Friday, April 30, 2010

Our Stuff

A broken “I Like Ike” pin; two white shirt buttons, still in their clear baggie; a tiny, yellowed newspaper clipping about a house for sale in a town never visited; a ticket stub from a high school basketball game from years ago -reminders of a special time, a special person, a special place.

A lifetime of memories gathered and collected, clipped and saved, stored and safeguarded – important only to the possessor. When examined by a stranger, all thought to be useless and unimportant, silly and trivial.

The death of a loved one brings with it many tasks, not the least of which is to go through their belongings. It is a very personal and private experience. I find myself smiling and shaking my head at some of the things I find, and then crying over others.

Yes, it is sad. But I choose to look at it as an honor – a glimpse into the heart of that person we saw every day, but perhaps never really knew.

“Who would save this?” we ask. “Why would anyone keep that?”

And yet, each piece holds such significance for its owner. I think of my “stuff.” I imagine my family members or friends going through my drawers (and I shiver) and finding:

One die (you never know when a child may need this in a game.)
An old, tattered scorecard from a miniature golf course in Ocean City (our first date)
A broken watch (my grandmother’s)
A bracelet made of soda can tabs and ribbon (a gift from a thoughtful 10-year-old daughter who knows I love my diet coke)

I imagine the looks my “stuff” would get. “Doesn’t she throw anything away?”

I think about it. Once a year or so, I get the “urge to purge” and I grab a big green trash bag and head to my room. And I have such resolve – this time I will clean out my drawers.

Then I start going through my stuff. And I start remembering. And a few hours later, I wander back downstairs, bag half full with only those treasurers I can bear to part with – the odd earring from college (I guess I won’t find the other); the ribbon from my high school prom (faded and torn – I never did like that guy); a few dried up nail polish bottles (I guess you really should keep them in the fridge).

And so it goes. Sorry guys, my stuff is staying. I am keeping it - for me, and for you. I need it to remember a time long gone, but not forgotten. And you need it to know who I was.

I’ve realized that our stuff tells a story: He loved sports, hated waste and was a newspaper enthusiast.

I hope my stuff tells the story of my life: She had a good sense of humor; was always prepared; and loved her family very much.

And really, what more is there?

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Pet Peeves

I heard on the news recently that Consumer Reports magazine has posted a list of readers’ gripes. Interestingly enough, I have been collecting my own list of gripes. I call them “pet peeves.”

According to Wikipedia, the definition of pet peeves is “a minor annoyance that an individual identifies as particularly annoying to them, to a greater degree than others may find it.”

Below is a list of my personal pet peeves, followed by those of family and friends.

My personal pet peeves:

1. People who say “Don’t take this the wrong way.” (Trust me, I will. You’re better off not saying anything at all.)
2. Mothers who say, “My daughter and I are best friends.” (You shouldn’t be. You are years apart in age, and even more in experience. Your job is to be her mother. Leave the bff title to someone born within the same decade.)
3. Those who “Reply All” to every e-mail they send. (Unless you are trying to coordinate something, we all don’t need to hear your answer.)
4. Drivers making a left turn while talking on the phone. (Or better yet, trying to pull in or out of a parking space while holding said cell phone. Not only is it unsafe, it takes you twice as long, and is ignorant for those drivers waiting for you.)
5. People who insult you and then follow it with “Just kidding!” (No, you weren’t. You were being rude. Don’t hide behind humor to try and make yourself feel better.)

Now, pet peeves from family and friends:

1. Tailgating: And I don’t mean at a game. (My husband’s number one gripe!)
2. Playing dumb in a store with multiple cashiers but just one line. (The store is packed and you think you just happened upon an open cashier? Open your eyes and get to the back of the line!)
3. Driving up the shoulder. (Oh, you’re in a hurry. Then go ahead – the rest of us really want to wait in traffic!)
4. Teenagers. (I don’t think there is one particular trait that annoys my sisters the most – it is the whole package. If you have teens, you’ll understand.)
5. People who talk on their cell phone while in a public place (on a “no talking” train car or in line at the grocery store. We all don’t need, or want, to hear your private conversation.)

The term pet peeve has been around since 1919 and comes from the 14th century word peevish, meaning ornery or ill-tempered.

Believe it or not, there are various websites set up to post your pet peeves. (I guess that isn’t too hard to believe. There are websites for pretty much everything these days.) There are even t-shirts available to advertise your annoyance to the world.

