Tuesday, July 31, 2012

A Reunion and Regrets

I didn't mean to lead you on. I suggested I'd have some juicy blog material from my 25th high school reunion on Saturday. Unfortunately, I don't have anything overly hilarious, heartwarming, or heartbreaking to report. I may have had something to work with if more than 10% of my class of 500+ had showed up. Alas, the turnout was weak. Most of the attendees were locals with just a handful of obviously bored individuals making the trek from out of state.

Overall, I guess everything you would expect from a reunion basically held true. I checked myself in the mirror a few dozen times to make sure I looked okay before getting out the car. Then I contemplated finding a quick shot of botox in a back alley in downtown Easton. Of course I compared myself to every other woman there cause that's what women do. Some looked exactly the same. Some changed quite a lot. There were people whose faces I didn't recognize and some whose names I never heard before. A surprising number of people in my class have died.  Several are divorced. I was really glad to see a few of them, particularly those who, thanks to Facebook, I can now call friends. A shout out to Jim, "reporter for Guitar World," who falls into this "new friend" category.

I'm afraid the most memorable reunion experience was one that embarrassed me and that I'll likely never forget. I wish I could say that I discovered I'd been wearing two different shoes or that there was spinach in my teeth. Even asking someone if they were pregnant when they weren't would have been preferable. Nope. I'm embarrassed to report that I learned I'd been mean. I, Freakin' Angel Kim, had a mean girl moment 28 years ago.

Literally minutes after arriving at the reunion a classmate sought me out. He wanted to show me what I'd written in his 9th grade yearbook. Here's what I read:
To a real nerd, Good luck in the future (you'll need it). Kim
Mortifying. I was not the mean girl. I was the girl who made an effort to befriend outsiders. I never made fun of anyone or laughed at their expense. And I'm relatively certain I wrote that in jest, as is the case with 99% of my snarky comments. But it was a painful reminder of the power of words. The impression they can make and the hurt they can cause. And how something that might seem amusing at the time can say something else entirely 25+ years later.
The weird girl and her funny son
I couldn't apologize enough to this classmate. I tried to convince him (and I meant it) that I must have really liked him to be willing to insult him like that because I only tease (and hurt) the ones I care about. I know that sounds assinine, but that's me.

This yearbook flashback made me think about my son's 8th grade yearbook. I took a look through it recently and enjoyed the funny and sweet comments:
Ian, you're the best ever!
Ian, you are one of the funniest, awesomest people I know.
Ian, you're so cool.
Ian, you are one of the funniest guys I know and you always make me smile and laugh.
Ian! You are an awesome singer and friend too!
And then I read this:
Wow! The planets aligned and we ended up on the discovery team together! Anyway, I don't have much to say, but I do want to tell you that through thick and thin, no matter what happens...you will always be my best friend.
You will gladly do anything when we hang out, and when I feel down, you will always be on my side. As Alfred the Butler said "We fall so we can get up again." You are the reason I can always stand back up. Thank you for an amazing year and many more to come! 
Every time I read that I get a little choked up at the depth of emotion, the maturity, the devotion to their friendship. I never had (nor was) a friend like that in high school, much less through elementary and middle school. In looking back through my own yearbooks from those years, I saw nothing to compare. Many of the comments my "friends" wrote referred to me as "weird." I guess I was right to pray to be normal before the start of every school year. But that's another post.

Lest I leave you all with a tear in your eye and a lump in your throat, both over my meanness and my son's goodness, I will share one more reunion moment. It came in discussion with my junior prom date. He looked good. He's successful. And while I talked with him as Rob stood next to me, I realized I had made a mistake in my choice of men.

I should have never gone to the prom with that tool.

Thursday, July 26, 2012

43 Things I've Learned

On my 40th birthday, some smart ass coworkers changed the name plate on my office door to "Kim Shimer, 40." I enjoyed being 40 for a couple of years until some smart ass coworkers decided I needed an update:

This change was made a couple months ago, before today, my 43rd birthday. I argued that ages 42-43 are not mid-40s. Technically 45 is mid-40s, but I'll give you 44-46. Either way, I'm not in my mid-40s.

