My Name is Lauri…and I’m a Bossypants

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WARNING: The post you are about to read may contain offensive language that is unsuitable for the weak-kneed. One might need to put on their Big Boy/Girl Bossypants and check their fears at the door.

I have often heard the expression, “Show me someone who doesn’t mind losing, and I’ll show you a loser.” Show me a man/woman who isn’t bossy and I’ll show you a doormat that gets taken advantage of throughout his/her life. You won’t see a competent leader, that is for certain. You will see a man/woman who helps to promote those who are bossier to higher status while he/she meekly recedes to the shadows. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t think you should ever intentionally try to squash someone to benefit yourself or improve your position. If so, you simply have a callous, self-interested, egocentric and heartless nature; you aren’t being bossy. “Bossy” knows what direction he/she needs to go and confidently deems it unnecessary to coddle any teammates.

Currently, there is a discussion being promoted by the Left and Hollywood about getting rid of the word “bossy”. They base their argument on the idea that the word has a negative connotation towards women. Since when has the word only referred to women? Let’s see…I have been called a myriad of names, some of which I won’t put here in case my daughter reads this. “Moptop”, “Fuzzytop”, “Dorky”, “Quirky”, are just a few that quickly come to mind. You can only imagine the blonde jokes to which I have been subjected. Some apply, some don’t and others are hysterical. What ever happened to the expression, “Stick and stones may break my bones but words will never hurt me”? We all have baggage from mean things that have been said to us. They linger inside of our conscience, and we revisit them when we are mentally beating ourselves up or we are feeling especially vulnerable. More than likely, it was said in the heat of the moment. Does it make it right? No. Do they have the freedom to say it? Yes! Conversely, we all have had moments when we have shown our lesser selves and used hurtful language toward others. Should our society alter our vocabulary so as not to offend? Absolutely not!

I have a great reverence for our nation’s Constitution. For 55 men, of vastly different backgrounds, to have gathered and created a document that has been as timeless as it has, is nothing short of a miracle. I wouldn’t be alone in saying that I believe it was Divinely inspired. To compare, the proud French have written five Constitutions since the birth of ours. One of the freedoms listed in the First Amendment of the Constitution’s Bill of Rights, due to its importance, is Freedom of Speech. If you have lived other than a solitary life in a cave, you have probably been offended by someone’s speech at one time or another. When we start limiting what people can hear with their tender little ears, we gaze toward the slippery slope of when Hitler gave “his” radios to the German citizens and made it illegal for them to hear any station other than his own. He was able to shape the citizenry at will.

Political correctness has hampered honest debate and truth in our nation. The Left has brilliantly used “racism” to stifle free speech. The Libs can’t make up their minds. They frequently give mixed signals about what they determine to be acceptable or unacceptable. Though it is a variation of the “n” word, many celebrity black rappers want to marginalize and “own” the word “nigga”, saying it is okay amongst themselves. The offensive slur is now referred to as “the -er word”. How inconsistent is that????? George Orwell warned about this “Newspeak” in his book 1984.The Black Community is calling foul and are trying to disallow use of the “racist” word “thug” because “EVERYONE KNOWS THEY ARE REFERRING TO BLACKS AND ARE STEREOTYPING”. Who is stereotyping? I don’t know about you, but when I think of a thug, a Chicago-style gangster, no offense Chicago, pops into my mind. No, he is not a black man or even a young black man. If any stereotype might be drawn, it would be of a 35-year-old Italian mobster. I apologize to Italians everywhere! I can say that I love Italians! It is absurd! I wouldn’t use the word “thug” to describe any of these lawless teens, whether they are black or white. I would simply refer to them as punks, because that is EXACTLY what they are.

I remember a few years ago when a little girl was riding in my car with my daughter on our way to a field trip. My daughter referred to something as “lame”. The other little girl gasped, almost as though my daughter had dropped the F-bomb. She said, “You can’t say that. That is a bad word.” Of course, then my ears perked up and I pictured myself getting a bar of soap to wash her mouth out (not a technique that I have used, but I know it was proven to be quite effective for my grandmother when my mom once told a lie). I said, “Gracie, what did you say?” She looked like she was in trouble because she knows that we make choices not to use bad language. She said, “Mom, I didn’t say a bad word, I promise! I said lame.” I said, “That isn’t a bad word.” The other little girl said, “My mom and dad told me that it is a bad word.” I told her that if her mom and dad told her not to use it, by all means, she shouldn’t use it, but it isn’t a bad word. Her dad works for a large corporation and has been schooled, I am sure, on political correctness. On the other hand, my husband is a self-employed entrepreneur, and I am a stay-at-home mom. Neither of us are overly fond of political correctness. We don’t believe one should purposely say anything hurtful, but sometimes you’ve got to call a spade a spade (I promise, no slur intended here).

