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Friday, February 26, 2016

Kids These Days!

“I’ve got a proposition for you,” said the well-dressed Millennial as he sidled up to the mahogany bar where two middle-aged women sat sipping their Manhattans, one straight-up, the other with an extra cup of ice on the side, 200 miles south of the city for which their cocktails were named.

The one woman subconsciously smoothed her slightly-pilled Annie Sez sweater, tugging it over her spreading hips while the other let out a “this is gonna be good,” chortle.

Meanwhile, their two, once-naturally, blond-haired friends were leaning up against a table on the other side of the room, nursing their respective rum and coke and chardonnay, having neither the desire nor the fortitude to fight for a stool that swiveled into a sea of under 30 year-olds bellying up to the bar.

But of course, one of the swiveling women was me. The other was my friend Ann. Contrary to popular belief, we procured our spot at the bar to help ease our arthritic knees and searing sciatica, not for the easy access to the bartender. Though, admittedly, that was a bonus. 

It was the Annual All Girls’ Weekend, something my college friends and I have been doing for a good 40 years. For the first 25, we rotated houses for a 24-hour visit, kicking husbands and kids out for the night, sleeping in twin-sized beds and sharing family bathrooms. But eventually we realized that one day wasn’t enough time to catch up on a year of each others' lives, so we changed our parameters. Now we meet once or twice a year, renting off-season beach houses or remote mountain retreats during peak leaf-peeping season. Either way, we do it frugally, with three nights away costing me less than what my kids, who no longer live at home, cost me in one day.

We have a pretty simple agenda. We eat. We eat more. We drink. We shop. We hike. We talk. And talk. And talk. And talk. And laugh. We laugh until one of us (who shall remain nameless) pees her pants. We write down our goals for the year which run the gamut from the monotonous lose 10 pounds (or 20, or 30) to getting the dog certified as a therapy pet (no, not me) to venturing out of one’s comfort zone. We review the goals every year, give each other affirmations and love and leave with rejuvenated souls.

We usually go out for dinner once during the weekend and the rest of the time eat dishes we've brought from home. We always consume way, way too many calories.

So, there we were last weekend in Dewey Beach, Delaware for the Annual All Girls’ Weekend. Being somewhat of a local, we wrangled a restaurant recommendation out of Leslie’s oldest son who heartily endorsed the Dogfish Head Brewery in downtown Rehoboth. 

It was hopping for a Saturday night in February and we were told we’d have to wait an hour for a table. My thinking was, if there were that many people waiting that long to eat, it must be worth it. And I know from many group experiences that by the time we agreed upon and arrived at another place, we would have wasted the hour that we could have spent sipping cocktails with crowds of drunks who looked suspiciously similar to the kids we had just finished raising.

Well into our second drinks, with the band setting up in the corner near Peggy and Jeanne, the handsome Millennial and his well-coiffed date approached us at the bar.

“I’ve got a proposition for you,” he said and we leaned close because our ears aren't what they used to be, especially with the barroom background noise.

“We really want your bar stools,” he said. “We’ve been here for a while so our table should be called really soon. You can have our table if we can have your bar stools.”

Now something happens when you’re thrown into a room with kids half your age. You either feel grossly out of place or feel like you’re blending right in. Clearly, we were perceived as peers, possible cronies, fun-loving people who this attractive couple would simply die to hang with.

Me, ever-eager to make a friend jumped right up.

Ann, ever-wiser chimed in. 

“Wait a minute,” she said. “You want to give us your table? There are four of us and only two of you. Your table's not going to be big enough for us. And besides, we want to sit upstairs.”

The couple hemmed and hawed and I said, “Take our seats, it’s fine.”

Ann looked at me quizzically but followed my lead. 

“You sure?” they asked. 

“Yeah, no problem,” I said, certain I’d be Facebook friends with them by the end of the evening.

We got up and joined our aching-boned, middle-aged friends by the table on which they were leaning. 

“Are you guys crazy?” Jeanne asked. “You gave them your seats?”

“I guess I figured if they had the nerve to ask us, they deserved them,” I explained. But then I started stewing.

