Posts Tagged ‘Relationships’

A Nod in Disagreement

Thursday, August 21, 2014
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“Some people just shouldn’t have children,” the elderly gentleman said as he looked around the table waiting for a response from everyone else in the meeting.

I felt my head automatically nod in agreement.

I’ve witnessed parents who are addicted to drugs and alcohol and fail to care for their children. I’ve observed self-absorbed parents who put their own desires above those of their children. And I’ve spent time with parents who, for whatever reason, can’t meet the basic needs of  food, shelter and safety for their children.

And so, I nodded. At least, I started to nod.

I stopped when the gentleman called out another woman, “You’re a Catholic. You aren’t supposed to be agreeing with me.”

I was caught short not because he was questioning the woman’s faith but because I recognized the hypocrisy of my own reaction.

I was making a blanket judgement about people I don’t even know based on my own experiences and values.

I can’t stand when other people do that.

I said as much when driving back from the  meeting with a co-worker who shared my discomfort.

“I was working in a group home for single mothers,” she said, “when I confronted a pregnant mom who was slapping and yelling at her toddler as a means of discipline. When I questioned her behavior, her reaction stunned me. She told me, ‘my mom used to beat me and I turned out o.k.’  She truly believed she’d turned out o.k. I wanted her to do a reality check based on her current circumstances, but in her mind, she was doing  o.k.”

My co-worker and I didn’t talk for a few minutes as we both thought about the middle-class families with middle-class values in which we’d grown up.

Our parents were involved in our education and expected us to pursue college.

Our families encouraged us to improve our circumstances and set our goals high.

And our communities applauded our efforts to pursue dreams that may or may not have been realistic.

Some people might say we didn’t dream very hard. My co-worker and I chose career paths that don’t involve lots of money, moving in circles with high-powered individuals or traveling to exotic locations. We interact daily with individuals who can’t even imagine such a life. Our work mandates that we accept people where they are and help them decide if they want to take steps to move forward. We can’t make them change any more than other people can force us to change. But we can suggest, guide and educate.

The work is similar to that of a parent trying to help our children navigate an environment in which they interact daily with children whose parents have different values and standards.

But as parents, we do that anyway.

For those of us who had great role models, we can only hope we can pass on the wisdom that was instilled in us.

For those who have never had such great role models, we can only hope that we can provide empathy and  understanding and appropriate guidance. We certainly can’t tell other parents they should never have had children or even agree with someone who makes such a blanket statement.

That’s because every time we nod in agreement with people who judge others, we are widening the distance between people. That doesn’t mean we believe everyone should be a parent. There are obviously people who just don’t have the interest or the capacity. But once they are parents, we certainly can’t turn our backs or point fingers.

We may not all  see the world in the same way, but instead of only nodding along with those who think and act like us, we need to step toward, rather than away from, people who are different than we are. When we do that, the odds are much higher that we can together build a better world for the next generation

 

Fuzzy Truths, Fake Beards and Imaginary Poison Ivy

Wednesday, July 16, 2014
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I’ve come to realize that  being a parent sometimes requires creating your own version of the truth.

I should have caught on at least 45 years ago, but I can sometimes be a slow learner.poison ivy

When I was a little girl, my dad provided a running commentary about the dangers of my behavior.  He said my skin would turn green if I ate too much pea soup. If I swallowed a watermelon seed, he informed me that it might take root in my stomach and start to grow there.  He warned me of that dangers of crossing my eyes in the car because if we hit a  bump, my eyes would stay crossed forever. And, according to him, if I didn’t go to the bathroom when the urge hit, I would suffer some miserable but unnamed disease as an adult.

I listened to him with a cautious ear. I didn’t necessarily believe that everything he said was entirely true, but neither did I want to test the veracity. By the age of five, I’d  decided to err on the side of caution by avoiding anything potentially harmful. Generally, that wasn’t a bad thing, but there were times my fear interfered with my quality of life.

I feared eating any mushrooms because my dad had told me some mushrooms were poisonous. I refused to even try  jerky because Dad said if people didn’t prepare it properly, it could cause food poisoning. And I looked at all greens suspiciously because I had been warned on multiple occasions to never eat rhubarb leaves.

