Thursday, December 30, 2010

A spoonful of sugar...

So many times...especially throughout the Holiday is easy to think that our kids don't really 'get it.'

But then they casually toss us reminders that--yes--they do, indeed, 'get it.'

And they throw us a bone.

"Mom is so good at Christmas," Gabi said on Christmas morning. She proceeded to explain how she had sat in bed (from about 5:00am until about 8:00am--when Savannah agreed to get up) and pondered how that phenomenon had come to be. She came to the conclusion that during her (and her sister's) first few years on this planet she was less aware and; therefore, I was afforded time to "practice" and get the formula for providing an exceptional Christmas morning experience "down."

I was, obviously, moved by Gabi's recognition of the thought, effort, and heart that has gone into making every one of her 15 Christmases special. I needed the warmth of that memory two days later when she pouted and tried in every way she could contrive to torment me throughout our annual Nutcracker outing (which, by the way, they had BOTH asked for with much enthusiasm).

My girls do deserve 'props,' however, for indulging me in a Moving Out Movie Marathon on Savannah's last nite at home where they both sulked and fought and I ended up in the bathtub sobbing my mother-heart out at the end and the beginning that was happening whether or not I was ready for it.

Then, again, tonite, I texted Savannah for the second time to verify that her heart was still beating while it was in California with her boyfriend's family.

Rather than texting me back, she opted for calling. (Something I have a sneaking suspicion she may regret.) After we caught up on the minutiae of our days (and my dating life) I told her that she must call me later when she could speak freely about the beau's family.

To my delight, she concurred that she did -indeed- need to call me back when she could share with me the 411 on the boyfriend's family. It made my heart sing with delight to know that some things--whether flattering or not--can only be truly shared and understood with family.

I have surprised myself over the past year with my ability to let go and to accept the evolution of my daughters' burgeoning independence and maturity. And--in the spirit of Mary Poppins--those 'bones' so unexpectedly thrown my way from my beloved progeny, are the spoonfuls of sugar that make the medicine (of them growing up) go a most delightful way!

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

The Early Bird Special

Terri's birthday is on New Year's Eve. She called me tonite to let me know that she wants to stay in, have sushi and play games with the fam in our jammies.

"Unless you get a better offer," she added. Noting that she would TOTALLY understand if I wanted to go out instead.

Then she started thinking about if she would rather go out, but then details like babysitters, etc. started creeping in and she talked herself out of it as quickly as she (almost) talked herself into it.

"No!" I reassured her. "Sushi and games sounds perfect."

"But you go out," Terri insisted. "You like going out."

No I don't. Not really.

What I do is go for drinks after work. I like to "go out" between five and eight, when it's relatively quiet and I can enjoy every moment of my favorite bartender who I'm absolutely addicted to. We used to go out between nine and 11--and stay until they kicked us out. It instantly dawned on me that this is how people end up eating dinner at three in the afternoon.

"You seem to be right on schedule," Terri quipped as I shared my revelation with her. The only difference between me and those white-haired early bird diners is that I (apparently) drink more regularly than I eat. Some day I'll be drinking at three in the afternoon and then I'll forget about the early bird special and end up paying full price for my senior meal (if I don't pass out before the hunger registers).

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Scientology Camp

So a few weeks ago a colleague and I (we'll call her "J") were sent to a training for work. Now, I have traveled copiously for work over the years and this quickly became one of the most bizarre and memorable forays into the business travel realm.

First, I must explain that where we were sent was a former convent isolated on 100 private acres in the middle of somewhere near St. Louis, MO. We arrived there in the rain in the dark--driven by a man who texted the entire drive and then inexplicably darted across the road at the last moment (you know, when you see someone deciding and then they commit too late and pull in front of you and you have to slam on your brakes) in front of a rapidly-approaching car in order to enter the compound. And, I almost forgot, but when he met us at the airport he had no sign or other signal in place to alert us that he was our ride--in fact, J had to ask HIM if he was from the place. Confidence was high at that moment.

After miraculously arriving in one piece, we were greeted by a dark, abandoned building and a giant black man. (He was very tall.) We were escorted to our room where the lights failed to come on at the flick of the switch. We were advised that the bedside lamp should work. J fumbled in the dark for the lamp and we were rewarded by a warm glow revealing two of the tiniest beds I've ever seen--they were like toddler beds. We were sharing! Since my last sharing experience was with a brain-dead whore, I was less enthusiastic than my colleague. (Although J is in no way close to either brain-dead or whore. As she once quipped, "It's okay to act like a whore--but with only one guy!")

