Thursday, January 27, 2011

The Fine Art of Aging Gracefully and Attracting Psychos

Today I made that trip we all dread every eight years. I renewed my driver's license and had my photo taken. I remember this day eight years ago. I had a two-month-old baby boy and my daughter was two. Don't ask me how, but on that day eight years ago, I took the hottest photo I've ever taken in my entire life. For eight years I've enjoyed having that photo on my driver's license. I once showed it to a guy for ID when I got some take-out from a Chinese restaurant in the Minneapolis skyway for lunch. The young guy looked at the photo then looked at me, then looked at the photo and back at me. Finally, he said, "This isn't you." I assured him that it was me. He looked at the photo again and said, "Wow, this is a really hot picture of you." By that time, I was getting rather annoyed at him, and I asked him if he would like to take the photo in the back room of the restaurant for say, five or ten minutes. He had no clue what I was alluding to. I have a very vicious sense of humor when I'm angry.

So, today I took about an hour doing my hair and makeup, getting everything "just so" and hoping in vain that lighting would strike twice and I'd manage to take another great photo. I drove out to the DMV and noticed by the signage that it now shared space with the Department of Corrections Probation and Parole Offices. People were herded like cattle inside. I couldn't tell where I should be for a license renewal, so I went to a counter and took my documents out of my purse and looked around for some clue as to where I should be. Finally, I went to the end of a long line of people and tried to figure out what was going on.

I had been in line less than a minute when the guy in front of me turned around and said, "You look lost." He was exceptionally good looking. I smiled and said, "Well, that's the look I was going for." He smiled back and we moved forward in line. He turned around again. I looked down at the paperwork in my hand. We moved forward in line. He turned around. I looked up and noticed him staring at my chest. He caught me looking right at him, grinned and turned forward again. This guy was starting to give me a very creepy feeling. Uggghhhh . . . all the driver's license facilities in the state of Wisconsin, and I get this one at this particular time with this guy.

Then he was at the head of the line and went to the counter. He was explaining something about needing to get a Wisconsin driver's license, but he had no ID. They were doing a search for his social security number, and they had him waiting at the counter. I went to the counter next and explained why I was there. The woman congratulated me on being the first person all day to have all their paperwork completed correctly. I smiled and mentioned that I have to get on my kids all the time to have their stuff in order, and how I'm a stickler for being prepared. She told me to stand for the photo. There was no mirror. There was no time to take off my winter coat. She must've seen me tense up because she kept saying, "I'm going to take the photo on the count of three." I smiled. Click. She told me to wait until my number was called. I asked her what number - and she motioned to the piece of paper in my hand that she had given to me a minute earlier. I was having a senior moment.

I sat down in a row of chairs against the wall across from an elderly couple. I was looking around taking in all that was going on in that DMV office - driver's ed written tests, parents there with their 16-year-olds for their "behind the wheel" test, people with paperwork and people looking as lost as I had been when I walked in. As I was observing everything going on, I hear this voice say, "How many?" I turned to my right, and in the chair right next to me was the creepy guy from the line. "Excuse me? How many what?" I said. "How many kids do you have?" I just stared at him. "I heard you at the counter talking about your kids." Just at that time, the elderly lady across from me said, "Excuse me, dear, do you have a mirror?" I dug my compact mirror out of my purse and gave it to her. And then they called the creepy guy up to the counter. The lady handed my mirror back and asked, "Do you know him?" I whispered, "No" and she pressed her lips together in a straight line and gave me a concerned look. It wasn't my imagination, the guy was officially creepy.

I was called to the counter next to take the vision test (I was admonished for having my hair in my face - flashback to grade school). The woman looked at me and asked, "Is everything in the description accurate . . . enough?" I imagine she was looking at me and the weight I refused to change to accurate reflect what I currently weigh. I was told to take a seat again. And I got to keep the old driver's license with the hot photo on it. Sweet.

As I sat down, I saw two men come in and start to talk to the creepy guy at the counter. Something was wrong with his documentation or lack thereof. Another minute of waiting, and they called me back to get the license and proof it for any mistakes. I took out my pink leopard print reading glasses and made sure everything was accurate.

And that was when I saw it. The photo. Somehow, it was an older woman that stared back at me from the photo. Her hair and makeup looked good, but you could see crow's feet around her eyes. Her face is a little heavier, but she has a familiar smile. I stared at the photo for a minute. No one will be telling me that this is a hot photo. I sighed. I've taken worse. Overall I'm pleased with it.

