Is There Soccer In Heaven?

Happy Saturday!

I just got home  from sweating my caboose off at my grandson’s soccer game. I remember going to every soccer game for both of my sons.  That turned out to be 13 years for one son and 11 for the other. I have sat in sweat, rain, wind, and frost. I have shouted “good job” or “move in! Move in!” more times than Bayer has aspirin. It has been a great run. And I love that I now have my oldest grandson (7) and someday his little brother (2) and maybe even their little sister or brother (2/18) to go and watch and yell “Move In!”

I wonder if they have soccer games in heaven.

And if they do, I wonder if it’s a perfect 65 degrees with a slight breeze from the south when I sit facing north, or a westerly wind when I’m watching the game from the east. I wonder if they’ll have cushioned seats instead of the sack chairs I’ve carried for the past 20 years.

Since time would be irrelevant in heaven, I’d be able to watch my sons and grandsons and great grandsons kick the ball back and forth over and over and over again. I could move from one soccer game to the next, no one ever getting tired, no one getting sunburn, no one getting soaked from the torrential downpour that started at kick off.

The fields would be enormous — large enough so that my ever-expanding family could picnic and play volleyball and drink  Piña Coladas without getting drunk. Each family member’s game would be at their own special separate time — no running from field to field to catch parts of each kid’s game.

In heaven I wouldn’t be chubby, giving in to sweating in all the wrong places as I cheer my grandkids and kids and great grandkids on. I’d be tall and thin and my flowing shift would match the kid’s uniforms. There would be more than enough treats and drinks for each team, everyone getting their favorite juice box and granola bar or Capri bag and bag of Cheetos. No arguing. No pouting.

If there are soccer games in heaven, there will be a balance of winners and losers. Except in heaven, there really is no losing, is there? There would be no obnoxious parents telling the ref he’s blind, no cheap shots at the goalie, no broken ankles or concussions from being t-boned on the field. No one will feel like a loser, because in heaven everybody is equal and happy and good natured.

Now there may be a question about which of your kids’ age groups you want to watch. I mean, I watched my youngest from kindergarten through high school. He was amazing all 13 years.  I watched my oldest almost as long. Do I want to watch my grandson at age 7 (now) or when he’s 10 or 15? I figure God will have figured that out by the time I get there. I mean, She’s/He’s omnipotent and all. And in heaven everything is possible.

My only dilemna is….what if 2/18 wants to play football?

I’m Done Listening

I had a blog in mind this evening, but on my way home I changed my mind. On afternoon break I read a quick online story that really hit me. This is the beginning of it:

BANGKOK (Reuters) – A Thai man filmed himself killing his 11-month-old daughter in two video clips posted on Facebook before committing suicide, police said on Tuesday. People could access the videos of the child’s murder on her father’s Facebook page for roughly 24 hours, until they were taken down around 5 p.m. in Bangkok (1000 GMT) on Tuesday, or about a day after being uploaded.

It happened far away. In a world I know nothing about. To a man I know nothing about. To a little girl I know nothing about.

Of course, that’s just on the heels of a story from 3-17: MEDINA Ohio — The man who took his own life after he killed his pregnant girlfriend did not want to have a baby, her father said. Or from February: LaGRANGE  A man accused of abusing and killing the infant of his then-girlfriend pleaded guilty in a Troup County Superior Court last week.

There is nothing that can be said that can shed any light on any of these heinous crimes. There’s nothing I can do to turn the clock back. Nothing I can say to the families, to the situation.

There is nothing I can say to save the children.

I’m going to cut back on my internet wandering. Yahoo, CNET, all those hot spots that broadcast these crimes like they’re a Sunday social. I know everyone hurts, everyone wonders why. Everyone cries and makes promises and moves on with their lives.

But I’m an adult and can make my own choices. I’m older so that’s an even better excuse to tune all of it out. TV is make believe; I can handle that. But the news…

I’m done. My heart can’t take this. I know there are lots out there that say I should do something about it. The sad truth is there is nothing I can do about any of it. I can’t help those in Thailand or in North Carolina or even on the other side of town.

What I can do is interfere and interact with my own circle of friends and family. Encourage those who need to talk to talk. Those who need a break give them a break. Love the children I come in contact and stretch out to love the ones I don’t.

Life’s too short to let the media have their way. To let the world have its way. To let the madness get into my head. You are all my friends in one way or another. I’m here for you — for your highs and lows and losses and misses. But I have to let go of the rest of the world. I’m not willing to let the madness set me into depression and worse. My family still needs me.

I think I’ll call my grandkids now.

 

Granny the Enabler

th-1Did you survive?

Did you eat too much? Drink too much? Get up too early to shop on Black Friday?

I did two of the three — and survived.

