Tales of a Plain Fool – Heh good lookin’

One of my favorite Helenisms – “I wish I was born rich instead of so darn good lookin‘”

No, my grandmother was not vain.  She was just “folksy”. And now I find myself saying that from time to time, just to give my heart a smile.  I even let my Okie/Texas accent slip out when I say it, just to add a little “oompf”.


Christian Kane makes me sick

Literally.  My stomach has been upset for the last 45 minutes while watching his StageIt show with Steve Carlson.  Don’t get me wrong.  I love Kane.  I think he’s talented and funny and handsome.  And he’s got that Okie/Texas hybrid thing going, like me, which only makes him hotter.

But as soon as he was a live image in front of my face instead of a canned image on the screen or voice in my iTunes playlist, my stomach started twisting into knots.


During the concert, Kane and Carlson referenced the fact that they had some friends in the room with them, and they could be heard offscreen.  I imagined myself in the room, watching.  Suddenly, I felt like I did back in college, when hanging out the members of Phi Kappa Sigma.  See, these boys weren’t the typical greeks.  Far from  it.  They started out as a group of friends who decided it’d be fun to become the Beta Eta chapter of the Phi Kaps on the UNT campus. They petitioned to reopen the chapter, and my freshman year was their first year in existence.

I don’t recall exactly how I met them. Probably through my roommate, Jen.  She would go on to join a sorority, but, while we roomed together in the dorms, her sparkling personality netted her this group of friends, and I came along for the ride.  I’d go to their parties.  I went on a camping trip with them.  We were unofficial little sisters, the only two out of about half a dozen girls who continually hung out with them that DIDN’T jump in and out of bed with the guys.  When I did lose my virginity at the end of freshman year, it WAS to one of the Phi Kaps, but, that’s too short a story to go into.  Much too short.  I mean, SHORT.

I did have a crush on one of them, a guy who went by the nickname of “JR”.  Welcome to Texas.  Of course, he was mad…for my roommate. Even though I was friends with a few of the boys, and could talk and laugh and have fun with them, whenever JR came around, my “tongue dropped out of my head”, as he put it once.  I was just too intimidated to communicate with him.  He was handsome and funny and cool, and I was just this insecure girl who adored him.

It drives me nuts.  When I’m at work, I’m funny and confident and well-respected.  I keep my co-workers in stitches.  But every time I’ve ventured out of my comfort zone, into the land of “the beautiful people”, I feel completely out of place.  Whether it’s walking down the 3rd Street Promenade in Santa Monica or even taking a stroll down 2nd street in Long Beach, I feel like an alien.  Like someone who doesn’t belong. I’d be lying if I said I felt like I fit in when I was thinner, but the added weight I carry  now makes me feel even more like an elephant amongst gazelles.

Imagining I’m sitting in the room listening to Christian Kane and Steve Carlson sing their songs made me think of being in JR’s presence, or how awkward I felt when Cybil, my former acting coach, would cast the skinny girl as the ingenue in class and me as the mother, grandmother, insert other frumpy character <here>.  Awkward.  Out of place.  Not good enough.

Whiskey Tango Foxtrot.  I can only assume this text from Baggage Reclaim applies…

Much of your emotional schooling happens in childhood and if how you’re treated by your parents (or people of authority) and your emotional interactions didn’t communicate that you’re a person of value and worthwhile, that’s the lens that you’ll use to navigate and view the world.

From the age of 6 to the age of 15 I had five different people either physically or sexually abuse me to some degree.  Some “minor” transgressions, others far more serious.  Being told in deed (and sometimes in word) that you’re nothing and don’t deserve the right to your own body is devastating.  It’s been decades, and I still suffer under the weight of it.

Tonight I should have been able to enjoy a short little concert put on by some very talented musicians.  Maybe some day my insecurities won’t crash the party.

NBA Playoffs

The NBA playoffs are contributing to my improving mood. Though I live in L.A., I’m a Spurs fan. I followed them only loosely in the early David Robinson years, but I remember the excitement the town felt at having acquired him. When Timmy came along, I remember having a crush on him. I followed the team more and more, and by the time I moved to Cali in 1999, the playoffs were in full swing. I can remember watching the final game in my new apartment, filled with unpacked boxes, one serving as the tv stand. I basically introduced myself to my neighbors with lots of shouting and jumping up and down.

Then came the next three seasons. My co-workers teased me so much. It was awful. I remember them telling me I should become a Laker fan. I asked them if they’d become Spurs fans if they moved to San Antonio. “Of course not!” Then I’d have to remind them that being a fan should be about more than the city you live in, and that I would remain a Spurs fan.

