Silent Screams (and other odd sounds)

This is what I'm thinking RIGHT NOW. It may not be what I'm thinking tomorrow.


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The Way It Used to Be…..

I have to admit it used to irritate me a little bit when my parents used to say, “I remember when …..” followed by some better way of doing things or how much better the “olden days” were.  I remember saying to them, “Come on, things couldn’t have been better, you had the depression, the “big” war  and you didn’t even have colored TV.  Yep, those “good old days” must have been magnificent,” I would say sarcastically as I rolled my eyes and vowed silently never to say anything so ridiculous to my own children if I ever had any.

As time would have it, I grew up and started to hear myself echo the same words I used to hear my parents say long ago.  Of course, when I was in early adulthood, I would rationalize when I said those things thinking, “at least when I say them, they are true.”  Life has a way of sneaking up on you when you are not looking and by the time you are in middle adulthood you suddenly realize that what you are saying is exactly the same things your parents said way back when you didn’t believe them.  Life is funny like that.

So, you might ask yourself, what brought on this line of thinking? Strangely enough, the purchase and installation of new appliances has forced me to see things the way my parents probably did when they said, “I remember when…”

Recently, my dishwasher and microwave went kaput which forced me to start looking for these new appliances.  Being brainwashed by powerful advertisement, I basically knew what I wanted when I went out to window shop for what I thought would be a simple task of comparative price shopping and the purchase of my new appliances.  Of course, nothing is ever as simple as it seems and the simple task of picking out appliances and having someone install them has left a bitter taste in my mouth when it comes to big business.

When I was a young adult, when my appliances broke down, I went to local small businessmen who made their livelihood being reputable people who needed and wanted your business to stay afloat.  More than likely, these businessmen lived in your neighborhood and you went to school with their children.   A deal was made with a handshake until the paperwork could be finished.  More than likely your appliances were delivered and installed (free of charge) the same day.  The guarantee you received was backed by reputation and you didn’t have to pay extra for it.

As I’m sure you know, small business has been largely replaced by the big business chains who sell appliances at much more affordable prices.  These big chains price match so that shopping is really made easy.  All you have to do is go to the chain you want to give your money to and tell them what you want and how much you would save if you bought it at Store B and the price is matched!  What is lost when the big chains take your money and the small businessman can’t afford to compete anymore?  What is gained by purchasing appliances at lower prices?

Recently I have found out what is gained by purchasing from a large chain.  I gained aggravation.  I went to the retail store just to purchase an appliance.  Here is a little of how the conversation went.

Me:  I need a new dishwasher.  I would like the new Frigidaire dishwasher.  Do you have that?

Store:  Why yes we do.  It is right over here and it is only $……

Me:  Do you have it in black?

Store:  Yes it does come in black but we have to order it.  Can you hold on a minute while I take this call?

Me:  Sure.

Store:  (after 5 minutes).  I’m sorry, I had to take that call.

Me:  It’s okay.  Now, about the dishwasher.

Store:  Which one did you want again?

Me:  The new Frigidaire.

Store:  Oh yes, that’s right.  Have you seen it yet?

Me: Yes, you just showed me.

Store:  That’s right.  I’m sorry.  I talk to so many people in a day it is hard to keep things straight sometimes.  I am expected to do so much.  Much more than I used to do.  To tell you the truth, I just started in this department a few days ago and I’m still trying to get used to things.  (Phone rings)  Do you mind if I take this call.

Me:  No.

Store:  Ok.  I’m sorry that took so long.

Me:  It’s okay.  I think I’m going to look elsewhere.  Thank you for your time.

Off I go to another big retail store and the conversation goes something like this:

Store:  Can I help you?

Me:  Yes.  Do you have the new Frigidaire dishwasher?  Store B has it for $….

Store:  Yes we do.  We can match their price.

Me.  Good.

Store:  Now, is your current dishwasher hardwired or a plug-in?

Me:  I don’t know.

