It’s Not Just About Barbeque

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Memorial Day is the day in the United States that marks the unofficial start of summer…it’s also the first national holiday after New Year’s Day where most businesses are closed. So people generally look forward to Memorial Day Weekend with major anticipation.

What gets lost in the parades and barbeques and never-ending Baggo games is the reason we celebrate Memorial Day. Wikipedia defines Memorial Day as “a federal holiday in the United States for remembering the men and women who died while serving in the country’s armed forces.” In other words, giving thanks for those young men and women who gave their lives to ensure our freedoms…my freedom to worship as I choose, my freedom to publish this blog.

The sacrifice that has been made for freedom started with those who originally fought for it in the Revolutionary War and continue today. Many times, it has been the ultimate sacrifice, but there are those who have sacrificed for “the cause.” Veterans who have returned, missing a limb or carrying the weight of memories too horrible for most people to contemplate. The loved ones left behind, who tried their best to send the boys “over there,” only to realize later, it would be the last personal contact they had. The housewives during World War II who did their best to make oatmeal and potatoes taste like meat when ration coupons ran out mid-month. Children who lost fathers, uncles and older brothers while collecting rubber and newspaper in scrap drives.

My father and uncles were all in the Armed Forces during World War II. One of my uncles was deployed to the Pacific Theater and one worked for the government. My father was an MP (Military Police), based in New Jersey on account of a bad elbow, and forever regretted not being able to participate in the “real war,” as he called it. And my mother and my aunts were at home, praying their men would return unharmed.

I have a locket that my dad sent my mom during the war. It is a cheap little piece of jewelry that Dad picked up one day at the PX. Mom is still amazed that I really wanted that necklace, but to me, it really symbolizes that not everyone “fighting the war” is on the front lines.

I pulled it out of my keepsakes this morning and spent a moment saying a prayer for those lost, those who lost someone and those still dealing with the difficult memories. And a prayer of thanks that they believed in freedom.

And reminded myself, today is not just about the barbeques.

Ten Things I Wish Someone Told Me

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We all get advice everyday…some that we follow and some that we don’t.

I was thinking recently of some of the things that I wish someone had told me when I was young, so here are my ten things, in no particular order:

1) Get into an exercise regime early in life. Trust me on this…at 20 years old, you don’t necessarily need to, but I promise by 40, you will.
2) Get a double oven. Seriously.
3) Enjoy each and every moment with your children…because you will blink and they will be gone.
4) Watch the occasional stupid movie…if nothing else, they provide a truckload of catch phrases.
5) Stop worrying about what people think of you in junior high school. Those are the people who will end up “living in a van down by the river.”
6) Never burn bridges. Ever.
7) Surround yourself with people who make you laugh.
8) Be open to new things. Food, colors, activities you’ve never tried before. If it doesn’t work, you can always order pizza, repaint the room or leave the airshow.
9) Look for a house that has a separate slop sink. Seriously.
10) Send positivity out and it will return ten-fold.

I know the last one is a little new age-y, but it’s true. And I know the whole list is pretty simple and has likely been said before, but simple is always best. Finally, I pretty sure I was told all of the above at some point in my life and, looking back, I guess I wish I’d listened more. Especially about the slop sink.

 

The First Man in My Life

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This time of year is tough…my father’s birthday and the anniversary of his death fall in the same week.

I think of – and yes, even talk to – my dad regularly, but, for obvious reasons, that one week a year really brings him to mind. And I’m thankful for having him in my life as long as I did.

My dad was the yardstick every man I met throughout my life was measured by. Poor man had three daughters and no sons. Even our dog growing up was female. But he never missed having a son…his whole life was dedicated to taking care of “his girls.”

One of my first memories of my father was when I was around 4. Daddy and I were going to be home alone one evening…my older sisters were out with their friends and Mom worked nights at that time. My oldest sister put me to bed before she left, and Dad came in not long after to see if I wanted to come watch TV and eat potato chips with him. It was awesome!

I remember playing “soccer,” which for us meant kicking a ball against the house while he watched dinner on the grill. I remember him playing street softball or “500” with the kids in the neighborhood, which meant I got to play too, albeit as all-time catcher. I can still hear him whistle from the front porch, which meant that it was time to come home. EVERYBODY in the neighborhood could hear it and they all knew what it meant…just in case, I went momentarily deaf.

I remember him falling asleep in the car when he picked me up from my first job…while I drove home on my permit. I remember him coming out in sub-zero weather to change my flat tire.

I remember talking with him in high school. Lots of general conversations about miscellaneous topics, but I learned a lot about him and his perspective on life. I remember the “talk” the day before prom, when he tried to explain that my boyfriend was nice but to watch him and proceeded to hint at what boys might “expect.” Awkward for me, even more awkward for him, but I smile and feel incredibly loved every time I think of it.

Years later, I remember standing at the back of the church with him, waiting to walk down the aisle to marry previously mentioned boyfriend. Just as we got ready to take the first step, he turned and said, “Are you sure? We can still turn around and take the limo home.” Now you might think that meant he was not in support of my marriage, but he was. He just wanted to make sure his baby girl was happy.

I miss my dad. But I still hear his voice, telling me to stop for gas because I should always keep my tank full in winter, in case of bad weather. I hear him complaining every time I have to open some impossible plastic-shell packaging. But mostly I hear him letting me know that the first man in my life is still in my life…and that always makes me feel good.

 

Trust Me

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Trust is tough. Once broken, trust takes a lot of time and even more effort to rebuild.

I think people in general are conditioned to trust. We kind of have to be. You start life as a helpless infant, unable to take care of your own basic needs. You trust that your parents or guardians will make sure you are clean, fed and warm. And as you grow, you continue to trust them to teach you and help you mature.

