Wednesday, April 29, 2009

THE AUCTION


If you were in downtown Grand Rapids Michigan on Friday night at midnight you would have seen my family, all dressed up, parading down the street carrying a large potted plant, a piece of artwork, and pushing Lilly in an ergonomically correct office "chair of the decade" as we left the Western Michigan Juvenile Diabetes Research Fund 2009 PROMISE CELEBRATION "Honoring Our Roots", a benefit to raise funds and honor my parents for all their work they've done over the years for JDRF.

We hadn't meant to get all that stuff but we had been swept away in the moment.

By now you have all been to a fund-raising auction so you have probably seen this moment in the evening when, like a perfect storm, the crowd, pumped up by a few drinks, moved to tears by the stories of the afflicted/needy, and spurred on by a little testosterone, begins to bid on stuff they don't really need or want as if it were the last face-mask in a swine-flu pandemic. And there was Jeff bidding like a madman on the "chair of the decade" even though on the ride over we had all made fun of the chair when we read about it in the auction booklet. (Which is funny but not nearly as funny as what happened to my new friend who told us the next morning at the hotel breakfast that she got the Yanni tickets--another much-ridiculed auction item--because her husband (who could not attend) had circled them in the booklet and when she'd called to tell him of their good fortune he said, "Yanni? Who is that anyway?" --and just to clarify, Yanni is not the guy who plays the alto sax, that is Kenny G., Yanni is the other one.)

Anyhoo, at the peak of this bidding frenzy, Jeff, who had already procured the once derided but suddenly priceless chair of the decade and was (as my sister said later) being played like a fiddle by the auctioneer, tried to buy nothing for $5,000.

Yes, nothing. At this point in the auction they had sold all the items and vacations and they began to sell off "a piece of the cure" (or some such term, I don't really remember) and the starting bid was $5,000. It sounds crazy but it works. In fact it works really well--it was madness--here we were in Michigan, a state hit hard by the recession and people were fighting for the chance to buy $5,000 of nothing.

My brother, no stranger to the world of charity auctions (his ex runs these kinds of events) leaned over and said, "Here's where the open bar pays for itself."

Indeed.

Fortunately, I could see Jeff out of the corner of my eye when he raised his bid card and I smacked his hand down before he bought $5,000 of nothing.

This was all for a very good cause. Juvenile Diabetes, a disease that affects my own brother, is a nasty thing that chips away at a human and forces children to prick their own skin several times a day to check their blood sugar and then inject insulin. This is not the kind of diabetes your overweight, eighty year-old aunt has (though she shouldn't have to endure that either) it's the kind babies and toddlers and teens get. It takes eyesight and fingers and ultimately internal organs. It shortens life-spans. In short, it sucks.

So I wasn't too upset when a few minutes later Jeff went ahead and bought $500 of nothing because of course it wasn't nothing at all--it was the chance to help find a cure for this monster and in the end that is a lot more satisfying than an ergonomically correct chair of the decade.

If you would like to buy some nothing, please go to http://www.jdrf.org/ and click on the donate button. I'll let you sit in my chair next time you come over. Did I mention it's the chair of the decade?

PS A special shout out to my new friends and fellow David Sedaris fans from TC and GR. Best wishes for keeping your babies healthy and enjoy that Yanni concert.

PPSS Another shout out to Dick, Dora, Helen, and Marilyn who have also been deeply affected by this rotten disease.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

THINGS THAT PASS FOR CONVERSATION AROUND HERE

Driving in the car on Sunday during the dedication of the new Holocaust Museum:

Grace: What are all these signs for?
Me: This is where the Nazis are demonstrating against the Holocaust Museum.
Grace: What are they demonstrating against?
Me: I have no idea. Sometimes they try to deny it happened. They are hateful.
Lilly: If they're Nazis shouldn't they be proud it happened? You'd think they'd be bragging about it.
Me: There's a special place in hell for them. (pause) Except I don't believe in hell.
Grace: (giggling) Maybe there's a really unpleasant place in heaven for them.
Me: Yeah, with bad lighting and poor service.

Waiting in the car for Grace after her voice lesson.

