Friends Don’t Let Friends Drink Wine Spritzers

Note: No, there are not any photos on this post. Yes, I agree, it needs photos. But I don’t have a library of appropriate photos to add and if I wait until I have photos, this very important information will just sit in my head unleashed for the world to appreciate. So, I’m inviting people who have photos or additional ideas to comment or contact me to share so I can add photos or ideas. I’d love to see your photos or hear your ideas. That’s how I came up with many of the thoughts in this post – from others sharing ideas with me.

At a recent party I attended, a guest brought a hostess gift that I could not appreciate. It was one of those bottles of wine that I consider an abomination. I won’t even type its name here. My friends tried to get a picture of me with the bottle but I deflected their attempts. Finally, I posed with the bottle, making a face of terror. I decided I’m not a wine snob. I recently came up with a much better description for myself: Wine Geek.

I really like wine. I try to learn as much as I can about it – although I’m a slow learner because I have a lot of other things on my schedule. I have favorite varietals (Can you say syrah? I knew you could!) I also have my favorite low-cost but delightful finds. But – I have standards. And I have found through trial and error that white wine that costs less than $5 a bottle gives me headaches. I don’t know why, but every time I have tried one, it has happened – or the only times I’ve gotten wine headaches, it turned out I drank a cheap white wine.

A few weeks ago, while browsing Pinterest, I saw a pin that added to my list of wine abominations. I immediately showed it to the friends who shared in the terror of the bottle at the party. As a joke. The picture showed a bottle of (cheap) moscato and a bottle of Sprite Zero, with the caption suggesting that this might make a fabulous beverage for upcoming holiday parties.

Pardon me while I cry a little.

Really?? Because (cheap) moscato isn’t sweet enough you should add an artificially sweetened soda to the party? Oh heck no.

Now. I’m not insulting moscato. I have several friends who prefer sweet wine and like moscato. I’m insulting cheap moscato. With artificially sweetened soda. PLEASE, people! For the love of all that is good and grapey and winey, let’s just leave the moscato and diet soda to college students who don’t know any better? Heck, no. Let’s just encourage this latest abomination to go AWAY.

A few years ago, I met a friend who only drank sweet wines like moscato. I asked her to let me have a chance to help her find even more wines she might like, and maybe even help her develop a broader appreciation for wine.

Now, see what I did there? I did NOT say moscato is bad wine. I did NOT say that people who like sweet wine are bad. No, no, no! I appreciate that people like what they’re comfortable with. They know that they’ve tried this before and they liked it. It’s safe.

So as a real life Wine Geek, and a friend to many people who either prefer a sweet wine or who may be looking to try something new, I would like to offer, an upgraded alternative to the Pinterest Wine Spritzer Abomination (PWSA). (Because “Upgraded” sounds less judgmental than Classier. But really, it’s that, too. Sorry, I’m just saying it like it is. You will either appreciate my honesty or find me annoying. I hope it’s the former.)

To start off – let’s look at…

Adrienne’s List of Reasons People Might Elect to Drink a Wine Spritzer:

  1. Wine goes further than Hard Liquor – 5 oz per drink instead of 1.5 oz per drink.
  2. One Word: Bubbles
  3. They want to drink something on the sweet side.
  4. It’s cheap.
  5. Diet soda has fewer calories.

So, how can I meet those needs with my updated suggestions? Just in time for holiday celebrations –

Adrienne’s Helpful Upgrade to the PWSA

First off, I’m just going to strike #4 right off my list: It’s cheap. Like I said, cheap booze gives me a headache. No thank you. Nothing is worth a headache. This is true of wine and hard liquor, by the way. Yes, it is possible to find an inexpensive alcohol that is delightful. One of my favorite red wines costs less than $10 at Trader Joe’s. Go figure. But as a general rule, I’m cautious about cheap booze.

Next off the list, #5: Diet Soda. No. Just say NO. I really do not try to be a radical health Nazi. I promise. But there’s just no reason to put more artificial junk in my body than necessary. Getting myself off diet soda was one of the happiest things I’ve ever done. Yes, on very rare occasion I might still have sugar soda – usually ginger ale, occasionally 7-Up. But diet stuff? Never again ever. So nothing here will have as few calories as the PWSA. Sorry. But I can totally offer some better alternatives, in my opinion.

So now back to the top of the list: Fewer calories than hard liquor? Check! We’ll stick with the wine family. Not a problem for me. Wine. Geek. I’m on this.

