Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Don't You Dare Touch Me and Call Me Beautiful?

I have been avoiding this post even though the idea has been stuck in my brain for a couple weeks. It's a potentially thorny one, and while I strive to be open and honest, I'm always afraid of offending someone and finding a nasty comment in response (blogging isn't for the thin-skinned). But alas, Feministing, Balloon Animal Guy, and the Indigo Girls have conspired to bring this controversial post to fruition. So here goes it.

A couple weeks ago my grad school friend Susanne posted a link to an article on the website Feministing titled "Why do strange men think they're allowed to touch me?" Now based on that title, most women would shout a hearty "AMEN!" as most of us probably don't appreciate being touched by a stranger. Upon further reading, however, I found myself thinking that this particular feminist was rallying against something not particularly worth her energy.

For those of you too lazy busy to click on the link and read the article yourself, let me sum up the author's issues:
  • Chloe (the author) is in line at Starbucks, listening to her ipod when a stranger walks past her, stops when he sees her, puts a hand on her arm and says "You are so beautiful."
  • Chloe responds with "filthiest look" she could muster, "now a reflex after over a year of dealing with New York City street harassment."
  • Her immediate thought, "Why do strange men think they’re allowed to touch me? Why do strange men think I care about their opinion of my appearance? Do they think I’ll be flattered if they approach me out of the blue and offer their unsolicited opinion?"
  • Despite actually feeling beautiful this particular morning, Chloe notes, "Being touched by a stranger and told that I was beautiful didn’t make me feel more beautiful; it made me feel unimportant."What she wanted, a simple treat at Starbucks, didn't matter. "What mattered most was that this man had an opinion about me, so I had to hear it whether I wanted to or not. He wanted to touch me, so I was going to be touched, by a stranger, whether I wanted it or not."
  • And then she takes the natural leap to "What he wanted was more important than what I wanted, because he is a man, and I am a woman."
Wow. I may not be the feminist I thought I was.

My reaction to Chloe's reaction is chill out. There are worse things than being told you're beautiful or even being patted on the arm by a stranger. Earning less than a man doing the same job is worth fighting against.  Not allowing women the same opportunities as men is worth an argument. Stereotyping women (or anyone) is wrong and deserving of your righteous indignation. But being told you're beautiful? Hmm.
Not my Balloon Guy, but you get the idea

After initially reading this post, it occurred to me that perhaps I just hadn't been hit on by a creepy stranger in a while. Maybe a good wolf whistle from a construction worker would make me feel differently. Well, as luck would have it, over the weekend I was hit on complimented by Balloon Animal Guy. He told me I was beautiful as I walked past his balloon Elmo creation at the farm where my sister, mom, and I were enjoying a fall harvest festival with William. My reaction? Ugh, dorky Balloon Animal Guy just hit on me.

While I didn't particularly enjoy the experience, it also didn't send me running to my laptop to write up a missive about the nerve of strange men to force their compliments on me. No, he didn't touch me, and if he had I would have thought, "gross, leave me alone you creep," but I wouldn't have allowed one icky guy to make me feel unimportant. Nor would I have given him credit for thinking that he mattered more than me and that's why he felt the need to offend me with his compliment. I hardly doubt he was thinking at all!

Yes, I would prefer to be acknowledged for my brains, work ethic, kindness, and my sense of humor, but the reality is that we were created to appreciate the beauty in one another. While some guys (and girls) don't have the class, finesse, or tact to either appreciate beauty silently or with respect, I hardly think we can condemn mankind or let a wayward compliment or touch ruin our day.

As long as a woman doesn't base her sense of self-worth or self-esteem on the comments on strangers, I can't see the harm in enjoying being told you're beautiful. Admit it, there are times when a compliment from a man or a woman, or a wagging tail on an affectionate dog, or a smile from a baby can make your day.  There are times I will take any flattery I can get and run with it.


