Friday, November 26, 2010

I Blame Norman Rockwell

That’s right. I’m calling Norman Rockwell out.

He’s the man who painted the iconic pictures that told the world how families should look for the holidays. He showed them dressed in their Sunday best surrounded by extended family, all smiling as they sit around the Thanksgiving table while Grandpa cuts the turkey.

Don’t get me wrong, I love his paintings. But they do set everyone up for disappointment. Has anyone ever duplicated the scene in “Thanksgiving Day”?

I have memories of going to Grandpa and Grandma’s farm when I was young and everyone sitting around the table while Grandpa carved the turkey. And with my other Grandparents (we were a family that did the every other year thing) we did indeed dress in our Sunday best and cram into the formal dining room for Thanksgiving.

But in this day and age, we’re lucky if everyone can even make it home for the holidays. The world has become such a small place. Back in my youth, you were supposed to grow up, get married and move down the street. Now, I have friends who have kids that are teaching in Japan, working with the Peace Corps in Africa and basically spread across the continental United States. And with businesses open the Friday after Thanksgiving it gets harder and harder to get home for that one day.

My kids all work in the service industry and this year my son has to be at work at three a.m. for Black Friday. The youngest is a waitress and will be working a double on the day after and the middle child’s office is open and she needs to be there for her usual eight hours. I’ve planned dinner at one so they can all get to bed early. Last year, I had Thanksgiving on the Sunday before. It seemed easier for them all to take a whole day off and not be stressed, because for me Thanksgiving is about the family coming together more than the actual day. Not the forced making time, the juggling of the when and where, that causes the holiday to become a have too, not a want too.

Families have changed since that picture was painted. The image spoke to a time when the nuclear family, a mother, father and their children was the norm. Now families are made up of so many different and wonderful factions. If I could paint a Thanksgiving picture, it would be of a group of people, all sizes and shapes, all colors, all the many different parts that make up a modern family. They would be holding hands around the table, young and old alike celebrating just being together, just sharing in the moment. And isn’t that how it should be?

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Not MY Drama Mama

I don’t remember my life being as filled with Drama as the kids today. Again it could be because I had three kids to take care of and a house to run by the time I was 27 so the only drama in my life came from the soap , Days of Our Lives. But it seems that every time I talk to one of my kids, or my friends tell me about their kids, there is always some kind of drama. It could be as simple as being slighted about a party invite or as important as a job change. I don’t remember calling my Mom or Dad about life changes, but it seems the generation we raised comes to us for guidance on so many issues.

The older I get the less I enjoy those moments. I worry that if I help them make a decision it will be the wrong one and I’ll feel guilty for my part. Now it could be that when I was twenty-two, my husband and I moved twelve hundred miles away from family and friends. We had only each other to depend on. There was no one to run to when we needed to make the big decisions. I don’t remember dwelling on decisions for too long. It was called life and one was just a passenger on the ride.

“What do you mean you’re pregnant?” One of life’s better surprises.

“What do you mean you overdrew the checking account?” So began the years of Wendy being banned from the checkbook.

“Why are the lights out? What do you mean you forgot to pay the bill?” Seriously the bill and check are lying right there but I was out of stamps.

“You shot a rod in your engine? How about putting oil in the car once in a while?”

One of my all time favorites, phone rings and I hear my husband’s voice on the phone, “Honey, I’m going to be a little late.”

I hear women screaming in the background, “It’s going to blow.”

“What’s going on?” I said, more than a little concerned by the screaming women.

“Your car is on fire in the parking lot.” My husband said, so matter-of-factly that the words didn’t match the situation


“Listen I got to go, the fire department’s here.” A dial tone starts buzzing an obvious sign he’s left me hanging to tend to more pressing matters.

