When I Grow Up

You’ll Go and You’ll Like It!

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Families are busy. Sometimes too much so. We get caught up in our schedules and are constantly moving from one activity to another. Those of us with more than one child sometimes find that we have to split up so each child has a parent to drive to and attend their events.

One year I decided I had enough. I learned of an event near our family’s vacation house and decreed that that weekend would be a family weekend. No other activities would be scheduled. We were going to the mountains and having some fun family time. (Note: there was no television or internet at the mountain house and it had only a landline to communicate with the outside world. We were getting AWAY.)

The local paper told us there was a winter festival nearby that included dog sled races and a snow sculpture contest. We bundled up and headed out. We signed up to participate in the snow sculpture contest and though we had no plan, we started creating. We ended up with a five foot rabbit and (since the oldest had taken charge and not everyone’s attention was completely held creating this) a number of small snowmen surrounding it. A cannon was carved out of a nearby snowbank, making it appear that the snowmen were guarding the rabbit.

SCAN0268edOur entry complete, we walked around and were amazed at some of the other sculptures that were only in beginning stages when we arrived. We were a bit sheepish that we had the idea that we could enter such a competition at all. Out on the frozen lake was a life-sized bear, holding a fish in its mouth. Several spots away from us, a young man created a small dog, sitting happily watching passers-by. It was obvious that most of the other people had planned ahead, some brought special tools and paint to add color to their sculptures. Some, we were sure, must have been professional artists.

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We watched as the dogsled racers came in and the kids were granted permission to pet the dogs. Next up was a snowshoe race and a tubing race. Our kids had fun pulling each other over the snow on inflated tubes with the rope tied about their waist., falling laughing at the end.

At the conclusion of the day, we were very surprised to learn that our family had earned an honorable mention in the competition. We were awarded a collection of travel mugs and got our name in the local paper. After returning back to the house, the kids wanted to play out in the snow and practice for next year’s competition. Our dog, who was unable to join us at the festival, got in on the fun as well, but didn’t quite understand the concept of pulling them on the snow tube. They built snow figures and pulled each other around on the tube until they were all tired out (even the dog) and it was nearly dark.

Though the two and half-hour car ride there Friday night had a sullen teen in the backseat, the ride home on Sunday was full of excited chatter about what next year would bring.

 

11 of #52essays2017


On Wednesdays We Play

Have you ever considered what people might think if they saw what goes on behind-the-scenes at your house? Do you ever wonder what it would be like to catch a glimpse of someone else’s daily life?

Fly on the Wall is a monthly post by a group of bloggers challenged to let our readers see what it might be like to be a fly on the wall in our homes. Each post is not a single story, but a compilation of snippets, each one its own quote or event or conversation (or disaster) strung together to provide a behind-the-scenes glimpse into our lives.

On the same day at the same time, all the participating bloggers post their Fly on the Wall submissions and link up to each other. Here are links to the other writers’ posts.  I suggest you go see what they’ve been up to too.

Menopausal Mother
Searching for Sanity
Eileen’s Perpetually Busy
Go Mama O
Spatulas on Parade
Never Ever Give Up Hope

Bookworm in the Kitchen

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Over the last few weeks I had the pleasure of having my college kids home for spring break. Since their breaks didn’t coincide, I had time to spend with each of them individually. As it happened, on each week we had an interesting outing on Wednesday. (This was purely coincidental.) My daughter had learned about a local farm that boards and fosters pigs in need of a forever home and wanted to visit. My son loves to hike, so a day in the woods was a must for him.

I guess since these were both outdoors, the fly wasn’t really on a wall, just tagging along with us. I took a number of pictures these days and am trying something different here – more of a photo essay. I hope you enjoy it.

Our visit to Ross Mill Farm and Piggy Camp

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We found out about this farm over winter break when it came across my Facebook newsfeed. There were several entertaining videos of adorable pigs and my daughter immediately said she wanted to visit. Our schedule did not allow it then, so we made a point to go the next time she was home. We were met by a friendly cat and one pig who seemed to be waiting for an opening to get into the farmhouse. A few pigs in pens did their best to get our attention (one made quite a fuss when we looked at his neighbors), while the ones out in the yard were content to much on grass and ignore us. There was one piglets that seemed curious about us but for the most part kept a distance. Overall, there was a lot of personality on the farm.

