Days of Labor

How did I go from being the youngest girl in the office to the oldest – overnight?

In 1979, in my early twenties, I moved to the big city and launched into corporate America. I had worked since I was twelve when I started babysitting, washed dishes in a bowling alley restaurant, and then worked in a chain department store all through high school. I then had a military tenure and furthered my education, but this was now the real deal in the big town. The Royals were hot and so was I. I was confident in my abilities but not aggressive or overbearing, and certainly I avoided conflict. Above all else, I wanted to be cooperative and easy to work with. I wanted to please everyone and hear those words “Well done!”

After a brief orientation in the HR Department on my first day, the recruiter escorted me to the fifth floor and down the Treasury Department hall to the Tax Division’s office on the left side of the corridor. It was a small seven-member division – sort of like a small office with its own system/rules within a large company. There was one other lady, much older nearing retirement, in the group who was to be my trainer and mentor. The first thing I noticed on my desk was a large green glass dish with four grooves for cigarettes – an ashtray that I suggested could be removed. But I wasn’t special. There was an ashtray on everyone’s desk, and I soon learned that I was the only nonsmoker in the group. Marie said that although I didn’t smoke, the ashtray was needed for others as they interacted with me. Boy did I find this to be true as the ashes grew at the end of her cigarette and eventually fell like a slinky toppling end-over-end onto my desktop. No worries, however, she quickly blew them away into the open air; and they scattered onto the floor.

Marie wanted to mold me. She wanted me to dress like her, work like her, eat with her, act like her. But I certainly had no intention of becoming like her. Although professional and well dressed, for goodness sake, she couldn’t even apply her make-up properly. Eyeliner smudged and dots of mascara speckled beneath her lower lashes on many days. Her hair dresser teased up her thin, fine hair colored the perfect shade of red to where you could see straight through it. Not to mention that I would NEVER EVER force my way of doing things on someone else. No, I would NEVER become Marie. After a couple of years, I moved on to another position in the company – a very good place to be, good for my career, and out of the reach of bossy Marie. Over the next few years, I saw her in the hallways, on the elevator, and in the cafeteria. I was respectful and gave her a retirement gift on her last day.  I could not hold a grudge and always wished her well, but I would NEVER be like her. I never regretted my decision to move on. I had the world at my fingertips, or so I thought.

After a decade with that fabulous company, they announced plans to consolidate offices in another city. It was a sad time for the employees and the city to lose such a good company. I elected not to relocate. Instead, I embarked on those childbearing years of bottles, diapers, Disney movies, and minivans.

It was scary re-entering the workforce in my mid-thirties. During the days of my job search after I had the boys tucked in bed, I stepped into the shower and let the water wash down over my head along with the tears – the fear of change overwhelmed me. So much had changed in the workforce, and I was comfortable with my place as a mom. I thanked God for that time at home with my sons as the tears washed down the drain. I mustered up the courage, sharpened my skills, and felt really fortunate that someone took a chance on me after being a stay-at-home mom for five years. It didn’t take long to get back into the swing of things, and I moved on up in that corporation for yet another decade … until the company spiraled into bankruptcy.

Change?? Not again! At least this time I still had skills, had built on my experience, and the boys were older. They were busy with school and sports. I’m not sure they cared if I was home or not. I thought maybe someone would still hire an old lady in her forties.

Well, someone did. I had never worked for a start-up, entrepreneurial company. My two previous employers were established, large corporations when I started. This was something new and different. I was shocked to see the phone list – a modest two-page listing by first name. But I endured that worthless feeling the first six months and settled into my third corporate career in as many decades. I feel like I helped build the company. I watched the company go public in three different entities, watched it expand and make a ton of money while winning many awards in the city and industry. I ran the office, oversaw several building projects as we expanded, and hired a full administrative staff. My plate was overfull. No longer the youngest one in the office, I wanted things done my way for good reason. Having had to operate with limited staffing, I could not afford many hiccups – had no time for that. I knew what worked, and I knew what didn’t. I still wore and liked pantyhose with my business suits, although I did wonder if some of the girls thought it was a bit frumpy. I hoped most of them liked me and respected me even though I wanted things done a certain way. By this time, my nearsightedness had turned into farsightedness. I didn’t want to admit that I needed bifocals, but I did. (Thank God for blended lenses.) I resorted to a 5x makeup mirror to apply my eyeliner to those lids that were folding down closer to my eyes. I cut my long locks to give myself a free face lift; used various products to give my fine, short strands some texture and raise up off my scalp; and hoped the scalp wasn’t visible. One morning after much work on that short stuff, I reached for the hairspray to hold it all in place and, after spraying generously, realized I had the styling mousse instead. OMG!! Then reality kicked in. The thing I feared the most had come upon me. I had turned into Marie!!