Monday, October 25, 2010

What I Learned on My Denver Vacation

Thanks to the kindness and support of my wonderful friends Cathie, Linda, Emily & Dave, Mo & Doug, Michelle, Andi, and LeighAnn, I was able to ditch my own family and spend Wednesday through Sunday in Castle Rock, Colorado with my sister and my mom and my nephew William. I learned many valuable things during this time, including:
  • I miss the toddler years:
In mommy's toe socks
  • I don't miss the toddler years:
A long car ride induced meltdown
  • Seven movies* in five days is too many, even for me. And five chick flicks in five days is way over the limit.
  • My sister is unkind to those who pack carelessly. Do not forget your underwear when visiting her.
  • Based on the Phillies post-season performance over the past three years (World Series win, World Series loss, NLCS loss), I predict we will lose the NLDS next year.
  • Everything sounds cuter when you put an "fr" in front of it. For example: "fruck," "fractor," and "frurch"
  • This is a terrible name for a convenience store (or any store, for that matter):
  • When all else fails, go out for margaritas.
  • Don't pick your nose in front of a kid who's got a thing for tissues.
  • Do not brush your teeth in the guest bathroom if you've been told not to use said bathroom, even if you're a guest.
  • Relatives do not qualify as guests.
  • My sister's idea of bringing up her son with religion is to drive by a church, identify it as such, point out the cross, tell William "God is there," and teach him to say "Amen."
  • Picking vegetables is great fun when accompanied by a curious 2-year-old:
  • Spouses left at home to deal with the day-to-day will never sound happy to speak to the spouse who is out of town.
  • Walking through corn fields makes me think of Field of Dreams. I always expect to run into Shoeless Joe Jackson.
  • Regardless of how much family members might miss each other when they live far apart, chances are excellent that over the course of a one or two week visit, someone will want to throw someone else off a bridge or smother them in their sleep.
  • Only little kids miss their parents when they go out of town. Older kids won't even go along to the airport to pick mom up, or acknowledge her arrival at home until the computer game they are playing is completed.
  • A smile like this will cure everything that ails you:

*Movies included (rating on a chick flick skewed scale of 1-5 stars):
  1. Grown Ups: 3.5 stars (a goofball cast like this was bound to provide a good number of chuckles, even in the airplane edited version.)
  2. Mama Mia: 3 stars (Pierce Brosnan should be prohibited from ever singing in a movie again.)
  3. Just Wright: 4 stars (Queen Latifah deserves the fine brother!)
  4. Four Christmases: 3.5 stars (Vince Vaugn and Reese Witherspoon get 3 stars just for showing up.)
  5. When in Rome: 1 star. (Do not watch more than 10 minutes of this movie in the hopes that it will get better. As my sister can attest, it doesn't.)
  6. The Bounty Hunter: 2.5 stars (Jennifer Aniston has the range of a potato.)
  7. Dinner for Schmucks: 4 stars (Steve Carrell is just one heck of a funny guy.)

    Thanks to Rev. Irwin-Diehl for providing the chick flicks listed above!

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Random Musings, 3rd Edition

While I travel to Castle Rock, Colorado today to visit the cutest nephew in the whole wide world (oh, and my sister, too), I leave you with this third edition of Random Musings...

  • I dislike geese but I admire their chutzpah.
  • Despite being an intelligent woman, I'm a complete sucker for formulaic chick flicks. Why is that?
  • Women of a certain age should not wear mid-thigh length skirts, regardless of how tremendous their legs are. It makes me feel bad. (Heidi Klum, this means you.) 
  • I just assume that anyone with tinted car windows is up to no good.
  • As we continue to enjoy baseball in the post season, does anyone else think it's mean that they call some batters "the A-hole hitter?" 
  • I find it strange that men freak out about losing their hair, but seem just fine with their beer bellies. 
  • Am I the only one who thinks that if I put just one butt cheek on the public bathroom toilet seat I won't catch anything? Both cheeks is a recipe for disaster, but somehow just one feels safe.
  • And speaking of toilets, cheap toilet paper really doesn't save you money. If you have to use 3x as much so as not to get anything on your fingers when you wipe, then you'd have been better off with the good stuff. And it's softer, too. And no, I was not compensated for this ad for Charmin.
  • It happens to all women, generally once or twice a year, and it's not pleasant. It's the moment you realize you have "absolutely nothing to wear." 
  • And finally, if you are in the business of marketing female hygiene products, you should know that nothing about our periods is cute. Real women do not require "cute" tampons in a showdown with Mother Nature. If you don't know what I'm referring to, watch this little ditty and weep for all of womankind.

