how to pretend you care about football

Cesar and me are ready for the game!So you’ve been invited to a friend’s house to watch the football game on their ginormous TV. Everyone is going, and you don’t feel like sitting at home alone.

I’ll never be an expert, by any definition, of any sport, but I do have some expertise in pretending to care.

First, a little insight into my own level of knowledge of the game of football, and then a few tips for getting through enjoying the game, or at least letting your friends think you do:

Some years ago,

I was late for my first date with a man who ended up being my boyfriend for an eternity. “I’m so sorry,” I said as I sidled up next to him at the bar (classy date, huh?). “I just had to watch the end of the football game. I know it’s only pre-season, but so-and-so is back from injuries and I wanted to see how he’d do.”

Condescending look. “That’s okay,” he said, “How did he do?”

I went into a two-minute recap of a game it turned out he’d watched in its entirety at that same bar. As I spoke, he had a look of increasing surprise, and when I finished he said, with a tone of incredulity, “You really do know football!”

So I know a little. However, I could have grasped only one fact about football — where the fifty-yard line is — and he would have been equally amazed. My point being, you’re probably not facing great expectations, and I can help you meet them.

50 yard line US Football s
Damn right you should be impressed.

Okay, that’s tip #1, illustrated. The fifty-yard line is smack-dab in the middle of the field going the long way. Once you’ve got that one down, here’s how to further pretend you love the game:

#2 Wear team colors

in some sort of tacky fashion. Mismatched socks will do. This will take a little pre-game research, but it’s important if for no other reason than you shouldn’t be wearing the other team’s colors.

#3 Bring a beastly yet delicious snack treat

and call it your “traditional football (name of food).” Don’t over-think this one. Remember, football fans love melted Velveeta cheese mixed with canned chili. The bar is not set high.

#4 Listen to the others gripe about the game,

and take your cues for shaking your head and saying, “you are SO right about THAT!” This tip is a little tricky since someone may ask a for a follow-up, so only do it if you dare.

#5 Every time you hear someone on TV say,

“it’s first and ten…”  yell, “FIRST AND TEN! DO IT AGAIN!”

(If someone points out the other team has the ball, smile sheepishly and say, “just another chance for our guys to sack the quarterback.” What that answer lacks in logic it makes up for with perceived quick thinking and advanced beginner knowledge.)

#6 Forget it.

You’re not fooling anyone. Take out your cell phone and text all your real friends about how bored you are.


Image Credit: (football field, w/o writing) © gomolach — Fotolia


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back to school

This week the children in my area go back to school.

Of course that brings back memories of my own school days. Kindergarten, when we all had bird stickers to identify the cubby where we hung up our jackets and placed our lunch boxes. (My bird was a Baltimore Oriole.) Lunch boxes, perhaps with Barbie or Mickey Mouse, their thermoses and the way they smelled. The daily peanut butter & jelly sandwiches.

first grade
Me in first grade.

First grade and learning to read. “See Tag. See Tag Run. Run, Tag, Run.” I already knew how to read and zipped through that book in a flash. My teacher didn’t know what to do with me. It remained that way all through grade school.

Second grade, we’d moved cross-country, so a new school. Sixth grade, another new school. High school, going from our small K-8 to the very large school “in town.” College, first a community college, then away in the dorms, then at a local university at night while I worked full-time.

I miss it and I don’t. I miss the special day of shopping with my mom when I was in grade school, picking out patterns for dresses she’d make, choosing the new shoes I’d have to break in. When I was in college, seeing the syllabus and believing this semester everything would be done on time, the books read, the tests prepared for, the papers written, no last minute panic.

Yes. I have those dreams where I didn’t go to school all semester and now it’s finals. More often, I have dreams that no matter how hard I try, I cannot succeed in college. At some point in my sleepy state I stop getting frustrated and say, “why am I doing this? I already have a degree.”

(Probably a good thing I have no training in psychology or I’d be analyzing myself into a frenzy trying to figure that one out. The broad meaning might be clear to experts, but the application in my life would probably elude me.)

crayons lightstock_142210_medium_user_7579580 lr
© Alex Workman – Lightstock

I still like learning. I like being challenged. I take online courses, both credit and non-credit, whenever I can. I’d like to brush up on my French, or more practically, learn Spanish.

