Thursday, March 29, 2012

Five Reasons I Dislike Stadium Concerts

Way back in the early days of this blog, I wrote a post about music and how my enjoyment of it can be corrupted by overzealous listeners. In that post, I noted that my husband is a big Bruce Springsteen fan. For a while, Bruce was really grating on me, but once the overexposure was dealt with, I came to appreciate him. His songs are relevant, timely, and passionate and The Boss puts his whole heart and soul into them.

Naturally, when Rob learned that Bruce was coming to Philly for two performances in March, he and his friend bought tickets for both nights. At the last minute, however, Rob decided one performance would be enough, and he graciously offered me his seat. My interest in going was of the "take it or leave it" variety, but ultimately I decided I had to see the man so many Philadelphians worship. So last night I saw Bruce Springsteen and the E-Street Band at the Wells Fargo Center.

I can now officially state that I am not a fan of concerts. Stadium concerts specifically. 

Here are five reasons why:
Just the view from the nosebleed section.
  1. The wait. Seriously? The guy's been performing live for decades. He should know how long it takes to get ready to go on stage. Assuming you know the starting time printed on the ticket, you work backward from there. Not rocket science. It irritates the crap out of me to wait 45 minutes for some diva performer to grace us with his or her presence.
  2. Unless you're in the first few rows on the floor in front of the stage, stadium seating sucks. I was in the third row from the top with the common folk. (This is new territory given my connections for seating at the ballpark.) The air is thinner and the seats are smaller up there. And the floors are sticky.
  3. I like the polished version of an artist's song better than the live music. All you musicians are aghast right now. Sorry. But in the studio version, I can usually understand the lyrics because the instrumental isn't overwhelming the vocal. Also, in the studio version they don't go off on these guitar riffs or extended drum solos. They annoy me.
  4. They're boring. I need to do something when I listen to music. Like yard work or house work. Or at least dance. There's no room to dance at a stadium concert. 
  5. They're loud. I can't hear myself sing. And when I can't hear myself sing there's an excellent possibility that I'm out of tune. Rob says I sound abysmal when singing with headphones on.
This is my fifth stadium concert experience in the last few years and all but one of them was dreadful (I kinda liked Tom Petty the first of the two times I saw him, but I may have been drinking for that one). In addition to Tom, there was Hannah Montana ('nuff said), Taylor Swift (dear God!), and Jimmy Buffett (no thanks). None of these was my choice.

From now on I will restrict my concert going to small venues like Tower Theater, the Mann Center, Scottish Rite Auditorium, or Longwood Gardens. In those settings, there's a sense of intimacy with the performers, the seats are all the same size, and I can hear myself sing. Of course, those venues are also where I'm most likely to find my favorites, the Indigo Girls, and others like Paul Simon, David Gray, and Elvis Costello.

So let's have a conversation about concerts. Where is your favorite spot to catch a show? Who's your favorite performer? Who will you see every time they're in town? Any pet peeves about the concert experience?

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

I Coulda Been a Contender

I have been reading (and greatly enjoying) The (very long) Story of Edgar Sawtelle. In the section I just finished, Edgar meets up with a man named Henry whose fiance left him because he was "ordinary." It occurred to me that "ordinary" is the perfect word to describe how I've been feeling lately. Maybe with a touch of "jealous" thrown in.

I go through these "what have I done with my life" episodes every so often. I'll lie in bed at night and wonder if I could have been more and done more. I think the potential was there. And if the potential was there and I didn't accomplish great things than I haven't "lived up to my potential." But would living up to my potential have made me happy or would it have stressed me out and left me even more irritable and less maternal than I already am? Would living up to my potential have resulted in a completely different life? Would I want a completely different life? It depends on the day.

Yes, I realize all of those thoughts are in the past tense, and I know technically there's still time to live up to my potential, but really, now that I'm middle age with the shackles of a home and family, the odds are not in my favor.

