Saturday, May 17, 2014

And that's irony, baby...

My high school speech coach and english lit teacher passed away last week.  I've been turning it over and over in my mind trying to figure out how to best memorialize him in the online universe of social media.  I really just want to explain to you what made him such a unique influence.  I've decided that I should write an essay that he might enjoy reading.  I've tried to incorporate all of the essential components...let's see if I can pull it off:

Tom Oglesby is dead.   

He died on the day that I finished reading the latest novel based on the life of Zelda Fitzgerald.  

Zelda was a woman who was greatly misunderstood.  She had a strong creative voice which was often paralyzed by social expectations, mental illness and her husband.   Her real crime was that she was very good at many artistic mediums but great at none.  Her contributions to the infamous Lost Generation of late 1920's Paris are indisputable, but her own work in art, literature and ballet is largely disregarded.  Her legacy is almost entirely based on her struggle with schizophrenia, (a diagnosis that is now widely disputed), and the impact her illness had on her husband's work both positively and negatively. 

Mr. Oglesby
Tom Oglesby was also infamous, albeit on a much smaller stage.  He was that teacher whose reputation made underclassmen squirm with anticipation, and not the good kind.  He was terrifying and awe-inspiring.  And, his grading system was legendary.  In his class, it was possible to receive an F3.  That's F to the third power.  As in, you failed so badly, you actually failed your failure.  Now, to be fair, one could also earn an A++ but that's as "not as sexy" (a phrase he, himself might use to describe the A++.)

He was often misunderstood, as well.  It's not easy to be a quirky, liberal-minded literary scholar in a small, conservative Indiana town.  Unlike Zelda, he was a master of his craft.  His art resided in his ability to turn would-be high school wallflowers into oratorical power houses.  He believed ALL students had potential for greatness in some form or another.  And he was pretty good in bringing it to light. 

In the classroom, he utilized multiple mediums to illustrate that art and literature could be found everywhere.  He taught us the importance of details by forcing us to watch a 4-hour mini-series called The Martian Chronicles starring Rock Hudson.  We never read the book, but we did have to know how many times the phone rang in scene whatever before so-and-so answered it.  

He introduced us to transcendental thinking from the likes of Whitman, Emerson and Thoreau and he showed us how Civil Disobedience could change the world.   He called on us by an assigned number in the classroom long before Austin Powers made it comical.  During speech, he referred to us only by our last name. In fact, he might never have known that my first name is Rachel, he knew me only as Beher...which took two seasons for him to pronounce correctly.  

Most memorable to me was his keen appreciation for irony.  He would often end a lesson with a smirk and a punctuated, "And that's irony, baby!"  Last year I was waiting at a stop light and I noticed a church undergoing a huge expansion.  I happen to notice that outside they had placed a temporary placard advertising their latest sermon series.  It had a picture of the earth engulfed in flames superimposed over a clock and titled "Earth's Final Hour Is Near: Have you Prepared YOUR Spirit?"  I glance from the sign to the girders, beams and hard hats and say out loud, "And that's irony, baby!" It was lost on the seven-year-old in the back seat and garnered a roll of the eyes that would have put many of his students to shame.

Zelda Fitzgerald
In the years following the death of her husband, Zelda Fitzgerald was villified for her role in the lost potential of F. Scott Fitzgerald.  The public wanted to know what her illness and instability had cost the literary world?  In reality, many of the characters from his books are based on Zelda and a number of passages from her diaries can be found in his novels, verbatim.  Eventually, the tide of public opinion turned and she was seen in a new role: Zelda the victim, Zelda the artist, Zelda the dancer.  She was finally much more than just the first, and last Flapper.

In the hours following the death of Tom Oglesby, hundreds of former students took to social media to eulogize the contributions that he made to the person they currently are.  Lawyers, policemen, marketing directors and mechanics all took to the keyboard to share their memories of the impact he had on each of their lives.  