Number two: Bubbles. Well, hello, we don’t need no stinking soda to create bubbles! The wine industry has taken care of this for us, bless them: Champagne! A-ha

I always considered champagne or sparkling wine as something to save for a special occasion. Then I met two friends who enjoy an occasional glass of sparkling wine instead of a still wine at dinner or as a before dinner drink. The more I learned about different ways to serve sparkling wine the more I realized I was missing something fabulous.

There are many sparkling wines to consider. From France, we have champagne. From many other regions, they may be called sparkling wine. They might be described by the method used to make the wine bubbly such as méthode champenoise. Have you ever heard of prosecco? This is an Italian sparkling wine that seems to have gained popularity recently. I know I’m leaving out several more. The point is: No matter what you call it, there are a variety of sparkling wines available readily available in stores. In the lovely state of California, we can buy wine in our regular grocery stores. (Did you realize that in other states, you have to go to special stores to buy wine? Hello? I feel so sorry for people who have to shop at Trader Joe’s locations without a delightful wine selection. How do they find lovely bottles of Bastardo??) In addition, I shop for sparkling wines at Costco, grocery stores like Vons/Safeway, BevMo, and Hi-Times in Costa Mesa.

Some of my favorite sparkling wines include Scharffenberger, Castoro Winery and others. In specialty stores, I ask the opinions of experts. In grocery stores, I gauge my decisions on price. I really don’t like to spend less than $10 for a bottle of sparkling wine.

Number Three: Something Sweet

Ok, now the fun starts!

Mimosa – Hibiscus – Bellini and more

I’ll start with sweet but in keeping with requirement number 1 – something that will last longer, more to drink with a lower alcohol content – Juice drinks

Juice blends very nicely with sparkling wine. Many people know Mimosas – orange juice and sparkling wine. Yes, many people consider this a breakfast drink, but let’s back up to the PWSA – moscato is often considered a dessert wine, but people drink it out of context. If the goal is sweet, why not drink a Mimosa? You could even get fancy and add a splash of pomegranate juice! Alternatively, sparkling wine with cranberry juice is called a Hibiscus A Bellini is sparkling wine mixed with peach juice

The simple guideline for these juice and sparkling wine drinks is to mix them 50-50, 1 to 1, equal parts. Pour the sparkling wine first, then add the juice.

But wait… there’s more!

It all started with a Kir Royale. A Kir Royale is a classic cocktail made with crème de cassis, which is a currant liquor. But the really fun part is you don’t have to stop with crème de cassis! Now, these recipes will have a higher concentration of alcohol because they add liquor to the sparkling wine. But, they do upgrade the PWSA and provide a sweet, bubbly drink.

Looking around online, the recommended proportions of liquor to sparkling wine vary from 1 part liquor to 3 parts champagne, to 1 tsp in a full glass to 1/5 liquor to 4/5 champagne and on and on. Whenever we’ve made them at home, we start with a little bit of liquor, taste it, and if we want more, we add it. So here’s my suggested instructions:

Pour sparkling wine in a flute and add ½ ounce (or 1 tablespoon) of liquor. Taste it and if you want more, add more, a little bit at a time until the sweet factor meets your need.

Now, about that “why stop with crème de cassis?” – Here are some fun ideas for all sorts of “Royale” cocktails!

  • Grand Marnier – or – Cointreau –or- Creole Shrubb – These are all orange flavored liquors.For me, this particular combination really ignited my interest in the whole Royale idea. A few years ago, a group of friends and I dined in a fine restaurant where we ordered the tasting menu. Upon learning that it was one friend’s birthday, the chef directed our server to bring us champagne with a splash of Grand Marnier to make it special. You may have heard of the first two liquors, the third is actually rum based. Yes, I do happen to have all three in my cabinet, but, I admit, Creole Shrubb is a bit obscure. Don’t expect to find that one in as many bars or homes.
  • Chambord – Black raspberry liquor, yummm.
  • Cherry Heering – This is a cherry flavored brandy. Yes, it’s in my cabinet.
  • Crème de Violet – a violet liquor – purple and flowery and one of the ingredients in a couple of my favorite cocktails so, yes I have some on hand. I confess, I haven’t tried this one yet but it’s on my list to try this season!
  • Which leads me to St. Germain – It’s elderflower liquor and I’m seeing it pop up here and there. I might have to try this one, too. I bought a bottle without a plan for how to use it. Googling around, it looks like this might be an option…

There are many champagne cocktail recipes floating around but these options are quick and simple, much like the PWSA – two ingredients, and you’re done!