If I lived closer to my mom, I’d take her shopping for some new shoes and go to lunch like we used to when I was little. Those outings meant a lot to her, and a trip like that would do my heart some good.

facing loss

My stepdad died suddenly at the age of 51.

Initially I was so caught up in notifying friends & family, making sure we had enough soft drinks & water for everyone who stopped by, and convincing the pastor of the church Jerry grew up in she should allow us to hold the service there I didn’t stop to cry.

It wasn’t until the afternoon of the third day after his death I slowed down enough to go home, sit on my sofa and…let go. Then I remembered one more call needed to be made, to our friend Sue, who was also a top stylist at a local salon. Many of my family were clients of hers, including Jerry, and she’d grown up with my aunt as well as his niece. Sue was in a meeting, and I asked to wait, even though they tried to get me to leave a message.

spattered heartFinally, I said, “This really isn’t something I can leave a message about.” I hesitated. “Sue’s a friend of the family, and one of the family just died.”  I started crying. By the time Sue got on the phone, I had pulled myself together enough to tell her what had happened. She began crying and we said good-bye.

I leaned back on my sofa and turned on the TV. This was back in the 80s, when MTV and VH1 actually played music videos all day long. I turned the channel to VH1. Almost immediately one of my favorite songs of that spring was playing. It’s not about losing someone to dying, it’s about the loss of love, but at that point loss was loss. I didn’t stop crying for more than an hour. It was a good thing. I needed to cry.

Yet another friend of mine is facing the end of his marriage.

I saw him today, and the sadness in his eyes reminded me of that day. He said he hadn’t been sleeping much lately; I told him to take a Sunday afternoon nap. I wish I knew of a song that would help him sleep just as this video helped me cry.

To all my friends or anyone this blog reaches, I pray you find a way to cry when you need to cry, and a way to sleep when you need to sleep. God be with you.

Image Credit: (Weeping Heart, top) Spattered Heart © stoekenbroek — Fotolia; Sky Background © Pakhnyushchyy — Fotolia; Raindrops © Naeblys — Fotolita

where I am, who I am

(c) Belinda Ostrowski

Apparently, by modern definition, I am a cat lady.

I have two, and according to a recent New York Times article, that’s all it takes. Back in the day, it was somewhere in the double digits. Okay, maybe less than that, but having two cats then was called being a pet owner.

Walter Kitty
Walter, the cat who melts in your lap

So now, add “cat lady” to never married and avid knitter. Let’s not forget I lived with my mother for a time. Laughably, I fit a stereotype I can only hope is now as outdated as the former definition of “cat lady.”

If not, so be it. I fit it on paper only. I’m not to be pitied or mocked. Yes, I do get lonely at times. Everybody does. I remind myself then how many people my age are single for one reason or another, or worse yet, in bad marriages. Quite frankly, my situation is better than many, and not worse than most.

It took me years…

…to genuinely realize I’m valued and appreciated by others, and how essential true friendship is to contentment in life, how key it is to have people around me I can relax with and not fret about whether I’ve said or done the wrong thing.

I’ve learned to stay away from people who make me feel bad, whether or not it appears to be their fault. Sometimes I’ve taken the blame for things I’m not responsible for and find myself crashing and burning trying to right a wrong situation when the blame lies elsewhere.

In the past, and to a lingering extent still today, I tended to focus on the negative and be suspicious of sincere offers of friendship. What’s more, I always believed it was impossible for a man of worth to love me. Now, I apologize to any man out there who may have wanted to date me but didn’t because of the wall I put up. I never considered it this way before, but that’s a pretty rude attitude on my part.

I’m a bit offbeat, and happy about it.

There is somewhat of a dichotomy here, a flip side to that deeply held insecurity. On my best days, after a little mirror time, I’m confident in my appearance. I know I’m personable, kind, and empathetic. As one former boyfriend once told me (and although he meant it as a slam, I took it as a high compliment), I’m also a bit offbeat, and happy about it. In other words, I do have a fair amount of confidence in myself when I call on it.