 

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Several pigs wander freely about the farm. We were told those in fenced areas were mostly boarding.

Scenes from our 5 mile hike at Evansburg State Park

My son’s one request was to go hiking over break. Though we had talked about a park a bit further from home, we got a late start and chose this one. The distance was just right for this trip. The sun was starting to set as we got back to the car.

 

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Let’s play a game – what lives here? If you look close, you’ll see a rounded area where some critter likely spent the night.

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While I hate graffiti on trails, the eyes here made me smile. We theorized that these ruins once belonged to a mill on the creek.

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Native Americans would bend young trees to mark trails. It looks like that’s what happened here

 

creek with rocks, change in colors

I got to play with some of the special effects on the camera

a tree decorated with a white rabbit and shamrock below it and beads hanging on branches

A smile at about the midpoint. Ready for several holidays.

grassy meadow

“The Meadow!” (In my best Bambi voice.)

man standing on creek bank

Just chillin’ by the water

 

creek with bright green foilage on far bank, trees reflected in water

The green on the far bank caught my eye. I was amazed at the reflections in the water.

ducks in the creek

Just a couple of ducks hanging out

image of the creek and description of stones from there

We learned something new. The New York Brownstones may have their origins in the Philadelphia suburbs.

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creek, man standing on bank

I can walk across here!

 

trees reflected in creek

Which end is up? (It really IS right side up.)

 

 

 

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Selling Rainbows Proved to Be About As Profitable as it Sounds

colour-1885352_1920When I was in college, I answered an ad for a sales job and was hired to sell Rainbows. Putting it like that, in hindsight, that should have been my first clue. The fantastically-named Rainbow was a home purifying system that looked an awful lot like a vacuum cleaner. All sales were done through in-home demonstration.

I went to the interview and then the sales training, which was, for the most part, sitting through the sales pitch. It was an amazing machine. So amazing in fact that although I gasped at the sticker price, I believed that I could sell it. My fellow trainee, however, dropped out once she heard the price.

The premise was that the dirt in the carpet, furniture and even the air would be sucked into the machine, then trapped in the water in a basin located below the machine. This eliminated the problem of having dirt escape and efficiently trapped that last little bit of dirt inevitably left on the floor when sweeping. Using the included attachments, one could use the Rainbow to dust surfaces as well.

I signed up and got my demo machine. There was no cost to me and a promise of commission on sales. I also joined at a fortuitous time, as there was a contest of sorts going on with a bonus of silver bars and an invitation to a party to the top seller that week.

As with most demonstration sales, I was on my own for my initial sales visits. These were carefully described to me as being “practice” and I was told I should ask my family and friends to help out. The idea was that I would be more comfortable with familiar people and would gain confidence to sell to strangers.

My first demo was to my grandmother who unbeknownst to me, had decided she was buying the machine before I even walked in the door. She very patiently sat through my presentation, oohing and aahing appropriately and seeming to be fascinated by my every word. When I finished my pitch, she said, yes she was going to buy one. Thinking I had won her over with my dazzling sales ability, I tried to protest, given the price. There was no deterring her, she was buying one.

My next stop was my parents. My mom knew my grandmother had purchased one and thought she was being overindulgent (as she had a tendency to be when it came to her grandkids). By the end of my pitch, Mom was looking at my father with eyes that obviously said she really, really wanted one of these. (My mother has been known to have a fondness for efficient vacuum cleaners.) And so I had sale number two.

Then I took the amazing machine to my mom’s aunt and uncle, where I demonstrated the machine’s ability to clean furniture cushions so well that there was a notable difference in color, so that I offered to clean them all for them. They were interested, but the cost was prohibitive. Another demo was for my cousin and his wife, who liked it well enough, but were not buying. With each demo, I was required to call the office at the completion to inform them if there was a sale. After my cousin said no, my manager insisted on talking to him and went for the hard sell, to the point where it was offensive. This is when I decided I was done with demonstrations for family members. My next call was a lead from the office.

