Monthly Archives: August 2010

I Always Thought I’d See You Again. Truly, I Did.

Ten years ago, in August, my maternal Grandmother (Grandma) had a stroke. My daughter and I raced up to Michigan to spend some time with her because, according to my mother, this was the end. My paternal grandmother (G.G. – she felt she was too young to be called great-grandma)  also lived in Michigan. When I told her we were coming she said she would change her travel plans so she’d be in town to see us. I told her, no. Go ahead with your plans. We’ll have lunch with you before you go. We have a limited time (just a long weekend) and we’ll be spending most of it with Grandma. But G.G. insisted.

We visited G.G. for lunch when we first arrived and then promised to spend time with her on our last day and go out for dinner with her before we were off to the airport.

The rest of the weekend was spent spending time with Grandma, trying to talk with her, sit with her, eat with her, telling stories. My daughter and her cousins played, picked blueberries, giggled and put on shows for us.

On our last day, I was spent. Emotionally. Physically. My sister and I decided to cut our visit with G.G. short. No dinner. Just visit with her for a little while and then off to the airport. I was exhausted with our whirlwind trip and I just wanted to be home. Besides, we were planning on a much longer visit with G.G. for Thanksgiving, one of her favorite holidays.

This decision was made on our way to G.G.’s house. And we were already running late. She expected us about an hour before. I was anxious about this – I hate being late – but there is no rushing my sister. When we were growing up and shared a room I used to set two alarm clocks just so we could be on time for swim practice in the morning.

G.G. was disappointed that we were late. She had every right. And then, her shoulders slumped when we told her we didn’t have time for dinner. She was so disappointed. I remember visiting with her on her screened in porch. Her eyes were a bit vacant. We were talking about recipes and she went to get her little file. As she was pulling out some favorites she handed one to my sister, a couple to me and said, “Just keep them. It’s not like I’m going to make them again.”

Our visit with her was typical. We laughed. We debated. We shared. She was a bright, strong, engaging, interesting woman. I loved our talks. But this particular visit was a tiny bit strained. A tiny bit awkward. I chalked it up to our disappointing her and promised myself I’d make it up to her when we came in November.

We packed up the kids to go. We kissed and hugged and said our goodbyes. And as we drove down the driveway I saw my G.G. standing there, next to her precious house, arms folded across her chest, looking smaller than I’ve ever seen her. She looked frail. She looked sad. I missed her already.

Without warning, she died a few weeks later. My sister called to tell me and even though she called her “Grandma” I knew exactly who she was talking about.  But this wasn’t the Grandma that was supposed to die. This Grandma was strong, vibrant and healthy. I was supposed to spend a week with her at Thanksgiving and eat her famous turkey and cucumber salad and yummy chocolate chip cookie bars.

And my other grandmother, the one who had the stroke. Lived a few years more. Happily. And with many more visits from us.

We never know how much time we have with each other. We can’t count on the next holiday, the next Thanksgiving, the next weekend. My heart still aches for G.G. and I struggle with the regret I have, disappointing her so, on what was my very last visit with her.

Please know, G.G., if I had to do it all over again, I would have done things so differently that weekend.

So differently.

“I’ve seen fire and I’ve seen rain
I’ve seen sunny days that I thought would never end
I’ve seen lonely times when I could not find a friend
But I always thought that I’d see you again” – James Taylor

24 Comments

Filed under family, Lessons Learned, Music

The 10 “How To’s” I Hope I Never Need

10. How To Remove Bed Bugs From Your Home – This has been all the rage on the internet waves lately and, like a train wreck, I can’t stop myself from clicking the links. I have never met a bed bug (knock, knock) and I hope I never will. But I have read so many stories like these in the past week, I’m becoming an expert. An expert I don’t want to be, believe you me.

