Monday, November 21, 2011

Giving Thanks to My Children

An early post tonight, in anticipation of the Thanksgiving holiday. Hope all of you, too, find much for which to be thankful.

As both my young adult sons return home for the holiday, I've promised myself to bite my tongue about sleepless nights and randomly scattered piles of "stuff." Instead, I will focus on counting my blessings. I'm fortunate to have many, although sometimes it takes a holiday to serve as a reminder.

My two children have taught me much. I am especially thankful for both of them, because:

They tell me 50 is still young, that I look good for my age, and they say this with conviction.

They devour the whole package of Little Debbies before I manage to get my hands on it.

They prove to me that good music has indeed been recorded after 1983.

They know how to work the universal remote and the router.

They help me acknowledge and understand my mistakes.

They laugh at my good jokes and fake a smile at my bad ones.

They occasionally nod and agree that one more cat or dog won't necessarily make me a crazy lady.

They may someday provide me with grandchildren.

They pursue their dreams and are willing to take me along for the ride.

They end every phone conversation with the words, "Love you."

And that makes every dirty dish and every stress-filled moment worthwhile.

What are you thankful for?

Thursday, November 17, 2011

One Siri-ously Funny Conversation

We all need someone in our life who makes us convulse with such laughter that we squirt adult beverages out our nose and practically pee our pants. (Yes, I am five going on eighty.)

Lucky for me, my friend Mike has a Ph.D. in adolescent behavior, with a specialty in potty humor.

Before my recent Milwaukee visit with him and his wife Peggy (one of my oldest and dearest friends), Mike bought a new iPhone 4S. Infatuated with his toy--as grown men tend to be--he began to show off the phone's new voice-command feature.

"Text Scott Johnson," Mike instructed Siri, the voice-recognition assistant.

Siri seemed a bit slow on the uptake."I don't know who your father is," she replied. "In fact, I don't know who you are."

"What the hell?" Mike said. "OK, text Sherry Stanfa."

"Sorry," she answered. "I can't find places in the Falkland Islands."

"What an effin moron," Mike said.

Poor Siri. I was willing to give her another chance. So far, she didn't make me feel anywhere near as stabby as GPS Wench, who constantly likes to remind me how my screw-ups have forced her into "recalculating."

But Mike had his fill of serious queries. He was ready to move on. "Siri, why do farts smell?"

I giggled. Fart jokes: Not just for kindergarten anymore.

"I have no answer," said Siri. "How about a Web search for 'Why do farts smell?' "

"No," Mike yelled. "I said, 'My wife farts a lot. Why do they smell so bad?' "

"What's your location?" asked Siri.

We howled. Apparently, Siri wished to steer clear of our particularly unpleasant smelling location.

"Forget that," Mike said to Siri. "Where is my underwear?"

She hesitated just briefly before responding. "You sound disoriented," she told him.

And that's when my drink found its way out of my nostrils. It seemed Siri could give it as good as she could take it.

The saintly tolerant Peggy glared at her husband. "Mike, ENOUGH. You're going to make her mad."

"Peg, it's a computer," he said.

"I don't care. You're going to piss her off and break the phone," said Peggy. "Besides, don't you think there are ten million people asking her these same stupid questions?"

I crossed my legs, still laughing. "He asked where his underwear is," I said. "I sincerely doubt ten million people have asked that."

"OK, but he bought this phone and is paying hundreds of dollars for something he has no idea how to properly use," Peg said. "Mike, do you even know how to send a text message?"

"Sure," said Mike. He squinted at the phone. "You just have to push something."

Peggy rolled her eyes and refilled her drink.

"I'm paying hundreds of dollars for this phone," Mike demanded of Siri. "So I want to know, where is the nearest whorehouse?"

"Jesus," Peggy said, with a palm to her forehead. "You're going to get a phone call any minute from a customer asking, 'Why did you just text me and ask where the nearest whorehouse is?' "

Mike ignored her, still intent on his nonsensical phone conversation. "Siri, can you explain poop soup?"

And so it went for the rest of the night. Mike berated Siri with juvenile and inappropriate questions, and I giggled until the wee hours of the morning.

We had lunch the next day with my youngest son, a Marquette student majoring in techno-geekology. I relayed Mike's encounters with the new iPhone and Siri.

He nodded. "Yeah, Siri, she's a sassy one. Let me see the phone."

"Siri, why are you such a bitch?" he asked.

After the previous night's altercations, Siri apparently had grown weary of such talk. "I'll pretend I didn't hear that," she answered.

"Really?" he countered. "I don't believe you."

And right on cue, Siri said, "You are certainly entitled to your opinion."

"See?" Son #2 said, passing back the phone. "The computer understands almost everything you say, and it's recorded and saved forever."

"Forever?" Peggy's chin dropped. "Oh Mike, you are so screwed."

