Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Warning Label.

The universe needs to come up with warning labels on everything so that I'm never, ever inadvertently saddened by something that had absolutely nothing to do with me.

I recently put a bunch of blogs in my feed reader to get to at a later time.

I happily sat down to start reading the 302 things in my reader tonight.  I'm tired and moderately grouchy. It's my own fault.  I was out way too late last night with old friends which was totally worth it.  But, you know, now I'm tired.  That means that my mood can turn on a dime, even more so than on the days when I'm well-rested and more properly hinged.

Anyway, I start reading this new blog that I know nothing about, except that this woman has had some recognition in the blogging community.  In the first post I read, I find out she's wheelchair bound, in a nursing home and talking about her family leaving her there on Christmas.  (Please don't misunderstand, I'm sure the blog is great and in fact other posts she wrote, because of course I kept reading, were good.)

Inevitably, when I read things about women with children who are in nursing homes (and a variety of other far less obvious things) I can't help but think of my own mother and myself and our situation.  And, as you could imagine, it's depressing.

Usually, I joke and laugh off the situation and act like it was all totally normal.  I will tell you the story matter-of-factly as though most people have moms who go into a wheelchair the night of their high school graduation and just never get out of it.  And it's absolutely common place for a 25 year old to have to call a family meeting to tell her mother that she just can't live home anymore and she has to go to a nursing home.  And that 25 year old, with the help of others, will pack up the whole house, sell it (and 75% of the contents) and it will all be done and taken care of and it's just normal.  This stuff just happens every day.

And then, I read things like that blog, and like a punch in the stomach it hits me how immensely NOT NORMAL it all was.  It just isn't.  It's sad and infuriating and depressing.  That was my mother - not some random woman, not some blog that I'm reading about.  She was the woman who gave birth to me and raised me and I lived in her house with her for 22 years.

And now, after all of the crazy nonsense, she is gone.

Allow me to digress for one moment.  She isn't gone, like on vacation, she's dead.  All that stuff happened and then one day it just stopped happening.  Just like that.  She died.  And I generally talk about that like she went out to run an errand or something and she'll be back in a few minutes.  But that isn't what happened.

So I'm sure I'm a therapist's dream.  I'm sure that if provoked there would be floodgates opening or whatever other metaphor there is for people having a complete emotional breakdown.

In a way I'm annoyed that I read that blog.  It turned me off to reading tonight and then I felt the need to write this.  Honestly, I started out sad and now I'm just angry.  At this moment, I have no idea if I'll hit publish.  I don't want people to feel sorry for me or to feel badly or even to make them sad.  I don't want some other random person who can identify with this to have that punch in the gut moment.

Normal people (and we've established that I'm not, despite desperate attempts to appear as such) would talk about their feelings.  But not me.  I'll either save this indefinitely as a draft or I'll hit publish and people will read this and I still won't deal with it because by the time anyone reads this I'll be out of this mood and back into safe mode and I'll just pretend like it didn't happen to me but it happened to some other person, some other family.

And life goes on.  SpongeBob is going to end and I have to give my kid a bath and put him to bed.  I'll eat dinner, watch TV, go to sleep and wake up tomorrow and just go about my business.  Because really, what else am I going to do?  And I'll be normal and no one will know if I'm in the midst of a moment or if I'm not or what I'm thinking.

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Thursday, December 22, 2011

Christmas Present.

I would like to make a few suggestions, if I may be so bold.

Don't, under any circumstances, contract some sort of plague that causes you extreme neck discomfort for 3 weeks in December.  Don't let yourself get a virus or cold.  No sore throat, no fatigue, no general malaise.

Also off limits in December?  Bright Ideas.  Don't decide that you want to change your entire career path (one weekend at a time over what you assume will take years).  Don't dream big, make wishes or, be hopeful.  Don't set your sights on a goal and then spend every free minute cultivating it.

Finally, don't watch about 12 episodes of The Secret Life of the American Teenager in less than 2 days.  Actually you shouldn't do this ever, not just in December.  Especially not if you're 35.

Christmas should not come as a surprise to anyone.  It's December 25th.  Every year!  And yet somehow, it snuck up on me.  I kept saying that I'd buy presents another day.  I'd wrap the presents I did buy another day.  I'll plan a menu for Christmas dinner another day.  I'll maybe send cards this year.  I could even make cookies.  I will clean the house!  I mean, I am off on Fridays, surely I can fit in these holiday tasks.

