Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Bigger is Better in Boyland

" A great man is always willing to be little."                                                                      -Ralph Waldo Emerson

In Boyland (population:  all dudes), everyone knows bigger is better. Bigger homes, bigger cars with bigger engines, bigger peckers (and, really, all forms of backyard wildlife)...small just won't do here.

Case in point:  when my favorite resident of Boyland, my sunshine, my husband, makes a sandwich, he seeks out this knife to spread his mayo on the bread

even though it's not dishwasher-safe and despite the fact that we have a whole drawer full of these,

which are happy to run through the magic clean dish box.

So, that's why I laughed to myself and commiserated while reading this article about an NBC reporter who recently had to make an ER visit after a failed attempt to open a bottle of wine.

What was he using to remove the foil wrapper over the cork?

Well, this, of course:

"All women become like their mothers. That is their tragedy. No man does. That's his."                                                                                                       -Oscar Wilde, The Importance of Being Earnest

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Generation More

Last night, as my daughter's cheerleading practice wrapped up, I overheard the coach yelling, "now girls, you have two things to do this week..." My immediate thought was, "oh, great, more work - for both of us." Then I chuckled to myself thinking "two things? Try two hundred things." And it's mostly my own doing. It wasn't my sweet daughter who came to me and said, "Mommy, I'd like to be well-rounded. Will you sign me up for any and everything you hear about?"

The sad thing is that, when compared to some of her peers, she has a pretty light schedule.

MONDAY:  tennis lessons
TUESDAY:  cheerleading practice
WEDNESDAY:  piano lessons
SATURDAY:  cheerleading, basketball
SUNDAY:  basketball practice

OK, so in writing, that doesn't look too bad. But let's throw in some homework. Here's an average week:

MONDAY:  tennis lessons, 30 mins of homework, read for 20 mins, practice piano
TUESDAY:  cheerleading practice, 30 mins of homework, read for 20 mins, review spelling words for test on Friday, review vocabulary words for test on Thursday
WEDNESDAY:  piano lessons, 30 mins of homework, read for 20 mins, review spelling words for test on Friday, review vocabulary words for test tomorrow
THURSDAY: 30 mins of homework, read for 20 mins, review spelling words for test tomorrow
SATURDAY:  cheerleading, basketball
SUNDAY:  basketball practice, practice piano

Then, you gotta have some chores at home, right?

MONDAY:  tennis lessons, 30 mins of homework, read for 20 mins, practice piano
TUESDAY:  cheerleading practice, 30 mins of homework, read for 20 mins, review spelling words for test on Friday, review vocabulary words for test on Thursday, help with pets
WEDNESDAY:  piano lessons, 30 mins of homework, read for 20 mins, review spelling words for test on Friday, review vocabulary words for test tomorrow, help with pets
THURSDAY: 30 mins of homework, read for 20 mins, review spelling words for test tomorrow
SATURDAY:  cheerleading, basketball, help with laundry
SUNDAY:  basketball practice, practice piano, clean hamster's cage, tidy room, help with dinner

Not to mention, Church on Sunday, friends' birthday parties, play dates, brushing your teeth and washing your face twice a day, reading the Bible, and getting exercise.

The kid sleeps an average of 9.5 hours each night, so that whittles the number of waking hours she has to just a little over 100 hours each week. Yes, there are times I get frustrated. Have you practiced piano? Have you cleaned the hamster's cage? I  didn't want a rat. I  didn't promise I'd clean that cage every week if I could get a hamster. No, m'am. That was you. But then I remember that she's just a kid. And she's learning. Learning to juggle, which, sadly, is a life skill. The times I wonder if we've overloaded her, all I have to do is look at my own weekly schedule to realize for what she's being trained -- being an adult one day. An adult in a hectic, fast-paced, go get 'em world.

That reminds me...I've gotta run.

Friday, September 12, 2014

Not Forgetting to Remember

So this happened last night. I found myself at a monthly meeting of a group for which I hold a place on their board. There were 16 of us in attendance last night. It's just once per month and I do care about the organization or else I wouldn't be there in the first place. However, it's one of those things you dread, you can make excuses why not to go, you watch the clock and think, at times, this is never going to end. It's mostly women, and women have a way of talking too much. It's just a gender flaw, I believe.