Lilly: So if they didn't teach sex ed at your school how did you learn about it?
Me: Linda Boshoven told me walking home from Girl Scouts.
Lilly: What? She just said, "Here's how babies are made"?
Me: No, she told a bad joke with a naughty word that means sex then she asked if I knew what that meant and when I said "no" she told me.
Lilly: What was the bad word?"
Me: You know, the "F" word.
Lilly: (incredulous) The "F" word means SEX!
Me: Yes, what did you think it meant?
Lilly: I didn't think it meant anything. I just thought it was a really bad word.
(Pause to think about it) That makes no sense at all! I mean "sex you", "sex off" "what the sex" none of that makes any sense at all.

door opens and Grace gets in

Lilly: Hey Grace, did you know the "F" word means sex?
Grace: No.
Me: Well what did you think it meant?
Grace: I didn't think it meant anything. I thought it was just a bad word.

While eating lunch on Saturday

Me: I heard on the radio that those Navy Seals were such good sharp-shooters that they dropped all three pirates without harming the parrots on their shoulders.
Lilly: Did they really have parrots?
Atticus: No, it's a joke.
Lilly: Oh. Ha ha.
Me: If I were a modern-day parrot I would totally wear a fake pirate on my shoulder.
Atticus: I think you said that backwards.
Lilly: No, I like it the way mom said it. If I were a parrot I would wear a fake pirate under me.
Me: That is really hard to say--pirate parrot pirate parrot
All three kids: Parrot pirate parrot pirate parrot pirate......

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

SEX ED PART II


As I was saying, Lilly just finished up Sex Ed in her fifth grade science class. I was pleased to see that some things have changed since Atticus took it four years ago. The biggest change is that now, they do indeed explain that part A goes into part B. Actually, I'm not sure if this is a true change in the curriculum or an executive decision made on the part of Ms. S (Lilly has the same teacher that Atticus had) who was tired of year after year teaching a topic when half the class was completely confused. The confused half tended to be the boys since (as I also mentioned earlier) it is the dad's job to tell the boys about sex and a lot of them simply don't do it.

Bravo for Ms. S who decided to take the bull by the horns and tell them exactly how babies are made. And kudos to her too for the creative explanation of erections (as passed on to me by Lilly). "She said it's like a long balloon that you have to blow up or it won't go in the hole." Good point. That shriveled up balloon is not going anywhere if you get my drift. It's a not-so-subtle point I would have forgotten to cover myself.

I realized just how comfortable the fifth-graders were getting with the whole subject when Lilly turned from the computer the other day and asked me, "Mom, is menstruation when the penis gets blown up so it can go in the vagina?" "No," I answered, peeling potatoes and trying to picture my grandmother answering that question a few decades ago, "Menstruation is your period. You're thinking of an erection."

She smacked her forehead and said,"Oh yeah! Of course," then turned to the computer and typed furiously.

"What are you doing anyway?"

"I'm instant-messaging Alex and we're studying for the science test together."

Is that what they call it now? In my day that kind of talk would have gotten your knuckles smacked with a ruler (not really, it was the 70's no one was hitting anyone in the public schools but I wanted to say that). Certainly I would have been much too mortified to say any of the words in her question in front of a boy or type them if such space-aged technology existed back then. Secretly I was thrilled that my kids are so much more comfortable with the whole human body sex thing than kids were in days of yore.

So I was feeling pretty good about the whole thing. All three kids have gone through sex ed so all three are well-versed in the topic. I've also had the "always wear a condom--every time" conversation with all three of them repeatedly. (By the way, did you know that experts say when it comes to uncomfortable subjects like sex and drugs and why all Illinois governors go to jail that you should talk about these things so frequently that kids have no memory of a single conversation--it's just something they grow up hearing about. Good to know especially for those of us who remember with excruciating detail the talk our mother gave us --or in my case the talk my mother never gave me.

Anyhoo, like I said I was feeling pretty cocky and forward-thinking and progressive on the whole thing until Saturday night when the family watched a PG-13 movie in which one of the mean high-school girls says to the nice high-school girl "I've heard you've never had an orgasm." (On what planet do high-school girls talk this way, I wonder?) and Lilly had to ask, "What's an orgasm?"

Uh-oh. Ms. S didn't you cover that?

"Oh," I said breezily, "That's the part that feels good so you want to have sex. Otherwise who would do that?"

"Oooohhhhh!" Lilly said, as another piece of the mysterious puzzle fell into place, "It actually feels good?"

"Yes," Jeff offered, "It's the part that makes you want to say yippee." Grace looked mortified and Atticus heh-heh-ed exactly like my brother Paul did at that age.

Later in the movie when said nice girl had her orgasm (thankfully off-screen)Lilly asked, "If it feels good why does she sound like she's in pain?"

I ignored the question.

Some things a girl has to figure out on her own.

Unless Ms. S wants to cover that for me too.

