Rose-Colored Gifts of The Good Ol’ Days

Having described myself as a night owl for years, I have never been a fan of mornings. Oddly enough, since my daughter has started back to school this year, I have awakened between 5:00 and 5:30 a.m. without an alarm. When this had happened in the past, my usual choice had been to try to force myself back to sleep resulting in frustration if I was unsuccessful. If I was lucky enough to doze off, inevitably, I’d slip back into a near-comatose slumber. It seemed like mere seconds before the alarm jolted me back to life reminding me a little bit of defibrillator paddles. I would then experience a certain amount of sleep inertia and agonizing grogginess as I would grumblingly haul my body out of bed and heavily trudge my way to my work station in the kitchen. UGH!!!

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I have been opting, instead, to open my eyes and start allowing myself to go through a mental checklist about what I have on my agenda for the day. My mother and husband have both been on me for years to make a list. My response: “That’s not how I roll!” I now submit to the list! Though I see the merit in routine, I would never have described myself as being regimented. Just between you and me, I am enjoying going to the kitchen, starting a pot of coffee, and while it is gurgling, reading my daily devotional, two chapters in the Bible, and spending a little time with God.

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I once heard, that years ago, you weren’t considered educated if you hadn’t read the Bible. I thought, “I profess my Christianity, but how well do I know the Bible?” Soooo… I started with Genesis. “In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth.” I have made it to Ecclesiastes which is believed to be written by the wise King Solomon as he gets into the twilight of his years and reflects upon human existence. This morning a particular verse gave me pause in which I, too, was reflective. ‘Do not say, “Why were the old days better than these?” For it is not wise to ask such questions…When times are good, be happy; but when times are bad, consider: God has made the one as well as the other. Therefore, a man cannot discover anything about your future.’ Ecclesiastes 7:10,14

Wow. I thought about all the times recently that I find myself lamenting the current state of affairs in our world, and, even closer to home, our country. The verse’s associated devotional suggested that we look for today’s gifts instead of our very selective rose-colored memories of the past. In my close circle of influence, I recognize a multitude of gifts: my family and friends, my health, my faith, etc. Technology has bestowed upon us Skype and FaceTime with which we are able to see our loved ones in real time. We have portable all-in-one computer/camera/phones the size of a deck of cards that we can easily slip into our pockets. They store thousands of our favorite songs, photos, and videos that can be uploaded to FaceBook and a host of other social media websites to be instantly shared with family and friends, some of which we haven’t seen in 30-40 years. That is really cool stuff! I get that.

What I am wondering about in my reflection? Are my memories rose-colored and selective? In the “good ol’ days”, our music was less vulgar and more discreet in its sexual innuendoes. For example, “Mama’s got her squeezebox, Daddy never sleeps at night” were lyrics of implied sexuality but it wasn’t as in your face as are the licentious lyrics of many contemporary artists such as Beyonce, Lady Gaga and even some Katy Perry. Thank heavens for a little Taylor Swift for our kids to listen to! I fondly recall Motown, Barry Manilow, Glenn Campbell, Disco, The Bay City Rollers, The Little River Band, Lynard Skynard, The Eagles, Bob Seger, Classic Rock, Gino Vanelli, Earth Wind & Fire, The Commodores, Toto…am I wrongly remembering a time of better melodies with acceptable lyrics? Popular music has devolved into harsh rhythms and gutter-speak that comes with a warning about explicit content. Where is the musical quality?

Years ago, I purchased a CD by Outkast that had a song “Hey Ya”…”Shake it like a polaroid picture”. Driving in my convertible, I was listening to the rest of the CD. I was sitting at a traffic light next to a minivan with its windows open that was loaded with children. The lyrics got so vile, I turned it off! What is the purpose? I haven’t listened to it since. Songs by Eminem, Beyonce, Lil Wayne, include lyrics that are overtly sexual or openly dropping the “F” bomb! Is it really music or is it profanity accompanied by an overzealous mixer that has a fondness for a heart-pounding, thundering subwoofer? Is it a contest to see how repugnant one can get?

When I was young, our sitcoms included The Andy Griffin Show, Gomer Pyle, Hogan’s Heroes, McCale’s Navy, Gilligan’s Island, Mr. Ed, The Munsters, The Brady Bunch, The Cosby Show, and Growing Pains. The shows were decent, AND some had parents, and even grandparents, around giving the children guidance. Today’s sitcoms such as iCarly, Good Luck Charlie, Victorious and Sam and Cat either have no parents on the show and they are being raised and influenced by peers, or the mother wears the pants in the family and the father is a blundering boob.

