Answer the Freaking Door! (Life with Teens)

The doorbell just rang. I knew my teenage daughter was expecting a friend. I’m in my room knitting, because I’m recovering from a stomach bug. I stopped and listened for movement upstairs. Nothing. I picked up my cellphone and called my daughter. No answer. Instead, I got a text from her saying, “Hey.” I responded, “GET THE DOOR.” I would say I was in disbelief, but I wasn’t. She’s a teenager, and somehow, they become more self-centered than they were at four. Hard to believe, I know, but if you’ve ever parented a teen, you know it’s the truth. And I remember 16. I know we are just entering the “I know everything, and Mom knows nothing” years. How long does that last? Till 25? Ugh.

I’m taking notes on all this teenage fun. I find that if I keep notes on it, it actually becomes humorous. I can laugh about it. Here are a few notes I’ve made:

  • No matter what I wear, it’s wrong, and she will wait till other people are around to tell me. Seriously? Seriously.
  • Occasionally, I feel like a walking wallet. No joke. We just got home from vacation, and I noticed during that week that she heard nothing I had to say unless she needed money to purchase something she wanted. I’m not kidding.
  • I sneeze wrong. And I breathe wrong. Oh, and I pronounce things incorrectly…usually, it’s the names of rappers that I pronounce incorrectly. First of all, I didn’t even know DJ Khaled and Khalid are two different people…and clearly, I pronounced one of them wrong.
  • My resting face, while not “resting b**ch face,” is apparently annoying to my daughter. She has asked, “Why are you making that face?” My response? “I’m not making a face. It’s just my face.” And of course, that gets an eye roll.
  • Which leads us to this: an eye roll is the response to just about everything.
  • If I linger in her room after we have talked about something, she will look at me for about five seconds before saying, “OK. You can go now.”
  • Apparently, everybody else gets to have more fun than our daughter does. Apparently, I’m the only mom who actually expects her to go to sports practice and do homework. We know that’s not true, but she sure makes it seem that way.

That’s not a complete list, of course, but it gets the point across. But here’s the thing: just like most teenagers, behind all that sarcasm and eye-rolling is a sweet girl who still loves her parents and wants to please us. I know that, because she also does this:

  • When she gets a good grade or a bad grade, she immediately calls me or texts me. If it’s good, we cheer together. But if it’s bad, she knows I will say all the right things to help her and encourage her…set her on the right track.
  • When I’m not feeling well, she calls me before she leaves sports practice and asks if she can bring anything home to me.
  • At the end of a recent vacation, when I asked her what her favorite thing about the trip was, it was the day we were together the whole day.
  • She actually uttered these words to me recently: “Mom, you do parenting right.” What?!?! A high compliment? She didn’t mean I’m a sucker. She meant we communicate really well with each other.

She’s figuring it all out…and I am too. Teenagers are an interesting bunch, and we all need to remember we used to be teenagers. I know she needs my help navigating these years, and so far, she’s doing pretty darn well. She’s not perfect, but then again, neither am I.

As a teenager, she is somewhere between a child and a full-fledged adult. These years are interesting, and they are fleeting. Before I know it, she will be off to college and thinking she is way smarter and way cooler than I am…even more than she does now! But she’ll still call me…and not just for money. She’ll call me to share accomplishments. She’ll call me when she doesn’t feel well or when she’s sad. I know, because I did the same thing. In fact, when I had a stomach bug two days ago, I wanted to call my mom.

Gotta go give my girl a hug.

Posts of 2019 (Joe Namath is a Winner)

Now that 2019 is over, I’ve taken a few minutes to go back and look at some old pieces I wrote during 2019. I can see how many people viewed each one, and the numbers are interesting.

All the “favorite gifts” pieces were read by lots of people…just as they were in 2018. I wasn’t surprised by that at all. Even the most-read piece didn’t surprise me. It was a piece I wrote about teens and much-needed life skills. I wrote it back in the summer, and it got lots of clicks immediately. What I loved most about it was the feedback! So many people had more suggestions to add after they read it! And I’d like to add one more thing to the list: make sure your teen driver knows not to put diesel fuel in his/her car unless it actually has a diesel engine. Trust me…they need to know this information.

But what surprised me most was the second most-read piece of 2019. For one, it wasn’t even written in 2019. It was written in May of 2018, but it gets lots of new readers every week! I use WordPress to write my blog, and through my account, I can see how many people read posts, how many like them, comments, and feedback; and I can see when someone has used a search engine to get to the page instead of clicking through Facebook or Instagram. Don’t worry…I can’t tell who does it…I can simply see that someone does. And frequently, I’ve noticed one Google search that leads people to my website more than any other search. If you guessed “Joe Namath,” you are correct.

