Posts Tagged ‘mothers’

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.

Raising an American Girl: Beyond Molly, Kit and Josephina

Monday, May 16, 2011
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An American Girl grows up.

During my daughter’s 7-year-old check-up, I chatted with our pediatrician about junior high and how times have most certainly changed.

“I dread the day I find a note in Ava’s backpack asking for permission to let the health nurse talk to the girls in her class,” I giggled.

“The health nurse? Middle school? What planet are you from?” she exclaimed.

There’s this little place called Naïve.  Maybe you’ve heard of it?

What do you mean? No health nurse? No starched white uniform, white cap, white tights, and white shoes?  No VHS video? No permission slip? What?

This was the moment that our doctor-family relationship merged into a true friendship between women.  Rather than dosing medical advice, my favorite pediatrician was speaking to me mother-to-mother, and I was desperately grateful for her insight.

“You have to be willing and able to answer her questions about life before someone else tells her about it,” she continued. “And, you will hear things that’ll make your forehead sweat and hands shake.”

I admit — girls aren’t made the way they used to be.  As one father remarked about his son’s new girlfriend(s), “Every one of them looks like they could be on the cover of Maxim.”

If I remember correctly, I learned about the facts of a girl’s life when I was 12 and in the 7th grade.  Society (and the media, technology, and milk producers in my opinion) have now forced us to at least start conversations in the 4th grade — or by the age of nine.

What happens when a nine-year-old’s body physically matures before she’s emotionally mature enough to handle it?  Understand it?

As a writer, I’m paid never to be at a loss for words.  But as a mother, I’m already too shocked to know where or how to begin.  Thankfully, I’ve found help.

American Girl Publishing, Inc., has branched out beyond dolls and accessories and into the book industry, promoting fiction and non-fiction that encourage young girls to “stand tall, reach high and dream big.” While the books are aimed at tweens and teens, they’re quite possibly most beneficial to the mother (or father) tasked with explaining what happens when.

In The Care & Keeping of YOU: The Collection, a boxed set of guides tackle the most intimidating topics of the age — “The Body Book for Girls”, “The Feelings Book,” and two companion journals.  The set also includes a pouch for storing body-care supplies.

Also on bookstore shelves are titles such as What Would You Do? Quizzes for Real Life Problems; Food & You – Eating Right, Being Strong and Feeling Great;  A Smart Girl’s Guide to Understanding Her Family – Feelings, Fighting & Figuring it Out; and A Smart Girl’s Guide to Starting Middle School.

Unlike the early versions of Our Bodies, Ourselves (which embarassed and scared the daylights out of me), the American Girl books are kinder, gentler and much more polite.  As with most everything in life, it’s best to approach the subject in moderation….a type of puberty portion control for parents.  A good friend of mine shared sections of The Care & Keeping of YOU with her daughter, but glued some pages together to keep her from reading more than she needed to know at the time.  Of course, she ripped the pages apart when Mom wasn’t home.

I’ve always choked on the $95 doll pricetag, but my attitude has changed since discovering a new world of American Girl products.  The Care and Keeping of YOU just might be the survival guide we mothers have been looking for all along.

Well, that and a bottle of vodka.

Weight and See

Monday, March 14, 2011
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My 20th class reunion. I'm looking forward to it...I think.

If you need motivation to lose lingering baby weight, I suggest opening an email announcing your 20th high school class reunion this summer.  At least, this is what caused me to grab my tennis shoes and head out for a three mile walk up, down and around Fort Hill.

I’ve been ignoring this issue for a while now, as proven by a recent conversation in my OB/GYN’s office.  As if the visit alone weren’t uncomfortable enough, waiting room chit-chat caused the ol’ blood pressure to spike just before my name was called.  The woman seated next to me shifted anxiously in her chair as she tugged at her “jeggins” to give herself more breathing room.

“My doctor’s going to get on me for holding onto all this baby weight,” she said nervously.

“Oh, it takes some time – I know.  How old is your baby?” I asked.

“Six months.  How old is yours?” she countered.

“Sixty months.”

Yes. My “baby” is five years old and enrolling in kindergarten on April 4th, yet I’m still carrying her around…on both hips.  And thighs.  And upper arms.