But as you grow and your social circle widens, new people enter your life. And you start out trusting them, until they do something to break that trust. When it’s just little white lies, it can take time to chip away at the trust. Or maybe you catch them in a big, life-alternate lie, which blows up the trust like Hiroshima.

Either way, to try and rebuild that trust at least three times as long as it did to lose it. And both parties have to want to rebuild. The offending party needs to settle in with a great deal of commitment and patience. But the offended party often has the harder job. He or she needs to find a little trust to build on and they have to consciously tamp down the inclination to question every single thing. They have to make a commitment and have a little faith, which can be very difficult, in fact near impossible, when your trust has been shaken.

We see broken trust every day. In the face of an abused child, the broken hearted, even in the American people when politicians are caught in lies. The road back in all those situations is long, often made worse by the lack of a true apology. The recent scandal with L.A. Clippers owner Donald Sterling is a great example. In his apology for his racist remarks, he made more racist remarks and broke trust even further.

It all starts with accepting responsibility for a mistake, openly and honestly. And apologizing…sincerely.

It’s the only way to go…trust me.

You Gotta Know When to Hold ‘Em

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I am not a gambler. But I find I am betting on long shots and playing the cards I’m dealt every single day.

I have nothing against gambling, but I generally don’t see the allure of throwing money away on a roll of the dice. I have friends who love to play Texas Hold’em and really enjoy it. I’ll play for chicken stakes if I need to but I just don’t enjoy it the way they do.

So I assumed that I wasn’t a gambler…or at least a good one. But I find that I gamble a little every day. Will my garden project work the way I want it to? Will that new recipe turn out the way I think it will? Let it ride…

The bigger pots bring scarier risks. Will this new short haircut look good on me? Will this new car last as long as the old one? Blow on the dice for me…

But it is the really big action that can do me in that scare me the most. Is this the right job for me? Should I try to start my own business? Is this the right life for me?

You can’t go through life without taking risks, and sometimes, you have to go all in. And while I’ll never be a whale, I’m taking more calculated risks, where the odds are a little in my favor. We all need to take more risks, whether it’s trusting in yourself, your loved ones, the fates, or even Lady Luck herself.

But pay attention: The signs are there if you know when to hold ‘em and when to fold ‘em.

 

If You Were an Animal…

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There is a great deal of interviewing and job hunting happening in my house these days.

Like so many people in the United States, I recently lost my job to company downsizing, so I am looking for my next opportunity. And in some ways, it’s great. I’m doing all the “recommended” things: networking, spending time really thinking about what I want to do with my life, learning new things within the context of my career that I never seem to have time to learn when I’m working.

On the home front, I have been able to get to all those nagging chores and projects that just move on my To Do list from week to week…until five years have gone by. Feels really good to cross them off the list because they are done…not because I just gave up on ever doing them. And the family remembers that I CAN actually cook, although our local take-out places’ profits have dropped.

Personally, I feel more connected to the people in my life. When I’m working, it often gets to a point where I can only get done what HAS to be done, without spending time just being with my husband or chatting nonsense with the kids. And I realize how much I miss that and vow to not lose that connection when I do get a job.

But looking for a job sucks. And I’m seeing the effects for my kids, who are looking for summer jobs. And I feel it myself, when I make it to the final round and they go with the other candidate.

But the interview process itself can be painful…especially the pre-screening questions. Many are worded in such a confusing way that you are not even sure how you WANT to answer, much less what answer you think THEY want. And then in the interview, you can get the weirdest questions, like “If the company was a hamburger, which ingredient would you be?” Now I know that, in theory, these kinds of questions are a way to get some kind of psychological insight into the kind of person you are…but really?? Maybe I’m the kind of person that just eats burgers and doesn’t waste brain power thinking about how I would fit in the burger cosmos. (BTW, a friend actually got this question in an interview…she said “the bun” because it holds everything together, which I thought was an incredibly good answer to a rather dumb question.)

When you are interviewing, you have to play the game, so I give the best answers I can while remaining true to who I am. But I remember which companies ask these questions and I think long and hard about if that’s the kind of company I want to work at. Which I guess makes me an elephant.

 

Remember the Time…?

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I just finished a weekend with my family and boy, am I tired!

My mom and oldest sister live in the area and I see them fairly regularly. But my middle sister (yes, I’m the baby!) and her sons live out of town, so we see them about twice a year. I always look forward to the weekend they visit because we have a great time…the laughter, the reminiscing, it is wonderful!

We have a pretty set schedule when they come. They usually arrive Friday afternoon and we do dinner at my house. Then Friday evening, it’s Trivial Pursuit – girls against the boys. I believe the girls are up… Saturdays are generally pretty lazy, but after dinner, we play cards. Along with more laughter and kidding, and sometimes, cutthroat competition. Then there is more chatting and visiting until they head out late afternoon Sunday.

Everyone seems to enjoy the time together, especially since we haven’t been able to do it more than twice a year. But it is a great deal more activity than I think most of us are used to. My 90-year-old mother she laughs so hard when they are here, I know by Sunday evening, she is totally wiped out. And I know that she clears her “schedule” for the following week so she can re-charge after they visit. While I worry about her, I know that she wouldn’t trade those weekends for anything, because she loves nothing more than to have the whole family together.

Part of what I love about weekends with my family is the stories. “Remember when…?” “What about that time you…?” “Remember how you used to…?” And I love that now my kids are hearing these stories, getting a small glimpse into the child that I was, even if they do think I was born a grown-up.

Webster’s Dictionary defines family as “a group of people who are related to each other.” I know people who don’t get along with their family members…and some that don’t associate with them at all, and I struggle to understand it. To me, family – love them or not – are the people who know you…who have your history…and who, for better or worse, have been in the same “foxhole” with you.