My Soulmate is a Jerk

polarbearPhoto credit: https://pixabay.com/en/polar-bear-bear-teddy-sleep-lazy-196317/

 

Originally published 8/1/2013. Edited slightly because I can’t stop myself from fiddling with stuff.

One day not too long ago, my sister arrived at work and told me that she’d gotten into a heated debate with my husband on Facebook. “I should know not to argue with Ray,” she sighed. “I try to convince him that he’s wrong, but all that happens is he ends up tying me in verbal knots, and then I feel like an idiot.”

While she was telling me this, I got a text. It was from Ray: “I just used all my dirty debate tricks to beat down your sister on Facebook. I’m awesome!”

I thought, “I am married to a complete jerk.”

This wasn’t exactly a revelation. We’ve been married for fifteen years now, and, while he’s changed a lot in some ways, his jerkiness has remained pretty constant over the years. On our first date, for instance, I was looking over the dinner menu, and he told me that I should get something cheap because he wasn’t made of money. This last weekend, I was doing a performance up in Vail, and as we were walking through Vail Village, Ray was telling me his plans to firebomb the place and exterminate all the rich snobs who thought they were better than him. When I took a week off last month after running my first competition, Ray (unbeknownst to me) posted a note on Facebook saying that if anyone called or texted me during my week off, he would come over with a crowbar and break their arms and legs. That led to an awkward conversation with my dad which I didn’t understand until I got home and Ray proudly showed me his post.

And then there was the time, before we were actually dating, that we went to a jazz concert together. He was so obnoxious during the evening that I decided to drop him as a friend. But he emailed me the next day and thanked me for a fun evening, and his note was so sweet and thoughtful that I said, “Well, I’ll give him one more chance.”

Seventeen years later, here we are.

I told my sister, after the Facebook argument, that she should just unfriend Ray and ignore him. There was no point in trying to convince him he was wrong; I’d been trying to do that for seventeen years without success. He’s both opinionated and as stubborn as a mule, and he loves arguing. Even if he eventually changes his mind, he’ll sometimes keep arguing just for fun. Also, he sees it as his God-given mission to correct people when they’re wrong, and he definitely believes that his opinions are the right ones. When I point out that opinions aren’t right or wrong, since they’re, you know, opinions, he says that is an example of a wrong opinion. He doesn’t care if he makes people mad or if they dislike him; he has an unassailable self-confidence that both drives me crazy and makes me insanely jealous. I asked him once if he ever worried that I’d stop loving him and find someone else, and he said, “No–why would you? I’m awesome.”  You might as well try winning an argument with Mt. Rushmore. He’ll never, ever admit he’s wrong. So I tell people, like I told my sister, that if his Facebook rantings irritate them, they should either hide his feed or unfriend him. It’s just easier that way.

Anyway, on this occasion, the consciousness that my husband had acted like a jerk led me into an also-familiar train of thought: did people, like my family and friends, think less of me because I was married to a jerk? Did they think, “Wow, if she likes that guy, she must be a real loser herself”? Did they feel sorry for me? Did they think I was crazy? And this familiar train of thought led to a new question: what if your soulmate is a total douchebag?

Now, I don’t believe in the concept of “soulmates.” I don’t think that there is one person on Earth that you are destined to be with, the only perfect match out of billions of mistakes. The romantic part of me thinks it’s a lovely idea, but the larger, practical part of me thinks that if you only have a one-in-seven-billion chance of finding your one true soulmate, you’re in deep trouble. If Ray dies before I do, I know that I’ll get married again eventually. Ditto for him.

However, it was fun to mull over the idea. In all the modern fairy tales, the princess is a sweet, good-hearted person, and her One True Love is a good person, too, although sometimes he’s a Diamond in the Rough or a Bad Boy with a Heart of Gold. But what if you’re a princess and your One True Love turns out to be a jerk? What does that say about you? Does that mean that you’re a jerk, too? Do mean people get mean soulmates?

And, even though I don’t believe in soulmates, these questions are valid for real relationships, too. Ray and I haven’t been married for fifteen years because we’re co-dependent or super dysfunctional or masochistic. I really and truly love him. I like being married to him. He’s my best friend, and we get along great. So…if we’re so compatible, does that mean that I’m a jerk, too?

Maybe. I don’t think I’m the best judge of that. I’m definitely sarcastic, judgmental, and opinionated, and, in private, I’m capable of being every bit as profane and argumentative as Ray. I’ve got more social polish; I’m able to be nice to almost everybody, even people I don’t really like. But I’m not sure if that’s a positive or not. One of my teaching assistants told me the other day that, while she doesn’t agree with some of Ray’s opinions, she values him because he’s so honest. You know exactly where you stand with him.

I’m not like that. I’m very private, and I keep most of my opinions to myself. While I know myself very well, I think it’s probably hard for others to get to know me. Ray wears his heart on his sleeve. My heart is hidden deep down.

When we were first dating, I was very protective of my heart. I’d had a bad breakup not too long before, and I didn’t want to make another mistake. Ray (who’d also just had a bad breakup) didn’t seem to feel any such compunctions. On our first date, we went to dinner and a movie, and I kissed him good night. Nothing earthshattering, but I still spent the next morning in bed, staring at the ceiling and wondering what I’d gotten myself into. I decided I would wait a couple days before calling him again; I wanted to take things very slowly. Right after I had decided that, he called me and asked if I was free to go out again that night. “I have to see you,” he said. Who could resist that?

Within two weeks, he told me that he loved me. Within six weeks, he mentioned getting married. I thought he was out of his mind. Not that I didn’t love him back–I did, with a strength that surprised me–but the speed at which things were happening scared me. Ray never seemed to have any doubts. He told me that he just knew, and I guess he was right. We got married a year and a half later, and neither of us has ever had any regrets. I’ve heard that marriage changes some people’s relationships, making it hard to go from dating to marriage, but that never happened to us. Marriage just made everything even better.

In many ways, I feel like I’m the lucky one. Ray loves me with as close to an unconditional love as one human being can feel for another. I know that he will never leave me or be unfaithful to me. He loves me exactly the way I am, and he doesn’t try to change me, not even when I’m dancing down the aisles of the grocery store or making him take silly pictures of me. I am the most important thing in the world to him, and he lets me know it all the time in a hundred different ways. Hardly a day goes by where he doesn’t text or call me to say I love you, even after fifteen years.