A quick check of the Consumer Reports list showed that the number one annoyance of those polled was “hidden fees”, with “not getting a human on the phone” a close second. I can understand that. (I have started pressing “0” as soon as I hear a list of options. That almost always gets me to a receptionist.)

However, I have to question number 6 on the list. On a 10-point scale, with 10 being most annoying, “dog poop” was rated 7.6. Dog poop? Really? More people are annoyed at dog poop than discourteous cell phone use? I will pick up d.p. before listening to a stranger’s medical history any day of the week.

Well, I guess that is why they are called pet peeves. They may seem irrational or illogical to others, but are extremely annoying to us.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

My Little Secret

I got a tattoo. I am a 43-year-old mother of three children (one in college), former PTO Board member and active participant in our Church. And I got a tattoo.

I have been talking about getting one for years so, during a sisters’ weekend away, my sister-in-law basically told me to “Put up or shut up.” Since she was driving, I didn’t have much choice but to follow her into the tattoo parlor that morning.

“We’ll just ask a few questions” she said. “We’ll just check it out.”

One hour later, I walked out with a tattoo. “It took less than an hour,” I announced, to which my sister finished with “to ruin your life.” (Older sisters are like that.)

I have been talking about getting a tattoo for so long, I didn’t think my husband would be shocked. Just goes to show, he can still surprise me after 20 years of marriage. After having been assured it wasn’t fake, he stared at me for a minute or two, then walked out to play paddle.

My children reacted as I expected. The oldest thought it was “fine,” the middle thought it was “totally cool” and the youngest wanted to know if it hurt.

When my husband returned, he asked to see it again and seemed a little more accepting of my new addition. (“I just thought I would go with you,” he explained. “And truthfully, I never thought you would do it.”)

And that is the reason I got a tattoo - no one ever believed I would do it. I am not the poster child for a tattoo parlor. I was the good girl who sat in the front of the class and always finished her work. I am the homeroom mother who volunteers for all the class parties. I am the Girl Scout troop leader (twice) and Church volunteer. And I got a tattoo.

It’s not in a location that people can easily see it (Most people are “creeped out” when they hear where I placed it), but I can see it. It is a small tattoo (“I bet this is the wildest tattoo you ever did, right?” I asked the artist. He just laughed.) but to me, it holds great significance. It’s my tiny act of rebellion.

I’m surprised by the reactions I get when people finally do notice it. Many don’t believe it is real. Then I get a silent stare and then, inevitably, the same question: Did it hurt?

Young and old - everyone wants to know, did it hurt? My answer depends on who is asking me. If it is a child, I always say yes. If it is a peer, I answer truthfully – not much. It feels just as it was explained to me – a rug burn.

I haven’t had it long but I still get a secret thrill when I see it. As far as rebellions go, mine isn’t much. But it works for me.

Friday, April 16, 2010

Whose fault is it really?

Does everything have to be my fault?

I mean, I will take the blame for many things: the hole in the ozone layer (any girl raised in the ‘80’s will have to share this blame with me – big hair and all!), my children’s fear of bugs (I’m sorry – they just creep me out), shoulder pads (you had to love the '80’s), and not sharing chocolate (some things just weren’t meant to be shared – even with your kids!)

But I draw the line at others. I’m sorry, but the fact that the weatherman predicted cold weather, and my daughter wore jeans, yet the temperature reached 70 degrees and “everyone had shorts on except her” is just not my fault.

And I refuse to take the blame for the fact that Katie was voted off of American Idol. (Hey, we voted for her every week, sweetheart – at a hefty price, I might add!)

Who knew that when the principal said no parents were allowed at the Halloween party, that didn’t mean the parents in my son’s class? (I can still see his little face staring at me accusingly!)

I understand it’s easier to blame Mom. Sometimes, I even encourage it. (“If you are ever at a party and someone wants you to do something you are uncomfortable with, tell them your Mom would kill you," I tell them. "You wouldn’t be lying.”)

But do I have to be at fault for everything that goes wrong in my children’s lives? Where is it written that Mom is the scapegoat for all her kid’s disappointments? Did I miss that chapter in the What to Expect …series?

“It’s all your fault.” If I had a dollar (or better yet, a piece of chocolate) for every time I heard those words, I would be one happy mom!

How was I to know the test was on chapters 1 and 2, not just 2 (as my daughter claimed!)? Shouldn’t that be her bad?

