Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Of Age, Wisdom and Fairy Tales

Once upon a time, in a land close, close by lived a woman untouched by age. 

Sounds like some fairy tale, huh?  I assure you that I am NOT living the dream.  The years have not been kind to me.  Or rather, through out the years I have not been kind to myself.  Don't get me wrong.  Whenever I hear someone complaining about getting older, my rejoinder is a quick, "Sure beats the alternative."  No way to quit the aging process unless it is to quit the living process.  I'll take getting old every time. 

I don't mind the wrinkles around the eyes.  They have been developed over a lifetime of laughter.  I will sport crows feet like a badge of honor.  Takes some hard earned wisdom to learn to laugh at life and all it's foibles.  What do I care if people see I've gained that knowledge?  Parenthesis around the mouth - fine by me.  Gray hair in the scalp - not a problem.  Native Americans view gray hair as a sign of intelligence.  I can embrace that point of view.  All the time spent concerned and questioning are etched upon my brow and the crease that resides there.  What's a life free of worry and doubt?  None of us make it through without experiencing some of that. 

The only thing that I absolutely hate about the years piling on, is that they bring arthritis with them.  The kind that keeps one up at night and limping during the day.  That I can do without.  For some reason, my brain cannot fathom that I am the age my body declares it to be.  In the fairytale going on in my head, I am an eternal twenty five.  If there is one thing I've learned in the passing years it's that whoever said, "Be kind to your knees.  You'll miss them when they're gone."  knows of which they speak.  No truer words were ever uttered in the English language.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Taking It On The Road

I may have mentioned on my travel page that I have a gypsy soul.  Blame it on my Irish ancestors and their wayfaring ways.  Whatever the reason, I can't stand to sit still for to long.  A couple months pass by and the yen to take to the open road hits me like a sledgehammer.  Only problem is, traveling doesn't like me. 

I discovered this when the husband and I celebrated our first wedding anniversary.  We planned a week's stay at Niagra Falls.  It was going to be great.  We even had saved the top of our wedding cake and packed it in a cooler, hauling it across the border with us.   Yes, I remembered the cake top.  It was my purse, with all our money in it, that I forgot.  Only, I didn't just forget it.  I left it hanging off the back of a chair.  In a restaurant.  In Buffalo where we had stopped to eat.  Almost four hours later, and only after pumping a tank full of gas, I realized what I had done.  Thank God, for honest store managers and UPS overnight. 

Not every person I've encountered on our travels has been honest.  During a visit to my brother, my husband had his wallet stolen.  Goodbye, credit cards and cash.   That was the same trip which saw tornadoes striking the small town my brother lives in.  While the skies darkened and the wind howled, we huddled inside his house watching the newscast.  The weatherman expressed shock that twisters that had come calling.  First time in almost twenty years.  I wasn't surprised.  Experience has taught me to expect no less.   Like the time we were in San Diego, driving to the airport to catch our flight home, when we heard that a certain airline had pulled all their jets due to safety concerns.  Guess what plane we were booked on?     

My in-laws invited us to St. George Island for a visit when my son was only nine months old.  The island was gorgeous.  Right up until a tropical storm hit.  Who knew that sand flying in high winds could sting so badly when it hits your shins?  Halfway through our trip September 11th occurred.  We weren't so concerned with the weather after that.

Yes, we have sashayed across the U.S. and Canada, dancing to the tune of lost, stolen, or mislaid money, freakishly bad weather and waylaid plans.  Twice, we have made trip reservations only to have my father end up in the hospital on the eve of our departure.  Once, with a car wreck and once with a heart attack.  Disneyland isn't fun when my heart and mind are stuck back in a hospital room.  The reason I am sharing our misadventures with you?  We leave tomorrow on our next jaunt.  So, if you happen to be out and you see a red Matrix drawing near, you might want to seek shelter.  I travel under a rain cloud.