I admit my feet gave up before the second store…maybe I should have stopped and bought shoes, too. Actually, the crowds weren’t too bad. Yet I fear I was one of those shoppers everyone else hates to be around.

I let my 1.4 year old grandson run around the store.

What’s wrong with me?

My husband always calls me the enabler. He’s probably right. I’m the one who ventures forth where no one has gone lately. Grandbaby was crabby. Who wants to sit in a shopping cart when everyone around you is running around filling theirs? There are so many pretty sparkles up and down every aisle — surely there’s no harm in letting baby go check out a few while mom and dad slip away a couple of aisles down.

Enabler.

So here I go, toddling after the toddler, pulling him away from one thing, tempting him with the next. It’s amazing what interests a toddler.

The tags than hang under the merchandise, boxes that were way too big to pick up, emoji pillows, dog pull toys, duck tape, all were temptations the babe couldn’t resist. Nor could I pull him away from. After a few dramatic stretches on the floor, mom or dad would come back and place him gently in the cart or in the carrier.

Enabler Bad Granny.

Grandbaby was pitching a fit at Taco Bell for breakfast…wet diaper, hungry tummy. Nothing would satisfy the moment. So Granny gave him a few sips of her Pepsi through the straw. No sugar or caffeine for grandbaby.

Enabler Bad Granny.

What’s my problem? Am I that out of control?

Maybe it’s the holidays. Maybe it’s my second childhood. Maybe it’s my own kids all over again. What Grandparent says no? I mean, I do draw the line with dangerous things, with car seats and baby gates and no peanuts and diaper rash. I never endanger my kids, my grandkids.

Having said that, what’s wrong with a little exploration through the jogging pants at Kohls? What’s a sip of Pepsi here or french fry there? Life is full of sneak peeks. Of chocolate before bed and staying up to watch movies when the parents aren’t around. What’s wrong with playing soldiers with a 6 year old or dancing in the rain, getting all wet and silly?

Grandparents are supposed to do these kinds of things. The kind of things that parents smile and shake their head about. These are the treats, the perks, the golden magic between two generations that has skipped the one in the middle. It is the secret space that all grandparents hide in with their grandkids. The private tricks they play on all-knowing parents.

My inlaws did it to us: my kids were taken on more trips to Kiddyland, more staying up lates, more homemade cookie baking and animal farms than I ever thought about. At the time I was a little miffed; why were my kids’ grandparents trying to steal the show?

Now older, hopefully wiser, I see what really went on. I didn’t have grandparents to spoil me; my husband did. And my husband’s love for his grandma and grandpa is something he still talks about today.

So it is with my kids; hopefully it will be so with theirs. I hope when I am long gone I will be the star in the stories my grandkids tell again and again.

Granny. THE enabler.

 

Sunday Evening Art Gallery Blog — Full Circle

A few weeks ago I fell in love with the atmosphere, art, and the Biltmore I found in North Carolina.

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My visit gave me a greater appreciation of the world of individuality, art, and wealth.

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Last weekend I wandered through the competition barn of a small county fair.

When I came upon the Art Show, I knew I had come full circle.

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I realized that this is where it all starts.

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This is where Jackson Pollock and John Singer Sargent began.

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Where Dali dabbled and Wiggans wandered.

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This is where Richard Morris Hunt found architecture and Katsushika Hokusai played with ink drawings.

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Where either because of a parent’s encouragement or despite lack of it, a creativity seed found fertility and grew.

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This is the uncharted land of creativity, of space and design and imagination.

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This…is Art.

*

Pictures courtesy of Vilas County Fair, 2016

and CJA, 2016

 

 

 

 

 

Reflections on the Beach

SandPail_2Perspective. It’s what makes all the difference in life, doesn’t it?

Looking up through the trees at the sky looks different than looking across the trees at the sky. Glasses half empty or half full. All that falderal.

Like life at the beach.

This afternoon I was sitting at a picnic table at a small beach at a small lake in a small town. I’d finished my part of the water ballet, letting my grandson and his grandpa finish the ballet water-splash style.

The world went on as it always has…it’s just that this time I was sitting on the other side of the table. Watching the world as an observer instead of a participant.

It’s pretty busy for a small beach. Little kids manage to hit the excited scream level a lot of the time – whether it was laughing, fighting with siblings, or crying. I wonder if the sound bounces off the water a lot harder these days.

Women chat while their kids jump off the pier. Cathy was still going out with the louse from the next town, Handy’s had the best fish fry this side of the Mississippi. Jim was always working overtime and spending his spare hours at the golf course, and Neighbor Grocery’s produce had gone down in quality the last few years. I myself have always loved the ebb and flow of people talking when they don’t think others are listening. Voices always float through the air, bits and pieces getting caught in the sack chair or wrapped around the picnic bench so that all you catch is a sentence’s jagged inference. Maybe the louse from the next town is a dentist, maybe he’s a mechanic. All that could be grasped was the audacity of the woman sharing her thoughts.