It was policy to only do a demonstration when both members of a couple were present (to avoid losing the sale due to one person not having financial decision-making power). In this case, the husband was not home, so I followed protocol and called the office. I was told to go ahead with the demo. At the end, predictably, the woman said she could not make a purchase without talking to her husband, so that was what I had to report back to the office. A different manager answered the phone than I had spoken to and I got an earful.

That was the end to my career selling Rainbows. I refused to subject myself or anyone else to that treatment.  As it turned out, I was the top seller that period, but I never did see those silver bars or anything beyond my commission check for the two machines. The pay wasn’t bad, but the lesson was invaluable: something that seems to good to be true likely is.

 

11 of #52essays2017

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Gambling With a Hair Stylist Is a Mistake

SCAN0618It was the start of the 80s, the decade of big hair. I had been begging my mom to let me get a perm. I had long, wavy hair that didn’t do anything interesting. I got it in my head that permanent curls would be wide, flowy rings that would bounce just right. When I awoke the morning of my 15th birthday, my mom had left a note with money, telling me it was for me to go get that perm I had so coveted.

So, off to the salon I went. I had a regular stylist, who I loved, but he had casually mentioned once that one of his colleagues was good.  (We had been discussing someone else’s hair at the time.) For reasons I cannot explain, I decided to switch stylists and go to her that day for my perm and haircut.

Though I have always been particular about who cuts my hair, I had gotten complacent, knowing that “my person” knew my likes and dislikes and could be trusted 100 percent of the time. I didn’t consider that I needed to be specific in my instructions. I told her I wanted it permed, and that the end result should be all one length (I had spent years growing it out) so that I would have the desired curls.

She went to work. I patiently sat through the lengthy process, the curlers, the stinky solution, the sitting and waiting, the checking the curl, re-curling and sitting some more. Finally it was done. She took out the curlers and it was curlier than I expected, but I was warned it would relax and fall, that it always starts out overly curly.

Then came the cut. She trimmed the back, about shoulder length, then made the first cut for bangs – right between my eyes. I couldn’t get the words out fast enough to stop her, and it was done. Two inches of hair wide, just above my eyebrows. There was no point in stopping her now, the worst damage was done. There was no way to salvage it. She gave me full bangs and then they bounced. The curl made the bangs even shorter! I had spent many years trying to minimize and hide my high forehead and years growing the hair out and it was gone. With one snip of her scissors.

I should have complained. I almost cried. What I did instead was to thank her, pay her and even give her a tip! Then I went home and cried. For two days. I tried every home remedy I could find to loosen the curls, shampooing right away, soaking in salt water, nothing worked. So I became friends with ribbon and tied a bow. It was the only thing that made it even bearable.

Though I am still particular when it comes to haircuts (I currently have only one person I allow near my head with scissors), I have since learned an important lesson. No matter how bad the cut, hair grows.

 

9 of #52essays2017

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Gardening Is Good for the Body, Mind and Soul

 

 

hand holding soilMy first experience with a garden came as a child when my dad dug up a large plot of land in our yard. My parents left it to my sister and I to decide what to plant. We decided on vegetables and flowers, and the area was split roughly 50/50. It was fun to watch the carrots and radishes come up and we enjoyed having fresh salads with dinner most nights (that is, until a small green worm came along with the lettuce on my plate one meal). We also kept a pitcher of fresh flowers on the table, which was nice to see and it was exciting to know that we grew them ourselves. We repeated the process for a few years, though we scaled it back a bit to make it more manageable to maintain.

As an adult, I was excited when I finally had a yard and could plant a vegetable garden.  We grew tomatoes and peppers that were tastier than what we found at the grocery store (and a cost savings as well) and carrots and radishes that, though not very large or pretty, made a good addition to a salad, or as a snack on their own. This garden was too small for flowers, so I settled for growing them in planters on the porch where they made me smile each time I walked through the front door. Having a garden proved both economical and healthy.