But it seems to me Mike has found his match in Siri. I'm guessing they'll become fast friends.

I just pray she doesn't short-circuit when she squirts her margarita out her little electronic nose.

Are you hot for the new iPhone? Do you have a friend who makes you squirt margaritas out your nose? What's the stupidest question you've ever been asked? And do you know where your underwear is?

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Friends Indeed

Sometimes you have no idea where a road will lead you until you've been wandering it a while.

I had no real expectations when I began this blog over two years ago. I figured it to be a short-term device to keep my creative juices flowing while I took a break from writing a novel. Any actual readers, outside of obliging family members and a few close friends, would simply be an unexpected bonus.

What I never fathomed were the friends with whom I'd reconnect, nor the new ones I'd make, along the way.

Through this little internet writing gig, I've rekindled friendships with people I haven't seen in thirty years. And I've struck up electronic relationships with dozens of readers whom I've never met and likely never will encounter in person.

But the greatest phenomenon of all has been developing a community of fellow writers and bloggers. And eventually meeting some of them face-to-face.

Who'd have thought writers are real people? That the words appearing each day on my computer monitor were typed by hands I would one day shake? That the personal stories shared with me grew from the creative minds--and warm hearts--of people whose arms might eventually wrap around me in a mutual bear hug?

First, I met the fabulous Amanda. Except little did I know when I read her comment on another blog and followed it back to her own website, that I'd actually seen her around and said hello in passing because she worked in my own office building? (Seriously, what are the odds?)

Then, I spent a weekend this past June with Betsy. Including Betsy as part of my own writing community is either a clear understatement or a vast overstatement, since she is the queen. An award-winning author and kick-ass literary agent, her two books (especially the one with the warm and wonderful personal inscription) hold prominent places on my bookshelf. Her blog is the first I ever read--and it's still the best. So is she.

I met Bluzdude in August. He's originally from these parts, and if we'd known each other when we were teenagers, we surely would have been great friends then, too.

This past weekend, I traveled to Chicago for the biggest meet-up of all. Four of us--a group of women writers who met through Betsy's blog and have become fast friends in a circle of more than a dozen--spent the day together.

AmyG, Lyra, Teri and I talked for hours. We shared our thoughts about writing, about our day jobs, about our mothers and our children, about our successes and our struggles.

We discovered how different we are from each other, yet how very much alike. We talked. We listened. We nodded. We hugged.

If we'd had a full week to spend together instead of a single afternoon, I doubt the conversation would have ever run dry.

Some relationships, even ones forged through printed words on a computer monitor, end up meaning so much more.

I never dreamed, when I typed my first story on this blog in April 2009, that people like you might see it. That you'd find anything I said worth reading. That you might take the time to comment and then come back the next week, and the next.

Writing, so often, seems a solitary and lonely effort.

Until it's not.

Not going to bother with any trite questions here. Just two words: Thank you.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Key Signs of Disease: One Sufferer's Story

For years, I blamed my symptoms on my children. Or my housecleaning service (that long-lost luxury--sigh). I even went so far as faulting some malicious demon that apparently lurked in small places such as pockets and purses.

But now, I realize what's truly responsible is a progressive and debilitating disease.

I have, what's known in layman's terms, as "Chronic Lost Keys Syndrome."

The diagnosis comes as a relief, really. At least I know my own actions, in no way, can be blamed.

My mother--bless her heart--has been plagued by the condition for years. Not comprehending that what we were witnessing signaled a serious hereditary disorder, my sisters and I offered her little compassion. We rolled our eyes, exchanging knowing glances behind her back.

Until we started suffering the same symptoms.

After I began losing my keys two or three times a week, I knew it was more than simple carelessness. I am the Queen of Organization. I make beaucoup lists. I know what's buried in every pile of papers on my desk. And I carry a purse in which each important item has its own special compartment.

Alas, there are no preventive measures one can take, nor any available cure, for sufferers of Chronic Lost Keys Syndrome. The most we can hope is to manage our disease, through wall-mounted key hooks and extra sets of keys hidden in safe places--locations we can only pray to recall in times of key emergencies.

And now this horrific disease has struck our own young adult children. My sisters and I have begun preparing them for what lies ahead. We try to help them cope. We attempt to show compassion.

"Have you seen my keys? I've looked everywhere!" The 22-year-old appears frantic as he searches the house. "I left them right here, I'm sure of it, but now they're gone!"

I pat his hand while fighting back a tear.

"I know, honey," I whisper. "I know."

Oh, the long and frightening road he faces.

I'm already dreading the day I have to explain he's inherited the awful "Chronic Lost Credit Card Syndrome" as well.

Are you or any of your loved ones afflicted with "Chronic Lost Keys Syndrome"? Are you famous for making beaucoup lists, or do you wing it? Are you turning into your mother, too?