Friday, June 18, 2010

Dude or Dad

    This weekend, all across America, families will come together and honor their dads by making them stand around a hot grill and cook up the family meal.  This neck tie is for you, Dad!  And any dad worth his weight in gold will wear it proudly.  Because that is what dads do.  So, how can you tell a dad from a dude?  Simple.
     A dad's nightstand holds a picture of a smiling tot, pasted inside a homemade Popsicle stick frame, with the words "to the best dad in the whole world" scribbled across the top stick.  A dude's nightstand resembles a wooden crate standing on it's end with a bandanna thrown over the top as a disguise, and would never be sturdy enough to bear the weight of a child's creativity.

     Any day of the week, in any corner pub, you will find some dudes hanging out, playing darts and drinking beer.  Any day of the week, in any living room, you will find a dad hanging out, playing Go Fish and drinking kool-aid.

     Dad decorates his office with the drawings his offspring have made for him.  Dudes populate their offices with photos of themselves engaging in their favorite hobbies or sports.

     When a dad takes a vacation he packs 15 pairs of shorts, none of them his, 3 bottles of sunscreen, four bags of toys, books, and snacks.  One portable DVD player, five cartoons, a special blankie, the spiderman pillow and a GIANT bottle of aspirin.  When a dude leaves on vacation, he tosses a swimsuit, one pair of shorts and two shirts into a duffel bag and he is good to go.

     A dad places his own wants and needs dead last, behind even the family pet.  A dude fulfills his own wants and needs first and foremost.

     Most dads were once dudes.  Some men stay dudes even when they're dads. 

     The truth is, it's only very recently that dads have received much attention.  Father's Day wasn't even declared a national holiday until 1972.  For centuries, dads were the ones that went out and earned a living to support their growing broods.   They weren't expected to lend a hand in the raising of the children.  Doctor appointments, dance recitals and teacher conferences were the domain of mom.  A dad's hard earned money put food on the table, a roof over their heads and that was that.  His job was over once he came home from work.

     My dad races cars, and as a child I dreamt of becoming a race car driver myself.  My younger brother informed me that I could never become one since I was a girl.   My dad replied, "Don't listen to him.  You can be anything you want." 
Those words have done more to nourish my soul than any meal he's ever provided could hope to.  Happy Father's Day to dads everywhere.


Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Christopher Columbus, Chocolate Cake and The Meaning Of Life

     Forget brides, June is the month of the graduates.  All across America this past weekend there were graduations aplenty going on.  While no one has requested that I give a commencement speech (shocking, I know) I think I do have some words of wisdom.  I'll let you be the judge.

Dear Graduates,
As you leave one part of your life behind and embark on a new chapter I would offer up these words.

     Go for greatness.  Be bold.  Do not let the naysayers cloud your vision.  After all, when Christopher Columbus set sail he was laughed and jeered at.  People waved him good-bye sure he was just a fool heading for certain death. 
     If you are to succeed you are also going to face failure.  They go hand in hand.  The truly successful are the ones that don't let failing stop them in their tracks.  
     Learn from your mistakes and move on.
     Do not play games with people's hearts and do not allow someone to play games with yours.
     Call your parents once a week.  They miss you and are wondering how you are doing.
     Place no value on material objects.  Expensive cars, large plasma t.v.s and designer clothes are easy to come by and easily lost.  Dignity, honor and integrity are the only truly worthy commodities to possess.
     Work at least once in your life as a server in a restaurant.  Doing so will teach you some important life lessons, such as:  When you greet someone, smile and say 'Hello', you'll have to learn to take orders if you wish to get paid, respond promptly to a complaint, sometimes you get stuck cleaning up other people's messes, but there is usually a reward at the end of it all. 
     Always try the triple-layered, chocolate cake for dessert.  Life is short and chocolate cake is good.
     Rise up against injustice.  Fight evil.  Search for the good and beautiful.  It is there to be found.
     Stand staring out at the ocean to feel small and insignificant in the world.  It is good for the ego.
     Adopt a pet from a rescue shelter.  It is even better for the ego.
     People will always show you what they really are.  Believe them when they do.
     In the end, life is short.  It's up to you whether the path you are on is joyful, pleasant or full of sorrow.  Find one or two good people that will stick by your side no matter what and you will never want for anything.
     Be kind.  Be brave enough to say, 'I'm sorry.  I was wrong.'  Be trustworthy.  If you can achieve these three things, everything else will fall into place.
     Good luck!