All of a sudden, it's December 22nd.  I need to wrap teacher gifts tonight since tomorrow is the last day of school before Christmas.  And on Tuesday afternoon, I realized that I somehow missed the notice that school closes at 1pm tomorrow, so I don't actually have until 5pm to get stuff done child free as I thought. So my last Me Friday before the holiday was last week when I did NOT get done all the things I should have because I wasn't feeling great.

As I write this, it's Thursday night at 6:44.  I knew I wanted to write a Christmas Present post for tomorrow, and I'm doing it now instead of any number of the other holiday things I should be doing.  So between now and Christmas morning, I have the following items on my agenda:  finish and publish this post, wrap teacher gifts, wrap Nathan's gifts, buy and wrap my husband's presents (yes, you read that right, I'm not done shopping!), buy food for the week plus Christmas dinner, including cookies for Santa, buy additional stocking stuffers for Nathan, clean the house, go to acupuncture, have lunch with a friend, have Christmas Eve dinner with other friends.  I think that's it.  Of course I have my husband to help me with much of this and of course I can probably give up some TV time to accomplish these tasks.  And of course I should not be putting writing this ahead of the other stuff that needs doing.

I'm not as in the spirit this year as I usually am.  There are a lot of factors, it was a hectic season and being ill on and off for most of it definitely made it harder.  Working in an industry with a big crunch time at the end of the year is also a real mood-killer.  I don't know where my John Denver and the Muppets:  A Christmas Together CD is and I really need that.  And the South Park Christmas album.  These are the things that get me in the mood.
Flash Forward:  It's now Saturday morning, December 24. Yesterday I was up by 4:45.  I ran around like a maniac, had lunch with an old friend (which on top of the great company was a great opportunity to sit down for a little while!), did most of the laundry, some of the cleaning, the rest of the shopping, most of the wrapping.  I forgot to buy one of those stupid foil pans for baking the ham (roasting pan needed replacing LAST year, didn't happen), so it's back to the grocery store for me later.  The whole house was up at 4 today, so there's threat of a family nap (who wants to take bets on whether or not that actually happens?).  The rest of the chores need to get done today so that we can have company tomorrow and I just brewed a pot of full-caf coffee so that maybe they can.

Tonight we'll have the aforementioned dinner with friends, Nathan will get to open one gift (the joke's on him because it's jammies and a robe!) and then he will be shuffled to bed as quickly as humanly possible.  Tomorrow will be a fun day for us, gifts and snacks and dinner with family.  In a way, I'll be glad to have it over and get back to normalcy - a term I use loosely - but I'll also be a little sad that I'm not as into it.  Who knows if next year will be any better or different, but maybe I'll actually try to plan a bit for it.

Merry Christmas to all of you who celebrate.  If you don't celebrate, then I wish you the happiest of holidays that you do celebrate.  May the season be filled with whatever it is that makes you happy and makes it important to you.  And thank you, all of you, who read this blog and encourage me.  That's the best gift I could receive, for sure.
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Sunday, December 18, 2011

Christmas Past.

With Christmas one week away, I have many thoughts about this season racing through my head.  If I was a planning sort of gal, I would have started a series years ago and posted something about the holiday all month long.  But I'm not a planning sort of gal.  Well I am, but I'm also a skilled procrastinator.

Christmas was always a big deal in my house growing up.  As children, my brother and I loved getting presents, but that wasn't all of it for me.

My mom was a crafter before she got sick.  She used to spend the fall selling the items she made at local craft fairs.  I don't know if she made a lot of money or not, but I know it helped to make a nice holiday for us.  She would have loved Etsy.  I see stuff on there now and think, "My mom could have made that and this woman wants $20 for it!"  My mom used to make many presents for us.  Some years were not so good, like the pink and white individual tissue pack cozy (I've mentioned this before).  One year my brother got a crocheted E.T. doll and I was so jealous ("I liked the movie, too, you know!") so she made me a smaller version and we called him E.T.'s nephew.  I can't remember his name though, shame on me. I think it was Wilbur.

