When I was growing up, there were two kinds of phones. One had a 500-foot tangled cord and the other spun numbers around like a Sit ’N Spin. The older rotary-style telephone took forever to dial. It was so slow that sometimes, after you dialed all the numbers, you had to quickly hang up because you forgot who you called and why.
In the 1970s, you had two glorious color choices: goldenrod and split pea soup green. They even matched your refrigerator and Tupperware! When the vacuum at our house chewed up a cord, another color spiral would appear from the basement. You were considered rich if your family had the original phone cord.
Standard phone cords were 12 inches and rarely tangled; but if you had a teenager in residence, the 25-foot extended cord was mandatory. Now your kids could giggle in the stairwell two rooms over, and you wouldn’t have to hear any part of their conversation. Helicopter parenting hadn’t been invented yet.
As a child, I dabbled in prank phone calls. I was nowhere near making it an art form; but nonetheless, it was an adequate time killer. Actually, most prepubescent kids believed they were the masters of prank calls. No one older could be that clever or daring.
My friends and I heard if you dialed a number that wasn’t in the phone book, you could call accidentally call China. We could only imagine that it would cost a fortune! So we would search for the funniest last names in the White Pages, throw around some primo dialog, and pray we could hang up before our friends listening on the other line exploded with laughter.
The next generation of prank calls occurred on cellphones the size of a miniature Schnauzer. You plugged the phone into the cigarette lighter holder in your parent’s car and if you held your head still you could keep from losing reception. If the car were running, reception would be lost and since these witty verbal exchanges were with the opposite sex, you didn’t want to chance that. Thank goodness, we didn’t have caller ID!
BlackBerrys were for adults only. It missed adolescent silliness all together.
With flip phones, toddlers added to the pranking world. Clumsily pushing buttons, they imitated parents any time they could get their sticky fingers on it. Nothing is better than taking a shower and discovering the police are leaning on your doorbell and searching your shrubbery for intoxicated oafs. The percentage of young children being able to dial 911 is much higher than one would think.
Smartphones turned up the heat with pranks. Not only could a child text anyone on your contact list, but if you were silly and thought it was a good idea to teach your children to read and write, you might find yourself explaining ridiculous texts to strangers.
“I love bacon an Imeanit!!”
Take my word — it’s not fun explaining why your child is violent about cured pork products.
Thank goodness my young kids never figured out they could do FaceTime. I can only imagine what our accountant would think if a half-dressed toddler showed up on his work computer.
And as technology history shows us, it’s only going to get worse, folks!
The other night when I was tossing and turning in bed, the comedian and self-acclaimed redneck Jeff Foxworthy came to me in a vision. Thankfully, my husband was sound asleep so he didn’t kick him out because Mr. Foxworthy came up with a Breathalyzer scale for sleeplessness.
▪ If you’ve had the driver in front of you flip you the bird because your forehead kept leaning on the horn, you might be too tired to drive.
▪ If you’ve ever imagined a flock of sheep flying single-file over the red light in front of you, you might be too tired to drive.
▪ If you’re merging on the interstate and you find yourself nestling into the headrest while your seat slowly reclines, you might be too tired to drive.
▪ If you’ve had to turn the A/C on high and blast ‘80s music to redirect the polar pull from your chin to your chest, it could be a sign you’re too tired to drive.
▪ If you realize you’re driving the wrong way on a one-way street and decide to just slow down and turn on your hazard lights, you are too tired to drive.
▪ If you’ve ever started turning left at a light and half way into the intersection don’t know how many turn lanes there were, you might be too tired to drive.
▪ If a mile from your home, people drive up beside you pointing out your gas cap is off or your super-sized grande coffee is on your car roof, you too, might be too tired to drive.
▪ If you are pressing buttons on your car radio, trying to find the “snooze” button, it’s a good sign you are too tired to drive.
▪ And if you have a case of 5-Minute Energy bottles in your glove box just for emergencies, parents, you might be too tired to drive.
Even though people may not make the best decisions when they are exhausted, it’s not a laughing matter. The research proves it and you don’t want to be another statistic. There are better ways to get in the papers. So when the baby sleeps, don’t think it’s finally time clean the house. Go ahead and sleep. A nap might save your life and seriously, the house will be a mess until the kids move out anyway.