“Would you EVER have asked two old ladies…” I began.

“We’re not OLD!” Ann roared. 

“OK, whatever. Would you ever have asked two ladies who are clearly older than you are if you could have their seats? And furthermore, would you have TAKEN them if they had offered?”

“Never,” Jeanne agreed.

“They probably don’t think we’re as old as we are,” the ever-positive Peggy suggested.

“Yeah, like they think we might be 50?” I quipped.

“Maybe,” Peggy said. 

At which time, two sloshed fraternity boys appeared.

“When did you all graduate from college, like five years ago?” one of the Theta Chi’s slurred.

“See!” Peggy said.

Our table was called shortly after, ending our fraternizing with the frat boys. But I couldn’t get over the Millennial and his date taking our bar stools. I fussed and I fumed and I declared that they should have at the very least bought us drinks.

I contemplated texting my kids and asking if they would EVER take a grown-up's bar stool. But then I pictured them shaking their collective heads somewhere out west, down south and across the state, wondering what could have triggered this most recent tirade. 

And then I thought about the subsequent Instagram photo that I'd post of the felonious couple with the caption... Would you EVER?

But, for once, I thought before I typed and put my phone away realizing there was a really good chance that one of my favorite Millennial followers would like that little photo and add a comment saying something like, "Hell, yeah!"

And that would simply break my heart.

Tuesday, February 16, 2016

I Got the Music in Me

I have spent my entire life trying to be cool. And I am fully aware that the least cool thing you can do is admit you are seeking coolness. But, I’m nothing if not honest.

Coolness is a basic innate swag. Either ya got it or you don’t. But, there are certain things you can do to up your coolness culpability. Like trading in your Jansport for a Hershel backpack, your Skechers for Nikes, your minivan for a Prius.

And you can listen to music.

My ascent into the music world began in 1973. I spent $5.00 to sit in the rafters of the Spectrum in Philadelphia and belt out, “She’ll have fun, fun, fun till her daddy takes the T-bird away!” with my older sister and a couple of friends whose parents were oblivious as to what could transpire at an over-sold music venue in the mid-seventies.

It didn’t take me long to learn that though the act of going to a concert upped my ante; going to a YES concert with Penny (aka Patty) was infinitely cooler than bragging about bopping to the Beach Boys.

And so began my descent into the depths of rock. I went to every show for which I could get a ticket. I saw Electric Light Orchestra, Queen, Genesis, J Giels (because Bob Shalita was going), REO Speedwagon, Neil Young, George Harrison, Badfinger (because Day after Day, any day we'd follow Const DePaulis anywhere) Emerson, Lake and Palmer and Traffic.  I segued into adoring the Talking Heads, Elvis Costello, The Clash and Patti Smith. In college, I started going to multiple-day music festivals with the likes of Steve Goodman, Bonnie Raitt, Nitty Gritty Dirt Band, Earl Scruggs, David Bromberg, Aztec Two Step and my all-time favorite, John Prine serenading me into oblivion.

I was incredibly cool.

As I matured into motherhood, I found that I much preferred watching American Idol on TV to standing shoulder-to-shoulder in a crowded concert hall hoping for a glimpse of a guitar hero. I soon channeled my inner cool into being the ultimate youth sports fan and PTA parent.

Definitely not cool. But we give up a lot for our kids.

As those same kids got older, I realized it was important to keep current. Learn their culture. Try to understand their love of expletive-infused rap songs.

And so I turned off the all-news radio and found WFUV, Fordham University’s progressive radio station. I'll Shazam songs and text my daughter links to new bands.

“Mom,” she’ll answer. “Mumford & Sons are hardly new.”

But I keep trying. I watch every single one of those screaming shows on TV. I giggle at Blake Shelton’s brazenness and swoon over Keith Urban’s accent. I watch while texting back and forth to my friends Laura and Jean, proclaiming my love and support for indie artists with sweet stories and pretty faces.  And inevitably they reply with, “She was totally off pitch!” Or, “He was absolutely horrible.”

“But she sang a Stevie Nicks song!” I’ll protest.

