Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Watcha Got In There?

Do you ever look in someone’s grocery cart while waiting in the check-out line and try to figure out the owner’s traits based on the items he’s buying? The things we buy tell so much about us. I’m incredibly curious about people. I play the grocery game all the time. It feels a little sneaky, but I can’t help myself. Is the woman buying all those frozen dinners single? Why would an elderly man buy a trashy tabloid? Surely that young mother feeds her toddler something other than Spagettios?

I also look at my own cart and try to guess what it says about me. I’m sure it sends mixed messages. I’m a vegetable freak, but I can’t quite give up candy. Fellow shoppers are probably asking themselves, “Who buys cabbage and Milk Duds”? Or maybe they’re just wondering why I would buy cabbage.

Music choices are another telling item. A quick spin through my iPod would make anyone shake his head. AC/DC next to CeCe Winans? It seems a little wrong. I love music and collect quite a bit of it, but my choices are eclectic. I have a healthy dose of rock n roll, a little country, some gospel, a bit of reggae, a little hip hop and a LOT of Jimmy Buffett. Never any rap except that old Blondie song “Rapture”. I also like a lot of the new rock n roll and share music with my daughter. It’s a good way for us to bond. However, she was somewhat appalled at my dancing at the Matchbox Twenty concert we went to together a couple of years ago. I digress.

I rather like the fact that I send mixed messages about who I am. Keep ‘em guessing I say. I hope it’s hard for people to pigeonhole me into one particular category. I don’t want to be like everyone else. Take me like I am or leave me, but if you take me, realize that I’m pretty doggone nosey. Excuse me mam, is that Milk of Magnesia you have under that National Enquirer?

Monday, January 29, 2007

Life's Highway

It seems as if bad luck has recently surrounded several of my old friends from high school. Two former classmates lost their fathers this past week, one to a car wreck. Another friend lost everything she owns in a house fire right before Christmas. It breaks my heart for these folks to suffer these kinds of tragedies, but I guess it was inevitable as we age that life was going to hit us with some low blows.

In your teen years, you have such an idealistic view of the world that you expect only good things to happen to you and that you will live forever. It’s such a slap in the face to realize it isn’t true. I think it’s another symptom of aging in that you finally wake up to the notion that life is hard and that you are no different from the generations before you….you will suffer from time to time.

I don’t know whether to be glad or ashamed that it took me this many years to get that concept. I’m kind of glad that I lived in ignorance for a while. I’m also nervous about what lies ahead for me that I won’t see coming. Are there any airbags for this ride or am I speeding down life’s highway without a seatbelt? As I get older I just try to hang on tighter. It could be a bumpy ride. Please Lord, let there be a Dairy Queen or two along the way.

Friday, January 26, 2007

Take 'em Down

Gretchin Wilson made a lot of money singing about “leaving her Christmas lights on on the front porch all year long”, but I’m sure her redneck anthem was not meant to actually encourage people to do that. Apparently, some of my fellow citizens think otherwise. As I drive around town I am amazed at the people who have not yet taken down their Christmas decorations. It’s January 26th. The holidays are over people! Move on. That inflatable penguin that was so cute in December is January’s lawn trash. My husband jokes that there should be fines for leaving your holiday decorations up too long. I’m beginning to think he’s right. I say $50 for each reindeer sitting in your yard after January 10th, $25 for each lighted snowflake left dangling from your gutters and a walloping $100 for every inflatable left wadded up on the ground.

My neighbors finally removed the garland and bows from their front porch columns last weekend. Thank goodness. It was driving me crazy. I was beginning to think I would have to sneak over there at night and box them up under the cover of darkness. Don’t get me wrong. I’ve never been a “yard snob”. I don’t expect every blade of your grass to be artfully manicured or beautifully landscaped. I’m fine with dandelions and don’t really care that the neighborhood dogs have worn a path across my side yard. I consider those signs that a home has “life”. I am NOT fine with trash, cars on blocks and junk piled up outside, and by the end of January, Christmas decorations look like junk. As someone who works with others to attract new businesses and industries to our community, I know that prospects form opinions based on the appearance of our city. Christmas decorations left up for months at a time send them a very unflattering message. So, if you haven’t taken down your Christmas stuff yet, please do. Besides, if you don’t get it down soon, you won’t get your big plastic eggs in the yard in time for Easter.