Who doesn’t prefer the nostalgic Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer, Frosty the Snowman, Santa Claus is Coming to Town, The Little Drummer Boy or…wait for it…The Year Without a Santa Claus…”I’m Mr. Heat Miser! I’m Mr. Hundred-and-One!”?

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Even though we have the movies in DVD, I still look for these classics in the newspaper to find their showtimes. Only now, I have to search amongst a calendar starting Thanksgiving week that has 30 days of Christmas shows that are shown and repeated over the month. Nope…it isn’t as special as it was back in the “good ol’ days”, because then, we were only able to see them one time every December. In recent years, we have a twenty-four hour marathon of A Christmas Story  on TBS on Christmas Day. Who doesn’t love it when Ralphie escapes getting his eye shot out with the BB gun only because he is wearing glasses? Will we eventually be subjected to twenty-four hours of Shrek the Halls???

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Recently, my mom recommended that I get my daughter to come up with one meal per week: I will get the ingredients, and then she will cook it. We have now done it three times. It takes a lot of patience on my part, because I want to get it done as quickly as possible. Growing up, I remember my mom appointing me as her personal sous chef, so it is only fitting, that I have my own. I must say, she LOVES it. She enjoys taking ownership and is learning that the food doesn’t just show up on the plate. The memories that I have spending that time in the kitchen sure beat going to a restaurant or drive-thru which seems to be the preference these days. I even think some people that eat out all the time have adapted palates that would rather have a Chipotle Burrito then home cooking…not me! It is a labor of love that makes the house smell like a home. I think spending time as a family in preparing the meal is something that is going the way of the dinosaurs.

Perhaps, traditions are part of those rose-colored memories. Aren’t they what make us who we are? With the holidays quickly approaching, most of us look forward to rekindling those time-honored rituals that make us feel warm and fuzzy. Every year over the Thanksgiving holiday, my mom, daughter and I ice gingerbread cookies and take them to the firefighters and/or policemen to show our gratitude to those who are working over the holiday weekend. Due to the gift of technology, I greatly appreciate that I will be able to have a face-to-face conversation with my brother and sister-in-law on Thanksgiving Day! Better yet, standing in the kitchen slicing and dicing, basting and tasting alongside my mom and daughter will be most assuredly a timeless joy…just like “the good ol’ days”!

Middle School Course Requisite: Locker Decorating 101

Well, Middle School has officially begun. The back-to-school shopping for school supplies included the standard Sharpies, highlighters, folders, notecards and three ring binders. What has become part of our more recently celebrated return-to-school ritual is the decoration of lockers. Oh my! Gone are the days of the peeling, drab khaki-colored yellowed-tape-covered, banged-up minuscule lockers that were so narrow that your books wouldn’t lie flat. To describe them as less-than-memorable would be an understatement. Actually, did I have a locker? I think so. Did I go to it often? See, not that memorable!

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These days, they are almost the size of a studio apartment with a loft. Oh, and those old Master Lock combination locks that we used to use if we were fortunate enough for our parents to spring for the extra $10.00???? Fugget about it!!!! So passe! Now, the built-in state-of-the-art locks take on-the-job training and a little extra finesse. So clever! It can’t be just any ordinary lock to protect those tomes that the kids are having to carry around these days! Oh no, one needs special security to guard the wall-papered, shag-carpeted, two-tiered space that is complete with a “crystal” chandelier (with a motion sensitive setting) that would have made even Leona Helmsley a little green with envy. After all, one never knows when one might need a little light in the deep recesses of the well-appointed book vault. During the last week prior to school starting, we visited that locker on four different occasions practicing and timing the ever tricky combination lock.

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On the first day of school, my daughter woke to her alarm that she had set the night before and had intentionally moved across the room so as not to potentially fall back to sleep after shutting it off. She got dressed and came downstairs for breakfast. She was so excited! Woohoo! Big middle schooler! Surprisingly, given this bladder-eye’s history, I wasn’t feeling overly sentimental. I was excited for her! Her fourth grade teacher had her so well prepared that she was feeling very confident for her next stage.

We drove to school and had sweet conversation imagining what it would be like changing classes and being in the same school with some kids that had facial hair. It was all a relatively light exchange until we had to stop for a school bus. Standing at the corner was a lovely little family eagerly awaiting the door to open to help their smiling little blonde, curly-headed daughter climb on board. She was dressed with the same little Mary Janes and lacey socks that my little girl wore on her first day to school. The sendoff party included the dad, dressed for work in his crisp shirt and tie, the little brother enthusiastically waving goodbye to his sister, and the tearful mom taking pictures and trying to muster her best smile while waving and walking with the yellow-orange school bus until it turned and motored out of sight. Uh-oh! I just felt my throat clench! My daughter, who knows me way too well, said, “Mom, don’t cry.” I said, “Oh honey, it goes way too fast. It feels like yesterday when I had to blindly rush out of your pre-school so as not to have a public meltdown.” When we pulled to the drop-off curb of her school, she unceremoniously hopped out of the car and bounded into the building wearing the same size 8 shoe that I now wear. I, too, watched her in my rear view mirror until she motored her way out of sight. Sniff…Where has the time gone?

