Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Greeting Cards

There was a time when I bought 10 or 11 Hallmark greeting cards to address and mail for Mother’s Day. I assume most people don’t send nearly that amount… or maybe you do.

Before I married, I walked to the Mother’s Day card section of a store, searched for “From Daughter,” and found a card. A couple steps to the right or left, I found a card “For Grandmother” and I was done. Then marriage happened and my female relatives grew exponentially. I added two cards for my two mothers-in-law, two sister/sister-in-law cards, a card for a cousin-in-law who lost her only child in 1983, and some years, a card for a woman who my husband was close to while growing up and/or one of my aunts.

And then I had children, so the three mothers who became grandmothers to my children also got a grandmother card with handprints or scribbled signatures of the children. The sister/sister-in-law cards got swapped out for “Aunt” cards.
Once I told a neighbor that I was on my way to get my Mother’s Day cards.
“CardS?” (As in more than one) she asked.
“Yes,” I responded, as I rattled off a few of the recipients.
“Oh no!” she said with an assertive voice. “I only have one mother and she gets a card; my grandmother gets a card from her, not me. And my husband gets his own card for his mother.”
I thought about it and couldn’t argue with that rationale, yet I couldn’t discontinue the new family tradition. After all, I didn’t see all of the mothers frequently and I thought, “Why not send a card as a way of letting them know that I’m thinking of them. Sure I’ve spent over $35, but aren’t they worth it? And some of them send cards to me.”
My husband loves receiving cards. I wonder if I was influenced by him. Hmmm…
This year, Darling Husband and I have received more than our usual amount of graduation announcements. As the month of May sends me into a tailspin, I found myself behind in responding with a Congratulations card (that is still at the store). On my way to a grad party, it occurred to me to just write a note to the young one and I realized that it was much more satisfying to say what I wanted to say than to let Hallmark say it for me.
I think I’m onto something!
Actually, I’ve been gravitating this way for a few years. This past Mother’s Day, I asked my children to make cards for me instead of buying them. I didn’t get three (one from each of them), but the one I got with everyone’s signature on it was very special. My husband still bought one for me and I received one from my parents and another relative—and that’s okay.  Not everyone is going to write a note. I’ve learned that many people are not comfortable writing, and also, most find it easier to go to the store for a card. And, there ARE some pretty good writers at Hallmark, American Greetings, and whoever writes for the Dollar Store cards, so it’s good that they’re available.
I have to go there though. A friend and I were talking about the expense of graduation pictures by theme photographers that is a popular thing to do nowadays, which led to her saying that she gets an invitation with a great picture of a kid on it and ultimately, it gets tossed into the garbage. But, it’s reciprocal—the kid gets a greeting card from an adult, shakes it for possible dollars to fall out, and then tosses the card…eventually.
I’m proud to say that I keep the pictures; I have a photo album where they all go, along with the Christmas photos… not that you have to do the same. And I do enjoy getting them.
The 10 or 11 Mother’s Day cards are now down to 5. My granny and two mothers-in-law have passed on. I think they appreciated the cards. It was what their generation did. With e-cards and all the social media, I wonder about the future of greeting cards… and even a handwritten note.
What’s your greeting card modus operandi?
image from common wikimedia

Monday, June 17, 2013

The Road from Higher Education

My daughter attends a highly ranked high school for gifted students. (I believe all children are gifted at something, but that’s a topic for another post.) She and I are talking about one of the teachers at the school who was a student there years ago and that his two siblings were, too.  Girl #2 (her blog post ID) mentions that the teacher’s brother substituted there once or twice.

“Hmmm…” I utter.

I say to my daughter, “I wonder if he’s unemployed.”

Okay, I’ll admit it. I have this image of very smart people men working as business owners, lawyers, engineers, doctors, university professors, writers, politicians, etc.; or even as actors, comedians, producers, artists, and journalists. If they’re not doing something akin to one of those professions, then something must have gone wrong along the way.

Women…we get an out. Why? Because we have babies.

After this brief, non-feminist—perhaps—thought process, I continue my conversation with Girl #2.

“The reason I wonder about his occupation is because all the kids in his family must be smart and he’s substituting.”