You know what usually triggers these "I coulda been a contender" episodes? Social gatherings. When hobnobbing with others, "being all you can be" is critically important for your self-esteem. Well, for mine anyway. But I bet if you're honest, what others perceive you to be matters to you too. We all want to appear exceptional and fascinating, particularly when we're meeting people for the first time. I always envy my husband's ace in the hole:
So Rob, what do you do?
I work for the Phillies.
Nothing else matters after that. Rob could also be an ax murderer, but no one would care.

As challenging as it can be to feel worthy when socializing with new folks, it can also be difficult to maintain friendships with exceptional people. I have freakin' exceptional friends. Most of the time it doesn't bother me, but sometimes it really pisses me off bums me out. I had one of those bummed out occasions recently. I was with a few extraordinary women and a conversation about their recent career activities made me feel incredibly ordinary, insignificant, and downright dull. 

The internal acceptance speech I delivered at my personal pity party went something like this:
Woe is me. Graduate of a state college with no name recognition. Job at an itty bitty publisher which takes its non-profit status quite literally. Marketing other people's books. Driver of a Honda Odyssey mini-van like every other suburban mom and wife. Clothes that aren't worth sharing at a clothing swap. Incapable of playing tennis or competing in a triathlon like the cool girls. Going gray way too soon.Ordinary, ordinary, ordinary.
Ah yes, it's a delightful event, my pity party. I'll spare you an invitation.

I think that great philosopher Lily Tomlin spoke for me when she said:
I always knew I wanted to become somebody when I grew up. Now I realize I should have been more specific.
And Shakespeare sums it up best:
To be or not to be; that is the question.
If you prefer to see this post end on a high note (not sure why you're reading my blog if that's the case), here's a link to some inspirational quotes about personal potential. Enjoy.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

I Blew It

"I hate this blog now. Some things should be kept private. You might be embarrassing him and hurting his feelings." --signed, A very angry son
That's the one and only comment I had on yesterday's blog post, "What We Have Here is a Failure to Communicate." When I saw the comment in my inbox, my heart sank. In my effort to make others laugh, I failed to take into account the very real possibility that what I was writing could hurt someone else.

I don't know if Ian left that comment or not. It's not really his writing style, and when I returned home from work he was his funny and happy self. I had no sense that he was angry with me. But then again, Ian's kind; he may have felt that he made his point with his comment and let it go at that.

When I write about my family, or anyone for that matter, I tease, use sarcasm, and find humor in life's everyday details. I try to write about situations and scenarios that most everyone can identify with, figuring we can all appreciate being together in this often maddening thing called life. I hope it goes without saying that NEVER do I intend to hurt, ridicule, or insult. I am guilty of the self-centered belief that because my life is an open book and self-depracating humor is my thing, others are willing to put themselves out there as well. Clearly, that is not the case.

Ian, Rob, Abby, and anyone else I have offended personally, I apologize. It was never my intent to cause you embarrassment or discomfort. I will try to never do that again.

Of course, this means I'll probably have to quit blogging because I've just eliminated 75% of my writing material...

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

What We Have Here is a Failure to Communicate

I have both undergraduate and graduate degrees in Communications. I say this not to brag (only Phys Ed has a poorer reputation as an academic major), but to make the point that I'm well-versed in communicating. This often translates into my saying whatever thought comes to mind, but that's a post for another time. Today I want to talk about my son's communication skills.

Overall, I am pleased to say that Ian is generally a great communicator. He's personable, engaging, humorous, quick-witted, and well-spoken. He's even comfortable sharing his feeling (gasp!). Recently, however, there have been significant breakdowns in communication. I would rank them in the categories of MAJOR, SIGNIFICANT, and NOTEWORTHY. Let's start with the MAJOR and get it out of the way.