One of my girlfriends heard me complaining about being 25 pounds heavier than I used to be, and she invited me to start jogging with her in the evenings.  “I can’t start running until I can fit into my exercise clothes!” I huffed.

During my first pregnancy, I gained 53 pounds and shed 55 in three months.  My daughter was born in June, and I had to return to the law firm in August, so a driving force in eating eggs for breakfast, chicken for lunch and steak for dinner was to get back into the size six uniform.  While I thought I was going to sacrifice a pair of kidneys in the process, I did lose the weight and I did gain confidence.  The second baby, however, didn’t produce the same determined energy.   Warned that second pregnancies make weight loss more challenging, I seemed to rest on that notion (and on the couch).  Now working from home full-time, I didn’t have to wear a suit every day of the week – unless it was made of cotton spandex.

Five years later, I’ve grown into my larger skin with a type of lazy acceptance that ‘this is what happens’ when you have two babies inside of three years.  My husband, who carefully and strategically tells me that I look “fine” (when prodded), honestly doesn’t care that I’ve ‘let myself go’ (as my 1930s-era mother would have called it).  I’ve let myself go in the direction of being more accepting, less competitive and strangely happier.   While I’m not unhealthy, I am indeed bigger.

So, this summer, when I walk into a crowded room of parents who used to be teenagers, I’m not going to worry about the baby weight that may or may not come off in time. I hope this is the result of being all grown up.

Protect and Defend

Monday, February 14, 2011
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There’s a new TV show airing this Spring on CBS titled “Sh*t My Dad Says.” While the name is a bit shocking, the plot is not.  In fact, I’m frustrated that I didn’t pitch my own sitcom called “Trouble My Mom Started.”

My mother was strict and stern, possibly because she had a baby later in life. Nine months before I arrived, my father was considering retirement; my mother menopause. That wasn’t to be the case for either one.

I grew up with old-fashioned values, which were beneficial until I reached the age of 25.  Just like the “bleeped” title of a modern day television show, I was slowly learning that times had changed.

One of the first indicators that I shouldn’t have listened to my mother occurred in 1998.  I was a participant in Leadership Charleston and invited to tour an army base near Richmond, Virginia, (this in and of itself is worthy of a separate blog).  When I told my mother that we were going to visit the officer’s club, she snapped to attention.

“Oh, honey, that’s white glove! The officer’s club? Why, you’ll have to dress for that!”

So, I did.  After a grueling day of being yelled at by drill sergeants (to give us a dose of military reality), I changed into a cashmere sweater set, an “Hermes” scarf, cuffed trousers, and crocodile loafers.  When we reached the officer’s club (by bus), I noticed a wooden sign on the front of the building.

Nuttin’ Fancy.

The club resembled The Boar’s Nest in “The Dukes of Hazzard.”  Cigarette smoke clouded the ceiling and country music bounced off the walls. I scanned the room, feeling completely out of place, wishing I had asked our guide for clarification before donning my finery. When I excused myself to the latrine (to hide), I passed a female officer who zeroed in on my tasseled shoes and worked her way up to my flushed cheeks.

“Who’s that? The general’s wife?” she sneered.

No, but I was proud to be a sergeant major’s daughter.

As military officers and future business leaders hydrated themselves, people actually paid less attention to how I was dressed.  I escaped with a minimal amount of teasing (that’s not true of my hair), and headed straight for a pay phone to call my mother.

“Mom!” I wailed. “The officer’s club must have changed its dress code, because I was the only one not in sweatpants!”

Throughout my adult life, there were similar rules of mother-daughter engagement. One statute was to call when I arrived at the destination of an out-of-town business meeting (co-workers and supervisors loved this one). Another was to keep abreast of traffic accidents and weather concerns while driving beyond city limits with the help of a professional CB radio and antenna kit (which my mother purchased for my Audi A4).

Since the embarrassment has passed, I can look back on the “Trouble My Mom Started” with gratitude. She loved me more than anyone else in this world, and no one tried harder to keep me safe — beyond childhood.  It was not always an easy form of basic training, but her protective nature served me well… particularly now that I have recruits of my own.