Thursday, January 9, 2014

Dead rats and hermaphrodites.

How was your day?

My day went something like this....

I woke up this morning with a pounding migraine. It's okay - I get them. I give myself Imitrex injections for the headaches and during certain times of the month I get them almost daily. The streak usually lasts 5-6 days, but I'm mostly able to keep the migraines at bay using the Imitrex shots. The problem is that the shots are very expensive, and my insurance is stingy and I always run out of coverage on them before the end of the year. I have fought them and fought them and I've had my doctor fight them as well, to no avail. Sometimes it will take 2-3 shots to get rid of a single migraine, and I can't afford to spend $215 for two shots, so I did what anyone else would do. I had Eric go to his doctor and tell them that he was suffering from migraines, and that he'd been given Imitrex shots before and they'd worked for him. Booyah! Plenty more shots to get me through the end of the year. Take that, AETNA! (PS- He does get the very rare migraine, too, so it wasn't a total lie.)

Anyway, I woke up with a pounding headache this morning, but I had to go teach my step class. The same step class that I convince myself to quit every Tuesday and Thursday morning on my way to the gym. I don't know what this stage fright thing is, but I wish it would go away. I keep thinking that I will eventually get used to it, but it's now been almost three years and every Monday and Wednesday night my nerves kick in, and from about 5:00 on, I can't relax. I stress that I'll oversleep and somehow not make it to my class. I have nightmares that I can't manage to get to the gym in time, or that I forgot my shoes or my music. I dream that I can't get the stereo equipment to work right, or that I can't find the gym. I wake up in the morning with a feeling of dread that I'm going to mess up, or I'm going to feel sick in the middle of class, or that some other horrible unthought of thing will happen. I worry that people walking past the class on their way to other classes or to the equipment will look in the windows, see me teaching and think, "Well if the instructor looks like that, why should I bother?" I figured I just needed time to adjust and that I'd eventually get over it, but so far it hasn't happened.

So this means that typically I don't sleep very well before I teach. I have what I call stress dreams and I toss and turn a lot. However, despite my fears that it won't, my alarm always does go off (I set two of them.), I wake up, get dressed, brush my teeth, wash my face, finish helping the kids with whatever they need and drive off to the gym. By the time I've pulled into the parking lot, I've composed my letter of resignation in my head. I tell myself what a load off it will be to not have to teach anymore. Then I park in the employee lot, punch in the code to get into the gate, and go in the back door by the tennis courts. I grab a towel and some water on my walk to the studio, wave hello to the ladies who always get there early enough to sit and chat at the tables by the climbing wall, and I enter the cold studio. I turn on the lights, turn on the stereo, check the headset microphone and make sure it has fresh batteries, set up my step, plop my choreography notes down on the floor in front of me, and review my notes until people start to trickle in. I like to get there at least fifteen minutes early so I have plenty of time to troubleshoot any stereo or microphone problems. Once those things are set I'll chat with the people who have grown from acquaintances into friends.  

Then I start the class, and all those feelings of dread and stress melt away. I'm in my element up there. I know what the heck I'm doing, and I'm confident in it. I enjoy leading the class and I know the members enjoy it. So after class I gather my stuff and walk to my car thinking, "What the heck is wrong with me? I'd never want to quit doing this." And this is the cycle that repeats twice a week. Poor Eric is so patient with me. He hears the same things over and over again, but he never gets frustrated. He just listens and tries to be understanding even though I am clearly a basket case

So I woke up with a bad migraine today. I also knew that today was the day that I was going to have to put our beloved rat, Javier to sleep. About six months ago he started making wheezing noises so I took him to the vet and they prescribed antibiotics. His breathing was very labored, like he'd always just finished running a marathon. We tried multiple treatments for him, and some of them seemed to have a temporary effect, but after a couple of weeks he'd be back where we started. The vet had suspected a respiratory issue, but the medications should have helped him if that's what it was. A couple months later I went out to the rat rescue organization where we adopt most of our rats to get our two new boys neutered. I took Javier along with us so the rat expert could take a look at him. I respect veterinarians for everything they do and the knowledge that they have, but a lot of them aren't familiar enough with rats to really know the ins and outs of treating them. That's why this organization is so valuable. They really know rats. So I took Javier with me and the lady from the rescue agreed that Javi was very sick. She suggested a three part treatment to see if it would help him. She said that he probably felt like he was having an asthma attack all the time. But despite the labored breathing, he was still his happy self, so I wanted to keep trying treatments on him because I felt like his quality of life was still good, and we loved him so much.  Unfortunately none of the treatments worked and his health continued to decline. Especially over the past two months. He began to pee every time we'd get him out of his cage, which he never used to do. I think even the smallest movements stressed his little heart and lungs. And he began to get skinnier and skinnier. He was also puffing up his fur all the time, which is a sign of pain. I knew that his days were numbered and I couldn't stand to watch him sit in his cage struggling to breathe and getting thinner and thinner. That's the hardest thing about being a pet owner - when do you know that it's time to say goodbye? Being the one to make that decision is really hard. To say that you are the one who should decide when to end a life. It's tough.

So that was what I had going for me when I woke up this morning. I don't normally like to have a migraine shot so close to working out, but I knew it would be really hard to teach my class with a pounding headache, so I went ahead and stopped in the bathroom to inject myself before I left the house. I grabbed my gym bag and sat quietly in the car on the way to the gym, hoping the shot would kick in. By the time I got there, at least the headache was gone, but my heart was still heavy about Javier. Class went well, and since I had actually remembered to pack my bag last night I was able to spend some time in the steam room (my favorite!) before taking a shower and getting ready there.  

Yesterday when I emailed the girl from the rat rescue organization I asked her if she could help me with euthanizing poor Javier. Unfortunately since I've been through this before with the rats, I know that the vets at the office we use aren't consistent with how they choose to euthanize a rat. The method varies depending on who I get. I've done my research on this and there is really only one humane way to euthanize a rodent. The best way to go is to give them something to sedate them, and then give them a shot in the heart to stop their heart. Only once have I had the vet allow me to hold the rat while it has passed away. The other ones have made me leave him with them and they take them in the back and put them in a tank where they breathe in a gas that eventually makes them die. I know that my rats would be scared if they were just dumped into a glass tank and left to pass away on their own. I don't want that to be the last thing they experience. I want the option to hold them and comfort them as they're passing. I knew there were home methods to use, but I didn't have what I needed at home to do them, so I hoped she could offer some assistance. 

She emailed me back right away and said that she was so sorry about Javier and that she could help me. She told me that I could go over there right then, but she lives a good 35 minutes away and it was late, so I asked if she was available today. It turns out that she works right near my house, so she said that she would come over once I got home from the gym. I had no idea what she would be bringing with her, but knowing how much she loves rats and all she does to find homes for them, I knew it would be humane and the right thing to do. I knew that I was just putting off the inevitable, but I still dawdled at the gym. I took extra time in the steam room. I filled my water cup up like three times, then I took my time walking to my car. On the way home I realized that I needed to go to the bank, so I did that too. 

Finally I was home and I went upstairs to check on Javier. He was sitting in his cage huffing and puffing and wheezing. In the past when we've had to do this, I've given the kids a chance to say goodbye. That is absolutely heartbreaking - to see them holding the rat on their lap, petting them and talking to them, thanking them for being such good pets and friends and telling them how much they'll miss them. Then I'm the one to pull the rat out of their hands and walk out the door - it's excruciating. It really is. The kids were already having a hard time with getting back into the swing of school after being gone for winter break, so the last thing I wanted to do was tell them right before school that Javier would be gone when they got home. I decided that I'd just tell them that he passed while they were at school. I know some people don't agree with lying to your kids. About anything. I'm not one of those people. If there's a white lie that I need to tell to protect them, I'll do it. Don't get me wrong, I don't go around lying to them all the time, but for something like this, I wouldn't think twice.

So I picked up Javier from his cage and held him in my lap, petting him as I called Dr. Kevorkian to come do her thing. She told me that she'd be there in five minutes. I got all nervous that she'd come in and check out my rats and scold me for something. She takes her rats very seriously. I had recently moved their cage off the desk in our spare room and put them on a chair so that Emily could use the desk to rainbow loom. The chair was in front of the window and I immediately worried that she'd come in and tell me that they should never be around drafts. Then I hid the bag of Petco brand pet food because I know how anti Petco she is. She hates the way they treat small animals and doesn't like people to shop there. It was crazy how nervous I was to please her. She's probably in her twenties and just a very serious person. Here I am, forty-two years old, running around my house with my dying rat in my arms, hiding bags of pet food and moving their cage in case she comes up there. I also closed Emily's bedroom door because it was messy and I didn't want her to judge. Even I can see the humor in that. 

