Let me just say my husband is a genius.  Don’t tell him I said so, but it’s true.  He would say it was about time I realized this.  The truth is, I’ve always realized it.  I just don’t want him to get a big head.

The reason I think he is a genius right now is because I’m in a resort in St. Lucia.  You see, while I’m the one who managed to get this job, he’s the one who pushed me.  Twenty years ago, I saw an ad in the newspaper that said, “Become a mystery shopper,” and I responded.  Of course, when I got the information in the mail, it said to send $25 to get the real information.  With that, I was disappointed, but I planned to throw the packet away.  My parents had taught me a long time ago that you don’t pay to work.  It just doesn’t make sense.

So, when Mr. Everything got home from work, I told him how disappointed I was about the mystery shopping info.  I told him they wanted $25 so I was ditching that idea.  He said, “Do it.”  I told him that was crazy because they were just going to take our money.  He shrugged and said, “We’ve wasted $25 on dumber things.  Take the chance.”  So I did!

I sent away for the info, and I received a list of about ten mystery shopping companies.  I had to send in a handwriting sample and a sample paragraph so they could tell that I could write complete sentences and they could read what I wrote.  We’ll just call that “back in the day.”

Now, mystery shopping companies would laugh at you if you hand wrote anything.  Everything has to be submitted online and receipts have to be uploaded.  There is no faxing or mailing in forms anymore.  Boy, things have changed in 20 years.

I often think, though, if Mr. E had not convinced me to take a chance, I would have missed out on so much!  We’ve been to amazing restaurants, great hotels and even all inclusive resorts because of that $25 chance.  He really was smart to let me take the gamble.

(Now, let me just say, with the internet, you should never, ever pay for a list of mystery shopping companies.  If you want to get started, read my blogs HERE and HERE for free, and you’ll learn what you need to know.  If you just feel the need to pay someone for the information, I accept cash, check or Paypal.  You can send me any amount you want.)

Because of Mr. E’s willingness to take a $25 chance, we got to visit a resort in St. Lucia.  I’m pretty sure this is the best resort ever, or at least, it’s the best one I’ve ever visited!  I must admit, we’ve spent a good portion of our time avoiding the sun while we’ve been here.  Since Mr. E still can’t be out in the sun because he was burned in July, we can’t be on the beach in the middle of the day.  I’m okay with that.  I’m the freckle and burn queen anyway, so the sun and I don’t get along very well anyway.  I wasn’t sure how the trip would go since we are on a tropical island where there is usually sun.  However, we’ve found plenty to do while we’ve been here.

We visited the spa the other day.  There were no massages involved, so it was great.  This resort has a complimentary area of the spa.  (As the saying goes…If it’s free, it’s for me!)  This area includes a Jacuzzi and plunge pool that are both shaded by a gazebo.  There were also saunas and steam rooms, but we discovered quickly that sitting in either one was boring and hot.  The plunge pool was way too cold for our Floridian blood, but the Jacuzzi was just right.  We sat in the hot water, with the gazebo sheltering us from the sun.  There was a nice cool breeze blowing, and the palm fronds were rattling in the wind.  As we sat there, I thought, “It just doesn’t get any better than this.”  I was wrong.  It does get better.

We also found a pier that was out over the water.  At night, it was so peaceful to sit out there on the comfortable couches.  There was a fire pit nearby if we got cool in the night air.  It was wonderful just to sit out there and look at the stars and listen to the waves.  As I sat there, I though, “It can’t get any better than this.”  I was wrong.  It did get better.

The resort had catamarans that could be taken out into the water.  They are easy to operate and fun to ride on.  Mr. E, of course, had no problem controlling the boat, because he’s Mr. E.  He knows how to do everything, remember?  So, we took the boat out and sailed away into the sunset.  Okay.  Really, it was in the middle of the day, but still - you get the point.  The sky was cloudy, and while the other resort guests were probably disappointed about that, we were thrilled!  It meant we could go outside without risking more damage to my husband’s pretty face.  So, as we sailed, I thought, “This is as good as it gets.”  I was wrong.  It got better.

We discovered a part of the resort that we referred to as “Old People Island.”  We fit right in.  See, at the main pool, the atmosphere was lively.  The music was pumping and people were sunbathing, swimming, etc.  It was fun, but you couldn’t hear the water.  At Old People Island, the beach was far enough from the action of the main pool that we could hear the water.  We could hear the birds chirping.  We found a tiki covering with two chairs underneath, and we lounged.  As I avoided the sun in the shade, I thought, “It just doesn’t get any better.”  I was wrong.  Boy, did it get better.

Near Old People Island, we found a pool for old people.  Well, it wasn’t really for old people, but that was who was there.  It was so serene, and there was no music playing.  It was wonderful.  As I floated in the pool, I thought, “I’m cold.”  I was right.  I was cold, not because it was cold outside, but because I’m a wimpy Floridian.  We got out of the pool to warm up.