That growth in attitude doesn’t change what I’ve done to get me where I am today. I can walk out the door, spinning on my heels with the belief I’m a brunette heartbreaker with the intellect and wisdom of, well, None Other, and thinking, men, I challenge you to be strong enough to take me on. (I have to clarify – I absolutely do not do that, and if I did, I can guarantee you with my next step I would, characteristically, slip on a banana.)  It wouldn’t instantly bring me what I may desire at that moment.

Here’s the thing:

I like cats, love mine, and I love to knit.  I wouldn’t give them up, the cats or the yarn, just because they might make me look laughable to someone cocky enough to think he or she will never be an object of scorn.

I am where I am because of who I am, along with the choices I’ve made and the choices made for me, twists and turns in life I have no knowledge of because they took place before they could be visible. I’ve made the life I have the way it is in part because that is the life I’ve wanted.

I believe in the power of subtle changes…In the meantime, I’m content.

A few years ago I had a glimpse of what it would be like to have someone in my life to be a support when I needed it most. I’ve handled sad and difficult situations on my own for so long that having someone by my side was new to me. It turned me around in the way I think about relationships, and I started to open up to the whole idea of something permanent.

Of course it doesn’t change the route I’ve taken to get where I am today, the reasons why and the consequences thereof. Being open to something doesn’t mean it will or even should happen, and I’m still not sure what I ultimately want. I have a comfortable lifestyle created from living alone.

Some of my family who have always been there -- and always will be.
Some of my family who have always been there — and always will be.

Yes, there are days when I sink into sad thoughts, but I know enough to realize a little time and maybe a good night’s sleep will bring me back to myself.

I believe in the power of subtle changes. In the meantime, I’m content with what I’ve been given, the friends and family who never fail me.

Just don’t expect me to ever change how I think about my cats. Only two, mind you, only two.

how to effectively waste your time

Thankfully, I had to think about this one.

Sadly, there came a point when the ideas, all based on real-life (mine), came a’tumblin. For the record, I haven’t done everything on this list — at least not #4.

Anyway, here are some ideas for how to effectively waste your time:

1. Write your acceptance speech for your Academy Award.

Then give it — tears and all — to your pets, stuffed animals or your own image in the mirror.

2. Play computer solitaire.

This is an old-time favorite, and there are plenty of newer or more complex games out there as well. But I chose this because a friend of mine (friend — yeah, right. no — really.) has played an incredible number of games, as evidenced here. (I wrote the number really large. You may have to click on the picture to believe it.)

Number of solitaire games my friend has played as of August 2015.
Number of games my friend has played as of August 2015.
3. Take selfies. Lots and lots of them.

I started to take a bunch of myself and post them here, then I remembered photos from these posts end up on Google Images under your name (check it out if you don’t believe me).

4. Oh yes, check Google Images for the disconcerting pictures that come up under your name.

Then check all your friends’ names & images. Then save some of the more intriguing images, e-mail them to the corresponding friend and ask them what it’s all about.

5. Make endless amounts of bookmarks.

Fifteen years ago I discovered blank bookmarks at a craft store, along with small stencils & stencil paint. I had a couple dozen pots of paint, about eight stencil sheets and a handful of brushes. I made more than 200 bookmarks, and it’s taken me all this time to get rid of half of them. And, I laminated as many as I could. This is a portion of what I have left:

bookmarks sm

6. Watch my all-time favorite YouTube animal video.

It’s mesmerizing:

Goats on Sheet Metal

Before you judge me,

I know you have a list. I’d love to hear it.

Caged — a Guest Post

Today I’m honored to share a post by guest blogger, Arpita Pramanick.

Arpita is a talented author and recently published a collection of her insightful and sensitive short stories, “Bound by Life,” available through Amazon Kindle.I asked Arpita if she would write something for followers of my blog because I see such kindness and thoughtfulness in her writing, qualities I always wish to emulate. What follows Guest Postis a true story about a little girl in her neighborhood in India.

Caged

When I was in high school, Nisha and her family came to live in the flat apartment opposite to ours. Both the families lived on the first floor and our balcony faced theirs. Nisha was probably three or four at the time. She was thin, fair, as cute as a four year old can be and a chatterbox. She wouldn’t stop talking at all. She wasn’t going to school yet. All through the day she squatted in her balcony, watching over everyone who passed our street.