Anyway, she arrived and was very nice and respectfully somber as she carried her little bag inside with her. My dogs were acting like idiots as usual, and Rudy shoved his nose right into her crotch as I led her into the kitchen. (Thanks a lot Rudy.) She asked where I wanted her to set up and I said the kitchen table would be fine. I already had a towel with me since Javier would randomly pee when being held. She took him from me to just check him out first. She showed me how blue his little feet and hands were (yes, I call them hands), which meant that he wasn't getting enough oxygen. The puffy fur and bony body were also signs that it was time. This is when I get all emotional and need that reassurance from someone else that I'm making the right decision. I looked at her with tears in my eyes and said, "My husband asked me to make sure that you thought it was really time. It's time, isn't it?" She stroked his fur and said, "Yes. We've tried the meds and those blue feet are sure signs. I mean he could go on for a while like this, but he's suffering. I would do the same thing if he were mine." 

I nodded and took a deep breath and said, "Okay." She opened her little case and said, "By the way, what I'm doing is very illegal, so please don't sue me and take my house." I shook my head and assured her that I'd never do that, and that I just appreciated the opportunity to be able to have Javier be comfortable in his own environment and with me. Plus this way I also didn't have to go through the whole Kramer vs. Kramer scenario of ripping him out of my howling kids' arms to take him to the vet. She took a small drinking glass out of her bag, along with some cotton pads. Then she took a brown bottle of some sort of liquid medication type stuff. She explained the gist of what we were going to do. She said that the liquid was anesthesia, and that basically we were just going to overdose him on the anesthesia. That he would go to sleep and just never wake up. She said that at the vet, a lot of times they'll use this to sedate the rat, then give them an injection into the heart just to be sure. But that if we kept him under it long enough, it would be enough to send him off in the most peaceful way possible. 

She opened the bottle of anesthesia and soaked two cotton pads with it. She then put those in the bottom of the glass. She turned the glass on its side and explained that we needed to put Javier's nose into the opening of the glass so that he would breathe the fumes. She said that rats don't like breathing the gas, so sometimes they will struggle a little. I helped her hold his struggling little body up to the mouth of the glass, but he wasn't having it. He fought us and pushed away with his little hands. While I wanted him to be comfortable by being with me, and in his own environment, I wasn't counting on this. He would never, ever bite, and of course, even in his fear he didn't try to bite us. He just pushed away and wiggled around to try to stay away from the gas. The stuff had a strong odor and he probably didn't like it. Eventually we were able to get his head in there and then he started gasping.  Well that just about did me in. His little mouth was open and he was gasping for air. I hadn't cried up until that point, but I started crying pretty hard. It was kind of surreal. Here I was, sitting in my kitchen with a virtual stranger who was helping me illegally euthanize my pet rat, crying like a baby. If someone had come to me five years ago and described that scene to me I'd have told them they were crazy! Javier made one final gasp and then the anesthesia seemed to take hold and he settled down. I was able to pet him and talk to him as he relaxed and stopped squirming. She said to me, "This would probably be a good time to say your goodbye." I looked at her and said okay, but I thought to myself, it's not like I'm going to bend down and give him a little speech right here in front of her. So I just kept soothing him and telling him that he was a good boy until he lost consciousness. Eventually his breathing slowed more and more until he finally took his last breath. Once that happened I settled him on his side and she told me to leave him in that position with his face in the glass for as long as possible. Since she doesn't have access to that final shot to give him, if he didn't inhale enough anesthesia, there was a tiny, tiny chance that he could wake up. But this lady knows her stuff. She's taken in hundreds of rats from shelters and who knows where, and she's had to handle dying rats numerous times, so I knew it wouldn't happen. She re-packed her bag, I gave her some money to donate to the organization, and thanked her again before she left. I sat and cried for a few minutes, then I covered him with the towel and tried to move on with my day. 

By this time it was just after noon and I had two hours to figure out how to break the news to my kids. I decided to busy myself around the house. I took the rest of the decorations off the Christmas tree and packed them up. Then I took the tree out to the garage, then pulled some dead plants out of the flower bed in the front yard. I vacuumed the house and did a few loads of laundry and finally it was time to go pick up the kids from school. I wanted them to think that he'd passed away naturally, so I got rid of the cotton balls and glass, and I wrapped Javier in a towel and put him in the closet. Then I searched for a box to put him in to bury him. A shoebox would be too big, and the ground is hard right now, so to dig a hole big enough for a shoe box would be hard, so I was trying to find a smaller box. I looked all over the place and couldn't find anything that would work. As I walked through the kitchen I opened the cabinet to put something away and noticed that there was a new bottle of Absolut vodka in there. It came in a box. The tall, narrow box was perfect for Javier. I took the box down and set it on the kitchen table before leaving for the school. 

Owen was going to his friend's house after school to practice his Blues Brothers routine for the talent show, so I just had Emily and the two other kids that I drive carpool for. I dropped both of them off and walked into the house with Emily. Normally she runs straight up to the rats to talk to them and pet them before washing her hands, having a snack and starting her homework. We all love our rats, but Emily loves them like no one else. At any given time in the day she's walking around with a rat in her arms. She plays with them, she sings to them, and she just really, really loves them. So I was seriously dreading telling her. She told me that she was really hungry and started looking for a snack. She saw that I had bought ramen noodles at the store and asked if she could have some. I said that would be fine. She likes to make them, so I helped her get the pot and fill it with water. As we waited for the water to boil, I said, "I have some bad news." She said, "Is it Javi?" I said yes. I told her that he'd passed away. She started to cry and I hugged her and just let her cry. I told her that he must have passed away while I was at the gym. We talked about him for a few minutes and I told her that he was in a better place where he could jump around and take as many deep breaths as he wanted without a struggle. Emily agreed and we finished making the noodles. She was sad, but she seemed to handle the news better than I thought she would. She asked where he was and I told her that I had him wrapped in a towel. I told her that we could bury him that night. I asked her where she wanted to bury him and she said behind the fence where we buried her parakeet over the summer. 

Since it was Tuesday, that meant hockey practice for Owen. It also meant that I was going to get together with my friend Alicia for our regular Tuesday night ritual of watching the Real Housewives. We save Sunday night's Atlanta Housewives and Monday night's Beverly Hills Housewives episodes and watch them on the DVR together on Tuesday night. We alternate whose house we watch at and the visitor usually picks up salads for us to eat while we watch. It was my turn to go to Alicia's, which meant that Emily would have to go to hockey practice with Eric and Owen. I figured getting out of the house would do Emily good anyway. Eric stopped at home to grab Owen's hockey stuff and Emily, then went to pick up Owen at his friend's house. I left it up to Eric to break the news about Javier to Owen. He told him on the way to hockey. Owen also seemed to handle it okay. Later Emily told me that she feels like it's just a little easier to know that he just passed away on his own. This reinforces my decision to handle it the way that I did. 

Normally Alicia and I grab salads from somewhere, but I texted her and said, "I know we've both had stressful days, so I'm going to get us sushi instead! I need to drown my sorrows in good food!" (She's got a lot going on at work - like 3 people in a row either quit or got fired, so she's handling way more work than normal.) She texted back and told me what she wanted, and I headed out to pick up our food. Once I got to her house, she sent her son into his room to entertain himself so we could start our shows in the living room. (Her husband doesn't get home from work until around 7:30 or so.) There's something so great about being in the comfort of a good friend where I felt like I could just exhale and unwind. We sat on the floor and ate our sushi while we caught up on our days. I teared up a little when I told her the details about Javier and she told me about the stuff going on at her job. I mentioned that I'd had a migraine this morning and that I needed to find a neurologist who used Botox to treat migraines. (It's something I've been meaning to do for a couple years now.) I told her I would just start calling neurologists in the area and ask the receptionist if they prescribe Botox as a migraine treatment. 

