Friday, December 30, 2005

The Perfect Groom

About a year ago, I received an extremely generous offer from the owner of a blog that I enjoy. Loretta allowed me to write a guest entry for her blog "Observations of a Misfit" once a week. She edited my stories, made me look much better than I really am, and taught me a great deal. In fact, anyone who is displeased with the fact that I write now, you may blame Loretta. After all, she started it. I probably wouldn't have started writing anything more than a grocery list without her encouragement. Now that I've got my own place to ramble, the entries that I first wrote for "Observations of a Misfit" will be posted here at "Life's a Funny Thing." So here is the first entry I ever wrote, "The Perfect Groom." And Loretta, thanks for everything. You're the best.

January 21, 2005
The Perfect Groom

For those among us cursed with the burden of having a perfect sibling, I have some advice. Wait. That’s it. Just wait. Because when he (or she) finally goofs up, it’s totally worth it. Nonetheless, while you wait, placing an ad in the local paper listing his car for sale is always enjoyable.

When we were growing up, my brother, Ryan was what I liked to call the golden boy of the family, the super overachiever. I enjoyed calling him these things for two very good, not envy motivated at all, reasons. (The envy motivated name was, “Mama's Boy.”) First, I did it because it was true. Second, and I think you’ll agree that this was the more important reason: it really annoyed him.

Not only was he the sole child in our family spared the nightmare of orthodontia; he was the perfect student and the model child. He was the only child in our family to possess a modicum of athletic skill or physical coordination. More than once my other brothers (known as favorite
children numbers 2 and 3) and I (known to spend vast amounts of time in my room as unfair penance for various infractions) heard from one of our parents the confidence boosting remark, “Ryan is the only one of my children who walks properly.” Okay, I admit that the rest of us tended to walk quickly, leaning forward slightly as if facing a strong wind. But seriously, isn’t that carrying comparison a bit far?

Ryan? Well...he strutted. There’s really no other way to describe it. Of course, we inadequate walkers had deep concerns that our infirmity would somehow prevent us from achieving any success in life. Okay, not “deep” concerns, but more than a little irritation.

His most notable skill was his gift for manipulating our mother. This is where Ryan and I are vastly different - that and all the other stuff. Ryan was like a believable Eddie Haskell. I couldn’t lie to Mom. In my defense, it was not for lack of trying. I just always got caught. Ryan, on the other hand, could tell her he’d met three leprechauns for lunch that gave him permission to skip school in exchange for the dryer lint he had in his pockets. Mom would just smile. If I tried skipping school with a very believable, albeit completely fictitious illness, I’d be subject to a little mother/daughter time that would rival the Spanish Inquisition. Apparently Mom gave certain children extra points for originality.

While I was a socially phobic, library-lurking geek, he was outgoing, friendly and cool. In high school, he was the coveted date for every dance. In a nauseating, though hardly unexpected, pattern, Ryan was beloved by his teachers at school, his leaders at church, and pretty much anyone who met him. So it’s understandable, really that I resented him enormously.

In college Ryan was able to get a highly enviable campus job that consisted mostly of meeting dignitaries at the airport, and guiding campus tours in a golf cart. (Okay, the golf cart wasn’t bad, because I did get a ride to class now and then.) So it came as no surprise, really, when he introduced us to the girl he intended to marry: Kimberly is beautiful, intelligent and talented.

The day of the wedding arrived; the bride was gorgeous, the groom was handsome. Some people say there is no such thing as a perfect wedding, that something will go awry somewhere. I’d like to point out that these people are completely wrong. Ryan’s wedding day went perfectly.

The ceremony took place in a town about an hour away. At the time, our dad owned a car that seemed more appropriate for the occasion than Ryan’s mountain bike, so Ryan traveled to the wedding with our parents in Dad’s car, and after the wedding, Mom and Dad rode to the reception in Provo with hubby and me. Everything remained perfect. Being the good sister I am, I assisted others in the effort to completely cover Dad’s car, since the happy couple were taking it to the airport following the reception. It was quite a work of art, really: Oreo’s on the windshield, balloons everywhere, messages beautifully written in shaving cream script. When we were finished, I don’t think there was a visible square inch of the car beneath the decorations. We were so proud.

I could tell by the way Ryan punched me in the shoulder just a little too hard that he was duly impressed. He has since claimed that when he said he was going to track us down and throttle us, he was only kidding.

