Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Baby Brother

I had three brothers younger than me. The youngest, my “baby” brother Gene, has a birthday today. I can still recall the day my mother revealed to me that she was going to have another baby. She said, “What would you like, a brother or sister?”
My response came quickly. “I want a chimpanzee this time. I asked you for a sister the last two times and I got brothers, so this time, I’ll take a monkey.”

We were excited about the new baby. I remember my sister and I going to G. C. Murphy’s (remember that store?) whenever she got paid or had some money. We would pick out some baby item or rattle in preparation for his birth. My mother and grandmother, being frugal, were busy making kimonos with white flannel, ribbed with colored ribbon edges. 

The day finally arrived and Mom went to the hospital. She came home within 24 hours, since she had no insurance, having promised the doctor she would take it easy and stay in bed. She didn’t bring home a monkey. It was another boy. Not just another boy though. Gene was special to me.
Mind you, I was fourteen when Gene was born, quite an age difference. That didn’t mean I didn’t enjoy almost every moment with him. Being so much older, I had already done some babysitting alongside my sister for neighbors.  I knew how to help care for a child by the time he was born.

I loved holding him, talking to him, playing with him. That summer I took him for lots of walks in his stroller, also giving me an excuse to walk by a certain boy’s house. Gene and I spent a lot of time together when he was very young.  I loved teaching him things and showing him new things. He asked a lot of questions. He learned quickly and showed his intelligence. I remember him only being about three and explaining how the electricity runs through the walls in wires and when you flip the switch the lights come on.

He was a good boy most of the time but when he was without Mom and wanted her, he was terrible. I remember babysitting him when he was less than a year old. The only thing to take his mind away from being without his mother was to let him crawl up the steps. I spent a good amount of time that night standing behind him as he went up, then got carried back down to start the whole process over again.

He was a contented and calm child. One Christmas we had to actually wake him up to come down to open presents. He came down, sat in a chair, and just looked at all the gifts. He made no move without being prompted several times to get down and open the gifts.  I remember decorating the tree with him beside me, doing his best to put the bulbs on the tree.

Gene was only four when I got married. The hardest part about eloping was leaving him at home and moving away to start my married life. As time went on, our relationship became much more distant. I hated this but that is how life throws curveballs sometimes.

Within the last year, we have gotten back together, not as often as I would like, but I’ll take what I can get. He is still special to me, still my baby brother, just not a little boy. He has three children of his own who are beautiful and he is a wonderful dad who always tells his children each day that he loves them.

Having him back in my life has filled a void and I hope I am closing the gap on the years we have lost. I was so close to him in his early years and I so want to know him again as an adult. Our lives are busy with family and work and all the areas of our life that pull us. I hope to be available to Gene now as I was when he was so young, helping him any way I can, being there to talk, or answer any questions. We have the same blood, yet seem so far apart. The distance can be made up if we try. We can’t get back the years we lost but we have the ones in front of us to enjoy.

Happy Birthday Gene! I love you, Baby  Brother!

Saturday, February 23, 2013

Turn That Frown Upside Down

When I look in the mirror in the morning I see an aging woman still trying to appear young, I have never been into wearing much makeup and never learned to apply it to achieve that polished look. My nieces, Courtney and Erin, are so pretty they look like models. They know how to apply eye makeup, blush and whatever tricks used. They are pretty without the makeup but I am amazed at how well they know how to apply it.

A friend of mine recently starting selling Avon. On a whim, I picked up one of her catalogs, not expecting to find anything I wanted. I was amazed at how reasonable the prices are. My mascara was almost gone and I have tired of just using a bronzer for color on my face.

I placed my first order for Super Shock mascara (not waterproof so the verdict is still out on that) and Beyond Color "Uptown Pink" lipstick. I don't wear lipstick normally but I thought it might add just enough color to brighten my face. The blush is in my second order. 

Okay, first morning I put the lipstick and mascara on and my co-worker wants to know, "What's the special occasion?" 

"Nothing special I just got my Avon order so I have to try it out."