Once we got our chit chatting out of the way, we settled in to stuff our faces while watching Housewives. I think we were both slap happy from stress, and under normal circumstances we have a tendency to crack each other up a lot and laugh a lot, but because we'd both been so tightly wound, I feel like we were laughing more than usual. It takes us like two hours to get through a one hour episode because we have to pause it so often to dish on what we're seeing and laugh at stuff. Several times I cracked up so hard that I almost peed my pants. This isn't unusual for me, unfortunately. So just to be safe I got up and went to the bathroom about halfway through the episode of Beverly Hills. I came back and resumed my spot on the floor in front of the couch and we started watching again. About ten minutes later, Jamie Lee Curtis appeared on the show. She was helping Kyle with a fashion show. Alicia and I made eye contact and started to snicker. For no reason - that's the best thing - sometimes there doesn't have to be any reason. We just find things funny. We probably sound like immature fourteen year olds to anyone eavesdropping, but I don't care. We have fun, and laughing is good for the heart, the mind and the soul. After we snickered at the TV, I sighed and said, "Oh Jamie Lee...." Then Alicia said, "She's a hermaphrodite." I nodded and said, "Yes. I know!" For whatever reason, this sent us both into hysterics. And I started to pee. So I started to flap my arms at her to tell her to shut the hell up and stop laughing because the more she laughed the more I laughed, and the more I laughed the more I peed. But you know how it is - we were laughing at something so stupid, then we were laughing at the fact that I was wetting my pants. On her floor. In my jeans. I had made it to my hands and knees by then, and I kept squealing, "Stop! Stop!!! STOP LAUGHING!" Her husband, who was in the kitchen at that point, and very familiar with my "problem" called out, "Do you need a towel?" I yelled back, "Yesssss!!" By then the floodgates had opened and there was no turning back. When I get to that point all I can do is let go. I soaked my underwear, my jeans, my socks, and even the bottom part of my sweater. And, of course, her rug. Once the laughter wore off and reality set in, we stared at each other in horror. "What do you need?" she asked. I answered, "I don't know! Pants! Clothes! Towels! Oh my gosh! This is horrible!" Alicia is smaller than me, so she started to politely stutter, "Um, I don't know if I'll have pants...." She trailed off. I finished for her. "To fit me. I know! So get something from Bill! I have to take everything off!" I waddled into the bathroom with my legs far apart, doing the walk of shame known only to me and every other three year old being potty trained. Once in the quiet of the bathroom I assessed the situation. It wasn't good. My jeans were completely drenched. By the time I took off every piece of clothing that had come into contact with my urine, I was down to my bra and a tank top. I waited in the cold bathroom (they never use that bathroom so the heat vents are closed and they keep the door closed) for Alicia to find something for me to wear. I heard her hissing at her husband, "Bill! Help me find some sweats for her!" Poor Bill. I cleaned myself up in the meantime, horrified at what had just happened. She finally knocked on the door. She said, "Here are some pants. Try them out. And here's a sweatshirt, too. I looked at the pants. They were both nylon sweat type pants. You know - the kind they use to make windbreakers. They have zero stretch in them. Bill is a pretty small guy. He's not any taller than me and like most men, he has nothing going on in the way of thighs or a butt. Any extra weight he carries is in his belly, where the beer goes. I looked at both pairs of pants. They were men's mediums. I held them up and shrugged. What choice did I have? I put them on and while they were fine at the waist, they were squeezing my butt, crotch and thighs like nothing else. Could I get any lower? I'm in my friend's bathroom, with a pile of my own clothes sopping wet on the floor, wearing her husbands pants that are too small for me! I threw on the sweatshirt, washed my hands and walked back into the living room. "Are those okay?" she asked. "Yes, they're fine," I lied. I then got down to the business of cleaning her area rug. Luckily it's brownish/tan so she couldn't really see how much of a spot I left. I cleaned it all up, put my wet clothing in a grocery bag, like they do to the kids in preschool, and went to settle back on the couch. We still had part of Housewives to watch, and all of Vanderpump Rules! 

As I sat down Alicia said, "How did that happen? I thought you just went to the bathroom like ten minutes ago?" I said, "I did. This is what happens! I can completely empty my bladder and fifteen minutes later have that happen! I really, really need to get that surgery to fix this ridiculousness! I need to make an appointment. This stuff can't go on!" She said, "Yeah, because what if we were out somewhere? Are you going to wet your pants at the Eagles concert when we go?" I looked at her like she was crazy and said, "Of course not! There will be music playing! We won't really be talking, so there won't be that much laughing! If I wet my pants it will definitely be at dinner before. And in that case, I guess I'll just keep a change of clothes in the car. But seriously, this is a major problem. I've just been putting off going to the doctor because I don't want to deal with surgery!" Alicia agreed that surgery wasn't a fun thing to think about, and we resumed our show. 

As we watched I struggled on their couch to get comfortable in those tight pants. I lay on my side lengthways along the couch. I kept tugging at them. "These pants!" I gasped. Then I tried a different position, but no matter what my thighs and butt were protesting and trying to burst free. I finally got myself fairly settled and tried to focus on the show. I texted Eric. 

ME: OMG,  I just peed my pants bad!!!!!! Soaked my jeans and underwear and sweater and socks. And I'm shoved into a pair of Bill's size medium nylon sweat pants!!

ERIC: What else is new? 
ERIC: Send me a pic.

ME: OMG No!
ME: I'm wearing them home so you'll see.
ME: If you need to bury Javi, he is under the staircase
ME: In a towel
ME: I feel like these pants are 2T!
ME: Have you buried the rat yet?

ERIC: Yes. After dinner.

Alicia and I resumed watching. We got some more laughs out of the ridiculous people on Vanderpump Rules, when suddenly this commercial comes on the TV. We both thought it was a joke. It had to be. Like one of the fake commercials SNL makes. Watch it - 



Okay, seriously? As the commercial started Alicia and I stopped talking and just watched. It had to be a spoof....but wait. No. This is a real thing. Now don't think I'm insensitive - but come on. That is one of the weirdest ads I've ever seen! I gasped. "I think I have this!" Alicia laughed and said, "No you have urinary incontinence." I said, "Yes, but I have this too! I laugh uncontrollably!" We continued talking about how strange the commercial was and even called her husband in to watch it. Before we started it we said, "Tell us if you think this is a real commercial or a fake one." He thought it was a farce too, until he saw the phone number, etc. It was just so weird. And that's about all I can say about that. 

After Vanderpump Rules was over I gathered up all my stuff and bid my friend adieu. I said to Alicia, "Tell Bill thanks for the clothes. Considering the state I was in when I put them on, he probably never wants to see them again. But I'll still wash them and give them back." She laughed and said, "No problem. I'm just glad you have something to drive home in." I said, "Yeah, no joke. If I had to drive home in just what's dry, I'd have been in my tank top and shoes. Imagine me getting pulled over wearing that. How would I explain my way out of that ticket?" I thanked her for her hospitality and said, "Now if you'll excuse me I have to go home and look up all the medical treatments I need. Botox for migraines, bladder surgery for the wetting problem, and possible medication for PDA. We chuckled and I hit the road. 

When I got home, the kids were asleep and Eric was in our room playing his PlayStation. I modeled my tight pants for him and then ran to the closet to get something more comfortable. As I peeled off the pants like you peel the skin off a grape I called out to him. Did you bury the rat? How'd it go?" He told me that they did bury him, and that it was sad, but the kids were doing okay. I said that I was glad and got my nice, comfortable pajamas on. 

And then I crawled into my bed and reviewed my day in my head. Migraine. Euthanizing a pet rat in my own home. Burying him in an emtpy vodka box. Wetting my pants in front of my friend and her husband. Borrowing her husband's size 2T pants to wear home. I'd say that today was a day that I won't soon forget. 

How'd you say your day was again?


Rest in peace, little Javier. We will miss you. 
PS - I know that Jamie Lee Curtis is really not a hermaphrodite.

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

What does Facebook mean to you?

About two weeks ago, Eric and I flew back to Maryland for a wedding. One of my best friends from high school was getting married, and I wouldn't have missed it for the world. (Maryland is one of three states where I grew up -I also lived in Arkansas and Texas.) Because of Facebook, while on this trip I was able to connect with friends I haven't seen in decades -some since as far back as sixth grade! 




I got to see friends and familiar faces at the wedding, and then again the next morning at a brunch that we put together for others who weren't able to make the wedding. It was pretty easy to organize the group because another friend and I just kept posting on Facebook asking who might be interested in getting together. Because of Facebook, most of the people at the brunch felt like they already knew my husband, which in turn, made him feel right at home among them. 



I was also able to meet up with a friend who I went to high school with but didn't know during those days. Through Facebook, we've  gotten to know each other pretty well over the past few years, so that when Eric and I actually met him, it felt like we were getting together with an old friend. He was tending bar that weekend, so we found ourselves in a tiny bar in Baltimore, and while he served us drinks, we visited with him, met new friends and enjoyed a neighborhood we would never have found ourselves in otherwise. (I also had to fend off one particularly pesky gay man who wanted nothing more than to sing "Picture" by Kid Rock with me as a karaoke duet, but that's a whole other entry entirely - yes, I sang it with him.) So even though Kirk and I were merely just students at the same high school twenty-some years ago, through Facebook we found that we really connected and shared a common sense of humor, and because of this, spending time with him was just as comfortable as if we were seeing someone we'd known forever.