She called out to the ladies and gentlemen in the neighbourhood, the hawkers who came to sell utensils or vegetables and asked everyone how they were doing. Not a single person could pass the street without being accosted by her. Whenever my mother went to the balcony to hang wet clothes on the rope or to water our potted plants, Nisha would cry, “Aunty! What are you doing?” At times, my mother wouldn’t go to the balcony for fear of being held up by the tiny-tot and getting delayed in finishing up her chores.

Soon, Nisha became the most talked about personality in the neighbourhood. If for a day the family went anywhere, we would miss Nisha terribly. It would be like the street had become empty.

One day, I watched Nisha’s mother scream at Nisha from our window. A few minutes later I saw Nisha coming out of the apartment. Her mother shut the door on her face. The little girl kept knocking, begging her mother to let her in. When her mother did not listen, she went and sat on the stairs. She sat quietly the entire time, like she saw no point in crying out anymore.

I watched her sadly, but did not dare to call out. What kind of parent shuts the door on a four year-old’s face? Her mother wasn’t exactly a friendly neighbour, so nobody dared or cared to ask her for the reason.

After a few months, I started college in a different city. I moved there.

When I came home during vacations, I heard Nisha had started school.

“Her mother doesn’t let her talk to anyone anymore,” my mother said as she served me hot fritters – my favourite snacks with dinner.

“What do you mean her mother doesn’t let her talk to anyone?” I said, looking up.

“Well, who knows! Earlier, her mother used to talk to me, but now she’s changed.”

“Queer!”

“Yeah. They don’t communicate with anyone from the neighbourhood.”

Over the period of four years of college, I saw less and less of Nisha. She did not come out to the balcony anymore. Once or twice I found her out on the street with a few kids of her age, but those were perhaps the only time she came out. I wondered if she had grown shy or it was really her mother who stopped her from mixing.

When there is a sapling growing in your yard and you obstruct its growth, either it becomes stunted or breaks through the barrier. It was yet to be seen what became of Nisha.

When I returned home after completing college on a few weeks’ break, there was an addition to Nisha’s family – a pair of parrots. They stayed in a cage in the balcony, where I was used to seeing Nisha formerly.

If I woke up early enough, I saw Nisha waiting with her mother near their gate for her school car. She wore a blue and white uniform, one I had left years back. She must already be in the third grade. Since they didn’t talk with us, we had no way of knowing.

One evening, I was about to go to the market with my mother. When we went downstairs, we found Nisha waiting at their gate. She was dressed, perhaps to go someplace. Her parents were still upstairs.

Nisha waved at me. I waved back. She had this angelic smile on her face. After all these years of non-contact, I was delighted at her easy approach. My mother went ahead to speak with her. I wasn’t sure her parents would like it, so I stood where I was checking whether they came out or not.

My mother and Nisha conversed in whispers. I stood still like I was an accomplice in some crime and hoped my mother would come away soon. Why did she need to speak to the girl, anyway? Nisha’s mother won’t probably say anything to my mom, but she might make Nisha stand outside the door once more.

Just then I saw Nisha’s father come out and fiddle at the door. Maybe he was waiting to lock the door after his wife came out. My mother had never said anything about Nisha’s father opposing her free mixing with neighbours. In fact, once when I was home during my college days, we met the father and the daughter on the road and he was very cordial. But you couldn’t trust people to stay the same always. Plus, Nisha’s mother was going out too, and as far as I knew, the mother was the boss of the house.

“Mom,” I hissed, “let’s go.”

My mother returned in moments. I was glad Nisha’s father hadn’t looked down.

As we walked on my mother said, “I asked her if her mother forbade her to talk to us.”

“Yeah? What did she say?”

“She said yes and then said, ‘You go now, my mother is coming’ when she heard the door being locked. Poor girl!”

“Poor indeed! She wants to talk – she waved at me first.”

“Yeah, that she does whenever she thinks she’s alone.”

When I was younger I wanted to have parrots as pets. In the drawing classes, I drew parrots at every chance I got. I don’t know when the fascination for pets vanished. It must have been those stories I read about animal rights. I accepted it was unfair to cage animals and birds, but I never quite realized it until I saw the parrots in Nisha’s balcony.