I've been digging through the few relics I still possess from high school.  As I wallow in sentimentality, I'm shocked by how much I've forgotten and how little has survived.  I did, however, come across a hand-written script, among the newspaper clippings, ticket stubs and playbills.  It was an excerpt from the one-woman play, The Last Flapper.  The play is based on the life of Zelda Fitzgerald and it was the first time I ever heard her story.  I'll never forget taking the packet and listening to the instructions to memorize it for Saturday's meet.  It was handed to me by Thomas W. Oglesby. 

And that's irony, baby.

Monday, April 28, 2014

Super Powers, Storytellers and Cancer

Over the course of the last two months, I've had the opportunity to help a friend compete for "Man of the Year" for the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society.  The other evening, I co-hosted a shopping event at a local women's clothing store.  Fifteen percent of sales during our two-hour window would to be donated to the LLS.

NASCAR Vintage Tees and Scarves!
Turnout was amazing.  The mood was uplifting.  The clothing, shoes and accessories alluring.  The wine was delicious.  (I made two trips into the fitting room: one before wine and one can guess which landed me that new pair of jeans.)

I found out that we made nearly $1,500 for the LLS.

When I heard the number, I was actually a little disappointed.  I mean, the amount of shopping that was taking place was CRAZY!  But, then I did the math and realized that in a 2-hour window, this group of about 30 ladies spent nearly $10,000.  Okay, THAT is an impressive number.

Shopping by committee!
And, I tapped into a part of myself that I hadn't even realized had gone dormant.  For as long as I could remember, I adored being in big groups of people and finding connections.   I hate small talk (HATE) and I'm really not very good at it.  But as a hostess, you don't have to participate in it.  You have to facilitate it.  And that, I'm actually good at.  I am an excellent rememberer of details.  I believe at times, it's made people uncomfortable, that I can recall specific details about one thing or another from a conversation over a year ago.  But, I'll remember when you tell me your uncle's dog has been suffering from hip displasia.  And, by the way, you should meet my friend over here, who is a dog-lover and also owns a large dog that is currently suffering a malady.

My husband refers to this remembering of details as my 'super power.'  I usually refer to it as a curse, because information sort of feels trapped in my brain.  But, I realize now that it's rooted in my love of stories.

Strike a pose, ladies.
It doesn't take a best-seller to please me.  I think everyone has a story.  Everyone has some interesting experience worth hearing about.  Things far more interesting than the weather or their workout.  And, when you meet someone new, it's a chance to tell someone else about that trip you once took or your brush with fame, or even sledding with your kids during the long winter.  

So now I've found an appreciation for this skill I possess...I just need to put it to work.  And, who knows, maybe next time, we'll top $2,000 for cancer research.  And, maybe that $2,000 will fund the the research project that finds the cure...won't THAT be a story to share!

Friday, April 18, 2014

Remember me?

Well hello out there! 

It's been such a long time since I've posted.  I was reviewing my last blog post (which is 18 months old!) and I realized that not long after that post, I started writing for pay instead of pleasure.  I'll admit, it wasn't financially lucrative but the experience is priceless!  I haven't published anything in a few months though.  I've spent the last few months stepping back into retail, as well as participating in multiple volunteer activities, all of which is rewarding in it's own way, blah blah blah.  None of that is the point of this post.  It's just required because I haven't put anything on this page in so long!

A few weeks ago, I found myself with an unexpected day on my own.  Meatball, in all her popularity, went on a spontaneous playdate so I had no prepared-in-advance to-do list.

So I spent the next few hours shuffling (yes, I actually shuffled...) through the Target Clearance shelves, purchasing $5 vases and various kitchen utensils that we really don't need (well, we DO need a pie server, for that one time each year when we serve pie and say, 'gosh, don't we have a pie server?').

The aimlessness of this unanticipated time to myself led to an epiphany of earth-shaking depths.  This fall, she will be heading to full-time school with her siblings and I will be on my own.  And I'm unprepared.

Yes, I'm emotional that my youngest is heading out into the grown-up world of elementary education.  But, mostly, I'm excited for her because she's ready.  I'm sad that the PBJ sandwich phase of child rearing is coming to a close for me.  But, like my kids, I'm ready for what is coming the workforce.  At least, emotionally and mentally, I'm ready.

