In which I have an evil nature.

Most of us go out of our way to present our best face to the world. It’s largely self-preservation, I think. I know if I went around saying what I really feel at any given time, I would certainly be ostracized by all polite society.

Case in point:

Our neighbors (who have a long history of being rather self-centered, not terribly responsible, and a little immature) are doing a home improvement project and currently have a dumpster in their driveway. Rather than playing “musical parking spaces” with their two vehicles due to lack of driveway space, they’ve been parking one vehicle in the street. Not in front of their own house, mind you. That would make it difficult for them to get in and out. No, they’ve been parking across the street, in front of other people’s houses.

Our family learned long ago NEVER to park any vehicle we care about on our street. We’ve lost a rear-view mirror due to a careless driver that way, as have two other cars belonging to people visiting us.

This morning I witnessed a minivan driving too fast down our street, and I saw it coming…it clipped off the rear view mirror off of our neighbor’s car.

medium_8518865759Somewhere in the depths of my psyche I’m sure I felt sympathy for the angst and inconvenience our neighbors will suffer due to the damage. But my first reaction? Pure, evil joy. “Natural consequences,” I thought.

I spent a few moments berating myself . When did I become so anti-social? And then I remembered an event from the distant past:

Back story: I was the assistant leader for our oldest’s girl scout troop. I didn’t often agree with the leader of the troop on anything, but I had to admit she was energetic and responsible. And the fact that she took the lead meant I didn’t have to. I could live with that. But I cringed at her decisions, at her child-rearing philosophy, at pretty much every word out of her mouth.

So at one outing, she had the girls making pine cone bird feeders. There was plenty of bird seed leftover, and the girls were allowed to grab handfuls of seed and sprinkle it on the ground. So far so good.

Then it came time for snack. I suggested the girls should wash up before eating, but I was overruled by Annoying Leader. “Don’t be such a worry-wart,” she said.

Little hands that had been reaching into the birdseed bag then started reaching into the trail mix bag. Little hands went to little mouths.

And then the shrieking and tears and girl-drama began. “It burns! It’s hot!” The girls sounded like a bunch of Gollum wannabes.

Turned out the bird seed had been infused with cayenne pepper, supposedly as an anti-squirrel measure.

I played the sympathetic, soothing mom and helped the girls rinse off their hands and lips. Didn’t say a word to Annoying Leader. But, oh boy, was I rejoicing inwardly. It took all my self-control not to fall on the ground, laughing. I especially enjoyed the reactions of the most obnoxious, dramatic girls who behaved as if they were dying a protracted, painful death. No one was actually injured, and the whole thing felt like a sit-com episode.

So though I may appear to be a kind and sensitive, motherly type, in reality I’m Snidely Whiplash, Skeletor, and The Joker rolled into one.

But the world will never know…

photo credit: Annoying Noises via

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It’s the end of the world as we know it.

My happy, craft-filled afternoon ended abruptly yesterday when it suddenly became too much effort to reach for the scissors. A low-grade sore throat and earache forced me to drag myself up the stairs for a zinc lozenge, our favorite defense against colds. And then the intestinal complications hit.

I haven’t been sick for so long I’d forgotten how illness creates a dark cloud of gloom and doom.

Probably I have the SARS. Or anthrax.

Perhaps some REM will effect a cure.

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Filling up the holiday weekend

A four-day weekend with not much to do? Definitely a glaring example of “first world problems.”

I mean, what kind of loser feels down because she has four days off? But empty-ish nest gloom has returned with a vengeance. Couple that fact with shortening days that remind this Seasonal Affective Disorder sufferer that SAD season is just around the corner, and evasive action is definitely required.