It wasn’t until having a particularly unpleasant experience while volunteering for my children’s school that I realized the therapeutic effects of gardening. I was responsible for an activity at the school and there was a disagreement about how certain details should be handled. To make a long story short, the principal called me and another mom into his office to settle the dispute. (Growing up, I was a good kid. This was my first time in a principal’s office.) I am embarrassed to admit that tempers flared and there was yelling involved (until the principal raised his voice, then we were silent). His attempts at mediation solved the immediate problem (I was in the right) but not the underlying one (we were unable to work together after than point).

I went home, angry at her, upset with myself for losing my cool and embarrassed by my behavior in front of the school principal (yet thankful the kids had not witnessed it). On my to-do list that day was replanting recently purchased flowers into the stone planters on our porch. As I worked at this task, a calm came over me. The tension seemed to melt away. Something about the feel of the rich soil in my hands, the dirt sliding through my fingers, was soothing. I thought about how I had made mud pies when I was young and smiled. We would collect berries, seeds and small flowers and set them on top of mud that we had created (mixing dirt with water until the consistency was just right) either in Frisbees or plastic plates and offer our “pie” to our parents or siblings. I finished and was able to continue my day with a smile.

I suppose that the sight and fragrance of the flowers could also have contributed to my change in mood, but what I remember most is the dirt, with its pungent earthy smell. Arranging the plants in a pleasing manner also took some time and allowed a certain amount of creativity. Even the process of scrubbing my hands afterward, scraping the dirt out from under my fingernails, was calming. I made note of the reaction and vowed to do this more often.

This event was years ago, but the lesson has not been forgotten. I still plant a garden most years and look forward to the process. As the winter comes to an end, I start to plan the details while perusing catalogs full of flowers and unusual produce. Sometimes we try something new; most years we stick to the basics. We keep it on the small side, as I prefer the initial process (and of course consuming the harvest) to the tending, prompting my husband to call my gardening style Darwinian. He may have a point there.

 

8 of #52essays2017

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The Surprising Secrets No One Tells You About Beauty Pageants

essayWhen I was 15, I was a contestant in the Miss New Jersey United Teenager competition. The year prior, my best friend had participated in the pageant and I had gone to watch. Though for the most part, the contestants were kept separate from the other hotel patrons, I got to spend a little time with her over the weekend and saw that she was having a great time. On the night of the competition, she had the misfortune to find that the zipper on her evening gown had broken. In defiance of the competitive reputation of these events, she was loaned a gown by someone who had brought an extra, forever changing my opinion on the mindset of pageant contestants. In her exit paperwork, she recommended me as a contestant for the following year (yes, this is how many teen pageants work, knowing someone gets you in the door).

This revelation is likely a surprise to many who know me. Though I have always had a fondness for makeup and have certainly purchased my share of it, I rarely use much of it. I have never spent the time and money for an “up-do” and only once in my life spent any significant time on my hair, which actually meant I then spent more time un-doing what I had spent an hour working on and finally settled on a rather simple style that should have taken no more than 15 minutes. (Even for my wedding, I simply curled it and left it loose.)

Preparation for the competition included shopping for a gown. At one store, my mom was aghast at the revealing options (almost all had plunging necklines and strategically-placed cut-outs); responding to the salesgirl’s selection with, “Oh, this is a pure, all-American girl pageant.” (Love you, Mom.) Though it was a challenge, we eventually found one that was acceptable, which coincidentally was the same dress my friend had purchased the year before. (We knew to have the zipper replaced to avoid having the same bad luck she had.) I also needed a red A line skirt and white blouse. None were to be found, so off we went to the fabric store and to a seamstress who measured me and created the only custom-fit garment I have ever owned. Not knowing anything about fashion, the fabric we chose was a silky, shiny one that snagged rather easily and stood out from the more appropriate ones chosen by the other girls.