I’m more complicated. I don’t think I’m capable of unconditional love, and I try to change Ray all the time. It doesn’t work, but I still try. I’m critical and impatient and sarcastic, and deep inside I worry sometimes that I’m not really worthy of the kind of True Love I stumbled into. Ray doesn’t see it that way. He says that we’re creatures of the same species–T-Rexes, he calls us, since we both have short little arms and short little tempers.

At the end of my musings, I thought about the two long-term boyfriends I had before Ray, one while I was in high school and the other while I was in college. They both got along great with my parents and my friends, had good social manners, and didn’t have more than their fair share of anger management issues. One of them took drugs and the other one cheated on me.

So I went from relationships with guys who seemed great on the outside but didn’t treat me right, to a guy who seems like the World’s Angriest Man but treats me like a fairy-tale princess. I don’t know what other people think of our marriage, but after what I went through before, I know that Ray is the best thing that ever happened to me.

My soulmate is a jerk. And I’m okay with that.

Airport People Watching

I judged an Irish dance competition a few weekends ago. Traveling always provides interesting opportunities for people-watching and other wackiness, such as:

raccoonsweaterhttps://pixabay.com/en/users/RyanMcGuire-123690/

***

In the security line at the airport, I was behind a family with two little girls, around ages 8 and 6. Both of them had long brown hair and were wearing identical orange dresses and pink sweaters.

The line was long and moving slowly. While we were creeping along, the older girl came and stood in front of me. She stared at me for a minute, then she started saying, “Pig, pickle, pig, pickle,” over and over again in this creepy monotone.

Now I have an idea for a comedy horror film…

2pigshttps://pixabay.com/en/users/reimoon0-353381/

***

Then, in Dallas, where I was catching a connecting flight, I saw a woman with two Chihuahuas, both white but one bigger than the other. Both were wearing identical pink dresses.

I was glad that it wasn’t the two matching sisters walking the two matching dogs. That would have been REALLY creepy.

glassesdogshttps://pixabay.com/en/users/LouLou-W-645354/

These are not the actual dogs. I didn’t want to take a picture of any of these actual things, since people don’t always think that they are as funny as I do.

 

***

As I was boarding the plane from Dallas to my final destination, the lady at the gate counter made an announcement over the PA system. She said that our plane was small, with limited overhead bin space, and anyone in boarding groups 3 & 4 would have to gate-check their roller bags. Whew! I thought. I’m glad I’m in boarding group 2!

But then, just before it was my turn to scan my boarding pass and get on the plane, the lady made another announcement, saying that overhead bin space had reached full capacity, and anyone with a roller bag had to get out of line and gate-check it right then.

I wasn’t thrilled, but I knew that these things happen, and luckily I wasn’t going to be in a hurry when I reached my destination. I got out of line and dutifully gate-checked my bag.

So then I was pretty annoyed when I got on the plane and saw the empty overhead bin over my row of seats.

emptybin1webWhen I stopped to take this picture with my phone, the guy behind me said, “They took your bag away too, huh?”

Even after everyone had boarded, this was the overhead bin across the aisle.

emptybin2web

My bag and I had been parted for nothing. I feel like there’s a sad country song or a Mechant Ivory film here somewhere.

byeballoonhttps://pixabay.com/en/users/Zorro4-796252/

 

***

When we landed, the flight attendant announced that if we’d gate-checked our bag, it would be waiting on the jetway for us. Hooray! That turned out not to be true, though. Boo! Instead, I had to pick up my bag at baggage claim.

Well, like I said, I wasn’t in a hurry, and waiting at baggage claim gave me the chance to see another wacky sight: a woman pushing a specially-designed stroller with a Chihuahua and a mini-Yorkie in it.

It looked like a normal stroller if you weren’t really looking, and I only noticed it because the baby inside was making some VERY strange noises (I was relieved when I realized it was a dog making the noises, not a baby).

The woman pushing the stroller came and stood near me at baggage claim, and the mini-Yorkie was whining nonstop. “It’s OK, sweetheart; Mommy’s coming soon,” the woman kept saying in a baby-talk kind of voice.

Then another woman appeared, and the dog went absolutely nuts, jumping up and down and scratching with all his tiny might at the zippered compartment of the stroller. He started making a high-pitched screeching exactly like the noise your car makes when a belt is slipping.

“Mommy’s here, darlings!” cried the new woman, and then she unzipped the stroller compartment, took the dogs out, and put them on her shoulders.

dogstrollerhttps://pixabay.com/en/users/Mariamichelle-165491/

***

On Saturday, the competition ran a little longer than expected. My flight was scheduled to depart at 6:30 p.m., and at 5:15 p.m. I was still at the competition venue. I reminded the organizer of my flight time, and she drove me to the airport.

I was trying not to feel panicky. In Denver, you really should be at the airport 90 minutes ahead of your scheduled flight time, because the airport is huge and security takes forever. Ray is so paranoid that he makes us get there 2 hours early. And now there was only an hour to go before departure.

The drive to the airport only took 15 minutes, because the airport was just outside downtown and not in a different time zone like Denver International. I got out of the car, thanked the organizer, and ran inside the terminal.

There was no one there.

I mean, I saw a security guard, and a janitor, and a couple people sitting outside the Starbucks, but that was it. And the Starbucks was the only business that was still open.

Did I mention that it was 5:30 p.m. on a Saturday night in a state capital?

Mystified, I followed the signs to security. Security was open, but the only people there were the three TSA employees.

Oh. Well, in that case, I thought, I might as well change out of my fancy judge outfit and heels.

I went to the bathroom and put on jeans, tennies, and a t-shirt. Then I came out and went through security, along with two other travelers who had now appeared. It took less than five minutes. Then I walked to my gate, where I saw via the departures board that my flight was one of only two departing that night.

departures1web

Even with walking to security, changing, and stopping to take pictures, I still had a 20-minute wait before my flight boarded. No wonder no one else had been worried about the time.

When I landed in Dallas on my way home, it was almost a relief to see a packed-full departures board in the terminal. Much more what I’m used to.

departures2web

 

***

In Dallas, I had a 2-hour layover. I grabbed some dinner and then went to sit at my gate so I could blog (yay!).