I begin to think about other very smart people and add, “Mrs. Smith was number one in her class at WestPoint, got a law degree, practiced, and now she’s a stay-at-home mom; been one for years. People thought she had wasted her education; some probably still think so.”

Girl #2 says, “So if you plan to become a mom, then do you say, ‘I’m not going to get an education.’ What if it doesn’t work out; that you don’t become a mom?”

“Good point,” I respond.

(Girl #2 was—maybe—thinking of women who want to be stay-at-home moms.)

­_ _ _ _ _

I often hear kids ask things like, “Why do I need to know that X2 is the same as X times X? Who cares! When am I going to use that in my life?”

It’s a valid question that has a good explanation that I won’t try to give. However, how many of us majored in one thing and worked in the respective field a short time and then began to do something entirely different. Same thing with trade schools; learn it and then decide, “That’s not me.” A lot of businesses have quickly gone by the wayside, too.

So, have we “wasted” time and/or money when we change our minds about what we want to do? Do we take a seat in a classroom from someone else who will perform the skill indefinitely?

I’ve heard people ask questions and express opinions to others in a tone that suggest disapproval, like:

- All that education and you are still so fickle!

- When are you going back to practicing law?

- You have a nursing degree. Why aren’t you working as a nurse? There’s always a need for nurses.

- What are you going to do now that you have your doctorate degree?

- Are you going to be a career student?

And to young stay-at-home moms—the list is endless, but here’s a few.

- I thought you wanted to do more than to just have babies.

- You went to college but you have no intention of becoming a teacher?

- When are you going back to work?

- Why did you go to college?
_ _ _ _ _

This is another time of the year when I question the energy parents spend in trying to direct the future of their children. The last of the high school graduations just happened. The college graduations were last month. Another round of kids are catapulted onto the roads of their various destinations—places where Mom and Dad will give the thumbs up to and feel that all their child guiding energy was worth it; or, to places where Mom and Dad will wonder, “What happened?”

With a curious eye, I have studied the lives and occupations of many people, trying to match their college choices and education (or lack of) with their occupations and successes (or lack of). I have concluded that the gifted are not always doctors or do gifted-people-worthy jobs, and the so-called average people are not always blue collar or servers. And being a stay-at-home mom (or stay-at-home dad) is not determined by how much education you have.

My oldest daughter, Girl #1, will be a senior in the fall. My friends have already warned me about the overwhelming college preparation process and because they know what they are talking about, my husband and I are going down a few avenues to get help and advice. It’s not easy when it’s your own kid.

This post is a sort of part II to my post titled, “What DoYou Want to Be When You Grow Up?” written three years ago, where I divided parents into three categories: the “Go-Getters,” the “I Just Want My Kids to Be Happy”, and the “Sports families”.  No Serena Williamses in my bunch, so I find myself split between the first two types of parents. Three years ago, I was amazed at the competitive nature of getting educated.  Nowadays, I’m used to it.
Currently, Girl #1 has not chosen schools she’d like to apply to. It’s possible that the colleges most of the neighborhood kids attend are not high on her list. I am happy to report that I am not stressed, believing that it will come together.
I have a friend who is employed at a large corporation as a manager. She has a master’s degree and a lot of letters after her name. A graduate of a local university, she told me that she works in the office (or was it a cubicle?) next to the guy who received his degree from the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania.  Their different roads from higher education led them to the same place.
Are our recent grads benefiting more if they earned a degree from a top ranked university versus one ranked much lower?
Are you one of those rare people who is doing something that relates to your college degree or field of training?

Monday, June 10, 2013

Skeletons in the Closet

I have a skeleton or two in my closet; who doesn’t? Of course, it’s all relative. Things I’ve done or said that I’ve locked in the closet are things that other people consider mild and part of their daily lives. Those same things may cause other people to criticize. Who’s the judge?

Recently, I was reading a blog and left a comment admitting that I told my daughter, who was three at the time, to “shut up.” A year or so prior to me saying that direct, harsh little phrase, I’d heard a relative say it to her child. I looked at the relative—puzzled. She read my mind and responded with a smirk that suggested, “You just wait until your children ‘pluck your nerves.’”

Ohhh, but I’d always said, “Be quiet please,” to my daughters until that day when I was backing out of the garage, late, trying not to rip off my side view mirrors, my two kids strapped in car seats, pregnant with another one, and Girl #1 began to whine, threatening to set off Girl #2.

