Wednesday, May 27, 2009

All Ready, Mr. De Mille

A couple of weeks ago I had a wild hair (hard to believe, I know), and sent a resume in response to a casting call for an Iowa-made movie. In the end my wild hair was tamed and my cover letter was ... not as attention getting as it could have been.

Flash forward to now: I still haven't heard from that casting director and I've learned my brother (have I ever mentioned how talented and handsome he is?) will be directing a local production of The Music Man this summer. Coincidence? I don't think so.

Here is the cover letter I should have sent.

Dear Casting Director,
After missing the recent casting call in Cedar Rapids, I was excited to see you would be accepting applications by mail. This will give me a chance to put myself out there without actually, you know, putting myself out there.

In person, I can be rather reserved. But believe me, beneath this shy exterior beats the heart of a true ham. But enough of that dull, wallflower stuff! I'm ready to grab the spotlight with both hands and shake it until I'm on the cover of every supermarket tabloid!

This letter will give you a chance to slowly get to know me. You can keep it around, moving it from pile to pile, referring back to it. It will give me a chance to grow on you. I'm kind of like a pebble in your shoe: easy to miss at first, but impossible to ignore in the long run.

I think most people secretly wish for a little attention, even as they toil away in relative obscurity, keeping their heads down, trying to blend in, establishing a new level of anonymity. Except for that Unabomber guy. He really, really wanted to be left alone. Then again, if that manifesto wasn't a cry for attention, what was it?

Back to me. I realize my acting experience is limited and old. I was in all the usual high school and college productions. I played such roles as: Lady Walking Dog By Window, and Girl Number One. Speaking of that part, there is no truth to the rumor that our production of "Fieffer's People" caused IWC to close its theater department. It was merely a coincidence. Bad timing. Really.

However, to quote The Bard, "All the world's a stage," and since then I have taken on many different roles. My performances have been making people think I'm competent for years. Any Jen, Brad or Angelina can read a script and make it seem convincing. With me it's all improvisation. Extempore. All day. Every day.

You want me to act like I know what I'm doing? Hey, I'm a mom! I haven't had a clue since that first contraction. I'm a substitute teacher, for Heaven sakes -- Spreken ze Espanole? You want me to act interested? I've been to more board meetings than I can shake a stick at, and no one's ever caught me sleeping. You want me to act dumb? "Why no, Officer, I don't know what the speed limit is through here." You want me to act smart? "Yes, those pants do make your butt look smaller!"

In conclusion, all I can say is my "One Grecian Urn" will have you on your feet. "Two Grecian Urns" will make you cheer. And "A fountain"?

Trickle, trickle, trickle.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Mom-edy of Errors

To the Mom at the ice cream parlor trying to break up a "raspberry" blowing fight between her two small girls: We weren't laughing at you, we were laughing with you.

I know you weren't laughing right then, as you wiped spit off your thighs, but someday you will. Because someday you'll be out shoe shopping by yourself, and you'll hear a little voice in the next aisle say in a loud voice "Wow, those shoes are ugly." Then you'll hear an embarrassed Mom hush the child.

It will be your turn to laugh. And you will. Trust me.

You'll laugh because it was not your child that said it. It could have been. It has been. But this time is wasn't. And you'll be grateful.

I still remember dragging my two little demons through Target, wondering if I could stamp a bar code on their butts and leave them on a shelf. Just as we were about to leave I saw the World's Most Perfect Mom, along with her four adorable and well-behaved young girls.

What she would think of my two uncontrollable, arguing children? I was ready to tuck my head and run past when I realized they were having their own little "Come To Jesus" meeting -- complete with rapid finger shaking right in front of the girls' little noses, and threats of "If you ever do that again..."

She was human. Her daughters were human. I wasn't alone.

We've all had those days. I've had so many of those days that I no longer look on them as a source of frustration or embarrassment, but rather a source of encouragement and support for other parents. Whether it's an awkward child-rearing moment, or some other domestic disaster, these incidents give us all a chance to laugh at ourselves. Eventually.

All that just to set up my latest run of bad luck. A calamity of previously unimaginable proportions. A series of errors so convoluted, it could only happen to me. Or you.

We were facing a daunting evening full of activities, but I had drawn up a battle plan: Dance pictures in WL, change and race back to WB for Little League pictures, then home to change clothes and hand off the Little Princess to Dad for transport to a softball game in Cedar Rapids with the other team while I took the Little Prince to t-ball practice. I even had the first two changes of clothes with me in the car, the third was laid out at home.

What's that? The sweet sound of smug superiority? Perhaps the off-key overture of overconfidence? Whatever it was, it was soon drown out by the discord of disaster.

Oops! Missed the note about contributing to the dance teacher's gift.
Oops! The time for Little League pictures was changed, then switched to another night. Ran home to get the change of uniform while Little Princess stayed to practice.
Oops! Forgot cleats and Little Prince's t-ball gear. Back home.
Sent the Little Princess and the King off to the game. Tried to help out with Little League practice while keeping an eye on t-ball practice. Ate more than my share of gnats.
Oops! Realized Little Princess didn't have her glasses. Considered hot gluing them to her head.
Ran home to get glasses.
Oops! Forgot Little Prince's homework which would now have to be done at the ball field. Back home.
Oops! Out of gas. Filled up, drove through McDonald's.
Oops! They put the "slow" in "fast food." Made it to Cedar Rapids in time for the second game.

Somewhere along the route I managed to escape from the black cloud of doom that had been hovering over me. Perhaps it floated off while I was crawling through the one-lane, reduced speed No Work Zone on I-380. It's not like I went looking for it. I'd had enough of bad luck.

