Pay attention. I am not kidding. Really.

Brains: Men’s & Women’s

photo of a control box with one-third designated as man's brain with single toggle switch and two-thirds as woman's brain with 40 knobs and switches

Man’s brain. Woman’s. Guess which is which.

Warning: a recent spate of Facebook posts has prompted this blog post and, if you’re married, most of it will be yesterday’s ho-hum news. But – pay attention – it never hurts to be reminded of what we already know. (And, of course, there is the outside chance that you just might not know this stuff yet.)

It all started when I innocently commented on a young wife’s post, referencing my own husband’s habit of answering “nothing” when I ask “what are you thinking?” Well! From there, Young Wife’s Hubby weighed in. Then Older Brother had a bit of wisdom to add, and so did several others who didn’t make the cut (in the interest of unaccustomed brevity) for this post. What follows is what the two brothers had to say about “what are you thinking, dear?”

Younger brother (Young Wife’s Hubby):
When a man is asked this question (‘what are you thinking?’), his brain scrambles to remember anything about what he was just thinking. ‘Nothing’ seems to be the only appropriate answer. Then we usually regret that answer but still can’t think of anything better.”

Older Brother:
“It’s a trap!!! I usually respond with ‘Nothing.’ That never seems to be the correct answer. So I try to think of what it is that would have made sense to be thinking about at that time. Then they get you with, ‘Why didn’t you just tell me that in the first place?’ Don’t take the bait!!!”

So! Never let it be said that Facebook is a complete waste of time. As you’ve just read, some practical and insightful pay-attention stuff dribbles out every once in awhile. This particular interchange reminded me of a video I saw several years ago. You may have already seen it, but maybe you’re in need of a good laugh today. So watch this Tale of Two Brains segment from Mark Gungor’s Laugh Your Way to a Better Marriage again, and then we’ll continue.

Now that you’ve watched Gungor‘s routine, you know that no malice is intended by either of us. But what does all this mean? Gungor sort of answers the question with his “Nothing Box,” but not in depth, for the same reason that I can’t answer the question with any degree of detail or authority. The photo above might illustrate how a man can answer the “what are you thinking?” question with the answer “nothing”: he’s simply switched off his only switch. But it’s still a massive mystery – this whopping difference between how men’s and women’s brains function (and a lot of other differences we don’t have time to cover!)

As a woman with almost 48 years
of marriage to her credit,
I feel entitled to opine
with some pay-attention points –
in no logical order.

  • STOP ASKING your husband, “what are you thinking?” It’s the same messy scenario as trying to teach a pig to fly – frustrating for you and it annoys the pig. No matter how many times you ask, you’ll get the same response. Your habit of repeatedly asking this question will not, I repeat, WILL NOT change his answer, as Gungor so clearly explains. Pay attention: this is not time well spent. (I know what I’m talking about here!)
  • Don’t ask your wife (in a fit of finding your “softer side”), “what are you thinking, dear?” unless you’ve got a good half-hour to burn because you can bet she HAS been thinking and is itching to tell someone. Shucks, she’ll even tell you, even though she knows you’ll be paying attention less than half of the time. At the end of that eternal half hour, you’ll know precious little more than you did before (the inevitable result of not paying attention), and shell be frustrated by your lack of paying attention. Pay attention: this is not time well spent.
  • Men and women are just hard-wired differently. Get over it. Not getting over it means you keep trying to make your spouse into someone more like you. Dooooon’t do it. It’s dangerously foolhardy and – pay attention – not time well spent.
  • Do learn to appreciate the differences between you and maybe even – gasp – look at life through the other gender’s lenses.
    • If you’re a woman, wouldn’t it be nice to kind of chill out WHILE STILL AWAKE and take it easy for a bit – give all that wiring a chance to cool off and the sizzling to calm down? (Just so you know, I’ve tried this, and it’s harder than it looks.) All I’m saying is, give it a shot every now and again: you might learn to shut off the brain chatter for a minute or two. (More than that is being totally unrealistic.) Then you can genuinely appreciate how your husband does it so effortlessly. Time well spent, to be certain.
    • If you’re a man, rest easy, I won’t make a pay-attention point about trying to get your brain to sizzle and frizzle the way your wife’s does. No point in setting you up for such unnecessary discomfort, now is there? But here’s a doable pay-attention tidbit for you. Practice being more appreciative that, whilst you are taking your nothing-box, wide-awake siesta, someone – namely, your wife – has your back because her brain NEVER shuts off. Pay attention, buddy: appreciation time IS time well spent.
red box with white text: “Don't forget, a person's greatest emotional need is to feel appreciated.” – H. Jackson Brown

(Brown wrote Life’s Little Instruction Book)

©2016, Teresa Bennett

Success is sure when….

photo of man digging basement under existing house

Digging a basement under an existing house.

Pay-attention whiz that you are, you’ve noticed from previous blog posts that, being married to the guy that I am, my marriage runs pretty much on the fuel of humor. I wasn’t altogether clear about this detail when we married, but I’ve acclimated admirably to my habitat, I think.

As a matter of fact, I even learned to beat Mr. Good Humor at his own game. Would you like to hear how? Not too many years into our marriage, I was surprised to learn that I could bring Hubby to his knees – laughing as he went down – in a half-second with just three words. (If you think I’m giving away those three magic words so early in the story, think again.)

By the time he told me about my to-the-knees power, he thought it was hysterical that I could accomplish so much with so little in just under one second. But Hubby is nothing if not honest. He also confided that for the first few years of marriage (when I wasn’t paying attention,) those three words did not make him laugh. Rather, they produced a deep and angst-filled pain in the pit of his stomach. (I suspect he was being tactful and that, in the beginning, those three words had pretty much the same effect as a falling guillotine blade.) But given his nature, Hubby gradually began to see the humor and, by the time he shared all this with me, all was well. Every time I say those three words, he laughs (between the groans) – on the way to his knees.

The three magic words?
“I’ve been thinking.”

You’ll be further impressed with his good nature when I tell you that these three words always – and I do mean ALWAYS – signal the birthing of A MAJOR PROJECT. Our projects are the kind that most couples (without our idiosyncrasies) would never even consider – not for a second.

My imagination knows no bounds. I can conjure up some pretty outlandish projects (like digging a basement under an existing house; see photo above). The idea that it might not be a good idea never enters my head. And Hubby, bless his soul, has the confidence and innate willingness to try just about anything – more so before I wore him out. (Almost fifty years of this I’ve-been-thinking business has taken its toll.)

For instance, after the basement digging came the I’ve-been-thinking, patio-deck MAJOR PROJECT that just wouldn’t go away.

  • First, prepare our minuscule back yard for sandstone. Lay sandstone. Level sandstone. Fill in with concrete.
  • Five years later, take up sandstone. Stack elsewhere. Gather and dispose of concrete rubble. Design and construct wooden deck over same area. Paint.
  • Load up sandstone and take to friends in mountain home.
  • Five years later, take up deck wood and yank out all supports. After extending house out into former deck area, replant supports and reconstruct deck around new addition. Repaint. Cart off excess wood.
  • Five years later, take up all deck wood and supports. Replace supports in new concrete. Lay new deck wood. Paint. Cart off all old wood.