So, I'm in this meeting last night, anxiously watching the clock and taking some assurance and relief in that it seems to be winding down. The speaker wraps up, thanks everyone for coming and people start getting up to a symphony of jingling keys and chairs being pushed back across a linoleum floor. The exit is in clear site and I'm already in the car in my mind. Then the leader of the group asks everyone to stop and gather in a circle before we leave. "Nooooo! I was so close," I thought.

We assembled fairly quickly, then she said with a full heart and cracking voice, "I thought maybe we could all just take a moment to remember this day and maybe we can all go around and share what this day means to us." Lord, help me.

She kicked it off. She was not in NYC that day, 13 years ago, she didn't know anyone directly or indirectly affected by the tragedy. She just felt like she wanted to commemorate the day so she prattled on about how she'd visited New York some 30 years ago and managed to bring that nearly unrelated story back around to her current day angst and anxiety.

9/11 Memorial

As the rest of those of us gathered shared our stories, my heart softened and I listened, truly listened, to what people were saying. One woman was working and living in Manhattan that day. She was blocks away and wondered if she was next. Another had a relative who was a flight attendant and they were not able to verify this person's whereabouts or safety for more than a day. A younger member shared how she was in high school and provided a glimpse into what our youth experienced and felt. An older member equated it to Pearl Harbor, though she wasn't around for that first attack on U.S. soil. Unfortunately, one woman over-shared and told how she and her husband did the only thing they knew to do and, yadda yadda, "our third child was born nine months later." Several people made the comment that this is our (this generation's) version of "where were you when JFK was assassinated?" I even shared my own story, which isn't great or particularly touching, but goes like this:

I went to work that day. Just like it was a normal day. And when I went home at the end of the day, I stopped and did something fairly pedestrian and normal. I got gas. The closest station to my home still provided the option of "full service." For all of you young people, gas stations used to only be "full service." You'd pull up and an attendant would pump your gas, check your oil, wash your windows and maybe even check your tire pressure. Then, stations started offering the option for you to skip this service and do it yourself. Thus, you had the option of "full service" or "self service." Full service eventually faded into a memory, but this particular station held onto it. A little too tightly, if you ask me. I've never been much of a women's libber, but for whatever reason I took offense when they would see me and dash out, trying to wrestle the gas pump from me. I'd wave them off and deliver a quick, curt "I've got it...thank you!" to try to head them off. But on 9/11/01, I stopped to get gas. I got out and began unscrewing my gas cap. An employee started walking out of the building towards me. As he arrived, I mumbled, "I'm fine" and, as he took the pump from my hand and proceeded to fill my car, we both just stood there. The sky was a beautiful, bright blue, hardly a cloud to be seen. And it was silent. I've never given much mind to airplanes flying overhead, but I'll always remember the stillness of that day. He finished, I thanked him, and he said, "no beats standing in there staring at the TV." And we hugged. Total, complete strangers. It was our way of saying "we're gonna be OK" days before people started shouting"U.S.A! U.S.A!" and a good while before we were remotely sure.

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

I Can Believe It's Not Butter

I grew up in a nice, Southern home that would make Paula Deen proud. We used butter. A lot. In the kitchen, food was prepared under the mantra "if a tablespoon is good, then 2 sticks must be great!" One of my all-time favorite "snacks" to this day is a good, hot piece of cornbread with a fresh, cold pat of butter pushed inside its warm center so it melts into all the cracks and crevices. I can taste it now.

Our preferred brand was Land O' Lakes. Something about that nice, Native American lady on the package just intimated quality.

When eating out in restaurants, back in the day, you'd often receive a perfect little pat of butter wedged between a slightly larger square of cardboard and a little square of waxed paper. Then we went to tiny little plastic tubs with a foil lid:

And now you get a rectangle of butter in a wrapper:

But even in my day, butter substitutes crept onto the tables of America, claiming to be a healthier alternative to plain, old butter. I never liked the taste of margarine and, if push came to shove, I'd go without anything rather than trying to use it as a substitute for my beloved butter. It doesn't melt the same and it definitely doesn't taste the same. I stumbled upon this article today about the history of margarine and it got me thinking...thinking about our natural ability to sniff (or taste) out danger. And also thinking about a pan of cornbread. Excuse me.