Love games still abound at the beach, too. The cute little high schooler, long legs, short shorts, long dark hair wrapping around her shoulders; and the tall, lanky guy, not really a jock but not bad looking. She sways back and forth, hands behind her back, playing the coy card. He leans forward, saying something a little risque, and they both laugh, she turning slightly away. He threatens to throw her in the water; she squeals “no no!” in her loveliest girly voice. He grabs her towel (or hat or sunscreen), hides it behind his back, and she giggles, trying to get it back from him.

A lovely Lolita-ish girl walks down the pier, her tanned body barely covered by her flowered bikini. A young thing, maybe late high school, maybe a tad older, walking down to the end of the pier, blonde hair blazing in the sun, where she stops, and I imagine, sighs dramatically. There’s no sunset to dream upon yet; no cat calls from the audience, no college scholarship with her name on it. But there’s something sexy and dramatic about the sad, curvy side of youth.

Kids are always kids. One skinny 5-year-old desperately tries to gain the attention of two older 8-year-old girls, his arms flaying in the air, his swim goggles making him look like Rocky the Flying Squirrel. My insecurities make me uncomfortable. He doesn’t feel anything of the kind. He drifts off to look for fish in the shallow water, the girls never knowing he was there.

Three boys, all but four years old, compete with each other as Superman jumping off the deck into the shallow water. Bigger boys come by and laugh, some jump in and splash the little ones aside, making waves, being even cooler than the little kids. The little kids are too young to care; the middle schoolers get an ego boost by bullying those half their age.

It’s a cornucopia at this little beach on this little lake in this little town. I fancy nothing has changed in all the years moms have been bringing their kids to swim and high schoolers have come to make out and flirt and make plans for Saturday night. Not even me.

I still think of the time I never spent at the beach, never flirting with the kinda cute guy on the pier, never  dreaming dreams only cute girls can dream.

 

 

 

 

Saturday Morning TV…If You Dare…

Poltergeist-movieHave you watched Saturday morning TV lately?
In a while?
Ever?

Saturday morning television (and, I’m sure, Sunday through Friday too), is not quite what it used to be in the olden days. Since my grandkids have lived with me, I’ve seen weird talking sponges, bunnies and squirrels using cell phones, human families with wild superpowers, princesses and pirates, and idiotic starfish, to name a few.

Now, I don’t expect it to be much like when I was a kid. With the ease of computers, poppy music, and an overabundance of adorable, obnoxious, little kid actors and actresses, it’s not hard to put together a half hour of babble. There is money to be made in morning TV land, and somewhere there must be a study that says to sell to kids you must be loud, colorful, hip, and overbearing.  It is a sugar-filled, rude, sassy, whirlwind trip through psychedelics and jammin’ music, fast talk, and junk food.

And it’s sooooo grating on my nerves.

I suppose commercials were obnoxious to my parents’ ears, too. Things like AlphaBets and Cabbage Patch Kids must have sounded like tires squealing across the parking lot to them. And I imagine I was taken in by slick commercials and TV shows, too. But today’s kids need louder and bolder to catch their attention. It seems like they are pounding out cute funny kids and dumb parents, and cute obnoxious kids and dumb grandparents, and slick beautiful kids and even dumber parents. Poor oldsters still don’t get credit for being able to breathe, no less save the world.

According to a recent article in the Huffington Post (http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2015/06/10/donna-stevens-kids-watching-tv_n_7544888.html), Australian-born photographer Donna Stevens says, “The images (photographs she took) capture the children not as the curious budding humans we hope them to be, but comatose zombies, cast in the alien glow of artificial light.”

A lot of attention is paid to how hip and sparkly girls are, their skirts up to the ying yang in middle school, countered smartly with a pair of tights that are supposed to make the shorties okay; vests and hats and bling and sparkled eyes and oversized glasses that make a little kid even more “adorable”. There is always a “lesson” in the half hour variety shows, so their obnoxiousness (or adorableness) makes their antics okay.

Herein lies the problem: the lessons are given by kids who are thin and adorable (with an occasional chubby kid thrown in), sparkling and sassy. Quite the opposite of those who are watching.

Most of the kids I know are somewhere in the awkward, insecure, and gawky stage. That’s part of being a kid. They want to fit in. Eventually they do, yet some do, some don’t. And from these mindless television shows comes more pressure to be cool, fun, smart, and well-dressed.  A lot of kids can’t draw the line between “pretend” cool TV characters and their own life.  And that’s where I see trouble lurking.

I’m not saying that the trying state of childhood is based in artificial worlds created on TV and in the movies. Far from it. Television is a place where dreams form; a place for information, for adventure, and entertainment.  It’s a world separate from our own. A world we visit, but, for all practical purposes, do not stay. Kids’ worlds are made of parents, siblings, soccer and singing, school and swimming. Life is formed from all experiences combined.