Two years ago, I learned what entrepreneurs do – they build businesses, and they sell them. The company I helped build merged with another. And after yet another decade with another company, another change was about to take place. But this time it was different. I felt what many do as they approach the twilight of their career. I was a bit tired. I didn’t want to be grouchy and wondered exactly how many years I had left. I watched a coworker at 64, desperately trying to make it to 65 in order to retire, succumb to the strangest thing to attack a body I had ever heard of. She didn’t make it.  I thought of my dad who died when he was just 67. I wanted time to write more, to bring those other book projects in my head from a dream or an idea into reality. I didn’t want to crack the whip any longer and climb the ladder, but I was – what??? – 50 something???? How can this be? It’s too much and yet not enough.

So it was and so it is. Finally, after thirty years, the Royals are hot again. But what about me? I moved to something interim and realize that many covet my seat. So I am thankful. I hope that someone sees the wisdom beneath the folds in my eyelids. I still want to please. I remember Marie and realize that she genuinely wanted to help me. And I hope that those writing dreams survive until the stories are told. It is here that I abide a little bit longer … as life continues on …

There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under heaven:

a time to be born and a time to die,
a time to plant and a time to uproot,
a time to kill and a time to heal,
a time to tear down and a time to build,
a time to weep and a time to laugh,
a time to mourn and a time to dance,
a time to scatter stones and a time to gather them,
a time to embrace and a time to refrain,
a time to search and a time to give up,
a time to keep and a time to throw away,
a time to tear and a time to mend,
a time to be silent and a time to speak,
a time to love and a time to hate,
a time for war and a time for peace.

What does the worker gain from his toil? I have seen the burden God has laid on men. He has made everything beautiful in its time. He has also set eternity in the hearts of men; yet they cannot fathom what God has done from beginning to end.  Ecclesiastes 3:1-11 (NIV)

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Stop and Pet the Pony

My published version of “Hanging Over the Fence” is now listed on Country magazine’s list of short stories and available to read on line if you did not receive a paper or digital version of the August/September 2015 issue.  Please click here to read their version, “Stop and Pet the Pony.”

Stop and Pet the Pony

Stop and Pet the Pony

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NEW PUBLICATION!

I am so excited about my latest publication.  A condensed version of my blog “Hanging Over the Fence” is in the August/September 2015 issue of Country magazine (a division of Reader’s Digest).  They have titled it “Stop and Pet the Pony.”  It’s hot off the press.  I received my copy today.  I noticed they are offering free trial subscriptions to some of the digital versions: CLICK HERE FOR THE DIGITAL VERSIONS.  Or you can subscribe to the printed copy HERE.

As usual, I am partial to my hard copy.

08.15 Country 08.15 PetthePony

Stay tuned for Mother’s Story.  I’m working away!

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Dream Fishing

It’s Saturday morning, Easter weekend, no need to rush around; and I was doing one of my favorite things: piddle. For me, that means drinking coffee in bed and perusing around on my iPad or reading. I also think about my writing – all of those things on my writing shelf to complete. I had planned on writing an Easter blog but never got that far. While checking in on Facebook, something caught my attention – a fishing video. Now that was one big fish. I was reminded of a dream I had a few years ago – one that stuck. I hadn’t thought about it for a while. The video displayed a few things glaringly similar to my dream – the struggle to reel in the fish, the calm water, and the nearness of the shore on the other side.

First of all, let me explain how fishing fits in my life. Someone once asked me if I really ever unplugged from the world (phones, computers, pads, everything) what would I do? Is there anything at all that would force me to relax? I had to say: fishing. Why? Because I don’t take any of my electronics near the water, I don’t wear makeup, and I don’t care what time it is. I just sit and wait for the fish. Heck, sometimes I don’t even get dressed, especially at the crack of dawn. 🙂

So what if it's a carp - what a blast to catch!

So what if it’s a carp – what a blast to catch!

I’m not the best fisherman in the world and I don’t do well with minnows (or minners if you’re a cowbilly from my roots). My bait of choice is a worm. I don’t go fishing frequently, too many demands on my time. In fact, I haven’t been for a couple of  years now – maybe it’s time to schedule one of those trips. But for right now, since I’ve given you a little background, I would like to tell you about my dream – one I had while on vacation in a cabin in the San Juan Mountains.