One afternoon, suffering from post-college blues, I sat pensively in my balcony. The parrots in Nisha’s balcony caught my attention. Nisha’s father was painting the cage as the birds thrashed up and down. What did it matter to the birds whether the cage was violet or black?

Caged brain inside a male head

Long after Nisha’s father had retreated, the birds kept moving to and fro in the cage. Suddenly, I imagined myself inside the cage – and felt myself walking in that confined space. Claustrophobia embraced me with its gnarled tentacles. I had difficulty breathing. What a terrible place must the cage be for the birds! What a terrible place must Nisha’s home be for her – with only two rooms to move about and two people to converse with!

As I mused, I watched a cat crawl up a Neem tree in a neighbour’s yard. The cat stayed at the crotch of the tree for a while and then came down. Its simple act left a mark on my mind. I wondered why it climbed up the tree. Was it enjoying the view from the top? What made it come down moments later? What really goes on in the brains of cats?

For that matter, what really goes on in the brains of men and women? What makes Nisha’s mother restrict her child from communicating with us? What makes people cage birds? What makes them cage themselves within the four walls of their homes?

Arpita Pramanick

Image Credit: © Adrian Niederhäuser – Fotolia.com

bottom line: my life is better with cats

If you know me at all, you know this post was inevitable. Yes, I’m one of those – a cat lover.

walter kitty sm
Walter

I’m not going to say “cat lady,” because that sounds like I have 17 cats in my house on the outskirts of town where I play Bobby Darin records, eat bon-bons and watch game shows. Alone.

Right now that sweet little guy on the left, Walter, is trying to get settled in my lap as I sit at my desk and type this post. He’s my snuggler, the first lap cat I’ve ever had.

They soothe me. When I’m stressed, lonely or despairing, they’re there to protect me from all evil.

Like so many cat lovers, I want to show my appreciation for them. In my home, I have to keep myself from over-decorating my apartment in cat-themed art. It’s really startling to one day look around and lose count of how many inanimate cats there are in your home.

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Mimi

I decided it was time to move away from it, and at the same time look for something I hadn’t tried at all before, Modern Art.

I thought, check out Andy Warhol. Guess what I found out? Mr. Warhol did a whole series of cat pictures. I now have a print of one in my bedroom. It’s called “So Meow” and the colors are perfect. I’m not sure if I won or lost with that one. Let’s face it, wherever I go, the cats are going to pull me in,

Almost twenty years ago I picked up the cat of my heart, Paco. I love every cat who’s ever been a part of my life, but Paco was special. We were both lonely souls at the time who desperately needed each other. I saved him, and he saved me. It was a bond I don’t expect to have again.

When I got him, he was the squirreliest looking thing ever — great big ears, great big paws, a great big tail and scrawny everything else. Kind of like an awkward teenager, although at first I simply thought I’d inherited a homely cat.

Paco, sometime between really squirrelly-looking and beautiful.
Paco, sometime between really squirrelly-looking and beautiful.

“Mom,” I said in a panic when I called her. “He’s so funny looking and he ignores me!”

“I’m sure he’s not that funny looking,” she replied, “and he just needs to get used to his new home.”

Right on the second part, wrong on the first. But eventually he grew into the big beautiful cat he remained until he died at the age of 16.

Paco would sit at the door and wait for me to come home at night. I moved in with my mom for a short time, and she said he got in place about 30 minutes before I was expected home. I made sure I was never late.

One weekend I visited my brother out of town. I left at the usual time in the morning with a bag Paco didn’t recognize. My mom told me (after I got home) that he waited for me until 10:30 that night, until she finally picked him up and brought him into the living room to sit next to her. He pretty much stayed there until I came home. Then he was really mad at me, and hissed for an hour. Then he wouldn’t leave my side.

Montero watching Law & Order sm
Montero was a big fan of “Law and Order.” I also just realized how old my TV set is.

I’m crying a little as I write that story. I miss him, but I love my current babies, Walter & Mimi.  I hope I always have a cat in my life. These are pictures of some of those who have made my life better just by waking (me) up in the morning.

And I confess, I do listen to Bobby Darin from time to time. So do Walter & Mimi. We’re romantics. But I’m still a cat lover, not a cat lady.