I didn’t have a huge problem with the Lakers until I moved to L.A. As I was exposed to more and more Laker “fans” and heard Kobe, Shaq and Phil Jackson in interview after interview, I realized, I couldn’t stand the Lakers. Shaq and Kobe would diss each other and their teammates in the media. Kobe would disrespect Phil Jackson. None of them ever gave credit to an opponent who had beaten them. They’d always whine about bad officiating or they were injured or 101 other excuses. It was never that their opponent was just plain better than them. When the Lakers have lost in the playoffs, I’ve seen Kobe just get up and walk away instead of being man enough to congratulate his opponent. When asked once about a missed call on one of his teammates, he pursed his lips and stiffly replied, “no foul”.  The commentators had seen the foul. Even the league, the next day, announced that they had reviewed the tapes and Kobe’s teammate (don’t recall who) had indeed fouled Brent Barry and the ref missed the call.  What ticked me off about Kobe’s denial was that either a) he saw it and knew it was a damn foul or b) he didn’t see it, but was still emphatic about it not being a foul.  Either way, he was being dishonest.  He’s what I call a punk.

And then there were their “fans”. I use quotation marks to distinguish those who truly appreciate the Lakers and those who only care about them when they win. Sadly, most I’ve encountered are in the latter category. There have been a few people I’ve encountered who were true fans of basketball and the team, and I could have reasonable conversations with them. We had mutual respect for each team’s abilities. Then there were the “fans”.

“Fan”: The Spurs suck

Me: No they don’t

“Fan”: The Lakers kicked their butt last night

Me: Yes, but it doesn’t mean they suck. It just means the Lakers were better last night.

Flash forward to a couple weeks later, when the Spurs would be the victors…

“Fan”: Well, if the refs had called the game right, we’d have beat them

Me: So, you’re saying the refs gave the Spurs the win?

“Fan”: Yes

Me: So, how many games over the course of the season do the refs give to the Lakers?

“Fan”: None.

Me: Really? Bad officiating is that one-sided, all the time? Wow.

And, after Shaq left….

[Team Kobe] “Fan”: Man, that Shaq, he’s a jerk. Did you hear what he said about the Lakers?

Me: I seem to recall I called him a jerk when he said those same things about the Spurs while wearing a purple and gold uniform. You said he was just being funny. I see you didn’t mind the big dog barking when he was in YOUR yard, but now that he’s barking at YOU, you complain.

And then, during the 2004-2005 season…

“Fan”: Go Clippers

Then, there are my beloved Spurs. They don’t smack talk, they just play. If they lose, they don’t complain about it being the refs fault. They don’t disrespect each other to the media. They don’t try to play the badass in a bunch of commercials. In fact, they do mostly local commercials for the San Antonio market and support the local businesses there. As much as people like to complain that Timmy and co. whine to the refs, I’d like to point out that a) everyone whines to the refs…it’s a heat of the moment kinda thing. What matters more is, are you still complaining after the game? (I’m looking at YOU, Phil Jackson). And, b) I’ve also seen them man up to their fouls. I’ve seen Timmy and Manu raise their hands and nod saying, “yep, I did that. my bad”. I don’t recall seeing many other players on any team doing that. I’ve seen plays, missed fouls, that were absolute game-changers.  I remember once, during the 2006 playoffs, Dirk Nowitzki fouled Timmy while Timmy was taking a shot.  The refs didn’t call it, and within two minutes the game, and the Spurs season, was over. The Mavericks went on to blow it in the finals and the Heat were the champions. I remember my husband complained about that missed call. I resisted. I told my husband, “bad officiating happens on both sides, and only matters if the game is close. If the Spurs were truly the better team, they’d not have missed so many shots, would have been in the lead, and that missed opportunity at the line wouldn’t matter”. This ended up being grist for the mill when Dallas fans had the nerve to complain about officiating in the finals. If someone wants to blame one loss on officiating, that may be understandable. But the Mavs were up 2-0 and lost 4 straight games. They only needed to win 2 more games to take the championship and couldn’t pull it off.  That was on them, not the officials. And guess what, when the Spurs lost to the Mavericks, they walked over and shook their hands.

I’d also like to tip my cap to the organization itself. Very well respected in sports. A number of their former players and assistant coaches have gone on to work with other teams. As much as I disliked Mark Cuban and the Mavericks, when AJ was their coach (the only Spur I’ve ever met….super, super nice guy), I couldn’t completely root against them. Now Mike Brown is the one soft spot I have for the Lakers.