I am at a small lake or pond. I can see the entire body of water surrounded by houses. The water is still. I am on one side preparing to fish. Two females are with me in my left peripheral – one about my age, one much younger. They are not fishing. They are watching me fish.

I cast my line into the water. To my surprise, the line flies almost to the bank on the other side. Immediately, there is a hard tug on my line. I grab the pole more securely. The tug on the line is so strong, I push my heels into the ground to avoid being pulled into the water. I am stable for a few seconds but then realize the magnitude of the fish on my line. I manage to reel it in to the middle of the lake when it flings out of the water  then back in, as if to warn me what I am dealing with. It’s bigger than I, so I stop reeling and let out more line in hopes it will swim the other direction. But instead of retracting, it comes at me full force without being reeled in. I am frightened.

The two females are no longer in my peripheral. The huge fish jumps up on the ramp/dock and lands right next to me but does not hurt me. I look around for the two females. They are gone and so is the fish. I search for them.

On the other side of the lake, a man is being carried away on a stretcher near the bank. He is not in pain, but it appears he is missing a foot or part of his leg. I wonder if the fish did that – bit it off. But, again, he is not hurting. I wonder if the two females met with harm by the big fish or simply ran away. I do not know what happened to them but am looking for them as I awaken.

Pray tell; what is the meaning of this? Your comments are appreciated.

(If you were hoping for an Easter blog, please click here and read one of my favorites from last year.)

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Vacation Diary

A friend invited me to escape the cold winter and visit her in sunny southwest Florida for my birthday. I found reasonable airfare, planned out the days, and booked it. Then I decided it would be nice to visit my son on the way down so added a few flights and days to the front end of the trip.

I left early on a Saturday morning, checked two bags and carried on two, changed planes in Nashville, and arrived in Pensacola without a hitch or a glitch. (Well, I did need a little help lifting and squishing my full-size carryon in the overhead bin.) I hadn’t traveled by air in over a year, so it was a nice jet-setter feeling again.

My son greeted me at the bottom of the escalator with a bear hug while his girlfriend waited in the car – first time meeting her. After another warm hug, they loaded the bags in the trunk – all four. What a beautiful arrival day – the clear, crisp air and sparkling sun created a to-die-for lunch on the deck of a beachfront restaurant.

PBeach

The next morning, we loaded up the car with twin three-year old boys they were babysitting and headed out for a twenty-minute drive to church. I looked forward to attending with them, but sometimes our best-made plans just don’t work out. As he unbuckled the twins out of their car seats, I opened the trunk to gather items. To my surprise the trunk came crashing down on my head. The blow stunned me for a second – the shock that something had hit my head really hard. Surprisingly, I didn’t feel pain but in a few seconds found myself grabbing for tissues in my purse to stop the flood of blood streaming down my face and onto my green satin blouse. By the time my son returned to the car after depositing the twins safely in their classroom, my hair had turned strawberry blonde. He handed me paper towels and a bottle of disinfectant from a first aid kit and escorted me to the restroom to cleanup.

Needless to say, the service was about over by the time the bleeding halted and I rinsed the blood from my hair and clothes. So I joined my son in the lobby coffee bar where he was waiting for me. Worried, he kept asking if I was dizzy or seeing double. I was fine. Having raised three boys, I was all too familiar with the amount of bleeding that a head gash can produce. I just never expected it to be my head! (You might have thought this portion of the diary would have been about one of the three-year-old lads, not a 50-something lady.)

The next three days were as pleasant as I could have imagined. We enjoyed simple things – a few meals together, watched Frozen, and stocked up at Walmart. I am so glad we took some time late one afternoon to visit the National Naval Aviation Museum.

Blue Angels NHM

I loved seeing slices of history in more ways than one.

kit1 kit2

We crossed the street to view the Pensacola Lighthouse, and paused as Taps played at dusk (brought back memories from a few decades ago).

Lighthouse

Just like the day I arrived, the sun glistened in the sky the afternoon that I left. Indeed, such a pleasant visit it was; but it was time to leave.

Five hours later, my friend met me at the airport and had a snack waiting when I arrived and settled into my special room. Although others may visit it from time to time, I feel very much at home when I am there and settled in like a returning college student, “my room.”

The thing I enjoy the most when I visit is simple relaxation. There’s no rush to be anywhere at any specific time. We eat when we want, get dressed when we want, and go out when we want – or not. I love it!

The sun greeted me on my birthday morn.

Sunrise

And I kissed it goodbye when we left for dinner.

Sunset

We celebrated my birthday like royalty, in princess style.

Bday

The next couple of days, we shopped a little, enjoyed lunch on the veranda, and watched the sun dance on the water one last time.