While I was sitting there, a middle-aged dad and his 9-ish-year-old daughter plunked their vast collection of luggage down on the seat across from me. The daughter looked sunburned, and both of them looked like they’d had a long day.

“Excuse me,” the dad said to me. “My daughter and I are going to get something to eat. Would you mind watching our bags for a minute?”

“Sure,” I said, automatically, before I’d really thought about it, and he said thank you and left.

When they’d gone, I took a better look at their stuff (since, you know, I was supposed to be guarding it). There were two roller bags, a pink backpack, a paper bag full of souvenirs of some kind, and a laptop bag. Now, I don’t know about you, but I don’t really trust people. There is NO WAY that I would leave any of my bags, let alone a laptop bag, with a stranger at the airport for even a minute. I’m so paranoid that I take all my bags with me when I go to throw trash away, even. The man had never seen me before in his life! How did he know I wasn’t some opportunistic kleptomaniac?

It wasn’t like anyone else seemed to be paying attention. The only person sitting in the immediate area was this kind of creepy twentysomething dude to my right who was watching a video on his laptop with his earbuds in and giggling.

Minutes went by, and the dad and his daughter did not come back. I started to have a new thought: what exactly was I supposed to do if someone did come by and mess with their stuff? Angrily confront them? That gave me an idea for a story where a con artist and his daughter ask an innocent-looking stranger to watch their bags, then send a confederate to pretend to steal the bags. When the innocent stranger jumps up to defend the bags, the daughter (or another confederate) takes the stranger’s wallet out of her purse.

Around this time, there was a security announcement on the overhead PA system–you, know, the one where they tell you not to leave your luggage unattended at any time because it’s a violation of federal security regulations. “If you see any unattended baggage, report it immediately to the nearest security personnel.”

Oh, geez. What if the man and his daughter weren’t con artists; what if they were terrorists, and there was a bomb inside the pink backpack? For several minutes, I pondered the ramifications of this story idea/paranoid fantasy (the line there is really blurry sometimes). The guy had been gone a really long time–more than half an hour by then. At what point was it reasonable for me to go tell someone about the bags without sounding like a crazed conspiracy theorist?

What finally made me decide that I’d had enough of bagsitting duty was not my fear that the guy was a con man or a terrorist, but rather my irritation that he was messing with my bathroom schedule. I make fun of Ray’s travel rituals all the time, but the truth is that I have mine, too. One of them is that I always use the restroom as soon before boarding the plane as possible so that I don’t have to go during the flight. The digital display behind the check-in counter was telling me that there were five minutes to go before boarding started, and it was time for me to hit the restroom, guy or no guy.

Before I had to take any drastic action, though, the guy and his daughter came back (with a pizza box, so I guess they really had gotten dinner and weren’t international criminals). Relieved, I gathered up my stuff and made it to the restroom and back right as my boarding group got called.

You want to know the worst part? After all that, the jerk didn’t even say thank you.

byeplane

Until next time!

The Doll’s Head

Every month, Alfred Hitchcock Mystery Magazine runs a short-short story contest. In 250 words or less, you have to write a story about a picture they give you, and the story has to involve a crime. I’m a very wordy writer (as you probably already know), and 250 words is nothing, but I gave it a shot anyway and got an Honorable Mention! I was pretty excited.

 

Anyway, since I didn’t win, my story isn’t getting published, so I’m allowed to post it here for you.

dollheadhttps://pixabay.com/en/users/makamuki0-1102736/

This is not the original photograph–I don’t have the rights to that one–but it gives you the idea.

Ms. Ellis found the headless doll when the children went outside to play.

It was in the far corner of the four-year-olds’ classroom, lying in its bed in a frilly pink nightgown. There was a bouquet of wilted dandelions under the stiff plastic fingers, and all around the bed was a line of the red foam hearts they used for crafts. Ms. Ellis thought that the doll was supposed to be sleeping, until she saw that its head was gone.

For goodness’ sake. One of the boys—or maybe several of them—must have yanked the head off. This was disturbing even for them.

Ms. Ellis went through the door to the playground, looking for James and Mason, the usual troublemakers. But they were racing each other down the slide under the watchful eye of the playground monitor, and there was no sign of the doll’s head.

Puzzled, she glanced around. There was a game of tag on the grass, several children in the sandbox…and little Ava over in the corner by the fence, tamping down a mound of soft dirt with the back of the sandbox shovel.

When Ms. Ellis dug up the mound, the doll’s head was there, right below the surface, lying on a pile of dandelions and foam hearts.

A shiver of horror crept up Ms. Ellis’ spine. “Why, Ava?” she whispered. “Why did you do this?”

“That’s how my Daddy plays with his dollies,” she said.

And that’s how they finally caught the Valentine Killer….

13 Ways that March 2016 Kicked My Butt

Hello! You might be wondering why you haven’t heard from me in such a long time! Usually during March I blog every day about funny things that happen at our shows. This year, however, I did not manage to blog at all. I was too busy trying to deal with all the crazy things that were happening.

 

But now things are finally settling down, and I have time and energy to blog again! Here, for your enjoyment, are the top 13 crazy/embarrassing/difficult things that happened during this year’s St. Patrick’s Day season.

rainbowshamrock

  1. I am STILL getting over having mono last year. It’s been nine months now, and I am really, really ready to be back to 100%. Unfortunately, a couple people I know who had mono said that it took them a year before they were back to normal.I get tired very easily and have to take a nap every day in order to function. Sometimes ordinary things feel overwhelming, like paying bills or vacuuming. Worst of all, I feel like an energy-sucking vampire has clamped his teeth on my neck and drained out every last drop of my normal enthusiasm. I haven’t been writing much at all, and I only choreographed one number for our big March stage show, because all my creative juices are just gone.Luckily, I feel enough better that I was able to make it through St. Patrick’s season. If I’d gotten mono this January instead of last July, I’m not sure what I would have done.
    vampireghost
    2. I got a letter from my insurance company telling me that they were not, after all, going to pay for the septoplasty I had in December, even though they’d preapproved the surgery and told me I was 100% covered. I had a total panic attack when I saw that; dance teachers aren’t known for having loads of disposable income lying around. I never would have had the surgery if I’d thought it wasn’t covered. Now my doctor’s office is duking it out with the insurance people to try to get them to cover it. Fingers crossed!
    devilbook
    3. I was making potato salad for lunch with my sister. First step: quarter potatoes. Second step: put them in a pot of water and bring to a boil. While I waited for the pot to boil, I checked Facebook. I got so wrapped up in Facebook that it wasn’t until 20 minutes later that I wondered why the water wasn’t boiling yet. That’s when I found out that the big burner on my stove was dead.