9. How To Rid Your Head and Other Heads (‘others’ meaning your kids who brought them home in the first place) of Head Lice – OK. I just had a major head itch and subsequent scratch just typing that lead-in. Ick. When I was in 5th grade an outbreak occurred and I was sent to the school nurse because the base of my neck was so red. Nope. No lice. I just itch every time I hear about those little buggers. See? There I go itching again. Hurry. On to a new topic!

8. How To Get Rid of Crabs – Also of the lice family (who knew?). Makes me so glad that I am in a happy, monogamous relationship. (I know that doesn’t make me immune – so if somebody knows something out there, I’m the kind that would like to know! Just sayin’.)

7. How To Kiss – It just cracks me up that there are how to’s out there like this. Who doesn’t know how to kiss? Wait. Oh yeah, I remember him. Oh. And him, too. Yep. This how-to is definitely needed. Not for me, though. Honestly.

6. How To Pass A Drug Test – I love the first suggestion at this “how to” site – “The easiest way to pass such a test is not to take the drugs being tested.” Uh, duh! And since I’m too afraid to take any drugs that might even be tested, and since my employer (my kids and husband) don’t even know how to administer one, I think I’m pretty safe. Phew!

5. How To Wear High Heels Without Feeling Pain – I was just going to post “how to wear high heels” but then I found this site with the added “without feeling pain.” Exactly why I don’t like to wear high heels. I’ll stick with my flip-flops, sandals, clogs and sneakers. Not very sexy but oh, so comfortable.

4. How To Finish A Basement – When the time comes, I truly hope we have the means to hire someone to do this. This seems like an overwelming project next to building your own home. And it’s not for me. Let the pros do it, thank you very much!

3.  How To Escape A Car Sinking In Water – One of my top ten fears. And I have no idea why. It’s not like I live on the Pacific Coast Highway or anything. If it ever happened I’m afraid I’d be paralyzed with fear.

2. How To Overcome Depression – This one is serious. And I hope I never, ever, ever need it. Sure, I have bad days. Sometimes days that drag into three, four or more. But not like my mother. Not like some of you out there. It’s crippling. It’s debilitating. It keeps you from enjoying the amazing gifts around you. Hugs to anyone of you who may be  feeling in the dumps right now. Warm, healing hugs.

And the number one “How To” I hope I never need….

1. How to Survive An Electromagnetic Pulse Attack – Yes, that book I read last month is still freaking me out. And I’ve read about 3 books since then. You’d think I would have forgotten it by now. I’ll be shopping or dropping the kids off (knowing that I’m going to be 34 miles away from them for the next 5.7 hours) and I’ll be running scenarios through my head…”What would I do if…..?” My heart leapt in my chest just thinking about it all over again. Yes. Surviving an EMP is high on my list.

And I truly hope it’s the most unlikely thing to ever happen.

25 Comments

Filed under Completely Random

The Perfect Formula For Reasons To Blog Or Once A Math Teacher, Always A Math Teacher

I criss-cross over that blurry, gray area often.

You know the one.

On one side,  you have clear-cut reasons for blogging. For you. And you, alone. You write what inspires you. You write what moves you or troubles you. You get it all out on the computer screen, you click publish and voila! Your soul is purged. The weight is lifted. And you can go about your day a lighter, happier person.

On the other side, you have clear-cut goals for your blog. You want to entertain. You want to engage people in discussion. You want to make people think. You study (ok, not so much study…how about wonder…wonder very, very intently. If grades were given for this activity, I’d probably get a D+)  your stats, trying to figure out what people want to read. What are your most popular posts? Are you best at comic relief or social commentary? You agonize. You wonder. You think you have something and you write it down. You, with great trepidation, click publish. Your soul weighs heavy with anticipation. You walk away with uncertainty hanging over you like a cloud. Later, when you check the comments or stats you are either shocked that they loved it or puzzled that they didn’t.

Then, there is that gray area. Where you’re writing for you. Where you’re writing for them. A sweet mixture, passionate for both sides. Cheering for both teams. Hoping for a tie score just as you click that publish button.