HicB

We watched the Super Bowl and Malificient at the same time (minimal dozing for me while multitasking) and one last sunset.

The next morning as we waited to board our flight home, we overlooked the tarmac and saw security vehicles and personnel scurrying around. Passengers chattered about who the VIP might be. We were on a flight to Kansas City with a stopover in Washington DC. I recognized third in line to the throne on the front row.

I don’t believe there was an empty seat on the flight. As we began the descent into DCA, the plane rocked from wing to wing. I looked around to see if anyone else appeared worried, especially when the ground seemed close enough to jump to. I glanced over to blue eyes on my left and then to brown eyes on my right. Both were filled with concern. I wondered which wing was going to hit the ground first. I realized many others wondered the same thing when all wheels finally gripped the runway and the entire cabin erupted with applause. I later learned there was a severe wind advisory in Washington that day.

It was smooth sailing on the next leg to Kansas City. I thanked my friend for the ride home and a wonderful birthday, again. This may not have been the adventure of a couple years ago driving to Alaska. It was an adventure of another kind. Each morning when I brush my hair to the side to cover the scar, I will remember the special time with my son, his girlfriend, and a dear friend. I wrote another chapter in my book of life and was just thinking …

I think I had the choice to sit it out or dance – and I DANCED!

And life continues on …

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How Many Days?

Thoughtful, considerate, devoted, caring, advisor, friend.  These are some of the words used to describe him then …

1974

and now …

2014 FB Game

Just a couple of months ago we gathered to celebrate our 40th high school class reunion. How can it be that 40 years have passed, and how can it be that someone who seemed healthy and whole sporting his high school football jersey just a few months ago has been taken from us with little warning?

He worked the land that he loved. He made room in his barn to build our float for the parade. When chatting in a small group that sunny afternoon, he thoughtfully asked if those of us from out of town needed a place to spend the night. Caring and considerate, yes, his good character shone as bright as the sun that day. We chatted about the friendship our mothers shared. I remembered back to our 20th reunion. We had not had the opportunity to speak that evening; but as I left, he caught up with me at the door and told me how nice I looked, that the years had been kind. It’s odd, but I do remember what I wore that evening – a pink column dress with pink pumps. My hair still draped down the middle of my back but I had pulled it back in a french braid. A few streaks of gray gathered from my temples to join the back braid. We all had aged, but he took the time to greet me and say something special. I think that’s why I remember.

He was not the first of our classmates to leave this life, but I think we feel this deeply because of the recent bonding at our gathering. And at this stage in life, we have come to realize those things that are most important.  There is no need to try and impress each other with our wealth and knowledge. Those things are temporal.  This journey on earth is temporary, but we want to yell, “Come back!” While death may separate us for a while, relationships are eternal.

Our days here are limited. How can we know the number?

Yesterday, I hugged my 80-year-old mother a little tighter. I told her I loved her. I slid into the seat of my car and headed down the interstate to continue my life. Why? Because that’s what we are to do, and I prayed for wisdom to understand my days (Psalm 90:12).

Life is too short to live in disharmony, bitterness, and strife. I want that out of my heart. Love and forgiveness are important every day. And I like that song … “when you get the choice to sit it out or dance, I hope you dance.”

Rest in peace my classmate and friend. Until we meet again,  I will remember to love and dance when I get the chance.

“Man is like a breath; his days are like a fleeting shadow.” Psalm 144:4 (NIV)

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Bluesy October

Someone asked me over the weekend if I had recovered from baseball. My answer: “I’ll be okay in a couple of days.” It helped to watch the Party Like It’s 1985 video a few times. That always brings a smile to my face.  Our city is Royal proud as American League Champions. Now it’s day 7 after the disappointing loss; and since everyone else has managed to move on, including the Royals as a team, I suppose it’s time for me too … after these final thoughts.

So Blue October ended up being a little bluesy. I thought for sure we had the team of destiny, like the Miracle on Ice in 1980. We were headed for a fairy-tale ending. But at the last minute, the crown jewel slipped away. I’m not normally superstitious but started a ritual with our winning streak by rubbing Salvy’s head each morning. The mornings I rubbed his head, we won. If I forgot, we didn’t. This ritual was successful up until  game 7. In reality, you win some and you lose some.

Salvy

There was also the disappointment of not being able to purchase tickets at face value for the World Series. I contemplated scalper pricing – even up to two hours prior to game time for game 7. But  I sensed the spirit of Dave Ramsey sitting on my right shoulder whispering, “What are you thinking? This isn’t in your budget, and you can see it so much better in the comfort of your own home. Save your money for that emergency. Be practical!”