But I just wonder what is accomplished by loud, colorful, hip commercials aimed at the young and impressionable? To someone who doesn’t have outside activities or a family life to get involved with?

Of course, this blog is written by an oldster, in of herself quite removed from the innocence of childhood. A lady who prefers sitting on the deck watching the branches bend in the breeze. A granny who has always stood at the edge of popularity in all its rainbow forms, yet has never quite crossed over the line.

Maybe I just need some Fruity Pebbles to make my life complete…

 

 

Ahhhhhhhhh….

baby-flash-games9How quickly we forget — how quickly we remember.

I live in a small town in Wisconsin; a town filled with college students, farmers, business people, teachers — and kids.

Lots of kids.

Last night was a fund raiser at Culvers (Yeah Culvers!) for one of the grade schools. So like a good granny, I trudged along with my kids and grandkids to have a Butter Burger and some cheese curds. Oh — and some overly-sweet custard. As you can imagine, the place was packed with kids. Lots and lots of giggly, loud-talking, visiting-friends-at-other-tables kids. Pity the older couples who picked last night to eat out.

Years ago I would have been quite taken with all the rumpus. BG (before grandkids), the world was quiet. Quiet job. Quiet house. Quiet hobbies. But then life reanimated itself in guise of a grandkid. And it hasn’t been the same since.

Waiting for our food to be delivered by one of several guest gradeschool servers, I just sat and watched the dynamics around me. Mothers in ponytails and sweatshirts, dads in ball caps. Kids sharing food, laughing, talking to siblings and friends at other tables, junior servers walking around and around looking for number 50 or 37, some with trays bigger than they were. I was “introduced” to Hayden (who didn’t have a clue what to say…even to my grandson), and other kids who told me their life story of the day.

Some college kids took the corner table; they were as polite to the little servers as they took their cold burgers and chicken strips. Moms toddled behind those too small to serve alone; we all laughed and smiled and helped out when we could.

It was loud and chaotic and it didn’t bother me a bit.  I realized I’d rather be a part of the madness than stand outside looking in at it. That the point of life is to get involved in circles bigger than my own now and then. And not to care. To go with the flow.

As we get older we tend to spend too much time by ourselves. Now, sometimes that’s good. An evening, a weekend alone, brings peace and quiet and does wonders for the psyche. But isolation as a substitute for personal time, even with a full time job, is dangerous. The more time you spend alone, the more time you want to be alone. The more segregated you get. From society, from friends, from family. You have no one to bounce ideas of off, to complain to, to dream with. No one else to complain to.

And pretty soon you are left with only your own thoughts, your own opinions, which slowly whither into shadows, as you care less and less about what’s going on around you.

Going out to the madness of Culvers wasn’t necessary what my psyche needed after a long, tiring day at work. But going out to eat, watching families do family things and couples do couple things lightened up my spirit. The madness didn’t bother me because I didn’t have to take it home with me. Like a voyeur, I could participate for a little bit, then leave the kindergartners and their siblings behind.

I’m not encouraging you to spend hours in the middle of a group of kids or shoppers or football fans. Find a way to weasel your way into the party, get your chaos fix, then move on. Maybe it’s shopping the day after Thanksgiving. A live concert. A high school or college football game. Even a bowling tournament. Watch the people. Laugh at the people. Be one with the people. Just enough to get your adrenaline going and your reactions moving. Then go home to your quiet abode and feel good about being a part of something bigger than you.

Life is too short not to take part in the madness. For that too shall pass, along with the chance of getting one more song in, one more school play, one more tailgate party.

And nothing is better after spending a few hours with children than going home, sitting in your favorite comfy chair, taking your shoes off, and going, “Ahhhhhhhhhhhhhh. Silence.”

I’m Not Going There

65933_com_201106021652521973.gif1029cFor all of you expecting my usual, cheesy, astral sense of middle-age blog, sorry to let you down this evening.

There was something going around the Internet earlier in the week that had me more than unsettled. As often as not, I just breeze past the headlines I don’t care for, but even in doing so this time the impression still lingers.

And it was only from a headline.

Some parents decided to show a video of their son’s final moments of a high speed crash they were in. I don’t know if the kids died; I refused to read the article. The kids were high, that much I know. But I didn’t, couldn’t, read the article.

My first reaction was: Who would share something like that? Why would they share one of the most painful, horrible, moments of your child’s life?

My politically correct side answered first. The parents shared this video so that others can learn from the tragedy. So that other kids will see what happens when you drink or get high and drive. That through their tragedy other lives may be saved.

