The Brat

Last night, we bowled, as we always do on Wednesdays in the summer. When I walked in, Dan and Preacher Dave were sitting at the bar, eating dinner and having a beer. There was a strange face next to Dave and he introduced him as his buddy, Corey.

Dave informed me that I was bowling against Royal. He said it to me all pumped-up like, “YOU’RE bowling ROYAL tonight! You’re gonna kick his *ss!”

For a moment, I played into his enthusiasm, “Royal? YEAH! I can take him!”

And then I remembered about Royal. Nice guy. BUT… Royal bowled an almost perfect game a few weeks ago. It was around the third game of the night and the bowling alley had become uncharacteristically quiet. Preacher Dave nudged me and pointed at the scoreboard above Royal. There I saw, much to my amazement, that Royal was in the ninth frame and had bowled nothing but strikes to that point. The pressure got to him in the ninth and he blew it, but STILL, how amazing! I’ve never bowled like that. Yet.

So, now it has dawned on me that I am bowling Royal. And I’m wondering why. I bowl first on our team. Typically, the worst bowler is the first bowler. (So WHY isn’t Dan in first position? I’ll have to ask Dave about this strategy. Anyway…) If the first bowler is the worst bowler, then why was Royal bowling first? And what did that say about the rest of his team? I soon found out.

Warm-ups began and I recognized Tim, a rather obnoxious man but a decent bowler, none-the-less. The other guy on the team, (and when I say “guy”, I really mean “boy”) was a young guy who needed to learn that you don’t wear a striped polo shirt with patterned shorts. (Hey. I’m a woman. Fashion is a concern, even on the lanes.)

“Tommy” was his name. (When you say it, crinkle up your nose and say it in a very nasal voice. Just because. I said so.) Tommy had a very slight build with skinny legs and knobby knees, and while I was inwardly brushing off this geeky kid, he threw the most perfect ball I had ever seen. Dan and I glanced at each other with raised eyebrows. What’s this? The kid is gonna be a threat?

“Look who you’re bowling,” I teased Dan.

Dan shrugged. “I can take him. I feel a good night coming on.”

And the games began. I faced off against Royal, Dan against Tommy, and Preacher Dave against Tim. I held my own in the first game. Royal and I were neck-and-neck around the eighth frame, but then I left an open frame and he threw a strike. It wasn’t bad though. He didn’t beat me by much! Dan got schooled by Tommy, but Dave beat Tim by ONE point!

Things started falling apart for me in game two. By the end of that game, I had bowled better than my first game, but so did Royal. Dan got schooled by Tommy, and the Rev once again just BARELY beat Tim.

Game three is when we began to lose hope. Royal had really dialed it in and Tommy was bowling out of his mind. Tim was talking about Tommy as if he were some prodigy he had discovered on the side of the road and was helping him make a name for himself in the world of bowling.

“I don’t think he could even shave yet,” Tim was saying. “I KNOW he wasn’t legal to drink, but he had the most beautiful throw I’d ever seen! I snapped him up and put him on my tournament team!”

I had been chatting with Dan and Corey, learning about Corey’s job as a high school teacher in the alternative learning system when I heard Tim yammering on about Tommy. Shortly afterwards, Tommy wandered back by us and Dan asked him, “So do you normally bowl on lanes like these?”

What followed was the most arrogant response I had ever heard to a very polite and conversational question.

“Lanes like these,” Tommy scoffed? “No. I normally bowl on lanes ten times harder than these. Sorry, but this is like a walk in the park to me.”

I’m sure we were looking at him in surprise, unsure of how to take his condescending answer.

“You’ve heard of Wichita State University, right,” he asked us?

“Uh, yeah, sure, I guess,” Dan and I responded.

“They have the best bowling team in the country?” Tommy asked this question as if we were clueless and uneducated. I didn’t like his attitude.

“Really,” I asked? “I didn’t even know colleges had competitive bowling teams.”

Tommy didn’t pick up on my sarcasm and took my response as encouragement.

“Oh yeah. There’s (some other school) and (some other school.. I can’t remember what he said) but Wichita State has the number one team. I got a bowling scholarship. You guys bowl on these lanes and at best, the oil pattern goes, what? Maybe halfway down the lane? Yeah. The lanes I bowl on have oil patterns sometimes all the way down to the PINS! Yeah. Try bowling on THAT sometime. Most people couldn’t do it.”

