Friday, November 17, 2006

It's Not Just a Game

Today is Game Day, which, for most of you, means absolutely nothing. I can't really do anything about that, other than to say, I hope you enjoy your day, wherever in the world you may be.

But, there are a few of you out there --- those that have thrown countless footballs into hands that you have watch grow over the years from those of a small child's to those of a young man, those of you that have walls lined with photos that mark the passing of the years by the size of the helmet, those of you that have held your breath every time you see a jersey slow to get up, those of you that have dried - and cried - tears of joy and tears of disappointment, those of you that see your children, in the faces of their children -- for you, tonight is about so much more than football.

For you, it's a lifetime of love and sacrifice, wearing a blue jersey and taking the field for what may be the very last time. It's about years of hard work, determination, tough love and never-ending support. It's about the coming of age, the end of an era, and new beginnings. For those of you that know more than the rest of us that, whatever the outcome, tonight is not "just a game", I say, I hope you enjoy the memories, wherever in the world he may end up.

Copyright 2006 by Cindy Lane. All rights reserved.

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Watch Out for That Scooter

I've mentioned several times throughout this blog that my family has a tendency to run on the crazy side, especially those related to my mother. (Yes, I realize that this places me firmly within the crazy camp.) Just this very night, I watched my mother put syrup on pancakes -- while they were still cooking in the skillet! When she realized what she had done, she said, "well, isn't this one of the craziest things I have ever done?" To which, I truthfully replied, "no, mother, it doesn't even come close."

My mother used to tell this story about how one of her relatives had his driver's license revoked, so he used his riding lawn mower to go to the store. The family finally had to take the mower away from him. If you are somehow thinking that this is not a sign of craziness, but merely a man being creative with his transportation issues, let me stop you right there. First, I challenge any of you to deny that, if you saw a man driving a lawn mower down a major thoroughfare, your first reaction wouldn't be, "look at that crazy idiot." Second, perhaps you should know that this man had his license revoked because he couldn't see to drive. Third, the family took the mower away from him, not because he was a near-blind man driving a piece of slow-moving farm equipment in rush hour traffic, but because he kept getting tickets from the police! C-R-A-Z-Y.

Up until last week, I had harbored high hopes that the crazy gene was isolated on one side of my family tree. I now know that this is not the case. Due to health problems, my daddy is unable to walk long distances, so he recently got one of those electric scooters. Since he has lost most of his peripheral vision, mother does not let him drive the car. My parents live in a neighborhood with nicely paved streets. See where I am going with this?

The other night, me, Daddy, Paula, Connie and Logan went to Sear's for a pre-Thanksgiving "after-Thanksgiving" sale. Paula and Connie took off to the Electronics Department to shop for Christmas gifts, leaving me, Logan, and Daddy to fend for ourselves, or, should I say, me and Logan to dodge Daddy.

At only 14, Logan has a very well-developed sense of humor, and, over the past couple of months, he has finely honed his reflexes. We can thank Daddy -- and his scooter -- for that last one. As Logan says, "move or be run over." Those without catlike reflexes, or, those in Daddy's peripheral field of vision, have learned this the hard way.

As Logan and I were looking at jewelry for his mother, I heard Logan say, "Oh my God, he's stuck!" I looked across the jewelry counter and saw Daddy, about 25 feet away, frantically working the controls on his scooter. He had tried to go down an aisle between a sweater display and a table holding about 100 boxes of watches, stacked in the shape of a Christmas tree. Either the aisle was too narrow or Daddy clipped the corner, because one of the rear wheels of his scooter had gotten caught on the corner of the sweater table. Daddy's dilemma was this: If he moved forward, he hit the watches. If he moved in reverse, he hit the sweaters.

While rocking back and forth can sometimes free a car tire that is stuck in the mud, I really wouldn't recommend it for scooters that are hung up in holiday displays. Logan and I stared in amazed horror as we saw the table with the watch display start to shake. Daddy, of course, was completely oblivious to the impending disaster, as he was preoccupied with catching sweaters that were falling off the table.

Had I been just another Sears shopper, I probably would have sat back and watched the drama unfold. But, as the daughter of the crazy man ramming holiday displays, I felt compelled to do something to mitigate the carnage. Since I was a good 25 feet away, my options were severely limited. When Logan, his voice full of concern, looked up at me and asked, "what do we do?", it was without the slightest bit of hesitation, that I replied, "if that watch display falls, we run!"

Amazingly, the watches came through the ordeal relatively unscathed. The sweater display -- and family members -- weren't so lucky! When I got Daddy safely home and back into his recliner, I asked him how it was that he got stuck at Sears. His response, "are you talking about when I couldn't get but halfway in the elevator and the doors kept shutting on me?" No Daddy, I must have missed that one ....