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

The Season Of The Teacher

They come in August.  Like a swarm of buzzing bees they arrive.  By cars, vans, buses and their own two feet, from all walks of life they come.  With banged up knees, runny noses,  brand new outfits and gym shoes so white they're blinding, they file in.  I'm talking about elementary school children, of course.  Must be the season of The Teacher.

I love my son's teachers.  If you've read my entries on a regular basis then you might remember Mrs. Anderson.  If not you only have to click on March under the Archives 'Looking For A Leprechaun'.  The truth is that every year he has been given some really great people to teach and inspire him.  Mrs. Anderson was only the beginning.  Seems like only yesterday my husband and I walked him through those doors for the first time.  In vain we stood outside his kindergarten door, waving our arms and trying to draw his attention.  He never even noticed.  We were yesterday's news and he had a new object of his affection.  The lady that introduced him to leprechauns, songs about colors and growing plants from a bean stuck in wet paper towels.  Packed up in a keepsake box in my closet is a memory page from her class.  My little boy is sitting straight up, smiling proudly into the camera.  Anything to please the kind lady that's wiped a million noses and somehow never seems grossed out by it. 

What could I possibly say about his first grade teacher, the lady that moved him to put pen to paper during Christmas break and write the words:
"Ms. Brown I miss you.  Do you miss me?"
He was to embarrassed to give it to her, but that year I was forever picking up pieces of paper decorated with stars and the words, "Ms. Brown Rocks".  She took a group of young children used to school lasting half the day and made a full day fly by for them.  With every seat in her class filled and a lot to accomplish that first year she still managed to allow the kids one of the best parts of childhood - laughter. 

Mrs. Tanner was an especially brave warrior on the education front.  She spent almost the whole school year pregnant with her first baby.  I will never forget the morning I spent in her classroom for Friendship Breakfast.  Seven months pregnant, she tolerated four parents with our constant, 'Excuse me, where are the paper towels kept?  Can I move this garbage can?  How many pancakes should I make?',  the little boy that, unbeknownst to his mom, helped himself to a $100. bill from her purse and brought it to school for a book fair, and my own son who, unbeknownst to me, brought in two gooey eyeballs left over from Halloween and stuck them in his eyes, all the better to act the clown and earn a laugh during quiet time.  Add in twenty second graders besieged with a bad case of the giggles and wiggles and you have a recipe for disaster.  She kept a smile on her face that morning.  And not the crazy-I've-Lost-Touch-With-Reality kind of smile, but a genuine one that lit up the classroom.   When I was seven months pregnant I once was brought to tears just because the store only had white corn on the cob and I had wanted yellow.  I have no idea how she made it to her due date.

Finally, today is the last day of the school year and he will say goodbye to Ms. Wehrman.  It's goodbye, but he will take her teachings with him for the rest of his life, I believe.  She introduced yoga to her band of boisterous third graders.  What must have started as a tool to transition children from one lesson to the next has sparked something in my son.  He loves it and has taken to doing it at home as well.  Then there was the book project.  No book report.  That's old school and she is fond of telling the children that old school is boring.  Be creative, she urged.  The boy doesn't need any help in that department.  I was horrified when he brought his journal home today and I read through it.  One could say the pages were filled with packs of lies.  My son prefers 'life stories that I jazzed up'.  Either way he likes a challenge and so he created a website dedicated to the book 'Mummy Children'.   Today if anyone asks my son he will say that when he grows up he's going to create websites for a living. 

No student ever makes it out of the classroom untouched by the person that stands at the head of the class.  Hopefully, no teacher ever makes it out of the classroom untouched by the children that fill those small seats.  From the bottom of my heart I thank teachers, principals and vice principals everywhere.  They perform a job whose significance sometimes can't be seen for years.  It's the end of a school year and before the next one begins I wish a summer of peace and quiet for all educators everywhere.  Rest, relax and refuel.  August will be here before we know it.