I never gave much thought to being an older mom. Parenting wasn’t in the cards for me when I was in my twenties. I couldn’t care for mini humans, while downing cheap beer and noshing on 7-Eleven frozen burritos at 2:00 am.
In my early thirties my outlook drastically changed. My biological clock began striking like Big Ben, but finding a striking partner wasn’t working as well. My friends called me the “Queen of First Dates.” But why buy the cow, when he’s boring and full of himself?
By my mid-thirties, I married a wonderful man, who wanted to start a family right away. I concurred. You would think by thirty-five, I’d be well equipped for what was coming; but the Great Baby Hurricane of 2005 rocked us off our foundation.
Like most new parents, I quickly learned my wild years were behind me. Sure my babies were cute while they screamed like feral animals, but since my girls were only 14 months apart, my past needed to be hung up to dry out. Add some running shoes and a large vat of Ben Gay, and this old gal was prepped to train for the parenthood marathon.
Would I have had more stamina or patience as a younger mom? If I had started a family right out of college, would I have been able to provide for my kids financially as well, or give them the emotional support that only time can afford? There’s an enormous difference between 35 and 21. Just ask my stretch marks.
I would like to think the young me would have nurtured my children into adulthood; but I’ve always thought I made the right decision waiting. Until a few years ago…
While making my weekly Target trip for the family, I moseyed over to the glasses kiosk. Glancing over my shoulder to ensure no one I knew was watching me, I moved toward the type of glasses which many ladies have attached to a chain dangling around their neck, while maneuvering tiles during their weekly Mahjong game.
Yes, the time had come for me to start wearing readers. I managed to convince myself it was because my arms had grown too short. Blissful ignorance and avoiding reality is what keeps me young.
If you’ve ever tried on “cheaters,” there’s an entire production before you purchase the correct pair. I thought I’d find the pretty ones, check if I could see out of them and be done. Wrong.
First, if you are lucky enough to see the prescription numbers on the label, you are ahead of the game. Since I had small children, and rarely had time to myself to try on 32 pairs in one trip, I waited longer than I should have.
As the directions state, first you must stand 14 inches away from the mirror.
Did they mean from the tip of my nose or were my toes to be that far from the shelving?
Since the instructions weren’t clear enough for me, I automatically assumed the manufacturers didn’t know what they were talking about.
I perched the pretty pair on my nose and began searching for small print. What I needed was a can of tomato paste. The lettering on those tiny cans is so small, I’ve had to change dinner plans mid meal preparation. But there in my cart was the font I needed, on the back of the Huggies’ Pull-Ups.
Readers and diapers – the irony is priceless and ridiculous. There are few moments in my life where I heartily laugh at myself. The kind of laugh where you can’t breathe, your face reddens and tears stream down your cheeks.
Good thing I didn’t have my daughters with me because I’m sure someone would have ruined my laughing cleanse by telling me how cute my granddaughters were.
That hypothetical person is very lucky I didn’t hurl a jumbo pack of Huggies at her.
And with my new trendy specs, I would have nailed her.
I try to be a “cup is half full” type of person, despite routinely being buried in the bottom third of my coffee grounds. Whoever said being positive about everything in life has done a whack job on my emotions. It’s a polar pull of happy and mad magnets playing a tug of war game on my brow, and I have to admit it’s exhausting!
If a family member breaks my favorite irreplaceable dish, bestowed to me by my deceased grandmother… It was an accident. Get over it!
If someone left a cotton ball soaked in acetone nail polish remover on the new coffee table, causing the finish and stain to permanently disappear…
It had to have been a temporary lapse of good judgment. Don’t yell!
If I almost run over the Google Fiber workman in my driveway one morning because I’m arguing with my girls about why they’re always running late…
I’m sure those workmen are used to it. Just smile and nod!
Google Fiber sure tests my happy magnet. It’s taking over the scenery of our town. Do they assume I prefer listening to their constant machinery cacophony? It’s the perfect audible blend of discord that makes my stomach border on nausea and my head bang to the beat.
Have you seen these workmen, with floating heads lining the curbs of our streets? Their bobbing, white safety helmets remind me of a natural history museum panorama, where the prairie dog’s head raises up and down from his hidey-hole.