We found another perfect hang out.  In the ocean were floats that were somehow anchored to the ground.  I called them spots, because they were round and, well, they looked like spots.  (I’m creative, aren’t I?)  On a cloudy day, we finally got a chance to swim out to a spot.  When we climbed in, we found an oasis in the sea!  In the spot, we were in the ocean and could feel the waves.  However, we were anchored down and didn’t have to worry about floating away.  It was wonderful, and I didn’t have to worry about anything biting my butt or toes.  I loved the spot, until I got cold.  I always get cold.

We went back to Old People Island and visited the Jacuzzi by the pool.  In the Jacuzzi, we could be in the hot water and see the beautiful pool and amazing beach.  As I warmed in the Jacuzzi, I thought, “Now, I’ve seen the best.  It can’t get any better.”  I was wrong.  It did.

We found a hammock that was shaded by a tiki covering.  We visited this hammock several times during our trip.  It was wonderful.  We just talked and swayed in the hammock.  We also were quiet and listened to the birds.  Our view was of a palm tree and the beautiful blue sky.  As we enjoyed the hammock, I thought, “I have found the perfect place.”  I was right.  St. Lucia was, indeed, the perfect place. -Al

I wanted to be sure and thank my mother and my friends who watched after the Beetle and the Goose while we were gone.  I was nervous about leaving the country without my little ducklings.  Thank you, thank you, thank you to Mama and all those who kept them happy, fed and safe!  I deeply appreciate it, and we had an awesome trip because I didn't have to worry!

So I realized something today.  I don’t like massages.  Hello.  I’m Al, and I’m 40, and I don’t like massages.  There.  The truth is out there.  I hope this has not ruined the world as you view it.  I know it’s life changing, so I’ll give you a minute to process this important bit of news.

You see, for years, I thought I liked massages.  In fact, I used to clean my friend’s house so she would massage me.  Yes, she is a licensed massage therapist, so it’s not as weird as it sounds.  Back then, I enjoyed the massages, and I didn’t even worry about being naked.  I always joked with her that she had seen my naked butt and I had seen her dirty house – We were even.

Last year in Antigua, I had the massage from you know where.  I’m pretty sure the therapist’s LMT after her name stood for “Licensed for Misery and Torment.”  You can read about that experience HERE if you so dare.  I’m not going back and reading it.  It’s too painful to relive.

So, when I had to schedule a massage here in St. Lucia, I put the Torturer out of my mind.  Instead, I remembered my friend who had friendly hands. (Still just doesn’t sound right, does it?)  This time would be better.  I just knew it.  We were walking by the spa the other day here at the resort, and two staff members were standing there.  They were obviously desperate for business at the spa, because they were trying to recruit their next victims, er, I mean clients.

The one lady, we’ll just call her “Creepy,” asked me if I had booked my massage yet.  Knowing I had to book one (had to…it’s a hard job), I told her I had not but was interested.  She told me about a special on Wednesdays when I could get 80 minutes of massage for the price of 50.  “Why not?” I thought, “I love massages.”  So, I booked with Creepy, knowing she was just the staff member who was recruiting suckers, oops, I mean, patrons.  I must admit that, while Creepy was booking my appointment, I really hoped she would not be the one doing the massage.  She had long, skinny fingers and was just creepy, thus the name.

Yesterday, the day before my 80 minute massage, I started having flashbacks to my experience in Antigua.  Then, I decided just to put that out of my head.  This one would be better.  I would be so relaxed.

So, today was the big day.  I headed to the spa and was led to the locker room.  The receptionist told me to disrobe to my comfort level.  I considered just putting the robe over my clothes but figured that would make me memorable.  I really don’t like being naked in front of other people, so shorts and a shirt were just about my comfort level.  I bit the bullet, though, and got naked.  Luckily, the robe was big enough to cover everything that needed covering.  Otherwise, I KNOW I would have been memorable.

Anywho, I walked out of the locker room and went to obediently wait where I had been told to wait.  I am, after all, nothing if not obedient.  Around the corner came my massage therapist, and it was, you guessed it, Creepy.  (Oh come on.  You had to see that one coming.) 

So, Creepy led me to a room and told me to take off my robe.  She said I could lie face down on the table and cover with the sheet.  Thank goodness I had a sheet this time instead of the little strip of towel I was given in Antigua.  “See?” I thought, “This time will be better.  You love massages, don’t you?”  I didn’t answer.

Creepy came in and started the massage.  I had told her she could spend the entire 80 minutes on my head and face if she wanted to.  Apparently, she thought I was kidding.  She started on my back.  So far, so good.  Then, she worked on my back some more.  And some more.  And some more.  She began massaging my back with her forearms and elbows.  I’m pretty sure her knee was involved there somewhere.  There are two spots on my lower back that are always tender and sore.  I pointed these out to her and told her I was pretty sure they were from being numbed while having babies.  (Two tender spots for the rest of my life are so completely worth the numbing during labor, by the way…in case you wondered.)  I think it was my mistake to point out these areas to Creepy, because I think at one point, she was digging her creepy fingers into the spots.  Actually, it felt like she was pushing down to the depths of my soul.  I thought I might have to come off the table, but there was the whole naked issue.