Last week, our schools started PSSA testing (Pennsylvania System of School Assessment). For those whose children are not yet in school or have long since graduated, the PSSAs are standardized tests that kids take almost every year to satisfy the government. But that's a post for another time. Anyway, part of Ian's math testing was going to require the use of a graphing calculator. Along with pencils, classroom chairs, notebooks, paper, tissues, folders, highlighters, basketballs for the gym, music stands for the choral room, and lunch for the principal, we had to purchase this calculator for the start of 6th grade. I have no idea how they work or what they calculate, but the damn thing was ridiculously expensive.

Ian's graphing calculator was "stolen" when he left it in a classroom.

Last year.

And when did I find out about this missing $2,000 $75.00 calculator? The day before he needed it for PSSAs.

This is a major failure to communicate on Ian's part. He admitted he was scared to tell me when the "theft" actually occurred. He quickly learned telling me the day before he needed a new one (when it was too late to at least find an Ebay bargain) was actually much scarier.

Let's move on to SIGNIFICANT.

I am learning that some kids Ian's age care about their appearance. They want their hair to look combed good. They prefer to have fresh breath. And they like their clothes to match and fit. Ian shows no signs of is slowly inching in this direction. I know this because last night he informed me that some of his clothes don't fit. In particular, his underwear. They were cutting off the circulation to his legs. His legs were turning purple. We may have to amputate.

I don't know how long Ian was wearing too tight undies, but just a few weeks ago I discovered the shirt he was wearing was so tight around his arms I couldn't pull the fabric away from his skin. I swear he had to grease himself to get into it. He may have been wearing that shirt (and God knows how many others) since he was 8.

Clothes that prohibit your breathing and movement are of significant concern and should be shared with your mother sooner rather than later.

Then there's NOTEWORTHY. These are issues where timely communication is helpful and preferred, though not life-threatening. Noteworthy issues include:
  • Running out of soap and shampoo. How long will a child shower without a cleaning agent before mom notices?
  • Having no clean socks, pants, shirts, and of course undies, 10 minutes before catching the bus.
  • Taking and relaying a message when the governor phones for your mom because he wants to appoint her to his communication staff
That last one didn't really happen, but it could have. I'd never know.

I imagine Ian will make some modest improvements in these Major, Significant, and Noteworthy areas of communication, but I don't expect miracles. After all, there is the expression, "Like father, like son." I could say more, but Rob doesn't like to be the subject of my blog. But that's a post for another time...

"What we have here..."

Thursday, March 15, 2012

You're an Animal!

This time of year, walking from the parking lot to the door of our office building offers a mild aerobic workout as one dodges goose poop droppings. The geese love the "Holy Donut," our perfectly circular building with a massive green space in the center, and they make it their home every winter and spring. When leaving work the other day, our feathery tennants were blocking the sidewalk. Despite my second degree black belt, I was not prepared to take on these feisty birds so I chose a different exit route. Yes, they scare me.

As I proceeded cautiously to my minivan, I envisioned the geese as a group of thugs, hanging out on the corner, flapping their wings/arms around in a threatening manner, occasionally squawking/shouting something rude. And just like with a gang of thugs, a scared little suburban soccer mom like me crosses to the other side of the street to avoid confrontation.

This mental picture of geese as a gang of troublemakers, started me thinking about other animals in whose behavior I see a human counterpart. (For those of you preparing for the SATs, the big fancy word for giving animals human traits is anthropomorphism. Write that down.) There are the ones we've all heard before:
  • Penguins as waiters in tuxedos
  • Owls as bookish, wise academics
  • Primates as nit-picking moms (See my Itchy, Itchy, Scratchy, Scratchy post)
  • Snakes as lawyers...(apologies to my lawyer friends)
But I thought of some others:
  • Meerkats = toddlers standing up in a crib, refusing to nap for fear of missing something
  • Warthogs = body builders
  • Hippopatumous = Navy Seals

  • Crabs = Teenagers (defensive, refusing to make eye contact, trying to get away from you)

So what have I missed? Which animals remind you of us crazy humans?

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Living through the Change

When we marry, we hope that the things we love about our spouse will always stay the same, and that the things we can't stand don't care for will miraculously disappear or be significantly improved upon. More than one marriage has failed due to such unrealistic expectations. 