Back in May of 2018, I wrote a piece about how my friend, Mary Ann, and I did a little detour during one of our road trips, so we could visit Beaver Falls, Pennsylvania, the town where Joe Namath grew up. And because of that, some Google searches will take readers to that piece on my page. You can see the piece here. That little piece from 2018 had the second highest number of readers in 2019. Apparently, I’m not the only person in America who loves Joe Namath. Much like Bobby Brady on The Brady Bunch, I would love to know Joe personally…like in the photo above. I wrote another piece titled Happy Birthday, Joe Willie about his book, My Life in Four Quarters, in May of this year, and it didn’t get even a fraction of the “hits” as the old piece. The search terms tend to be “Joe Namath, home” or “Joe Namath, Pennsylvania,” so I guess folks don’t care too much about his birthday. They just want to know about his childhood. I hope his book had a lot more readers than the piece I wrote about his book!

Other pieces that were at the top of the “clicks” list were about misery. One about all the trials and tribulations my 19-year marriage has survived. Another one, called Poking the Bear, was about grief, something we will all experience, if we live long enough. And falling right in with those was a piece about summer reading for our school-aged children, titled I Bought the Summer Reading Book Today. That one is just one big gripe-fest about how I hate that my teenager has required summer reading for school. You can see it here. Apparently, it’s true that “misery loves company,” because lots of folks read those pieces, and a lot of them read them more than once. I don’t think we like knowing other folks are miserable…we just like knowing we’re not alone in misery. I truly believe we like to know other people have experienced some of the things we experience, and we like to know they got through it.

At the other end of the spectrum, there were pieces that hardly anyone read. They were mostly happy pieces, reflecting on something I enjoyed. But I refuse to believe people don’t like reading about happiness. I think it’s just that trials and tribulations bring us together. When the weather is great in your neighborhood, the neighbors are friendly enough, but when a big storm comes through, everyone works together to help each other. I guess it’s the same with writing. When things are going well, it’s not noticed, but write about a life altering event that lots of people can relate to, and you get their attention.

Recently I watched a movie I had never seen, and I watched it because a friend recommended it. Or maybe I should say she insisted I had to see it. So I sat down and watched Love, Actually. Since I cried during the opening, I knew I would like it. The basic premise is that love isn’t dead. The world isn’t just full of hatred…it’s full of love too, but you have to look around to see it. The narrator (Hugh Grant, I believe) said he enjoys going to the airport arrivals area, where he sees lots of love as people greet their loved ones. And yes, being the sap that I am, I loved the movie.

It reminded me that there’s a lot of love out there, and it reminded me that while disaster and misery bring people together, people really do like to hear about positive things too.

I’ve said before that I don’t write this blog to see how popular it will become. I write it for me. I write it, because it calms me. And frankly, I like saving my memories right here. When I’m long gone, hopefully, my daughter will sit down and read all of them…maybe printing them off…before the subscription for the website expires and everything is lost! Maybe I should print them off myself and bind them. It might be that she doesn’t even care, but lots of times, I wish I could ask my parents about things that happened to them. Just today, in fact, I texted my aunt (my daddy’s sister) to find out the story behind a Facebook post.

So in 2020, if I’m feeling like I need to share some misery, I will do just that. And if I want to share happy story, I’ll do that too. And if I ever get to meet Joe Namath, well…you’ll know it. I’ve met lots of celebrities…had lots of “brushes with fame.” But Joe Namath is one I haven’t met…yet. If you know anything about me, you should know I fully believe in the “power of yet.” That means I truly believe I haven’t met him YET.

 

The Sad Season

The holidays are winding down. Lots of folks get depressed after the holidays…Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) or just plain old sadness that the holidays are over. And then there are people like me who have experienced loss…and the unfortunate few of us who have actually experienced loss during the holidays.

Tomorrow is the second anniversary of my mother’s passing…two years without my mother. She fell ill on Christmas Eve 2017, and I received a phone call at 8:30 that night…she was in the hospital in Alabama. My little family rushed through opening gifts in Charlotte that night, and before the crack of dawn on Christmas Day, I left to go be with my mother. As I drove to Alabama, I was thinking of how I was going to tell my mother that she was coming back to Charlotte with me. I was thinking of how angry she would be that I wanted her to leave her house. But I never got to tell her she was coming home with me. The doctor made it clear to me on December 26 that she would not recover, and since both my grandmothers had died on December 26 in different years (eerie, right?) I needed Mother to make it past that day. I asked the doctor if she was likely to make it to the 27th, explaining why I was asking, and he assured me she would…but not much longer. I didn’t want her to die at all, but if she had died on the 26th, every year after that, I would have been waiting for something to happen to me on the 26th. We needed to break the cycle. She made it to the 30th.

