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  • Wishing You A Very Antique Valentine’s Day

    February 14, 2013

    retro.valentine.4W

    I found a package of unopened Valentine cards from what looks like the 1960’s in an antique store a year or so ago and I fell in love with them.  I didn’t know what I would do with them, I just wanted them, so I bought them and stashed them away with the other retro stuff I randomly buy.

    I guess I love these cards because they are innocent and sweet and cheesy – the things I think Valentine’s Day should be for kiddos and I still long for.  Is that when you are officially old?  When you start longing for things to be like when you were growing up?  I think so.

    Yesterday, I had to pick up a box of Valentine cards for Sean to take to school today and as I stood there trying to choose among the unlovely and the even more unlovely, I thought about these cute little retro card with their cheesy messages.  I stood in front of the wall of Valentine cards for a long time not because there were so many great choices, but because all the choices made me shake my head.  Celebrity-themed? Movie-tie-in-themed?  Warrior-themed? Weird animated character-themed? No. No. No and no.

    I ended up buying a box of extreme sports-themed cards only because they were one of the few that did not include tattoos.  The House of Antique does not dig tattoos. Sean sighed and said an unenthusiastic thank you when I handed him the box.  He was not thrilled with my choice.  When I told him I could have picked up a package of pretty princess-themed cards his mood brightened one degree above cloudy.

    Or I could have handed him this box of retro cards which would really launch him into the stratosphere of cool.  Among antique mommies.

    Happy Valentine’s Day to all my readers.  You are some of my most favorite people.

     

    Swings And Lane Cutters. When A Win Is Not A Win.

    February 10, 2013

    Have you ever been driving somewhere, and you see a sign in big flashing letters that unmistakably says MERGE RIGHT. LEFT LANE CLOSED AHEAD.

    Being the good reader that you are, you take this to mean that the left lane is closed ahead.  You merge right because you know that no left lane will preclude driving in the left lane. You are astute like that.

    Then you, along with the other good readers, spend the next 30 minutes painfully inching forward in the right lane for the next mile where the left lane actually ceases to exist.  And as you approach the point where the left lane ends you are united with those who did not merge right a mile back and now insist that you let them in.

    And are you like me in that some days your tendency is to look straight ahead and pretend that you don’t see them? And maybe you keep the front end of your car so close to the back end of the car ahead that even a gnat couldn’t pass between?  Or maybe you are even brazen enough to look over at them and give them the “Ain’t no way buddy!” look.  You maybe even say to yourself, “That’s no fair!  Get in line and inch up like the rest of us!  Who do you think you are??”

    Now that I’m older and have a slightly better grip on what is important in life, I’ll usually just wave one or two in front of me and go on my merry way, because the stress of teaching the world a lesson while behind the wheel of a car is just not worth it.  But sometimes, it’s just one of those days and I can’t stop myself, and I allow myself to falsely believe that they will change their me-first-lane-cutting ways and the world will be a better place for all concerned if I don’t let them get away with it.

    But that never happens.

    Those days when I just have to right the traffic wrongs, I never move along feeling better about myself.  I never feel like I made my little slice of the world a better place.  In fact just the opposite.  Sometimes a win is not really a win.

    A while back, we had an exceptionally spring like day in the middle of the winter and Sean and I were hanging out at the park.  Sean was on the swing, not really swinging, but just kind of sitting and twisting in the sunshine.  A neighbor showed up with his little grandson who is about four and as is typical of four-year-olds, he wanted the swing Sean was on.  Being four, he did not say, “Pardon me sir, if you’re not going to swing, may I?”  No. Being four, he tugged at the chains and said something like, “I want to swing.”

    To this, Sean responded by digging in his proverbial heels.  He gripped the chains tighter and sat as immovable as Mount Rushmore and gave the four-year-old the “Ain’t no way buddy!” look, which was painfully all too familiar.  He was going to teach that four-year-old a lesson – you can’t just cut in on the swing!

    I really wanted Sean to voluntarily give up the swing for three reasons.  One, I want Sean to have a good heart, one that loves to give and serve.  Two, I want Sean to experience how good it feels when you respond with kindness where it is not necessarily warranted or likely to be reciprocated.  And three, and I am cringing as I write this in naked honesty, I wanted my neighbor to think I was an awesome parent.

    But at the same time, I didn’t want to force Sean to give up the swing.  Embarrassment is never an effective teacher in my opinion.  As expected, Sean soon grew weary of the little boy tugging at the swing, so he got off and we headed home to sit on the front steps and watch the world go by.

    I took that opportunity to try to tell him how sometimes when you win, you don’t really win, knowing that this is a lesson he will have to learn on his own over and over throughout his life.

    “I know you probably don’t understand this just yet, but you could have given up the swing to that little boy and it wouldn’t have cost you a thing.  And you could have looked really big in the eyes of that little boy and his grandpa,” I said, “And bonus, when you do something like that, you get to feel good about yourself.”

    He didn’t respond to that.  I could tell he was giving it skeptical consideration or trying to figure out how to get off the subject.

    “What if you give up something that does cost you?” he asked.

    Good question.  Crickets chirped as I tried to think of something I had given up lately that had cost me something and couldn’t come up with one thing.

    “I guess then you get to look big in the eyes of God,” I said slowly, more to myself than to him, wondering what in the heck just happened here.  I thought I was supposed to be the teacher.

