Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Volunteering


Are you a doer, a giver, both, or neither?

I can’t remember my first experience as a volunteer, although, during my childhood and throughout college, I was always helpful. But volunteering for a cause - it’s a blur; don’t think I did.

My parents were charitable when I was a child, but probably did not contribute time to a specific organization…well maybe their church. But they were very helpful to others when needed; doing things like painting, cooking, lawn care, car pooling, and child care. Both of them were employed, and for many years, my dad also had a part time job – all while sharing a car and using public transportation. Raising two kids, I doubt they had the energy and resources to volunteer on a regular basis.

I tell a little of their story because sometimes, “The apple doesn’t fall far from the tree.” My brother and I followed their pattern – helpful, but not feeling obligated to do more.

Things changed when I was in my twenties.

Employed as a computer programmer in a corporation, single, and living in a new city, my life was in a rut and I needed something else. I thought of joining the U.S. Reserves, and then realized I was too chicken for that.

“What am I good at? Hmmm…reading. I’ll contact a literacy program and volunteer to tutor adults.”

Unfortunately, after going to meetings and training, the program failed to successfully link me with a student. Some drama probably occurred in my life, and that was that for the tutoring.

More years passed. I couldn’t seem to attach myself to a cause that I was willing to give time to, so I donated blood regularly and passed out envelopes to the neighbors for the heart fund; things like that. But because I was financially successful, I gave and gave and gave.

After marrying and having kids, I volunteered at church in departments involving children…because “I” had kids and felt that “I” should. Once, I volunteered in a children’s church class as the fourth person to come on board. Within a month, the other three women left and I found myself teaching the class. Frustrated, yet somewhat humored, I asked myself, “How did this happen? How did 'I' become the lead teacher!”

Well, I did it for two years. (Thankfully, there was a guide book!) I quit because, while it felt good to give to eager little children, my own children suffered before every class. The preparation and mad rush at home prior to getting to the class made me grouchy. I was stressed. They were stressed.

At another time, I tutored math at my kids’ elementary school a couple years.

Currently, I don’t have a volunteer title. I pitch in when I can.

At one time, I felt guilty. My peers were the room moms, the organizers for the fund raising, held positions with the PTA, worked the concession stands for the boosters, etc. “Why don’t I do these things?” I wondered. A few friends would tell me, “You’ve got three kids! Take care of them and don’t worry about the rest.” But then I’d think, “These other moms have kids, too.”

In conversations with my volunteer extraordinaire friends, I’ve been told:

“People know that I can get it done well and I’m dependable.”

“I was on the school board and I did that selfishly because my kids were in the system. I also volunteered for Sunday school because the teachers didn’t have their hearts into it. I saw a need and I volunteered for it.”

“The Lord blesses you when you put your hand to the plow.”

“I think volunteerism is expected of me and I expect it of others. The schools need a lot of support. If I see other people doing a lot more than I do, I try to step it up,”
she said with a big laugh.

They are the definite DOERS.

Eventually, my guilt dissipated. I realized it’s not about how many kids you have or your available time, it’s your personality.

I still volunteer, but it tends to be one-time events that I am able to enjoy.

Putting myself in a category, I’m a doer and a giver – but lean more towards giving. I’m quick to write the check or send in the store bought cupcakes, and I get just as much satisfaction as the person whose cupcakes are homemade.

Balance is required for most things in life. For example: gift baskets to the needy. Someone has to purchase the items and someone has to pack the items. There is no gift basket without both people.

My feelings on those who don’t volunteer: I don’t judge. There are many kind hearted people in the world who may be giving to others by doing something as simple as being a listening ear.
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What are your feelings on the subject?

Ps. Dad passed away years ago, but Mom and brother have given time and energy to various causes since my childhood days; much of it involving children, the sick, and the elderly.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Why Do You Believe What You Believe?


I was born into a Catholic family; water poured on my tiny, infant forehead in a Sunday baptism ceremony.

I entered first grade at the downtown Catholic school and had my First Holy Communion at the church next door. Outfitted in a white dress, belted at the waist and poofed out below with a crinoline slip; along with white Mary Jane patent leather shoes, lace trimmed ankle socks, and a lace veil, I received the Sacrament with other little girls and boys. I was beginning my life as a Christian.

But then the divorced happened. Dad remained a Catholic; Mom, ultimately, did not. She had custody of my brother and me. We moved to Michigan where our church going routine went awry. Fifth grade was my last year of Catholic school.

However, the seed was planted. I believed in God.

Later in life, I began to believe because of faith rather than what I’d been taught.

* * * *

I woke up one morning, stressed; worried about being able to accomplish the long list of things to do. My first thought: ask God to help me throughout the day.

And then I wondered – What do people do when in need of mental or physical relief? How do people handle a tough time, like a life or death situation involving themselves or loved ones? Where do they find comfort?

And, who do people thank when it all works out?

As a Christian, I have a “thank you Jesus moment,” like the lady on the commercial who won the millions in the Publisher’s Clearing House sweepstakes…well, not e-x-a-c-t-l-y like her.

When blog surfing, and just reading in general, I find info on many celebrations – some that are religious, like Diwali. I Googled it and learned that it is a major holiday celebrated by Hindus.

With all the holidays celebrated around the world, I am reminded of the many different beliefs, and unfortunately, all the conflict surrounding it, which I believe will always exist. Religious wars have been fought since history has been recorded.

Nowadays, people criticize each other with words like: gullible, cult, naïve, stupid, heathen, violent, thief, weird, lost, etc.

I’ve seen bumper stickers with the word “coexist” (written with religious symbols), which is what we have to do, but I see nothing wrong with healthy and respectful debate. Educate yourselves and defend your beliefs, because sometimes in the process, you may help someone, or, you may discover something you’ve been missing that someone else has. When you have peace in your heart, you’ve probably hit the mark.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

At Least I Didn't Leave the Iron On









Ten year old youngest daughter whispered, “He took it better than I thought he would.” Then she acted out what she expected him to do when he opened the garage door and stepped into the kitchen to see buckets and wet stains on the ceiling.

“GOSH!” she grunted with a contorted face and body movements indicating extreme frustration. “That’s what I thought Daddy would do.” Then she laughed.

*****

It is the best plan. Husband and two oldest daughters leave early for a college football game and youngest daughter has nowhere be (no driving for me today!); a perfect day to catch up on cleaning.

My dear mother just left a week earlier after a three day visit and a hundred suggestions for me on how to make things around the house look a little better. Sooo…I hop to it.

First task – laundry; I have one load going. I’ll do the whites next. But first, I need to soak the cloth that mom used to dust to get the furniture polish out of it.

I close the drain in my master bath sink, turn on the water, put the cloth in, pour in a little bleach…

I blackout.

I’m now running around the house with Layla-the-dog on a leash.

“Oh, I think I’ll give her some more exercise and walk to the corner and back.”

Back home, as I open the kitchen door, Layla and I are met with a very excited ten year old who was on her way to search for us.

“Mommy, there’s water coming out of the ceiling!”

I dash up the stairs, thinking…my washer…how could it be overflowing? It’s still new!”

At the top of the stairs, I glance in the laundry room. Normal.

Still racing in my 4-minute mile pace, I head towards the sound of running water and quickly turn off the faucet. I take two seconds to assess the situation. Do I clean the kitchen or bathroom first?

The kitchen.

Down the stairs to the garage, get buckets, put under streams (by now) coming from the recessed lighting and a flat speaker cover.

Run back upstairs with useless mop. Throw down towels instead.

Repeat this pattern a couple more times.

Door bell rings. It’s a relative. Gotta let’im in.

I add socializing to the fiasco.

I can’t remember when I put on the tank top and shorts, but as I one-leg it up to a two foot-plus high counter stool to check inside the cabinets for hiding water, the thirty-one year old relative notices. My age comes up in our conversation and he exclaims, “Wow, you’re in amazing shape!”

Nice that I lost those few pounds recently; hope to keep it off through the holidays. Ha! Fat chance…no pun intended.

I digress.

