How to Win The Game of Life

LIFE IMG_4516My family has started a new tradition.  We have decided to turn Wednesdays into Family Fun night.  We started last night.   We decided we are going to take good old Milton Bradley’s suggestion and have a family fun night on Wednesdays and start playing board games.

I was first inspired a week ago when playing a vicious, okay scratch that, mildly competitive game of Double Twelve Dominoes – The Mexican Train Version with the ladies from my bible study group.   There is nothing like playing a great game around a table with fun people, food, coffee and tea, laughter, and a community quest to learn something new and if luck has it, to WIN!

So when my seven year old son requested we play the game of LIFE last night, I was all in!  I made dinner speedy quick and cleared the table lightening fast after we finished eating.  That is to say, I moved the dirty dishes and miscellaneous other clutter to the counter to deal with later.

My husband, young son and I pulled the game of LIFE out of the box and started setting up.  I fanned out the cards.  We chose our careers.  We all decided to skip college as we couldn’t find how starting out with borrowed money would get us a higher paying salary which was basically luck of the draw anyway.   We spun the dial and off we went.

I was a policeperson, my husband was an artist, my adult son was a computer programmer, and my youngest son was an entertainer.  Not so much different than our real life actually.  The only difference is that in real life my husband is a mechanic, but even that requires a modicum of creativity to be able to repair cars when car parts or cars themselves are no longer manufactured.

I landed on the first PAYDAY.  I was elated to have an annual salary of ninety grand.  Which if moms were actually compensated in real life for policing a busy household, I would say this is adequate at best.    We made our way around the board collecting our salaries multiple times, picking up LIFE cards, paying both frivolous and necessary bills, and chastising one another for memory lapses over whose turn it was.  My oldest son said we could just play for him as he had important games in real life he had to play on the Wii.  So entertainer-boy  just spun the dial for computer geek-man and moved his box-like van around the board, and basically made every decision for him.

My husband, being the artist that he was and is, had an annual salary of twenty grand and took a loan out for a $200,000 mortgage.  Very quickly he landed a wife, a kid, then a set of twins, and then another kid.  Figures.  We all know people like that.  I told my young son he’d probably be a “drain on the system” before too much longer at the rate he was accruing kids and a high-falutin’ lifestyle on a pauper’s salary.

I could not have been more wrong.  After two paydays, he got the card that said “exchange salary” with any other player.   Of course he picked me.  So there I was for the rest of the long drawn out game stuck at a paltry $20,000 a year salary with 4 kids of my own, a blue husband who refuses to speak to me, and an uncanny knack for landing on every known expense imaginable.  Sigh!  It’s amazing how the parables of sports and games so mirrors our real life!

About ninety percent through our game, my real husband SERIOUSLY asked my real kids and I if he could trade his kids in for cash; he had so dang many of them—they had already spilled out of his six-slotted car and tumbled onto the highway of LIFE several times.    This from the same man whose first wife had previously fallen out of his dilapidated artist’s van into the Grand Canyon (the kitchen floor) upon which he had said, “Don’t worry about it; I’ll just get another one!”

“Seriously?”  I asked.  “Yeah!  Check the rules” he insisted.   For some weird reason I just started laughing and couldn’t stop.  It’s that absurd moment in LIFE and in real life where someone says something so ridiculous you just fall out on the floor wondering how did your brain get wired like this?  But of course, who amongst us hasn’t wished at some point we could’ve traded our kids in for a lump sum payout on any given teenage hormonal day?

My young son got to the Millionaire Estates first because he had mysteriously spun tens almost the entire game.  His spin kept “not taking” except for when it consistently scored a ten.  Throughout the game he’d been entrusted to not lose his fortunes when paying bills and acquiring money in tens, even hundreds of thousands of dollars.  But for him the best part was at the end.