Speaking of naked, I was becoming more and more naked as the massage went along.  The sheet kept getting pushed down further and further.  It started at the middle of my lower back.  By the end, it was half past crack.  For a good 10 minutes, I begged this woman in my mind, “Please, Creepy, cover my butt crack.”

“How does that feel?” she said.  “Great,” I said (cover my butt.)

“Is the pressure good?”  “Sure. It’s fine.” (I’m dying here.  Cover my crack.)

“Is the temperature in the room comfortable?”  “Yep.”  (Lady, I’ll pay you five bucks to cover it up.)

“Are you enjoying this?”  “Oh yeah.” (NO!  Cover my butt!)

Finally, Creepy finished with my back and covered it up with the sheet.  The angels in heaven rejoiced.  Okay, maybe they didn’t, but I heard them in my mind anyway.

Next, Creepy started on my legs.  She started with the left side.  As she rubbed, I began to realize I was really in pain.  My legs are sensitive, and I came to realize the left one was more sensitive.  I was dying, yet I didn’t say anything.  Why?  You ask.  I have no idea, other than the fact that I thought it was about to be over.  I was wrong.

Finally, Creepy finished with my left leg and moved on to my right.  “Oh good,” I thought, “My right one won’t be so sensitive.”  As she worked I realized maybe it was the right side that was the sensitive one.  Holy cow!  This woman wanted me dead.  Still, I said nothing and just suffered in pain.  Call me a martyr.

When Creepy finished, she dug her creepy fingers into the bottoms of my feet, and I really thought I was going to kick her in the head.  I managed to control myself.

Creepy moved up to my head.  Finally.  It was time for my favorite part.  She spent 2 minutes there and then said it was time for me to roll over.  Now, for those of you who’ve never had massage, let me explain.  The rolling over is the worst part.  Here you are, naked on a table, and your back has locked up from being on your stomach for an extended period of time. The therapist holds the sheet up over her face and tells you to roll over.  It sounds all private and great, but usually, as was the case today, there is a mirror on the other side of you.  If the therapist decides to take a peek, she’ll get to see the full shebang.  Today, I chose to believe Creepy didn’t look.  I didn’t hear snickering or gagging, so I don’t think she did.

For the rest of the massage, I kept trying to find pleasant parts.  There really weren’t any.  It wasn’t that she was a bad massage therapist.  It was that I have, apparently, grown grouchy in my old age.  A good rule of thumb is, just don’t touch me, and I’ll be happy.

Now that I’ve admitted that I don’t like massages, I feel so free!  My other choice for my mystery shopping assignment when doing resorts is to have a facial.  I’ve always avoided this because facials make me break out.  However, I had about 80 minutes to think about it today, and I’ve decided it’s worth it.  At least with a facial, they spend a lot of time massaging your face and head.  That’s all I really wanted anyway!  So, next time I take a trip to a resort, if I come back looking like a walking zit, you’ll know why.  It was all to avoid the massage.  -Al

There has been much talk about weddings in our house lately.  Of course, first, we went to the wedding of the people we don’t even know.  That was nice; although, I’m not sure an outdoor wedding in Florida in October is the best idea.  (Come to think of it, an outdoor wedding in Florida in any month might not be the best idea.)  The wedding was pretty.  The reception was nice.  The Goose did not hold the child she was supposed to hold.  We were invited for that very purpose – so she could hold the bridesmaid’s baby.  However, the bridesmaid met someone she else and had that person hold the baby.  We ended up keeping up with the bride’s two nephews who are very high maintenance though, so it was all good.

I have to say I noticed something remarkable.  The Beetle said he was not thrilled about shopping for a suit, and he said he was not thrilled about wearing a suit. At the wedding, though, he sure did seem to like that suit!  He walked a little taller and seemed a little prouder.  He was a pretty good lookin’ boy in that suit too. (I might be a little biased…)  The Goose moved a little more elegantly, and she even put her napkin in her lap at dinner.  She managed to keep her shoes on for the entire reception.  It was amazing.  Maybe I should make them dress up more often.  People might even begin to think we’re civilized!

The talk of the wedding quickly shifted to my wedding.  Oh, you heard me right (well, you read me right…).  I said “my” wedding.

You see, Mr. E and I will fly out this Saturday to go to St. Lucia.  It’s a work trip, of course.  (Like we could ever afford to go to St. Lucia on our own time…)  Part of my assignment is for us to renew our vows.  When I was first offered the opportunity to do this, I thought, “Why not?  They’re bound to give us cake.”  When I mentioned it to Mr. E, he wasn’t so hip on the idea of renewing our vows.  He said, and I quote, “I told you once that I loved you.  If it changes, I’ll let you know.”  Whatever.  The man adores me, and I know it.