The newlyweds got into the car and disappeared through the country club gates into the night, as all of us waved and cheered. The guests and family stood in the parking lot chatting about how lovely the day had been, and a few minutes later Ryan came back through the gates, alone, on foot, and furious.

“There’s something wrong with your car!” he announced. In extreme irritation, he waited while enough men were rounded up to push the car back. Fortunately it hadn’t gone far. Dad stalked over to the car to investigate, while Mom bustled around, attempting to settle Ryan down. I stood watching, spellbound. Finally Dad announced, “It’s out of gas, Ryan. Didn’t you put gas in it?”

“You said there was enough gas in it this morning!” Ryan came back. At this point, I expressed my deep concern and compassion for Ryan's plight in the form of a snicker. I caught my husband's eye and saw that he, too, was cracking up.

Dad’s fuel habits are legendary. I don’t know exactly what he thinks will happen if he puts more than two or three gallons of gas in the car at a time, but whatever he's worried about, it must be awful. I have never known him to spend more than five dollars at a stop for fuel. I do know that the first time I filled the tank in one of his previous cars, the gas needle went into shock and the gauge never worked again.

Dad tapped the computer screen on the dashboard where flashed a three inch high picture of an empty fuel can. Low Fuel! It warned in ominous red letters.

“No,” Dad reminded him, “I said there was enough gas to get to the temple this morning. I didn’t say you could just drive around all day and never run out.”

In a brilliant strategic attempt at diverting blame, Ryan said, “Well, I don’t trust your car. There something wrong with it.” Mom interrupted her breakdown to jump in assuring him that we would send someone for gas, and then they could be on their way. Ryan continued to blame the car. Kimberly backed him up with her corroborative observation: “I think there’s something wrong with the car because on the way back today, this light on the dashboard kept flashing.”

To this day, I don't know if she was serious. I prefer to believe she was just trying to be supportive. “You mean the light that is a picture of an empty gas can and the words Low Fuel? That light?” asked Dad.

Mom came to Ryan’s rescue by offering to allow him to take her car. Ryan and his bride accepted the offer immediately, moved their luggage into Mom's car, and once again drove away.

While my husband was sent for gas, my car was loaded with the wedding gifts we had just removed from Mom’s car. Mom and I then departed in my car, while my husband and my dad stayed behind to take care of Dad’s car. What no one stopped to think about was that Dad and my husband were left, in their formal wear, to take a heavily decorated car to a gas station, and then share a twenty minute drive home together. For reasons I still don’t fully understand, it didn’t occur to them to remove any of the decorations, either.

My husband told me that all the way home people honked and shouted congratulations, only to get closer and see two tuxedoed men inside. My husband was driving, which was a shame since he really would have preferred to duck and cower on the floor. But he's nothing if not a good sport. Dad, oblivious to the reason for all the extra attention, simply smiled and waved to everyone. “It was kind of like being in a parade!” he recalled.

In the end, Ryan and Kim got to the airport in time to make their flight. They have gone on to have a very happy, though imperfect marriage.

My brothers and I had the very great satisfaction (petty, but great) of seeing Ryan in a flawed moment. Although we never did learn to walk satisfactorily, I’m pleased to say we have still managed to live reasonably successful lives.

Mom recovered well from the whole drama. The favoritism changed, though. Now we all equally embarrass her. As for Dad and my husband, they were delighted to receive complimentary nachos from the gas station attendant.

Amish Girl In Training

It should come as absolutely no surprise that I am what polite people call "technologically challenged." I am what my brothers call "She Who Must Never Touch Anything With A Power Cord Or More Than One Button." My brothers are right, sad to say. The button thing even applies to clothing as I have on more than one occasion returned to the house only to discover my shirt has been buttoned incorrectly all day.

My brothers are technology wizards. My older brother spends his days doing heaven and Bill Gates only know what for Microsoft. (Everytime the computer shows the error message and inquires politely whether or not to send a message to Microsoft to inform them of my distress I ALWAYS say yes. Just my way of letting Tyler know I'm still out here.) My other brothers are also well-versed in computer knowledge. They frequently sit and discuss computers in some foreign language I gave up trying to understand years ago. I'm not quite sure how I ended up in this family, the only foreigner in their computer-filled world. One day I will learn that I was adopted and suddenly my entire world will make sense. Until then, however, I just remind myself that we are all unique and we each have our own talents. For example, I know every word to the "Beverly Hillbillies" theme song. (I also know the words to "The Brady Bunch" and "Gilligan's Island" but my brothers may read this and I don't want them to feel intimidated by my greatness, so I won't mention my expertise in its entirety.)