He quickly mastered the art of skip-counting by half-millions even though he often claims his daily first grade homework of skip counting by fives or tens is just too stressful.  Sure it is!  If you’re not getting paid to do it.   He counted and handled LIFE money the way politicians handle our money The game of LIFE is always more fun when playing with OPM (other people’s moolah!) to accomplish your goals; the results are secondary to the joy of spending it.   Like GAO accounting procedures, it’s not even worth counting if it isn’t first followed by at least six zeroes.

At the end of the game, we all experienced temporary happiness as we counted our stash:   a million, a million five hundred, a million seven hundred fifty etc.  Perhaps that may be the closest we ever get to counting numbers that high related to real life finances.    At the end of the game, my husband “won” but only by five thousand dollars.  My little boy had two million, seven hundred and seventy thousand dollars.  And hubby had exactly that plus one extra five thousand dollar bill.  Just one wrong move somewhere probably cost my son the game. 

Towards the end, he once spun the dial on my turn before I had a chance to see what number I had spun.  “HEYYYYY!” I shouted, “Watch it!  That can change the whole outcome of the game!”  And indeed it did.  For the next ten turns (I’m NOT kidding here) I landed on every expense known to exist.   I drifted from one crisis to the next railing against the unfairness of the greedy rich just inches away from me.    I had my turns skipped multiple times and the rest of my family inherited all the LIFE cards while I got nothing.   I lost.  Big time!  And then when it was all over, I reread the rules just in case we had missed anything.

We did.  I wanted to cry foul but it was too late.  In LIFE and in life, there are no do-overs.  Since I was the policeperson, I had forgotten to collect $10,000 every time a certain someone had spun a ten.  That alone would have given me an extra hundred grand no doubt.  I had forgotten to plan for my future and buy stock, as did every one else.  My oldest son lost almost as spectacularly as I did, perhaps because he played by proxy and had allowed a seven year old to represent him.  You can’t win if you don’t play the game. 

Finally, as the game ended and reality beckoned with dirty dishes waiting and teeth that need brushing and jammies that needed filling, I realized I had finally spent my most valuable currency very wisely after all:

TIME

    In the end all the money we had tried so desperately to accumulate during the game of LIFE just got put back in the box.  It was all meaningless.  But the time we had spent laughing, competing, journeying across the land, and just being a family?  Well that was the best night we had spent in a long time.  These are the moments that pay eternal dividends.  And that you can bank on!

Life is Messy

Murphy was an optimist.  ~O’Toole’s Commentary

      Life is good!  At least that’s the theme of a certain trendy store full of happy clothing, coffee mugs, baseball caps, bumper stickers, hiking gear and the like.  Yeah, it’s good alright, but it’s also downright messy!    Ask any mom of one or more, and you will find confirmation.  In fact as I write this, I’m thinking I may want to market my own clothing line “Life is Messy*” with a disclaimer on the back that says “And That’s The Stinkin’ Truth!”

Wear one of my shirts, and barf and poo will just look like the latest urban trend in fashion design.    You’ll be more than shabby chic, you’ll be the genuine article of the Life Is Messy cult following.  Wear your stains as badges of honor.  The more you have the better parent you clearly are.   Digging in the garden?  Throw some extra dirt on there for good measure.  Kid has a blowout diaper, and you’re out of wipes?  That’s what the shirt is for dad!  Forgot the Kleenexes?  Again, use the shirt.  No hand sanitizer?  Get real!  Use that shirt mama!

Here’s the rub.  That cute little baby you see above?  Well, he grew.  He finally stopped sharing his mama’s milk and his lunch by yellowing every shirt I ever owned, but all that really happened was that the mess was reconstituted into new form.  Now very door frame has a tinge of blackness, and dark fingerprints and hand prints dot the mid line of our walls like ghost chair railing.    Shoes that trampled in dirt have darkened our ivory carpet to a dingy shade of brown.  While the broom catches it’s breath in the closet, the house silently screams, “Warning!  Children live here!”