    My husband and I did some research and found out that the stove was the original one from when our house was built in 1984. You can still find replacement burners online, but they are so expensive that it would be more cost-effective in the long run for us to buy a new stove (especially since there was no telling when one of the other burners might go).

    So we went stove shopping. We had to replace our fridge–also the original from 1984–last year, and now Ray says that our dishwasher (the only remaining original appliance) is running scared.

    I joked that the stove was the only birthday present Ray was going to get (see above comment about disposable income). As it turned out, he also got a new bathroom sink, too, since the bottom of his sink had rusted through.
    stoveweb
    4. Speaking of which, it really sucks for Ray that he has a March birthday and married an Irish dance teacher. I say that every year, because every year it sucks just as much.
    birthdaycake
    5. I got a phone call from the mom of one of my 12-year-old dancers. They were at the doctor’s office, and her daughter had an ingrown toenail that was so bad they were going to have to cut the nail off. She wanted my advice on which option was better: A) have the infected toenail cut off now but risk her not being able to dance at our big stage show later that week, or B) wait until after the stage show to have the nail cut off but risk her not being able to dance because she was in so much pain.

    Kind of a catch-22.

    As I was talking to the mom, I was wondering what I was going to do if her daughter couldn’t dance, because she was one of the leads in our finale and we didn’t have 1) any understudies or 2) any more rehearsals before the show.

    They eventually decided to wait to have the toenail removed, and in the meantime the doctor gave them a bunch of other remedies to help with the pain. The girl danced at the show and was fantastic, and then the next day she went and had her nail cut off.

    That’s dedication!
    toe
    6. One of our other dancers in the show was in a car accident at the end of February and fractured her arm. We were sure she was going to have to pull out of the show, but she came to rehearsal with her arm in a splint and said there was no way she was quitting.

    “Luckily, I’m an Irish dancer and don’t use my arms,” she said.
    dogincast
    7. I already talked about the troubles I had getting one of the costumes for our stage show (http://nerdseye.com/2016/04/04/owls-well-that-ends-well/).

    There’s just never a dull moment in the life of a performer, nor an end to all the wacky things that can go wrong.
    OwlCostume1web
    8. We agreed to do a last-minute performance for charity at a club downtown. They only wanted six or so performers for one number, which should have been easy, but things got complicated when they sold out all the tickets and could only let two parents in with the dancers. Everything worked out ok, but I had to promise the other parents that the oldest dancers would help keep “creepers” away from the tweens.
    glitterball
    9. My husband is a Type 1 diabetic, and in the past he occasionally had trouble with bad insulin reactions that basically made him act like he was drunk. He got a new endocrinologist a couple years ago who put him on a better type of insulin, and since then he hasn’t had any bad reactions.

    Until now.

    Ray usually leaves for work before I get up, even during St. Patrick’s season. Right before he takes off, he says goodbye and gives me a kiss, which is sweet, but also amusing for him, since I am half asleep and sometimes say funny things. To get me to say something funny, he will often say something silly himself.

    So when he was giggling and acting weird as he kissed me goodbye, I didn’t really think anything of it. A) I was half asleep and B) he acts funny in the morning all the time. I did notice that his face was kind of damp when he kissed me, but I thought it was because he’d just taken a shower.

    Well, turns out he was having an insulin reaction, which makes him sweat and act strangely. When he has one of these bad insulin reactions, he needs to eat something right away to get some sugar into his system. Sometimes, if the reaction is bad enough, he becomes a kind of sugar-craving zombie, mindlessly doing whatever he can to find food. This is scary, but it can also be kind of funny (and I’m sorry to say that I have shamelessly exploited his medical condition for funny blog posts in the past).

    On that day, the insulin reaction was bad. He told me later that he got in the car and started to drive to work, and the next thing he remembered was coming to his senses in a King Soopers parking lot. He was sitting in the car eating a doughnut, and there were doughnut crumbs all over the seat and down the front of his shirt. Next to him, on the passenger seat, were four dozen-size boxes of doughnuts (with about five missing from the top box), and a receipt for $16 worth of doughnuts from the King Soopers bakery. He has no memory of driving to the King Soopers or buying the doughnuts, and he has no idea why he thought he needed to buy 48 of them.

    When Ray first told me this story, I was pretty freaked out. I kept imagining what would have happened if he’d passed out while driving, crashed the car, and hurt himself. That REALLY would have made for a stressful March.

    But as time went on, I was able to see the funny side of things. It was exactly like a werewolf movie, where the protagonist doesn’t know he’s a werewolf and wakes up the morning after a full moon to find blood all over him. Only Ray wakes up to find himself covered in mangled doughnut crumbs.

    I think I might have a comedy movie here…
    doughnutman
    10. We had really bad windstorms the week of St. Patrick’s Day, especially on the Monday before. The Weather Channel said that some of the gusts were over 50 mph.

    After our Monday-morning show, I drove back to my office to pick up the wooden boards I would need for our Tuesday shows. I put the boards on a dolly and started to take them out to my car by backing out of the glass front door to our studio.

    The second I put my back against the door, a monster gust of wind caught it and slammed it all the way open, ripping the top hinge in half.

    I screamed in surprise, and my assistant Jeremy came running to see if I was OK. Luckily, the glass of the door hadn’t shattered, but since the door only has two hinges and the top one had broken, the door was hanging at a crazy angle and trying to fall all the way over.

    Arg!

    Thank goodness Jeremy was there. He held the door upright while I grabbed a ladder and took a look at the damage. That’s when I found out that the top hinge (which was made of metal, by the way), had torn in half when the wind slammed the door open. Crazy. There was no way I could fix it, and, with all the shows coming up that week, we weren’t going to be able to come in and wait for a workman to fix it, either. What were we going to do? With the hinge broken, we couldn’t even get the door to close.