What I really wanted was to be in the middle of the excitement, like Vincent. By trade, he is a professional photographer whose goal is to shoot in every sports venue in the USA. But I happen to think he’s a fantastic storyteller. He was at game 6, and you can read his incredible adventure traveling from Pittsburgh to Kansas City here.  He encouraged me to go ahead and splurge on that ticket to game 7, but I couldn’t pull the trigger. You might understand my bit of regret after reading his story. At least I have my memories of the Division Championship game.

Undoubtedly there will be a few changes when next year rolls around. All of Kansas City will hope and now anticipate another Royal run.  But 2014 will be a special year to remember – what a ride! Boys, please don’t wait another 30 years because I’ll be dead!

Maybe it’s time for seniority and age to invest in a reasonable portion of season tickets … hmm … that I will will ponder.

But for now, a few leaves remain on the trees. There’s just enough time to tend to those apples that have been patiently waiting. The cross stitch project sits in a bag in the corner. It’s the grateful season followed by the joyful season of giving and ringing in a new year. We will remember our loves and celebrate the resurrection with some birthdays scattered between.

I am reminded …

“There is life after baseball, and it will be okay!”

And until the next crack of the bat … life continues on.

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October’s Still Blue

To the surprise of many, it’s still Blue October. After we secured a post-season spot, I celebrated a “Royal” lunch with one of my sons in Cardinals nation.  We wore it proudly.

Royal Lunch

The Royals won the wild card game – and in dramatic fashion – coming from behind, stealing bases, and smashing those timely hits. The hometown crowd erupted when the game-winning hit skipped sharply past the third baseman near the line – “FAIR BALL!!”

That night, life in Kansas City went up a notch. There were celebrations in living rooms (mine included), at watch parties in social establishments, and in workplaces that could not shut down. As the Royals’ manager well stated, “The players didn’t quit, and the fans didn’t quit.”

The team hit the road to play the first two games of the Division Series in California. Personally, I thought if we could just win one game, it would keep us in contention.  In my wildest dreams, I didn’t imagine the team returning to Kansas City with a two-game lead and itching to sweep. I gathered my gear for that first home game.

Gear

My sons and I tailgated with a few friends.  The parking lots were crowded, people were friendly, and we all were there to witness a common goal unfold.

Working More

It was a spectacular Sunday afternoon, a blue October sky.  The aroma of every kind of barbecue item you can imagine was in the air.  Hatchbacks were wide open, music strummed along, fans shared food and drink, and we watched the Chiefs on television from the tailgate next door. Time quickly passed. My son brought a broom, along with many other hungry fans.

Division Championship Game

We scattered to our seats  armed with rally rags and allowed plenty of time to get situated for the opening ceremonial rituals associated with an important game such as this.

Stars & Stripes

I agree with a friend who said, this sight gives me chills each and every time.

FlyoverOverhead

The visiting Angels silenced the home crowd with a first-inning home run, but the home team Royals took control and did not relinquish the lead once attained. Again, the boys in blue would not quit. Hit after hit, play after play, they did not disappoint their fans. The visiting team went home, and the Royals and their fans “PARTIED LIKE IT WAS 1985!” They (we) were division champions, and I got to witness it. “Let’s Go Royals” echoed through the spiral ramp down just like in 1985.  Fans hugged strangers. It was a night to remember, and it would not be the last.

As we moved to the American League Championship Series, tickets were hard to find. But my excitement did not diminish as I watched from afar – rally rag, rally beads, and hope prevailed. The first two games were in Baltimore, and I left for a sisters’ weekend getaway and watch party. All of us were ready to cheer on our Royals!

Sisters watch partysisters watch

The truth is, we might have been a little rowdy; but we weren’t alone. Strangers from two wedding parties left their groups to join us in the library bar when we were asked to leave the more-formal dining room. (Hey, we tried to go there to begin with, but the doors were closed. We were simply looking for a TV and a little food. Management decided to open it.)  🙂

Elms

Love that shirt, “Party Like It’s 1985.” Why doesn’t someone write the song? Why don’t I write the song? Well, someone else did, and I couldn’t have said it better.

Who would’ve dreamed this as the season began early last spring? Many extra innings and sleep deprived, we won the wild card game, swept the division series, swept the league series – it really did happen. I watched the final game in my living room. Pinch me!

Now, we wait a little longer. I’m catching up on laundry because my closet is depleted of anything blue. World Series tickets are impossible to obtain, especially at face value. At this point, it’s a rich man’s game. It’s not so bad. I can experience the thrill from afar. This is so good for our city, and I couldn’t be more proud of our team.