And meanwhile, if you want to watch the calories and alcohol content, I vote for a glass of water in between cocktails instead of watering something down with diet soda. Add a twist of citrus to make it festive and tasty between cocktails.

So, what do you think? Might you consider upgrading your cocktail? Do you have a suggestion for something to add to your sparkling wine? Or a photo to add to this helpful guide? Tell me!

Make This Soup. You’re Welcome.

When I post on Fridays, I try to post a recipe.

I did not create and only minorly adapted this recipe so I will just link to it, add a few notes below and tell you that you MUST MAKE THIS RECIPE. I cannot believe how yummy this soup is! Here’s the recipe from Real Simple magazine: Krock Pot Tortilla Soup with Pork and Squash. Ok, so they didn’t call it Krock Pot soup, but they should have.

When I first read “Slow Cooker Tortilla Soup” there was no mention of the squash but the picture looked very tasty. When I read the recipe, the idea of butternut squash in the soup worried me. I like butternut squash very much, but the idea of tortilla soup with squash in it sounded less than fabulous.

I was wrong. It was fabulous. FAB-U-LOUS.

Please note, I am NOT a professional photographer which should be painfully obvious to anyone who regularly reads this blog. I will never be a famous blogger because I just don’t have the patience for some things like making sure I get amazing pictures or photoshopping the pictures I do take. I cropped it because the bowl looked too unappetizing with all the little bits stuck to the sides. I’m so not a photographer:

soup

Here are some notes about my very minor adaptations and serving suggestions:

I added an onion to the soup. I like onion. I need onion in my soup. If they make a soup with squash, garlic, jalapeño and tomatoes, it seems to me they could have some onion in there, too. I suggest you add onion to your soup. Unless you’re allergic or hate onion.

I used one jalapeño but my soup had no heat to it at all. I understand that not all peppers are created equal – some taste bland, some taste like fire. Just in case, I had sour cream on hand ready to try to tame the heat if needed. Sour cream in this soup tasted yummy. So if you want to have some on hand, just in case, I endorse that choice. Doc and I both used red pepper flakes to add a little heat to our servings.

I also served avocado to garnish the soup. Again, I endorse this choice.

I ruined a couple batches of the tortilla strips so I suggest an alternate method: Cut the tortilla strips as described and line them up on a cookie sheet in a single layer. I sprayed a little olive oil over them with a Misto sprayer instead of tossing them with oil. Bake them for 7 minutes at 350°F. If they’re not done enough, watch them carefully. My tortillas went from white to dark brown/burned in under 2 minutes.

Finally, I made a little pico de gallo to garnish the soup. I chopped the ingredients very fine dice – much finer than I would for homemade salsa. I used equal parts tomato and red onion, 1/2 jalapeño, and a handful of chopped cilantro (about 1/3 – 1/2 of a bunch.) Then I salted that to taste and added about 1/2 to 1 tablespoon fresh lime juice. I prepared that about an hour or so before dinner to let the flavors get to know each other.

In closing: Make this soup. If you live near a Sprouts grocery store, my sprouts has Butternut Squash on sale right now. Go get some. And make this soup. You are TOTALLY WELCOME.

Club 33. Part One

Yes, another multi-part post. I’m verbose. But you knew that already, right?

Many people would not blow an entire month’s food budget on one meal. Many Disney fans would. They would actually either:

  1. Plan ahead and keep a special savings account, just in case.
  2. Throw Dave Ramsey out the window and use whatever credit card they had to make it happen.
  3. Eat beans and rice for two months to make it happen.

We recently did a combination of the three.

And given the opportunity, we’d do it all over again.

Grandma and the Krock Pots, just before ringing the magical doorbell.

Grandma and the Krock Pots, just before ringing the magical doorbell.

Club 33. To some, it’s a part of their everyday lives. For others, it’s an occasional treat. For many, it seems to be a bucket list wish. Walt Disney envisioned Club 33, originally a private club for his financial backers, within the Disneyland Theme Park. Disney died in 1966 and Club 33 first opened in July 1967.

The way Club 33 works is rather simple, much like any executive club: Members pay a fee to join and annual dues. This grants them an Annual Pass to Disneyland and Walt Disney World, access to reservations at the Club 33 dining room, a set number of guest passes each year, and various other privileges.