I get the story later. My husband was driving my car that day as I took the good car to haul the kids for their annual Doctors appointment. He was driving home from work when the car started smoking, so he pulled in to a Denny’s parking lot. He went in to use the payphone, (again we were around before cells) and when he glanced around the restaurant, customers and staff alike were diving behind counters and under tables. One woman was pointing out the front window and when my husband turned he saw flames shooting out from under the hood of our car. Thus the phone call and visit from the fire dept. The car was totaled and the insurance company gave us twelve hundred dollars. We thought we were loaded until we starting looking for a new car. Let’s just say we were a one car family for quite a while.

During these trying times I came up with a policy I still live by today. If the problem is something I’ll still be dealing with in say a year, it’s a real problem. But on the other hand if it’s something that I won’t even remember in a year, then it needs to be tucked away nicely in that chest in the attic. There it will become one of those random stories we occasionally take out and tell to the children to prove that no matter how bad things get life goes on.

Saturday, November 13, 2010


Yesterday, I was having lunch with my daughter and her boyfriend and he was talking about some pictures he’d sent to my phone. This brought up a typical discussion that I constantly have with my children dealing with technology. On my last phone trade in I got a phone that does it all. Text, TV, every app imaginable...but I only have phone service. I refuse to text. Let me repeat, I refuse to text. If you want to talk to me, call. I have seen my kid’s text for an hour making plans that could have been handled in two minutes with a phone call. I get it. An “I’m running late,” text is maybe, probably easier than a call, but I’m not buying into the game. It’s just one more way to distance people from each other. I only have the phone in the first place because:

a. My kids only have cells and I’m on their plan so they can call me for free, not using up those precious minutes.

b. As I said before we travel a lot and it gives them a chance to get in touch in case of emergency.

That’s it. No other reasons. I work at home so most of the time people can get me there. In fact, the battery on my phone is dead most of the time because I forget to charge it the minute I get home (Note: I just got up to plug it into the charger).

I suppose most of this technology is good. But it seems to distance us from the people who are most important. I cringe when I am walking through the grocery and a young mother is chatting away on her cell as her child is pulling on her sleeve saying, “Mom, Mom.” You’ve all seen it. Or you’re behind someone in line that is chatting away on the cell as they pay for their purchase. You catch the cashier’s eye and shrug. A knowing smile crosses her face. It’s become a way of life.

People are important. Taking a few minutes to shut down your phone and spend time talking to your child has to be the priority. I am so glad my kids were raised without the technology. They learned to interact with people face to face.

It’s the same with e-mail. How easy is it to say something mean in a message that you wouldn’t say face to face? It’s a somewhat cowardly way to hit and run.

I hope you don’t think that I’m some crotchety fifty something who has no use for technology. I use it every day. I research on line for my articles. I send out notifications to my writing group, I play Bejewled, (hey, it’s fun) and I chat on Facebook. It’s just not the first step I take when I need to find out information from a friend or loved one. I'll pick up the house phone, because I like to hear their voices, the inflections and intonations that are part of a wonderful conversation. Besides, the cell phone's dead and I don’t feel like booting up the computer.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

What’s This or Where are the cookies?

My kids stop by at least once a week to check on the old folks. We are blessed with the fact that we would rather be with the three of them and their significant other’s than just about anybody else in the world. We try to all get together for dinner once a month, with game night after. Laughter reigns and memories are made in those long easy evenings.

I try to make a good meal as I know they are all busy with work and the day to day things that take up so much of our time. Usually it’s lasagna. Something easy I can make up early so I’m not in the kitchen all evening. But the last time they were here I was asked that question that I’m sure many an over fifty mom has gotten. “Where are the cookies?”

Yeah, they want to know where those wonderful snacks are. The ones you kept on the counter so they could grab and go during the school years. Where are the bowls with the chocolaty baked goods, the salty bags of chips and pretzels, the gummy bears, worms or juicy fruit’s and the fridge full of soda? Now, the bowls have nutrition bars with flax seed and protein. The fridge has bottles of cranberry juice, orange juice and low fat milk. In fact almost everything in the fridge has low fat emblazoned on the side. The pantry is empty of any and all salty snacks, replaced with cans of tuna, low sodium, low fat soups and granola.

