Thursday, November 26, 2009

Your Choice

This is my winner as the best Thanksgiving weekend sale ad.

Which item tickles your fancy - a marshmallow gun using "powerful air compression" or a 120 piece art set?

Which department do I race to when the doors open at 4:00 am?

Friday, November 20, 2009

Appreciating Beauty

I actually had dinner with my spouse at a restaurant Friday night, without any children tagging along for free food. It was nice to catch our breath and have some real conversation.

Ricky told me about a young woman he saw earlier in the week when he was leaving the hockey game with our daughter. He said she was the most beautiful woman he had ever seen. Noticing her while she walked down the street with friends, he said he was totally stunned by her beauty. I asked what she looked like. He said waist length blonde hair, short skirt, just super model beautiful. Maybe she is a super model - we get those in Dallas.

I'm not jealous. Actually, I'm glad I don't have the burden of stopping traffic wherever I go.

My husband is a fan of other models and actresses. I notice, but don't pay much attention and couldn't tell you who they are. I thought I might quiz him a little more about the mystery girl, but he said he could either feign forgetfulness or describe her in great detail. I decided I didn't really want to know.

In real life I don't have any competition. He picked me for my brains, personality and a few other attributes, all of which I still have. We've made it over thirty years, I believe we'll go the distance.

But it did start me thinking about the men I've admired over the years. I tend to go for the guys with a swagger, a combination of cool and rugged. I like the man who starts out ordinary and ends up extraordinary.

I really like Sean Connery. He just has that look, putting you in his spell. It's even been pleasant to watch him age, providing hope for the rest of us.

I flirted with Tom Cruise for a while. Talk about swagger! But then I figured out it was the role he played in "Top Gun" that I liked so much. And Tom Cruise is short. Once I noticed how truly short he is, I get side-tracked whenever I watch him, looking for the camera angles and other cinema tricks they use to make him appear taller. And Cruise is a goofball. Goofballs can be pretty and fun, but not beautiful.

Harrison Ford made my list next. On the down side, he's catching up with Sean Connery, looking more like brothers now than father and son.

Pierce Brosnan is always on my list. Whether faking detective work, heisting art or saving the world, he's got it.

Daniel Craig surprised me, but he's as close to stunning as I've seen. I need to go watch that torture scene again to refresh my memory.

Lately, my fancy has turned to Jack Sparrow. Johnny Depp just made the cover of People magazine as the world's sexiest man, but it had to be the mystery and self-confidence of Captain Jack that gave him the title. I see the "Pirates of the Caribbean" movies the first weekend they're out. I even see them twice. A couple of Christmases ago my daughter gave me a door poster (nearly life size) of Jack Sparrow. Last year Ricky gave me a Jack Sparrow figurine. They're both in my office.

Now that I think about it, though, I'm not sure. Daniel Craig? Johnny Depp? The next James Bond movie (#23) starring Daniel Craig and "On Stranger Tides" starring Johnny Depp are both scheduled for release in 2011. So I have another year to make up my mind.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

No Excuses

When you were growing up, were there forbidden words?

In our house, the usual foul language started showing up at about age ten. With some words, all it took was asking my child the definition. Usually, he didn't know. After learning it, and having to discuss the definition with his mother, I didn't hear the offending word again.

In the teen years the words might slip out now and then, but were always followed by an apology. As the good parent lurking on MySpace and Facebook, I did step in when my son referred to girls in a pimpy manner and made him change his posting. After all, he had a mom and sisters included in the insult.

There is only one phrase, though, that makes my blood boil, and I have absolutely banned its use. It is the two word phrase "but, Mama..."

Nothing good comes after the words "but, Mama."

"But, Mama" announces the transition to an argument or an excuse or a complaint or an attempt at justification. All are fingernails on a chalkboard to my ears.

I eventually developed a coping strategy that did not include physical violence or screaming. Whenever the disagreements become unbearable, I give myself some peace and quiet.

My daughters, whining champions both, would spend an occasional childhood afternoon locked out of the house until they decided to be pleasant. During a particularly turbulent period, one daughter would head straight to her favorite sitting spot on top of the brick mailbox. She laughs about it now, and probably would admit the forced solitude gave her necessary practice at improving her attitude.

Today, as usual, I was graciously providing a ride home from school to my son. I was reminding him about what he needed to do in order to get to the car in a timely manner. The "but, Mama's" started and continued, even after several warnings and requests to stop the excuses.

I made my final request and then it was "get out of the car, please." He knew then he was done. My only mistake was not bringing the dog with me as I usually do. The dog would have enjoyed the long walk home.

My son did, too. It was his choice, after all.

It is hard at first, no matter what your age, to take responsibility when you are wrong or should accommodate someone who is your superior. Actually, one of the most disconcerting things you can do is agree with your critic. More often than not it increases respect and improves the relationship.