I put the license in my wallet and my reading glasses in my purse and walked out to my van. There is a Michael Buble CD in the stereo that used to play mainly Van Halen. I sighed again and drove off. I hope I don't have to go back there for another eight years. At that time, I'll have an 18-year-old daughter and a 16-year-old son. I wonder what the photo will look like then.

Here's a clip about driver's license photos from Ellen Degeneres's old sitcom. It is hilarious. I once took a Sam's Club photo that was so bad, when I showed it to a cashier, she looked at me then got a confused look on her face and said, "You don't have a gap in your teeth, but it looks like you do in this photo!" So, I can relate to Ellen in this clip. Enjoy.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

America's Team

Growing up in the heart of Wisconsin, it is a given that I am a Green Bay Packer fan through and through. I bleed green and gold. I have seen Lambeau Field and the Packer Hall of Fame. I've had my photo taken with a cheesy (pardon the pun) cardboard cut-out of Brett Favre (that was awhile ago). I've walked through the same tunnel as the players. I've crossed over the hallowed bits of concrete from the old tunnel where Vince Lombardi and his Packers walked. I've seen Ray Nitschke's helmet and Vince Lombardi's bronzed baby shoes. I've seen their three Super Bowl trophies. I've teared up only once - at Reggie White's Packer Hall of Fame display - I love the Minister of Defense. But this video put tears in my eyes. The music is from the movie "The Last of the Mohicans" and it is beautiful.

Beyond their history, there are many reasons that I love the Green Bay Packers. They are owned by their fans - the true America's Team. They share their touchdowns with their fans when they do the Lambeau Leap. And every summer when they have a practice, they greet kids outside the stadium and ride their bikes to the practice field with the kids running alongside them carrying their helmets. It is tradition.

I admire these athletes. So much hard work goes into being a professional football player. I've watched them practice, and they make a sound like Clydesdales going down the field. It gives me goosebumps to watch them.

If you're not from here, it might be hard to understand why Packers fans love their team so much. Maybe this video with its outstanding photography that gives such clear insight into the strength and beauty of this team can explain it better than I can. Enjoy.

Go Packers!

Sunday, January 2, 2011

Zuzu's Petals

My Dad left us 22 years ago today.

Looking back, the one thing I know for sure is that for 24 years I had the incredible gift of, quite simply, the most wonderful father ever.

I must confess that I have written and rewritten this blog post half a dozen times over the last few days. There are so many things I want the world to know about my father.

I wrote and rewrote stories from my past. Tales of memories that I have of him that I think of as "standout moments" in time. Moments when my father's true character came shining through bright as the sun. Simple, everyday minutes that carried important messages. Stories of times when it was apparent that my father had lived a hard life when he was young. Things that I know of his brave military service in World War II. Stories of my father's generous soul. How my father took every opportunity to help others. If the Lord loves a cheerful giver, then he loved my father very much.

I typed each story out and then deleted them. There were just too many.

I think the times I miss most are the ordinary moments we spent together. Watching cartoons and laughing. Taking his pickup truck to the local dump and singing along to a Marty Robins eight-track tape all the way there and all the way back. Picking out gifts for my mother. For any occasion, he always bought her the largest Hallmark card he could find. I guess the larger the card was, the more love it could hold.

My father was a common man. He never amassed great wealth. He was not famous. He had a hard childhood with an abusive father. He fought in a war and saw terrible things. He was human and imperfect. But he was a man of steadfast faith. A man who did everything that was asked of him if it was possible. A man who worked hard and chose to live in a positive way. A man who taught me to help others and to do everything the very best way that I could.

I still have gifts that my father gave me - a Hummel music box, a tiny pin that is shaped like a fighting lion, among other things. They are my "Zuzu's petals". They hold memories of a different time - my former life when my father was alive. For me, these things are symbols of what is really important in life - what really matters. My father's success was not in accomplishing great things, but in the people whom he impacted. Loving and cherishing the little things are what mattered. And his success was simply that he impacted others for good.

His memory is with me always. And on this day and every day of every year to come, I will miss the man whose laugh I can still hear and who never leaves my heart.

"Strange, isn't it? Each man's life touches so many other lives. When he isn't around he leaves an awful hole, doesn't he?" Clarence the angel to George Bailey in "It's a Wonderful Life".