I think Dan and I responded like, “Wow. Oh yeah. Hmmm. That’s amazing.”

And when Tommy walked away, we gossiped like a couple of little girls. “Thinks he’s so hot. What an arrogant little snit. What the heck’s he doing bowling here if he’s such a hot-shot?”

Corey was laughing along with us and we all made ourselves feel better by telling each other that as much as we loved bowling, WE did it for the fun and enjoyment. Winning is great, but it’s more important to have fun.

But I was still annoyed by Tommy’s attitude. When my next turn came up, so did Tommy’s. We approached the ball return together and he bowled first. LO AND BEHOLD! The bowling prodigy left THREE pins standing! It was my turn next. WHAT’S THIS? A STRIKE! I smiled at him, while inside my head I was saying, “Take THAT, you little dork!”

Tommy bowled his second ball and left an open frame. I tried not to gloat too obviously while Tommy made excuses for such a poor performance after bragging himself up.

The third game continued and we watched Tommy out of the corner of our eyes while we continued to do what we do best… drink beer, taunt each other, and have fun. I bowled my best game that game… a 166, I think, but Royal was on a roll and bowled over 200. Dan got schooled, and Dave just barely beat Tim.

By game four, our opponents were on fire. Tommy was now predicting outcomes on the scores, and explaining to anyone who would listen that his predictions would prove accurate because, “I’m an engineer, you know.” Dan pointed out the emblem on Preacher Dave’s shirt, one of the many he wears, proudly displaying the name of the company he owns and runs… an architectural engineering firm. “Tommy, guess what Dave does for a living,” Dan taunted.

Tommy looked at Dave’s shirt and turned sheepish. “Oh. Yeah. Hey. Well… I’m an engineering student, but I’m going to be an engineer when I graduate.”

I sipped my beer and rolled my eyes, while Corey whispered, “I think he might have a bit of Aspberger’s Syndrome.”

“Oh, sure,” I responded. “Take the high road. Give him a reason for being so annoying. I was just ready to think he’s a little snot.”

“Oh, I’m sure that’s part of it too,” Corey laughed.

Game four ended. I bowled my worst game yet and Royal kicked my *ss. Dan got schooled by Tommy, and Tim finally beat Preacher Dave. Tommy hurried off, complaining that he couldn’t believe it took us so long to bowl. He had somewhere to BE! I wanted to ask him why he was in such a hurry. If there were girls where he was going, he wouldn’t get one.

The magnitude of that thought hit me like a ton of bricks! What a horrible thing for me to think about a kid who was no older than my oldest son. What if he WERE my kid? (Well, then I’d probably teach him a thing or two and tell him to quit being such a brat!)  I couldn’t believe I’d let this kid get to me like that!

I watched him walk away, realizing he was just a kid trying to look big among a bunch of adults and laughed him off. I hope he had fun, and I hope some girl gives him a chance someday, though I still think he’s going to have to work hard to make that happen.

As for me, I bowled. And I had fun. And that is what it’s all about.

(Oh yeah… almost forgot… Dan sent me a FaceBook message with a link to the Wichita State bowling team. And Tommy? He is NOT on it!)

What? I’m not gloating!

Intelligent Conversation – Not an Issue Here

Since I am swimming in a sea of overwhelmingness at work, and since I’m so absorbed in trying to catch up (I DID beat my record of 35 files in a day today, processing a whopping 48! Yeah, this is the kind of thing that excites me. I’m such a geek sometimes…. )

What was I saying?

Oh yeah… since I have my head buried in work all day, making me incapable of noticing or experiencing much of any interest, I must resort again to sharing a conversation that crossed my path.

I was curled up on the love seat after dinner, trying to read my favorite blogs, when the phone rang. As usual, I tried to pretend I couldn’t hear the phone ringing in the hopes that someone else would answer it. Kacey sat across from me, staring me down with an expectant look that said, “Aren’t you going to answer that?”

In turn, my attention was focused toward the lower level, where I hoped that Jake might pick up the extension in the family room. After three rings, I grudgingly extracted myself from my comfy seat and stomped toward the phone, asking anyone and no one, “WHY doesn’t anyone ever want to answer the phone around here?”