The pageant itself occurred over several days. We spent two days learning a flag routine (my friend had taught me this the year before, so I had an advantage here), being interviewed and learning where and how to stand (arms at sides, palms facing our bodies) and how to walk and turn for the evening gown portion. At scheduled times, we also had personal interviews and recited an essay we each had to write and memorize on the topic “What America Means to Me.” During a full run-through rehearsal, I was fortunate to be chosen as not only a semifinalist, but also as Miss Congeniality. (These were honors that escaped me for the actual pageant.)

We were rewarded that night for our hard work with Big Macs and fries (so much for the starving beauty contestant stereotype). We ate sitting on the floor in the hall; the chatter was lively and constant as some girls not-so-subtlety campaigned for Miss Congeniality (which was voted on by all of us) while others compared notes on hometowns, schools and activities. As wrappers gathered around us, the chaperones moved in to herd us to our rooms for the night so that we could settle in before the nightly room check and lights out.

Though the pageant results were not a repeat of rehearsal, I didn’t go home empty handed. One of the requirements for competition was to have engaged in a certain amount of community service. I had been a longtime volunteer for an animal adoption agency, and had a strong letter attesting to my dedication and time spent, so I was awarded the Volunteer Service Award, giving me my 15 seconds of fame at the pageant to accept my rather large trophy.evening gown

Though at times I would sense the pressure of competition (for some of the girls, this was their last chance before they aged out) there was also a true sense of camaraderie. We were assigned rooms and spots alphabetically, so naturally with almost 70 of us, we spent more time with those having last names that fell near our own.

I made a friend who took everything about as seriously as I did (that is to say, not very). We agreed that it would be nice to be selected, but knew that it had no impact on our worth as human beings. Since her roommate was too emotional to stay, she left immediately after the pageant and I moved into her room for the final night.  My new friend and I chatted late into the night, resulting in sleeping through our wake up call and the entire final event, the post-pageant breakfast.

Obviously, I entered into this not expecting to be crowned Miss NJ, but it was a great experience. I got a glimpse of the backstory of the beauty pageant world and one of my first early tastes of independence. There were strict rules about talking to boys (not allowed) and curfew (chaperones checked to make sure we were in our rooms).  We had a busy schedule and we were expected to show up on time.

I did note the presence of some expected stereotypes: there were a few divas, many girls wearing way too much makeup, some with eating disorders, and a few you wouldn’t want to turn your back on, but there were also plenty of all-American girls, highly intelligent young women enjoying the chance to dress up and be social. It surprised me to realize how many girls were repeat contestants and just how badly they coveted the title. Of course I knew that scholarship dollars were at stake, as well as the possibility of modeling and acting jobs, but I realized that the odds were really against us all, that the judging criteria were at least somewhat subjective and that having a bad day, or even a bad moment would end any chance of being one of the last girls onstage. Would I do it again? I think, probably yes.

 

7 of #52essays2017


When You Have Kids Young, 36 Feels Old

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When my youngest started kindergarten, I was surprised to find at Back to School Night that I was still on the younger end of the parenting scale. I was 36; the median age was closer to 40. I say that I was an “old mom” because this was my fourth; for many other parents in the grade, this child was their first. Of course I didn’t realize the age differences right away. Some parents were obviously older than I was, others I couldn’t tell (and it’s not considered polite to introduce yourself with “Hi, I’m Kim. How old are you?”)

At first I thought it was just that particular class, but quickly discovered that many people my age had their first child around the same time I had my last. This created some interesting moments. Those who knew I had older children were surprised to find out how young I was, those who didn’t know were surprised to find out how old my other children were. No one ever asked, but I saw some eyebrows raise, as if to say, “Exactly how old were you when you had your first?”

Before I knew it, I had become the “go to” person for several other moms. I had already seen some of the tricky stages (my oldest was 15) and had survived to tell the tales. I found this idea rather amusing. I grew up believing that wisdom came with age; so it seemed odd to me that those who had been adults for up to a decade longer were asking me for parenting advice. I guess this was in part because I didn’t have fellow moms to guide me through the younger years; for the most part, my husband and I muddled through it alone. Sure I had my mom and my mother-in-law, but they were both over an hour away and things change with each generation. (Just ask an older pediatrician about how feeding guidelines have changed over the past 20 years.)

