spouse knew if he showed up late when I went into labor, he might have to figure out if there is such a term as posthumous parenting.

Spouse was not raised to be late, and in fact he unquestionably holds the record with family members for being that guy everyone is always waiting for. It drove my punctual parents crazy when we were dating. In our early years of marriage I had hopes of getting him to straighten out what I considered a horribly unacceptable habit. It turns out that instead of being a positive influence, I have simply become the one standing in the doorway speaking in a very (very) loud, impatient tone, making it crystal clear that I am not happy we are about to be late again. And again.

Sometimes it’s all right to cut it close and appear just before the beginning of, say, a meeting you don’t even want to be at, or perhaps a party where you know the good snacks won’t be served for the first half hour. Other times it’s a little more awkward – like when you are being recognized for your accomplishments at that same meeting you didn’t want to attend. Yes, this happened to Spouse last year.

After 30-something years I realize it’s probably time to give up on hoping to change my companion’s custom of waiting until the last minute for everything. Or maybe if he reads this he will be motivated to be right on time for the next thing.

As long as I tell him it’s a half hour earlier.

Sunday, April 19, 2015

Playdough, toilet paper & cupcakes - what more do you need?

It was the end of a celebration that had taken weeks of thought and preparation. Guests were saying their goodbyes and the cleanup had begun. Plastic tablecloths with bits of Playdough clinging to the surface were disposed of. Strips of toilet paper that had been strewn across the floor were being picked up and tossed. It had been a wonderfully wild and crazy event – a wedding shower for The Love Couple.

In case you didn’t get the memo, First Born will be getting hitched in May. Since our family is scattered and none of it is in Maine, we held a Jack and Jill wedding shower in Connecticut where extended family could more easily attend. We chose the parish hall connected to the church Spouse had attended growing up. Even though we barely needed half the hall, it was just the right fit.

The goal of this event, with the help of the bridesmaids and my sister (who was sucked into assisting and barely sat down), was for everyone to just have fun. We supported this idea with a few activities that had guests roaring with laughter.

Once everyone settled down with dinner, we sprang the first game on them:  Name That Movie. Each table was given papers with lines from movies and instructed to work together or on their own to identify as many films as possible, and possibly the character or actor who said it. A few hardcore movie viewers started off by silently bragging through their confident looks and knowing head nods, but nobody completely covered the list. The future groom’s father, however, was a top contender. Now I know who to go to when I want a movie review.

A little later we introduced another little competition. Colorful Playdough was distributed and each table had to create a cake topper. The Love Couple strolled around the room, watching everyone’s interesting interpretations.The sight of a bunch of adults playing with Playdough was priceless, even those that simply wanted to win.

 I halted the addition of props on one table but completely missed the blatant use of them on another table, so I admit to the match being slightly skewed. There was no prize, only the acknowledgment of superior work (or something like that), as my niece put it. Her group proclaimed itself the winner 
when the Love Couple – possibly fearing a revolt – decided not to choose one.
To test how well the future bride and groom knew each other we played the Shoe Game. Each held one shoe of their own and one of their partner’s. The bridesmaids asked pre-chosen questions and the couple held up a shoe representing who fit the answer best (Who takes longest to get ready? Who does your cat like best?). It turns out they know each other pretty well, right down to who snores the most. The shoes came in handy for the bride-to-be to smack The FiancĂ© when his answers didn't line up with hers.

After a decadent dessert of gourmet cupcakes followed by the opening of wonderfully thoughtful shower gifts, there was one more game to be held.

Four gentlemen “volunteered” to be adorned with wedding dresses… made of toilet paper.


It was a riot to watch participants drape the white rolls around, across, over and under the models. It was also a constant stream of photo ops and notable quotes, for example, “Oooh, we’re doing a veil, too?”

Before guests left we handed out candy in the shape of Lego blocks and people that we made a few days prior, much to the surprise and delight of our guests.

The shower may have been a bit unconventional but the bridal party and I knew the Love Couple had hoped for a day of socializing with friends and family, good food and some fun. Happily, there was no shortage of any of the above.

Family and close friends know First Born and The FiancĂ© are perfectly paired, but those of us with a few years of experience know marriage does not come neatly wrapped up in a pretty little bow.  

Sometimes it’s closer to a Lego bride and groom stuck on top of a pile of Playdough - bound together with toilet paper.

Sunday, April 5, 2015

In a world of "Didn't have to"...

I was standing in the entryway of the supermarket looking for bars on my cell phone so I could read a text my husband sent with recipe ingredients for my shopping excursion. To the right of me I caught the sight of a woman struggling to get out of the seat of a motorized shopping cart. She had two grocery bags and a walker in the basket.

“Do you need help?” I was still holding the phone in my hands when I approached her. She answered yes, that she needed a regular shopping cart to take the place of the motorized one. As I transferred her heavy grocery bags and her walker over to a regular cart while she slowly moved her body toward the handles, she told me her story of how she started the year off by busting her kneecap. I know she went into some detail about it and then proceeded to describe how she gets home with her groceries, but by then I had glanced down at my cell phone. The screen was an eerie white with funky colored print – the words LOCKED and REBOOT stuck out at me among other letters and numbers. What the -- ?