Technologically, not so much.  I left work in 2007.  At the time, I had a job that paid for me to attend  conferences about marketing to the MySpace crowd.  Yeah,  When I left, Mark Zuckerberg had only recently left Harvard to pursue Facebook full time and was still battling litigation from the Winklevoss Twins.  Congressmen were 'tweeting' during the 2008 State of Union while I was trying to figure out what birds had to do with US armed forces in Iraq.  Um...insta-huh?  SEO?

For the last few weeks I have been trying to narrow down exactly what I need to learn.  (I still don't tweet.) And there's a lot out there. (It's possible most of it is Google-related.)  So much, that I find I've had to re-evaluate where I fit into this new marketing community.

Because I know I want to work more in creative than I have in the past, you'll be hearing from this blog more now.  (Of course, that's if I don't change to wordpress, in which case, you will hear from me over there.)  When I titled this blog, I wasn't really crazy about it, but in retrospect, it's pretty perfect, huh?

I knew 'going back in' would be difficult after so much time off.  I just had no idea that I would be re-entering as a dinosaur (the shuffling should have tipped me off).

I have deep gratitude to a network of people who have shared their knowledge so openly.  I also find myself grateful for three children, who will soon find a new item on their daily chores list:  Help Mom access_____________________.

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Picture Day!

It was picture day at the elementary school today and I find myself up on my When-I-Was-Your-Age Soapbox once again.  School yearbook photos are a right of passage...a passage to humility.  For example, I know there are at least two Southwood Elementary yearbooks that show yours truly rocking a mullet.  Yep, business in the front, party in the back, woop woop! 

In preparation, I spent nearly an hour purchasing two photo 'packages' online and printing off the receipts (write a check...that's so 2009).  Why does the 'easy' way take so long? Well, let me share that with you.

Step One, select your package from the list of 18 options.  Eighteen...really?  Step Two, select from 12 different background "Looks" for each individual photo.  For example, you might want the whispy cloud background for your 8'x10', the shooting stars for your wallets, the bronze stardust background with full body shot for the 5'x7's that go to Grandma and Grandpa but puce with falling leaves for Aunts and Uncles.  In total, if you order the Family Package, which I did, you have up to 7 different backgrounds you must apply, even if it's boring old blue. 

Step Three: Add-Ons.  These are things like adding the name and year to your photo and, my personal favorite, retouching.  Now, being a hard-core believer that I won't forget the names of my children, I opt out of this.  Then as I click the "No Thanks" button for retouching, the photo of the beautiful 15-year-old in the example photo reloads and now shows this same, beautiful 15-year-old with about 30 enhanced blemishes lining her chin and cheek!  Seriously?  If this 15YO didn't have a complex, she would after being put through that nationwide!

Finally, proceed to checkout, enter credit card info, print off the receipt and click, you're half way there!  Please proceed back to Step One to begin the process for Child #2!

Look, I don't wish bad photos for my kids.  I want them to look nice and we took time to carefully preselect clothes that were grease-stain and action figure free (really just a shirt cause no one sees what pants they wear unless you choose the full-body shot option). I brushed everyone's hair before they left but they have hours before their moment in front of the camera and call me a pessimist, but I'm pretty sure it won't last.

But, school pics are different today and I get that.  I know the yearbook companies are photographing children who have had a personal paparazzi since emerging from the birth canal (insert snarky birthing picture comment here).  I'm guilty too.  If I set my iPhoto book to slideshow, it 's like watching a 1950's cartoon of an infant morphing into a kid (x's 3).   What I don't have many of are really terrible photos.  It's too easy to hit delete when it's not the perfect shot.  That's what I'm counting on with these yearbook photos.  Someday, I want the opportunity to embarrass my children as payback for all those times they played with the damn locks on the stall doors and everyone in the Target ladies room got to see me on the toilet.

I also want my kids to look back and realize that pimples, and mullets, happen to everyone!