Being a bit of a word-nerd, no offense meant to any nerds out there, I just so happen to have the ol’ handy-dandy dictionary in my glove box (like I said, I am a total word-nerd). I whipped it out, and looked up the word. The definition for lame read “weak”. The example given was “He gave a lame excuse.” In my almost 50 years of life, I have never thought of a person in a mean way as being lame. If someone is wheelchair-bound or handicapped in any way, I don’t make derogatory remarks toward them. Period. I pray to God to lighten their load and then thank Him for my many blessings.

Sometimes name-calling is well deserved. Driving on the road, if I have my head up my butt and miss a red light turning green, you can honk your horn and call me “Butthead”. It’s okay…I would deserve it! I would then humbly wave an “I’m sorry” and know that I earned any new moniker they may have chosen in their aggravation with my oblivion. If people have their heads up their butts and aren’t paying attention, I might say something in the privacy of my car or my mind, and, in most instances, it is deserved. If I have to resort to using my own horn to startle a driver out of their reverie, I could only hope that they would roll down the window and yell, “Hold your horses, Bossypants!” I’m not gonna lie, it would feel good!!!!>

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Packed Lunches: Love in a Sack

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There are many ways that we show love to one another in our family. On a frigid morning, my husband might surprise me by starting my car, putting the seat warmer on, and having a steaming cup of coffee waiting for me in the cup holder next to a note telling me to “Have a great day!” Yes, I feel the love!!!! For years, Grace has shown me her love by bringing me flowers that she has found outside. Sometimes, the beautiful blossom might include the root system of one of my newly planted annuals. Gasp! Occasionally, in my coat pockets, I find dried-up, crumbling little daffodils that she had given me when we used to spend our summers at baseball fields cheering for her brother. Ironically, these little treasures are more precious to me now than when she had first given them to me. What sweet tokens of love! My showering of love includes hot breakfast for my husband and daughter almost every morning to start their days off on the right foot. I am a little laundry-obsessive making sure that their clothes have the freshest smell so when they put them on they can inhale all that love! I am crazy for Downy Unstoppables! I am also an ironing fanatic (I used to iron the sheets) who is starting to give in to some of the wrinkles due to a lack of time. Grace actually referred to me as an “Ironing Super Hero”. I fold underwear into sweet little packages that are lined up in the drawers. It may sound a little crazy, but they look like rows of little hearts!

One of the ways I show my daughter that I love her is packing her lunch every day. It started with packing her lunch for first grade. The night before, I would take great joy in my quiet time after she went to bed decorating her paper lunch sack with her class’s letter of the week. For example, if the letter of the week was P, I might write “The Proud Purple Penguin Put up her Polka-dotted Parasol”. Then I would take great pleasure in drawing an illustration to match. It was the epitome of dorkiness, but it was a stage that felt bittersweet to leave behind. Her lunch sacks were sadly replaced with a Barbie lunch box. Currently, my little fourth grader is sporting a Vera Bradley lunch sak that she threw in as part of a negotiation for a new VaVa Bloom backpack for achieving straight As all year. After all, they must match!

I would say that she enjoys a wide variety of lunches. In first and second grade, I would alternate between American cheese sandwiches or PB-and-Js. Occasionally, I would throw in a thermos filled with cottage cheese, sliced turkey, and pineapple or peaches. She really loves to takes leftovers with her, and I am amazed at how she bravely opens her thermos and isn’t swayed by peer pressure. One of her personal favorites is grilled rosemary seasoned lamb chops with saffron and Parmesan risotto. She told me about her tablemates asking her what she was eating. “EWWWWWWW!!!!” You’re eating dead lamb!” She continued undeterred. It reminded me of my own experiences in the lunchroom when I was in school.

My mother is a fantastic cook. She is also wonderful at stretching the dollar. My lunches were creative to say the least. My personal favorite was egg salad sandwiches on fresh white bread. It was pure heaven biting into the creamy texture and having to use my tongue to pry the bread off the roof of my mouth because it was so soft. I remember being in Mrs. Pillow’s first grade class, and the class squealing, “What is that smell? Did somebody fart? Ewwww!” I couldn’t have cared less!

