Archive for the ‘Family’ Category

The Personality Test

Wednesday, March 18, 2015
No Gravatar

I was feeling a bit stressed when my cell phone buzzed.

I gave it a brief glance thinking I wouldn’t answer. Then I noted that my 13-year old daughter was calling.

The clock showed 2:45, and she normally doesn’t call as soon as school lets out. I knew something had happened.

In that short span of time between noticing the caller i.d. and actually answering the phone,  I racked my brain for what I had, or hadn’t, done that had caused my latest parenting fail.

I expected drama on the other end of the phone. Instead, I got excitement.

My daughter was actually bubbling over with enthusiasm.

“Mom, she said, “we took a personality test in class today, and I’m an INFJ.”

She then regaled me with the positive and negative traits of her personality.

I was impressed. She WAS describing herself.

When she finally took a breath, she asked, “What are you?”

While I’ve taken the Myers Briggs test on more than one occasion, I couldn’t answer her question.

“I don’t know.” I said.

She was silent for a moment then said, “I thought you’d taken this test before.”

“It’s complicated,” I said.

I thought that put the matter to rest, but as soon as I said goodbye, my phone started buzzing again.

This time, I was receiving a text message from my husband.

“Your daughter and I are diplomats and your son is a virtuoso. Me – INFP; S- ISTP; K – INFJ.”

Despite my busy day at work, I felt compelled to text back.

“You bunch of introverts,” I replied.

My husband’s response was  predictable.

“What are you?”

I responded. “I forget.”

Here’s the thing. I hadn’t necessarily forgotten, I simply didn’t know.

On each occasion I’ve taken the Myers Briggs personality test, I’ve gotten a different answer.

That isn’t supposed to happen.

Personalities are supposed to be as stable as DNA. People are who they are. At least, they are who they are except for me.

While some people might think my inability to hold on to a defined personality means I’m unbalanced, I prefer to think that I’m a complicated individual who has a difficult time answering a question in a concrete manner.

There’s  always an “it depends.” It depends on the situation. It depends on my mood. Mostly, it depends on how much attention I’m actually paying to the questions being asked.  My mind has a tendency to wander when it comes to details.

My family wanted the details about my personality anyway.

I hadn’t even closed the garage door after arriving home from work when my daughter was already thrusting the computer at me. She insisted that I once again take the test.

As I did, she sat perched by my shoulder commenting on every answer.

The Question: “You usually think a lot before you speak.”

Me:” Disagree somewhat”

My daughter: “STRONGLY DISAGREE”

The Question: “You do not let your emotions show, even with close friends.”

Me: (I don’t have time to answer before my daughter yells).

My daughter: STRONGLY, STRONGLY, STRONGLY DISAGREE.

I began to think my daughter should just take the test for me, but instead we forged on together.

Later, I went back and took the test by myself. The result was the same.

For the moment, I’m an ENFP (Extraverted, Intuitive, Feeling, Perceiving). Apparently, that  means I have “extraverted intuition with introverted feeling.”

I have absolutely no idea what that means.

I’m hoping my daughter, the INFJ (the Introverted, Intuitive, Feeling, Judging) can explain it to me.

If not, I may just have to continue to stumble through life just being myself.

That has, after all, worked fairly well for the past 48 years.

Trina Bartlett lives with her husband, Giles Snyder, their teenage son and daughter, two cats and one enormous German Shepherd. When she’s not being a mom, volunteering, writing, biking or walking the giant German Shepherd, Trina works full time as a director at a nonprofit, social service organization.

The Button Box

Wednesday, March 11, 2015
No Gravatar

The button box wasn’t actually a box. It was a round basket in a strange shade of orange and gold.buttons

Despite its shape, we never called it the button basket. It was always the button box.

Growing up with a mother who wasn’t a collector of much of anything, the button box was magical to me.

If the weather was stormy or if I was stuck in bed with some childhood illness, I could spend hours going through the only treasure chest I knew. I would take off the lid, dip my hands into the jumbled contents, and let the buttons spill through my fingers as though they were precious jewels.

After admiring the contents, I would sort the buttons by color, size, and shape. Then I would create designs with the buttons while I imagine why they had landed in the button box. I became an archaeologist digging up my mother’s history by uncovering a small remnant of a favorite coat she no longer wore; the eyes of a stuffed animal from her childhood or the small pearl button from her high school prom dress.

