School Play

Posted: April 24, 2018 in Advice, Experiences, Thoughts
Tags: , , ,

Some of you may know that I work for a mob-boss and he has an 18 year-old son who recently played the lead in his high school play of Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat. Needless to say, my daughter Savannah, who just turned 13, has a huge crush on Miguel.

After seeing him playing the lead, I can’t blame her. In fact, most of the girls in the auditorium were practically swooning, and the sighs…oh my gosh…they came from every female no matter what their ages.

Of course, a lot of those sighs were in their minds where only I could hear them, so maybe that’s why they seemed so loud. Still…you get the picture.

Anyway, Miguel’s sudden rise to stardom inspired Savannah to try out for her Jr. High School play. They’re doing a watered down version of Beauty and the Beast. It should be a lot of fun for Savannah, but she’s hoping for the lead. The only problem with that is…she hasn’t got the chops for it.

Don’t get me wrong, her singing voice is great. It’s just not lead singer material. I hope she’s not too disappointed if she doesn’t get the main part. She’s been taking dance lessons forever, so she should get into that dance scene during the dinner and I hope she’ll be happy with that.

But it has given her a chance to talk to Miguel about trying out for the play, which he is totally encouraging her to do. So in her estimation, it’s a win no matter what, especially because it’s an excuse to call him for advice.

So what’s a mother to do? I don’t think she’ll get the part she wants, but I’m not about to tell her she’s not good enough either. That’s the hard part of being a mom. There are some days when you just have to know your kids will get disappointed. But I guess that’s just part of life. We all get disappointed, but it’s how we respond that builds our character.

I just hope I don’t have to worry too much about her crush on Miguel. I mean…they’d never end up together, right? Can you imagine having a mob-boss as my daughters’ father-in-law? Yikes! It gives me the shivers just thinking about it.

She’s bound to get over her crush with him at some point, especially with Miguel heading off to New York. They’ll hardly see each other after that. Although my family is planning on going to his opening night performance of Aladdin this summer.

That’s another thing I have to worry about. Not the part about going to Aladdin, but how I’m going to explain that my kids have a grandmother they’ve never met who lives there. She’s not really their grandmother, but I had to go along with Uncle Joey’s story that his sister is my mother for Miguel’s sake, since he thinks we’re cousins.

Why did I ever agree to do that? Well…it might have something to do with him being a mob-boss, but still…how am I going to explain all that to my kids? Just thinking about it gives me a headache.

I think for now I’m going to put it from my mind. No use worrying over something that hasn’t happened yet, right? Besides, Savannah will be coming home soon with the verdict of whether or not she made the school play. I sure hope she did, but I’d better have a alternate plan just in case. Like a consolation prize of some sort. But what should I do?

Wish me luck!

 

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I work for a mob-boss. Doesn’t that sound nuts? There are some days I can’t believe it either. But, I have to say that he’s not your typical mob-boss, mostly because he runs several legitimate businesses, and he’s never been arrested…not even once.

Before you start thinking that I’m rationalizing about working for such a person, let me just clarify that I do it under duress. He found out my secret that I can read minds, and threatened harm to my family if I didn’t cooperate.

Sure, it may seem like I enjoy it, and sometimes I really do, but since I’ve nearly died a few times because of it, I know I should work harder at getting out from under him.

Still, if I’m honest, I do like being an indispensable part of his organization. That feeling of importance is pretty amazing. He’s also made sure I have someone to watch my back when I get in trouble, and I’ve grown quite fond of that person…and his motorcycle. Uncle Joey’s also deposited copious amounts of money into my checking account, and given me bonuses. I’ve even gone on his private jet to some great cities a few times.

So…what I’m trying to tell you is that I guess I’m in too deep to get out now. That should bother me a whole lot, but what can I say? I passed that point a while ago. Which brings me to my next conundrum. I also help the police. My partner, Detective Harris, aka Dimples, knows that I sometimes help Uncle Joey, he just doesn’t know how much.

So far, he hasn’t made a big deal out of it, but I just found out that he’s looking into it. What am I supposed to say when he tells me that he has a plan to take Uncle Joey down, and he wants my help to do it, especially when I know he’s doing it for my sake?

To top it all off, my husband also works for Uncle Joey as his lawyer. Could this get any worse? Actually, yes, because now my kids think Uncle Joey is my uncle and therefore related to them. In fact, our whole family had a chance encounter with his. I had to introduce my kids to his wife and son. Since then, he’s claimed us as part of The Family.

My thirteen-year-old daughter, Savannah, has a huge crush on Uncle Joey’s eighteen-year-old son. She thinks he’s not blood-related because of a story I made up about how Uncle Joey was first married to my aunt but they got a divorce and his son is from a different relationship. Complicated, right?