But nothing scared me more than a warning that came not from my father but from another man – a complete stranger who pretended he was worried about my well-being. In reality, he was worried about his store. I don’t remember the name of the store, but I do remember it was a large one in another town and that my entire family was there. For some reason, my brother Sean and I were alone when we spotted the larger the life-sized fake Santa Claus, and Sean dared me to touch its beard. I took on the challenge, reached up and ran my fingers through St Nick’s most famous feature. I was surprised that it wasn’t soft at all. Instead, it was stiff, wiry and apparently off-limits to children.

At least that’s what the store manager told me when he marched over and ordered me to take my hands off Santa’s beard. His tone of voice intimidated me, but his words were downright scary. “That beard is made out of poison ivy,”  he said. “It’s made out of poison ivy so people won’t touch it.”

I had no idea what poison ivy looked like, but I knew it made a person itch. And for months, I itched everywhere and was convinced that I had a case of poison ivy. By the time I realized that there was absolutely no way that poison ivy would ever be used as material for a fake Santa Claus beard, the incident was well in my past and I had realized that people sometimes manipulate the truth.

Sometimes, they do it to protect their children and sometimes they do it to protect family and holiday traditions like Santa Claus, the Easter Bunny and the Tooth Fairy. And sometimes they do it to protect themselves.

I never thought I’d be one of those people who lie to protect themselves, but apparently I am.

I’ve always prided myself with being open about any topic with my children. But a few weeks ago, my daughter Kendall and I were having a meaningful conversation about tough issues when she asked me a question that I couldn’t honestly answer. Telling her the truth would open the door to so many more questions - how could I be such a hypocrite? How could I set different expectations for my kids than I did for myself?

And so, on the spur of the moment, I lied.

Now I wish I hadn’t, and I’ve battled with myself over the decision. During this same time, I’ve also managed to get a  real case of poison ivy because I refused to let the plant take over my rhododendron bush.

Since I will forever associate poison ivy with lies that adults tell kids, I can’t help but note the irony of the situation.

My daughter, who is oblivious of my lie or my subsequent internal turmoil, thinks I made way too big an issue over the poison ivy. According to her, I if had  just left it alone, I wouldn’t be so miserable.

She’s probably right.

But like I said, I can be a slow learner.

The Empty Lot

Tuesday, June 10, 2014
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The small house was torn down only a few weeks ago, and already there are few signs it ever existed. Grass and clover cover the empty lotare growing where the foundation once was, and there is no indication of the fence that bordered the small yard.

Now, it is just an empty lot.

Maybe someday the area will be used for  a garden or a new structure, but the space will never be the same again.

The destroyed house shouldn’t even be on my radar. When it was standing, it meant no more to me than a random stop where my dogs sometimes greeted the dog on the other side of the fence. Soon, I won’t even notice the changed landscape during my short, daily commute to work. I will accept the space for what it is: the status quo.

Yet, the destruction of the house has been weighing on my mind like the rapid progress of time, the growing independence of my children and the aging of my parents.

Maybe that’s because its destruction was timed perfectly with my son attending his first real graduation party – not one for a family friend but one for a friend no one else in our family knows.

Dropping him off at the party reminded me of dropping him off for his first day of kindergarten almost eleven years ago.

For months, people had been asking me if I was ready, and I blew off their concerns. I didn’t understand why they thought kindergarten was so significant. Both of my children had been in day care since they were toddlers, and I thought kindergarten was no different from day care.

Only it wasn’t.

On that first day of kindergarten, his teacher didn’t know my name. The school personnel didn’t know my son’s unique issues or about his contagious sense of humor. He was just another little boy who needed to be taken out of his car seat, encouraged to wave goodbye to his mother and walked into his classroom.

And I, his mother, couldn’t even watch him walk away. The woman working the carpool line frantically waved me to move on as the tears trickled down my cheek .

Now, my son’s public school education is quickly coming to a close. This coming school year, he will be a junior, which is considered an upperclassman. He is already talking about colleges and moving out of our house – which is exactly what I want him to do. I have no desire to have a 30 year-old son still living in my basement and depending on me to do his laundry.

