Category Archives: family

College is funny and confuses me

Two of my nieces are now in college, one as a fcollege booksreshman and one a sophomore. And I am confused.

College campuses today are nothing like my college campus forty-something years ago.

Case in point: my brother texts me that he bought his daughter a block of 50 meals to get her started this year. I had no clue what he meant. I assumed he either:

  1. Went to the grocery store, spent a lot of money and borrowed a semi to haul the food to her new apartment,

or

2.  Ordered from an online meal delivery service, and six FedEx trucks would show up with a forest’s worth of boxes containing artfully packaged ingredients and instruction cards with pretty pictures showing what the final dish is supposed to look like.

Turned out to be neither of these options. He ordered meals on the university’s dining program and put them on her account, so she could grab quick and healthy food between classes without going to her off-campus apartment.

I never had that choice. You lived on campus, you ate on campus (and the food was pretty good). You lived off campus, you were on your own. There were no food courts, coffee shops or pick-and-choose meal plans. The closest we came to choice was the line of vending machines in the Student Union. A walk downtown meant fast food, diner fare and the bars, but the legal drinking age was 21 and you’d gain that “Freshman 15” in a month if you frequented the local restaurants (I do still have a soft spot for sticky buns and Wuv’s onion rings, however).

College kids have ID cards now. The cards are a form of campus credit, used to pay for books, meals, laundry, printing and the like, which is a fine idea. Sadly, the cards identify students, as opposed to angry and violent strangers lurking on campus. I never had that worry back in the day.

Political correctness is a bigger issue today than it used to be. I like the idea of fairness, equality and the need for every voice to be heard. But forty years ago, when a controversial speaker was coming to campus, you did not go to listen if their message was not your message. Or you protested peacefully. There were no threats, violence, beatings or people killed for their personal conduct.

I hope the girls have a great year. I hope they learn a lot and advance in their chosen professions (pre-law and actuarial science). But even more, I hope they enjoy meeting new people, value commitment to a kind and generous world, and never become complacent.

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Filed under Children, Current news, family

She Called Her Daddy…

dadd

How bad is it when an “adult” coworker decides not to face the reality of their adverse job situation and reverts to calling their parental unit to get involved in the issue?

I witnessed this happen at my place of employment. Aside from the words on this digital page, I am at a loss for most others.

When your folks foist you on the working world, it is hoped/assumed/prayed that even if you are not completely ready for all that can happen, you have  the basics mastered. You can write business letters, speak clearly into a phone, understand elementary etiquette rules, address your superiors properly and most important, you can tell the truth whether you are right or wrong, give credit where it is due and display sufficient spine to stand up and sort it out for yourself when things get tough.

I have a coworker who is not even remotely ready for work in the realm of reality. Pouting, cursing, ignoring ringing phones, insisting on time off when none is earned or available, long lunches, leaving early and forgetting to get work done are some of the notable characteristics displayed on a daily basis.

And the shake-your-head-in-wonder moment of the week: when her demand for time off was refused, she called her father to ask him to call the boss on her behalf.

No, just plain oh-no-it-did-not-happen.

Yes, it did.

How does a person lack the common sense in a case like this? Which part of the adult brain just shuts off, and which part moves backwards into childhood, thinking, “I’m telling on you! I’m getting my daddy to fix this right now if you don’t give me what I want!”

I’d love to phone a friend, a parent or someone when life takes a hard left. Mom and Dad are gone, and I think my friends would have me committed if I did to them what this coworker did. I can commiserate with my brothers, of course.  But asking them to step up to the plate because someone picked on their sister?

Note to coworker: grow a set (and a spare set) soon. It is a mean world out there. And your daddy won’t be around forever.

 

 

 

 

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Filed under Careers, employment, family, Relationships, unemployment

Thanksgiving…because mom did it that way!

The holiday is more than just a full plate. It’s also full of memories. Courtesy: Wikimedia Commons.

Thanksgiving is two days away, give or take a few frantic hours. I’ve got a schedule, lists, food piled on a prep table and packed so tight in the fridge that the bottom shelf is actually in the dark when you open the door.

Some things I fix for the big day I do because I like them, and/or the family likes them. Some things are just part of tradition dating from an unknown time, place or reason and continued because, well, mom did it that way.