For over 15 years now, Doc and I have socialized within a circle of Disney fans. In 2000, we actually co-founded an online media company with many of those friends. Over the years, we have had opportunities to be invited to dine at Club 33 a variety of times. Before this fall, my count was up to five times that I can remember – Two brunches, three dinners. (For some reason, I keep thinking there’s a sixth occasion I might be forgetting.)

Now, I’m a little opinionated about this topic. For those who do not have connections I have, this may seem a little disingenuous. After all, it’s really easy for me to be opinionated when I have access. But in the age-old question, “Which came first, the chicken or the egg?” I do believe that my attitude came before my access.

Some people have no problem brazenly asking for reservations at Club 33. In fact, at least one Disney fan message board has a specific policy against such solicitations, out of respect for their members who belong to the Club. I have seen people’s eyes glaze over when they think that someone has access to Club 33 and that they might be able to get a reservation. It’s just not that simple.

Many people do not appreciate the risk involved for a member to share a reservation with someone else. The first, most basic risk: What if the guest fails to show up? If a member makes a reservation and someone no-shows, the member will be liable for a hefty per person minimum. In addition, this will reflect negatively on the member’s reputation. If a guest no-shows, that’s another member who could have been accommodated instead.

The next liability would be poorly behaved guests. The Club has a dress code and expects a certain standard of behavior from guests. While children are welcome in the club, misbehaving children diminish everyone’s experience. Parents of children are, naturally, expected to make sure their children behave – and should probably remove them if they fail to do so. Likewise, the club frowns upon guests who break the dress code or who otherwise demonstrate undesirable behavior befitting such an establishment. Such concerns would also negatively reflect not only on the guests but on the members who invited them to dine at the Club.

Finally, the whole point of the club is that every member should have access to the club. While members may not be restricted by how many reservations they can make, they really aren’t in the habit of just making as many as they can. Again, reputation means quite a bit to a Club 33 member. The entire reason to belong to an exclusive club is to have access to that club. If members were to provide reservations to anyone who asked for them, there would not be room for the members themselves. It seems rather logical, doesn’t it? Probably the number one draw to dining at Club 33 is the exclusivity of Club 33. Most members have no motivation, nor should they, to take actions that would detract from that exclusivity.

For these reasons, many members are naturally reluctant to share reservations with people unknown to them. And for reasons that I can wholeheartedly relate to, many are likewise reluctant to share reservations with people they know!

While I would not think of naming names, (so don’t ask,) I do currently know several members with access to Club 33. These people range from acquaintances to good friends. Among those, there are people who I would ask a favor of, for myself. Recently, I had a conversation with one member I know and he informed me that he would gladly make an arrangement for me if I ever asked. My jaw may have hit the floor. He was probably the last person I would ever dream of asking such a favor. He laughed when I said that! I choose to believe that he invited me based on my reputation. Perhaps he knew that I would never abuse such an honor.

As I see it, there are two kinds of favors: Unsolicited Favors and Invited Favors. An Invited favor would be if a friend said to me: If you ever want me to do this favor for you, feel free to ask. An Unsolicited favor would be if I called a friend and asked for a favor, without prior permission to do so. The first time I asked for a reservation, it was an unsolicited favor and I surprised myself with how hard that was for me. Fortunately, my incredibly gracious friend honored that request, but I learned a lesson: I don’t like asking for unsolicited favors. At all. So even though I suspect that I could probably get more reservations than I’ve been invited to ask for, I anticipate that I would not feel very comfortable asking for very many. And even if I was, I would be very concerned about abusing or taking advantage of the privilege.

Now, my friends are incredibly gracious. Very incredibly gracious. Thanks to their graces and Club 33 memberships, my friends and family have had many fun little opportunities to share time together at the Disneyland Resort. I have been blessed to visit the 1901 Lounge at Disney California Adventure, as have my husband and children. Given invitations to return, I rarely decline. But I consider it a privilege never an entitlement.

Any time I have ever been to Club 33, I visited by accepting an invitation extended by someone else who made a reservation. Mostly due to the cost involved, we never had taken our children to dine at Club 33.. Then several pieces fell into place and I knew it was time to call in one of those invited favors.

Several months ago, a friend mentioned to me that, should I ever want to take my mom to the Club, she would be happy to make that arrangement. While I appreciated the offer, my mom had no clue about the Club and I figured that was not anything on her radar.