It’s no wonder that when taking a good look at my life, and all the complications involved in it, that I start to get a little stressed out. Which brings me to my next conundrum. You see, I’m meeting with Dimples this afternoon, and Uncle Joey just asked me to spy on the police department about a special case that could have repercussions for him.

He’s never really asked me to do that before, although it’s been implied, and it’s stressing me out. Can a good person work for people on both sides of the law? How long can I sit on the fence between the good guys and the bad guys without getting caught, hurt, or killed?

Honestly, I don’t want to find out, because I know one thing for sure…I could never betray Uncle Joey. But just as important, I don’t want to end up in jail either. So I guess for now, I’ll just have to keep balancing on that tightrope, and hope I don’t fall off.

It’s what you’d do, right?

Wish me luck – I’m going to need it!

 

 

I don’t know about you, but I’m not someone who likes to make new year’s resolutions. Not that I don’t want to accomplish things or set goals. But it seems like most of the time, resolutions are for stopping a bad habit, or changing something about yourself to make you a better person.

I’m totally aware of my shortcomings, because as a mind-reader, I’m always hearing what people think of me. While some of it’s nice, a lot of it isn’t, and trying not to take it the wrong way is hard, but since none of them would ever say such things to my face, I have to try and get over it.

So you can see why I’d rather not concentrate on my shortcomings. But what else is there? Glancing through my Facebook feed (which is probably something I should make a resolution to change because it’s a huge time drain) I found a post about a resolution that I could really get behind. The first thing it said to do was plan a vacation.

Doesn’t that sound like fun? I thought so too, and I started thinking about where I’d like to go. Italy came to mind. One of my favorite shows from a long time ago was Only You, with Robert Downey Jr. and, after seeing that, I’d always dreamed of going there someday. Now I could go with Chris, and it would be so romantic.

That’s when things got strange. Not too long ago, I’d mentioned to Uncle Joey that Jackie was thinking about how much she’d like to go to Italy. He hadn’t seemed too excited about that, and I picked up that he’d been there a few times, and he wouldn’t be able to go back without paying his respects to the “family.” It didn’t seem like it was something he wanted to do again. Now why was that? Was there bad blood between them?

Still, that didn’t have anything to do with me. If I went to Italy, I’d be safe from them because I’m not really part of the family. But since there was a part of me that had some misgivings, I decided to test the waters and mention it to Uncle Joey, just to see what he thought.

If you’re thinking that was a bad idea, you’d be right. I should have just planned my trip and told him I was going to Canada. I would have been better off, even if I lied.

As soon as I mentioned that I was thinking about planning a trip to Italy, he got that calculating look in his eyes, and his thoughts turned to how I could solve one of his biggest headaches. He’d avoided going back because of what had happened the last time, but if he sent me as his emissary, I’d know if they were still upset with him, or if he’d done enough to earn their forgiveness.

Then if the way was cleared, he could take Jackie for a visit like she’d wanted and he wouldn’t have to worry about his reception. It was a win-win.

He caught my widened eyes and knew I’d picked up everything. His lips turned into a frown, but he patted my shoulder. “Don’t worry, Shelby. I’d never send you to see them if I thought it was dangerous. It would just mean taking a moment to stop by, say hello, and give them my regards, then you could leave. You’d know right away if they still held any animosity toward me.”

“But I can’t speak Italian,” I blurted. “So it wouldn’t work.”

“That’s true,” he agreed with a slight twist to his lips. “But it wouldn’t take a mind-reader to know how they felt. And it seems like you can pick up feelings almost as well as you can hear people’s thoughts.”

He had me there. I did pick up strong feelings of anger or revenge along with the thoughts that accompanied them. But I wasn’t sure if that was because of the way they said the words in their minds, or if it was how they really felt.

His stern gaze sent my heart into palpitations, so I quickly agreed. “Uh…yeah, that’s right. I guess I forgot that part.” At his satisfied smile, I continued. “Well, I’ll be sure to let you know if Chris and I decide to go. There’s a few other places we’re also thinking about, so it may not happen this year. In fact, Canada might be nice too.”

Uncle Joey wasn’t fooled. Canada might be nice, but it certainly wasn’t Italy. “If you decide to go, I have some connections that would save you a lot of money. I’m on good terms with a second cousin who owns a beautiful villa right on the coast of Tuscany. He’s turned it into a bed and breakfast and he hosts guided tours and amazing dinners. You’d love it.”

“Yeah, I’m sure I would. That sounds great. Thanks. I’ll keep that in mind.”