See? I was NOT kidding when I said those three words ALWAYS trigger a back-breaking MAJOR PROJECT.

But, good sport that he is, Hubby is always willing to man up. He tells himself it’ll be “fun.” Or a challenge. Or a learning experience. Or an extended workout (instead of that bothersome YMCA routine). Or a _____ – whatever he can think of to prove to us both that we can succeed at yet another MAJOR PROJECT.

When you combine these two traits – ignorance of what my latest I’ve-been-thinking MAJOR PROJECT really means and his confidence that the two of us can do just about anything, what do you suppose you get? You get two people who will tackle any project they can think up.

Pay attention: here’s the really important bit. These two people don’t necessarily care if their new project is a wise idea or if they have the necessary know-how to accomplish it. Details. The merest of details.

I perfected my three-word bombshell back when we young, and maybe that’s why it worked so well in the beginning. We were young and, as the young are wont to be, overly confident. When I threw out my I’ve-been-thinking hook, young Hubby just couldn’t bring himself to say, “I don’t know how” or some equally lame excuse. He asked older friends pertinent questions, researched, thought, planned, and jumped – feet first – into our newest MAJOR PROJECT. Now, though he should know better, he still takes the hook – from force of habit, I guess.

Is there a pay-attention point
to this memory-lane nattering?

Of course. The Great Pithy One, Mark Twain, beat me to it, as usual. But I’m an ethical writer, and I try very hard not to consciously plagiarize. That forces me to compose my own version, which is considerably less pithy.

What you aren’t supposed
to be able to do
is nothing you need
to concern
your pretty little head about.

Or something to that effect.

When we take stock of some of my I’ve-been-thinking projects, we look at each other and ask incredulously, “Did we really DO that? What were we thinking??!” See? Sometimes it’s best we don’t know our limitations. That’s when we do stuff we would never have thought possible, had we given the whole mess more thoughtful appraisal.

Thinking of your own MAJOR PROJECT? Go for it! You won’t know till you try, and success may very well be waiting at the end of your MAJOR PROJECT. Good luck to you – and I mean that!

©2016, Teresa Bennett

red box with white text: “All you need in this life is ignorance and confidence, and then Success is sure.” – Mark Twain

(an 1887 entry in one of Twain’s notebooks)

One Bite at a Time

top photo of ice cream in ice cream freezer

Stick with me. This post is NOT all about eating.

You may be tempted to think this blog post is all about eating, but it isn’t. We’ll get to the non-food, pay-attention points at the right juncture, so please hear me out as I tell you two seemingly unimportant stories from my childhood.

My parents weren’t much for pontificating, thank goodness. Rarely ever did they sit me down for a long and boring lecture. They opted for the easier way of teaching children: they modeled what they believed. I know; it’s a startling concept, isn’t it? But it’s quite effective. Trust me.

First Story:
Ice Cream!

I must’ve been ten or eleven when my ice-cream-loving father decided it was time to take advantage of the fact that we had a cow who produced A LOT of cream. I’m talking unpasteurized, unprocessed, unadulterated, un-homogenized, un-everything. If you’re a Millennial or a city kid of any age, you have absolutely NO frame of reference. You’ve probably never even seen such thick, faintly yellow, wickedly rich, fresh cream just minutes from a cow’s innards, let alone tasted it.

Once the ice-cream maker was ensconced under our roof one summer, Mother’s Saturday afternoon routine involved loading it up with the cream mixture, packing the whole mess in ice and rock salt, plugging it in, and letting that electric marvel work its magic on our luscious cream. If you’re an ice-cream lover, you’re already salivating, aren’t you? Even I thought the ice cream resulting from this incredibly rich stuff was to die for, and I didn’t even like ice cream all that much.

Each Saturday night, my father was in heaven.

But not for long. You’re way ahead of me, aren’t you? NO ONE, not even my slenderly built, very active, six-foot father, could keep up that kind of ice-cream bacchanalia. After about a month of this ice-cream revelry, my father quietly asked my mother to forego the ice-cream making ritual. Happy to oblige, since it meant less prep time in the dreaded kitchen, she asked why. His short response? “Maybe every so often – when we’re having guests – would be wiser.”

That’s it. Did I mention my father loved, loved, loved ice-cream and that, as a child of The Great Depression, he seldom got it? Can you think of a more powerful modeling lesson in self-discipline?

I can.

Second Story:
Green Beans

This story happened shortly after my father’s ice-cream adventure, and it’s a pretty short one. Again, you Millennials will have a hard time believing this but, once upon a time, there were no microwave ovens. Yes! Really. Just ask yourself how you would use leftovers if you couldn’t quickly nuke them in your microwave.

Effectively using leftovers was devilishly hard back in those Dark Ages. Most households (less frugal than ours, I’d like to point out) parked them in small, lidded glass containers in the fridge. As they were moved back and back and back, they became easier and easier to forget (translation: ignore). Naturally, once they were discovered with mold and who-knows-what growing in them, they could be discarded without guilt.

Not in our house. No sir. We ATE leftovers because, of course, of all those starving children in China. My father was our official, “last-dab,” cleaner-upper. Whenever there was a spoonful of green beans or a quarter-cup of mashed potatoes, Mother would say, “Oh, Bill, just eat that last dab.” And he would. End of problem. No bothersome containers of leftovers in our fridge.

But that came to a halt when he scooted back from table one day and said, “No thanks. I had to move my belt buckle prong over one notch this morning.”

This left my mother in a true quandary: “So what do I do with them?”

Throw them out.”

At this show-stopper response, I stopped playing in the mashed potatoes, jerked up my head, and starting paying very close attention. Did I hear what I think I just heard? Did my frugal father just tell my almost-as-frugal mother to THROW OUT PERFECTLY EDIBLE FOOD?? My mother, just as trout-mouthed as I, stood there in shock. But when he left the table without another word, we knew he wasn’t kidding.

Apparently, I reasoned, throwing away food is preferable to weight creep. Being a kid, I quickly recovered from the initial shock of that unbelievable bit of table drama. In fact, I never gave it another thought until I, too, reached that time of life when the old metabolism just wasn’t what it used to be and began to notice the same weight creep.

Okay, enough of the food stories. What’s the REAL point to this blog post? Oh, wow, there are so many. But I’ve chosen three of what I think are the most obvious pay-attention points from these two non-events from my childhood. Here they are, in no particular order.

Pay attention!
Life happens
in little bites.

Of course, as the title implies, this is the main point of this blog. Though I’ve harped on it in plenty of other blog posts, specifically in Process, Part 1, I’m harping again because it’s such a terribly important life lesson.