I spend most of my time in that gray area. Sure, I want to write what I want to write but I want what I’ve written read. Read by someone. Anyone. I want to be heard. And felt. And understood. I want to share. I want to learn from the comments. And grow from the feedback. I want to be introduced to new ideas. I want to inspire someone to look at things differently or share in the company of a similar experience.

So I’ve been working on this formula. The perfect amount of time spent in each area.

30% writing for me + 10% studying stats and writing only for you + 70% hanging out in that gray area = %110 The perfect amount of effort for the successful blog

When I created this formula I was a little disappointed in my emphasis on pleasing the reader. But let’s face it. No one likes to write to the wind. We want someone to see what we’ve written. We all crave a little validation.

Jana’s comment yesterday (Jana of Learn. Make. Think.)   was the inspiration for today’s post. She was thrilled by my last couple posts that revealed more of myself. I read her words, puzzled. Seriously? People want to know more of me? Why? I’m not really that interesting. I’m just like you. And you. And you, over there, lurking and never commenting. And then, of course, there have been the couple shout-outs by WordPress. Or the spike in comments on my more light-hearted posts, or pictures, or serious comments on the world order or music I listen to. Or, the severe lack of comments on my more light-hearted posts, or pictures, or serious comments on the world order or music I listen to.

Go figure.

Because I sure as heck can’t.

What about you? How do you determine what to write? Who do you write for? And how much time do you spend pondering the impossible?

22 Comments

Filed under Blogging

Not the Tomboy I Thought I Was

I used to …

wrap snakes around my wrists as bracelets, play with trucks and cars and trains, prefer playing with the boys – running and playing baseball, kickball and football, dig in the dirt, build things.

I hated…

getting dressed up – especially wearing dresses, playing “house,” playing with dolls (unless it was to switch their heads – Barbie doll heads on bigger baby dolls and vice versa), baking, cooking, sewing (I was actually kicked out of Brownies because the group leader thought I’d “be happier someplace else”), being quiet and dainty, wearing makeup, brushing my hair.

But then, I grew up. Way up. And have two adorable little boys.

And I’m finding I love…

pink and lace, dressing up, finding the perfect outfit, cooking and baking, lipstick, shopping, quiet activities like reading and writing, getting my nails done, wearing jewelry, chick flicks, tea in tea cups, and pretty anything.

I still like….

camping and canoeing, being outside, watching sports from the sidelines (or in front of the TV), action movies, digging in the dirt, and going on adventures.

But not as much as the other stuff.

Not anymore.

Sigh.

14 Comments

Filed under Growing Up

Elevatin’ To Another Level – Not Higher, Just Different

I always wanted to be the party girl.

No. Scratch that.

I always wanted to be included.

But I wasn’t.

In high school, the guy I had a major crush on, and who I thought had a major crush on me, went to see Rush perform at the local university without me. I was disappointed and I asked him about it. He said, “I didn’t think you were the type.”

What type is that? Sure, I didn’t smoke pot. Yes, I was the one nursing a beer all night long, pouring sips down the sink when no one was looking so it would look like I was finishing my drink at an appropriate pace. I suppose he and his friends didn’t want me tagging along, judging their smoking and drinking and having a good time. But I didn’t judge. Not really. It just wasn’t for me. I still enjoyed their company. I still wanted to be included. And while we did a lot of things together, I still didn’t feel like I belonged.

That group I so desperately wanted to feel a part of was brilliant. I mean it. All were in Advanced Placement classes. One (my crush) went to MIT on full scholarship (but then got kicked out for dealing drugs.) One went to Berklee and his girlfriend went to Juilliard (she dropped out to become a psychologist.)  Another was in med school when he died of a brain aneurysm. His dad was a surgeon who demanded an explanation and rumor has it, a full autopsy revealed that it was from prior drug use. How they determined this, I don’t know – it is rumor, after all. Maybe it was to scare us straight. Maybe the family wanted to cling to something because Tony had been clean for years.

They were bright. They were funny. They were wild.