My mom called me not long ago, full of various questions about the Disney company. The last question she asked that day? “So what exactly is Club 33?” I answered her question and added “And if you ever want to visit the club, my friend offered to make a reservation for us to go.”

At about the same time, Disney announced some rather dramatic changes coming to the Club 33 restaurant. They plan to close the restaurant for several months during renovations, beginning in January, 2014. With that announcement, I felt urgency to take my children to see the Club. I wanted my children to see the Trophy Room before it was gone.

And so I found myself typing a message on Facebook, including a disclaimer (copied, verbatim from my Facebook message):

“Would this even be possible? I’m only asking because you mentioned that it would be ok to ask for myself. I COMPLETELY UNDERSTAND if it can’t happen.

COMPLETELY.”

An hour later, my friend replied and we began the process of making the reservation plans.

Can I just tell you how gracious this person is? In the days leading up to our reservation I received several messages telling me just how excited my friend was for our visit!

But. My friend laid down the law with one condition – that I document our visit on my blog.

Blog our visit?

I can do that!

Let’s Go Shopping!

In keeping with my Tuesday List theme, I have a fabulous list to share today!

When I was a little girl, in my home, Fundraising was the F word. I can’t blame my parents at all. 99% of the time, our organizations never sold products or services my family used. Add to that, we really didn’t have a network of friends and family rip for solicitation. It wasn’t my parents’ thing.

Maybe it skips a generation. My maternal grandmother worked as an Avon Lady. She sold Avon and it was a good way to network out in the neighborhood. One story goes that one of my aunts got “caught” being naughty because when your mom was the Avon lady, she knew everything going on in the neighborhood. She knew everyone and everyone knew her! My paternal grandfather spent his career as a sporting goods representative. He sold sporting goods, mostly fishing equipment, and he also organized deep sea fishing trips for celebrities. One family legend suggests Desi Arnaz was one of his clients. I need to scour through this pile of family pictures I’ve inherited for some familiar faces!

I have a love-hate relationship with Fundraising. In many cases, I hate it. I hate the expectations and pressure schools and organizations put on kids and families to fundraise. I especially hate fundraisers that push junk products. (You’re welcome. I used a thesaurus to avoid using a less pleasant word.) Likewise, I resent the pressure to purchase products I have no intention of using.

On the other hand, as an active volunteer in multiple not-for-profit organizations and causes, I understand and even appreciate fundraising opportunities. Working with my children, I see families who cannot afford to simply open their wallets and pay out of pocket for activities, but if we gather together for a car wash, those boys can earn money to pay their own way. Not only do they gain the opportunity to participate in fabulous programs, but they learn lessons in self-reliance, working hard, persistence, motivation, and gain esteem and pride for themselves. Last summer, when my son attended the National Boy Scout Jamboree, he covered the overwhelming majority of the cost through his fundraiser. He not only sold a product, he shopped for the materials himself, made the product, and hit the pavement to sell it. Not only did he enjoy an amazing experience at the Jamboree, he gained a lot more by earning that trip for himself. I cannot overstate my pride for my son.

While I dislike intensely many fundraisers, I find myself drawn to two types of fundraisers:

  1. I love a good marketing campaign.
  2. I love the opportunity to purchase a great quality product, for a reasonable price, while supporting a cause.

Recently, my friend fundraised for the CHOC walk, a 3.1 mile walk through the Disneyland Resort, benefiting Children’s Hospital of Orange County. I have several friends participating. I just spent several months with my own fundraiser for the Tinker Bell Half Marathon. I spent a lot of money this month and had very little budget left over. And to add to that, I have outstanding pledges due to two organizations still. Making budget for a pure “donation” opportunity was pretty low on my priority list. But then my friend said “Would you be willing to donate $3.10 for the 3.1 miles we’ll be walking?”

Ok, that was cute. $3.10. How could I resist that? So I donated $12.40, because their entire family of four walked in the event. $12.40 felt like such a lame donation but the marketing campaign removed any inferiority complex I had. Heck, I quadrupled the suggested donation! Clever marketing worked on me.

But even better than clever marketing, is a product I cannot resist. Last month, my husband kept asking me what I wanted for my birthday and I could not come up with a thing. The stars suddenly lined up. My mom gave me some money for my birthday to spend on myself. A friend announced a “party” plan opportunity to support her Tinker Bell Half Marathon fundraiser. If I supplemented my mom’s money, I could purchase an item I wanted at her party and support her fundraiser and I could give Doc an answer to his question. Win and Win. Within a week, I owned a lovely new necklace and everyone was happy.