Because of Facebook, while in Maryland, I also got to meet in person a friend I made online over ten years ago after I had a miscarriage and was trying to get pregnant again. The message board forum that originally brought us together eventually folded and we migrated to Facebook together. This woman and I chat on and off daily and have been doing so for years. We've shared intimate details of our lives due to our reasons for being on that forum to begin with, and Eric and I were lucky enough to get to have lunch with her and her husband. Again, no weirdness - we just felt like comfortable old friends. 

Because of Facebook, my 94 year old Grandma can see recent pictures of five kids, her thirteen grandchildren, her countless great grandchildren, and her two great-great grandchildren. Because of Facebook I knew when my friend was in the hospital and I was able to take her magazines and some flowers to brighten her day. Because of Facebook my friends all know about my obsession with Josh Groban and were able to share in my excitement when I got to meet him this summer.

Facebook (and social media as a whole) has changed the world. I'm sure it's caused plenty of bad situations - I know affairs have resulted because of it, I know people have lost jobs over pictures posted, etc. I know that people have been tricked because of it (Catfish, anyone?). I know that I myself have even been a victim of the fake Facebook profile in a big way. But I think it's all in how you choose to use it. And for me, the positive far outweighs any negative aspects of it. 

My friends and I were having a conversation at the wedding and one of them said, "Why didn't I like you in high school? Why didn't I know how cool you were?" I said, "Well I don't know. Probably because I moved away after seventh grade and didn't come back until junior year. By then most of the cliques had formed and it was hard for me to find my place." She went on, "But you never talked! You never said anything!" I said, "Well yes...I did talk. But I was probably quieter than I am now because I couldn't really figure out how to fit in." She added, "Well, I never shut up either, so you probably tried to talk, but couldn't get a word in edgewise." We laughed at that, and I continued. "You know, I struggled a lot in high school. When I moved back, I tried to reach out to several friends I had been close with back in seventh grade, but no one seemed too interested - they all had their own things going on. I tried very hard to reach out to one in particular, but she ignored me to the point of it being embarrassing. I even tried writing her a note and having someone hand it off to her in a class, but she never replied." I leaned forward and said to them, "You know what's sad? I used to tell my mom, 'If only I could get stuck in an elevator with some of these people for a few hours. Then they would know how cool I was. But they just won't give me the time of day to find out.'" My friend Tara listened and nodded and agreed with me at how sad that was, but then she said, "You know, I think that maybe we were given these trials and tribulations because these things make us who we are today. And look what a compassionate, caring, funny, strong person you are now." (Tara's so great.) And I do know that she's right. If I hadn't lived the exact life I lived, I might never have met Eric, and I wouldn't change that for the world. 

I realize that social media is making the world a harder place for our kids, and that is a scary thought. Because when I was growing up, if I did something stupid, the only people who would know would be me and anyone else I told. Now someone can snap a picture on their phone, upload it to Instagram, and in seconds the entire school knows that Mickie was one of the first people in her small town in Maryland to discover self-tanner and came to school looking like an Oompa-Loompa, but tried to pull it off as if she'd been in the sun over the weekend (in the middle of January)! It's definitely an uncharted course that we as parents are going to have to learn how to help our children navigate. 

I've been on Facebook now for about seven years and I've evolved in the way that I post things, just as Facebook itself has. I've learned that I mostly want to put the good things out there. Sure I might post or vent with some sort of frustration if something is really getting to me, but I see others who consistently post negativity and I don't want to be like that. Believe me, I've stopped myself from posting my frustrations many times. But just like anything  in life, we see everything on Facebook. We see the person with the health issues who seems like they never feel well and always have some sort of malady. And while it's not always fun to see those posts, that is their reality. And it must suck for them. So I try to be supportive and say that I hope they're feeling better soon. There are those who love nothing more than to share their extreme political views. I can choose to comment, or I can choose to just ignore the post and wait for some other type of post to comment on. There are the people who seem to do nothing all day but post those funny e-cards. If I see one that I think is funny I might "like" it or comment on it. I guess what I'm saying is that each person has their own uses for Facebook, and who are we to say that any of them are wrong or annoying?

For me, personally, I love to laugh and to make people laugh. I seem to find myself in weird situations fairly regularly and I've found that people get a kick out of these stories. So while my posts are often lengthy because I'm telling about how I siphoned the foul smelling liquid soap out of the built in soap dispenser in my kitchen because I couldn't stand the smell of it every time someone in my house washed their hands, only to find out that the container unscrews beneath my sink and I could have just dumped it out, or, maybe I'm talking about how I laughed so hard that I peed in my brand new $200 boots and that I really should look into getting bladder surgery, or maybe I'm posting a photo of my husband using the loose brown pieces of yarn from the carpet as a fake moustache. Perhaps I'm sharing with everyone the frustrations of walking down the street in Annapolis while my tights slowly rolled down my legs - whatever I'm posting about, I can typically be counted on to (hopefully) make someone who might be having a bad day at least crack a smile, often at my expense. This is how I choose to use my Facebook account. And yes, I do post pictures of trips I've taken with my family, or fun outings we've gone on. Yes, I do pop over to Eric's wall occasionally to tell him that I miss him and I love him because he's out of town for the fifteenth night in a month. 

The reason I'm posting this is because on Friday a friend of mine posted a link to this article.  7 Ways to Be Insufferable on Facebook
When she shared it, she also wrote this, "Hope some of my 'friends' that I've unsubscribed from due to the annoying posts about their perfect lives/spouses will take a hint."  

I decided to take a look at the article. I was going to highlight some of the points for you, but actually I think I'd rather you just read the article. Basically the person who wrote this is saying that they don't want to hear peoples' good news, they don't want to hear their bad news, they don't want to see that the person is living a good life, but they don't want to see negative posts either. The friend who shared this link is someone I've known since I was twenty years old. We worked together at an electronics company - I worked in the travel department and she was an administrative assistant. We became pretty close and had a lot of fun together. When Eric and I first started dating, we spent a lot of time with her and her husband. Over the years, first we moved away, then they did, then we happened to be back in the same vicinity and we reconnected. Then they moved to Bakersfield and we haven't seen each other in several years. But we are in touch via Facebook. She doesn't post all that often, but if you go back through her posts, you'll see a comment or a "like" from me more often than you won't. While I do realize that my Facebook is my Facebook, like anything else in life, I try to reciprocate - if you are one of my 483 friends on Facebook, if you post something and I see it, I'm likely to acknowledge it. I try to be a good friend in that way as much as I can.  Anyway, as I thought about it, I got the feeling that this message was aimed at me, at least in part. And that I was one of the "friends" that need to take a hint about their annoying posts about their perfect lives or spouses. I thought about how, despite the fact that I consistently comment on her posts, I don't ever see her comment on anything I post. Which is okay. I'm not posting to see how many comments I get. And I know some people prefer to just lurk. We all choose to use Facebook in our own way. But it just made me think that perhaps she was trying to send me a not-so-subtle message. So I commented. This is the conversation that followed....

So I had been one of those "friends." She wanted me to see it and she wanted me to take the hint and stop talking about my perfect life. Well guess what, "friend." My life is far from perfect. Just because I choose not to use my Facebook profile to spread misery or health dilemmas or fights with my husband, it doesn't mean that I have a perfect life. So if you must know, friend, let's talk. Did you know that I beat myself up daily when I look in the mirror or see a picture of myself because what I see looking back at me looks like a beast?  And if you must know, in the past few years, my family has been through some major drama and health issues that are too private to share. Stuff that would make you cry. And if you must know, sometimes I want to punch my husband in the face because he can make me that mad (but I don't). And while we're at it, in case you didn't know, I get horrible migraines that I have to give myself shots to control. Is that un-perfect enough for you?  

But guess what else, friend?  Despite those things, I do have a pretty kick ass life. And I'm not scared to admit it. I was lucky enough to find a man who loves me for me, and who makes me laugh every single day. He thinks about me throughout the day, and he misses me when we're not together. He's my best friend, a loving and thoughtful husband, and a great father to our kids. I was also lucky enough to have two really cool, funny, healthy kids. Yes, we have a nice house and drive nice cars, but guess what? We work hard for everything we have. Yes we take nice vacations, but we've also been married for thirteen years and are just now getting to a comfortable enough spot financially to be able to enjoy these things. 

So one more thing, friend. I have chosen the people in my life very carefully. I have learned that life is much too short to waste any time surrounding myself with negative people or people who can't be happy for me or sad with me. I've got a life rich with real friends and I don't need people like you in my life, judging me for having a perfect life or spouse. And if you actually loved me, like you say you do, you woudn't think my posts were annoying and try to send me a public message telling me so. I treat my friends and family like I would want to be treated and I will accept no less from my own friends. So, good luck with your future because I am about to use the "unfriend" button and my friend count will go down by one, but it won't be any real loss.