Yet, if you’re yearning for faster computer loading time, then your heart might skip a joyous beat gazing at the destruction of yards. I realize it’s the city’s turf from the sidewalk to curb, but if the city is claiming that part of my yard, I think they should mow it.
If you care less about speed, use a dial-up modem, or are wary of modern advancements due to the “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” theory, then I can appreciate your irritation. However, my unsolicited advice is it might be time to head down to your winter home in Scottsdale, Ariz., or add yoga or meditation to your daily routine.
My family is cautiously hopeful about Google Fiber. I guess that makes us middle aged? No need for yoga or Arizona real estate yet, but we won’t be first in line for the switchover.
So that same morning, after dropping off my daughters at school, I turned onto my street to see my new head-nod buddies. Every time I passed them that first day, I’d give the Midwest head nod or the dirt road farmer’s finger wave. You know the one — where you lift your index finger straight up off the steering wheel, keeping eyes forward, and no trace of a smile.
Those Google Fiber men were still hard at work, now buried to their knees in my cul-de-sac. Once again, my inner tug-of-war battle begins.
I know the final product will be convenient and someday I’ll wonder how I ever lived without it; but how is my yard going to look after they put it all back together?
Will they plow through our sprinkler system and mess with our perfected angles of yard saturation?
And what if we decide to put our house on the market that day? The photos would be atrocious!
As it turned out, I needed to be patient and dial down the worry monitor. At the end of the day, the workers put the yard back together beautifully, and life went on as it always does.
But earlier that afternoon, when the men had dug themselves neck high, it hit me. This day was just a petty complaint. I could turn my frown upside down by pranking my kids on the ride home with tales of floating heads by our driveway.
It turns out my dose of fiber was served with a cup full of laughs that day, and thankfully my ears have finally stopped ringing.
The other day, I phoned my attourney to see if she could get me out of a traffic ticket. If the misspelled “attorney” jumped off the page in that untrue sentence, you too might have been a spelling bee contestant.
“Attorney.” The stinking word I botched in the fifth-grade spelling bee. Three of us went round after round, trying to be the master of our dictionary, but after what felt like eternity, I was out. I’m quite certain mild PTSD stemming from the experience ruined any chance of my becoming a lawyer — that and my aversion to arguing.
What people don’t know is I studied diligently. D-I-L-I-G… In fact, my fifth-grade teacher had a warped need for a student national winner. My brilliant best friend was a shoo-in, and her lifelong gray matter competitor finished our trio; hence, the three Musketeers advanced to parry in the hallway. I remember endless hours seated on the hard linoleum. We weren’t prepping for a tornado drill, but memorizing the dictionary. Every day we’d quiz each other, then return to the classroom, to join friends in constructing dollhouses crafted out of cardboard and wallpaper samples. This teacher also wanted some architects.
(Other than growing moldy lima beans in the windowsill, art terminology and spelling, that was fifth grade. A tenured public school teacher can be terminated, and she was.)
So when my eldest daughter came home beaming that she’d made the school’s final level of the National Scripps Spelling Bee, I was proud as Punch. I’ve always felt people are born good spellers or not, and this daughter hadn’t missed any spelling words in second grade. Genes can be a blessing, but for some — unfavorable.
My youngest and extremely bright child, who lacks that spelling gene, announced she was also chosen to represent her grade in the same bee. I almost passed out. If she weren’t 9, I might have suggested buying a lottery ticket because the girl got real lucky with the words she was given.
Over winter break, both girls had much opportunity to memorize the provided word list. But since history guided my hand, my girls were to be self-motivated or roll the dice praying for three-lettered words.
Their collective studying motivation was absent. I suppose if your teacher said you’re the best speller in your class, you could interpret that you know all the words in the English language. Some kids are naturally competitive for top academic honors; mine enthusiastically competed in Wii Mario Brothers on their vacation.
The Spelling Bee was nerve-wracking, no petrifying, for some parents. P-E-T-R…I’m sure the kids were nervous too, but I was too busy praying my girls wouldn’t miss their first word. Other than tripping on the way up to the microphone, being the first person out is the worst. Of course, I didn’t tell them that.
My oldest daughter was up first. She didn’t trip — and she got it right! A loud exhalation from me penetrated the crowd. Oops!
Now it was time for my baby.
Oh, Lordy! Let her get “cat.”