I think my mom thought that peanut butter and jelly was either too expensive or too beneath her culinary talents. I’m not sure. She would send her little darlings to school with a variety of tasty sandwiches: green olive and cream cheese, roast pork or roast beef, tomato and cheese, cucumber with mayo, and baked bean. Yes, I said BAKED BEAN!!!!!!! As I said earlier, my daughter wasn’t bothered by any reproachful looks or comments from her peers. It wasn’t the same for me. I would wait until everyone pulled out their PB-and-Js and I would sneakily slide my sandwich out of my lunch box and try to eat it without garnering a lot of attention. It wasn’t something that I could get away with when eating the odorous egg salad, so I wouldn’t even bother trying to hide it.

Nowadays, when my brother and I tease my mom about the myriad of unusual lunches, she defensively responds, “I always tried to send you to school with a healthy and nutritious lunch!” My thought…ISN’T PEANUT BUTTER MORE NUTRITIOUS THAN CUCUMBER??? I used to babysit a child that ate nothing but peanut butter and jelly sandwiches for breakfast, lunch, AND dinner and she lived to adulthood! Mom, just kidding! I LOVED those cold baked bean sandwiches!!!! They were really awesome, ESPECIALLY if I had been vegetarian!(Gag)

I now realize how fortunate I was to have had a mom that put that much thought into providing my brother and me with such a tasty lunch. Most mornings, I don’t feel like being all that creative with the menu. If I have a little stretch when I put the same PB-and-J, apple, chips and FiberOne bar in her sak too many times, she lets me know. She says, “Mom, can I PLEASE have something different for lunch today?” Growing up, I never had to ask for a change to the routine. My mom could just as easily have made the same thing every single day. After all, “Variety is the spice of life!” Thanks Mom! Thanks for all the love!

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I Know This Much Is True: In Dance!

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Having your first child is quite an eye-opener. You don’t know what to expect, and, in your inexperience, you don’t realize that some of the more challenging stages are only temporary. Thank the good Lord! Being the mom of a little girl has its own set of challenges. Every little phase or whim comes with a bit of a learning curve. “When life deals you lemons, make lemonade!” Below, I have listed a few of those “sour” lessons pertaining to dance.

Lesson 1: Make sure to have an extra pair of tights.

The first recital my daughter ever danced in was traumatic, to say the least. My husband was out of town coaching his son’s baseball team, so i was flying solo. I had planned to drop her off at the theatre early, run to the store to buy her flowers, and be seated for the beginning of the performance. Like I said, I had PLANNED it that way. I got her dressed in her first costume and fixed her hair and make up. “Okay,” I told her, “Mommy has to get dressed now. It won’t take me long.” As she headed out of my bedroom, it occurred to me that I needed to go potty before I got dressed. As I was lowering myself to the toilet, I heard the door chime beep, and it quickly occurred to me that my daughter was going outside to show our neighbor “Miss Kelly”, who had been working in her garden, her beautiful self, all dolled up in costume and makeup. There was only one problem…she had no shoes on over her tights! It felt like one of those movies when a scene moves in slow motion. “NOOoooOOOooOOOooo!” It was too late! As I rounded the corner, I saw her do a pirouette while she was watching her reflection in the glass door. Nylon tights are not meant to hold up to twirling on exposed-aggregate concrete! Just sayin’! There she was with two toes poking out of her brand new tights! Deep breath!!!!! Ahhhhhhh!!!!!

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Lesson 2: Keep Costumes, Accessories, and Shoes Close.