And yet, there is a part of me that is sitting in my car watching my 5  year-old son take a teacher’s hand and walk into doors which lead to a world over which I have no control. And I can still feel the tears trickling down my cheek as I realize that my children, like time, grow, change and move on without me.

I can’t control my children’s growth or the rapid flip of the calendar any more than I can control the landscape I pass every day on my way to and from work.

What I can do is appreciate the potential.

Roses might bloom in that now empty lot. Or a  young couple might build a house and start a family there. Or the lot might remain one of few empty green spaces where people can walk their dogs while enjoying fresh air.

But I have no doubt that the space is destined for something meaningful that will make the world a better place.

Just as I believe my children are destined to make a positive  mark on this ever-changing world.  And like the empty lot, their quickly fading childhood needs to be appreciated rather than mourned, celebrated instead of regretted and, most of all, serve as the foundation for something even greater.

 

Out of the Box

Wednesday, May 14, 2014
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I felt like climbing into a box, pulling a lid over  it and hiding from the world. Needless to say, I was having one of those days when out of the boxnothing goes as planned and everything goes wrong.

On the hottest day of the year so far, the air conditioning at work was broken, and I had to change my schedule to wait for the repairman. The finance office was asking about checks we had issued more than a year ago, and I was dealing with an unhappy volunteer.

Since the box wasn’t an option (and would probably have been even hotter than my office), I considered screaming, but that wouldn’t have been very productive either. Nor did I have the option of  going home to a partner who could sympathize with me. So I just dealt with each issue as best I could. Then went home to a husband was walking out the door on his way to work after having fixed dinner for our kids.

Such has been my less than traditional life for the past ten years when my husband took at job that required him to work evenings and weekends.

It’s a life that has its ups: a parent has almost always been home when the kids are off school or need transportation. It’s also a life that has its downs: there is generally only one parent available for two kids, and our time together as a family is very, very limited – even on holidays. And sometimes, it’s down right painful.

I will never forget the women at church who made the snide comment “at least my husband comes to church.” I kept my mouth shut (unusual for me), but what I wanted to say was “It’s kind of hard for him to deliver a national news broadcast from a church pew.”

Her comment  represented what my out of the ordinary life has taught me over the past ten years:  even though our lives, our families and our children often don’t fit into a neat package with a label, society operates as if they should.

I like proving they shouldn’t.

When people automatically assume that my teenage son plays sports, I take pride in telling them that he has other interests.

When people assume that my daughter is at an age when she feels the need to follow the crowd, I like talking about how she boasts about being a nerd who loves science fiction.

And when people assume that my husband and I have time together on the weekend, I appreciate how his strange hours have made me so incredibly independent.

I realize that the boxes in which we put people and situations can be comforting, but some things were never meant to fit in a box.  And even when they do, they usually aren’t very useful.

In fact, I’ve yet to find anything that works best when it is still in a box, even when I feel like hiding in one.

Getting out of the box, tearing off the labels and making every situation our own is when great things happen.

Or as my mother used to tell me, “Just remember that Albert Einstein was never called normal.”

And I’m pretty sure she’s proud that I haven’t been either.

Lovesick

Wednesday, May 7, 2014
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My daughter, who is in seventh grade, joined Facebook on Saturday.lovesick

On Tuesday, an eighth grade boy was messaging her with professions of love. (No, they didn’t meet on Facebook. They are in show choir together and he apparently “fell in love” with her during auditions .)

Instead of calling or texting her friends, she turned me for advice. I couldn’t have felt more important, so I didn’t have the heart to tell her that I was probably the last person who could help her. No boy was professing his love for me in seventh grade, or eighth grade or even ninth grade, so I didn’t have a frame of reference regarding love before age 13.

Kendall must have figured that out fairly quickly because she came up with her own plan. She told the boy that her parents didn’t allow her to date. He responded that he would explain his intentions to us. (Really? He’s in eighth grade!!!)  Then she said that she was glad they were friends and she didn’t want to lose that. He responded that maybe they could sit together at lunch, and she agreed.