When I married Rob, the list of qualities I loved about him was (and is) long. About the only things I could hope would change were his home improvement skills and interest in yard work. I'm not holding my breath. Interestingly, while Rob hasn't morphed into Mr. Fix-It, a few years ago, seemingly all at once, he did make some other significant changes that I didn't see coming:.

  • He joined a health club. And actually worked out. A lot.
  • He started training for a triathlon.
  • He seemed to be purchasing better shoes.
  • He started wearing cologne.
Naturally I jumped to conclusions: He’s having an affair a mid-life crisis. Of course, it could have been worse. He could have purchased a sports car and a toupee instead of a road bike and gym membership. And thankfully he stopped wearing cologne after a brief while. I say thankfully not because I didn’t like the scent, but because my “bat shit crazy” self really did worry that something more than smelling good was up with that. I am also pleased to report that cologne was the only thing he dropped from his impressive list of changes. He is still working out, still training for a triathlon, and still wearing nice shoes. The bad news is that Rob has recently made yet another significant change in his life, and I worry about how it will affect our relationship.

Rob appears to be going vegan. Meat and potatoes Kim, married to a vegan?

Thanks to a documentary called Forks Over Knives, Rob has decided to primarily eat only those foods which do not come from animals with four legs. Or something like that. The difference is obvious, in my refrigerator and cabinets, anyway. There’s stuff in there I’ve never seen before. Like vegetables and fresh fruit. And whole grains. And more beans than one man (or woman, for that matter) should ever eat. And did I mention soy milk?

I asked Rob how I was supposed to cook for him now that’s he’s made such a major change to his diet. He responded with “Why start now?” The man has a point.

I know I should be pleased Rob is taking such good care of his health, but being the unsupportive and self-absorbed anxiety-ridden spouse that I am, all I can think about is how this affects me and the children. For example, there is much less space available in the fridge for stuff like soda, jello and pudding, and heavily processed baked goods. And there’s barely room for chips, sugary cereal, and mac-n-cheese in the cupboards. On top of issues of space, there is the issue of added expense. This healthy stuff ain’t cheap, meaning I should probably consider cutting back on the wine and takeout pizza. I also have concerns that Rob will turn into one of “those people” who live in Swarthmore and shop at the Co-Op. He actually brought home their membership brochure. And of course the biggest problem with Rob’s new diet is that it makes me feel bad about myself.

I know I should eat healthier, but I love the not-so-good-for-you stuff. It's my bread and butter, so to speak. I also come from a long line of not-so-healthy-eaters who live into their 90s with no health problems. And thankfully, I seem to have my dad's metabolism. In other words, the incentive just isn't there. I truly believe the only thing that would make me change my eating habits is an immediate threat to my life. As in “Step away from that beer, cheesesteak, and pierogie, or I’ll shoot.” And even then I might attempt to negotiate with my would-be assassin. 

In all seriousness, I’m thrilled happy that Rob is making such positive changes in his life. It would seem to indicate that he wants to live longer, probably so he can spend more time with me. Or, he wants to outlive me so he can enjoy a few years of solitude. Either way, good for him.

Thursday, March 8, 2012

A Call I Just Can't Answer

There's nothing more fun than acknowledging your weaknesses. Don't we all long for those special occasions on which we recognize and admit that we're not who we wish we were? In high school I regularly prayed that I'd wake up one day and be "normal." And as an adult (when not being normal can be good fun), I've often wished I was "nice." As in, "That Kim is so nice!" Unfortunately, nice and normal really aren't my thing.

This week I've had to face the unpleasant reality that my need for control over my life is bigger than my heart. In other words, I'm incapable of being selfless.