When there are twelve excited, squealing little girls trying on their much-awaited recital costumes for the first time, check to make sure you get all of the costume pieces back in your bag ensuring another mother hasn’t mistakenly taken half of YOUR child’s costume home with her. Shortly after witnessing her putting her little piggies through her tights, I checked the costume for her second performance to make sure that all the pieces were together. Half of her costume was missing! Breathe!!!!!! Of course, my bottom being still puckered after the tights incident, I wasn’t the most tolerant version of my self. I called the studio in the rare chance that they were picking up stage props, and got ahold of her teacher. She hadn’t heard of anything being turned in. Time to panic!!! Of course, I thought my child was the culprit! “Grace, what did you do with your costume? I told you not to play with either of your costumes until after the recital!” I am sure I was looking just short of demonic at this point! “Mommy, I promise I didn’t play with them!” Like I believed her! I remember saying I didn’t hang on the towel rack and pull it out of the wall, even after the third time! What was I to do??? If I kept looking for the missing piece, she might not make her first performance. Because my husband was out of town, I couldn’t send him ahead with our daughter so that I could keep looking in her room. I was certain that she had played with it and stuck it somewhere obscure. Ultimately, I decided to take her to the theatre and leave her with her dance team while I went back to look for the missing piece. I was rattled!!! When I got to the theatre, I told my friend the situation and she said she would stay with the girls and call me if someone came with an extra costume piece. I raced home and looked frantically through her drawers, under her bed and in her closet. Nothing. My phone rang and, lo, the missing piece was found! One of the moms said she sent an email to the team when she realized that she had an extra piece. Funny, no one else had received the heads-up. Regardless, it was my fault for not being more careful. I can assure you, IT WILL NEVER HAPPEN AGAIN!!! EVER!!!!

Lesson 3: Invest in a Laundry Basket to Carry to All Performances.

My daughter has started performing with her school’s Competitive Dance Team. It isn’t hard core at this stage, but I know if she continues, it will become more intense. After my earlier debacles, I am very open to anything that will alleviate stress on “game day”. My daughter’s coach recommended a laundry basket to keep all items necessary for her performance. BEST ADVICE EVER!!! It holds a kaboodle (like a tackle box for girls) with her makeup and application instructions, makeup remover cloths, hairspray, bobby pins , brush, etc. It also keeps her costume, shoes, poms, mitts, tights (of course there are two pairs…see Lesson 1), leggings, and team jacket. I also keep a laminated checklist in the basket to look over so I don’t forget anything.

Lesson 4: Do NOT Go to a Wine Dinner on the Eve before a Performance!

The night before last year’s Jamfest Competition, we were invited to a wine dinner. The next morning, we had to leave the house fully dressed including makeup and hair at 4:30 a.m., drive 35 minutes, and check-in with the team at 6:00 a.m. Putting eyeliner and lip pencil on sleepy, miniature lips and eyes with an unsteady hand…let’s just say it can get a little dicey!

When it is all said and done, you find your seat, take a last deep breath, and sit back. As you begin to relax, you watch your little wonder, remembering a simpler time when you were up on that stage with your own parents watching, and think, “MOM, HOW THE HECK DID YOU DO IT???”

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Do We Allow Our Kids to Reap What They Sow?

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My daughter and I recently attended a fabulous high-school production of The Children of Eden. It is a play based upon two main stories of the Bible. The basis for Act 1 is The Fall from Grace; Act 2 is based upon The Flood. It was an interesting study of parents (God, Adam, Eve, and Noah) and their relationships with their children. Throughout the play, there were many references to “letting go”. There was even an analogy of rescuing a baby bird that had fallen from its nest. After the bird became strong enough to fly, it pecked and scratched its caregiver to the point of injury. The bird was “let go” and it was able to become stronger, flying away to live on its own. I found it to be quite impactful, because, at times, I struggle with letting my own child fail and learn from her mistakes. As a matter of fact, it has been my observation that many moms appear to have the same issue, almost wearing it as a badge of honor. Maybe, as mothers, we feel our success is tied to our children’s achievements, and their mistakes, just as equally, reflect poorly on us. On the other hand, dads seem to have an easier time allowing their kids to make mistakes and suffer the consequences. Do we keep our children from experiencing the lessons necessary to learn essential character building, coping skills, and problem solving for “life after Mom and Dad”.

A very dear friend of mine recommended a WONDERFUL, scripture-based book called “Boundaries” by Drs. Henry Cloud and John Townshend. It stresses the importance of having personal boundaries with those who might take advantage. They might include spouses, friends, co-workers, bosses, parents and CHILDREN. I envision a hula hoop around the heart. We easily get into relational patterns with others that can become damaging if there are no established safeguards. In the book’s introduction, an alien, from a zero-gravity planet, where all of its fundamental needs for existence were provided, got dropped out of the mothership and landed with a “THUD!” on Earth. “Ouch!” It was the first time it had felt any pain. It noticed an ache in its belly. A local yokel helped it to identify the feeling as hunger and kindly directed it to a restaurant down the street. After eating a very satisfying meal, the alien got up, tried to leave, and was surprised by the anger of the restaurant owner who suspected the foreigner of trying to skip without paying. The alien had no money and shortly found itself handcuffed and hauled off to jail. This scenario quickly draws a familiar picture (hopefully not the jail part) of when our own parents pushed us out of the nest. Who knew life could be so hard! The book further details that even though one might have grown up in a home with no boundaries, the world DOES have them. One will either choose to succumb to them or have to deal with the consequences. Let’s be honest, what kids, especially teenagers, like rules (boundaries)? From a parent’s perspective, it takes so much more energy to maintain boundaries in the home, but, in the end, the payoff is well worth the effort.