    Well, the one thing that Irish dancers always have on them is duct tape, for putting on the bottom of hard shoes (it makes it easier to dance on slippery surfaces). So I grabbed some duct tape and taped the broken hinge back together while Jeremy held the door in place. It was really ugly, and not very functional, but it made it possible to get the door upright again so we could close and lock it.

    We put up a sign telling everyone to come in through the side door, and then we just left it like that until after St. Patrick’s Day, when we finally could call someone in to fix it.
    tornadoes
    11. One of our dancers is a champion named Phil, and Phil is one of the best-natured people you will ever meet. No matter what goes wrong, he always rolls with the punches and never loses his temper (although I understand from his wife that things are a little different at football games).

    Phil has a lot of practice rolling with punches, because if something really weird happens at a show, it almost always happens to Phil. A senior hit Phil with her walker once, for instance, and once a therapy dog took a dislike to Phil and barked at him during the entire show.

    But Phil had an Achilles’ tendon injury this year and couldn’t dance. So instead, the unlucky karma fairy transferred her attentions to Jeremy, the assistant I mentioned above.

    The zipper of Jeremy’s jacket got caught on the shirt underneath it at a show on St. Patrick’s Day, and it took several minutes of patient work for one of the moms to finally get it free. But then the zipper got stuck again at the next show, so firmly that the moms finally had to find a pair of scissors and cut him out (fortunately, they only had to cut the inexpensive mass-produced shirt and not the expensive handmade jacket).

    Jeremy was upset about this at the time, but by the next day he’d seen the humor in it. Surviving the weird things that happen when you’re a live performer is kind of a badge of honor. He wore a different vest to our Friday shows the next day and said he was lucky he had a second outfit.

    At our third and last show, I was helping the parents set up our dance floor while the dancers got their costumes on backstage. I looked up to find Jeremy standing next to me in his sweatpants.

    “I’m sorry, but I don’t think I can dance at this show,” he said. “I tore a hole in my pants.”

    “Oh,” I said. “Are you sure? We could patch the hole with black duct tape and no one would know.” (Black duct tape is the dancer’s solution to everything; see #10 above).

    “Or we could safety-pin the hole shut from the inside,” chimed in one of the moms.

    “I don’t think I’d be comfortable with that,” Jeremy said, politely but firmly, and since we had a lot of dancers for that particular performance, we just took him out of it and rearranged the numbers.

    After the show, he showed me his trousers, and I immediately understood why he hadn’t wanted to dance with safety pins holding the rip together. He’d been warming up backstage with the other dancers, and they’d all decided to do some squats. He told them that they weren’t squatting low enough, so he demonstrated how to do it correctly. He got down really low…and RRRRIIIIIPPPPPP! The entire center seam gave out, all the way from front to back.

    That would have been A LOT of safety pins under a lot of pressure in a VERY dangerous place. So, yeah, good call. I’m just glad it happened that day and not two days later at our stage show! I’m sure Jeremy was glad, too.
    pantsweb
    And that leads me to two stories which I’ve been dying to tell people but which are, unfortunately, kind of inappropriate.

    The inappropriateness was, in both cases, completely accidental and also harmless, since in one case no one heard it and in the other no one seemed to understand it. Thank goodness!

    Both cases are sort of on the PG-13/R level enjoyed by Ben Stiller, Adam Sandler, and adolescent boys.

    If that sounds like your thing, keep reading. If it doesn’t, you can stop reading now and I won’t mind. I don’t want to make anyone uncomfortable.stop

     

    12. We were doing a show at a very nice retirement home one afternoon. The activities director, a friendly woman in her late fifties or early sixties, introduced us to the crowded room of seniors. She finished her introduction by saying, “Everyone, please take a moment to turn off your cell phones and vibrators!”

     

     

    smartphone

    13. Our St. Patrick’s Day season was very busy, and I got behind with a lot of things. That always happens, but this year was worse because of the post-mono exhaustion I’m still experiencing.

    So I didn’t finish the narration I was supposed to write for our big stage show until the night before. That was OK, because our narrator (the dad of one of our dancers) didn’t really need it until the day of the show, but I still felt behind and frantic.

    It was getting late by the time I wrote the introduction for our last number, the story of how a boy monkey at the Dublin Zoo won the heart of a girl monkey, and I rushed through it. I didn’t proofread it when I finished; I just printed it out and put it in my bag for the next day.

    The next day, the day of the show, my husband drove me to the theater, and we arrived really early (my husband is always early for everything). I was nervous with pre-show jitters (which also always happens), so while we waited for everyone else to arrive, I decided to read through the narration and make sure everything was OK.

    It wasn’t. There was an unfortunate turn of phrase at the end that I hadn’t noticed the night before.

    Well, maybe it wasn’t really that bad. I decided to ask Ray.

    “Can I read this to you?” I asked. “Then can you tell me if I need to change it?”

    “Sure,” he said.

    So I read it out loud. Basically, the story is about how all the animals at the zoo have a family except this one sad boy monkey. The zookeepers introduce him to a girl monkey, but she doesn’t like him.

    Then came the last, problematic line: “Maybe something will happen to give our story–and the boy monkey–a happy ending.”

    Ray laughed so hard that he couldn’t talk for like five minutes. That was all the answer I needed. Red in the face, I went through and changed the line to say, “Maybe something will happen to give our story a happy ending,” which seemed to take care of the problem.

    THANK GOODNESS we got there super early and I read through the script in advance. I will never complain about Ray’s earliness again.

    And that’s the story of my March! Now that it’s over, I am hoping that I can get back to blogging on a regular schedule.

    Thanks for reading!

 

Owl’s Well That Ends Well

owl3

I previously wrote about trying to get a child-sized set of owl pajamas for my March stage show (http://nerdseye.com/2016/03/04/owl-i-want-is-you/).

 

When last I left you, I’d just ordered the pajamas from a second company in China and was crossing my fingers that they would arrive before our show on March 13. The tracking information on Amazon said that they would arrive by March 10, so that gave me a couple days’ leeway.

 

Well, it got closer and closer to March 10, and still no pajamas. The tracking info on Amazon still said that they would arrive on the 10th, so I tried not to worry about it. There wasn’t really anything I could do.