Obviously, the word “bites” is standing in for just about anything you can think of – not necessarily food. Wouldn’t it be great if “bites” happened in the TV-commercial-Hollywood-way – in one, great, stupendous action? But, as you know, they don’t. Just about everything in life is a slow process (the good and the bad), and we’d best get used to it. Even better, we’d best pay very close attention to it, in the same way that my father noticed he had to insert his belt buckle prong into a different hole.

red box with white text: “In the long run, we shape our lives, and we shape ourselves. The process never ends until we die. And the choices we make are ultimately our own responsibility.” ­– Eleanor Roosevelt

Longest-serving USA First Lady (during Franklin’s 4 terms)

Here’s another vital
pay-attention lesson:
someone’s watching.

And they’re watching one little “bite” at a time. When my father explained why he was forfeiting his cleaner-upper role, I am absolutely certain – in that seconds-long interaction with my mother – that he wasn’t trying to teach my sister and me a lesson. We were not the focus of that decision-making process. He was simply acting on his conviction that whoever lives in the body is responsible for its care and feeding. He was being responsible by refusing extra food, knowing it would take awhile to undo the damage of performing his former role of family garbage disposal.

I’ve never forgotten that incontrovertible lesson that modeling – living – what you believe is usually far more effective than constantly telling others what you believe. You know this: I haven’t told you anything new. But though we all know this, it’s just too dang easy to forget that we’re each living life on a stage with an audience of one or two watching a few seconds of our lives or an audience of one or two hundred watching several minutes’ worth of our lives. Someone’s watching – in little sound bites. What are we teaching? What would we rather be teaching?

red box with white text: “If God has given you the world's goods in abundance, it is to help you gain those of Heaven and to be a good example of sound teaching to your sons, servants, and relatives.” – Ignatius

Tradition identifies Ignatius as the Apostle John’s disciple.

And the third
pay-attention point?
Too much of a good thing
is still too much.

When my father was functioning as the green-bean-and-potato disposal, he was eating good stuff in very small bites. But slowly, the little bites of good stuff piled up and became more than his aging metabolism could handle. They morphed into bad stuff in the guise of excess weight. When he finally noticed, he did what any reasonable person does, he started the process of saying, “No thank you” so that he could put a stop to the piling-up process.

The ice cream story makes this too-much-of-a-good-thing point even clearer. No matter how good something is, no matter how delicious, no matter how wholesome, no matter how right, no matter how healthy, no matter how _______ (fill in the blank with what you’re thinking), it is possible to get too much. When the little “bites” of good stuff pile up, they probably won’t still be good stuff. So I’ll just keep saying, as I did in the post titled, Moderation – Even in the Good Stuff, too much of anything, no matter how good, is still TOO MUCH.

One of the most outstanding figures of medical history

Clearly one of the most outstanding figures of medical history.

Your turn. Did I miss an in-your-face pay-attention point?

©2016, Teresa Bennett

TRULY – boasting never pays off.

photo of antique pie tin with "Home Made Pies" embossed on it

(Just stick with me. I promise it’ll make sense.)

You remember how I squealed on Hubby in the Tackle Box Teddy story? As he read that painful episode from his teen years, it reminded him of a later episode (when he should’ve been old enough to know better) and – believe it or not – he suggested I tell the tale to the world. Can you believe it? Well! I couldn’t flip open my laptop fast enough. (Apparently, some people prefer even bad publicity to no publicity.) So here’s

…yet ANOTHER tale
which illustrates
that boasting
just NEVER DOES PAY OFF.

Sometime in his late twenties and early thirties, Hubby developed a baker streak. It was during that inauspicious era when sourdough anything had become popular. Some enthusiastic sourdough-er gave us a sourdough starter batch, which I planned to ignore until it stank and then throw it out. Hubby, however, took up the challenge and decided to become a sourdough baking wizard. (Did I mention he rarely set foot in the kitchen at this stage of life?)

After introducing him to the stove, oven, and of course, the eminently useful Joy of Cooking cookbook, I left him to it. After conferring with the other women in his life who did know about these things, he spent his Saturday mornings – with our boys pitching in – trying his hand at sourdough pancakes, sourdough biscuits, sourdough cookies, sourdough pizzas, sourdough breads, sourdough cakes, and sourdough pie shells.

It was that last one that tripped him up, but I’m getting ahead of my story. (See, the photo above is already beginning to make sense, isn’t it?)

All fall, he honed his sourdough baking skills. Developing productive new skills is almost always a good thing. Boasting about it? Rarely ever a good thing. After the whole Tackle Box Teddy debacle, as I’ve said, you’d think he would’ve learned this lesson but then I couldn’t be telling this story if he had, now could I?

That was a year when we would travel the 1100 miles back to spend Christmas with my family in Indiana. Every time we talked with my parents on the phone that fall and early winter leading up to Christmas, he bragged on his sourdough whatever – but especially on his sourdough pie shells.

After listening to way too much of his braggadocio, I decided to let him fall on his own sword. I decided not to tell him about my father’s pre-Prevention-reading days and the days before our trek down the path of culinary austerity, which were well before he entered the family. I decided not to tell him what he had no way of knowing – that my mother was the meanest pie-baker for miles. Her tender, flaky crusts filled with her perfectly sweetened apple fillings had disappeared in seconds at family reunion dessert time.

Meanwhile, clueless Hubby kept on with the endless bragging.

A day or so after arriving at my parents’ home, Hubby realized he’d remembered to bring the sourdough mixture, but not his pie crust recipe. “Oh, well,” said The Braggart, “I can remember most of it.” You’re way ahead of me, aren’t you? If you know anything about baking, you know that remembering “most” of a recipe is a recipe for unpleasantness at the table.

On the Day of Disaster, overconfident Hubby entered my mother’s kitchen and announced he was making his very own Famous-Amos, sourdough, cherry pie and could she please get out all the necessary accoutrements and then get out of the kitchen? Those were the last questions he asked, bless his heart. From there on, he had things wonderfully under control. No need to ask silly questions about liquid-to-flour proportions, differences altitude makes in baking, pie dough handling, or anything else. No siree. He was on it.

After a while, though, the determined set of his mouth told me perhaps his “most” recipe wasn’t working out so well. Didn’t care. I went on about my business. Several more minutes passed. Mother, artfully keeping a sly eye on his progress, whispered to me, “If he doesn’t stop pounding and stretching that crust, it’ll be tougher than a boot!”

Not to worry, Mother. I’m sure that no matter what happens, most of us will enjoy dessert immensely.”

By the time the dinner hour arrived, there was a feverish feeling in the air. Everyone around the table – except Hubby – knew what was coming after the main course: a totally inedible dessert. We couldn’t wait! After clearing the table, Mother set the pie, pie server, and dessert plates in front of Hubby so that he could do the honors (knowing full well she didn’t have the muscle required to wrestle concrete from a pie pan).

As he began to cut, Hubby’s expression changed from smug self-satisfaction to mild concern to all-out panic to gritty resolve. Now everyone knows the first piece of pie is the hardest to get out. This pie’s first piece was, well, harder than most. Hubby sawed and hammered and whacked and chiseled until he had the first piece on a dessert plate.