Anywho, I convinced him to go along with the renewal by telling him there would be free cake.  I’m pretty sure he didn’t care nearly as much as I did about the cake.  He just did it to humor me.  Regardless of how it happened, we agreed to renew our vows.

So, here’s what I didn’t realize.  I did not realize having a vow renewal ceremony is just like having a wedding.  I really thought we’d show up, say, I do again,” and that would be that. (Oh, and don’t forget eating the cake.)  I did not realize I would have to talk to a wedding planner and make decisions!

The first time I got married. (Okay, wait.  That sounds wrong.)  When I planned my real wedding (that sounds better), I took a year to plan my wedding.  We had known from the time I was 16 that we were getting married, but we had to wait until I was old enough that my parents wouldn’t freak out (or at least that was how I perceived it in my teenage head).  When I was 19, I was about to graduate with my AA degree, and I knew I did not want to go on to get my BA.  I didn’t know what I wanted to be when I grew up, so there was no point in wasting the money.  At that point, we decided on the date of our wedding.  We had a year and a few months when we picked the date.  I told the Mr. I wanted one full year to plan the wedding.  Therefore, if we were getting married on May 22, he had to propose to me in May of the year before.  (Boy, I was bossy!)  So, on May 1, he proposed.  He said he did it because he didn’t want to have to listen to me for a full month.  (I prefer to tell the story as: He was just so excited to propose, he couldn’t wait another day.)

Anywho, I got my year to plan.  It was a good thing, because I had been sneaking Bride magazines into my bedroom by placing them under my shirt for months.  I needed to go public with the information!  I have no idea why I thought my parents would freak out.  It wasn’t as though they weren’t aware that we had been dating since I was 15.

For my wedding, I worried about every detail.  I did the flowers myself.  I made sure all the colors matched and everything was just as I wanted it.  It’s funny.  I look back now at pictures, and my wedding was so tacky.  However, at the time, it was just what I wanted.

This time around, I have no opinions.  I honestly didn’t even know that I would be required to have an opinion.  I had my second phone call with the wedding planner the other day, and she asked me what color flowers I wanted, what kind of music I wanted, whether we wanted to write our own vows, where we wanted the ceremony to be held, etc., etc. etc.  I guess as a good mystery shopper, I should have been more prepared.  My answers to her were, “Uh.  What are my choices?”  “Whatever you think is fine.”  “I have no idea.”  Way to blend in there as a typical bride, Al!  I did explain to the wedding planner that, since I had worked so hard to plan my wedding, I just wanted the renewal ceremony to “happen.”  She seemed to accept that as a valid answer.  Of course, when she asked what flavor of cake I wanted, I knew immediately.  Then, she said if I wasn’t sure, we could have a cake tasting.  More cake?  Oh, yeah.  I’m definitely undecided.

I’ve got a dress.  I even have a flower for my hair.  I am ready to get married!  The one thing I don’t have is my vows.  I asked Mr. E last night if he had written his.  He said, “Oh.  This isn’t like College English, where I showed up and you told me what topic I was writing about?”  No, buddy, it’s not.  I ain’t doing your homework for you this time.  (Actually, I probably will, but don’t tell him that.  Let’s let him sweat it for a little while.)

My preacher’s wife is a hair stylist, and I went to get my hair cut the other day.  I told her I had no idea how to wear a flower in my hair.  (Don’t laugh at me.)  So, she fixed it all up for me.  My hair was bigger than it has been since the late 80s.  Of course, the Goose thought it looked horrible, because it was curly and she’s used to seeming my hair straight.  I showed it to Mr. Everything, and he said it looked “fine.”  *Sigh.*  So, the next day, I styled my hair in a straight style and put the flower in my hair.  I showed it to him, and he said it looked “fine.”  The Beetle walked in as I was wearing the flower in my hair, and he just looked at me and did not even act like he noticed I was wearing a flower in my hair.  Boys. 

Finally, I told Mr. Everything I really needed his opinion.  I asked him if he thought my hair looked better straight or curled as I’d had it the day before.  He said, “You know this is just a mystery shopping assignment, right?”  I said, “Oh, so you don’t love me enough to marry me again?”  He said, “I’d marry you every day for the rest of my life.”  Good save.  I guess I’ll let him go on the trip with me.