Store:  You have to know that information.

Me:  What is the difference?

Store:  If it is hardwired we won’t install it.  You have to have a general contractor to install it.

Me:  ….and I would have to pay for that?

Store:  Why yes.

Me:  How would I know if it is hardwired or not?

Store:  You have to pull the dishwasher out.

Me:  Really?

Store:  What we can do is deliver the dishwasher to your house (for a fee of course) and pull out your old dishwasher.  It if is hardwired, we will leave the new dishwasher there and set you up with a general contractor to install your dishwasher.

Me:  (Getting agitated)  Let me see if I have this straight.  You will sell me this dishwasher for a great price…..but you will not install it if my dishwasher is hardwired.  You will deliver this dishwasher for a fee and leave it in the middle of my kitchen if, when you pull out my old dishwasher, you find that it is hardwired.  Let’s say it is hardwired.  I take it that you will not disconnect the old dishwasher then.  So now I have a old dishwasher and a new dishwasher in the middle of my kitchen while I wait for you to hire a general contractor to come in and install my dishwasher.  Is that correct?

Store:  That’s usually the way it’s done ma’am.

Me:  …and I have to pay for the installation.  Is that correct?

Store:  Umm…yes.

Me:  …and tell me again how much this dishwasher is costing me.

Store:  All the major chains work like this ma’am.  We are no different from the others.

Me:  …and that makes me want to purchase a dishwasher from your chain how……?

How irritating it is to purchase a new appliance only to find that you have to spend the money saved to hire a contractor to finish the deal.  How can big business get away with selling something they don’t install?  When did we, as the consumers, allow this to happen?

I’ll tell you when I allowed this to happen.  I allowed it the very first time I purchased an appliance from someone other than my local businessman.  I have no one to blame but myself.


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What To Do About Today’s Youth

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As I pass my mid-50’s the words “What is happening to the youth of today?” echos in my mind as words so many “older” people said way back when I was young.  I thought the words were meant to be demeaning to the youth of then but now I am not so sure.  I hear myself saying those words today, but I say those words out of concern and fear of what is happening to the youth of today and what will be happening to our youth in the future.

As I look back upon my youth, I remember it being pretty simple.  I wasn’t concerned with designer clothes, purses or shoes.  I lived simply and so did the majority of children with which I went to school.  There weren’t an abundant amount of local malls to hang out in with my friends and I didn’t have “older” friends who could drive me around town.  We didn’t have beepers, smart phones or computers.  The World Wide Web hadn’t infiltrated my daily activities and I got dirty playing tag football with the neighbors.  Life was good.  I was fortunate.

Years later, when I became a mother, things were a little different.  Most mothers worked outside of the home as did I.  Things changed from working for “need” to working for “want” but we deceived ourselves in thinking that those “wants” were needs” and I include myself in that category.  After awhile, all those “wants” did become “needs” in the eyes of our children and we became helpless to turn back the hands of time. For many parents, perhaps we did this out of a sense of guilt that both parents worked outside of the home and the “traditional” home of our youth was altered.  Lovingly, we gave our children our money because our time was too scarce. In confusing wants and needs, could we, as parents, have raised a nation of children who lived in an time of instant gratification which was and will be unable to be fulfilled in their future?

Parents my age, for the first time in history, will probably have a greater income than their children will obtain.  Many children have moved into the same house they grew up in with their parents, bringing with them their children as well.  The grandparents, who are making more money than their children, are oftentimes supporting not only their children and spouse, but their children’s children as well.  Five year old grandchildren, living with grandma and grandpa, have televisions and X-boxes in their room, bought by the grandparents. In many elementary schools, it would not be uncommon to see a 7 year old girl dressed in the most fashionable shoes with lights that flash or carrying a book bag with the Vera Bradley brand.  If the income of the our 25-30 year old parents are less than their parents how can this be?  Could it be that Grandma is buying the clothes?  Could it be that Grandpa is supporting the extended family? 