Another year, she outdid herself.  I had really wanted a Barbie closet and clothes to fill it.  My mom took an old Thom McCann shoebox, covered it with contact paper and hung a string.  She bought the Barbie hangers, but then she actually crocheted and entire wardrobe for my Kmart Barbie knockoffs.  I'm not sure if you've ever tried to crochet, but it's hard enough with regular size yarn.  Doing it with what basically amounts to string to make clothes small enough for a Barbie must have been really difficult.  That meant so much to me, even as a child.

My mom used to decorate so much.  Many of our decorations were hand made.  She had carolers, candles with holly around the bases, wreaths, ornaments, and garland, all made of yarn.  Some were crocheted, some were plastic canvas.  She made our stockings herself.  I loved hers, it looked like a fancy Victorian boot.  Mine was the classic stocking shape.  Every year when I asked why I couldn't have a pretty one like she did, she'd tell me that Santa needed kids to have bigger ones and hers was small.  Seemed like a good enough reason for me.  My brother's stocking was blue and green, my favorite colors then.  Mine was pink and cream (it may have started out white, my parents were smokers, so anything cream in our house COULD have been white at some point) and I used to ask if I could trade with my brother.  The answer was no.  I believe my father had a fancier one too, light blue and white, in an old fashioned style.  This was also not an option for me to take.  Pink stocking it was then.

Christmas day was always fun.  My brother and I would wake up way too early and then wake up our parents.  Every year we'd fight over who woke up our father last year, and every year I'd somehow lose and have to do it.  This involved crawling on the floor and reaching up to poke him.  As a Vietnam Vet with some pretty wicked PTSD, you didn't dare wake him up while standing next to him unless you wanted to get punched.  He didn't mean to, but he was so easily startled that it was ridiculous.  After waking them, we'd sit at the top of the stairs, waiting for them to do whatever it is that takes parents SO LONG to get out of bed when you're a kid.  We'd inch down little by little to try to get a glimpse of the presents.  When we ran downstairs, we'd find an abundance of boxes, all wrapped in the same brown paper wrapping with big Js and Ms on them in green and red markers.  Thinking back, I'm sure there wasn't the bounty I remember, but isn't it sweeter to remember it as a bounty?

After gifts, we'd have breakfast.  My parents would make bacon, eggs and toast.  We'd have juice and they'd have coffee.  After breakfast, we'd play with our new toys while everyone got dressed, the Yule log on TV, and that (insert expletive) Julie Andrews Christmas cassette my mother loved so much playing in the background.  We'd also start eating some of the goodies that were on the dining room table for guests - Pepperidge Farms cookies and Christmas chocolates my mom used to make.  We'd make fun of my mother for liking those stupid anisette cookies she loved - Pfefferneuse or something like that?  Those were the worst, but she loved them.

My father's family would come over for a while.  We'd see my mom's side of the family later, and they were infinitely more fun than my dad's family.  We'd open more presents, play, and just have fun.  If my uncle did the cooking, you could count on it being absolutely delicious.  Usually my grandparents would come back to our house to see what we had received from Santa.  All in all it was a great day.  My mom would always ask, "Did you have a nice Christmas?" I hope I always said yes and thank you, but I don't remember that part.

When I was 10, in August of 1986, my parents separated.  Shortly after that my mom started showing signs of getting sick.  My brother and I were getting older.  Christmas was never the same.  My mom, for a variety of reasons I'm sure, didn't "put in the effort" to make the day like she used to.  At the time I  recall her saying something about how we never appreciated anything.  But I know she just couldn't do it anymore.  I don't blame her or fault her, it's one of the many things from my childhood I look back on that just was.

It's one week until Christmas.  I don't think I'm "putting in the effort" like my mom used to when I was my son's age.  30 years from now, when he is about to turn 35, I wonder what Nathan will remember about the holidays and life in general.  I hope he remembers that even if I don't decorate like a maniac or hand-make his gifts or make chocolate or bake cookies, or whatever other things Supermoms do, that I love him very much and anything and everything that does get done, is because I love him.  I hope that when he remembers Christmas, he remembers all of the great stuff:  family, parties with friends, eating cookies after we decorate the tree, writing a letter to Santa and leaving out cookies and carrots.  I hope he remembers the love and excitement he feels as a child, long after life gets in the way and the magic of his youth is gone.

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Friday, December 16, 2011

Random Thoughts

I read somewhere during my "better blogging" research that blog post titles should be short and attention grabbing.  They should give the reader a good indication of what information is within the blog and make them want to read it.  This post is going to be about as random as they come, so you can't say you weren't forewarned.

