It was Christmas Day. We were still in the early years of our marriage with three young kids to keep us very busy and generally short on sleep. At that time in our lives, almost every bit of my time, energy and money were focused on those kids. My wants and needs were secondary, and that was just fine with me.

It was my turn to unwrap a gift. I had a large, rectangular box in my lap. I slid one finger under the folded edge of the wrapping, popping the tape open so that the paper fell loose from the box. I lifted the cover and set it aside, pulling the tissue paper open to see what was folded inside of the box.

There in the box lay a lovely, deep purple, satin nightie with black lace trim. And there was something more. I lifted the nightie from the box to find a black, velvet robe to match.

I didn’t know what to say. It was a tasteful gift, yet decidedly intimate. I blushed slightly and looked up to see the eyes watching me…

There in the room was my husband’s family, all watching me. Every one of the many of them. His sisters and brothers. Our nieces and nephews. My own kids. My mother and father-in-law.

“Oh, it’s very pretty,” I forced myself to say aloud, while inside I was feeling distinctly uncomfortable. This just didn’t feel like a gift I should be opening at the big family Christmas. I looked to my husband, silently pleading with my eyes for him to rescue me, but he was oblivious.

I wanted the gift-opening procession to move on, beyond me. My face was burning and so were my ears. I had no desire to have any more attention on me and my nightie. There was a room full of people staring at me and my new lingerie – people who should not have been contemplating me and lingerie. The moments seem to tick by interminably.

My mother-in-law and father-in-law were looking at me with proud smiles on their faces.

“I hope we got the right size,” my father-in-law said to me. “We figured you wouldn’t buy something like this for yourself, so we did!”

My mother-in-law nodded in proud agreement.

My in-laws had bought me a nightie for Christmas.

I don’t guess they would have understood, but the tags never even came off.

*Inspired by the NaBloPoMo writing prompt: What was a gift that wasn’t well received?

How I Embarrassed Myself at the Bowling Alley and Still Managed to Have Fun

So last night was bowling night, right? Which means I was in a pretty good mood because we all know how much I love bowling. This summer league that I’m in is a challenging league because we are bowling on oil patterns that change every single week. (It’s the Team USA Experience league, if you really want to know.) There’s no getting familiar with a particular oil pattern because next week there will be a different one.

Side note for those who are less bowling-enthused than I am. A bowling lane always has a layer of oil on it. In a normal bowling league, or when you’re just bowling for fun, you bowl on a “house shot.” With a house shot, the oil is always applied the same way. In my summer league, we are bowling on a “sport shot” which means that there’s not a standard pattern. The oil is applied in varying patterns. To make things even more challenging, the patterns grow longer every week ranging from 33 feet to 47 feet. The longer the oil pattern, the less likely your ball is to go where you would normally expect it to go. So you have to figure out how to compensate for the oil by changing lines or using different wrist positions.

… or something like that.

Where was I going with all this? Oh yeah… So I’m not a spectacular bowler on a good night on the house shot, much less on a sport shot. But that’s not the point. We all know by now that I do this because I just love the game. I arrived last night early enough to bowl a warm up game and found that for whatever reason, I was doing pretty well on the new oil pattern. I was way excited to get the official games underway. So when we were given the go-ahead to start bowling, I was one of the first, if not the first person to approach my lane and start throwing.

I lined myself up, balanced my ball, and began my approach.

Another piece of information any non-bowling geeks will need to know is that the shoes you wear for bowling have sliding pads on the bottom of them. As you approach the lane and start throwing your ball, you should slide forward slightly on your front foot while releasing your ball. That is, of course, you should slide forward unless something happens to prevent your foot from sliding. Something like stepping in some spilled droplets of water will stop you from sliding. And I mean, your foot will come to a dead halt. Which isn’t good when you’re trying to put some momentum behind a fourteen pound bowling ball.

How do I know this? I know this because I learned something new about bowling last night. I learned that when you step in the droplets of water, which fell from Dave’s tall beer (Substitute Dave, not Preacher Dave who was unable to join us last night due to having to coach his daughter’s soccer team) and then you do your normal thing and try to slide your foot forward as you’re releasing your fourteen pound ball, not only does your ball fly into the lane, but so will you!

So there I was, sprawled on all fours in the middle of my lane. I could feel the oil on my hands (ick!) but more importantly, I could feel my face turning scarlet. I crawled/turned my body around so that I was facing away from the lane. I sat on my knees trying desperately not to see how many people might be gawking at me. I looked up at Substitute Dave from my position on the floor and asked, “How did I do?”

“Pretty good,” he said. “Turn around and look!”

So I did. A strike! Not only had I thrown my own body down the lane, but I’d managed to bowl a strike while doing so. Not that it mattered because throwing yourself into the lane is called a “foul” and that means your throw didn’t count.

Fudge. Only I didn’t say “fudge.” I said the F blank blank blank word. Preacher Dave really wanted our team name this year to be “Eff” in honor of the frequent spewing of that word and/or any of it’s derivatives, but that’s a story for another day.

Oh, well. It wasn’t the most promising start to an evening of bowling competition, but I picked myself up, sanded and powdered the bottom of my shoe to make sure that I wouldn’t be spending any more time on all fours in the lane. Dan found a bar rag and a dry cloth and cleaned up the floor in our area. I found some napkins to place under Substitute Dave’s drippy beer glass and it was back to business as usual.

Did I mention Dee? Dee is the woman who was bowling on the opposing team and had, interestingly enough, discovered a single drop of water near our table prior to my first throw and cautioned us all to steer clear. Dee had graciously wiped up the water with a napkin. Little did any of us know that I had mopped up the rest of the water with my foot.

