Thursday, October 27, 2011

In all honesty.......

I had lettuce in my teeth and thankfully C told me while we were in the loo.  Now mind you, she didn’t tell me when we were in the giant luncheon room but at least she told me (and in her defense, she may not have seen it in the darkened room.) I was not the least bit embarrassed (after all, who hasn’t been there?) and I thanked her profusely.

How do you handle those awkward conversations or comments with friends?  Have you ever answered “yes” when a friend asks, “Does this make my ass look huge?”  I have an old friend who once said she self felt it was her “job” to be that brutally honest with her friends and to tell them what they might not necessarily want to hear – even if it was just her opinion (which she felt was perhaps more factual than others.)

Telling a friend something that may be hurtful or even embarrassing is so hard. I try to ask myself, “would I want to know?” and “will knowing this make a difference in what s/he may do?”  Now of course, some of these may be life altering – an unfaithful spouse, a job in jeopardy or a particularly malicious rumor.  I know that someone recently said something to me that was definitely in the realm of inappropriate. I already knew that little nugget (directly from the source) and knew that the subject of that comment would not have wanted it shared.  Will I tell that friend? Probably not. Not because I don’t care but because I won’t repeat it so it’s not going any further. And, because it will cause unnecessary angst. 

But I’m not just talking about a confidence. I’m talking about lettuce in the teeth, toilet paper on the shoe, tags exposed, fat ass – those kinds of social or personal faux pas.  How do you answer those loaded questions like, “Do you like my new hair color?” and “Does this make me look fat?”  Do I want to know? Absolutely. 

I came out of the loo at work one day and was feeling pretty sassy. Lots of people moving around, a few behind me were talking about work. I was half-way to my desk and felt a breeze. Turns out my skirt was caught up in my panties. Lovely. No one said a word and frankly, that’s pretty damn rude.  I’ve gone up to total strangers to let them know of a potentially embarrassing exposure of some sort.  I’ve always been sincerely thanked.

Now, T and I are pretty damn honest. She tells me what works and what doesn’t. It’s not always easy to hear but we share that with humor and kindness. It really is all in the delivery.  Others offer feedback – solicited or not – with slightly less finesse.  One of my sisters will reach out and gently touch my hair saying, “So, that is what you’re doing with your hair these days.”  This is her way of saying, “I hate your hair.”  As you can imagine, this is less well received but all these years of hearing it have built up an emotional callus of sorts.

I’ve had some of those awkward talks. I’ve told a hairdresser that I was very unhappy with what she did to my locks. I was very clear and honest and at the end of the talk she said, “Well, it does seem a little dark and you don’t seem happy,” and then charged me full price. WTF? Needless to say, she lost my business.  I’ve discreetly told friends, co-workers and total strangers that exposure was imminent or underway.  No need to shout it from rooftops or make a public spectacle out of it – just a quick whisper or email. It’s like 21st century Emily Post.

But overall, I’m gentle with my friends. I love that dress and the new style you are trying with your hair.  Those pants are great and I love that top with it.  Your new baby is the most gorgeous thing ever (sigh…they all look like little old men) and hooray for you wearing skinny jeans. They make my ass look huge and do nothing for my thighs. And, I really do mean what I say. If I don’t like it, that is my problem. If they love it and it makes them feel good – more power to them. I refuse to burst that bubble.

Secrets and gossip are a hot commodity. I’ve learned (long long ago) the hard way that paying those things forward will win neither friends nor favor. So now, I’m a vault with a confidence and I know who my fellow vaulters are.

But in the day to day world, where the next embarrassment is right around the corner – I prefer the honest and upfront approach. Discretion and a sense of humor are a must.  Are you that friend? If so, can I sit next to you?

Sunday, October 23, 2011

If I close my eyes and wish real hard.....

Do you ever look at one of your friends and just wish, for one moment, you had something of theirs?  I’m not talking about jealousy – this is different.  This is that one trait, feature or thing that you just know would be fabulous to call your own. 