I glanced at the caller I.D. and seeing that it was our friend Paul calling, I turned on my sweet demeanor, answering, “Hello?”

Paul: Hi!

Me: Hi!

Paul: Where’s your husband?

Me: I dunno. I think he might be outside, trying to race the storm with the lawn mower.

Paul: Oh, okay. No big deal.

Me: You want me to have him call you when he comes in?

Paul: Sure, thanks. I just wanted to gossip with him about Bill’s big fat face.

Bill is a mutual friend of Mark and Paul, and he’s one of their favorite buddies, so I was a little surprised to hear Paul talking this way about him, not to mention, Paul is a big, burly, manly-man, and not one to get catty this way.

Me: Are you turning into a girl?

Paul: No. Why? What’s that supposed to mean?

Me: You don’t think that last statement sounded kinda girly? “I wanted to gossip about Bill’s big fat face” ?

Paul: He does have a big fat face.

Me: That is NOT nice.

Paul: He had a wisdom tooth pulled today. Bill’s face is all swollen up.

Me: Ohhhhhh…. okay. Good to know you’re not turning into a girl.

Paul: You know me. If I had something bad to say, about anyone, I’d just come out and say it.

Me: This is true. Okay, I’ll have Mark call you when he gets in.

Paul: Thanks! Talk to ya later!

Minutes later, Mark came back in the house.

Me: Paul called. He wants you to call him so he can gossip with you about Bill’s big fat face.

Mark: Oh yeah! Did you hear Bill had a wisdom tooth pulled and his face is out to here!” (Gestures with his hand about a foot away from his cheek.)

Me: Well, Bill DOES kind of have a big head anyway.

Mark: (laughing) I’m telling Paul you said that.

Me: (deadpan) I don’t care.

Mark: I’m telling Bill you said that.

Me: (still deadpan) Only if you don’t want to live.

By this point, he has dialed up Paul and is speaking: Hey, Paul. Guess what Terri just said about Bill….

I’m so glad I can come home after a long, hard day at work and not have to worry about challenging my brain with intelligent conversation.

So I’m probably not an alcoholic

There are many over-the-cubicle-wall conversations at work. My favorite one today went something like this:

Terri: (walks past Shannon in a weight-of-the-world-on-my-shoulders fashion and sits down in chair.)

Shannon: What’s wrong, Honey?

Terri: (Whining, looking at the cubicle wall like I can actually see Shannon from where I’m sitting.) I’m overwhelmed.

Shannon: It’s okay, Ter. What’s the magic word?

Terri: Flexible?

Shannon: That’s right. Flexible. You’re flexible, Terri.

Terri: Actually, I might be an alcoholic.

Shannon: You’re not an alcoholic. Why do you say that?

Terri: Because every day after work these days, I go home and the first thing I do is have a beer.

Shannon: That doesn’t make you an alcoholic! How many beers do you have?

Terri: Just one.

Shannon: (Snorting) I think you’ll be okay. Besides, if one beer after work makes you an alcoholic, then I’m one too. The world is a better place with beer.

Terri: I know. I like everyone a lot better with beer. I don’t mean everyone has to drink beer. Just me.

Shannon: I know. I got that. (Pause) I’ll go to meetings with you.

Terri: That would be fun!

Shannon: I don’t mean work meetings. I mean A.A. meetings.

Terri: I know. I got that. (Pause) Hey, let’s not go to meetings. Let’s just drink together.

Shannon: Alright. That sounds way more fun. Let’s do it.

Terri: Okay. Go home now, Shannon. I’ll see you tomorrow.

Shannon: Okay.

And then I went home and had my beer.

More than Team Mates

They were a ball team first. Friendship came later. I love to watch them interact with one another and this weekend, it was in a social setting instead of on a softball diamond.

The end of another season was celebrated at the cabin of one of the softball families. The temperature was warm and the lake shimmered in the sunshine of a near-perfect July day.

I had picked up Kacey’s friend, Hailey and her mom, Sheila and the four of us made the drive together. An hour and fifteen minutes passed by quickly with four females together in the car and we arrived not long after most of the rest of the group. The other girls were already in their bathing suits and sunning themselves on the dock and in the boats. They came running, welcoming our two girls with excitement as we hauled our coolers and bags of food from the trunk of the car. It didn’t take Kacey and Hailey long to change into their suits and join their friends down by the water.

