Posted in Family

Proven Guilty

Sometimes I get frustrated with a piece of me, either physical, emotional, or intellectual, and I wonder, “Where did that come from?”  I’ve long known that I have a tendency toward guilt.  Had I been raised Catholic, I might have blamed my religion.  I get asked all the time, “What are you, Catholic?”  Personally, I think the Catholics have been over-blamed for this, but maybe they’re just an easy target, what with all they probably should feel guilty about.

This morning, after Bubba’s nap, we watched an episode of Vikings — the drama one, not the History Channel one.  Afterward, he popped up off the couch declaring he had things to do.

Me:  What?  What do you need to do?
Bubba:  Stuff!  I have things to do!
Me:  Are you going to clean?
Bubba:  Well, for starters, I have to do some laundry.
Me:  So nothing I have to feel guilty about not helping with.
Bubba:  No.  You sit here on the couch a little longer

We do our own laundry.  I hate that he eyeball-measures the soap, and uses way to much bleach.  I wash my clothes in cold water and sometimes wash cleaning rags in with my towels.  That freaks my bubble-boy out.  So we avoid an argument and each do our own.

But what is my problem with the guilt?  As I sat pondering this, I had a flashback.

I’m playing with my Barbies, making furniture out of towels and empty boxes, because kids back then actually had to use their imagination.  My mom pops up off her chair where she’s been reading the newspaper all morning.  I hear shuffling and banging and running water.  After about (what I can only estimate after all these years) has been about 15 minutes, I go off in search of her.

Me:  Mom?  Do you want me to do anything?
Mom:  No . . . no . . .


Embed from Getty Images

After another bit of time, I follow the huffing, puffing, and sighing until I find my mom again.

Me:  Are we having company?
Mom:  No.  Uh-uh.
Me:  Why are you cleaning?
Mom:  Because it needs to get done.
Me:  Do you want help?
Mom:  Do you see anything that needs to be clean?
Me:  No.
Mom:  Well, then, I guess not.

No longer feeling comfortable playing with my toys, I begin to pick them up.  When I get everything put away, I go back and tell my mom I cleaned up my toys and ask if there is anything else she wants done.

Mom:  Well, you sure know when to ask.  I’m all done now.

This is a story we would laugh about in later years, but the residue may not have worn away even yet.  I know she was teaching me how to take initiative, and it probably worked for the most part.  But to this day I am a person who needs structure and straightforwardness.  I’m not sure if the chicken or egg came first there, but for the most part I’d say children need structure.

As a teen, I asked to apply for work, but was not allowed to do so.  Their reasoning was that I had everything I needed.  I should leave the jobs for kids who actually had to pay for their own clothes, cars, or school lunch.  I had a wonderful childhood, and indeed had everything a kid could dream of.  This is the space where most people insert the label “spoiled.”

I’ve gone out of my way in my writings not to speak ill of those I love.  And I don’t mean to do so here.  However, I will say that the single best thing they could have done for me is to let me get a job when I asked about it.  I think it might have changed the course of my life.  But then I feel guilty about wishing things might have turned out differently.  Of course I do.

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Me with my first child, the second on the way.

I grew up in a home that spoke of business around the kitchen table.  It was well-known that my parents valued honest hard work.  Their identities were very wrapped up in their business and the reward it gave them.  Yet, they were blind to the fact that they were denying me the same reward.    It wasn’t until I had children of my own that I felt truly needed.  It’s no wonder I went on to have three more after the first.  I thrived on the responsibility.  I became very involved in my children’s school, and in Scouting.  In effect, they were the job I never had.  I’m not sure if they would say that was a good thing or a bad thing.  Most likely some of both.

By the time I was old enough to get a job — and by that I mean my kids were becoming more independent — I sampled several different environments.  I was a cashier, a teacher’s assistant, and a server for a caterer.  I quickly learned what I had missed.  With the support of my family, I started a full-time career, and learned I am every bit the workaholic that my dad was.  I get my identity from good honest work.  I value people with a good work ethic.  I am passionate about service to others.