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

Ten Wishes

Top ten odd wishes that come to mind on a slow Tuesday:
1. There were more cookies in the 100 calorie packages of Lorna Doones.
2. My lap dog didn’t have so much gas.
3. My gums weren’t receding…what on earth started this latest reminder of my age?
4. Girl Scout cookies were already here.
5. I didn’t need so much moisturizer. If one more body part starts to dry out or wrinkle, I will officially be bathing in Oil of Olay.
6. The straws in Arby’s drinks weren’t so tall that they scratch the roof of my mouth.
7. The tag in my shirt wasn’t so scratchy.
8. I could wear pajamas to work instead of shirts with scratchy tags.
9. I had a clue about what to fix for dinner.
And finally…10. I could care about the President’s state of the union address tonight. I REALLY REALLY want to care, but I'm just too tired of the rhetoric.

Monday, January 22, 2007

Do I have to love everybody?

Yesterday our preacher’s message was that as a Christian you don’t have to like everybody, but you do have to love them. I understand that notion and try REALLY hard to do that, but boy, is it tough with some folks. I really struggle with this one. I am idealistic, impatient and not very good at seeing my own faults. I also have a terrible time keeping my opinions to myself.
As I ponder the people I don’t like, I realize that most of them are bitter people. I hate being around bitter people. They zap my energy. Yet, I do reserve the right to have my own hostile moments. Who wouldn’t want to hear me gripe, right? I always wonder what has happened in their lives to make them that way. Were they abused as a child? Disappointed as adults? Often, they seem to have self esteem issues. It’s easier for them to feel better about themselves if they tear down others. A couple of the most chronically grouchy people I know go to my church. Are they not learning anything while they’re there? Or perhaps, it’s deeper than that. Perhaps, there are things going on in their lives that are so painful and hard that it’s difficult for them to be anything but grumpy. Perhaps, I’m too hasty in my judgment of them and too impatient with their quirks. After all, I expect patience with my eccentricities. Perhaps, they WOULD be nicer if someone consistently showed them love instead of a passing nod. And maybe, just maybe, I should have added a sincere,” How are you feeling?” to the lady I opened the door for yesterday instead of grumbling all the way to the car that she didn’t say “thank you” when I held the door. Whew! This loving your neighbor thing is hard work.

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

Try A Little Kindness

A trip to the mall this weekend with my elderly mother-in-law showed me just how ignorant many people are of the needs of the disabled. My mother-in-law will be 80 in February, and her mobility is declining. She uses a walker and lacks balance and strength in her lower legs. She cannot bend very far and has trouble putting on socks, shoes and pants. Trying on clothes in the store is impossible unless she has at least one other person to help her. My daughter went with us, and it took both of us to deal with all of the issues involved in finding my mother-in-law something to wear for her birthday party and dressy and casual shoes that accommodate her multiple foot problems. Cheers and Jeers are in order for the following:
1. Stores (almost all of them) that cram too much stuff together, making it impossible to manipulate a walker, a wheelchair or a stroller in between racks without knocking something over or getting stuck.
2. A lack of handicapped parking. There just isn’t enough, and unloading a disabled person at the front door and leaving them on the curb while you park the van a mile away is frightening.
3. Clerks with no consideration for people with special needs. If the customer says she doesn’t want pants with zippers because it’s hard for her to work the zipper STOP showing her pants with zippers.
4. Fellow shoppers who have no patience with slow moving shoppers. We try to move as fast as we can. And we try to stay on the perimeter, but it’s not always possible because of the crowded conditions. I know you’re in a hurry, but please don’t bump and jostle the handicapped because you can’t stand their pokiness.
5. Stores and manufacturers who charge outrageous prices for plus size clothing. I didn’t realize what a rip-off it is until I shopped with her yesterday. $109 for a blazer that I could buy in the misses department for $60? Please! And while I’m at it, how about some selection? Heavy people want fashion, too.