All was right with the world until I sent a Facebook message about the situation to the guy I’m in love with. The guy who happens be my daughter’s father.

He was not happy. In fact, he freaked out. He even told me he’d checked out her Facebook page and found the boy. He then jokingly threatened to send the boy a message about leaving Kendall alone.

I should have known better. This had happened before.

When Kendall was attending her sixth grade orientation, I overheard a boy in her enrichment class tell his dad “she’s really cute.” He subsequently hounded her to “go out.”

She regularly told him she wasn’t allowed, but he was persistent. At least, he was persistent until my husband met him.

Then his interest waned.

I may not entirely understand my husband’s concern with my daughter’s love life because, well, I’m not a guy.

But I can understand his love for his only daughter and his desire to protect her. I also understand he wants exactly what I want for my daughter: a partner who cares more about who she is as person than what she looks like; a partner who recognizes all of her potential and her desire for independence; a partner who celebrates how smart and witty and rebellious she is. And, most of all, a partner who supports her being the person she is rather than the person other people think she should be.

I understand that because my daughter’s father has provided exactly that for me. And I also know without a doubt that is the standard my daughter will set for anyone she dates.

Which is exactly why my husband has absolutely no reason to worry.

Mean Girls Redux

Wednesday, April 16, 2014
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I may be 47 years old, but I can still remember the pain of adolescence very, very distinctly. It’s one of the reasons I wasn’t overly eager to have a children. I just wasn’t sure I could live through the drama all over again.Isurvivedthemeangirls-button

Thankfully, I did have children and discovered that surviving life between the ages of 13 and 15 not only made me stronger, it also provided extremely valuable lessons about life.

Take, for example, the lessons  I learned from the mean girls of my youth – the “pretty people” who took great pleasure from doing all they could to promote themselves and their social status while belittling others.

As a friend recently told me, “those mean girls just grow up and become mean women.”

I only partially agreed with her. Some change. Some don’t.

I still have to deal with the ones who didn’t, and my daughter is having to deal with the new crop of mean girls.

Sometimes we have to tolerate them because they have more power than we do. Sometimes we have to confront them because we aren’t the only one being hurt.  And sometimes we simply need to talk about them with our friends.

My daughter and I were both doing that last week.

I was angry about the adult versions of  the mean girls.  My daughter is still trying to understand the mean girls at her middle school.

I was venting to friends about how unbelievably selfish some women can be. My daughter was giggling with friends about how ridiculous burn books are. Yes, the mean girls at her school actually have a burn book in which they write hurtful comments about others.

I was ranting about women who are more concerned about their social status than helping meet the needs of the less fortunate. My daughter was making fun of how the mean girls at her school named their clique, demand special privileges and are  proud that they exclude others.

And that’s when it struck me.

I was wasting my time and energy complaining about women who will probably never change. My daughter wasn’t wasting her emotional energy but was simply viewing the mean girls as characters in a book or play. She finds them entertaining but not really relevant.

Since my daughter has a wide circle of diverse friends, she doesn’t care about a few superficial girls who want to exclude her. She’s much more interested in the people who do include her and how they enrich her life.

My daughter hasn’t yet turned 13, but she has already learned some valuable life lessons – ones that I’m still learning.  I like to think my own experiences have helped guide her, but I also know that she’s teaching me as well.

And she’s a very good educator.

The Rules

Wednesday, April 2, 2014
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If nothing else, I am a persistent person.

My husband and my children call me obsessive and tell me that it’s an extremely irritating trait.my rules

I prefer persistent, and being persistent is one of my rules for living.

Someday I hope my family understands. In the meantime, I simply hope they learn to appreciate my rules.