And I wasn’t.

Enter college, and I was married by the time I was 21. Still finishing college. But now I was an old married lady. Fellow students wanted to go out and celebrate after a big test but I had a husband to get home to. Pull an all-nighter with a co-ed study group? Too awkward with my husband at home who had work in the morning. With all the detours in my life – changing majors, schools, getting married – it took a little longer for me to finish college. My peers were only a little younger than me but they looked up to me, like some wise sage. Oh, the difference a few years makes when you’re young.

They were bright. They were fun. They were free.

And I wasn’t.

I had my first child when I was 29. Two more when I turned 40. That ten-year span puts me at odds again. The parents of my daughter’s friends are exploring new hobbies, going on more vacations, spending more time out with friends, experiencing freedom again. But we still have two small boys at home. Having a blast with them (with less energy than their friend’s parents) we’re a little more tied to the home front, still acutely aware of how much raising children costs, getting to bed early even on the weekends. The parents of our boys’ friends are the ages of my former high school students. Not that there’s anything wrong with that – but there is something to be said for those 10 years of life experiences.

They’re still interesting. They share in parenting joys and frustrations. But every once in a while, a comment will reveal that they’re still green.

And I’m not.

The paths I have chosen have always kept me out of the loop. I’ve never quite felt as if I belonged anywhere, really. And those choices have kept me from being included in things. Parties. Concerts. Study sessions. Play groups.

The odd one out.

Most of the time, I’m OK with that. Most of the time.

But some days, it’s lonely.

I’d like to think that, all my life, I’ve just been on a different plane, a different level.

Not higher, just different.

And some days, it sure would be nice to be dancing with everyone else – at the same concert, at the same party, on the same level.

28 Comments

Filed under Music, Ponderings

Bad News Is Free. Good News Comes At A Price.

When I was in college, I read at least 3-4 newspapers a day. Not cover to cover. But yes, I scanned 3-4 daily. The college paper, the local paper, the larger state-wide paper and a large city paper like the New York Times, Chicago Tribune, or The LA Times. I loved getting different viewpoints on various topics. I thought I wanted to be a journalist someday.

Fast forward to 2010, and we don’t even have a newspaper subscription anymore. I get all my news from the internet. I have a number of large news organization pages bookmarked. And, of course, I read what pops up on msn.com and yahoo.com.

Most of it is depressing. Just tonight (the night before you’re reading this) I saw the headlines for: 4 Decapitated Bodies Hung From Bridge in Mexico, Mosque Dispute Sparks NYC Rallies, and Iran unveils “Ambassador of Death” Bomber.

Drugs, dissent and destruction.

News isn’t news unless it’s negative. Where is the good news? Where are the uplifting stories of the other 98% of the world population?

Google to the rescue!

The Good News Network! I read about how Ethiopia has “halved malaria deaths in just three years.” Or about the Good News reporter who believes he can randomly point his finger at a page in a phone book, call the person and find an inspiring story. There’s a story about an “army of good Samaritans” or a forestry hero.

Excited, I clicked on one of the stories of interest.

I was directed to a subscription page. For just $24 or $47 or $97 a year (you pick how much you want to send them) you, too, can hear about all the good news going on around the world.

Sigh.

Apparently, bad news is free.

Good news comes at a price.

21 Comments

Filed under All In A Day's Work, Observations

Money For Nothin’ And Givin’ For Free

Remember when my blog exploded because of a little Random Act of Kindness post?

Remember how I promised a post on the random comments I received?

Well, here it is.

I’m tempted to just end it here. Leave you in suspense. But what suspense? Oh, sure. I got the same crazy spam that prompted this post. Or this one, when I thought aliens were sending me spam.

Then there was the 2000 word comment. (I’m not kidding. I cut and paste it and put it into Word so it would count the words for me.)  A 2000 word, nonsensical comment. Just a string of 2000 words. Who does that? And why?

But quite honestly, most of the spam I received was of your garden variety.

Except for one.