I asked Mr. E again which way looked best for my hair.  He said, “Either way is fine.”  There was that word again.  Fine.  So, I said, through gritted teeth, “No. Really.  Pick a hairstyle.”  He said, “I guesss I like it flat.”  Oh. No. He. Didn’t.  I had just spent 30 minutes moussing, blow drying and curling the ends of my hair so it would have volume, and he liked it flat.  I said I couldn’t believe he had just said that, and the man had no idea what he had said.  I finally said, “Flat?  Really?”  He said, “What?  It’s the opposite of curly.  Flat.”  “No,” I said, showing great self restraint by not popping him in the head, “Straight is the opposite of curly.  Flat is what you’re gonna be if you call my hair flat again!”  He said, “Flat.  Straight.  Same difference.”  Grrrr…

So, now, the bags are packed, and I am ready!  I’ve got my dress, my flower and my flat hair.  We’re going to have a great time, I hope.  I’m looking forward to sitting on the beach (in the shade, of course, since Mr. E still can’t be in the sun from his burns) and relaxing.  Our wedding renewal is scheduled for the last day of our trip, October 31.  Maybe I’ll fix my hair like Frankenstein’s bride since it’s Halloween.  At least it won't be flat!  -Al

Click on the photo for this great recipe!
It all started with the invitation.  The Goose managed to get us invited to the wedding of someone we’ve never met.  “How?” you ask.  Well, she’s the Goose.  That’s how.

We were at church, and the preacher’s wife was telling us about her daughter’s upcoming wedding.  Apparently, a bridesmaid is coming and will have a baby with her.  She has no one to keep the child.  So, the Goose said, “I’ll do it.”  The next thing I knew, we were all invited.  We even got an official invitation to make it real. 

Before I sent the RSVP card back, I asked Mr. Everything and the Beetle if they would be attending the blessed event.  The Beetle answered first with a non-committed, “Why not?”  I reminded him that he would have to wear a suit or at least nice pants, a dress shirt and a tie.  He agreed.  That made three out of four of us attending the wedding, so the Mr. was in, whether he liked it or not.  I was not going to a wedding with my two children and without my husband.  I filled out the RSVP card and asked the Beetle one more time before I put it in the mail.  He said he wanted to go.  Okie dokie.

Fast forward 3 weeks.  The wedding is this Saturday.  I decided yesterday was the day to go shopping.  Mr. Everything and the Beetle did not have suits, so we had to go to the store.  The Goose and I had dresses that would work, thank goodness.  Of course, the Goose still wanted to go with us, because where there is shopping, there is the Goose.

I had to trick the Beetle to get him in the car.  It was kind of like taking a dog to the vet.  I told him we just needed to run to the store really quickly to find something he could wear.  Yeah, right.  Like any fitting article of clothing has ever been found that easily.  But, he believed it and got in the car.

What complicated this little shopping trip was the fact that we are, indeed, broke.  So, we couldn’t just go to a department store to buy suits.  Oh, no, no, no.  That would be too easy, but who wants to spend that much on something that will never be worn again?  So, we headed to the thrift shops.  Luckily (or unluckily), there are lots of thrift stores in Gainesville.  We stopped at one in our little town of High Springs and found suits that looked hopeful.  For a brief moment, I thought we were going to get off easy.  Then, I woke up.

We ended up visiting many, many thrift stores.  Two things complicated this mission.  Number one, the Goose loves to shop.  She especially loves to shop in thrift stores, because she got the cheap gene from her mother.  The child loves a bargain, bless her heart.  Starting in the first store in Gainesville, she decided she needed new dresses.  She began looking for new dresses, which involved her calling my name every two seconds. 

“Mama, where should I look?”
“Over there where the sign says, ‘Dresses.’”
“Mama, what size do I wear?”
“Probably a medium.”
“Mama, what about this one?”
“You don’t have boobs.”
“Mama, what about this one?”
“You aren’t 80.”
“Mama, what size do I wear?”
“The same size you wore at the last store.”

Continue this conversation through no less than 5 thrift stores.

Meanwhile, problem number two was that the Beetle doesn’t *do* thrift stores.  In his words, “I don’t want to wear another man’s drawers.”  I told him I was sorry about his luck.  He looked, halfheartedly, but did not want to touch anything.  He also gets this trait from me.  I feel like I have the cooties just from walking in a thrift store.

Finally, by store number three, the Beetle had given up and had started looking.  He even tried on a few pair of pants.  Every jacket “fit” according to him, even if his arms were six inches longer than the sleeves.  It was when he put on the blue jacket that I knew I was losing it.  The child tried to convince me (in a joking manner, I hope) that the blue pleather jacket with puff shoulders was a winner.  I should have let him buy it just so he had to wear it.  Sadly, it cost more than the suit we ended up getting him.

At the fourth store, the Beetle found a suit that looked nice on him and was less than $20.  It was a good brand and looked like a high quality suit.  Mr. Everything also got a suit, although he was not thrilled with his.  I thought it looked nice, and it was a good name brand too.  The pants were a little big on his waist, but with a belt, they looked just fine.  He decided to settle for it.  Meanwhile, the Goose had found a pair of shoes, a shawl, a purse, a sweater, and, and, and, and….  She ended up getting a few of the items.  We got to the register, and there was an extra 20% off!  Jackpot!

Since we were already out, Mr. E said he wanted to stop by one more thrift store that was nearby.  By store number five, I had just about lost my mind.  If the Goose had called my name once, she had called it 100 times, and that was just in the last five minutes.  I was feeling Frazzled (with a capital F). 

