Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Typing Out Loud: Aging Up and Loss

The ill effects of hair coloring post-breakup, 1988. Oh, to be 18 again...

I've operated the last few years under the guise of "being XX, but feeling 28." After the events of the last few weeks, I feel every bit of my 42 years. I'm feeling a bit melancholy about this, of course with my dad's passing, but also that feeling that my youth is gone. I've joked about this in the past and attempted to combat it with aerial class and skating, but there's no denying the adultness of my present situation.

While I'm feeling the loss of my dad acutely, I'm feeling guilty that I'm relieved he's passed and his three-year nightmare is over. I can't say it's not fair, because who decides that? There's a lot of shit in this world that happens to a lot of people, and while he died younger than he ought to, he had 69 years, a loving wife, three kids, and two grand kids. There's so many that end up with so much less.

While I was in Jackson, I have to admit to some reclusiveness. I know it was an opportunity for me to go off somewhere and have a good cry, like I did at the park. I drove listlessly around, stalking old haunts from some 20, 25 years ago. Ice rink, roller rink, parks, the mall, the YMCA, the county fairgrounds. I stopped by CH's house (Breakup Songs, pt 1) because it was empty and for sale. Didn't see any ghosts, but felt them. Was surprised at the clarity of my memories of the house, but annoyed that a few details were flipped flopped, like the fireplace being on the east wall instead of the west. I also visited Tricky Dick's, the site of my 3rd best kiss ever, because that house was also for sale, and my heart broke all over again. CH had done some beautiful work on his uncle's house all those years ago, but since the house had changed hands and eventually went into foreclosure, the place was abused, his work destroyed. But again, the clarity of my memories didn't betray me, and I got lost in 1988 all over again.

I may not be 18 anymore, but I sure felt like it for about five minutes.

But on a more cheerful note, not all loss is bad. I came in second for Biggest Loser at work. The prize I believe is $100, which I plan to blow on some awesome new clothes. This is also born out of necessity, as all my clothes are now too big. I need new underwear! Having been one size for so long, it's a new sensation to be in clothes that are close-fitting, a little cuter, and a lot more flattering. It's also a goodbye to a wardrobe I've accumulated through the years. Already on the Goodwill pile is a stack of jeans, my strapless yellow dress, some fun tops that are now tents.

Oh, and I competed at Adult Nationals in Chicago. Feels like a million years ago. My first event was Bette for artistic/dramatic, and I focused entirely too much on my chances to medal. Still, 7 out of 10 I will take. I evaluated how I did, and I was disappointed in myself because I didn't skate the way I wanted to skate... for myself. Wow, that was a revelation. Skate for myself. Being selfish in this way relieved me of all my nerves for comedy, and I skated better than I ever have in competition. I had fun. I mugged for the judges, made faces at the audience and the applause were better than I have ever heard. Michelle loved the freedom with which I skated. It was the best thing I ever discovered about myself in regards to competing. It was awesome.

I'm also grateful that I was talked into going to the competitor's party. Surrounded by friends, I danced the night away, various drinks in hand. I was swung around by one pairs skater, mugged for the cameras, and shared in the camaraderie of being with my people.

In all, I'm doing ok. I'm not sure the feeling of loss will ever go away, but it may dull to a sweet feeling of nostalgia at what I shared in this life with my dad and the luck I had to have a dad for 42 years.

Sunday, April 22, 2012

What's Right with the World - Dad

Uncle Pineapple, me and dad at Gia's wedding in 1989.

Dad's obit

Wow, my dad died. He's been sick for 3 years, but it still comes as a shock to the system when the end finally arrives. It was the most horrible thing I've ever witnessed, but I wouldn't have wanted to be anywhere else. I find it a terrible honor to have been with him and my mom when he passed.

This may be more of a typing out loud entry, but I wanted to share a few dad stories. I'm afraid they are going to be me-centric, but this is about my relationship with him. I am unclear as to whether these stories are truly factual, as they are colored by my childish recollections and the classic tall tale embellishments that happen over the course of time. They are, from my point of view, absolutely true.

I'm thinking about the day one summer I was determined to learn how to ride a two-wheeler bike, I couldn't have been more than four or five. Training wheels were for babies. I pushed the bike up the hill and coasted down, dumping myself off time and again. Eventually, our next-door neighbor's grandson Andy came out to try too. Dad came out to help, holding the back until I eventually got it. I remember us getting peanut butter cups as a reward.

My parents threw a party for my older sister's 7th birthday. I wasn't really invited until I begged. I was with my mom when she bought the prizes, and I desperately wanted the pearl jewelry set. I didn't get them, Gia's friend Rose claimed the prize and I lost my mind and made a desperate grab for it. Oh, I got in trouble with my mom, but strangely, not my dad. He took me for a ride in the car to go to A&A market, and incredibly, let me choose something from the toy rack. I claimed a small bright yellow Mighty Mouse flashlight.