PS-Someone help me out and post my mullet pics!  My scanner doesn't work...seriously, it doesn't.:-)

Monday, July 23, 2012

They Grow Up So Quickly

I was playing around on this website earlier this morning and DQ came up and asked, "Who's that man in that picture, Mom?"  So, I reminded her about Sam Kinison, set the computer down and walked into the next room to help Meatball with some urgent matter.  When I came back, DQ was reading the blog!  She said, "Mom, listen to this...EAT IT! EAT IT! EEAATTT IIITT!!"  Then she began giggling hysterically.

It's given me a little time to reflect further on one of the reason's I haven't been blogging much these last few months.  It's not because the hilarity hasn't continued.  Because, let's be honest, these children will be giving me some awesome material for years!  However, as they get older, and, (very slowly) creep toward socially acceptable behavior, I realize that the situations I personally find hysterical could be rather embarrassing to elementary students.  Unfortunately, you may have to settle for more Meatball cuteness, in-law mayhem and clumsy-Rachel stories and less about Sharkbait's negotiations with charitable organizations (um, did he just ask for that quarter back?!) and DQ's latest venture into make-up application (um, why does the lipstick go from your nose to your cheeks?).

Don't worry, I've been putting this stuff in my journal because you better believe a day will come when I can tell the world about how...well, you'll just have to wait.  Who knows, maybe someday, when they are grown, I'll publish a book of short stories titled, "Water Through The Nose: One mother's daily struggle not to laugh."

Picture of the Day
So, what sort of treatment is this, Doc?  Happy
Birthday to two of the craziest guys I know!

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Another Not-So-Wise Decision

So, I probably owe the neighborhood parents an apology...again.  However, before I tell you why, I have to give you a little background.  I'm a stickler for family dinner.  At our house, everyone has their specific place at the table, dinner is at roughly the same time each night, there is a representative from each of the four food groups on the plate (yes, I realize there are technically five now, but we've never had a problem with Oil-Sweets representation) and I get annoyed when schedule changes are not discussed at least 24 hours in advance.  It's how I grew up, and it's important to me, so I work really hard to make it happen.  Don't be deceived though, it's more military mess hall than Norman Rockwell.

Several years ago, after the post-dinner bedtime struggle had been fought and our children were in bed, I mentioned to my husband that, at dinner time, he often reminded me of Sam Kinison.  He started laughing (because we are capable of laughter after the children are in bed) and pointed out that he wasn't the only one.
And, so the next few years passed, much the same, with many a dinnertime mantras, including, 'this-is-what-I've-made-so-this-is-what-you'll-eat' and 'how-do-you-know-you-don't-like-it-if-you-haven't-taken-a-bite?' and, (my personal favorite), 'there-will-be-nothing-else-tonight-so-you-better-eat-it.'  With each passing minute at the table, the volume on these mantras slowly increases until I have visions of myself, (or my husband, if it's 'his night') with a little rastafarian cap and frazzled hair, screaming, "EAT IT!!!! EAT IT!!! EEEEEAAATTT IIIIIITTT!!!!!!!AHHHHHH!!!!!!!" in a way that would make even the dearly departed, drug-abusing, Pentacostal preacher/comedian shovel whatever is on his plate down the hatch.

Anyway, the reason I owe my neighbors an apology is that last week, I decided to let my children know why I sniggered so often at dinner as the whining increased and the tension mounted.  They caught me with that look in my eye as I was imagining myself as Kinison's Professor Turguson in "Back To School."  So, I told them I was laughing because I reminded myself of Sam Kinison.  Which, naturally led to the question, "Who is Sam Kinison?"  Well, I gave a PG explanation but it required quite a lot of screaming, which my children thought was freaking hysterical.  And, as in all things they find even remotely funny, it was repeated...and repeated....and repeated.  And now, after re-reading this entry, I'm pretty certain that this must be done, "I'm sorry, parents."

Monday, February 13, 2012

And, we're off!