Who would have guessed that the “Beginners Swim” class in high school would be filled with kids afraid of water? (Hey, that was one class he aced!)

Here’s a warning to new Mom’s: be prepared. You will be blamed for everything from your daughter’s first pimple to the fact that cookies are no longer sold in the cafeteria.

I used to try and reason with them. “Explain to me why it is my fault that you left your homework at school?”
But all I ever got was that universal response: “Because it is.” Depending on the age of the person shouting these words at me, this was either followed by a stomp of a foot, or, my personal favorite, a roll of the eyes.

Ah well, I guess if we can say “Because I said so” to our children, they can respond with something equally as vague.

So I’ve learned to roll with it. “Yes dear," I say. "Of course it’s my fault that the power went out just when your favorite show was coming on.”

And then I pop a piece of chocolate in my mouth!

Wednesday, April 14, 2010


We lost a special man recently; a true gentleman in every sense of the word. It was very sudden, and far too soon for those who knew him. We mourn his death even as we celebrate his life.
“D” wore many hats – husband, father, grandfather, businessman, friend – and he wore them all with pride and distinction.
He was lucky enough to find two wonderful women to love and who loved him, despite, or perhaps because of, his unique sense of style and hearty appetite.
He loved his family; he was never prouder than when he saw one of his grandchildren in action.
“Is that my granddaughter out there?”
“Way to go #8!”
“Look at him go!”
While we, as parents, sometimes cringed at his exuberance, his grandchildren blossomed, basking in his love and acceptance. Basketball games, school musicals, baseball games, track meets, volleyball games, talent shows, tennis matches – he attended them all, cheering on the sidelines.
We will miss him; we do miss him. Who will read “The Night Before Christmas” to the grandchildren every Christmas Eve? Who will take care of the garden in Ocean City? Who will drive the Jeep to get the papers in the morning? Who will teach my children how to balance a spoon on the tip of their noses, or to turn their ears inside out?
D was an only child, who raised two sons, so a daughter-in-law was a bit of an adjustment for him. However, I can say with all honesty, he treated all the women in his life with respect and love, sprinkled with a healthy dose of humor.
The morning he died, before any of us knew what was to come, I checked in on him to see how he was doing. He had only recently found out about this new hobby of mine, and I’m told he was very proud of me. His words to me, his final words to me, were “Are you going to write about me in your Blog?”
D, I could never do you justice, but I hope you like it.
To a great man, a loving husband, a doting father and grandfather, and an exceptional father-in-law, we will always remember you. Thank you for your love, your attention, your humor and your guidance. God Bless.

Monday, April 5, 2010

Life Lessons

“I would do anything for my child(ren).” When I hear those words come out of a parent’s mouth, I’ve learned to run the other way.
Sometimes the best thing you can do for your child is nothing at all.
Your children need your love, your time, your care, your attention, but NOT your blind devotion. Children need to make mistakes and even fail. They need to learn that nothing in life is free; that actions have consequences; that not everyone gets a trophy!
I heard a mother on TV say that she would do anything for her kids. “They deserve to have their lives served to them on a gold platter.” No, they don’t, I shouted to an empty room.
Real life is dirty. It isn’t fair. And the sooner our children understand this, the better off they will be. Children need to fall down, get hurt and pick themselves back up. And we, as parents, need to be there to help them back up – not to prevent them from falling in the first place.
We cannot fix everything in our children’s lives – and even if we could, we shouldn’t. Just because we can, doesn’t mean we should. When life hands them a tough break, we should be there to console and teach, not fix and manipulate.
If they don’t make the team, we should explain that there is another team/activity that would be perfect for them. We should not call the coach (and principal, and athletic director and sometimes lawyer?) and threaten.
If they don’t get invited to a party, we should explain that not everyone gets invited to every party. We should not e-mail the parents of the party-giver and berate them.
If they don’t get an A on their paper, we should review the paper with them and offer our help with revisions. We should not call the teacher and insist upon a different grade. And we most certainly should not write their next paper for them!
Today’s generation of parents is often referred to as “helicopter parents” – they tend to hover, starting in preschool and continuing through that first job. In today’s colleges, and even in certain companies, there are people whose job it is to deal with these parents. What is this teaching our children? And what kind of children are we raising?
Do we want to raise a generation that has never experienced hardships?
We all love our children, and we all want them to succeed. What we need to remember is that they need to succeed on their own for them to achieve real success in life!