Copyright 2006 by Cindy Lane. All rights reserved.

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Oh Crappy Day

If your day starts out with you being dragged through dog shit and vomit, then, theoretically, it can only get better from there. But, all things being equal, the potential for improvement in the day does not really make up for the actuality of being bathed in bodily fluids, dog or otherwise. At least, that's how I see it. Unfortunately, this realization came to me while I was standing in a scalding hot shower, scrubbing off shit (the dog's) and vomit (mine).

I've known since Oscar Gonzales threw up in Mrs. Clary's second grade classroom that I am a sympathetic vomiter. If I hear someone vomiting, see it, or smell it, I am right there with them. Today, I learned that I have a new vomit trigger -- dog crap.

In a gigantic act of stupidity on my part, I offered to take my parents' dog, Boots, for a walk. For the visual, Boots is a chocolate lab that weighs about 80 pounds and, to put it politely, he could use about 2 years of extensive shouting, I mean, whispering from Cesar Millan. Since Boots is not exactly the poster dog for obedience school, I attached his leash to a choke collar.

Boots and I set out for a walk around my parents' subdivision. Before leaving the house, I grabbed a couple of plastic bags, not because I had any intention of scooping up dog poop, mind you, but because I wanted it to appear that way to any members of the Homeowner's Association that we might encounter along the way.

When we reached the street corner the fartherest from my parents' house, Boots decided he needed to use the bathroom. I gave him a little privacy, and as much slack as possible on the leash, and he did his business. A whole lot of business.

Since there were other people a couple of blocks from us who could potentially finger me as the non-pooper scooper, I bent down and acted like I was picking up the dog crap. I turned my head away from it, just as the guy in the Verizon truck decided to pull alongside us and compliment me on the dog. Boots took off in the direction of the Verizon truck, pulling me along with him. Unfortunately, I was still in a squatting position from my fake poop pick-up, so I had limited balance and even less leverage to pull backwards on the leash. Even more unfortunate, I had put the choke collar on backwards, rendering it totally ineffective.

I will spare you all the details, but the sequencing went pretty much like this: dog takes off; dog (and karma) drags Cindy through the poop she faked picking up; Cindy starts puking; dog keeps going; Cindy dragged through her own vomit; Verizon man takes off like a bat out of hell; Cindy walks 1/2 a mile home gagging uncontrollably and stinking of dog shit and vomit.

Copyright 2006 by Cindy Lane. All rights reserved.

Friday, November 10, 2006

Friday Night Lights

I was talking to my neighbor Dave the other day and he asked me if I had seen the new television series, Friday Night Lights, about a film crew that follows a Texas high school through football season. (The series is based on the movie of the same name.) I told Dave that I didn't need to see the movie or watch the TV show - I had lived it. I think Dave thought I was joking. Clearly, Dave has not spent much time in Texas during football season. Scratch that. Clearly, Dave has not spent any time in Texas -- at all!

I flew back to Texas on Thursday so I could watch my "nephew's" last regular season high school football game. A little over an hour after landing, I was standing in a locker room, with my parents and about 15 mothers, decorating the lockers of the football players. Thirty minutes after that, I was in a circle, holding hands with the other decorators, while some lady prayed for the Lord's protection of the team during the Game. As I was leaving the locker room, I heard one mother shout, "Ok, everyone sitting in the Spirit Section -- don't forget your cowbells." Yes, I was firmly back in the great state of Texas.

Friday morning, or, Game Day, as it is known in these parts, I woke up to find my mother baking brownies for the team, something she has done every week during football season for the past two years. In my mother's mind, there is a direct relationship between her baked goods and the team's near perfect record. The team has lost only one game in 2 years -- and that was during the state playoffs last year. There has been some talk that the season-ending defeat, which, literally, came in the last second of the ballgame, was somehow tied to a new cookie recipe that my mother tried out. 2005 will always be remembered in our home as the year we didn't go to State because of mother's cookies. She threw out the recipe and, for good measure, the pan too!

While mother was busy baking up another win, Daddy and I went to get the BBQ for the tailgate party. We arrived at the stadium a couple of hours before the game started, to find the tailgate party in full swing. There was enough BBQ, chili, and taco soup to feed a small army, which is good, because that's exactly how many that showed up.