Monday, October 18, 2010

A Gentile's Reflections on Her First Bar Mitzvah

On Saturday I attended my very first Bar Mitzvah. It was for Ian's best buddy Noah, son of our good friends Emily and Dave. Leading up to the big day, I had two major concerns:
  1. Will my kids last through the long service, and 
  2. Will Ian convert to Judaism after the mega-party to follow?
Abby had her own concerns, namely whether there would be translators available for the stuff in Hebrew. I should note that she also kept confusing Mazel Tov with Taj Mahal. Ian expressed no concerns other than that we leave for the synagogue asap. I can assure you that this was the first time I've ever seen him in a hurry to reach a place of worship. 

As it turns out, I need not have worried about the service. Apparently, as Bar Mitzvahs go, they don't get much better than this. Everything about it was lovely. The rabbi was warm and welcoming. The music was delightful with clapping and toe-tapping. The cantor's voice was beautiful. Noah sang and played the guitar. Relatives sang their blessings to him. His father read a poem he had written for Noah for the occasion, and his mom delivered heartfelt words laced with her typical dashes of humor. Noah shared his own story and was in complete control of the entire service. No awkward 13 year-old here!

And speaking of awkward 13-year-olds, Ian sat with a bevy of them in their own little section of the synagogue. They all looked lovely, dressed in their finest. And most interestingly, I observed my son engaging and actually participating in the service. I can't get Ian to a worship service in our church without him pitching a hissy fit and behaving like a 2-year-old in the pew, but there he was in the temple, trying to sing Hebrew. My sense is that if Noah was leading the service, Ian would be game for worshiping golden calves, stinky sneakers, or circus clowns. That's Noah -- a force to be reckoned with.

To return to my reflections on this experience, as an outsider to the faith, I must admit being befuddled but curious at much of the tradition. The hymn/service book appeared to be backward with two sets of page numbers going in the wrong direction. (A friend has since informed me that Hebrew is read from right to left.) It was clear that this book also had special meaning because the Jewish guests touched it to the Torah and then kissed it as Noah walked the Torah around the temple. Prayer shawls also received a kiss after touching the Torah. The prayer shawls were lovely, by the way. Kind of like the clerical stoles pastors wear. I often think I'd like to be a minister just so I could wear my own funky and creative stole. Fashion, however, is probably not the best basis for entering the ministry.

I think what impressed me most about the entire experience was the emphasis on tradition, heritage, and family. I was struck by the fact that this practice was thousands of years old. And I could appreciate why honoring ones children means so much in the Jewish tradition based on the history of the people. (I find it challenging to merely tolerate my children much of the time, much less honor them with an occasion that includes lifting them up on a chair like pubescent monarchs.)

All in all it was a fabulous day with well-dressed and happy kids, well-dressed and happy adults, and the immeasurable blessings of family and friends. Mazel Tov (Taj Mahal!), Noah!

Friday, October 15, 2010

Who Will Lead a Happier Life? Laid-Back Son or Competitive Daughter?

Abby is playing the clarinet. At least I think that's the clarinet. It could be a low-pitched mosquito. Or a really forlorn foghorn. The good news is, assuming that is a clarinet I hear, this means Abby is practicing her new instrument. Today was her first lesson and being the dedicated student that she is she practiced in the car on the way to the store after school. And on the way home from the store. And now is practicing some more in her bedroom. She also dedicated time to sucking on her reed which apparently is both necessary and yucky.

I will not be surprised to see Abby give this clarinet thing her all. She gives everything 100% whether it's school work, playing soccer, hula hooping, or bugging Ian. She's a fierce competitor. It can be awe-inspiring and impressive and also exhausting and annoying. And it is in sharp contrast to her brother.

