Archive for the ‘Trina Bartlett’ Category

The Birthday Present

Wednesday, February 25, 2015
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As a kid, I loved my birthday.

I loved getting special attention, eating cake, opening presents and even having the occasional birthday party. In the birthdaydark ages when  I was growing up, we didn’t expect birthday parties every year, and we certainly didn’t expect elaborate parties. Our moms blew up a few balloons and invited the neighbor kids over to play games and eat homemade birthday cake.

After I hit the magical age of 21, I cared less and less about birthdays. By the time I was 30, everyone expected me to be in a bad mood on the day I was expected to celebrate.

To me, birthdays were simply  reminders that I was getting older and hadn’t achieved as much as someone my age should have.

I had come to adopt my father’s philosophy about birthdays. He always wondered why we made such a big deal about the day we were born when we didn’t do any of the actual work.

The year that he and my mother were married, he actually sent flowers to my grandmother on my mom’s birthday thanking her what had happened 25 years earlier, Apparently, my grandmother thought he was a little strange, so he never sent her flowers again.  But he did continue to raise the same questions from time to time.

I embraced my dad’s philosophy before and after I had my own children.

I considered throwing birthday parties for my kids to be the ultimate test of parenthood. Like most tests, they kept me up at night with worry,and I never enjoyed them. I just didn’t get why birthdays were such a big deal.

That changed a few days ago with one phone call

My friend Stefani, who had been battling cancer for years, had been given 48 hours to live during the week when I was turning 48 years old.

My friend, who threw amazing birthday parties for her daughters and who celebrated her life to the fullest, died the week when I was prepared to once again complain that I was yet another year older.

My friend, who  had grown to  appreciate the importance of holding our children close, celebrating every moment and creating memories that can live beyond our last breath, gave me one last birthday present.

She reminded me that birthdays aren’t intended to be a reminder of our march toward old age but are actually intended to be a celebration of survival, perseverance and the people who have loved and  supported us during those difficult times.

This year, I’m celebrating my birthday because I know Stef would have excepted nothing less.

Here’s to you Stef.

Cheers.

 

The Great Snow Shovel Showdown

Wednesday, February 18, 2015
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snowmageddonI am once again braced for the drama that winter’s harsh storms bring to my neighborhood.

My caution doesn’t stem from concern about breaking bones when I slip on ice – even though that is a likely outcome every time there’s a snow storm. I’ve broken bones in both of my hands and still have scars from a shattered wrist, a result of my general lack of grace on ice.

Nor is my concern about getting into a car accident – although I have had numerous close calls on snow-packed roads.

Instead, I am on high alert with the realization that I MUST be the first in my neighborhood to clear the driveway. Anything else is an indication of my failure to accept my neighbors’ challenge for a snow shovel showdown.

My husband claims that I’m imagining such a competition and insists I’m using it as an excuse to once again indulge my tendency to be a bit obsessive.

While I admit to being obsessive, I am also very observant. Since I walk my German Shepherd every day before dawn and again after work, I know the rhythm of the neighborhood. I know who goes to work early, who works a strange schedule and who doesn’t work at all. I know who takes meticulous care of their yard and who takes shortcuts. I know who is friendly, who likes dogs and who pretends they have no neighbors at all. I also know which  neighbors are avid competitors in the snow shovel showdown.

They are the individuals who keep close tabs on the latest weather report to determine the precise time they should tackle their driveway. Their mission? To ensure their driveway is black asphalt bordered with piles of snow by the time the first car drives by.

A few years ago, some neighbors tried to gain an unfair advantage by purchasing snow blowers that created perfectly straight lines along their driveways rather than the uneven mounds of snow. Since no one in my neighborhood has a particularly long or unwieldy driveway, the straight edges of snow never gained any respect.

What does gain respect is the sound of a snow shovel scraping pavement.

I woke to that sound the other morning after a recent snow fall and immediately recognized it as a call to arms.

I should have known my next-door neighbor would be out before me.

The night before, I had heard a strange noise and asked my husband to verify my suspicions. I called him to the bedroom window to peer into the quickly fading light and watch my neighbor walking up and down his driveway.

He was getting a jump start on clearing his driveway by using a leaf blower to remove the snow as soon as it fell. A leaf blower wouldn’t leave the evidence of cheating hat a snow blower does.

I lay awake most of the night listening for any additional sounds of someone getting a head start on their driveway until I finally fell asleep to the sounds of the city snow plow. I actually dreamed about shoveling snow, so I shouldn’t have been surprised to wake up to the sound of scrape, scrape sound of metal on asphalt.

While I would have preferred to wrap myself tighter in my blankets and stay in bed, I am just too competitive.

I jumped out of bed and pulled on tights, leggings, wool socks, two shirts, a coat, gloves and a hat. I was prepared to tackle the driveway in five degree weather.

Rodney, the German Shepherd, had other ideas. He was prepared to go for his normal, morning walk. Since the kids didn’t have to go to school and my husband didn’t have to leave for work until much later in the day, I didn’t want Rodney whining and barking, And so, I took him for a short spin around the neighborhood. Unfortunately, that drastically set me back on my driveway clearing schedule.

By the time we returned, my neighbor’s driveway was already cleared.

I didn’t see him gloat, but neither did I see any cars drive by.

If I hurried to clear our driveway, no one would know what had transpired.  Neither would they know that I already have my eye on this weekend’s forecast for more snow. I’ve always been a really early riser on weekends.

Game on.

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
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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.

Three’s a Crowd

Wednesday, January 28, 2015
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Here’s a secret about being a parent: sometimes we say the most when we say nothing at all.

The older I’ve gotten, the more I’ve recognized that what I value most wasn’t inspired by words but rather by unstated expectations.