In all honesty, I’ve broken several of them, but the outcome was never good. In fact, those miscalculations only reinforced why the following rules are so important to me:

  1. Always admit when you make a mistake. If people already know what you did, they will respect you for the admission. If they have no idea you made the mistake, they will disregard you or believe you are covering for someone else. Either way, you spend a lot less time and energy owning up than covering up.
  2. Never believe you are smarter than those around you. There are multiple forms of intelligence, and having the facts is simply one form of knowledge. Knowing what to do with the facts is something else entirely.
  3. Make time for yourself every day. That’s not selfish; it’s maintaining your sanity. People who think they have no time for themselves are often the least healthy.
  4. Never make political decisions based on what will serve your personal interests. If you do, you will always be disappointed. Make your decisions based on the Golden Rule. If you consider how we treat each other rather than how you can get what you want, you will always be more satisfied.
  5. Don’t ever use your own life and circumstances as a frame of reference for someone who is struggling. You may have succeeded in difficult times, but your resources and support system can’t be duplicated.
  6. Always remember people in the service industry are individuals with their own stories. Listen to those stories. Not only do you have something to learn, they have something to teach.
  7. If you are counting hours at work, you aren’t in the right place. If you are counting the lives you touched in a positive way, you are.
  8. Remember that you are the only person responsible for your own happiness. External gratification is a simple substitute, but it always fails. Always.
  9. If you are going to talk about others behind their back, be accurate about the facts. We all need to vent. That’s human nature. But if you are more concerned with tarnishing someone’s reputation than with being truthful, your reputation is the one that will suffer most.
  10. Watching television isn’t necessarily a waste of time. Scheduling your life around television is.

These are my rules. They might not apply for everyone, but they work for me. My greatest hope for my children is that they can develop their own list of rules and that they can follow these rules down a road to true happiness.

80 Years of Marriage(s)

Wednesday, November 27, 2013
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From the diary of Letha Bates Smith:  ”Nov. 29, 1933 Wed. Finished cleaning at the house this morning. Met Sylvia at 3:25. Morden, she & I met Martin in E. Lansing and had the knot tied at 8:30. Home then to Vilas and Evelyn’s for the nite.”

That’s how my grandmother described the day she married my grandfather, Morden, in the chapel at the People’s Church in East Lansing, Michigan with her sister Sylvia and her brothers Martin and Vilas in attendance.

Exactly 30 years later, my mother married my father in the same chapel. Unlike my grandmother, she didn’t keep a diary, but, just like my grandmother, she had a very practical wedding.

Exactly thirty years after that, at age 26, I was a completely different person than both these women. I was less conservative and more reckless. Yet the three of us would be forever connected not just by blood but by our sensibilities and our belief that a strong marriage, just like a strong woman, is defined by substance not glamour.

This Friday my husband and I will celebrate our 20th wedding anniversary, and my parent’s will celebrate their 5oth. If they were still alive, my grandparents would be celebrating their 80th wedding anniversary.

I am under no illusions that my daughter will marry on November 29, 2023. In fact, I hope she won’t as she will only be 22. But I do hope that the  stories from three couples who passed their DNA on to her will serve as a reminder that weddings are not about a fancy show or an exotic honeymoon. They are about two people deciding to move forward together and create memories that can bond families together for generations.

Letha and Morden

My grandparents met on a blind date while they were both students at Michigan State College (later University) during the Great Depression.  My grandmother was one of four children from a farming family in Quincy Michigan who were all  determined to go to college. Despite the odds and through their own perseverance, all four obtained college degrees.

My grandfather, the youngest of seven children, grew up in a family that had an uneven financial history – sometimes they had significant resources and sometimes they didn’t.  My grandfather’s older brother, Carl, had died when he contracted smallpox working in a lab while in medical school. The money from his insurance policy allowed my grandfather to pursue a degree in electrical engineering.

I know little about my grandparents’ college romance.  My grandmother wasn’t a talkative or an emotional woman. But for decades, she documented her life in diaries. The one or two sentence entries she diligently recorded provide some insight into the often hidden thoughts of a woman who, on the surface, was practical to the bone. The grandmother I knew had one dress that she wore to every special occasion (including my wedding) for decades.  But, that didn’t mean she never cared about a new dress.

“Oct. 30, 1932 Sunday. My sweetheart down today. And what did he bring me  - Um does it sparkle? Simply gorgeous delightful! The dear boy.” 

“Nov. 1, 1932 Tuesday Met Sylvia downtown this P.M. spent the nite with me. The ring fixed –  lovely now –  more thrilled than ever. A new dress.”

