Monday, April 21, 2014

Cool Moms & Hot Mamas

 I was recently having a conversation with a mom whose daughter is in high school.  She is navigating teen years with her and I offered a couple of observations about what that was like with my own kids.

"Oh, you're so right," she said at one point.  "You seem like one of those cool moms."

And it was like nails on a chalkboard to me.

I know it was meant as a compliment, but I no more have had my shit together than any other mom.  I happen to be a few years beyond high school with my kids and so I have perspective.  I can look back on those years and say we made it, we didn't strangle each other, they are neither drinkers or partyers, they have plans and goals for their life, they all work incredibly hard.  We still like each other most of the time these days.  

That doesn't make me a cool mom it just makes me fortunate.

In the Facebook world there is often comments about posted pictures that are some version of this.....

"SMOKING HOT MAMA!"

That, too, makes me cringe.  Hot mama?

A cool mom seems like the kind of woman who would let her kids and their friends drink in the basement when they're thirteen because "they may as well do it here where I can keep an eye on them."  A hot mom seems like the kind of woman who drinks with them while wearing her daughter's American Eagle skinny jeans and halter tops.

It's all so Kardashian.

It has always been my habit to observe women who are about ten years older than me.  What makes them stand out?  In a youth-obsessed culture what is their attraction?

Working in retail for so many years made it easy and there are two women that I'll always remember.  One was dressed in head to toe black and wearing red ballet flats.  My guess was that she was seventy.  The other was a woman who bought a funky skirt and was so thrilled, so excited to wear it that she couldn't contain herself.  She was bohemian by nature, the other was more conservative, but what both had was serenity.

The kind that comes with being happy in your own imperfect skin.

As I age a bit more each day and sixty isn't all that far away, I strive for content status.  Loving little things like red flats and patterned skirts but noticing big things like the fall leaves, a glass of wine under a fingernail moon and an old photo of my grandma and aunt that makes me smile every time I pass by it.

Just two of the long line of women in my life who showed me over and over that the best thing somebody can say about you is that you have some up in your giddy.





Monday, April 14, 2014

Liberty

On Saturday I decided to go to a store I've been to once before to get a carpet runner.  It is where we locals call "out south."  To us who have been spoiled by life in a little, quiet town it is the doomed errand.  When you say to someone "I have to go out south" or "They've decided to move out south" people will groan with you.  It is a congested, SUV filled place where suburbia has puked strip malls as far as the eye can see.

Even though it is a mere twenty minutes away, one must mentally prepare for the dreaded ride "out south."

The intersection in which I thought the store was at is really busy, and since I didn't know on what corner it was situated, I decided to overshoot my destination by a few blocks and then back track.  Even that I wasn't entirely sure of but as soon as I saw the sign for Village Shalom I knew I was on the right street.

One day later a woman was shot to death at that very place going to see her mother in the assisted living center.

Prior to that, the gunman killed a grandfather and his fourteen year old grandson a few blocks away at the Jewish Community Center.

I am not one to ruminate on whether or not that could have been me if it had happened a day earlier.  It wasn't.  Some other family got devastating news on that awful day in a manner that makes absolutely no sense, and the lives of those left to make funeral arrangements will be forever altered. 

This has shocked this community, and though hate groups have always been on the periphery, a fourteen year old boy trying out for a music competition hasn't even lived long enough to understand that kind of hate let alone be the target of its violence.

Like high schools, grade schools, army bases, movie theaters, restaurants and every city in America, gun violence has made a home in our area and there will be analysis for years on how this could have been prevented.

But here in the land of the free, the one nation that has claimed from its inception to be under God, handguns, rifles and assault weapons legally sit at the right hand of The Father..........

.........and the right to come home on a stormy Sunday afternoon has been sold to the NRA.


Sunday, April 13, 2014

Pinning A Life

I'm not going to brag, (okay maybe I am) but I was one of the earliest users of Pinterest.  I heard about it from a decorating blog and was hooked immediately.  I have stay hooked and if there were a twelve step program for weaning yourself off The Pinnning I would join.

It has sucked vast chunks of my time every single day.  It has made me late for work, forgotten that dinner is cooking on the stove and been my drug of choice in the wee hours of the night when I can't sleep.

Woe is me.  Like whoa.

Once in awhile I'll remember an outfit from Pinterest and head to the accessories section of Target for a multi-layered pearl necklace.  Or was it the statement necklace?  A chevron infinity scarf?  Knock-off Michael Kors watch, anyone?   A maxi skirt.  That's what I should get for my short stature because it's the bomb diggety on Pinterest.