So, where is all of this mumble jumble going?  It brings me back to my fear and concern for the youth of today.  What happens when our generation becomes too old to support our children and our grandchildren?  What happens when the expectations of our children will be unable to be met?  By giving our children their wants instantly, how much did we help them?  By giving our grandchildren the best of things, how will that color their future?  When a generation has lived in abundance not created by their own hands that abundance is oftentimes not appreciated but it becomes an expectation – something deserved. 

I believe that each of us, as parents, did the best we could with what we knew.  Each of us did what we thought was the best for our children and we did it with love.  I have two daughters.  As with all things hindsight is 20/20 and I know I have made mistakes in raising my daughters.  I have done some good things as well.  I do not have grandchildren but I don’t have to have them to see that so many grandparents are doing to their grandchildren what they did to their children – giving them all they can whether they need it or not.

I was fortunate.  My children didn’t ask for much growing up.  They were not tempted by everything new and glitzy.  Since my children did not ask for much, when they did they generally got it.  Perhaps they didn’t get it that day, or that week, but more than likely they got it.  I say I am fortunate because I could easily have fallen into the “give them all they want” syndrome.  I am not immune to loving my children monetarily.

I love the youth of today.  I just hope they can survive our parenting.


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Fine Italian Dining

In a little while I’ll be leaving to attend the local Italian-American Heritage Festival.  For most Italians, it is a festival not to be  missed.  My mother loved going to the festival.  For her, it was an opportunity to meet up with a group of friends who would reminisce about the past.  While others were chowing down on pasta, meatballs, sauce, and other Italian dishes, the friends that my mother would meet up with rarely consumed such festival cuisine.  Why would they when some of the best Italian food ever tasted came directly from their kitchens.

Since I was privy to some of the best Italian food ever consumed by human beings, and since there is little else to do at the festival, I didn’t attend often.  I only attended when my mother couldn’t find anyone else to take her there.

Today, as I was thinking about attending the festival for the first time in what must be over 10 years, of course my thoughts turned to my mother.  I can see her face as her eyes would light up when she suddenly spotted someone in the crowd that she knew.  I can hear her telling me how “I” should know who they are, but in reality if I knew them I didn’t remember.  I remember her friends telling me, “I remember you when you were ‘this big'” and I’d smile just a second before the Italian (and hands) started to fly.  Today, I wondered if my mother thought of her own mother at the Italian-American Heritage Festival as she socialized with so many people.

I wonder, is it the connection to the not so distant past the draws so many people to the festival?  For Italians, it certainly can’t be the food!


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Bully Buck Stops Here

As long as I can remember and probably longer than I’ve been alive, bullying has existed.  I’m pretty sure that bullying has touched each and every one of us whether we were the ones bullied or the ones doing the bullying.  Why now, after all these years, is it trendy to jump on the anti-bullying bandwagon?  Anti-bullying should have been a life lesson that parents taught their children by example.  We shouldn’t have to have an “anti-bullying” agenda now.

Recently I read a post called “The Continuing Tragedy of Dear Sweet Old Karen Klein” and while I may not agree 100% with the entire post (I agree with most of it however), I do agree with the underlying message that children will basically do what they see.  Children are blank slates waiting to be filled with all the wonders of the world, and the first wonder of the world  a child learns from is the parents.  If a child grows up with prejudice, hatred, anger, sarcasm and bullying; he will learn the same and see it as natural.  A child who grows up learning by example the life of a bully, will bully, and then we as adults cry out that “This bullying must stop!”  I agree, this bullying must stop but it doesn’t stop with the children, it stops with the parent first.