Then my mother side chimed in. I am a grandmother. I have been blessed with two sons, a wonderful daughter-in-law, and two adorable grandkids. I weathered many storms with my kids as they were growing up, and we all survived. I love them all more than life, and would be crushed if anything like this happened to me. My life, my love, is my family.

My liberal side popped in. Who are you to say what goes on on the Internet? You are not a monitor. You don’t like what you read? Pass it by! Ignore it! Stop telling others what they can and cannot talk about. Life is not a bowl of cherries for everyone, you know.

Then my mortal side interrupted. This upsets you because you fear death. Death is the normal progressive end of life. The one thing you cannot control. You cannot let go of anyone you love. Your fear of no afterlife taints everything you think. Everything you do. Perhaps the boys are in heaven now, feeling no pain, no confusion, nothing but eternal peace.

Then my smart-ass radical side chimes in. Who in the hell are you to judge if they went to heaven? How do you know there even is a heaven? You are so quick to judge. You didn’t even read the damn story. You have no idea why the parents shared the video. Quit yappin’ about stuff you don’t know anything about.

My practical side offered a rebuttal. This was a tragic event in so many others’ lives. There are different ways of coping, different ways of healing. A moment’s misjudgement has changed thousands of lives in ways no one ever imagined. Instead of reacting, or over-reacting, acknowledge their pain, then go hug your own kids. Your own grandkids. Tell them how much you love them, warn them of the dangers of drinking or getting high and driving.

Things circle back and the mother reappears. Those boys were someone’s baby. Someone’s little guy. Children are not supposed to leave this world before their parents. They are supposed to grow old and have children of their own. They are not supposed to get high and race and crash and die and leave their parents with broken hearts. My own heart hurts. And I don’t even know them.

Which led towards the comment that started this whole conversation.

Who would share something like that?

Another Chance

Hot Flashes and Cold FeetAs I’m always saying, the clock ticks eternally forward. While we all notice the seconds, no one feels it as much as one who has already spent a good deal of their life counting.

I’m not going to lie. I want to live forever. I don’t have a strong, religious faith in place, so I have no idea what’s in store once I close my eyes for good. I haven’t left a whole lot behind for posterity, except maybe a refinanced mortgage and a unicorn collection. I’ve made a few people smile with my writing through the years, but standing on the beach or walking through the woods or watching a funny TV show leaves a smile on their lips, too.

And sooner or later my name will blow away in the dust of time, as billions have before me. But I will have had an accomplishment that will keep its mark in me through the Great Barrier and beyond.

I’m a grandmother for the second time.

This time my grandbaby’s entrance was a little shaky. It’s amazing how something that seems so simple on the outside can be so complicated inside. Life is a miracle. There is no doubt. How we get from a spermy and eggy into a president or opera singer I will leave to the biology majors. But so many things can go wrong on the familiar path we all walk that you have to stop and think — and thank — something, someone, else for getting all parties through.

Second grandbaby is a boy, and he and mom are doing just fine now. It brought back memories of one of my past pregnancies — one where the outcome wasn’t so positive. But that was 35 years ago, and this is now, and fate has smiled on our family and friends and brought another soccer player into the family. His older sibling is starting kindergarten tomorrow, so what a better off-to-school treat than a baby brother.

How appropriate his arrival came after my last post about Getting On Track. About sometimes feeling like a loser because I go up to the cabin to write but I often do anything BUT write.  Half way through my retreat the Goddess and Buddha and whomever else had other plans for my idle time. And it wasn’t writing. Nor was it windchimes in the breeze or naps in the afternoon.

It was welcoming another being into the world.

It was being there for mom and dad and CJ and Papa and Nana and Great Grandpa Lyle and Great Grandma Katie as the new baby came wrinkled and breathless into this world.

It was preparing the world for a new chance to get it right. It was dreams of baseball and homework and trick-or-treating with yet another child of the world. Another chance to get it right. To make the world right.

You can’t ask for a better chance for an afterlife than that.

Did You Know You Spoke Chinese?

I have a grandson who is starting kindergarten in a couple of weeks. Ahhh…innocence floating out the window. No, not him — me. Or rather his mom. Brings to mind a blog I wrote back in October of 2011. Think it still rings true.

I Didn’t Know I Spoke Chinese

Do you believe that children and their parents speak two different languages?  Do you ever try and communicate with someone who hasn’t a clue as to what you are saying?

The teen years are stressful for those going through them. Puberty comes crashing in any time between the ages of 12 and 16, estrogen and testosterone fighting for space inside a body that is growing in too many directions at one time.  But hey. What about the ones on the other side of those swings? Those who pay for hot lunches and gym shoes and nail polish?  Not only do we have to put up with I-pods and cell phones, but we have to learn to speak a whole new language in order to be understood.  It is as if we have stepped over the threshold of reality into an entirely new universe.