1. The shoe clerk who smiled and patiently waited while mom tried on a dozen pair of shoes, most of which were uncomfortable or couldn’t be put on without a special tool for those who can’t bend to touch their feet. I hope she made a decent commission on the two pair we did buy, and I hope she’s there the next time we go back.
2. The old family friends who smiled and pretended not to notice how much mom’s health has declined since the last time they saw her.
3. The clerk at the plus size store who knew her stuff and cheerfully directed us right to the pants we needed at the end of a long and tiring day when mom’s legs were about to give out.
4. My daughter who swallowed her 14-year old pride and gladly put socks and shoes on her grandma's feet in the middle of a crowded dressing room.
5. My husband who shuttles both of his parents to doctors appointments, medical tests, beauty shop appointments and nail appointments, dealing with these issues nearly every day.

If you are in a restaurant or store and find yourself getting impatient with the elderly or the disabled, I hope you will take a deep breath and remember that one day you or your loved one will be in the same situation. It’s tough, really tough and heartbreaking when strangers hurt their feelings.

Friday, January 12, 2007

Better than Diamonds or Furs

This is going to sound sappy, but I really feel the need to share with the world how blessed I feel about my husband. I hear a lot of women complain about their husbands and how they wished they had more help and/or support from their spouse. I just can’t complain. My mate has always been a big help around the house. Truth be told, he’s much better at cleaning and vacuuming than I am. (I’m terrible at it, even when I really try.) He doesn’t hesitate to pick up around the house and vacuum when needed. When our daughter was a baby and we would go to a restaurant he would watch her while I filled a plate so that I didn’t spend the entire “night out for mom” fussing over her and going hungry in the process. (It drives me CRAZY to see a family come into a restaurant with mom toting a tot on each hip and a diaper bag while dad drags in behind carrying nothing and then filling his face while mom spends the entire time feeding the kids.) Hubby recently retired, so now he spends part of his day shuttling our daughter to and from school and her activities. He washes clothes all week long and buys groceries on Fridays. It’s glorious!! His efforts make it so much easier for this working mom to juggle her responsibilities AND spend time with my family on nights and weekends. I also see how wonderfully he is taking care of his aging parents. It makes me feel secure he would take good care of me if I fell seriously ill. I know I have something special, and I don’t tell him enough that he is special…so I am today.

Thursday, January 11, 2007

Getting to Know Me

The recent news of the impending divorce of some friends of mine took me by surprise. I would never have guessed their marriage was in trouble. It made me realize that there is a lot you don’t know about the people around you, including people you think you know very well. What is it people don’t know about me? Probably more than I realize. Here are just a few items people don’t know about me. It’s not a shocking list. I’m an old boring married woman.
-I write poetry and songs and hope to write a novel one day. I save ideas and research that I think will be handy when I’m ready to put my plotline on paper.
-I play the flute..very poorly. I used to be much better but quit playing when I became an adult. A couple of years ago my husband bought me a flute for Christmas so I could take up the old habit. My failure to practice regularly is noticeable when I do play.
-My dream job is to be a Rockette. If they asked me today, I would pack my tights and head for New York.
-I have moments of shyness. Really! Those who are around me a lot find that hard to believe, but it happens.
-I’m more conservative on many political issues than I often sound. I’m just very vocal on certain issues and take the first amendment very seriously.
-I regret not getting my master’s while I was in college.
The fact that I don’t have any deep dark secrets is a relief, and I’m very fortunate in that I don’t have much stress and pain in my life right now. However, I realize there are probably several people close to me who do. I hope I’m perceptive enough to pick up on a little of that and make the right decisions in the way I approach that person. You just never know when someone needs a kind word or understanding for their sharp tongue.

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

Do you Know Where Your Children Are?