An outline of my lines of defense this weekend:

  • New craft projects. Did some online hunting for Christmas present ideas, then some craft supply shopping. Dug out my knitting needles and my creative streak and channeled some energy into productive enterprises.
New yarn, destined to be knitted into clutch purses and bags

New yarn, destined to be knitted into small clutch purses and larger tote bags

Felt squares and embroidery floss, which I'll turn into coffee cup holders

Felt squares and embroidery floss, which I’ll turn into coffee cup holders

 

  • New books. A friend loaned me a book that’s meant a lot to her – “Blue Like Jazz” by Donald Miller. It’s a non-fiction, memoir-ish type of thing about life and spirituality. Not my favorite genre, but I respect this friend’s judgement and gave it a try. Miller is funny enough to get me through his extremely earnest self-examination, so it’s not a bad read. But I had to start a mindless mystery as well, to counteract all the navel-gazing.
  • Checking off chores. Satisfying but not-fun stuff, like vacuuming the van and Swiffering up piles of dust bunnies and cobwebs throughout the house. Never do I feel more slovenly than when I look at the bottom of my Swiffer after running it over my bedroom floors. YUCK.
  • Our first hummingbird stopped by for a snack while we were having lunch today!

    Our first hummingbird stopped by for a snack while we were having lunch today!

    A new backyard wildlife project! We’ve had hummingbirds visiting off and on this summer even though we have nothing for them to eat. It was pitiful, really, watching them hover around the finch feeder until they figured out it wasn’t for them. So Middle Sister and I went out and bought a hummingbird feeder, researched care and maintenance, and cooked up our own hummingbird syrup last night. Waiting on the edge of our seats for the first little visitor.

  • Pizza for one at a nearby Pizza Shoppe. That sounds a little sad, but I really enjoy a meal out alone every now and then, with a good book and dinner brought to me without any effort on my part. Middle Sister had a babysitting gig Friday night, and I wanted a gooey, cheesy pizza, which she won’t eat. Perfect solution!

Still a day and a half to go on this long weekend. Just keep knitting…

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Flashback Friday – How a desk taught me a lesson about “welcoming.”

I’ve been thinking a lot about welcoming and hospitality recently. These concepts are an important component of my job, and IMHO they’re both sorely lacking in large segments of society.

Here’s an anecdote from my past that still has the power to make me go “hmmm” many years later:

When I first went back to work from being a SAH mom, I was a special education para-educator for 2 1/2 years. That was long enough for me to realize that being in a classroom but NOT being in charge of said classroom was going to drive me mad. So I renewed my teaching certificate and went back to teaching – half time kindergarten.

I taught one year in a school in our neighborhood. Everyone in the school was kind and helpful to the gal who had been out of “the biz” for quite a while. I was sorry when enrollment didn’t require an extra kindergarten class the following year and I was transferred to another building.

I was even more sorry when I got to that other building.

The full-time kindergarten teacher across the hall was a dear, sweet, grandmotherly-type who made me feel valued and welcome.

But the other half-time kindergarten teacher (I’ll call her Glynn), with whom I was required to share a classroom (she would teach mornings and I would teach afternoons)? NOT.

She’d been alone in that classroom for a few years, and truly had an excellent set-up. She’d obviously poured every ounce of her time and a lot of her own money into the room. I was very impressed. And as an incoming stranger, I went out of my way to be very accommodating and NOT demanding.

imageThe one thing that was absent in this gorgeous classroom was a desk for the teacher. Glynn never wanted one. Fine – to each her own. But I truly needed a desk – a home base, a sort of “mission control.” Honestly, I’d never known a teacher who DIDN’T have a  desk, so it didn’t seem like an outrageous request.

But Glynn was furious. At our first meeting, she railed at me for a full five minutes about how I was ruining not only her classroom, but her entire life. She didn’t ask to have a “roommate”, and she shouldn’t be required to modify her plans for me.

Wow.

Let me back up just a bit and say that I am possibly the least confrontational person in the world. Strife makes me break out in hives. As I sat there, feeling like a rain of enemy fire had just been unleashed upon me, I considered what my response to this tirade might be (besides slinking away in tears, to lick my wounds). For a split second I considered firing right back and standing up for myself. I certainly would have been justified.

But a little voice in the back of my mind told me to handle it differently. I recalled a phrase from the bible that has always made me laugh, about “heaping burning coals” upon the head of an antagonist – something along the lines of “turn the other cheek.” I got an image in my head of the burning coals I could pour on Glynn’s head if I reacted in a totally unexpected way. Actually, my thought process was a lot more Machiavellian than Christian, if you want to know the truth.