I really don't know how to describe the phenomenon that is Texas high school football to someone that has never experienced it. In fact, I don't know if it can be done. The movie, Friday Night Lights, came pretty close, but anyone from Texas could spot the film's biggest blunder -- no bonfire. There simply has to be a bonfire before the Big Game. No bonfire. No Big Game. No Texas high school football. (In Texas, every football game is known as "the Game." During regular season, the stress is on the word "game." If you are playing the town rivals, you put the stress on the word "the." If you are in the state playoffs, then both words are stressed. If you make it to the state championship, then it becomes, "the Big Game.")

I'm sure some people would say that high schools don't need instant replay. Some people may think that a theater equipped with Dolby-surround sound is a bit much for simply reviewing game films. Some people may think that watching a football game while sitting on metal bleachers, holding umbrellas, in one of the worse lightning storms of the season, is crazy. But, chances are, these people won't be from Texas.

Texas high school football is hearing someone in the stands talking about whuppin' the coach's ass -- and it is the grandmother of one of the players. Texas high school football is three-year old girls dressed as exact replicas of the cheerleaders, complete with face tattoos and pompoms. Texas high school football is twirlers, dancers and flag teams, and t-shirts that read, "I'm a proud band parent." Texas high school football is men who work all day, come to the game, and then drive all night so that they can be at the deer lease in time to hunt the next morning. Texas high school football is referees that don't call it both ways and fans (read: mothers) yelling that the option play that the other side is running is killing us, and that the offensive coordinator should have covered it in the game films.

Texas high school football is also the "Spirit Section." This is a sacred section of the bleachers reserved for those who don't mind standing up the entire game and who possess some sort of noise-making mechanism, whether it be cowbell, a coke bottle filled with rocks, a giant hand clapper, a loud mouth, etc.. Please don't confuse this with the "Student Section." Similar, yet, very, very different.

I'm not sure who runs the Spirit Section for my high school, but clearly there are certain requirements to gain entry. First, it would appear that you have to wear the school colors, preferably in a t-shirt with the picture of one of the players on it, or, in a pinch, a jersey with his number. I did see a couple of people with "I'm the grandmother of (insert jersey number here)", "I'm a cousin of (insert jersey number here)", "My son is (insert jersey number here)" or some variation thereof. It's amazing how much kin you can pack into a section of bleachers.

Second, there's a type of protocol that exists in the Spirit Section. If you don't follow it, you will be asked to leave and/or, in extreme circumstances, be banned from sitting in the section. For instance, you absolutely have to sit in the same spot. If you leave your seat, for any reason, you must return to the exact seating position as before or risk throwing off the team's good karma. Last night, one lady was not allowed re-entry to the Section after she left at half-time to talk to her husband, who, apparently, must not be that fond of cowbells. It's a tough crowd, I tell you.

I, for one, did not sit in the Spirit Section. I didn't want to sit by some crazy lady with a megaphone who makes up her own cheers. It's okay, my mother understood. At halftime, I went to check on my mother, whom I see only 2-3 times a year since I started splitting my time between San Diego and Europe. The score was 22-0 -- we had the nothing. Mother told me that I was going to have to go back to California. She was convinced that my mere presence at the game was "bad ju-ju" and, therefore, I was the reason why we were losing. Incredibly, she was serious. Apparently, not only had I been banned from the Spirit Section, I was dangerously close to being run out of town on a rail -- BY MY OWN MOTHER! I was also running the risk of going down in history as being the reason why the team (potentially) didn't go to state in 2006. Texas. High School. Football.

I guess one of the best ways to sum up Texas high school football is to tell you about Grandpa Kaiser. Grandpa Kaiser is 89 years old. The last football game that one of his grandchildren played in was 20 years ago. Grandpa Kaiser was hospitalized all week long, but, at 3:00 pm on Friday afternoon, he started calling for his doctor. When he couldn't get in touch with his doctor, he called the Personnel Department at the Hospital to have them hunt him down. You see, Grandpa Kaiser had to be released before 5:00 pm so that he could make it to the Game. Folks, that's Texas high school football!

Last night, Grandpa Kaiser and I, along with about 300 other soaking-wet, die-hard fans, saw one of the best football games ever played. Ever. Barbers Hill came back from a 22-0 deficit to tie the game with less than a minute to go on the clock. They ended up winning the game during sudden death overtime, after an hour delay for lightning (I bet you thought I was kidding about this earlier!). It was, quite simply, Texas High School Football at its best.
Barbers Hill 28 Galena Park 22

Copyright 2006 by Cindy Lane. All rights reserved.

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

One Year Down!

Yesterday marked my one year anniversary of moving to Brussels, Belgium. It was also close to marking six months since I got kicked out of Belgium. If you do the math (which I have), since moving to Belgium, I have actually spent more time outside of the country than inside it! I really think I'm beginning to get the hang of this expat thing.