I can remember 1985 as memories are made in 2014. For almost thirty years, I tried to convey the excitement, the camaraderie, the full stadium – the good old days – to my sons. Now they know; they have experienced it. It’s happening in their lifetime. Boys, it really is real.

One final note, lest someone be swift to judge and think that I’m concerned and way too excited over such a temporal thing: just know that I rejoice every day that my name’s written down in the Lamb’s Book of Life. I am thankful for life, breath, health, and a job. I pray that the entire world can live in peace.

But for right now, please, just let me enjoy this ride a little longer.

The ride

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The Way We ARE!!

The names are Gordon, Butler, Shields, Holland, Perez, Hosmer, Aoki, Escobar, Infante, Dyson, and Duffy – to name a few.  They didn’t believe the bad report – that they were destined to lose.  They played like they knew they could win. Sure there were ups and downs, but they never acted like losers.

I posted this blog two years ago, in May of 2012.  It is one of my favorites:

“The Way We Were”

I went to my first Royals baseball game of the season last week and, oh, the memories that were stirred.  I’ve loved the game my entire life.  When I moved to the Midwest with my family from California at the age of ten, I remember being a die-hard Dodgers fan along with my dad.  It took a year or two to be converted to a Cardinals fan; but then, much to the dismay of my cousin Benton who moved the same time we did, I finally converted … the days of Bob Gibson, Steve Carlton, Orlando Cepeda, Lou Brock, Tim McCarver, and Joe Torre.  I knew the lineup, and I knew them all.  One of my dreams was to someday attend a professional game.  I wanted to play baseball instead of softball, but that just wasn’t allowed.

I settled northwest of my southern Missouri home as an adult – in Kansas City – and finally converted to a Royals fan.  What a fabulous team they had in “the day” … George Brett, Frank White, Willie Wilson, Hal McRae, Dennis Leonard, Bret Saberhagen, Paul Splittorff, Amos Otis, Dan Quisenberry, Charlie Leibrandt, John Mayberry, and Fred Patek … to name a few (or a lot).  In those days, you had to purchase tickets far in advance just to get nosebleed seats, unless you were fortunate enough be a season-ticket holder.  Being the early days of my career, that seemed an impossible feat, but I thought – maybe someday when I am more established.  I attended my first professional game with my dad and sister at Kauffman Stadium, then known as Royals Stadium, in my early twenties. I remember being invited by a friend a couple of times to sit with her in her mom’s company’s season-ticket seats – just a few rows back above the third-base dugout.  What a treat!  I watched the kissing bandit make her way down the aisle past us and onto the field to “lay one on” George Brett one of those special Sunday afternoons (eventually that came to a halt); and I remember Mr. & Mrs. Kauffman leaning out from their suite window waving to the crowd between innings, Mrs. K waving her white hanky slowly, back and forth – just like the royal lady she was.

Oh, yes, the white hanky …  well, this is the way I remember the invention of the “rally rag.”  Perhaps someone came up with it before then, but this is my recollection of the first time in Kansas City.  I was listening to the game on the radio one evening.  The Royals were down a few runs late in the game.  We were closing the gap and maybe there were even two outs.  I remember the announcer saying Frank White had picked up a towel in the dugout and was waving it around to get everyone pumped up.  Well, it worked, and it spread like wild fire.  Fans and players alike started waving anything white they could find.  The Royals did come back and win that game and, thus, marked the debut of the rally rag.  Yes, those were the days.  It was acceptable in those days to even skip the last part of the church service on Sunday morning if you were lucky enough to have “those” seats for an afternoon game.

How fitting it was that the year my first son was born, the Royals finally won the World Series.  He was four-months old when I spread a blanket out on the living room floor, dressed him in his #5 “George Brett” suit, and we watched the final game.  I had entered my name in the selection process that year to buy American League playoff tickets and was present at game three on a Friday night when George hit two home runs.

I tried desperately to describe those days to my sons several years later when the Royals struggled just to stay out of the cellar.  The boys simply couldn’t imagine.  They were busy playing the game themselves – and so was I – managing two of their teams and traveling across the country with another one playing on a hotshot team.  You couldn’t live in our house and not play baseball.  :-)

Spoungeball

Sandlot Team

We played baseball spring, summer, and fall with a brief break in the dead of winter.  We had a batting cage in the backyard and practiced in a cave in the winter.  Our bags were full of bats and gloves of all colors, shapes, sizes, and impressive names – the latest and greatest.  And, of course, it was acceptable to wear your baseball uniform to church if you had an early afternoon game on Sunday.