Life seemed so much simpler when our kids were toddlers. The years between two and, say, five, are probably the most rewarding for all forms of parental figures.  We can do no wrong; our children hang on our every word.  They fear and revere us. They bounce around from moment to moment wanting only to please those in charge.  Pick up your toys?  Of course! Eat your spaghetti?  Of course!  Clean your room?  Of course! We speak, they listen, and things are ideal.

Then comes those “cute” years, say, six through nine.  Everything they do and say is cute, especially when they pout and say “no” with wide-eyed enthusiasm.  Pick up your toys?  No! I wanna play with ‘em a little longer.  Eat your spaghetti?  No! I want pizza instead.  Clean your room?  No!  I gotta have twenty dolls in the corner!  They are starting to catch on to the power of being an individual.  They still brush their teeth and do their homework and go to bed pretty much on time, but they learn to manipulate the world by talking or playing or whining, probably all three.

By the time middle school comes around, there is a slight Dr. Jekyll/Mr. Hyde-ish personality starting to surface. Football games and study nights with friends start to take on a bit more significance as our middle schoolers begin to feel the strength of their own convictions.  Pick up your toys?  Oh please, I don’t play with ‘toys’ anymore.  Eat your spaghetti.  Red sauce? I’d rather have cheese.  Clean your room.  Oh mommy dear and/daddy dear — it is clean!  A little clip in their voice should be the giveaway that they are catching on to you.

Just when you think you have settled the beast that rustles inside your child, their high school days hit you right between the eyes. Music becomes some thundering beat with  talking rather than singing; wearing jeans that cut low enough to show off underwear or vertical fissures becomes the fashion statement of the day. Homework becomes an enigma.  School semesters are identified by fall, winter and spring sports, and words like Paris and Pink suddenly take on a whole new meaning.

You wake up one morning sprouting antennae from your head. Your voice becomes a booming echo down an empty tunnel or a high-pitched squeak riding the airwaves.  Suddenly you speak a foreign language: ρτε τα παιχνίδια σας  (pick up your toys in Greek);  съешьте ваше спагеттио (eat your spaghetti in Russian), and 投入您的衣裳去, (Chinese for clean your room). Their eyes become glazed and their expression reminds you of eating a lemon.  One day you are a friendly, loving parent, the next moment you are Godzilla’s cousin.  You don’t know what you are talking about ― your ideas or so old-fashioned they will be amazed if you make it to 50.

How did this happen?  How did we fall off of our pedestal?  One moment our child is reaching up to be held, the next moment they cringe if you hug them in public.  Is this the reward for all of our hard work?  All our love?

Well, trust me.  This too will pass.  As your children approach their twenties, they are amazed at how smart you’ve suddenly become.  Your old-fashioned ideas transform into newly discovered truths of their generation.  The older they get, the more human you become.  Your antennae suddenly don’t seem so out-of-place; as a matter of fact, they kinda look cute on your old frame.  You find a common ground through life and all its ups and downs, and they finally understand what you’ve been saying all these years.  Words and ideas flow once again, and your pedestal gets packed away somewhere deep in their heart, only to be pulled out when you are not looking.

Either that — or you have finally learned to speak Chinese.

And A Good Time Was Had By All

107-A Good Time Was Had By AllThis past Saturday was our “End of the Summer” Barbeque and Madness Day. This year we scheduled it on the last day of Summer, although with the clouds overhead and crispy wind from the west it was closer to a Chill Fest. It’s a great time, as cousins, brothers, kids, kid’s friends, neighbors, parents of kid’s friends, and others gather for an afternoon of too much food, too much beer, and too many rides on the go-cart.

My family and friends have a thing about getting together. We have Polish sausage making parties, birthday parties, game nights, pool parties, camping weekends, and all other sorts of “occasions” that bring us together.  Sometimes we have real reasons to get together; the kids birthdays, Thanksgiving dinner, weddings. Other times it’s important occasions like “we’re opening the pool” party or “we’re canning pickles” party. Sometimes we dress up (Halloween); other times we puff out in ski jackets and ski boots. One group of us try to have “Adults Only” dinners where no kids are invited so that we can talk about them, sex, and the good-old-days. Other times it’s a double-generation free-for-all as adults and their grown kids and their kids kids get together to play games and feast on potluck goodies.  Sometimes we go camping with our kid’s spouses parents (in-laws-once-removed?), and sometimes we have a “build a deck” party or “pour a new patio” party. Work and play and food and drink seem to swirl into a waterfall of laughs, tears, and sweat.

Throughout the years I have come to embrace getting together with those we love. Most times it doesn’t cost a dime (except for gas money), and the commradere is a reward that cannot be found on Facebook. We celebrated my father-in-law’s passing with the same people who pile into the Polish Sausage Making Party, and those who bring homemade salsa to barbeques are the same ones who were there for me after my cancer surgery.  We reach out to others, and they return in kind tenfold.