My Point – And I Do Have One!

I currently know three fabulous Shopping Opportunities I would love to share with others, so I decided to try something out that I may or may not do again in the future. We’ll see. I currently know of three fabulous Shopping Opportunities with products I believe in, that benefit three fabulous causes.

For your consideration:

1. See’s Candy For D and S

Duration: Six More Days – Deadline: Sunday, October 20.

My friend’s daughters are selling See’s Candy for their Adventure Guides group. The fundraiser ends this SUNDAY, OCTOBER 20.  They have a catalog of See’s products to choose from but my favorite item? Easy Peasy Lemon Squeezy: See’s Gift Certificates! Come December, I often find myself running to See’s for a gift or two, how about you? If I buy a gift certificate or two from the girls, I support their organization and I have them on hand when I need them at the Holidays. If you’re interested in some See’s products, (they have more than the gift certificates) contact me and I can hook you up with the girls

2. Noble Fir Christmas Wreaths for my Scouts.

Duration: Pre-Order now through Wednesday, November 6, 2013, Delivery the week after Thanksgiving.

This is the third year for our Christmas Wreath Fundraiser. I love this fundraiser because the wreaths are absolutely, positively beautiful. Each year, our friends and family who buy the wreaths gush on their quality. We have some friends and family who order every year. Some even bring us new customers “My friend saw my wreath last year and would like one, too!” They’re only $20! So if anyone wants to get on this year’s list, let me know. The boys are glad to deliver a lovely wreath to you the week after Thanksgiving.

Here sit my first three caramel apples. Butterfinger, Candy Corn and Oreo

Here sit my first three caramel apples. Butterfinger, Candy Corn and Oreo

3. Caramel Apples by Cami

Duration: On-Going through the Holidays.

I met Cami through Melissa. Like me, Cami participates on Team Muscle Makers for UCMD, completing runDisney half-marathons while fundraising. Unlike me, Cami’s talents include the ability to make awesome, beautiful and tasty caramel apples! This week, my family enjoyed the Butterfinger, Oreo and Candy Corn varieties. The current options include: Heath Bar, Oreo, Butterfinger, Apple Pie, PayDay, Halloween, Candy Corn, Double or Triple Chocolate, or specific colors for schools or sports teams..Cami sells these for $8 each or two for $15. If you’re interested, I’m happy to pass along Cami’s information to you! Contact me and I’ll hook you up.

With so much apple under the caramel and chocolate, I call this a health food, don't you?

With so much apple under the caramel and chocolate, I call this a health food, don’t you?

The WB. Chapter One

Here is the first official chapter in my series about my experience in Wood Badge Training. I previously published the Teaser and the Prologue. I wrote this several months ago but waited to publish it until now. As such, I’ve written this in the present tense and want to keep it that way:

July, 2013:

Someone recently commented that I have a perfect marriage. I don’t think this was a comment about my marriage per se, as much as a comment about my husband. My husband has a huge fan club. Sure, there are people who don’t like him. But there are many more who think he’s da bomb. He’s just a really nice guy. He’s also quiet. The thing about people, in general, is this: If someone is quiet we tend to assume that we know what that person thinks. A therapist once spent a lot of time telling me “Just because you think you know what someone’s thinking, doesn’t mean you’re right, Adrienne.”

That’s my husband. He’s so nice and so quiet that I think people tend to assume that all his thoughts are pure and sunshine and happiness and love and light. Now, don’t get me wrong – he’s a GREAT guy. He has an incredible heart. But let’s face it, he married me because we think a lot alike. It’s scary how much we think a lot alike.

Our marriage would not work for many people. Just like a lot of people’s marriages would not work for a lot of people. I babble and dump on my husband a lot and many men just would not tolerate that. My husband spends a lot of time away from home, spending weekends, vacation time, and even holidays like Valentine’s day and our wedding anniversary, without me, with other people’s children. A lot of women just would not tolerate that.

We share a lot with each other. Doc’s quiet to others. It takes him time to warm up to someone and open up. 25.5 years in, I conquered that wall a long time ago. Do I hear it all? Nope. In fact, he recently shared a story with me that he’d kept from me for a few years. I was stunned to know how much he’d kept from me. But adult me knew, he told me when he was ready – and I appreciate today that he waited to tell me. Our marriage is stronger, both because he waited and because he did ultimately tell me. That’s one gift of maturity, I think. I hope.