So when she finished yelling at me (no exaggeration there), I unleashed a huge wave of NICE on her. “Oh, Glynn, this is so terrible for you. The administration is completely in the wrong for forcing you to make room for me. I just feel terrible. This is so unfair. I’d do anything to make this situation easier for you. Let’s just forget the desk and I’ll adjust. I would hate to make things difficult for you.”

Every word was a lie. And coolly calculated to heap huge piles of burning coals and induce killer guilt.

It worked. Glynn immediately apologized. She herself arranged for a desk to be delivered to our shared classroom. And from that moment on she was my best friend in the building.

Perhaps my method was a bit underhanded. But it worked. And the whole scene taught me a lesson I’ve never forgotten. No, not the lesson that sneakily pretending to be nice helps you get your own way. That it’s REALLY hard to be the new person in any situation. A kind word, a warm smile, a little extra consideration can mean the difference in feeling like you belong and feeling like you’re a despised interloper.

Every time I’m in the position to welcome new people into a circle, I remember what it felt like to be rejected, and I deiberately choose to “offer the desk.” I think if more people went around giving out desks, the world would be a different place.

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You know you’re old when…

…the highlight of your day is taking a meal to new parents, and you’re so excited that your failing memory actually allowed you to a) prepare the meal, b) pack everything you prepared and c) deliver the meal…that you accidentally turn the wrong direction to get home and create a traffic pileup that results in honking and rude gestures (not originating from you).

Ouch.

IMG_1419.JPG

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Random things that are freaking me out today.

1. With only two people in the house, we’re only doing two or three loads of laundry PER WEEK. After having done two loads a day for fifteen years, I feel like a lazy lie-about.

skorts2. The one load that came through the washer and dryer yesterday contained all three of my pairs of skorts. And if the fact that I own three pairs of skorts doesn’t tip you off that I’m a mom of a certain age, I don’t know what would. Anyway, what freaks me out is that skorts come out of the dryer in the form of some kind of alternate dimension, M.C. Escher mobius strip. It takes me a ridiculous amount of time and frustration to turn them back into a wearable piece of clothing.

3. There’s a four-ish-day weekend coming up for me and I don’t know what to do with it. Middle Sister has her own plans over the weekend. But I had two different get-togethers last weekend with old friends, and therefore no social plans for this one. No huge projects to tackle. No husband or boy for me to cook for, clean up after, and laugh with. I’m scrambling to come up with something to fill four days when it’s so hot out that holing up indoors is really the only option.

4. I’m craving an extra cheese and pepperoni pizza, and Middle Sister’s diet won’t tolerate such an unhealthy food item.

5. The Boy called me yesterday wanting my opinion on a hypothetical change to his living arrangement at college, which he’s been asked to participate in to help out a  friend who’s truly suffering from a diagnosed brain condition and needs to get out of a bad roommate situation. I’m thrilled that our son wanted my advice, and thrilled that he’s that concerned for his friend. And I fully support him in making his own decisions. But my gut feeling is that the hypothetical plan is NOT a good idea, and it’s giving me the willies. I texted him that caveat early this morning, and am crossing my fingers…

And that completes my mundane list of concerns for today.

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And now, a word about Canadians.

canadian

Back to the war propaganda – I can’t get enough of this stuff.

So did someone really think our northern border buddies were ever a threat? I mean, except for saying “about” funny, how scary are they, eh?

And Middle Sister was in the same mode as I was earlier this week. This has been on her bedroom door since last weekend:

loose lips

I promise to keep my lips tight.

 

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Turns of phrase

My favorite type of humor is the absurd, and I ran across a good example this morning.

funny crrottOne of the important tasks I always do this time of year is to sort through our Sunday School registration forms and take note of any allergies or health concerns. I compile a list and make sure all our Sunday School staff has it close by, to avoid any emergencies.

Today I ran across one I hadn’t seen before, and the way it was worded made me laugh out loud.

