Archive for December, 2006

Speaking of Lessons from Mothers…

Thursday, December 14th, 2006

Yesterday’s post on my negative experience with a 7 year old left me thinking about how my behavior was shaped as a child. Looking back, we were constantly receiving messages on how to treat others. My mom’s primary concern when we were kids was that she refused to have children who annoyed others. Touching, I know. She made us aware at an early age of how our actions effected others. She was quick to point out when people may not being liking us all that much because of how we were behaving at the moment. Lucky for her, she happened to have two kids who desperately wanted to be liked and who embarrassed easily.

Aside from the messages she delivered in the form of parental guidance, she also modeled the behavior she expected from us. She didn’t do it to set an example. She did it because it is in her core that others deserve to be treated with respect and kindness. One of my earliest memories on the subject involves my mom and a clerk at a grocery store. We were waiting in line with a cart full of items. The woman in front of us was fumbling for a check and a pen. This was the early 70’s. There weren’t any debit cards to scan. It seemed like an eternity before the customer ahead of us was finally finished and on her way. When our turn came, the cashier apologized profusely for the other customer and began making remarks on how she was an idiot and such. Without missing a beat, my mom asked the clerk a startling question. “I’m curious, what do you intend to say about me to the next customer once I’m gone?” Holy cow! Even the young kid in me knew that was a big gotcha moment. The cashier stuttered a bit. My mother went on to say that she need not put down another customer to make her satisfied with the service. I wanted to shrivel up and die with embarrassment over my mother calling the cashier’s rudeness out on the table. As a kid, I thought it was wrong for my mother to put her on the spot like that. As an adult, I’m giving her a standing ovation. She didn’t ignore the ill treatment of another. She also didn’t participate in the negative remarks. How often do you see people either doing nothing or going along and joining in. I’ll answer…too often. My mom taught me a lesson that day I will never forget. It reminds me as a parent there is so much more I can do for my daughter than offer words and shake a finger from time to time.

Mean Kids

Wednesday, December 13th, 2006

This might be offensive to some, but I believe parents who teach or allow their children to be mean are guilty of abuse or neglect. There is no way I will ever be convinced children emerge from the womb ready to harm and be cruel to others. It is something that happens over the course of time as the behavior is modeled for them by movies, video games, other children or the adults in their life.

Today I had an experience that made me physically ill. My daughter, as I’ve shared before, has a prominent birth mark on her upper chin and lower lip. It is dark red and quite puffy. People frequently stare and make comments (some kind and some rude). It is part of our daily life so I’m rarely thrown by the behavior of other’s anymore. A 7 year old boy (I’m estimating) in Old Navy today threw me for a loop. As his mother shopped, her son decided to entertain himself by harassing my 8 month old daughter as she sat, bright eyed and smiling, in her stroller. He approached her 3 times and placed his face right in hers. “You have an ugly face”, he announced each time. The 3rd time, he stuck his tongue out as well. His clueless mother wasn’t offering any relief, so I looked the boy in the eyes, told him he wasn’t being nice and wheeled my daughter to another part of the store. Moments later my attention was drawn to the same young boy playing around with soccer style balls in the rear of the store. He was probably 12-16 feet away from us. My gut suddenly told me something was up and I moved towards my daughter. Just as I did, he kicked the ball in her direction. I was able to bat it away before it could connect with her face. The boy had a look of satisfaction about him.

If you are a parent reading this, you can probably guess the degree of anger I felt over the incident. I rarely get angry. When I do, a rash forms on my neck. I was telling some friends today, I’m pretty sure I’m allergic to being ticked off. Since lashing out at the boy wasn’t going to solve anything, and there were no goalies available for an impromptu soccer match, I decided to approach his mother. Containing my rage, I gently offered she should keep a close eye as her son is being a menace. My words were met with a look of complete bewilderment. I provided a brief summation of events. You’d think an apology would be the first thing to pass through her lips. Nope. She suggested the ball sailing towards my daughter was the result of an accident. Considering I was the one watching her child and not her, I was left to overrule her opinion. The only contribution she made to resolve the issue was to tell her son he shouldn’t pick on other kids. Though my infant daughter is technically a kid, my mind was screaming…he’s attempting to assault a baby, not picking on a kid.