She got it right! And it was a four-letter word! (The good kind, mind you.) Even better. Now I was in it for the win. Luckily my daughters weren’t as excited as I was. After the fourth round, my third-grader joined her classmates in the audience, followed by her big sister in the fifth round.
However, after my oldest daughter missed her word, she made a choice that warmed my heart. She saddled up next to her little sister who appeared deflated, put her arms around her and gave her a long hug.
As a parent, it was better than winning any national title.
My kids were the winners that day, and I couldn’t be prouder of who they are becoming.
I should have realized when I rounded the corner at the end of my street and a raven peered deeply into my soul that it was going to be one humdinger of a day. I would not recommend participating in a staring competition with birds, especially when behind the wheel. It rarely ends well.
Typically, I’m not superstitious. I can walk under ladders, pet a black cat on Halloween, and not panic when I break a mirror — unless it shatters while I’m gazing into it. That’s a whole different anxiety. However, from my repeated history, a looming black bird the size of a small Cockerdoodle is foreshadowing for sure.
With that dark stare, a sense of impending doom crept into my subconscious. Would there be an accident? Or, heaven forbid, was someone going to die? I tried to remember if there was a full moon because that would have cinched the deal. It would be one quick U-turn and I’d be back in bed. Alas, no sleep for me because we were on our way to my daughter’s dance class.
One of the perks for young girls on a competitive dance team is they get to see each other often and dance their little tutus off. Not literally. That would be an inappropriate team for any child. However, what’s often a perk for the child is a torture-fest for the parent.
Currently, my daughter is taking only four classes a week. Yes, she desperately wanted to do this. I know there are some of you moms reading and shaking your head saying, “Four? That’s child’s play. My kid’s on 27 teams. Plus, I homeschool her, so she can learn all the positions, choreography and be fluent in French just to pronounce the dance steps!”
As any seasoned chauffer knows, whether she’s a mini-vanning soccer mom, a tennis taxi or a member of the softball SUVs, the rules are finite. If your child’s event is an hour or less, a parent will pull out their cell for some phone crack, whether it be Candy Crush, Netflix or perhaps to write a column.
That morning, my daughter attended a mandatory ballet class. We had to rush afterward because she had plans to go to Science City with her grandparents. Not wanting to lose precious quiet time, I dropped off my dancer, parked near the door and plugged in my phone to charge.
I was excited to have the day to myself, to clean up our family’s holiday mess, find places for new toys and catch up on laundry. After several levels of Candy Crush, and comprising my to-do list for home, my hour had expired and my dancer was rushing to our dance delivery demi-van.
Turning the key in the ignition, I was jolted by what can only be described as a car panic attack. It was my mistake for leaving the battery running for an hour. Darn, that Candy Crush!
Cough, cough, splutter, splat!
“What was that, Mama?” my daughter asked.
“Oh, I must have not pushed down on the gas enough. We’re fine,” I lied to her.
Bap, bap, bada blatta psst…
“I thought you said we were fine,” pointed out my literal child.
“We are. The car … not looking so good.”
Thankfully, after several failed attempts, another dance mom and I were able to jump the battery, only to prove there’s nothing dance moms can’t handle. And my daughter was only a bit late for her next event. Luckily, I didn’t have to chauffeur her downtown.
At the end of the day, I was relieved that nothing else went wrong. No disasters. No death. The only thing the raven killed was my van and, briefly, my pride.
Score one for the bird, but 100 for the dance moms, for we stared death in the face and came out victorious.
Previously published in The Kansas City Star on January 8, 2016
The other day I was reading emails on my phone while waiting for an elevator that would take me to the first floor to exit the building. I pushed the button and waited alone in a three-story office building comprised of various professions: doctors offices, law practices, a podiatrist and a zit popper.
Now, I’m not afraid to make eye contact or say hello to anyone exiting the elevator before boarding. I’m from the Midwest and we are known as a friendly people. So as soon as the doors opened, I checked the cabin to see if all was clear. There was a woman with kind eyes getting off on my floor, but before I could exchange pleasantries, I saw something flash out of the elevator to my right.