 

March 10 came and went, and no pajamas. A quick check of the package tracker still showed them arriving March 10. I’d wait one more day.

 

March 11. No pajamas. The tracker was unchanged. Arg!

 

I copied the tracking number from the Amazon page and searched for it on DHL’s page. A message came up: “No result found for your DHL query. Please try again.”

 

Uh-oh.

 

After trying the number two more times, just in case I’d done something wrong, I emailed the sender to ask about the status of the package. I got this reply:

 

“Hello
 Really sorry. I sent out the goods were returned customs, and now it can not be arrived at when you need it, if you still needed. I will send you. If you no longer need it, I’ll give you a refund, hope to get your understanding. Really sorry!”

 

No!!!

 

That left me with no child-sized owl costume for March 13, and no way to get one. All I had was the gigantic adult-sized owl costume that the original vendor had sent me, and it was WAAAAAAYYY too big for our pint-sized dancer.

 

But when you work putting on live performances, things go wrong, and you learn to roll with the punches. So here’s what we did:

 

Two of our fabulous dancer moms took the gigantic adult-sized owl costume and put it on the pint-sized dancer. Using scissors and a whole box of safety pins, they turned the pajamas into an owl-shaped dress that, while still big, fit the dancer enough for the performance.

 

Hooray!

 

But we still had our second performance on March 20, and I was determined to get the child-sized owl pajamas if we possibly could. I emailed the vendor back and asked for them to go ahead and ship the pajamas again.

 

Would we be able to get them by March 19? I asked.

 

Here’s what they said:
“For the trouble you caused, we apologize, we will send the goods to go through Get out!”

 

This reply was not altogether reassuring, but by that time we were fully into the St. Patrick’s Day season and I had other things to worry about. If the pajamas didn’t come, the dancer could always wear the jury-rigged owl dress again.

 

So imagine my happiness when my sister texted me this picture on March 17:

owl1web

It was the owl costume! It had arrived from China! It was a St. Patrick’s Day miracle!

 

The dancer was really, really happy to have a costume that actually fit (and that had legs). She looked super cute in the outfit when we performed on March 20. As an added bonus, a bunch of people in the audience told me after the show that the number with all the animal pajamas had been their favorite part.

 

We’re going to take this number to the Regional Championships in November, and now I HAVE ALL THE COSTUMES AND WON’T NEED TO TRY TO ORDER ANY MORE PAJAMAS FROM CHINA.

owl2web

But I’m sure, in a couple years, I’ll come up with some new crazy scheme and have to do this all over again.

Owl I Want Is You

owls

Every year, my dance school puts on a stage show in March, featuring Irish stories told through stepdancing and music. It’s a great way for my students to really show off their creative sides, since they get to act as well as dance. We use special costumes and props, and sometimes we even have sets. The shows are a lot of work to put on, but I love doing them.

This year, one of the numbers is about the Dublin Zoo. I decided that the dancers playing the animals at the zoo would look really cute in animal pajamas, and it just so happens that there’s a craze for animal pajamas (called kigurumi) in Asia. That means that you can buy these big, baggy pajamas shaped like just about any animal you can think of online. There are even whole sites dedicated to selling  these pajamas. Perfect, right?

After reading reviews of some of these sites, however, I was worried about buying the pajamas through them (there were multiple horror stories about goods never arriving, money never being returned for damaged goods, etc). So I decided to go through Amazon instead, which not only was a known company, but has a generous return policy and good customer service.

Since Amazon is kind of like the online version of a giant bazaar, though, buying the pajamas I wanted wasn’t as easy as all that. It required a couple hours of sifting through products, reading reviews, seeing what sizes I would need, finding out which vendors had those sizes, finding out which vendors could get me the pajamas before the date of my show (since the pajamas were mostly coming from China), etc. Also, I discovered that I wouldn’t be able to get all the animals I was looking for from one vendor.

But eventually I was able to find two vendors who had all the animals and sizes I needed between them, and I placed the order. For a little extra in shipping, I was also able to guarantee that the pajamas would arrive before our next rehearsal, which was great.

One of the vendors was based in China, the other in the US. Interestingly, the package from China arrived first, and the pajamas were just as adorable as they looked in the pictures. They were much bigger and baggier than I expected, making me a little worried about dancing in them–the owl pajamas especially looked enormous–but I figured we could always alter them if we had to.

The package from the American vendor arrived a couple days later, and at our next practice all the dancers got to try the costumes on. They looked great!

The only problem was the enormous owl costume from the Chinese vendor. It was supposed to be a child XL, but when our tiny dancer tried it on, she was completely swamped in it. It looked even bigger than the adult Small owl costumes that two older girls were wearing (which I’d gotten from the American vendor). There was no way she was going to be able to dance in it, or even walk around without tripping all over the gigantic legs.

But one wrong size out of 11 pairs of pajamas ain’t bad, and everybody else’s costume seemed to fit. Through Amazon’s website, I contacted the vendor and explained that we seemed to have been sent an adult-sized owl costume instead of a child-sized one. How could we exchange it?

After a delay due to the time difference between the US and China, I received this reply:

“Dear buyer, can take a photo to me see?I’m not sure if the warehouse send the wrong goods”

I must admit that I groaned at this reasonable request, since March is so busy for us that I already have five times as many things to do every day than I can actually get done, but after a day I managed to get a minute to take the pictures and send them off.

OwlCostume1web

The owl on the left is the one from the Chinese vendor; the one on the right is the Adult Small from the American vendor. Definitely not a Child XL. But aren’t they cute?

Would it be possible to get the child XL by March 10? I asked. Our performance was the following weekend, and I was starting to freak out a little bit about having the costume in time.

I received this reply:

I’m really sorry, we have only this size, the owl other size didn’t goods, we return to you the owl’s money, $32.31, then you go to other places to buy, ok?

I was not exactly excited to see this email. It meant that I had to go back through the whole process of looking on Amazon for child-sized owl pajamas, then seeing which vendors had the child XL, then seeing which vendors could get them to me by March 10, then reading reviews of the vendors to see which seemed the most reliable, and then saying a little prayer before actually placing the order, because if this didn’t work I was going to have one tiny owl with no costume come showtime.

The whole time I was grumbling, “If they only have one size of owl pajamas, why did they bother putting a drop-down menu with different sizes on their page?!?”