Knowing a lost cause, I wheeled my daughter away, checked out and left the store. In processing the event, I’ve tried to allow myself to be mad at the little boy. I just can’t be though. I’m shocked by his behavior, but my anger is reserved for his mother. Without more guidance and discipline from his parents, that 7 year old menace could be on a path to a career as an abuser. Even if the outcome is less extreme, he certainly has a bumpy ride ahead of him as he attempts to make friends while lacking social skills and common courtesy. It really is sad. By his appearance, he is well provided for in terms of material things. By his actions, he is sorely neglected.

Wisdom From Grandpa

Wednesday, December 13th, 2006

My Grandpa was a Hellcat in a Sherman tank wheeling through Germany in World War II. Shermans were death traps for many when battling German tanks. If your tank was hit, it was crucial to get out of it before artillery starting imitating popcorn. This task had an added element of difficulty for my Grandfather because he was so tall. The tall members of a tank team were often forced to lie on the bottom of the tank floor and load the artillery. It was where they could fit, essentially.

As scary and stressful as his tour and Germany was, my Grandfather always slept like a log at night. His buddies would often ask how it was he could sleep so well when they were in the middle (figuratively and literally) of a war. “Well, I think scared and well rested gives me better odds than say scared and drop dead tired.” Gosh if that doesn’t make complete sense. So often when faced with adversity we start falling into patterns or behaviors that actually hamper our ability to deal with these challenges effectively. We let the fear take over and reduce the likelihood of us being able to rise to the occasion. Though I’m not sure how many sheep he had to count to allow his mind and body to slumber, he pulled it off and was rewarded with a quick mind and able body when the time came both were needed.

As a side note, we lose more of our World War II vets with every year that passes. In a decade or so these brave men and women will all be gone. Their stories are incredible. If you have veterans in your family, I encourage you to make yourself available to hear their story. What you can read in a history book is nothing compared to the individual stories of courage, sacrifice and a need to turn a wrong into a right.

Double Trouble

Tuesday, December 12th, 2006

A reader requested I share a bit about growing up as a twin. Actuallly, there are several twins who read and comment on this board. Kris and Amsterdamn are twins. My twin and her husband, who is also a twin, reads. Kathryn and Amy are both parents of twins…as well as Kris, who was mentioned above. The pressure is on for me to get this post right since I have an audience who may call me out on any inaccuracies or exaggerations.

Let’s see, where to start. I suppose birth works. I know what you’re thinking. Birth? She’s 35. This blog is gonna be a long one. Don’t worry. Okay, worry. I rarely know a short story. It probably has something to do with…what? Oh, yeah. The topic.

Ask any twin and they can likely tell you how many minutes older or younger they are than their sibling. It is probably the single most common question I faced growing up. So, who is older? Chuckle, chuckle. Well, by birth, my sister is a full 7 minutes ahead of me. Since we are fraternal twins, we were separate eggs. We’ll never know for sure who was fertilized first, so I suppose we’ll stick with the 7 minute gap in our birthing to distinguish the older from the younger. As a kid, those 7 minutes meant a lot to me. I’m hoping I’m not the only neurotic twin out there who honestly believed my sister was older. Before I knew better, I was convinced my sister would experience everything 7 minutes ahead of me. Imagine how scary that thought was. If my sister got her period, surely mine would come 7 minutes later. If my sister died, I would have 7 minutes to say my goodbyes and prepare for the afterlife. Of course, it doesn’t work that way, as was proven when my sister wore a bra a full year before me. No matter how many times I reminded Miss Right and Miss Left they were supposed to blossom 7 minutes after their fraternal counterparts, they wouldn’t budge.