I’ve always loved my friends and family, but as I get older I not only love them, but cherish them as well. Perhaps that’s because I know the road in front of me is shorter than the one behind me. Maybe its because I realize that what you get out of life is equal to what you put into it. I don’t wait for others to invite me, call me, text me. I invite, I encourage others to invite. I expand our circle all the time, and find others are doing the same. What’s a couple of more people sitting around the fire? What’s one more person grinding pork or skiing down the slopes?

But maybe it’s because I know that life is too short to waste time on people who don’t really care — about others, about themselves. The world is full of mean people, selfish people. There are people around you that put you down, judge you for your size or marital status, people who have no patience for anyone but themselves.  Perhaps they have life-issues; perhaps they have self-issues. But they are part of the human race too, and no man is an island. We all have our problems. We all deal with death and diabetes and unemployment. That is no reason to be mean to everyone else.

My family and friends come from all walks of life. Some of us live three hours from each other. Some of us work two jobs or have a job and go to school. Some deal with arthritis, failing kidneys, and bankrupcy. Some lost a parent when they were young; some have children from previous relationships. But when we get together none of that matters. We share stories, compare aches and pains, reminisce about those who have gone before us, those who are yet to come, and talk about kids and dogs and recipes.

Don’t let life pass you by without sharing it with those who matter. Have a game night. A barbeque. A potluck. Invite friends over to watch a football game. Have birthday parties with no presents. Make an effort to get up and get out. Memories don’t cost a thing. Neither does true friendship.

On the other hand, the price you pay for being alone is more than anyone can afford.

Paint Who’s Wagon?

On this glorious Memorial Day I am reposting one of my most “memorial” posts from yesteryear. I hope you enjoy it!  Oh — and while you’re at it — take time and give a nod and blow a kiss to those whom we honor for their service to our country — today and EVERY DAY! 

 

What does it mean to be middle-aged? Is there a line drawn across the cosmic playfield that says on this side, you are old, on this side, young? If you love Big Band and Glen Miller, are you old? If you like Rhianna or Jay-Z are you young? If you like InSync or Boy George, are you just … weird?

The older I get, the fuzzier the line gets. I have friends on the 40/70-year-old line that lead fairly “normal” lives:  Dancing with the Stars, American Idol, Oprah. Then there are those who are a little more wild: The Shield, Sons of Anarchy, AC/DC. Where do most of us fit? How do we know where the line is between antique and hip hop? Between dancing and throwing our back out?

The trigger mechanism tonight was Paint Your Wagon, a musical made 40 years ago. Imagine:  Clint Eastwood singing. Lee Marvin dancing and singing about beans. This movie is 40 years old; twice as old as my youngest son. Yet there are some of us who sit around, laughing and singing the songs as if they were still on the top of the charts. When I watch musicals like Brigadoon and Sound of Music and Camelot, my kid looks at me like I’ve grown a second nose. Musicals give most teenagers the willies. If it’s not High School Musical or Glee, it’s not a musical. He shakes his head and goes to watch movies where people get their limbs cut off or that showcase breasts that hang out like watermelons in the summer sun or guys sitting around smoking weed and talking about getting laid. It’s at these times that I feel so disconnected. So…old.

I know that every generation has to evolve. What was fascinating, entertaining or daring to one group is not necessarily to the next. I find myself cringing at songs like Itsy Bitsy Teeny Weeny Yellow Polka Dot Bikini and The Bird is the Word. And those were from the generation right before me. I’m sure that same generation shivered at songs like Transylvania 6500 and Don’t Sit Under the Apple Tree. Even my parent’s generation had dissenters: I have a song in my collection called If Swing Goes I Go Too by Fred Astaire, singing about “some old fogey wants to ration swing.” Imagine! Our parents being rebels!

Of course, there are many other reflections of generation gaps, many other blank looks from both sides of the fence when music and movies and clothes come to the forefront. I am not the first to discover that there are a number of meanings for the same word, and not everyone is on the same page of the dictionary. My son is fond of chillin’ and hangin’; I can imagine what that would mean to my grandfather’s generation. While I try not to use phrases that date me like groovy and far-out, I can’t help but fall back on standbys like cool and hunky dory, words that dance on the edge of fogey-ism.

I think alot about the generation gap. Not so much how I am on one side or another, but how I can bridge that gap. Sooner or later everything revolves back onto itself. Not back to exactly the same spot; not to the same beat (eight-to-the-bar, jive, waltz), nor to the same words (commie, greaser, beatnik), but to explanations for the same situations that haunt all human beings. As much as underwear sticking out from atop blue jeans and skull caps shake our interpretation of fashion, I imagine mini-skirts and go-go boots did the same for those who wore spats and garters.