I never wondered why my mom had collected so many buttons. I never even considered the possibility that she had an emotional attachment to the objects. She was a practical woman, and buttons were useful.

Except, most of the buttons in the button box weren’t very useful at all.

There were a few sets of buttons still packaged with price tags that were more reflective of the 1950’s than the 1970’s. Some buttons matched, but most were singularly odd: a red heart, a large black square, a plaid, cloth-covered disc. I couldn’t imagine my mother would sew them onto anything she was making or mending.

On  rare occasions, Mom would take out the button box, riffle through it, and pull out what she needed. More often, however, she went to the store and bought the exact buttons she wanted

And yet, she kept that box and saved those buttons because she considered them valuable. Then, she shared her treasure with me because she thought I was valuable too.

And that’s the magic of motherhood– the appreciation that the greatest gifts we pass on to our children aren’t the ones that cost money but instead are the ones that require us to give pieces of ourselves to the next generation.

The magic of childhood is appreciating those gifts.

And the magic of family is appreciating why those gifts are so important.

Trina Bartlett lives with her husband, Giles Snyder, their teenage son and daughter, two cats and one enormous German Shepherd. When she’s not being a mom, volunteering, writing, biking or walking the giant German Shepherd, Trina works full time as a director at a nonprofit, social service organization.

When Being Cold Became Cool

Wednesday, March 4, 2015
No Gravatar

My car dashboard indicated that the outside temperature was only two degrees, but the students streaming into the middle and high schools seemed almost oblivious,

Most were dressed in jeans and hoodies with no coats. A few of the boys  wore shorts, and a few girls wore skirts with no tights or leggings. Even in my warm car with heated seats, seeing those bare legs made me shiver.

Not one student wore a hat or gloves, although some had their hands shoved into pockets as they walked to school from a nearby neighborhood.

My own two children were only wearing light jackets, but at least they were wearing some type of outerwear, which was more than most of their peers. I felt a swell of parental pride as I dropped each of them off at their respective schools. They might not be wearing hats, but at least they both had enough sense to wear long sleeves and long pants.

Based on what most students were wearing that frigid morning, I’m guessing parents and common sense have an equal amount of influence over teenagers’ clothing choices. Gone are the times when we had could protect our children from harsh weather elements.

The day after my son was born in early April, I was preparing him to leave the hospital and head home for the first time.

The nurse charged with monitoring our departure was obviously displeased. Before I nestled Shepherd into his car seat, she intervened.

“Your not letting him go outside like that?” she asked with a distinct note of disapproval.

I looked at my son and simply nodded.

“There’s a chill in the air,” she declared as she picked up a blanket and tucked it around Shepherd with an expertise I was sure I’d never have.

I felt as thought I’d already flunked Motherhood 101. I hadn’t known that exposing my son’s bare face and hands to 60 degree weather was cause for alarm. If only I could have flashed forward almost 17 years, I would have been laughing at both the nurse and myself.

Babies are tough. Kids are tougher. And parents have to be the toughest of all, no matter what the weather.

We may have to be tough, but we don’t have to be cool since being cool apparently requires enduring frigid temperatures while pretending to be unaffected. I’m perfectly content to be the weird mom who covers herself in coats, scarfs, hats and gloves.

I have no need to be cold and no desire to be cool.

I do, however, have a burning desire to ensure my kids make decisions based on their own well-being rather than on the prevailing styles.

The light jackets they wore on that incredibly frigid morning indicate that I just may be making slight progress toward that goal.

Trina Bartlett lives with her husband, Giles Snyder, their teenage son and daughter, two cats and one enormous German Shepherd. When she’s not being a mom, volunteering, writing, biking or walking the giant German Shepherd, Trina works full time as a director at a nonprofit, social service organization.

Motherhood Test Anxiety

Wednesday, February 11, 2015
No Gravatar

Being a mom is like constantly suffering test anxiety.test_-_multiple_choice1

I should know.

Back in my student days, I hated taking tests. I always considered myself horrible at exams. That belief stemmed not from the scores I received but from the emotional turmoil I experienced before, during and even after tests.