Growing up, I was the person who was bullied.  I was also the person who bullied.  Yes, I admit, I did some bullying back in the day – until my parents found out.  When I entered elementary school I never knew what it meant to be bullied until I was picked on for not having the right shoes, or the right hairstyle, or the trendiest dresses.  I learned from my some of my classmates that bullying was acceptable and even popular if you were doing it to the less fortunate than yourself; and so, I  picked on people who didn’t live up to my norm.  It wasn’t until my mother caught on to my bullying that she did a little bullying of her own.  What was her bullying?  Punishment pure and simple.  She didn’t like what I was doing.  She told me that “picking on other people” was wrong.  I was probably sent to my room (after a little swat to my behind)  to “think” about what I had said and how I would feel if someone said the same thing to me.  I know, a barbaric form of punishment!  I thought the same thing.  It  must have worked because I learned quickly that bullying just didn’t cut the mustard.  More importantly, bullying didn’t make me feel any better about me.

You see, in some ways, that’s the more important lesson.  The underlying cause of bullying is to make one feel better about oneself by lowering another.  Once I got that lesson, I realized that bullying was only a temporary gratification  but it never really changed how I thought about me.   I was still the same, and in some ways worse for how I treated others.  When it comes right down to it, it is all about me and how I can live with the things I do and don’t do. That is a parental lesson that should be taught to each and every child.  Each time I break someone else down, I break off a piece of myself; I am too valuable to lose all sorts of pieces.  If I keep chipping away at others misfortune or lack of beauty or lack of intelligence or lack of…..whatever, I have no time to look inside of myself to see exactly who I am and who I want to become.

There are no guarantees in life so I’m all about increasing the odds; and parents can increase or decrease the odds of what their children will or will not do.  If you want to increase the odds that your child won’t steal, don’t steal; if you want to increase the odds that your child won’t lie, don’t lie; if you want to increase the odds that your child won’t be verbally abusive, don’t be verbally abusive; and, you guessed it, if you don’t want your child to be a bully, don’t bully.  Let your adult actions influence your child and the children around you.

It was my responsibility to teach my children the life lessons I wanted them to know.  MY responsibility.  I could not count on the television to provide them with sound morals so there were times I had to turn off the TV and explain to them why I objected to a particular program.  I couldn’t trust the radio to teach them what was right and wrong so I listened to the music they listened to so I could discuss with them intelligently what I thought about the lyrics.  Part of my job as a parent was to be in tune with their likes and dislikes.  I think it’s called “active listening” now.

When my children were young, the “popular” thing to do was to go “hang out at the mall.”  I didn’t allow my kids to hang out at the mall and soon discovered from other parents what I was missing.  “I can’t believe you won’t let the kids go to the mall.  Just think, 6 whole hours to yourself!”  I would have loved 6 hours to myself to get my hair and nails done along with a pedicure and waxing but the cost was too great.  My children left alone in a mall with no real money to speak of and idle time?  No thank you.  To me, that was trouble just waiting to happen.  “But you let your children watch ‘R’ rated movies.  I don’t let my kids do that.”  Well darlin’, I’m there when they watch the movies and I can actually tell them the difference between reality and fantasy.  I wanted my children to grow up with the morals I thought they needed to have a happy, healthy life.  I didn’t want the television, the movies, the radio or other children teaching them things without letting me have an input; and for me to have an input I had to listen.

Back to topic.  Bullying is wrong.  I don’t like it.  I wish it would stop.  I don’t think television commercials will stop bullying.  I don’t think parents paying hundreds of thousands of dollars in fines because their children are bullies will help either.  In my humble opinion, you have to be an open book that you want your children to read.  They will learn more effectively by watching.  Children emulate their parents.  They play house, they play work, they play church, they play bully.  They play and eventually do what they see.

Both my children are adults now.  I have given them what I hope are the best life lessons that I could teach them.  It is up to them now.


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Living Without Faith

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This is Xander.

Xander is 10 years old. Xander has been Faith’s “brother” since we brought him home.  He and Faith were born a year apart.

Initially, Faith didn’t really care too much for Xander.  He was an intrusion into the household and to her lifestyle.  She was used to being the only “child” and now she had to share attention with this other canine.  Xander’s manly charms eventually won her over and they became best buddies.