I require a lot of sleep.  To feel rested regularly, I need about 9-10 hours per night. That's pretty hard to get, so on weekends, pre-child of course, I used to catch up by sleeping in or napping.  Now I average 5-7 hours of sleep.  There's this theory out there that says that every hour of sleep you don't get that you need contributes to your sleep debt.  So, if I miss one hour tonight and one hour tomorrow, I need 2 hours extra the next night to be even.  I remember the last night I had before my sleep became permanently disjointed.  It was in May of 2006.  I was in a hotel in Atlanta on a business trip and I had just found out I was pregnant a few days earlier.  I had traveled that morning, did some business things that afternoon and then slept 12 solid hours from 7pm to 7am the next day.  I think I can count on one hand the number of times I've gotten 8 or more uninterrupted hours of sleep since then.  Folks, that was 2006.  I am tired and I have a tremendous sleep debt.

The other night during one of my many episodes of insomnia, I wrote an entire blog post in my head about flannel sheets.  Fortunately for you, I eventually fell asleep and forgot the whole thing.

I never say "folks" out loud.  I write it a lot, but I never say that.  That's kind of weird.

I hate it when I know what I'm going to have for lunch and I'm looking forward to it so much that I can't bring myself to eat breakfast because it isn't the thing that I want.

In 2005, my cholesterol was 210.  I spent the next year eating better and exercising regularly.  By the same time the next year, it dropped to 172.  I was pretty impressed with this.  Since then, I have started eating terribly, gained about 25 pounds (that's after I gained and lost about 35 during pregnancy), and I do not exercise regularly anymore.  I had my cholesterol tested again last week, it's only 175.  I cannot even fathom how this is possible.  

I have noticed a tremendous amount of people who do not know how to yawn in public.  Perhaps it's the fact that I am totally repulsed by teeth (even my own), but I don't want to look in your mouth.  Please cover it if you're not in your own home.  And I know, we all have those yawns that sneak up on us.  Some are big, I get that.  But for the love of olive, try to catch it as soon as possible after it begins.  One last thing - that yelling that so many people like to do during a yawn to let the world know how tired they are?  Annoying.  Stop it.  You're tired.  I get it.  We all are.  Have I told you about my sleep debt?

I had guys here this morning inspecting the chimney and making some minor repairs.  In the 40 or so minutes they were here, the one guy told me his name no less than 6 times.  "My name is Chris, if you have any questions."  He also told me that he "can't believe it's almost Christmas" twice.  Then, as we're going through the invoicing process, he tells me it's starting to get cold, winter is coming, it's windy and cold, you can tell it's almost Christmas because it's cold.  As I'm walking him out, he told me to have a nice day, stay warm (because it's cold out), have a nice Christmas, enjoy my holiday, have a great day and to try not to get too cold.  He was a nice guy though.

I will admit to typing LOL in texts and Facebook comments.  I assure you though, that if I write it, I did it.  I don't LOL willy-nilly.  I feel like a lot of people type LOL but they don't really mean it.  I tried to get GOL (Giggle Out Loud) to catch on, but it didn't take.  I never say LMAO.  Look at me.  Clearly you know that's not the case.  And I love when people put LOL at the end of a Facebook status that is not at all amusing, let alone Laugh Out Loud-able.  For example:  I ate a tuna sandwich today for lunch lol.  Ugh.  This really aggravates me.  Have you seen ROTFLMAO?  Yeah, IMHO, that's just gilding the lily.

I vacuum my house at least weekly.  That means I *actually* do it weekly, but I think about doing it other days.  So this is what I get when I vacuum the first floor of my house after only 6 days.  This is both disgusting and ridiculous.  You would think I had 12 dogs and a family of coal miners living here.

After Thanksgiving, I moved the last two pumpkins out of the house. There was a medium size one and then one of those baby ones you get for about a dollar.  Something took the baby one and did this to the medium one.  I think the teeth marks are cute.  Nathan says he misses the baby one.

I just figured out how to add photos to the blog.  Isn't that exciting?  Isn't it unfortunate the first ones I chose to share here?

Remember how I mentioned that I had done some research on creating better blog posts?  One of the other things I found out is that in order to keep the reader engaged and wanting more, the post or article should have very strong beginning and ending paragraphs.  This blog post has neither.  I hope you'll forgive me.