Friday, July 26, 2013

Meeting Josh Groban

Last night was without a doubt one of the best nights of my life. I know that sounds kind of dramatic and overboard, but it's the truth. Everything about the evening was just perfect. 

If you're reading this, you probably know that I won a meet and greet with Josh Groban before his show at Sonoma State University last night. I joined the "Friends of Josh Groban" quite a while ago mainly to support his charity and also to learn about events and appearances. It also allowed me to get presale codes for tickets for his concert tours. I'm not very active on the message boards over there, but I do lurk and read a lot of the posts. So this spring, when tickets for his upcoming "In The Round" tour were about to go on sale, I became more active on the boards over there. I bought tickets for both Sacramento and San Jose for October. Then he announced a smaller summer tour of several great outdoor venues, and luckily Sonoma State University was one of them. I had missed the presale for that one, and I was really having a hard time finding decent seats. But I continued checking and finally lucked out, finding some just a few rows back from the stage. 

The fan club offers a meet and greet lottery for members at each of his shows. You just enter your name and ticket info and hope for the best. So I entered for the Sonoma State show, thinking that there was no chance I'd ever be picked. I went about my business, staying busy at the beginning of the summer, not really thinking too much about the upcoming concert, when I got a message from another fan club member, congratulating me on winning the meet and greet for the Sonoma State show. I couldn't believe my eyes! I ran to my computer and logged on, and sure enough, there was my name on the list! I was beside myself - I really was!

As the date of the show grew closer I wondered what the meet and greet would be like. Would I get to take a picture with him? Would I get to talk to him? I started to get kind of nervous about the whole thing. I can imagine that the, um, intensity of some of his fans might just overwhelm him sometimes and in some ways I didn't want to contribute to that or be a part of it, if that makes sense? Yet, I highly doubt that kismet is ever going to cause me to just run into him, you know? So I knew that I should seize the opportunity to just do it. I also had a t-shirt that I wanted to give him. Back in December when we were in Maui, I had tweeted a picture of the t-shirt to him and he immediately retweeted it to his followers. (The quick story behind that is that he once tweeted about some weird spork he'd received either on a plane or in another country -I honestly don't remember- and mentioned how weird it was because it folded up so he could re-use it if he wanted. The whole thing created a fun little conversation on Twitter, so when he was doing a charity auction a few months later he autographed the spork and auctioned it off. He has also made it well-known that he's a big Star Wars fan. So when you see the t-shirt you'll immediately know why I thought of him as soon as I saw it.)



Taking another moment to back up to last year - around Mother's Day, Josh tweeted about a special charity event show he was performing at the Walt Disney Concert Hall in downtown LA. It was a benefit for LACHSA - Los Angeles County High School for the Arts.  (Josh Groban is an alumni of this school, so it was a benefit that was obviously near and dear to his heart.) It also raised money for his Find Your Light Foundation - he's really a great philanthropist; he does quite a lot of charity work.  Anyway, there was a special package offered for this show that included several perks, first and foremost being a "cocktail reception with Josh." The package was pricey, and I'll just leave it at that, but it was 100% tax deductible. Of course I immediately texted Eric telling him about it and asking if we could go. We are only an hour flight from Los Angeles and Eric has many, many Southwest airline points from all the work travel he does, so the travel part of it wouldn't be an issue. I was a little surprised when he readily agreed to go. Mother's Day was coming up and he said the tickets could be my Mother's Day gift. I figured that was going to be my chance to meet Josh. Honestly, I really just wanted an opportunity to say hello and get a decent picture with him. Again, I got all weird about walking that fine line between being a fan and being a nuisance. So the week of the show arrived and Eric flew down to Orange County that morning so he could spend the day working in his office down there. Then I flew down that evening to meet him. We had dinner in Newport Beach, then drove up to Hollywood to check into the hotel. The next night, when we got to the Concert Hall, they checked us in at a table just outside the doors. We were given our "package perks" which included seating in the front section of the concert, a t-shirt for each of us created specially for the event, a poster of the same, and purple rubber VIP bracelets allowing us access to the reception. They had appetizers and a bar available with stand up cocktail tables. As the room began to fill up, I started to think that maybe this wouldn't be a small, personal meet and greet like I'd thought it would be. And it wasn't. About halfway through the cocktail hour, Josh was introduced and came up to a podium to thank everyone for coming and say a few words. Then when he finished, he was ushered back out of the room. I guess that was the "cocktail reception with Josh." I was okay with it though - and the concert was spectacular. They don't allow cameras of any kind in the hall, so I wasn't able to take many pictures of him, but we had third row seats right in the center, so we were happy. All in all, it was a fun little getaway for us, so even though it wasn't a "meet Josh Groban" trip, I'm still grateful for the fun time with my husband.

Here is Josh at the podium talking a little bit about how important this charity is to him. (It's blurry, sorry.)




And here he is during the show. This venue had a strict no photography policy, so this was a quick one I snapped from my phone. We had seats in the third row and it was really a great show!



So as this Sonoma State University show was quickly approaching, I was getting so excited! There was some talk on the message boards about getting together for dinner prior to the show, but it didn't end up working out for me because I had to be at the venue at 5pm for the meet and greet. I was getting nervous about getting a decent picture because I rarely like any pictures of myself. If I post a picture on Facebook, you can bet it's undergone a rigorous quality control process of which about 98% of the photos fail. And I knew I'd only have one quick shot at this, and I wanted a good one! When I found out that I'd won the meet and greet I'd asked if Eric would be allowed to accompany me backstage and I was told no - that they are allowed to have ten people back there, and they used to allow five plus a guest, but then they decided that it would mean more to the members to have ten members backstage and just have their guests wait for them. And that really does make sense. But at the same time, I was so nervous about meeting Josh Groban with a bunch of people that I didn't know! 

Last week I was looking at something on my phone when I heard the email alert chime. So I checked my email and it was from MasterCard. The email said that because I'd used my MasterCard to purchase tickets for the upcoming Josh Groban show at Sonoma State, I was eligible to win a meet and greet with Josh Groban. I immediately replied and entered Eric. Within an hour I'd received another email congratulating me on winning! Eric and a guest were able to go backstage! My problem (problem in the very loosest sense of the word) was solved! I'd get to have Eric with me to shoot 50 pictures and to also calm my nerves! I couldn't believe my luck - I posted on Facebook about how lucky I was and got a lot of comments from people telling me to buy a lottery ticket while my luck held out! 

The day was quickly approaching and I was just waiting for the emails to give us more information on our meet and greets. I got mine from the fan club and was told to be there at 5pm at the box office where my name would be on a list. The email also said that I was allowed to bring an item to have autographed and that I was more than welcome to take photos with Josh.  But the next day I received the instructions for Eric's meet and greet and things seemed different. He was told to be at the box office by 5:15, and that he would not be allowed to bring anything to be autographed, and that he was also not allowed to take photos with his own camera - that a professional photographer would be available to take photos that would be available for viewing on a Shutterfly account approximately ten days after the event. Hmm.....I started to think that we were going to be attending two separate events. I figured his was probably more of a promo for MasterCard where they could advertise the fact that if you purchase your tickets through them, well, look what you might just get! 

I told Eric that I wanted to leave for Sonoma by 2pm. I needed to be there by 5:00 and although it's only about an hour and a half away, traffic around here can be a bear and I didn't want to take any chances! I figured we could get up there and go somewhere for a drink or something to eat. Eric works in Sunnyvale, which is another 40 miles south of us (Sonoma is north), so he had to leave work by about 1:00. His job can be very stressful and things can blow up at any given moment, so he told me he'd do his best. I implored him, "Your best is not good enough. I need you to promise. There are very few things that I would say that about, and this is one of them. This is a once in a lifetime opportunity for me, and you have to promise me that you'll be home by 2:00." He understood and said that he would make it work. 

I've mentioned before that I take a pretty good deal of ribbing from my friends about how much I love Josh Groban. None of my friends are big fans and I guess I'm an easy target. First because I am very happy and proud to tell anyone about him and his music. I am always jokingly telling my friends that Josh Groban would love to hang out with us. I have a really fun group of friends that comes over on Friday nights when possible and we always just have a great time sitting out back, listening to music and laughing, and when the husbands give me a hard time about how much I like Josh Groban, I always fire back with, "He's way cooler than any of you know! He'd totally hang out out here with us and have us laughing just as much as we'd have him laughing!" 

But I'm also often mentioning his funny tweets and his little roles on tv shows or in movies. It's gotten to where anytime he has an appearance, at least 2-3 people will post on my Facebook wall letting me know, "Hey, Josh Groban is going to be on Jimmy Kimmel tonight." And you know what? It makes me feel good that although maybe he's not their particular cup of tea, they're still looking out for me. So I posted several funny status updates in the days leading up to the event. 