Judging from all the "thbbbbs" at ice cream parlor, that black cloud has found a new home.

For a little while.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Who's Your Mommy?

The bus was late yesterday morning. This actually worked out well, because it gave me five more minutes to yell at the Little Princess.

I don't even remember what the fuss was about. It was morning, she was being 11, I was being a Mom. Do you really need more reason than that?

It was one of those days I could identify with the wild animals that eat their young (bet they taste like chicken). Or at least those that push the pups out of the den before they become teens.

No matter what the nature shows tell you, I'm betting it's the mommy animals that run off and hide behind the trees hoping their little girl wild animals won't find them. The daddy animals are out showing the little boy animals how to operate power tools without opposable thumbs, and saying "Oh, now. You girls play nice."

Makes me wonder why the Queen Mother didn't slap a "return to sender" sticker on my forehead and arrange to ship me back via StorkEx. You see, I have reached a certain level of maturity which allows me to realize I might not have been perfect as a child. It took years for me to achieve perfection.

Maybe there's something about little girls reaching pre-adolescence that causes some sort of "Freaky Friday-" type switch. When she turns 11 (or 10, or nine?) the little girl's ability to empathize is zapped into the mom. But before anything can be zapped back, the little girl's brain holds up its hand, rolls it's eyes, says "Whatev," and stomps off.

I look at the Little Princess and all I can remember is the awful, horrible, awkwardness of being 11. The Little Princess looks at me and thinks "Yeah, right. Like you were ever 11."

But I was. And I remember what it's like to try to find a place to fit in. To want to be popular. To hate piano lessons. To have a life. To think the world revolves around me.

Of course, the world does revolve around me. Now. It took years for that to develop, too. Believe me, when you're the Center of the Universe, there's a whole asteroid belt of annoying people orbiting around you. And it's an elliptical orbit than really gets in the way when I'm driving. Or shopping. Or just about any time I'm in public.

I've read that most children go through a stage when they fantasize that the plain, ordinary people they call "mom" and "dad" aren't their real parents. Their real parents are movie stars, rockers, secret agents, or some other famous, exciting and glamorous people. They cling to the belief that some day their real parents will sweep in and rescue them from the embarrassment of "Mom" in her polyester pants. Oh yeah, today's children just think we dress dorky. They don't know the horror of pants with a sewn-in crease.

Yesterday I fantasized that a hospital official would knock on the door and say, "I'm sorry. There was a mix up in the nursery. Some children were switched at birth. These quiet, well-behaved, children who follow directions are actually yours. We'll just return those stubborn, surly kids you've been raising to their rightful parents. Sorry for the mix up."

"And by the way, Colin Firth will be along later in his Porsche to whisk you off to a private jet for a flight to a private villa in Greece, where you'll be meeting with a book publisher about your multi-million dollar contract."

Eh, as long as I'm fantasizing, might as well go all the way.

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Driving Queen Daisy

Sometimes I figure if I don't laugh, I'll cry. And I get all blotchy when I cry, so that is to be avoided at all costs. With that in mind, here's a little story from last week:

My "I'm a bad daughter" guilt was nearing bone-crushing proportions, so I borrowed a lower-riding chariot to take the Queen Mother for a ride. The QM has always enjoyed getting out to observe the kingdom, but her current lack of "up" motion and limited ability to stand once "up" has made it impossible for her to get into either of our vehicles.

It was a combination errand/lunch/sightseeing trip and the first two went pretty well. I managed to get QM into, out of, and back into the chariot without mishap and, most importantly, the coffee shop would still be open when we finished up. I was feeling a little smug.

We drove into West Branch from the west and had nearly reached the center of town, when she asked me to drive by the bank.

After I drove by the driveway, of course.

I continued on to the corner by the post office so I could go around the block and head back the way we came. She said she wanted to see the new bank, so we retraced our seven-block route out to the western edge of town. After driving out to and around the new bank, she decided that wasn't what she was looking for.

Back into town (seven blocks) and around the "old bank." Nope, this wasn't what she was looking for either. By now we were back at the corner by the post office, which I pointed out again.

We turned south toward West Liberty, and increasingly more important, toward my stress-relieving latte.

"That new building is out this way," QM said. Nope, nothing new out this way, I said. "Yes, the new post office," she said. "It's just out this way a little bit."

I "nope, no new post office"-ed and she "yes, a little bit further"-ed the entire 3.5 miles to Downey, at which point she conceded there was no new post office out that way. To erase any doubts, we retraced our route, returning to West Branch.

Back into town. Back past the Hoover Museum. Back past the post office. Around the block one more time, bringing us full circle to the post office. We turned south to head out of town once again.

I was starting to wonder if I could take my latte to the bar two doors down for a little extra stress relief.

This time we made it 1.5 miles before she asked where the Hoover Museum was.

Back into town, past the museum, past the post office, around the block, back in front of the post office. The only one we have.

Hoping the third time would be a charm, we headed out of town to the east. While she didn't say anything, I had the feeling she thought maybe the elusive new post office was out that way. However, we made it through Springdale and all the way back to West Liberty without another mention of the you-know-what.

As we entered WL from the north, she asked me to turn west. The guilty feeling returned, and I figured a short drive around town was a small penance.

"This road goes to Iowa City, doesn't it?" she asked. Yes, I replied.

"Well, maybe that new post office is out this way."

I decided to skip the latte and head straight for the bar.

When I told the Little Princess about our drive -- with my usual understated delivery -- she was overcome by the giggles.

"Keep laughing," I said. "In about 40 years, I'll be asking you to show me the new post office."

It's good to have something to look forward to.