The bad news is that getting older is bothering me more than I thought it would. The good news is that I've learned a lot in the past 40+ years, including:
  1. Liking my kids feels even better than loving them.
  2. You can't go wrong if you marry your best friend.
  3. It's nearly impossible to be unhappy at the shore.
  4. Riding rollercoasters and jumping ocean waves will keep you from getting old.
  5. The harder you laugh, the better you feel.
  6. Movies should be an interactive experience.
  7. It's not all about me. (I'm still adjusting to this one.)
  8. Seeing dolphins at the shore or a deer in my backyard is always a special occasion.
  9. True friends love you even when the Funkapotomus has been visiting for an extended period.
  10. I am a lousy dog owner.
  11. Some people should never have to "do math" and I am one of them.
  12. My ability to be sociable generally has a time limit so if I go to bed while you're still at my party don't take it personally.
  13. Fresh bed sheets are one of life's greatest pleasures.
  14. Books are one of life's greatest treasures.
  15. When I think of the youth and young adults I know, I believe the future is in very good hands.
  16. I'd rather exchange life stories than make idle chitchat.
  17. There are very few truly important issues that can be seen in black & white.
  18. Properly loading a dishwasher is a lost art and one that few men ever discover.
  19. A girl's girlfriends are one of life's greatest gifts.
  20. Jesus loves me.
  21. Even really intelligent children are incapable of throwing out their trash, replacing the toilet paper roll, and putting dirty dishes in the dishwasher.
  22. A perfect weekend includes dinner with friends, a good book, a movie, and time spent working in the yard.
  23. Put stuff on your to do list that you've already done. You'll feel better.
  24. Bras and panty hose should be banned.
  25. Out of every three calls to 911, only one is justifed
  26. Fountain cokes, pork roll, mini-powdered donuts, and soft pretzels make a balanced meal.
  27. Someone needs to cheer, hoot, and hollar at children's sporting events. I find it's usually me.
  28. Speaking of children's sporting events, they shouldn't get trophies for just showing up.
  29. Some things are worth the money, like movie theater popcorn, hardcover classics, and school trips to Italy.
  30. It's a blessing to work for an organization where people prayer for each other.
  31. Regardless of how great your legs are, women of a certain age should not wear mini-skirts, especially when serving communion in church.
  32. Some of the nicest people I've ever met look like people you would cross the street to avoid.
  33. Strong is the new skinny. And I'm stronger than I ever imagined.
  34. When your dad does everything for you, you never learn how to do stuff yourself.
  35. My Pop Pop was right when he said putting on lipstick and singing (not necessarily at the same time) will make you feel better.
  36. We can't make our kids be who we want them to be, but if we give them room to grow they will find their place in this world.
  37. Different friends have different strengths. Some encourage you to do great things. Some give great hugs. The truly amazing can do both.
  38. We have had (ands still have) angels among us.
  39. Blogging is a lot more fun when people leave comments (hint, hint).
  40. Maintaining ones sanity requires getting away from it all as often as possible occasionally And it's okay if "all" includes your spouse and children once in a while.
  41. Never have I regretted going to the gym. I nearly always regret drinking a milkshake.
  42. I still have 20+ years until retirement.
  43. Everyone should be on Facebook just for the warm fuzzies you get when dozens of people wish you a happy birthday.

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

I am the Mother of a Teenage Boy (the first step is admitting you have a problem)

I am the mother of a teenage son. I am not the first mother to have a teenage son, nor will I be the last. This, however, is my first and last teenage son, and I seem to have lost the instruction manual explaining how he works. Actually, come to think of it, the instruction manual was missing when I opened the package fourteen years ago. I've undoubtedly been improperly handling him since day one.

While my son, for the most part, is functioning without the usual teenage glitches at this point, certain normal behaviors and interests are coming to light. Like socializing. With girls. Though Ian had one particular girl "friend" back in elementary school, their time together was spent playing Pokemon and appropriately-rated video games. That was nice. That was safe. That took place with the lights on.

Now my son is having friends over to watch movies. And the friends include girls. And they watch movies in the dark. In their pajamas. Yes, you read that correctly; I'll get to that part.