All generations wander through the fog; some with purpose, others just along for the ride. All generations start out with a dream, a hope that they will somehow make a difference in their world. One way or another everyone wants to be noticed; everyone wants to be remembered. Some make slasher movies; others cures for diseases. Some climb Mt. Everest, others walk the track for Breast Cancer. For some of us the best we can do is pass along our lasagna or apple pie receipe. We all contribute in our own way.

But back to the over-the-top musical from 1969. Listen to the words to the title song:

Where am I goin?  I don’t know

Where am I headin’? I ain’t certain

All I know is I am on my way…

When will I be there? I don’t know

When will I get there?  I ain’t certain

All I know is I am on my way

We are all wanderin’, we are all goin’ somewhere. And few of us know when we’ll get there. And yes, we are all chillin’ and hangin’. We are all part of the same cycle, mixing and blending and blurring the lines of old AND new. Amazing what happens when all generations fall into the same pot — we become one amazingly flavorful stew.

Groovy.

I Didn’t Know I Spoke Chinese

Do you believe that children and their parents speak two different languages?  Do you ever try and communicate with someone who hasn’t a clue as to what you are saying?

The teen years are stressful for those going through them. Puberty comes crashing in any time between the ages of 12 and 16, estrogen and testosterone fighting for space inside a body that is growing in too many directions at one time.  But hey. What about the ones on the other side of those swings? Those who pay for hot lunches and gym shoes and nail polish?  Not only do we have to put up with I-pods and cell phones, but we have to learn to speak a whole new language in order to be understood.  It is as if we have stepped over the threshold of reality into an entirely new universe.

 Life seemed so much simpler when our kids were toddlers. The years between two and, say, five, are probably the most rewarding for all forms of parental figures.  We can do no wrong; our children hang on our every word.  They fear and revere us. They bounce around from moment to moment wanting only to please those in charge.  Pick up your toys?  Of course! Eat your spaghetti?  Of course!  Clean your room?  Of course! We speak, they listen, and things are ideal.

Then comes those “cute” years, say, six through nine.  Everything they do and say is cute, especially when they pout and say “no” with wide-eyed enthusiasm.  Pick up your toys?  No! I wanna play with ‘em a little longer.  Eat your spaghetti?  No! I want pizza instead.  Clean your room?  No!  I gotta have twenty dolls in the corner!  They are starting to catch on to the power of being an individual.  They still brush their teeth and do their homework and go to bed pretty much on time, but they learn to manipulate the world by talking or playing or whining, probably all three.

By the time middle school comes around, there is a slight Dr. Jekyll/Mr. Hyde-ish personality starting to surface. Football games and study nights with friends start to take on a bit more significance as our middle schoolers begin to feel the strength of their own convictions.  Pick up your toys?  Oh please, I don’t play with ‘toys’ anymore.  Eat your spaghetti.  Red sauce? I’d rather have cheese.  Clean your room.  Oh mommy dear and/daddy dear — it is clean!  A little clip in their voice should be the giveaway that they are catching on to you.

Just when you think you have settled the beast that rustles inside your child, their high school days hit you right between the eyes. Music becomes some thundering beat with  alking rather than singing; wearing jeans that cut low enough to show off underwear or vertical fissures becomes the fashion statement of the day. Homework becomes an enigma.  School semesters are identified by fall, winter and spring sports, and words like Paris and Pink suddenly take on a whole new meaning.

You wake up one morning sprouting antennae from your head. Your voice becomes a booming echo down an empty tunnel or a high-pitched squeak riding the airwaves.  Suddenly you speak a foreign language: ρτε τα παιχνίδια σας  (pick up your toys in Greek);  съешьте ваше спагеттио (eat your spaghetti in Russian), and 投入您的衣裳去, (Chinese for clean your room). Their eyes become glazed and their expression reminds you of eating a lemon.  One day you are a friendly, loving parent, the next moment you are Godzilla’s cousin.  You don’t know what you are talking about ― your ideas or so old-fashioned they will be amazed if you make it to 50.

How did this happen?  How did we fall off of our pedestal?  One moment our child is reaching up to be held, the next moment they cringe if you hug them in public.  Is this the reward for all of our hard work?  All our love?

Well, trust me.  This too will pass.  As your children approach their twenties, they are amazed at how smart you’ve suddenly become.  Your old-fashioned ideas transform into newly discovered truths of their generation.  The older they get, the more human you become.  Your antennae suddenly don’t seem so out-of-place; as a matter of fact, they kinda look cute on your old frame.  You find a common ground through life and all its ups and downs, and they finally understand what you’ve been saying all these years.  Words and ideas flow once again, and your pedestal gets packed away somewhere deep in their heart, only to be pulled out when you are not looking.

Either that — or you have finally learned to speak Chinese.