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One of my Mom’s Favorite Shows

12 May

I wrote this a year or so ago and I am sharing it here again for Mother’s Day –

Oh how I miss that show about those four ladies living in the big city; the relationships, the puns, the humor, the clothes. I saw a little of myself in each of them;  the somewhat spoiled and sheltered one, the one who was more than a little man crazy, the cynical one with a sweet side, and the sometimes voice of reason single career gal. No, not THAT show, this show had less to do with shoes and sex in the city and more to do with funky head scarves and character development. The show I miss is the Mary Tyler Moore show.  MTM was on TV from 1970-1977 and one of my very favorite early memories is watching it with my mom.

Mary Tyler Moore took place in the big city of Minneapolis. The Mary in the show, Mary Richards, was played by Mary Tyler Moore. She was a single woman in her 30’s who had moved to Minneapolis after breaking off her engagement. She worked at TV station WJM as an associate producer for the 6:00 news.  Mary was kind and sweet and cute as a button. She had an awesome bachelorette pad and I envied everything about her, from her shiny straight hair to her apartment. She ‘could turn the world on with her smile’. Even a 7-year-old me knew that Mary WOULD make it after all.

One of Mary’s pals, and neighbor, was Rhoda Morganstern, played by Valerie Harper. Rhoda was also single and seemed to date a lot, with pretty awful results.  Rhoda was acerbic and self-deprecating and she had an awesome collection of head scarves and she wore the hell out of them. She was a window dresser, which to me, seemed like the best job in the world. Play with and dress up life-size Barbie’s every day? SURE, I can do that! Rhoda met and married Joe and moved back to NYC a few years into the show (for a spin-off show) and I really missed her not being there. Her show was good, but I never liked Joe, and neither did anybody else apparently because they divorced after 2 years of marriage.  BUT, like Mary, Rho would be A-OK.

Rhoda and Mary’s landlady was Phyllis Lindstrom, wife of never seen doctor, Lars Lindstrom. Phyllis was a bit spoiled and rather snobbish. Phyllis’s teenage daughter Bess was in the show too, though I honestly remember seeing her only a few times.  Phyllis and Rhoda were uneasy friends. I think maybe, and this is me totally guessing, that Phyllis was a little scared of Rhoda. Rhoda was like Mary, but without the soft exterior. Rhoda was more ‘in your face’. I think Phyllis was more traditionally minded and she felt sorry for Mary and Rhoda for being single.  Cloris Leachman played Phyllis and she was funny and delightful in the role, and I remember she wore a lot of maxi dresses

And now….for my very favorite character of the show, Ms. Sue Ann Nivens. Sue Ann was played by the always amazing and talented, Betty White. Sue Ann was the perpetually dimpled star of the TV show (produced at the station where Mary worked) The Happy Homemaker. Sue Ann was, in no uncertain terms, a slut. She was a total man-eater. She constantly hit on Lou Grant, Mary’s curmudgeonly boss, played by Edward Asner (no, I didn’t have to look that up just now because I forgot the name of the character, but because I would SWEAR to you that the actor’s name was also Lou Grant), and every other man she found somewhat attractive. I remember she made a lot of smart-assey remarks towards Captain Stubing, er, Gavin McLeod, who played a copywriter on the show, about his baldness, so she DID have standards, they were just somewhat low.    Sue Ann was an absolute perfectionist and though I’m sure psychologists would say otherwise, I’m going to say she just loved men, and she was a romantic,  not that she was a mess and was constantly looking for validation in them. Sue Ann and Mary tolerated one another. Sue Ann was frequently jealous of Mary because she was younger and she had that damn shiny hair. How did a 7-year-old me relate to Sue Ann?  I don’t even want to delve into that.

In the series finale, everyone except the dumbass anchorman Ted Baxter, played perfectly by Ted Knight, is fired due to lacking ratings in the 6:00 news. The former work friends, and hopefully always real life friends, pile into a big group hug and then Mary turns out the light of the newsroom. The episode is considered one of the absolute best finales ever, and I would agree.