THE SECRET TO A HAPPY MARRIAGE 4/14/09


The old married couple in the kitchen.

I was thinking that I would celebrate our 25th wedding anniversary, which is today, (thank you, thank you very much), by sharing the wisdom I've accumulated over the years on what makes a happy marriage.

First, I should mention to those of you who do not know Jeff and me personally, we do indeed have a very happy marriage. In fact, I'm going to go out on a limb here and say it is the happiest, strongest, healthiest marriage I know of (feel free to argue with me if you know of a better marriage--not you Michelle and Barack). So I think I am somewhat of an expert on the topic.

I was going to come up with a list of things that make a happy marriage and I've been kicking around a few ideas--most of them are the usual--such as forgiving small trespasses and never keeping score and relishing your history together and having lots of sex. Some of my ideas fly in the face of conventional wisdom because if you're going to stick to the old "Don't go to bed angry" you're going to lose a lot of sleep. (Which reminds me of my mother's reaction to the old saying "Never spank a child in anger" to which she says "That's sick, who would hit a kid when they're not even mad?") Exactly. And if you live with someone long enough you're bound to be angry at him at bedtime so unless you plan on losing a lot of sleep you should go right ahead and go to bed angry. Besides, sometimes you can go to bed angry and wake up wondering what the hell you were mad about.

Anyhoo, I digress. After coming up with this long list in my head I threw it all out. I decided none of it really matters. Because a happy marriage depends on one thing and one thing only. Here's the secret. Lean in, ready? If you want to have a happy marriage then you (wait for it) have to marry the right person.

Yes, this is the same advice I once gave a cousin at a wedding shower when they asked each of us to write down our thoughts on how to have a good marriage. Everyone laughed when they read it out loud but I'm not really sure why. By the way, that cousin was divorced within 5 years. That was over 20 years ago and I still think it is good advice and it is that simple.

How do you know if you are going to marry (or have married) the right person?

Oh, you know.

I like to ask my divorced friends if they knew on the day they got married they were marrying the right person. Every single one of them (with the exception of you TJ) said they knew (deep in their hearts) they were not marrying the right person but they hoped he would change or they thought it was just time or they didn't know how to back out of it or they thought they couldn't do better. Yikes. Marriage, even with the right person, can be very tough sometimes. With the wrong person it is hell on earth.

So that's my advice. If you want to have a great marriage you have to marry the right person. The person who makes your heart skip a beat long after the initial lust has worn off. The person who lifts you up and makes you best person you can be. The person who always takes your side in the battles against the world (unless you're dead wrong and then he points it out gently). The person you are always proud of in public and in private. The person who you look forward to seeing every morning when you wake up and every day when he comes home.

That's who I married and that's my secret to a happy marriage.

Monday, April 13, 2009

DAVID CASSIDY FANS

So I can blog about going to see Barack Obama on election night and I can write about my daughter's fight with childhood cancer and I can post essays on raising kids and the blogosphere does not notice. Not a yawn. Just my faithful handful of readers giving me kind feedback.

But then I go and write about David Cassidy and NOW the world takes notice!??!!

Who knew?

I do want to say this about that. Those David Cassidy fans are very nice people. Though I dissed their most beloved performer the meanest thing they said about me was "she must not love him as much as we do" Which is true. I am sure there are fan sites for other performers where I would have been roasted and had my life threatened but not Mr. Cassidy's fans.

So to all the fans who wrote and disagreed with me, let me say one nice thing about him: he has the kindest and most loyal fans a guy could have.

I'm just not sure he deserves you.

Monday, April 06, 2009

EVERYTHING I EVER NEEDED TO KNOW ABOUT LIFE I LEARNED FROM THE DAVY JONES DAVID CASSIDY CONCERT


As many of you know I attended a Davy Jones and David Cassidy concert last week. Yes, let me pause here while you swoon at the mere idea of seeing these two former heart-throbs in person. I know, I know, we can't all be so lucky to live close enough to the kind of venue that attracts this kind of top-notch talent so in case you don't live anywhere near an airport Holiday Inn or the State Fairgrounds, I'll sum up the concert for you and it will be as if you were there with me.

If, by the way, you are asking yourself, "Davy who and David what?" then just never mind. But if you came of age in the late sixties and early seventies then you surely had posters of one or both of these boys on your bedroom wall. Maybe you were even a member of their fan clubs? Surely you read about them in Tiger Beat so no introduction/explanation is needed.