I will NOT be the 2007 recipient of the “Mother of the Year” award. How am I sure when it’s only the 10th day of January? I forgot my teenager yesterday…twice! She tutors children at an after school program on Tuesdays, so after work I pick her up and take her home before going to my Tuesday evening aerobics class at our church. Yesterday was the first time since Christmas break that she had been to the program, and it just did not dawn on me that she was there. At 5:05pm my cell phone rang and she laughingly asked me if I had forgotten to pick her up. “As a matter of fact, I did”, I told her. Fortunately, I was only a few blocks away and picked her up in a matter of minutes. She seemed only slightly offended that I had forgotten her, and we laughed about my scattered brain….a great response from a 14 year old whose moods fluctuate like spring breezes. Because I was now running late for my exercise class, she stayed with me and amused herself in the church library while I sweated to the oldies. After class I drove home, and walked in the back door to meet my puzzled husband who said, “Where’s the girl?”
“Oh, crap! I left her at the church.” I raced back to the church and found her standing under the canopy, shaking her head in disbelief that the woman who gave birth to her and nurtured her for the last fourteen years had forgotten her a SECOND time in the span of AN HOUR AND A HALF. Needless to say, I willingly gave in to her special request for pancakes for dinner.
What is wrong with me? I did not have a stressful day yesterday. I didn’t have a lot on my mind. I just couldn’t stay focused. I was and am still very embarrassed about it. Even though I work outside of the home, I have always worked very hard at making her feel loved and secure. I have been a room mother, chaperoned field trips (Can you believe other people trust me with their children???), volunteered at her schools and spent as much one on one time with her as possible. I have taken vacation days for us to have an occasional “girls day out”, and I feel like I am a pretty good listener, too. I feel as if I destroyed all of those efforts within an hour and a half. I’m just glad that she’s able to laugh about it and hope she doesn’t end up in therapy 20 years from now because of my parenting mistakes. On a positive note, I’m pretty sure I’m in the running for the “Head up the Butt” honors.

Monday, January 8, 2007

Things I Learned This Weekend

Lesson 1-The internet recipe for replicating White Kastle hamburgers does work, but it REALLY stinks up the house. You know it’s bad when you cook salmon the next day to cover up the burger smell. The next time I make these, I will fry them outside on the grill burner.

Lesson 2-Baked salmon patties are not nearly as good as those fried in butter.

Lesson 3-The caramel filling for homemade turtle cake is pretty close to the perfect “sweet”. Of course, it contains two of my favorite food groups, caramels and real butter. Eating it out of the pan is better than eating a slice of the finished cake.

Lesson 4-Children ALWAYS ask the question you most do not want to answer. My 14 year old daughter portrayed Jesus’ mother, Mary, in a program for small children at church Friday night. The first question one of the children asked her? “What’s a virgin?” She was mortified but handled it well.

If it seems I had food on my mind a lot this weekend, it’s because we are participating in a “Biggest Loser” competition with several friends. It lasts through April, and there are fines for backsliding. I am satisfied with my weight and am not actually dieting, but my husband is, so I will be supporting him with healthy meals and lots of encouragement. I also stepped up my exercise program last week after falling off the wagon for three weeks. Plenty of exercise allows me the luxury of occasional desserts and fats, but at age 42, it takes a LOT of exercise to maintain. I hate the calorie counter on the treadmill. It ticks away at a snail’s pace when I’m running. It must be broken! If, when I take a bite of something sinful, my mouth would hurt as bad as my thighs do when I’m running, I might not have to work so hard. My goal is to have abs of steel one time before I get old, hopefully, before my 25th class reunion this year. I think I’m already behind.