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Give me Liberty, or Give Me More Candy Crush Tokens???

“Apathy is a sort of living oblivion.”- Horace Greely

Let’s face it. Anymore it appears that what was right is wrong and what was wrong is not only right, but even celebrated and revered. Our country is being led down a path of destruction and her citizens appear to continue with their fascination with Candy Crush (I admit I love Candy Mania), social media, or the latest post-apocalyptic drama that seems eerily possible in our current turbulent global affairs.

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Where is the fight in people? Those whose beliefs align with the Tea Party are melting the U.S. Capitol switchboard and getting the same interns that take your name and zip code with your complaint. We write impassioned letters to our state and U.S. Congressmen and get the appeasing form letter telling us that they are understanding our grievances. It is nothing more than wonk speech. They are clearly not hearing the message.

What does this have to do with the musings of motherhood? Well, I often try to instill trust in my daughter that her mom and dad truly have her best interest in mind. Until she is legally an adult and paying for her bills, we are the custodians of her innocence, guidance, etc. As a representative Republic, are those representatives that we elect truly representing the values that we hold dear? Do they truly have our best interests in mind? Do they live by the same standards that we are made to live by? The utter and casual recklessness of the power-hungry, career politicians in Washington D.C. has resulted in the futures of our children and grandchildren being swept down the proverbial drain.

Recently, my husband and I attended a party, and I got into a conversation with a dear friend regarding the state of our Union. Politically, we are on the same page, and I sometimes forward certain emails to him that I feel worthy of his time. From our conversation, I concluded that he is a relatively big contributor to the Republican Party. He told me that he believed in my message, but that he felt I was a little too passionate in my delivery. However, he suggested that I get together with another politically passionate acquaintance of his to come up with a list of six bullet points that he would present to the person he supports to ask for answers to legislation and policies that do not align with Conservative principles. After all, if the Republican Party would like to have its Conservative constituency showing up at election time, the Conservative base, that has otherwise been relatively absent in recent elections, would like some of these issues addressed.

My friend said that the Republican Leadership has no power; its hands are tied. That is incorrect. The Constitution gives the House of Representatives the power of the purse and they are not using it to their advantage. Pressured by being portrayed by the bully pulpit of the President and the Main Stream Media as haters of all sorts, they feel compelled to do something, but sometimes doing nothing or keeping a President from doing something is the best plan. He said, “The Republican Party has to compromise.” Since when has the Democratic Party compromised? If a Republican compromises, the Democrats just move the goal post further Left. Again, sometimes the best strategy is to do NOTHING! It isn’t to give in to the opposition so they can further their agenda.

Admittedly, I can be a little too assertive in my opinions which are supported with dates, events, legislation, etc. I feel the average oblivious American needs to be brought up to speed whether they want to or not. I optimistically, and naively hope that it might spark an interest for them to become more engaged themselves.

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I pondered what my friend said about my brazen delivery and thought to myself, “Were the Founding Fathers dispassionate about this country and her freedoms?” The final sentence of the Declaration of Independence is an oath among the Signers to “mutually pledge our Lives, our Fortunes and our Sacred Honor.” Is the tone of those words passive?  Then, of course, there is Patrick Henry’s famous quote, “Give me Liberty, or give me death!” Do you think it was accompanied with a yawn or a blank expression? I think not on both accounts. The Signers of the Declaration of Independence lost everything including their families. The turnout at the Primaries has spoken to an apathy that has been like a cancer spreading throughout our land.

I have recently read a Bible verse that has truly resonated with me regarding the apathy in our country as our citizens passively stand by watching the decay of the greatest nation mankind has ever known. Interestingly enough, it is in the book of Revelation:

“I know your deeds, that you are neither cold nor hot. I wish you were either one or the other! So, because you are lukewarm-neither hot nor cold- I am about to spit you out of my mouth. You say, ‘I am rich: I have acquired wealth and do not need a thing.’ But you do not realize that you are wretched, pitiful, poor, blind, and naked.” Revelation 3:15-17 (NIV)

At the end of the day, without the freedoms that the Constitution guarantees and our elected have sworn to uphold against enemies of the United States of America, both foreign and domestic, will we not be “wretched, pitiful, poor…”? If you visit Ellis Island, you will find tomes filled with names of brave and courageous men, women, and children that had endured potentially life-threatening voyages to escape the horrors of nations where they had no freedoms and lived in “wretched, pitiful, poor” conditions.