So maybe I learned guilt at my mother’s knee.  Maybe I’m naturally a person who feels guilty sitting while others are actively employed.  Or perhaps I should just repent and join the Catholics.  Maybe what makes us US is something we will never truly figure out.

As I keep telling my kids, you can’t blame everything on your parents.

Peace . . .

Posted in Family

The tragic story of identity lost in a single snip

One of my earliest memories is that of sitting at story time in nursery school.  I was a young 4-year old with hair so long I often found myself sitting on it.   To free it, I leaned forward, bowing my head until it came loose, then rolled back to listen to the rest of the story.  Men called me Blondie.  Women cooed over my golden locks.

We had an old black and silver 1955 hair dryerhair dryer that could either sit on the counter or be held like blow-dryers of today.  We used that until it started to emit electrical shocks, then finally updated to an orange plastic model in the seventies.  Mom would sit me down in front of it, working the boar’s-bristle brush through the long maze of snarled nests.  If her patience wavered, I never knew it.  Although years later I learned how much she hated that task.

The Powder Pouf Beauty Salon was a cornerstone of the *Moon Plaza for many years, along with Buzz’s Barber shop, Dave’s Sport Shop, the Marine recruitment office, a dance school, and the Alcohol Anonymous meeting room in Fridley, Minnesota.  Every Saturday morning, for several years, I packed coloring books and crayons in a small bag, and scrambled into the back of my mother’s white Chevy with red interior.  No seat belt.  No video games.  I remember the smell of hairspray, the hum of the dryers, and looked forward to the attention from all the ladies in curlers and lipstick.  It was a very pink place, as you can imagine.

If business was slow, sometimes Sandi, my mother’s beautician (they weren’t stylists back then), turned a dryer on a low setting and let me feel the tiny jets of air tickle my scalp.  The warmth gave me goosebumps.  The white noise lulled me into a trance.  Sometimes I got a bottle of pop, pulled out of a coin-operated machine, that clinked and clunked as the money fell, the mechanism unlocked, and the bottles rolled into place.  It was a magical place where my mom transformed from Saturday morning bed-head into a ravishing washed, curled, teased, and sprayed helmet-clad angel.

Then one day it was my turn.  Mom turned up the hype.  This was my rite of passage.  I would be beautiful.

Upon arrival, my woman-friend, Sandi, sat me in a booster seat and wrapped me in a cape.  In her hands she held scissors, a rubber band, and my faith.  She bound my hair in a pony tail, and in one snip her scissors removed from my head the very essence of my being.  Sandi held the bound hair up like a dead rabbit at the end of a day’s hunt, then curled it into a plastic bag that my mother tucked into her perfume-scented purse.

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My pony tail still resides in the plastic Glad Brand sandwich bag in which it was originally placed, rubber band intact.

I was Sampson.  Stunned.  Powerless.  My mother sat in the chair next to me, chatting and smiling with Delilah, seemingly oblivious to my loss.  Several snips and one Saf-T-Pop later, I was on my way home in the back of the Chev.  Mom chatted about the usual things, none of which were important to me in my grief.

pixie
Found this on YouQueen.com as a bad haircut for a square face. Guess who has a square-shaped face? Yeah. Me.

At home, I sat on the kitchen floor playing with dolls, or coloring, or something.  I have a lot of memories of playing on the kitchen floor for some reason.  Gramma and Grampa came through the back door to say hello.  Gramma’s eyes shifted from me to my mother and back again.  I felt like a specimen.  Mom explained that this was a Pixie Cut.  It was very popular in those days.  Feeling their stares like hot fire on the top of my head, I looked up at Gramma’s speechless face.  Never being one to say anything if she couldn’t say something nice, she finally announced, “Well, she’s so homely she’s cute!”

“Mother!”

“Well she is, isn’t she?”

I didn’t know what homely meant back then, but I knew from my mom’s reaction it wasn’t good.  I filed that word into a special place in my memory called, “Things I don’t want to ask about, but want to know someday.”  And when I looked back at my school photo many, many years later, it all came back to me.  Mainly, because I thought to myself, “My God.  I’m so homely, I’m cute.”  Like a frog or a bug.