Coach John had brought his boat along for the day and soon had the girls out on the water, tubing. They hung on for dear life as he whipped them over the wake and spun circles in the water, creating more waves for them to hurdle in their tubes. Meanwhile, the other adults went for a leisurely cruise on the big pontoon boat, talking, admiring some of the more fancy lake homes, waving to other boaters and sipping on Bloody Marys.

A quick summer shower sent us back to the cabin, but it was over almost as soon as it had begun. The adults sat round a bonfire while the girls took over the docked pontoon boat. I spied on them from my place by the fire, listening to their laughter and watching them braid one another’s hair. The other parents’ attention must have drifted to the girls as well, and soon we were marveling together over what an easy-going group these girls were. We reminisced about our own teenage years, another mom remembering, like me, how in her high school days, she had had a couple of close friends, but never really enjoyed a big group of friends the way our girls did. We wondered whether our girls realized what a rare and special thing they shared.

Hunger later brought the girls back to the cabin and we feasted on a pot-luck dinner. Afterwards, there was an awards ceremony, courtesy of Kailey, the creative and dramatic one. She had designed certificates for each of her team mates, complete with funny and sentimental photos from the season. There were awards such as “Most Photogenic”, “Most Ghetto”, “Biggest Barbie” (long story), and “Most Likely to Laugh at Her Own Jokes.” Kacey was quite appropriately awarded the “Most Likely to Break Her Sunglasses” award, and her certificate showed the proof with photos of her wearing at least four different pairs of glasses while playing ball this summer.

Hours passed by too quickly and it was after nine o’clock when Sheila and I decided we should probably head home before we were trying to navigate our way through the boon docks in the dark. The girls spent the night at the cabin, ten of them sharing one large tent. I can imagine how little sleep was actually had, but when Kacey returned home early this afternoon, she was full of stories and laughter from the camp-out with the team.

I love to see the joy on her face as she talks about her time with her friends. She’s so animated and happy and it makes me happy that she’s been lucky enough to be a part of this wonderful team.

A Special Anniversary

Tomorrow marks two years since that day. I don’t even think about it much anymore. Weeks, even months will go by without those memories even surfacing. But then, every once in a while someone will ask how I’m feeling. I always wonder for a split second why they are asking me that before it registers that they are referring to the fact that I am minus one kidney.

For the record, I feel great. There really are no negative after-effects of giving up a kidney. Other than the fact that I can’t take ibuprofen anymore, nothing is very different. In fact, I’m probably healthier now than I ever was before the surgery, more the result of an attitude change than anything having to do with the surgery. More importantly, my dad is doing extremely well, at least as far as his new kidney goes.

I’m really glad that I wrote about the experiences, the thoughts and the feelings  surrounding the events of that day and those that followed. I went back to the old blog and read the story again (and moved it over here to this blog too.) It reminded me what a monumental piece of our lives that was. My dad and I are now forever connected in a very unique way.

Life goes on though and I’ve blended back into the everyday minutia of the world. But for one day each year, it’s kind of cool to look back and remember that I once did something pretty great.

These Days

So much going on these days, as always.

Brad has been pushing for a family weekend up north at the lake. Now that Kacey is done playing softball for a while, it seems like the perfect time. Our family is rarely all together. With Mark’s crazy work schedule, that’s a problem we’ve battled all our lives. And now that the kids are young adults, it’s even worse. It used to be that their dad was missing from half of the family activities. Now it’s more often one or more of the kids who are missing. It’s normal, I know. But I still don’t like it.

Brad looked at the calendar, checked Mark’s work schedule and proposed we go to the cabin next weekend. It seemed like the perfect opportunity. And then Kacey remembered she has a volleyball camp that weekend; something to help the school team get prepared for their season. What? Mark confirmed it was true. Said he had written a check to pay for this camp a few months ago. It didn’t get put on the calendar so no one remembered. I guess now we try to figure out a way to let Kacey stay home so at least some of us can visit the lake at least once this summer. But it’s not quite what I had in mind. Sigh.

Work continues to be crazy. I feel like I’m in over my head some days. But every time I start to get frustrated, I remember the two years of sheer boredom and I am happy again to have more than enough to do. There is one big project I’ve been working on which just multiplies by the day and I have to try to figure out how to squeeze in all the other everyday things that need doing as well.

