Friday, September 28, 2012


If I spoke Spanish (which I don’t) my favorite word would be mañana (tomorrow). I put everything, and I do mean everything, off until later—much, much later. This goes for planning Confirmation class and writing children’s sermons (which I’ve been known to do on the way to church), also grocery shopping  (I put it off till the only edible in the refrigerator is ketchup) and laundry (there’s a reason we own 312 towels). I’ve never gone to the doctor or dentist when I should—the way I figure it, no news is good news! The final day to register for a class or program without penalty is the day I do—often at 11:59 PM. And sometimes, I’ll admit, I have to pay the penalty—which is galling, but clearly not galling enough for me to change my ways. 

 You see, I live in the ProcrastiNation, and in our family I have a fair amount of company. The Seyfried motto: It’ll wait! Steve can write an entire play in a couple of days, which is good because the first performance is usually only a week away. Sheridan stays in bed until 6:40 and can still catch a 6:47 train (I swear to God, and this includes getting fully dressed and eating something).  Evan has vastly improved, thanks to the Naval Academy, but I still remember the quarter-long high school Biology project done in three days (this involved various types of bread and how fast they  grew mold, so it was quite the challenge!) Back in the years of her baking business, Rose mastered sticking the hot cookies in the freezer so they cooled fast enough to wrap for a customer who needed them a half-hour earlier. And what can I say about PJ? He is the president of the ProcrastiNation, a man who never orders replacement contact lenses until the last pair (the pair he’s wearing) has been in for weeks. Julie is a chip off the Seyfried block, as her fish swims in a bowl full of murk and her room gets so messy she has to sleep upstairs on the sofa.  

We get it all done, always—eventually. Meanwhile, we’re addicted to the adrenaline rush of delay, the extra spice those zero-hour saves give to life. Let others start the project on time, let others plan ahead. Promptness is for wimps. We need to bump up against the absolute deadline to get the juices flowing!  

I read about fellow bloggers who map out their posts far in advance, who know what they will be writing about next week, even next month.  Not me—I put off the whole project until, in a panic, I have to quickly come up with a topic upon which to expound, 500 words worth. So here I sit, telling the tale of our tardiness, as all around me my neglected household chores scream for attention. “Mañana!” I yell back to the dusty furniture and dish-clogged sink. Whatever it is, it’ll wait!

PJ will order contacts tomorrow. You have a problem with that?

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Master of the Universe

Steve was safe because of my magical powers
OK, since it’s just you and me here, I’ll share a secret with you: I have ultimate power.  I can make things happen.  I can also keep things from happening.  How do I do it? Simple: I wear my lucky earrings. I sleep on the left side of the bed. I eat the same yogurt breakfast every day. As long as I stick to these rituals, all will be well. 

Do you want your sports team to win? Do NOT allow me anywhere near the field of play. One glance from me is enough to send the opponent’s score skyrocketing. Do you want your beautiful outdoor wedding to go off without a hitch? Remove me from your guest list or prepare for a deluge.

 On the other hand, make sure I’m concentrating on you, and am clad in my lucky sweater, if you want to ace your SATs. Bring me along, sitting of course in my lucky fifth row center seat, to ensure a brilliant concert performance.  

I first learned of my special powers in first grade. My first day of school, I accidentally boarded the wrong bus home. Dad had brought me on a regular NYC bus in the morning. In the afternoon, as I climbed onto the rather different big orange vehicle, I noticed that there were no advertisements for Seagram’s Whiskey inside, nor was there a charge to ride.  Hmmm. The principal, Sister Agnita, discovered my error, clambered aboard and yanked me out of my seat, chastising me all the way to the curb.  I was terrified of her. When summer came at last, I began to pray, earnestly: “Please God don’t let Sister Agnita come back in September!” I had spoken, and my wish was apparently the Almighty’s command. In July, my Nana was reading the New York Times on the porch at the beach. “Elise, wasn’t your principal named Sister Agnita? I’m reading her obituary!” Wow!!  I had killed her with my thoughts!! 

From then on, I was a force to be reckoned with.  As I grew, I noticed my control over life’s ups and downs increased. If I played the Beatles’ “Rubber Soul” album while I was writing a paper, I was guaranteed an A. “Abbey Road” wouldn’t do at all. The motorists in my life were always protected, as long as I was there upon their departure to say “Drive safely—don’t let me worry about you!” When Steve once left abruptly for work, I actually ran after his car, shouting my magical phrase. 

There are times when I wonder if I really do wield all this influence on destiny. Would the kids have been accepted to college if I had not been the first one at the mailbox? Does my choice of coffee cup change the course of my day?

 Is it possible that I am just a superstitious nut?

Of course not. 

Sunday will be a big day at work. Better wear my lucky kitten-heel shoes. Then I’ll be all set.