I'm feeling like I have added something to my looks and I check it out in the bathroom mirror near my office. Well it wasn't the mascara that gave me the "super shock". What I was surprised to see is that by wearing lipstick, the shape of my mouth is pronounced. Well, yes this particular lipstick is supposed to "plump" and make your lips appear fuller. But that is not what I saw.

Being a serious person, although I like to have fun and laugh, I must have a frown on my face normally. There it was pronounced in a pretty pink. The sides of my mouth go down in a frown naturally.

So, no, I am not going to stop wearing lipstick. This newfound discovery now has me more conscious that I need to smile more and change the direction of my lips up from down. Maybe my co-worker will be asking me what's so funny or tell me I look like the cat that swallowed the canary. No matter, I need to turn that frown upside down.

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Is it Clutter or Keepers?

I have been de-cluttering my life this month. My goal is to each day get rid of one box or bag or equivalent of stuff I don’t need any longer, get it out of the house. That could be recycling, tossing, or giving away. So far it has all ben tossing.
It’s amazing the things we hang onto, thinking we will need them some day. 
Clothes that don’t fit, but maybe someday will??? (Not likely…and they won’t be in style when or if they ever do). I hold onto the dress I wore at my daughter’s wedding because it is so beautiful and I looked so pretty in it that day. That was over 15 years ago. I don’t fit into it, don’t have occasion to wear it anywhere, yet it takes space in my closet.
Knickknacks from when we were first married. A few months ago I almost tossed a Mr. and Mrs. Santa Claus figurine set that winds up and plays “I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus.” I had it ready to go in the trash when my emotional reasoning kicked in….”It was the first Christmas ornament I bought when we were married. It also says, “Made in Japan” on the bottom. Does that make it special?”  Santa has a crack in his head from being dropped. So there it is in the box it came in, sitting in the basement, almost out to the trash, but not quite yet.
We get attached to things emotionally. Like the Santa figurine above. It holds memories of days in my past. Those knick knacks hold happy memories of two 18 year old kids decorating together for their first married Christmas. For years we wound up that Santa to hear him play, then the kids enjoyed winding it up to listen. It hasn’t been out for years now since it is cracked. But the memories are still there.
So why do I have to hang onto it if the memories are there? If I don’t see it, will I never remember again that I had it? Will all those glistening moments be gone forever? Of course not! But seeing it reminds me.
There are other treasures in my life that I have a hard time parting with. The wristwatch I received from my parents when I graduated. It is so pretty with the little diamond next to the face of the clock, the silver band meshed together so delicately. I haven’t worn it in years, and I don’t think it even works. But I earned it! I worked hard to get good grades in school, to please my parents and myself. That was my reward. So without it, does that mean I didn’t graduate, didn’t work hard for my grades? Of course not!
Memories are made each day. Items purchased for special occasions or received as gifts remind us. It isn’t the items that create the memories. It is the people and activities that took place on that day or that special occasion.
My family has created so many memories, good and bad, for me. I don’t have them around me all the time yet I can remember those times. My friends and I have created memories. We’ve done some fun things, some crazy things, and dealt with the ugly together. Sometimes I don’t see my friends for months or years, yet I still have those memories.
So now, while de-cluttering my life, I am refreshing memories, reliving moments in my head. I can toss these items, knowing that I won’t forget the old times.
But some things, very special to me, I will hold onto tightly, cherishing them. Their value to me is irreplaceable. I will not let them go until I have to, until I have no choice in the matter. When I release them, they will go to a better home.  In the meantime, I plan to relish them, care for them, and spend time with them. Those precious things are my family and friends. They are the things that will never clutter my life, but will always add value, memories and good times.
Okay, Santa, you’re outta here. Same for you watch. And wedding day gown….someone else might need you. I think I may take pictures of the items I have a hard time parting with. I can store them in a file called “Memories or Treasures”. If I need to jog my memory I can always go back and look at them. But I doubt I will do that often.

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Really, Whose Birthday Is it?