Ian played the viola for three years in elementary school. Let me rephrase that. Ian had a viola and took it to school once a week for three years. Practicing it was extremely low on his list of things to do. Maybe just a notch above household chores, showering, and brushing his teeth, and way below eating, television, video games, the computer, and annoying his sister. Ian managed to be last chair in the viola section of the elementary school for three years running and it didn't phase him a bit.

While he's very bright and a naturally gifted student, Ian is not a competitor. He's just too laid back for competition. Too interested in life being fun to be bothered with being the best. It's fascinating that he and Abby come from the same gene pool.

So I find myself wondering, not which child will be more successful (in the typical sense of the word), but which child will live a happier life. Someone must have done studies on Type As versus Type Bs and their happiness quotient. Since I don't feel like doing the research to see what they found, however, how about you weigh in on your prediction for my children's future happiness?

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Yet Another Life Lesson: No One Owes You a Medal Just for Showing Up

Today, class, we'll discuss why you don't deserve a medal just for showing up.

As I mentioned in my last post, Abby's soccer team participated in a tournament this past weekend at which they lost all three of their games. The girls gave it their all, and I was impressed at how no one seemed distraught or beaten down by the losses. Generally, by the time they reached the parking lot, they were ready to move on. After the third game, however, Abby seemed a little glum. When I asked her if she was upset about losing, she replied, "I want a medal." See, on our way off the field after the final game, we noticed that other teams were wearing medals. And Abby wanted one too.

Now if I was a nicer mom, I might have commiserated with Abby and tried to make her feel better by telling her that certainly she deserved a medal for having played hard and trying her best. But since I'm generally not a nice mom, I told Abby,
"That's not the way real life works. Unfortunately, you don't get a medal or a trophy just for showing up and making the effort."
Yes, I acknowledged and applauded her hard work, but that's all I could do for her.

I remember being surprised at the trophies and medals given out for simply playing on a team when the kids were little. I wondered then whether we weren't setting them up for disappointment. And then I heard disturbing things about the school system, including that teachers were no longer allowed to use a red pen when marking a student's paper because it could damage their self-esteem or self-confidence. And I noticed the lack of competition, like spelling bees, in elementary school because a competition means someone has to lose in order for someone else to win and that too would be sad, if not downright harmful.

Yes children, it's true. Someone has to lose. Someday you will lose. It happens to each of us.

Are we doing our kids any favors by awarding mere participation? I'm all for building a kid's confidence and desire to keep playing or trying by offering a pat on the back or even a certificate that says "Thanks for participating." But beyond that I question whether we're doing more harm than good. We seem to be setting them up for disappointment. And honestly, how much will all those dust-collecting medals and trophies mean when you can't even recall why you received them?

The good news is that Abby didn't linger too long in her disappointed state.

The bad news is that last night she came home from soccer practice with...wait for it...a tournament medal...just for participating.

Another teachable moment out the window!

Monday, October 11, 2010

Get Used to It, Kid. "Life's Not Fair."

Ah, those three little words. You would have thought I'd have outgrown them by now, but alas, no. I'm still stuck on the concept. And yes, we are talking about me, and not my children.

For the most part, I've learned to accept that life, in the overall scheme of things, is not fair. It rains on your vacation. Friends move away. You lose your job because of the economy. The mean girl gets the cute boy. Bad things happen to good people. But those unfair things seem to be driven by the winds of chance and fate. The unfair things I continue to struggle with are man-made, and competition seems to be at the root of many (if not most) of them.

This weekend Abby's soccer team participated in a tournament in Cape May, NJ. The girls played their hearts out but still lost all three games. Losing is fine and part of life and I totally get that. But I can't tolerate unfair play. I don't believe in elbowing, tripping, or running someone down in the name of competition. And while these illegal actions may not have changed the outcome of the games, they are still unfair.