Even though Xander was the man of the house, Faith was the boss.  Xander may have had the louder bark, but Faith was the dog that always set things in motion.  Xander wouldn’t think to bark unless Faith allowed him to do so.  It was Faith that did the commanding in the household; not only did she command Xander but the rest of us as well.  If Faith did not get her way she would refuse to “speak” or look at any of us.  Faith was the only animal I had ever encountered that could not be bribed by food.  No amount of her favorite food could coax her into becoming your friend again once she was ticked off.  If she were particularly mad, she would walk close enough to you to make you think you might be able to touch her only to dart away quickly leaving you looking rather foolish for even trying to pet her.

As Faith grew weaker over the years, Xander took up his pseudo role as boss dog.  The role seemed to be reversing and any stranger entering the house might have thought Xander was the dominant dog but if that same stranger stayed just a little while in our home they soon learned that Faith was still in command.  The smallest dog in the household was the largest life force.  Faith was the queen and all bowed down before her; even our Doberman when he finally became a part of the family.

The only time Xander didn’t listen to Faith was grooming day.  Faith didn’t really care for the groomers but Xander loved to get bathed, brushed and smelling good.  Xander thought he was so handsome on grooming day often strutting back and forth in front of the mirror to look at himself.  Faith, on the other hand, would rub her body against anything she could to get that nasty grooming smell of of her but before she could do that she had to escape Xander.    The groomer use to say she could put both dogs in one cage before grooming but she had to separate them afterwards because Xander would not leave Faith alone.  Once home from the groomers the torment was one.  Xander would chase Faith around the house just to ….  well, you know…and Faith wanted no part of that.  She’d eventually have to hide under a dresser where he was just a little too big to follow her.  The scene in my mind still makes me smile.

The bond between siblings is strong; even if those siblings are canine.  Xander now sits at one door or another waiting vigilantly for Faith to return.  He sits by the either door most of the day and night.  He sits, he doesn’t lay, and he cries.  He cries softly but he still cries.  Sometimes, I catch my father and Xander crying together.  Xander doesn’t know that his and my father’s beloved Faith is buried just beneath my father’s window, very close to the place she used slept under my father’s desk.

She is so close.  Her presence fills each and every room.  I can almost reach out and pet her….almost.

 


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A Different Kind of Father’s Day

Today is Father’s Day.  I’m pretty sure that there will be 10,258,265 blogs today that at least mention Father’s Day.  I’m also pretty sure that about 1 out of 3 families who have a living father will have a picnic or some other get together to celebrate Father’s Day.  I will be among the 33% of families who will celebrate with a picnic.

Today, as I was preparing food for the picnic my mind drifted back in time to when my daughters were 6 and 3.  I was sitting on a park bench at the softball fields watching my oldest daughter practice and my youngest daughter play with the other children in the dirt pile.  Halfway through the softball practice my husband arrives at the park and immediately my youngest daughter runs up to him gleefully calling, “Daddy, Daddy.”  In my mind’s eye he picked her up and twirled her around, but in reality I think he just picked her up to kiss her.  

Shortly after my husband’s arrival my oldest daughter runs in from the field to the park bench where I was sitting.  Nearly in tears she blurts out that the girl she was standing next to in the field told her that her sister and her could not have the same daddy and that one of them had a different dad.  My eldest daughter’s dark brown eyes were as big as saucers as she demanded to know, “Whose daddy is he?”

Since I really didn’t have a clue what the two children talked about in the field I was more than a little confused.  My oldest daughter’s heart was breaking before my eyes before I realized that she thought the man who she had called “daddy” over the last six years might not be her father.  After understanding her fear, I reassured her that the person she knew as “daddy” was indeed her father.  Slowly I saw the heartbreak leave her eyes and for a moment the air was light again.  Her head tilted to one side letting me know the wheels of her mind were spinning.  “Then who is my sister’s daddy?”  Once again I was lost.  What the heck was she talking about?  I could feel the tension mounting in her body once again as she wondered about her little sister’s paternity.  