One of them said, "One week from today, I get to meet Josh Groban! I have 7 days to figure out how to look 20 pounds lighter and 10 years younger!" 

And then another, "My husband is officially trying to kill me before I get to meet Josh Groban. Just now, I was lying in bed reading and relaxing, and he came walking in the bedroom carrying a paper plate. I looked up, thinking maybe he was bringing me a Minion cupcake, but no. Instead it was a paper plate holding 2 huge (dead) black widows. What makes him think I need to see them so badly that he has to bring them to me in bed?!? Seriously!" 

My friends all got a kick out of my posts and seemed to share in my excitement. 

So the big day arrived and Eric made it home in time, as promised, and off we went. Our goal was to just get up there in plenty of time to find a place to stop for maybe a drink or an appetizer. We drove to the location of Weill Hall, and then backtracked over to where we'd seen some chain restaurants. We were trying to choose where to go, so I said, "It's national tequila day - let's go to that El Torito over there." Eric said that sounded fine. So we went into the bar, which was empty at that time of day and we each ordered a cocktail. I was so nervous that I hadn't eaten anything all day and I was really hungry, but I didn't want to eat anything that would make me smell like Mexican food either. The bartender set some chips and salsa in front of us, but I didn't touch them. I said to Eric, "I don't want to walk up to Josh Groban and be all, 'Hhhhhiiiiiiii!' and hit him in the face with the smell of onions!" I perused the appetizer menu for something that wouldn't have onions and settled on 4 small taquitos. They had some onions on top of them, but none inside. I ate one and decided that would have to suffice. Eric warned me, "Be careful, there's an onion on that one." Then he muttered to himself, "I can't believe I'm helping you not smell like onions before you go meet Josh Groban!" I laughed and said, "Well, I appreciate it, and I'm sure he will too." Eric also takes a lot of good natured ribbing for my love of Josh Groban. We really like to laugh and have a good time with our friends, but every once in a while someone will make a joke and I'll see a weird look cross Eric's face, and I'll know they've gone too far. But he's always a good sport, and I try to respect that fact that he not only tolerates my obsession, he even supports it by coming with me to the shows and paying for crazy expensive tickets. He's a good man, my husband.

As we sat at the bar I updated my Facebook status with, "Here goes nothin. I'm about to die, I'm so excited!" Within minutes I had close to 50 "likes" and many, many comments. I loved the fact that my friends were so excited on my behalf, even if they aren't Josh Groban fans. 

We finished our drinks and decided to head over to the Music Center. (I am not a big drinker, but I wanted something to kind of take the edge off my nerves without getting tipsy, so one drink was just the thing - although it didn't taste like the bartender put any vodka in my vodka-cranberry.) We arrived at the venue and I pulled out my MasterCard provided parking pass. I slipped it on the dash and we got out of the car. As we walked through the parking lot, Eric said, "They're doing a sound check. Hear Josh's voice?" I said, "Oh my gosh, that is him!"   All at once it dawned on Eric, "Wait, that's really him live right now, isn't it? They're not just testing the sound system with a recording?" I said, "Nope! That's him. Live. Right now!" (He was singing, "Vincent.") For some reason, it was really cool to be able to hear that - we were there so early that we got to hear something that almost everyone else at the show wouldn't hear. And even from the parking lot, the sound was amazing. Even after the show was over, Eric still kept talking about how cool it was to be able to hear that sound check.

We walked up to the box office, which was still closed. We were standing with a group of maybe 10-20 other people. Some were just waiting for the venue to open, and others were waiting for the meet and greet. I had told the people on the message boards that I have very light hair and am kind of easy to spot because of it, and to please say hi if they saw me, and within minutes I heard someone say, "Mickie?" I turned around and said, "Yes, hi!" She introduced herself as Kim. She had also won a meet and greet. She was really friendly and I'm grateful to her for being so kind because I was so nervous. It quickly became apparent that the MasterCard meet and greet was going to be separate from ours. Which meant that Eric and I were going to have to split up. We stood out in the hot sun for another thirty minutes or so before they finally split us into two groups. Eric had been planning to try to get the poster from the LACHSA event signed, but he was told he couldn't bring it in with him. He told me to get it signed but I just felt weird about it. I don't know why - I can't really explain. I guess it just goes back to that thing where I just want to seem like a normal person and not some crazed fan. No offense at all to people who love getting autographs. My husband is one of them. He's a big San Jose Sharks fan and he has more autographed hockey memorabilia than anyone I know. Anyway, I promised I'd get the poster signed, and I gave him a kiss and we went our separate ways. 

I met a nice lady named Dora and a few other self-proclaimed "Grobanites." Everyone was very nice. Josh's security guy, Darren, came out to gather us together so he could take us back into the concert hall. Once inside, he had us line up in a single file line. (There were about ten of us.) He told us that we could approach Josh, we could shake his hand, and talk to him, but he asked us not to hug or kiss him. He was very nice about it and said that it was mostly because of germs - people are always sick, and with touring, Josh can't afford to get sick right now. (I'm sure it was for more than just that, but that's the polite reason to give, and anyway I don't blame him one bit. I wouldn't want a bunch of strangers grabbing my face and kissing me either!) We were led into what looked like a conference room of some sort with bottles of wine lining the wall on the far end of the room. (This is Sonoma after all!) As we stood in line the director of the music center came in to help with everything and he was telling us about how happy they were to have Josh there. This music center is brand new and said be one of the most acoustically superb concert venues in the world. (Within the top five, for sure.) He told us that the Grobans are actually friends of the Weills (after whom the hall is named) and that when they were getting ready to open the venue for the first time, Josh came to the building around midnight one night when he was in town to check the acoustics for them.  Interesting little tidbit.

I was toward the back of the line as we stood there waiting for another minute or two, when the side door to the room quietly opened and Josh walked in. He greeted everyone with a big smile and went to stand on his little spot on the floor. I watched his gracious interaction with each and every person. He has to be one of the most humble and down to earth people in the world. And to be honest, I don't think my friends quite understand the magnitude of his stardom. They'll say to me, "You go to so many concerts and always sit near the front. Don't you think he will recognize you by now?" What I think they don't realize is that there are people who literally do follow him from place to place, even flying all the way across the world to trail him when he's touring. I'm just one among thousands. There's no way he would recognize me just from seeing me at shows I've gone to. He fills arenas that hold many thousands of people night after night. I'm just a speck in the crowd. As I stood there watching him interact with his fans I just had a huge smile on my face. I just felt so happy to actually see him in person - just standing there looking so friendly in his casual clothes; skinny jeans, a silly green t-shirt with a pencil sword on it, a sweater and his glasses. He spent time chatting with each fan as they had their turn. He signed autographs and smiled for photos. I watched Darren take the pictures and as each person posed and said, "Cheese!" Darren snapped just one shot. So I knew I had to make mine good - no closed eyes for me! 

As I made my way to the front of the line I really relaxed and just enjoyed the moment. When the lady in front of me was going (Kim), she asked Darren if he could make sure that she got a decent photo because the last time the camera didn't work and she didn't end up with a decent shot. I looked over his shoulder and saw the image as he clicked. I looked at her and nodded at the same time as Darren and said, "It's a good one!" Darren turned to me and asked if I wanted him to hold my purse. I shook my head, "No, I'm good, but thanks!" He said okay and I started to walk up but someone else had forgotten to get an autograph and had run back up to him so I waited. As I stood there I realized that my purse was just going to get in the way, so I said to Darren, "Actually....do you mind holding it?" He jokingly made an exasperated sound and rolled his eyes as he reached for it. "Make my job harder than it already is, why dont'cha!?" I laughed and said, "Didn't you know that's what we woman aim to do?" He laughed as I walked up.....

Finally, my turn! I walked up to Josh and just stopped and looked at him with a huge grin on my face. Smiling as big as I ever have, I said brightly, "Hi!" He returned my hi with a happy one of the same. Then I said, "I'm so excited!" He continued to smile and said, "Good! So am I!" I said, "I brought you something!" Then I handed him the t-shirt. I said, "I'm not sure if you remember, but I tweeted this to you a couple months ago....you retweeted it so I think you liked it. It's the Star Wars spork shirt." He nodded and said, "I do remember this! This is so cool!" I said, "Good, then I'm glad I brought it!" He said, "Oh, this is for me? Really? I can keep it?" I said, "Yes! It's for you!" He thanked me and told me that he really liked it. Maybe he's just a good faker, but he really did seem genuine about it. (Maybe sometime he'll tweet a picture of himself wearing it.) After that matter was settled, I started to settle in for a picture, but he noticed the rolled up poster I had in my hand. He gestured at it, "Did you want me to sign that?" I said, "Oh yeah, sorry. I forgot." I unrolled just the bottom of it and said, "My husband wanted you to sign this. You can sign it anywhere." He noticed that it was from the LACHSA event and he asked if I went to that show. I said yes and that we had really enjoyed it. He knew that in order to get that poster we had to have bought those insanely expensive tickets. He said, "Thank you so much for supporting this cause. It really means a lot to me and I appreciate your support so, so much." I smiled (again) and said, "You're so welcome." After he signed the poster it was time for our photo. He put his arm around me and I put mine around him and we both smiled for the camera (my phone). I thanked him again and then reached out to take my phone and purse from Darren. As I started to walk out of the room, Josh called after me, "Hey, that's a cool case......your iPhone case. It's really cool!" I nodded and said, "Oh thanks!" as I continued to make my way out of the room. (It's a black rubber case with a white plastic skull on it.)