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“So homely, she’s cute.”

The following Christmas I got a play wig.  It was a long blonde play wig, and it was as if someone had reattached a lost limb.  I wore it all the time, glamorously flipping it back with my hands, or whisking it off my shoulder with a toss of my head.  Eventually, when I had more voice in the matter, I grew my hair out.  Mom chiding, “As long as I don’t have to brush out the knots, you can do whatever you want with it.”  Later I cut it again, and permed it.  Later yet I grew it out and now still wear it long.

The one thing I have never done is color it.  I have few vanities with this old body of mine, so let me have this one.  Oh, there is some grey in there, but it’s harder to see against the blonde.  Men still call me Blondie and more often Sunshine.  Women still ogle, although I suspect they’re looking for roots.  And someday I’ll be too old to pull off this long, straight Thirty-something style.  But I’m going to rock it as long as I’m able, and maybe a little after that.

In my golden years

I imagine I’ll it cut short again.  Maybe if I’m lucky they’ll say I’m so homely I’m cute.

Peace . . .

*Moon Plaza still stands.  Although updated, it is much the same.

Buzz the barber celebrated his 50th year in business in 2015, although he quit racing motorcycles at the age of 67.

I’m sad to say that Sandi the beautician died in 2008 at the age of 60.   She was eventually the owner of The Powder Pouf and another location in the northeast suburbs of the Twin Cities.

Posted in Lore

Wisdom is Less of a Gift than a Purchase

Personification of wisdom (in Greek, "Σοφ...
Sophia, the Greek personification of wisdom. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Sometimes I’m asked why I blog.

First and foremost, I blog for therapy.  Unlike a diary, it forces me to choose my words wisely.  Where a diary will take any abuse you want to give, my public blog requires I treat my thoughts with respect.  And in doing so, I find an appreciation for “life and all things peaceful, balanced, whole and precious.”

I blog for posterity.  It’s something to leave behind.  I don’t believe in a supernatural afterlife.  Even if I could, I wouldn’t want to hang around watching over my loved ones eternally.  In a recent mishap, I accidentally and unavoidably caught a glimpse of all the pictures on the Rebel’s phone.  Trust me when I say I don’t want to watch over them from above.

I blog to pass along a wisdom.  Ancient cultures sat around the fire listening to lore from their elders.  While I do have plenty of advice to share around the fire, most of it involves the perfect toasted marshmallow or the dangers of wielding hot pokers.  Besides, who has time to sit around a fire listening to their elders anymore?  Anything like that gets shared here as “Lore” for those who find it valuable enough to read.

Lady wisdom (2)
Lady wisdom (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I’m not sure at what age one becomes an elder, but I think I’m growing into it as gracefully as possible.  That is, kicking and screaming, my brittle nails shredding on the door frame of old age.  My daughter, the Romantic, reminded me that I once announced I was going to age naturally and embrace it — gray hair, wrinkles, and all.  Yeah . . . I was thirty-something and knew nothing of disappearing collagen or finding coarse, white eyebrows reaching out like odd antennae over the tops of my bifocals.  And so this thing of wisdom that comes with age is less of a gift than a purchase, dearly paid for with my declining condition.

Perhaps there is a responsibility to share what has been so expensive to attain.  Maybe I want to spare my children and readers the pain I’ve born.  After all, the suffering of my children is two-fold; once for their pain and another for the remembrance of my own mistakes.  Or maybe I just want to give you a shortcut, a life hack, so you can surpass where I have been and finish farther ahead.  Whatever the reason, sharing lore is clearly a primal need, present since men acquired the ability to speak.

English: The Seven Pillars of Wisdom rock form...
The Seven Pillars of Wisdom rock formation in Wadi Rum, Jordan (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The elders of my youth have all passed away.  They, too, shared the experience of their years.  Some of it I remember, most of it has probably been forgotten.  The truth is, I gained less of my wisdom in listening than I found in living.  The toddler learns more from touching a hot oven than from being told it is hot.  Riding a bicycle can only be mastered after falling.  We learn to guard our heart once we know how deeply it can hurt.