Thanks for reading!  If you find me at all amusing, please consider following this blog.  You can also share it with your friends on Facebook and Twitter.  There are icons for that around here somewhere...

Sunday, December 11, 2011

What I'm Not.

If you spend any time out in the Blogosphere, you find out that there are a lot of different niches for bloggers.  I enjoy posts by many of them.  One day, as a service to all of you, maybe I'll provide a list of some of my favorite bloggers.  This isn't that day.  Today, I was trying to think of what my niche is.  All I can come up with is what my niche isn't.

1.  Food Bloggers.  I love to read food blogs, I love to find new recipes to salivate over.  Obviously, I love to eat. What I don't love to do is write about food.  I am not going to tell you about the complexities of flavors and hints of this and that.  I can't write, or speak for that matter, like a Food Network star.  You know all this "and them I'm going to do a blah, blah sauce to serve with a blah, blah..."  No.  This won't be happening.  Don't get me wrong, I love to talk about what I'm eating, especially on Facebook where I can say it in one sentence.  I will take a picture of food and post it to my page.  But expertly "plate" it and photograph it and explain it and all that?  Not happening.

2.  Urban Homesteader.  Another type of blog I love to read is the Urban Homesteader.  If you're not familiar with this topic, it's people who are, in a nutshell, working to create all that they need and to live as sustainably as possible on their own land.  Most garden, some raise livestock.  There is a focus on cooking basically everything from scratch, using only whole foods.  Many are inspired by Ma Ingalls (and I'm pretty sure there is a book that lead that sector of the movement).  At any rate, I love reading about this.  I love the whole concept.  Sometimes I wonder if I love the idea as a way to stick it to the man and the grocery store industry.  I also love the idea of saying I don't need any one or any thing and especially not your pre-packaged whatever because I can just Do It Myself (stomps foot like 2 year old).  But the truth is that's not me.  I really don't cook from scratch as much as I should.  I don't COOK at all as much as I should for that matter!  I'm not about to raise animals and I don't have time for gardening.  I'm going to pop on down to Stop and Shop or Target or whatever and get what I need.  But, alas, a girl can dream, can't she?

3.  Grocery Geek, Crazy Couponer (or worse, Krazy Kouponer), Deal Seeker.  Whatever you want to call this - yeah, no.  If you look back on my archives, you'll see that I attempted to go this route for a while.  Let me explain to you the trouble with this.  If one is to get the best deals, clip the coupons, match up the sales, drive all over creation buying this stuff, stockpiling, rotating said stock and so on, one needs to not have a life outside of this.  I have a child and a job and TV to watch.  That takes a LOT of time.  Most of what you get doing this is processed foods which doesn't mesh well with my Ideals.  And worse yet, it's boring!  Go ahead, read the blog I wrote where I tell you how many muffin mix boxes I got for a quarter or whatever it was.  Then when you wake up, come back and finish this.  Seriously.  Snooze-fest.  I will say though, I'm interested in what other people write in this genre.  Please don't ask me why, I do not know.

4.  Frugal Living.  This one's a toughy for me.  I love the concept of being frugal.  Until, of course, I hit that moment when I just don't care what it costs as long as I get done what I need to get done.  By the time I come to terms with the fact that I actually need to and will buy something, I'm not about to go deal hunting.  I just want to get it and get on with my life.  That goes for groceries (and yes, I often have to come to terms with having to buy them), clothes, shoes, household goods, etc.  I don't have time to think of clever ways to reuse a milk jug, I'll just recycle it.  If I read a good money saving post, great.  Maybe I can utilize the tips.  But as frugal as it may be to make my own laundry soap, I just don't have time for that (remember, I have TV to watch!).  I wish I did.  I feel very First World, sort of spoiled, that I don't try harder to spend less.  I would love to say that I'm not in that season of life right now (another blog-y phrase!), and that may be true.  I'm certainly not at a point where I can give any advice on the matter.  And there are so many that do it already, why reinvent the wheel?