I assumed it was a small dog off his leash, and in that split second, I was fine with it. But when I noticed that the woman on the elevator was not sight impaired, I wondered why she had brought her dog to the doctor’s office. There is not a veterinarian in the building. So instead of reciprocating her warm greeting, I spun around to check out the dog, as I leapt into the elevator. I’m sure my lackluster twirl and sashay was shocking to her, and since I ignored her salutation, she must have thought I was rude or odd. But in one fell swoop, I learned I wasn’t the odd woman out.
Little “Toto” wasn’t a Toto at all. Nor was there a leash on her pet.
Probably because most cats won’t sit still and you can squash their windpipe with a collar. Yes, this gal was either going to a therapist, to get calluses buffed off her feet or to a reading of a will accompanied by her feline friend.
I’m not judging here, but things don’t just fly like that. OK, maybe I was judging, but it made me think why elevators are such odd modes of transportation.
Why is it when most people get in the general proximity of elevators, they behave like middle-schoolers? A veritable wallflower syndrome is bestowed upon the riders without fail. People don’t have to get in the elevator for them to start acting uncomfortable, and a mandated quietness and degree of professionalism is required, as if you are presenting a $30 million contract to the board. Oftentimes, I feel too casual and under-prepared. There’s also an unspoken etiquette for how people are to board an elevator. If there’s more than one person waiting, the one who got to the loading area first has the right-of-way. Unless of course, you’re standing with a chivalrous person who holds the door, and insists the ladies-in-waiting traipse across his jacket over the threshold, and don’t you dare push that button! That would be rude, with a trilled “r.”
Why is it when the public gets in an elevator everyone turns and watches the closing door, with hands clasped or arms pressed firmly to their sides? It’s because we magically turn 13 again. Heaven forbid your elbow should brush into someone. It would be so embarrassing if your arm touched a cute boy!
I’m fairly sure there isn’t a manual explaining societal elevator policies. But if there were, a required directive prior to entering, during the ride, and evacuation plan would be indexed. But where would such a thick document be posted?
Perhaps if there was a television screen on the elevator wall, actors dressed like old-time lift operators could explain proper etiquette.
Hello. Floor please? Now that I have your attention, let’s go over the mandated regulations…
It could be similar to some airlines where the flight attendants are no longer presenting safety instructions.
Some airlines have videos that are shown as the plane taxis to the runway. Since the world is hypnotized by electronics, the best way to grab people’s attention is by giving them a free movie. Add a little humor to this instructional video and you would have a captive audience.
This would fix the wallflower problem, too. Imagine how you would only have to focus on the screen and could ignore the people around you without that tense feeling.
…Let’s go over the mandated regulations. First, please keep your hands and other body parts to yourself at all times. Remember this is a no-smoking ride, and cats are strictly prohibited.
Previously published in The Kansas City Star on December 24, 2015
Ever have one of those events in your life that is slightly traumatizing but in the back of your head you know you’ll laugh at later? Much later.
Recently, I was contacted to become a mystery shopper for a few stores in our area. This is a business where you are paid by the store to sneak around, buy things and then write a detailed report of what you witnessed, from cleanliness to customer service. They pay for all expenses and give you an itinerary so you know exactly what the company wants.
Living in New York City stole the Midwest girl out of me. Robbed me blind of trusting others. Because of my jaded outlook, I did some research and learned this was legit. It seemed too good to be true, but I figured they contacted me because of my writing skills and charming personality. Or it could be that I had a bachelor’s degree in theater and could complete a sentence.
The initial email correspondence from the company seemed appropriate. There were no mentions of Nigerian princes wanting to marry my daughters, nor tragic tales of someone being kidnapped in Nepal and losing their travelers checks. If only I had a dollar for every email that sounds like this: “So if you please, Mrs. Stacey, wire money to my bank in my home village in Netanyahu. Blessings.”
So far, no red flags were raised, but I remained cautious.
I even spoke to friends who had heard of this company, which legitimized it more. Plus, my concrete research on Wikipedia.com. Just kidding, everyone knows that site is bogus and the “facts” can’t be trusted. I did, however, find the Mystery Shopper website and it looked trustworthy.
So when the Priority Mail envelope appeared in my mailbox, I had an extra skip in my step down the sidewalk. I was going to be making some money while shopping! Who could ask for anything better?
It wasn’t until I read the return address on the envelope that a rose color flag clouded my glasses.
Why doesn’t the company have its name on the envelope?