I have pinned recipes I never make, inspiring quotes I never read again, a dream cottage in the woods and a beach house,  Yes, both.  Is that too greedy?  Paint colors (muted and bright for each house), flowers that could never grow in my current zone 5, pallet desks, pallet wine racks, pallet tables.

Enough with the pallets already.

In my nearly empty nest it fills the quiet and is my excuse for not doing legit things that are more self-improving than making a pretend life, and though I know I need to get off this fantasy cycle I just can't seem to step away from the pin.

There are, however, cracks in the foundation that are beginning to show.

Gender reveal parties.  Boy baby?  Stick your hands in blue paint and make a hand print on your shirt.  TAADAA!!!!  Doesn't that ruin your shirt?  Doesn't that prevent you from diving headfirst into the blue appetizers because your hands are full of paint?  Wouldn't your friends and family be just as excited if you, I don't know, told them you were having a boy?

Bad crafts.  A Mason jar hot glued to a thrift store candlestick is a Mason jar glued to a thrift store candlestick.  It is not an apothecary jar.  Ever.

Cupcakes.  Unless you had a PhD. in baking you cannot make the frosting on a cupcake look like a flower.  Nor should you because the first one that falls off the tray and face plants its pretty little flower petal face will cause you to have a nervous breakdown.  A nervous breakdown is the uninvited guest at the gender reveal party.

Squats, planks, ab challenges, the thigh gap.  This needs no explanation.

Casserole recipes.  Casseroles do not photograph well.  They always look like a hot mess, and even though they may be quite tasty, they tend to look like you cooked a fine dinner, put it through the blender and then threw it on the floor.  There is no fan club for this, and if somebody asks for your casserole recipe it is because they are being polite which is different from sincere.

Marking the kids age through photos.  I am not opposed to this.  I actually wish I'd done it myself, but the one that jumped the shark was the idea that you buy a really big tshirt and write the year that Junior will graduate from college.  Every year you take a photo of Junior wearing that shirt (because who would misplace a tshirt) and TAADAA, he starts to fill the thing out until there he is twenty two years later.  Grinning, glazed and higher than a kite because his overbearing mother is forcing him to wear the same outfit he wore when he was three. 

Since Easter is less than a week away I give you this teachable moment from Pinterest.  Bake some cookies with the kids, examine each ingredient and think of a way to compare it to Jesus' crucifixion.  This might be kind of challenging, Mom, but taking a couple of swigs of that pure vanilla extract might get something moving upstairs.  Put them in the oven and tape the oven door shut.  This is The Maytag Tomb.   In the morning open the oven door and TAADAA.....you have The Risen Jesus who has come back as a cookie.

Alleluia.

You're welcome.

Now go tell it on the Pinterest Mountain.
                                     Holy Thursday / Last Supper Craft


Sunday, April 6, 2014

Decaf

On Friday my friend, Janet, came over for coffee, pastries and some catching up.  We used to work at a lighting shop years ago and she recently asked me to write a reference letter for her.  I've never done that before and so I asked The Big Daddy what I was supposed to say. 

"Do you like her?" he asked.

"Yes," I responded.

"Here's the rule about that.  If you like the person you write a lot.  Everything you can think of that will be useful in a job.  If you don't like them you make it short and sweet.  Their possible, future employer will get the message."

I can't say it was a stellar recommendation because the line of work she's looking for is completely different than what we had done together.  I did my best, but what I like most about Janet wouldn't quite work in a reference letter.

Her and I have probably worked a hundred different jobs in our lifetime.  We've done everything.  "I get bored," she said.  "I need to move on after awhile."

Me too, friend.  I'm a mover onner which isn't exactly what most employers are looking for.

I have often felt like Lucille Ball working the conveyer belt at the chocolate factory.  I have no idea how I've gotten myself into some of the employment opportunities presented to me except for an ever present attitude of "what-the-hell-why-not."  Qualifications be damned.  I've got charm and when it's firing on all cylinders I can get my foot in the door.

When I got hired at the lighting shop I thought it was about picking out pretty lamps and shades.  That was some of it but it was also recessed lights, ceiling fans, puck lights, rope lighting. sconces, chandeliers.  There were thousands of bulbs in the back room.  We did lamp repairs constantly and to this day I can wire my own lamp and hardwired the chandelier in the dining room.  I was usually so overwhelmed that when I saw some old lady coming in with a hideous brass lamp I ran to help her because I knew she'd take an hour deciding between a white or ivory shade and I'd be off the hook when the electricians came in.

