Friday, March 29, 2013

Fifteen, and Miles to Go Before We Rest

Yesterday was my last day as the mother of a fourteen year old. Today my baby turns fifteen - technically at 6:18 this evening, but try and tell him that -  and as any mother will tell you - it's amazing how the years fly by. It seems just yesterday that he was born. For that matter I often feel like a teenager myself.

He was always an easy baby - the one that you could lay down wide awake, and he would go to sleep. I know it sounds like a fairy tale or a reinvention, but it really was that way. Even now, he's not a terribly difficult teenager. He can cop an attitude, but it usually doesn't last too long. Though I do embarrass him at frequent intervals - particularly my disco dancing (he needs to be grateful that I can't still fit into the satin pants). 

He has some impressive accomplishments, and while I'm tempted to brag on them, the reality is that some kids just get it, and some kids are harder to raise. I get that completely, and I don't think we're anywhere near done with lessons, because accomplishments aren't what will provide love - character is. So a few quotes for my two teenagers, and if you have any words of wisdom - feel free to share:

"I speak to everyone in the same way, whether he is the garbage man or the president of the university." Albert Einstein

"Where there is love, there is life." Mahatma Gandhi

"Life isn't about finding yourself. Life is about creating yourself." George Bernard Shaw

"Don't go around saying the world owes you a living. The world owes you nothing. It was here first." Mark Twain

"Real knowledge is to know the extent of one's ignorance." Confucious

And your favorite quote = "Who is John Galt?" Ayn Rand

Happy Birthday!!

Monday, March 25, 2013

Broken Nails, Hives, and Korean Expletives.

I went for a manicure when I got off of work today. I went because I believe that one day I’ll find a miracle manicurist who will transform my hands into a thing of beauty. Ha! Between the broken nails, the hives and the bruise from dropping a can of corn on my thumb, she had her work cut out for her. The moment my over-padded tush hit the chair, a string of expletives came gushing out of the manicurist’s mouth. (At least I think she was cussing, as she yelled in her native tongue of Korean, to her husband.) I had no doubt that she was saying “Look at these hands. What does this lady do with them? Does she think I can turn a sow’s cloven hoof into a silk purse”…or something like that. She was probably just yelling at him because he forgot to take the trash out, but I have my doubts.

My friends have lovely hands, soft, smooth, with well-formed nails that scream out “Polish me!” The first two things I notice about a person are their hands and then their eyes. It’s just my thing, partly because I always wanted pretty hands, but I have the hands of a farmer who doesn’t farm. They will never be pretty, or soft, what with all the washing dishes, bathing children over the years, frequently soaping up my hands (because I’m something of a germ-a-phobe), weeding, doing crafts, painting, plucking and pressing guitar strings,  and don’t even get me started on preparing meals using chicken. My husband is convinced I took a course at the CDC on how to sterilize a kitchen when preparing chicken, meat, or fish. The only things that aren’t encased in a Hazmat suit are my hands. I tell ya, they’re scary.

After what seemed like hours of filing, cutting cuticles, and enough lotion to fill a tanker, it was time to go home. My daughter looked at my hands and said, “Pretty.” That’s when I heard my mother coming right out of my mouth. “These? No. They’re just old used up hands. Look at how dainty and lovely yours are.” My mother never thought she had pretty hands and it struck me at that moment just how wrong she was. 

Sometimes when I’m getting ready to hyperventilate, or have my blood pressure checked, I think of one fleeting moment in my past. I was sitting down at the kitchen table and I can’t remember if I was sad, or had done something wonderful, but all of a sudden my mother was behind me. She cupped my chin in one of her hands and with the other she stroked my cheek. I remember leaning back into her, feeling nothing but comfort and peace. 

This is what I remember of my Mama’s hands. Not how they looked, but how they felt. They caressed and comforted, they consoled, they danced when she talked, they healed, and above all else, they conveyed her love. I wonder what my daughter sees when she looks at my hands. They are strong and worn, but they always reach towards those I love. Maybe, just maybe, the manicurist wasn’t yelling about how awful my hands looked, but how much she saw in them. I can hope, can't I?

Thursday, March 21, 2013

With a Little Help from an Old Lady

Last night, the two teenagers and I were indulging in our only reality show - "American Idol". We tend towards either detective shows, horror or history, but we do like to watch this one reality show (with apologies to fans of other reality shows - they just don't appeal to us). Both boys are band students, and big fans of music. Years ago we ditched the DVD player in the car in favor of music. We even have a system worked out. Slots 1, 3, and 5 in the car's CD player are for their music choices while hubby and I get slots 2, 4, and 6. It works well this way - we alternate selections so neither the old nor the young get exhausted by the choice of the other group (at least as long as I don't have Pink or Adele - neither seem to appeal to my sons). Along the way we discover music we can all agree with. I'm a fan of Linkin Park, and Radiohead now, while they enjoy the Beatles, Pink Floyd, the Rolling Stones - all the classics. 

So you can imagine the shared horror and shock when one of the American Idol contestants admitted that he had NEVER heard "Let It Be" by the Beatles!!! How is that even possible in someone with a gift for music? Then another contestant comes along and isn't sure she's ever heard my favorite Beatles song, "She's Leaving Home". Wow - I knew the state of education in American was in crisis, but I had no idea it was THIS BAD!