“Everyone sings Landslide. And that was the worst rendition I’ve ever heard.”

“REALLY? Why? How can you tell?” I wonder.

“Can't you hear?” they exclaim.

And just like that, my secret is revealed.

It’s hard to be musically cool when you’re tone deaf.

But, I continue to fake it.

Last night I watched the Grammy’s. I judge artists’ worth on listening to lyrics since I can’t master the melody. I didn’t know that Adele’s performance of All I Ask was anything but stellar until I read it on Twitter. I loved Justin Bieber’s sweet words, “My Momma don’t like you and she likes everyone.” I wasn’t cray cray about Tay Tay’s Out of the Woods, just because Bad Blood is oh, so much more relatable. And I won’t even go Gaga because I recently learned that she apparently has an incredible Star-Spangled voice beneath her freaky fa├žade.

I know it’s so much cooler to like Kendrick Lamar and his butterfly pimpings than Taylor Swift’s red lip primpings. And it’s not because I don’t like rap. I used to get quite a kick out of ‘Lil Wayne’s plays on words, dirty as they may be. And listening to Eminem was like reading a novel that you just can’t put down.

While I watched every minute of the Grammy’s last night, I realized just how uncool I really am. I was genuinely happy for Meghan Trainor. I cried when Taylor Swift cried as her BFF Ed Sheeran won Song of the Year. And my heart pounded as if she were my own daughter while I anxiously awaited the Album of the Year reveal.

And though, there are obviously many, many other people in the world who love the mainstream singers like I do, I know it would be infinitely cooler for me to favor The Weeknd and the lack of feeling in his face.

But for now, I’m going to keep on listening to the words, keep on trying to hear the beat and keep on hoping that one day I'll be content in my coolness. 

Kind of like LL Cool J.

Tuesday, February 9, 2016

Making a Big Deal of My Birthday

 Today is my birthday.

While I’ve never been one to lie about my age, I’ve found that as my wrinkles deepen, I tend to omit more than admit. I hear myself saying things like, “Well, now that I’m in my 50s,” blatantly leaving out the word “late,” as in late-50s.  And then I laugh at myself, knowing that not a single person in my life has ever befriended me, nor unfriended me because I was five years older, or younger than they thought.

And so, I say out loud and proud:  Today I turn 58 years old.

There’s nothing special about 58. My Golden Birthday is long gone. My milestone birthdays are all just foggy memories. We just had a 90th birthday party for my mother. Perhaps, I think wryly, that's the next big birthday to look forward to.

And then, I got excited, realizing I was turning 58 years-old. And that I was born in ‘58.  There simply had to be a name for this phenomenon! And so I googled. And discovered that, yes indeed, when you turn the same age as the last two digits of your birth year, it is called something.

This is my Beddian Birthday Year.

And if that’s not something to look forward to, I don’t know what is.

I celebrated my Golden Birthday when I was nine years-old. That’s the year in which your age matches the date of your birthday. It's a big deal to some. Perhaps not to a toddler who can hardly expect to appreciate turning two on the 2nd of a month. But certainly, someone turning 24 on the 24th would welcome the day with multiple Jager Bombs or Fireball shots. Or both. 

My parents left me on my Golden Birthday and I was old enough to know it. They hired Mrs. Horrisberger to come stay with my three sisters and I while they explored the bountiful golf courses of Bermuda. It was heart-breaking to turn nine years-old with a wicked old witch of a babysitter. But, my friend Margaret and I tortured her appropriately. In subsequent years when my parents went away (not on my birthday), Mrs. Horrisberger was inexplicably unavailable and the job was eventually turned over to my 16 year-old sister. After all, what could possibly go wrong? We had a Great Dane to ward off any potential problems.

Though I still remember being deserted on my ninth birthday, I’ll never forget receiving a telegram from my parents in Bermuda. An honest-to-goodness telegram.

It would be the equivalent of perhaps a JumboTron shout-out today. They also brought me back a yellow mohair scarf and a deck of playing cards with a picture of a Bermudian Bobby on them. I still have those cards, 49 years later.  