“The almonds, walnut and cashew nuts drizzled in 85 percent cocoa dark chocolate are in the Tupperware right there.”

He reaches in and takes a bite. Running to the garbage can he spits the remnants of the chocolate morsels into the can. He rushes to the sink, turns on the faucet on and lets the water run into his mouth.

“Oh my god, how can you eat that”

“It takes some getting used to.”

“You use to have good snacks,” he grumbles.

“But if they’re here I’ll eat them.”

“Just use your will power.”

I have to laugh. “Will power?” I ask, “What’s that?”

My husband has willpower. One day he said, “I don’t think I’ll eat salt anymore.” That was it; he no longer salts his food. Then he said, “I think I’ll stop drinking soda.” That’s right no more soda. Not even when we go out for pizza or burgers. That’s just not right. Oh and instead of soda he drinks water. I don’t think he realizes how guilty I feel when we’re out for pizza and the waiter brings me a sixty-four ounce soda as he sips his small glass of water.

You would think I would use the I’m over fifty excuse and eat what I want, but somewhere in the deep recess of my mind is the notion that I do need to take care of myself, because I’m just staring to have fun. Those kids we raised, the ones who frustrated and annoyed us, the ones we ran after and picked up after, the ones we prayed for and fretted about. They turned out great and shouldn’t we reap the benefits a little while longer.

Besides, the healthy foods, well they grow on you.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Have you always been this young?

Okay, I get it, waiters, waitresses, aerobics instructors; all these professions are known for being held by younger people. My hair stylist is twenty-three. Most of my clothes and possibly make-up are older then her. (And I think I just threw out a tin of McCormick’s cinnamon that expired the year she was born). Whenever I have to deal with a person of younger stature I just think of them as one of my children. I talk to them the way I would talk to one of my kid’s friends. I think if everyone treated younger people in this fashion it would work wonderfully. However, I expect the same treatment in return. Well, maybe not to be treated like their mother, maybe their favorite older aunt.

The other day I was at the mall at a local department store looking for a white blouse. Easy right? A simple white blouse to wear with my dark jeans, I like the look, in fact I have pictures taken in this look since I was eighteen. So I walk into the store, to the ladies department and I locate the sales clerk who is leaning against the counter talking on her cell. The store phone rings and she hangs up from the cell to take the call with a, “Gotta go, the boss gets pissed if I miss a call”.

The young woman talks for a few moments, being sure not to make eye contact with me, then, “let me check,” puts the phone down and moves away possibly to check on a size in stock. When she returns carrying an item, she informs the person on the phone that yes she does have it in stock and yes she will hold it.

I’m standing there, waiting for the opportune time to ask about a shirt I saw advertised but can’t find.

Finally I have her attention.

“Excuse me; I’m looking for this shirt.” I show her the ad.

“I’m sorry ma’am, (Strike one) but those didn’t come in.” Large sigh, (you’re bothering me, strike two). “We have some on the other side that are comparable.” She looks down but doesn’t make a move to at least point me in the right direction.

“Could you please show me where they are?”

“Yeah sure.” (To the tone of I can’t be bothered but now you’ve put me on the spot.)

I follow her over to the section and she pulls out some white shirts. Then she says something that will set the tone of my day. “My mom loves this line of clothes.”

That’s it; I’ve been ignored, been ma’am and look like I wear mom clothes.

In my head I see the scenario as it should have gone.

I walk up to the counter, “Hello, how can I help you today?” Phone rings. “I’ll get that later, you’re here in the store now so I’ll help you first.”

“Thank you. I can’t seem to find this shirt.”

“I’m so sorry, those didn’t come in, but we have some that are pretty close on the other side. Follow me.”

She hands me the shirt. “This is one of MY favorite designers.”

“I’ll take two.”

I like my way better.