I’m told there is occasionally wisdom in my words.  If you find it here, it is yours.  If you want to keep it, however, it’s going to cost you a couple of wrinkles and maybe a white antenna eyebrow.  But I guarantee it will be worth it.

Peace . . .

 

Posted in Lore

Where I Stand



Embed from Getty Images
Where do you stand on gun control?  I stand beside a maple night table placed to the left of a double bed, symmetrically balancing the one on the other side.  It looks exactly like I imagine every other parents’ bedroom looks in my neighborhood.  I’m a young girl, alone in the house, except for my friend.  My grandparents have left for the day, mother is picking up dinner on the way home from work.  It is just the two of us, contemplating what we ought do next.

I’m not sure how it became a topic, but it is.  I know the rules.  I know how it works.  I know what it does.  I know it’s kept in the drawer in the night table.

“Do you want to see it?”

I reach for the hard metal pull and the drawer glides open.  We exchange glances as we view the weapon lying patiently for employment.

The metal is cold.  I’ve held it before, yet it is heavier than I expect.  It feels as powerful as I know it is.  I place the firearm in her outstretched palms.  We look at it with wide eyes.

“Are there bullets in it?”

I shrug my shoulders.  She pushes the device back toward me.  Carefully, I lift it from her hands and set it gingerly back in the drawer.  I make certain it looks exactly as I found it.  I know the consequence for breaking this rule.

We breathe a sigh of relief.  The Thing is put away and we never have to hold it again if we don’t need to.  Or want to.  But if we do, we know where it is.  Both of us.

We go back to playing things that little girls play before their parents come home with dinner and friends are sent home to their houses for dinner.

That day we walked away from the night table with the gun in it.  And life went on.  But what if it hadn’t?

And that’s where I stand on gun control . . . by a maple night table placed to the left of a double bed.

Peace . . .

Posted in Lore

The Gift of Now

"Seize the day" (Horace, Odes) Franç...
“Seize the day” (Horace, Odes)                                                  (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Like most parents, I recorded every first of my children’s early years.  There are pictures of first trips to Grandma’s, first steps, first solid food, even taking their first poop in the toilet.  A post by Emily at The Waiting, reminded me how easy it is for the lasts to slip by unnoticed.

Do you remember the last time you were picked up and cuddled?  I have four children, and found myself searching the dark corners of my memory for any recollection of the last time I lifted each of them into my arms.  There is none.

We acknowledge the achievements, the going-forwards, the milestones of where we are headed and not so much where we have been.  Maybe it’s because we don’t appreciate the significance of what we leave behind until it’s gone.  Or maybe it’s because we just never realize it’s the last time . . . until it is.

Firsts, like lasts, are not eloquent or refined.  The last step we take will most likely be much like the first — feeble and clumsy.  Each brings with it a demonstration of progress.  But one is a beginning and one is an end.  One is noted and one is forgotten.

Humans, unlike animals, carry the burden of understanding time.  We romanticize a past we strain to remember.  We grieve its loss.  The future is hope and wonder, even amidst uncertainty and trepidation.

Between the first and the last is the present.  It is the center.  The now.  We forget to stop and live in this moment.  And this one.  And this one.  Each tick of the clock is another gone by.  The present moment is as steadfast as time is fleeting.  Always here, for better or for worse.

A moment in the present is not reliant on memory, nor hope, nor wonder, nor dreams.  There is no uncertainty or vagueness.  The instant you are in right now is as real as anything is ever going to be.

If we could know the last time we were picked up, or rode in a pedal car, or fit in the shopping cart seat, that it was our last, would we have enjoyed it more?  Would we have whined less?  Would we have grieved the loss?

Probably not.  Children don’t perceive the elapsing of time.  A baby lives in a constant state of “now,” his only concern if he is hungry, wet, or sleepy.  Eventually, he will understand time by experiencing it — what is a minute, an hour, a year?