Uncle Joey had me over a barrel, just how he liked it. Now if I wanted to go to Italy, I’d have to tell him. On the other hand, it was always nice to have connections. I mean, that villa sure sounded amazing. Still, I wasn’t sure it was worth it. Sure, he’d said it wouldn’t be dangerous, but that didn’t mean I couldn’t get into some sort of trouble.

It made me realize that even a simple task of making a fun new year’s resolution could backfire. So… I think I’m not ever going to make resolutions again. I’m also going to check on some vacation spots in Canada. It may not be as fun, but it would be safer, and they speak English.

But I really want to go to Italy. So, if you were in my place, what would you do?

 

Christmas Gifts

Posted: December 5, 2017 in Experiences, Thoughts
Tags: , , ,

It’s been a while since my visit to the grocery store on that fateful day in April. That’s when the bank inside the store was robbed and I got shot, leaving me with the ability to read minds. If you want to know the truth, it’s been a mixed blessing. Sure, I’m mostly glad to have this ‘extra’ sense, but there are times when it’s gotten me in a lot of trouble. Like working for a mob-boss.

Of course, I’ve been able to help the police and solve a lot of cases, as well as start my own consulting agency. So I can’t complain. But as much as I like knowing things I probably shouldn’t, there are times I’m not real happy about it.

One of those times is Christmas. Even though I do my best to block my mind from hearing thoughts, I’m not always successful. As you can imagine, it takes a little of the enjoyment out of opening Christmas presents, since I usually know what I’m getting ahead of time.

Like this year. I accidentally heard my husband, Chris, thinking about this great present he was getting me. Mostly he was thinking how much money it would cost, but that I would love it. That got me real excited, and I tried not to listen to anything else he was thinking.

Since he knows I can hear his thoughts, he does his best to guard them as well, so that helps. Still, I feel bad about that, because it’s a lot of work for him, and he’s not always successful. It also leaves me in the position of sometimes lying so I won’t hurt his feelings. It’s a fine line.

But today, all my good intentions went out right the window because I heard him thinking about the toilet seat he was getting me for Christmas. I tried really hard not to react, but seriously? A toilet seat? For Christmas? And it cost a lot of money? Was it made out of gold or something?

“You’re joking, right?” I blurted.

“What?” Then it hit him that I’d heard all about the toilet seat. He took a deep breath and swore in his mind. Which I also heard. So this time, he said it out loud. “Dammit.”

“Sorry, but… are you serious?”

Chris shook his head, thinking that having a mind-reading wife was going to drive him… “Uh…yes, but it’s not what you think. They’ve got these great toilet seats that do all kinds of things. And it’s heated!”

“Oh, right. I didn’t think about that.” Then I glanced at him and smiled. “Okay. Maybe that is something I’d like.”

Chris groaned a little and closed his eyes, but managed to block his thoughts so I wouldn’t hear that he thought I was driving him crazy, but it didn’t take a mind-reader to figure that out.

I also felt bad that I’d ruined his surprise, so I quickly pulled him into a hug. “I’m sure I’ll love it.”

“I don’t have to get it for you. I can figure out something else.”

“No. Now that I know more about it, I think it’s great.”

He pulled away and narrowed his eyes, clearly not buying it.

“I do. Really. I mean…now that I know, I’d be disappointed if we didn’t get it. A warm toilet seat! That’s pretty sweet.”

“Shelby…” He shook his head, exasperated. Was I mocking him? He wasn’t sure if I was just saying that, or if I really wanted it. “You won’t hurt my feelings if you don’t want it.”

I smiled. Poor Chris. “I do want it. It sounds lovely.” Oops, maybe that did sound a little patronizing.

He smiled back, thinking that at least I hadn’t picked up the other thing he was getting me…he caught my gaze and widened his eyes.

“I didn’t hear a thing about that.”

“Good.”

He left right after that for work. Kind of like he was eager to get away from his mind-reading wife. It would have hurt my feelings, but I couldn’t blame him, since I’d ruined his surprise.

Now I’ve been wondering all day if he’s really getting me something else, or if he just said that to throw me off. Oh well. Whatever happens, I’m really looking forward to my new toilet seat, but I’ve decided that, if I pick up the other thing he hinted at giving me, I’m going to pretend that I didn’t hear about it. Even if I have to lie.

 

Last Monday around four-thirty in the afternoon, I got a phone call from Ramos. That wasn’t unusual, but what surprised me was the desperation in his voice. If you know Ramos at all, you know how crazy that sounds. He is the King of Cool.

Then he explained the situation, and I couldn’t help blurting out my surprise. “What? You’re babysitting? Are you kidding me?”

That might not have been the best thing to say to someone who’s sounding desperate, especially when that someone is a renowned hit-man for a mob-boss.

“No. I’m not kidding.” His voice sounded a little menacing, so I quickly changed my tone.