I've also found martial arts competitions to be inherently unfair. Five-plus years ago as a wee yellow belt who overestimated her abilities, I competed in a tournament in Atlantic City. I competed in forms with the one I'd been practicing for months, the one that was appropriate for my belt level. What I learned in AC is that no one else bothered to stick with what was belt level appropriate even though that's what the rules called for. The other competitors did forms that were much more sophisticated and challenging and that made me look like the underling that I was. Unfair. Competing in sparring is even more unfair than forms. You can land the punch or the kick and have half the judges see it and the other half give the point to your opponent. Human beings are fallible that way. But in competition it seems unfair.

I thought the Phils were unfair in Game 2 of the NLDS. Yes, you read that right. I'm a die hard Phillies fan and I love my team, but I hate winning if it's not 100% deserved. There was a questionable "safe" call at second base, and prior to that, Chase Utlely took first and ultimately scored after pretending to be hit by a pitch. He basically admitted later that he hadn't been hit and now I'm  wondering when athletes started taking acting classes along with batting practice. I realize I sound naive but I'd like to keep on my rose-colored glasses and ask that everyone be ethical and honest, professional athletes included (we won't get started on the topic of steroids here). I won't tolerate my kids' cheating in a board game, so why would I think winning at any cost is okay in the major leagues? Unethical and unfair.

Yes, this is a snively, sad, unrealistic look at the reality of competition. I know the responses I'm going to get on this one, including:
  • Professional sports are as much about business as they are about athletic ability. One does need to win at any cost.
  • It all comes out in the wash. Sometimes the calls work for you, sometimes against you.
  • Those who play unfairly will eventually get their just deserts.
  • This has been going on forever. You're just noticing now?
I get it; really, I do. But I can still whine about it being unfair. And I can also admit that my thinking here is a strong indicator of why I have never been and never will be much of a competitor in sports, business, politics, etc. I just don't have it in me to bend the rules to get ahead. But I can sleep at night because I play fair.

Friday, October 8, 2010

Is Eight or Ten Hours of Sleep Too Much to Ask?

I like sleep and when I don't get enough of it, I'm irritable. My family might deduce that, apparently, I never get enough sleep.

I am not one of those lucky people, like my husband, who nods off while reading and then falls sound asleep the minute he turns off the light and his head hits the pillow. No, for me it's a process. I watch television. I read. I think I'm tired. I turn off the light and I lie there. I try praying to clear my mind. I play little games in my head to wear out my brain. I switch position a million times. Even a glass of wine (or two) doesn't help.

Perhaps on a subconscious level I struggle to fall asleep because I know it won't last. Someone or something will wake me before I want to be awake. This morning was a case in point.

Rob set the alarm for an ambitious workout-related 5:00 a.m. Alarm went off, he changed his mind and went back to sleep. I, however, was now awake and not happy about it. I moved to the couch. Prayed, played head games, switched positions a million times.

At 5:15, Maddie decided she needed to go out. I opened the door and she went...and so did the cat. The indoor house cat. Maddie did her business and then promptly decided to take a neighborhood stroll. There was no way in hell I was going to chase her around in my pajamas, so I let her go and decided to try again to sleep. Which I did. Until I heard our resident fox screeching. I wondered which of my pets was going to be her breakfast. Maddie returned. She must have been concerned for the cat because she decided to pace. Her extra long nails clicking around the wood floor. The guinea pig upstairs decided to join the symphony and chew on her metal cage bars. It literally sounds like a typewriter when he does that. Excellent.

I managed to doze somewhere in all this until the cat came home. She stood at the front door and cried pitifully as if someone has thrown her to wolves (or the foxes) when in fact, as I told her, she had put herself in this situation. I let her in and she decided to thank me by laying on top of me on the couch. Very comfy. For her.

At 6:00 a.m., Ian's alarm goes off. No gentle music for Ian. He likes to wake up by what sounds like a smoke detector. Given that Ian doesn't give a hoot what he wears or how he looks, it makes me crazy that he gets up so early. Of course I know he rises before the sun so he can get in a good 45 minutes of computer game time before school. Hey, whatever works for him. I'm too tired to care.