The woman was still talking as I stood staring at my phone screen. Wait. Had she just said she pushes the cart with her groceries and her walker up a hill? Had she just said she’s got it all figured out? Had I just mumbled something like – wow, that’s crazy – or some other completely noncommittal phrase to end the conversation?

By the time it registered to me that all I had to do was remove the battery and restart the phone, she had trudged away. I don’t even know if she thanked me for the little help I had been. I hope she didn’t, because as I stepped back into the store I wasn’t feeling very good about the whole interaction.

I joke sometimes that there are moments in life when all I can think is, This is a test, Lord, right? Those moments are mostly because I’m struggling with something, feeling frustrated and stuck. Rarely if ever have they been because I stood in front of an opportunity to help someone else. It has always been about me.

But this was Holy Saturday, the day before Easter when we celebrate Jesus' resurrection. This was a matter of hours prior to singing in an Easter Vigil service where we would ring bells and shout Alleluia. This was… a test. And I failed.

With all good intentions I had made an offer to help a stranger. She hadn’t asked - she was just struggling to do what she had conditioned herself to do for the past few months. It seemed at the time like a win-win situation. I could do a good deed and she would be all set. Except she wasn’t all set. She still had a huge barrier to overcome, one that I could have helped her with, but my good deed-ishness had stopped there in the entryway of that supermarket.

Of course, I didn’t have to offer at all. Our lives are full of “Didn’t have to” decisions. God gives us choice. I won’t say that was poor judgment on His part but I have to wonder if He doesn’t do a lot of head shaking because of it.

Peter, whom Jesus loved, was a big stumbling lug. He tried so hard and he never got it right. He wanted to be Jesus’ favorite, his confidante and his rock. Instead, Peter spent much of his time with Jesus second guessing himself, needing a slight rebuke from the man he swore he would die for... and instead denied.

Like Peter, I am God’s child, full of flaws and wrong moves. I stammer through expressing my faith. I second-guess myself and Him. I pray, I let go, and then I grab hold again of my biggest issues, as if God couldn’t possibly know how I want it handled.

I always struggle with emotion through the readings of Palm Sunday, fully enveloping myself in them, actually cringing when, as the crowd at the cross, our congregation must yell out, “Crucify him!” during the reading of the Passion. Like Peter, I don’t always know how to carry that same connection with God into my daily life. I recognize only a small part of my mistakes, but He continues to love me and to let me make them.

I get Peter, because I don’t always get it. So what better day to acknowledge that I am God’s instrument… and that every day He fine tunes me all over again.

Happy Easter.

Saturday, April 4, 2015

Not quite ready to kick the heating pad habit

Spring has finally sprung in Maine. For the first time in months I spent part of last weekend running errands and shopping while wearing a sweater instead of a winter jacket. It was gloriously freeing to not need a hat and gloves, and I’m happy to say I haven’t had to carry sand with me from the ramp garage to my office for almost a month. Finally, the temperatures are rising and soon flowers will be in bloom. We should even be able to witness the reappearance of our fire pit from under the last two feet of snow still clinging stubbornly to our backyard.

Here it is, Easter weekend – that time of year when we ditch the dreary duds of winter and unearth our buried spring attire. Even though those pesky meteorologists are predicting precipitation, we need to remember April showers bring May flowers (not Mayflowers – that’s a whole different holiday). There is just one weather-related habit that I can’t seem to shake after the dreadful winter we endured.

I am not done being cold yet.

Here I sit cuddled up under a blanket with my trusty, toasty, popcorn kernel heating pad draped around my neck. To be honest, it’s not really a heating pad at this point. The original flannel cover fell apart after extensive use but the popcorn sack inside remained somewhat intact, except for when little pieces slither out of a slightly worn spot and skitter across the floor. At the moment I have it stuffed into a pillowcase with the end tied in a knot. The whole thing gets periodically shoved into our very tiny, temporary microwave (while I wait until 2017 for the Spouse to replace the cabinets over the stove so I can have a real above-range microwave).  For a while the chill is gone and I am in my happy place. Eventually my makeshift heating pad cools down and I have to start the process all over again.  The worst is when it’s the middle of the night and I wake up to a heating pad that is chilled by the seasonally absurd cold air. In desperate times I have been known to stand shivering in front of the microwave at 2 a.m., staring at its tiny window waiting for my precious pad to be done.

My husband thinks I have a problem. I’ve told him I can quit any time. That is, any time between May and September when supplements to the sun are not needed as much.

Don’t get me wrong. You will never see me eager to live in a southern state, you know, like New Jersey. But seriously, I would never survive in Florida’s sweltering heat. I’ll take cold over heat any time. You can always put on more clothes or blankets – you can only take so much off.

Still, the older I get the more the cold seems to penetrate every fiber of my being and make the winter months a bit less tolerable. Thank goodness I can have an instant heat source that does not entail cranking up the thermostat or standing in front of the heater vent. My heating pad gets a lot of use in the evenings when I’m watching television or reading or writing or playing a game on my laptop. Just before I head to bed it gets reheated and placed lovingly under the covers so I can climb into a warm, welcoming bed.

It’s true, I am somewhat attached to my mangled pouch of pleasant warmth. It certainly doesn’t take the place of cuddling with the Spouse or even having a cat pushing its way onto my lap. It is simply an additional source of comfort while the days have been short, the winds loud and the snowfalls ceaseless. And as I said, I can quit any time.

But not yet… May is still four weeks away.