We went in the store, and they had no suits.  What they did have was a sale.  Oh dear.  The deal was, they would give us a paper grocery bag.  We would fill it with anything we could fit in there, and the price would just be $15.  This is where Mr. E’s amazing packing skills certainly could come in handy.

We were not going to take advantage of the sale, because I didn’t want to just buy stuff to buy it.  However, Mr. E found something he needed for the computer, and the Beetle found air-soft pellets.  By the time we bought those, we were paying $15 anyway, so we got the bag.  Then, my family fit more into a brown paper bag than I even knew was possible.  We got video games, a teacup and saucer, a doughnut maker, computer stuff and several other items.  The Goose said she felt bad because it felt like we were stealing.  I confirmed with the cashier that the sale included anything that could fit in the bag, and she assured me it did.  We paid and got out before they changed their minds.

It was at this point that I felt accomplished.  We had found suits for the guys, which was our original mission.  The Goose had gotten a few clothing items that she needed.  I had even gotten a purse to match my dress for the wedding.  Then, we had hit this other store and gotten bargains galore.  Our shopping day was done.  I was tired and glad it was over, but it had been worth it. 

Then, Mr. E said the words I didn’t want to hear.  “I really don’t like my suit.  I want to go to one more store.”  I began to whimper and rock myself gently in the front seat of the Suburban.  He bought me a Steak ‘N Shake milkshake to get me through (1/2 price, of course, ‘cause that’s how we roll).  He went in the last thrift store.  The kids and I opted to stay in the car.  I just focused on my milkshake.  I told myself it would all be okay.  When Mr. E had been in there long enough for me to finish my milkshake, I considered drinking his just to continue to soothe myself.  Instead, I was brave and went into the store.  I figured, if he was in there that long, he was probably trying on suits.  I didn’t want him to come out looking hideous, so I went in after him.  He showed me a few, and I shot them all down.  We left without a suit.  After much convincing, and a few nervous twitches on my part, Mr. Everything agreed to wear the suit we bought.  Hallelujah!

Now that the shopping is over, I'm excited about the wedding, even if I don't know the bride. When else would my family get dressed up all at one time?  We will all look so nice, and no one will even know that we bought all 4 outfits for less than $50 combined.  I do love a good bargain! -Al

I am a softball mom.  Correct that.  I am an angry softball mom.  I’m never angry when I get to the field, but it typically happens pretty quickly.

Don’t get me wrong.  I like watching the Goose play softball.  I like it more when her coach actually lets her play.  Unfortunately, in a small town where everyone seems to be related to everyone, the newcomers sit the bench, regardless of how good they are.  But, that’s not why I’m angry.  Well, that might be part of it.  However, I would get angry when we lived in Brandon and she actually got to play.

I usually go to the field happy.  The Goose is excited to play, and I am excited for her.  I’m typically in a good mood.  I’ve got my folding chair so I don’t have to sit on the hard bleachers, and sometimes, I even remember snacks.  Life is usually good at the ball field.  Then, the talking begins.

Mothers irritate me.  That’s just a general statement about life, but it also applies to the ball field.  I know, I am one, so it’s a contradiction, but they do.  Mothers irritate me.  They talk non-stop, and they act like they know what they are talking about.  At the ball field, this is especially true, and the mothers are accompanied by the fathers.  Ugh.  The only thing that irritates me more than mothers is fathers.

There are two ways the talking annoys me.  First, there’s the cell phone talker.  There’s always one at every game, and it’s always a mother.  If a man’s cell phone rings, he may answer it.  Then, he says, “Uh-huh.  Uh-huh.  Okay. Bye.”  No harm done.  If a woman’s cell phone rings, she answers it.  Then, the talking begins.  When a mom gets on the phone, you can expect at least an hour of, “Uh-huh!  Well, that’s not what she said.  She said he was a jerk. HAHAHAHAHAHA!  I agree, girl!  You’ve got a point there.”  (These are direct quotes from the mom who was on the phone at the Goose’s last game.)  At some point, the people around her will start looking at her, as if to say, “Your child is up to bat.”  Then, the looks turn into sighing, shifting and glaring.  By the end of the phone call, it is usually all I can do to control myself from saying, “JUST!  SHUT!  UP!”  I have so much self control….

The other way the talking annoys me is the constant chatter at the players.  Fact #1:  Most of these parents have never touched a softball (or at least they haven’t touched one since they started being yellow instead of white).  Fact #2:  If most of the parents (me included) tried to run the bases, we would be winded and sweating by second base.  So, for parents to sit there and tell kids how to play drives me absolutely crazy.  They don’t tell us how to file our taxes, so we shouldn’t tell them how to play.  Just sayin’.

The chatter from the parents takes two forms.