My mother used to hide our presents and we would have to hunt them down on our birthday morning. On my sixteenth birthday I was a bit forlorn when I was told, “That’s it. Just two gifts this year.”

In one box was a royal-blue and white checkered mini skirt. In the other was a matching blue short-sleeved top. Polyester, of course. It was 1974.

“Check the buttons,” my mother said.

And there in the third button hole of the blouse was the sapphire ring that her mother had given to her on her 16th birthday. Never once did I consider passing it on to my daughter, but rather, have worn it every single day for 42 years.

I turned 21 while attending West Virginia University. I was living with Fran, Linda and Kevin (who has just resurfaced after being MIA for a good 30 years) and various dogs and puppies. Wanting nothing but the best for my friends, I insisted on serving only Beck's beer. I had 17 friends drive from Shippensburg, the school from which I had transferred, and crammed them into our small apartment with dozens of other happy people who wanted to take part in my initiation into adulthood. And when the three kegs were kicked, we ran to the corner bar where a selectively-oblivious bartender allowed us to roll another barrel right down Grant Avenue so the party wouldn't end before dawn.

In our mid- and late-twenties, we went to Pat Malley’s parents’ Poconos house every year to celebrate my birthday on February 9th  and Pat's on the 11th. When I turned 30, we were 45 minutes into the drive when my spouse-to-be, though we were not yet betrothed, realized he had forgotten his wallet in my living room. Taking the opportunity to pee, as he knew I would, I  ran inside to get it and was greeted with 75 people screaming “Surprise!”

When I turned 40, my daughter had lice. And, so did I. I still consider those three months of nitpicking the worst parenting experience of my life. And knowing my spouse as I did, for we had been married nearly a decade by then, I fully expected another surprise party. He thought I was over-reacting to the whole situation and I was petrified that he may consider having it in our louse-filled house. But even at the height of my angst and depths of my despair, I refused to ruin his big surprise. So I kept my mouth shut around him and fussed and fumed at work, begging and begging until my friend Laura finally gave me a hint, and only a hint. She promised me that there would be no party at my house. And there wasn't. It was in the back room of a local restaurant and my friends, who came from as far away as Seattle, miraculously all booked hotel rooms. Not even a sister stayed at my house.

By the time I turned 50, I had become such a scary person that my spouse agreed to let me plan my own party in my own house under my own terms with the hope that when I turned 60, we’d be so rich and I’d be so calm in my empty nest years that we could rent out the ballroom at the Marriott, finance the flights of my far-flung friends and pick up the tab for the block of hotel rooms.

Well that's not obviously not going to happen in this lifetime.

So I'm just going to have to make the most of this, my Beddian Birthday Year.

The Beddian Birthday, I have learned, was named for Bobby Beddia, a NYC firefighter who made a random comment to a mathematician about how lucky he was to be living his birth year -- he was 53 years-old, and born in 1953. The mathematician noted that no one had made this connection before (really?) and went on to concoct some sort of equation about how and why and when it happens and what years it can't. Having barely passed third-grade math, I didn't pay much attention to all those numbers.

But I kept reading.

Lucky Bobby Beddia was so lucky in fact that he was tragically killed fighting a fire on the very day he made his profound pronouncement about turning the same age as his birth year.

Kind of like me writing a blog about turning 58 when I was born in '58.

Happy Beddian Birthday to me and to all my 58 year-old friends. May we all live to tell the tale of how we not only survived, but thrived in this, our once-in-a-lifetime Beddian Birthday Year.

Thursday, February 4, 2016

Got it!

“Do you think you can get me my passport here somehow in the next two days? I’m trying to get a job,” the college student messaged, in full sentences.

Ecstatic with the “I’m trying to get a job” part of the text, I immediately bolted upstairs, hunted down the passport, opened it up and smiled with love and pride at my youngest college student’s face.

Said college student is only 40 miles away which is nothing compared to the 3,000 mile-away college student or the  1,300 mile-away daughter. Theoretically, I could make a round-trip passport drop in an hour-and-a-half. Add another hour and I’d get to buy him a meal. I’ve driven way farther for way less.