Last weekend I learned that Cassie, a five-year-old to whom I'm distantly related, has been taken from her grandmother and put in foster care. Cassie's grandmother was raising Cassie and her sister after their mother abandoned them and their father was found unfit for parenting after more than one suicide attempt. I first heard about Cassie two years ago when I was told by a family member that this little girl was not receiving the love and care that every child deserves. While her older sister was given opportunities for play and special childhood treats, they were withheld from Cassie. As a toddler, her grandmother would literally keep her strapped into a high chair so she wouldn't run around or get in the way. More recently, Cassie was sent to bed each day at 4:30 p.m.--out of sight, out of mind. Her grandmother readily admits that she doesn't want this child in her life. And I should note that this little girl is not a handful. She is meek, mild, and soft-spoken with lovely manners and sad eyes.

When Cassie's situation first came to my attention two years ago, I wrestled with whether to become involved in her life. Could she spend time with my family? Where would it lead? I made one small effort to reach out to Cassie's grandmother to see if I could help ease her burden, but the message I left was never returned. And on I went with my life.

Now Cassie is living with strangers and I spent the first few days of this week agonizing over what to do. Was God calling me to care for this child? Was that why she "appeared" again in my life? I prayed. I spoke with a friend in ministry. I cried my eyes out on more than one occasion. I know God has a call for each one of us, but how could I be sure this was mine?

When I envisioned coming to Cassie's rescue, I saw the Lifetime movie version playing in my head. I would adopt her, bring her into my family where my children would open their hearts to her. I would provide for her every need: enough food to eat, new clothes to wear, Sunday school, kindergarten, friends, books to read, dance lessons, family vacations. She would learn to smile and someday she'd call me "Mom."

In my Lifetime movie version of Cassie's life, there would be no bonding or attachment issues from years of emotional neglect. There would be no learning disabilities from being born to a drug addicted mother. There would be no special needs that required untold amounts of my devoted time. There might be a few bumps in the road, but nothing that I couldn't handle, nothing that would dramatically affect my fairly idyllic life.

But my Lifetime movie version is fiction, a fantasy. In reality, Cassie's needs will be great and she will need someone dedicated to giving her the life she deserves, regardless of the cost. And as I considered the very real investment that would be required to bring Cassie into my life, I came to the sad realization that I cannot be that person.

Many of you know that the first decade early years of motherhood were not easy for me. I cried. A lot. I wondered what I had gotten myself into, and I struggled mightily with the changes a child brought to my life. And my children are whole, healthy, and unblemished by life inequities; I have had no true challenges to face in raising them. I have reached a point in my life where I have things under control (or as under control as they'll ever be). My children are old enough to care for themselves much of the time. The demands on me are not as overwhelming as they once were. When thinking about Cassie, I had to ask myself if I was ready to basically start over, to give up control, to sacrifice many of my needs to meet someone else's. And my answer was "no."

It breaks my heart to admit that I am too selfish to give myself to someone in need. I hate that I might be letting God down. I worry that Cassie will never have the life she deserves. But I know that I am not the answer for this little girl and so I'm making the decision to walk away. I'd say it's a difficult decision, but you could argue that I'm taking the easy way out.

Although she does not know me, I ask for Cassie's forgiveness, and I pray that someone can give her the love and affection and attention that every single child deserves. 

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Random Musings IV

It's been more than a year since my last bit of Random Musings. I know you've been lying awake at night, just wondering when I was going to share my rarely important, curious thoughts. So here it goes:
  1. Why do they label a bottle of pills "take by mouth?" Is there another way to take them that I'm not aware of?
  2. Speaking of pills. You know what's fun? Finding a circular white pill you dropped on a floor that's covered with those little white paper circles you get when you use the hole puncher. Seriously. That's happened to me.
  3. How closely does someone need to be following you for you to hold the door open for them?
  4. Speaking of being close. How closely can you walk behind a stranger without freaking them out? And should you slow your pace or speed up to walk past them? 
  5. Sometimes I dread small talk at the dentist and hair salon. This is why Asian American nail salons are so popular. If we don't speak same language, we don't have to chat.
  6. Does anyone else move their body in one direction or the other to "help" pull the car into a tight parking space? This is possibly related to my "move the bowling ball" wave. Despite ample evidence to the contrary, I must think my body movements have magical powers.
  7. Nothing kills the mood like rolling over and squishing a stink bug. Seriously, I've done that 
  8. Young men with six-pack abs should not be allowed to run shirtless on city streets. It's a driving hazard. 
  9. Why do Christian college kids get married so young? Is it because they're tired of "waiting for marriage?" (If I can work up the courage to potentially offend a good number of people, including friends, I may write an entire blog post on this topic.)
  10. Why is it that the tree that needs to be cut down (costing an obscene amount of money) is never the one that makes the biggest mess in your yard? Like the *&^#*!) gumball tree?
I hope to be back in the next day or two with some deeper thoughts, but for now, I hope you enjoyed these "Random Musings." Have a good one!