Last night Ian asked if he could have friends over, a boy-girl mix. This is not the first time he's hosted or attended a mixed gender get-together and being the great mom that I am I said yes. Because he was trying to butter me up, he agreed to first clean the basement. Score one for mom. I followed that smooth move with another requirement: I had to approve the movie selection. Last time he and his buddies got together they watched (without permission) the R-rated and apparently incredibly stupid "Hot Tub Time Machine." Mature-rated video games where you kill people are one thing, but stupid guys checking out babes in a hot tub are quite another. Don't ask me about my logic. Anyway, they were going to watch "Teen Wolf." No, not the one with Michael J. Fox. It's a tv show. I gave it my stamp of approval.

As I prepared to head off to the gym, Ian told me I had to be home at 7:30 when everyone arrived. The girls' moms require an adult to be there. A good sign. Even better, it got me out of going to Body Pump class which ended at 7:30. Couldn't risk being late to the party.

At about 7:15, Ian announces that one of the young ladies has decided this evening should be a pajama party. With this update, mom loses the ability to speak. Abby chimes in, "Don't boys usually sleep in their underwear?" Ian appears in long flannel pajama pants and a t-shirt. Mom regains consciousness. Crisis averted. For now.

A bit later the young hussies ladies arrive. I was busy sticking my head in the sand with something else. I didn't see them come in and they didn't come looking for me to say hello. (Not that they ever have.) Instead, as usual, they head directly down to the basement. Mom is enjoying some "ignorance is bliss" time until Ian's friend Noah arrives and his mom Emily checks in. She wisely senses that I have yet to check out the scene in the basement. We venture downstairs together. Emily stands behind me so I'm the only embarrassing mom truly present. I take a quick look at what everyone's wearing. I ask if anyone's in a negligee. I'm not sure any of them know what a negligee is. One young lass is covered in a blanket. I should probably have asked her to remove the blanket so I could be sure she was fully clothed. For fear of mortally embarrassing my son, I chicken out say nothing. I curse myself, Rob, and the builders who made the basement too small to accomodate another couch. The "kids" are squished together like sardines. You can make babies sitting that close together, can't you?

I head upstairs to have Abby and her friend Maddie give me a pedicure. I'm swimming in denial when Maddie's mom shows up to take her home. I casually mention the lights out boy-girl party taking place downstairs and confess to not wanting to be the most embarrassing mom ever by asking for lights to be on. I make myself feel better by stating that the chances of hanky panky taking place while they're all there together is slim. Mo looks at me like I'm naive and insane. Mo and Maddie leave. Abby and I are alone with my discomfort. I ask Abby to spy on her brother for me. She is unsuccessful. I ask her to tell Ian I need to see him. He comes upstairs.

I explain my concerns. Something along the lines of:
"You're freaking me out with the dark room, squished together on the couch. Can we shed a little light on things?"
Ian looks at me with great disappointment. The look that says, "I can't believe you don't trust me." I explain my fear of pregnancy and sexually transmitted diseases. Not really. Actually I say something nebulous like,
"I'd hate for someone to 'get in trouble' under my watch."
Ian tells me "we're all friends, mom." I exhale.
"So no one down there is romantically involved?"
"No, mom."
I feel better. I head upstairs.

I consider purchasing Ian a dozen new Xbox and computer games if he promises to never have, nor attend, a boy-girl party ever again. Or at least until he's 25.

I place a bulk order for sand in which to bury my head in for the next few years. Heaven help us.

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Things that Make You Go Hmmm, Volume IV

It's time for a new entry in the popular Freakin' Angels series "Things that Make You Go Hmmm." I pull these from media requests that I receive via email from a number of sources, with Help a Reporter Out (HARO) offering the most goodies for our amusement. (To be fair, they also offer the most legitimate leads.)