Whew. Six more to go.

When all seven dessert plates of cherry concrete had been distributed, the fun began. Mother gamely took her first bite, tried to down another, and thereafter, picked at the remaining stone-like mass. My much younger sister took one bite and asked to be excused from the table. Witnessing all this, I tried to choke down a small morsel and decided it just wasn’t worth risking my teeth. Once our sons saw their very own mother abandon the sinking ship, they mutinied, too, and quietly slipped out of their seats and slithered into the living room.

Now, never let it be said that my father didn’t know how to play the game. Not only was he able to hew a bite-size piece from the rocky stuff, he managed to chew his first bite and – here’s the amazing part – swallow it. After the obvious effort it took to swallow it, he said, “THAT is delicious! I believe I’ll have another bite.”

Of course, the next bite was a process that took just as long as the first bite process. It, too, had to be hacked off the mother ship, speared with his fork, and then chewed and chewed and chewed, and then bravely swallowed. After the second bite, he proclaimed, “My, that’s tasty!”

And on it went – long after my sister, my mother, our sons, and I, and – yes – even Hubby had given up and left the table. Hubby slunk off to the family room and pretended to watch the evening news. Our sons hung out safely in the living room. Mother, Sis, and I did the washing up, and cleared the table, except for my father’s dessert plate and fork. We turned off the dining room lights and left him to it. Every ten minutes or so, from the darkness, we all heard another, “Well, this IS superb pie!” or something to that effect.

After his final bite of cherry concrete, my father (who by now you know was The King of Understatement) pushed himself back from the table and stood up to announce to anyone still within earshot – once again – “I believe that is the FINEST cherry pie I have EVER eaten.” And with that final pronouncement, he walked quietly (though a little stiffly, since he had a bellyful of concrete grinding down a few hapless cherries) to the family room.

Pay attention.
Here’s the part you’ve been waiting for:
the first pay-attention point.

Understated comeuppance is sometimes – though not always – more effective than beating someone over the head with an “I-told-you-so.” In fact, in certain circumstances, it can be THE most effective Boast Buster there is.

And, as you’ve just read, someone in that house desperately needed more than a wimpy serving of comeuppance. My father, ever glad to oblige, administered a walloping dollop of comeuppance with a master’s hand. I’m telling you, it was a performance worth the suspense and the waiting. 

But hey, there’s more –
a second pay-attention point.
BOASTING CAN HAVE
LONG-LASTING CONSEQUENCES.

The next year, my parents and sis made the same 1100-mile trip, traveling the opposite direction, to spend Christmas at our house. Christmas morning dawned, and the gift orgy began. My seemingly innocent little sister (egged her by her parents, no doubt) handed a small package to Hubby.

Why thank you!” said The Braggart. (Here’s a third pay-attention point I’ll throw in for free: don’t thank the gift-giver for a gift until after you’ve opened it.)

He opened the beautifully wrapped package to discover – yes! – an antique pie tin (the very one you saw at the beginning of this blog post). As you can see, it states demurely, “Home Made Pies” – just what every sourdough baking wizard needs.

photo of worn Teddy with tartan bow and antique pie tin

Yessir. It’s the Dynamic Duo of Boast Busters.

While Hubby’s sourdough baking phase has long since passed (thank goodness), his pie tin (given a full year from his ruinous boasting fiasco) finds its way to a prominent place in our house from time to time. This happens for the same reason that Tackle Box Teddy has to make similar appearances: when you-know-who needs a not-so-subtle reminder of how boasting really never, ever, ever pays off. And it works – for awhile. 

red box with white text: “Do not boast about tomorrow, for you do not know what a day may bring.” – Proverbs 27:1, NIV Bible

Hoo, boy. I’ll say!!!!! Just ask you-know-who.

 

red box with white text: “Boasting begins where wisdom stops.” – Japanese Proverb

Don’t you just love that Japanese pithiness?

©2016, Teresa Bennett

Pride Before the Fall

white box of rows of apostrophes

You’ll get it – really. Promise.

Have you ever been faced with a new task that you had absolutely NO IDEA how to handle? That happens a lot when we’re in our twenties and thirties – less frequently as we age and acquire a lifetime of experiences (most of which can be transferred). Laugh along with me as I rat on myself and tell a story of my astounding and prideful cluelessness.

A Story
of Pitiful Pride

Back in the Dark Ages, when Hubby and I were living in Married Student Housing, we had the extremely good fortune of living just below a couple on the floor above us who were from New Orleans – seafood capital of the world, to have heard them tell it. My connoisseur husband, though he hadn’t a great deal of experience with seafood, had enough to know he loved it. The problem? We were college students on a small campus located on a land-locked northern fringe of The Deep South. Finances and location conspired against us where seafood was concerned.

Enter, our kindly upstairs neighbors, who thoughtfully brought a bag of shrimp back after a home visit and gifted it to us. Hubby was ecstatic. I was not. It wasn’t that I didn’t like shrimp. It was that I had NO idea what to do with it – except eat it. You’ll remember, I’d spent my first 18 years in the middle of Indiana farm country. Not much seafood activity going on there in the 1950s and 1960s. Now, if they’d given me a big ole hunk of pork or beef, I would’ve been marginally better equipped to deal with it. A bag of shrimp? Not so much.

On the night when Hubby had set his taste buds for shrimp, I whipped out my Joy of Cooking cookbook that some optimistic matron had given me at a wedding shower. (The joy of cooking?? Really? Says who?) With gritty determination, I skimmed the Table of Contents and read the 126 pages on seafood preparation. Well! It appeared there was a good deal to be done to shrimp: peeling, deveining, yanking off their little tails, boiling, etc. Whew. Better get started. I slaved over those smelly things for over an hour – after reading for a half hour as I tried to understand how to administer all this “joy.” When Hubby returned from his part-time job, the shrimp and I were ready. Yessss!

The few times my non-gourmet, farm-girl mother had ventured into seafood territory, it was some kind of frozen gunk that she plopped out of a box and into a few inches of hot oil. Having completed my grim work with the Joy of Cooking routine, I figured I could stop reading at that point, and just follow my mother’s example. Pouring a healthy glug-glug of cooking oil into a large pot, I set the burner on high.

While Hubby washed up in the bathroom, I dropped the shrimp into the hot oil, and busied myself setting the rest of the meal on the table, figuring I had plenty of time. By the time I returned to the shrimp, they looked considerably different than they appeared just minutes earlier. Oh well, maybe that’s how they’re supposed to look. Or not.

You remember how it feels when you’ve done everything you thought you were supposed to do, but you still have that queasy feeling something isn’t quite right? That’s the pit-of-the-stomach feeling I had about then. To make myself feel marginally better, I made a bed of paper towels, artistically laid the little dears in neat rows, and covered them with a cozy paper-towel blanket.