In the blog world, however, I'm finding that having a few clues to finding my way around would be helpful. For example, I finally got links to my favorite blogs listed. See? Over there in the sidebar? Under the great big word "LINKS"? (I'm also working on changing that to something different, but let's take one thing at a time, okay?) Yep. I got them listed all right. The links won't actually take you anywhere of course. But I'm working on it. Thank you for your patience. In the meantime feel free to join me in a little song! Everybody sing! "Come listen to the story of a man named 'Jed'..."

Thursday, December 29, 2005

Twas the Day After Christmas

'Twas the day after Christmas. The carnage was over. The presents that I spent hours lovingly wrapping were unwrapped, the feasts I'd laboriously prepared were consumed and I was contemplating what a wonderful thing hibernation is. I was happily imagining the bliss of stuffing myself so full of food that it would sustain me through the long months of winter and then, oh sweet, merciful, blessed thought, I could just go to sleep! For MONTHS! Judging from the recently snug fit of my jeans, I'm more than halfway there already. I slumped in the chair thinking maybe I'd just stay in that spot for a week or so. I could just summon Son when I needed food, drink or batteries for the remote. It would be perfect. But then right in the middle of my lovely reverie, a horrific reality presented iteself in the form of my husband with an announcement:

"I want to go shopping. I can exchange that BEAUTIFUL, WONDROUS, NOTHING-MORE-LOVELY-HAS-EVER-BEEN-CREATED-BY-HUMAN-HANDS-SWEATER that I'd keep if only, oh if only it fit." (Mike's mom gave him the sweater. She may read here. Everyone wave to Mike's mom!)

I summoned all the energy I had to open one eye and stare at him.
"Are you mad? Do you know what the stores will be like today? Only crazy people are out today."

"Yes, yes they are. And we have a duty to support our fellow crazies by mingling with them in the mall."

"You mingle. I'm sleeping. Besides, I don't like people anymore."

"Aw, c'mon. It won't be that bad. What happened to "Good Will Toward Men"?

"I think I lost it somewhere between getting run over by an enormous remote control Batmobile and getting broadsided by two women having a tug of war over the last 'Boobah.' That's kind of funny, though. When those women find out that 'Boobahs' make noises that melt the auditory nerves and grate on every other nerve in the system of anyone unfortunate to listen longer than 2 minutes, they'll realize there are NO winners in Boobah world."

"Right. Well guess what?" he wheedled, "You know that sweater you've been wanting? I'll bet it's still there. On sale even."

"I don't care. It'll be spring soon and too warm for sweaters anyway. Nice try, though."

"Books. Books will be on sale." Silence. "Honey? Did you hear me? Bookstore?"

"Let me get my shoes." Rotten man. He never did play fair.

We made the 45 minute trek to that den of insanity known as the mall. As we drew closer I said, "Shhhhhh! Quiet! If you listen carefully, you can hear credit cards screaming in pain from overuse! We must turn back!"


"You'll never get a parking spot. Never. You'll have to stalk some poor souls as they come out of the mall. You'll follow them to their car and wait nearby with your signal flashing, only to find out they're just there to leave their stuff in the car before returning to the chaos."

"Nope. There's a guy. Look at the cold, dead look in his eyes. He's not going back anytime soon." Mike was right of course. He followed the guy and when Mike scored a parking spot mere steps from the door I hung my head in defeat.

Nothing but my unconditional, undying and deep, deep love for my husband could have made me follow him into Eddie Bauer. Well, nothing but that and the promise of a trip to the bookstore.(I hate it that I'm so easy.) I mostly read for three hours while having discussions like:
"Do these socks match?"
"Really? They match this sweater?"
"No, they don't match the sweater."
"You just said they matched."
"They do. They match each other."

It actually wasn't so bad. With the strategically timed visit to the bookstore, and the help of a zealous young salesman who had far more interest in and excitement about clothing than anyone not working on commission has any right to be I only thought about banging my head against the wall, oh three, maybe four times. It must be stressed, however, that I might have escaped even that if the salesman had not insisted on returning with items I had already vetoed. (Sorry, Mike's young and he's gorgeous, but even he cannot pull off mukluks.)