Generally, I paid attention to lectures and completed most of the required reading. I usually studied and would actually feel fairly confident before a test. At least, I was confident until I took the risk of talking to other students. Their concerns about failure would immediately become mine. Then, the day of a test, I would listen to my classmates as they reviewed potential questions. If there was something I didn’t know, I could feel a sense of panic come over me. Even worse, if another class had already taken the same test and reported that the questions were unfair and impossible, I immediately became a nervous wreck.  Even after the test was over and I had done my best, I would second guess at least one or two answers.

My anxiety was never relieved until I actually had the results in hand.

Being a mom isn’t much different except that I’m never actually provided with the results. Instead, I feel as though I’m constantly preparing for a final exam that is always a day away.

No matter how much I think I know, it’s never enough. I often find myself listening to other moms talk about  how they handled a specific situation, and I feel like I’m that student who realized she studied for all the wrong questions. Even worse, the questions keep getting more difficult with time.

I remember years ago, when my son was just out of diapers and my daughter was still in them, the mother of two teenagers had an office next to mine. Instead of decorating with recent photos of her children, she had numerous photos of her son and daughter when they were very young.

Since I was at the stage when I was constantly bringing in updated photos of my children, I didn’t understand. So I asked.

“Those photos remind me when being a mom was so much easier,” she said. “They remind me of a time when I probably worried more about making mistakes but, in retrospect, the decisions I had to make were so much simpler.”

Now, more than a decade later, I completely understand.

Even if I had read every book and magazine article about parenting, I’m doubtful I would feel any more comfortable with some of the parenting tests I face on a regular basis.

As a mom, many of these tests are the same ones other parents face. But let’s face facts: cookie cutter approaches don’t work when it comes to our children. They have different personalities and different temperaments. Decisions I’ve made for my son are often the completely wrong decisions for my daughter. To make matters even more difficult, my children are reaching that age when their decisions, not mine, will define the direction of the rest of their lives.

All I can do is set parameters, try to help steer and hope for the best.

Those feelings will probably never go away entirely. My mom, who has been a mother fifty years this April, still expresses doubts about some of the parenting tests she faced.

When she does, I usually tell her that my brother and I turned out fine. We aren’t perfect, but we are well-educated, productive members of society. We may not live our lives exactly as she had hoped, but neither did we land in jail or become cruel, unkind people. The people that we did become are partly a result of genetics, partly a result of the parenting we received and partly a result of life circumstances. Mom only had significant influence over one of those factors.

While I think nothing of reminding my mother of that, I have to remember to be as kind to myself.

Being a mom isn’t a science, and each child is born with his or her own challenges. Most moms are just trying to help our children become the best people they can be.

If and when that happens, we shouldn’t consider ourselves deserving of an A plus grade. Instead, We should simply consider ourselves fortunate.

Trina Bartlett lives with her husband, Giles Snyder, their teenage son and daughter, two cats and one enormous German Shepherd. When she’s not being a mom, volunteering, writing, biking or walking the giant German Shepherd, Trina works full time as a director at a nonprofit, social service organization.

Alone On the Curb

Wednesday, January 21, 2015
No Gravatar

I have no doubt that every child who went to elementary school during the 1970’s experienced the same trauma I did. Fortunately, I only experienced it once – or at least I only remember one incident. There may have been more, but none has stuck with me like the one that occurred that day in second grade.

I remember feeling completely lost and alone as I sat on the curb waiting for a mom who hadn’t arrived.

I don’t remember why I had stayed after school. I just remember that I did and was quite excited to do so. Bon the curback in those days, afterschool activities weren’t the norm for the under ten crowd. We had music lessons and 4-H and Scouts, but none of those activities were associated with school and there was no such thing as afterchool care.

Whatever the reason my friends and I had stayed late, it must have been  a special occasion. I still remember chatting with my friends as we stood on the sidewalk by the playground fence waiting for our moms to pick us up. (In those days, the moms were always the ones who picked up the kids.)

As other moms began to drive up to the curb and my friends climbed into their cars (usually into the front seat, generally without seat belts and always with absolutely no concept of contraptions called car seats), our group got smaller and smaller and smaller.

Eventually, I was the only one still standing on the sidewalk until I tired of that and sat on the curb.