We put our bags down and rushed out to the dinner that they had "saved" for us. Dinner is only served between 6:00pm and 7:00pm, and since we arrived too late, they had to set some aside for us. We entered the cafeteria area and found some sad, shriveled pizza and a wilted salad bar waiting. We were starving and grateful for the meal, but as we swallowed our first bites we felt (and heard) our tummys start to recoil. This would become our post-eating ritual for the duration--gurgling and bubbling abounded.

While we ate, we had whispered dinner conversation. To emphasize the point, let me just say that basically EVERYTHING about me was too loud for that place. We were given forms to fill out and then told to meet the big guy at the front desk. When the forms asked for our home addresses and phone numbers we balked. I put my former address, and since the post office has messed up my forwarding order twice, I figured I was safe.

After turning in our papers we were given a sort of scavenger hunt and told to wander the building and grounds to identify all of the items on the list. Before setting out on our grand adventure, we stopped by our room and discovered that it only locked from the outside. We had a key, but the keyhole was on the outside of the door. We could not lock it from the inside. This freaked us out. Rooming together was looking much better at this point. When I mentioned this to Gabi on the phone she said to push a chair under the door, and Terri's advice was to call a cab, go into the city and get a hotel room.

J and I began our scavenger hunt for (hold your breath!) the linen room, the laundry room, the ironing room, the lounge, and then it got much more convoluted. We entered various rooms and were instructed to notice five things. We were sent to the different first, second and third floors. As things progressed I kept thinking we'd found where they would kill us and hide the bodies, but then we would end up somewhere much better suited to killing and hiding--and it went on.

In the morning, after I had kept J up all night between my horrid coughing and subsequent snoring, we partook of breakfast (served promptly between 8:00am and 9:00am only) and met the big guy to begin our training. An interesting fact: all the people who work at this place also live on-site. They also (nice as they were) seemed like members of some special work-release program for either a rehab or insane asylum. The best of the bunch was the big guy and he remains our favorite.

"This is in no way associated with Scientology," were the opening words of our orientation. Big guy continued to take us through the life and discoveries of L. Ron Hubbard (the creator of the training we were about to endure) and then ended with rousing testimonials by both John Travolta and Tom Cruise. I just think if you're going to try to avoid association with Scientology, you might want to consider getting different spokespeople.

The next eight hours were spent sitting up as straight as possible, smiling, looking alert and moving through various exercises that seemed designed for, well, people somewhat more "special" than we considered ourselves to be. We had to use random objects to demonstrate how we walked from one room to the next (J graciously saved me from this exercise--she was much better at it than I). We had to define words like "symbol" and then look them up in the dictionary if we took more than one second to answer. Once we defined the word, we had to use it properly in a sentence.

And my favorite--We had to use clay to make a model of "someone thinking about someone drinking a cup of tea." We sat down at the clay table and J immediately set to work making a perfect model of a shapely someone thinking about a slightly smaller, but otherwise identical someone else drinking a cup of tea. I am somewhat intimidated by activities like these--especially when alongside an undiscovered Michelangelo. I did the most logical thing: made a stick figure man thinking about another stick figure drinking tea. However, when reviewed by the work-release instructor, I was told that mine was wrong. It wasn't three-dimensional. My natural instinct was to point out that nowhere in the instructions did it mention the dimensions that were required. However--J and I had made a pact--we would NOT rock the boat. We would follow all instructions mildly, obediently, and in all other ways against our natural rebel natures. (We are both quite outspoken and willing to share our views and, therefore, our colleagues who had gone to the convent before us were taking bets on who would get kicked out first. We were determined to prove them wrong!) Even as the words left my mouth, I started destroying my lovely two-dimensional stick figures and got with the program.

Well, to make a long story slightly less long, we survived and finished a three day program in around 10 hours. We were, much to everyone's surprise, told that we were the best group they'd had out there from our company--AND we should have been in a more advanced class. Yup. That's right. The two wild card trouble makers showed everyone else up. Hey--that's what happens when you add highly competitive and wanting to be the best at everything to the mix. (Not mention a fear of Stockholm syndrome setting in and losing our identities forever!) After being handed our certificates of completion, and handing them back to our instructor so he could hand them back to us in front of the rest of the inmates who work there, we risked life and limb by getting back in the van and racing to the airport to try to get on an earlier flight.

Saturday afternoon (we got home Friday), after returning from the doctor with a diagnosis of sinus infection and strep throat, I received a text from J: "Are you as glad to be home as I am?" I sat there coughing, with a fever, on 2000mg of antibiotics and prescription cough medicine and thought, "Yes. Yes I am."