I'm groaning and grousing and determined to not yet be awake for the day. Then the phone rings. Ian's got chorus before school this morning and Colin will be here soon to pick him up. This is good. This should allow me some extra time to sleep. I drift off. There's knocking at the door. Colin is here. Ian's not ready. I'm in my pjs and have undoubtedly scarred poor Colin for life with the look I'm sporting.

Rob comes downstairs, fresh as a daisy, and calls me "The Queen of All Base" ("base" being sleep in some fraternity vernacular of his). In my mind I kill him with my bare hands.

It's going to be a long day.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

How about a Hug?

"A hug is like a boomerang - you get it back right away."
--Bil Keane, "Family Circus"

Let's talk about hugging, shall we? 

Hugs are on my mind for two reasons:
  1. I saw the Hugging Lady at church on Sunday, and
  2. I heard on the radio that in order for a hug to be effective, it needs to last 20 seconds. 
The Hugging Lady (not to be confused with the Cutco Knife Guy) has been a member of my church for a long time, and my sense is that she's been hugging folks from day one. In fact, I'm pretty sure she introduced herself as a hugger the very first time I met her and I had to brace myself for her embrace. The most interesting thing about the Hugging Lady is that you more than tolerate her. To be honest, you actually find yourself looking forward to seeing her. Ah, here comes the hugger. I'm ready and willing! Here it is Wednesday, and I'm still feeling the residual effects of my Sunday hug. That's powerful stuff!

As it turns out, a hug really is powerful stuff -- even the "experts" agree. A few years ago, a team from the University of North Carolina studied the effects of hugging on both partners in 38 couples.The study showed hugs increased levels of oxytocin, a "bonding" hormone, and reduced blood pressure which cuts the risk of heart disease. The study required 20 second hugs which must be where the radio station I was listening to got its bit of data.

After I heard about this 20 second requirement, I forced Ian into an extended embrace one day after school. Being the cool kid he is, he allowed it. We both learned that 20 seconds is actually quite a long time to hug someone. Ian noted afterward, "You may not want to hug your boss that long, like after she gives you your paycheck. That might be a little weird." The kid makes an excellent point.

Now, if this post has moved you to hug someone in order to lower your blood pressure or just to make someone's day, here is a quick primer on how to hug. Hugging may sound simple, but it will help to keep a few things in mind. First, non-hugs are no good. In his book Caring, Feeling, Touching, Dr Sidney Simon describes five non-hugs: 

1. The A-frame hug, in which nothing but the huggers’ heads touch.
2. The half-hug, where the huggers’ upper bodies touch—while the other half twists away.
3. The chest-to-chest burp, in which the huggers pat each other on the back, defusing the physical contact by treating each other like infants being burped.
4. The wallet-rub, in which two people stand side-by-side and touch hips.
5. The jock-twirl, in which the hugger, who is stronger or bigger, lifts the other person off the ground and twirls him. 

I found a website, "All that Women Want," which featured a "Hugging for Health" piece by Kevin Eikenberry, speaker, trainer, author, and president of the Discian Group, a learning consulting company. Kevin suggests the follow hug How-Tos (my snide comments are in italics):

  • Begin the hug with great eye contact. This communicates to the receiver the spirit in which the hug is being given. In other words, based on your eye contact, we can tell if you've got an ulterior motive with that hug.
  • Be present during the hug. Even if the hug is only for three seconds (though, remember, aim for 20 seconds for maximum health benefits), devote your total energy and focus on the person you are hugging. Feel how good it feels to both give and receive. 
  • When you finish the hug and are pulling away, make great eye contact again. This further blesses the receiver, and communicates a positive feeling to them. Again, this assumes the hugger is not creepy and skeeving you out.
  • A hug is not an opportunity to burp the other person! Be gentle. This goes especially for the guys - a hug isn't the start of a wrestling match either. (See #3 above)
  • If you are much taller than the other person, bend your knees. If you are hugging children, get on your knees and be at their eye level. If they are small enough, pick them up to hug them. Make the hug comfortable and a blessing. 
Mr. Eikenberry says, "All of these guidelines are about making the hug a completely positive, giving experience. As in many other things in our lives, when we think about others, we can make better decisions. The same is true for hugs - hug with the huggee in mind!"