I know anyone born after 1980 is wondering where the adult supervision and teachers were. My answer is “I don’t know.”

Back in those days, vigilance didn’t exist like it does today, and teachers usually went home when the students did. There was a sense of trust in the parents and a sense of safety in daylight – especially in small towns. There was also a belief that situations usually worked themselves out.

Except when they didn’t.

As the sun started making its journey behind the Juniper-covered hills that surrounded the town in which I lived, I sat on the curb and waited. And waited. And waited.

Eventually, a teacher who had stayed late happened upon me as she walked to her car. She didn’t, however, see the same gravity in the situation that I did.

“What’s the matter?” she asked. “You look as though you lost your best friend.”

I remember contemplating her words. My good friends had all left me, but I didn’t think I’d actually lost them. But I didn’t share those thoughts. Instead, I told her I was waiting for my mom.

“Oh, I know your mom,” the teacher said. “I know she’ll be here soon.”

And she was right. My mom did arrive…eventually,

In those days before Google calendars and other electronic reminders, she had simply forgotten that she was supposed to pick me up at school. And, in those days before cell phones, answering machines and vigilant school personnel, I was powerless to remind her. Those things just happened to those of us who grew up in the 1970’s.

Mom may have told me why she didn’t worry when the bus arrived without me. Or she may have told me that she had a meeting and she thought she had babysitting duties covered. I don’t remember because her words never registered. I was too relieved and grateful that I wasn’t going to have to spend the night on the curb and wear the same clothes to school the next day.

I was reminded of this incident a few weeks ago as a read a post that has been recycled through social media a few times. It is a reminder of what would now be considered parenting fails but  were acceptable when I was young. And my generation survived anyway.

We didn’t wear bike helmets (although I do remember the humiliation of swimming caps). We played outside with no supervision (unless you count our dogs which all ran free without any type of fence – even electric.) And we weren’t electronically connected to everyone we knew.

If we were out of our parents sight, they never knew where we were, if we were safe or when we would actually arrive home.

I can’t imagine being a parent during that time period, and I give my parents kudos for being so strong.

Apparently, I am much weaker.

Both of my children have cell phones with which they use to constantly communicate with me.

I know if their plans have changed and they are going home with a friend after school. And when they text me such information, I can immediately text the friend’s parents to confirm.

I know when the band bus is running late or early, so I can arrive at the school in a timely manner. I don’t have to sit in a parking lot for hours waiting for a bus to arrive and imagining all that could possibly have gone wrong.

And I know that the school has my cell phone number so I don’t have to be sitting at my office desk to get a notice that my child is sick or is in detention (yes I have experienced that parental fail.)

Those of us who had the true 1970’s childhood experience may laugh at how much we protect our children these days, but deep in our hearts, we are also extremely grateful. Changes in technology and society ensure that our children will never be sitting alone on a curb waiting for a ride home.

And if that isn’t progress, I don’t know what is.

Trina Bartlett lives with her husband, Giles Snyder, their teenage son and daughter, two cats and one enormous German Shepherd. When she’s not being a mom, volunteering or writing, Trina works full time as a director at a nonprofit, social service organization.

Life with a 5-month-old baby

Monday, January 19, 2015
No Gravatar

The great unknown – that’s what I considered my future when I was pregnant. I had no idea what life would be like with a baby. So, instead of consulting a psychic and a crystal ball, I read mommy blogs. My favorite? “Day in the life” posts. I read them all: stay-at-home moms, working moms, work-from-home moms and everything in between. For me, it’s reassuring to see that I’m not alone in having weeks of clean laundry living in a pile in my laundry room, or that in that “cooking dinner” is sometimes throwing in a frozen pizza. So here it is, your stereotypical “day in the life” post. If hearing about how long it takes me to get out of the house in the morning isn’t your cup of tea, then I suggest you stop reading now. I don’t pretend that my days are especially difficult or original; I would say they are pretty average (or below average!). Enjoy…