My great plan for the day is ruined, and as ugly as the situation is, I refuse to “lose it.” Yes, internally, I moan a little about having so much responsibility and the need to multi-task, and a few other good excuses - but I let it go; just clean up, and let it go.

It helps that my children think it’s very funny. My middle daughter says, “This is when I’d like the teacher to ask us to write a paper about what we did over the weekend. ‘My mother flooded the bathroom and it came down through the kitchen ceiling.’”

All three girls laugh.

Husband/Daddy retreats to the couch and a TV football game – his substitution for a drink.

Hey…at least I didn’t leave the iron on and burn down the house.

What was your blunder? Have you let it go, or do you still feel quilt?

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Do Blonds Have More Fun?


After you read the post, be sure to read the opinions of my other visitors in the comments section at the end.

“The baby has blond hair and blue eyes!” announced Julia.

The year was 1985 and I can’t remember whose baby was just born. I do remember hearing it along with my friend Stacey. The three of us were in our early to mid twenties. Julia, blond and blue eyed, was recently married. Stacey and I were nowhere close to matrimony, and were not as excited about babies.

When we heard this, I could sense that Stacey felt as I did. We wondered about the significance of the blond hair and blue eyes. Stacey has rich, Hershey colored skin, and mine is close to the color of pecans. The likelihood of either of us having a blond and blue eyed child was slim to none. We couldn’t relate.

I thought, but did not say, “Oh, the light hair and eyes, I guess that’s considered a good thing.”

Because we were young and caught off guard, Stacey and I did not respond to the baby’s looks with an obligatory, “How nice!” Oops.

* * * * *

My early youth was mostly segregated. I saw “white people” on TV, and at stores, but not “next door.” Their skin color was very light, and they either had brown, red, or blond hair. That’s the way I summed it up.

I never gave blond hair much thought, until one day as I was riding the bus going downtown and looked out the window to see the cutest little blond girl. Her hair seemed unique, like a mixture of silver and yellow – metallic – and it glistened under the sun. I was only twelve then, and was fascinated as I stared.

* * * * *

For years, this subject has crept into my mind; in particular, because of the books I read and the various forms of media that mention the word blond - constantly. My current book club novel is loaded with phrases like, “She swept her blond hair out of her eyes,” and “His butterscotch colored hair, sticking straight up,” and "Her beautiful blue eyes gleamed with tears.”

Where did this standard of beauty come from? (If I were better at history, perhaps I’d know for sure.) Is the blond, blue eyed person the most beautiful? Are we taught outright to believe this? It is definitely a subliminal message.

I’ve met so many brown haired Caucasian women who say things like, “I didn’t get the blond hair that my sister got.” On occasion, I see the two sisters together. They have different coloring, but typically, I don’t see one as being more attractive than the other.

Once, a friend (who is Indian) tried to describe another person to me. “Does she have very large blue eyes?” I asked. She responded, “I don’t know what color her eyes are. I don’t notice things like that.”

I was surprised, because the woman’s eyes are huge; but I was also impressed in an odd sort of way. "She hasn’t bought into the 'checklist for physical beauty,'" I thought.

I’ve seen a lot of striking blonds and cute little “towheads” - a term I didn't learn until I was forty years old. I’ve also seen a lot of striking brunettes, red heads, brown eyes, chocolate skin, olive skin, braids, afros, Asian eyes, etc.

I know that all races of people have certain standards of beauty, and if you fit into the category…well, I guess that’s a good thing…maybe? So many people admire your looks; others are envious or jealous. What do you think?

Do you notice the numerous references to blond hair and blue eyes in books and on TV?
“Do” blonds have more fun?
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10/26/10 - Should "blond" be spelled with an e? Blonde? After a little research, it appears that blond is for males, and blonde is for females. Someone has suggested that the e be dropped, stating that two spellings is sexist. Hmmm...

Friday, October 8, 2010

Breasts

Yes - women’s breasts. The girls seem to be coming at’cha from everywhere nowadays. The teens are displaying their firmness with the help of underwire and push up bras (as if they need it) which gives them the appearance of having a little butt sitting on their chests; or like a couple of flesh colored round fruits popping out of their camis.

The women are not to be outdone, donning tight, low cut tops and dresses, too. They have more of the appearance of falling into their bras and then shortening the straps for a lift, but the results are pretty impressive.

The pointed bra that made women look like they had two half footballs on their chest is gone, and so is the jiggly, no-bra look. Apparently, smooth and round is in!

While many women are obsessing over the size of their breasts, wanting to be big and full and abounding with cleavage - some choosing the help of implants - there are others who could care less. My girlfriend is in that category. Having large breasts since childhood, she was done with them and decided to have breast reduction surgery.

When she first mentioned it, I understood. Size GG on a short, small woman is big. No matter how good her bras were, and how well she packed them in, successfully achieving her sophisticated and well-dressed look, her breasts were always center stage.

Prior to the surgery, most women wanted to know, “What size are you going down to?” and “How’s your husband going to feel about your smaller breasts?”

Those issues were not her concern. The pain in her back was. The inability to wear a dress was. Fitting her breasts meant the dress was going to be too big at the shoulders and too big at the bottom.

My friend let her surgeon decide her new size; a “balanced look” is what she asked for.

Still in the healing process, I asked her if she thinks back to what she used to look like, or if she’s used to her new body.

“I just think about the problems I had – like when I cleaned the tub, I felt like I had udders hitting against it. And, I hated the moisture under them that would start to smell if left too long.”

Those are things I never thought about. As a member of the barely B club, I haven't experienced physical discomfort (besides breastfeeding issues). Other issues, like being teased and not filling out the swimsuit top have been the extent of it, but I've never wanted implants.

It’s amazing how two little (or big) mounds of flesh can be so all-encompassing; how it can be the determinant for security or insecurity, for a pain free back, for looking “good” in clothes, for attracting mates, etc.

I’m proud of my friend for having the surgery. For her, it was the right thing to do.

For others, whether you’re in a training bra or any letter of the alphabet, the bottom line is – they’re yours. Do what’cha wanna do with’em! :)

But definitely do this: take care of them. Breast health is very important. Have your mammograms on schedule and do your self-examinations. Consult your doctors for advice and recommendations. Please.
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No question for this post: just say whatever comes to your mind. :)

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Does Everyone Fit in a Box?


During my fifteen years in Corporate America, there were two or three times that I had to take a personality test. I don’t remember all the official names, but after answering several questions, I landed in one of four boxes on a piece of paper, each labeled with one or two general words that defined “me.”

One time, I was bored by it; another time, I had fun. My coworkers and I had to mark a yellow sticky on each other’s backs to give our opinion of the person's personality.

My husband and I also took a test during a marriage retreat. This one was fun because it defined us with “colors!” We were red, yellow, blue, or green – our dominant personality, and another of the four colors as our secondary personality. A church leader jokingly said, “All you red people (controllers), take notice of who all the green people (givers) are because they have a hard time saying no.”

This subject came to mind when I asked a tennis teacher if she had more openings in her class for nine to twelve year olds…on the day of the first class. She only had four signed up, but the following day she told me several more showed up.

“Everyone procrastinates,” she said, which made me wonder if the procrastinators fit in one of the personality boxes or in another popular categorization, “Type A or Type B.”

(Click here to see Wikipedia’s entry on the “Four Temperaments” and click here to see the “Type A and Type B Personality Theory” entry; or Google “personality test.”)

I suppose these tests are used to place individuals in positions of work where they will be most comfortable, productive, and best able to benefit the organization - a worthy goal.

I didn’t pay attention to the A-B thing until I began working at a large corporation in 1984, filled with college recruits. “I’m type A,” one young woman said, “and I hate it when I can’t get an immediate and direct answer!”

“Ohhhh…” I thought. So that’s what the media is defining as those likely to have a heart attack.

After leaving Corporate America to get married and have children, I thought I’d relax and go with the flow. (ha ha) But even motherhood proved to be non-exempt from a scheduled day. A new friend suggested we get our five year old girls together to play. “Sure, good idea,” I said. We lived in the same neighborhood; I knew it would happen soon. But she said, “When?” and right then, I had to get it on the calendar.