“Oh, okay. What do you need?”

He explained that his neighbor had taken his wife to the hospital because she was in labor, and the guy’s mother-in-law couldn’t get there for a while. For some reason, they asked Ramos to watch their five and two-year-old kids until she got there.

“Wow. How did you get roped into that?”

“I was in the yard raking leaves, and I guess they were desperate. What could I say? I mean, she was moaning and crying with pain, and I thought that baby might just be born right there in the driveway.”

As he spoke I heard a child yelling in the background. Then came a high-pitched scream and something clattered to the floor. “Can you come over?” he asked.

“Sure.” He gave me his address, and I jumped in my car. As I drove to the house, it hit me that now I’d finally get to see where he lived. That was something I’d wondered about for a long time.

He spent a lot of time at the apartment at Thrasher Development, but I’d always known he had a house somewhere. Now I’d see it and maybe uncover a little more about the hit-man that I didn’t know.

The neighborhood in which he lived wasn’t exactly what I’d expected. He didn’t live in a ritzy part of town, and the houses were nice, but not huge. Still, they were well-kept and the neighborhood had a feeling of community about it.

I recognized his black car in the driveway of an older, red-brick home. Large maple trees lined the street with golden color, and piles of leaves rested in many of the front yards. The leaves in Ramos’s yard were heaped in a pile, with a rake lying haphazardly across the top of them.

I parked my car in the driveway behind his, and got out. Ramos must have been watching for me, because he opened the door in the house on the right and called my name.

I started toward him and paused in mid-stride with my jaw dropping open. He stood there holding a two-year-old girl on his hip like a regular person. It was a picture of Ramos that I never thought I’d see in a million years. It was so jarring that I really wanted to take out my camera to record the moment, but his frown was enough to dissuade me from doing anything of the sort.

Putting a happy smile on my face, I continued to the house. The five-year-old boy was adorable and talked a mile-a-minute, but he was a little upset that his parents had left him in the care of a virtual stranger.

My presence calmed him down, and once he was settled, his little sister wanted to get down to play. He showed us his favorite toys and explained what they did and how they worked.

Soon, we were all sitting on the floor, playing with a hot wheels play set where the little cars could race down a spiraling track. He got Ramos to pick a car and have a race with him, and it was something he wanted to do over and over again. It reminded me of how Josh was at that age, and I got a little nostalgic.

I tried to coax the little girl over to sit by me, but instead, she walked right over to Ramos and sat down in his lap. Ramos’s eyes widened and I knew it made him uncomfortable, but then he glanced at me and shrugged. He was thinking that all the girls liked sitting in his lap, so he shouldn’t be too surprised.

I laughed, glad that he was relaxed enough to joke about the situation.

Half an hour later, their grandmother showed up. She thanked us profusely and we got up to leave. The little boy told Ramos that he needed to come back and play some more. Ramos’s brows rose, but he smiled and told him that he’d see him around.

Then we left. The outside air cooled my face, and I glanced at Ramos, noting the relief in the deep breaths he took.

“That wasn’t so bad,” I said. “Right?”

He shook his head. “I had no idea what to do with those kids. Thanks for coming.”

“You’re welcome.”

“I just have one request,” he said, catching my gaze.

Of course I picked it up from his mind. He didn’t want me to tell anyone, because it would ruin his reputation. “Not even Uncle Joey?”

His lips thinned, so I relented. “Okay. I’ll keep my mouth shut.”

“Good. Thanks.” He walked back over to the pile of leaves and picked up his rake. “You want to help with this, too?”

I chuckled. “I think you can handle that just fine. I’ve got to go, but I’ll see you later.”

He gave me that chin lift thing, and I got in my car, grateful that I could come to his rescue for a change. As I waved, I noticed the little boy watching Ramos from the window of his living room. I backed out of the driveway, and started down the street.

Glancing back at Ramos, I had to chuckle. The boy had escaped his house and stood at Ramos’s side, talking up a storm. Then he jumped into the leaves and scattered them all over the place.

Whether he liked it or not, it looked like Ramos had a new friend. Ramos might not like it much, but it sure warmed my heart. Plus, I knew I’d have fun giving him a hard time about it. What could be better than that?

 

What is Normal?

Posted: October 3, 2017 in Experiences, Thoughts
Tags: , ,

Sometimes I’m not sure what “normal” is anymore. Just the other night, I was sitting down to dinner with my family. Eating dinner together is important to me, because it’s a way to connect and keep informed of what’s going on in our busy lives. Dinner together doesn’t always happen, so I looked forward to chatting with my husband and two teenage kids.

Chris, my husband, asked Josh and Savannah how their day went. They weren’t too forthcoming, but with my mind-reading ability, I picked up lots of things that mattered to them. I don’t usually like to invade their privacy, but when they don’t want to talk much, I just can’t seem to help it.