But, I hear most of it. I hear the best of it. I hear the good. I hear the snarky. I hear the bad. I hear the witty. I hear the wisdom.

In 2008, Doc participated in the Wood Badge training program for the Boy Scouts of America. Each weekend of training, he came home full of stories about his experience, including that awful little Gotcha Game. I commented, more than once: “I couldn’t do that. That would drive me nuts.” Doc told me “If you understand what’s going on, it’s not as bad.”

Over the years, our fellow Scout leaders, always Wood Badgers themselves, encouraged me to participate in Wood Badge. “Encouraged.” I put that lightly. I stop short of saying “Coerced.”  

In addition, the program requires a pretty significant commitment: Six days of training plus up to 18 months of completing five projects. I told more than one person that I respected the program too much to go through it. I knew enough about it to know that I did not have the best attitude about Wood Badge. I did not have the time to commit to it. I did not want to short-change the program. Silently, to myself, I feared that my bad attitude would undermine any benefit I might gain from the program.

One thing I can say about myself: I never take on a commitment that I cannot fulfill to a decent standard. As a Scout leader, I more than once have met with leaders who, in my opinion, fail to satisfy the responsibilities of their roles. Each position has a basic set of expectations. I will not make a commitment and not fulfill the basic minimum requirements.

The more I continue as a leader, the more I see the benefits of wearing Wood Badge beads. There seems to be a level of respect given – or not given – to a leader dependent on whether that person wears Wood Badge beads. A person can be very competent but may be looked down on without the beads. Conversely, some people wear beads, and I shake my head in disbelief. Really? I even know Wood Badgers who seem to have the beads, wear the beads, but admit to not believing in the program or the training. As in any organization, there are fabulous members, and less than exemplary members. I truly believe that just “is what it is” and reflects on society as a whole, not on the organizations themselves.

The universe aligned and now seems the best time for me to pursue Wood Badge.

Maybe.

This may be one of my most challenging years yet. My business announced major changes this summer. We re-launch our entire product line this fall. I committed to a months-long training program at my church beginning in September. I found a neglected task in Boy Scouts that I feel compelled to take on. I unexpectedly became the “voluntold” Committee Chair of our Cub Scout pack. I have three children in three different schools, one of those schools some distance beyond our neighborhood. My husband’s carpool at work recently disbanded, adding financial stress to the family, as well as physical and emotional stress to Doc and family dynamic. Doc also assumes the position of Scoutmaster of our sons’ Boy Scout troop this winter.

On some levels, this remains the wrong time to take on Wood Badge. On other levels, with everything else on my plate, this year may give me more opportunities than ever to fulfill my Wood Badge “ticket.”

And so with a lot of support from leaders I know, I signed up for Wood Badge.

In the weeks leading up to the first training weekend, I find myself more frustrated and anxious than excited – not because of my own expectations alone, but from the experience so far, interacting with others in the system. I decided I need to chronicle this experience. I hope to publish it, eventually on my blog. Eventually.

Here’s the problem: This may not be totally positive. Yes, I know that I appear to have no problem venting and complaining, even in public. But usually I do so with either a level of anonymity or else with a low risk of offending someone.

In this case, I feel a bigger risk: I do not wish to offend my supporters. I do not wish to offend my staff members. I do not wish to risk my successful completion of the process.

But. I wish to remain honest.

Here’s the deal: When I told one fellow leader that I planned to attend Wood Badge this fall, she positively gushed. “You’re going to have SO MUCH FUN!” I looked at her with suspicion. She understood my hesitancy. She confided that she reluctantly participated herself.

But here I am. The paperwork isn’t getting processed. I know enough to know that I probably need to have an orientation meeting on my calendar. So I’m trying to reach out to people to ask questions but I’m only getting short, insufficient answers. “Your name isn’t on the list.” No, it’s not. I can tell you why it’s not. I can make phone calls and try to get my name on the list faster but this part is out of my control at this point. I submitted my paperwork, now we’re waiting. I promise it WILL be on the list, so can you answer my questions, please? I’m here. I’m doing this thing I’m not wild about doing with the best attitude I can muster up. Can you please not make this more difficult for me? Shouldn’t this part be encouraging instead of frustrating and discouraging? Shouldn’t I get a gold star compliment for being proactive about my questions instead of sitting around passively waiting for information?