But, at the time of the request, my heart was already palpitating from work-related stress. I was trying desperately to finish a round of writing before deserting one project for another that was taking me to Atlantic City for five days. For the past six months I had been doing the marketing for Be the Best Coaches’ Convention, writing copy for the website, brochures, e-mail blasts, blog posts and ads. I’m fairly good with the written word, but my final task was to take on social media at the convention. I was frozen with fear at the prospect of tweeting at my advanced age, but my boss believed I had it in me to be a Twitter Rock Star. Hence, the palpitations and decision to overnight the passport rather than hand-deliver it. Mistake Number One.

“All our mail gets delivered to the office, so put the office’s apartment number down as well as mine,” the college student directed.

Half-way to the post office, passport in one hand, address in the other, I screeched on the brakes and made an illegal U-turn, forgetting momentarily that I could no longer go to my local post office. (See Going Postal for the full story). I ran into the neighboring town's post office 30 seconds before it bizarrely closed for a 2 pm lunch break. I stuffed the passport in an envelope, forked over $22.95 and declined the request for a signature upon receipt. Mistake Number Two.

Off I went to Atlantic City where my thumbs tweeted tirelessly toward stardom. Surrounded by close to 2,000 softball and baseball coaches, I was in heaven, having spent years and years and years running that circuit with aforementioned college student, who after earning his spot on a D1 roster, decided not to play after all. My heart hurt a bit as I listened to speakers imparting their sage advice, but put my energies into posting clever quips rather than dwelling on things over which I had no control.

Late on Friday afternoon, I got another text.

“The passport still isn’t here.”

I sent it on Tuesday for a Wednesday delivery. Assuming, that in his desperation to get the job for which he needed the passport, he would have let me know if it didn’t come, I hadn’t thought to follow up. Mistake Number Three.

“UGH!” I responded. “That’s a big problem if it’s missing.”

“Don’t worry. We can just cancel it,” the college student clarified.

“No, it’s a huge deal if you lose your passport!” I write in all CAPS.


Exactly what part of Donald Trump do you not get? I wondered.

“Did you check YOUR mailbox?” I asked in a sudden burst of genius.After all, Mistake Number One-A was writing both apartment numbers on the address label in the first place. Maybe they didn’t deliver everything to the office.

“I don’t have a mailbox,” the college student replied.

At this point I left the convention floor and stepped outside into the brisk, sea air. Now, I’m not totally made of mistakes. I actually did two things right. One. Something told me to put the post office tracking number in my phone. And two. Something told me to put the apartment complex office number in my contact list. First, I tracked the envelope which was indeed delivered at noon on Wednesday. Then, I called the office to discuss my dilemma. Because, after all, I was the only one who was the least bit concerned.

“It’s probably in his mailbox,” she told me.

The mailbox he doesn’t have.

After a lengthy conversation I learned that if neither he nor his roommate had the mailbox key, he would have to go to the post office and show some form of ID (like a passport). But, it could be a two-week process before he'd get a new set of keys. I pulled the mom-of-a-boy card and the empathetic office worker came up with an alternate solution. She would flag down the mail carrier on Monday, and ask for the passport.

By this point, I was fairly confident that the passport was indeed in the college student’s mailbox, the same mailbox that six months into the lease, he didn’t know existed. My anxiety had shifted from stolen passport to losing the job, whatever job it was, that he had applied for and for which he so desperately needed the passport.

“Oh, I have the job,” he assured me. “I just can’t start till they see my ID.”

I wanted to ask why the potential employer needed to see a passport, if perhaps a driver's license would have served the same purpose and how many uncashed checks, unpaid bills and legal notices were crammed in that elusive mailbox.

But, he's my third kid. After many, many mistakes, I've learned a thing or two. I've learned that I'm always doing to track down passports, pay parking tickets and give gentle reminders to my adult children to get their teeth cleaned. I'm always going to roll my eyes. Question my parenting. And complain loudly.

But most importantly, I've learned that sometimes the best thing to do is simply keep my heart and wallet open, and my mouth shut.