Without further ado....Things that Make You Go Hmmm, Volume IV
  1. Looking for people who have adopted dogs from the Caribbean (for a top travel site) -I'm relieved to know that we're taking care of dogs from the Caribbean, now that all the dogs in America have good homes. Perhaps you would adopt a dog from the Caribbean so you'd have an excuse to go back and visit "family?"
  2. I KEPT my New Year's Resolution (Woman's Day) - Further evidence that you can't believe everything you read.
  3. Swimming hairstyles for kids (SheKnows.com) - What the heck is a swimming hairstyle? Is there something possible outside of WET? Or perhaps they're referring to this toddler favorite:
  4. Embarrassed by a Loved One? Tell them on TV! (CW Talk Show) - That should even things out in the embarrassment department.
  5. Do You Think Plastics are Making You Fat? (ABC Television Network) - It couldn't be the calories in all the food you're eating. Must be the plastic plate you're eating it off of.
  6. Was Your Father A Sperm Donor? (Radio Show) - Um, I'm here, aren't I?
  7. Do You Have Pain After Spin Class? (ABC Television Network) - Hell yeah. Dumb question.
  8. Info About "Dead Butt Syndrome" (Health Website) - A close relative to "Sleeping Foot Syndrome?"
  9. Do you work with naked people? (Anonymous) - I think I might prefer to see dead people. Unless I worked with the cast of Magic Mike.
  10. Local football team selling mattresses to raise funds. - Okay, this isn't a media request; this is an actual sale for a school football team near my home. Is it just me or is that the most bizarre fundraising item you've ever heard of? "Hey, honey, we really need a new mattress. What do you say we head over the gym at XYZ High School and pick one up from the football team?"
Things that make you go HMMM. 

Have any bizarro notes to share?

If you missed any of the first three volumes, you can find them here:
Three (a.k.a. "I'm Not Feeling the Love, People") - note that I was angry with most of you when I wrote this third post.

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

But, You Did Say to Call

It's been said things happen in threes, particularly bad things like accidents, injuries, and death. Assuming this phenomenon holds true for your average 9-1-1- call, I should have met my quota for needing the services of our township's emergency responders.

First, I would like to state for the record that the police chief himself said we should "never hesitate to call 9-1-1." We shouldn't be concerned that it "might be nothing." Being someone who always listens to authority, I took the chief at his word and decided to be "better safe than sorry."

On three separate occasions. In less than 30 days.

I swear under oath that I was not crying wolf.

The first time I called, my home's carbon monoxide dectector alarm had gone off. This was not the merely annyong chirp of the dead battery, this was a hellacious, high-pitched beeping. The real deal. Red light and all.  I was hanging out in my bedroom, in my bathing suit, playing on my iPad while waiting for my daughter and her friend to get ready to go to the pool. If I didn't believe it might be a true emergency, do you really think I would have put myself in the position of having to run out of my house on a lovely Sunday afternoon to stand in the front yard waiting for the fire truck in my bathing suit? I like attention, but that was a little much, even for me.

Per the operator's instructions, I had everyone out of the house and we waited for the emergency responders for what felt like forever. The alarm was going off the whole time....until about 30 seconds before you showed up. No lie. The fact that there was nothing amiss when you all arrived naturally made me look like a delusional or desperate housewife in need of a little action.

And speaking of you ALL arriving, can I just say that I believe the township went a bit overboard in its response? Five fire trucks, with sirens? The 9-1-1 operator didn't suggest there were flames of any kind, did she?  Heck, even if there had been actual carbon monoxide (versus a malfunctioning detector) and my children and I were passed out in the house, it would not have taken fifteen people to pull us out. I think the firefighters were all bored that day. Or they heard I was in my bathing suit and they wanted a good laugh.

Now, regarding call number two...

I need to point out that the police chief encouraged us to use 9-1-1 during a township meeting to address an increasing number of break-ins. And last week, when that man rang my doorbell, I thought he could be a criminal. I knew he was definitely a stranger. And I do have that "No Solicitors" sign in my window which I thought you said would keep all the bad or annoying people away. And then Abby said she thought she heard him try to open the front door. That did it. I called the fuzz.

While I was on the phone with the operator, I saw my solicitor/criminal at my neighbor's house with a little boy about Abby's age. The boy had a briefcase. They were walking away from my neighbor's front door and heading down their driveway. Suspicious behavior indeed.

After I made the call I must have returned to my home office in the back of the house. That's the only way I can explain missing the police response. Five speeding cars to chase down one man and one small boy. Five is a good number for you guys, huh? You all must have scared those Jehovah's Witnesses half to death. Does one go to hell for calling the cops on Jehovah's Witnesses? Honestly, I didn't know. I'm sure I wouldn't have called you if I'd known who they were. Probably not, anyway.

