Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Meeting the Parents

Bluffton Today column
February 16, 2011

I haven’t been brought home to “meet the parents” in about a dozen years. So, when the “I think you should meet my parents” bullet came whizzing past my head, I was so stunned by the potential danger, that in a blind panic, I said, “yes.”

While still suffering a little traumatic stress, I may have also invited his parents to stay with us. Clearly delusional thinking on my part.

After I recovered, and came to my senses, I started asking questions. Of course, I knew they would love me. But, since I purposely have an uncomfortable bed in my guest room, to ward off houseguests, I was worried about what this first meeting - er, sleep over - would yield.

First revelation: They don’t curse. Um, sweetie, have you met me?

Second revelation: They don’t drink. Um, sweetie, have you met me?

Let’s face it. If I am getting through these two days, I’m drinking. If, I’m drinking, I’m cursing. This should be no surprise.

As I type this, it is Monday, Valentine’s Day, and they are set to arrive in a couple hours. I will be at a meeting, having bought myself two additional hours of panic. This basically means, in four hours, I will be walking into a house (my house) full of strangers. My neck is tensing and the red splotches that I get on my chest, when I am stressed, are beginning to form.

I don’t know why I am so worried.

It’s funny, because my parents and my sister and her family (I won’t mention their last name because my sister is always worried that I will mortify her in the paper) all live right here in Bluffton. So, if someone is in my life, they quickly meet my family because we are pretty tight, and heck, they are all right here. Proxemics being as good a reason as any to have to meet my family. It has never even occurred to me that meeting my family could be a source of stress. We are a great family. Of course, I believe that, because it is my family.

So, as I prepare to meet my significant other’s parents, I have great sympathy for my sweet brother-in-law, who has been enduring my family for more than 10 years. Poor guy. After making the decision to move to South Carolina, he thought he was moving 800 miles away from his in-laws. What he didn’t know is that his in-laws would quickly follow. I’ve heard my sister quip about being 800 miles away from her in-laws (they didn’t make the move) and each time her hubby retorts, “Yeah, I moved 800 miles from my in-laws too … and look what happened.”

Anyway, fast forward to Tuesday morning. I had water with dinner and I didn’t curse once. Ok, I cursed once under my breath when I nearly burned my hand pulling the roast from the oven, but under my breath doesn’t count, since they didn’t hear it. (If a woman curses in the kitchen and no one is there to hear it, did she really curse?)

Dinner was a success. Dessert was even more successful. So much so that when I said the cake was from Betty Crocker, his Mom thought I meant the Betty Crocker cookbook not the box. (She loves me!) She cutely said, “I think my Betty Crocker is much older than yours.” She was right, since I bought my Betty Crocker three days ago at Publix. We are both voracious readers and had a lovely debate about “real” books versus the Kindle and Nook options available today. (I got a Nook for Valentine’s Day…)

His father looks so much like my late grandfather, that my heart skipped a beat when I met him. He is quick with a joke and clearly enjoyed giving his bride (of nearly 60 years) a hard time. Also, just like my grandfather.

Bottom line. Dinner was like dining with old friends and family. I think that is a good thing.

Now, I wouldn’t be me, if I didn’t admit that part of me was hoping that something might go awry, for the sake of my readers. But, at the end of the day, as we all retired to our bedrooms (some with more comfortable beds than others) there was no tension in my neck and the splotching had subsided. All signs that I’m really not as bad as some of you think I am.

Wednesday, February 02, 2011

I Predict We Stop Listening to Rodents

Bluffton Today column
February 2, 2011

Well, here we are again. Groundhog Day. Is it just me or do we do this every year? Over and over again. We wait for a woodchuck (yes, groundhogs are actually woodchucks) to emerge and predict the future. Er, weather.

It’s 2011. And we are relying on a groundhog to tell us what the next six weeks of weather will bring? I find this beyond bizarre. Should we instead, be seeking that little detail from say, oh, a meteorologist? Or perhaps someone with a smidge of college education under their belt?

Since the average lifespan of a groundhog is merely two – three years, I doubt they have had they time, in their busy schedules – hibernate, procreate, predict future, repeat - to matriculate.

With a mere 39% accuracy for the groundhog, one could argue that the weather man’s “it may rain- it may not rain” 50% accuracy rating is the better bet. Actually, you could hedge a bet on anyone.

Two weeks ago I had the nasty flu that’s been going around. (I likely caught it from you.) Anyway, I liken the groundhogs prediction to my flu predicament. I could go and see a doctor, take 10 days of antibiotics and get better. Or, in 10 days I could just be better. Meaning, I am just as qualified as the Yankee Groundhog, Punxsutawney Phil and his southern counterpart, General Beauregard Lee (I can’t make this stuff up) to pontificate on the weather.

As such, I thought I would describe to you what my morning is like … and you can then determine whether spring has sprung or winter will continue.

The alarm went off at 5:15 a.m. but that wasn’t the first time I turned bleary-eyed to the alarm clock fussing with four-letter words. No, I was up at 2:10 and again at 3:30 and 4:25 to boot. My groundhog, I mean dog, Darby has a tendency to sneak his way up the bed in the middle of the night, rendering me immobile, and actually yearning for reverie. Once the alarm sounds, one of two scenarios will follow.

Scenario one:
I’m up. I fumble on the nightstand for my glasses. One too many stubbed toes having taught me not to walk to the bathroom unaccompanied by spectacles. Splash water on face. Insert contact lenses. Don workout gear. Drive to boot camp. Sweat and pant uncontrollably for 60 minutes. Drive home. Shower. Debate need for blow drying hair. Eat breakfast. Guzzle coffee. Kiss dog goodbye. Embark on my day refreshed and ready to roll.