One of our 6th grade girls has “Carrot sensitivity.”

Okay, I can’t even type that without laughing. I mean, of course it’s not funny to have an allergic reaction. But the phrase “carrot sensitivity” is just inherently funny. I’m picturing a young lady, sitting with her arm around a carrot, listening to the carrot pour its heart out, and offering a kind, sensitive presence.

Here’s another one we hear every week before communion: “If you have a gluten allergy or intolerance, please come to station two, where we have gluten-free wafers.” Every single time I hear in my head: “I do not like gluten, and I will not tolerate it.” (It’s a Seinfeld paraphrase – I think he was talking about lactose originally).

It’s the little things. :)

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ABC’s of Parenting: Y is for yearly

I admit this one’s a bit of a stretch, but stick with me. It really is going somewhere. And hey, we’re almost done – 25 out of 26 ABC’s completed!

I didn’t quite realize it until we finished up our public school experience and sent both our oldest and youngest away for new adventures, but our little world had totally revolved around the rhythm of the school year. First it was back-t0-school shopping, fee payment, and finding out who our teachers would be.  Field day, end-of-year celebrations and summer vacation. Then as they got older there were the fixed schedules of auditions, rehearsals, shows, musical competitions, college testing. Now that we don’t have those schedules any more, I’ve felt adrift.

But the thing I miss most is a simple tradition we observed at our house every year since the kids first started school. We called it “What we did this summer.”

Every year, on the very last evening before school started, we had a pizza dinner (at a favorite pizza joint when finances allowed, or home-made pizza when they didn’t) with a special addition. As we ate, we wrote down a list of everything interesting we could think of that we’d done over the summer.

Some years the lists were long – camping, projects, events, summer classes, organized activities. At least one year we had a rough time coming up with anything at all. That was the summer when we spent most of almost every day gutting and rebuilding/redecorating the kitchen.

After the list was finished we posted it on the refrigerator for a few weeks, as a reminder of all the fun (and work) we’d had over the long, lazy summer months. Eventually each list was folded and tucked away in a cabinet. Every now and then in the dead of winter we’d get out all the old lists and remember good times.

“What we did this summer” didn’t happen this year. Only one kid was home, and The Husband was on the road. We toyed with the idea of doing it via Facetime or conference call, but it didn’t happen. It would have been a pretty good list this year, too.

I’ve got the whole afternoon and evening to myself today, with Middle Sister in class until almost 9:00. I can hear all those summer lists calling me. I think I know what I’ll be doing this evening.

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More about mowing.

With the awesome sense of accomplishment that came with mowing our lawn for the first time in many, many years came a few memories…

The first time I ever used a lawn mower, when I was in high school, my step dad gave me a brief training session to get me started. Then he went inside to relax. Fair enough. So I got started, following the directions he’d given me. Within minutes, he dashed out of the front door – I will forever have the image burned into my memory of him running toward me, shouting and waving his arms. “It’s not like vacuuming!” he yelled over the roar of the mower. He’d forgotten the directions about going in straight, even, methodical lines. So I’d been standing in one spot and pushing the machine back and forth just as I would on the living room carpet. Who knew?

And then there was the last time I mowed. It was at the rental house The Husband and I lived in for the first three years of our marriage. There I was, peacefully going back and forth in straight, even lines (you only have to tell me once), minding my own business, when an ENORMOUS BLACK SNAKE, sliced cleanly into two long pieces, flew up into the air right in front of my face.

I decided instantly that I didn’t need that kind of crap shortening my life expectancy. And the mowing was forever more The Husband’s responsibility.

Actually, he was happy to take over that task. I’d had to talk him into letting me help to begin with. See, his dad (wonderful man that he was) had taught him by example that the “women folk” should never have to do yard work or put gas in the car. I was a fool to have disabused him of that notion.

And so, between The Husband and The Boy handling the grass cutting over the years, the last 25 of them have been, for me at least, yard work-free.

Considering how completely wiped I am after this morning’s experience, all I can say is – it was nice while it lasted.

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