    Sometimes, the teacher is the student and learning is more about the questions than the answers.

    What I Learned As A Salad Girl

    February 6, 2013

    My dream for Sean has always been that he will be a worker.  I think God made us to work. I think work provides many things that we humanoids need for a meaningful existence – structure, purpose, satisfaction and if you are lucky, a paycheck.

    But oddly enough, work is something that has to be learned.  It doesn’t always come naturally.

    In the summer of 1974, when I was 14, I got a job at the Bonanza Steak House.  I was as blind as a bat and wore hideous thick wire-rimmed glasses and dreamed of getting  some of those new fancy soft contact lenses.  But at my house, there wasn’t money for anything like that, so if I wanted contact lenses, I was going to have to buy them myself.  And if I were going to buy them, I was going to have to get a job.

    So that summer, before I started high school, I somehow managed to convince the people at Bonanza to hire me as a salad girl.  My job consisted of cleaning and chopping lettuce, cutting jello into sparkly little cubes and putting out slices of pre-made pie, and although it was not explicitly stated, when those things ran out, I was supposed to replenish them — as opposed to standing around twirling my hair — and that was a thought that would have never occurred to me.

    I knew nothing about work. I thought I was there to look pretty and socialize.  After several days of what must have been exasperating training, Alma, the poor lady who not only had to stand on her feet most of the day but had to train me, flat out said, “Honey you are going to have to  learn to work or we’re going to have to let you go.”  Well my ears perked right up because if I were ever going to get those contact lenses, I was going to have get someone to pay me.  I quickly put two and two together.  Work = someone gives me money = I get stuff.  No work = I no get stuff.

    After that conversation, I quickly figured out what work meant and went on to become one of the best salad girls in history.  It’s true. You can check the Salad Girls Almanac, my name is right there under Who’s Who Among Salad Girls.

    Once I was set straight, it turned out that I liked work.  I liked how it felt, the sense of accomplishment one gets when salad, jello and pie don’t run out and I liked having spending money and not having to rely on anyone to provide for me. I could pay my own way. I could buy my own contact lenses and that gave me a sense of hope, that I had the power to change my circumstances.  The only sad part of the story is that it took me 14 years to figure that out.

    Sean has been pretty good about learning to do things and doing them when I ask.  He’s been a teachable sous chef and reliable towel folder.  He puts away the silverware, carries in groceries and makes his bed when I ask. But what I want for him to learn is to take responsibility for what needs to be done — to see it and do it.  Oh, there are dishes in the sink?  I can put them in the dishwasher.  Oh, the trash is full?  I can take it out and put a new liner in the trash can.  Oh, the newspaper is lying in the driveway?  I can run out and pick it up.

    But even beyond all that, I’d like for him to develop a heart that loves to serve, because I think if you have that, then you are more likely to see work as a joy and a privilege and not just a means of a paycheck.  They say if you have a job you love, you never work a day in your life.  I would add to that if you have a heart to serve, you probably love your job.

    So the other day, AD and I had this discussion with Sean. We told him how we wanted him to identify some tasks around the house of which he could take ownership.  He half-heartedly mentioned a few things before he got to the big question, “How much will I get paid?”

    “Paid?” said AD.  “How about you get free room and board here at the House of Antique?”

    “And dental and medical too,” I chimed in looking at several thousand dollars worth of metal in his mouth,  “And we’ll even throw in paid vacation.”

    He looked a little disappointed because his generation is all about the paycheck, the trophy, the snacks — the reward.

    And I don’t know how to change that other than to let him grow up to become a salad girl.

    In A Roundabout Way

    February 4, 2013

    The town in which we live was originally a small quaint farming community.  These days,  that small quaint farming community — which used to be 10 miles from its closest neighbor —  is “nestled” under the hairy armpits of the other once quaint farming communities.

    And now, none of these communities are neither small nor particularly quaint.  We are more like a bunch of fat guys on an airplane – all squeezing over into our neighbor’s space and fighting over the elbow rest.

    It is not a town without some charm though.  Within the space of a block you can find homes wherein high-paid athletes live behind big stone fences and other homes wherein disinterested Billy goats live behind chain link fences.  And we live somewhere in between.  We have neither a big stone fence nor a Billy goat.

    goat2

    As you might imagine, the expansion of so many people into an area that was intended for slow moving tractors and Billy goats has created traffic problems.  And the city’s response to this problem has been roundabouts.

    Roundabouts are a Yankee thing, and well, it’s taking some getting used to for us slow moving southern dwellers.  We only know how to do the four-way stop, and even that, seems to be a challenge for some of us.

    And it gets even more complicated when you have to negotiate the roundabout while it’s under construction.

    So the other day, we approached the intersection that is near our house and discovered that it was being transformed into one of them fancy roundabouts.  There were barricades up and chunks of road had been torn out and traffic was being diverted and re-directed and nothing was where it used to be.  Drivers were entering the roundabout, not knowing exactly what to do — some stopping completely, some yielding and others just zippin’ through.  People were honking and throwing their hands up in the air.

    From the back seat, Sean perfectly assesses the situation with his signature wit.  “Instead of a roundabout,” he said, “they should call it a Round of Doubt!”

    And from henceforth, it shall be known…