So here's how it went. Originally I had snatched up four tickets thinking there would be a bidding war among my friends to see this concert but what really happened was, umm, not so much. I ended up dragging my daughters and my friend Beth to this concert against ( in varying degrees) their will (Grace was horrified, Lilly intrigued, Beth slightly amused).

We milled about in the lobby admiring the crowd of middle-aged women and the handful of non-middle-aged women and men and children they had forced to accompany them. We saw just four other children. Actually, we saw just four other people under the age of 45.

We had decent seats and mercifully there was no warm-up band. Just a brief introduction to give it up for the "world's greatest tambourine player" and out came Davy Jones singing "Then I Saw Her Face" At first the sight of an old man jumping around and singing that song was disconcerting but within just moments you could tell this was Davy. This was really Davy! He walked like him, gestured like him, sang like him, sounded like him, and yes, even did the "Davy dance" in which he holds his hands up like a hitch-hiker and points his thumbs over his shoulders. It was great!

He made lots of self-deprecating jokes about his height ("We just got back from performing in DisneyWorld. I couldn't go on some of the rides.") and his age,("I used to be a heart-throb, now I'm a coronary.") He talked about being a Monkee and how much fun they had going all over the world. He told us he still saw Mickey, Mike, and Peter. He sang a few songs we did not know but that was okay because they were sandwiched in between the old familiar songs we'd all come to hear like "Last Train to Clarksville" and that goofy song he sang to Marcia Brady when he took her to prom. He laughed and said everyone thinks he and Marcia got married and moved to Ohio and have six kids (he did not deny this by the way so you can continue to believe that if it makes you happy.)

Then he finished up with the big guns, "Daydream Believer" and they brought up the houselights and all five hundred of us old broads got up and danced and sang and just for a moment we were all thirteen again and our biggest TV crush of all time was with us. Did I mention it was great? It was.

Then there was an intermission and out came David Cassidy. Now, this man, unlike Davy Jones, was fit and still looked pretty good. As Lilly (10) said, "Is it just because we're sitting so far away or is that old guy still hot?" No, it wasn't just because we were sitting so far away, he was kind of hot. He played his own guitar and played quite well. His first song, "I Can Feel Your Heartbeat" was at first unfamiliar (a new arrangement) but then I could tell that's what it was and a chill went up my spine.

Now here, I have a confession. I had come to this concert for one reason and one reason only and that was to see David Cassidy. It was he who made my prepubescent heart race, not Davy Jones. I mean, I had loved the Monkees too, but I was a bit young for their heydey. No, David Cassidy, he was the one who pointed me in the direction of Albuquerque.

So it was with great disappointment that as the concert went on, I had to acknowledge that my heart-throb had turned into an ass. He made NO reference to the little TV show that launched his career, "The Partridge Family." Nor did he mention if he sees Susan Dey anymore. Come on! What did he think we came to hear? Apparently, he thought we came to hear him play new songs he's learned since the good old days--can you say "Garden Party"?(though he did play an excellent version of Clapton's "Crossroads" but hey that is NOT what we came to see!) When he did play the old songs he played them grudgingly ("I learned this for a friend. I say I learned it because it's been so long since I played it that I forgot it") and then he played "Doesn't Somebody Want to be Wanted", which was one of his biggest hits we all loved and he was dissing it!

The other weird thing was that in no way, shape, or form did this guy remind me of David Cassidy. Not the way he stood, or moved, or sang, or spoke. Nothing. It was as if he had deliberately recreated himself.

When he started telling stories about drinking too much one New Year's Eve with John Lennon I had seen enough. I mean really, you can't mention Danny Bonaduce but you want to tell us you knew one of the Beatles? At that point I'd seen enough of his D-bag behavior and we left the concert before he had a chance to defile my sacred memory of "I Think I Love You."

So there you have it. The one who still looks good and has a respectable amount of talent was totally upstaged by the dumpy guy with the tambourine. What the hell happened here? Well, let's take a look at the lessons we learned from this.

1. You can be old and dumpy but if you are still the essential "you" it will shine through. Like an old friend at a class reunion, Davy Jones is still Davy Jones. Though it was at first alarming to see how much he'd aged, within moments, you could see it was still him and he is still adorable. I'm not sure who that guy was on stage who said he was David Cassidy. There was not one familiar gesture, or movement, and his voice is even different.

2. Don't try to deny your past. Whether you were the clarinet player with braces or a teenaged heart-throb who toured the world it is never becoming to pretend it never happened. Why David Cassidy feels the need to escape his "painful" teen years when he was loved by millions and made a ton of money I do not know but it makes it that much more absurd to watch. He should be like Davy and acknowledge that it was silly, it was fun, and it is who he is.