"Pass The Butter ... Please"

Margarine was originally manufactured to fatten turkeys. When it killed the turkeys, the people who had put all the money into the research wanted a payback so they put their heads together to figure out what to do with this product to get their money back.

It was a white substance with no food appeal so they added the yellow coloring and sold it to people to use in place of butter. How do you like it? They have come out with some clever new flavorings....

DO YOU KNOW the difference between margarine and butter?

Both have the same amount of calories. Butter is slightly higher in saturated fats at 8 grams; compared to 5 grams for margarine.

Eating margarine can increase heart disease in women by 53% over eating the same amount of butter, according to a recent Harvard Medical Study.

Eating butter increases the absorption of many other nutrients in other foods.Butter has many nutritional benefits where margarine has a few and only because they are added!

Butter tastes much better than margarine and it can enhance the flavors of other foods.

Butter has been around for centuries where margarine has been around for less than 100 years .

And now, for Margarine..

Very high in trans fatty acids.

Triples risk of coronary heart disease.

Increases total cholesterol and LDL (this is the bad cholesterol) and lowers HDL cholesterol (the good cholesterol).

Increases the risk of cancers up to five times.

Lowers quality of breast milk

Decreases immune response.

Decreases insulin response.

And here's the most disturbing fact...

Margarine is but ONE MOLECULE away from being PLASTIC... and shares 27 ingredients with PAINT.

These facts alone were enough to have me avoiding margarine for life and anything else that is hydrogenated (this means hydrogen is added, changing the molecular structure of the substance).

Open a tub of margarine and leave it open in your garage or shaded area. Within a couple of days you will notice a couple of things:

* no flies, not even those pesky fruit flies will go near it (that should tell you something)

* it does not rot or smell differently because it has no nutritional value; nothing will grow on it. Even those teeny weeny microorganisms will not a find a home to grow.

Why? Because it is nearly plastic . Would you melt your Tupperware and spread that on your toast?

"For as churning cream produces butter, and as twisting the nose produces blood, so stirring up anger produces strife."
--Proverbs 30:33

Monday, September 8, 2014

Safety Net

At my child’s school, except for the very youngest children, all of the students have iPads. They leave them at school through fourth grade. In fifth grade, they begin carrying their iPad with them to classes and home and back. Once this begins, it is literally and figuratively in their hands. If they drop it or lose it, they (or their parents) are responsible for repairing or replacing it. They’re also responsible for remembering to save their work frequently and to keep the device charged.

I was speaking with a friend the other day, the mother of a fifth grade student, and I asked how things were going. She replied that the night before, she was heading to bed and looked over and realized her child had not plugged in their iPad to charge. Feeling conflicted about what to do, she wavered between plugging it in and letting her child see that green bar and “100%” battery status in the morning, or doing something that is just gut-wrenching and incredibly hard – allowing her child to fail.

I won’t leave you hanging here. She confided in me that she peeked at the battery status and saw that it was 80%. “Had it been close to running out,” she said, “I probably would have plugged it in and let it charge and then told her this morning what I’d done and remind her that she needs to be careful about that.” Instead, my friend walked away. It was still near 80% in the morning, and, when the child realized she’d forgotten to charge it, she was horrified.

As my friend regaled me with this story, I thought to myself, “how would I have handled this situation?” It’s true. We want our kids to not just survive, but thrive. We want them to not just succeed, but to exceed. We push, push, push. We teach what we think the teacher hasn’t taught. We coach from the sidelines.

There’s a fine line there between supporting them  to excel and pushing them forcibly to succeed.  I hope, as I’m given opportunities, that I’m supportive. No more. No less.

Friday, September 5, 2014

Can We Talk?

To commemorate the life of Joan Rivers, who passed away yesterday, I'd like to say a few words. It's not that I was a huge fan. I actually found her loud, Brooklyn accent and the extreme plastic surgery quite unappealing. But, once you dug down to the person within -- deep, deep down -- you saw someone whom I like to believe was genuine and funny and those are two traits that are just unfortunately all too uncommon these days.