5.  Mommy Bloogger (or at least I hope I'm not).  It's no secret that I have a kid.  It's no secret that I find  him to be seriously cute.  I find him hilarious, bright and, did I mention, cute?  He's a real whipper-snapper, that one.  But do you really want me to write about him all the time?  Being a Mommy is a huge part of my identity, but it's not the only part.  Sometimes there's an interesting or funny story to tell, but often it's just daily life.  The same stuff that goes on in the households of many other mommies who don't blog.  I could go the You Are Not Alone route, but you already know you're not.  You probably have friends to commiserate with over the trials and tribulations of parenting.  And I certainly have no wisdom to give on gentle or creative disciplining, or getting your kid to eat or behave.  I'm not a SAHM, nor am I doing so well I'm going to be featured in next month's Working Mother magazine.  We do ok.  Some days better than others.  There's not much to report.

6.  Insert Random Hobby Blogger.  What are my hobbies?  Hmmm.  Watching TV, reading blogs, writing blog posts, learning more about writing. I cook, I clean, I work.  These are not hobbies, these are chores.  I don't really have a hobby I'm so passionate about that I want to write about it at least weekly.  Except maybe writing, but writing about my writing sounds like something no one would read.  And since I'm no expert, I have no advice to give.  On anything.

So where does that leave me?  I can't believe I'm going to say this out loud, so to speak, but could I be...  a writer who entertains you? Can I be funny?  Could I be thought-provoking?  Could this be the Seinfeld of blogs (you know, it's about nothing and yet content keeps popping up)?  I don't know.  I guess it could be.

I've been toying with the notion of adding some regular features.  Many of the bloggers I follow have some themes:  5 Minute Friday (write for 5 minutes, no editing, etc. and just let it flow), What I Wore Wednesday (yeah, there's no WAY I'm taking pictures of myself in an outfit, but you get the point), Frugal Friday, Works for Me Wednesday (sharing a tip of some sort), Sunday Still Life (photos)...  I like the idea of having a feature people can count on, I just don't know the topic yet.  Somehow it feels presumptuous to have a topic for people to "tune in" to weekly.  Who am I to assume people care?  Am I really giving myself too much credit here or do I just need to get over myself.  (Incidentally, I was just telling a friend about my need for some professional therapy.  This would be the point of today's post where you agree with that statement.  Another blog for another day, my friends...)

If you've scanned my content pre-August 2011 you know that I wrote a lot about goal setting (another winner topic there, folks!).  At the risk of rehashing that nonsense, I do hope to grow this blog in the new year.  I'm hesitant to call it a resolution, since I'm terrible at keeping those.  I have Plans, Ideas and Intentions for this space that I will be focusing on after December is behind me.  So, if you'll indulge me, here are some questions for you.

What would you like to see here - do you have a favorite kind of post?
If I ever figure out how to get the email subscribe button on the blog, would you sign up?
What do you think of the weekly feature idea - clever or corny?
What kind of blogs do you hate (for those negative types)?
Would you read my rantings ramblings writings more often than weekly?
Anything else you want to say?

I'm not looking for praise or fishing for compliments here (though I love them and they humble me and I appreciate them more than you can ever know), I'm looking for real constructive feedback.  I want this blog and my writing to grow and prosper and Be Something someday.  I want to earn the title Writer.  I simply can't do that without you, Reader!

Thanks for reading!  If you find me at all amusing, please consider following this blog.  You can also share it with your friends on Facebook and Twitter.  There are icons for that around here somewhere...

Friday, December 9, 2011

Can I Have That Someday?

"Can I have that someday?"

If I had a nickel for every time I heard my son utter that phrase, I'd be able to buy him about half of what he asks for.  And now that it's the holiday season, I hear it even more.  He doesn't beg or cry or whine, but he asks constantly for things.  My standard reply is, "Sure, maybe someday."  I don't even look at what it is anymore.  Someday is pretty broad, so I figure even if he has to buy it himself when he has kids I won't have been lying.

With his birthday and Christmas right around the corner, I'm able to add to my response by reminding him that gift-giving occasions are coming up and he won't be getting anything until then.  This only delays the inevitable though.

Really, I don't know who to blame.  I mean, he's a kid.  Isn't it their job to express desire for things?  Would I be any less annoyed by his material wanting if he simply told me he liked something or something looked like fun?  I doubt it.  And is it wrong that my first response (in my head, not out loud) is that usually the thing is stupid, overpriced and will probably not work half as well as the commercial or box claims it will?