See I have older kids too.  I’ve already been thru this—twice, in fact.  One day you’ll look back, and you’ll agree it pretty much will have happened like this:

The first few years go by, and the expensive art prints you had framed when you were single will have been replaced by collage frames of your children, of all different ages and places haphazardly thrown together in a single frame.   And of course the real art work.  Yellowing and corner-curled preschool paintings dot your walls and smother your refrigerator.    You know you really should get rid of some of it, but just what if your child really is the next Renoir prodigy?

After five or six years, you’ll tire of sorting and organizing the thirty or so plastic tubs and fabric bins in shelves that you once had the novel  idea that you and your child could practice “sorting skills”.  Now the lessons in sorting get reduced to, “Get this CRAP off the floor right now; I mean it, or this time I really will throw it all away.”

The calendar pages keep blowing into the wind.  Soon you are in the elementary years with school projects and friends and sleep overs.   More food; more footprints.   Bug collections, princess costumes, thousands of stuffed animals,  Barbies, Legos, Beanie Babies, Poke E Mon cards, happy meal toys,  DVDs,  VHS-tapes (if your kids are “old school”), train sets, board games, paperback books, hardboard baby books, rock collections, sticker collections, crafts, and a few hundred other things move in when you aren’t  paying total attention.  While you are sleeping, the toys all have breeding parties and when you wake up, you find they multiplied, but still you’ll be too tired to pick it all up.    Though you’ll weed things out from time to time, they’ll still viciously and systematically take over your house room by room.

Three years of middle school will come and go faster than a rotating door in a hotel lobby.  With these years comes “The Age of Electronic-us”.  Each child will successfully convince you their life will cease to be fully functional without any of these necessary items:  cell phones,  Wiis, Super Nintendos, Guitar hero guitars, digital cameras, portable car DVD players, Ipods and Ipads, Laptops, and chargers, so many chargers.  The batteries that made you nuts only a few years ago, get replaced by long spindly, tangled up things that live like nomads roaming your house and are never in sight when desperately needed.  It’s all good; you’re thinking if the Dollar Tree ever has a half-price sale, you may even try to get some new clothes for yourself one of these days.

By high school, you’ve made an uneasy truce with living a “highly charged” life and you are just mentally counting down the 1,460 days or so left, of “Life with Baby”.    The choking hazards of yesteryear have been replaced by the scary realization that the child who still doesn’t know how to properly put a comforter on a mattress is now actually driving five thousand pounds of deadly force with one or more equally mature friends to an alleged destination they possibly may have told you about three weeks ago.

Three hours after their curfew passes, you’ll attempt for the seventeenth time to get some answers.  You text them this profound philosophical question, “Where are you?” even though your eyes are growing dim, due to your advancing age of forty–plus.    Since their phone mysteriously doesn’t seem to ring or “must be on silent” when only you call, you’ll  get your answer texted back a few hours later, once the consensus has unanimously been crafted as to what is most likely to be the answer that will worry you the least.  Even if it’s a tad short of the truth, it’ll have to suffice for now.

Then the big day arrives!  Graduation!   Congratulations and celebrations ensue.  Suddenly—they’re gone.   You look at your house.  What happened?  The carpet’s long past shot.  Walls need to be repainted.  It’ll take years to just carry all this stuff to the Goodwill or the curb.  And all the ribbons, and trophies, and pictures, and artwork, what in the world are you going to do with it?  You know you have to get rid of it, yet how can you?  This picture they finger painted, this student of the week ribbon, this tattered Cinderella costume, this baseball trophy, that’s who THEY were!  Throwing some of this stuff out seems like parental heresy.

Family life is this:  It’s hard, with moments peppered with hormones, deadlines and cruel calendars, worry and fear, silent treatments and arguments.  It’s also good with clay pinch pots made just for you,  family vacations, hugs when you cry,  and handwritten cards that say, “I love you becuz yur my momy and you play wth me and let me eat chikn” as I tearfully received recently.    Through it all, life is messy.  Be sure to savor the sweetness found in the dirt!

 

Taken from A Friend’s Facebook Page — Author Unknown