The plus side is, he looks INCREDIBLE. He looks ten years younger, and my oh my oh my! Let's just say I'm grateful that he can no longer get his wedding ring off. I told him that if I weren't his wife I'd be seriously lusting after him. I meant, of course, that even if I weren't married to him or even in love with him, I'd find him extremely attractive. I think that came out wrong though. He laughed himself into a fit of hiccups and ever since he has been making commments like, "If you weren't my wife I'd tell you how beautiful you are this morning."

Still, after twelve years of marriage it's pretty cool to find my heart beating the drum riff to "Wipe Out" just because he walks into a room.

There is down side to having a recently "made-over" hubby, however. I now look like his chaperone. I'm sure we'll go out together and people will whisper, "How did a guy that HOT end up at the party with his mother?" You know what this means. That's right. More shopping. But I'm no fool. I'm not going back into that mob of crazed post-holiday-sale scavengers. I don't care what's on sale. I'll go back when things quiet down a bit. Besides, who knows what size I'll be once I'm through hibernating?

Monday, December 19, 2005

Christmas Decorating For OCD Couples

My husband and I know better than to try to decorate the house together. It's not that we haven't tried, you understand. It's just that Mike is somewhat, and I say this with great love and respect, "particular" about where the decorations go. And by particular, of course, I mean a raving, perfection-obsessed control freak who makes me contemplate ripping my own fingernails from their beds just to distract myself from the agony of the constant adjusting of the scenery. Over the past several Christmas seasons, I have learned how to handle this little quirk-- I let him do his thing and I do mine. My thing includes setting up the manger scene. He still tries to oversee my work, however. Like a few years ago, after he finished hanging enough lights on the house to make Clark Griswold weep with envy. He stood watching for a few minutes. Then he just couldn't help it. He had to ask.

"Um, Stacey? How come the Wise Men are on the other side of the room?"

"Because they weren't actually at the stable that night. They didn't find Christ until quite a bit later. So I put them over there, like they're still en route."

"But still, it's the nativity. I think they're supposed to all be together."

"It's not historically accurate to have the Wise Men at the stable."

"Okay, well, that may be true, but I'd like to point out that it probably isn't historically accurate to have the Obi Wan Kenobi action figure acting as a shepherd, either. I mean, he's a Jedi. There were no Jedi at the stable that night."

"Oh yeah? How do you know? WERE YOU THERE? I didn't think so."

Okay, so maybe I'm a bit particular too. But our house is GORGEOUS!

Sunday, December 18, 2005

The Post In Which I Reveal Hubby's Lack of Fashion Sense.

I have an embarrassingly large number of reasons for loving my husband the way I do. He's good and decent, sweet and thoughtful, smart and retina-searingly gorgeous. Plus, he brushes his teeth first thing in the morning and I think we can all agree that this gesture goes a long way toward ensuring marital harmony. But I've got to say that conversations like the ones we have about his wardrobe are a big part of his appeal. Take the discussion we had one morning when he announced, "Honey, I need new socks."
"I just bought you new socks."
"I know but I need socks I can wear with sandals." Silence. "Honey? Did you hear me? I need socks I can wear with my sandals. Where would I find some like that?"
"Well, Sweetheart, I think they are on the same aisle as the black dress socks that are to be worn with Bermuda shorts."
"Oh. No socks with sandals?"
"Got it."

How can I not love a man who amuses me like this on a daily basis?

My own blog. What to do? What to do?

So I have my own blog now. I would like to state that the purpose for this blog is to enlighten others, to share my wisdom and humor, to discuss events of life and come to profound conclusions that will edify all who read here. The real reason, though, is that I recently learned that my brother has his own blog. Historically, anything he's had I've wanted and that includes chicken pox and a tonsilectomy. (Hey, he got a LOT of ice cream. Not to mention the attention.)I admit, I don't have many profound things to say, or great wisdom to impart. But I do find life pretty darned amusing most of the time and I also like to talk. A lot. I like to write, though I make mistakes. Way too many commas and apostrophes in inexplicable places. But I figure anyone willing to read what I have to say is going to have to be pretty tolerant and will overlook these things as I learn. So I'm going to give this a shot. If nothing else, I'm keeping up with my brother and after all, isn't that the most important thing? Exactly.