Dad passed away many Thanksgivings ago, so his influence on the day is minimal. Though we figure he had something to do with the baked ziti. We’re not Italian, but many of his friends were, and someone must have served it at a party. Mom made it for years, using a black enamel baking pan. I have that pan, one of the few things I took from her kitchen when she passed away, and I still use it. Most of Thanksgiving winds up in disposable aluminum pans, but not the ziti.

One change I did make is the sweet potato casserole. Grandma mashed and whipped and served it with the toasty little marshmallows on top. Of course we all ate some to be polite. Hated it, but we ate it. I bake my sweet potatoes, scoop them, break them up in a baking pan and top with a mixture of brown sugar, cinnamon, butter and nutmeg. No mashing and no marshmallow puddles.

The appetizers are things mom liked and have not changed in forever. Spiced steamed shrimp, fresh veggies and onion dip, chopped liver and crackers. Totally unsophisticated in a world of amuse bouche, but it’s family food.

And there will be latkes, the Jewish potato pancakes. I do this because the Chanukah holiday is usually fairly close to Thanksgiving. It isn’t this year, but Mom always made them: a platter of gently crispy outside, soft and oniony inside latkes. She had to work fast; latkes are the last thing you make before dinner is served, and you have to hide them as you make them, or people come into the kitchen, drawn by the aroma of fried potato perfection, and eat them right out of the pan. Served with applesauce (an American affectation; purists insist on sour cream), they are never, ever a leftover.

This Thanksgiving, there will be several sets of dishes mixed together: mine, mom’s and grandma’s. We will all fit at the table this year, with only the need for one extra chair. But everyone we love will be there in food and memory.

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Filed under cooking, family, food, Holiday

Swim in a meet, meet new friends

Watch and learn: even when you're waiting for your event, other swimmers teach a lesson.

Watch and learn: even when you’re waiting for your event, other swimmers teach a lesson.

I drove (and swam) a little outside the proverbial comfort zone this weekend. I went to a three-day swim meet about two hours away.

I’m wiped out, but it was worth it.

I was the only swimmer from my team to make the trip (hey, you’ll have to ask the other swimmers why they didn’t go!) and of course, it gets a little lonely being a solo act. Fortunately, I was adopted by another team. The group was from Georgia, and there wasn’t a “y’all” to be heard from any of them. Actually, they all sounded like they were from anywhere except the Peach State. Their hospitality, however, was pure Southern. They want me to come to their next meet. They’ve promised me great barbecue and adult beverages. I’m not planning on turning any of that down, by the way.

As for the meet itself: it went well enough. I brought back some hardware.  There were a lot of better swimmers there, and a lot of old swimmers. And by old, we’re talking about athletes age 85 and older, who can still go fearlessly off the blocks and haul hindquarters up and down the meter lanes with the best of the whippet-thin whippersnappers. I saw family while I was there; my niece was my counter for one of the long races. I warned her that what she would see at a Masters meet was nothing like the high-school team she coaches. “You’ll see bodies that don’t belong in these kinds of swimsuits,” I said. “And body parts that should never, ever see the light of day. Just letting you know.”

Her reaction? “I hope I can still swim when I am as old as some of these people!”

Kids say the darndest things. And I agree with her. I hope I can still swim when I hit the age where they stop bothering to keep official records. By the time I reach that age, it shouldn’t matter anyway. What should matter is that I’ve made more friends than I can count (and hopefully, they’re still around) and that I can stagger out of bed each day and steer my rear to the nearest pool.

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Filed under Aging, Exercise, family, Relationships, Swimming, thought, travel

‘Tis the season for family reunion fallout

A good family reunion is more than just a packed picnic table.

A good family reunion is more than just a packed picnic table.

A friend of mine is planning a family reunion for next year. It’s going to involve big numbers and already involves big drama.

My friend is trying to keep the attendee list to “immediate” family, meaning grandparents, parents, sons, daughters and grandkids. No distant relations, twice-removed cousins or folks known as “Uncle” or “Auntie” but whose actual blood ties are unknown.

His mother was one of eighteen children, and each of those eighteen children have an average of six children each. And that generation of children all have children now.  My friend figures it’s somewhere around 250 people to invite to this party.

That’s not a party, that’s a full-scale invasion. He was asking for advice as to where to have the party. I’m thinking he needs his own empty country, complete with hotels, campsite and industrial-sized cooking facilities.

To be fair, he is not paying for any of this, is considering using a state park, doing potluck and is looking for a central location to make everyone happy. Except that the words “family reunion” and “making everyone happy” don’t belong in the same sentence, because it’s about as likely as a guarantee of perfect weather.