One time he and my mom made a huge roast that they were going to have slice up for roast beef sandwiches. To my 6 year old eyes, it looked exactly like a cartoon Bugs Bunny roast, and I took a few bites out of it to see if it would still look like a cartoon roast. Man, was it delicious, but it also now had 3 tiny cartoon sized bites out of it. Yep, I got in trouble. He told me to go upstairs and start packing to "live with the gypsies down the street." I remember getting out my little flowered suitcase and through my tears, determining what I would need other than socks, underwear and my love pup. Astonished by my sad acceptance of my punishment (a theme that I would repeat time and again), he told me to put my suitcase away and think about what I did, because I had ruined the roast and they couldn't take it to the butcher to get sliced up. I think it was still edible, but I had of course lost my appetite for it. I know I did think about it, and determined it was impossible to explain the appeal of eating a cartoon roast to an adult.

When I was at the my work Christmas party getting kissed by K (Feb. playlist - Looking for a New Love part 2), I was way past my curfew for a Sunday night and boy did I get it. Yelled at. Grounded. Keys to the car taken away. Stunned and accepting of my punishment (again), I apologized since I didn't realize it was so late since I was busy *ahem* doing other things. Equally stunned by my saying I was sorry and owning up to my mistake, I was pardoned, but told it would only work this one time.

Another time, I was grounded "until you are 35!"

And that was another interesting thing about my dad. We girls were, more or less, operating on the straight and narrow, and many forms of rebellion were tolerated, although he did get his digs in. A rollicking evening of underage drinking was usually met the next morning with banging pots, fried eggs and Polka Joe on the stereo turned up to 11 *bleh*. The volume of his exceedingly cheerful voice was amplified on purpose.

He had me so scared of doing drugs, that I would barely take an aspirin.

He had me so scared of teenage pregnancy, that I left a trail of very frustrated ex-boyfriends from Jackson to Big Rapids. 

Oh, the boyfriends. He had high standards for his girls, and few of the boys I brought home measured up (sorry guys). If he liked you, you were christened with a nickname (a term of endearment in his opinion), whether you liked it or not. Only two I brought home were nicknamed, and luckily I married one of them. The rest? Either referred to strictly by their name or lowest of low, not referred to by name at all.

Unclear as to what my career path was, or even where it was, I started at community college as a pre-pharmacy major, and front loaded my schedule with all the biology, chemistry and organic chemistry classes, and back loaded it with english lit, art, photography and design to act as a pressure valve. This led to me taking classes at Jackson CC and Lansing CC. When report cards came in the mail that June, 1988 I was ecstatic with the LCC report card which was a 4.0 on a 4.0 scale, but the JCC report was a 2.5 on a 4.0. He looked at the reports and said "I'm not going to tell you what to do, but I think these grades are telling you what you should do. Just know me and your mother support your choice." I changed my major to art and design and the rest is history.

When I took up figure skating as a hobby/sport, it hurt my feelings that my dad didn't get it. He came to only one competition, the Grand Rapids Open in 2004 and saw me come in last, and like a typical skating parent, was furious to know why I was sucking in the cellar. Afterwards, he gently requested that I not bother inviting him to competitions. Again, it hurt for him to say that, and I wondered why. My mom later explained that he was so afraid I would get hurt, that he couldn't enjoy the performance "waiting for her to fall and crack her head open like an effing watermelon." Well, my mom brought home the article from the Grand Rapids Press the weekend after Sectionals, and he gruffly asked to see it. He read it quietly, cleared his throat and wiped his eyes, and commented that he thought I got into the sport after seeing the Ice Capades with him in 1977. Then he grinned and said "good for you." He also told me to have a good time when I was on my way to Chicago for Adult Nationals. I think he finally got it.

His experience giving back to the sport he loved as a football referee for the Michigan High School Athletic Association inspired me to become a figure skating judge. We traded stories that last couple years of insane sports parents and even more insane coaches.

He was a wonderful grandfather to my sister's son Dylan and to my son Will. It was remarkable to see this gruff, cantankerous man become such a marshmallow in the presence of these two boys. I can't type much more about this right now without crying, but I hold dear to my heart the last time they played ball in the house while watching a Tigers spring training game. My dad must have pitched a soft toss ball to Will for two hours straight while Will swung a cross stitch tube as a bat. The joy they both exhibited is something to hold onto so I can share with him tales about grandpa.

Sunday, April 8, 2012

Why Art Matters - Marisa's New Dress a Day Blog

Marisa in the "before" shot of the dress I sent her in June 2011.