In all seriousness, it was pretty clear early on we were meant to experience things at different times and in different ways. As young kids, differences were often considered problems. My sister walked and talked late. This isn’t uncommon with twins. One becomes the designated communicator and go getter. My sister didn’t have to talk or walk. She had her own personal interpreter and toy fetcher. Doctors were concerned my sister might be ‘retarded’, that was the word they used back then, because she wasn’t progressing at the same rate I was. In all truth, she was probably the smarter of the pair as she had mastered managing employees at the tender age of 1.

My sister’s early management style reminds me of another question I was frequently asked. Who is the dominant twin? You see, many believe one twin takes on a dominant role while the other a recessive role. There is a constant need to sort out the leader and the follower. It’s kind of sad to me grown-ups want to define one as a leader and one as a follower so early on. In truth, we flip flopped on who was ruling the roost at different times. I’ll concede I was louder and more aggressive. That led many to believe I was the dominant twin. My sister was quieter, yet amazingly effective. I believed I was the one running the show for a long time. One day it dawned on me I was always the one driving the car we shared when it needed gas. Hmmmm, coincidence…I don’t think so. The supposed recessive twin managed to avoid shelling out gas money a majority of the time. There is no doubt in my mind a majority of my growing up years were managed and handled by my beloved womb mate.

Another question people love to ask is “do you feel your sister’s pain or are you able to read her mind?” As far as feeling pain, um, no. If twins felt each other’s pain, they would never fight. That would be like shoving yourself or pulling your own hair. Reading the mind is a different story. I know my sister and I are in tune with each other’s thoughts. I can know what she is thinking by looking at her and we frequently finish each other’s sentences. In my opinion, this is less about sharing a womb and more about sharing so much time together as kids. We know each other very well and can cut through the layers. It’s great to have that kind of closeness and understanding. I appreciate it at lot more now than I did as a kid. (By the way Amy, you might wan’t to check out my post “Get Em While They’re Young” for more of an explanation)

As I mentioned in yesterday’s blog, my beloved womb mate and I shared a great deal growing up. Amy asked in comments if she should feel guilty buying her twins gifts to share or that are duplicates. Honestly, I think my sister and I really scored big as kids because we were often given a combined gift of greater value than what we would have received individually. Duplicates cut down on fighting from time to time, too. I do feel a little salty about some gifts that were identical (or nearly) when we weren’t both interested in the same things. It gets old when people assume one twin’s interests mirrors the other’s. One specific memory is of my sister really wanting her ears pierced when she turned 13 (or was it 12). In any event, my grandparents decided to take us both to get our ears pierced on our birthday. Oh joy. Happy Birthday Lisa…this won’t hurt but for a minute. Of course, that was a lie. I ended up with red crusty ears for years and finally got sick of fighting metal allergies and let my holes close. I’m still bitter. It helps calm the guilt over using a real curling iron on my sister’s favorite “Quick Curl” head. Remember those? Who knew the hair would melt?

Another question that seems to come up often is “what is it like being a twin?” That’s like asking a singleton what their experience is like. I’ve only been a twin, so I can’t compare. I imagine several components of the relationship are similar to those of siblings born at different times. We do have the advantage of not having to experience so many things alone. Starting school, learning to drive, starting college…we went through it together. We also had the combined brain power of two toddlers when we were in the mood to shake things up for our mom. One child can be creative and cover a lot of ground. Two can really make their mark. My sister and I once buttered the entire livingroom (anything our height and below) with tubs of Blue Bonnet as our mother napped. I believe we were 3 or 4. There were globs in the carpet, on the drapes and on the furniture. We even got the cat. We’re still sorry Mom.

In closing, I want to share one funny story about my sister. Her coworkers read this blog and I thought they’d enjoy this little tidbit. When we were kids, I caught Mom stuffing our stockings on Christmas Eve. The jig was up on Santa. I knew revealing my discovery might put an end to the Santa experience for us, so I shut my mouth and snuck back upstairs before Mom spotted me. Well, by the time the next Christmas rolled around, I still held my secret close. My sister was still a firm believer in Santa Clause. I’m thinking we were 7. Jennifer was making a huge fuss at the window on Christmas Eve. She was all a flutter because she SWORE she saw Santa fly across the moon. No matter how much I protested, she wouldn’t budge. She saw Santa and that was that. I’m still amazed I kept the Santa secret from my sister and passed up a primo opportunity to laugh myself silly over her.