He’s posted the reunion information on Facebook, and there’s already whining about who can come and why others are not invited, how cousins are related to one another, whether “other” dads or moms are invited (some of my friend’s family members have multiple kids with numerous partners  inside, outside and alongside conventional marriage), and this is before getting all these people to agree to one really massive potluck. Because 250 people cannot simply be told, “Bring a dish.” You wind up with soda, fried chicken, potato salad, napkins and not much else. So food has to be assigned, either by alphabet or family. Then there’s where to stay, the games people can play (to prevent gossiping or arguing about religion and politics during the reunion) and how to get there via car, plane or  train.

I really want to attend this reunion. I want to be there for the hair-pulling, name-calling, manicured nail breaking catfights and of course, that booty-and-ball-busting moment when the police show up and tell the adults to behave. Meanwhile, the kids will raid the tables, fill their plates, eat like deprived hyenas and go play with whatever they can find, while making new friends among this family. The kids know better than to fuss. There’s food and new people in a place that merits exploring, and that’s all they need.

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Filed under Children, family, food, Relationships

Leaving life in style and five-inch heels

Cousin could wear them, walk in them and make it look she was born in them. Wikimedia Commons.

I went to a cousin’s funeral yesterday. Hard to believe, even after nearly ninety years of a life well and usefully lived, she’s gone.

Cousin was just beautiful: tall, red-haired, impeccably dressed and coiffed at all times. She was in the workforce over sixty years, full-time and by choice. She raised two sons, lived in several fine homes, stayed married for fifty years and drove mostly big, showy American cars (one of her earliest was a ’57 Chevy Bel-Air). She was a rebel from her youth, leaving home at sixteen to work thousands of miles away because she needed an adventure. She fell in love with the airline industry in the 1940s after a twenty-six hour, nineteen-stop flight from Tuscon to New York. Hey, that was a “direct” flight in those days.

She worked for the airlines for almost forty years, retiring just ten years before she passed away. She loved her work and her coworkers, never forgetting a birthday, always remembering to treat them as special and worthy of attention. She was not fond of retirement, saying that work gave her a purpose and made her a contributor to society.

She had a repertoire of one-liner jokes, and her bluntness could invoke a blush from anyone who heard her opinions. She was not the type who called attention to herself; attention always managed to find her first. She loved old films; On the Waterfront was her all-time favorite. She was never the classic mother and wife; she loved working first and foremost. But she was there for her sons when it mattered, and they lacked for nothing when it came to parental love.

She was laid to rest in a designer suit and five-inch stilettos. A former foot and leg model, she made walking in those shoes look easy, right into her eighties. She was stylish to the end.

 

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Filed under death, family, travel

Kid Ghosts Of Christmas Past

This morning, The Husband and I went for our Christmas morning walk. It’s an annual thing, designed

English: The Xbox "S" controller.

English: The Xbox “S” controller. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

to work up an appetite for the holiday dinner later in the day, and see what the other kids (in the literal and young-at-heart sense of the word) got from Santa.

But this year was different. In a three-mile walk through the neighborhood, in balmy weather, there were no kids outside. None. Not a one.

No one on a bike or a skateboard. No shooting hoops or tossing a new football. Heck, not one single soul on a patio, escaping the noise inside while sipping a Bloody Mary.

Where is everybody?

OK, I realize electronics are the biggest deal in terms of gifts. And you can’t ride an Xbox, toss an iPhone through a hoop or use a 50″ plasma TV as an archery target, even if it is really big enough for one. You get or give cool stuff like that, you’re probably going to stay inside with it. But the Electronic Age brought along with it the end of the Outdoor Play Age, in some respects. You don’t hear the shouts and squeals on Christmas morning, as the kids compare their loot and try it out as parents watch, hoping all those hours of trying to follow directions written in nine languages (but not English) was worth the effort of putting together the bike.

Do something different this Christmas. Play with the electronics for a while, then put them down and go outside for a walk through your neighborhood. Yes, I know a lot of you are in the cold and packed into more ice and snow than the average polar bear. But just do this for a few minutes, and remember what it was like to share time without the buzzes, beeps and dings of artificial intelligence that rules our lives 24/7. You may find yourself walking with a few good ghosts from holidays past.

 

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Filed under Children, family, Holiday, social media, technology, thought