At least what I picked up wasn’t earth-shattering, or out of the ordinary. But at thirteen and fifteen, and with their hormones kicking in, there were times it was just better not to know… mostly because it was hard not to roll my eyes because of all that teen angst. Still, it made me glad I could draw them out with a comment or two, and help them deal with whatever it was that bothered them.

I asked Chris about his day, and he said it went really well. He’d even made a breakthrough in one of his cases that would help his client, so he was pretty happy about that.

Then it was my turn, and everyone glanced my way. Suddenly, things weren’t so clear, and I didn’t know what to say. I mean… do I tell them about my meeting with Uncle Joey, where he had me listen to an investor who was trying to swindle him out of a huge sum of money?

What about the motorcycle ride I went on with Ramos so I could let him know what the person receiving a package was really going to do with it?

Or how about the murder suspect I listened to for Dimples, whom it turned out was hiding behind a wall of grief to mask his joy of poisoning his mother-in-law?

Right then, none of that was anything I wanted to share. But I had to say something, so I glossed over the stuff with Uncle Joey and Ramos by saying that I ran a few errands in the morning, specifically leaving out the motorcycle part. Not that it was bad, but you know… it’s Ramos, and I may have enjoyed that part the most.

That little flush of guilt made me emphasize the part about helping the police catch a killer, so no one would ask me about my errands. That did the trick, and it was fun to tell them a little about the case, and how many poisonous plants people had in their own homes that could kill someone.

I may have gone on too long about the poisonous-plant-part, because everyone went quiet with widened eyes, and stared at me like I was a crazy person.

Then Josh smiled and thought that was pretty cool, even though he didn’t say it. Savannah’s thoughts filled with admiration that I could help the police like I did. But Chris was thinking that I shouldn’t be talking about an ongoing investigation. As a lawyer, he was probably right, so I quickly told them not to tell anyone.

I shouldn’t have worried. My kids had learned not to share much about me because what I did just wasn’t normal. Of course, they didn’t know the truth that I could read minds, but thought I had ‘premonitions,’ which was how I wanted to keep it. At least they thought it was cool, so it didn’t hurt my feelings too much.

It also made me realize that my normal wasn’t really normal at all. Around everyone else, I have to keep most things to myself, which isn’t always easy to do. But most of the time I manage just fine.

Still, it hit me all at once how crazy my life had become. But it also gave me a little thrill to be different. Of course, that thrill didn’t include the times I’d nearly been killed. Looking at my family, I knew that part wasn’t so good.

See what I mean about being normal? Maybe it’s not so bad, but thinking about my normal life before I could read minds, and my abnormal life after I could read minds… for the most part, I’m glad to be abnormal, even if there’s a lot of stuff I have to keep to myself.

 

 

 

Shelby’s Total Eclipse

Posted: August 25, 2017 in Experiences, Thoughts
Tags: , , ,

Like many of you, I traveled a few hours with my family to see the total eclipse, and WOWZA, was that an experience!

We all had our special eclipse glasses so we could watch the moon overtake the sun. I marveled that without the glasses, I never would have known the moon was even in the sky because the sun was so bright.

As the moon closed in, the sky naturally darkened, and the temperature dropped. Still, even with a sliver of the sun showing, it was too bright to look at without the glasses. Then the moment came and, all at once, the moon completely covered the sun.

Jumping up, we took off our glasses, and stared up at the dark side of the moon. Rays of light shot up all around the orb, but everything went dark, with a three-sixty degree sunset of colors all around the horizon. The temperature dropped, and we could even see stars in the sky.

All of those amazing events happened between one second and the next, sending a shot of pure astonishment through me. I even got a little shaky. Then it happened. All at once, I heard everyone’s thoughts shouting like a chorus of wonder into the sky. Not only that, but there was an edge of harmony, almost like tinkling bells that reverberated through the atmosphere.

The hairs on my arms and on the back of my neck, stood on end, and I could barely catch my breath. Mesmerized by the sounds in my head, I could hardly pull my gaze away from the beautiful phenomenon in the sky.

Then it was over, and I had to hurry and put my glasses back on with everyone else. Even the tiniest ray of sun was too bright to look at. I began to breathe again, and all the sounds and thoughts I’d heard retreated to a memory in my mind.

I hugged my husband and my kids close, grateful to have shared this experience with them. Then my legs gave out, and I sat down in my chair. We watched and marveled at how bright everything started to get, and how the temperature rose so we weren’t so cold.

We stayed outside until the whole thing was over, and I picked up that none of us wanted the experience to end.

“When’s the next eclipse?” Savannah asked.