All moms have moments of loneliness, but having a child at 21 was tough. While I was home, not sleeping, changing diapers and wiping spit up from my hair, others my age were out, not sleeping, drinking and dancing (and wiping other unmentionables from their hair). At the time, I was much too consumed with my own life to give too much thought to what I was missing. Since I had little in common with others my age, we quickly fell out of touch. Looking back, it would have been nice to have been more social at that age, but if I could go back and change anything, having my first, this beautiful child, would not be one of them.

As a younger mom, I was invincible. I was too naïve to even consider all the bad things that could happen. I did worry: I made sure I knew where my kids were; I met parents before letting my kids go to a friend’s house; I kept them close when we went to the store; I checked to make sure they were all buckled in before pulling out of the driveway. But I didn’t worry about things in the grand scheme. I didn’t think about all the evil out there and the world my children would inherit. The future was far off, abstract, not something to consider at that stage.

As an older (read experienced) mom, I calmed new moms. I told them to trust their instincts and to not stress so much. Many of them seemed nervous. Many of their worries seemed foreign to me. I decided it was because they were mature enough to recognize their mortality, something I refused to see when I first became Mom, but saw in abundance as I got older. I looked back and was thankful that I didn’t have that additional stress; that I was able to simply live in the present, in the cocoon I had created.

In some ways, I was a mom of a different generation. When I first had children, life was a bit simpler. Technology had not yet taken over households; my worst mom guilt was that the TV was on most of the day, even though often no one was actively watching it. Since inside had limited space, when it was nice, my children spent regular time playing outside with the other kids in the neighborhood, often going yard to yard, knowing  to stay within the boundaries where my voice would reach. (They still talk about the call: “Yavorskiiiiis, Time for dinnnnnner!”) Other times they engaged in pretend play or devoured the books that were always strewn about the house. This was much like my childhood.

Now, my kids are mostly grown and out on their own and my former classmates are just starting to have the experiences that have recently ended for me. I now have friends who are a little older than I am, those who are at the same life stage. Here I am once again, the young one. Those friends who are my age sometimes look at me and ask how it is on the other side. They are at a point where my today is still a few years off, which can look very far away. Though many said I would regret starting so young, I insisted it was a good idea, that I would have plenty of time later for fun. Given how much has changed, I am very happy to be on the other side.

 

6 of #52essays2017


What To Do With All the Stuff

Secret Subject Swap

 

Welcome to a Secret Subject Swap. This week 14 brave bloggers picked a secret subject for someone else and were assigned a secret subject to interpret in their own style. Today we are all simultaneously divulging our topics and submitting our posts.

My Secret Subject was submitted by: http://Bakinginatornado.com

The prompt: Are you a hoarder, a purger, or something in between?

I am most definitely not a purger. I have a few of those in my family and though I understand the desire for a tidy space, I like having things around me that prompt memories and am entirely too thrifty to throw out things that are likely to be needed at a future date. However, I wouldn’t consider myself a hoarder either. I am more of a collector, and a preserver of history. I try to be selective in what items I keep around.

Nowadays, having too many things in a space makes me a little anxious. It also makes routine maintenance more difficult and time-consuming.While it was easy to hold onto sentimental items when I was younger, each year brings more items and the space doesn’t change, so I have learned to curate.

For example, when it comes to baby clothes, some people keep them all, some keep nothing. When my first child was born, my mom gave me a few things that she had held onto and, like the bassinet that held both me and my sister and all of our children, it was special to have some things that we shared. Of course like most families, we passed clothes down to the next kid, but once our family was complete, it was time to pass them on to other families to use. I had a handful of items that were too precious to me to part with, so there is a single plastic bin in the attic with items that hopefully my grandchildren will get to use. This contains a select few outfits (without elastic which degrades over time), blankets and handmade items such as hats and booties.