A comment from someone who claimed to have been a sexual slave for 18 months in Morocco. She began listing her financial troubles and general woes. And then she shared that she was praying that someone might bestow upon her, some random act of kindness – in the form of a couple hundred dollars. She ended her comment with this line: “Love to Jane and everyone who agrees with her talent of giving for free.”

That comment has been gnawing at me for over a week now. Is it real? Should I have let her comment appear? Why did I feel so strongly about censoring it?

Is it real? – Who knows. We can never know. There is so much deceit and scam running rampant on our internet waves. It’s hard to tell.

Should I have let her comment appear? – No. Then why am I telling you about it now? Maybe I want to be absolved of any guilt should it have been a true cry for help. Maybe I want her to see this post so she can hear me say, there are other places to go to for the kind of help you need. And then, when I write that response, I start to feel silly. Of course it was another scam.

Why did I feel so strong about censoring it? – “Giving for free.” Handouts. The old story about giving a man a fish and he eats for a day. Teach a man to fish and he eats for a lifetime. (Oh, don’t I sound like a hardened, old Republican? Shudder.)

I was a member of the Junior League in our area. No. I wasn’t one of those bored doctor’s wives, looking for a few volunteer gigs to put on my resume. I was a single mom, passionate about giving back to my community. The years I was in the league we had out-of-this-world, amazing leadership. True givers. Movers and shakers. I learned skills about organizing and getting things done that I couldn’t have learned anywhere else.

I also learned that there are tons and tons and tons of resources out there for the downtrodden. For the infirm. For the poor. And they’re not that hard to find.

The world owes me. Stick it to the man. If I can get away with it, why not? Who does it hurt?

It hurts me. Most of all, it hurts you.

There are people out there, families truly hurting. Living each day without knowing if the next day will bring food or shelter. I am much more willing to help someone who is desperately trying to eek out a living – pounding the pavement, visiting soup kitchens and United Way and free health clinics and applying for food stamps when necessary – than someone standing in front of me with their hand out saying I owe them because I should be kind. Or because I have more.

I am much more willing to help someone who is taking responsibility for their destiny than someone who wants to ride coattails.

Oh, goodness. I sound like a cold, hard, witch.

I’m not. Really.

 I’m just wondering when personal responsibility will be in vogue again.

19 Comments

Filed under Blogging, Ponderings, Soapbox

A Must See !!!

I know time is precious. But take the four minutes to watch this video. You WILL see your life differently after this.

Here’s to all the precious !!! in YOUR life.

Today and every day.

For more !!! visit Momalom or Bad Mommy Moments.

9 Comments

Filed under The !!!

Leave Worries Behind And Dream. Just A Little.

My dad was a bit of a hippie. I have a picture of him in a turtle neck, bell bottoms and a peace sign on a chain around his neck. It wasn’t a Halloween costume. That was his weekend best.

During the week he wore a suit and tie.

Two different wardrobes but always the same music.

He loved music. 50’s Do0-wop. Gospel. Motown. And folk music. Lots and lots of folk music. I grew up on Bob Dylan, Joan Baez, Peter, Paul and Mary, The Kingston Trio and Simon & Garfunkel. I learned to sing to all of them. But I especially loved to sing along to The Mamas and the Papas.

It always surprises me when I am reminded of how short their career was.

Four years. Five albums. And 11 Top 40 hits.

That’s it. That’s all. But their influence on generations is wide. And their songs are still loved today.

I’ve been reflective of late: considering my anniversary in Blog World, evaluating the impact I’m making in my community, wondering and striving to be a good example to my children. I look at your blogs. I can pick out who is in it for the long haul. Who is in it to be the next Dooce. Who just wants to have a creative outlet in a crazy life.

“Stars shining bright above you
Night breezes seem to whisper “I love you”
Birds singing in the sycamore tree
Dream a little dream of me”

I hope I have staying power. I hope I last longer than 4 years and a few hit posts. I hope the impression I make on this earth is a positive one. And the footprint I leave behind is filled with love, joy and compassion. I pray that my life with my children is long, long, long and that I give them oodles of shining examples to live their lives by.