And as for Spurs fans, I obviously can’t speak for all of them, but let’s just say, when WE win, we have a parade on the river. No cars are turned over or burned. No stores looted. No arrests (for Spurs players, either).

I’m going to be so sad when Timmy leaves. He’s always been my favorite, with Manu coming in a close second. I miss Brent Barry and Bruce Bowen.

I watched the ’99 victory in a nearly empty apartment. The 2003 championship game was marred by the fact that my beloved cat, Sneakers, died in my arms about three hours after the game. The 2005 championship game is a blur, as I got stinking-ass drunk that night and had to go into work late the next day due to my hangover. By the time the 2007 playoffs had come around, I was 4 months pregnant with my daughter. My priorities had changed, so a basketball game wasn’t *quite* as important to me.

This year, I find myself fighting my way out of the 20 foot hole, anxiety attacks and a mid-life crisis. The Spurs, who for years now have been labeled as “too old”, are making the playoff run of a lifetime. They’ll keep fighting, and so will I. Today they came back from a 24 point deficit to go up 3-0 on the Clippers. Everyone is talking about how good they are…even Shaq, now just a commentator, is saying they are unbeatable.

I don’t talk smack, so I won’t go on and on about how we’re going to kill everyone and other teams suck and blah blah blah. I’ll just say, if the Spurs keep this up, they’ll win it all, and that would please me. Immensely.




Tales of a Plain Fool

I was blessed with three grandmothers and one grandfather.  My step-father’s dad died when I was in high school, and I hardly have any memories of him, but his mother, upon grandpa Smith’s passing, moved to Texas and we became buddies.  We’d sit at her kitchen table and talk for hours.

My dad’s dad died before his first grandchild, my brother, was born. I know next to nothing about him except he was an alcoholic and he lived over a liquor store. I wasn’t close to my paternal grandmother until I was an adult, living in Enid, Oklahoma. I’d take her to dinner once a week and to her doctor’s appointments.

Then there was “grandmaandgrandpa”. One word. My mom’s parents. It was their home, jokingly referred to as “Gotno Rancho”, that I would spend summer vacations at, at least until I was a teenager. It was less cool to be hangin’ in Oklahoma as a teenager. Like Oklahoma was ever cool. Again, my years spent in Enid after college, though born out of a fear of failure, are important to me in that it gave me precious time with my grandparents.

All my grandparents are gone now. As devastating as Josh’s death was, it’s my grandparents I still mourn, on an almost daily basis. This is especially true of my grandma Helen.

She had a purple front door for 40+ years, long before purple was popular. She sang as she cooked and had an amazing smile.

Even writing these words brings tears to my eyes.

My mom and I refer to her folksy quips as “Helenisms”. When I decided I wanted to write about my grandma, I decided I would do so in installments, and name the series “Tales of a Plain Fool”. This stems from what she’d always say to us on March 1st, her birthday. “If I’da been born a month later, I’da been a April Fool. Instead, I’m just a plain fool.”

I miss that plain fool so much sometimes my chest aches. 

Girls, we have to stop this

I’ll admit right now, I’m guilty of it, too.  Being hyper-critical of myself and others’ appearance.  And “they” know it. They are the purveyors of anti-wrinkle creams, age-reducing serums, lip butter, dark spot removers, etc., and the Madison Avenue hacks who, quite successfully, convince you that you can only obtain beauty using their products.  It’s literally skin deep.

Pay attention to commercials.  I mean, REALLY pay attention. No wonder our daughters are growing up believing in an impossible standard of beauty. I just saw a commercial that showed a woman’s face, with flawless skin, and four little arrows pointing to different parts of the face. Each area referenced a “flaw” that this product could correct. Dark spots, acne, wrinkles, and some other “problem”, I don’t remember what. See, I was too busy fuming that this commercial, one among hundreds, if not thousands, was telling these women that they had to correct any minuscule imperfection. Does anyone ever tell men this crap? I understand, they get the “stop your balding” commercials, and the occasional “male enhancement” spots, but, at least in the case of the latter, they are spun in a “get your mojo on”, sexy, come hither kinda way. They don’t make a man feel bad about his “shortcomings”, but instead entice with the notion of “sex as good as you had it in your 20’s”.