Maybe this is what allows children to move forward at the speed of light.  If they knew all the wonderful things they leave behind — naps, strollers, wagons, wearing pajamas in the middle of the day and yes, being lifted high above someone’s head — maybe they would want to stay children forever.  Maybe the lack of grief is what allows them to grow.

. . . And maybe our grief of the past is a gift we are given that allows us to relish the present.  It permits us to cuddle their round little bodies one more minute, or stop and watch them as they nap, or slip into their world of imagination, or pick them up just once more before they are too heavy and we too weak . . .

Peace . . .

Posted in Family

The Measure of a Great Communicator

The nice thing about being with someone who has been a bachelor most of his life is that we can live somewhat autonomously.  That is, he does his thing.  I do mine.  We don’t nag about when the other is coming home, or synchronize what we’re going to eat for dinner.  If we’re hungry, we eat.  If I want to cook I do, and if he wants to cook . . . um . . . he brings home takeout.  But sooner or later , just like every other couple, we need to plan and compromise, and that takes communication.

The measure of a great communicator is how well she is understood, not how well she is heard.  Talking louder will only get you heard.  Real communication will get you understood.  My favorite book on relationship building is How to Talk So Kids Will Listen & Listen So Kids Will Talk by Adele Faber and Elaine Mazlish.  It is, of course, marketed to parents, but I say the title should be How to Talk so  ____ Will Listen & Listen So ____ Will Talk.  Readers can fill in the blank.  They would have sold a lot more copies, and there would be a whole lot more people communicating.

 

Cover of "How to Talk So Kids Will Listen...
Cover via Amazon

 

How to Talk So Your Spouse Will Listen
& Listen So Your Spouse Will Talk

..~~*~~..

How to Talk So Your Doctor Will Listen
& Listen So Your Docter Will Talk

..~~*~~..

How to Talk So Your Boss Will Listen
& Listen So Your Boss Will Talk

 

I’m serious.  This should be on every business management reference shelf.  After all, children and adults are all just people.  No one wants to be ordered around or controlled.  We want respect and freedom to choose.  We all want to know that we are heard.  The methods in this book absolutely work for all of your relationships.

At a previous job, my manager’s manager had something she asked me to do.  It wasn’t an altogether unreasonable request.  It was a good idea, and I was the right person for the job.  It just wasn’t the right time for the job.  There were higher priorities, and I knew it.  I said to her, “That’s a great idea!  Would you like me to do that now, or after I finish reporting the monthly inventory?”

Either answer would have been fine.  After all, she was my boss’s boss.  But I knew as well as she that the inventory was a higher priority.  In the end, she felt heard, I let her make a choice, and the work got done in the proper order.  I also got to show her that I am a person who communicates.

I could have told her “Sure, no problem!” then rolled my eyes and talked about her behind her back, but I chose to understand and be understood.  Talking and listening. That’s communicating.  The best things I learned about management I learned while parenting, and this book was a great resource.

Another method of communication I like to use is to relate to people the way they relate to you.  I try not to swear around people who don’t swear.  If someone is very casual and calls me Hon, I have no problem calling them Dude.  If someone is very straightforward, maybe even blunt, most likely they won’t want me beating around the bush.  People who are in a hurry, will not want me babbling about the weather.

And sometimes you need to talk in the language they understand.  Not like French versus Italian . . . but especially in my home, I need to use language a bachelor can relate to.

For instance, yesterday at the dog park, Sabbie wouldn’t take the new balls we found lying around.  She only wanted to play with the ball we brought from home.  Bubba didn’t understand . . .

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Bubba:  Why won’t she bring that ball back?
Me:  It’s not her ball.
Bubba:  But it’s just another ball.
Me:  She isn’t invested in it.  It’s like when you meet a girl at the bar.
Bubba:  Ah . . .
Me:  If you just bring her home for one night, you aren’t invested.  But after you play with her a while, get used to the way she smells, and bounces, and snuggle up against her at night, you start to worry that you might lose her.  So you don’t want to play with the other new girls.  You’d rather stick with the one whose smell is familiar, even if she smells like dog slobber.
Bubba:  Oh yeah . . . that makes sense.