For example, I don’t remember my parents ever telling me I should go to college. I just knew that’s what I should do after I graduated from high school. I also just knew that I shouldn’t get married until I was capable of supporting myself. I never believed I should define myself by a relationship or that money mattered more than kindness.

And I never, ever believed I should have more than two children.

My husband, Giles, thought otherwise.

Perhaps our difference stemmed from the fact that I grew up in a family of two children and he grew up in a family of three.

Whatever the reason, he thought we should have three children. Since I’m the one who got pregnant and gave birth, my opinion ruled.

Maybe that’s why he decided that, since I had put my foot down about the number of human children, he should have the final word about the number of furry children in our home.

He knows how much I love animals and about my desire to adopt any stray that shows up at our door…or in the neighborhood… or in the park… or on the side of the road.

And so, he made a rule that, unless we moved to a farm, we could never have more than two pets at one time.

Having grown up in a family that never had more than one furry child at a time, I thought his decree was more than fair  (even though I did attempt to circumvent it a time or two).

Ironically, Giles is the one who broke his own rule.

Initially, he was irritated when I called him before six in the morning. I was attempting to walk our German Shepherd Rodney when a black and white kitten approached. Unlike most cats, especially our fat, grey tortoiseshell cat Skitty, the little kitten actually seemed to like Rodney. And that was the problem.

It wouldn’t leave us alone, so I called Giles.

“Just walk away from it,” he said.

“I can’t,” I replied. It won’t let us. No matter where we go, it follows us.”

“Where are you now?” he asked.

“In our driveway,” I said.

When he said “O.K.,” I assumed that meant he was coming out to help.

I was wrong.

I called him again.

“Where are you now?” he asked.

“Still in the driveway,” I answered. I heard him sigh, but eventually the garage door opened.

If our lives were movies, romantic music would have swelled in the background when he first saw the kitten. It was love at first sight. He scooped her up in his arms and told me to walk Rodney.

By the time we got back from our walk, Giles was asking me to call the vet to make an appointment.

Several months have passed since Artemis joined our family. She’s still cute, she still loves Rodney and Rodney still loves her. He’s especially delighted that tiny Artemis not only acknowledges his presence (unlike her feline older sister Skitty), she is also willing to  roughhouse with him (completely unlike Skitty).

And therein lies the problem.threes a crowd

Before we adopted Artemis, Rodney and Skitty had come to understanding.

Skitty couldn’t stand Rodney, and Rodney knew it. Because of that, he didn’t bother her.

But now that one cat will play with him, our German Shepherd thinks the other one should too. He has become that annoying younger brother who constantly teases and provokes his older sister.

Giles and I are now breaking up fights between the fat grey cat and the large, overly enthusiastic dog several times a day. He pokes at her, she hisses back and chaos ensues.

At these times, I am reminded of my insistence to only have two human children. Maybe I was reacting to more than just an unstated expectation from my parents. Maybe, just maybe, I realized that life would be much more difficult if Giles and I were out-numbered.

In my family, sometimes three really can be a crowd.

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.

Alone On the Curb

Wednesday, January 21, 2015
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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.

#Horriblemom

Wednesday, January 14, 2015
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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
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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.

The Charity Case

Wednesday, December 24, 2014
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I was ready to shut down my computer, turn out the lights and leave my office for a much-needed holiday break.

Then, our office doorbell rang, and I knew I had to answer it. With less than 36 hours before Christmas, I also knew I wouldn’t be able to help whomever was at the door. The Christmas donations had been distributed, our emergency assistance dollars were expended, the case manager was gone until Monday and the immigration attorney, who fills limitless roles, was on her way out the door with me.

I answered the door anyway.

To my surprise, the person ringing the bell wasn’t a client. Instead, it was Kathy, a volunteer who was working with a homeless woman who had no place to go for Christmas.

Fortunately, I was able to help Kathy access the necessary resources so the woman would have a warm room for the holiday. With that done, I was once again ready to leave my office. That’s when Kathy asked in a rather off-hand manner if I knew a man named “Ed.” When I said his name was familiar, she gave me a knowing smile.

She described a homeless man who wanders through our community wearing open-toed shoes even in winter.

“He’s living in a barn,” she said. She described his circumstances, I expressed my concerns and we parted ways.

Only when I was driving home did I appreciate what she had told me. There is a homeless man walking around my community wearing open-toed shoes, living in a barn and teaching people like me a lesson.

I needed that lesson.

I spent the last few weeks looking forward to the holidays not because they remind me of the blessings of charity and love but because I’m exhausted and ready for some time off work. I’ve told myself that I’ve made a career of charity and therefore deserve a break. I’ve been ignoring the fact that, for the most part, my life has been one big break.

For some people, a break isn’t the luxury of a few days of sleeping in, the opportunity to curl up with a good book or time with family.

For some people, a break is a hot meal, a warm bed or a kind soul who spends time listening.

For some people, a break is help paying an electric bill so the power isn’t shut off during the holidays.

And for some people, a break is an opportunity to pay it forward.

People who pay it forward are the reason I even have a job.

Just a few weeks ago, a check arrived from a man who received assistance from Catholic Charities WV (where I work) when he was down on his luck. The check was for the exact amount we had helped with his electric bill.

There was no note attached. His check said everything.

It said that charity is rooted in the words “to love,” and  that love demands that we share our gifts with others.

It was also a reminder that each of us, at some point in our lives, is a  charity case.

Some of us might be homeless.

Some of us might need help with our electric bills.

And some of us might get so caught up in the demands of daily living that we  forget how fortunate we  really are.

Thankfully, all of us, no matter what are resources or circumstances, are just as capable of giving and receiving charity.

This holiday season, I wish everyone that joy.

Time Travel

Wednesday, December 17, 2014
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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
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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.