As soon as I got into the hallway I looked at my phone. The picture was decent - of course Josh looked adorable. My face looked fat, as it always does in pictures (because it is!), but otherwise it wasn't too bad. I quickly looked for my new friend Kim to go compare experiences. She was standing outside. We gushed and exchanged our little tales and then looked at our pictures. I had tried to subtly snap a pic of Kim while she was standing up there just in case she had camera problems again, but I wasn't sure if I'd managed to get one in all my excitement. I swiped my finger to the right to see what else I had on there and was oh-so-pleasantly surprised to see more pictures of my meeting with Josh! Darren took five pictures instead of one! What a guy! I wish I could see him again to thank him! I did manage to snap one just as the first girl was having her turn. The big hulking man is Darren, obviously. I actually ran into this nice girl (Mimi) after the show and told her that I had a photo of her and Josh. I got her phone number and texted it to her this morning.
  
   
Here are a couple of the pictures Darren got for me when it was my turn.

Here we are when I first showed him the t-shirt. 



 This is when he was signing the LACHSA poster and we were talking about the event.



 And last, but definitely not least, my favorite!
 


As I stood there chatting with Kim and waiting for Eric, I was also texting back and forth with him. He was joking with me and saying that he feels so dirty knowing that he's going after me. He was in a holding cell with the MasterCard people. His experience was very different. It was clearly a marketing tool for MasterCard. There was a large step and repeat with the MasterCard logo and they were literally ushered up to Josh, a picture was snapped and they were sent on their way. Eric said that as Josh entered the room full of (about 20-30 people) he said to them, "Don't worry, this isn't what I'll wear to the show - I'll clean up before that." (I thought he looked perfectly cute just how he was.) I texted Eric to tell Josh that his wife had just been in the other meet and greet and that she was the one who had given him the t-shirt. So he did. He said that he walked up and shook his hand. As he stood there he told him about the shirt and Josh said, "Hey man, thanks for being such a good sport." Then, just as Eric started to walk away Josh called after him and said, "Hey!" Eric turned around and Josh smiled and said, "May the spork be with you." Eric finally came out and we all stood there chatting and just reliving the moment. Of course I was posting on Facebook and also texting the picture to my closest friends as well.  Eric helped Kim upload her photo to Facebook and then we kind of stood there just looking at each other and smiling. We still had an hour until the show started and plenty of time to kill. I decided to go for one more drink  - it was time to celebrate! Even if the show had been canceled at that point, I'd just met Josh Freaking Groban! Eric offered to go over to the bar and get each of us a celebratory drink. He came back and the three of us sat on a bench under some trees just relaxing and enjoying the moment. The air had cooled down and it was turning into a beautiful evening.  

Let me talk about this venue for a minute. Weill Hall is just gorgeous. It's nestled against the foothills in Sonoma County and surrounded by rolling hills and farmland. The hall is brand new and just beautiful. The inside holds 1400 seats. There is a main orchestra (floor) section, and then seats along the side upper section and three balconies. But the really cool feature is that the entire back wall of the place slides open and exposes a rolling green lawn where people can picnic. They're able to sit and enjoy the concert in the great outdoors while watching the performer on a huge mounted screen. And after having heard how Josh sounded from the parking lot earlier, we knew that the sound even out there had to be awesome. 

As we sipped our drinks, we watched people entering the venue with their camping chairs and picnic blankets.  I wandered over to the merchandise table and decided to buy a t-shirt. Then shortly after that the rest of the Grobies walked up to say hello. They were so welcoming and friendly. I introduced myself and Eric and they seemed impressed that he was there with me, putting up with the whole thing. Eric is always really friendly, but he was extra-loud, almost giddy. I kept looking at him kind of funny as he joked with the ladies, and I was thinking to myself, "Was that drink of his too strong?" He was being his normal funny self, but the problem was that these were women I'd just met - I didn't know if they would think it was funny when he was saying, "Oh yeah, she just bought a t-shirt with his face on it. Now I've got another picture of Josh Groban that I get to stare at when I'm in bed with her." While that is funny (I sleep in the shirts), I'm not sure it's something you broadcast to a group of women you've just met. I kind of cringed and continued to smile and chat. He said something else that was kind of weird and I thought, "What in the world?" I decided it was time to go to the car and drop off the tshirt and poster. We said goodbye to my new friends and started walking out. As we walked, I said to Eric, "Was your drink a double?" He said, "Well, the bartender made me wait a long time because some other people walked up and butted in front of me in line, so she gave us all a nice healthy pour." I was like, "Well, you're done. I don't think you need anything else. And we should probably eat something." He insisted, "I'm fine!" I just rolled my eyes and walked to the car with him. And he did seem perfectly fine - it was just a little out of character for him to joke so personally with people he'd never met. I worried that I'd scarred the poor Grobanites forever. 

We settled our stuff in the car and went back in to hit the restrooms and find our seats. This venue also enforces a strict "no photos or videos" rule so we snapped a few pictures before the show started and then Eric tried to take some video during the show. He had the camera pressed up against his chest so the view finder wouldn't glow, so the video footage is terrible, but the audio is nice to hear. Here is one we took of the inside of the building - you can see the bright light in the back where the room opens onto the lawn.





Here's a quick "selfie" we snapped right before the show started.

Finally it was 7:30 and time to get started. Josh and his band came out and they started with the first single off his newest album, a song called, "Brave." I couldn't stop smiling. The band looked like they were having so much fun and the acoustics were like nothing I've ever heard before. I kept looking at Eric and shaking my head, like I was telling him how unbelievable they sounded. Josh had tweeted that he had a bad cold last week, so I was a little worried, but I had nothing to be worried about - his voice was perfection. Everything was perfection. Even off to my left, I just kept hearing Eric repeating, "Wow." Then a minute later, again, "Wow!" I don't think I stopped smiling the entire time. Even later in the car, when I told Eric that I'd smiled the whole time, he said, "I did too! My cheeks hurt from smiling so much!" 

Josh always likes to try to involve the audience so he posts on Facebook and Twitter, telling people to send in their questions with their seat info and names, and he will periodically stop to chat with the crowd. What so many people don't realize about him is just how witty and funny he is. The first couple of questions were funny and his answers and reactions were great, as usual. I love looking around the room and seeing the looks of surprise on people's faces as they realize just how funny he is and how much they are laughing at his shows. The third question came from a girl a few rows behind us. He looked at the paper in his hand and called out her name, "Ginny, in Row......" She stood up and started screaming. He had a spotlight shining in his eyes, so he was squinting to try to see her. She was screaming, "Oh my God, oh my God!" And he laughed and kind of imitated her high-pitched voice. Then she said (but I don't think he heard), "I've got to come hug you!!" And she started making her way very quickly to the aisle. All at once he saw this and said, "Hey.....hey hey, hey! Now you stay right there." He kind of laughed and gestured to the distance between them. "This..." he said as he swept his hand back and forth, "this is just fine right here. You...go ahead and stay right there, and I'll stay right here....this is good." Then he laughed and said, "This isn't the Price is Right!" I'm sure any time someone starts to rush at the stage like that, it's gotta be a scary feeling. Josh is so open to the interaction with his fans though, that he really puts up with a lot. But this girl was obviously too much. (Plus there were no stairs on to the stage - he usually has stairs set up so he can come out into the crowd and move around.) She yelled out, "But I have a tattoo of you on my ankle!" His eyebrows raised and he got a funny look on his face and repeated what she said so everyone else could hear. "You have a tattoo of me on your ankle?" She screamed, "Yes!!"  He held the paper with the texted questions up in front of his face and made a show of tearing it up. Everyone was rolling. He took the torn up paper to a little table that holds his water, and then walked back closer to her. "Is this......did I.....is this something I signed once, and then you had it tattooed, or....?" She yelled, "It's your JG logo!" He repeated, "Oh! It's my JG logo. I see. Okay, Ginny, well I tell you what, I think you need an entire ankle chain tattoo with my name on it. Let's finish that up later....I'll just sign all the way around and then you can go get that tattoo finished up. How's that sound?" She was screaming in joy, and with the possible stage crashing crisis averted, he went back to some music. 