Okay, maybe that didn’t come out exactly like I wanted to, but I got my point across.  You see, to be understood, it helps if you know your audience.

Peace . . .

 

Posted in Music

25 Songs, 25 Days (Day 21 through 24)

Failure is an option.  It is always an option.  Sometimes it’s a damn good option.  Like when you’ve worked 10-, 11-, and even 12-hour days all month, and you have the chance to go rock out at a great show, have a couple of drinks and hang out with friends.  Failing to keep up with the 25-Day Challenge was a small price to pay.

If I had felt clever, I would have posted “25 Songs, 25 Days (Day 21) My Favorite Song” as Any Song I’m Listening to Live.    I showed up for my shift the next day with indelible Sharpie® still on the back of my hand.  After another 11-hour day, I ate dinner and went to bed before the sun hit the horizon.  Day 22 was a wash as well.  Day 23 didn’t go any better.

Fast forward to Day 24.  I have a few alternatives.

  • Give up.  The project is ruined.  The challenge was not met.  Better luck next time, Loser.
  • Catch up.  Post all four days on Day 24 just in time to finish strong on Day 25.
  • Stand up.  Brush myself off, and join back in on Day 24.  No one remembers you didn’t post on the 21st, 22nd, or 23rd anyway.  I suppose I thought everyone was sitting by their monitors every day not knowing how to go ahead with life because I hadn’t posted the Song Challenge.

Any of these choices cater to the perfectionist in me, and I think, if you don’t mind (and even if you do) I’d like to catch up.  It’s been a super fun challenge, and I hope you’ve learned a little something about me along the way.

Day 21:  My Favorite Song

Favorite music is so subjective, isn’t it?  I mean . . . favorite when?

  • When someone ticks me off:  The Game by Disturbed
  • When I’m feeling suppressed by society:  Beautiful People by Marilyn Manson
  • When I’m cleaning:  Tutti Frutti by Little Richard
  • When I’m consuming an adult beverage(s):  Have a Drink on Me by AC/DC
  • When I’m on a road trip:  American Pie by Don McLean
  • When I’m celebrating my birthday:  In da Club by 50 Cent
  • When I’m feeling happy, like today . . .

Day 22:  A Song That Someone Has Sung to Me

My mother used to sing to me all the time.  She was always singing to someone; my dad, her parents, even the dog.  And she made up the words when she didn’t know them, or sang la-la-la-lalala.  We used to tease her about some of the words she made up.  Sometimes she would throw in a little dance step, including some tap she learned as a little girl.

Squeaky-clean and snuggled into my pajamas, my mom would cuddle me up on her lap, sing me songs and recite nursery rhymes.  I can remember night fall over the neighborhood out our big picture window and bouncing on her knee.  Here is one of the songs she would sing.  I don’t remember her singing the full song.  Maybe she did, or maybe she only sang the chorus, but that is all I can remember.

 

Day 23:  A Song That I Cannot Stand to Listen to

There are some sounds that simply drive me crazy.

  • Styrofoam being rubbed together.
  • Balloons being twisted until they squeak.
  • Children screaming in a restaurant.
  • Rubber foam being cut with a knife.
  • A mosquito near my ear.  In the dark.
  • And this song . . .

 

Day 24:  A Song that I have Danced to With My Best Friend

Well, here’s a stumper.  I am so fortunate to have so many close and caring friends.  How does one go about choosing the best? A best friend is the one I turn toward first when there is good news . . . or bad.  A best friend is one who can dissolve my fears just by walking in the door.  A best friend allows me to grow and sits back to see what I become.

Bubba and I aren’t found on the dance floor very often.  We attend wedding receptions every now and then and dance, but I couldn’t tell you which songs have played.  The last wedding we attended we didn’t dance at all.  We ate cupcakes while everyone else was on the dance floor.

BUT . . . if we were going to dance, I think I would choose this song . . .

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