I’ve always remembered that conversation. She was “proactive” (another current buzz word), and I was impressed.

My guess is that the people who researched and studied to assemble these tests can vouch for the necessity, accuracy, success, and benefits. But at my age, hopefully, I’m done with them. I’ve always been an independent type, and whereas I have landed in one of the four boxes when tested, I prefer operating outside of the box, jumping into whatever box I need during any given situation.

As for Type A-Type B – I think I’m in the B box, because I never say it. All my Type A friends announce it on occasion. I’ve never heard anyone announce that they are Type B.

What word(s) defines your dominant personality? Are you Type A or B? How do you feel about these tests?

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Allowance, Chores, Rewards


You don’t work; you don’t eat.

Makes sense to me.

I don’t think my children have a full understanding yet, so I’m still working on implementing it without threatening, cajoling, bribing, begging, nagging, and reminding. I have sweet dreams of saying, “Take the dog out,” and hearing, “Okay, Mommy,” instead of, “Is it my turn?” or “I took her out yesterday.”

“Look at the card,” I say. “According to IT, it’s your turn.”

Another example: “Have you cleaned the bathroom?”

“Oh, I was reading and forgot.”

Trying to maintain a normal tone of voice, I say, “Well, do it now. This is the second time I’ve asked you.”

Why can’t I get that “first time obedience” thing going on a consistent basis?

Yes, this is an age-old subject. Most children do not like chores, and many parents experience frustration.

Now that you’ve read my example of minor disobediences, your thoughts are probably similar to one of the following responses for me:

1. That’s a pipe dream girl! It’s impossible to get kids to do anything without hearing all that whining. They’re lazy. And by the time you’ve finished fussing with them, you could have done it yourself.

2. Oh, I understand. I have to bend over backwards to get mine to help, too, although sometimes, they’ll surprise me and do things without being told.

3. They’re not doing their chores because you don’t have a consequence system in place. Mine help because they know the rules and what happens when they break them.

I accept any of these responses, but number two is more in line with my situation. My kids do chores, but improvement is needed.

What about allowance?

I don’t give it. I think the kids should earn allowance by being consistent with the chores and having a good attitude. (We’re getting there...slowly.)

Besides, mine always have grandparent money and birthday money. (They have it because they don’t get much opportunity to spend it because their semi-mall-phobic mother rarely takes them shopping.)

There’s also reward money, like, for good report cards. My husband gives it; I don’t. Doing well in school is expected and normal for them. I give rewards for extra chores and accomplishments.

My kids are blessed to have all their needs more than adequately taken care of, plus I give them numerous treats.

Recently, my twelve year old daughter told me that her friend gets paid per chore. The girl made a list and presented it to her parents; something like this:

Wash dishes $1.00
Clean toilet $1.00
Change sheets $3.00

“Incentive money?”

Sooo…when darling child is strapped for cash, she picks from the list and does it.

The mom says it’s working. But, she also says her home will never measure up to Martha Stewart’s standards. Mine won’t either.

Another friend has a point system. Each task has a point value that builds and is eventually converted to cash.

When I was growing up, I had chores that I raced to do before mom came home from work. I recall a little nagging from her, too, and when I “forgot,” there was a strong “Do It Now” and possibly a “punishment.”

What is reasonable for kids? I’m sure there are more answers than there are kids. But the thing we all have in common is our changing world. Parents are working long hours and too tired to clean and manage. Parents are carpooling throughout the day and attending activities. Technology has given us more toys and gadgets that we now consider normal. We have more clothes, more bedding and towels, more computers, more cars… It all has to be maintained. Plus we have more bills to pay for all of our “stuff.”

Subconsciously, I may not be pushing the chores 24-7 because of the overwhelming and enormous job of managing our lives and taking care of our stuff.

A friend of mine is a self-proclaimed, modern day Luddite; definitely an option for the lifestyle pool.

Oops, get me back on track! No excuses. The strong, able bodied, young people are capable of working for their keep.

How do you handle allowance, chores, and rewards?

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Where Should Dogs Pee and Poop?

(After you read the post, be sure to read the opinions of my other visitors in the comments section at the end.)

Back in the good ol’ days (or were they?), Fido had his own dog house in the fenced in back yard, where he chose his toilet area. Occasionally, his owners would let him inside to explore the big house, but he knew not to purge while visiting. He hadn’t done that since he was a baby, peeing and pooping on the newspapers, spread out on the kitchen floor.

A lot of dogs still live this life, while others have moved inside their owner’s home, dictating a change in the elimination process. (By the way, now Fido has a human name - Max.)

I live in a large subdivision of about eight hundred homes, divided into lots ranging from about a quarter acre to an acre. I’m guessing at least a third of the neighbors have a dog – or two, or three. Of the sixteen houses on my street, ten homes include fourteen dog residents!

Many of us do not have a fenced yard, although some have invisible fences. Soooo…what do we do when Miley or Max have to pee?

We put them on a leash and walk outside to the yard, where sometimes they’ll just “do it,” be happy, and come back inside.

What do we do when they need exercise and/or their favorite pooping area is beyond the confines of the yard?

We get our plastic bag (the long slim bag that the newspaper comes in is perfect for the job), put Miley or Max on the leash and WALK – until the feeling “moves” them.

The problem.

Sometimes the feeling “moves” them in a neighbor’s yard, and some of the neighbors DO NOT like dogs peeing and pooping in their yards. A few neighbors have a small sign near their mailboxes that indicate “no pee and poop zone.”

One neighbor comes out of his house screaming, “DON’T LET THAT DOG GO ON MY YARD!”

I’ve heard there are others who come out, too, when catching Max in the act, but with a “nicer” warning. “Would you NOT let your dog go on my yard please?”

One day, little Miley ventured "close" to the yard of the screaming man, when my dear friend (Miley’s owner) became a victim of the screaming man…or…is the screaming man the victim? It is his yard and dogs have used it; and I suppose some owners have not cleaned it up.

My friend and I had a discussion about this issue, comparing the various places where we allow the dogs to “go.” We feel okay when our dogs pee or poop along the street edge grass of a “safe” yard (the neighbors who also have dogs) as we walk in the street. After all, we do have our trusty plastic bag. Mostly, my dog Layla will go in the narrow strip of grass between the street and the sidewalk.

But, in our discussion, we realized that some dog owners still prefer not to have dogs peeing and pooping in their yards, regardless of the trusty plastic bag. One joked that his nice grass will not continue to be nice if little Miley keeps peeing in it (hint, hint). Typically, these neighbors have fences and their dogs go in their back yards. I asked my friend, “Does the pee hurt the grass?”

She didn’t know.

Another friend who’s been yelled at, said, “I guess once a dog goes on a yard, others smell the scent and it becomes their favorite place to go, too.”

Before I had a dog, I was not bothered by dogs using my yard as long as their owners picked it up. I figured it came with the territory of living in a large dog-owning, dog-walking neighborhood.

We concluded our discussion with a decision to put more effort and patience in getting the dogs to “go” in our own yards, even when they’re ready to walk, and to be more aware of where they “go” when we’re walking them.

Ps. I always scoop it up, even at night with the use of a flashlight.

Are you a dog owner? Where does your dog pee and poop?
Dog owner or not, does it bother you when a dog goes in your yard?

Monday, August 2, 2010

Shock, Embarrassment, Disappointment


Kahil Gibran says in his book, The Prophet,

Your children are not your children.
They are the sons and daughters of Life’s longing for itself.
They come through you but not from you,
And though they are with you, yet they belong not to you.
You may give them your love but not your thoughts.
For they have their own thoughts.

Do you agree?

What happens to a family when a child gets into trouble or controversy? It seems that no family (or extended family) is exempt. If you’re fortunate, the incident is limited to a call from a teacher or principal reporting a dispute between your child and another. Or perhaps your adult child has decided to drop out of college. You didn’t see it coming. It’s inconsistent with Susie’s or Johnnie’s personality and behavior. It’s a big deal for a while, but later, it’s not.

