Pay attention. I am not kidding. Really.

Month: April, 2016

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.”


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

2018 Addendum: I was exceedingly mistaken. This Ugly Lamp Revenge Game is not over. It was begun again in 2017 by Little Sister and The Conniver, as you’ll read in THE Lamps, Part 7.



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!!

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