I can definitely rattle off a few things that I covet:

V’s hair.  She has bouncin’ and behavin’ hair.  It’s fucking perfect and she married into a family where we all have Jewish wire hair that is totally weather dependent. The hair gods play evil tricks on us to ensure it never looks the same way twice. Just woke up? I look like Medusa and V, well she can have her picture taken and it post it on Facebook with pride. Just out of the ocean? I need to wear some type of hair containment device and V gets that tousled ocean hair that folks pay big money for. Bitch. And I mean that in the kindest and most loving way.

S or E’s figure.  My friends S & E have these amazingly long lean bodies. They both rock bikini’s after having children and seem to have free reign to eat what they want.  I don’t even need to go on here, do I?  I’d hate them if they weren’t so damn nice.

M’s patience.  Oh.My.God. My Big Susan M is one of the most patient people around.  I’m a yeller – it’s no secret. Hell, half my neighborhood probably knows when I’m mad at my mini-me.  Yet, it’s like M constantly channels those parenting books that talk about not raising your voice.  She tells me she yells and I suppose I should believe her. But then how do I explain when I raised my voice at her daughter once (safety issue folks, don’t get all weird) and her mini-M promptly burst into tears. I don’t think she ever heard anyone speak to her with, well, volume.

J’s house. My friend J has a rockin’ house. It’s gorgeous with an amazing view and a dream kitchen.  I’ve done holiday dinners, birthday parties, play dates and just plain old visits over there. And, every time, I re-decorate it as it were mine. In my head.

P’s spirituality.  I’ve long admired P’s commitment to living the kind of life that makes a Rabbi kvell but my recent crisis of faith has brought that to the forefront.  She has always embraced our religion - its rites and rituals are simply the foundation of her family’s life.  I’m likely too selfish or too lazy to do that at an equal level but I so admire the faith she has and the comfort she finds in it.

S & S’s craftiness & do-it-yourself abilities.  These two just piss me off. One can take a simple craft and turn it into a moneymaker. She wields a glue gun better than Martha Stewart.  The other can manage just about any home do-it-yourself project there is – hardwood floors, new bathroom, finish a basement, tile floors – you name it and this bastard does it better than most. Their attention to detail is amazing. Now, if I can only get him to address that little detail of sending me the nightstands he promised me two years ago. 

My sister D’s feet. I know, feet, yuck right? D has beautiful feet (no, I don’t have a fetish) that look gorgeous in every kind of shoe. Those really trendy strappy sandals? My feet look like sausages trussed up for cooking yet D slips those on like they were made for her.  Ballet flats? D truly glides wearing those and I look like I’m wearing boats. She can score at virtually any shoe sale or outlet. This annoys me tremendously.

My work friend S’s desk. It’s not that it’s bigger or better but it’s way tidier and way more organized. I work with a pile management system. S has a nice (very large) to-do list that on which she can track any conversation or task (it totally helps that she can read her own handwriting – I, uh, can’t.) Ever. I try to be this organized and fail miserably. Every damn time.

T’s ability to wear high heels all day long. And walk in them like a normal human being for the entire time. I am not able to do either. Damn her.

R’s paycheck (and I’m shallow enough to admit it.) Just once and just for one day (seriously, I could do enough damage in one day.) To feel what it’s like. Just imagining it makes me giggle.

Now, I know that I will never have any of these things and I can live with that. Still, it’s a damn good thing I have an excellent imagination.

Monday, October 17, 2011

Coming 'Round Again AKA T-Time

This past weekend, my Big Susan T came to visit. Unlike years gone by, our days were not spent sleeping as a result of being out all night doing unspeakable things with unspeakable people.  Instead, we immediately fell into our groove – as if we shop, lunch and visit all the time. Our conversations picked up where our last phone call left off.

We shopped like we were on a mission – like junkies looking for a fix. A fix of a new frock, shoes or doodads for my still kinda new house. Oh, and we people watched - lobbing snark between the two of us better than V volleys her tennis ball.  V would have been a welcome addition to our spree since she lobs snark well, too – but her southern accent makes it sound way nicer.

We were up and out early since I had to drop my mini-me at camp (it’s ridiculous “fall break” here – because, really – we just started school and the poor things already need a break.)  Coffee and pedicures kicked off our morning. No need for the trash magazines during this ritual – we yakked the entire time that nice lady sanded pampered my feet so that they were left chafed and raw soothed and polished.  Let the shopping begin.