“Yeah,” Josh chimed in. “I want to do this again.”

“Me too!” I glanced at them and we all laughed.

After that, we decided to go out to lunch for a burger and bottomless fries to celebrate the amazing event. We spoke about the shared experience while the wonder of it still lingered in our memories. Then it was time to go home.

Even though it didn’t last long enough, the experience was something we would share forever, and brought us closer together. It also took me a little longer to recover. I never would have thought that reading minds would make an experience like the eclipse any different, but boy, was I wrong.

Who would have thought I’d hear everyone’s thoughts like a chorus? And what about the tinkling bells? Come to think of it, they were like wind chimes. Then it hit me that maybe what I’d heard had been a neighbor’s wind chimes, only magnified by all the wonder going on.

I guess I’ll never know… unless I go to another eclipse. I heard there’s one in the U.S.A. in twenty-twenty-four. I think I need to be there for it, just so I’ll know for sure about the wind chimes.

Now all I have to do, is find a place to stay. Will any of you be in the path of the next eclipse? Do you take reservations? Let me know!!

Pickleball Anyone?

Posted: July 7, 2017 in Experiences
Tags: , ,

One of the perks of working for a mob-boss is being invited to his country club. This usually entails playing a round of golf. I’m not much of a golfer, and the last time I went, I had a golf cart accident that sent a judge to the emergency room for stitches. Since then, Uncle Joey hadn’t invited me back.

So it came as a surprise when he asked me if my husband and I would like to join him and his wife, Jackie, at the country club for a game of pickleball.

“Uh… pickleball? What’s that?” I asked, hoping it didn’t involve pickles.

He explained that the game was a lot like tennis, only on a smaller-sized court, and using a paddle and a plastic ball with holes. He said it combined the elements of tennis, badminton, and ping-pong.

Since I’ve played tennis since I was a kid, and I’m a pretty good at ping-pong, I thought it might be fun. Plus, it’s never a good idea to say no to a mob-boss, no matter what he wants. So, all in all, this sounded like an easy request compared to some of the other things he’d asked me to do.

My husband, Chris, had never played the game before, but at least he’d heard of it, so that was a plus. We set up a time, and I looked forward to learning something new, though I did have one concern. Chris and I were a lot younger than Uncle Joey by at least twenty or more years, and I hoped that once we learned the game, we didn’t beat them too badly.

We arrived at the club, wearing the appropriate attire, and met Uncle Joey and Jackie at the tennis courts. Uncle Joey was eager to teach us how to play, and hoped we picked it up pretty fast, since he liked a competitive game. I thought that was kind of presumptive of him to think he’d beat us so handily. It brought out the competitive side of my nature, so I was eager to prove him wrong.

It took longer than I liked to get used to the ball and paddle. I kept hitting the ball way too hard, so it went long. When I wasn’t doing that, I missed the ball entirely because I wasn’t used to a smaller paddle. But after about half an hour, I got the hang of hitting it, and looked forward to playing a game.

I’d like to say that our first game was a success, but that would be a lie. We didn’t even score one point. Uncle Joey played with a lot of aggression… kind of like a shark playing with its food. For an old guy, he was really good.

After the first round, he took pity on us, and sent Chris over to play with Jackie while I partnered with him. I wasn’t so sure that was a good idea, since playing with Uncle Joey intimidated me… a lot. Needless to say, every time the ball came my way I totally messed up. In fact, every point we lost was because of me.

At least I caught that he didn’t mind too much, mostly since Chris wasn’t doing much better on Jackie’s team. She was really good, too.

Uncle Joey gave me some tips and even encouraged me when I did something right. After a while, I started doing better. After losing the first game, we won the next two, mostly because of Uncle Joey’s mad skills, and I started to enjoy myself.

Then we switched partners again. This time I played with Jackie, which wasn’t quite so intimidating. Even though I did better, we still lost every game to the guys. It bothered me more than I liked, mostly because I picked up that Uncle Joey went easy on us and didn’t play as hard as he could have.

That lit a fire under me, and the next game, I played a lot better. We still lost, but not by so much.

After that, several other players filled the open courts, and asked if we’d like to switch it up and rotate games with them. I picked up that Uncle Joey was all for it, since he’d get to play against some better players.

It would have hurt my feelings, except that he also thought it would be good for us to play against some other teams where we might have a chance to win. So he was actually looking out for us, right?

Most of the other players were about Uncle Joey’s age, and some of them weren’t in the best of shape, so I thought he had a point, and I tried not to be offended. Plus, there were a few people that seemed really old, at least in their late seventies and one or two in their eighties. We could win against them, right?

In the end, it didn’t seem to matter how old anyone was, we still lost every game. At least there were a few that were close, so it wasn’t as bad as it could have been. Still… playing pickleball is fun, but I learned not to underestimate the old guys.