She said the things a lot of us just think. And got away with a lot of it. That's admirable.

I hate housework! You make the beds, you do the dishes and six months later you have to start all over again.
She ticked a lot of celebrities off through the years by calling them out, putting their cards on the proverbial table for them, and helping bring them down a notch or two to reality. Good for her.

But she also had some quips, that, like all good humor, have a good dose of truth in them. On life:

I enjoy life when things are happening. I don't care if it's good things or bad things. That means you're alive.

Life is very tough. If you don't laugh, it's tough.

Thank you for the laughs, Joan. Now you can critique what the angels are wearing.

Excuse me. 

What? I'm writing a blog here. Oh, she's Jewish? Hmm. Ok, well it still works. 

Thursday, September 4, 2014

A Good Read

This morning, I was reading an article from Reader's Digest which detailed how to be interesting, specifically in social settings. It suggested tips such as "listen more than you speak," "emulate those whom you find interesting," and "find something interesting about yourself and be able to succinctly explain it." All great tips. Another piece of advice was to be well-read. It then linked to their list of "14 Books You Really Should Have Read by Now."

1. The Great Gatsby, Scott Fitzgerald
2. To Kill a Mockingbird, Harper Lee
3. On the Road, Jack Kerouac
4. Tell Me a Riddle, Tillie Olsen
5. Great Expectations, Charles Dickens
6. All Quiet on the Western Front, Erich Marie Remarque
7. War and Peace, Leo Tolstoy
8. The Heart is a Lonely Hunter, Carson McCullers
9. Native Son, Richard Wright
10. The Road, Cormac McCarthy
11. Frankenstein, Mary Shelley
12. A Good Man is Hard to Find, Flannery O'Connor
13. The Catcher in the Rye, J. D. Salinger
14. The Chronicles of Narnia, C.S. Lewis

Now, some of these I was forced to read, and did so reluctantly, with what could only be described as a closed mind. A couple others, I have attempted to read as an adult and just could not plod through their pages. I will give it a solid, old school try, though.

There is one on the list, critically-acclaimed, that I just despised. I actually lost a friend over this book as she recommended it highly and, after consuming it, I thought "can I be friends with someone who actually enjoyed this book?" The answer revealed itself mere months later when the friendship evaporated quite organically. Have you ever worn an itchy sweater but didn't realize just how irritating it was until you had long since departed your house and there was no going back? You may have found yourself staring at the clock, hearing the second hand tick off hollow echoes, counting the seconds until you could tear that sweater from your body and throw it out the window on your drive home. Well, that's what this book was like. You've heard of a "page-turner?" This one was certainly a page-turner. With each page I turned, I drew consolation that it was one less page to read and one step closer to the end.

As for the other lucky 13, I vow here and now to go through and give them each another go. Even War and Peace, otherwise known as War: What is it Good For?

(Absolutely nothing.)

Say it again.

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

An Open Letter to Naked Girls

An open letter to Jennifer Lawrence, Kate Upton, and countless other victims (current and future­) who are targets of hackers who break into personal computers, steal nude photos, then leak them to the public:

You know one way to keep indelicate pictures of yourself from being hacked and leaked on the internet for all to see? Get ready….don’t take indelicate pictures of yourself in the first place. Sounds simple, right?

Yes, I understand, you’re young and fabulous and you might understand that despite your stellar genetics and extreme medical interventions, that your body will age and you want to remember what it once looked like. I get it. I’m guilty of standing in front of the mirror, squeezing, lifting, squinting, and manipulating body parts to remember what they once looked like. But never have I thought, “oh, I’m going to go pull out those pictures I took 20 years ago.”

First off, it’s tacky. But a better reason is this:  you can’t turn back time. You shouldn’t spend any of the precious time you have looking in the rear-view mirror. Best case, you miss something really cool up ahead. Worst case? You make a mess of the present and future by dwelling on the past.

So, whether it was a publicity stunt or a true invasion of privacy, let this be a lesson to all the young fools out there who think “it won’t happen to me.” In a world where one constantly has to choose between dumb and smart decisions, I tell you, two dummies does not a smarty make.