Like Pirate's booty - only better.
Our Friday booty was full of solid scores – a knife block so we prevent future stabbings in my kitchen drawer, a fabulous Coach tote bag for T’s upcoming trip abroad, shot glasses (those are for you, R), skirts, some rockin’ animal print shoes and shiny things for my living room.  We wandered, tried on, made tremendous fun of people here pushing the season by wearing wool skirts when it’s 100 degrees in October, admitted we don’t understand Betsey Johnson, pissed off the lady at Jo Malone (uh, was it my inability to differentiate between classic spicy and classic floral scents?), tried on shoes fit for a tranny and laughed like adolescents at my inability to walk in them.  We even shopped in Neiman-Marcus where I saw that T truly isn’t the only person on the planet to shop there and confirmed that I probably never will. But really, it was all so pretty and soft.

Mini-Me & T - bonding during an Angry Bird break
We hung out.  My mini-me was jonesing for time with Aunt T. It was really heartwarming for me to see my daughter find such amazing joy with my Big Susan. Must be genetic though T’s iPad with Angry Birds may have also played a role.

We exhibited extraordinary patience while we carnivaled one morning. Stupid games with crappy prizes and mini-me’s eyes were lighting up like a pinball machine. The 100 degree heat made those bounce houses extra special. It was an easy bribe to get her to eat lunch in a nice cool restaurant to be followed by shopping (but, for me, right mama?) T got mini-me excited about and into clothes that she would never consider with just me. The amount I spent on kids clothes was really just like an insurance premium that we could hit a couple more grown up stores with minimal whining. Don’t judge. It totally worked.

A child-free (major thanks to S for adding one more to her brood for the evening) dinner let us celebrate T’s new job – we cocktailed, nibbled, wined and dined. We even desserted.  We then went out dancing where we danced every dance and closed the place down. Okay, just typing that makes me giggle.  Embarrassingly, we were exhausted by 8:30 and eager to get mini-me, head home and put our feet up and visit some more. We partied like old people.

And on Sunday, when I was rattled to my core with devastating news, I was deeply grateful for many things – one of which was that T was with me. She let me cry, she distracted me and let me laugh.  We enjoyed the fruits (figuratively because nothing we ate was even remotely as healthy as fruit) of LGO with talk that ranged from the breakfast that should just pasted right onto our asses to the loss I had learned of and what that meant. 

You know a weekend was exactly what it should be when the parking gods were kind to us everywhere we went.  Covered parking right outside Nordstroms? Check.  Right up front by the really good TJ Maxx? Natch.  Front row at Sunday School? The Gods were kind and saved one for us.  Topped it off when we pulled into a prime spot at LGO (many thanks to K&D for turning me on to LGO – a new fav.)

The days went too quickly.  T and I are used to long weekend visits and they always end on a high note. For some reason, this one was harder for me. Perhaps it was my sad news or perhaps it was just having truly appreciated a visit with friend where we seamlessly fit so well and being pulled apart just leaves a bit of a ragged edge.  We both moved back into our regular day to day – fortified by our visit, grateful for our time together and determined to not let so much time pass before our next one.

To T, thanks for making me laugh, for bonding with my wildly neurotic dog, for loving to spend time with mini-me, for boosting my spirits and our local economy.  We (me, mini-me and the City of Scottsdale) miss you already.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

And for the next course......

I love to eat (not surprising!)  I really love to have a meal with friends – it’s the best of both worlds. You get to hang with some great folks who likely get your brand of wackiness and enjoy a delish dish of some sort.  But, I’ve really discovered that not all friends are created equal when you sit down to the table.

Let’s start with family ‘cause really – they are easy targets. Overall, we’re a family of tasters.  We pick (a disgusting habit most visible after holiday dinners,) we offer and accept a taste of what others have.  We don’t always ask. My sister D used to be notorious for saying no to anything offered and then eating off my plate. The only thing that kept me from stabbing her hand with my fork was the glaring look from my mother.  D ultimately outgrew the “nothing for me” phase but still eats off my plate once in a while. I still have the occasional urge to stab her hand with my fork but impress myself with amazing self-restraint. And, fear that my mother will haunt me. 