I try reminding him that he's a lucky boy and certainly gets a lot more than I did growing up.  Money is not as tight for our family as it was for the one I grew up in, plus he doesn't have a sibling to have to share the wealth with.  He's probably spoiled.  And sometimes kind of bratty.  I'm not sure he wouldn't act this way even if we did not have as much.  I think gratitude is a difficult thing to learn at his age.  He doesn't have any concept of what it takes for us to get what he has, nor does he really understand that some people don't have even the basic necessities.  Having grown up in a house where I was made very aware that we did not have money did not make me more thankful for what we did have.  It could be the way that was presented to me, but that's another blog post for another day.

I did not become aware of how hard it is to provide for a family and juggle all of the expenses of home ownership, food, health care, savings, vehicles, insurance and, dare I say it, some luxuries until I had a family of my own.  That's not to say we've always had easy times, certainly their were leaner ones, but it didn't hit me until I had a child endlessly asking for things that I realized how lucky I am that I don't have to say, "Absolutely not and probably never."  Maybe truly means what I'm saying - maybe you can have it, if I want you to have it.  Maybe not all of it, definitely some of it, never all at once.  That's a very different answer than I received from mother who was crocheting us Christmas presents for the better part of my childhood (pink individual tissue pack cozy, anyone?).

It occurs to me that until he has to have responsibility and work for the things he wants, he probably won't feel the value of those things.  He will be 5 in a few short weeks and I'm beginning to think it's time for some small chores, perhaps a small stipend.  But will that really do anything?  Let's say I give him a dollar every week when he does a chore. He takes the dollar and puts it in his bank. Then what?  Save it for college or a car or some other thing that he can't relate to?  He knows he has a savings account for that stuff but it means nothing to him.  Sure I could let him spend it on a treat or a small toy, but I'm not sure that teaches anything.  I could make him save up for something, but he has not yet expressed a desire to save up for anything except the time he said he was going to save up to buy popcorn on our upcoming vacation to San Diego.  He also thought popcorn cost a stillion dollars at the zoo the previous year, so clearly he wasn't quite getting it.

As usual, I don't have the answers.  There are things I could try, books and articles from the experts I could read or advice I could seek from family, friends and the public at large.  I'm not sure any of it will do what I really think will just take time and experience on his part to learn.  I just hope he looks back on his upbringing and realizes he had all he needed and more.  Even if I won't buy him the Crayola Crayon Make ($26??  Really? To make crayons? No thank you.)

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Friday, December 2, 2011


Sunday marks what would have been my grandmother's 88th birthday.  12 days later marks the 13th anniversary of her passing.  So many things remind me of her and I think of her so often.  December always feels like Grandma Month to me.

I was lucky to live very close to my grandparents while I was growing up.  I spent every Saturday at their house.  In the summer, my grandmother would carry around a little radio so she could keep track of the baseball game that was on.  Her favorite team was the Mets and I actually knew some of the players' names.  One of her other hobbies was puzzles.  Often you'd find partially finished ones in the house and I loved when she'd let me help.  I was not a good help at all though because they were very difficult.  I think she had one that was all one color, or something equally complicated.  My favorite one had all the pieces shaped like salamanders.  I loved to take that one out to play with.

Grandma's house was always prepared with the snacks we never had at home.  She drank soda (fun brands like Tab and Shasta and Vintage) but always had a bottle of Shop-Rite brand for the kids.  She had great flavors like grape and orange and root beer (she pronounced root to rhyme with foot, not toot) and birch beer.  My brother and I had our own special cups too.  Mine was Strawberry Shortcake.  There was always Cheez-Its or ice cream (or both!) in the house.  And Oreos and Devil Dogs.  I didn't like the Devil Dogs, which she knew, but my brother did.  She used to get me "finger cookies," which were Keebler Fudge Stripes.  You could put your finger through the hole and it was like you had a cookie on a stick.

We always stayed for dinner on Saturday night.  One of her specialties was Spanish Rice, which was a recipe from the back of a Minute Rice box.  That recipe card was so old I think it was actually from the first box ever made.  What cracked me up was that she always took out the recipe and yet it always tasted different.  As she got a little older (and a little more forgetful) she would forget if she added salt.  She did not find it so funny the day no one could eat the rice because it was so salty.  She was an avid food-salter. She always referred to ground beef as "ground round" and I never knew what she meant.  She also made "Quick Spaghetti" and I really never understood how it was different from the never-mentioned "Slow Spaghetti."