Thursday, January 4, 2007

Rain, rain go away

It’s raining AGAIN. I hate winter, so January is a long month for me. February seems to go fast, and March brings the anticipation of beautiful, glorious spring but January never seems to end. It drags by, bringing with it cold, damp and gloomy days. It makes me long for sunshine, heat and humidity. Really. I’m one of those people. I’ll take a sticky 95 degrees and bare feet over cold and coats any day. January makes me a little lonely, a little sad and a little mean. It makes me long for some of the things I love best: Tulips, peonies, the smell of wild onions and freshly cut grass, ripe, juicy homegrown tomatoes, homemade vanilla ice cream, a dip in the pool and days when the daylight seems to stretch on forever. A special bonus comes when the ice cream man stumbles upon our subdivision and blesses us with Nutty Buddies. One of these days when we quit remodeling our house and get our teenager raised, we’re going to take January vacations to tropical islands. Aruba would be nice. I love it there. Actually, I love all of the tropical places I’ve been (except Martinique). However, a quick internet check tells me it’s 82 degrees in Aruba today…..with RAIN in the forecast for the next few days. Someone wake me up when February gets here.

Wednesday, January 3, 2007

Meaningful Resolutions

A new year brings about an opportunity to evaluate our lives and set new goals for ourselves. Some resolutions come to mind easily, such as losing weight or cleaning out closets. Being able to wear skinny jeans seems so superficial, though. As I listen to people list their resolutions, I wonder just how much time we actually spend evaluating our lives in ways that help us to make meaningful changes in ourselves. Sometimes we’re so busy living life that we don’t take the time to think about how we’re living it. The first chapter of “A Purpose Driven Life” starts with the statement, “It’s not all about you”. It is true that life seems so much more fulfilling when we strive to serve others before we satisfy ourselves. I found an article that I thought was a great way of prompting people to begin a self evaluation that focuses on helping others. It’s written by Jill Geisler of the highly respected Poynter Institute for journalists in St. Petersburg, Florida. Here are the questions she posed during a presentation in Milwaukee on getting the most out of life:

1.) Who have you helped lately, with nothing in it for you but the joy of seeing others succeed?

2.) What have you cared about so much that you would put it in writing? A sincere thanks? A love note? Praise for a job well done? If anyone wrote you a “praise note” during your career, you probably still have it. They are that meaningful.

3.) What tradition have you carried on -- or started?

4.) Which of your assumptions have you challenged lately? If you aren't challenging your assumptions, can you really say you are learning? If you aren't challenging your assumptions, can you really say you are doing your best to resolve conflicts in your life?

5.) How did you help someone have a great day at work or home? Do you know what their "great day" would be?

6.) Who would say you've really listened to them lately? Really listened?

7. What risk have you taken recently?

8.) What connections have you made or renewed?

9.) What have you done for fun lately?

Honestly answering these questions left me feeling guilty and somewhat ashamed of my stubbornness and procrastination. I will compose my new list of goals while working my way into skinny jeans on the treadmill this afternoon.

Tuesday, January 2, 2007

Has anyone seen Christmas?

At the risk of sounding like Scrooge, let me say thank goodness the holidays are over. Christmas comes hard and fast at our house, taxing our ability to multitask and wringing the spirit out of our tired bodies. Too much running, too much spending and way too much cooking and eating zaps my enthusiasm for what should be a joyous time. During the last two years, we have made an effort to pare back on holiday excess and savor the truly important moments. While it has helped, we still find ourselves running in circles. Next year I’m tempted to skip the presents and make a significant donation instead to my favorite charity. My only obligations would be attending church on Christmas Eve and spending time with our families on Christmas day. When I pitched this idea to a few friends recently, they looked at me as if I were crazy. Am I the only person who feels as if Christmas has gotten way out of hand? Much of our holiday celebrating has nothing to do with our religious faith, and I am troubled by that. I don’t wear Christmas sweaters. My cell phone doesn’t play “Jingle Bells” in December. My car doesn’t have a wreath on the grill, and plastic candy canes do not line my driveway. And I would rather have a root canal than shop at the mall on the day after Thanksgiving. I truly am not grumpy about the hectic pace of the holidays. I just wonder how we got to this point and how far it will go before the majority of people throw their hands in the air and say “enough”. My goal this year is to buy at least one Christmas present a month in order to have my shopping done before December. I also plan to try cooking and freezing several desserts a few weeks ahead of time so that I spend less time in front of the stove in December. Check with me in May to see how I’m doing!