Hubby trounced in from the bathroom, saying he’d been waiting all day for this, and wasn’t it cool that we had such generous neighbors, and wouldn’t this be a meal to remember? He was right on all three counts – just not in the way he expected. As he reached out to lift up their paper-towel blanket and cast a drooling, covetous eye on his prey, I stayed his hand and suggested we pray first. I mean, really; that IS the first thing we do at the table (and I figured I’d be needing a little divine protection in a few seconds).

Warning: from here on, the story goes from warm-your-heart goodness to something-that-needs-forgetting. When Hubby pulled back the paper-towel blanket, he found a plateful of black apostrophes – a literary feast, as it were. Being an English major, this made perfect sense to me. While they possessed a certain high-brow, literary classiness, it turns out crispy black apostrophes aren’t all that tasty. Actually – and we know this as fact – they’re inedible.

Hubby was not amused. That old standby, the PBJ, was not what he had been salivating for all day. In fact, he carried a grudge about this unfortunate episode from our early-marriage days for a very long time. Now, he can laugh about it. For many years after The Shrimp Episode? Not so much.

Meanwhile, you’re thinking, “Is there a pay-attention point to this pathetic story?” Well, of course. Why else would I tell such an embarrassing story on myself?

Pay attention!
When you don’t know
how to do something
but you know someone who does,
GO ASK THEM HOW TO DO IT.

Don’t check out a book from the library. Don’t buy an e-book from Amazon. Don’t Google it. Don’t read a magazine how-to article. Don’t be proud: ask the person WHO KNOWS for some help – first! That might be all you have to do.

It would’ve been
for me.

If Id just left Joy on the shelf, swallowed my outsized pride, walked my little white legs up the stairs, and asked my neighbor how to prepare those expensive suckers, I would’ve learned there was nothing to prepare. Not only did cooking oil not belong in the picture, they’d already been boiled in the shell IN WATER. All we had to do was peel them, dip them in cocktail sauce by their tails, and chow down, tossing the tails to the wind. Who cares about the veins?!

I wasted time and effort and perfectly good shrimp whod given their lives that we might taste their succulence – all because I wouldn’t ASK for help. I also denied my neighbor the chance to show off her N’Orleans know-how and to feel exceedingly helpful to such an idiot neighbor. Now, is that not the silliest pride story you’ve heard in a long time?

Oh wait.
Let’s talk about you
for a minute.

‘Fess up. You just did this not very long ago, didn’t you? Your dad knows how to _______ but instead of asking for his advice, you went to the Internet instead. Granted, the project got a little messy and doesn’t actually function very well but, hey, you did it yourself.

Or maybe you wanted to make _______ like your BFF makes. But instead of calling and gratifying her with a request for her knowledge and recipe, you checked Pinterest for a recipe like hers, complete with step-by-step instructions. Dang. In spite of all that effort, yours didn’t turn out like hers – not at all like hers!

Or maybe you decided to get crafty a few Saturdays ago and create a mini quilt project. Instead of calling Aunt Dot (the family’s in-house quilting expert) for some concise pointers, you Googled “quilting projects.” And – big surprise – by the time you finished your Googling experience, Saturday was pretty much over, and you had no time left to actually DO some work on your project.

Sound familiar? We ALL do this. Most of us are just too self-sufficient for our own good. Pay attention and learn the lesson. ASK FOR HELP from people in the know. Almost always, you’ll:

  • get way more practical and useful advice,
  • save time,
  • be happier with your results, and
  • make someone feel better just because they were able to help someone else – you.

This is one of those hard-learned lessons whose scars I still bear to this day. Every time I eat shrimp, I’m reminded of my proud folly. Every time Hubby eats shrimp, well, you know what happens: it’s déjà vu all over again.* Learn from my mistakes!

*Don’t you love Yogi Berra malapropisms?

©2016, Teresa Bennett

red box with white text: "You like to be independent, but you will need to learn to ask for help. It doesn't make you weak.” – Taya Kyle

(Husband killed by fellow Marine with PTSD)

 

red box with white text:

Pride often precedes avoidable unpleasantness.

THE Lamps, Part 6

photo of table full of beautifully wrapped wedding gifts

Oh, such lovely, lovely delights! Or maybe not.

The next generation
enters the game.

As luck would have it, we Baby Boomers didn’t have to wait long to bring the next generation into the Revenge Game. That spring, a niece announced her engagement – the first of her generation to do so – setting the blessed event for the first of June.

(If you’re lost already, that means you haven’t read the preceding five parts of this sad saga about THE Lamps. And as I’ll just keep saying, none of these Lamp blog posts will make much sense unless they’re read in order. Go back and start with Part 1 or wherever you left off!)

Let’s get on with this story
and try to end
this revenge melodrama,
shall we?

I set about shopping for a nice wedding gift for this niece and her beloved and found what I thought was perfect. It was a tiny drop-leaf pine table for the newlyweds’ tiny breakfast nook. Hubby was not impressed. He wanted to give something more infused with family history. You know where this is going.

For that momentous June wedding, he insisted on giving two gifts to the exceedingly lucky couple. Technically, they didn’t merely receive two gifts. They received three: one legitimate gift (the table) and a gift-wrapped box with two gifts inside (the cursed Pistachio Orientals). Hubby never stopped to ask himself just how much luck one newlywed couple could stand.

Meanwhile, down in west Texas, as the wedding date approached, Hubby’s niece had a come-to-Jesus meetin’ with her Mamma, known to you as Middle Child. Mamma, do NOT let them put those horrid, ugly lamps with our wedding gifts!” (How did she know we’d decided to include her generation in our game of Revenge?)

Right,” agreed Mamma. Shame on Mamma because she lied.

Yessiree: we were considerably less encumbered on our trip from west Texas back home to Colorado. We returned to a house blessedly devoid of Pistachio Orientals, their having been safely passed on to the next generation. Life was sweet. It got even sweeter the next June as the first-married niece gathered up the Pistachio Orientals to spice up the wedding-gift loot of her cousin, the second-to-marry niece.

Interestingly enough, this niece had the same conversation with her Mamma, known to you as Little Sister. Little Sister lied, too.

Unfortunately, for that second-niece-to-marry, the next of her cousins took his sweet time finding his beloved. She, poor thing, had to store the Pistachio Orientals for three long years. This next-to-marry cousin, our nephew, didn’t think to try to ward off revenge (which wouldn’t have done much good anyway, as we’ve just seen, since we Boomers appeared to be allergic to truth).

It doesn’t require a terrific amount of imagination to guess the conversation that ensued when his unwarned and uninitiated bride discovered the Pistachio Orientals neatly wrapped amongst their authentic wedding gifts. 

What are these?”

They’re the ugly lamps.”

I can SEE that. Why do we have them?”

We pass them around in our family. It’s our own Revenge Game we made up.”

Well, I’m throwing them out. They’re disgusting!”

You can’t do that. We have to keep them.”

WHAT? WHAT??”

Only till someone else in the fam gets married – or Christmas, whichever comes first.”

Grumble. Grumble. Grumble. But she was a good sport, especially for having not an ounce of warning. She parked them in the top of her childhood bedroom closet. Then the entire conversation replayed itself when her mother found the Pistachio Orientals while converting her daughter’s old bedroom into a sewing room. After hearing the explanation, she plopped them into the lap of her newly married daughter and told her to take the tacky things to her own home.