Even after my grandmother died, we never found picture of her wedding or her wedding dress.  At the time of their marriage, my grandfather was a relatively new employee at Citizens Gas Fuel Company. My grandparents chose to get married the evening before Thanksgiving because my grandfather would have a four-day weekend.

My grandparents’ marriage ended when my grandfather died in 1998, just shy of their 65th wedding anniversary. My grandmother would live for another seven years.

The words in her diary will be passed on to future generations.

Evadna and Ken

Following in the footsteps of her parents and her older brother, my mother attended Michigan State University. After graduation, she moved to Manistee, Michigan, but neither her job nor her location were exotic or adventurous enough for her. She wanted to see the world and submitted an application to join the newly established Peace Corps.

After he graduated from Idaho State University, my dad, a Massachusetts native who had already seen a great deal of the world while in the Navy, also applied to join the Peace Corps.

They were among the first individuals ever selected and were in the third group deployed. Before they left for Chile, my parents attended training at Notre Dame University, where they spent days in Spanish class. My father excelled with his ability to speak the words perfectly in his  loud, booming voice while my mother shot him dirty looks while she struggled.

Her irritation didn’t last long. Before they returned to the United States, my parents were engaged. Instead of a diamond, my mother wore a simple gold band on her right hand that she would transfer to her left hand when she was married. The only diamond I’ve ever seen my mother wear is her mother’s engagement ring, the one that sparkled so brilliantly in 1932.

After returning to the United States, my father, a forester, got a job in Montana. He hadn’t accumulated any leave, but he was allowed to take a few days for Thanksgiving. And so, a wedding the day after Thanksgiving made sense, and my parents spent their honeymoon driving west to their new home.

They’ve spent the rest of their lives sharing stories of their adventures with their children and grandchildren.

Trina and Giles

Ironically, I met my husband on a November night.

On  November 8, 1988,  I was a college intern helping cover election results in the newsroom at West Virginia Public Radio. Giles was reporting for his first night of work. He thought I had an attitude, and I thought I had work to do. No sparks flew, and I didn’t give him a second thought.

But after I graduated from Ohio University, our paths continued to cross and our circle of friends became one in the same. Over time, we eventually ended up together.

Our relationship was nothing like I imagined everlasting love was supposed to be and everything my mother had told me it would be. (She’d told me on multiple occasions that common values  and compromise, not romance, were the key to a successful relationship.)

In the beginning, our schedules were very different, and we accommodated. Our schedules are still very different, and we still accommodate. In the beginning, we watched a lot of Star Trek. Giles still watches a lot of Star Trek, and sometimes our kids even watch with him. And in the beginning, we laughed at my intensity and his lack of it. Now, we work around our differences… and we still laugh a lot.

Giles and I didn’t get engaged out of some romantic notion of marriage. We got engaged because his roommate bought a house, and moving in together just made sense. When we realized the significance of the year, we picked a very significant wedding date.

Unlike the two couples before us, we didn’t marry over Thanksgiving weekend nor did we get married in Michigan, Instead, our ceremony took place the Monday after Thanksgiving in Charleston, WV.  And yes, our wedding was also simple and practical (my mother made my dress), but it was also a bit quirky.  We received gifts of Star Trek dinnerware and had Star Trek action figures on top of our cake.

Our children look at the photographs and simply roll their eyes.

I get that. I used to do a lot of eye rolling as a child, especially in regards to my mother’s stories about being married on her parent’s anniversary. But, like many children, my eye rolls eventually evolved into an appreciation of family history.

Something tells me my children will do the same someday.

 

Crazy Love

Wednesday, November 20, 2013
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I should have known this would happen. People tried to warn me years ago, but I ignored them. Now, I’m paying the price.opposites-attract

After twenty years of  marriage, my husband and I have officially driven each other crazy.

Well, more precisely, I drove him crazy.

In my defense, he knew we were complete opposites before we even started dating. He’s laid back, and his favorite hobby is watching television. I’m high-strung and have no clue how to truly relax. I simply must be doing something productive at all times.