In conclusion, I pray that we lock arms as a nation, regardless of political affiliation. I ask that God put passion for our country into our hearts and minds. What I have known of my country has been wonderful and she is certainly worth our efforts.

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“Freedom is never more than one generation away from extinction. We didn’t pass it to our children in the bloodstream. It must be fought for, protected, and handed on for them to do the same, or one day we will spend our sunset years telling our children’s children what it was once like in the United States where men were free.” -Ronald Reagan

To Saul Alinsky Radicals: I Say No More!

I have been thinking about how I would like to address a potentially sensitive issue, and I think it has finally come to me. When I was a young girl, I remember my mother spending hours on the phone trying to summon support to keep my brother from being bussed during the desegregation movement of the early Seventies. Her dissent wasn’t based on concern about her son or daughter going to school with a diverse student population. After all, her mother and grandmother were from Puerto Rico. Her bone of contention was that her son was going to be bussed twenty minutes each way to school instead of a distance that was close enough for him to walk. I remember hearing stories of horrible things that had happened at my brother’s middle school that were acts of violence. I could never understand why there was any tension between blacks and whites, and I still don’t understand it today. Admittedly, there have been grave injustices to the black population, but we cannot exclude the many diverse factions of people that are victims to persecution of some form or another. Included would be the persecution and murder of 12 million Jews during Hitler’s Holocaust. Many Germans stood by silently while their fellow countrymen committed those acts of horror. There is no talk of recompense for the European Jews who suffered such atrocities. The difference is there are no politicians salivating at the opportunity to exploit the victim mentality.

 