I’m All For Sharing…BUT

Monday, December 11th, 2006

As a twin, I grew up sharing at a young age. From the womb to toys to bedrooms, nothing was ever just my own. Sharing is a good thing usually. It really is easier to make friends and get along with others when not intent on keeping everything to yourself. There is a limit, however. Sometimes people take sharing to the extreme.

It sounds like I’m being petty to complain about people sharing too much. Some might argue sharing too much is better than not sharing at all. It’s hard to say. If it were about sharing fortunes, chocolate chip cookies and helpful advice, I’d agree. The sharing that holds me up is the kind that is the result of another person not thinking about or being considerate to others. Those who feel sharing the road means I should also share my car lane with them. Those who feel my wireless internet service is a free for all…like I’m Starbuck’s or something. Those who have a cold or the flu and don’t feel complete until they’ve included me in the party. Those who are unable to say something nice, but have a knack for sharing advice and commentary that irritates and offends.

It would be easier to swallow the above offenses if those involved were just so tuned into sharing they couldn’t separate the good from the bad. I have a sneaky suspicion that is not the case, however. I remember returning to my car in the grocery store parking lot to find someone had attempted to share my parking space. A 15 inch scratch decorated my rear bumper. Funny how there wasn’t a note on my window offering to share the repair bill.

With the holidays approaching, we tend to take a little more time to reflect on how we treat others and what we can do better in the New Year. I think it would be good if we all looked at how we could make sharing good things a bigger part of our lives. Even if we occasionally share things that aren’t so great, the positive should always outweigh the negative.

Beautiful Launch

Saturday, December 9th, 2006

I’m writing this blog early because Sundays often slip away without an opportunity to post here.

Tonight’s launch of the Space Shuttle Discovery was absolutely beautiful. Watching the clock tick down gives me the same churn in my belly I had as a child. Imagining what the astronauts might be thinking or feeling works my nerves to their limits. It’s a sure bet you won’t see me setting foot on a shuttle clad in an orange suit. Boy do I admire people who can set fear of the unknown aside and step out of the safety constraints the need for self preservation often constructs. What a way to taste life. Not that I’m advocating being reckless. Speeding down the highway at 90 mph is not a positive way to take a bite out of life. That’s just being an idiot. Instead, chasing dreams and going out of your way to experience something special and new is to be commended.

Safe travels Discovery crew. The world is watching you realize a dream and celebrating your courageous spirit. In the meantime, I’m going to do some thinking to decide if I have any dreams tucked away I’ve been too scared to chase. One has been writing words for the world to see. I’m testing the waters here to see if I can pull of sharing thoughts without being crowned Queen Moron. Other dreams are surely tucked away in hidden places I’ve yet to discover.

Oh, I Can’t Wait!

Saturday, December 9th, 2006

As a kid I was the queen of ‘Oh, I can’t wait until…!’ I was always looking forward to a holiday or event and hoping it would hurry up and get here. One day my Grandma looked me square in the eyes and asked me to quit wishing my life away. I was stunned. It never occured to me I was, in a sense, willing the limited time I have on this planet to pass quickly. As if that weren’t enough, my Grandma offered that wishing my life away was wishing her life away as well. Until she pointed it out, I never considered my time couldn’t pass quickly without everyone else’s doing the same. I never forgot those words. The habit of uttering “I can’t wait until” hasn’t been broken completely. These days it is more of a figure of speech than a true desire for something to hurry up and get here.

Just a little tidbit to think about.

Quaker Oats

Friday, December 8th, 2006

Trying to be healthy isn’t fun. This morning I had the bright idea I’d fix a bowl of Quaker Oats for breakfast. I was patting myself on the back for my wise choice as it cooked in the pot. It’s now an hour later and my enthusiasm has died down a bit. I still have half a bowl of gray mush staring at me as I type this post. It’s cold and soggy. Ironically, it tastes no worse to me than it did 50 minutes ago. I’m suspecting my love of oatmeal raisin cookies is less about the oatmeal and more about the other ingredients.