Not only are our personalities different, so are our schedules.

For the past nine years, I’ve generally worked normal business hours, and he’s generally worked nights and weekends. In other words, when I’m home, he’s working, and when he’s home I’m working. And that works for us.

At least it works until something changes, and last week, something changed.

I started a new job this week, and I took last week off between jobs.

I haven’t had that much free time since my children were born, and I’ve always used my time off to accommodate their schedules or vacations.

But last week, my kids were in school. Not only that, but during two of those days, my husband was also off.

Days off together are extremely rare for us, and days off without kids are even more rare. So Giles had visions of the two of us actually doing something fun together.

I had visions of using my time wisely to cross off a few things on my ever-growing “to do” list. Much to my husband’s chagrin, some of those “to do” items required his assistance, and Giles simply did not understand my persistence that he help me. Or, to give him credit, his “laid back personality” definition of using time wisely is simply different from my “must be doing something productive at all times” definition.

At some point during a heated discussion about the importance of moving a file cabinet upstairs, Giles stated what has really been obvious for years.

“You are driving me crazy, ” he said. “And I’m letting you know now that you are never allowed to retire. Being retired will stress you out more than working, and I can’t deal with that.”

He’s probably right, but more importantly, he was telling me that he understands who I am. And despite our differences and despite our struggles, he’s perfectly happy to let me be me.

As long as I let him be him.

And I’m pretty sure, that’s the reason that, in 20 more years, we’ll be celebrating our 40th wedding anniversary.

Here’s to opposites attracting and a crazy little thing called love.

She (Didn’t) Love to Vacuum

Wednesday, November 6, 2013
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A few years ago, my friend Vicki developed the unhealthy habit of reading obituaries of people she never knew.vacuum cleaner

The habit wasn’t unhealthy because of any preoccupation with death. It was unhealthy because she was comparing her life to  portraits that others chose to paint of their recently deceased loved ones.

One particular obituary really bothered her. “I’m afraid,” she said, “that when I die, my obituary will read she loved to vacuum.” That phrase was actually used in an obituary Vicki read.

I couldn’t relate to Vicki’s concern. I will never be accused of loving to vacuum – or clean, cook, sew or make crafts.

Being a domestic goddess isn’t in my nature, and it’s not how I want to spend my time. I’m incredibly fortunate that people who really know me recognize this and try to make appropriate accommodations.

Take, for example, Thanksgiving.

Due to a variety of circumstances, this will be the first year I’ll host the annual family Thanksgiving dinner. And even though my family has agreed my house is the best option, the decision wasn’t without comments such as “We don’t have to cook a traditional meal. Maybe Trina can pick up a prepared meal. And, “We can even just eat Subway. The holiday is really about family and spending time together.”

The hints weren’t lost on me, but for the record, they have nothing to do with my ability to cook. When I have to cook, I do. And, generally, people like what I prepare.

The issue had more to do with my family respecting who I am.

They know I’m starting a new job the week before Thanksgiving, and it will be demanding and time-consuming. They also know that I choose to spend my non-work time doing things that are important to me, and whenever possible, things I enjoy. That doesn’t mean I don’t clean my house or cook, but it does mean I have dust bunnies under my bed, dog nose prints on my windows and hand prints on my light switches.

My house may not be perfect, but it is a reflection of who I am:  someone who loves to ride her bike and walk her dog; someone who loves to volunteer in the community and participate in activities that involve her children; and someone who loves to write and spend time with friends and neighbors.

Simply put,  I love allowing myself to be who I am and not who society sometimes dictates I should be.

That’s not as easy as it sounds. I was raised in a house that was meticulous and spotless, and I used to feel guilty that I was a disappointment to my mother, who took hours teaching me the right way to fold sheets and clean windows.

But I’ve come to realize that my mother, like my friend Vicki, actually likes cleaning, and she enjoyed sharing her skills with me. In turn, she’s realized that my “chaotic life” (a label from one of my former interns) doesn’t mean I am turning my back on how I was raised. Instead, it means the exact opposite.

I am making use of the best lesson my parents taught me: be true to yourself.

And this self will never love to vacuum.