To be quite frank, I am sick to death of the accusations of racism that get casually thrown around when there are absolutely no grounds. It has gotten to the point of lunacy in the most recent demand of Disney to pull Jungle Book from store shelves because they are contending that the character portrayal of King Louie is racist because he “sounds black”. Ironically, it is the voice of Louis Prima, a white Italian actor. 20140709-150424-54264678.jpg I distinctly remember black children in my fourth grade class that I really liked. I use the expression “black”, because that is what I grew up saying. THEY WERE NOT FROM AFRICA!!! It would be like me saying, “I am Hispanic-American!” I believe it is about as ridiculous as a Democratic Senator from Massachusetts and potential 2016 DNC Presidential Candidate Elizabeth Warren claiming that she was the first NATIVE AMERICAN AT HARVARD LAW SCHOOL BECAUSE SHE WAS 1/32 CHEROKEE!!! HOW STUPID IS THAT!!!! . So I guess if she were to win the presidency, she would be the first female Native American president? Who in their right mind would cast a vote for someone who would stretch the truth to such an extent? I can recall many of the black children by name just as I can the white children…Debra Jackson, Kendra Vincent, Holly Hudson, Susan Smith to name a few. I remember two black boys,in particular, that shared a title with me as one of the five fastest runners in my class. Obviously, I peaked early because I am anything but a fast runner today. Their names were Gainey Hicks and Michael Jackson. No, it wasn’t THE Michael Jackson. 20140709-144443-53083629.jpg During the Red Rover games at recess, Michael would break through the chain of students and he would always take me back to the other side. It happened so often, at a parent-teacher conference my teacher expressed concern to my mother that I might have a crush on him. No, I didn’t have a crush on him, we were both friends and highly competitive. Flash forward to Junior High. I knew several black guys that went to my school. Some I liked, and some I didn’t. Some would act politely and friendly, others would act a little too friendly, making catcalls and rude innuendoes as I went through the hall. It had nothing to do with their skin color. One of the guys in particular, Randy Jordan, was in my homeroom from junior high until we graduated from highschool. He ALWAYS acted as a gentleman. In all honesty, when I saw him at my thirtieth high school reunion, I was as excited to see him as I was anybody else.   20140709-145033-53433691.jpg I worked at McDonald’s at 16 and spent time in the drive-thru window with a black woman whose name was Bernita. She was a bit older, a single mother and had thick coke-bottle classes. Her teeth looked like they hadn’t seen a dentist in her 30-40 years on this earth. I had no idea her exact age, nor did I have anything in common with her other than the navy blue-and-white striped, smothering, itchy polyester uniform and goofy-looking hat. It was back in the day when even if you worked at McDonald’s you took pride in how you presented yourself. For whatever reason, I always worked the early morning shift during the summer months with her because she worked full time and didn’t work weekends. All I know is that I would sing to her: “Nothing could be sweeta’ than me being with Bernita in the mornin’ ” I never once thought of her skin color. She worked hard, I worked hard, and the drive-thru ran smoothly. We worked well together. Period. I went off to college at University of Georgia and after four years, I interviewed with Delta Airlines as a flight attendant. Upon graduation from Flight Attendant training, I chose my base to be Cincinnati because the company was just opening a flight attendant hub there, and I would have the opportunity to hold a better schedule. Once we were granted our bases, I chose two girls that would be my roommates. One was a white woman (Debbie), and one was a black woman (LaWanda). We followed each other in a caravan of cars from Atlanta to Cincinnati and after three days in a hotel, we leased an apartment that was convenient to the Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky International Airport. It was awesome! All three of us were from Georgia, and, when we weren’t flying, we were inseparable. To make rent less expensive, we put the word out that we would have room for other flight attendants that might want to use the apartment if they were commuting. We had two takers. One woman was white, the other was black. We didn’t see them much or even get to know them very well, but it was great getting a break in the rent. After two years, the “Three Musketeers”, as we liked to call ourselves, came to an end when LaWanda told us that another black flight attendant questioned her living with us. She decided it was time to go live with someone who was “more like her”. Debbie and I were sincerely hurt and didn’t understand her way of thinking Ironically, and contrary to the stereotype, we were both raised in the South. 20140709-144109-52869550.jpg Many years have sifted through the hourglass of my life and since I have truly started paying attention to the agendas of the power-hungry elitist Leftists and the most powerful Community Organizer-in-Chief, Barack Hussein Obama, and his ilk, I have learned that using terms like “racism” is a tactic straight out of a book by Saul Alinsky, The Grand Poobah of Community Organizers. It is titled “Rules for Radicals” in which he dedicates the idealogical instruction manual “To Lucifer- the First Radical” (a paraphrase). Hilary Clinton and many sixties radicals are big fans of Alinsky, so I am by no means saying that Obama is in this alone. Of the many “rules” is “Ridicule is man’s most potent weapon.” 20140709-144226-52946212.jpg As a result of this strategy, our citizenry has been divided into 1.) “TEA Party Whackos” because they believe in lower taxes, smaller government, and free markets. Until you actually attend a TEA Party Rally yourself, don’t make any presumptions. Of course, the complicit mainstream media only shows pictures of enthusiastic white supporters (yes, there are proud, patriotic flag-waving blacks in attendance, but they don’t make any footage because it doesn’t fit the liberal racism narrative) wearing tricorn hats and carrying fifes and drums. 20140709-145238-53558885.jpg I have been to the rallies and they truly support our Constitution and American patriotism. When you leave a TEA Party rally, you won’t find as much as a discarded ticket stub because they want their image to be just as spotless. 2.) “Racists” if they question or disagree with anything that a person of color believes. That ranges from Xenophobes to Islamaphobes and everything in between. 3.) “Homophobe Haters” if you disagree with homosexuality or gay marriage. Funny, they are entitled to their opinion but noone is allowed to disagree with it, or you are labeled a “hater”! For example, Brendan Eich, founder of Mozilla and Firefox, recently stepped down due to pressure of donating to Prop 8 in California which was in defense of traditional marriage. Interestingly enough, all the Leftists that vilified Eich, demanding his resignation, supported Obama when he stated during his Presidential Campaign of 2012 that he also believed that marriage was between a man and a woman. 4.) The “War on Women” Conservatives who are intelligent enough to know that if you can’t afford birth control, abstain! If your sexual partner cannot afford birth control, what the Sam Hill are you doing having sex with him in the first place? Obviously, he couldn’t afford a child if there were a resultant pregnancy! Call me crazy! It isn’t rocket science! I AM NOT RACIST!!!!! I find it highly offensive, but then again, that is the idea. It is all in an effort to discourage public dissent. I am a woman who is embarrassed by my gender if they fall for the idiotic lies about the Republicans taking their “right to choose away from them”. Hello…Ronald Reagan AND George W. Bush both held office with control of BOTH HOUSES OF CONGRESS AND THE MAJORITY IN THE SUPREME COURT AND HAVEN’T REVERSED THE ROE V. WADE DECISION!!!!!!! I am a Christian! If anyone has no protection, it would be people of Christian faith. Our government should be ashamed of themselves for putting our soldiers into harms way and preventing them IN ANY WAY, SHAPE, OR FORM from worshipping their Heavenly Father. The liberals always love to quote Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. from his “I Have a Dream” speech. He said, “I look to the day when people will not be judged by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character.” That expression isn’t only for one color of skin, nor is it for one set of opinions. It has been commandeered by a power hungry politico whose intentions are less than honorable. Their behavior is despicable and it’s ill-effects are the ruination of our once-great nation.<

Suit Up Parents…Our Kids Are Worth It!