As a family historian, I have a significant amount of paper. I have been attempting to corral it into neat binders (all indexed by family) to protect it and make it easier to share with others or to determine which genealogical avenue to pursue next. I admit to holding onto some pieces of paper with sentimental value (such as some drawings done by my children as toddlers) and some to show how things have changed (such as a pay stub from my first “real” job in 1989). While these examples have little to no monetary value, similar items from my ancestors would be priceless.

Aside from a tendency to rip tempting recipes or interesting tidbits that may find their way into my writing out of magazines, overall, I don’t fall into the paper trap that many others complain about. Most incoming paper gets dealt with promptly. Bills go in a folder, relevant ads are set aside for a week and other promotional pieces of mail are recycled. I do sometimes fall behind on reading magazines, but these too are recycled. (The recipes are my current subject of frustration. I have binders to sort them in, but have been piling them up instead of filing right away. I contemplated recycling the whole pile last weekend.)

Although I know I could never follow Marie Kondo’s method, I do see value in asking the useful/beautiful/bring joy question. If something doesn’t fit in one of these categories, it is simply taking up space and is not paying rent. I long ago gave up the guilt of rehoming an item that someone has given me; some things may outlive their usefulness or no longer “fit in.” The way I look at it, someone else may appreciate the item more, so they should have it. I do want to emphasize the rehoming aspect though. If something still has useful life, it should be sold or given away, not dumped in a landfill.

The challenge is what to do with all these extras. I have an ideological aversion to trashing things, so donating items makes sense. However, many organizations will throw out what they cannot use, so unless I carefully chose what and where to donate, I am only transferring the responsibility of filling landfills to the non-profits. This sort of curating takes time, something that is often in short supply. So there are times that the donations pile up, waiting for word of their ultimate destination. I know this looks bad to purgers but it is really more a question of time management than willingness to part with stuff. Some days I make multiple stops: high-end clothing to the organization that donates directly to teens, still wearable but less desirable clothing and household goods to the thrift store that sells the items and donates to local charities, and books to the local library.

So to answer the question, I guess I am in-between. With some things I may lean more one direction than the other, and I think that is likely true of us all. (Don’t we all have some weakness, some category of item that we keep picking up, even when there we don’t need more?) I find as the years go by, there is more that I am appreciating from afar. I am noticing and commenting on things, but I don’t want the responsibility of owning, storing and caring for them. Overall, I find I want to have less, not more and when thinking about what I would take with me if forced to leave my home quickly, with no guarantee of again seeing anything left behind, there is not much I would choose to bring. I can’t think that this is the mindset of a hoarder, yet since I do still possess so many things, it’s not that of a purger either.

Now, please take a couple minutes and check out what others in the group have to say:

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The Challenge of Being an Introvert in a Group of Extroverts

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Even though I am an introvert, most of my friends are extroverts. Many of them are the type who are eager to dance and sing in public, even without a healthy dose of “liquid courage.” I try to join in, but not matter how intense my efforts, I am invariably hit with, “Come on, get into it!” Even when I am putting myself out there, I am still seen as being quiet and reserved.

I have overcome my childhood fear of people and over time have come to the realization that people are fun to be around. I can carry on a conversation, even in groups, and can even speak in public (when I am prepared to do so).

In a relatively recent workshop for youth leaders, I broke into a sweat when singled out as part of an icebreaker activity. The activity was completely non-threatening, but I felt put on the spot and felt panicked. I tried to hide my discomfort, but I saw that raised eyebrow.

For the most part, I am good at faking it. I can run events, manage groups, but put me on the spot and I freeze.  Getting up in front of a group takes considerable mental preparation. I can’t do it on the fly. Expressing my fears has resulted in comments like, “You’re so funny.” Clearly my distress is not apparent. But under that confident illusion is a small child who is sweating and shaking. The panic bubbles up. The flight instinct is kicking in. I know that I can’t run home (like I did as a child once from a birthday party that caused too intense feelings) but the panic is very real.