I couldn’t blame PMS… hmmm…

Anyway, the disgusting, chewed up little pacifier that she was addicted to, stopped bobbing and hung from her mouth like a cigarette as she stared at me in disbelief—the mother who taught her not to say “shut up.”

I took a moment to apologize and to explain how adults don’t always act mature and calm and that I’ll try not to say it again.

That episode—a very small skeleton, was put into the closet in order to maintain the perfect mother fa├žade like some of my compadres had… and they still do. It amazes me how I still hear a gasp here and there when women are gossiping  talking about someONE who’s done someTHING considered bad, as if they’ve always had halos glowing around their heads.

Okay, so I’ve probably been guilty of that, too… once… maybe?

Why do we do that? (Guys, too.) Remember the bible scripture (paraphrased), “He who is without sin, cast the first stone.”

I don’t see any need for people to air their dirty laundry unless they want to; or unless they’re a politician or pastor or something. And even then, it depends on what the dirty laundry is. Shouldn’t we be allowed to live in the present and to anticipate the future without the mistakes of the past haunting us. Do we need to recall over and over what we should or should not have done? Does that help us avoid making the mistake again? Maybe it “wasn’t” a mistake, but something that others would disapprove of.

As privacy is important to me, the minor “shut up” skeleton is about as much as I will post on a blog, if it’s indeed, a skeleton at all. As I’ve grown older, I feel that skeletal incidents require major offenses, and only those warrant a strong opinion. I’m not planning any of those incidents as my trajectory is faring well.


Image found here.

Monday, June 3, 2013


Very tall and very thin, stud earrings line her multiple pierced ears. She dresses in long, colorful peasant skirts, fitted T-shirt tops, and sandals—a hippie look—complete with long, dark, wavy hair that contrasts with the lightest blue eyes.

Leanna keeps knitting needles and yarn in her sack, along with diapers, snacks, and trinkets for her young children. Sitting in the foyer of the piano studio waiting for our children’s class to begin, I ask her what she’s making.

“It’s a sweater for the baby.”

“Oh, pretty,” I respond, “I learned to knit when I was about eight and made a couple of easy scarves.”

Leanna says, “I’m teaching my girls to knit. I think it’s important for a woman to know how to keep her hands busy. When my husband is watching TV, I can sit with him and knit.”

I think that’s sweet, however, I change to feeling that I would take that time to do something that I want to do if I’m not interested in the game or whatever show my husband is watching.

Over the years, I’ve grown into a person who always has to be doing something. It has to be necessary, like cleaning or bill/home management; physically fun, like walking with friends or horseback riding; or mentally stimulating, like reading, writing, or doing puzzles. I watch TV, but it’s the news or talk shows, and even then, I’m working in the kitchen or having a meal. Once a week, though, I might sit and watch a show with my husband or the kids or have a phone conversation with a good friend or my mother; still I’m on the cordless phone—multitasking.

In a nutshell, the art of “calm” often escapes me.

The conversation with Leanna was about five years ago. I enjoyed seeing her and her six children and was intrigued by their lives. A homeschooling family, they lived on land where they raised chickens and owned a horse or two. She loved the recipes in Southern Living magazine and baked bread. She seemed peaceful, an amazing feat with six children (all born at home) competing for attention, though they mostly got it from each other. I remember someone incredulously asking her, “When do you have time for yourself?”

Calmly, she replied, “The kids are not allowed in my bedroom before 9 am and after a certain time at night. It’s the time my husband and I have our private time.”

I’m thinking of Leanna today as I sit in bed sewing my daughter’s swimsuit. Sparing the details, it is about a fifteen minute job. No one is home except Layla the dog who lies at my feet. It is quiet and I hear her breathing as I watch her chest rise and fall in dog unevenness. The house cracks. A plane flies over. Birds are chirping outside my window. A car turns around in my cul-de-sac. The air conditioner kicks on as the temperature rises, disturbing the white noise of my surroundings.

My mind is not racing or trying to concentrate on something. Simply, my hands are busy. I am calm.

Leanna knits. My husband and friends garden. A male neighbors tinkers in his garage. I get it.

What do you do to “busy your hands” to make you calm?

Image photographed by Anita