But what about the unexpected grandchild; or the drugs found in the car, followed with an arrest, misdemeanor charge, and court appearance? Hmmm…definitely life changing with consequences.

Are you still supporting Johnnie or Susie? Are you still letting them know that they can rectify their mistakes and live a good life?

How do you feel when Johnnie announces he’s gay, which may be a relief for him, but a problem for you? How about the semi-nude photos of Susie that have been made public?

What do you do when a major crime is committed, or a life is lost due to a suicide or drunk driving?

You’re shocked, embarrassed, distraught, angry, miserable, disappointed, and/or grievous. Are you wondering, “Where did I go wrong? What did I lack in raising my child?”

How do people treat you? Are you avoiding them, knowing that they are “talking about you,” criticizing you, and thinking that it’s your fault because you’re the parent?

My three children are still young - the oldest fourteen. I’m pleased to say that neither has shocked me, and pray they won’t. (Am I naïve?) I’ve heard many parents say, “Oh, I know they’re going to do it anyway.” Is a seed being planted with that statement?

We’re all human – somewhat fallible and susceptible to temptation. Hmmm…

I have friends, relatives, and neighbors who have experienced these episodes. I’ve seen the surprise grandbabies, the addiction to drugs, the jail sentence, and sadness of learning that a lesbian daughter does not want children – a grandchild for you.

I’ve seen it in all races, cultures, economic levels, education levels, and religions.

And while many will blame you - the parent, your friends will love you, know your heartache, and not judge you.

I’ve heard Oprah Winfrey quote Maya Angelo, who said, “We do the best we know how to do.”

Hopefully.

To what degree do we “know” our children and their potential for trouble-free, successful futures?

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

The Role of the Woman

Do you “fix a plate” for your husband?

It’s 1973. My stepfather, EJ, is sitting at the dining room table. Mom walks to him from the small galley kitchen, carrying a plate of food and places it on his table mat. She comes back and we maneuver at the stove, spooning food onto our plates, and then join him.

A minute into the meal, EJ says, “Lil, pass me some salt.” She pops up from her chair, the one closest to the kitchen entrance (for convenience), to get the salt.

This scene played out many times during my teen years. She got the salt, butter, a napkin, refill of a beverage – whatever. One day, I asked, “Mom, why are you interrupting your meal to get EJ the salt?” I acted it out for them, popping up from my chair to get the salt.

We all laughed.

My fifteen year old mind didn’t understand why my mom looked like a waiter in a restaurant.

Throughout the years, Mom taught me the realities of womanhood. One statement I remember, “He brings home his check and gives it to me; I have a meal for him on the table – even if we’re not speaking.”

As a child, I thought, “Surely this is a parent thing. Younger women don’t “do that.” (I must have thought “forty” was old.)

Wrong.

My contemporaries “do that.”

I’ve learned that in addition to serving the food, waitress style, they:
-shop for his clothes
-lay out his clothes for work
-drive “their kids” everywhere they need to go
-take out the trash and recycle
-get his approval on her outfit
-let him decide the time of intimacy
-go to bed when he goes
-get up when he gets up
-let him decide the car she will drive…

What have I left out Girls?

Before I married, Husband and I took a premarital class, which I recommend for couples headed towards marriage. One thing I remember hearing is, “a woman is flexible and adaptable,” and a third thing that I wish I can remember. Does that mean we are wired to be more capable of pampering, submitting, and catering?

This is all generalizing, of course.

Once in a while, on one of my “don’t want to cook days,” I think of my girlfriend’s husband’s reason for buying his four year old daughter a pretend kitchen set. He was so proud of the purchase, and announced that it will prepare her for cooking when she grows up and gets married.

Guess my parents should have bought one for me.

Hmmm…I think I did have one. What happened?

Just having a little fun here.

Seriously, so many of you are great cooks…and, everyone has to eat!

We all demonstrate our love and care for our mate in various ways. I’m just wondering what we “enjoy” doing, versus what we do because we’ve been taught that it’s our role - whether we enjoy it or not.

Should we view our role as contributing to the success of the relationship, and not be bogged down with the specifics of “who does what?” Or, should we renew our subscriptions to Ms. Magazine?

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Little White Lies



4/5/13 - I was told that "Little White Lies" is not the best title for this post, however, I hope you will still read it along with the comments from my readers. Thank you.

Dictionary.com defines white lie as “a minor, polite, or harmless lie; fib.” Its second definition is, “an often trivial, diplomatic or well-intentioned untruth.”

My fourteen year old daughter and I have some rare alone-time. She needs shoes for the eighth grade dance and we’re out shopping.

Leaving one shoe store, headed for another, I spot the bridal store. For years, my wedding dress has hung in my closet, and recently, my deceased mother-in-law’s wedding gown has taken up residence in another closet. My father-in-law gave it to my daughters, hoping that one of them might want to wear it some day.

Back to the bridal store…

Hayley and I go in to buy two preservation kits. “Hmmm…more expensive than I thought.”

I ask the sales rep, “If I buy two, would you be able to give me a discount?”

“No, I’m sorry. Another company handles this.”
“Oh. I’ll give it some thought.”

“Did you buy your dress here?”
“Yes, but it was over fifteen years ago.”

“Well if you decide to get the kits, just tell them you bought both dresses here and you’ll get a $60 discount off each.”
(My thought, “Good deal, but…I didn’t buy ‘both’ here.”)

I leave the store, but come back five minutes later to get “one” kit. My sales rep is gone, so I tell another sales rep about the discount that was offered to me earlier - for the dress that I’d bought here years ago. Of course, my name is not in the computer because my purchase was so long ago, but the manager decides to honor the offer quoted to me by the first sales rep.

As my daughter and I walk to the car, the thought occurs to me that she has watched and listened to the whole transaction. "What does she think? Something? Nothing?"

I’m wondering, “Did she notice the salesperson advising me to tell ‘the little white lie’ so that I can get a discount on ‘both’ kits”? I say to her, “Hayley, when I decide to buy the second kit, I won’t say the dress comes from this store – because it didn’t.”

The case of the “discounted wedding preservation kit” made me think about times when I have opted to succumb to the little white lie, like:

* I’ve been given back more change than owed to me.
My defense: “It’s only a dollar, I’m now ‘out’ of the store, and I don’t want to embarrass the employee.”

* My twelve year old paid the kids’ price for her buffet meal.
My defense: “They didn’t ask how old she is, she’s small for her age, and she can barely ‘eat’ the value of the kids’ meal.”

* When Husband and I were younger, newly married, and childless, we went to a museum during its opening month and found out we couldn’t go beyond the first floor because we didn’t have tickets, which were sold out. A “worker bee” employee saw us and asked if we’d like to see the rest of the museum. We said yes, he guided us up an elevator, and we were “in.”
My defense: “We didn’t ask him. It was his suggestion. And maybe he ‘did’ have the authority to let us see the museum without a ticket.”

Since having children, I’m more aware of these “untruths.” And I tend to notice when friends tell their kids to lie about not being home, or being younger to get the child’s admission fee. I’ve also heard, “Tell’em you’re sick and you can’t go,” etc.

Are little white lies harmless?

By the way, the last time we ate at CiCi’s Pizza (this website has audio), my twelve year old spoke up to be sure the person on the register knew she was not a “kid!”

Do you have any “little white lie” or "flat out lie" stories or opinions to share?

6/14/10 - My bloggy friend, Tracey, has corrected me on what a little white lie is. She is comment #7. I got a little carried away with my examples, but, I'll leave the title as is, because it gets the attention of the readers. Thanks Tracy. :)

6/16/10 - Another comment has prompted me to tell you that the "child's fee restaurant incident" happened once and was not noticeable until after I paid. Once I realized it, I should have turned back and had it corrected, but I didn't.

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Father's Day and Love Languages

What will you do to celebrate Father’s Day? What gift will you give your husband, your father, or another important male in your life?

Early in my marriage, it was quite a challenge to buy a gift for my husband that he’d love, or at least, a gift that was useful. He seemed to have everything already. I’d ask him to give me a category, or a hint of something he’d like, and he’d smile and say, “Oh, just surprise me.”