But by tonight, when I decided to blog about it, I was smiling every time I thought of the email. Really, it’s one of the cutest, friendliest emails I’ve ever gotten from a vendor.

So thank you, friendly vendor, for getting me my order so unbelievably quickly (it takes 2 weeks for us to get shoes from Ireland, and you got our order to us from China in a little over 2 days!). The two sets of monkey pajamas you sent were perfect, and the dancers are very excited to perform in them. And since the owl pajamas you sent are my size, maybe I’ll just keep them for myself. They are pretty adorable, and I bet it’s hard to feel stressed out when you’re dancing around at home in an owl-shaped adult onesie.

Movie Review: Hail, Caesar!

caesar

I went to see the Coen Brothers’ latest film, Hail, Caesar!, this weekend. I’m kind of on the fence when it comes to the Coen Brothers. I like O Brother, Where Art Thou?, The Big Lebowski, and Intolerable Cruelty, but I really didn’t understand Fargo, Miller’s Crossing, or The Man Who Wasn’t There (which I think, in film circles, disqualifies me from ever being a real movie critic). So I really wasn’t sure if I was going to like this new movie or not.

I liked it! Mostly.

The film is about Eddie Mannix, a movie studio “handler” in the 1950’s, played by a fabulous Josh Brolin. Mannix’s job is to protect the studio’s stars from themselves and the studio from scandal. As he goes about his action-packed day at Capitol Studios, we are treated to cameo-laden homages/parodies of various 50’s-era films: Scarlett Johansson as an Esther Williams-type synchronized swimmer; Channing Tatum as a Gene Kelly-type song-and-dance man; and George Clooney as a Roman centurion in a sweeping Biblical epic. If you love both classic movies and modern movies like I do, these little scenes are totally worth the price of admission.

The main plot centers around the kidnapping of Clooney’s character. With this plot, I was hoping for an exciting whodunnit (I love mysteries), but you find out relatively quickly who the kidnappers are, and the revelation is a disappointment (it was for me, anyway). I think the situation with the kidnappers is supposed to be funny, but I found it awkward, dry, and waaaaayyyy too long. Even the reveal of the Big Bad at the very end (and what happens to the Big Bad) isn’t very exciting, and it doesn’t really make sense. I found myself wondering if they could have just cut out that part of the plot altogether–which is always an issue when you’re talking about the main plot.

But there were so many funny moments that it almost didn’t matter if the plot made sense. There’s a great scene where Ralph Fiennes, as an elegant, sophisticated director, is trying to teach a Roy Rogers-type singing cowboy how to say his lines correctly in a drawing-room drama. In another, George Clooney’s centurion is reacting to seeing the face of Christ in the Biblical epic, and you can hear the director shouting in the background, “Squint more! But with grandeur!” And the film’s climatic moment is fantastic–but I won’t spoil it for you.

If you’ve never seen any movies from the 1950’s (Ben Hur, On The Town, Trigger, Jr), you probably won’t like this. And if you’ve never seen a Coen Brothers movie before, I don’t know that this should be your first one (I’m not sure which one SHOULD be your first one; I think mine was Raising Arizona, which was pretty good, but opinions are as varied as the Coens’ movies themselves).

But if you like classic movies and you like “lighter” Coen Brothers movies, give Hail, Caesar! a try.

2011 St. Patrick’s Day Season, Day 7

Originally written March 15, 2011.

Why is my cat so in love with my dress bag? Whenever I’m careless enough to put it somewhere she can reach it, she rubs herself all over it and then crawls under or behind it, purring like a diesel engine the whole time.

I know that part of the attraction is the fabric of the bag. She’s all white, and the bag is black, and (while I know that cats are supposed to be colorblind) she really seems to prefer shedding on dark fabrics. Also, the bag is made of heavy cotton, and cat hairs stick to it very well. Again, she tends to like lying on fabrics that her fur sticks to. Some of our chairs look like they’re made of white angora.

What I can’t figure out is how she always knows when I’ve put the bag where she can get to it. This morning, for instance, I was getting ready for our first show, and the cat was nowhere to be seen. Normally, she gets up with my husband and follows him around while he gets ready, and then she waits for me to get up and do my morning routine. My morning routine includes changing her water and feeding her, and once I’ve done that, she usually wants me to pet her.

This morning, however, I hadn’t seen the cat at all. I’d gotten up, watered the plants, changed the cat’s water, fed the cat, cleaned out her litter box, had breakfast, and stretched, and not a sign of her. Lulled into a false sense of security, I took the dress bag out of the closet and hung it on the closet door so I wouldn’t forget it when I left. I brushed my teeth, which takes about two minutes, and when I put down the tooth brush, there she was, INSIDE the dress bag, since I’d naively left it unzipped. I hadn’t even seen her get in.

And of course she was purring.

We had two shows today. The first was at an Alzheimer’s care facility in Highlands Ranch. We’ve danced there annually for almost ten years now, and it’s a show I enjoy. The facility is bright, welcoming, and interesting; the whole front area inside the building is designed to look like a main street, with a lamp post in the middle of the big foyer and a little “shops” lining the hallways, like a hair stylist and a candy shop. Alzheimer’s care centers are some of the most heartbreaking places we visit, but at this facility I can tell that the residents are well-cared for and as content as they can be.

The second show was at a senior center we hadn’t danced at before. It seemed like a nice enough place, and the organizers and residents both appeared to enjoy the performance. We had to be careful while we were dancing, though: in the dining room where we were performing, each individual table had its own light, which was dropped down from the ceiling. The tables had been pushed out of the way for our show, but the lights remained, and the decorative knob on the bottom of each light was less than six feet off the ground. Since Phil is 6’ or a little taller, we were worried that he was going to run into one of the lights and knock himself silly. It probably wouldn’t be good for the light bulb, either.

So we laid our show boards on the floor between a couple sets of lights and told Phil he couldn’t dance off the boards. That gave him about 10’ side to side to dance in, which is tight, but he managed it, and both Phil and the lights survived the show unscathed.