So with apologies to Mary - who is the true musician, and an incredible musical talent - I have to list a few albums from my youth that I just think are a must listen. Please add to the list - I need to make sure I'm adequately educating my teenagers!

1 - Beatles - "White Album"

2 - Beatles - "Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band"

3 - Beatles - "Rubber Soul"

4 - Carole King - "Tapestry"

5 - Michael Jackson - "Thriller"

6 - Rolling Stones - "Rewind (1971-1984)" 

7 - The Who - "Quadrophenia"

8 - Pink Floyd - "The Dark Side of The Moon"

Yeah - The Beatles get three slots and the Rolling Stones get a greatest hits compilation. What can I say - we had good music - really good music.


Tuesday, March 12, 2013

I Wish I Could Play Doh with the Guidance Counselor

By Sheilah

Monday means "Guidance class" in 5th grade. Mondays are no fun. They're focusing on the "transition" to middle school as if it were a contagion. It means the 10 and 11 year olds are getting a touch of being bullied about bullying.

Last Monday:

Dylan: Enough about bullying! We're not worried about that. We're just wondering when we'll get to go to the bathroom. And remembering our locker combinations.

Me: You're absolutely right. That's all you need to be concerned about. (He had his own experience with being a tad bullied last year.)

This Monday:

Dylan: Oh, God. We did rocks and Play Doh in "Guidance" (air quotes and all) today. She said rocks can't be changed, but she's wrong.

Me: Agreed. What about Pop Rocks?

Dylan: Right. And those rocks we call Chinese rocks that you can crumble. We find them at the races and you just dig your thumbs into them and they explode.

Me: Huh?

Dylan: Zack and I made up the name in, like, kindergarten because all the crappy plastic toys that fell apart were made in China, so when we found these rocks that fall apart...

Me: Oh, okay. And did you tell the guidance counselor all this?

Dylan: Yes. She said you still can't change a rock.

Me: But, wait. What's this all about? Is your guidance counselor a geologist?

Dylan: She says it's about what you can change and what you can't in middle school. Her great analogy is that you can change Play Doh, but you can't change rocks.

Me: Wait! Lava and fossils and...

Dylan: I know, right? I can shoot a BB into a rock like a crawdad and it'll bust for sure.

Me: So what's the Play Doh in middle school?

Dylan: I have NO idea.

Me: Huh.

Dylan: Can I go out and play now?

Me: Please. Go change some rocks.

We can't see the middle school for the analogy. Oh well.

It does put a new spin on a very old prayer:

God, grant me the serenity to accept the rocks I cannot change
The courage to change the Play Doh I can
and the wisdom to know the difference between a rock and a hard place.
I pray middle school is all Play Doh-y.

Sunday, March 10, 2013

The Hypothesis of the Right Pointer Dude

Every morning I take both boys to school. First one gets dropped off at the Freshman Academy. Then I loop around the elementary school, and take the older son to the main high school. There is a gentleman who stands at the entrance to the car line at the main high school. He stands there and points the way to go. When you drive in, you can either choose to go to the right or to the left. The right leads to a parking area, and the left leads towards the main office, and the cafeteria where most kids get dropped off. Because there are so many cars bringing their teenagers, he points us to head our cars to our right, his left. He basically is standing there, blocking the way from someone turning to the left. Why? Because the cars loop around the parking area forming a line. And sadly, there's always someone who wants to cut in line. I've watched him at times as I've slowly made my way through the line. I've watched him vigorously point to the line as someone tries to inch past him in the hopes of heading to the left, at other times stepping further forward blocking the way, and at times talking to someone explaining why they can't go the easier, quicker way (apparently some things are NOT self evident).

I have to say I find it a little sad, that grownups have to be reminded that they shouldn't cut in line. What? Did you flunk elementary school? I also find it a small microcosm of society. We seem to have become very focused on what we want or need to the exclusion of others, for instance the others who got there earlier and are snaking their way through the line you think you should get to avoid. 

Now I have to admit, I have no overwhelming desire to be a martyr. I don't like to wait in the line anymore than they do. I like to sit down, I like to watch tv, read a book, knit, have a lovely conversation with someone, eat a Krispy Kreme, and then remember my diet... But I seem to have been cursed, err blessed with an overabundance of the "get 'er done" gene. I also seem to have that whole responsibility thing. It's why it's taken me so long to write another blog - responsibilities and priorities. I believe in taking my turn when it is a single line formation (not when you're on a multi-lane road, and everyone is lined up behind a semi - why not pass in that wide open lane - it's sorta what the other lane is for - but that's a whole different blog entry sometime). 

So every day when I pass the right pointer dude, I try to give a little wave. No trouble from me, I'll get in line as I should, wait my turn, tell my kids to get out posthaste, don't dawdle (I need to find a cooler vocabulary). And every week, there's a new adventure - somebody who tries hard to find a way around the rules. I must say a big thank you for the lecture time - because I end up discussing with my kids what SELF-ENTITLEMENT means, and why it isn't their right to try to cut in front of people who have been WAITING THEIR TURN IN SINGLE LINE FORMATION. Maybe it's just me, but I seem to see an awful lot of "gotta have it now", "it's my right" kinda stuff. No where in the CONSTITUTION is it a right to cut in line, text in the left lane while driving, or get the latest iPhone...but thanks for the examples to my kids...let's hope they get it.