Being an older parent who doesn’t have the same financial stresses as those who are just starting out, I know how much easier it would be to say yes to my child’s every whim. However, based upon my own upbringing, I see the merit in kids learning to appreciate the value of money and how hard it is to earn. When I was eleven, I started babysitting for a family every summer making a whopping $.50/hour/child. I thought I was living large when the family grew to having three children! If I wanted to go roller skating, I would wash my parents’ cars or mow the grass to pay for it. I was a little surprised that my dad entrusted me with the lawn mower after leveling two of the five randomly planted dogwood trees that he had proudly purchased in a “Super Saver” 5-pack. When I was old enough to drive, I filled out an application, got the one-on-one interview, and excitedly landed my first real job…at McDonald’s! Today I see kids applying for these starter jobs that look like absolute slobs! It is like they have no concern about making a good first impression! Where is their pride? They look like they are entitled to the job before they have even been interviewed! I worked most weekends and all summer at “The Golden Arches” until I was in my senior year of high school. It was truly some of the most fun I ever had in a job! These starter jobs are very important in encouraging kids to do well in school so that they won’t have to flip burgers into their adulthood. I laugh when I hear of protesters wanting $15.00/hour. Maybe if they got the orders right, customers wouldn’t mind paying $10 for a Big Mac! There is a lot of mobility in the fast -food industry as well that promotes really good employees to different levels of management. Sadly, I see kids whose parents don’t make them work and I think both the parents and the kids are really missing out on a lot!

My daughter loves anything related to mermaids. She wanted to buy a $30 mono-fin a mere two weeks after insisting that her life would definitely end if I didn’t buy a mask, snorkel, and fins set at Costco. I told her that she didn’t need two types of fins. I made her dig in her piggy bank to pay for it. It is ironic that kids don’t like parting with their own money but have no problem spending Mom and Dad’s! The following summer she found a Magic Fin Mermaid Tail that the actresses used on the Nick series H2O. She wanted me to get it. I asked her to show it to me. $200! I said, “Are you out of your mind? Absolutely no way!” She said, “Fine. I will ask Santa to bring it to me!” I said, “Go right ahead, but don’t be surprised if you don’t get it. Santa only brings cold weather toys like snow boards, skis, ice skates, and sleds.” I know, I know..it was just a little white one! Sure enough, the following summer, she decided to go for the more economical version that included a two-pice swimsuit (which was insufficient the summer before because it lacked the very authentic scale pattern). It totaled $90; she decided she needed it badly and couldn’t possibly wait any longer. I informed her that she had to pay for it if she wanted it. Agreed. When the credit card statement was due, I reminded her that she needed to pay her dad so he could pay the bill. She carried all the wadded up bills to her father and they counted them together…too cute! We could have bought it for her, but she took so much pride in buying it for herself. The lesson and consequence came when, shortly afterwards, she saw something else that she had to have and she didn’t have the money to buy it. As a result, she has negotiated $20/week allowance. She gets deductions for chores that are overlooked, so she doesn’t often get the full amount. After getting her money’s worth out of her cheaper mermaid tail last summer, she has her sights on the expensive one and she almost has all the money saved to buy it herself. MY LESSON in all of this: not bailing her out by giving her the money to buy the beloved MagicTail taught her the value of money AND the art of negotiation, two very important life skills.

The Medusa Scale

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Hi guys! Thanks so much for such a wonderful response to my post “The Medusa Scale”. I have gotten some wonderful anecdotes from other people about “losing it” themselves or their moms going off the deep end. If you have a story and would like to share it, please comment here or drop me an email:

Lgoodwin@4atc.com

I won’t attach any names, I promise! However, if you post a comment here, it is set up for public viewing. There is just something comforting in knowing that we aren’t alone.

Again, thanks for the stories!