I stumbled on Marisa's NDAD blog back in 2010, in the middle of her 365 days/$365 challenge. As she explains it, she was in a creative funk/job crisis and was inspired by the movie Julie/Julia, the story of one woman working her way through the Joy of Cooking. She decided an exercise that would easy on her pocketbook and indulge her creative tendencies as well as her skills as a seamstress would be to acquire a "new dress a day" on a budget of only $1.

The results were spectacular as well as entertaining. I got to see a parade of fashion from handbags to headbands. I was astonished to see the pink version of the creamy yellow dress (Day 52, January 2010) I wore to that dinner party at CH's (breakup songs blog #1). I loved her remakes of tired 80s dresses into very modern tunics. I was very entertained by the muu-muu makeovers into some very colorful party dresses.

The tone of the blog is fun, with step-by-step instructions as she reworks a rag into something especially fashionable, inspired by something she saw in a magazine or a runway look. She gives fans a little glimpse into her life by posting pics of herself wearing her creations in everyday situations - eating, going to concerts, hanging out with friends. And her RIT dye addiction is a special kinda awesome.

Her creativity has generated media interest, and she regularly posts shots of her on talk shows, magazines and the like. This has resulted in a book deal, one I am looking forward to having on my shelf next to my copy of Glamour's Do's and Don'ts.

What has it done for me? I've been a thrift/resale shopper since that fateful day at Haight/Ashbury back in 2002, but reading her blog has generated a new enthusiasm for living as greenly/cheaply/chicly (sp?) as possible. I look at clothes a new way when I go thrifting, looking not only for fit and structure, but also for potential. My wardrobe inventory is referenced, knowing that I can jazz up a World Mission Thrift $2 dress with an antique pin, my motorcycle boots or a cardigan. I also know my way around a pair of scissors, crystals and E2000 glue.

One example is the blue-green sweater dress purchased for $1.50. The fit around the boobs was tight, not great. Wondering "what would Marisa do?" I snipped open the top two buttons that were inexplicably sewn shut, and added a white ruched tank top underneath. It changed the look of the top dramatically, and looks rockin' with leggings and boots.

So take some inspiration from Marisa and review her smart fashion transformations, then take your dollars to the thrift store for a makeover.

Thursday, April 5, 2012


Entry inspired by Bettye Lavette's song "Choices." She's more than kinda awesome.

I think this is a classic reflection based on my current mid-life status. Do you ever wonder what choices in life you've made, significant or otherwise, that radically changed the course of your life?

The obvious one to me is my choice of aisle at K-Mart 9/15/90, the day I met Dave. Would we be married if it weren't for that chance encounter? On one hand, you could say of course not, I set the die by flirting and inviting him to my birthday party.

BUT he didn't show up, and we didn't run into each other until six months later at Cara, Karin and Jill's, when we got acquainted. BUT we were dating other people at the time, and he was just one of the guys in the crowd.

Six months later, by chance, we ended up living next door to each other AND Dave ended up with my phone number from the previous year - it was then that we started dating. Was it our choices, the randomness of life + proximity or destiny throwing us together time and again?

What about applying for jobs? I sweated out many an application for one "dream" job after another, but the two most significant positions I've had in my career were quick applications dashed off and stuffed in the mail. The reason I got my first job? There was a glaring typo in the classified ad itself, and I pointed it out in a clever P.S., something I would not have done if I hadn't thought it a test, having answered a smart ass ad in a Chicago newspaper asking applicants to find all the mistakes. Would I have gotten the job if I hadn't pointed out the mistake?

Speaking of mistakes, where have I made mine? There are some disappointments in my life that I am reluctant to point out here for my ego sake, but I am curious as to whether my life would have turned out for the better or worse had I chosen to see what was behind curtain number 2.

And what little choices have I made to impact my life in a big way? It could be as simple as turning left instead of right. Chicken instead of beef. Saying yes instead of no -- heck, for that all I have to think about is how many opportunities I had to losing my virginity in my teens to realize how my life may have changed.

That last sentence made me woozy for a minute.

With all this contemplation, there is one thing for which I am certain. No matter what path I chose, I know I would have been happy. I've never been one to make a decision lightly, and I think if I would have chosen B instead of A, I would have been satisfied.

But I'm pretty happy with the way it is now.

Sunday, April 1, 2012

April Playlist - LIVE!

Oh, to have stumbled onto sexy x 2 randomly on the street.

Dave and I love live music, and our favorite dates are to see live shows.