So give yourself some peace and quiet - admit your shortcomings and move on. No excuses needed.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Boys will be boys

We returned late yesterday from a fun filled weekend in Houston, Texas at our thirty year college reunion. Lots of friends showed up, so that made it especially memorable. Our football team won its first game of the year, so even better.

But the most fun I had was Sunday morning, watching Ricky play three games of volleyball as part of a men's volleyball team alumni get-together.

Earlier in the month he was reluctant to attend the reunion, and even more reluctant to attempt volleyball. But wifely pressure prevailed, and we went.

We did manage to arrive in town too late to play sand lot volleyball on Friday. Only a few played the sand game, figuring the legs would only be there once, and Sunday would be better.

It was amusing to watch them warm up Sunday morning, hitting balls against the walls, practicing serves, setting each other for hits, peeking sideways to see how the other guys were doing. Showing up were nine men who played competitively for Rice in the late seventies and early eighties, their coach and a couple of club players from the current team. So they were able to play six on six - three games to twenty five.

Ricky didn't warm up much. He joked that he only had five jumps left and didn't want to waste them. No one expected to do great - there was just the fear of being awful in front of the people you used to be great with.

But the game began, and they quickly settled in. Old rotations and plays showed up as if used yesterday. The taunting, the laughing, the language - all the same. And they always knew what the score was.

Everyone had at least a couple of good hits and saves and there were many long rallies. Ricky did well as long as he didn't have to hit twice in a row! He even managed to do his famous backwards roll at the end of a dig. So maybe a few more balls hit the floor or the net than in yesteryear, but not much else differed.

Well, maybe the sore shoulders and knees and ankles for the next few days is a little different than thirty years ago. With a legal drinking age of eighteen, college guys never stayed sore after beating themselves up on the court.

Thirty years ago they would drive all night, play match after match and then drive back to school, crammed five or six into compact cars. Even now they can recite specific plays and tournaments and outcomes and team pranks.

Even now they are boys who can play and have a good time.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

And that's what you want?

I was speaking with a friend who was pleased with the progress of healthcare "reform." I asked what she knew about it and why she was in favor of the House bill that recently passed.

She reads headlines. She cited the "fact" that hundreds of thousands die because they don't have health insurance. (That reminded me of the Congressman in a speech referring to the "hundreds of millions" of Americans who do not have affordable health insurance. Since there are only about three hundred million people in the United States, I believe that statement is not credible.) I reminded my friend that most people do, in fact, get treated.

She referred to the inconvenience and long lines in emergency rooms, none of which she had personally experienced or knew of. (Have you read those polls where a majority of people are not experiencing a certain problem, but think everyone else is? Ah, the power of the media.)

Finally, she cited the experience of her nephew in the military. He had a brain tumor and it took months and months and months before the military would authorize his treatment with an "outside" specialist, since there was not an appropriate specialist available within their system. Perhaps they were waiting for one to graduate from medical school, I don't know. But his treatment required approval from within the military hierarchy and it took a long time. Approval was finally granted and the tumor, thankfully benign, was removed.

I don't understand how that anecdote translates into a preference for government supervised healthcare.

When our daughter was diagnosed with cancer at age fifteen, we did not have to wait in line for a specialist or outside approval for treatment. We had the choice of where she was treated. We were able to do enough research on our own to determine if we would benefit from a second opinion or treatment at a different facility. Thank God there were specialists available, doctors who had put in hard years of training in order to be able to diagnose her rare condition and offer a path to healing.

Had we been dissatisfied, we could have changed her course of treatment during the process. Unlike medicare recipients, if our insurance did not cover expenses, we had the option of paying for costs ourselves. If we had needed to sell our house or liquidate our retirement plans to pay for her life, we would have done it. To put it bluntly, life is not fair. And when you're the unlucky one, you do what it takes.

I don't regret having to pay for her treatment while the indigent child in the next room was served without payment. That's part of life, too. I don't begrudge any of the doctors their incomes, either, these men and women who make life and death judgments every day.

I would be ballistic, however, if I or someone in my family was denied or deferred the opportunity for treatment. There is no "one size fits all" in the world of medicine.

Shouldn't there be many paths to explore in developing better healthcare outcomes for us and our fellow citizens? Do you really think that creating 111 additional government boards and panels with their thousands and thousands of administrators is the first option to try? Do you really think that most Americans are so callous and uncaring that the alternative to government supervised health care is to let people die? I think not.

Rather than reciting headlines and misleading statistics, we all should think for ourselves and investigate source information directly before flippantly assuming the position. With all the research available at our fingertips, there is no excuse for being uninformed or worse, a parrot of others.