Last year, the first anniversary, was a terrible day…terrible. I didn’t sleep at all the night before, and it was just a terrible day. But this year, I am bound and determined to make it a happier day. Of course, I’m still sad my mother isn’t here, but instead of crying all day, I hope to be celebrating her life…drinking a toast to her memory.

In fact, as I type, I’m on a plane to Los Angeles…a vacation with my daughter, her friend, and my nephew and his friend. Mother would have loved knowing my nephew is vacationing with us. We have a lunch reservation tomorrow at a fabulous restaurant, where we will remember Mother. We might even order a Bailey’s and coffee, her favorite, after lunch.

And as hard as I will try to be happy, positive, and upbeat, I know a little sadness will creep in. I know that, because I just tried to read a piece by Sean Dietrich (see Sean of the South on Facebook here), and I couldn’t get past the first couple paragraphs about his dad, who he lost years ago.

So right now, for this second anniversary, I’ll take “mostly happy with a little sadness creeping in.”

All this is my way of reminding everyone that some people are sad right now. Some are suffering. Some are just trying to push through the season. And then some will be even more sad at the thought of starting a new year without a loved one. I hope I will show mercy and offer courteous goodwill to those who need it. I hope I will try to help my friends and family into 2020…with some love, patience, hope, and clarity. And I hope they will do the same for me.

Let’s make 2020 a good year.

 

What Do You Do With Christmas Cards?

A friend asked me recently what I do with my Christmas cards when the holidays are over. She said she had been admonished by friends after she told them she throws them away. And I started thinking: what do other people do with their holiday cards after the new year rolls in?

I posted the question on my personal Facebook page and got lots of interesting answers. I had no idea people got so creative with their cards! At our house, as cards come in, we put them on our Christmas tree. That way, we get to see them all the time, and anyone who visits can see them too. Just in case you want to ask…the placement is totally random. But when we take down our tree, I take one more look at the cards before disposing of them. When my mother was alive, I would put them all in a Ziploc bag and show them to her when I visited her during the holidays. But since she passed away, my husband would kill me for keeping extra stuff around!

As your holiday greetings arrive this year, put some thought into what you might do with them. Here are some things my own friends do with their holiday photo cards:

  • BOXES/TRUNKS. Several people said they have every holiday photo card they have ever received. Seriously?!?! I came across one from a few years ago when I was getting the ornaments out of the bin. It was the two lovely daughters of a neighbor…I’m talking to you, Jennie from the block. But that’s the only old card I’ve found. I think I probably have a Ziploc bag or two stashed somewhere, but we likely won’t find them till we clean out the house to sell it…who knows when that will be?!
  • PHONE CONTACT. Three very creative friends said they use the Christmas card photos as the contact photo for the person in their phone. They take a picture of it, save it in their contacts, and then they dispose of the actual card after the holidays.
  • PHOTO ALBUM. Several friends said they put the photo cards from family and/or close friends in a photo album, so they can see how they change over the years. That’s actually a lovely idea…too bad I didn’t think of it twenty years ago!
  • LAMINATED PLACE MATS. Yet another friend said that when her kids were little, they would cut the pictures out of the cards and make laminated placemats for Valentines Day! Wow! But then they threw them away after that.
  • BIBLE. Another lovely idea? Place the photo cards in places throughout your Bible. Then when you come to that picture during the year, pray for that family. Wow…that one is impressive too. Afterward, she throws them away.
  • SENIOR CITIZENS’ CHURCH GROUP. My friend, Linda, keeps them in a red and green bow basket till the next year, and she enjoys looking at them as she addresses the next year’s cards. After that…she donates them to the senior citizens’ group at her church, where they are used for craft projects. As she said, “They are born again!”
  • HOLE PUNCH/CLIP/RING. A couple of people said they hole punch them, and put them on a clip/ring…keeping them on the coffee table as a conversation piece. One of them keeps them on the ring for eternity, and the other throws them away after the holidays.
  • ST JUDE’S RANCH. One friend suggested sending them to St Jude’s Ranch’s Recycled Card Program. They are not able to use all greeting cards, but you can read at their link to see what they are able to accept. Great idea! See the link here. 
  • ORNAMENTS. One person said she has a friend who cuts the photos out and attaches them to cardboard ornaments to regift to the original sender! That’s a great one too!
  • SEND BACK. And here’s another idea I like: one friend said she has a friend who keeps all the cards for a year, and the next year, she sends them back to the original sender with a little handwritten note. I like that idea too!

