Tag Archives: family

Almost Nice and Definitely Dorky

I remember countless times mom telling us to mind our manners. In public, she wanted our family to appear nice and normal. Well, just look at us. Normal? How about nice and dorky. That is me in the middle with the white bow on my head. In mom’s attempt to make us look good we looked…interesting.

Back in the day, nice and normal was defined by TV families. The moms wore dresses, the dads wore ties and all of the kids were well groomed and exceedingly polite. Sometimes my family could pull it off and appear nice and normal. Sometimes, my family was not so nice and slightly dysfunctional. But usually, we were almost nice and completely dorky.

This picture was taken on July 20th, 1969, the day Apollo 11 landed on the moon. We had gathered at great Aunt Cora and Uncle Lester’s to watch the moon landing on television. Since the house was small the TV had been moved outside onto a porch on the north side of the detached garage. We sat watching this historic event in the back yard with Walter Cronkite as our guide. There was some fear, some excitement and I must admit, some boredom. It seemed so surreal.

I remember that July day with vivid clarity. Mainly because it was another family event that forged the bond that binds us together. Mom and dad are both gone now but I still have all my siblings. My sister and two brothers continue to share their love, laughter and yes, even their dorkiness. Happy Valentine’s Day to my siblings. I love you.

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It Sure Is Dark

What do you do when your parent is getting on in years and you are not comfortable being a passenger in their car anymore? You think about it a lot and try to intervene.

One night, a while ago, I was a passenger in my dad’s car at night. We only had a few miles to drive. We were driving on local roads, no highways, with a maximum speed of 45 miles per hour. Since it was night, I tried to wrestle the keys from dad but he was the patriarch and he assured me he could drive. So Dad, his wife and I traveled the 20 minutes home with me sitting in the back seat, my eyes glued to the road. I thought, “This will be okay.” and then the conversation in the car became concerning.

Dad: “It sure is dark.
Me (looking outside at the night sky): “It sure is.”
Dad: “It really, really is dark.”
Me: “Dad, do you want me to drive?”
Dad: “No, I’m okay.”
Me gripping the front seat: “Dad, I can drive if you want.”
Dad: “I’m fine. But it really is dark tonight.”

As we continued on, I noticed we were not always driving within our lane. I tried to gently guide him back to our side of the road as my knuckles gripped the seat cushions.

Me: “Dad, you are swerving a little.”
Dad: “It really is dark. I can’t see the road.”

What? It isn’t that dark.

Me: “Dad, you are doing fine. Just adjust a little to the right and we will be back in our lane. Very good. You know, I would be happy to drive.”
Dad: “No, I am fine. But it sure is dark tonight.”

Dad’s wife was the silent sphinx in the car. Evidently, she was used to this type of situation. I barely survived the drive. When their home came into view I almost screamed with joy. As we pulled into the garage I breathed a sigh of relief. Dad parked the car and turned back to look at me and that is when I noticed he was wearing his sunglasses.

I Got This

Family, those we are related to and those we acquire through marriage, have a place in our lives. Sometimes their presence enriches us and sometimes it doesn’t. But if we stick together, we build a rich shared history.

I was talking with a friend who has a father-in-law who is…managing. What makes this trait unbearable is its impact on her two lovely children. It seems, let’s call him George, has forgotten that he is the grandfather not the father.

George needs a little lesson in boundaries.

Why? At meal times, George likes to tell his grandchildren how to sit, what to eat, how much to eat, when they may be excused and any other rule he can think of at the moment. During play, George likes to direct behaviors from an easy chair by pointing and bossing.

My friend has had it and is ready to confront George. While she definitely has a right to stop this ridiculous behavior, George is not going to change unless he has a full fledged intervention.

The intervention of choice for this situation is “I got this.” Here is how “I got this” works. It really is simply genius.

George (at the dining room table): “You need to sit down.”
My friend to George: “I got this.” Then to the kids: “Kids, at our home it is okay to kneel on your chair to reach for your cup.”