We’re also a family of adventurous eaters. Both parents were like this but my father would eat eyeballs if given the chance.  That man loved the most disgusting, smelly, new or different foods he could find.  He was not what one would call an involved parent in school - except for the International Fair held in downtown DC every year. He would chaperone because they had endless food booths where he could sample every odd or unusual edible. He could not locate a child in his group but he could tell you where to find the booth with the best curried goat.

Now V must be fed at regular intervals – like a toddler. God help everyone around if she gets too hungry. It’s not pretty and really, just give her what she wants, stay out of her way and everybody will be fine.  S likes to keep in pretty healthy and R is easy – easier if the menu includes something from the agave family.

Old friends are easy to dine with – we know what the other likes and tasting off each other’s plates is likely the norm. This weekend, T and I will be dining out often – and will be sure to order different things because we get plate envy and will need to taste test. My dear friend, G has a love/hate relationship about going out to eat with me. According to him, I take too long to order, have to change something and everything is “on the side.”  He shakes his head and reminds me this is just one meal. But, he’ll almost always take a taste.

Going out in groups can be a challenge if everyone isn’t on the same page.  I’m all for just splitting the check based on number of folks at the table. But, I totally get those that don’t feel inclined to fork over for either the costly or vast number of drinks imbibed by just a few.  I’m the one that just tries to make it easy – I bring cash and include a bit of extra to offset the (other) drunkards who don’t always realize they may need to pony up some extra.   

Dining out with friends and their kids is whole different experience. My Big Susan M and I have, on more than one occasion, left a very generous tip for the horrific mess our two demonic sweet girls left on the table, under the table and in the seats. We also left a tip when our girls licked (yes, licked) a giant plate glass window in a sports bar. We only discovered this because the people on the street were pointing and laughing hysterically. We were both so proud.

Now, I try  hard to bring lunch to work because a.) it’s cheaper and I now support a house and a kid with a riding habit and b.) the work cafeteria sucks (i.e. they have served bacon and liver casserole.)  Despite my best efforts, there are times when I buy. My work friend S and I will trudge upstairs and try to pick the least of all the evils but now, once a month, we have Break Bread Wednesday. I know we sound like dorks (well, we likely are dorks) but we make ourselves go someplace new, have a nice lunch and try not to talk about work.  I’ve joined the Groupon bandwagon and we’re both excited to try a new Indian place.

But some of the best dining with friends is the holidays.  In the last couple of weeks, my table was filled with family and friends as we welcomed the Jewish New Year.   We then atoned and broke fast (given the food we ate, you would think we’d fasted for a week) with friends at J’s house. I will host Thanksgiving and the winter holiday’s will include a latke feast at my place to celebrate eight crazy nights and we’ll welcome the fat man in the red suit with M’s family.  These meals are loud, the kids are running around like crazy, we spend a ton of time cooking, cleaning and setting up. Not everyone will like everything but there is plenty for everybody.  At the end of the day – those are the best meals ever. 

Monday, October 10, 2011

Share this.

I’m on Facebook. I post, I update and I like.  I link and sometimes I even upload or share. I don’t post every thought (uh, because that may land me in jail or a mental hospital) nor do I automatically like everything a friend says (‘cause you know that saying, if you don’t have anything nice to say…)  I do think that we are all pretty consistent with our comments, replies and updates.

T can be counted on to give a solid snark regarding any trashy reality TV show. Now, I don’t watch those shows (I'm not being high and mighty - they just aren't my thing with the exception of Project Runway) but she’s consistent. Want to know about Kate who procreates or Prostitots on Parade? T can tell you and won’t gloss over her own opinion of the whole situation.

Now, T’s other half is a frequent poster who often will like his own posts and comment on them. I find this hilarious.  It reminds of that Sally Field speech with a new twist, “I like me, I really like me.”

D is a sports girl – she follows whatever is in season. It’s like a really intense family game night in her house. Now, as I’ve said before – I couldn’t care less. But, I love that she and her hubby have turned their kids into fans and make it a family affair.  Now D is not alone, my old friend T posts what amounts to a play-by-play during game time.  I love her enthusiasm even if it is like trying to understand a foreign language.  Their posts are often like the sports section (which sadly, I never read but sometimes look at the pics and headlines.)