  • 3:00 a.m. Wake up to baby crying on the monitor. Change diaper, nurse baby. She luckily goes right back to sleep. Crawl back in bed.
  • 5:30 a.m. Wake up to baby crying on the monitor. Chris gets up, changes her diaper, and brings her to me to nurse. Then he takes her downstairs to eat breakfast and I get in the shower. The day has begun!
  • 6:05 a.m. Realize I am not in the shower but still in bed. Actually get up and get into the shower.
  • 6:30 a.m. Chris passes AJ on to me. Take her downstairs with me to eat breakfast (cereal) and make coffee.
  • 6:45 a.m. Back upstairs to finish getting ready. Put AJ in her bouncer chair and she watches me put on makeup and do my hair. Talk nonsense to keep AJ entertained, topics range from how to put on mascara to why I love Taylor Swift. Then Chris picks her up and changes her into her clothes for the day.
  • 7:15 a.m. Finished getting ready. Wonder how early I am going to have to get up once AJ is mobile and I have to chase her around all morning. Go downstairs and pack my pumping gear; Chris gets AJ’s bottles ready. Say goodbye to Chris and AJ (he takes her to daycare) and leave for work.
  • 7:34 a.m. Walk into work (thankful for a short commute).
  • 7:34 – 8:30 a.m. Emails, read news, to-do list, coffee.
  • 8:30 a.m. Pumping time. Bring computer into the motherhood room with me so I can continue working.
  • 9:00 a.m. – 10:45 a.m. Work. Return phone calls, write emails, tackle to-do list.
  • 10:45 a.m. Pump again, earlier than normal because I have an off-site meeting during lunch.
  • 11:15 a.m. – 1:30 p.m. Off-site lunch meeting.
  • 2:30 p.m. Pump.
  • 3:00 p.m. Work.
  • 4:30 p.m. Leave work to pick up AJ at daycare. Wonder if she will still be in the clothes she arrived in (it’s about a 50/50 chance). She is!
  • 5:15 p.m. Arrive home after a car ride of AJ crying. I think she prefers 102.7 to NPR. Lament that it takes me 10 minutes to get to work and 45 to get home. Throw on black yoga pants and a T-shirt and immediately change AJ and get her in the bath, something we’ve been doing to combat cold and flu season.
  • 5:45 p.m. AJ is out of the bath, toweled, diapered, lotioned and PJ’ed. Nurse her. Chris gets home around this time.
  • 6:15 p.m. Chris plays with AJ while I tackle dinner. Despite not having been to the grocery store in ages, decide that we absolutely cannot eat out and scrounge the fridge for something edible. Surprisingly come up with an egg, cheese and Quinoa combination with a side of green beans and a slice (or three) of bacon.
  • 7:15 p.m. Eat dinner, then play with AJ. Make lots of funny faces, help her sit up, and listen to the chirps and squeals of her toys. Chris cleans up and washes the dirty bottles and pumping accessories.
  • 7:40 p.m. AJ gets fussy and I know the reason. So it’s upstairs for bedtime, which involves nursing, lullabies and rocking.
  • 8:30 p.m. AJ decided to rally and is wide-awake. Give up on the rocking and take her into our bedroom, where she falls asleep to the sounds of the previous night’s episode of Modern Family.
  • 9:00 p.m. Put AJ in her crib and creep out as quietly as possible. Choose bill paying over laundry folding for my end-of-the-evening activity. Wish that a wiggle of my nose would transfer the two baskets of clean, unfolded clothes neatly into drawers.
  • 10:00 p.m. Wash face, brush teeth, and call it a night.

Sprinkle in a few meltdowns and a diaper run here and there, and this is my typical day with my 5-month-old. The weekdays go by incredibly fast, and the weekends even faster.

#Horriblemom

Wednesday, January 14, 2015
No Gravatar

Of my many flaws, believing that I only have a few isn’t one of them.

On the flip side, I’m very, very good finding fault in almost everything I do.

It’s a trait that I come by honestly – it was passed down by the maternal side of my family, but I’m not sure whether its longevity is linked more to nature or nurture. While my mother and grandmother excelled at identifying their own weaknesses, they were less successful at keeping those discoveries to themselves.

I am cursed by these same behaviors.

As a little girl, I  grew up hearing my mother talk about her mistakes, missteps and misfortunes. When I became a teenager, she no longer had to point them out because I did an outstanding job of doing that for her.  Now, I just point out my own.

And even though I’m well aware of the warnings from psychologists and child development experts that we can damage our children when we speak poorly of ourselves, I do it anyway.

