Thursday, October 29, 2015

Pulling it Off

In some areas of my life, I can pull things off well enough. The performance of Steve’s play “Science People”
Me as Marie Curie!
done on one rehearsal (I didn’t say I was good, I just said that I did it). The holiday party, held the day of a snowstorm when my five young kids were home from school, preventing me from any preparation until about 20 minutes before the guests were due to arrive. In this case, I spent the evening noticing the undusted furniture, the baby toys peeking from under the sofa, and the vague, unpleasant odor emanating from the kitchen trash can. But I “pulled it off.”

However, I don’t pull off surprises well, especially complicated ones. I have written elsewhere about Steve’s 40th birthday bash and the ruse to keep him out of the house (it backfired and he got home in record time, long before most of the guests got there). And even when I am just invited to someone else’s surprise party, it is all I can do to keep from blurting out the secret to the guest of honor-to-be (“What am I up to this weekend? Well, I’ll be with you, eating your birthday cake and…oops.")

So when Julie informed us that she was planning an elaborate surprise for Rose’s 27th this week in NYC, I immediately hearkened back to my less-than-stellar attempts at shock and awe. Surely the weather would be horrible that night (the plan involved lots of outdoor walking from spot to spot)! The expensive bakery cupcakes would be stale! None of her friends would be able to make it! We would be left, soaking wet, sitting alone in a karaoke bar eating bad cake. 
PJ and Rose karaoke

I shouldn’t have stressed. My kids, unlike me, have a remarkable ability to pull things off. From passing tough midterms to giving speeches in class, effortlessly parallel parking and successfully wearing scarves—it usually works out for them.  And, of all my children, Julie is tops at pulling off tricky things. She planned (and executed) Sheridan and Ya-Jhu’s wedding reception while she was still a teenager. I recall her checklist for the happy day, ending with something like “5:00 PM. Music off. Lights up. We did it!” And everything went off just as planned.

While I barely pulled off leaving work early so that we could get to New York on time, Julie sailed through
and hit every mark. PJ would greet Rose as she left her office (surprise #1). Dad and I would be waiting in a tavern across the street (surprise #2) We’d walk to Rosa Mexicano for a special dinner (#3). Meanwhile, a wide assortment of friends Julie had contacted from all parts of Rose’s life would assemble at Planet Rose Karaoke to await our 8:30 PM arrival (fourth and final surprise). Done, done, done and done! Rose was totally shocked and very awed. Oh, and the weather was lovely. And the cupcakes were delicious.

Way to pull it off, Jules. Thanks for an incredible evening.

Thursday, October 22, 2015

Queen of Denial

I live in a perpetual state of denial, about almost everything. Just one example: I haven’t been to the dentist in several years because I know my gums are receding and he will tell me that and then I will have to do something about them, which will wind up being terribly painful both to mouth and pocketbook.  Instead, I brush often but gingerly, and try to smile in a way that does not betray a set of gums that is going out like the tide.

Smiling Carefully!

Similarly, I make a point of avoiding medical professionals in general. Whenever I accompany one of the kids to the doctor’s, I don’t touch any of the dog-eared issues of Yachting World and Highlights for Children lying around the waiting room. I just know they have recently been handled by sick people, such as the guy three chairs over who has been coughing up a lung for 15 minutes. Of course, I wouldn’t dream of getting a flu shot, but somehow feel that hands off the People magazines will keep me well.

I deny the irrefutable fact that I have regained the 20 pounds I lost when I started taking Wellbutrin nine years ago. Those size zero dresses and pants still occupy much of my closet, because I refuse to believe that I will never weigh 105 pounds again. I deny that I am getting older by dyeing my hair (that’ll fool ‘em!) and, in lieu of pricey anti-aging creams, I just look in the mirror without wearing my eyeglasses, which immediately erases my wrinkles. Btw, for many years I denied that my vision was getting worse and even now, the specs remain in their case for the most part.

I hate winter weather (which makes Philadelphia of course a perfect choice of residence). I therefore wear shorts and flip flops until the first snowfall, willing the temperature to climb back into the Swell 70s again. This clever wardrobe decision has been known to make me ill, which I also deny by never taking any cold remedies, even as my nose runs like the proverbial faucet.

Never took it. Never will.

Around the house, I refused to believe there was anything wrong with the refrigerator until the meat in there almost started to cook, and that the chimney was in desperate need of repair until bricks began falling into the yard. At work, my computer is in its dotage and while deep down I know it will go kaput any day now, I refuse to back up my files.  If I allowed myself to feel shame about the immense amount of clutter in my office I might have to clean up, so I pretend the teetering stacks of books and CDs look “artistic.”

In short, I deny more things than an accused criminal on the witness stand.  Reality, as the saying goes, bites.  So why face it until you absolutely have to? Mine is a dream world where gums heal themselves and laptops never break. You’re welcome to join me!

Sunday, October 4, 2015

Too Many Hats

A rare hat photo
Clarification: this is not a post about millinery. I have owned a mere handful of hats in my lifetime, most worn before the age of 10 (my Nana was all about the Easter bonnets for little girls). After that, whenever I attended Mass, I affixed a Kleenex to my hair with a bobby pin. No joke, that’s what we all did, “to show respect in God’s house.” Never mind that we looked like a bunch of lunatics with tissue issues. When I wed Steve I wore, not a veil, but roses in my hair. Now, even on the most miserable wintry days, I would rather freeze than don a knitted cap and afterwards deal with the dreaded “hat head.”

So no, those are not the hats of which I speak. Instead, I’m talking about the phrase “wearing many hats” to describe someone who does several different things, either for a living or avocationally: the chef/painter, the doctor/cellist. It is assumed that the multiple hat-wearer does so with ease and skill.

I confess that I do enjoy hearing people introduce me at my speaking gigs (“she’s an author! She’s an actress! She’s a church worker! She’s a mom! ”) That is my cue to shrug humbly and smile. But you, dear blog readers, deserve to know the truth: I am no better at wearing many hats than I am at skydiving. My hats slide off at the drop of a…well, you know. I put them on in the wrong order. My hats are the wrong color, the wrong size. Many of them do not suit me at all.

Case in point: this past week.  I was called upon to be, among other things, a Spiritual Formation director, writer and grandma. The entire week I put off what I knew needed to be done, including final prep for the Confirmation retreat, a writing assignment for the Coldwell Banker Real Estate website, and reading  to, and cuddling with, Aiden.

Turned out to be WAY too many hats. I lost track of the weather forecast and was thrown for a loop when
Confirmation parents emailed with concerns about looming Hurricane Joachim.  I wrote my Coldwell Banker assignment, “Top 3 recipes this fall with Philly flavors!” about things like super-rich creamed mushrooms and was about to hit “send” when I finally read the mandatory keywords: Top 3 HEALTHY recipes. My recipe, featuring two cups of heavy cream and a stick of butter, might as well have been called The Widow Maker, so it was back to square one, just hours before the deadline to submit. And with all this, poor baby Aiden waited in vain for me to read him his favorite board books.

Please read to me!
So this week it’s no multiple hats for me. I will work at a pace I can deal with. I will aim to do one thing well instead of ten things poorly. And if my only achievement is reading Goodnight Moon to my little guy…it will be a very good week.