Here are a few more photos - keep in mind that Eric had to very discreetly try to grab a few, so the quality isn't the best. I let that be his job because I wanted to just enjoy every second of the music, and I am thankful that he did at least try to get a few. 



He performed two encores and ended the night with, "Smile" which is always a crowd pleaser. 

As we made our way to the car I checked Facebook - the photo of me and Josh had something like 115 likes and so many comments. That really warmed my heart too - it's like my friends were at home silently cheering me on! I posted this status update this morning. 


 Oh! And just a funny little PS - Remember how I kept scratching my head at how my husband got a little silly just after the meet and greet? Well about halfway through the show, I leaned over and whispered to him, "Hey." He looked at me with his eyebrows raised. "Didn't you get free champagne during your meet and greet?" I asked. He sheepishly nodded. I said, "I know you - you were probably out of your element back there with a bunch of women you didn't know, and you probably sucked down three glasses while you stood there!" He had the grace to look the tiniest bit embarrassed as he nodded his head. "How many did you have?" I asked. He just continued to nod. "Three?" I asked. He grinned and said, "Yes." I punched him in the arm and went back to enjoying the show. In the big picture, who cares? We both had a great time!


All in all it really was one of the best experiences of my entire life. And the fact that I got to share this experience with my husband, who supports and loves me not only in spite of my passion for Josh's music, but because of it, well....I wouldn't wanted to have shared it with anyone else in the world. I love you, Eric. Thank you for always being there for me and supporting me. 


 


I'm attaching some of the video we took, but I want to warn you that the quality of most of it is horrible. Eric had to hold the camera up against his chest to prevent people from seeing what he was doing. But for those interested, it gives you a glimpse into the show. 












Thursday, May 23, 2013

Letter to karate instructor

So it's been about a year since the big karate debacle of 2012. If you're not familiar with what I'm talking about, click here to read about it.  In a nutshell, because my six year old little girl decided not to continue with her karate lessons after her three month introductory period was up, the "master" called her a quitter and told her that she'd never succeed in life. When she told him that she loved art and was going to pursue art classes he got down on his knees and said to her. "Why don't you come back in six months and tell me how those art classes are going? Because I can guarantee that you are starting a pattern in your life and you are a quitter, and in six months you won't be doing art anymore. Because that's what quitters do. They start something and then just give up when it's not fun for them anymore." And that was when I pretty much lost my mind and told him to stop speaking.

That was a little over a year ago. Not six months. A year. And guess what? Emily's love of art is alive and well. Sometimes even to my great dismay - like when I open her bedroom door and find 500 pieces of tiny paper that she's saved for a possible future project. Or when I open my fridge and the contents of an entire box of Kleenex fall from their hiding place on top of the fridge because she needed the empty box to make a "bunny house" complete with a ladder to the second story and paper furniture for her bunny. I don't know much about art, so I don't know if she's any good at it. But I do know that some of her paintings look really pretty to me. And I know that she takes great joy in creating art. And that's what matters. So I do believe it's time to send Master Lerma a little update on Emily and her art activities. I was planning to go into his studio to talk to him in person, but unfortunately I don't trust myself to handle it well. I will more than likely take one look at his smug face and lose my cool, or I will get so mad that I will start to cry while I'm talking to him. Neither wins me any points, so a letter is what it will have to be. A letter with pictures of Emily and her artwork enclosed. Here goes:

May 23, 2013


America's Best Karate
Attn: Master Tony Lerma
321 Hartz Avenue, Suite 4
Danville, CA 94526 

Dear Mr. Lerma,

My name is Mickie Ford. I am a resident of Danville, and my children Owen and Emily were enrolled in your karate classes about a year ago. My mom purchased your special three month introductory package for them as Christmas gifts, and they began their lessons shortly after the beginning of the year in 2012. While I'll admit that my kids were a little intimidated at first, they quickly began to enjoy their sessions with you. The first few weeks went along just fine, but somewhere along the way, my daughter began to show some trepidation with continuing the classes. She was nervous that she might accidentally mess up during class, and she does not like to break any rules, even if it's done unintentionally. She began to tell us that she didn't want to go to karate anymore, but we told her that because she had agreed to the three month session, she needed to finish it. And so she did. She would get really nervous and become very quiet in the car on the way to class, and there were times when I watched her standing out there on the mat with tears rolling silently down her cheeks, but she stuck it out. She never threw a fit, she never caused a problem  - she was a trouper and I was proud of her for that.  

Both of my kids passed your yellow belt testing and shortly after that their three month package ran out. Our family had a long discussion on whether or not the kids would continue with karate and we all decided that just my son would continue. Emily gave it her best shot and decided that it just wasn't her thing. She has always been very interested in art, and so we decided that we'd pursue some art classes for her. 

On Owen's first day back to class without his sister, you approached him and asked him where his sister was. He told you that she'd decided not to return. Instead of coming to me about it, you put my son on the spot. You asked him questions like, "Did she quit because she's too busy?" When he said no, you asked him, "Did she quit because she's bored?" When he said no to that, you said, "Or maybe she quit because it's a little bit out of her comfort zone and it doesn't come easy to her. Do you think that might be why?" When Owen said yes, you told him that she was most likely quitting the very thing that she needed the most.  Why do I know what you asked my son? Because right after you asked him these questions you came up to Emily who was sitting in between my mom and me on the bench. You got down on your knees and you told Emily exactly what you'd asked Owen. I watched you as you spoke to her, waiting to see what you were going to say. You told Emily what you had said to Owen and then you continued, telling my six year old child that life was tough and that you've been on your own since you were very young and things don't get easier - they just get harder. Sensing Emily's discomfort my mom tried to help out. She said to Emily, "Tell Master Lerma what you've decided to try instead of karate." My daughter looked at you and said, "I'm going to try some art classes." You nodded and smiled, and I felt some relief flow into my body as I heard you say, "Well that's great." But then your smile turned mean as you continued, "I tell you what, Emily. I want you to come back to me in six months and tell me how those art classes are going for you. Because I can guarantee that you won't be taking them anymore. Do you know why? Because you are becoming a quitter. You are developing a pattern for life now, and anytime something stops being easy, you are going to quit." And that's when my instincts took over and I told you to stop speaking to my child like that. Do you even remember this, Master Lerma? How dare you have spoken to my six year old daughter like that? How dare you?!

It wasn't until my mom went into the office and spoke to your wife about canceling the large check she'd just written for Owen's next six months and his sparring gear that you felt inclined to apologize. But even your apology was appalling. You stood behind your claim with the comment that the pattern my daughter was developing was something you had noticed in your two decades of work. You couldn't even give a sincere apology to her. The entire experience with you completely disgusted me. Needless to say, we pulled Owen out of ABK as well. I'll be damned if I'm going to let you, someone in a position of authority, tell my child that she is a quitter just because she chose not to renew her karate lessons 

Now I want to tell you a little bit about my daughter and then I will be finished taking up your time. My daughter is now eight years old and she's one of the best kids I know. And I'm not saying that because she's my child and I love her. I'm saying it because it's true. My daughter doesn't have a mean bone in her body. She's kind to her friends and she has a great love of animals. She is the kid who would play inside at recess because the boy in her class who has a sun allergy and forgot his sunglasses couldn't go outside and didn't have anyone else to play with. She's the one who will ask her friend why she's crying at the lunch table at school and try to make her feel better by telling her a joke. My daughter has never once been in trouble in school, and she's rarely in trouble at home. She is a stellar child. One that you would be lucky to know better. She's social and friendly and really well-behaved. (These things don't make Emily better than any other kid out there -children are all deserving of our love and support, no matter what. I just wanted you to get a look at who my daughter really is.) But you couldn't see beyond your own black and white views of what you think a child should be to even see any of that. And that disgusts me. You abuse your powers of authority to tell kids like Emily that they are going to be failures. I hope if nothing else, this letter opens your eyes a little. 

To wrap this up, I'd like to ask you to take a look at the pictures I've enclosed. These are photos of just a few of Emily's paintings and drawings. She's still taking art classes and she still loves it. And it's been, not just six months, but a year. I'll never forget you, Master Lerma, and now I hope you'll never forget Emily. At eight years old, she's a better person than I think you'll ever be. 

Sincerely,

Mickie Ford

PS- You don't have to thank me for not putting up a Yelp review of ABK because trust me, it would not be pretty. I figure your true colors will eventually show on their own, and people won't need Yelp to see them.  





 

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