We're going to be embarking on a family vacation soon and I'm super excited. Now, let's be honest, this vacation is to New Jersey for a family wedding. (And, not just any wedding, an Italian wedding!) However, this post is not about the wedding (although the next one might be), it's about the art of vacationing with one's spouse. We haven't actually vacationed much since we've had children. This year is the big kickoff for this particular parenting right-of-passage. As we've brainstormed for potential vacation spots, we've been calling upon our own childhood experiences in this realm and once again, we've run into an area of great disagreement.

Me and the Beher fam at a Florida bird
and wildlife preserve.
Before I married Joe I had never really spent longer than one day per vacation on a beach. Our family vacations, like many, fell into two categories: Weekend getaways and Full-Out Vacation. Weekend getaways were spent at various Holiday Inns, swimming in the pool, dinners at restaurants with a wait-staff and watching movies in a hotel room while washing down an obscene amount of Easy Cheeze with Cherry Coke. There was the obligatory visit to whatever local tourist attraction was available (ie, Elkhart County Motor Home Museum, Abe Lincoln's birthplace, Annie Oakley's birthplace, George Rogers Clark's birthplace - all as boring to a child as they sound). As the daughter of a farmer, we went on getaways only if it rained.  That is not a typo. If the weather was nice, we stayed home and waited until we had a nice rainstorm, or better yet, a tornado warning so that we wouldn't waste any time that could be spent farming in some form.

Full-Out vacations were similar accept that this time, we usually got our very own bag of goodies to entertain us in the car (Mad Libs, activity books, new crayons, gum and lollipops for sticking in each other's hair, etc.) which did nothing to curb the number of fights between me and my brothers.  My family of five had a Renault Alliance.  Remember those...probably not.  They were only sold in the US for a year or two.  (My favorite argument was who got to lay out on the back seat, who slept in the back window and who had to curl up on the floor with that big hump right in the middle.)  We saw more museums, stopped at every 'Scenic Overlook' and of course, walked through many, many more birthplaces of well-known and unknown historical figures.

So, as you can tell, my family vacations were not relaxing. They were educational, they were memorable, but they were not relaxing. 

Vacations for my husband were different. They actually were what you would imagine when you thought of vacation. An entire week, on a beach (usually Fort Meyers) playing frisbee tag and beach volleyball with strangers, laying in the sun, body surfing and enjoying all forms of seafood. Now, these vacations were also reached by automobile. However, his family traveled in a pimped out conversion van complete with a tv for video games and movies as well as an occassional dose of dramamine so that "your tummy doesn't hurt" (i.e. maybe you'll actually fall asleep). My father-in-law, a road salesman with a heavy foot, is proud that he could complete the 15 hour drive in approximately 12 hours because you got to pee or get something to eat only when the gas tank was on empty.

Me and Fam on a Rizzuto beach vacation...
complete with loud Italian father-in-law.
Once the beach destination was reached, sleep became a luxury. At 5am, my husband was awakened by a loud Italian man shouting, "GET UP! I BROUGHT YOU TO THE BEACH! IF YOU WANT TO SLEEP, YOU CAN SLEEP ON THE BEACH! IF THE SUN IS UP THEN YOU ARE TOO! GET OUT!" And, if you didn't react quickly enough, you were met with a cup full of water to the face. Rizzuto vacations quite often involved blood, food poisoning and shenanigans that are still legend in Fort Meyers emergency rooms (i.e. "Sir, is that a catfish stuck to your palm?!)

So, as you can see, my husband and I innately have VERY different interpretations of what constitutes a 'vacation.' However, regardless of these differences, they all evoke fond memories for the participant and 'reality-TV/trainwreck-like' fascination for the other. And, in retrospect, I believe the fun is in the madness.  If you read the above paragraphs, the memories were not made at the museums OR the beaches. They memories come from the chaos.  So, my hope for our future vacations is that we can provide enough mayhem to be memorable but with minimal out-of-network hospital visits.

(PS-To my knowledge no Rizzuto ever actually wet themselves or was malnourished on a car trip.)