Great days were when I'd enter the house and she was making lasagna (she cubed the mozzarella cheese so there were always chunks mixed in rather than a layer) or making fried chicken.  These were infrequent, so they were all the more special.  She was often peeling potatoes when I would arrive (and I LOVE potatoes) but sometimes she's serve them boiled (yuck!) instead of mashed (yay!).  I remember standing on the step stool, which I now use in my house) to help mash when I got older.  I felt special when she let me do that - like I was one of the grown ups.  Don't ask me why that was so important to me when I was only about 5 years old, but it was.

And a really not favorite day was when she was peeling carrots.  Carrots have never been my favorite vegetable, but when you boil them to mush they are 10 times worse.  It just didn't bode well for the meal.  For example, there was the carrot, ground round, boiled potatoes with onion stew that a friend once told me looked like prison food.  Everything tasted like carrots.  Then there was ground round mixed with onions with sides of boiled potatoes and boiled carrots.  My mother and grandmother would just mix the whole thing up on their plates, so I never really understood what was the point of not making it in the same pot.  I guess so the kids would eat more of the stuff that wasn't soaked in carrot juice.  And then there was the best of all in this genre, the "hamburg patty" with mashed potatoes and boiled carrots on the side.  At least the carrots weren't canned. And truly, beggars can't be choosers and I'm thankful that she fed me, lest anyone think I'm an ingrate.

After dinner my grandmother would always indulge me in endless games.  Crazy Eights, Go Fish, Life, Camp Grenada (these were my aunt's games from when she was younger).  She almost never said no to playing a game.  At the end of the night we could always count on getting our backs scratched (sometimes my brother and I at the same time) and she never complained.  Never.

One of the greatest things I remember was how she never smothered the children.  I saw this mostly with my cousins who are quite a few years younger than I am, but I'm told she was this way with us too.  She'd watch the kids play - just sit back and watch.  And she'd say that you just have to let children come to you and they always do.  My grandfather was more the type to try to engage the children, sometimes against their will (and I mean that as kindly as I can) but my grandmother didn't do things that way.  There was a sweetness about it that I haven't ever seen in another person.

Grandma used to play the lottery.  I'm pretty sure it was daily.  And she had this elaborate record keeping system and formula for doing something to calculate the numbers.  I do not have the slightest idea what she did with those numbers, but every night she'd write them down on 1/2 sheets of paper, then do some THING with them, make boxes around some.  I don't know.  There were STACKS of these papers in the closet (same closet as the puzzles and the vacuum) and in other places.  I wish I knew what she did with those numbers.  Whatever it was, it did not make her rich.  I assume it made her happy though.

Walking to West End Pharmacy or Shop-Rite Liquors with her to get the lottery tickets was always a treat because it usually meant she'd get my brother and I candy.  And it was nice to take the walk with her too.  I'm sure as a child the candy seemed more important, but now I know that wasn't really the case.  She liked 3 Musketeers bars.  And she'd usually pick up Wintergreen Certs and a carton of Marlboro Reds.  Sometimes she shared the Certs.

Somewhere around my sophomore or junior year of college, my car died in the middle of the street on the way to school.  I didn't have money to get a new one.  I found a car I could lease, but there was nothing for a down payment.  I could put it on my credit card, but it would have maxed it out and I needed that for all of life's other incidentals (you know, food and gas to get to work).  It was a very difficult time.  I was at her house because I had walked to the insurance agent's office which was around the corner.  I was sitting there for a few minutes before I walked home.  I was tired and upset and didn't know what I was going to do.  She reached into the pocket of her housedress and pulled out a wad of cash.  I didn't ask for it, she just gave it to me.  It was enough to get me through.  I told her I had no idea when I could repay her, she said don't worry about it.  She didn't ask me for a payment plan.  She didn't get on my case about why I didn't have money or priorities or anything.  She just told me not to worry about it, it was a gift.  "Because I can and you need it," was all she said.  Now, I know gifts don't show love and it's not about the money.  It was the fact that she got it - she got how hard I was working at school and an internship and my job and that I was taking care of my mother on top of it.  She got that there was just NOTHING else I could do.  And she never, ever mentioned the money again.

I can't believe she's been gone so long.  I wish she had seen me grow up from the 22 year old I was - so much has changed.  I wish she knew Nathan and had gotten to know Kris better.  Like anything else, there's things I'd change if I could.  But I hope that she knows how much she meant to me.  I wouldn't be who I am without her.  Saturdays at Grandma's saved me as a child and I'll never forget them.