Now right about here in the saga is where you just have to pity people who are novices at the game of Revenge. This unsuspecting bride had to store a pair of the ugliest lamps you’d ever want to see alongside all the bright new, classy baubles that couples get when they wed. Wouldn’t you think she’d be itching to pass them along? Wouldn’t you think she’d have a plan for doing so?

Yet, pay attention, when her new husband’s next cousin’s nuptials occurred and the next cousin’s as well, she was asleep at the wheel. SHE DIDN’T EVEN THINK ABOUT FOISTING THE LAMPS INTO THE PILE OF WEDDING GIFTS AT EITHER OF THESE WEDDINGS!! Can you imagine such a stupendous lack of tactical planning?

And as far as we all know, those nasty Pistachio Orientals are still stored somewhere in their house. Of course, our nephew and his bride may have pitched those grotesque lamps in one of their moves. Or not. As you can imagine, all this maybe-maybe-not business has turned family reunions into tense events as we all wait for the proverbial shoe to drop. Nervous and edgy, we all check our vehicle trunks and back seats with the utmost care before driving off. You just never know. They may show up again – or not.

It gets worse. Since all the nieces and the nephew have married, the lamps can’t be surreptitiously added to another pile of wedding-gift loot. That means we Baby Boomers, the ones who started this whole miserable mess, will most likely be drawn back into the game of Lamp Revenge. Those suckers could turn up in any of our homes for any reason at any time – Christmas, Valentine’s, Thanksgiving, birthdays, anniversaries – or for no particular reason at all. Let me tell you, it’s annoyingly worrisome.

And the pay-attention point
would be…?

You’ve been such a good sport, sticking with me all the way through SIX blog posts illustrating one family’s obsession with getting even, that you deserve a stellar pay-attention lesson. You’ll remember I’ve said previously that Semantics is also a fun game. As you can tell, Hubby’s family has decided to play the game of Semantics simultaneously with the game of Revenge, and so they categorize all this vengeful getting even via ugly lamps as “good, clean fun.” To prove it, they all (present company excluded, of course) exhibit good-natured sportsmanship while playing it.

And that leads me
to an uncharacteristically serious
pay-attention point.

A harmless game of Revenge (like my in-laws’ game of Lamp Revenge) is okay. A REAL game of Revenge is never okay. Don’t confuse the two.

I don’t think I personally know anyone who does this, and I very much doubt that you do, dear reader. But should you ever find yourself caught up in a harmless game of Revenge that slowly and insidiously morphs from good, clean fun into bad, mean fun, recognize it for what it is: REAL revenge. STEP OUT OF THE GAME – sooner rather than later. That’s especially true if you’re the excessively optimistic sort who thinks you can single-handedly turn around others’ bad behavior.

Here’s an extra pay-attention tip I’ll throw in for free as my parting shot in this way-too-long Lamps saga. One of the hallmarks of pay-attention wisdom is the ability to recognize when you’re out of your depth and step out.

© 2016, Teresa Bennett

red box with white text: “Do not take revenge, my dear friends, but leave room for God’s wrath, for it is written: 'It is mine to avenge; I will repay,' says the Lord.” – Rom. 12:19, NIV Bible

REAL revenge is none of our biz: it’s God-work.

THE Lamps, Part 5

photo of dead leaves

Only harmless dead leaves, right? Maybe not.

(Still haven’t read Parts 1, 2, 3, and 4? You’re a slow learner, aren’t you? Just sayin’: you’ll miss some of the not-so-subtle humor of Part 5 if you don’t take time to read Parts 1, 2, 3, and 4.)

The sad saga continues.

It was a most spring-like Saturday – time for major tidying up in the yard. Our 150-year-old cottonwood and 60-year-old maples had a nasty habit of dumping a ton of leaves all winter long. Hubby donned his work gear, grabbed a rake, and set out to do battle with mounds of unwelcome leaves.

He wasn’t out long.

In he came with one of those persistent, coolie-hatted Pistachio Orientals that he’d uncovered in our minuscule garden. She looked a little puzzled and cross about being left outside knee-deep in dead leaves rather than indoors, cozily ensconced on top of a TV. Having assured myself, back in December, that we were quite done with this silly game of Revenge and having lived with that false security for four months, I was livid.

Get back out there! You know they’re like snakes and travel in pairs. There’s another one out there somewhere. FIND her.” He went back out. I stuck my tongue out at Miss Pistachio Oriental and threw her into the attic. Did I mention I was done with this game of Revenge?

Hubby found the other Pistachio Oriental a good two weeks later. He was on another fun-filled-Saturday leaf-raking excursion, and there she was – the other half of the pair. Looking equally peevish that she’d been left outdoors, she’d been ignominiously covered in leaves for who-knows-how-long in a basement window well. 

So now, AGAIN, we had to face irksome facts. Someone else we naively called “friend” had also sold out to Little Sister and was clearly now on her team. Honestly! The lengths to which SOME people will go for a little revenge.

You’ll remember from previous posts that I’d already learned foisting ugly lamps onto others was no guarantee those same ugly lamps wouldn’t find their way back to us. I’d also learned that murdering lamps wouldn’t stop this never-ending game of Revenge. There was little to gain by whacking off their poorly modeled oriental heads and tossing them in the bin. Someone else in the family would unearth another equally ugly lamp, and the “game would be afoot” (as Sherlock liked to say) once again.

By now, thank goodness, Hubby’s sisters and their husbands were finally beginning to tire of this game. And so, I think it was at this point, we decided the next generation – our four nieces and one nephew – needed to learn this fascinating, never-ending game of Revenge. And we Baby Boomers, experts that we were, would teach them. Read all about it in Part 6 as THE Lamps saga wraps up. Well, not really. As I’ve said, Revenge is like Monopoly: it goes on and on and on….

Meanwhile, you deserve a pay-attention tip for such patient reading of such crabby reminiscing. How about this more-than-obvious lesson? Hanging around with the guilty means you get treated as guilty, WHETHER YOU ARE OR NOT. Dooooon’t do it, if you can possibly help it.

red box with white text: “Old sins cast long shadows.” – Old Danish Proverb

And, let me tell you, not just on the guilty!!!!

Hubby’s insistence on keeping the Revenge game in play came back to haunt us both, even though I had stepped out. So, pay attention as I repeat this important lesson: not only do old sins cast long shadows upon the guilty, but those near the guilty can be covered by those same shadows of old sins.

It doesn’t quite seem fair, does it?

© 2016, Teresa Bennett

 

 

THE Lamps, Part 4

You know how your mother always said you should never throw out a gift (at least, not right away)? You’ll remember from Part 3, I had ignored that rule and been found guilty of throwing out the decoupaged whiskey-bottle lamp – a thoughtfully purchased gift from Middle Child during my in-laws’ Ugly Lamp Gift Exchange.