Women, on the other hand, are told they need to be thin, have no wrinkles, no pimples, no moles, no “dark spots”, super white teeth, and super strong, lustrous hair.   Oh, and  lush, thick lashes. If you don’t have them, you can use this stuff that will make your lashes thicker…and may change the color of your eyes! How bad does a product have to be to CHANGE THE COLOR OF YOUR EYES! And can we talk about the embarrassing feminine hygiene product commercials? Vaginal cleansers, tampons, birth control pills, etc. The BEST is that charming commercial, I think for a razor, that shows women walking past untrimmed vegetation. Once they walk past the shrubs, the bushes become “trim”, so to speak. Whiskey tango foxtrot!!!! And just in case you had forgotten the rest of your responsibilities (in addition to being flawless physically), there’s tons and tons of commercials to remind you that to get your house REALLY clean, use _______. If a man is ever shown using one of these products, he’s usually depicted as incompetent. I realize they are trying to compliment women, but it really insults both genders. To depict men as clueless when it comes to taking care of the house makes them seem like children and their wives seem like their mothers.  Every mother on non “reality” tv is supermom.  She balances physical perfection with being a loving mom, wife, housekeeper, cook, and killer career woman.  It’s exhausting just thinking about it.

Now, I’ll admit, I’ve fallen for a few pitches, as evidenced by the half-used bottles and jars of creams, lotions, and serums scattered about my home. Oh, and, on that note, what the hell is a serum? I mean, I know what it is, but doesn’t it seem like they are just attempting to make what is essentially a pointless clear lotion seem more clinical? Don’t you imagine some exec at Revlon professing, “Heh, what if we called it a SERUM? Then people will think it’s medicinal and buy it by the truckloads!!!!”

I’m tired of looking in the mirror and seeing every “flaw” that the makers of Oil of Olay want me to see. I get that our bodies change as we get older, but at what cost, in dollars and “sense”, do we try to fight the aging process?  I am perfect in zero ways and trying very hard to live with that.

We are children, all

I’ve found myself saying this a lot lately.

We  are children in every way.  By that I mean, we do as we’re told as long as others are watching, but, if given the chance, will do whatever the hell we want.  We do it in important ways, and not so important ways.

Case in point:  Next to my office building was a Borders bookstore.  It, like all other Borders, has now closed.  As soon as it closed, tenants in my building felt it was okay to ignore all the signs that read “Parking for Borders Customers Only”, and started parking there.  I’m not exactly sure why.  About 20 people may save themselves an extra 50 feet of walking in exchange for exposing their cars to the elements. So lazy. About a month after the Borders closed, everyone got an email from building management warning us that the owners of the Borders building were going to start towing cars parked there.  For about a week, the mayor’s tow truck (Torrance mayor has a side business) was parked in the lot and all the little boys and girls followed the rules.  As soon as the tow truck was gone, the lazy little kiddies went back to parking there.

Who ever intentionally speeds past a cop?  Nope, it’s always, “zoom, zoom”, then “crap!” when they pass the black and white.  Most people can’t be counted on to obey simple traffic signs.  “That stop sign doesn’t apply to ME!”

Then there’s the bigger stuff.  The “way we live” kinda stuff.  Look, I’m a christian.  I believe in a supreme being, and that he’d like us to at least try live a certain way and treat each other with love and respect.  We’re not always going to succeed…I know I certainly don’t… but making the effort is key. But, really, it’s like he’s our dad and we, his children, just can’t play nice together. Let’s say there’s two brothers, Billy and Joey. Joey does things that Billy believes daddy won’t like.  Rather than just letting daddy sort it out, Billy does everything possible to hurt Joey, to the point of bullying.  The bullying in and of itself is something that daddy doesn’t like, but, what’s more, Billy’s up to all kinds of no good behind the scenes, or does things out in the open that, like Joey, he tells himself is okay.  Billy could, and should, choose to live his life and win people over “without saying a word” or, to quote Ghandi, “be the change you want to see in the world”, but, no.  Billy gets hateful. Rather than try to touch Joey’s heart, Billy tries to club Joey’s head.

It’s referred to as The Golden Rule, people.  Treat others as you would want to be treated yourself.  If you put up a “no parking” sign on your property and people ignored it, you’d be ticked.  If someone rolled through a stop sign and almost clipped you, you’d scream and shout and lay on the horn.  As an insurance broker, I’ve had clients and prospective clients ask me to lie for them, to cheat the system in their favor.  What blows my mind is, if an insurance carrier tried to screw those same clients, they’d scream bloody murder.

And Billy, who’s so concerned that someone else didn’t take out the trash, likes to pretend that he did the dishes and cleaned the kitchen, when really the whole house wreaks from last night’s dinner.

It was liver and onions.  Gag.