Princess to Patty Cake

Lauri Goodwin

It Started with the Little Blue Dress

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Growing up, I never would have thought of myself as a prude. I loved to go to the discos and dance with my girlfriends or go out on a date for an evening of wining and dining. Don’t get me wrong, I would “Shake my Groove Thing” to Peaches and Herb, “Celebrate” with Kool and the Gang, and dance “All Night Long” with Lionel Richie, but other than a little too much white Zinfandel, it was mostly clean fun. YES, we did drink that pink wine back then, thought we had it goin’ on, AND we liked it! I don’t remember seeing a lot of behavior that I found to be offensive. If someone made a spectacle of themselves, people would either eyeball them until they chose to go elsewhere, or the police were called to escort them from the premises. There was a code of conduct to which our society adhered. Recently, I was talking with a mom who had thrown a birthday party for her daughter’s sixteenth birthday which included a DJ playing music. The mom was telling me that she couldn’t get over the fact that these high-schoolers were dancing so sexually, AND it was all in front of the attending, and gawking, parents and grandparents. The kids showed no signs of being uneasy. It seems as though propriety has become a distant memory.

In our current culture, I believe that decency began its decline with the infamous little “blue dress”. Of course, we have had presidents that haven’t exactly left behind stellar legacies, but Bill Clinton’s takes the cake, or so it would seem. For the first time in our nations’s history, the Presidency was reduced to playing saxophone on late night television, “not having sex” with a White House intern in the Oval Office, and newspapers and magazines were filled with headlines about the creative use of a cigar. It was all over the news. Everywhere. During the summer of 1998, I was on a cruise ship in the middle of the Mediterranean having dinner at the captain’s table and the topic of conversation was Bill Clinton and Monica Lewinsky. Contrarily, instead of him being stigmatized and made a pariah, the Main Stream Media celebrated him, and, in many ways, still does to this day. It is confounding, yet very telling, about our society’s moral standards and just how far they have fallen. I distinctly remember that it was about that same time I started seeing at the nightclubs heterosexual young women kissing each other trying to turn on the guys that would be watching them. It gave me pause then as it still would today if I were into the bar scene. I guess I thought that kind of behavior was saved for when you were behind closed doors…if that is what floats your boat.

The entertainment industry, minus a few exceptions, has become a cesspool of freaks. Years ago, they used to be showcased in the traveling circus. Now, the more vulgar their behavior, the more they are exalted. Last Fall, during Prime Time television, Miley Cyrus, dressed in a nude-colored bra and panties, dry-humped Robin Thicke at the MTV VMA awards all after she made “twerking” a household word. Within the week, my relatively sheltered ten-year-old daughter came home from school and showed me how Miley did her tongue and told me about her dancing on stage naked. Though she is legally an adult, the former Disney darling is making decisions to market herself looking through the lens of an impetuous child.

Not to be outdone, a skimpily-clad Beyonce opened the Grammys a couple months later, again during Prime Time, giving her husband a lap dance while singing her song “Drunk in Love”. I thought you used to have to show an ID to get in to see entertainment like that, but in that Fairyland that I fondly recall, you also used to have to show a picture ID to vote in elections. In her current song “Partition”, Beyonce sings about going out in a limousine and having the driver raise the partition so he can’t see what is going on in the back: “he popped all the buttons then he ripped my blouse; then he Monica Lewinsky-ed all over my gown.” Wait a minute, I don’t have a degree in sex-education, but shouldn’t that be “Bill Clinton-ed” ? This section of the lyrics is mild compared to some of the rest in the song. The difference between Miley and Beyonce is that Beyonce is a 32-year-old mother of a little girl. Shame on her! She used to be so classy before she got involved with her husband, Jay-Z. Sadly, it appears she has started going down the same downhill path as when the late Whitney Houston married Bobby Brown. He was ultimately her demise.

I once spoke with a Vietnamese woman working in a nail salon and she was telling me that her father was a violin teacher. We were both praising the beauty of the instrument because my daughter had been taking lessons for a year and a half. She said her father had once told her that as the culture goes, so goes the music. Wow, if that isn’t the truth! Maybe I’m really not prudish. Maybe I just have good taste in music.