Now, I’m hoping to get my own paddle… and one for Chris. Hey… we could get some for our kids, Josh and Savannah. It could be a lot of fun, and a great way to spend time together as a family.

Then the next time we played against Uncle Joey and Jackie, we could beat them. Hmm… on the other hand, maybe it was okay if we didn’t beat them, but it would be awfully nice to come close once in a while.

 

 

Because of the tricky situations I always seem to get into, I began training in Aikido. Aikido is a martial art that includes techniques from Jujitsu and Kenjutsu and is based in self-defense, where one uses an opponent’s energy to gain control of them, or throw them, or even escape a hold.

I began these classes only a few months ago, and just passed my fifth kyu test, which is cool, but not anywhere close to a black belt or anything. Getting a black belt would probably take me three or four years, but hey, you gotta start somewhere, right?

Anyway, my barely teenage daughter and I (yikes is she really a teenager now?) went to the Saturday class. It was a lot of fun, mostly because it’s totally satisfying to throw a few big guys around.

Sensei, our teacher, decided to show us how to do atemi, which is a technique used to disrupt an opponent’s attack of a grab or a strike. It throws them off and helps you gain the upper hand. Atemi is done by kicking, or throwing a punch at just the right time. It can’t be too early, or they’ll see it coming, and if it’s late, it won’t do you any good.

After demonstrating the technique a few times, we partnered up and went through the technique in slow-motion before picking up the pace. By the time we changed partners, I was starting to get pretty good at the timing part which was a good thing since my next partner was a big dude.

That meant my kick would have to be pretty hard, and maybe a little higher than I’d practiced, but I could aim my punch for the stomach, so that would work. We slowed our moves down to start with, and then traded attacks. Sensei told us not to use atemi all the time, so that when we did, it wouldn’t be expected.

Sticking to his advise, I waited until after several attacks to throw in a high kick. The only problem was my attacker was a little slow… and… YUP… you guessed it… I kicked him real good right where it counts. The poor guy fell to the ground on his hands and knees, and groaned, barely able to breathe.

My face turned red and guilt burned a hole in my stomach. This was terrible. Everyone stopped what they were doing and glanced at me thinking I’d gone too far. Poor Daniel, I’d really gotten him good. He’d probably never partner with me again. Why was I kicking so hard?

Savannah gasped and covered her mouth. She glanced at me in wide-eyed horror, embarrassed at what I’d done. But underneath her hands, her mouth twitched with laughter, which she wisely held back.

By now, Daniel was showing signs of recovering, so maybe it wasn’t so bad. After my horrified apologies, he grunted a few times, and waved me off. I glanced at Sensei and he just shook his head, but he was thinking that it wasn’t all my fault. Daniel was a little slow with his reaction time, or I wouldn’t have been able to get him so good. It was also a given in the dojo that if you got hurt, it was most likely your own fault.

That helped me feel a little better, but not until Daniel was able to stand up. Guilt keep me immobile until he finally walked over to the drinking fountain and took a few swallows of water.

Everyone else went back to practice, leaving me the odd person out until Daniel came back. I was hoping that Sensei would make everyone change partners, but he was thinking that Daniel and I needed to work together again, so there wouldn’t be any hard feelings.

After a few minutes we got back into the routine and took turns between being the attacker and the attacked. When it was his turn to attack, I waited for the right moment to do a ‘fake’ kick again, making sure I didn’t go overboard this time.

As Daniel lunged at me, I timed my kick at the perfect moment to thwart him, hoping he’d see it in time to avoid it. Just in case he didn’t, I didn’t kick quite as hard. Still, somehow I managed to connect… again!

He fell to the floor, hardly believing that it had happened again. At least it wasn’t as bad this time, but still… what the hell? Did I have it in for him or something? Was his timing really that off?

Everyone felt bad for Daniel, but most of us were trying not to laugh out loud. I mean… sometimes when something untoward happens, your first impulse is to laugh, right? I had a hard time keeping the chuckle inside, especially as I asked him if he was okay.

This time Sensei clapped his hands for everyone to stop, deciding that for Daniel’s sake, and maybe mine, it was time to move on to something else. I wasn’t sure who was more relieved, me or Daniel. But still, twice in one day? Sheesh!

After that, Sensei decided to have us practice with the jo so we wouldn’t need partners. The jo is a wooden staff that’s about four feet long. He had us hold it close to the center and practice doing circle eights so we could get a feel for it. Then he told us to try going a little faster.

I concentrated hard and sped things up a bit, thinking it was just like twirling a baton like they do in the marching bands. All at once, a big thwack sounded, and Daniel’s jo fell to the mat. He held his hand to his jaw where he’d hit himself with the jo!