Today is Karin's (my daughter) birthday. She can’t possibly be as old as she says she is because then that would make me 22 years older than her! Oh right, I am 22 years older than her. So now if we can just lower her age by a decade, hmmm..maybe a little more.

 We celebrated both Karin and my son, Kenny’s birthday together on Sunday. No, it wasn’t really their birthday then but we always pick a date close to their birthday on a weekend. I do know their real birthdates - Karin is Feb 13 and Kenny is Feb 15.

Unlike Lucy, (refer back to my  10/22/12 blog about the shopping online), who sometimes gets things confused. Although Lucy had a list a mile long of things to accomplish at home Monday night, she is out shopping. Yes shopping for just the right gift for that special person she works with. You know, the one who always brings food into work to feed Lucy, the one who is always there to help Lucy out of sticky situations. You just have to remember her birthday right? And what’s a gift amongst friends like that?

So Lucy, unbeknownst to her family, is rushing between stores, searching frantically for that item that will shine prettier than a new penny. Somewhere is that one thing that will change her co-worker’s life. Something her co-worker couldn’t do without. Okay, instead of co-worker, let’s call her Ethel. Ethel is worth all this nerve-wracking running around, digging through piles of treasures at each store.

“No, that’s not it…close, but just not the right item. I’ll go over to the store across the street. They might have just the right color or size,” Lucy mumbles as people near her gaze, mouths open, at this woman talking to herself. Lucy gets in her car and drives like a crazy woman through parking lot, her car smacking a buggy, which screeches down the side of the car. “Another scratch! Desi’s not going to be happy about that.”

Open car door, grab purse, slam door, try to run toward store entrance. Stuck. What the heck? Crap! My coat is stuck in the car door. Where did I put my keys? That’s right, in my coat pocket, same side that is stuck in the car door. Leaning in opposite direction, Lucy gets her fingers down in the pocket to retrieve the keys. There, I’ve got ahold of one of them. Pulling, pulling, ***, they slid back down into the pocket. She pushes her fingers down as far as possible and yanks. “Got them! Well, now I have to sew my coat pocket that I just ripped.”

Inside the store: “Hmmmm…nothing. I’ll grab this in case I don’t find what I’m looking for. What am I looking for anyway? I have no real idea what to get this wonderful woman who makes my work life seem like Heaven. I have to come up with something exspectacular! She’s worth it.

Next store, Lucy knocks over the clerk in her haste. “Excuse me. Sorry,” she says as she grabs the clerk’s  hand and yanks her to an upright position. Lucy bumps into a display and there sits that thing. It’s shiny, its bright. She has to have it. At the cash register, Lucy starts wondering if Ethel already has one of these. “Maybe she does. I’ll go to the next store and see if I can find something else to go with it just in case.”

Lucy rushes from one store to another, finally coming up with a few small tokens to put together as a nice birthday gift for Ethel. Hurry home. “I have to bake her a cake. A nice cake. A special one. I’ll do snack cakes. Lots of small individual snack cakes. Maybe she’ll give me one to eat.”

The oven warms up the house and the smell of freshly baked cakes fills it with the aroma of chocolate. Divine! Heavenly! Just what Ethel deserves. The icing goes on the snack cakes with care, then packaged nicely.

Next morning, Lucy wakes up. She gathers all her gifts, shoves them in a bag. Next she grabs the snack cakes and puts them in the back seat of her car. On the way to work, she decides that Ethel deserves to have breakfast at her desk (can’t do the breakfast in bed thing with Ethel because she is already at work). Lucy peels her tires as she pulls into the Subway. She pushes her way through the line, already running late. Hurry she thinks as the clerk makes her breakfast for Ethel. She throws money at the clerk, coins dropping to the floor. She hurries out to her car. The Subway bag is thrown onto the front seat, then Lucy’s purse. Smash. The Subway bag is now under her purse, heavy enough to be considered a lethal weapon.

The clock now says Lucy is late. She rushes into work, runs into Ethel’s office, dumps the gift packages on her desk. Next she drops some empty canning jars on Ethel’s desk (the ones Ethel gave Lucy with tomatoes from her garden). Lucy has been meaning to return them for months. Finally, the Subway bag gets plopped on Ethel’s desk.