I would have to say that the Hugging Lady at church follows the hugging guidelines to the letter. She's really got it down pat. I would also add that the Hugging Lady never has body odor or bad breath. I think Mr. Eikenberry should add those rules to his list.

Now, I recommend that you find someone to hug, following the suggestions above, and then report back on your findings. And if you have your own hugging guidelines or hugging no-nos, please feel free to share.


Monday, October 4, 2010

How to Make the Short List for Kim's Phillies Tickets

On Wednesday, the Phillies begin their fourth straight trip to the playoffs. We're getting spoiled here in Philadelphia, but enjoying every minute of it. Well, maybe not every minute, particularly if you're my husband. As many of you know, my husband, Greg Dobbs Rob, works for the team. And if the request for tickets is steady during the regular season, you can imagine what he goes through come October.

As the wife of the guy who works for the Phillies, I get a fair number of ticket requests myself, most of which I laugh off with a good natured, "you wish." The challenge for me actually, is in deciding who I want to accompany me to these precious post season games. Believe it or not, careful consideration needs to be given to selecting the right phan for the job.

This point was driven home for me when my husband told me of a coworker who is currently at the Ryder Cup in Newport, Wales. She had been invited by a friend who was attending as a client of one of the Cup sponsors and was able to bring a guest. The problem is that this woman hates golf. She actually asked if they had to stay till Sunday...the day of the final matches. Yes, you have to stay for that. To say this is a tragic waste of a Ryder Cup ticket is an understatement. It should go without saying that when selecting a friend to accompany you to any major sporting event, that friend should be a fan of the sport involved.

In addition to selecting your guest based on their fan status, here are some additional considerations for who makes the cut:
  • Is this person a true friend or family member? Frankly, I'm never going to be willing to give my extra ticket to the roofer or the dry cleaner. Please don't ask.
  • Does this person regularly ask you for tickets? They're out. I'm way more inclined to offer my ticket to a friend who has never once asked for tickets because they don't want to be rude. This way I feel like the good fairy when I make the call to invite them along.
  • Do you have a good time with this person? I once invited Freakin' Angel Karen to a playoff game and she organized the all-important tailgating complete with beer and cheesesteaks before the game. No one before or since has suggested tailgating. Shame on the rest of you!
  • Is this person well-off financially? Then buy tickets, you cheapskate! Kidding. But seriously, back to the good fairy thing, if I can invite a friend who I know would have to choose between eating dinner for a week or going to a playoff game, they're more likely to get the call. This consideration has definitely benefited friends like our Children's Ministry director at church. 
  • Can I expect undying love, devotion, and appreciation from this person?. If I take you to a playoff game, I expect non-stop thanks and gushing love and admiration. Buying me a beer, soda, or popcorn is never a bad idea either. After all, even the good fairy gets hungry and thirsty.
  • Does this person know the sport? Being a fan is essential, but actually understanding the game is worth bonus points. 
On Wednesday I will be accompanied to the first NLDS game by Mr. Hugh Poland. My friends and family members are wondering "who the heck is Hugh Poland and how did he make the cut?" Well, Hugh is a Judson Press author whom I would also consider to be a friend. He's one of the most likeable guys you ever want to meet, plus he meets the requirements above almost to a T.
  1. Hugh is a huge baseball fan. He wrote two of our best selling (and my favorite) Judson Press books, Steal Away and Intentional Walk, both volumes of devotions for baseball fans.
  2. Being from Texas, Hugh never asks me for tickets to Phillies games. I, however, have routinely asked him to come to Philadelphia so I could take him to a game. He is in town this week for a conference in Lancaster. Talk about good timing!
  3. I have enjoyed Hugh's company at Christian retailing events. If you can enjoy someone's company in an exhibit hall, you're probably in good shape for a sporting event.
  4. Hugh is a church musician. I doubt he's drowning in dough.
  5. I'm just guessing here, but yes, I think Hugh will appreciate this opportunity. 
  6. Does he know the sport? Hugh is a member of the Society for American Baseball and he wrote two books filled with stories from the game. I think he knows the nuances.
So there you have it. The way to Kim's heart and playoff tickets. I expect I'll receive some creative comments from this post, all finding a way to let me know you're an underpaid, highly appreciative individual who has read every book there is on the topic of baseball and who bleeds red and white...