(Haven’t read Parts 1, 2, and 3? Better back up and do it. This won’t make much sense otherwise.)

The sad story
of revenge continues.

To replace the whiskey-bottle lamp, I dutifully scoured yard sales and snagged a welder’s pitiful home project for a whopping $1. No doubt a transplanted Kansan, this inept welder had tried to stick pieces of metal together to form a whimsical version of a 1930s windmill in lamp format. It looked every bit as battered and cockeyed as the remnants of the real Kansas windmills we passed on our way to my in-laws and, like them, no longer worked. Perfect, I thought. But when I presented it to Hubby, he disdainfully dismissed it as definitely NOT ugly enough.

I exit the game.

Schulz’ Lucy and I are kindred spirits. Some of us were just born with crabby genes, and there’s little help for it. Right about here is where my crabby genes merged with my superior sense of logic. “Listen, Pal, you’re on your own from here on. I’m DONE playing this Revenge Game.” Dear reader, I want it blazingly clear to you, too, that henceforth in this interminable Lamp Revenge Game, I am merely an observer.

Lacking spousal cooperation, Hubby resorted to his childhood go-to: his mother. Pulling her into the fray, he put her on assignment to scour his hometown for the ugliest lamp possible. When we arrived for that fateful Christmas, she hadn’t found a single ugly lamp. She’d outdone herself and found a pair.

Some family members refer to them as “the puke-green Asian ladies” but to keep this set of blog posts from deteriorating any further than they already have, I shall call this pair the more dignified and somewhat more concise “Pistachio Orientals.” (Though it might not appear so, I DO have standards.)

The Pistachio Orientals were sleek sophistication compared to the gaudy pair below, but frighteningly similar in style. Ablaze in lurid lime (otherwise known as “puke”) green, they carried tiny black packs on their backs, open at the top, for the planting of equally tiny plants. A spot of red on their lips and sleek black bases completed their subdued tricolor palette. No doubt, they were at the apex of the 1950s lamp-cum-planter fad and meant to grace the cabinet top of the most exciting gizmo of their era – the TV, of course.

photo of 1950s oriental lamps

These poor creatures are even uglier than ours!

You get
a free pay-attention point
right here.

By now, you should’ve sussed this one out yourself, especially after The Conquistadors. Elegant from one era can quickly become ugly in another era. Remember that when you’re about to buy clothing or home accessories in the newest color fad, and some wee voice in your head is urging, Dooooon’t do it. Pay attention! That’s your future self warning you of the thunderous taste shift that’s looming on your horizon. Consider yourself duly warned.

Back to the story….

Hubby could hardly contain himself till gift-giving time. As all fifteen of us cozily gathered around the Christmas tree, he presented his “gift” of Pistachio Orientals to Middle Child, who laughed and laughed and laughed, along with all the other in-laws. See? “Fun” really is a relative term.

If they’d been presented to me, I, in a fit of genetic, Lucy-like behavior, would’ve marched them out to the concrete deck and whacked their little necks on its sharp edge. It would’ve been a mercifully quick death compared to my long and drawn-out murdering of The Conquistadors. Then this pitiful saga of revenge would’ve ended right there.

But Middle Child, with her weird sense of “fun,” held on to them for a year, faithfully brought them back for the next Christmas gift-giving and since we weren’t there, gave her oriental revenge to Little Sister. That was fitting since Little Sister and her sneaky husband had started the whole vengeful mess. With the Pistachio Orientals out of sight and safely in someone else’s closet, we enjoyed a quiet and sedate Christmas with my quiet and sedate (and “fun”-less) family.

What’s the chief
pay-attention point
to this wretched chronicle?

I thought you’d never ask. Pay attention because, sooner or later, you will need this smallish bit of wisdom. Just because your spouse wants to continue playing a game of revenge doesn’t mean you have to. However, though your non-participation will protect you from some fallout, be prepared for the inevitable collateral damage. After all, you are married to the revenge seeker. Though I had wisely stepped out of this Revenge Game, a lot of good that did me, as you’ll see in Part 5 of THE Lamps.

© 2016, Teresa Bennett

red box with white text: “ To avoid the collateral damage that comes from being closely associated with a vengeful person, DETACH if you can. If you can't, hunker down for the inevitable cross-fire.” – Teresa Bennett

Would you believe no one’s said this?? So I did.

THE Lamps, Part 3

(If you haven’t read Parts 1 and 2, you really should.)

The next Christmas, (see – you’re already lost if you haven’t read the first two episodes) my other sister-in-law, decided to jump in. Known to you as Middle Child, she decided The Ugly Lamp Gift Exchange looked like such jolly fun she’d like to participate, too. (A sad example that when we’re not truly paying attention, the grass does look greener on the other side of the fence.)

That Christmas at my in-laws, Middle Child lovingly offered me a small, beautiful gift bag. Since I’d successfully murdered The Conquistadors and sent their remains on to a better place (and the bag was smallish), I opened it with excited anticipation – the kind we reserve for real gifts. Here’s an early-in-the-story pay-attention point: when involved in the game of Revenge, it seldom pays to let down your guard. Talk about being blind-sided! That promising gift bag held the most unpromising “gift” – the MOTHER of all nursing home craft projects – run amok.

Glommed up with clumsily cut paper flowers from gaudy greeting cards and decoupaged indiscriminately on all four sides, it was a breathtaking, seven-inch-tall, bubbly-surfaced whiskey-bottle-turned lamp. The shade was a miniature, ridiculous upside-down version of the one in the photo below. And I might add that the one below is elegance personified compared to my decoupage disaster of a whiskey-bottle lamp.

photo of whiskey bottle made into a lamp

Unlike mine, sheer elegance!

If you’re younger than 50, you have no idea what decoupage fun you missed in the 1970s! While it was fun for women with absolutely no artistic ability who happily spent hours cutting out little cuties from greeting cards, there’s no denying it was a dark time in our nation’s history. These same wannabe-artists then pasted those cuties, in their non-art version of artsy, to anything not moving. Slapping a coat of shellac on the whole mess, they gave it to a dear one.

Wooden box purses were the preferred medium. But unfortunate whiskey bottles like mine, old milk cans, lunch boxes, furniture, and recipe boxes all gave their lives to this ill-advised, but thankfully, passing fad. Yes, you guessed right: there were awkward pauses and grim times around Christmas trees during the 1970s.

But I digress.

I wish I had a photo of my poor whisky-bottle lamp because I cannot begin to describe it adequately so that you fully appreciate its supremely TACKY ugliness. Up till this point, I had assumed that nothing could top The Conquistadors’ ugliness. Now, I realized they possessed a sizable amount of ugliness only because of their sizable real estate.

This petite gem made The Conquistadors look like amateurs in the Ugly Contest possessing, as it did, maximum ugliness per square inch. As I held that questionable beauty, I tried to laugh along with the rest of the fam; but honestly, I joined in the frivolity through clenched teeth. All this “fun” was wearing very, very, very thin. 