Piano Can Be Fun

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When I was a little girl, I was a whiner. In truth, if you asked my husband, my family, and close friends, they would most likely say that I still am. My Puerto Rican grandmother, Isolina, who had all of an eighth-grade education and worked in New York to support her illiterate, single mother and two younger siblings, needless to say, wasn’t very tolerant of whining. Given her set of circumstances, she did remarkably well for herself throughout the course of her colorful (and I mean colorful) life of eighty- something years. We were never certain of her age, because in earlier years she would occasionally try to pass herself off as my mother’s sister. It would be pretty safe to assume there was a man involved. She told my mom that she was 16 when she had her, but my great-aunt exposed the truth and told my mom that she was actually 27. I clearly remember her buying me a book called, “Manners Can Be Fun”. I can still visualize the “Whiner” character with her oversized head, curly hair, and ski-slope nose. She was personified misery. “Iso” insisted that I learn to play the piano. She bought me a black upright and paid for me to take lessons from a woman who had never had any children.

“Katie”, my teacher, loved me and thought of me as the grandchild she never had. I loved the piano, but practicing was drudgery. My mom would set the wind-up kitchen timer for thirty minutes and I would practice while she created one of her many comforting meals in the adjacent kitchen. If I wouldn’t put forth my best effort, her voice would drone, “Do it again, Lauri.” UGH!!!!! When I could get away with it, I would stealthfully shave 5-10 minutes off to shorten the agonizing monotony. I would groan, “MO-OM, why do I have to practice piano? I just want to go outside and play with my friends.” After she had her fill of my whining, she told me that if I wanted to quit piano, I would have to tell Katie that I didn’t want to play anymore and it just might break her heart. I emphatically said, “Done.” After Katie’s and my eyes swelled with tears, I was incredibly relieved to be finished with such a tedious chore…until I was an adult.

I began taking piano lessons again when I was about 35 and LOVED it. I also took voice lessons. I continued with them until I gave birth to my daughter Grace. I relished the practice knowing that she was in my belly enjoying classical, musical sounds. After she was born, I quit playing as often for fear that it might awaken her from her naps. Instead, I played a never-ending CD of classical music in her room while she slept. To this day, she has an affinity for playing the more classical pieces. I had heard about a method of teaching/learning piano called “The Suzuki Method.” It is a way to teach the student to play by ear. She started by repetitively and continuously listening to a CD of the songs she was to soon learn. She started taking lessons from an amazing teacher when she was 3 1/2 years old. Her face lit up like a Christmas tree when she heard her teacher play those songs for the very first time. She excitedly said, “Mommy, those are the songs that are in my bedroom!” Her first recital was 4 days after her fourth birthday when she played a variation of “Twinkle, Twinkle” with only one hand. She has been playing ever since and has wowed me not only with her gift of music but also with her stage presence and courage.

Shortly after she started, I attended a Suzuki Workshop and sat in on an adults-only seminar given by a seasoned Suzuki Piano teacher. The lecture was titled “Practice Without Violence” (tongue-in-cheek and wonderfully clever). She spoke for a while and then asked the room of forty, “How many of you parents played piano as children?” The entire group raised their hands. She then asked, “How many of you had parents who allowed you to quit because they couldn’t bear hearing you complain about the practice any more?” About half of the hands hesitantly went up knowing that we were the mewling culprits. Her last question was, “How many of you are glad you quit?” Deafening silence. At that moment, I was filled with all the resolve that I will ever need to make sure that my daughter continues until she is finished with high school. What she does with it after that is her choice. If nothing else, she could feed herself by playing at weddings.;-)

When she first started playing piano, her creative teacher had a “bag of tricks” that held a collection of darling little resin figures that the really young students were able to line up on the piano when they were focused and played well. She had Winnie the Pooh and Disney characters, Smurfs, and several of the Mr. Men and Little Miss figurines (my personal favorites). She had one in particular, Mr. Bump, that she would use to make sure the students “bumps” (a.k.a knuckles) were in proper form. She also had a complementary series of small books that she would read to them to break up the lesson and hold their attention. After Grace had learned to play several of the Suzuki pieces, she would delight Grace with “The Fishing Game”. Her teacher had a telescopic magnet, “the pole”, and a variety of fish-shaped paper laminated with a paper clip inside. Each of the fish had the name of the different songs. Her teacher would scatter the fish upside down on the floor and then Grace would pick them up, one at a time, with “the pole” and have to play the specified song. To this day, it is still Gracie’s personal favorite, only now she is playing Beethoven and Mozart.