Go Phils!

Friday, October 1, 2010

So a friend feeds me to the traveling sales kid and 90 minutes later...

If a "friend" recommends you to a door-to-door salesman, either a) they don't like you very much, b) you're so close to their heart they could think of no one else, or c) they think you really need better knives. I'm still not sure which was the case for my friend Lee, but I know she was consumed with guilt after selling me down the river to the Cutco Knife Guy (CKG for short).
"You're going to kill me, but...You can say you're not interested when he calls...He gets paid just to give you the presentation..."
Excellent. I was avoiding answering the phone as if I had bill collectors after me. But my husband didn't play along. When CKG called, he handed the phone over to me, and I had every intention of telling him, thanks but no thanks. I'm poor. I'm cheap. I'm not interested. He told me was a college student. How well he's doing with the CKG thing. How he gets paid just to give me the presentation. And we scheduled an appointment for the next day. Crap. I managed to blow off the police officers fund-raising call the day before but I couldn't get rid of CKG.

The next day, I prepare myself mentally and emotionally for this meeting, knowing I can kick this kid's butt if he won't take my firm "NO" for an answer. CKG shows up with his trusty sidekick Malik, a pre-med student on "a personal break" from Pitt's pre-med program. We settle in at the dining room table and he starts his dog and pony show. Tells me they recruited him for the job and he's already an assistant manager and it's great for a college kid like him and he's only 18 (though his birthday's tomorrow) and next summer he might decide to "Go Branch" meaning he'd have his own office. Whew. That's more impressive than my job history.

He asks me for the penny that he had me put in the refrigerator last night when we set up the appointment. I ask him if the demonstration would have worked if I had forgotten to refrigerate my coin. "Yes. That's just to help you remember our appointment." Ah, very crafty. I can see I may be in trouble here. He uses those killer Cutco scissors to cut a curly-q around the edge of my shiny penny. I can now use it as a cork-screw. And later, I can use the same scissors to cut the dog's hair, split chicken breasts, trim the azalea bushes, and make paper snowflakes. Amazing.

CKG shares with me Cutco's history and the details of knife production. I get a full run down on the advantages and disadvantages of common knives. I learn that planned obsolescence is a factor in the shoddy quality of other brands. I find out that Mr. Cutco spent $20 million on his knife handle design alone. And the steel is the highest quality available. And the guarantee is for a lifetime. Even if you mistakenly melt your cutlery in the oven in a plastic bag (as someone actually did), they'll take care of you.

CKG asks me to get out my three favorite knives. I know this will be a turning point. I know my knives suck. We cut leather and braided rope with my knives and his. Guess who wins.

He shows me all the different kinds of knives Cutco offers. Who knew there were so many types? Apparently there are people who chop vegetables and de-bone fish, and make pies, and slice hams, and bake bread. And there's a knife for each of those tasks. I rarely cook, bake, roast, or grill, but I'm sure I need these tools. I'm overwhelmed.

The power goes out. The kids start fighting like banshees. The dog detects food scent in CKG's backpack. Chaos reigns with the rain outside. The pressure builds. Do I need the steak knives or don't I?

I settle on the Studio Block. CKG throws in the shears for free. I'm out $481.24.

He asks for the names of family and friends.
"The most helpful thing you can do for me today," he says.
I guess the $481.24 purchase wasn't a big deal for him. I waffle. I ponder. I question the ethics of feeding my friends to the CKG. I consider a few enemies but decide that won't work since he'll use my name when he calls them. He tells me with just five names I'll get another entry into the $1,000 cash giveaway drawing. I cough them up. I sell them out.

Andria, Kathy, Linda, Mindy, and Emily. I'm sorry. But I really think you need new cutlery, and these Cutco knives are the best!