In Texas, after tort reform, hospitals are finding their liability insurance costs dropping 20 percent. The hospitals are using these savings to provide additional charity care, upgrade staff, upgrade facilities and equipment, or in some cases simply stay open. Just imagine if you multiplied that across the nation.

If the choices are "lead, follow or get out of the way," I vote for the government to get out of the way. Let the smart, talented citizens of the greatest country in the world work on the problems directly.

Monday, November 9, 2009

It's not your mama's marching band

If you live in north Texas and want to see fantastic musical theater, come to Pennington Field in Bedford, Texas, Tuesday, November 10, 8:30 pm.

The LD Bell High School Band is giving a community performance, in full uniform, before heading to its final competition in Indianapolis.

Words cannot adequately describe the motion and the music and the majesty. It is stunning.

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Physical Fitness

This weekend there was a news story featuring a female college soccer player. In the featured game she had been shown a yellow card by the referee.

A yellow card in soccer is similar to a technical foul in basketball. The yellow card means the player has made a dangerous play, been unsportsmanlike or expressed dissent (argued with the referee or used foul language.) A second yellow card or a red card and the player is ejected from the game, the team then playing a man short.

During the remainder of the game this player punched players in the back, intentionally kicked them instead of the ball, and at one point she yanked the opposing player down to the ground by her ponytail. The referee did not catch these egregious offenses, but the cameraman did. The player has since been suspended by her coach indefinitely.

Soccer is not a sport for sissies.

My son the soccer player does not usually engage in these types of shenanigans. He plays with hard shoulder to shoulder contact and moves aggressively for the ball. He does not hold shirts, tackle with cleats up or shove in the back. With boys there usually is not a hair pulling option, but if available, he would not use it.

He does tend to step on the heels of the forwards he marks and I'm sure he mouths off some in defense of his territory. He's not nasty, he's just quite irritating. And he is very good at taking the ball away.

A kind parent took these pictures for us.

Wiley has taken the ball away from the forward.

The forward has no ability to prevent the pass, but he's coming after Wiley anyway.

The pass is away, but not the opportunity to vent some frustration. The referee could have called a foul on the other player, but our team already had control of the ball.

Wiley is just laughing, and he laughed about it again when we showed him these pictures, recalling the satisfaction of that particular play.

That's the great thing about boys and about boys who play hard, but fair. There are no grudges that carry over the end of the game. And if an opponent gets a little frustrated and needs to vent, that's okay. After all, when you're winning the game, you can be forgiving. And have fun.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

No Batteries Required

The Christmas toy catalog from Target arrived in the mail today. For the first time in twenty-six years, I don't need to even look at it.


Also expensive - you know that old saying, "the only difference between men and boys is the price of their toys."

Christmas shopping isn't quite as easy and cheap when the kids are grown, so I'm in the habit now of picking up things all year long. (I'd tell you where stuff is stashed, but the wrong people might read this and find out!)

The holiday season is going to be great.

My parents are coming to OUR house for Thanksgiving dinner. Due to all the make-up games needed after rain outs, there will be no (out of town) soccer tournaments during the holidays. I get to meet my brother's new "gal" at Christmastime, and I hear she's a keeper. My youngest will get his driver's permit. Our dog will fiercely protect us from the Christmas tree.

We will all be together at least a couple of times.

Blessings, indeed.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Homemade Treasure

My mom has hinted a couple of times, wondering what will happen to her possessions when she can no longer use them. Our hobbies are different and there are many items cherished by her that are not as interesting to me.

She has collected dishes and furniture and decor and many beautiful things. But they are not top on my list. The day my parents can no longer use their large home, I'm making a bee-line for the closets and gathering every quilt my mama has made. Once they are secure, only then will I begin negotiations with my brother! And he had better bring a lot to the table.

Maybe it's a girl thing, the security and comfort I feel snuggled up in a quilt. Maybe it's recognizing the scraps of material from clothes I once wore, or appreciating the intricate design or quilting stitches. Somehow only a quilt can warm my always cold feet.

Do men appreciate quilts? I don't know.

In my home I have quilts my husband's grandma made, quilts my grandmas made and have the quilt my mama made for me as a wedding gift, using all the fabrics of my childhood. Then a few years ago, she worked on a quilt with bold and bright colors that I loved. What a surprise when I opened my Christmas package to find it inside.
What is it about quilts that touches us? My daughter burst into tears at her bridal shower upon opening the quilt my mom made for her. That same daughter has her own precious quilt which she made in high school, using bandanas accumulated while bald from chemotherapy.

I guess quilts are special because of their uniqueness and the time and care required to complete them. A handmade quilt is the manifestation of love and thoughtfulness and peace.

I found this poem that my mom wrote many years ago.

With all the conveniences of modern life, there is no substitute for the homemade quilt. So add that to my to-do list for the next couple of decades. I don't want my granddaughters to miss out.