******

The guy who hired Mark was married to the loveliest woman who owned a catering business and she asked if I might be interested in working some parties.  The pay was $25.00 an hour.

$25.00!!!!  Sign me up.

It was without a doubt the most grueling exhausting work I've ever done.  Hours running around with trays.  Loading, unloading, cleaning.  You earned every cent of that hourly wage.

At one party I was serving coffee and a woman asked me if it was decaf.  I had no idea and went in the kitchen to ask Dorothy and her daughter.  "What's she like?" they asked.

"Oh, kind of an older woman," I replied.

"Older like in her sixties or older like more than seventy five?"

"I'd say she's more like seventy five."

"Then it's decaf," they said.  "Old ladies always want decaf at night."

******

Somebody got their buzz on and couldn't sleep that night and somebody else got booked for another party.  There's winners and losers when you're faking your way to the next paycheck.

Thursday, April 3, 2014

Our Old Boy

When we got Henry he was a puppy and we shopped for him at a pet adoption event at Petsmart.  We brought the kids and they were smitten with that little furball and begged to bring him home.

He was like Marmaduke and he grew and grew and grew.  The 40# sheltie we thought we got turned into an 80# retriever/chow mix.  He once bit a neighborhood kid in the stomach when he came through the front door unannounced.   Had we known he was part Chow we would have never gotten him but by then it was too late, so I watched him like a hawk around that door. 

He thought his call to duty was to guard the castle entrance and that damn dog stressed me out.

I walked him every morning and when he saw a squirrel he'd yank my arm trying to go after it.  Every single morning.  A friend of mine had a poodle and they had an altercation one day.  Henry never forgot and he'd bark and pull at his leash whenever he saw that dog because he had to settle the score.  One time the poodle got away from my friend and came bounding towards us.  Seeing as how there was a 75# difference between those dogs, I thought the poodle was going to be a goner.  Instead he ran under Henry and try as he could to get that varmint, he just kept running in circles with that little toy dog stuck between his legs the whole time.

It would have been comical if I weren't so sure that Henry wasn't going to kill my friend's dog.

And then he mellowed out.  Slept more and didn't get so bothered by the mailman or the UPS man.  An 80# dog was always too big for this house but we all squeezed in and made it work even if we weren't so sure of each other in the beginning.  Or for years.

Today we put our old boy to sleep.  He has never liked going in the car and was a shaking, panting mess all the way to the vet and in the waiting room.  We took him back and this vet that we've been going to for twenty years explained the process and gave him some sedation.

Our old boy went fast asleep with his head over the exam table and started snoring.  We petted him the whole time and even though he was a big hunk of fur, you could feel all his ribs and vertebrae.

He made me nuts.  For the first ten years of his life he probably thought Calm The Fuck Down was his name.  This last year he's peed in the house a hundred times.  At least.  He ate chicken off the dining room table and kitchen counter.  He'd stick his whole head in the garbage can to eat the chicken bones.  He would get right next to you if he liked what was cooking on the stove and never move out of the way.  He always smeared the glass on the front door five minutes after I cleaned it.  He once ate a rib that fell off the grill and got the bone wedged sideways in his mouth.  He drank out of the toilet bowl and licked the carpet for no reason.

He had no class. 

He was perfect for us.






Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Quicksand

If you were a kid in the sixties that went to a Catholic school, then at least once a year you saw a movie about missionaries.  Those selfless, giving people that went deep into the most remote areas of the world to spread the message of God.

The films were usually shown at the end of the day, and back then they were a grainy reenactment in black and white.  Every film ended with some poor soul up to their armpits in quicksand because they didn't heed the Bible or scoffed at some foreigner trying to change their ways.  When we got a little older, the movies upped their game and would end with quicksand and a serpent because scaring the crap out of kids is the best way to get them to love Jesus.

The only way to save a person from that kind of fate was to donate to the missionaries, and I'd come tearing home from school yelling "MOM WE HAVE TO GIVE THE PAGANS MONEY!!!"

Like every other big family back then sending their kids to private school, there wasn't any extra money so Mom would say, "Look under the beds and couch cushions.  You're bound to come up with something."  I'd crawl around the floor with a flashlight and under the beds then rifle through all the pockets of the coats crammed in the closet.  The next day I would go to school and hand over my fistful of coins to my nun teacher to SAVE THE PAGANS.

I was absolutely sure that I would die in quicksand one day.  In the dramatic telling of the missionaries and their very important work, nobody ever told me that the likelihood of that happening is about 0%.

But, Lordy, I have made my own quicksand and it consists of fear and doubt.