After the second show, we headed back to the studio to do a dress rehearsal for our annual stage show. A dress rehearsal is always kind of an exercise in organized chaos, where almost forty people are getting dressed at the same time and finding out that their tights have runs, their tights are too small, they don’t have any tights; that their bra doesn’t work under their leotard; that their jacket clashes with their pants. You assign people to help with these problems while you, dressed in your outrageous goth fairy/Lady Gaga outfit, run back and forth fetching wigs, veils, headbands, safety pins, and scripts. There are customers in the store who aren’t from your school, and you hope that they have no idea who you are.

Once everyone is dressed, you run through the whole show, where you find out that there isn’t enough time for one of your main characters to change her shoes and her costume between numbers. Since you haven’t ever run some of the numbers back-to-back before, no one has realized that they need to be sidestage at a particular time, and as their music is playing, they are all sitting next to you, looking at the empty stage. The set takes up too much of the stage for your big finale. The beautiful fairy wings won’t work for the audience participation number, because they tend to poke people’s partners in the face.

By the end of the evening, you have a tic in the side of your face and you wonder if it isn’t too late to become a hermit.

Seriously, though—while dress rehearsals do tend to be chaotic, this one was also really good! I was exhausted by the end of it, but also very happy. It’s going to be a good show. I love all my dancers.

Tomorrow, I have four shows, and somewhere in there I’ve got to find some time to make the show layouts for the twenty shows we have on Thursday. Cue hysterical laughter. This was the year I promised myself I wasn’t going to get behind like this. Yeah, right. : )

Movie Review: Deadpool

popcornhttps://pixabay.com/en/food-popcorn-snack-movie-corn-eat-686922/

My husband and I went to see Deadpool on Valentine’s Day, because nothing is more romantic than seeing a violent comic book movie with your sweetheart (although, since the movie we saw on our first date was Scream, maybe what we consider romantic is different than normal).

 

In case you saw the previews for Deadpool and were wondering if you should go see it, here is a handy moviegoer’s guide.

 

DO NOT GO AND SEE THIS MOVIE if you:

 

  1. Are under the age of 17. Seriously, parents, Deadpool is rated R for a reason. See the other items below.
  2. Dislike profanity. The creators of Deadpool really felt like the character needed to be in an R-rated movie, and they made sure that they would get an R by filling every other sentence with such a variety of cuss words and crude references that I don’t think they’ll ever be able to show this movie on broadcast television. They’d have to bleep half the dialogue.
  3. Dislike nudity in movies. There is not as much nudity as there is profanity, thank goodness, but there’s enough.
  4. Dislike sex in movies. See item #3 and the note in #2 about the creators making sure they got an R rating. Boy, did they make sure.
  5. Dislike violence. There is A LOT of violence. Also a lot of death, dismemberment, and over-the-top CGI action sequences. I don’t want to give anything away by describing some of the fight scenes, but a detailed description would involve using the word “decapitations,” a plural that usually only gets used in movies about the French Revolution.
  6. Dislike crudity. Sometimes it feels like the movie was written by 12-year-old boys trapped in adult screenwriters’ bodies. There are some extra non-PC moments/characters, too.
  7. Prefer movies that have multiple female characters who talk to each other. This movie has two female characters who punch each other—does that count?
  8. Prefer movies with sweeping cinematography and storylines that explore social issues and the characters’ innermost fears and desires. This is a raunchy action movie starring a comic book character.

 

 

If you made it through the list above and are still here, then Deadpool is for you!

 

I really enjoyed it. It was fast-paced, funny, and full of references to other comic book movies (including Wolverine, in which Ryan Reynolds previously played Deadpool, and Green Lantern, where Reynolds played the lead). For people like my husband and me who’ve seen a lot of comic book movies, the references were fun, but they’re done in passing (so you don’t have to be a comic book fan to like the film).

 

Ryan Reynolds is perfect as the foulmouthed super-anti-hero. He’s charming and believable, and his comic timing is great. The writers gave him (and all the other characters) snappy dialogue that really works for the irreverent, over-the-top tone of the movie, and all the actors seem to really get into their characters. Ed Skrein, the British actor playing bad guy Francis “Ajax” Freeman, is delightfully loathsome as a supervillain, and Morena Baccarin (formerly of Firefly) is excellent (and surprisingly sweet, given the kind of movie it is) as Deadpool’s girlfriend.

 

There are a bunch of fun side characters, including X-Man Colossus (who is pretty much the opposite of Deadpool in every way), and the action sequences are good. The action was sometimes a little too CGI-heavy for my tastes—I really prefer solid stuntwork over camera tricks and computer graphics—and I would happily have cut out most of the cussing (although it was interesting waiting to see what off-the-wall combination of cusswords they would throw together next. It was almost like they had a profanity slot machine and were pulling the lever to randomly assemble terms).

 

However, overall it was exciting and fun, with characters you end up rooting for, a solid plot, and a satisfying ending. I’ll see it again, and it’s definitely good enough to deserve a sequel.

2011 St. Patrick’s Day Season, Day 6

My husband’s birthday is March 14, which is one of those little ironies that prove the universe has a sense of humor. It would be like someone with an April birthday marrying an accountant. There have been years where the St. Patrick’s Day Parade has fallen on March 14, and there have been years where I’ve had so many performances on that day that we had to celebrate his birthday some other day.

This year, we only had a couple shows, and my sister was super nice and offered to lead them so I could take the day off. It was great. My husband took the day off, too, and we got some chores done, had lunch out, took a nap, and watched a movie. Now I feel rested and ready for the busy few days ahead.

My sister said her shows went well today, although she did have a couple funny stories:

The first one had to do with a dog at the nursing home they danced at this morning. A lot of nursing homes have dogs or cats to interact with the residents. Well, this one came around a corner unexpectedly right as our dancer Phil was dancing close to the doorway, and it got scared and started barking at Phil. That was a new one. I feel bad for Phil, because he seems to attract this kind of thing. Once, a resident with a walker took a dislike to him and hit him with her walker. That wasn’t a good show.

After their performance, the organizer came up and asked if the dancers would go visit one of the residents who was bedridden. They all went to his room and did a couple jig steps for him, and he seemed very appreciative. He said that he’d like to talk to the dancers for a minute. They came up close to his bedside, and he said, “Kids, I’m stuck in this dang bed because I didn’t pay close attention to my cholesterol. Don’t you make the same mistake! Always get your cholesterol checked.”

See? Shows are both fun AND educational.