I don’t have the same toys as her wonderful teacher, but I have created my own tricks and it seems to make our practice more fun and less monotonous. I will let her pick out the book that she would like me to read between songs. Over the course of six years, we have graduated from Baby Einstein to Skippy John Jones to Harry Potter. If she plays it mediocre, she gets one page. If it is played well I’ll reward her with maybe 4 depending on what we wager. Interestingly enough, if she knows that there are four pages on the line, she will keep playing it until she gets the “perfect” and “wins” the prize. I don’t know if she has figured out that she is only benefitting herself by trying to beat me. That’s okay…it’s a win-win situation.

I remember one time she was preparing for a Festival where her performance would be judged. She was struggling with the ending and I told her, “Grace, if you play it perfectly, I will read you four pages of Harry Potter.” She said, “Mom, make it five.” I said, “Okay, but it has to be perfect.” She continued to struggle, so I decided to juice the kitty. “Okay Grace. If you play this perfectly, not only will Mom read you five pages of Harry Potter, I will do a cartwheel in that foyer right there.” She lit up like a brilliant neon sign. “You will?????” “You betcha!” It took her about five times to get it right, and when she did, it was sweet victory! After stretching and saying a silent prayer, I did the cartwheel. The landing was a little less than stellar, but the mission was accomplished. Piano, along with anything else that is often tedious, can be fun. There really is no need for whining.

Princess To Patty Cake

Love is Manifested Best in Life’s Little Things

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I am not a morning person. I am fully aware of the many blessings upon which I have been bestowed. However, thoughts of gratitude aren’t gushing from my foggy mind before my first cup of coffee or full cognitive thought. If I had my druthers, my day would start around 8:00-8:30 a.m. and end around 11:00-11:30 p.m. I prefer purplish-pink, seductive sunsets to orangey-yellow, blinding sunrises. I’d much rather enjoy a dinner of grilled, succulent rosemary-crusted lamb chops washed down with a glass of musty, full-bodied Cabernet than a piping-hot cup of coffee and a steamy bowl of healthy oatmeal with fresh fruit. I relish the end of the day when I get to put my daughter to bed. I take my time reading a few pages of Harry Potter in my best British accent before saying a prayer for our family, friends, country and soldiers. I spoon with her as we sing “A Dream is a Wish Your Heart Makes” which, admittedly, can bring this bladder-eyes to tears. Lastly, I inhale her slumbering sweetness as I kiss her goodnight and turn off the light. I celebrate that my job is complete for the day and then mindlessly go through the bedtime rituals. Sometimes they include washing my face and brushing my teeth, sometimes they don’t. Sorry Mom! My husband, God love him, used to put toothpaste on my toothbrush every morning and night because he deemed it just as easy applying it to two as it was one; he already had the toothpaste out. It was an act that I under-appreciated until we got state-of-the-art brushes that were not kept together in one cup but charging at opposite sinks and didn’t lay flat like the manual ones. I wrestle out of my clothes and into my pajamas before falling decadently into bed. I optimistically dream about being able to make some headway in one of the many burgeoning “must-reads” spilling out from under my bed, only to doze off thinking, “I better get to sleep; the alarm will be going off much too quickly.” That last moment of consciousness before falling asleep is SO much better than the blaring buzzer that goes off every 10 minutes because your husband, who IS a morning person and regularly cites “Carpe Diem!”, sets it forty minutes earlier than necessary to wake up slowly.

One particular morning recently, neither he nor I had to get up early. Our sweet daughter came in about 7:00 a.m. and tapped me on the shoulder. Staving off my apoplectic reaction, my first thought was, “You have got to be kidding me!” She softly whispered, “Mom, I made you and Dad breakfast.” After I stifled my grumpy thoughts and frustration at her having unnecessarily awakened us so early, I stilled myself and thought, “Oh no! What big mess am I going to have to clean up when I get out to the kitchen?” She hasn’t quite mastered the technique of cracking eggs yet. I pictured slimy egg whites smeared all over my granite counter tops, crumbs scattered everywhere, etc. Dennis the Menace and Mr. Wilson came to mind. I dragged myself out of the warm soft bed and kept my grumbling to myself. When I got to the kitchen, the sight that greeted me stopped me in my tracks. There before me were two small bowls of frosted flakes soaking in milk. Adorning them were the absolutely sweetest smiley faces made of blueberry eyes and mouths and strawberry noses. I felt a bit shameful for not being more enthusiastic when she first woke me out of my deep sleep, but it was so worth losing those extra Zzzzzzs. Grace, thank you so much for helping Mommy to remember to be grateful…the little things are what counts. Happy Valentine’s Day!

Princess to Patty Cake