And if not?

“Sweet dreams till sunbeams find you
Sweet dreams that leave all worries behind you
But in your dreams whatever they be
Dream a little dream of me”

16 Comments

Filed under Music

Jane Comes Out Of The Closet And Then, She Confesses

Wait.

Reverse that.

First, I’m going to confess. Then we’ll get to that other thing.

Remember that RAOK post that garnered so much attention? And then I commented on the comments and challenged myself to take it a step further?

Well. I slept on it. And in the morning my challenge sounded a bit….impossible. And improbable. 

Let me explain.

I decided, in my spontaneous and do-gooder charged wisdom, to attempt a random act of kindness every day (or at least weekly) and then post about it on a separate tab on my blog.

Sounded good at the time.

And then I thought…how random is random if I’m planning on doing it?  And what if, by 10 o’clock at night, when I’m tired and spent and ready to go to bed, I haven’t done anything especially random? What about all the other kind activities I do daily, without even thinking about it? Helping a woman with a stroller or holding doors open or reaching something high on a shelf for someone in the grocery store or the random snail mail cards I send to friends and family far away or letting that poor woman with five kids go ahead of me at Target because I’ve managed to procure a blissful hour alone to shop?

That’s my life. I do little bits of random every single day.

Or what about the bigger acts of kindness that I participate in? Volunteering at my kid’s school. Making dinner for someone who: had a recent death in the family, had a baby, extended illness, just moved to the neighborhood or is moving away. Watching out for an elderly neighbor. Or, how, whenever we bake I always split it and share with a neighbor or friend.

A dear neighbor recently said to me, “I can always count on you!” And she’s right. I may not always have my full heart into it (because I’m human and have a busy, full life) but I find it very difficult to say “no” to someone in need.

And then I started thinking about the two or three comments (out of 200) that criticized my good deed. (Isn’t it funny how we always focus on the negative no matter how inconsequential they may be?)  They felt that forking over $3.18 to “help” someone who was already prepared to fork over $3.18 for an overpriced coffee was self-indulgent and frivolous. That it only made the giver feel good about giving something that wasn’t necessary in the first place. Do I really want to invite more criticism, no matter how far and few between?

And that mildly annoyed me. Because we ‘re talking about kindness. Bringing a smile to a stranger’s face. Who cares if the person was prepared to pay for it anyway? I know, when it happened to me in the drive-thru – when some sweet woman paid for my coffee three summers ago and the cashier handed me  a “Moms Rock!” scribbled on a napkin as way of explanation from the anonymous giver, I looked in the rearview mirror at my feisty, fighting 3 and 4-year-old boys and thought, “Thank you, dear sweet woman for a little joy today!”

Which brings me to this.

Joy.

One of you out there once told me that some weeks, it’s hard to find joy. I thought, oh goodness, how sad. A whole week without joy. I find joy in every day – no matter how small. I’m not saying it’s easy. Some days I have to look. Real hard. But I find it. So, I challenged myself to document joy every day.

And I’m doing that……here. At Every Day Joy. Have been for 251 days now. I’ve kept it very, very quiet. I’ve been doing it for me. To make sure that every day I stop and recognize the bounty that is my life. I’m only sharing it here with you now to say….

Random acts of kindness should be random. I shouldn’t plan for it. I shouldn’t schedule them.

And that challenge to myself helped me to take stock of my life and realize each day is chock full to the brim. With taking care of children and a husband. With lots of dear friends and some family. I try, each day, to be thoughtful, compassionate and considerate.  I practice kindness. Both deliberately and randomly. Both have their place and purpose.

There it is. Out of the closet.

I say things I sometimes have to take back.

And.

I have a quiet, secret little blog about celebrating joy.

That’s not so secret anymore.

26 Comments

Filed under Growing Up, Lessons Learned