3. Stop trying so hard. Here was Davy, just shaking his maracas, doing the Davy dance and letting his much younger, extremely talented band shine and shine and shine. There was David, telling us he used to play this song with John Lennon, showing off his Eric Clapton slow hand, and berating his tired old-man rock-and-roll band for not getting the sound right. You tell me who is more fun to watch?

4. Give the people what they want. When people pay upwards of $50 bucks to see an old crush play the old music from their old past then you better play the old music for them. It matters not that you have "evolved" into a much better musician, nor do we care that it was "beneath you" to play the music we fell in love with and fell in love to. We just want to hear the soundtrack of our youth one more time.

And so folks, that is what the concert was like. I was pleasantly surprised to rediscover my past by watching the delightful Davy Jones, painfully disappointed to learn that David Cassidy is still trying to distance himself from his own youth, and glad as always that I got up off the couch on a Saturday night for a change.

Wednesday, April 01, 2009

I CYBER DO



As I am on spring break please enjoy this re-run which I may or may not have ever posted. J.

Last Saturday I was driving in the car with my son, when he looked at the dashboard clock and said casually, "Oh, I need to be home by 6:00, I'm performing a marriage today."

As my son is only 13 and not an ordained clergyman, this news was intriguing, to say the least.

"Excuse me?" I said.

"In my online game--World of Warquest. I'm a priest and I said I'd marry these two people."

"Oh, I see," I said. "No, not really, I really don't see at all. What does that mean? What denomination are you? Did you choose to be a priest or is it randomly assigned? Do they know you’re only 13?”



“You choose your characters and I picked priest. Then someone asked if any priests were available and I said I was. They know I’m 13. The bride’s fine but the groom keeps asking me if I know what I’m doing.”



“So they’re not really getting married, it’s just online characters getting married?”



“No,” he said, growing impatient with my ignorance, “They’re real people and in real life, they're getting married next weekend and since they're big gamers they wanted to get married online first."

My reaction to all of this was a mixture of relief and awe: relief that he can still distinguish between real life and online life; and awe that he has the confidence to "marry" two people--albeit virtually.



“So do you know what you want to say? Did they give you vows?” I asked, pulling into the driveway at 5:55.



“No, I thought I’d wing it,” he said breezily, getting out of the car.



“You’ll be drawing on your extensive theological training?”



“Well, I’ve been to a few weddings.”


My husband was in the kitchen quartering limes. I informed him that his eldest would be administering online sacraments momentarily. He shrugged and reminded me that it was cocktail hour. Meanwhile, our son the priest, sat down at the computer and calmly signed in to his fantasy world. (Since we are good parents we insist the computer remain in the kitchen to better monitor his online activity, but as he has managed to join the priesthood without our knowledge, this approach may be flawed). “Okay,” he said over his shoulder to the room at large "Should I start with 'Do you take this woman?' or say something else first?"

"Umm, err, honey, didn't you do any research for this? You know--Google 'online vows for cyber geeks' or anything like that?" Realizing that what I had mistakenly identified as admirable confidence was in reality teenaged indifference and recognizing that he was now way out over his skis, I started to panic on his behalf. I started racking my brains, trying to remember –how does a wedding start? Should he ask if anyone objects (well who wouldn’t?) or was he supposed to welcome the guests (virtual and real). “I could run upstairs and find vows on Wikipedia,” I offered, growing ever frantic as I imagined the bride waiting anxiously, her hands poised over the keyboard, her father ready to give her away with the click of a mouse, “Or I could look for our Bible and you could do a nice reading from Paul--”



Fortunately, my meddling frenzy was cut short by a little voice of reason which said, "Stop. This is not your problem. Let him take care of it." I'd like to say the little voice of reason came from inside my head but it didn't--it came from my husband who was standing at my side. I took his advice-- and the gin and tonic he had just mixed me--and we left our son to perform his first wedding.

We sat on the patio and toasted the bride and groom. We talked about the virtual world we know so little about even though our children have moved there part-time. And as with all big parenting epiphanies we were forced (once again) to acknowledge that we don’t really know what’s going on.



As the sun turned from amber to rose we grew quiet and our son called out through the kitchen window, “I’m pronouncing them husband and wife.” I shivered as the night grew just a bit cooler and remembered a line from Kahlil Gibran’s poem on children:



Their souls dwell in the house of tomorrow,

which you cannot visit, not even in your dreams.



And my son the priest said, “Amen.”