Several weeks later, I find myself asking: When does the fun part start?

Gotcha Games – A Prologue

A few weeks ago, I mentioned a series of posts I had in the works about my recent experience participating in a specialized training in Scouts. I’m calling it: The Teaser. Today, I present, the Prologue:

I hate gotcha games. I hate being manipulated to “Teach me a lesson.” One person I recently met in this process described them as “Bullstuff games,” except he didn’t say “stuff,” he said something else. They’re that too. I’ve always hated it but one of the worst experiences of my life involved a Gotcha Game in college.

I was about 19 or 20 years old and had a minor office in my sorority. Now, keep in mind, adult me is amazed that I had the courage to even try to join a sorority. I was never that kind of girl. I had a lot of self confidence issues. Then, as now, or even worse than now, I took everything personally. I was never one of the popular people in school. Never. But I went to a very big public university – mostly a commuter school. And so I rushed my sophomore year. I have always believed that at one point, I was probably dropped from every single roster, but the Panhellenic association at the school probably forced a few houses to invite me back anyway. I’ll die believing that to be true. Ultimately, I only attended one party the very last night of Rush and that house invited me to join them.

When I joined, we were the girls who you never expected to see in a sorority – mostly athletic girls (yeah, don’t ask me how I got in that group.) We were 7th out of 8 houses if you were to rank them. When I left a few years later, we were one of the top houses on campus. Oh, yes, we were. I can’t take credit for that. But I did make dean’s list every quarter after I figured out that I got a pearl charm every time I did it. And I didn’t party hard but I did work hard for service projects and Rush. Two years in, my real-life sister rushed and had a similar experience – but as a legacy, she very easily had an invitation to my house. Like me, she also worked her tush off for the House. She even helped initiate a brand new chapter at another school and was a member the year that the chapter had a real physical “house” for the very first time. So I’d like to think I did my part to help out and to leave a bit of a legacy, even.

Oops. I derailed a bit. Back to the story:

So there I was, a rather naïve and one might say immature college student. As an officer in the sorority, I attended a diversity training workshop at the university. During that workshop, they directed a gotcha game – And someone randomly picked me to be the Gotcha.

Each participant had a piece of paper taped to our backs. That paper described a character. The team directed us to read each others’ backs and then treat each other stereotypically as described on the papers. We mingled and talked to each other. After a bit we’d read each others’ backs to see how to react to each other. Some people were described by ethnicity or by a disability – One person was deaf college student, one was a Mexican man, one was an elderly woman who used a walker, etc. I would start a conversation and everything would be fine and dandy. People were friendly and we interated.

UNTIL THEY READ MY BACK.

Then, each and every time, something changed. Suddenly people immediately stopped talking to me. They turned their backs to me. No one would even acknowledge me. Immature, taking everything personally me, could not understand what thing had I done that was so terrible and horrible that people would treat me so horribly? Time and time again, it happened over and over again. And every time it happened, I became more and more upset. By the end of the exercise, I fell apart.

Do you know what I was?

I was invisible.

Being invisible had not been anything new to me. I didn’t need a gotcha game to tell me what it was like to feel invisible. I didn’t need a group of slightly older than me college students to lecture me about “Well, how did it feel to be INVISIBLE???” Been there, done that. Adult Adrienne would never pick College Adrienne to be the invisible person in that game. This was an experience I had no desire to ever repeat, ever again. Over 20 years later, I despise gotcha games. Sure, there are some team building, lesson learning games that I think can teach people valuable lessons. But those are not gotcha games.

In 2008, my husband came home from his first weekend of super spectacular training. They’d played a gotcha game. Fortunately for my husband, he had prior experience with this particular game at corporate trainings. He understood the trick of the game and how the staff would manipulate the participants playing it. He told his group ahead of time what to expect. Ultimately, he watched the other groups argue and get upset. And then he listened to the lecture after the game. The staff sternly lectured the participants for playing the game they set them up to play. The participants had spent over 36 hours moving and training. They were physically and intellectually exhausted. They were manipulated to play the Gotcha Game. And then they got lectured about it.

Totally. Not. My. Thing. I immediately went back to college 20 years earlier. And I vowed I would not participate in gotcha training. Nothing would be worth that. Especially a gotcha training where I might have to set up my own tent and then sleep in it. Just not my thing.