The first form is the ugliest.  This is the, “Why can’t you play better?” form.  These are the parents (usually fathers) who are screaming at their kids for not stealing the base or for swinging at a ball that was too high or for not catching a ball.  This chatter will make the hair on the back of my neck stand up faster than anything else.  And, I dare any parent or the coach to direct this form of chatter toward my child.  I will go Mama Bear on them so fast they won’t know what hit them.  I proved this once when the Beetle’s baseball coach yelled at him for not stealing a base, and my response was a full, out of my chair, “WHY ARE YOU YELLING AT MY KID???”  I wrote him an apology email later.  I didn’t really mean it. (The apology, that is.)

The other form of chatter that makes me batty is the stupid phrases that are used at softball (or baseball games).  Last night during the Goose’s game, I started making a list.  There was plenty to choose from.  Here are some of my least favorites…

- “Good eye!”  (This is what they say when a batter chooses not to swing at a ball.  It’s just a dumb phrase.  They have two eyes, not one.  What if they swing at the wrong pitch?  Does that mean they have bad eyes?  And, why must we yell, “Good eye!” when a child chooses not to swing at a ball that is 4 feet above her head?  Does that really require a good eye – or eyes - to be able to see that she shouldn’t swing?)

- “Kid “ (They call the kids, “Kid.”  Why??  Don’t these children have names for a reason?  If we know their names, why not call them by their names?)

- “Eat it!” (This is the term they use when the pitcher should hold the ball.  It just gets on my nerves.  I have no explanation.)

- “Way to go, 1. 2.”  (They call them by their number but have to simplify the numbers.  I guess anything over 9 is too hard for them, so instead of 12, they say, “1.  2.” Again, don’t these children have names for a reason?)

- “Let her pitch to you.”  (This is what they say when telling a player to wait for the ball to come to them.  However, isn’t the whole point of the pitcher to pitch to the batter?  That’s why the batter is standing there, right?)

-"Hefty Lefty" (On behalf of all lefties in the world, I am offended.)

- “Only swing at the strikes”  (Well, duh.)

- “Wait for your pitch.”  (Why else is the batter standing at home plate?)

- “Way to get a piece of it.” (They say this when the player tips the ball but does not get a good hit.  It just gets on my nerves in large proportions.)

I told you I was angry.  I don’t know why these things irritate me so badly.  It must be in my genes, because they irritate my mother too.  When she is at a game, she and I sit there and roll our eyes together every time someone says, “Good eye!”

Now that I have confessed this, I feel better.  Of course, I have to hope no one from the softball league reads my blog.  Otherwise, they will know how much they are irritating me.

I must say, though, that I really can’t complain too much.  At least these parents (other than the cell phone talker) know what is happening in the game.  Mr. Everything keeps score pretty regularly, and many times, he’ll ask me, “Was that a strike or a ball?”  I can’t tell you how many times I’ve had to admit I wasn’t even paying attention.  As I sit there watching the game, my brain goes into hibernation.  There have even been times I accidentally cheered for the other team.  I’m sure the other parents roll their eyes at me just as often as I roll my eyes as them. 

During the games, as moms get on my nerves, you are sure to hear me say, "When will it ever end?" or my all-time favo

By the way, on an unrelated topic, why haven't I made any friends at the ball park?  -Al

This morning I was thinking about how much I have changed since then.  When was then?  Well, I guess it would be back in the day.  When my babies were babies, I was a different person than I am now that my babies are bigger than most grown ups.  Sometimes, I long for those days.  Life was more simple then, and my babies smelled better.

Back then, I was a planner.  I planned activities for the moms at church - not because I had to but because I wanted to.  I hosted parties and invited people over to my house.  I looked forward to social events, and I thought of reasons to have them.  I ran myself ragged preparing for said-events, and I enjoyed every minute of it.

One day, I had planned an Easter egg hunt for the preschoolers at church, just like I had done every year for the last 5 years.  I got to the church early and hid all the eggs.  Remember, this was Florida, so it was about 300 degrees outside.  (No, I’m not exaggerating.  It’s my story.  Let me tell it.)  Then, I set up tables and made coolers of drinks and got everything ready for my friends’ babies, so they could find eggs.  Everyone showed up and had a great time.  At least, I heard they had a great time.  I was too busy running around to actually see the egg hunt.  Toward the end of the party, one of the big trash cans was full, so I went to empty it.  Mr. Everything was at work, so I was chasing the Beetle and the Goose while managing this whole blessed event.  The moms were all standing around talking and watching preschoolers.  The dads were all standing around talking.  I went to empty the garbage.

Before I went to lug the huge trash bag to the dumpster out back, I asked a “friend” (I use the term lightly) to watch my kids for me.  I knew the Beetle would be okay, but it was the Goose I worried about.  She was the kind of toddler that I had to keep an eye on at all times.  In fact, if I heard another child crying, my response was usually, “Where is the Goose??  What did she do??”  And, usually, she had done something.  So, I asked this “friend” to watch the kids so I could walk past the dads who were chatting, and I could go empty the trash can.  (Do you see any issue here?  It still makes my blood boil to think about it.)  I emptied the trash and handled the rest of the party with ease.