When I opened it up, I expected to find a packet filled with documents on fine paper, with a professional masthead. Instead, I found a piece of copy paper that was tri-folded and lacking any business sense or style.
Why wasn’t the name of the company printed on the letter either?
Still clinging onto hope for the payout, I sadly found a check that looked as if the cheap ink-jet printer I used in college a LONG time ago printed it.
Warning, warning, Will Robinson!
Now the red flag not only slapped me across the face, but also branded a new type of shame on me. I’ve been embarrassed for making mistakes. I’ve had numerous experiences where I made a fool of myself publicly. But why was this scam especially devastating?
It’s probably because I’ve felt the elderly are more prone to getting the wool pulled over their eyes. Naive and trusting grandparents of the world fall for computer scams, not me!
I’m not old, by golly! Jeepers, I’ve even embraced my age lately, by not flinching at stray gray hairs or shrieking at new wrinkles. But this scam cut the pressed-powder cake in my compact. It’s time to apply ghost white powder to my nose and some fire engine red lipstick that I scored in the bargain bin at Woolworths. Actually with time, I’ll crank my Gloria Gaynor LP and survive this pity party — but I better catch a nap first.
Previously published in The Kansas City Star on December 12, 2015
Reflecting on holidays past, present and right around the corner, I’m reminded of all I’m thankful for. My family is here and accounted for, all are fairly healthy and my friends and minivan are paid off. What? How else can I keep my crazy antics a secret until I announce them on the World Wide Web?
So without further ado, it’s time for another confession by yours truly, aptly brought to you by Kleenex Brand tissues and Excedrin Migraine.
I used to hold grudges. Heavy-duty ones that could have made comedian Lewis Black bow before me. The silliest things made me livid, fly off the handle or stew until my blood pressure boiled — or sometimes I’d go the other route and sob like a toddler in timeout. Hormones are not to be taken lightly.
It didn’t matter if I caused my inner volcano or if the grocery store sacker was my tormenter. I handled it the same ineffective way, by holding my breath, tucking away all raw feelings and pathetically dreading their return.
After I became a parent, I noticed when my kids had accidents, reacting like a wild woman was unproductive, plus a touch embarrassing. Everyone makes mistakes. Kids, adults, even Dutch cheese makers do it. Slip-ups make us human and more interesting.
Since it’s a child’s job in life to have accidents, make mistakes and messes, parents shouldn’t punish them for what comes naturally. I try not to be snappish when my daughter drops a full glass of milk on the rug, or when she and her sister hypothetically paint their bodies and the closet door with Very Berry Revlon lipstick.
Unfortunately, many parents’ first instinct is to shout out their young one’s mistake.
“You flushed my hand towel down the toilet!” screams the mother, ankle deep in non-potable water. How can one blame a child who doesn’t have a clue how she created the mess? They are only trying to figure how things work, or in this bathroom scenario, how they don’t work.
When one of my daughters was heavy into toddler destruction mode, she found a beloved cassette tape of mine. How fun it was for her to pull out the brown strand of ribbon! It just kept coming and coming.
By the time I discovered it, she was cocooned in the last remaining studio recording of a pitch-perfect singing group I had proudly joined in college. All those tight harmonies and irreplaceable sounds we crooned in festivals across Europe were now twisted under a pair of Dora the Explorer Pull-ups.
I frantically tried to right the wrong, but it became clear this part of my glory days had just curled up and died. My heartbeat quickened, my breathing became uneven, and as my eyes welled up, I could feel my old rage trying to escape. But this time I didn’t lose my cool. I couldn’t blame my daughter for accidentally destroying something I held dear. So instead of imploding, I yelled for my husband to take over cleanup, so I could hibernate in peace, tears and a cheap box of Chardonnay.
Deep down, I knew my daughter didn’t try to hurt me. She was 3 and made a mistake. Believe me, she’ll have plenty of opportunities to stab me with her words during adolescence.
Memories of this only send a slight twinge of regret now. That chapter of my youth is officially over and I’m OK with it. But like that fine box of wine, life will continue to get better or at least more interesting.
I’m truly blessed because my family is still intact, we have our health, and I wouldn’t trade any one of them for a replacement of that cassette.
Although you might check back with me when my girls become teenagers. Hormones are not to be taken lightly.
previously published in The Kansas City Star on December 10, 2015