And to top it off, there is another project that I have to figure out how to accomplish. This one has me really excited. Remember the seminar I attended a few weeks ago that had me wildly outside of my comfort zone because it required speaking in front of a group? Well, I was there because the CEO wanted someone with writing skills to learn what was being taught. My boss designated me as the “writing skilled” person and now the CEO has asked me to do some writing for a very big project! I’ve begun to write some of the pieces he’s looking for and it feels very right. I can’t remember ever being this excited about work, but I think I’m going to have to bring this one home at times because I just don’t see how I can squeeze it all in during the work day.

Thankfully, bowling continues to provide the perfect stress relief just when I need it most. When I showed up last night, I sat down to have a beer with Preacher Dave before practice began. He said something about me achieving my highest series yet last week. I said, “What?” He said, “Yeah. You carried the team last week and earned us 17 points! You didn’t know that?”

Honestly, I didn’t. I remember telling everyone that I bowled like a rock star, but that was only because I felt like I had finally dragged myself out of the gutter and figured out how to conquer the oil pattern. I really don’t get that serious about my bowling. I’m just there to have fun and am happy when I see myself improve. I had no idea that I had scored as well as I did. I guess that’s a good sign. It’s just fun for me.

Today is one of those rare no-plans kind of days. It’s rainy outside and I’m still in my pajamas. I might just try to enjoy a bit of laziness for a change. Not too much. Just a little. After all, tomorrow will bring back plenty of chaos.

Family Treasures

My parents have decided it’s time to move out of their home of 21 years. They’ve found a single-level town home (still close by me) that they like and have put in a contingent offer. Of course, this all means that it’s time to clean and purge and start packing the old house.

On Sunday, my sister sent me a text message saying she was on her way over to Mom and Dad’s. I was an hour away at a softball tournament, but our team was losing. Knowing we’d be headed home soon, I told her I’d be there in about an hour and a half.

When we got back home from the tournament, I took one look around my own house and decided I didn’t want to deal with the mess anyway, so I headed straight to my parents’ house. I walked right in and saw no one. I heard noises coming from the basement, so I headed down the stairs where I found my mom, dad and my sister standing amidst boxes and trash bags and the accumulation of stuff from a life spent together.

I joined the crew and was soon put to work sorting through a couple of boxes full of gift wrap, gift bags, tissue paper and ribbons and bows. However, I soon discovered there was much more than gift wrapping supplies in those boxes. Somehow, a stash of old pictures and frames had found their way into those boxes. My duties were soon forgotten as I showed pictures of my cousins in their younger days to my sister and parents.

“Look at this! It’s Joey’s graduation picture! Oh my gosh! How old was Scotty in this picture? Look, it’s Pam’s graduation picture! How old were Chris’ kids when this one was taken?”

And then I found a precious photo of my brother when he was three years old and the ring bearer in my cousin’s wedding.

He was 3 years old then. He's 41 now.

Soon we were reminiscing over Christmas decorations and knick-knacks. Dad warned us not to get too crazy with throwing things away or laying claim to them before giving our brothers a say. He did an awesome impression of my youngest brother “boo-hooing” over never being asked his opinion and never getting anything! It’s not often my dad makes me bust a gut the way he did just then.

There was an ugly brown ceramic pencil holder that I had made in the second grade. My mom made me take it, insisting that I not throw it away. We leafed through the hundreds of sewing patterns and remembered all the clothing my mom used to make us when we were kids. We found my old china babies, which were my mom’s china babies when she was a child. They are in rough shape, but I packed them in a box to take home with me. We found my grandpa’s old, antique phonograph and all of his records. And there were these funny little dancing men that could be placed on the turn-table and would dance while the record spun round. Can you believe there was a day when these weren’t politically incorrect?

My sis with the little dancers

Before we knew it, we had gone through all the boxes and shelves. The mess was organized into donate-ables and throw-ables and save-ables and all the sentimental things that my sister and I had determined to haul off to our own houses for safe-keeping. We ended the day by trying on some of Mom’s old clothes and parading around the basement, making her laugh and plead with us to stop making fun of her clothes.

We laughed so hard our stomachs hurt. Who knew cleaning a basement could be so much fun? It was a really good day.