Friday, September 14, 2012

Just My Type

When I was six years old, my Dad gave me the best present ever—a huge heavy black Royal typewriter that they were discarding at his office. Even at that tender age, I wanted to be a writer, and the Royal made me feel like a mini-Hemingway—or more accurately Proust, as my early stories ran to volumes. I quickly mastered the keyboard with two fingers, and never did progress beyond that—nor did I really have to, as I’ve been clocked @ 65 wpm. with just the double digits. A behemoth with keys so hard to press you almost had to jump on them, the Royal separated the women from the girls. Anyone with a more casual interest in writing would have given up trying to make this machine behave. I, however, was passionate about click-clacking away, for hours at a time. Typing mistakes I made aplenty—had I purchased stock in Wite-out back in the 60s (and did you know one of the Monkees’ moms invented Wite-out? And you thought this was not an educational blog!) I’d be a wealthy retiree today.

Among my early masterworks: a play based on the life of Saint Elizabeth Seton that was performed by my third grade class at Epiphany School. My favorite dramatic moment had St. E. lying on her deathbed, still wearing the hideous black bonnet that distinguished the Sisters of Charity. “Be children of the church,” I whispered (OK, I admit it—I also starred in this theatrical extravaganza), before expiring, weeping “nuns” around my bedside. 

High school brought poetry—reams and reams of poetry. Tortured love poems, wittily sarcastic rip-offs of Dorothy Parker, sonnets, villanelles, sestinas—you name it, I gave it a shot in iambic pentameter. Highlight of this creative period? A spoof of Whitman’s “O Captain My Captain” that I titled “O Superjock My Superjock.” This scathing treatment of the football team appeared in the St. Pius High newspaper. Coach Maloof, the tough-as-nails leader of the squad, took me aside and actually screamed at me for demeaning his gridiron heroes. For a week or so I was quite the rebel celeb. 

Finally, I gave up on the Royal, and graduated to an electric. It took awhile to get used to this lightweight machine, and my early days as a secretary I wore out many a correcting ribbon. The electronic typewriter lost me, and for a few years I barely typed at all. 

Then came our first computer, the ironically named Leading Edge (they haven’t made those in decades). I loved it immediately, and gloried in goofing up, then instantly deleting my errors. Would that life were like that! 

Many years, and many computers, later, I’m still in love, still pecking away with two fingers. My handwriting has deteriorated to the point that, when I autograph my books, I can’t even sign my name correctly. No matter! If I never write longhand again, it won’t bother me in the slightest. Now and forever, it’s QWERTYUIOP for me!

Thursday, September 6, 2012

TV or not TV?

Steve knows how to use the remote

Confession: we’ve had our current remote for two years and I still don’t know how to use it. I can get the power on, but can’t get channels. I have to, sheepishly, ask Steve or Julie AGAIN to help me. It’s not that I’m a techno-idiot (well, yes, it is, but besides that)—I just hardly watch TV anymore. 

I came from a household where the set was on constantly, from Today through Tonight, with gobs of daytime gabfests and soap operas and nighttime dramas in between. I remember coming home from parochial school as a fifth grader, grabbing a snack and settling down with Mom to Another World, a world where young Missy was pregnant out-of-wedlock as I recall. Mom was very skittish about the Birds and Bees, but she needn’t have worried—young Missy and a parade of other soap characters, unwed parents or adulterous neighbors or accidentally married to their first cousins, were all the sex ed I needed. 

When Steve and I married I was still a televisonaholic. True story: on our wedding night, en route to our NYC honeymoon, we pulled off the road early at a motel, overcome, not by passion, but by a desire to watch the final episode of The Mary Tyler Moore Show.  In those days, the tube was the comforting soundtrack of my life as it had been in childhood.  To be fair, it wasn’t all fluff-- we watched a heckuva lot of Masterpiece Theatre—but we watched Dallas faithfully too. 

The children came along and with them, Sesame Street and Mister Rogers (Barney, thank the Lord, hadn’t been dreamed up yet). Conscientious parents, we were quite strict in limiting their weekday viewing time to programs of educational value, one hour’s worth a day. That wasn’t always counting the Disney videos that saved our lives when a long-distance business call came in (I often wondered if the VIP on the other end of the line ever caught snippets of Bambi during pauses in the conversation). Saturday morning was intellectual junk food time, with a lineup of cartoons the big treat for the kids (and me, who could finally clean house undisturbed).  

As they grew, it was the ABC family Friday night lineup (unbelievably, those were once wholesome shows). But gradually over the years, our lives got busier, and our household TV consumption began to decline until now we mainly fire it up for sports (Steve and PJ) and one or two guilty pleasure shows for Julie (currently, Pretty Little Liars). And me? I’m on board for Olympics and political conventions and major news developments—and precious little else. 

So I stand here in the family room, useless remote in hand, realizing I’ve gone through TV detox and come out the other side. There’s time now, time for books and music and conversation and writing and blessed sleep. I think I’m cured at last. But please don’t tell me about the new season of The Office. I don’t want to know.

Mary Tyler Moore Curtain Call