ATM Knights

One time a co-worker told me, “I know you have great faith and God is number one in your life, but baseball is running a close second,” (as he positioned his left hand about an inch under his right).  :-)  Another co-worker a few years my senior, who was well past the baseball days of her sons, told me: “There is life after baseball, and it will be okay.”  I couldn’t imagine that when I was in the midst of it all.

NAM Hit

When I was sitting back last week taking in the sights of the renovated Kauffman Stadium, I couldn’t help but reflect on those good old baseball days.  I wonder if the Kauffmans would approve of all these changes.  Would they like the seats that took over part of the outfield fountains?  (I think Mrs. K would be glad to see they didn’t remove the fountains completely.)  I think they would like that we still boast the crest – a crown scoreboard bigger and better.  Those lights engulfing the circumference of the field flashing any stat or information you might want to know is quite impressive.  I think they would love the natural grass infield and outfield.  The blue seats are more appropriate for our team name, and I think they would be pleased to know that the original orange seats are now used at a local high school.  Maybe they would have dinner from time to time in the Crown Club and maybe even take a seat in the front row behind home plate on occasion.  They would likely be bombarded in the Diamond Club so doubt you would see them there.  Would they mind that “Thank God I’m a Country Boy” was replaced with “Friends in Low Places?”  (Not sure about that one.)

Being the entrepreneur that he was, Mr. K would probably understand that there is a time and season for change, and I know they would be proud to host this year’s All Star game.

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I remember one of my favorite quotes from Mr. K went something like this: if you want to become a millionaire, just be a billionaire and buy the Royals. He lost money for the greater cause, the benefit of the residents of the greater Kansas City area – the continued presence of a major league baseball team.  I, for one, am thankful for all of the Kauffman contributions to the Kansas City community that continue to this day and hope that the stadium will forever be called “Kauffman Stadium” because that’s what it truly is.

My sons are grown now, and my life today is different – a demanding corporate career, writing, attending the ballet in the new magnificent Kauffman Center for the Performing Arts, an evening of ballroom dancing once or twice a week, an occasional dinner out with family and friends, a concert or ballgame a few times per year, and I love that girl time with sisters and close friends.

Then I see that mother struggling to juggle everything.  She loads her gang in the SUV, drops one off at a practice as she drives another to a game.  If she’s lucky, she might actually get to see the entire game if she can arrange a ride for the one at practice.  And then she chooses her days carefully when asking to leave work early in time to see at least a few innings of her high school son’s game that starts at 4:00 p.m.  And hopefully she arrives in time to see the game of his life hitting a ball 400 feet against the wind to propel his team to victory or watch him strike out the side to shut the other team down (or perhaps she is lucky enough to have someone capture the moment she missed frame by frame on camera).  I have empathy for her but can say without reservation:

There is life after baseball, and it will be okay!

… love the game and life continues on …

Now for a few other present-day names:  Moustakas, Davis, Herrera, Cain, Ibanez, Vargas, Duffy.  And let me just say, it warmed my heart to see Guthrie interpret for Ventura during an interview after a clutch win last week, teammate for teammate.

Yesterday I traveled out of town for a weekend of activities surrounding a high school reunion in southern Missouri.  I really did plan to “live in the moment” and leave my phone tucked away in my purse.  But a friend honed in on the game on television in KC started texting me little nubs about the game, so I couldn’t resist and checked scores for myself – alternating between the Royals playing the White Sox in Chicago and the Tigers playing the Twins.  Holy moly, our magic number was down to one.  This could be the night.  After the football game, we gathered at a local classmate’s house for more socializing.  One television was already turned on  – a baseball game.  I mentioned to the host that I was checking the score of the KC game, so he tried to find it, to no avail.  Oh yeah, we are in Cardinals nation this far south. How could I forget?

By now, anyone and everyone knows that those boys in blue did it.  We have secured, at the very least, a wild card spot.  It would have been nice to see that celebration live, like George Brett.  (Was he excited or what??!!)  I watched the replays this morning.

Wild card – nope, that wasn’t around in 1985.  Heck, Sluggerrr wasn’t even born until 1996! Wild card, division champs – it’s all post season.  There’s a chance my sons will get to use their upper deck, game one, tickets.  🙂

This year, for the first time in many, many years there was a new song in the house.  Don’t Stop Believin’ replaced Friends in Low Places.  The fans picked it.  That makes me go hummmmm.  The new thing I see this morning: We’re Gonna Party Like It’s 1985 – I like that too.