You had no idea that a few drops of water could be so dangerous, did you? I took a little crap from some of the other bowlers who had seen my little escapade, but it was all just good natured ribbing.

Anyway, that humiliating start to the evening had no impact on the rest of the night. I bowled like a rock star, if I do say so myself. (125, 168, 160 and 155 were my scores for the night!) And it was a blast bowling against Dee and her team. Dee is married to Tee and they are a very colorful duo. Dee and Tee are both very friendly… and loud… and Dee likes to stir up the competition. She kept telling Tee, who was bowling opposite me, “Terri’s kickin’ your butt,” or “Terri’s comin’ after ya!”

Tee would just respond, “You still owe me money, Dee. I don’t wanna hear it!” (Apparently they were betting against each other.) Then if Tee and I were approaching our lanes at the same time, he’d say, “I’m comin’ after ya, Terri. Look out!”

I love bowling with people who play to have fun too, not solely for the competition.

Dee cracked me up. She kept her blue tooth in her ear the whole time she was bowling. She told me about her gastric bypass surgery in 2008 when she was 270 pounds at five foot five and how she got down to a size four, but that was too small for her liking, so now she’s an eight. She blamed her bad throws on a gas bubble in her stomach. “Ah cain’t bowl,” she’d shout to all of us. “Ah gotta gas bubble in mah stomach!”

“Don’t let it out around me,” her partner, Tim shot back.

And Dee had a ball she calls “Michael Jordan.” Apparently Michael Jordan is Dee’s secret weapon. And she didn’t actually pronounce it “Michael” Jordan. It was more like, “Mahk – uhl Jordan.” She warned us, “I’m bringin’ out Mahk – uhl Jordan. Look out. Mahk – uhl Jordan gonna help me kick some ass!”

And he did. When Dee bowled with Michael Jordan, she kicked some ass. I turned to Dan and said, “I think my bowling balls need cool names too. What other famous bald guys can you think of?”

“Bruce Willis,” he suggested. “And Mr. Clean.”

So it was settled. My main ball is now Mr. Clean and my spare ball is Bruce Willis. We’re gonna kick some ass.

And I’m going to be extra careful of water on the floor in the future.

And I think I’m going to get Dee to be a sub for my winter league, ’cause she’s just damn fun.

I love bowling.

Golden Moment

I did it. I have finally proven to myself that speaking in front of group is not going to kill me in spite of having fully convinced myself to the contrary. I performed a role-play today in front of nine pairs of scrutinizing eyes watching my every move and nine pairs of ears listening to every word I spoke. Granted, I stumbled and stuttered and you’d better believe I was sweating bullets, but I got through it without dying.

I almost cried afterwards, but that was just a matter of being so very relieved to have put the whole experience behind me. I had let my anxiety get way out of control!

Did I say recently that sometimes I am my own worst enemy? I have proven that to myself in spades. I think I let myself get so worked up about this that my self-consciousness nearly paralyzed me. I had myself so convinced that my best method of communication is not face-to-face, but from behind the scenes that I sabotaged my own ability to do well at this.

Hey, Self? You’re a jerk sometimes!

Ah, but anyway, surviving the role-play was not the real golden moment of the day. The golden moment came afterwards. See, what happened was this. As each of the participants performed their role-play, the rest of us watched and listened. When it was over, the rest of us would leave the conference room while the performer stayed behind with the presenters and our CEO, at which point the performer would receive feed-back from presenters and CEO. (And they were very kind and supportive after my role-play, so it wasn’t nearly as painful as I’d anticipated.)

As the last performer was receiving feedback, the rest of us gathered outside of the conference room and talked about what we’d learned and how we felt, etc.

As a side note, one of my frustrations over the last couple of days was that I was receiving training in a sales technique. I am not a sales-person, and may never be a sales-person in the traditional sense, though I could understand the value of what we learned and can see putting this knowledge to work, not only in a job, but in everyday relationships. I just felt that the expectations were a bit high considering I was trying to become adept at something that is so far from my typical job duties.

Back to the gathering of participants standing outside of the conference room… As we conversed, one of the people who is very directly involved in sales made a comment. She said, “You know what would have really been good in this seminar? We should have had a copywriter there. A copywriter could use this information in all kinds of written communications, including on our website.”

Everyone in that small group was aware that the company’s copywriter had resigned a few months ago, and because the company is still working to get on its feet, a replacement was not hired. ┬áThe woman who made the comment lamented, “Too bad Amy isn’t here anymore.”

But at that moment, I noticed my boss pointing her finger in my direction and nodding. She was looking intently at the others and saying, “Terri. Terri can write!

She went on to heap praise on my ability to compose quality communications to our customers, and raved about some of the writing I had done for various projects and even within small group assignments we had done during the training of the past few days.

“Terri can really write,” she said again!

The others looked over at me with pleasant surprise on their faces, asking, “Really? You write?”

And though I was slightly embarrassed by such high praise and normally would have brushed it off and downplayed my abilities, I heard myself say, “I do. I am a writer.”

I am a writer.

That’s the first time I’ve allowed myself to admit it to myself, much less out loud. I didn’t say, “I like to write.” I didn’t say, “I enjoy writing.” I didn’t temper my statement like I usually do with comments like, “I’d like to be a writer someday” or “I hope to write better someday.”

Someone else called me a writer! But more importantly, I called myself a writer. I’ve been blogging for three years and have written in some form or another throughout most of my life, but today, for the first time, I admitted it. I am a writer.

God, that felt good!