Gearing Up
for the Next Revenge Christmas

As Christmas became a distant memory, I recuperated from all that enforced “fun,” and the months marched on. Along about October, Hubby, gearing up for another blessed Revenge Christmas, asked excitedly, “Where’s that whiskey-bottle lamp Sis gave you?”

Lamp? What lamp?”

My feigned innocence didn’t work. “You threw it out, DIDN’T YOU???”

Um, well, I might’ve done. Can’t really remember….”

Oh great. Now we’ll have to find another ugly lamp to replace the one you threw out!”

WHY? Can’t we just stick a fork in this mess and call it ‘done’?”

Absolutely not! Where would the fun be in that? This is FUN!” (I would just like to point out right here that “fun” is most definitely a relative term.)

Grudgingly, I promised to see what I could find, but I was very nearly DONE with this silly game of Revenge. I never liked Monopoly either, for the same reason: it went on and on and on and on. Furthermore, I like to WIN a game and be done with it. This was a game that not only wouldn’t end, I couldn’t win it either. Confronted with a game like that, I typically gather up my marbles, cards, poker chips, whatever – and stomp off.

So is there
a usable pay-attention point
to my sour-grapes grumpiness?

Of course. Once embroiled in a non-productive “game,” WISE people fold and exit the game.

That’s not to say, you understand, that’s what we did. While I occasionally exhibit brief flashes of wisdom, I am not married to someone regularly displaying wisdom. I had to keep on playing this self-flagellating game of Revenge simply because my spouse wanted to, as you’ll see in Part 4 of THE Lamps

© 2016, Teresa Bennett

red box with white text: “Before you embark on a journey of revenge, dig two graves.” – Confucius

Talk about revenge not working out so well!!

THE Lamps, Part 2

photo of old, used hatchet, much like the kind Lizzie Borden might have used

Have you heard of the infamous Lizzie Borden?

(If you haven’t read Part 1, best read it. Otherwise, you won’t get the full force of humor in this Part 2, and you don’t want to miss that, do you?)

Having just found The Conquistadors behind my van seat, I grilled our two sons who had watched Brother-in-Law loading those monstrosities. “WHY didn’t you tell me these were behind my seat?!” They responded “Mom, we thought you wanted them; you do bring home some weird stuff,” which was true. I did. Still do.

At this point, I was too vexed by my in-laws’ deviousness to take time to lecture our sons on the subtle difference between the words weird and ugly. I quickly calmed down, though, when Hubby reminded me that Little Sister and her family were planning to visit her parents a few days after our visit with them. How VERY convenient. That gave us a full six hours to plot our cunning revenge.

At my in-laws, we added more Ugly to The Conquistadors – as if they weren’t ugly enough – by gluing out-of-style, yellow ball fringe to their shades. We boxed them into a whopper of a box (culled from Safeway’s bin in the middle of the night), wrapped it with deceptively nice wrapping paper, placed a cluster of lovely bows on it, said (what we sincerely hoped would be) our final good-byes to The Conquistadors, and lovingly placed our “present” near my in-laws’ Christmas tree. It looked like a real gift which, of course, was the whole point of all this vindictive busyness. Here’s an uncharacteristically early pay-attention tip: for maximum effectiveness, revenge needs to be gussied up to look like something else, something nice.

We traveled back to our home in Colorado. Days passed. Weeks passed. With no response to our clever retaliation, we forgot all about The Conquistadors, thinking they would no longer play a relevant role in our lives.

Wrong. Oh, SO wrong.

The sad saga
continues.

One balmy summer evening (EIGHT MONTHS from our retaliation), there was a knock at our front screen door while the boys and I were in the living room. I answered the door, fully expecting a friendly face. Instead, I found The Conquistadors, sitting quietly and expectantly on the porch, with not a human in sight in the black night. As they were beginning to take on an eerily human personality, my first thought was, “Did they walk the 800 miles to get here ?” Nah, the more obvious and painful explanation was that my in-laws had found a fellow conspirator right in our own city, no doubt someone we naively called “friend.”

Really! You have to wonder at the lengths to which SOME people are willing to go just for a little short-lived revenge. Whoops, that sounds a little hypocritical, doesn’t it? When Hubby returned home, he thought it was hysterical. But then he didn’t have to find a place to store the four-foot-tall Conquistadors.

As it turned out, neither did I. The next morning, I invited the widely traveled Conquistadors out to our sandstone patio where I ambushed them (à la Lizzie Borden). Using my trusty hatchet, I hacked those cursed Conquistadors to gold plaster dust and chunky smithereens. I ripped off the ball fringe. I cut the shades into strips. I yanked out the sockets. I yanked out the harps. I pulled out the cords. 

It was immensely satisfying.

But not quite satisfying enough. I meticulously swept up their shattered gold plaster bits, wanting NO reminders of their unwelcome visit. I neatly coiled the fringe and lampshade strips, tied the harps together, and wrapped the cords neatly around each other. I pulled out a huge piece of paper and, in a blaze of literary genius, wrote that short but unforgettable ditty about Lizzie Borden, written by Michael Brown and released in 1961 by the Chad Mitchell Trio.

Shut the door,
and lock and latch it.
Here comes Lizzie
with a brand new hatchet.

Kinda warms your heart, in a grizzly sort of way, doesn’t it?

I cut that little paper ditty into a primitive, six-piece, jig-saw puzzle and packed one piece in each package of:

plaster smithereens,
gold ball fringe,
lampshade strips,
harps,
sockets, and
cords.

Whipping out my calendar, I carefully timed their mailings to be received one week apart for the next six weeks. The Conquistadors had miraculously morphed into the gift that keeps on giving.

It turns out that their non-response to our Christmas “present” was a precursor to my in-laws’ habit of being sore losers. They would not concede that I had trumped their long-distance delivery of Conquistador Ugly. No, they wouldn’t even give us the satisfaction of an acknowledgement of having received any of my SIX “presents.” These people were experts at delivering revenge because – another pay-attention tip – the most effective response to revenge is, of course, NO response.

After waiting patiently for weeks and weeks, I decided, Oh well. I’m done with all that nonsense. I forgot all about The Conquistadors and that sorry lot of sore losers I’d apparently married into.

So what’s
the pay-attention point
to this revenge-filled part
of THE Lamps saga?

I’ve already given you two, but here’s the main pay-attention point: revenge seldom works out the way we’d hoped. I thought I could get even with Brother-in-Law and Little Sister, knowing full well getting even is a nasty habit. This time, with no gratifying response, I made my peace with it and decided to call it something else, taking my cue from ilikeitfunny.com (as you’ll see below).

The second time? Apparently, I wasn’t paying much attention to how poorly revenge had worked out for me the first time. Learn from my mistake and pay attention! In Part 3 of THE Lamps, I demonstrate incontrovertibly that the game of Revenge is like the game of Monopoly; it can go on forever.

© 2016, Teresa Bennett

red box with white text: “I don't like to call it revenge. Returning the favor sounds much nicer. “ – ilikeitfunny.com

Don’t you just love the game of Semantics?

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