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Ahhhh…..the lazy days of summer. Well, not so much lazy as they are relaxed. The mornings begin around seven, but instead of the obnoxious blare of the alarm clock, we wake at our leisure. We would be heading out at 7:30 a.m. for swimming, but, thankfully, it has been rainy and cool so we have skipped it. There have been no lunches to pack nor planners to sign. It feels so good to not feel like I have to be “on the muscle” making sure this assignment is progressing or that vocabulary list of words is understood.

How refreshing it is to not feel distracted by a lengthy laundry list of to-dos, but to actually feel present in conversation regarding the myriad of interests about which my ten-year-old randomly chatters. I can still hear the conversation with my own mother when I was about her same age. I would be rambling on and on about who-knows-what before realizing that she was tuned out. Indignantly I said, “Mom, you aren’t listening to a thing I am saying!” She’d say, “Lauri Ann, you haven’t stopped talking for twenty minutes straight!” It’s so nice to get a little glimpse of what it will be like to be a grandparent who gets to put life aside and enjoy nothing more than the sweet simplicity of their company.

There must be something about sleeping in a parent’s bedroom that makes it extra special. I must admit after three consecutive movie nights in mom and dad’s room, I have declared it to be a Kid Free Zone tonight. I will say that I do enjoy watching a movie laying on the bed, as tight as sardines (yes, after his big sigh, even the 56-pound Portuguese Water Dog snuggles in with us), with everyone laughing together at the funny parts. What I don’t enjoy is when my husband reverts to his younger alter-ego and hands out “monkey bites” where he takes great pleasure grabbing the fleshy part of your thigh and squeezing. The kids do much better than Mom at laughing during this torturous exercise…I get mad. It hurts like the dickens, and this self-proclaimed delicate flower finds no humor in pain.

Though I welcome the break from supervising her rigorous academic calendar, there are still parenting responsibilities that can’t be disregarded. I was reminded of the importance of those details when I was at my daughter’s voice lesson yesterday. Her homework for the week was to read the lyrics of a song on which she is working and articulate them as well and as clearly as she could, both reading them aloud and singing them. We used the dead time driving in the car to go through the exercise.

I told her voice teacher about this and he thought it would be very impactful. I said, “In our culture today, good articulation isn’t stressed. Kids aren’t talking to one another, they’re texting. Sometimes you will see them all sitting at a table together and no one is having a conversation. They could be texting the person sitting next to them. Worse yet, it is even happening at our own dinner tables and parents don’t want to battle their children about their phones (I will be doing a post on kids and cell phones at a later date). If they are talking, they think it sounds hip to say “yeah” instead of “yes” and “What up?” instead of “How are you?” He said, “Kids feel uncomfortable articulating clearly amongst their peers.” I agreed, and told him the same applies to table manners and modesty.

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In our house, bad table manners aren’t an option. There is a level of expectation even if the television is on. We have repeated the rhyme “Mabel, Mabel, strong and able, get your elbows off the table!” so often that all we have to do is say, “Mabel” and it works like a charm. Sometimes all I have to do is clear my throat for a little unspoken “Heads up…your chewing with your mouth open.”

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Recently, my husband had a great opportunity to show an example to our daughter when they stopped at KFC on the way home from swimming a few nights ago. Some muscle-head from the gym across the street got his food and sat at an adjacent table. He tore into his food like a ravenous bear and Grace literally pointed at him and told my husband, “Dad, look at his horrible table manners!” Of course, then my husband had to correct her on not pointing at others because it TOO falls into the bad manners category, but it was good for her to see first hand how bad table manners look to others.

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As for modesty, the boys’ shorts have gotten longer, while the girl’s have gotten shorter… WAY shorter! I have seen shorts and wondered if the inseam was any longer than an inch. Why not wear underwear? They give a whole new meaning to the hot pants of the sixties. Historically, hemlines don’t get longer. It makes me shudder to think about it. I think many parents just get tired of battling their daughters and relent to these fashions. I say suit up! Here is what a concerned father did to discourage his beautiful daughter from wearing her shorts so short…love it! (For the record, I am not married to the man pictured below. I think my husband is the Best. Dad. Ever.)

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Though it is nice to have a reprieve from our usual harried schedule, I will continue to fight the good fight, because one day she will be interviewing for a job and will need to articulate clearly. She may someday have to take a customer to dinner to land a big deal and will be able to feel comfortable in the most refined of settings. When she goes to meet the parents of her future husband, she will know that they will be more likely to welcome her to the family if her undies aren’t spilling out of the bottom of her shorts! I guess it’s official…I am old-fashioned!