Stress.

If you read my post, “Was I Born Without the Shopping Gene?” you know that I like to get into the mall, zoom in on an item, purchase, and get out.

So, I’d pick up a clothing item or two, and actually ponder over it before making the big decision, then present it on Father’s Day. He’d smile and thank me and the kids, leave the gift out for display that day, and then put it away in his closet on Monday. That would be the last time I’d see it.

Okay…SOME years I’d see the gifts on his body.

(It should have occurred to me that another pair plaid or khaki shorts, a pastel polo shirt, or a polo shirt with horizontal stripes, added to his current collection would have been an easy pick.)

I’ll spare you all the gadgets I’ve bought.

This brings me to my introduction to The 5 Love Languages, a book written by Dr. Gary Chapman. I haven’t read it (yet), but the basic concept was used in a course that my husband and I took, and I’ve always thought it made so much sense.

According to Dr. Chapman, everyone has “a primary way of expressing and interpreting love.” He categorizes these love languages as, acts of service, words of affirmation, receiving gifts, quality time, and physical touch. And, he has discovered that in most relationships, people are attracted to others that have a different language than their own.

In the course that Husband and I took, we were asked to rank our love languages in order of importance, and to let each other know, with the intent of learning to satisfy each others primary language, instead of imposing our own on each other.

Receiving gifts was somewhere in the middle of his list; last on mine.

Soooo…we’ve compromised each Father’s Day. The girls and I make him the requested annual stepping stone (click here to see pictures of stepping stones), and buy him cards that he loves to open and read. Homemade cards and items made at school or church have been popular, too. Then we may go out for dinner at a quiet restaurant.

What are you getting your husband, father, and/or significant other for Father’s Day? I need some ideas! :)

Care to share what your primary love language is, and that of your spouse’s/partner’s.
(Don’t feel you have to say physical touch because it’s more about the touches “outside” of the bedroom…according to author. :) )

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Single Friends

Are you married or in a committed relationship? How many close single friends do you have?

Single people; do you have close friends who are married?

It’s 1991. My friend Renee and I are both single. We talk freely on the phone with no time limitation. And about once a month, we get together to hang out. We even fly south to one of the islands for a vacation.

Two years later…I began to seriously date G. He’s in another city and I don’t see him every weekend, but still, “hanging out” has lost its appeal. Renee and I keep the phone conversations going, but she begins to sense that it isn’t the same.

I get married. Renee and I maintain our friendship, now spanning two states, but the calls are decreasing…a lot.

Then, she gets married!

The calls pick up – a little – because we have “the marriage thing” in common.

It’s a few years later. She gets divorced. Her time is “all” hers again.

But now I have three children!

I also have several new friends from play group, piano lessons, church, the elementary school, etc. My phone time is all but gone.

Renee and I are down to talking once or twice a year.

In one of our conversations, she says something I’ll always remember. “You’re married with children. Married people just don’t have much time for their single friends. It’s okay; your life is different now.”

What can I say? She’s right. It’s not intentional though.

So, single friends – I thank you for caring about me and keeping our friendship alive via your initiated phone calls and emails. I feel awkward for not calling you much. Just keep in mind that my children will not always be children, and my husband is okay with a “girls” outing – the time will come…or will it?

How do you maintain friendships with single people?

Or, if you’re single, how do you maintain friendships with married people or people in committed relationships?

Have you read the previous post titled Money? It includes some "very good" comments from the followers and readers on how they handle the income of their household - some one income families; others, two or more.


Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Money

The husband is employed. The wife is not. The pay check has his name on it. Is the money his, hers, or theirs?

The latest celebrity couple break-up that may end up in divorce court reminded me of an Oprah show I saw years ago. The socialite wife was defending her reasons for asking for a substantial amount of alimony from her wealthy, soon-to-be ex-husband.

While married, she’d spent much of her life managing his. Their social calendar was full; events to attend, parties to host, volunteering, and fund-raising. She also needed to spend time keeping in shape and staying attractive, i.e. spas, gyms, and shopping. And, their home needed to reflect his position, so she hired decorators, cleaning help, and caterers. She managed it all.

Most of the women in the audience thought she was spoiled and greedy for expecting a sizable divorce settlement – because the money was “his.”

Since becoming a stay-at-home mom, and often being in the company of other stay-at-home moms, I’ve gotten some general pictures of how various couples handle the money.

A few examples (in no particular order) of what different wives/moms have said:

- I pay the bills.

- He pays the bills.

- I’m glad I’m home to get the checks in the mail from his business, because we’d be broke if he gets to cash them.

- He works. It’s his money. He deserves a new car.

- I need to ask my husband if I can buy that.

- I don’t work, so I don’t want to spend too much on myself.

- I’m stressed. I think I’ll go shopping!

- He puts what I need in my account, and if I need more, I’ll tell him to put more in it.

Fortunately, my husband and I agree on most money issues, and the check with his name on it, is deposited into “our” account. I don’t “ask” for money; I’m a little too old for that.

I digress.

The money does not feel like it’s his or mine – just feels like it’s there to take are of ourselves, our home, our children, and our future.

A few years ago, I read a book titled, The Feminine Mistake by Leslie Bennetts. She advocated jobs and careers for women; that skills should not be lost. She also warned that women should not be caught without an income if the husband should leave or die.

While reading it, I was reasonably open-minded and objective – to see her point – and I did see some of it. But did it make me want to change my life; to get an income paying job and be a “working mom” example for my daughters? (I think she touched on that, too.)

No, not yet.

Did it make me afraid?

No.

Without going into personal details, I’ll just say that a few things are “in place” in the case of Husband and me not living out our golden years together.

Many aspects of our lives can be successful based on trust and wisdom, but some people will fail. And if that’s the case, I hope there will be a second chance.

What are some of your opinions on one-income households, joint accounts, separate accounts, alimony, etc?

Friday, May 14, 2010

Author/Book Signing Groupie

A. J. Jacobs and me
look at my hands - I must have
been talking about my blog

I’ve been to three book signing events within five days. It’s become one of my favorite things to do. Does that put me in the nerd category?

The first event was held at Barnes and Noble. Stacy Hawkins Adams spoke about the path to the publication of her first nonfiction book, Who Speaks to Your Heart? plus entertained us with a Q & A, complete with book giveaways as prizes.

She’s had success with two series of page turning, Christian based novels, six books in all, and is now promoting her new book. I’m looking forward to reading my copy – autographed, of course.

Two days later, I was sitting in an audience at the Weinstein Jewish Community Center listening to A. J. Jacobs. I discovered him on…was it Oprah? Anyway, I saw him again on another talk show, too, promoting his book, The Know-It-All. This guy read the entire encyclopedia, but don't let that mislead you; he's quite funny.

I talked to him a minute or two while he signed copies of his other two books for me. I told him I was an information junkie. Too bad I can’t retain enough of it. Oh well, maybe in my next life.

Another two days later, I was at the Book & Author Dinner at the Greater Richmond Convention Center, sponsored by The Junior League of Richmond. This was a treat from a friend who knows how much I love books.

Six authors discussed their latest work: Sam Beall, Sarah Blake, Noah Boyd, Dean King, Phyllis Theroux, and Abraham Verghese. I decided not to purchase any of their books because I already have a few new books waiting to be read. But, from this group of authors, I will probably read at least one of the impressive books presented that night.

I’ve heard it said that surrounding yourself with people and things relating to your dreams, goals, and interests is “a good thing.” Eventually, you may accomplish your particular goal, but if not, at least you’ve had fun.
.
What is your "gotta do" or "gotta see" or "gotta go" thing?
(For those of you who speak the Queen's English - "gotta" translates to "I have to."

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Child? What Child?


It’s Saturday morning. Everyone in my house has somewhere to go…except me! Husband and two oldest daughters are volunteering at a home – fixing up, painting, etc. Youngest daughter has a digital photography class. I take her and her friend, Kylie, to the bus at the middle school at 9 o’clock, which transports them to the Math and Science Center.