For the first time in 29 years, life for the Royals and their fans (this one included) continues on …

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Blue October

I remember what I wore – soft corduroy plum slacks, a multicolored sweater vest, a plum tweed with a bold royal blue wide patch of threads running through it.  The silky royal blue blouse tied it all together.  My mother was excited to watch our four-month old son while we enjoyed a rare evening out.  First stop was the restaurant at the Adams Mark across the street, great seafood that night.  It was a crisp October evening, and I couldn’t have been more pumped.  It was exactly where I wanted to be and the only thing I wanted to do right then.  I had planned for it carefully.  With a little luck, my dream was unfolding.  The year was 1985.

The stadium rocked every night during the regular season.  It was difficult to buy tickets except for upper deck, in advance; and many games were sold out.  I dreamed of someday affording season tickets, but we were starting careers and had a mortgage.  Money was allotted for our home, and that was the right thing to do.  So several times a year, I purchased upper deck tickets; and a couple of times a year, I was lucky enough to use company season tickets or be treated by a friend who had the same.  I loved baseball and loved the Royals.  I remember the Royals’ first appearance in the World Series – 1980.  My boss was given a corporate suite to fill and use.  I watched as my senior co-worker walked out the door early that one day.  She was selected to go.  She cared nothing about baseball, and I wondered if she even knew which team the Royals were playing that evening.  Oh well, I watched from home and accepted that seniority and age come with privileges.  After all, I was a young, confident 20-something whippersnapper and would have many more opportunities.  She was 60-something.

Five years later when the post season rolled around, I decided I would see if I could buy tickets and not depend on someone to treat me.  Things were done differently in those days.  I remember sending a check (or possibly money order) in the mail with a request for the American League Championship Series.  You were permitted to request only one – either World Series or League Championship Series.  There were no guarantees, and selection was random.  Since our track record was not good to actually get to the World Series, I opted for the League Championship Series and waited.  I can assure you that I crossed all the Ts and dotted all the Is.  I was elated when I received an envelope in the mail with two tickets instead of a refund, upper deck down the line between 1st and right field – game 3 – Friday, October 11, 1985.  Little did I know the historic game I would be privileged to see.

I remember Hal McRae saying at a pep rally before the team left for Toronto for the first two games to never give up.  If the team loses a game or two, don’t give up on us.  We’ll be back.  (paraphrased)

That was prophetic.  The Royals dropped the first two games in Toronto but came home to a hungry hometown.  And George Brett delivered the game of his life.  It was a thrilling win to witness.  George went 4 for 4 with two home runs, and the Royals won 6-5.  The “Royals” chant echoed through the spiral ramp on the way out.  Everyone knew that finally it was our turn to win it all.  And we did.  I watched the remainder of the post-season games on television.  We did not expect it to be the last World Series win, and we certainly didn’t expect 1985 to be our last post-season appearance for three decades.

Waited in line with the oldest for 2.5 hours, 8 months pregnant, to get an autograph that he wanted. He shyed out. (1988)

Waited in line with the oldest for 2.5 hours, 8 months pregnant, to get an autograph that he wanted.
He shyed out. (1988)

Life goes on.  I had two more sons.  And, yes, they all played baseball.  The focus was on their game while the Royals struggled, and struggled, and struggled.  We attended a few games a year, what we could manage around their own baseball schedules; but they didn’t know the excitement of those winning years.  Company tickets were easier to come by.

Fast forward to September 18, 2014.  I’m sitting at my computer in a virtual window waiting for my chance to buy post-season tickets.  (My middle son explained how it works now.)  I didn’t know if I would actually buy if the opportunity opened up.  I knew they would be expensive and the choices limited.  The telephone rings.  It’s my youngest son frustrated that the site isn’t working properly and wonders if I can drive out to the stadium to purchase tickets for him since he’s three hours away.  (I decline.)  He laughs when he finds out I’m going through the same thing, “You ARE my mother.”  My oldest son living far away in another state is still a loyal Royal and wonders if anyone’s getting tickets.

In about a half hour I learned that the youngest finally succeeded in purchasing two tickets as did the middle son, both upper deck.  I hope they get to use them and get to feel the excitement that I felt 29 years ago.  The “Let’s Go Royals” chant has meaning this year for the first time in their lifetime.  It’s been a fun season, and it ain’t over till it’s over. (Yogi)

Loyal Royals - 2014

Loyal Royals – 2014

I haven’t told them yet and they haven’t asked, but Mom splurged.  She has three tickets and pretty darn good seats in the lower level, just in case.  After all, seniority and age come with privileges. 🙂

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