And yes, my children picked up on my behavior. What they haven’t done is repeat it. Perhaps their father’s side of the family is more dominant than mine, because they haven’t even taken my concerns about my inadequacies very seriously.

Instead, they’ve turned them into a running joke

When I started saying “I’m a horrible mom,” to note that I had experienced a parenting fail, they quickly picked up on the phrase.

When I expressed dismay or worry about a decision, one of them would say “Hash Tag Horrible Mom.” They found it so amusing that they began using it as the punctuation mark to most of my sentences – almost as a sign of affection.

And while I may suffer from an intense need to openly identify all my faults, I don’t lack a sense of humor.

That means I can not only appreciate how ridiculous I can be, I can also have fun.

And so it was last Sunday night when my daughter and her BFF were trying to complete a display for their social studies fair project. I tried to assist as needed, but I was actually contributing to the silliness as much, if not more, than they were.

I was attempting to restore some order to the overly loud and raucous high -jinks, when my daughter  played the Celine Dion song “My Heart Will Go On.” Kendall knows none of us can be serious when that song plays – especially since her brother shared Matt Mulholland’s  You Tube video “My Heart Will Go On – By Candlelight.”  (My Heart Will Go On – By Candlelight)

As soon as the first sorrowful notes began to play, I stopped in mid reprimand to launch into song – complete with overly dramatic arm gestures and facial expressions. The girls joined in, and the social studies project was forgotten.

At least, it was forgotten until my husband marched into the family room to complain about the noise level, of which I was a primary contributor.

When he left the room, I muttered “what a grumpy dad” under my breath.

The girls picked up on my words immediately. “Hash Tag Horrible Mom Hash Tag Grumpy Dad,” they said. The line has stuck.

Ironically, I no longer consider their words to be a reminder of our faults.

Instead, they are a reminder that, even though we may do many things wrong, my husband and I have obviously done just as many things right.

We encourage our children to pursue their passions. We help with school projects.  And, perhaps most important, we have a home that promotes creativity and freedom of expression (within reason of course).

If the worst my children can say about us is “Hash Tag Horrible Mom and Hash Tag Grumpy Dad,” then I maybe I should start ending my sentences with “#notsohorribleofamomafterall.”

Trina Bartlett lives with her husband, Giles Snyder, their teenage son and daughter, two cats and one enormous German Shepherd. When she’s not being a mom, volunteering or writing, Trina works full time as a director at a nonprofit, social service organization.

Time Warp

Wednesday, December 31, 2014
No Gravatar

Tradition demands that every new year, I take time to reminisce about the past 365 days and  look forward to the next 365 days.2015

And so I do.

But what tradition seems to forget is that the older I get, the more quickly the years fly by and lose their distinct identities.

Instead, they blend together into a colorful yet unfinished collage of meaningful, embarrassing, sad, silly, joyful and hopeful moments that comprise my personal history and therefore, whom I am.

Only years of significant life events maintain their autonomy: the year I graduated from high school, the year I got married and the years my children were born are all still etched in my brain. Everything else is marked by “before” and “after.” If  I didn’t have those markers, I think I would lose track of time completely.

Just this past week, I found a wedding invitation from 2010 that caught me completely off guard. I was sure the wedding had been, at most, two years ago. I clearly remembered what I wore, the conversations my husband and friends had and the emotions of the day.  Yet, in my memory, my daughter had been older, I had been younger and the event had much more recent.

After convincing myself that my internal calendar can no longer be relied upon, I also realized how unimportant that really is.

The event itself and the memories it generated are what are truly important. The wedding was memorable and holds a special place in the patchwork of moments that comprise my life.

My children are now starting into that phase when they will be defining their own significant years. In approximately 365 days, as the calendar turns to 2016, my son will be celebrating the year he graduates from high school. I have no doubt that will also be a year that marks “before” and “after” for me as well.

But, unlike the years before I had children, I will now appreciate and celebrate the small and big moments during that year, not that date itself. Moments, not a four digit number, are what define me, my family and my life.

The four digit number just provides that reminder.

Happy 2015. May it be full of memorable moments that make you smile, laugh and treasure your life, those you love and the joy of living.