So go ahead and start thinking now about what you’re going to do with all those cards as they’re coming in this year! I will still display ours on our Christmas tree throughout the season, just as I always do. When Christmas is over, I will gather them up and put them in a Ziploc bag till I decide what I want to do. I might actually keep them this year and make ornaments for my friends/family for next year. That’s ambitious, though, so don’t be surprised if I don’t pull it off!

Favorite Ornaments

This week, I decorated our Christmas tree. My husband carried the bins down from the attic, and I went to work.

We have a lot of meaningful Christmas ornaments. My mother was a big collector of ornaments, so I have lots of crystal and sterling ornaments. We have some lovely ornaments my husband’s family gave us. We have ornaments commemorating our first Christmas together and the birth of our daughter. We have lots of ornaments our daughter made in preschool and elementary school. And we have some silly ornaments we collected along the way.

When I was growing up, my favorite ornaments on our family tree were some ornaments that looked like the toys from the Island of Misfit Toys on Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer. I know I brought those back after my mother died, but I’m having difficulty locating them. It’s not likely I will find them this year, but I hope to put my hands on them before next Christmas.

We do, however, have some fun ornaments from A Christmas Story…one that looks like the house from the movie, and another of the leg lamp and Ralphie. The ones that really made me smile, though, were two ornaments from the Nickelodeon show, iCarly. Our daughter loved the show when she was younger (and likely still does), and her very favorite characters were Carly and Sam. I don’t remember where I purchased them, but when she was a little girl, I found some Carly and Sam ornaments.

Back then, we were still doing the Elf on the Shelf thing, and our daughter loved the Elves (yes, more than one…we were overachievers) as much as she loved iCarly. She often wrote them notes…sometimes asking them questions about themselves…favorite foods, favorite TV shows, favorite sports, etc. And sometimes, the elves brought little gifts…very small gifts…but they generated a lot of excitement. One morning, she came downstairs to find the elves had brought her a Carly ornament from iCarly, and the next morning, she found a Sam ornament. Carly and Sam were the two main female characters from the show, and she thought they were hilarious. She adored them. I didn’t park her in front of the TV when she was really little, but when she was elementary school aged, I didn’t mind if she watched a few shows here and there. She loved iCarly so much, that she knew the title of each episode! In fact, I’m guessing she can still name each episode and give a brief synopsis.

All that is a long way of saying that yesterday, as I pulled ornaments out of the bin, I found the two cheap iCarly ornaments that generated so much excitement on that December morning eight or ten years ago. I hung them on the tree together…they’re pals, after all. Our daughter wasn’t home, but I took a picture of them and sent it to her, asking, “Recognize those ornaments?” She replied, “OMG! Yes!’ I couldn’t see her reaction, but I imagine she felt like she was six or eight years old again…just for that second. She likely remembered exactly how excited she was to receive them.

And you can bet your sweet bippy they will continue to be on our tree every year…right up there with all the sterling and crystal ornaments from my mother.

 

 

 

***

Christmas Card Photos

Have you finished your holiday shopping? How about your holiday travel plans? Have you locked in your airline reservations? What about hotels? And just when you think you have everything done, you remember you have to do holiday cards! Try finding a picture of the whole family together…good luck finding one where everyone is behaving nicely.

Yesterday, I said to my husband, “We need to get a photo for our Christmas cards.” He asked, “Can’t we just do a card with no picture this year?”

And you know the top of my head almost blew off before I calmly said, “No. Our card always has a picture on it.” He replied, “Well, maybe this year we change it up.” Nope. Nope. And nope.

So last night, I sat down and starting scrolling through the pictures on my cellphone, trying to find one that would work. I could find pictures of my daughter and me. I found pictures of my husband and my daughter. I found pictures of me and my husband. But finding a pic of all three of us? That’s tough.

I decided to get creative. Since I couldn’t find a good picture of all three of us, I decided I would create one! I found a picture of Velma, Daphne, and Shaggy from one of the Scooby Doo movies, and I superimposed our faces onto their bodies. Yes, I let my daughter be Daphne, and I became Velma, while my husband was Shaggy. I laughed till I cried thinking of my husband dressing and acting like Shaggy. And my daughter walked in while I was laughing by myself. She looked at me like I’m a weirdo…the same way she always looks at me, because she’s a teenager…and asked, “What are you doing?!” I said, “Working on our Christmas card picture.” And I showed her my creation. She was not amused.