This show was groundbreaking at the time. It was rare to see a single woman on TV who was career minded. Mary was shown at work as much as she was shown in her fab bachelorette pad. She was a disastrous party giver and not ‘domesticated’, and while she did go on dates, she was selective in who she went out with and she wasn’t going to settle.  I always got the impression that if it happened for her, great.  If not, meh, she would still be fabulous.

I didn’t realize the effect the show had on me until I was writing a post about things being good, and I ended it by saying ‘I’m going to make it after all, and then I throw my hat up”.  It makes me curious about what effect the shows my boys watch now will have on them.  Honestly, the only TV they get to watch is on weekends because during the week we don’t even have time to even turn it on.  I have told them both how special it was that my mom used to let me stay up to watch Saturday Night Live with her, and I KNOW that had an impact on my life too.

The boys and I watch a lot of SpongeBob Squarepants and the cooking show Chopped together.  Valuable lessons can be learned from both, but I feel that is best left for another post. I have started letting my eldest stay up to watch Saturday Night Live with me, and though he falls asleep before it comes on often, it is special time for us when he can make it….after all. Sorry, I can’t stop now.


Hi, I’m the Idiot Mom Crying in the Tae Kwon Do Studio

6 May

I have written a lot about my 12-year old son, we’ll call him Sport. Sport is going through a “rough patch” right about now. I call it a “rough patch” to remind myself that it is not permanent. It’s just a “patch”, like something you put on a tire when it springs a leak. It’s not the permanent fix, it’s just a “patch”. You can drive on it for a while, but that sucker’s gonna blow. This is a terrible analogy that came off sounding very violent so I apologize. I think everyone knows what I mean when I say “patch” so let’s move on.

I have joked that my youngest son, let’s call him Rowdy, who is 8, is raising himself because of all of the attention that Sport is receiving right now, but that at least he is doing a great job of it. It is a joke, but I do find myself sometimes pouring all of my energy into Sport.  Getting him to do anything is a Herculean feat, and I do mean anything from homework to chores to showering.  He can be an exhausting kid that leaves not much else in the way of attention for my littlest one.

Sport knows that he can be difficult, and he always apologizes. I have been trying to impress upon him the importance of changing his behavior, rather than apologizing for it afterwards, but so far it hasn’t sunk in.

BUT, this is just the way it is. It’s a “rough patch”. A TEMPORARY “ROUGH PATCH” dammit. It is. It is. I say this to myself while curled up in the fetal position rocking back and forth sometimes. I’m kidding. It’s all the time.

Which brings me to why I was crying in the Tae Kwon Do Studio this weekend. Rowdy has been big into martial arts for a couple of years. His after school program is at his Tae Kwon Do studio and he loves it. He was recently chosen for the demo team, which means he gets to learn a weapon and go to schools and march in parades as a representative of the studio. He was so psyched that for his first demo class, he had us go 45 minutes before class started just to be sure we made it on time. The studio, mind you, is within walking distance, though it rained that day so we didn’t walk, but it is about 20 seconds away from our house.

In demo class the instructors had the kids do pretty much whatever they wanted to at the end, to try to help bring them out of their shells so they would all be more comfortable performing. It’s hard for some of them because Tae Kwon Do is all about discipline and form and in demo class they need to step outside of those parameters to show off.

My baby boy was a little reserved at first with his nun-chucks. The instructor told him that she knows he is not shy, and that he should just go crazy. He looked over at me with an expression that said “should I?” so I nodded, yes, go crazy with those things…and he did. He was flipping and rolling and whipping those things over his head like a helicopter and soon all of the kids were clapping in rhythm to his moves, and then the parents joined in and I sat there, crying, at this wondrous little creature who really was doing a bang-up job raising himself.