Now what? I suppose I could doctor it up with tasty additions next time. Heck, it says right on the container oatmeal removes cholesterol from the body. If I add a gob of butter it shouldn’t matter, right? Trouble is, I’m not sure stopping at butter would be enough. My mind is dancing with thoughts of brown sugar and raisins too. For it to really be good, I could poor hot water over an oatmeal cookie and mush it up a bit. Now, that’s a breakfast I would be happy to finish. I think the only way I’m getting plain oats down is to implant a few equine taste buds on my tongue.

This obsession with sweet food is really hard to combat. The other day I thought my issue was limited to snacks. I’m realizing now even my breakfast needs to be a treat. The battle continues.

On the bright side, a commercial about plaque bugs this morning made me want to pull all of my teeth out and gum my way through the rest of my existence. Thanks Oral B. I’m glad your new tooth brush cuts plaque bugs by 80%. Knowledge of that lingering 20% is enough to compromise my sanity though. Blech!


Thursday, December 7th, 2006

I’ve been hiding a secret only a few select friends and family members know about. For years, I have been buying Matchbox cars for myself. I just love them. The real finds are the cars with the doors and hoods that open. I like the ones that aren’t covered in any stickers or detailed with flames and such. A regular looking car suits me just fine. I’m not a collector. All of my cars are immediately removed from the package and wheeled around. There is no plan to preserve them and eventually sell them for a profit on eBay.

Isn’t it strange a 35 year old woman would have an affinity for such things? Even more strange is my need to cover up the joy I get from playing with them. When I’m making a purchase, I find myself striking up a conversation with the clerk about how the cars are a gift or stocking stuffer for a niece or nephew. I doubt the clerk even cares what I intend to do with them. Where does my need to justify why I’m buying toy cars come from?

Considering my secret pleasure isn’t harmful, offensive or self destructive, there really is no cause to be embarrassed, right? Is it so bad to still maintain the heart of a child in some ways? I’m not a lunatic…unless, of course, I’m in serious denial. Life gets boring and complicated when one has to be an adult and do adult things all of the time. I’m not on the path to having a theme park in my front yard. Michael Jackson is not my role model.

I suspect it feels awkward to be an adult enjoying an activity normally meant for kids because we see so many kids enjoying activities normally meant for adults. Kids are drinking Starbuck’s coffees, wearing grown-up clothes and such. If kids are too mature to be young at heart and play, it makes it feel even more odd for me to be that way. That does make me wonder though. Since kids are determined to copy adults and grow up as fast as possible, perhaps they would benefit from knowing there are days when they can still find us on our knees pushing around miniature Fords and Audis.

So, who is up for confessing they are still a kid at heart?  Anyone?  Anyone?

An Apple a Day

Wednesday, December 6th, 2006

I’ll admit I have a fear of doctors. My toe rarely touches the carpet of a medical facility. There is this inner concern going to a doctor will result in me discovering something is terribly wrong. I can think of several symptoms I’ve had over the past few years that should have prompted an appointment. Did I go? No. I remember when I first found out I was pregnant in July of 2005. Part of my mind wondered if a tumor would show up on the ultrasound or if blood tests would find a virus or illness I didn’t know I had. Of course, that didn’t happen. My mind went there though. Shush, don’t tell my husband I’m nuts.

I don’t know where this hesitation came from. I’ve always had good insurance coverage. My family history is strong. There really haven’t been any health challenges for me other than colds, flus and the occasional food poisoning (I still hate Turkey Dogs). Why have I clung to the whole ‘ignorance is bliss’ concept? Funny thing is, if my husband, daughter, friend or neighbor wasn’t feeling quite right, I’d demand they get to a doctor right away. It would be stupid not to, right?

And to top it off…I’m not even eating an apple a day!