Back home after the quiet drive, I take inventory of occupants. Yep, it’s just me and Layla the dog. No gotta-do errands, no appointments, no tennis lessons, etc. Hmmm…what shall I do?

I eat breakfast, digest, run for twenty-five minutes, and then walk Layla. I have a leisurely phone chat with one of my girlfriends before deciding to do something around the house.

The mound of clothes to be sorted and distributed to each child’s room, awaits…but…I think I’ll check email first and see if anyone has commented on my latest blog post.

Bloggy friends are in my in-box. “It’s going to get busy later, so I’ll write a couple replies and read a couple blogs, too…just for twenty minutes.”

Two hours later…

“AHHHH…Oh my God!”

It’s 1:50. "The bus will be back at the school in five minutes!" No time to empty my tea-filled bladder. I snatch the snoozing dog off the comfy chair, grab the leash, my purse, and the key, then race to the car.

During my four minute trip (I’m probably shaving off one of those minutes), I visualize the police coming from out of nowhere to stop me for speeding, and how embarrassed I’m going to be. More importantly, I’m planning my pity inducing story.

I pull onto the bus loop; no sign of the yellow bus. “Whew!”

(I was worried because no other kids get off at this stop, therefore, no other parents would be around; and my daughter’s friend was not with her on the trip home.)

Before I can relax and slow down my heart rate, I see it coming.

Daughter gets in the car. With a smile, I say, “How was your class Sweetie?”

What happened when you forgot your child?
No children? What important someone or something did you forget?
fess up :)

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Menopause and Hot Flashes - Part 2

my cashmere sweater
.
"Oh, I'm a little warm - must be a hot flash," as I laugh and say to my friend Renee. Husband is sitting with us, watching TV, as we catch up after not seeing each other for over a year.

In a surprised and hush-hush voice, she says, “You’re in menopause?”

“Yes. I AM fifty-two,” as I continue to smile.

“Really?” (not responding to my age, but to the menopause)

Now I’m feeling awkward. My smile is fading. Was I not supposed to say that? I’m lost in figuring out what the big deal is.

Husband doesn’t say a word – just keeps his eyes on the TV.

Seeing this, I assume he doesn’t want to get in the middle of this conversation, so I change the subject.

Our hour long visit goes well. We have fun talking about as many topics and people we can think of until she has to leave.

As we stand in my driveway saying our last good-byes, she says something about the current status of her life. Divorced a couple years ago, she’s still adjusting. I go into my encourager role, telling her to keep doing things that interest her. I bring up menopause again, saying one good this about it, is a renewed sense of freedom; an entry into another phase of life that solidifies you as a fully grown woman...blah, blah, blah

Quickly, she says, “Oh, I’m not in menopause.”

In my normal tone of voice, I say, “Oh, I know, but you’re almost forty-eight. You’re probably perimenopausal. That can go on for years.”

“No, I’m not. I don’t have any symptoms.

“Well, I hardly have ‘symptoms’ (sounds like we’re talking about a disease), but your body is preparing to stop having periods. Those eggs don’t last forever,” trying to bring in some humor.

“I think it’ll be a long time before I’m in menopause.”
“Oh, did your mom have a late menopause, or your sister?”
“They had surgery, so I don’t know.”
“Well, why do you think so about yourself?”

“I don’t know…I just know…I’ll be sixty!”

“You don’t want a period THAT long!”


And so on…until I say…

“Trust me, eventually you won’t miss your period.”
I don’t think she believed me.

Followers and readers of ALL ages…guys, too…
How do you feel about the menopause conversation? Does it make you uncomfortable?


Ps. Since my first Menopause and Hot Flashes post, the hot flashes have decreased considerably. I wore my cashmere sweater this past winter without having to strip it off in a panic because of a hot-flash. Yay!

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Call Somebody versus I'll Fix It

“I don’t do electricity and I don’t do plumbing.” These are the words of my husband.

We’ve been married fifteen years. Our first home was an apartment; complete with a maintenance crew on the premises. Neither of us had to do anything beyond hammering nails or screws into the wall to hang pictures. The maintenance crew even came once or twice to plunge my overflowing defective toilet when I couldn’t get it to cooperate. Husband painted a room once, but I think that’s all we needed to do for the upkeep of our home.

The next home was a house…with a mortgage…ours. This is when the phrase “call maintenance” was replaced by “call somebody.” Husband loves gardening and keeping the yard looking lovely, and is outside whenever possible, but if the refrigerator malfunctions, he doesn’t touch it.

“Call somebody,” he says - meaning the warranty people, a plumber, or whatever repair person that can do the job.

Me…I go to my files to look for the instruction manual.

“I may be able to fix this.”

I’m thinking of saving us a few dollars.

The inspiration for this post came when having a conversation with two friends. Betsy was complaining about an incomplete job in her house that was started by her husband. “I’ll fix it,” her husband always says. And then he does, but it takes a month or more – a time of inconvenience, changing routines, and having to look at it day after day.

I told Betsy… “Oh, I have a ‘Call somebody’ husband,” and Robin chimed in with “Me too!” and says, “If it involves a ladder, my husband is NOT going to do it!

When it snowed over a foot, our husbands were wondering where the “college boys” were. The driveways needed shoveling. When the boys appeared, it was “mission accomplished” – somebody else’s back, their wallets.

Betsy then said, “Oh, I wish I had a ‘Call somebody’ husband.” I wasn’t surprised because she’s loves neatness and order in her house.

In fairness to my husband, he works hard, and I appreciate him. Like everyone else, he prioritizes, and it doesn’t always fit somebody else’s idea of how the “list of things to do” should be ordered.

Is your spouse a “Call Somebody” person, or an “I’ll Fix It” person? How about you?

Friday, April 2, 2010

What Do You Want To Be When You Grow Up?


Do you wonder what your child will grow up to be; what job will be landed; or, what career, profession, or business will be established?

When I was a little girl growing up in the 1960s, it was expected that an educated black girl child would grow up to be a teacher, a nurse, or a secretary. When asked what I wanted to be, the slightest hesitation in answering would prompt the person to say, “Oh, I’ll bet you’re going to be a teacher!”

I actually had no idea what I’d do, and received no specific guidance, so I took the recommended shorthand class in ninth grade…just in case.

Fortunately, I stumbled upon the data processing class that ultimately led to a computer programming career…not that there’s anything wrong with being a secretary.

So now I’m a mother. I can look back on those days and try to improve the process for my children. Living in a community where a large percentage of the adults went to college, and their children are going to college, the discussion of the children’s future is a major conversation.

What activities are they involved in?
What camps are they attending this summer?
Where are they volunteering?
What are their grade point averages?
What colleges are they looking at?
How’d they do on the SAT?
Will the private school challenge them more?
Will they take IB or AP classes?
Should we take in the foreign exchange student?


And so on…

These are the parents striving for the best possible education, getting the kids involved in many activities, and exposing them to culture, with hopes of getting them into the best colleges that will open more doors of opportunity for employment; in addition to the pride that will be felt by all.

At the other end of the spectrum, is the parent who wants a good education for the child, but leans more towards letting the child decide what the future job will be. When engaged in this conversation, I hear more of a concern for contentment that doesn’t necessarily require a certain college or “the big bucks” after college.

I might send my son to community college first.
My child just takes standard classes and I’m okay with that. She’s not in that advanced league.
I just want him to be happy and fulfilled.


And there’s the sports parent:

He can’t afford any more injuries; we need that scholarship.
Sports are so good for kids. My kids must play a sport.


Of course, I’m generalizing. I can pull from all these areas when guiding my children.

But how much should we guide? I know of a family who has a son at a very reputable college who has become involved in the plight of the Haitians. They’ve been successful at educating him and getting him into "the good college," but will he follow what may be a philanthropic “calling” on his life instead of going to work in a corporation?

I know of another family who loves living a simple life, with lots of kids and surrounded by horses and chickens. Will any of the kids in that family grow up and wish Mom and Dad had prepared them more for life in the corporation by putting more emphasis on grades, colleges, and culture?