A Bittersweet Passage

This week, my daughter finished her elementary education, and it has reminded me that our children are really God’s children on loan. Starting out in the womb, every milestone is a step further away from us and closer to their independence. We carry them in our wombs and then give birth; we are separated. They are weaned; we are a little more separated. They begin to crawl, walk, and eventually run, all gradually increased stages of separation. I think with each of these stages come bittersweet sentiments that another chapter in their lives has passed and is written in the history books. We breathe a sigh of relief to see some of these stages end: the early days when they don’t sleep through the night, teething and drooling, the Terrible Twos, the days before they learn to swim when we can’t feel relaxed when they are around water. Other stages, we hate to see come to an end: reading them bedtime stories, holding their hands, girly dresses with ruffles and bows in their hair, T- ball and Tonka trucks.

I am very fortunate to be a stay-at-home mom, so I kept Grace at home with me until one year before she went to kindergarten. Many times, I second-guessed myself because I didn’t put her into pre-K3 or pre-K4 because all the other moms were doing it. Would she be behind academically? Socially? It seems like just yesterday that I was shopping for her first pair of sweet little Mary Jane shoes and lace-trimmed socks for her to wear to school. I remember people asking me If I was going to cry on her first day. I said, “Really??? It’s a preschool! She is only going to be in school for two hours a day, three days a week! How ridiculous!” The big day came, and we were so excited! I walked her into her class room, and we were both grinning from ear to ear! We found her cubby hole where she placed her pink canvas tote embroidered with GRACE on the front. She turned to me, I leaned down, and she squeezed my neck as only she can do, saying, “Bye-bye, Mommy.” That was all she wrote! She bounced off, smiling, looking forward to her new adventure. I, on the other hand, blindly rushed to my car so I wouldn’t publicly fall apart. Who knew? It still brings me to tears as I think about it now.

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The next year, she started kindergarten. Again, people asked me if I would cry on the first day. “No way! It is only half-day kindergarten! Plus, I got that out of my system last year.” On her first day of school, I parked the car and walked her to her room. Her lovely, smiling teacher greeted us by the door. We went in to find her desk (she was so excited to have her first desk) and her cubby hole. I gave her a hug, told her I loved her, and walked out the door. Whew, that wasn’t so hard! Her teacher handed me an envelope that had a letter inside. SOOOO…..I opened it. It should have come with a warning! It read something like this:

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Again, I blindly raced my car to my car, and eventually, and thankfully, collected myself in the solitude. Thank the Lord for tinted windows! Now that I am entering the much dreaded menopausal state of my life, I have noticed that tears seem to hang out right behind my eyeballs, waiting anxiously to betray me without notice.

Last week, we attended my daughter’s Pathway celebration when the school commemorates the fourth-grade passage from Elementary School to Middle School. The Elementary School principal tearfully gave a tribute. My daughter kept looking at me for signs of any waterworks. I was really proud of myself to keep my composure. Regardless, I had the Kleenex at the ready. Each of the children’s names were announced, then they would hug Principal Past, walk under the archway adorned with green and purple balloons, continue toward the Middle School, and shake the hand of Principal Future. We ended the ceremony in the Middle School cafeteria where the kids enjoyed an ice cream social. This is a stage to which I am sad to say goodbye.

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One of my favorite things about the elementary school was testing children
on their Bible Memory Verses. Hearing God’s words in a child’s voice is beyond precious. Every Friday the children in Pre-K3 thru 4th grades would gather for chapel. Sitting behind 400 children not only singing songs about Jesus, but doing it in sign language as well was, more often than not, too much for this bladder-eyes to take. There weren’t many chapels that I sat through that didn’t require a Kleenex. I remember one chapel in particular, when the kids were singing and signing The Revelation Song (tears) before the showing of a video of a football team being taught a life lesson (more tears). I looked at the lady sitting next to me, and she also had tears streaming down her face. I gave her a Kleenex from my purse and asked, “What’s next….Brian’s Song???”

Gone are the days of the backwards 3s, 5s, and Es. No more new boxes of crayons to open up and deeply smell( I love that sweet fragrance…it reminds me of innocence and being a little girl). Left behind are the happy little smiley faces and “WOW!”s on her worksheets. Time to break out the scraper to peel off the old, stubborn tape remnants that were used to proudly display her sweet handprint art (turkeys, Christmas angels, and shamrocks) on the refrigerator doors.

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Now, we are off to Middle School. Hello, hormonally-driven mood swings, braces, and pimples! Here comes the girl drama, not to be outdone, I am sure, by the boy drama! It’s time to steel myself for the plethora of adolescent issues that will have to be addressed so I don’t go completely insane! I just hope there’s enough Chardonnay to get me through it!