J is the most positive poster ever. She virtually oozes optimism. Even her replies are positive.  In a funk? J’s posts will put things in perspective.  Even if you’re having such a bad day that you want to smack the perky right outta her, you gotta appreciate that her glass is always at least half-full and that folks like her really do exist.

Now, K posts with great frequency – speaking to friends here and far away.  It’s not as often as stream of consciousness but she’s got a trigger finger poised over “post.” She replies to others’ with the same speed and frequency speaking blunt and honest truth. While not always the bluebird of happiness, K’s posts are often funny, always honest and may include an accurate weather update.

Now everyone has their opinion on what should and shouldn’t be posted. I tend to steer pretty clear of political commentary. While I love a good political debate (and can hold my own), it just seems that political discourse these days is so extreme and lacks a certain rationale, logic and respect.  My friends know where I stand as much as I know where they stand. We’re friends because of or despite that and don’t need to pee on any virtual political trees.

That said I really admire when W posts her stance on issues. Nine times out of ten, I completely agree with her and will “like” her post. Once in a blue moon, I will comment. But generally, I just smile quietly –safely behind my monitor.  It’s not because I’m afraid to voice an opinion (folks that know me well are now laughing at that thought) but more because anything online follows you forever and I’d prefer not to voice something that may ultimately kick me in my professional ass.

Some friends post, link and upload based on things they feel very strongly about. Some pictures are not for the faint of heart and some links certainly tug on the heartstrings.  I once commented that things are not always so black and white and that being more open-minded may be helpful. Totally backfired and I think this friend of a friend may have had a minor head explosion. I was happy not be her friend and relieved she doesn’t know where I live.

Other friends post infrequently or just lurk in the background.  The person I’ve known the longest falls into both of those categories.  Other folks – including my sisters – just aren’t really interested though one of them is coming around now that her daughter is frolicking in another country and is an avid picture poster.  I don’t post often on my niece and nephews walls – but I love reading what they are up to and seeing their pictures – sort of. I use the word “love” loosely because frankly, sometimes what I see or read makes me shake my head and say “those kids” as if I never did any of that.

Reading my friends’ posts, links, likes and shares often reminds me why we’re friends and what I appreciate in them.  I may learn something about them, share their excitement or disgust. I may be impressed, surprised or simply laugh. Either way, it’s more than a facebook – it’s more like a friend book.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

It's Party Time!

It’s birthday party time – or rather, planning time for my daughter’s big day.  I know lots of folks that have been able to get away with small gatherings for their children.  Unfortunately, I have a kid that pretty much leans out the door and yells, “you’re all my friends, come to my party.”  There are no small parties in her world.

There are elementary school friends and preschool friends.  We have neighborhood friends and family friends.  We have mom's group friends. Now, there are barn friends and possibly temple friends (uh, we’re still new to the whole temple thing – friendships pending and I’m sure there is blog entry on that in the future.)  I did put my foot down on inviting her whole class. She’s not friends with all of them and frankly, some of those little girls are a Disney Channel nightmare and one of the boys tried to strangle a little girl last week.

Last year, I went all out and hosted a soiree at a ranch – horses, cowhands, BBQ, bonfire –the whole works.  It was a great experience due mostly to some rockin’ friends who sweated over the grill, rounded up kids at the petting zoo, prevented major burns during the bonfire and really made it happen. I think they would all agree that it doesn’t need to be repeated.  I’ve done parties at little gym, a farm, had a pony at the park. I’ve done just cake and ice cream (she was 1 so that didn’t really count.)  I’m done with parties that charge by the head.  Because though everyone tells me that only a small portion of people come, I’ve yet to experience that. Inevitability, I choose the one day that is just wide open for everyone. I’m lucky that way.

This year, we’re doing a party at home. Now, I’m hardly channeling Martha Stewart and have no plans to say, turn my house into a barn, trim the trees into topiaries that resemble different phases of my daughter’s life or build a gym in the backyard.  I want something easy that doesn’t require my guests to do the work.  I want my daughter and her friends to have fun. I want the grown-ups that are there to be able to relax and enjoy themselves.