The next day at church, this “friend” approached me and said she needed to talk to me.  She proceeded to give a 10 minute soliloquy on how “we” needed to make sure “we” were putting “our” children first in “our” lives.  She told me in no uncertain terms what a bad mother I was because I was planning events instead of watching my kids.  Apparently, the Goose had hit this woman’s precious princess while I was hauling the trash to the dumpster.  I pointed out to this “friend” that I had not just abandoned my children, and I had, indeed, asked her to watch them.  She said she was aware of that, but “we” still needed to choose “our” priorities.  It was that day that “then” became “now.”  I chose my priorities.  She was right, and although she had a terrible way of explaining it, she made a good point.  I quit planning events and took care of my kids.  By the way, since “we” chose “our” priorities, “we” decided “we” would chose “our” friends a little more carefully too.

Back then, I followed the Fly Lady.  In case you aren’t familiar with the Fly Lady, you can visit her website at flylady.net.  At that time in my life, you could drop in at my house at any point, and you would find a clean kitchen sink and sparkling floors.

Since then, the one thing I have maintained from my Fly Lady days is the saying, “Housework, even if not done like your mother would do it, is still done.”  (Sorry, Mama, but it’s true.) 

Now, however, I can not claim to be Flying.  In fact, if you call me and say you’ll be at my house in 30 minutes, I can assure you that the next 28 1/2 minutes will be spent with me barking orders at my kids and husband.  “YOU!  Pick up those dirty dishes!”  “YOU!  Get the dirty socks out of the middle of the floor!”  “YOU!  Get the softball equipment out of the bathroom!”  (True story.)  Don’t get me wrong.  We don’t live in filth, but we certainly are not prepared for surprise visits.  (Hint, hint… Please don’t show up unannounced!)  Come to think of it, maybe I need to do a refresher course in Flying.

Back then, I baked.  A lot.  I baked cookies and cakes and brownies.  I made homemade candy occasionally.  I sold wedding cakes and birthday cakes.  If you had a baby or bridal shower back in the day, chances are, I made the cake for it.

Now, I don’t bake.  Now, I sit on the couch and edit, and I read recipes to whichever child I can convince to go into the kitchen.  Yesterday, I convinced the Beetle to bake chocolate chip cookies.  He finally agreed and asked where the roll of cookie dough was.  It was at that point that I broke it to him that cookies could, indeed, be made from scratch.  After several sighs and an eye roll or two, he made the cookie dough.  An hour and a messy kitchen later, we had some mighty fine chocolate chip cookies. 

Back then, I cared what everyone thought.  I worked to please 100% of the people 100% of the time.  I made myself crazy worrying about what everyone else thought.  The fact that I did not have “in the box” kids did not help.  I was constantly stressing out that other people would think my kids were not good, special, wonderful, amazing (you fill in the adjective).  My kids typically did not do things the way other people would expect them to.  They both definitely marched to the beat of their own drums, and those beats changed day to day.  This was hard for me to accept, because I wanted other people to think my kids were as wonderful as I did. 

I regret how much time I spent trying to make the Beetle fit the mold.  He was (and is!) a very unique kid, and I wish I had just let him be.  By the time the Goose was born, I had realized this, and I let her be herself.  The child wore her shoes backward for over a year.  If we switched them on her feet, she would switch them right back.  She still doesn’t match her socks. 

Now, although I still have to remind myself not to care what people think, I am much better about this.  I’ve lived long enough (no old jokes, please) that I realize I can’t please everyone.  I used to get so upset if I thought someone was mad at me or did not like me.  However, there are a few people in my life that have never forgiven me or just don’t like me.  While I used to worry about it, I now realize they are really missing out.  I am a fantabulous person, and they would be lucky to know me.  (Wow.  That’s a pretty bold statement for someone who cares what other people think…  Don’t think I’m conceited!)

My “then” was pretty special.  I was a good mother, even if I did neglect my children for an occasional Easter egg hunt.  I was a good wife.  I was a good cook and a good homemaker.  I look back at those times, and I wonder how I possibly managed all I did.  Although I was not working outside the home, I was busy all the time.  Yet, I still managed it all.

My “now” is pretty special too.  I’m still a good mother.  I’ve managed to keep these weird little kids alive for 16 and 12 years.  That’s something.  I am still a good wife.  I am still a good cook and a good homemaker.  Now, I just practice outsourcing.  I look at my life now, and I wonder how I possibly manage it all.  I don’t have much spare time, and I rarely get to relax, but it gets done! (Except maybe vacuuming under the couch.  That never gets done.)

I’m sure you have a “then” and a “now” too.  You may look back at your “then” and long for those days, as I sometimes do.  Just know that your “now” is pretty special too.  We are all who we are because of who we were.  We will be who we become because of who we are now.  So, don’t regret your “now.”  Just know that it is getting you to your future.  (Wow.  That was a very profound statement.  I think I need to go drink more coffee now.)  -Al