The third time I called, this past Friday, I really think I saw a bad guy. He walked past our summer fun facilitator's car (Shane's) which was parked on the street, and he tried to open the door. So I called 9-1-1. I thought it was weird when the operator said "Hello, Kim," but I proceeded to relay my story. As I told her about the car, we watched this guilty looking guy walk down to a neighbor's house (looking in their cars, too) and then proceed to walk down their driveway. Then he turned around and walked back up the street passing our house again.

And then you showed up. And you pulled up next to him and he kept gesturing to the neighbor's house. And then you frisked him (which was cool!) and put him in the back of your vehicle. I must say I was a bit surprised when you drove him back to the neighbor's house and let him out there. Then your colleague tells me that the guy said he's doing work in our neighbor's backyard. I reiterated what we saw. The officer didn't call me a liar, but he didn't arrest the guy on suspicion of criminal intent either. I don't know that you can actually arrest someone on suspicion of criminal intent, but it sounds good. I should mention that later I saw the same guy walking back up the street away from the neighbor's house. But I didn't call 9-1-1 that time.

Oh, just one last thing. Don't think I didn't notice that for this third call, the one involving an actual criminal (so much for innocent until proven guilty, huh?), you only sent two police cars. It's almost as if you've decided a 9-1-1- call from me isn't likely to be important.

Again, I swear under oath that I was not crying wolf.

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Like Many Addictions, It Started Innocently Enough

For most of the past two and a half years I have used my blog to embarrass my family. On a few occasions, however, I have used my powers for good instead of evil. Unbeknownst to law enforcement, I have been singlehandedly exposing the secret, silent killers of suburbia. First I brought to light the criminals you may unknowingly have living around the corner. In April I debunked the (sub)urban myth of spring cleaning. Most recently I addressed the fitness epidemic that's claiming the lives of many middle-aged adults. Today, I want to tackle the exceptionally difficult topic of addiction.

I was one of those people who thought it would never happen to me. And the friend who introduced me to it was someone I trusted completely. Someone who seemed so innocent and good. I gave it a try and within hours I was hooked. I started sneaking moments away from my family, friends, and my job for just a little bit of action. Just enough to give me that rush. And now I've reached the point where I can't sleep at night because I know it's right there waiting for me.

Damn you, Gale for starting me on this path to self-destruction.

Damn you, Words with Friends.

The only comfort I can take is in knowing I'm not alone. In fact, last night my WwF app told me that more than 125 of my Facebook friends are also players. These folks range from seminary presidents and esteemed business professionals to college students and homemakers. No one is immune. In some cases I have multiple games going with the same person. As soon as one game ends, we start another. We're like chain smokers. All in need of an intervention.

On the off-chance that you're not familiar with this diabolical virtual word game, it's basically Scrabble online. You can start a game with anyone anywhere in the world and take turns making words on the board.  And if you start enough games with enough people, you can almost be assured that you'll always have a move waiting for you. It's delightfully addictive and, like most things we do online, a major waste of time.
Should you choose to give WwF a try, despite my tragic story, allow me to suggest a number of folks with whom you should avoid playing:
  1. Writers and English professors. Their vocabulary gives them a completely unfair advantage.
  2. People you know are significantly smarter than you. They will make you feel stupid, and really, that's what your friends are for.
  3. Those you don't trust. There are apps that can figure out words from the letters you have available. My "pusher" is one of these cheaters, though she does me the courtesy of not tapping her secret source when playing with me. Or so she says.
  4. Lucky bastards
You will find that, much like Scrabble, there are different approaches to playing WwF:
  • Go for the points, regardless of whether it screws up the whole board for later moves
  • Try any letter until something works, even if you have no clue what the word means
  • Spell whatever is easiest and moves things along quickly because you're in a hurry (most likely to get to the next game in your queue)
  • Impress your opponent with your superior vocabulary
  • Make nice long words so that there are more places to build off of for future moves
I fall into that last category. Longer words, rarely impressive, and generally worth a measly 8-13 points. But look! I opened up an "R" and "E" and a "T" for my opponent! The point monger then adds an "S" onto your nice long word and hits triple word score for 42 points. It's a cruel game; you just take your licks and keep on keeping on, or you get out of dodge.

I hope you'll heed my Words with Friends warning, however, if you're curious (which is how all addictions start), look me up. I'd be happy to take you on. As long as you're not a writer, English professor, genius, cheater, or lucky bastard.