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By Not Giving Honest Feedback, Are We Creating Generations of Wimps?

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My daughter had a swim meet this weekend. After every event, she excitedly strolled over to her coach to check in. Her coach would tell her what she did well (ear-to-ear grin), point out any weaknesses in her stroke (shoulders slump), and conclude with a high five telling her, “Nice job!” She then came to check in with my husband and me and she said, “How did I do?” WELLLLLLLLL….We too would tell her she did very well at some aspects of the swim, point out her areas for improvement, and tell her nice job. However, after one of the heats in particular, as I was telling her things that she could work on, she said, “Mom, are you criticizing me?” (She is so clever). “Well, yes, I guess I am. I would rather call it feedback. I have already told you how well I think you did. I also told you how proud I am of you. Regardless, you still have areas to improve. Mommy and Daddy give each other feedback, ahem, on a regular basis.” (Of course, I am not about to let her know that neither of us readily accept it. She will figure that out on her own at a later date.) Why is it that her coach can give her feedback, but if we tell her anything, it is criticism? As individuals, why do we take feedback from employers, customers, etc. more receptively than a spouse or parent, who loves us and truly has our best interest in mind. We bristle with defensiveness often retaliating by pointing out one of their flaws.

In our “everyone-gets-a-trophy” culture, are we doing a disservice to our children by not allowing them to receive an honest evaluation of their performance? Taking it a step further, are we preventing them from experiencing disappointment thus disallowing them to learn essential coping skills they will need throughout adolescence and even adulthood. Without feedback, how are we to get any better? I believe these actions are creating generations of wimps. To my point, in recents months, I heard of schools that were no longer going to have special receptions honoring those who achieved academic excellence, because they didn’t want the other children to feel bad. BOO HOO!!!! WORK HARDER OR GET OVER IT!!!

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A lack of feedback, i.e. not giving a trophy to the best prepared team, can potentially disincentivize individuals from giving their very best effort. If they know beforehand that they are going home with the same hardware as everyone else, what is the motivation to bring your “A” game? It reminds me of an interview I watched where college kids, having grown up in this culture of everyone getting the same regardless of performance (i.e. wealth redistribution), being asked if they would mind averaging their grades with others who didn’t do as well. For example, would an “A” student mind taking a “C” because another student, who made an “F” hadn’t made a good decision to study and prepare himself for a test, but, instead, decided to stay up all night partying like a rock star? The looks of shock on their faces were priceless. There was a mixture of flabbergasted horror and incredulity. “No way! I earned that grade!” Interestingly enough, having had no real life experience, they don’t equate that scenario with the progressive income tax rate. Due to Liberal indoctrination and propaganda, many college students believe those who have made good decisions, studied hard, taken great risk, and worked their whole life sacrificing family time and even their own health to achieve comfort in their later years should “pay their fair share”.

My husband does everything with high energy and great attention to detail. He is particular about keeping a well groomed yard. He is the lawn guy, I am in charge of keeping watch over the flower beds. A couple of years ago, we opted to pay a more expensive landscaping company because their reputation warranted it. He came home recently from a meeting and the landscaping crew were there working. He wanted to discuss a few brown, bare spots that were randomly scattered in our lawn. Mind you, he schedules his day such that there isn’t a lot of leeway in between one task and the next. In his dress shirt and slacks, he walked around the yard pointing out different things that were concerning him about the lawn. For him, he was just checking off his mental list of areas that he wanted to be addressed.

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A few days later, my husband received a text from the owner of the landscaping firm telling him that his employee felt my husband had berated him, and his employees will not be subjected to such treatment. Granted, I usually am the one dealing with the crew and have more of a warm-fuzzy personality; he is more direct. I am more about relationships, he is more about finishing a task….we complement each other well that way. For example, it takes me thirty minutes to say my farewells at a party; it takes him 5 minutes tops.

Luckily, I was outside watering my flowers, so I heard the tone of the conversation. My husband was merely giving feedback to an employee of a landscaping firm that he pays considerable money to maintain our yard and landscaping. He didn’t make it personal. Doesn’t he have the right to give input? Are people so thin-skinned that they cannot accept it as an opportunity to improve? In the workplace, most employers give an annual review assessing your performance for the previous twelve months. If there is an area that the boss thinks needs improvement, you either get better or get overlooked for a raise or a promotion. In a worse case scenario, you get demoted or get your walking papers.

Feedback, a.k.a. criticism, is a necessary element to a productive and thriving society. We should all put on our big boy/girl pants, sift through the information, and use what applies to become our best selves. Come to think of it, maybe we should think about an annual review in our marriages. Just kidding! I somehow don’t think that it will lead to matrimonial harmony or bliss.