In a fit of brilliance (like leap year, this doesn’t happen often but should be noted on a calendar), I decided to rent a giant inflatable movie screen and host a backyard movie party. Now, it may be a bit cool here at night in early Nov but nothing that a bunch of 7-year olds in sleeping bags can’t handle.  (In any other part of the country, folks would be in shorts & tees in those temps but where I live, any temp below 70 has folks pulling out parkas. I’m not kidding.) I’m only hoping that the fertilizer that was spread on the winter grass seed has dissipated or else the description “smells like shit” will be frighteningly accurate.  I figure throw in some pizzas, cupcakes, juice boxes (uh, wine for the grown-ups though I giggle at the thought of handing some of my friends a juice box – Cheers!).  A nice movie man and big old time popcorn popper comes with the movie screen. This means less work for me, uh, my friends.

So, the wee bit of money I’m saving pales in comparison to what I’ll save in stress and Advil.  I’m thrilled to not have to schlep a bunch of party crap in to and from in my car.  The environmental gods will not be pleased as I plan on using disposable everything to keep clean up easy my sanity. I know K & D will be there to help because, well – that is just the kind of friends they are.

I’m trying to tell myself that my house does not have to be perfect, that kids won’t notice if the walls aren’t painted and their parents won’t care that the tile needs replacing.  No one other than me is worried that my landscaping isn’t perfect or will even see the giant empty side yard begging for trees.  Having people over is about visiting, celebrating and being together and not home decor.  Because nothing makes a house more like a home than it being filled with friends and laughter.

But, I really hope D can get that ceiling fan up before the big day and maybe I will finally finish the playroom and have those new outside lights installed.

Monday, October 3, 2011

One person's trash is another person's treasure AKA Garage sale bonding

I had a garage sale on Saturday.  In a totally typical bit of poor planning, this was taking place the morning after I hosted a sit-down dinner for 12.  Why? Because I'm a dumbass. But, I digress.  Now, I do realize that a garage sale doesn't have anything to do with friends - but it did result in a getting to spend a good chunk of the day with a couple of great women.  Laughter ensued.

S & I had a ton of little girl crap - toys, shoes, bedding, etc. along with other general house stuff.  Doing the sale together meant we wouldn't be bored out of our minds alone and that our kids would run unsupervised through only one house.  Now, S and her family were at my house for dinner the previous night so seeing her pull up before 7 a.m. the next day found us both a little bleary-eyed.  We posted signs (lessons learned:  stakes do not go easily into hard desert ground, duct tape can go bad and a fourth grader on a bike should be required to go back out and check on the said signs), got the kids entertained and had our first customers.

We'd been outside for less than an hour when a big SUV pulls up with one mom and two kids hanging out the windows. Lo and behold, my friend A and her two kids were in the 'hood.  A quick stop turned into an all day visit as her daughter disappeared into the house to play with the other girls.  A & S didn't know each other but a quick intro led to a long chat - about kids, school and stuff as inane as moving your goods from an old purse into a new one (we all admitted we love this and I'm not the least bit embarrassed to write that.)  We watched our kids eat crap at 8:30 in the morning and were all equally shocked by our customers. (Let me say this about garage sale shoppers in my neck of the woods - cheap ass low-ballers.)

A was our garage sale bitch: she made the much appreciated Starbucks run, flagged down a neighbor she knew better than I did and talked him into buying three of my bigger ticket items, bought stuff from both me and S, brought even more crap food for our kids to eat and even added some stuff to the sales pile.

Hooker on a scooter
About five hours later our shoppers had petered out (I hope my daughter riding her scooter down the street while dressed like a hooker didn't scare them away), our kids needed real food and we were all ready to be out of the sun.  Our kids had played happily with no fighting though A's son and the only boy in the bunch was thoroughly disgusted with all the girls by this point.  My dog and cat were exhausted from being chased and kid-handled.  What was a chore ended up being fun. So much so, we all agreed to do it again in the Spring (I have told my daughter that if we don't keep getting rid of crap, we'll be like one of those houses on "Hoarders" - she's horrified but happily parting with stuff.)

And, two friends had become three. Way more valuable than anything we sold.