Scenario two:
“Darby, for crying out loud, this is my bed. My bed.” Tug covers from under dog and back up over shoulders. Try to fall back asleep. “Darby, it’s still bedtime, please stop licking my face.” Roll over and tug covers up over face. Enjoy seven minutes of additional sleep until whining commences. “Darby, please just let me have five more minutes.” More whining. “Hmph. Fine. I’m up. I’m up. I’m up.” Fumble on nightstand for glasses. Stumble downstairs. Let Darby out. Look at the clock and realize that I should have just rolled out of bed at 5:15 and I would already be on my way back from working out. I would be energized and much less cranky.

Now if this morning was a scenario one day, winter will soon be over, birds will sing, the sun will shine, chipmunks will chip, you get the gist. However, if this morning was a scenario two kind of day, we’ll have to wait until spring officially arrives.

I’d bet that regardless of which side of the bed I woke up on this morning, both scenarios will likely lead to March 20, a little more than six weeks from today, the official first day of spring.

Why are we leaving the prognosticating to a grasshopper and grub eating groundhog? Leave it to me. A margarita and mimosa drinking minx. I say shed the winter doldrums. Pull out the flip flops. Let the sun shine on your face and channel spring.

After all, isn’t it really just a state of mind?

Tuesday, February 01, 2011

What's Love Got to Do With It?

CH2, January 2011

Love. How can four little letters be so complicated? I mean most other four-letter words are quite self-explanatory. Right? shows 14 definitions, seven verb uses, six idioms, and 16 synonyms for the word “love.” That’s 43 potential meanings behind those four letters. Now, throw in the connotative meaning of the word, as defined by the nearly 312 million people who live in the United States, and we likely have 312 million definitions.

Everyone defines love in a different way.

I love the beach. I love days on the river. I love Christmas. I love margaritas. I love pina coladas and getting caught in the rain. Oh wait, that’s not me. That’s Rupert Holmes.

I love my nieces. I love teaching. I love sharpie markers, and good stationary, and Bon Jovi, and cute scarves, and pedicures, and flip flops, and shrimp on the grill, and homemade macaroni and cheese.

I also love, love. And have always been a believer in the “fairy tale.” Even though after numerous attempts, and just as many failures, I’ve got nada. So, why in the world am I still an optimist, you may ask?

I think because I might finally understand what true love means. And, I learned it from my dog.

First let me back up and give you the whole story.

I was blindsided on a fall day. I came home from work and started dinner. He paced the kitchen while I diced and sliced. A few minutes of tap dancing around the kitchen island and he revealed that he thought we should separate. After eight years, he “just didn’t want to be married anymore” - like he was deciding to give up carbohydrates.

He moved out the next day.

The damage was done. And then, the damage began. I was angry. I threw temper tantrums and anything I could get my hands on (namely, three cordless phones and my wisely insured Blackberry). I sobbed and hid in my closet, tucked safely behind my winter coats, and clutching the teddy bear my father gave me the day I was born.

It was six months before I found my smile again.

My dog Darby, well he bounced back a little quicker than I.

Darby sat at the front window for a full month after the ex left. He waited each night for him to come home. With the rumble of every truck in the distance his posture would re-align and his ears would perk. Eventually he gave up waiting, and so did I.

But, Darby – in an attempt to make dog biscuits out of kibble - made himself quite comfortable right there next to me in my former marital bed. I think the message – though subtle – was you had your chance buddy, this pillow is mine now. And, oh does he love his pillow, his 400 thread-count sheets, and his down comforter. And, placing his head on my shoulder, when he knows I need it most.

When we first got Darby, as newlyweds, my ex was the one who picked him up from the veterinarian’s office where he was being sheltered. I always felt that Darby connected with the ex more than me, because he was the one who rescued him. But as Darby sat beside me during my darkest days I realized that his love for me runs deeper than any friend I ever had. He had weathered many a storm with me. This was just the first time I truly noticed.

And from there on, we were joined by the leash. He got me out of the house every day for a walk or a run. He got me in the backyard for some sunshine. He got me on the beach to put my toes in the water and he got me to the sandbar for a quick swim. All that exercise also got me down a few pounds, perhaps Darby’s way of getting me back on the “market.”

I suspect that Darby was looking forward to the fun of scaring the heck out of any potential suitors. I used to think his bark was worse than his bite. Until the standoff he had with one unsuspecting victim. He wouldn’t let the guy near me. We sat on the couch, Darby sat between us. We hugged, Darby barked like a lunatic. When near the end of the short-lived “relationship,” we were “having some words,” Darby sat planted at my feet, growling at the opposition, who eventually retreated. (Victory!)

Turns out, Darby is a pretty good judge of character.

So when my current beau came over for the first time, and cautiously took a seat (he’d heard the previous stories), Darby walked over and put his sweet little chin right on new beau’s knee.

And that’s when I knew, I was ready for love again. And so was Darby.

Every February, in an over-commercialized frenzy, we run around like idiots buying heart-shaped everythings, to show the ones we love how we feel about them. And because of this one day dedicated to everything saturated in sugary-sweet somethings, we just might ignore those we love the other 364 days of the year. Which, when you think about it is completely backwards.

I was inspired by my dog. A mutt. Who still – after thousands of walks – hasn’t realized that I can’t get the leash on while he is jumping around and chasing his tail. Yet, he taught me the purest meaning of love. And he shows it every single day.

We’d be wise to do the same.

Illustration by Matt Anderson