Ethel’s eyes are big as saucers as she pushes back away from her desk, trying not to get hurt by any flying debris. “What’s all this?”

“Wait,” Lucy says and runs out of the building.  She sets the snack cakes precariously on Ethel’s desk and smiles. “Happy Birthday, Ethel!”

“What do you mean? It’s not my birthday.”

“Yes it is. I got you this stuff for your birthday.”

“No it’s not. I think I know when my birthday is,” Ethel says.

In walks the boss. He sees that Lucy is late and sees all the commotion. “It’s not her birthday, Lucy,” he says.

“Well, my calendar said it was Ethel’s birthday. Are you sure today is not your birthday?” she asks.

“I’m sure. Thank you anyway,” Ethel says.

Lucy goes to her own desk and does some research. Hmmm….”Ethel’s birthday,” the calendar says. She goes through some personnel files and realize it was Ethel who left four years ago who has a birthday today.

Before leaving work, Lucy swipes one of the gifts back from Ethel’s desk. “I’ll give this to her in May when it really is her birthday,” Lucy says on her way out. She has chocolate icing from the snack cake hanging from her coat sleeve, her pocket is hanging by threads, and she never did get a piece of the cake.

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Is it just luck?

So tonight, after cooking some mighty fine meals in the past few weeks, if I do say so myself, I have nothing planned for dinner. After discussion of our options, Ken and I decide to grab a bite to eat at one of our favorite restaurants.

It was early when we got to The Roadhouse, the diners hadn’t started coming in yet. We sat at the bar to have a couple beers before dinner. The atmosphere was so relaxing. There was another couple across from us at the oval shaped bar, and two ladies having the “bar burgers” down a few stools from them.

The seats at the bar began to fill in with a quiet crowd. I sipped an iced cold beer, my feet tucked back against the leg of the wooden barstool, elbows resting on the edge of the glossy wooden bar that shone in the lights. The perimeter above the bar was lined with wooden racks holding shiny clear glasses hanging by their stems, to be used for more elaborate drinks.

The female bartender didn’t waste a motion. She took food orders, filled glasses with beer, bussed dishes from behind the bar, and kept the waitresses supplied with their drink orders, then rang their tickets at the cash register. She moved with a fluid motion, non-stop.

Two men, probably in their 50s or 60s sat at the end of the bar. They looked casual, as if they came from their job, maybe contracting or something with the shale boom around here. Relaxation was written all over them as well as they enjoyed their dinner at the bar.

Sitting there, the ambiance was exactly what we needed. It was conducive to our moods and our conversation was carried along without a hitch. We covered lots of topics from work, finances, and dreams ahead of us. We reminisced about family members now gone and things they said or did. We were reminded of things we did with them, how they reacted to situations, and we laughed over past events. We joked about things our grandsons said or did. We reflected on how happy we are but more than that, how lucky we are.

Why, we asked ourselves, are we so lucky? Who decides which ones get to be lucky? We have enjoyed a happy life, loved each other for so many years, have great children and grandsons, great family, have always had jobs, albeit not always the ones we wanted. We were always provided for, had enough, sometimes just barely, but still enough to get by. Our bills get paid, there’s a roof over our heads, clothes on our back, and food to eat. And nights like tonight where we can go out for a beer and dinner. We didn’t spend much, yet it seemed well worth it. We left feeling relaxed, happy, and full.

This luck thing though has us puzzled. Oftentimes we reflect on it. We aren’t extremely intelligent, have no special or great abilities, and consider ourselves “average Joes.” Middle of the road kind of people is what we are. Why is it then that we have such good luck?

Are we luckier than other people? Do things come our way more so than they do for others? Is there some special reason why we feel so lucky?

I don’t have the answers to those questions. One thought might be that maybe we are just thankful for what we have and truly appreciate it. Maybe we are no luckier than anyone else. But really, I think we are.