During this time of brainwashing my children…oops, did I say that…I meant nurturing and preparing them, I instill in them the advantages of a good education, but also, the need to do something that they will be passionate about, as well as providing them with the lifestyle they’d like to have. I tell them if they want to live as we are living now, a low to average income may not be enough. At this time, I don’t know if either of the children will want a large house, or conversely, not care about square footage at all. I just hope they’ll be wise and modest in progressing towards their goals, and that they'll live a good life.

I don’t know what my kids will be when they grow up. Based on their current interests, if they were stepping into the adult world right now, one would be an artist, one would be a musician, and the other would be working in advertising, probably writing TV commercials.

What I do know – is that there should be a place for all children to be educated and trained for the many skills required - including parenting - to keep the world moving forward.

How much input and influence should a parent have in directing the course of their child’s future?

Saturday, March 27, 2010

You Reap What you Sow


I did it again! I ran the 10k!

Last year was my first time (See “You Go Girl!”), and it was hard, but I knew I’d run this year, too.

Was it fun? Hmmm…

I had a slight case of nerves when I started.
My legs felt heavy for a few minutes.
I had to weave in and out of slower people because of my wish to improve my time over last year’s time.
I had to tell myself not to stop - several times; especially when running on an incline. (The inclines were so, so little, but still, it felt like little mountains.)
And, I had to get rid of negative thoughts – wondering why my lungs didn’t work as well as the person who zoomed past me.

But, before all of that, it was ten weeks of training. I met the team most of the ten Saturday mornings, and followed the training schedule during the week days.

I was prepared, and I did well.

Last year, my time was 1 hour and 25 minutes, and I was very happy to finish the race, but this year was my challenge to improve. My time was 1 hour and 4 minutes. What I’d put into it, determined what I got out of it.

So again, was it fun? Yes, it was…although I would say, “highly satisfying” describes it better.

Now if I can only apply the principle of positive “sowing and reaping” to some other old and dusty goals.

Do you believe hard work results in achieving your goals?
Are there situations that never get “fixed” regardless of how hard you work at it?
(Any areas of life: health, finances, hobbies, household chores, education, careers, businesses, phobias, time spent with family, sports, habits…)

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Teacher versus Parent

Are you a teacher? A parent? Both?

As a parent of school-aged children, I’ve had many discussions with other parents about little Johnny’s or little Suzy’s performance in school, and also about the teacher’s performance. I’ve heard expressions of complete satisfaction or complete dissatisfaction. Fortunately, I haven’t had any major issues with any of my kids’ teachers, but I have been in conversations with other moms and dads who tell me how awful a particular teacher is, what they think about a teacher, or what they’ve had to say to a teacher.

She gives too much homework.
Why did Suzy get a D?
Why didn’t Johnny get an A?
We told you we were going to Disneyland and that

Johnny would miss a few classes!
She’s not into hugging the kids.
Suzy is not challenged enough.
That’s too many books to bring home.
Why did he even become a teacher?


And this is the mild stuff.

Parents – are we brutal? Do we expect these mere human beings to perform miracles with our kids?

Teachers – are the media correct when it says you are failing our children?

Years ago, I received a letter from a friend who was a teacher. It was full of grammatical errors, I thought, “Hmmm… she’s teaching someone’s child.

On the other hand, I know many teachers who are well prepared and dedicated to bringing out the best in a child. And, a large number of parents are very supportive of their schools and appreciative of hard working teachers.

Thankfully, we can not generalize about every teacher, every parent, and every child.

Does the teacher versus parent dilemma have an ending? Probably not.

Parents: Can you share any “teacher” stories…good or bad?
Teachers: Can you share any “parent” stories…good or bad?

Friday, March 12, 2010

Book Club

These is My Words, by Nancy E. Turner, was a hit with the club; so much that we chose the sequel, Sarah’s Quilt, as our next selection.

Are you in a book club? Not a “book of the month” club that requires you to purchase books. I mean a real book club, the kind where you get together with friends or other book lovers to discuss a book you’ve all read.

I’ve been in a book club almost four years. By the time I’d joined the group of neighbors/friends that started the club in 1997, they had already read sixty-eight books. Since I joined in 2006, thirty-one more have been read.

The setup is easy. Our group has twelve members, which is not too many to share one conversation, and enough to have a good number present when some can’t come. At most of our meetings, we have eight or nine.

We (except one of us) live in the same subdivision which makes it easy to attend. No excuse for “not feeling like the drive.” It takes no more than three minutes to get to anyone’s house.

Our meetings are scheduled every six weeks, on Monday, at 7:30 p.m. Everyone participates in hosting at their home, which means there’s about seventeen months (or a little less) before that member will host again.

Between 7:30 and 8:15, we socialize; standing around the kitchen table eating light hors d’oeuvres and drinking beverages while everyone’s still arriving.

Then we move to the family room, or wherever the comfy chairs are, and begin. The host, who chose the book at the previous meeting, will tell a little about the author and then we all jump in to discuss the book…freely. Sometimes the host has a reader’s guide of questions from the back of the book or an Internet site, but mostly, we wing it. While we are a serious book club, we are not as structured as some clubs. No reports, presentations, homework, etc., and we don’t spank if a member has not read the book.

Sometimes we have lots to say; other times, we finish early - a sign that the book is on the B list or below - and we go back to socializing.

About 9ish, we have dessert and coffee while the person on the list to host the next meeting shows us potential books to choose from. Or, occasionally, she will make the decision without the others input.

Most of the time, I’m back home at 9:30.

This is our version of a book club. There are many other types, I’m sure. Libraries typically have book clubs, and then there’s always Oprah.

Are you in a book club? Ever thought about it?
If so, what’s your club like and what do the members get from it – fun? intellectual stimulation?

Sunday, March 7, 2010

Can't Sleep?

I’d been in bed since ten o’clock. It’s now eleven thirty-nine. For some reason, I can’t sleep.

My days typically start at 6 a.m., or 7 a.m. on the weekend. With three kids, a husband, and a dog, I’m busy taking care of their needs, plus my own, which results in nonstop movement until I go to bed at night. While I have the option to take a nap, I don’t. I prefer to go full speed all day with an immediate crash as soon as I finish reading a chapter or two of a good book while lying in bed, preferably by 10.

It’s Saturday. Today began with group training for an upcoming 10k. We started at 8 a.m. and ran over seven miles. Afterwards, I did an errand, came home, cooked breakfast, ate, showered and shampooed, folded laundry, ate leftovers for lunch, helped squeamish first child use the neti pot, talked to my kids and second child’s friend who slept over, put more air in the tires of two bikes for second child and friend, helped third child wrap a birthday present, took third child to the corresponding birthday party, searched high and low for old dance recital pictures for first child’s Spanish assignment, decluttered by trashing more of the useless paper in my office - piece by piece, wolfed down a quick mini-meal, picked up third child from the birthday party, trashed more paper, put on PJs, got in bed, read my book, turned off light…this is the part where I was supposed to fall asleep within two minutes.

It didn’t happen.

So I was lying there, tossing and turning, trying to figure out why I couldn’t sleep. Each child came in at five minute intervals and kissed me good-night - a comfort - but not enough to send me to dreamland.

Today, my husband and I realized we are going to have to make a big family decision very soon. I was thinking about it. Is “this” contributing to my sleeplessness?

The long run today and the constant movement, plus yesterday’s very busy day, which included horseback riding – is “this” the reason? Am I over-stimulated?

I also took third child for a horseback riding lesson yesterday (at a separate time from my lesson). I was thinking about that, and if I can keep it up. It’s another activity added to “Mom’s taxi-cab” route. Plus, first child is starting lacrosse on Monday. Gotta get on the phone and get the carpool organized.

All these thoughts going through my head…but you know what? I’m just plain ol’ hungry; like a baby who hasn’t had her last feeding. Soooo…I’m heading downstairs to find something filling, and then I’ll try it again.

What causes you not to be able to sleep?

Page down to the previous post, "Smiley Face Happiness Question" or click here, and give some thought to what your overall personality is like.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Smiley Face Happiness Question


How much of your personality were you born with? How much developed due to the circumstances of your life?