I want to be like them. I want to be able to dance and sing and have fun. This is not to say that I necessarily feel I am missing anything, I am content to participate quietly. I enjoy occasionally joining in as part of a group, but never as the center of attention. I envy those who can dance like no one is watching; I am just not one of them, unless I am surrounded by a crowd and therefore invisible. I find safety there. Being pushed to be the center of attention causes panic. Finding myself in the center of a ring of people, I can’t breathe. Of course I realize no one expects this, it is not” normal”, so then there is the flush of embarrassment.

My family forgets this about me. I have them fooled as well. I know they have at least on occasion been aware of my discomfort. My parents have known this about me. In fact, after the fact, I found out that they had held their breath when I read a passage at a friend’s wedding and were impressed that I got through it. Perhaps these successes make them think I have completely overcome my social anxiety.  I keep trying, and reminding myself to push beyond my comfort zone, but I don’t think extrovert will ever be a term that could be used to describe me. Honestly, I’m not sure that’s necessarily a bad thing.

 

4 of #52essays 2017

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Celebrating a Special Day In a Special Way

seated woman with three children standing behind her

Gertie with all three of her grandchildren

Birthdays are a big deal in my family.  Even though my mother would joke about how she was the one who had done all the work so many years ago to make this day possible (thanks again, Mom), on our birthdays, my sister and I were made to feel like princesses. Mom made sure every detail was attended to. There was always a party, which may or may not have fallen on the actual date of our birth. When it didn’t, we got two celebrations. There were banners, balloons, streamers — we had the whole works. Growing up, it was essential that parties centered around a theme, chosen by the birthday girl, complete with matching plates, napkins, and cake decorations. Although these all were memorable, the birthday party that really sticks out in my mind was not mine. The year my grandmother turned 60, my mother and her brother went all out. They planned a surprise party with the theme: “This Is Your Life.”

My family has a flair for the dramatic, so this was an event to remember. They rented a hall and invited everyone they could find from her past. My grandmother had moved around quite a bit and had an interesting assortment of jobs, so there were many former neighbors and coworkers. She was also the kind of person who simply attracted people. If you were to go any place she frequented regularly, most people there knew Gertie. No matter where we went, she seemed to run into someone she knew.

On this night, my grandmother thought she was going to hear her son at a speaking engagement. As the time for her to arrive approached, a number of people she hadn’t seen for years were crowded into the kitchen of the catering hall and told to be quiet. There were still many of us in the room when she entered. Rather than the typical “Surprise,” the band stared to play (yes, they hired a live band) and we all sang “You’re Nobody ‘Til Somebody Loves You,” her favorite song.

When she had recovered from the shock (well, almost), she was told to sit in a chair in the center of the dance floor. My uncle then got up and read from the script. He explained that we were all there to celebrate her life, without which, none of us would be there in the room, or for some of us, even exist. The story started with her birth, in Scranton, PA and went on from there, announcing each of her siblings (she was the oldest). This was the cue for each of them to come out of the kitchen and give her a big hug (all accompanied by a specially-chosen song). My job for the evening (besides going to hug her at my chapter in her story) was to man my Panasonic cassette recorder, to try to capture at least part of the excitement for her to enjoy later.

Her story continued and she was obviously thrilled. She cried as she got to see her siblings and cousins she hadn’t seen in years. She sat and nodded as her life was narrated, hearing about former neighbors and coworkers from long ago. Despite the growing numbers of people who came out of that tiny kitchen, she was still surprised at seeing them walk out and toward her. I can still see the expression on her face, one of obvious shock and joy. The most emotional point was when my uncle read a “letter from his brother,” who lived four states away. The letter expressed his wish to be there and how much he was looking forward to seeing her and giving her a great big hug. Then, in game show style, our emcee announced, “That next time is here,” and out he came. This was then followed by his wife and son who also “couldn’t be there,” but then were.

This was a party to remember, one that could not be topped. It was in 1977. My grandmother was able to stay in touch with many of the people from her past for the years that followed. I was 10, but this day still sticks in my mind. People are important. Celebrating them is important.  Relationships are valuable. It is never too late to rekindle them.

3 out of #52essays2017

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