So I tried something else and put our faces on Carly, Sam, and Freddie from iCarly. It had the show’s logo across the top, and I kept Spencer in the photo too. If you’re familiar with Nickelodeon’s iCarly, you know the characters. If you’re not familiar with the show, you can see info here. When I showed that picture to my daughter, she let me know I was taking things too far, “Mom, no. Just no.” Seriously, though, her reaction made me really want to use that one on the card.

But after that, I tried a different approach. I found a picture I liked of me and my daughter, and I added my husband’s face to it…like he is sticking his head into the picture from the side. When I showed it to the daughter, she laughed and said, “Add the dogs too!” So I did. It was a joke, but then, I kind of liked it, and the daughter liked it too. But the husband absolutely did not approve. In fact, he went back to “can’t we have a card with no picture?” I told him that indeed, he could, if he were married to someone else, but I love photo cards! And he said, “Let’s take a picture of the three of us this weekend though, and we can do that.” He has no idea how hard it is to get all three of us together…showered….dressed….and photo ready…at the same time.

So at some point this weekend, we will try to get a picture of the three of us. It won’t be professional, but maybe we will pull it off. If not, folks will be receiving a card with the picture of me, the daughter, the husband’s face Photoshopped in, and the dogs Photoshopped in too! I know…if you’re on our list, you’re hoping for the Photoshop picture!

***Once we find an acceptable picture, we will upload it to Shutterfly.com to make our cards. You can see Shutterfly card options here.***

Take Ten Seconds

A friend just shared on Facebook a video of Mr. Rogers accepting a Lifetime Achievement Award at the Daytime Emmy Awards in 1997. In his acceptance speech, the beloved Mr. Rogers asks if everyone will take “just 10 seconds to think about the people who have helped you become who you are…the ones who cared about you and wanted what was best for you in life.” And he silently keeps time on his watch…just ten seconds to think of the people who helped you become who you are. You can see a clip here.

I loved Mr. Rogers. It’s no secret. My friends have known that for years. In Pittsburgh a few years ago, I forced everyone in my party to visit the Heinz History Center to see the Mr. Rogers exhibit…some of the pieces from his television show. I was happy. I looked at all of it and thought how much my little girl self would have loved to see it all in person back in the 1970s. Mr. Rogers was a part of my childhood. If you are close to my age, he was likely a part of your childhood too. You likely know the theme song for his show. You likely remember some of the characters from The Neighborhood of Make Believe. Sure, we sometimes made fun of Mr. Rogers and his cardigans and practical shoes, but we all learned something from him.

And as it turns out, Mr. Rogers, in his acceptance speech, was still affecting people. In fact, he’s still affecting us today. That very video made me stop and think about something I hadn’t thought about before…the people who helped me become who I am.

For me, there are many…my parents, my family, some of my teachers, my college friends, other friends…you know, the usual. I won’t name any names, but there are other people who helped me become who I am, and some of them did not do it intentionally. You know who really helped me become who I am? People with whom I had a disagreement of some sort. Seriously. Think about that. When you have a disagreement with someone, it changes who you are…hopefully for the better. And I truly believe that, when I’ve had disagreements with folks, I have been introspective afterward…thinking about where I might have been right and where I might have been wrong. There are also people with whom I had a chance encounter…maybe they helped me carry my groceries; maybe they blessed my day; maybe they stopped me from doing something stupid; or maybe they encouraged me to take a risk I wouldn’t normally have taken. The list is long.

But the list of people who have cared about me along the way? I have a small family, so that list is not particularly long. I have some great friends with whom I will be friends till I die. And I’ve had other friends who aren’t still around, but they cared about me at some point, and I cared about them…and deep down inside, I truly care about anyone who was my friend at one time. Truth. And even if they don’t care about me, they still shaped me in some way.

I’m a firm believer that everyone we encounter affects us and shapes us in some way…maybe it’s a positive and maybe it’s a negative.

So stop and think about the people who have made you who you are. Sure, some of them cared about you. Some of them just affected you in a chance encounter. Be restrospective and introspective. And then, get out and go see A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood, starring Tom Hanks as Mr. Rogers. Just seeing the movie trailer makes me cry, so when I go see it, I’ll have lots of tissues. I plan to see it within the next few days.