George (at the dining room table): “You need to say excuse me.”
My friend:I got this.” Then to the kids: “It is nice to say excuse me when you burp.”

George (in easy chair directing 4 year old how to read): “Point to each word on the page!
My friend:I got this.” Then to her son “You are doing such a wonderful job reading the story. Keep going.”

Now George is a crusty old sort of guy who will need many, many examples of “I got this” plus more. No, I am not talking about a slap aside the head. At times, my friend will have to add additional words to the “I got this” campaign such as:

  • I got this. You get to be the grandparent and I get to be the parent. How nice.” or
  • I got this. You just enjoy the children, I will take care of the discipline.” or
  • I got this. Thank you for sharing your thoughts but there was no need. I saw what they did and I will talk to the kids when I am alone with them later.”

When we focus on changing our own behavior, we may foster change in someone else’s. And maybe not. Either way, my friend’s voice will be heard instead of sitting helplessly while her children are being bossed by a man who has forgotten that he is in his golden years and should be enjoying his days not directing everyone else’s.

Don’t Wanna be a Material Girl

A few years ago, a friend showed me the book Material World: A Global Family Portrait by Peter Menzel, Paul Kennedy and Charles C. Mann.

Originally published in 1994, this book continues to make me think. The authors describe this book as “an attempt to capture, through photos and statistics, both the common humanity of the peoples inhabiting our Earth and the great differences in material goods and circumstances that make rich and poor societies.”

The book highlights stories of families from 30+ countries across the globe. Each family is asked to place all their worldly possessions outside their dwelling for a photograph. Some families easily transport their possessions out of their home. For others, it is quite an endeavor.

Just imagine if you were asked to move all of your material goods onto your front lawn. Would you be proud, embarrassed, enlightened?

More recently, I came across the website the Burning House. The Burning House is a single topic blog featuring posts (from anyone) in response to the following prompt:

If your house was burning, what would you take with you? It’s a conflict between what’s practical, valuable and sentimental. What you would take reflects your interests, background and priorities. Think of it as an interview condensed into one question.

Fascinating and what an interesting social experiment. The posts submitted have mainly been from people in their 20s and 30s. I have read many of the posts and am intrigued with the items young people are choosing to identify as important.

It makes me wonder if the posts would be different if the blog featured mainly 50 and 60 year olds. How about 70 and 80 year olds?

So, what would you take if you could only grab one, two or a few items?

Me. I am at an age where I am downsizing my life and what I thought was important is not anymore. So, I would grab people. Then… I would grab my purse which has everything I need to survive for a few days. My inhaler, makeup, chocolate, gum, mints, a mini first aid kit, some cash, identification, my phone, pens, coupons, credit cards and of course, tissues.

A Real Fairytale Life

Sometimes life is a little too real for me. Life can be hard, disappointing, heart-wrenching and may I add devastating. Some days I fondly wish my life was more happily-ever-after rather than day-to-day survival and I consider myself an optimist. I have no idea how pessimists endure.

Lately, I have been noticing the saying “She lived life in her own little fairytale”. I have seen this quote in picture frames, on pillows, on coffee mugs…literally everywhere.  Could this be a sign?

I have been drawn to these words thinking wouldn’t it be nice to live in my own little fairytale. But then, I started to ponder the true meaning of living in a fairytale.

I read a lot of fairytales when I was in my teens and I have to tell you, they were pretty gruesome. The happily-ever-after Disney versions are watered down accounts of the original tales. Thinking back on these tales makes me appreciate the real adventure that is my life. The good, the bad, the easy, the hard and always, the love.

In fairytales, happily-ever-after doesn’t come until the end of the tale. On the way the characters battle good and evil, endure physical challenges, trickery and tests of character while reaching for love and family. Interesting. Kind of sounds like life to me. And maybe that is the true story, we are all living a real version of fairytale lives.