First concert I ever went to was a free show at the Jackson County Fair, by a little known but up and coming parody artist. Perhaps you've heard of him, Weird Al Yankovic. We sat through the daytime concert for about 20 minutes as Al flailed between keyboards and an accordian, got to hear My Bologna and Oh Ricky before we decided deep fried fair food and watching boys on the midway was infinitely more interesting. I think it was 1982?

Nothing against Al, the quality of the shows have improved since then. There is nothing more electric than seeing your favorite song performed live and making the connection with the performer/artist/musician.

The following is a list of some of my favorite live performances.

Lenny Kravitz, Let Love Rule - Van Andel Arena. Anyone who has ever gone to a Lenny show (I've been to four), knows LLR is his 20+ minute groove, where he goes out to mingle with the audience, sing, whip everyone into a peace-and-love throng. Well last time I saw him, he finally came into my part of the audience and yes, Lenny had me in a partial embrace. *sigh*

U2, Elevation - Saavis Center, St. Louis. One of the best shows ever, and this song was the best live performance ever. They left the house lights up, and the band started playing as they took the stage. This song exploded and the crowd erupted. Wow.

Rush, One Little Victory - the outdoor St. Louis ampitheater I can't remember the name of right now. My husband is a Canuk wannabe, solely based on his love of this band. I remember the concerts on MTV, the spooky lime green strobes and Tom Sawyer. He insisted that once I went to a show, I'd get it. With an explosion of flashpots and the rapid-fire opening riff to this show, I got it.

Gloria, Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers - Van Andel Arena. Fun song about hitting on a girl and trying to impress her by being in a rock and roll band. Another 20 minute story song, "her name was whispered into the wind, and it came to me... Gllllllllllllllloooooooooooooria!"

BB King, The Thrill is Gone - House of Blues; Garbage, Sex is Not the Enemy- Hard Rock Casino; B52s - Rock Lobster - We were out in Las Vegas for the 2005 ISI Adult Champs and turned it into a birthday/vacation. Out for five days, three skating events and one motorcycle rally, we packed as much fun as we could into our time, and shoehorned in three concerts as well.

We ended up in the second row for BB, and he gave me a guitar tack pin. It was crazy to see girls young enough to be his great-granddaughters going nuts, and he knew he was in control.

Garbage was SRO, and we ended up behind the soundboard, where the tech gave us the useless set list. Why useless? Being the last show of the tour, the show was organized chaos as Shirley got drunk and shaved a fan's head on stage while singing this song. Why - the fan was preparing to start chemo the next day. She also got the band's songbook out and started doing song requests. Intimate, rocking, thrilling.

B's were playing a casino way south of the Strip, and the band seemed disappointed to be playing to a house less than half full, no more than 1,000. So Fred got mad and told everyone to get up and dance. We were among the youngest in the crowd and no one moved. Then he shouted that everyone come to the front and we ended up smashed against the bandstand, dancing to to rock, rock lobster!

Paul McCartney, Here There and Everywhere - Silverdome. My first time seeing Mac was the best. Went with Dave and a handful of his childhood friends I was just getting to know. He did Drive My Car, and since it was not a favorite and wanting to pee, I dashed to the bathroom. I was finishing up when this song started and I bolted to back to my seat. One of my all-time favorites, half a song was better than none.

Ministry, Jesus Built My Hotrod - Pine Knob, Lollapalooza. One of Dave's favorite crazy bands, this song came out and was riding the 120 Minutes airwaves when we started a'courting. For as hard and heavy as this band is, this song was filled with melody and fun. With a line like "Jesus was an architect previous to his career as a prophet," you know you can't take it serious. We were down in the Pine Knob seats when the sod began to fly from the hill, and I was struck with an errant clod of dirt; Dave was hit with a whole tray of nacho chips with cheese. All you could do was laugh and thrash on.

Pearl Jam, Evenflow/Alive/Why Go Home - Pine Knob, Lollapalooza. Same show, different experience. Eddie Vedder climbed the scaffolding singing about butterflies and below, a throng of fans extended their hands to catch him if he fell. It was all plaid, cargo shorts and Chuck Taylor All Stars, a look I adopted in '92.

Bob Seger, Roll Me Away - Van Andel. I cannot believe that as a Michigan native, I had never seen Bob before last year. And when he opened the show with Roll Me Away, I really didn't need to see any more, because he nailed it. I stuck around for the show of course, but wow, what an opening.

Rolling Stones, Miss You - SARSstock, Toronto. Nothing like a show with a half a million of your closest North American friends. Justin Timberlake was lustly booed but Keith and Mick were simply fantastic in this song. Really, I could have picked any of the songs from this performance as amazing, but this one stands out in my head. Oooo oooo ooo ooo ooo o, Oooo oooo ooo ooo oo o o, Oooo ooo oo oaaaah!