Monday, July 9, 2012

But it looked so nice in the pictures!

Just returned from a week on Long Beach Island with my parents, my sister, her husband and son, and my family. It's the first time we've vacationed together since my nephew William was born three and half years ago, and the first time we've rented a vacation home together since my sister got married.

Freakin' Sister
Having spent 144 hours, 13 minutes, and 27 seconds together, I could dish about family dynamics but they all read my blog in the interest of family harmony, allow me to instead share a little bit about how things looked:
Abby and William

  • As always, my nephew looked freakin' adorable.
  • My freakin' sister looked great. I've been working out for two years and she looks better than me after exercising for two months. And she had a different bikini for each day. And matching cover-up. And her fancy hat.
  • My brother-in-law looked (and ran) like a poster boy for Men's Health.
  • My kids looked happy, except when they were fighting. But after Ian left for a different vacation (seriously, he flew to GA to be with friends), Abby looked bored.
  • My husband looked content and carefree (understandable since he's not related to any of us).
  • My parents looked pleased to have us all together.
  • My dad's boat looked clean. It always looks clean. Dad is rather committed to cleanliness, yet even he can't compare to my brother-in-law in that regard. But that's a different post.
    And then there was the house...
I searched on-line for a rental with very specific requirements:
  1. Minimum of four bedrooms
  2. Boat dock
  3. Cheap
I think "cheap" is where I went wrong. Wouldn't be the first time. Probably won't be the last. I also went wrong when I signed a contract and paid for the house without seeing it first. Hey, it looked good in the pictures! But then "looks can be deceiving." Yes indeed, they can.

My third mistake? Asking my parents to check out the house during one of their springtime visits to the shore. They reassured my sister and me and said it was nice (or maybe the word was "fine"). But here's the thing:
My parents aren't hard to please snobs.
My sister is. Okay, maybe she's not a snob, but she's definitely hard to please. She's been known to bring hotel managers to tears and has even found fault with the Four Seasons. I won't invite Dawn to my house because I can't possibly live up to her high standards.

To be fair though, this place had even me whining and complaining and you know I rarely whine and complain. My sister was trying to be nice for maybe the first time in our relationship by staying pretty quiet on the subject so I figured I should bitch on her behalf. 

So what was wrong with this lagoon front property that looked "nice" in the pictures?
Television #2 in the dungeon downstairs.
  • It was missing a bed. And AC vents in two bedrooms. And one of the stove burners. And an iron. And a working DVD player.
  • One of the home's two televisions turned out to be from the 1970s. Seriously. Does anyone even remember how to get up and change a channel manually?
  • It wasn't until Friday evening that we figured out how to maintain a reasonable indoor temperature. Most mornings we woke up freezing after having sweated our cajones off all day.
  • The carpets were filthy.
  • The leather furniture was dirty (we know because my sister actually wiped them down; she shares her husband's obsessive-compulsive commitment to cleanliness)
  • The artwork was disturbing.
  • The bottom floor, where three of the four bedrooms were located, smelled musty and moldy.
  • All the bed mattresses rested on plywood. Nary a box spring to be found.

I realize all this is "First World Problem" stuff and I should quit my bitchin'. The thing is, we've been spoiled. But honestly, we weren't always like this.

Twenty years ago I was renting a shore house with Rob and friends where the three inch deep purple shag carpeting was harboring a host of mystery tenants. And people were sleeping on it. And on the nasty couches (the fabric kind that you couldn't wipe down with an anti-bacterial wipe, even if we had antibacterial wipes back then).  Kitchen surfaces were covered with a variety of sticky substances. Bathrooms were growing things more commonly found in science labs.  No problem. You drink enough and you don't notice.

But fast forward to spring break 2011 and where are we? Beachfront, multi-million dollar property in Pine Island on the Outer Banks. Clean floors. Working appliances. Real beds. Classy decor. Up-to-date technology. An in-ground pool, a hot tub, and an elevator for cryin' out loud. Once you go big, you can never go back.

The good news is that despite our less than swanky accommodations, we really did enjoy each other's company last week. And should we decide to do it again, I'll be sure to let my sister pick the house. I'll start socking away the money now, just in case.