Not having a clue what craziness had entered my daughter’s little head, I clasped her hand in mine and we went for a little walk to the end of the softball field so we could be alone.  We sat on the grass and I asked her to explain what in the world she was talking about.  There, at the edge of the softball field she explained to me that the little girl in the field had 6 brothers and sisters and they all had different dads.  The little girl explained to my daughter that kids could have the same mommy but they couldn’t have the same daddy.  

I sat for a brief moment not knowing what to say.  My daughter’s eyes were burrowing into mine waiting for a reply.  All I could do was hug her and re-assure her that her and her sister did share the same father.  Briefly, in a fleeting manor, I also explained that some children can have different fathers and different mothers but that didn’t mean that the person who lived with them didn’t love them just the same.  

I suppose she was happy with my answer because she smiled as she got up from the ground to join her friends at practice.  I watched as she ran to meet up with her friends.  My eyes first focused on my daughter and then on the little girl who told my daughter “her” facts of life.  

I think of that little girl often.  I wonder how her life is and has been.  I also wonder why I thought of her today on Father’s Day.

 


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All for a Little Fun in the Sun

Pool opening day is a special event for my whole family  The joyous union of my children, husband and father coming together for such a special event is almost more than any sane person can comprehend.  The mere thought of all us standing around the still-covered pool looking first at the pool cover then each other sends chills down my spine.  Opening the pool this year was even more special than some of the previous years.  Pool opening, as well as many other special events in the life of a family, are memories that will endure a lifetime.  Thankfully, most of “special moment” memories are distorted just enough in the future to make the family laugh instead of want to strangle each other as the actual event unfolds.

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While the pool is still covered hope remains.  I can only imagine that those standing around the “beast” are offering up silent prayers (like I do) that this years unveiling will go smoothly; that all those involved will remain at least on speaking terms when the event is complete.  Personally, I pray to my Higher Power that my tongue will be seasoned with kindness and my actions will be controlled so as not to “accidentally” push anyone into the pool.

In my humble opinion, herein lies the main problem when opening the pool.  Nobody listens to me.  Everybody involved has their own idea how things should be done and when things don’t work out; others are blamed.  In my opinion, if everyone would just let me run the show things would run so smoothly.  Instead, my father has to point out my mistakes, and I, in turn have to point out my husband’s mistakes, and my husband has to point the blame on one thing or another that our children have done wrong until there isn’t anyone else to blame except for the dogs (and trust me, they get blamed as well).  Don’t get the wrong impression, we don’t just start out yelling and screaming at each other.  We start out calmly and build up to a frenzied crescendo like any other respectable family does.  As the mid-day sun rises and the temperature increases; so do the tempers.

All of the fussing and fighting up to this point is expected and may be even a little understood as normal.  It’s only when the “disaster” happens that tempers really flare.  Now, I’m sure you’re saying to yourself, like I say to myself, ‘if they would only listen to me disasters wouldn’t happen.”   My point exactly.  If only everyone would do exactly as I say, things would just work out flawlessly.  Life and pool openings would be nirvana.  Well, needless to say nobody listens to me, life isn’t ecstasy and disaster happens.

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Something like the pool cover falling into the pool dumping all the debris the family has meticulously tried to avoid happens.

Silence.  Pure unadulterated silence.  Nobody says a word; all hoping that the mud slowly infecting the pool is only a figment of our imagination.  This can’t be happening.  No.  Stop.

Without warning, the first swear word is uttered…and then another…and then another until the only words spoken are the words one can not find in Webster’s Unabridged Dictionary.  Fingers are pointing, blame is being laid at everyone’s feet without anyone really knowing how the hideous event actually unfolded.

…and so, summer is officially here…let the fun in the sun begin….