It really is so easy for me to get caught up in only negatives. I feel like I am harping on both of them to do homework,eat dinner,take a shower, let the dog out, help me with laundry, go to bed,  over and over every day. It feels like I am barking orders at them sometimes and though I freely admit that I don’t know what I’m doing regarding this parenting thing, that can’t be right. So, while I sat there, crying in the Tae Kwon Do Studio, which is going to be the name of my next album featuring country love songs set in Japan,  I made myself a promise to try harder to recognize the good things that both of the boys do and they both DO good things.

We went to Best Buy later that day so Sport could use a gift card that he got for his birthday in April. He used it on a game that his brother wanted more than he did. When he gave it to him, he said “good job making it on the demo team”. Stay tuned for my next post, “Hi, I’m the idiot mom crying in Best Buy”.


Good Intentions…An Early Mother’s Day Story

30 Apr


I was a ballerina.  Not in a Natalie Portman Black Swan sort of way, more in a little bee girl from the Blind Melon ‘No Rain’ video sort of way. I was always a little roly-poly butterball and never took ballet very seriously, if at all.  My sister was the ballerina, and a very good one at that.  I only took ballet for about 5 years and was cast in illustrious roles such as ‘stuffed lion’, ‘popcorn ball’, and ‘doll ‘– both China AND baby.  I sucked. I liked the costumes very much but I did not like the rehearsing or the actual DANCING and I certainly did not like being told I ate too many McDonald’s French fries. Fuck that noise. My dad took me out for hot fudge cake after my ballet classes. He knew what time it was. I also didn’t like the grande dame of the studio. We’ll call her Miss Joni (because that was her name).

Miss Joni was presumably a beautiful woman and dancer at some point in her life. Some point before I knew her. Way before. When I knew her she was SUPER thin. Skeletal. She had a prominent nose and short, curly black hair. She looked a lot like a witch and she was mean. My mom at one point was the president of the dance company.  My mom didn’t like Miss Joni very much and I don’t think she liked my mom, and EVERYBODY liked my mom.  I remember her husband being a very nice man and even as a kid I remember feeling sorry for him.


A good likeness of the kitten I stole

One evening, my mom and I had to go to Miss Joni’s house, which was right next door to the dance studio. I’m not sure why we were there, but I remember Miss Joni and mom talking and leaving me in one part of the house.  Miss Joni had a menagerie of porcelain animals. One of them was a small kitten with a pink bow around its neck. This kitten was probably about ½ an inch tall. It was very tiny and I loved it instantly.  I had to rescue the kitten from its horrible existence trapped in a glass case inside a witch’s house.  I took the kitten and put it in my pocket and took it home.  That night, as I was giving the kitten a bath in the bathroom sink, my mom walked in and knew what I had done.  I explained to my mom my reasoning behind taking the kitten. Surely she would empathize and let me keep the kitten and perhaps even arrange rescue missions for all of the other porcelain animals that were still trapped there.  We could set up a veritable underground railroad for abused porcelain animals.  Mom didn’t exactly see it the way I did. She made me take the kitten back to Miss Joni’s house and apologize to her for taking it in the first place.

Now that I am a mom, I realize that my mother must have been mortified to have to explain to that evil woman that her baby daughter, who was too fat for ballet, was also a kleptomaniac. My mom never made me feel badly about it though. She was sweet and understanding then like she has been so many other times when her daughter made a choice that she thought was a good one at the time but that truly was pretty dumb. And yes, this still happens.

My mom was just the way I hope I am when my boys do something that is not malicious, but perhaps just not the most well thought out.  Like this past weekend when  my eldest convinced his baby brother that riding the skateboard down the steps of the porch would be “AWESOME! Just like on Wipe Out!” At least he also convinced him to wear a helmet. Or like the time both boys thought feeding the dog almost all the peanut butter in the jar at one time would be super fun (in the span of me being outside in the laundry room). Dog diarrhea is never super fun.

I know I say I don’t know what the hell I’m doing as far as parenting goes but maybe I know a LITTLE, but only because my mom has shown me. For that EVERYONE, including the dog, should be thankful. I know I am.

J. A. Allen

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