Whether it be employment or writing I push down my passion and talent because I eventually hear that voice that says, "Yeah, ummm.....you're not that good."  I've gotten a little better in the last few years because a post-50 life comes with a loudly ticking clock, but why, oh why do I repeat the same mistakes over and over?   In looking for a job if there is one qualification that I don't have the skill set for I don't even try.  Never mind that I could rock the rest of it without a problem, I am the one who always holds me back.  If I write something that has a lukewarm response (because maybe people have busy lives and can't respond even though it may have resonated with them) then I think I should just give this game up.


*********

I have worked with this woman over the years and in several different stores who is about twenty years my junior.  In my retail days her and I loved to tear the store apart and redo it, and in the process have the most spirit-filled, deep conversations.  To say I adore her would be an understatement

Last year we worked together again and she was managing two stores with about ten employees.  If you needed time off for anything and requested it in the "princess book" she would accommodate you.  One day when we were working together and she was trying to put this massive schedule puzzle in place (over Christmas, no less) I said, "You know I really appreciate that you do that for us, but why don't you just make the schedule and let everybody else figure it out if it doesn't work for them?"

"Because," she said, "I understand that everyone has a passion outside of this job that makes their heart skip a beat, and if I give you the time you need to pursue that you'll be a happier person when you're here."

She should be running the world, don't you think?

***********

Recently, I actually heard a story about quicksand.  Instead of fighting against it, you should lean your back into it.  Your legs will eventually surface because contrary to what you might think there is a lot of water in quicksand.  Your fate is not sealed if you find yourself in that predicament.

The missionaries in the movies I saw never elaborated on that one useful piece of information.  Perhaps they didn't know, but the lesson I wish they taught to all those watchful eyes in the darkened school gymnasium was to stop fighting and lean back into your passion.

Not only will it save you........it will take you to the promised land.



                                      

Sunday, March 23, 2014

Anew

Many years ago, we took a trip from Kansas City to Washington State to see Mark's mom.  It was a three day trek with three kids and long before portable DVDs were the recommended travel necessity to entertain restless, little passengers.  The kids were troopers and we would do the trip two more times over the years before summer schedules and work commitments no longer allowed for three weeks off.

Mark was all about making "good" time and so stopping to see anything for longer than necessary interfered with his self-imposed schedule.  This came to a head at a motel bathroom in Wyoming when I pulled him in and yelled, "We are missing everything because of this stupid time thing you keep harping about.  We are going through the most scenic parts of this country and all we've seen is the interstate."

He saw the tourist light and the next day we veered off of I-90 West and went to Yellowstone.  Beautiful, spectacular Yellowstone.

Mark went to graduate school with several guys who have ended up at the University of Washington, and so we left the youngest two with my mother-in-law for a few days and took Maggie with us to Seattle.  On the way back to Spokane, Mark said it would be an easy jaunt to Mt. St. Helens and wouldn't that be something to see.

The jaunt turned out to be about 100 miles from Seattle to Prescott, and then the most harrowing drive up a mountain that I have ever experienced.  Or maybe my one and only mountain experience seeing as how I've lived most of my life in Illinois and Kansas and mountains are as foreign to us as oceans.

There was not a guardrail to be seen as we hugged the mountain through curves and switchbacks.  My fear of heights went into overdrive and while Mark was commenting on the scenery I was screaming, "TWO HANDS!!!!  TWO HAND ON THE WHEEL!!!"  It didn't help.  Nothing helped my anxiety and at one point I put my head down and started doing Lamaze which was just as worthless at several thousand feet as it was in three different delivery rooms.

Maggie, who was sitting in the back and has her father's sense of adventure, became the mom and tried to soothe my frazzled nerves with everything she had in her ten-year-old arsenal.  When we finally made it to the safety of the visitors center and looked out it was the most breathtaking sight.  The devastation seventeen years after that volcano was mind boggling.  Tens of thousands of trees were flattened like twigs in every direction.  The trees that weren't flattened were stripped bare of life.  There has never been a single picture I've seen of that mountainside that comes close to what it actually looks like in person.

By that time amongst the locals, things were definitely looking up.  The new growth was a source of amazement and pride and a sign that Mother Nature, in all of her fury, eventually comes back full circle with new life.

I had trouble sharing their enthusiasm because in my eyes I saw more of what was gone than what was coming up, but I didn't live there.  Mt. St. Helens wasn't my view out the window.

These many years later at home in Kansas, my view out the window remains flat and usually uninteresting, but this week I squealed at the familiar green leaves of the daffodils poking through the mud and dead leaves........

........and nature's nod of what lies ahead reveals itself to those who are looking for hope.