Friday, March 2, 2012

Girl Stuff

In our elementary school, 5th graders see "the movie." Students know "the movie" is coming from early on, especially if they have older siblings. We parents receive notice from the school nurse and guidance counselor regarding the date of "the movie," and we're offered an opportunity to review and approve it for our child, and to be prepared to discuss it. If it comes to that. I did not review the movie.

When Ian saw "the movie" three years ago, I tried to get Rob to have "the talk" with him soon after. It didn't happen as I directed suggested. In fact, I'm pretty certain Ian and Rob still haven't had "the talk." I offered to take the lead, and even had a brief "chat" with Ian once, but that's as far as we got. Now that he's clearly interested in the fairer sex, I think it might be time for Rob to finally step up to the plate. But this isn't about Ian and Rob. This is about Abby and (gulp) me.

Abby saw "the movie" last week. I think it was last week. Could've been two weeks ago. Or two days ago. The point is, I wouldn't know. I forgot to mark down the date of this milestone, and Abby never mentioned it. If it hadn't been for another mom's comment about it, I may have forgotten about "the movie" all together.

I asked Abby about "the movie" yesterday. I asked her what she thought. She nonchalantly replied, "It was all in the book." "The book" she was referring to is The Care and Keeping of You, an American Girl title I had given to her two or three years ago for Christmas. I had heard good things about it and Abby was an American Girl fan, so I thought it would make a nice gift that she and I could uncomfortably discuss bond over later.

Purposely keeping this image small
so as not to freak out my male readers.
For those of you not familiar with The Care and Keeping of You, it is basically a book about the female body for pre-teens, covering everything from acne, braces, and lice, to underarms, breasts, and bellies. And then there's the section on "Big Changes." Self explanatory, right? The book is nicely done with very detailed illustrations. As in pictures of stages of development. And "How to Insert a Tampon." I wish I'd had this information when I was in college going through puberty.

My giving Abby "the book" was not particularly well thought out. The day after the Christmas I gave it to her, I suggested that we sit down and review it together. I was looking forward to a good mom moment for which I could pat myself on the back. That special time together went something like this:
Abby, let's look at the book I gave you.
I read it last night.
You read it last night?
How much of it?
All of it.
All of it?! What did you think?
I didn't need to know all that.
We haven't talked about the book or any "girl stuff" since.

But now that Abby is eleven and has seen "the movie," I really think it's time for her and me to chat. I'm pretty sure she's not going to want any part of it, if her reaction to "the movie" is any indication. When I asked her about the "feminine product samples" she received that day in school, she dismissed me with a quick, "I threw it in a drawer somewhere in my room." Given that Abby has not willingly put ANYTHING, including her clothes, in a drawer in over a year, I'm sensing she's going to be one of those ultra-private girls. I had to search her drawers for a while in order to find it, buried like some trashy novel under a pile of soccer socks.

All my blunders where this "girl stuff" is concerned has resulted in my developing a plan. This time I'm going to do it right. I'm going to turn to the woman who taught me everything I needed to know about growing up:

Judy Blume.

Think Abby will like Are You There, God? It's Me, Margaret?