Almost four years ago, I watched John Stossel, a TV journalist, conduct a survey with random people where he asked them to look at a series of Smiley faces, and choose the one that most represented their general feelings about their lives. Actually, there was only one that was a big, full smile. The others, I think, were a half smile, no smile, a little frown, and a large frown.

I looked at all the pictures, and "my" first choice was the half smile, number two. Then I said, “No, surely it’s the BIG smile.” But I couldn’t be certain, and ultimately, chose the half smile to represent my life.

Later – probably on Good Morning AmericaStossel told Charlie Gibson and Diane Sawyer that he was more of the half smile. Diane, reluctantly, chose the half smile, too. Then, Charlie Gibson smiled and answered with an immediate, no-hesitation, “I’m the first one; the full Smiley Face.”

I was SO envious.

Why couldn’t I say that my general disposition was peaceful, positive, happy, and optimistic? I had no answer. There was no reason “not” to feel that way.

Sooo…I made a decision that day. “I’m going to be happy!” I went to my calendar with my yellow marker and drew a big U-shaped mouth and two big dots for the eyes; my version of a Smiley face. It was May 22, 2006.

It has taken effort to earn my "full" Smiley face. I still have days when I wake up and feel anxiety as I think about the long list of things to do. But, before my feet hit the floor, I force a smile on my face. I go to the bathroom, look in the mirror, and force that smile again. That gives me my first laugh of the day as I look at my puffy eyes and contorted face.

I’m not exempt from the hardships of life, and neither is Charlie Gibson, or the very large amount of others that chose the full Smiley face in the survey, but still, I plan to hold on to my full Smiley face status. How about you?

How much control do you have over your feelings?
Care to share which Smiley face (or lack of) you are? :)


The Stossel, Sawyer, and Gibson story and quotes are from my memory. Hopefully, I have summarized it acceptably.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Blogging Tip #2 - Non-bloggers - How to Comment

Are you a reader of this blog, and NOT a blogger? Are there times when you’d like to add your opinion, share your thoughts, or ask a question?

I know you’re out there because a few of you have asked me questions when we’ve seen each other.

The purpose of this post is to help you with commenting.

About twice a week, I write about something and “post” it to my blog. I title it, and the software dates it. My entry is called a “post.”

At the end of the post you’ll see "Post a comment" if you're the first to comment. If you're not the first to comment, you'll see “Posted by Anita…” and on the same line, you’ll see the word “comments” with a number in front of it.

Use your mouse to point to "Post a comment" or the word “comments” and click.

Another screen will come up with comments from other readers (if you’re not the first to comment).

In the box labeled, “Leave your comment,” type your comment. Don’t worry about spelling, punctuation, grammar, etc. The appeal of the blog is “hearing” and “knowing” what you think. Read what others have to say, and consider it a conversation.

When you’re finished, use your mouse to click inside the “Word Verification” box, and type the letters you see above it. (If you type the letters incorrectly, at the end of the process, you are given more chances to do it again.)

Then, point and click on “Name/URL.” Click inside the box labeled “Name” and type your name. It can be ANY NAME. You can use your first name, first and last, a nickname, “dog,” “cat” - whatever. It’s just an identification you’d like to be known as on this post.

Click on “Publish Your Comment.” If all went well, you’ll see “Your comment has been saved” at the top of the screen.

Voila!

If you would like to add an anonymous comment - instead of clicking on “Name/URL,” click on “Anonymous,” then on “Publish Your Comment.”

If you’re wondering: I do not know your email address when you comment. There is a meter on the blog that tells me how many people “stop by” and from what city, but that’s it. So, if you’re a little reserved, you don’t have to worry about your privacy.

Hope this was easy to understand. If not, comment on this post (if you can), or drop me an email at noteforanita@gmail.com.

Be bold...comment on any post...try it!

Bloggers: How’d I do? If I missed something in this basic set of instructions, let me know. Thanks!

When I wrote the facebook post, many of you (bloggers) said you kept your bloggy friends separate from your facebook “friends.” Do you have a following or readership of "non-bloggers" that are NOT your facebook friends?

Non-bloggers: How often do you read blogs and how much time do you spend doing so?

Friday, February 19, 2010

Snow Days and Home Schooling

All the days my kids were out of school because of the snow made me think of home schooling – not doing it – just thinking of others who do.

During one of the “snow days,” a friend, who doesn’t have children, asked if I’d “lost it” yet because the kids were home a lot.

“No, surprisingly,” I replied, “They’ve been home so much that it’s beginning to feel like summer vacation.

It prompted me to imagine what it would be like to have them home all the time; to home school them.

It was a fleeting thought...very.

But it did make me think of friends who “do” home school. I began to meet them when my second daughter started taking piano lessons at a studio. Because she was not in school yet, we went during the morning. Older children were there, too; they were the "home-schooled kids. "

I met several home schooling moms at the piano studio over the years; and even one of my girls’ piano teachers home schooled her three daughters.

Another place where I met home schooling moms was at my church. For a few years, while many of us were having babies, I was on the baby shower circuit, and discovered that a few of the new moms planned to home school, and they’re currently doing so.

Before I met these dedicated moms, I don’t know that I gave it much thought. Didn’t wonder why or how, just figured they had their reasons and “nerves of steel.”

Friends who were opponents of home schooling would always mention the “lack of socialization.”

As I began to spend time with home schooling families, I saw some of the most well-behaved, well mannered kids. Not that other kids aren’t, but proportionally, they seem to have more in the “good kids” ranking.

Academically, I’ve only known a few old enough to go to college. They seem to have fared like other kids - some went to the best colleges, some went to average local colleges, one got married, and one went to work.

It’ll be interesting to watch the path of the younger ones – the ones that are the peers of my kids – not that it’s a big deal. I think the home schooling hoopla is over – or is it?

What’s your opinion of home schooling? Do you home school? Do you know others who home school?
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More thoughts on multi-level marketing? Page down to the previous post, "The Opportunity."

Monday, February 15, 2010

The Opportunity


When I was a little girl in the 1960s, “the opportunity” for women was selling Avon or Tupperware. I have memories of an adult cousin selling Avon products; her home always filled with boxes, and the scent of her body as evidence that she believed in what she was doing.

Tupperware was another biggie. I don’t recall my mom going to a Tupperware Party, but we had a few pieces of the plastic, no leak, wonder containers in our kitchen cabinets.

When I entered the full-time job world in the 1970s, “the opportunity” was Amway and Mary Kay, both of which had been around many years – long before my introduction to them. Co-workers and neighbors in my apartment complex began to ask if they could give me a facial and make up my face. With Amway, I was asked to visit their homes to listen to a business presentation; an opportunity to make money.

It didn’t take long for me to realize that I don’t have “the opportunity” personality.

Soooo many people do, though.

Let’s see…some of the parties I’ve been invited to in the last thirty years are: Avon, Tupperware, Mary Kay, Stampin’ Up!, Arbonne, Southern Living at Home, Pampered Chef, USANA, Silpada, Premier Designs, Beach Body, Melaleuca, Pre-Paid Legal Services, Longaberger, Creative Memories, and Usborne. I’m sure I’m missed a few.

While I know I will never be a “consultant,” I have been known to attend a party once a year. Most of the time, I’m supporting the friend hosting the party, and expecting a “girls get-together.” Another party I attended because the consultant was recently separated and working very hard to earn money. A few times I’ve been because I actually had something in mind I wanted to purchase – a kitchen item or something for my kids, like books or crafts.

But now, the kids are older, time is limited, and everything’s at the mall.

I’ve known many people who have tried to succeed with “the opportunity,” i.e., invested in the start-up kit, bought a few of the products, booked a party, and quit...sorta like...a gym membership.

I know others who are rockin’ and rollin’ - and have been for years! They are the ones who believe in their product, have the gift of selling, and the winning personalities. I applaud them for their business sense and entrepreneurial spirit.

What’s your experience with multi-level marketing?
Are you a consultant? What’s your product?
Do you host or attend the parties?