I burst out laughing. I knew it wasn’t nice of me, but I couldn’t help it. I tried to hold it in and turned my face away so Daniel wouldn’t see, but my shoulders shook so bad I could hardly breathe, which just made me laugh even harder.

It was one of those times I had the giggles so bad nothing was going to keep me from laughing. Then I noticed everyone else was laughing a little too. Even Daniel. With a shrug, he said something about it not being his day, and the tension left the room.

Still, it wasn’t until Savannah and I were driving home that we could finally let loose and have a good laugh. We both agreed that Aikido was a blast, and even if embarrassing things happened, we wouldn’t want to stop going.

I thought that would be the end of it, but at dinner Savannah spilled the beans. “Dad… guess what Mom did to a poor guy in Aikido…”

 

I just got back from New York a few weeks ago, and it was a blast. We stayed in a hotel close to Times Square, so naturally, that was the first place we went once we got there. It’s kind of a crazy place, with so many people and all of those bright lights.

There’s also people there who dress up as different super heroes and other things like the Statue of Liberty. Naturally, I wanted to get my picture taken with one of them. Then I noticed that people who stopped and got photos always slipped them some cash after. Not sure I wanted to pay for a photo opp, I glanced at some of the other things going on, content to watch without participating in anything that might cost me money.

A large crowd had gathered around four shirtless, muscle-bound men, so naturally that caught my attention and I hurried over to join them with Miguel, who was with me, trailing behind.

They asked for a volunteer, and a boy around nine-years-old raised his hand. They told him to stand real still while one of the shirtless guys did a jumping flip right over his head. Everyone cheered and clapped at his feat. After taking a bow, one of the men pulled the tallest guy from the crowd and had him stand behind the kid.

That’s when they turned to the crowd and asked, “How much do you want to see our brother jump over both of them?” A few people handed them some dollar bills, and they collected a nice little stack. Then they pulled another guy from the crowd and had him stand between the other two. This time they got a few tens and fives and began their little chant of how we’re all part of the human family, no matter what our differences may be.

I stood there beside Miguel and figured we could stay and watch without giving them any money, especially since we were at the back of the crowd. Next thing I know, they are grabbing Miguel to stand in the row of people, making it four tall guys.

I picked up his embarrassment, but of course he went along with it, because what else could he do? They used his addition to get more money from the crowd, especially zeroing in on the girls who thought Miguel was hot-stuff.

Then they asked him if he was there with someone, like a wife or a girlfriend. He pointed in my direction and the nearest guy came to my side. “Is this your wife?” he asked, dragging me into the center of the crowd, and thinking I looked a little old for him, but in a good way. Of course Miguel said, “No, she’s my cousin.”

The guy dramatically wiped his brow and said. “So it’s all right if I kiss her?” He stood beside me and leaned in to kiss my lips. I stood frozen, and probably would have let him kiss me, but he stopped at the last moment and sent me a wink. Then he asked me, “How much is your cousin worth? If you want us to jump all-the-way-over-him, we might need some motivation.”

Dang! With everyone watching, I scrounged through my purse and found that my smallest chunk of change happened to be a twenty-dollar-bill. I handed it over, and he got the crowd to cheer for me while I smiled politely and gave Miguel a thumbs-up.

After that, they added another man to the line, which now made five people in a row to jump over. Then they did their little thing and asked for more donations. I didn’t see how they planned to jump over all these tall guys and the kid, but what did I know?

Flush with cash, they added a woman to stand between the boy and the next man, taking the number up to six and making the row of people go from shortest to tallest.

They did their little spiel and gathered several more bills. At this point it looked like they had close to three-hundred dollars. Not bad for half an hour.

Finally, they said it was time to do the jump. It was a good thing, since most people were ready to move on by then. Anyway, they made the girl and boy stand off to the side. Then they asked the four guys to face sideways and touch their toes. Not all of them could do that, but a few got pretty close.

With the line of men all hunched over and standing close together, the jump seemed a lot more reasonable. Still, that was quite a formidable distance. Starting a countdown, the jumper took his place, then took off running and did a big flip over them, going to his knees on the other side before standing up.

From where I stood, the jump looked a little off to me… like he’d jumped a little crookedly and not exactly right over them, but I wasn’t about to point that out. After he landed, everyone clapped and cheered, and they thanked the crowd as it dispersed. Miguel came to my side, relieved to have that over with, and we started back to our hotel.

Anyway… I didn’t feel too bad about losing twenty dollars since it was part of my whole New York experience. Plus, I nearly got kissed by a hot guy… how could I complain about that? But next time, I think I’ll just get my picture taken with Captain America, like I wanted to in the first place!