Time Travel

Wednesday, December 17, 2014
No Gravatar

I think my daughter’s obsession with Dr. Who is what prompted my husband to ask me the question.

“What period of time would you travel back to if you could?” he asked.

I didn’t give his question much thought.

“I wouldn’t,” I said.

My husband, an avid history buff who thought I shared his interest, looked puzzled.

“I wouldn’t want to deal with being a woman during any time but the present,” I said flatly.

My response may have been a reaction to the fact I had just finished Stephen King’s 11-22-63, in which a man travels back in time to try to prevent the Kennedy assassination. While King’s novel is a work a fiction, he paints a clear picture of how different life was for women even during those relatively modern days. He didn’t so much inform as remind me.

While I don’t have a time machine per se, I have something almost as good. I have a baby book, which my mother used to document the first few years of my life – a time about which I have no memories. When I browse through it, I am not only carried back in time, I am reminded of how expectations of women have changed greatly during the last 50 years.

Take, for example, my birth announcement.IMG_1babybook3

Considering whom my mother was and whom I would become, the announcement could not have been more ridiculous. It featured a toddler in a crown and a sash with the words “Our New Miss America is Finally Here.” I’m quite certain my mother never would have forgiven herself had her daughter grown up with any desire to enter beauty contests. I’m just as certain that the available birth announcements in rural Montana in early 1967 were quite limited, so she probably didn’t have much choice.

Just as she probably had no choice about how her name would be listed in the hospital announcements in the local newspaper. Instead of having her own name listed, she was listed as my father’s wife. She was the one who had endured nine months of pregnancy and the birth, but my father was basically given credit.

baby book 2Now, nearly 48 years later, I don’t even have my husband’s last name, and few people question that. Nor do they question the endless possibilities for my smart and talented daughter who recently leafed through the pages of my baby book with a mix of interest and disbelief.

Apparently, her interest in time travel isn’t limited to Dr. Who, but I’m fairly certain she finds a great deal more potential in the future than in the past.

And that is exactly as life should be.

The Naked Christmas Tree

Wednesday, December 10, 2014
No Gravatar

There is a naked fir tree in my living room right now. Well, it’s not completely naked. A  few lights  are strung around its fragrant limbs, but the lights aren’t on so the tree looks much the same as it did on a hilly farm only days agochristmas tree

My family hasn’t had time to decorate. We barely even found the time together to get the tree. Our days of leisurely trips to the tree farm are long gone. Choosing the tree has become a mission that must be executed with precision to insure we all make our next appointment or activity.

Every time I pass by the living room, the naked tree serves as a reminder of life as it is today: more things to do than we have time to do, the energy and opportunity to do them and an appreciation that the fullness of each and every day.

The unpacked brown cardboard boxes and plastic crates that surround the tree serve as reminders of life as it once was. Most of our holidays decorations and ornaments represent a person, an event, a pet, an interest or a special occasion. Collectively, they  have written the history of my family’s life. Almost every object has a story that we read each December, put in a place of honor then pack away for eleven months only to be taken out the next year and read again.

Our new kitten Artemis, who adopted us a couple of months ago, serves as a reminder that life will be different in the years to come.  In fewer than 24 months, Artemis will be a full-grown cat who may or may not be jumping at the limbs of the Christmas tree and poking her pink nose into the boxes of decorations. My son will be in college and may or may not be participating in the family’s annual pilgrimage to get the tree. And I’ll be older and  shaped by circumstances I can’t even begin to predict today.

There is a naked fir tree in my living room right now, but it won’t remain naked much longer. Soon, it will be decorated, glowing and the center of celebration. After the presents are opened, the cookies eaten and the holiday meals enjoyed, it will stand in my living room for a few more days, but it won’t receive the attention it once did. If history holds true, we will forget to water the tree, and the needles will dry up and start to fall out.

By New’s Year Day, the ornaments will once again be packed up, the tree will be dragged to the curb and the needles will be vacuumed. All that will remain of this year’s Christmas tree will be photos, a few ornaments and the memories attached to both.

Time marches on, and change is a constant. We can’t hold on to the past, and we shouldn’t try. But we can hold on to traditions. They are the architects of memories and the link between the past and the future. They can also be found anywhere we can find family – even in a naked Christmas tree.